Nuclear under Fire

Daniel M. Kammen is professor in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG), professor of public policy in the Goldman School of Public Policy, and professor of nuclear engineering in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Kammen was recently appointed Chief Technical Specialist for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the World Bank. He is also the founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL).
Could anyone have been more appropriate at Town Hall today than a highly qualified professional in the clean energy field?
Alas, even though Mr. Kammen is a pleasant man with a good sense of humor, and no doubt an expert on the subject of new energies, he managed to speak for a whole hour without once saying the word “nuclear.”
Has it become such a dirty word that his audience couldn’t hear it? Was his lecture so well rehearsed that he couldn’t change it even though today, of all days, called for a special talk?
And how come none of the fifteen people who rushed to the podium for Q&A asked about nuclear energy?
By 11:45 a.m., Mr. Kammen’s microphone was turned off and he was whizzed off the stage for lunch. I realized it was too late to stand up and ask him his honest opinion about nuclear energy.
One of Japan’s nuclear plants is in big trouble now, so close to a densely populated area that the consequences can only be devastating. Japan is also less than 6,000 miles away from LA. “Experts” guarantee us that Americans are safe and that the probability for health issues is almost none.
Although I agree that nuclear can be a clean and appropriate answer to the growing international need of energy, I question the waste disposal and the safety of the plants when faced to extreme natural catastrophes.
Today, in California, we have two nuclear plants. One is near San Clemente and the second one near San Luis Obispo. California sits on several faults and since the last notable earthquake was in 1989, a major one is overdue. How will our nuclear plants deal with a severe earthquake? A tsunami is not out of question either. The harbors of Santa Cruz and Crescent City register millions of damage in the aftershocks of the Japanese tsunami.
There are serious talks of building a nuclear plant in Fresno, the heart of the big California Valley, food cradle of America and home of some of the most dramatic landscapes in the state. We don’t live on a fault here, the ocean is too far to fear a tsunami, the area is deeply affected by the economic crisis and space is not really an issue where land is flat and abundant. Convincing ingredients for a population misinformed and eager to get jobs.
Mr. Kammen, I’m sure had plenty to say about nuclear. I have no doubt that he would have provided valuable information. Reassuring information would have been nice too. It is too bad, that because of a terrifying natural catastrophe that brings exceptional awareness, he omitted the subject.

If you want more information about Mr. Kammen:

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