Politicians, scientists and activists offer a range of options for reducing greenhouse gases in an effort to mitigate climate change. One popular approach is to expand the use of nuclear power, the so-called “clean” energy source. The argument is that nuclear power plants, when operated correctly and efficiently, release very little carbon into the atmosphere and could replace carbon-emitting coal plants.

While I am not a big fan of coal power plants, I see big problems with supplementing our energy production by building more nuclear power plants. Call me crazy, but I’ll take manageable air pollution over toxic waste we will have with us for MILLIONS of years. And while I applaud the increased interest in reducing greenhouse gases, there has to be a better way to address these concerns than by building more nuclear power plants.

Apparently I am not alone in thinking such things. Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, in cooperation with the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, has produced a report titled “Carbon-Free and Nuclear Free: A Roadmap for US Energy Policy.”

According to the press release for the report, “The overarching finding of this study is that a zero-CO2 U.S. economy can be achieved within the next thirty to fifty years without the use of nuclear power and without acquiring carbon credits from other countries. In other words, actual physical emissions of CO2 from the energy sector can be eliminated with technologies that are now available or foreseeable. This can be done at reasonable cost while creating a much more secure energy supply than at present. Net U.S. oil imports can be eliminated in about 25 years. All three insecurities – severe climate disruption, oil supply and price insecurity, and nuclear proliferation via commercial nuclear energy – will thereby be addressed. In addition, there will be large ancillary health benefits from the elimination of most regional and local air pollution, such as high ozone and particulate levels in cities, which is due to fossil fuel combustion.”

I admit that I haven’t read the full report, but clearly there are ideas out there that offer the opportunity to achieve the same goals voiced by the pro-nuclear crowd. Perhaps these ideas are worth a second look before we commit ourselves and our grandchildren to lifetimes of nuclear waste.

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Over the last several years award shows in the entertainment world have become a dime a dozen–it’s not just the Golden Globes, Oscars and Grammys…now there are a plethora of award events from which to choose. While the quantity has increased, I can’t say the same for the quality. More often than not these shows seem to be more about self-promotion and self-congratulation than acknowledging true merit.

Two environmental awards this week defy that trend and, unlike the Oscars, they don’t have to try hard to be “green.” On Monday (April 23), the Goldman Environmental Awards were announced in San Francisco. These annual awards are given to individuals from each continent except Antarctica to celebrate the achievements of local activists. Two years ago I had the privilege of personally knowing a Goldman Award winner, Kaisha Atakhanova, from Kazakhstan who led a grassroots campaign to stop the import of nuclear waste into her country. This year the recipients hail from Canada, Zambia, Mongolia, Peru, Ireland and Iceland and their individual efforts led to the preservation of a boreal forest, the establishment of a sustainable community development program, the protection of water resources from unregulated mining, the creation of a national reserve, the cessation of an illegally approved pipeline, and the protection of salmon. While the achievements themselves are clearly noteworthy, perhaps the more important achievement is the example the award recipients have set.

The Goldman Environmental Award has been called “the Nobel Prize for the environment” and it brings a great deal of attention and interest from those in and out of the environmental world. On a less grand scale, but just as important in my mind, are the awards the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) gives out every year during its DC Days activities. I was fortunate enough to be present at last night’s (Tuesday, April 25) celebration where a number of activists, including one from Russia, were honored for their efforts to stop the spread of nuclear contamination, defend affected communities and fight the nuclear weapons complex. The most coveted award is the grassroots award goes to an individual who has made a difference at the local level and exemplifies the spirit of ANA. This year’s winner was Bobbie Paul, executive director of the Atlanta affiliate of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).

I don’t know Bobbie personally, nor do I know any of this year’s Goldman Award winners. What I do know is that their victories and achievements stretch far beyond them as individuals. Their victories are the victories of their communities and countries. Their victories are our victories because they are each doing their part to make this world a safer, cleaner, better place.

And for that I say THANK YOU.