Sunday, November 13, 2005

Nuclear's second wind - Climate solution or illusion?

Almost 20 years on from the Chernobyl disaster, the nuclear industry now appears to be recovering from the fallout of negative public opinion and is increasingly being seen as a ‘green’ solution to the world’s intensifying energy demands. This issue of the NI seeks to unpack the arguments supporting a renewed interest in nuclear power and some of the enduring impacts of our quest to harness the power of the atom.

Not long ago, you could have been forgiven for thinking that nuclear technology was on its way out. After major disasters such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, officials were sizing up the nails for the industry’s coffin. But it would seem that nuclear power wasn’t dead – just resting. And in Asia it has been experiencing something of a renaissance.

Now with climate change emerging as a matter for urgent attention, nukes are getting a new look-in in countries which had, until recently, shunned the atom in favour of oil, gas and coal. ‘Nuclear is the new black,’ remarked my friend Ell in exasperation at pronouncements from some prominent environmentalists who’ve swallowed the climate-friendly hype coming from the industry.

And hype is just what it is. As anti-nuclear campaigners often say, the industry is ‘all subsidies, no substance’. Its climate claims are equally full of hot air. Meanwhile, all this talk of a new nuclear dawn is just holding us back. Nuclear’s had its chance (remember those promises of ‘electricity too cheap to metre’?). The nuclear power station – big, expensive, corporate, toxic and wasteful – is a perfect symbol of the kind of blinkered development model we have been pursuing. And now with the race towards fusion, it seems we are still blindly following this destructive path. It’s time to change the way we think about power – literally and politically.

As the anti-nuclear movement folks would say: ‘Nuclear Energy? No Thanks!’ home

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