Nuclear Power: Hubris or OptimismMarch 13, 2011
The earthquakes not only destroyed homes and infrastructure, it damaged nuclear power plants with at least one and maybe another at risk of suffering a meltdown. A nuclear situation called the worst since Chernobyl.
About a week ago I heard a talk on the radio given by Helen Caldicott in which she talked of the dangers of radioactivity, nuclear energy and nuclear warheads. It was the scariest information I’d heard in a long time and reminded me of all the reasons I opposed nuclear power so vocally in the ‘70’s.
Nuclear power is unacceptably dangerous. There are intolerable levels of risk related to nuclear waste (from mining, refining, enrichment, and the reactor,) and nuclear proliferation (the plutonium that is created as a function of nuclear fission can be used to make nuclear bombs), human and equipment accidents, and extensive environmental degradation.
Man’s belief that we can handle any and all negative consequences related to nuclear power is either a sign of tremendous optimism or tremendous hubris. The situation in Japan shows the lie to both.
Perhaps, somehow, a meltdown of any and all of the nuclear reactors will be averted. I can only hope this happens. If a meltdown is averted that does not, however, prove our optimism/hubris was well-placed. It means only that a catastrophe was averted, this time.
It is overwhelmingly horrific what has and is occurring in Japan (as I write this a volcano in southern Japan has begun to erupt). That some good will come from it I hope and even expect. The world leaders have been proclaiming their willingness to assist in any way possible. I have no doubt we will be hearing marvelous, uplifting stories of great help and heroism for the months to come.
But will it affect our unwarranted optimism and hubris regarding nuclear power? Will this near or eventual reactor meltdown give the world pause before it builds more nuclear power plants or extends the life of others? In Germany thousands formed a 28 mile long human chain between the Neckarwestheim nuclear plant and the southwestern city of Stuttgart. The protest against extending the life of Germany’s nuclear power plants had been planned before the earthquake in Japan, but organizers say the disaster gave added focus to the demonstration.
Will there be more anti-nuclear demonstrations. I hope so. Would I attend? In a heartbeat.
Generally, those who agree with me, agree with me, and those who don’t, don’t; and nothing I say here will really change any minds. [However, for those who have not formed an opinion yet, might I suggest a look at this nuclear power fact sheet.]
Meanwhile, may the Japanese survive, recover, and be somehow better for this terrible spiral of disasters.