Mining, transporting, refining and disposing of spent fuel from nuclear plants produces huge amounts of carbon that goes into the air we breathe, a letter writer says.

Chicago Sun Times
October 25, 2024

by George Milkowski (50th Ward/Cook Co Green Party)

I cannot disagree more with the opinion expressed by Joe Tedino of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby in his Oct. 24 op-ed: “Give nuclear energy a chance to help end carbon pollution in Illinois.”

Tedino states: “Illinois has a long history of being nuclear friendly with more than 55% of our electricity coming from nuclear power plants, which makes Illinois among the largest producers of nuclear power in the U.S. So why stop now?”

There are many good reasons to stop now. First, nuclear power isn’t the carbon-free energy source as so many believe. Mining, transporting, refining and disposing of spent fuel, as well as the construction of power plants, produce huge amounts of carbon that goes into the air we breathe.

The nuclear power industry is now pushing for the development of small modular reactors as a faster and cheaper way of getting electricity into our homes and businesses. However, they are still an experimental concept that, even if proven to work, still have the same negative elements as the current reactors.

Another problem is the possibility of accidents. Most people are aware of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the ongoing Fukushima disaster, but there have been numerous under-reported or unreported near-disasters around the world.

It is a common practice for nuclear power plants to “vent” radioactive gases into the atmosphere at “safe” levels. However, a growing number of studies show increasing cancer “hot spots” affecting people, especially children, living within five miles of nuclear power plants.

Lastly, what do we do with all that solid waste? Much of it is dangerous for at least 250,000 years. It took about 250 years from the start of the Industrial Revolution until about 50 years ago before scientists began to realize using fossil fuels alters the climate. Originally, this problem developed out of ignorance, but now we understand we have a chance to do something about it.

What will our descendants think of us in 250 years, or 25,000 years, when they are still stuck with the waste problem? No, nuclear power is not an answer to our carbon problem. True renewables, such as wind and solar, are the only real solutions.

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