Sunday, December 10, 2006

Nuclear Energy and Zero Waste

I've decided to stay out of the long discussion about nuclear energy going on over at Red State Rebels because to me nuclear is not an option. My main objection is the waste. I'm also concerned about the health, environmental, and economic effects of a nuclear energy plant, but we're such a garbage, or waste, society, that I think we have to begin thinking about how to reduce waste.

Waste does not occur naturally in the sense that all waste is recycled in the environment. Humans, however, seem to be much more in the market of creating waste. From the packaging of goods, to the turnover rate for fashion, tech-gadgets, etc., we have multiple industries that create waste without thinking about how to get rid of waste. So we must also have huge industries devoted solely to waste disposal. And most of these disposal methods are not only bad for human health, they're bad for the environment as well.

But what if we adopted goals for zero waste? For a sustainable way of living? Recycling is one objective, and in places like Europe we find much recycling going on, from egg cartons to glass. In this sense, waste has become a kind of resource. This idea of waste as a resource requires a different way of thinking about what we produce and what our resources are. Just think if all manufacturers of goods actually had to figure out what has to happen to those goods when they're no longer useful. If they could come up with a way to make that wasted product a resource of some sort, we would greatly reduce the pile-up of waste, thus promoting sustainability, efficiency, and pollution prevention.

This is not a crazy idea. Communities around the world are adopting zero waste goals and have achieved many successes. Over 50% of the cities in New Zealand have adopted zero waste goals. Just north of Idaho, in the Kootenay Region of southeast British Columbia, including the town of Nelson, zero waste principles and goals have been put in place. Halifax, Nova Scotia has been implementing zero waste ideas and objectives for some time. In the U.S., many communities have also put zero waste objectives into place including Boulder County, CO, Seattle, WA, and many communities in California, especially in the San Francisco area. Even some corporations have adopted zero waste practices including Xerox in Rochester, NY, Hewlet Packard in Roseland, CA, Epson Portland Inc. in Hillsboro, OR, as well as several others.
For information about these communities and businesses, one only need google the term "zero waste."

As part of fighting the proposal for building a Waste-to-Energy plant in Boundary County, the citizens group invited a speaker, Paul Connett, to talk about the problems with incineration. As part of the presentation, he ended with the goal of zero waste. To me this had seemed like an ideal that really couldn't become reality. But Dr. Connett (a professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University) demonstrated how this ideal was actually being implemented around the world. He has given this lecture all around the world and the U.S. for over twenty-five years. He has visited zero waste communities and spent time with businesses and corporations who have adopted zero waste practices.

For me, nuclear energy, and its resultant waste, is just not an option. And think about the fact that nuclear waste is stored in containers and buried in the ground for a longer time period than the containers' existence. To me, that's not only bad planning, but crazy as well! The proposal to build a nuclear energy plant near Bruneau, ID, is something I would always oppose because I think that Idaho's goals should be towards promoting zero waste communities. Furthermore, I don't see why Idaho should be building a nuclear energy plant when the energy isn't even targeted for Idaho!

Idaho is a very beautiful state, from Idaho Falls to Fruitland to Bonners Ferry. And like every beautiful and wondrous place, Idaho needs to think about its future not just twenty or fifty years from now, but for seven more generations and beyond. So I say cut the nuclear and think about sustainability.


MountainGoat said...

Nice take on the nuke debate. I think you are wise to steer clear of the debate at RSR...unlike some of us [me] who are too stubborn and hard-headed for our own good.

Linda/IdahoRocks said...

Hey mountaingoat, I felt guilty for not stepping in to help you with your great arguments and facts but I just wasn't up to arguing with true believers. Thanks for defending the non-nuke stance!

Cameron said...

This zero waste thing is interesting. Do you have any links to communities that are doing it successfully?

Linda/IdahoRocks said...

I don't have any specific links at the moment, but they aren't hard to find if you google "zero waste communities."