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A Perspective on Nuclear Power

March 2, 2012

Promoters of nuclear energy production, if they have any environmental awareness at all, tend to tow a line that runs very close to this:

If the risks can be well managed, and if the waste can be recycled and contained, and if the implementation can be supported economically, nuclear power is not nearly as polluting as coal as a high concentration fuel source for heating water to produce electricity using two century old technology and distributing it according to a century old distribution model in order to meet a historically extrapolated increasing demand for energy, making it necessary to avert the presumably serious and imminent threat of climate change for the foreseeable future, perhaps for decades or centuries.

Suppose then, that we choose some different ifs.

Suppose climate change itself isn’t as much of a challenge, per se, as is learning how to conduct ourselves as a species.

Suppose we, as a society, decide to address the issue of waste itself in a larger context, by eliminating the concept of waste entirely and instead designing industrial processes that function within the context of closed material flows.

Suppose we collectively change the nature of the planetary economic debate by changing the question we are asking from “Do we have the money?” to “Do we have the resources?”

Suppose that instead of looking for ways to increase our industrial capacity while simultaneously wasting 80% of our material inputs and squandering vast amounts of human potential, we look for ways to maximize the utility of materials and foster the growth of human capital.

Suppose that changing our behavior patterns in the direction of cooperation and sharing comes to be something that we embrace rather than avoid.

Suppose that our very nature as gregarious, empathic beings pushes us in the direction of microproduction and networking and away from centralized production and runaway demand.

In short, suppose humanity’s future looks radically different from its past, and the progression of time sees fewer and fewer existing assumptions about human nature left intact.

What then?

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