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Seattle Monks Protest While Dalai Lama Supports Nuclear Energy

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Last week a group of Buddhist monks joined the protest against San Onofre Nuclear Plant.  The local press made a big show of the spectacle as if the presence of members of a Seattle monastery somehow added stature to the demonstration and validity to their claims.

The monks said they also want to call attention to what they believe are the global dangers of nuclear power.  “We need to shut down the San Onofre,” Gyosen Sawada of Los Angeles, who said he was born in Fukushima, Japan, told the group before beginning a three-hour walk from Dana Point Harbor. “No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki. No more Three Mile Island. No more Fukushima. No more San Onofre.”

As is so often the case with anti-nuclear activists, these monks toss all things nuclear into one evil pile; in their minds atomic bombs and nuclear energy facilities are equally vile.  Funny how they avoided mention of CT scans, diagnostic x-rays, and nuclear medicine which account for virtually all of the man-made radiation exposure we receive (even for members of the public around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant).

I guess they missed the memo from the Dalai Lama who, after the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant went on the record in support of nuclear energy. The Tibetan Buddhist leader said he supports nuclear energy as a way to bridge the socioeconomic gap in developing nations and in the absence of more efficient alternative energy sources. That’s a pretty insightful view from a leader who understands the causes of human suffering and the connection between access to energy and poverty.  He also recognizes alternatives like wind and solar energy will be difficult to expand on the scale needed to alleviate global poverty.

We might expect these monks to hold similarly informed views, after all they come from a Japanese Shingon monastery.  This set of Buddhist teachings falls under the Vajranaña school, which also includes Tibetan Buddhism.  On the other hand, one of the monks described himself as a “homey from the projects in New York City.”  Perhaps he’s been more influenced by the misguided energy policies of NY Governor Andy Cuomo than by the teachings of the renown Tibetan spiritual leader.

Image: vipflash / Shutterstock.com

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Philip Kienholz's picture
Philip Kienholz on Jan 22, 2013

It is difficult to trust the veracity of the author's unsupported statement, "...CT scans, diagnostic x-rays, and nuclear medicine...account for virtually all of the man-made radiation exposure we receive (even for members of the public around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant)." My prior understanding was that this list of uses is a pittance of a percentage point of the overall use of radioactive material, such that virtually all nuclear power plants could be shut down, and the remaining would still produce sufficient quantity for these uses. Thus, I wonder, how could this small pittance of a percentage point, of "friendly, humane, loveable, and even cuddly" uses account for virtually all of the man-made exposure, as the author asserts?

The BEIR VII report makes it clear that no exposure to ionizing radiation is without epidemiological risk. Even background radiation, and that from the author's list of public-relations-approved medical, research, and industrial uses, is hazardous. The public, which is exposed to the risk, has not agreed to have the security of their persons diminished by nuclear industry. The nuclear industry relies on a "greater good" philosophy of several centuries back to justify their limited regulated radiation releases. But, as well as the costs being distributed widely throughout the human population, the benefits accrue to a very much smaller minority. These imbalances in the generalized distribution of costs and benefits of nuclear industry, which cannot truly be accurately calculated, show the weak underpinnings of the philosophy behind their regulatory regimes.

I am a Buddhist. I do not agree with the Dali Lama on this. There is no hierarchy of authority within my religion that would require me or any other practitioner to agree with high officials. We endeavor to train ourselves to avoid lying.

John Wheeler's picture

Thank John for the Post!

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