Sunday, March 20, 2011

Military attacks Earth: The peaceful atom

What does nonviolence have to say about the explosions caused by earthquakes and tsunami waves at the power plants in Japan? Everything. Nonviolence would have prevented the whole shooting match.

The entire civilian nuclear electricity industry everywhere on Earth got its start as a way to justify and follow the primary and original product of atomic fission research: The Bomb. Nuclear research might have plodded along for another long while before anyone would have stupidly suggested, "Hey, we've got a way to vaporize water, so let's slow it down and we can produce steam, which will turn a turbine and then make electricity. OK, it's a little like using a toxic chainsaw to cut a pat of butter, but I'm just spitballing here, maybe it would make a funny story for The Onion."

Ha. Ha. The peaceful atom is a bomb.

If the world had been serious about nonviolence after Gandhi showed how it could be used in 1908 in South Africa, perhaps nonviolence could have been used to stop World War I and certainly to stop Germany and possibly Japan in the 1930s and 1940s. Without a Pearl Harbor-triggered war in the Pacific, there might never have been a Manhattan Project, no nuclear weapons, and thus no atomic electric power industry and no problems for the Japanese, for the Ukrainians or for any of the many victims of both nuclear weapons and nuclear power ever since.

There have been numerous studies and recommendations for designing and applying powerful economic sanctions, embargoes, travel bans and other nonviolent instruments of great force. And make no mistake, sometimes force is needed and it's time for bareknuckled nonviolence. If Japan had been unable to get steel and other key goods from the US and the international community as soon as the news of their cruel attacks on China reached the world, their ability to mount a stunning attack on the US Pacific fleet would have been dramatically reduced and slowed, and likely would not have happened.

We as a nation dealt with other nations on an anarchical might-makes-right basis then and now. Effective nonviolence seems to be the province of the people, of civil society. And now it will be up to us to stop and reverse the new trend to build more nukes here and abroad. No one will do that if we the people do not. Much has been made by government and their credulous media functionaries of the safety procedures, the strict licensing requirements, and the failsafe redundancies built into commercial nuclear power plants.

Really? If so, the answers to these questions should be reassuring:
How many times has the Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied any license?
Who insures nuclear power plants?
Where is the transuranic nuclear waste buried?
Who insures the citizenry from the possible effects from a nuclear waste accident?

The NRC and its predecessor agencies have denied no nuclear applications. No one insures past a set amount against nuclear power accidents, nor against accidents from nuclear waste, because the power industry refused to build any nuclear power plants until Congress relieved them of liability with the Price Anderson Act. The transuranic nuclear waste--the nuclear waste that is composed of totally unnatural radioactive elements that are found neither in Nature nor the universe until 1945--has no permanent disposal site. Indeed, when we went through two attempts by the Department of Energy (owner of the nuclear weapons and nuclear waste) to site it in Wisconsin, I was quite involved from the beginning. Our Technical Advisory Council eventually declared there was "no safe geologic repository" possible for such material.

We owe the entire nuclear debacle to a mad need to commit an act of state terror on the Japanese people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is all another bad outgrowth of civilian harm from the military. Nonviolence could have prevented it all and can still help mitigate it in the future.

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