Dear John (James H.)

James Hansen

by Michael Mariotte of NIRS

November 13, 2015

Dear John,

Thanks for the e-mail yesterday from your PR firm, notifying me of the press conference you’re planning on December 3 in Paris, in conjunction with the COP 21 climate negotiations.

Though I have to admit I was a little surprised to receive it, seeing as how you never responded to my last letter to you. Remember? It was the one where I asked to debate you about nuclear power and whether it could be a solution to the climate crisis you have so ably articulated over the years? I even offered a very nice potential debate location here in Washington, where we could make sure there would be an audience and some media to chronicle the event.

I, along with my colleagues from the Civil Society Institute (oh, and more than 300 other groups as I recall) asked for that debate after you and three of your colleagues published an open letter to us–all of us critics of nuclear power–in November 2013 where you essentially told us to either support new nuclear power or shut up and go away.

But I guess the idea of an open letter wasn’t the same as wanting an open debate, because from you (and your three colleagues) I got bupkus. Nothing. Nada. Frankly, I–and all those 300+ organizations–took your silence as an admission that you were afraid to debate us, because, again frankly, when it comes to nuclear power you don’t know what you’re talking about. And your lack of knowledge on the subject is getting to be an embarrassment for those of us on the frontlines of the battle to build an effective response to the climate crisis. You see, it’s not only that nuclear power isn’t going to help with climate, for all the reasons we detailed in our letter to you, it’s that trying to go the nuclear route would be counterproductive–it would actually make things worse.

So, when I first noticed your PR firm’s e-mail sent to me, I thought perhaps you had reconsidered your blind support for nuclear power. After all, why send it to me at all otherwise? And I have to admit, the first couple of sentences were pretty promising. It says the same four of you are issuing a “stark challenge to world leaders and environmental campaigners” warning of “the increasing urgency of fully decarbonizing the world economy.” I couldn’t agree more.

But then you lost me, because the rest of the e-mail doesn’t talk much at all about the climate; rather, it sounds the same message as your November 2013 open letter: that environmentalists must accept nuclear power, that we need a lot of nuclear power, that renewables can’t do the job, and so on.

But John, let’s look at what’s changed in the energy world since November 2013. It’s pretty easy to do, just flip through the pages of GreenWorld and you’ll get a pretty good sense of it. On the nuclear front, let’s face it: the news hasn’t been good for the industry. More reactors have announced permanent shutdown. As for new reactors, all of those being built in the West at least have experienced more schedule delays and more cost overruns. All of them: Vogtle, Summer, Olkiluoto, Flamanville. China’s nuclear construction has slowed, partly because of the problems with Areva’s EPR reactor design. Despite a lot of sound and fury (or is that smoke and mirrors?) there hasn’t been much solid from the Russian nuclear industry either, though they did finally manage to finish the Koodankulam reactors in India after more than 20 years. Kind of like TVA almost finishing its second Watts Bar reactor after more than 40 years.

Building nuclear reactors takes a long time, and that time isn’t getting any shorter. And that’s why it’s puzzling that you, of all people–after all, you’ve been warning about the urgency of dealing with climate change since 1988 now–would even look twice at nuclear. The idea of betting our collective future on power plants that take 10, 15, 20 years and more to build doesn’t sound like someone who thinks climate is an urgent problem. It makes one wonder if your allegiance to the nuclear power industry now outweighs your commitment to dealing with the climate crisis.

On the other side of the coin, what’s changed in clean energy since November 2013 is huge. The biggest change can be summed up in one word: storage. Cheap, effective electricity storage just wasn’t around two years ago. Now, thanks to Elon Musk and Tesla–and Musk’s growing number of competitors in the storage field, it is. And it’s only going to get cheaper and better; it’s on the same kind of curve that dropped solar costs over the past ten years to the point where solar is now cheaper than nuclear just about everywhere in the U.S. That’s true for most of the world too. And wind is even cheaper. And both solar and wind continue to become more efficient.

So the old canard about solar and wind not being able to hack it because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, well, that’s what it is: an old canard. With storage, every generating technology is reliable “baseload” power.

