SAVING the world from climate change by embracing nuclear power may be a good idea.
In the same way that liberating a country from a repressive regime by blowing the whole place to bits is a good idea.
Sorry nuke fans, but until you produce the ‘‘safe’’ reactors you keep promising, I’m not interested in what you have to sell.
This week, just as I was well into reading Australian journalist Mark Willacy’s sobering book, Fukushima, and shaking my head at all the lies, all the cover-ups, all the dodgy deals, all the falsified safety reports and every other grotty piece of dirty linen associated with Japan’s nuclear industry, up comes some Aussie MP with the great idea that we talk about building reactors in Australia.
Liberal MP Jonathan O’Dea believes, unlike some high-profile party colleagues, that burning ever-increasing tonnages of coal is ‘‘undoubtedly contributing to damage to our oceans and atmosphere’’.
So we should instantly switch to nukes, because they are so reliable these days that the ‘‘probability of disaster is extremely small’’.
It’s not a new idea, of course. Every few years somebody tries it on, with the familiar chorus of ‘‘cheap, clean power’’ echoing from the throats of the enthusiasts.
There are already lots of nuclear power stations around the world, they say. Yeah, and there are germ warfare labs, financial derivatives, cigarettes and junk food.
Just because there are lots of something doesn’t mean they are a great idea.
Just because a big, powerful and wealthy industry conned a lot of governments into installing nuclear power plants, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to nod our heads and agree the matter is settled.
Read Willacy’s book, and realise what you already knew about human frailty. Read about tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes for the rest of their lives because of sheer human stupidity, dishonesty and pig-headedness. All dressed up in the most respectable clothing, with every guarantee and promise of safety under the sun.
Until it all went wrong, and suddenly all those promises and guarantees were revealed as utterly worthless. The economic losses alone, from the triple meltdown at Fukushima, are colossal, despite efforts to play them down.
But the human losses are enormous too.
Many assert the deaths and injuries caused by the tsunami that preceded the nuclear accident were so grave that to focus on the reactor failure is practically indecent.
A fair comment, but one which mustn’t prevent proper scrutiny of the nuclear aspect of Fukushima. Tsunamis have smashed Japan for millennia, causing vast damage. But throwing a nuclear power plant into the mix has created unprecedented problems, poisoning land and sea for decades (at least).
The risk might be very small – if you believe what those with a vested interest in nuclear power tell you. But the consequences if that small risk is realised are appalling.
Many nuke fans scoff at any safe potential alternative. But the fact is that one or two really decent technological breakthroughs in renewable energy could close the door on the nuclear power industry forever.
To my way of thinking, humanity will be best served by seeking safe energy systems. Foolproof systems, in the true sense of that expression, where the damage consequent on inevitable human fallibility is less dire than that caused by a nuke failure.
Some nuke fans seem to forget the immense sums of money and the colossal effort of imagination and thought that split the atom.
Put just half that effort into a serious search for something that won’t poison the world.
In Fukushima they figured it might take them 40 years to clean up their mess. They haven’t even invented much of the technology they will need to fix the problems they created.
Now they admit 40 years was probably optimistic.
Safe and clean.