By Anonymous (not verified) on May 13, 2011

Here are ten lessons from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago and the Fukushima disaster this year.

1. Nuclear power is a highly complex, expensive and dangerous way to boil water to create steam to turn turbines.

2. Accidents happen, and the worst-case scenario often turns out to be worse than imagined or planned for.

3. The nuclear industry and its experts cannot plan for every contingency or prevent every disaster.

4. Governments do not effectively regulate the nuclear industry to assure the safety of the public. Regulators of the nuclear industry often come from the nuclear industry itself and tend to be too close to it to regulate it effectively.

5. Hubris, complacency and high-level radiation are a deadly mix. Hubris on the part of the nuclear industry and its government regulators — along with complacency on the part of the public — has led to the creation of vast amounts of high-level radiation that must be guarded from release to the environment for tens of thousands of years.

6. The corporations that run the nuclear power plants are protected from catastrophic economic failure by government limits on liability. If the corporations that own nuclear power plants had to bear the burden of potential financial losses in the event of a catastrophic accident, they would not build the plants because they know the risks are unacceptable. It is only when government limits the liability, as the Price-Anderson Act does in the United States, that companies go ahead and build nuclear power plants. No other private industry is given such liability protection, which leaves the taxpayers on the hook.

7. Radiation releases from nuclear accidents cannot be contained in space and will not stop at national borders.

8. Radiation releases from nuclear accidents cannot be contained in time and will adversely affect countless future generations.

9. Nuclear energy — as well as nuclear weapons — and human beings cannot coexist without the risk of future catastrophes. The survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have long known that nuclear weapons and human beings cannot coexist. Fukushima, like Chernobyl before it, makes clear that human beings and nuclear power plants also cannot coexist.

10. The accidents at Fukushima and Chernobyl are a bracing reminder to phase out nuclear energy. We need to move as rapidly as possible to a global energy plan based upon conservation and various forms of renewable energy: solar cells, wind, geothermal, and energy that is extracted from the oceans and the tides and the currents.

Poet Maya Angelou once said, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage doesn’t need to be lived again.”

We need the courage to abandon nuclear power. No one should have to experience the wrenching pain of another Chernobyl or another Fukushima.

David Krieger is a councilor on the World Future Council and the chair of the executive committee of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

On November 20 every year for the last fifteen years, transgender people gather for vigil ceremonies to acknowledge...

Yesterday the U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a bill that would approve construction on the Keystone XL pipeline.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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