Energy Alternatives After Fukushima

Service at the Melbourne Unitarian Church, July 1st, 2011

Nota bene: These are the opening words, reading and closing words that I selected for a speaker on the topic above. As it turned out they were given by another members as the speaker did not attend and I gave an address on the Rejection of Imposed Authority, Divine or Human

Opening Words

2006 Statement of Conscience from the Unitarian-Universalist Association on the Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change

Our world is calling us to gather in community and respond from our moral and spiritual wealth; together we can transform our individual and congregational lives into acts of moral witness, discarding our harmful habits for new behaviors and practices that will sustain life on Earth, ever vigilant against injustice.


Canadian Unitarians For Social Justice,
CUSJ Brief to Darlington Panel
March 31st 2011

We live in a time of major change. We have built our energy security on huge, centralized mega-projects. The future will be different. We now know that we will not have the steady fuel supplies to sustain this strategy and that the costs or potential costs to the environment of our methods has been too great. What we need from our leadership... is a commitment to moving us forward into a sustainable energy future that honours both the health and well-being of our people and of the planet as a whole. To do this, we must take into account the precautionary principle — that if there is doubt about the safety of an approach, and the consequences of an accident are disastrous, then we must err on the side of caution and prevention.

In this regard, we consider it unwise to commit to the on-going production of nuclear waste when there is no known way to detoxify it or store it with any degree of safety. Even though nuclear power has been operational for nearly 50 years, the nuclear industry has yet to determine how to safely dispose of extremely toxic radioactive materials. According to the brief submitted by the Mouvement Vert Mauricie, these materials should not be moved from the site where they were created for between twenty and thirty years because they are simply too radioactive and unsafe to move. After this waiting period, these materials will have to be stored in a controlled, safe storage site for thousands of years, posing on-going health and safety risks to future generations. We have not successfully identified anywhere in the world that would meet the required conditions for truly safe storage over such a period of time crossing many generations.


Communities who are now considering taking on the task of nuclear waste storage will be putting their own children and grandchildren at risk. Such a policy does not meet the standards of the precautionary principle. It does not achieve a vision of sustainable energy and living for the twenty-first century.

In addition to the waste disposal problem created by Nuclear Reactors, we also have the radiation problem of tailing ponds at mining sites. ... We also cannot ignore the threat that nuclear waste poses in terms of providing fuel for nuclear and conventional weapons. Low grade spent fuel is already being used in “dirty cluster bombs.” Plutonium, of course, is the necessary fuel for modern nuclear bombs. For true safety and security we need to eliminate the nuclear threat, not increase it by producing this dangerous fuel.

More nuclear reactors can lead directly to greater nuclear weapons proliferation. According to Dr. Helen Caldicott, as a result of the projected so-called “…renaissance of the nuclear power industry, twenty-five countries and consortia will have access over a period of two decades to Generation IV reactors fueled by plutonium.” In her book, Nuclear Power is Not the Answer, Dr. Caldicott reminds us that “Canada supplied India with a CIRUS heavy water reactor for making nuclear energy. . . It was this reactor that gave India the plutonium it used in its first 1974 nuclear weapons test.”

One negative consequence often leads to another. A decade ago, few would have expected North Korea to have developed atomic weapons. What will a nuclear armed world look like a decade from now.

All of these very real risks and problems can be prevented or eliminated if we choose to phase out nuclear power.

Closing Words

“Agnosticism which knows it doesn’t know ... is the way God is experienced today."... I find myself wanting to say to most atheists: Tell me about the God you don’t believe in – I doubt that I believe in ‘him’ either. So let’s take this winter time seriously – let’s embrace it as a time of inner growth and warmth. Let’s be brave and allow the last leaves of an old theism to drift away – let’s clear them, burn them, use them as compost to allow the new to grow. Let's take the task seriously and act as if our lives – and the new lives to come – depend upon it.

From:June 25, 2011 The Rev Dr Sarah Mitchell