And if we’re talking about the urgency of addressing the climate crisis–and we are–then consider where our new generation is already coming from: earlier this week the International Energy Agency reported that half of all new generation in 2014 was renewables, and that renewables are now the second largest generating source globally. Putting up renewables is fast: onshore wind farms take a year or two to erect, offshore wind longer–but tend to be much larger; utility-scale solar power plants also take only a year or two, rooftop solar takes a team of 4 people about a day. Multiply that by thousands of such teams and that’s why a dozen or so new solar rooftops have been installed in the U.S. alone since I started writing this letter to you a couple hours ago (I took a break for lunch, you see).

The other big change, which we’ve also chronicled in these pages, is where the smart money is going. It’s really not me and other clean energy advocates you have to convince to support nuclear power; we may have the best arguments, but we don’t have the decision-making power. No, you have to convince the folks at Citibank, and Goldman Sachs, and UBS, and all the other investment houses and financial analysts who have decided to put their money on clean energy–not nuclear power.

Earlier this week, Citibank put out a report pointing out that moving to clean energy will actually save the world money–a trillion dollars or more.  Goldman Sachs is putting up hundreds of its own dollars in clean energy investment. If you’ll scroll down through GreenWorld, you’ll find many more reports and analyses from these kinds of institutions. Stories like this one from March, headlined: Deutsche Bank: Solar has already won.

Meanwhile, John, despite your increasingly shrill support for nuclear power and against clean energy advocates (and yes, I’m not going to forget when you told climate funders not to fund us), your message is not resonating in another key sector: the world’s governments. Instead, Germany, with its increasingly successful Energiewende energy transition is leading the way. They’re showing the world how to move away from both nuclear power and fossil fuels, and building a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system. Not that it’s easy, or immediate, but when you compare it to how long some nuclear reactors have taken to build, it’s not all that slow either. And, in fact, it’s so successful that even France–yes, France, the world’s most nuclear country–adopted a law this Spring to begin moving away from nuclear and toward more renewables and energy efficiency. As a climate change measure. We’ve been covering that here in GreenWorld too; here’s one of the most popular stories, titled The accelerating decline of French nuclear power.

I’m actually kind of honored that you would focus your ire on us clean energy advocates, that you think we have such power that we can turn around those governments, and all those Wall Street investment types, and the technologies themselves, and get them all to support nuclear power and somehow build new reactors quickly and cheaply enough to make a difference for the climate. Well, I’ll let you know when I get that kind of magic wand; though when I do I doubt I’ll use it to promote nuclear power. But I might put up a Tesla PowerWall in my house.

I was so impressed with your performance in those 1988 Congressional hearings, when you first came to national prominence by warning our elected officials about the need to take urgent action on climate. Your credentials and the science behind your statements were impeccable. I was paying attention then because, when you were testifying, I was working on my first article about nuclear power and climate, where I pointed out that the nuclear industry would certainly be attempting to use climate as a rationale for more nuclear. I also pointed out then that since it was the same utilities and companies that built and operated both nuclear and fossil fuel plants that it would be hard to take their nuclear-is-the-answer position too seriously–they were the guilty parties in the first place.

But it was easy to predict what would happen. Already back then, Colorado Senator Timothy Wirth was promoting an “advanced” reactor–his choice was the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) being touted then by General Atomics. It didn’t take a genius to figure out where the nuclear industry would be going. Nor did it take a genius to predict the failure of the whole concept of 4th generation reactors. Now, 27 years later, none of those 4th generation reactors are any closer to commercial deployment than they were back then. That’s because they’re either too expensive, or don’t work at all, or the whole notion of trying to make an inherently dangerous technology “inherently safe” is inherently absurd. These designs, whether they be thorium or integral fast reactors, or the PBMRs, or whatever (and some of these designs are more than 50 years old now) exist only on paper for a reason. Yet you continue to tout them as if they are real. I have to say, that kind of draws into question your expertise in this area.

