Nuclear Power: It’s Like Keeping a Dirty Bomb in Your Backyard

In light of the disaster in Japan, nuclear power has been put on trial worldwide. So far the verdict is not in favor of nuclear energy, and Japan’s tragedy could be a turning point and the final political nail in the coffin of a dangerous technology. The world’s worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 is proving hard to contain and has forced worldwide debate on the benefits and dangers of nuclear energy. The fact that nuclear-power plants should never be built in seismic areas should no longer be up for debate, but other parts of the discussion over the viability of nuclear energy remain wide open. On one hand, the Green movement, with Greenpeace in the lead, argues  that nuclear-power plants can never be made completely safe despite improvement in design. On the other hand, the nuclear industry claims new plants can be safe as opposed to older plants like those that failed in Japan.

The Push for Global Nuclear Regulations

On Thursday, as Japan came under international  pressure from the UN to extend the evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. President Sarkozy urged the international community to create a new global nuclear regulation by the end of 2011. Mr. Sarkozy is the chairman of the G20, and in this capacity said that France wanted to host a meeting on comprehensive nuclear regulation in May. He was the first world leader to visit Japan since the earthquake and tsunami devastated part of the island. On Tuesday, France announced it was sending nuclear experts from the French nuclear company Areva to the Fukushima plant, at the request of Japanese authorities.

Areva is a state-controlled company and the world leader in nuclear-power technology. Needless to say, Mr. Sarkozy’s trip to Japan was motivated, not only by a humanitarian desire to help Japan, but also a salesman’s effort on the behalf of Areva to argue that nuclear power can be safe. Since Japan’s tragedy, several international contracts, involving Areva’s, to build new nuclear-power plants have been put on hold, as nuclear power is rapidly loosing political traction.

Japan’s Tragedy: Helping the  Worldwide Green Movement Become a Major Political Force

The first international political consequences of Japan nuclear crisis happened in Germany last Sunday. Fears over Japan’s nuclear nightmare have already delivered a crushing political defeat to Chancellor Merkel’s conservative party, as the anti-nuclear Greens won a historic victory: a record 24 percent of the vote, more than 12 percent higher than in 2006. They are now well positioned to lead a coalition with the Social Democrats for the very first time.

The elections in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg were a referendum on the future of atomic energy, and at least for Germans a decision was made: they do not want nukes. The natural disaster in Japan triggering the man-made disaster at the Fukushima plant was the most decisive issue in the state election. Germans do not want nuclear power, and this political drive is likely to be contagious despite Sarkozy’s efforts to peddle the notion that nuclear power can be safe.





4 Responses to Nuclear Power: It’s Like Keeping a Dirty Bomb in Your Backyard

  1. chris April 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    The OECD’s 2008 Environmental Outlook calculates that fine-particle outdoor air pollution caused nearly 1 million premature deaths in the year 2000, and 30 percent of this was energy-related. You’d need 500 Chernobyls to match that level of annual carnage. In relation to coal and oil the impacts from nuclear energy are barely even a blip on the radar.

    What should be noticed is, a 40 year old reactor that was not designed to withstand the magnitude of earthquake or tsunami that it faced, has still avoided any significant release of radiation to the public. The major issue was the reliance of offsite or backup power to circulate the water pumps. New reactor designs do not have this issue because they rely on natural properties like gravity to cool the system after a shut down.

    The big problem is people are scared of things that they don’t understand that is being hyped by the media to be more significant than it is. By the way, good job leading off your story with an atomic bomb explosion that isn’t relevant to your story. Thank you for subliminally perpetuating the idea that nuclear weapons and nuclear energy are the same.

    • Gilbert Mercier
      Gilbert Mercier April 1, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      Subliminal? There is nothing subliminal about the lead photograph of a French test atomic bomb exploding on top of a Tahiti atoll to illustrate an article which contains “dirty bomb” in its title. That said, you missed the point: this is not about scientific considerations but about the international political ramifications of the nuclear crisis unfolding in Japan. The Germans have made their voices heard loud & clear by voting for the Greens, and they are unlikely to be an isolated case. Do you think Japanese will be eager to rebuild nuclear power plants when they start noticing that their favorite sushi has the tendency to glow in the dark? One last question: do you work for the atomic energy lobby?

  2. Virginia Simson April 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    The FEAR stems from the fact that we are being ignored, fed mis- and dis-information, dogged by PRO nuke people who are paid by the industry or in my case, the US Air Force, when its time for TRUTH TELLING.

    Plutonium is the most dangerous poison on this planet. Even accidents happen when a reactor my “built right”. The fact is the spent fuel has NO good dumping grounds.

    You want us to swallow the pill of the easy, softer pill of LIES that has been carefully cultured by the industry. Myths and distortions. Lies and bad science about what really happened at, during, and after Chernobyl. But some of us DID our homework and we know the FACTS and have learned to ignore the hype and self interest afoot.

    I am proud (becuz I like them very much) that News Junkies is right on top of this.

    There are DEAD PEOPLE due to nuclear energy. The number has been way underestimated/reported by stooges. There are fantastic and good alternatives; even the conservative Scientific American has pointed them at length. No one should be exposed to this danger who has not even had a right to vote on it.

    Chernobyl – not Reagan’s policies! – caused the fall of the Soviet Union. The WOMEN revolted against that form of tyranny.

    And so should we all.

    • Gilbert Mercier
      Gilbert Mercier April 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks for this comment, and your kind words Virginia.

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