The anti-nuclear movement should take a step back and look at the destructiveness of traditional energy sources before they call for a categorical end to what is a surprisingly safe and efficient alternative
For all the high-mindedness of the thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets in the past week opposing nuclear energy following nearly catastrophic mishaps at a nuclear power plant in Japan, their argument has tapped more into irrational fears than instructive debate on future global energy needs.
Despite the serious threat posed by leaks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan following a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, the fact remains that when we take into account the magnitude of the natural catastrophe that led to the malfunctions at the plant in the first place, Japan’s nuclear industry on that “Black Friday” showed incredible resilience.
The same can be said if we look at the history of nuclear power on a global scale. Given that commercial nuclear energy has been around for more than half a century, the fact that only three names have been burned into our collective psyche — Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima Dai-ichi — as a result of serious failure is more evocative of an energy source that is safe than something that should be opposed at all costs — unless you’re from the oil cabal, which since 1973 has spent considerable energy and money seeking to “take the bloom off the nuclear rose.”
In fact, other sources of energy that have become so enmeshed into our ordinary lives, but whose destructiveness is far greater, such as coal and oil, have failed to capture the imagination of protesters. From high pollutant condensates blanketing the skies across China to numerous spills from the Exxon Valdez to BP, coal and oil have killed many more people over the years and their extraction has been far more damaging to the environment (just ask Nigerians or Brazilians) than has peaceful nuclear power. Not to mention the political implications of our intoxication with oil, which has led to countless wars and often encouraged the West to prop up despots, such as in Equatorial Guinea, or China to shield genocidal regimes such as Sudan’s from international action.
My editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.