And clearly energy economics isn’t your area of expertise either. Otherwise you’d know what the Wall Street types know: nuclear is simply too expensive to be viable in the clean energy world of the 21st century. To be honest, John, I wish you’d stick to what you do know: climate science, and leave the energy part of the issue–the how we’re going to solve the climate crisis part–to the energy experts. You’ve been the beacon, the warning sign, a modern-day Paul Revere warning our entire planet, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. Really, we all owe you a very large debt of gratitude.

But now you’re calling a press conference at the most important climate negotiations ever, and you plan to tell environmentalists that we need to support nuclear power? That’s the sum total of your message now? That we should embrace the only low-carbon technology that releases toxic radiation into the air and water every day? That has a nasty habit of experiencing a major disaster once a decade or so that kills thousands and leaves parts of our planet permanently uninhabitable? That generates lethal and essentially eternal waste that our planet does not know how to store or isolate from our only environment for its hazardous life? That, for all the reasons stated above, is too slow to be useful in reducing carbon emissions and is so expensive that investing in it would crowd out the investments we could (and should and will) make in clean energy that will reduce those emissions faster and cheaper?

I’m sorry, John, but the only thing that has changed since your November 2013 letter is that renewables are even more viable and nuclear is even less so. Yet you keep repeating your tired old refrain as if repetition will change reality. It won’t.

So even if I make it to Paris next month (and for health reasons I’m afraid I probably won’t), I’m going to pass on your press conference. You’ve clearly got nothing new to say, and what you do have to say only exposes how little you know about the subjects you’re talking about. I really wish you’d stick to those that you do know. I wish you’d really bring home to the COP 21 delegates the sense of urgency needed. I wish, with the kind of clarity and force you’re capable of, you would get them to adopt really meaningful, stringent climate goals; goals that give our planet a chance. Then, please step aside. We already know the “how” part–that is a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system. We can meet the goals if the world’s governments will only give us the opportunity. The technology is here; we need you to help provide the political will–not to come in bearing false solutions from a failed industry.

It’s too bad. This should be your time, and instead you’re wasting it. The problem isn’t me, John. Nor the rest of us working for a clean energy future. The problem is you.

Sincerely,

Michael Mariotte
President
Nuclear Information and Resource Service

Helen Caldicott Symposium held on Mar. 11 & 12, 2013 in NYC

http://www.radiationtruth.org/2013/03/a-summary-of-the-helen-caldicott-symposium-held-on-mar-11-12-2013-in-nyc/

Hattie Nestel’s summary of the Helen Caldicott Symposium on the Medical & Ecological Consequences of Fukushima:

The Medical And Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident
March 11 & 12 2013,(The 2nd anniversary of the start of the triple meltdown) The New York Academy of Medicine New York City
sponsored by The Helen Caldicott Foundation and Physicians for Social Responsibility

My battery is totally recharged! It was more than stimulating to be in a like-minded crowd that was totally on-board with the mission: end nuclear power and create a renewable energy future. I am so glad I went. Thank you all who encouraged and supported my going. So, here is my report.

There were some 200 in the audience in rapt silence as many videographers recorded more than twenty-five presentations about the March, 2011 meltdowns of the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactors. The catastrophe was examined by leading world experts in radiation biology, epidemiology, oceanography, nuclear engineering, and nuclear policy. The talks were insightful, well-researched, poignant, and based on solid science and medical practice. And quite understandable for some in the audience, like me, who have none of these backgrounds.

Both days started promptly at 9 AM and ended promptly at 6:30 PM. During each morning and afternoon coffee break, there was a great buzz as we met people from all over the world, including Ukraine, Australia, Japan, Canada, and all over the US.

The conference opened with a video sent by and featuring former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan who was in office when the catastrophe of the Fukushima meltdowns occurred. Mr. Kan stressed that design flaws and human error caused the meltdowns. Mr. Kan stated emphatically that nuclear power cannot coexist with human life and must be abolished worldwide. Mr. Kan said releases of cancer-inducing Cesium-137 amounted to 400 to 500 times the releases of the Hiroshima bomb and that radioactive releases continue from the site. Despite TEPCO’s wish to the contrary, Mr. Kan said he made the difficult decision to require workers to remain on site in order to contain the catastrophe.

