Nuclear anything must be be opposed strongly and unequivocally

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

Your editorial in the Aug. 9 edition discussed the horrors of nuclear weapons and UC Berkeley’s role in designing them. It called for the university to remember and acknowledge its role in the production of these immoral and awful weapons. It was a rather weak editorial, and made no comment on the destruction of life on Earth that nuclear weapons could cause — but it was, nevertheless, leaning in the right direction.

Unfortunately, you then printed two pro-nuke op-eds disguised as advocacy for the existence of oxymoronic “peaceful” nukes. Nuclear anything should be opposed strongly and unequivocally, including nuclear power and nuclear medicine.

There are a series of other facts that must be acknowledged in conversations regarding nuclear development.

— In order to have anything nuclear, uranium must be mined. This mining kills native plants and the animals that depend on them, and it often destroys habitats — sometimes entire ecosystems.

— It is also important to note that there is no safe level of ionizing radiation, and any additional radioactivity is harmful to the environment. The mining of uranium adds ionizing radiation to the surface of the Earth and to its atmosphere, as does any further use of uranium, such as nuclear power.

— Most uranium mining worldwide is on indigenous land. It is therefore often indigenous populations who suffer the most from the mining of uranium, as their lands are destroyed and they are exposed to radioactivity, which can result in cancer as well as other illnesses.

— Once uranium is mined and used in any way, nuclear waste is created. There is no long-term safe or adequate way to store this waste, which can last for thousands of years.

As to some complaints about specific statements made in the pro-nuke op-eds:

Andrew Greenop clearly doesn’t know the true history of Berkeley’s nuclear-free ordinance. Greenop complains that because of the ordinance, Berkeley is restricted or prohibited from doing business with companies that are involved with nuclear weapons, even if that business itself is non-nuclear. This totally misses the point. If a company is involved in nuclear weapons, we don’t want our city doing any business with it, period. It doesn’t matter what kind of green-washing business the company wants to do with Berkeley.

Peter Hosemann is a professor of nuclear engineering, so one would expect this type of pro-nuclear op-ed from him. I suggest you publish a full rebuttal by Dr. Helen Caldicott, the foremost authority on the harms caused by uranium mining and all that follows it.

Anyone who supports nuclear anything should have to work in a uranium mine and live with nuclear waste. If you want the benefits, it’s only fair that you face the consequences.

Jeff Hoffman is an environmentalist and former environmental activist and attorney who lives in Berkeley.