Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Target 30 - April 2011

TARGET 350 (it’s 392 now!)

Produced by the Mission Committee of Knox Presbyterian Church, Dundas
for the Eco Churches of West Hamilton
Volume 3                                                                                                 Issue 1 April 2011


Is there anything as complex as Planet Earth developed over millions of years? To tinker with such a complicated system requires from us a measure of restraint. When the wisdom contained within it is disregarded by humanity in pursuit of unrestrained technological change, things can and often will go badly wrong.

For eons of time, whatever we did to the planet could not irreversibly change the carefully constructed balance of the ecosystems of the Earth. But now we have progressed to a time in planetary history when the Earth is full. It is wounded by the assault on its ecosystems. 

The early warning systems, contained in the ancient biblical record, such as found in stories like the Tower of Babel, can no longer go unheeded.

“As [the people] wandered about in the East, they came to a plain in Babylonia and settled there. They said to one another, ”Come on! Let’s make bricks and bake them hard”. So they made bricks to build with and tar to hold them together. They said, ”Now let us build a city with a tower that reaches the sky, so that we can make a name for ourselves and not be scattered all over the earth”.
Then the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which those men had built, and he said, … this is just the beginning of what they are going to do. Soon they will be able to do anything they want.”(Genesis 11:2-7)


The emergence of nuclear power for  “peaceful purposes” has led many to believe that we can continue on our path to unlimited energy generation. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and a number of smaller accidents are seen by many as merely inconvenient mishaps along the way to being, in the word of Genesis, “able to do anything they want”.

The introduction of nuclear energy has become the most serious threat to the survival of humanity on Earth, especially now we have reached “Peak Oil” and are placing our hopes on electric cars, without giving much thought to the damaging nature of widespread use of nuclear power. The hazards to human life are seldom mentioned in our search for an efficient electric car, or are merely dismissed as risks well worth taking.

The effect of radiation tearing into human DNA has been known even before the beginning of the previous century. Yet, in our quest for energy “security” we are creating a variety of new elements that only passage of time is able to reduce to safe levels. Some of such times are measured in tens of thousands of years.

There is much talk about the half-life of elements, (the time it takes to reduce radio-activity to half of what is was before), but little talk about quarter-life, (still 25% radio active, or 12.5% radio active, and so on).

Meanwhile, we have no idea how to safely dispose of nuclear wastes. The best we can do is to store it for future disposal by our descendents, who understandably will be non too pleased with the burden we are creating for them and who will have to pay for the cleanup, if that would ever become possible.

Nuclear power is uninsurable. (Just check your own insurance policy.) Accidents are the responsibility of the taxpayer. That’s you and me and no one else. The relatively minor Three Mile Island cleanup costs an initial $925 million. To put the enormity of this in context some 1.1 million 100-Watt solar panels could have been installed for that price.

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine continues to emit radiation 25 years after it was temporarily encased in a concrete “sarcophagus”. The European Union and the US are currently trying to raise $2 billion to build a more permanent sarcophagus to contain the radiation for another 50 years.

Bill C-20 was an attempt to raise the maximum damage resulting from accidents at nuclear installations from a mere $75 million per occasion to $650 million. This small improvement progressed through first and second readings in the House of Commons and had just been amended by the Natural Resources Committee on 10 December 2009 when Parliament was prorogued and it died on the Order Paper.
  1. 1979 Three Mile Island.
  2. 1968 Chernobyl.
  3. 2011 Fukushima Daiichi.
  4. Nuclear power plants in operation worldwide: 442 (20% of power used).
  5. Nuclear power plants in the US: 104.
  6. Canada has 5 nuclear power stations, 3 in Ontario, 1 in New Brunswick, 1 in Quebec, and 1 research reactor at Chalk River, Ontario.
  7. Nuclear power plants currently under construction worldwide: 65.
  8. Nuclear power plants in the planning stage worldwide: Hundreds more.


What the fate will be of the current Fukushima disaster no one knows. And it does not look good.
So much for cheap nuclear energy to power our cars.

And never mind the ecological and financial impact of the mining, production, the depletion of “rare earths”, recycling, and disposal of the huge volumes of spent batteries, all associated with electric cars.

Will we now at last be prepared to limit our insatiable demand and ask from the Earth to provide no more than what nature can safely provide?

Nature safely can provide:
  • Solar energy
  • Wind power
  • Geothermal energy 
  • Tidal power                     

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