Mr. Kan emphasized that Fukushima is a man-made catastrophe which was engineered by GE and sold to Japan by the US

Dr. Alexey Yablokov of the Russian Academy of Sciences drew a standing ovation as he explained his unique methodology for assessing cancer incidence from the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown and his book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment.

Dr. Yabloko has concluded that official estimates including the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and Soviet and Russian governments underestimate both mortality and cancers caused by radiation from Chernobyl.

Before Monday’s lunch, we heard testimony from two US Navy veterans, Jaime Plym and Maurice Enis, who are among 5,000 sailors caught in Fukushima’s radiation fallout aboard the USS Ronald Reagan just off shore of the meltdowns for 80 days. The veterans were given no protective gear, no potassium iodine pills, and no information that they were being exposed to high levels of radiation. Before disembarking the ship, they were ordered to sign papers saying they were in good health and agreed they would not sue the US for any heath problems they might experience in the future. They say they now suffer serious health problems and no health insurance to cover their medical bills. With other Navy personnel who accuse TEPCO of providing “false and misleading information” about Fukushima while being “aware that the potential health risk was greater than its agents were reporting.” (See CBS News report: Navy Vets Say Fukushima Meltdown Made Them Sick 3/11/13).

During Tuesday’s lunch break, we heard from several Japanese women about societal and medical effects of Fukushima on Japanese family and culture. The women cite the Japanese government’s failure to inform citizens of the real dangers and further note the Japanese government’s failure adequately to compensate citizens for loss of property. Further, the Japanese media failed to investigate and report on the Fukushima disaster in timely fashion. The women are worried about their health and the health of their children since the meltdowns.

Many speakers pointed out that there was little planning for the possibility a disaster of the magnitude of the Fukushima meltdowns. There will undoubtedly be long-lasting and serious health effects incurring DNA damage going forward for many, many generations.

The consensus of speakers acknowledges no possible remediation of widespread high levels of contamination. Any genuine cleanup would be impossibly expensive and time consuming. It is clear that there is nowhere to put enormous amounts of contaminated soil, water, and debris. In addition, the 80% of radiation that leaked into the Pacific is irretrievable: even if we COULD clean things up, it is too late. The horse is out of the barn.

The physicians stressed their oath, “Above all, do no harm.” Prevention is the most important thing. Nuclear energy’s capacity to do damage is beyond human control, and the only way to prevent harm is to abolish nuclear power.

Others spoke of the failure of US engineers when they sited the Fukushima reactors in a high-level earthquake area with a long history of tsunamis, some of them measurable at considerable height. To provide easier road access to the reactors, Fukushima developers blasted a natural cliff sea wall down from 30 feet to 10 feet with a 14-foot man-made sea wall. The 2011 tsunami crested to 46 feet and flooded basement diesels so that they could no longer provide auxiliary power, thus leading to the meltdowns.

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen spoke of economic pressures to curb costs, thus undermining the stringency of inspections, oversight, and maintenance. As in the United States, Japanese oversight agencies often draw from the nuclear industry. Oversight agencies are, therefore, corrupted by close ties. Mr. Gundersen also mentioned that spent fuel rods stored at Fukushima in dry casks on site were unharmed by the effects of the earthquake and tsunami. Spent fuel stored in pools high above the ground portend much more danger, but as at United States nuclear plants,TEPCO resisted putting rods in casks because of the cost: about $1.2 million each.

Mr. Gundersen further reported that Fukushima radiation monitors recorded 30,000 times the usual background radiation yearly dose in 10 minutes on March 12, although those readings were not made public at that time. Mr. Gundersen visited Tokyo in November, 2012, and took soil samples. He found the soil he measured contained radioactive hot spots.

Nuclear engineer David Lochbaum called Fukushima a foreseeable disaster in large measure because of its flawed design. Because of the flawed design, including basement back-up generators flooded by the tsunami, Fukushima’s reactors were without necessary auxiliary power for 9 days. Therefore, fuel rods heated up to meltdown without pumps to circulate cooling water.

In the immediate wake of the meltdowns, there was a muddled chain of command and climate of profound cover-up.

