Monbiot: why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power

Hst tip to Political betting to drawing my attention to this article in the Guardian by George Monbiot, who has been a harsh critic of the management of the nuclear industry but recognises that all forms of energy, including even renewables (of which he supports an increase) do harm to the environment.

His article is called Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power and starts with the words

"You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

"A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation."

He points out that the more we expect any enegy source to do the higher the impact on the enviroment (hence the need for a mix) and works through in detail what this means for renewable energy sources such as wind power, solar energy, and hydro power. After this sober assessment he goes on to point out that

"the energy source to which most economies will revert if they shut down their nuclear plants is not wood, water, wind or sun, but fossil fuel. On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power. Thanks to the expansion of shale gas production, the impacts of natural gas are catching up fast."

He concludes, after demonstrating that he remains a critic of the nuclear industry's management,

"Yes, I would prefer to see the entire sector shut down, if there were harmless alternatives. But there are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power."


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