David Aaronovitch: Those nuclear scaremongers are a toxic lot
Comment of the Day

April 01 2011

Commentary by David Fuller

David Aaronovitch: Those nuclear scaremongers are a toxic lot

I think this is an excellent article (may require subscription registration, PDF also provided), published by The Times. Here is the opening:
I accept the evidence that man-made carbon dioxide is likely to be a factor in climate change and that the greatest risks we run are those of failing to reduce emissions. I also accept the estimate that renewables and conservation - much though I support them - can't realistically hope to plug the coming energy gap, which itself constitutes a risk to wellbeing.

So before people dash down the 1980s paranoid route, brandishing their Edge of Darkness DVDs and chaining themselves to the fence at Sellafield wearing a luminous death's-head mask, it seems to me that they have to show that their alternative is less risky than developing the new generation of nuclear power stations. And they have to do it quickly.

What they shouldn't do is quote Germany to me. There, the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, succumbing to what one German commentator has called Angstlust (anxiety-pleasure), took a sudden decision before state elections last week to close down seven reactors. She also pandered to the panic by appointing a commission to look at the "ethics" of nuclear energy, the membership to include the Cardinal Archbishop of Munich. I don't imagine a similar commission exists for all other forms of energy. If it did, Germany would run out of prelates.

Of course, it wasn't enough. The Greens made the wholly absurd point that what Fukushima showed was that accidents that one couldn't even imagine might cause safety problems that were impossible to predict. As a proposition this was (a) true and (b) uselessly applicable to everything. The Greens will now lead the state government in Baden-Württemberg.

David Fuller's view Fukushima is a psychological setback for the nuclear power industry, as I have said before, even though a partial meltdown for the plant's elderly reactors under the most extreme circumstances is hardly an indictment of today's nuclear technology. Nevertheless, politicians in democracies often follow populist sentiment rather than lead, particularly when they are trailing in opinion polls.

Meanwhile, the world receives approximately 14 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, and that figure is higher in most developed economies. This cannot be replaced any time soon by renewable sources of energy. If we want more clean energy, and I believe we do, then the world needs more nuclear power, not less.

Angstlust is a splendid term, applicable to market forecasts and last witnessed to great excess following the 4Q 2008 to 1Q 2009 crash.

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