From truthout via Gristmill, an op-ed by environmental editor Kelpie Wilson further analyzing the nuclear power vs. renewables dichotomy that the nuclear energy industry has put forward and which journalists are eating up. Wilson does a very nice job of detailing broad economic and environmental costs of nuclear power, and also of deconstructing the rhetoric of the nuclear industry. She also does a very nice job of noting that, at another level, this is a debate between centralized and decentralized power supplies — wind and solar energy will likely serve us better in a localized sytem of power delivery vs. the massive national grid system we now have. Wilson even uses the various energy sources as metaphors for larger questions of governance:
But the real choice is not between a high-powered but dangerous nuclear future and a solar-powered, modest granola lifestyle. We will never build enough nukes to replace the immense legacy of stored sunlight that is fossil fuels. We are inevitably headed toward a different, decentralized, low energy future. If there is a human impulse toward imperialism, there is an equally strong human impulse for democracy, and I am optimistic that the future will offer fewer opportunities for despots and more for democrats.
The real choice then is this: Do we saddle our descendents with the poison forever of nuclear contamination in our attempts to hang on to a doomed lifestyle? Or do we start learning to live lightly on the planet now, and spare the children?
This is an important point, one that doesn’t get mentioned enough (though I wish she’d left out the “spare the children” bit, as it plays into stereotypes of the “granola lifestyle” she mentions). Ultimately, I think this may come down to a question of framing. What if those of us who support renewables started using a “self-reliance” context vs. something like the “big government” label (it would be hard to argue that nuclear energy doesn’t benefit from massive government subsidies)? “Neighborhood energy,” anyone?
Got to get the dog to the groomer — I’ll be back later.