Just over 2 weeks ago Matthew and I recorded our first podcast conversation in 5 years. 2 weeks ago he was getting himself mentally and physically prepared to take on chemo therapy, knowing it would be bad, but how bad would it get? 2 weeks of chemo therapy and its horrid side effects, today Matthew checks in to talk about how his daily struggle is progressing. We also talk about family, friends, the internet, gaming and how it all ties into this ongoing battle to live.
Matthew Karamoon is a longtime friend of this podcast who over the years has contributed his observations on and off the air. This summer he learned that he is dying of cancer that is uncurable. In an effort to survive longer and have more time with his young family, he is persuing immune therapy that comes at a price tag he cannot afford. Therefore we as a community of friends and yes even strangers, are getting involved and helping Karamoon get the therapy he needs. On today’s program I talk about Karamoon and go back to moments where he has been on the program. The goal here is to get more support… so if you’re reading or listening.. I’m talking to you.
Links for today’s show:
I had to read the sentence a few times out loud to friends in order to understand if I was getting it wrong: “all but two of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors have been shut down since the Fukushima disaster last year.”
How could that be? A nation that was so, seemingly, dependent on nuclear energy, within a year after a major disaster, goes almost completely off of nuclear energy. In my mind this would leave Japan completely in the dark and in a terrible situation when it comes to availability of power. That’s not because I like or want nuclear energy, it is purely from the thinking that Japan was so dependent on that type of energy.
As it turns out, Japan was not quite dependent on nuclear. Officially 1/3 of their energy came from their 54 reactors. So the country would be operating on only 2/3 of its normal power capacity. Of course it is also winter, so the air conditioners haven’t kicked in yet, which could amount to a massive amount of increased power demands. Meanwhile it has been reported that the government has been pushing for big power conservation activities in both business and residential buildings. Add to that whatever quick power generating solutions the country could setup within a year, and you’ve got the current situation for Japan. But will this hold?
To get a better idea of what is going on, I turned -not to the media- but to a concerned citizen on the ground in Tokyo, to find out what information is available there and what they’re experiencing on a day to day basis. Frequent guest of the podcast and my good friend Karamoon replied to my questions as follows:
Very few people in Japan are aware that almost all the nuclear
reactors are still offline. The situation is not mentioned in the
No black outs here at the moment. Things *may* be different in the
summer when people start using air conditioning and the load on the
power grid could therefore be much greater.
I guess there are 3 reasons that we have enough power here. The main
reason is that the non-nuclear power plants usually operate at much
less than 100% of their maximum capacity. When the nuclear power
plants were taken offline, the non-nuclear plants started to run at
full capacity, making up for the shortfall. The cost of running a
nuclear plant is the same regardless of the output level, so they are
always run at close to 100% capacity. Non-nuclear plants are more
efficient when running at lower capacities, and are used to provide
flexibility when the load on the power grid changes with the seasons,
A second reason is that companies are making their own power, and may
even be able to sell surplus power in the near future. A third reason
is that companies have been taking measures to use less energy.
It is important to remember that nuclear power is essentially a myth.
Also, nuclear power plants require vast amounts of oil during their
life cycle and, therefore are clearly not carbon-neutral. (whatever
that really means)
Once again it is only one wise citizen’s observation, but he touches on several important issues that clearly aren’t making it into the media in Japan and nations that have nuclear energy are often afraid to discuss: the real cost of nuclear energy, what we could really do if serious conservation efforts were made. We’re so often told nuclear energy is necessary because our lifestyle demands so much energy, but then in one short year one of the most modern nations in the world shows that if people really have to, they can change their lifestyle and still live well.
One of the greatest speeches I ever attended that to this day has an immense impact on how I look at the world, was given by Dr. Helen Caldicott at William Paterson University of New Jersey. It was the late 1990’s, I was in the middle of my college career, and I had never heard of this physician and global activist who travelled the world explaining the health effects and health risks posed by radiation from nuclear weapons and power plants.
Dr. Caldicott was the first voice in my life to ever speak about the lack of a method for handling deadly nuclear waste which is a by-product of all nuclear power plants. She was the first person to ever talk to me about Yucca mountain, the massive project where the US government planned to bury nuclear waste under ground. Years later the Yucca mountain plan, for many of the reasons Caldicott had been speaking about for more than a decade, was shut down before it ever opened.
Yet as the 2000’s arrived so to did, what many observers and industry lobbyists like to call, the nuclear renaissance. The international dialogue called for clean-green energy and the nuclear guys lined up to be considered in the same non-carbon emitting club as the wind and solar people. Experts and pseudo experts came forward to point out the importance of building a new generation of plants for both generating power as well as replacing old plants seen as increasing safety risks. As the nuclear fan club grew the voices of resistance seemed increasingly muffled and forgotten, the unspeakable horrors of Chernobyl and other accidents were treated as anomalies from the past that could not be repeated.
Then came the most recent earthquake in Japan and the Tsunami that followed, resulting in the massive nuclear accident who’s devastating effects are only in their earliest stages. Suddenly the information about the risks and costs of the world’s reliance on nuclear energy and the underlying quest to go more nuclear came back into question. Highly experienced and well informed voices like those of Helen Caldicott could be heard again, amplified in such a way they had not been for many decades. Yet even now, at another of the world’s darkest hours caused by deadly radiation from a nuclear accident, opinion makers and world leaders still try to push their support for nuclear expansion on the people of the world. Insisting that the effects are small and the risks are minimal, if not worth it.
One such voice is that of George Monbiot, a journalist and commentator who perhaps in your world is not well known, but in some circles is very respected for his work. Despite being a staunch environmentalist, his see’s what has happened in Japan as cause to further support more nuclear power plants. He tries to discredit Helen Caldicott’s message about the dangers of radiation and the impact these accidents have already had on the world. In an even more mind boggling move, he denies the massive numbers of casualties and long term damage done by the Chernobyl accident.
To read the debate or listen to an audio version of it, listen to this episode of democracynow. You can also read the words of Helen Caldicott regarding the insistance that this accident is not so bad and that nuclear energy is not a danger to the planet.