Many speakers noted the acknowledged flawed design of Fukushima’s GE Mark 1 boiling water reactors. GE itself described the design’s deficiencies in the early 70s, but reactors modeled on the prototype were nevertheless installed in many places, including Fukushima and more than 30 US sites, many of them still operating. Akin to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Japan’s oversight agency is corrupted by the industry it purports to regulate, according to many of the symposium’s speakers.

It is notable that if the Japanese government acknowledged the true extent of radiation contamination, compensating the millions of affected people and businesses would bankrupt Japan.

Presenters observed that the US has 63 military installations throughout the Japanese islands with some 60,000 military dependents including men, women, and children. These people, too, are potentially eligible for compensation and evacuation if the extent of contamination were to be honestly acknowledged.

Maps of radiation from Fukushima demonstrate a variable path because of prevailing winds, uneven concentrations, and fickle meteorological conditions. One thing is clear: more radiation will leak from Fukushima and, if Reactor 4 is not contained, future leakage will occur.

Some speakers shared studies of radiation exposure demonstrating that women, children, and especially fetuses are much more vulnerable than young men to damage and possible cancers from radiation exposure, although the standard for measuring harm from radiation is young men. Other studies show high infant mortality rates in both Japan and the US west coast at almost precisely nine months after the disaster, a phenomenon also observed within nine months of the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986.

Presenters also charged that International Atomic Energy Agency and World Health Organization statistics from the Fukushima tragedy understate its extent.

“The Fukushima crisis is actually an issue of global public health,” said Dr. Caldicott in her concluding remarks. “We are already observing a demonstrable, increased incidence of thyroid abnormalities in children in the Fukushima Prefecture. This may be an early indicator of an eventual increased incidence of thyroid cancers.

“Further, plumes of radioactivity from Fukushima are currently migrating in the Pacific Ocean towards the West Coast,” Dr. Caldicott added. “The crisis is far from over . . . and worst of all, Fukushima Daichi’s Building #4, which holds 100 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel, was seriously damaged in the earthquake and could collapse in another quake. This would cause the fuel pool to burn, releasing even more massive amounts of radiation. All of these have profound medical and public health implications.”

Dr. Caldicott implored her audience to work for a renewable energy future well within our ability to achieve. “Within nine months of Pearl Harbor,” she observed, “the United States completely retooled its industry to make war. It would be entirely possible within nine months, for the US to completely retool its industry to make and install solar panels and wind turbines to replace fossil-fuel and nuclear energy sources.”

Dr. Caldicott also encouraged conservation and urged people to examine their life styles, turning off their dryers, hang clothes on clotheslines, and develop mindfulness of energy-hogging lifestyles.

Fight the Nuclear Energy Institute’s New Ad Campaign

The National Energy Institute (NEI) is launching a massive pro-nuke campaign. The false claims that nuclear energy is clean, safe and green will be made yet again.
 
Please contact your local public radio station and ask them to run this PSA. If they are unaware of the problems with nuclear power direct them to http://RadiationTruth.org, or to your other favorite sites.

 

Here is the great new 30 second PSA file which is free to broadcast:

MP3 File

Michael Leonardi of CAN telling like it is – a must read

Fighting Back Against Nuclear Power

Published in CounterPunch on September 28th and written by MICHAEL LEONARDI

As the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Nuclear Industry, and Obama administration continue to push nuclear energy as safe and clean, a grassroots insurgency is growing from the awakening depths of the growingly vociferous American maelstrom. Fukushima’s three meltdowns continue to emit over a billion bequerels of radioactivity a day into the environment and that radiation is spreading. The international media and all Atomic regulatory agencies around the world have been complicit in keeping the reality of this catastrophe silent. In the United States of America, despite reports of a decrepit, failing and unsafe nuclear program from the pages of CounterPunch to the Associated Press, CBS News and beyond, most Americans remain quiet and numbed on this issue. Much of this country’s union leadership, beholden to a broken and corporate owned Democratic Party and the monstrous energy giants that provide them jobs, have a slave plantation mentality toward their Radioactive, Oil Extrapolating and Gas Fracking bosses. The promise of a Green revolution based around economically viable, RENEWABLE and truly safe energy sources seems to be bound and shackled by a ball and chain mentality, but signs of a breaking point have finally begun to surface!

