Glow in the Dark

As high-tech teams in Japan rush to avert meltdowns of several nuclear power plants, I find myself wondering: Who decided that it was safe to build nuclear reactors in such an earthquake-prone area?

Were the people living within 50 miles of the site given complete and accurate information about what could happen to the plant in the event of a major earthquake, and were they then allowed to vote on whether to let the plant be built? Even if the answers to both of those questions are “yes” (and that seems very unlikely), would a simple majority in favor have been all that was required — or would the potential catastrophic loss of life dictate that perhaps a 2/3 majority would be needed to authorize the construction?

In the U.S., considerable propaganda has been pumped out in an effort to convince us that nuclear power is safe. In the U.S., this supposedly free country, life-threatening hazards are installed all around us without a vote. We’re lied to quite routinely, and then we’re not consulted about what’s being done. I live within ten miles of a government lab where, among other things, experiments with live anthrax and other biological agents are carried out. Or so I’ve read. The experiments are shrouded in secrecy, and there has never been a vote of the local citizenry as to whether we want that activity to be carried on here.

With respect to nuclear power, though, we have some complicity. We’ve gladly bought into the delusion that we can have it all — that compromise is unnecessary, that we don’t have to make any sacrifices. Tonight, after dark, I drove down to the supermarket. The entire shopping center was a blaze of light. Across the street, a local high-school football field was brilliantly illuminated by overhead floodlights for a night game.

Try telling the high school that they’ll have to schedule those games in the afternoon, because there isn’t enough power generation on the grid for night games. Try telling the corporation that owns the supermarket that they’ll have to turn off half of those overhead fluorescents, turning the huge room into a dismal cave. Tell the owners of the stores across the parking lot to switch off their neon signage. And wear your ear plugs, because you’re going to hear deafening howls of protest.

One way or another, we’re all glowing in the dark.

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