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NukeSpeak at the Devil’s Door

Harvey Wasserman

The abject failure of the global nuke power industry has never been more obvious. From Fukushima to Davis-Besse, from Siemens to Wall Street, the atomic scam is in collapse. Yet reactor backers continue to push for more of them. The reason is obvious—corporate greed.

But the No Nukes movement now phasing out this madness has never been stronger. After four decades of intense activism, it may be on the brink of becoming history’s most successful non-violent campaign.

In the heat of the battle, Gary Null’s new film, KNOCKING ON THE DEVIL’S DOOR, does an amazingly comprehensive job of exploring this satanic technology and how to stop it.

NUKESPEAK, a reborn version of the 1970s classic text by Rory O’Connor and Richard Bell, exposes the Orwellian corruption of language itself by an industry whose only tangible “products” are supremely expensive and ultimately superfluous electricity, plus atomic radiation and death by cancer.

Null’s film gives a great historic overview of the issue and how we got to where we are.

Back in the 1950s, atomic energy was sold as “too cheap to meter,” the ultimate Big NukeSpeak Lie. In fact, nuke power has proven to be the most expensive way of generating electricity ever invented.

As underscored in Null’s film by expert reporters like Greg Palast and Karl Grossman, no nuclear reactors would ever have been built if the Eisenhower Administration had not forced taxpayers to take on the burden of liability for major accidents.

With the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, the feds gave the “Peaceful Atom” (another NukeSpeak gem) its most critical pre-bail-out—the right to force the costs of a Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and/or Fukushima onto the American public.

Today the Price-Anderson fund is less than $13 billion, a pathetic whisp of what the true cost of a major reactor disaster could be. Watch what happens now in Japan, as the utility, government and public try to sort out who will pay for Fukushima. It is an ugly, poisonous war for economic survival, with the ultimate real costs in the trillions.

In the U.S., cancellation of Price-Anderson would force all commercial reactors to shut overnight. Certainly no utility would consider building a new one. Yet the industry is supported by “free market advocates” who somehow think solar power is a deadbeat while nukes are wonderful.

In fact, green energy is now attracting huge waves of private investment while no one will fund new reactors. Solartopian renewables like wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, ocean thermal, wave energy, sustainable bio-fuels, increased efficiency, conservation, mass transit and the like are far cheaper than nukes and are having far less trouble attracting private investment.

The recent over-hyped failure of federal loans to the Solyndra solar company, for example, had nothing to do with the value of solar technology. Instead it was about the fact that the Chinese have massively subsidized their own solar industries. They have taken the lead in wind, solar and other Solartopian growth centers and are now underselling the rest of the world—often at less than cost—so they can monopolize what will certainly be a multi-trillion-dollar green-power industry. At this point Chinese solar panels are selling at 30-40 percent less than comparable American product.

The core victory of the American No Nukes movement has been to prevent even further federal subsidization of atomic power. France’s 60-odd reactors—the poster children for industry backers---are all built with federal taxpayer money. They are also extremely dangerous, expensive and will not be repeated.

New French reactor projects in Finland, China and France itself, are proving extremely problematic, with massive delays and cost overruns. French public opinion has turned dramatically against new construction, with heavy favorables for green Solartopian technology.

In Germany, the government is shutting old reactors and will not build new ones. The German mega-corporation Siemens, once a bulwark of the reactor industry, has abandoned the business to focus on renewables. This is an Earth-shattering event for a technology the Germans had once hoped to dominate. That they are now putting their marks in the solar basket is the surest indicator that a green-powered Earth is on its way. Germany is the largest economy in Europe, the fourth-largest in the world (though it’s likely to pass the Fukushima-ruined Japan). With Switzerland, Italy, Spain and others joining the Solartopian procession, the economic noose is tightening on the nuclear neck.

But here in the U.S., we have work yet to do. The warning signs of impending disaster certainly abound. At Davis-Besse, the constant stream of terrifying news has been augmented by reports of a 30-foot containment crack. Details are vague.

But the news follows on an earthquake that exceeded design specifications at North Anna, Virginia; a flood the threatened two reactors in Nebraska; hurricane and tornado warnings at other reactors, and much much more.

Fierce movements in Vermont, New York and New Jersey are focused with new levels of spontaneous grassroots power on shutting reactors there. With the anti-corporate fervor of a global Occupy movement gaining serious strength, a focus on stopping federal loan guarantees could doom new reactor construction in the U.S. forever.

If all this is truly “Knocking on the Devil’s Door,” the corporate language has morphed into a whole new level of NukeSpeak. We are now told that reactors are “carbon free.” (They aren’t).

We are told (by companies that doubt global warming) that nuclear power can fight global warming (it makes it worse).

We hear that reactor containments such as the cracked one at Davis-Besse are “robust” (like caffeinated coffee?).

And that a “nuclear renaissance” is a time when the industry spends more than $60 million per year over the course of a decade renting and buying Congresspeople and presidents to get themselves loan guarantees for new reactors, only to be repeatedly defeated by No Nukers with no budgets.

The tipping point has been reached. Solartopian technologies are now significantly cheaper than new nukes, and getting moreso. The U.S. now gets more power from renewables than from fission. We will shut those old reactors, one-by-one, leading to a game-over cascade.

Our deepest prayer is that we make this happen before another Fukushima poisons us all.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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