A truly grassroots insurgency is underway and is introducing itself to the world on October 1st with actions across North America. The Coalition Against Nukes  has mobilized for the past several months to begin a no nuke uprising that won’t stop until ALL of our nuclear power plants are shut down and our future generations can look forward to a Nuke Free World.  Isn’t it enough that we are leaving our future generations with the legacy of millions of gallons of nuclear waste and thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel to monitor and control for thousands of years? A part from Governor Perry’s idea of nuking Texas — which we might want to consider — there is no solution to ridding ourselves of this extremely toxic and highly radioactive waste piling up in hotspots around the globe. Enough is Enough!

The time has come to look beyond the lies and propaganda of our so-called world leaders and see them for what they are. We are being led down a path of destruction by criminal governments running a global system of mafia wars, rape and pillage as they take more and more from us all while poisoning and desecrating our air, land and water beyond any natural recognition. Our children are suffering now from respiratory illnesses and disease and the search for a cure for cancer lies in eliminating the industrial pollutants that cause it not in a research laboratory.  As of yesterday the Palisades Nuclear power plant on the shores of Lake Michigan was venting radioactive steam. The amounts are minimal and harmless say the NRC and Entergy spokespeople, THEY ARE LYING as they always do and this is the essence of their existence.

Look to the lessons we are learning from Japan. If there is a serious nuclear accident this is what we can count on from our governments, the United Nations, the World Health Organization and those “in charge”.  They will lie to us for months, they will abandon us to die and they will act like nothing is happening. This is what is unfolding in the Crime Against Humanity devastating the 3 million residents and mainly the children that have been left in areas 5 times more radioactive than the areas of the Ukraine evacuated until this day after Chernobyl. Try and get your minds around how callous and utterly disdainful our governments have become toward their populations. Our governments represent the Inhumane Capitalist Engine and we are all disposable. Let us die our cancerous deaths while we are told that we have nothing to fear is the stark reality we are facing not tomorrow but today.

The alarm bells are ringing as Wall Street becomes the target of a global revolt.  As C.A.N. organizer Remy Chevalier put it “It is time to zero in on Entergy, Exelon, Constellation, Dominion… all the sick nuclear power companies run by thugs.” These are just a few and I’d broaden that to include all of the Energy, Chemical and Biological Mutating giants that are hell bent on destroying the life affirming forces this beautiful planet has offered our species.

This is a call to action and the time to act is now. Not on facebook, not with letters and petitions, but in the streets and parks across the land on October 1st and beyond. The Coalition Against Nukes has pulled together rallies across the US and Canada on October 1st. The rally in New York will have a powerful list of speakers including CounterPunch contributors Helen Caldicott, Harvey Wasserman, Kevin Kamps, Karl Grossman and more. In downtown Toledo, Ohio congressmen Dennis Kucinich will join us in a rally calling for the shut down of Davis Besse and Fermi 2! Dennis is bucking the Democratic Party trend and as he has always done by saying No to Nukes! He will be joined by two Democratic council members, Green Party activists and more. In Virginia activists will target the state capital in a state that wants to bring back Uranium Mining. In California, Chicago, New Jersey, Florida, and Washington State NO NUKES will be the message. They will be drumming Against Nukes in Toronto Canada and as we voice our solidarity with the people of Japan and cry out NEVER AGAIN! The Japanese will be standing up to say no more nukes! In India they are marching and hunger striking to ban nukes. Italy banned nukes with a successful grassroots storm. Germany will be Nuke Free by 2022. It is time for this movement to rise up in United Sates too! NO NUKES ! ! !  Please visit the C.A.N. website at www.coalitionagainstnukes.org/   and join a rally near you or do something creatively anti-nuclear on October 1st and spread the word.

Michael Leonardi is a C.A.N. organizer and writer living for now between Toledo, Ohio and Italy. He is currently working for the Service Employees International Union to repeal the attack on collective bargaining in the State of Ohio. He can be reached at mikeleonardi@hotmail.com