The experiment with nuclear power has ended in disaster.
Japan has raised the nuclear alert level to the maximum seven, and a senior official at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station says the radiation leak may eventually exceed Chernobyl's.
For years, the experts told us that a disaster like this could never happen. Yet it has happened.
Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, but that did not spare it from this nuclear nightmare.
Within the evacuation zone of the Fukushima power plant, authorities are finding dead bodies from the earthquake and tsunami that are too irradiated to move. The authorities are concerned that the burial of these bodies may contaminate the Earth and cremation may spread plumes of radiation.
It's long past time to bring an end to this experiment with nuclear power and replace it with more friendly forms of renewable energy.
The purpose of nuclear power plants is to generate electricity. They do this by generating heat through controlled nuclear fission, which, if all goes well, boils water. The boiling water, in turn, creates steam to turn turbines.
But water can be brought to a boil in many ways, nearly all of which do not involve producing large quantities of highly radioactive wastes that must be prevented from release to the environment for, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of years.
Sixty-five years into the Nuclear Age, there is no solution to the problem of nuclear waste storage. Most of the radioactive waste produced by nuclear reactors lies in spent fuel pools located near the reactors that generate the waste. This spent fuel is even more vulnerable to being released to the environment than is the fuel in the nuclear reactors. Large quantities of radioactive wastes will remain dangerous to the environment and human health for many times longer than human civilization has existed. It is a legacy of poison we are bequeathing to the future.
The nuclear fuel cycle involves uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing, creating fissile materials that can be used to make nuclear weapons. Because of this, civilian nuclear programs for research and energy generation make nuclear weapons proliferation more likely and nuclear disarmament more difficult, if not impossible.
Also, nuclear power reactors and spent fuel pools can be intentionally destroyed by terrorists or targeted in time of war. The location of these facilities near major cities puts millions of people in danger of radiation releases.
And as we have seen at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima, the risk of an accident is too catastrophic to take.
The dead in and around Fukushima deserve a decent and honorable burial. The nuclear industry deserves only an unceremonious burial -- the sooner, the better.
David Krieger is a leader in the global movement to abolish nuclear weapons whose latest book is "God's Tears: Reflections on the Atomic Bombs Dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
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