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Nuclear power: A gargantuan threat via Independent Australia

By Karl Grossman

At the start of 2020, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight — the closest to midnight, doomsday, since the clock started in 1947. 

There are two gargantuan threats — the climate crisis and nuclear weapons/nuclear power.


How did India get an atomic bomb in 1974? Canada supplied a reactor and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission provided heavy water for it under the U.S. so-called “Atoms for Peace” program. From the reactor, India got the plutonium for its first nuclear weapon.


Can the atomic genie be put back in the bottle? Anything people have done other people can undo. And the prospect of massive loss of life from nuclear destruction is the best of reasons.

There is a precedent: the outlawing of poison gas after World War I when its terrible impacts were tragically demonstrated, killing 90,000. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 and the Chemicals Weapons Convention of 1933 outlawed chemical warfare and to a large degree the prohibition has held.

There are major regions of the Earth – all of Africa and South America, the South Pacific and others – that are Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones based on the United Nations provision for such zones.


But if we are truly to have a world free of the horrific threat of nuclear arms, the goal needs to be more. A world free of the other side of the nuclear coin – nuclear power –is also necessary.


Of the assertion that nuclear power is carbon-free — that’s untrue. The nuclear fuel cycle – mining, milling, enrichment – is carbon-intensive and nuclear plants themselves emit radioactive Carbon-14.


On this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, let us strive for the goals of defeating global warming and having all the Earth nuclear-free. These are existential threats that must be overcome.

A version of this article was given as a presentation at the Long Island Earth Day 2020 Program on 21 September.

Karl Grossman is a full professor of journalism at the State University of New York. He is also an award-winning investigative reporter. Click here to go to Karl’s website.

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