Thursday, February 5, 2009

The USA, France and nuclear power

[Photo of French nuclear power plant cooling towers obtained here.]

During the recent presidential campaign John McCain criticized Barack Obama for not being gaga over the possibilities of nuclear power.

Many politicians, Repugnicans mostly, hype nuclear power as potentially a very effective means of diminishing our dependence on foreign oil. Many of these politicians point to France as an example of a country that has put nuclear power to good use.

Unfortunately for our public debate, these politicians gloss over or ignore the problems of nuclear waste and nuclear accidents, which could have catastrophic consequences.

Currently, France is the leader among nations in terms of electricity generated from nuclear power. Seventy-seven percent of France's electricity comes from 59 reactors spread out across the country. The United States, is fourth on the list, generating 19% of its electricity from 104 reactors.

National Geographic magazine (February 2009) has a brief article discussing "France's Nuclear Family" but fails to disclose the current and recurring problems that have occurred in France's nuclear plants.

The article does, however, quote "a nuclear specialist for Greenpeace France," Frederick Marillier, as saying "The government explains the benefits of nuclear, but they avoid debate about the risks."

That is true also of this country.

But the risks are there and we've experienced them; remember Three Mile Island. Then there's the horrific accident at Chernobyl, in Russia, and another at Bhopal, India.

France has had numerous nuclear incidents with predictably devastating effects, some of which are being ignored and others swept under the rug.

Nuclear power may be one alternative, but it should be, as I recall Obama saying, a "last resort." The potential for disaster is simply too great.

Some time ago, I wrote an article dealing specifically with France's nuclear energy program and the problems that have emanated as a result, which you can read here. A more up-to-date critique from Greenpeace is here.

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