Bryce Canyon- Pen and Ink on paper-30” X 22”

No First Nuclear Strike!

Entering the arena of nuclear power discussions is like walking into an amphitheater deeply flooded with doubt, controversy, contradictions and alarm.  Up to our necks now in emergencies, the two most concerning problems I feel we now face as a civilization are man-made global warming and man-made unleashing of atomic energy by which we can we can mistakenly destroy all life on the planet through nuclear war.

As an artist, I have chosen to tread into the waters of painting the source of atomic energy—uranium and document some effects of radiation poisoning.  As you can see from previous blogs, I started on the path of painting my nuclear concerns by documenting the most serious nuclear catastrophe of this era–the 2011 triple meltdown of the Fukushima Daichi power plants in Japan.  (In a related note, the summer Olympics will be held on some of the still-radioactive soil in Fukushima!  DO NOT ATTEND!)

The Fukushima disasters are now forcing the Japanese to deal for a third time with the nightmarish effects of the nuclear age.  It is interesting to note that their nuclear program was not only born from a fantasy of clean and safe power but also in the willful forgetting of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the buildup of the US nuclear arsenal.  (“Japan, the Atomic Bomb, and the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Power” Yuki Tanaka and Peter J. Kuznick, May, 2011)

After many months of doing artworks on canvas about my reaction to Fukushima, I had to take a break to refresh and enjoy the beauties of our beautiful Mother Earth. I am starting the new series by revisiting the topic of our National Parks by way of a pen and ink drawing of Bryce Canyon National Park.  This artwork was created after visiting the beautiful parks in Utah.   

It is now a year and a half later and I felt the need to return to the topic of nuclear power and energy.  I have been deeply disturbed about the world’s nuclear warhead capacity and the unpredictability of those in charge of these dangerous weapons.   The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found that 13,865 nuclear warheads were in existence at the start of 2019.  They are owned by nine nations: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.  All it takes is an exchange of a very limited number of these weapons (one to 5) and we would be on the path to the elimination of life on the planet.  It would also mean the formation of a nuclear winter caused by upper-level atmospheric smoke due to the fires caused by bombing.

The nuclear industry continues to boast that their plants are emission free and would contribute to reducing carbon in the atmosphere.  Little talk emanates from them about the negative polluting aspects of mining, transporting, and processing of uranium, as well as the runaway costs for constructing of the power plants.  Further, no way has been found for the disposing of radioactive waste.  Not much discussion centers on the fabrication of the energy sources from nuclear power plants for nuclear warheads.   Remember, nuclear power was born in violence.  

This current administration’s efforts to resume uranium mining in the Grand Canyon and coal mining near Bryce Canyon are of utmost concern because of the potential impact on ground water and regional aquifers. The Grand Canyon in particular is an area that supplies water districts including those of Las Vegas and Los Angeles area.  

The public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park contain high concentrations of uranium ore. To collect enough useable uranium to make operations profitable, mining companies must either pump harsh acids into the ground to dissolve the uranium for removal or extract and crush rock. They then leave most of the removed material in tailing piles that contribute to water and air pollution.  There still is no solution to the serious problem of managing radioactive materials produced by operating nuclear power reactors.  

In future blogs, as well as in an updated website, I will be showing my recent paintings of uranium ore as well as my interpretation of radiation/radium poisoning.

List of related resources

Center for Biological Diversity

Sacred Land Film Project

Federation of American Scientists Nuclear Education Project

The Asia-Pacific Journal Japan Focus