P.O. Box 2589
Berkeley, CA 94702 USA
ON THE RESPONSIBLE CARE OF
Nuclear Guardianship is a citizen commitment to present and future generations to keep radioactive materials out of the biosphere. Recognizing the extreme damage these materials inflict on all life-forms and their genetic codes, Nuclear Guardianship requires:
- interim containment of radioactive materials in accessible, monitored storage, so that leaks can be repaired, and future technologies for reducing and containing their radioactivity can be applied;
- stringent limits on transport of radioactive materials, to avoid contaminating new sites, and to minimize spills and accidents;
- cessation of the production of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy;
- transmission to future generations of the knowledge necessary for their self-protection and ongoing guardianship through time.
The Nuclear Guardianship Project is a citizen's educational effort aimed at developing the political, technical and moral understandings required for the responsible care of radioactive materials.
The Nuclear Guardianship Forum is a publication providing opportunities for ongoing, in-depth discussion among citizens, specialists, and policy makers on the responsible care of radioactive materials.
Included herein are 39 articles
selected from the three issues of
the Nuclear Guardianship Forum,
published in the Springs of 1992, 1993, and 1994.
Browse HTML articles listed
chronologically by title or with linked excerpts
or an ASCII text format listing
Nuclear reactors are made
by fools like me,
but only God
could make a nuclear reactor
that's 93,000,000 miles
from the nearest elementary school.
-- Anne Herbert
Unfortunately, the American government has become a machine for the conversion of public assets into private profits, and a big machine for the conversion of private liabilities into public liabilities. The problem of nuclear waste is a very good illustration of the second feature. The government has agreed to take the nuclear waste of private American utilities and convert it into government waste to be handled at public expense.2
What do you propose as the most responsible approach to waste management today?
We are here not only on our own behalf, but as delegates of all unborn children, who have no voice yet; as delegates of our peers who do not wish to face the nuclear danger; and even as delegates of our ancestors who left us the whole earth and its treasures.2
As an active opponent of nuclear energy, I am not participating in this and perhaps should not feel guilty about it. From the viewpoint of future generations, however, it will be totally unimportant on which side I have been: on the side of the opponents or of the producers of nuclear energy. The grandchildren of my grandchildren won't be interested in the fact that I live without a connection to public electricity. For them, all of us will be the people of the nuclear age, implicated in and responsible for the radioactive inheritance we left them. The grandchildren of our grandchildren will have only two questions for us. But these questions are crucial for their survival: 1) Where is the radioactive waste? 2) How can we protect ourselves from it? . . . The solution to the problem, moreover, cannot be limited to finding a site for the final disposal that is as safe as possible. There is no site like this on the planet. There is no safe disposal for a one-time deposit of nuclear waste that can afterwards be closed up. Instead of "final disposal" it would be better to speak of "indefinite storage." For the storing of nuclear waste creates a danger that lasts over thousands of years, that cannot be banished even for a moment, and that therefore must always be kept alive in the minds of affected generations.2
I think the utilities want out. Not only because they don't want the liability for radioactive accidents and waste, but also because they know that this stuff is just going to keep costing, costing and costing. And they want out.2
There is plenty of documentation about this. The simple fact is that when you bury this stuff, it doesn't stay put. We have a dynamic living system of a planet and the radioactive material cycles around. There is less information about how it moves in the desert. But there is no reason to think that it is going to stay put there, either.
Culminating with this peculiarly amoral notion, "Pandora's Box in Aftertimes" can perhaps be read as a morality tale on the failure of secrecy and denial. It demonstrates that the very premise of "out of sight, out of mind" deep geological burial of radioactive materials leads inevitably to procedures in the social, political and spiritual life of the people that are not any less destructive because they are absurd.2
A Legislative Body for Our Descendants
"Human beings have gotten pretty good at looking into deep space," says a thoughtful consultant to the Department of Energy, "but we are really no good at looking into deep time."
Representatives of citizens' organizations were concerned that those living near a nuclear facility have an adequate role in the decommissioning process and on-going monitoring. Joanna Macy for NGP stated that "it is good that representadves of citizens' organizations are meeting here with representatives of industry and government. For it is neither fair nor wise to leave such far-reaching decisions to persons whose jobs put them under pressures of bureaucratic, political, or economic expediency. All elements of the public should be involved, especially local citizens whose families now live, and whose descendants will live, with the radioactive contamination our generation has produced. Wider participation in the deliberative process and a site-by-site approach will allow them to exercise the moral responsibility they feel."2
My main recommendation is that we store nuclear waste in cement packaging on the ground at military research and production sites where it was produced. Likewise, on-site storage of civilian fuel rods is the way to go for at least the next fifty years. In this way, waste can easily be repackaged or reprocessed in the future if the need develops. Remember that time is on our side, and haste is the biggest enemy. Nuclear waste is the opposite of tea: the longer you leave it the weaker it gets.
Every dose of [ionizing radiation]
is an overdose.
-- Dr. George Wald
Harvard Biologist, Nobel Laureat
EVERBODY HAS TO BE AN EXPERT
We won't solve the problem of containing
radiation until its danger is universally known,
like knowing that fire is hot and you ought not
to put your finger in the flame
or you will be burned.
-- Margaret Carde
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
Present policy to bury radioactive wastes is opposed as profoundly misguided on both scientific and ethical grounds.
Conventional fixes (technological, judicial, knowledge) overlook the most important fix of all: a participatory democracy.
These views are developed respectively in the following recently published books.
Burying Uncertainty: Risk and the Case Against Geological Disposal of Nuclear Waste by Kirstin S. Shrader-Frechette (Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy, University of South Florida), Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 1993/360p/$15pb.
Public Reactions to Nuclear Waste: Citizens' Views of Repository Siting edited by Riley E. Dunlap (Professor of Sociology, Washington State University), Michael E. Draft (Prof of Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay), and Eugene A. Rosa (Professor of Sociology, Washington State University). Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1993/332p/$24 pb.
The ancient Egyptians left their pyramids. We will
leave our decommissioned nuclear power plant hulks
and our mountains of lethal radioactive waste.
For much longer than recorded history, for longer
than humankind has walked upright upon earth,
future generations will pay the price
for our generation's selfish shortsightedness.
-- Mary Jane Williams
New England Environmental