On the 25th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl power plant, presenter Olga Betko travels to Chernobyl - in her native Ukraine - to find the people who are living in what is known as the "dead zone".
Tagged with “nuclear” (11)
The face of nuclear terror has changed since the Cold War, but disaster-medicine expert Irwin Redlener reminds us the threat is still real. He looks at some of history’s farcical countermeasures and offers practical advice on how to survive an attack.
About Irwin Redlener
Dr. Irwin Redlener spends his days imagining the worst: He studies how humanity might survive natural or human-made disasters of unthinkable severity.
The evening began with a short version of Isao Ishimoto’s animation of all the world’s atomic explosions in the period 1945 to 1998. The total is shocking to most people—-2,053. Rhodes commented that seeing the bomb tests on a world map over time shows how much they were a strange form of communication between nations. He also noted how the number of tests dropped from decades of intensity to near zero after 1993. In this century only North Korea has tested bombs, and those could be the last explosions.
Most Americans, he’s found, think that we don’t have nuclear weapons any more, and that may reflect a realistic perception that we no longer need them. But our government keeps looking for reasons to keep them, and maintaining the current much reduced arsenal still costs $50 billion a year.
How much did the Cold War cost everyone from 1948 to 1991, and how much of that was for nuclear weapons? The total cost has been estimated at $18.5 trillion, with $7.8 trillion for nuclear. At the peak the Soviet Union had 95,000 weapons and the US had 20 to 40,000. America’s current seriously degraded infrastructure would cost about $2.2 trillion to fix—-all the gas lines and water lines and schools and bridges. We spent that money on bombs we never intended to use—-all of the Cold War players, major and minor, told Rhodes that everyone knew that the bombs must not and could not be used. Much of the nuclear expansion was for domestic consumption: one must appear "ahead," even though numbers past a couple dozen warheads were functionally meaningless.
Rhodes noted that people fear the blast and radiation effects of atomic bombs, but it’s really the fires that are most destructive. The fireball ignites everything far beyond the blast effects. As a result, nuclear winter remains a threat. Former researchers of nuclear winter used sophisticated new climate models to assess what would happen if, say, there was an exchange of 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs (1.5 kilotons) between India and Pakistan. The smoke clouds would disrupt the weather long enough to collapse some agriculture, leading to starvation of as many as a billion people.
Serious efforts are underway to get the world’s nuclear weapons down toward zero. All weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) is being tallied and secured. Sophisticated, unrestrained inspection systems are gaining ever more access. In some cases, arsenals are being "virtualized"—-nuclear capability substitutes for weapons stockpiles. India and Pakistan, for instance, have disassembled their nuclear weapons into widely separated parts that would take considerable time and deliberation to reassemble.
In the course of his research, Rhodes shifted from opposition to nuclear power for electricity to becoming a strong proponent. Among its benefits is offering a way for the thousands of warheads to be converted into something useful when diluted into large quantities of reactor fuel. Also the international fuel banking proposed for bringing proliferation-free nuclear power to developing nations can help enable more thorough inspections of all fissile material.
At dinner Rhodes reflected that nuclear weapons may come to be seen as a strange fetishistic behavior by nations at a certain period in history. They were insanely expensive and thoroughly useless. Their only function was to keep a bizarre form of score.
Since we’re coming up on the Fourth of July, and towns everywhere are preparing their better-than-ever fireworks spectaculars, we would like to offer this humbling bit of history. Back in the summer of 1962, the U.S. blew up a hydrogen bomb in outer space, some 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean. It was a weapons test, but one that created a man-made light show that has never been equaled — and hopefully never will.
"This story [of This American Life] includes excerpts from a radio documentary called "The Human Button", which originally aired on BBC Radio 4 in December, 2008. For more information visit www.bbc.co.uk/radio4."
Via This American Life 399: Contents Unknown, http://thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=399
Nevada’s Yucca Mountain is no longer an option for long-term storage of nuclear waste. But construction of a similar project is under way in Finland. In his film Into Eternity, director Michael Madsen questions the feasibility of safely storing waste for hundreds of thousands of years.
Following on from his newspaper column in the New York Post, Orson Welles offered a weekly political radio broadcast. Here, he talks about Operation Crossroads. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Crossroads
This talk was given at Cowell Theatre in Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, California on Friday October 9, 02009.
Brand built his case for rethinking environmental goals and methods on two major changes going on in the world. The one that most people still don’t take into consideration is that power is shifting to the developing world, where 5 out of 6 people live, where the bulk of humanity is getting out of poverty by moving to cities and creating their own jobs and communities (slums, for now).
The second dominant global fact is climate change. Brand emphasized that climate is a severely nonlinear system packed with tipping points and positive feedbacks such as the unpredicted rapid melting of Arctic ice.
Global warming has to be slowed by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases from combustion, but cities require dependable baseload electricity, and so far the only carbon-free sources are hydroelectric dams and nuclear power. Brand contrasted nuclear with coal-burning by comparing what happens with their waste products.
Moving to genetically engineered food crops, Brand noted that they are a tremendous success story in agriculture, with Green benefits such as no-till farming, lowered pesticide use, and more land freed up to be wild. The developing world is taking the lead with the technology, designing crops to deal with the specialized problems of tropical agriculture. Meanwhile the new field of synthetic biology is bringing a generation of Green biotech hackers into existence.
In the 1960s, Stewart Brand became one of the country’s first and most famous champions of a new ecological awareness. His Whole Earth Catalog spoke to a generation of hippies and back-to-nature commune dwellers.
Now, at 70, Stewart Brand is calling on environmentalists to reframe their understanding of the problem — and solutions. It’s too late for back-to-nature, he says. Global warming is beyond that.
To survive now, Brand says, we need nuclear power, genetic engineering, giant cities. We must manage nature or lose civilization.
This hour, On Point: In the face of global warming, Stewart Brand redefines green.
Humans have not gone unnoticed on this planet. We’ve left our mark with technology, agriculture, architecture, and a growing carbon footprint. But where is this trajectory headed?
In the second of a two-part series: what we’ll lose and what will last in 1000 years or more.
Discover what the planet might look like to geologists of the far-off-future… the stubborn longevity of plastic and radioactive waste… human civilization in space… and postcards from the galactic edge; crafting interstellar messages to E.T.
Charles Moore – Sea Captain and founder of Algalita Marine Research Foundation Jan Zalasiewicz – Geologist, University of Leicester and author of The Earth After Us: What Legacy Will Humans Leave in the Rocks? Matthew Wald – Reporter for the New York Times and author of the article “Is There a Place for Nuclear Waste?” in the August 2009 issue of Scientific American Doug Vakoch – Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute David Korsmeyer – Chief of the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center
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