Better than Nukes: Plug the Leaks


The Japanese nuclear plant crises of 3/11/11, by no means over, invite plenty of discussion about not building more nuclear plants.

John Michael Greer (“The Twilight of an Age” episode 138) provides a sane, simple, common-sense alternative to building more nuclear plants in a recent blog on The Archdruid Report:

It’s worth noting, for example, that for the amount of money it would take to replace the 23 US nuclear reactors that have the same flawed design as the ones at the Fukushima Daiichi plant – $276 billion, at an estimated average total cost of $12 billion per reactor – we could give every one of the 130 million homes, apartments, and condominiums in the United States a $2000 conservation retrofit, including caulking, weatherstripping, insulation, and the like, with room in the budget to spare. That would save more power than those nukes would generate, and do it with no fuel costs, no security threats, no radioactive waste, no risk of catastrophic meltdowns, and an annual maintenance budget per home equal to a couple of takeout pizzas.

A comparable option, a little more costly per housing unit but with similar paybacks, would involve getting solar water heaters on the roofs of America’s houses, apartments and condominiums, and commercial and industrial facilities. I’ve discussed solar water heating in these essays several times already. It’s arguably the most thoroughly developed renewable technology we’ve got; a century ago, solar water heaters were standard in American housing across the Sun Belt, and only the brief heyday of cheap fossil fuel energy squeezed them out of the market. It’s high time we put them back to work….

Sign me up, Scotty. We witnessed an impressive reduction in heating costs when we installed warm window curtains on our dual-pane windows and skylights. Our firewood usage dropped to about one third.

Multiply those energy savings across the country, across the world. And save all the increasingly-scarce petroleum and water for better uses while precluding the toxic pollution and horrendous storage problems.

Who benefits? People and the planet. Instead of paying taxpayer subsidies to nuclear, we get insulated homes (and probably more jobs, too). The health of people and ecosystems doesn’t get trashed.

Who wouldn’t benefit? Those making big bucks from it, and their political buddies pushing for it.

Wouldn’t that be the perfect turnabout?


  1. Ed Adamthwaite says:

    Less environmental damage? What about Chernobyl?
    Consider what happens when Fukishima #4 breaks up and releases somewhere between 5 and 10 times the amount released at Chernobyl. There’s enough plutonium there to kill every living thing on the Earth many times over.
    They have not been able to seal the leaks on #4 and it is only a matter of time before the cooling pond area collapses and releases its load of MOX and spent uranium into the environment, upping the background level of radiation to much greater than that that is thought to have helped the Cambrian explosion to have so many new species through mutation. So if you want to have grandchildren with two heads or some other mutation, go ahead and support nuclear power.
    There are different interpretations on the definition of ‘clean’. Ask the people downwind of Chernobyl what they think of ‘clean’ when related to nuclear power.
    More efficient? Consider the mining, crushing, refining and transport and how much fossil fuel is used for all of that. Then consider the decommissioning, transport, safely storing and ongoing guarding for up to 30,000 years. If there is a major change over to nuclear there is only enough for somewhere between 40 and 80 years supply. Why would you want to burden your descendants with a dangerous task for such a long time for such a small period with a questionable advantage? After all, we have only been “civilised” for the last 10,000 years, consider how stable the various civilisations during that time have been.
    I’m not supporting fossil fuels, I just think that they are of a lesser ‘evil’ than nuclear. The uranium should be left in the ground where it belongs.
    We humans are in a pickle, there’s nothing on the cards that can equal the western world’s profligate use of energy that has been supplied by fossil fuels. In the future we will have to get by on less and less as the supplies dwindle. Or we are forced to stop using them when the sheeple react after finally realising that climate change is real.

  2. What’s been in the news lately about nuclear reactors is scary, the fact is that nuclear power is still cleaner and more efficient than fossil fuels, and tends to cause less environmental damage.

  3. Ed Adamthwaite says:

    Hi Janaia,
    I agree wholeheartedly. The only trouble is that most people that “believe” in nuclear power hold that belief like a religious faith. No amount of sound reasoning will budge them from their position. They have a blind faith that “they” (those controlling nuclear power) would be able to safely control the dangers and not lie about the radiation leakages, the near-miss accidents, the toxicity of waste, the ability to safely store waste for thousands of years, etc etc.
    Even with people I know, what has happened at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has not changed their view. When I show them the cutaway drawing from Wikipedia of a boiling water reactor and point out the short-comings of the design and the stupidity of building something like that in an earth-quake/tsunami zone, they just glaze over with a stupid expression on their face. Even when I point out that when Ziggi Switkowski (member of the Australian nuclear organisation and previously the head of Telstra) lied and said (after the explosions of hydrogen at Fukishima) something like, “it’s too soon to say that the situation is bad…” He has a PhD in nuclear engineering and knows the subject intimately. He knows better than anyone that when hydrogen is released you are very near to having a meltdown situation. They shrug their shoulders as if it isn’t a concern.
    It’s very depressing, but don’t expect to get much traction on this eminently sensible suggestion by John Michael Greer. A high proportion of the sheeple in the western world suffer from a case of cognitave dissonance with regard to nuclear power.

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