The real catastrophe of Fukushima

Brian Eno on Fukushima:

To illustrate this, think about nuclear power. Start with FUKUSHIMA, that dread word. As a result of over-excited media reporting ('great story!' I heard one journalist say) that single word has probably condemned nuclear power for another generation, when in fact the accident produced no radiation-related deaths (and it's doubtful that it will produce a discernable statistical blip in cancers in the future). In a conspiracy which seems almost dishonest, most Green groups failed to acknowledge this – it was too good as propaganda for them to let the facts get in the way – and of course the press never returned to the subject with any correctional follow-up. It became one of those little nuggets of received, and totally incorrect, wisdom: Nuclear=Fukushima=Catastrophe.

That received non-wisdom has persuaded Green Germany to begin decommissioning its nuclear reactors – which means more coal-fired plants. Japan too will probably turn back to coal. Coal is – even Greenpeace would agree – the worst option, though they'd claim that the gap can be filled by renewables. It can't, not now and probably not for decades. In the meantime – and it may be a long, mean time – we'll use coal. It's cheap and very, very dirty.

So the real catastrophe of Fukushima is in the future, waiting for us in the form of vastly increased atmospheric CO2. An emotional over-reaction to a media storm has produced a thoroughly bad decision with longterm global consequences. It's a classic 'how not to' scenario. Is this how our future is going to be – lurching from one panic to another in a daze of 'just coping' and without the benefit of any long-picture wisdom within which to frame our actions? What would help us break out of that trap?

Thanks to Mark Ramsay (@Ionactive) and Rod Adams (@Atomicrod) for the tweet.

8 thoughts on “The real catastrophe of Fukushima

  1. F. R. Eggers

    Eventually, when CO2 emissions continue to increase greatly, people will come to their senses and realize that nuclear power is the only power source that can produce sufficient clean power for large prosperous countries.

    However, rather than continuing to build more pressurized water reactors, we should migrate to a nuclear technology that uses the nuclear fuel more efficiently so that the amount of waste can be drastically reduced. The nuclear technology should also be one that does not require a highly pressurized vessel.

    Reply
    1. Engineer-Poet

      The nuclear technology should also be one that does not require a highly pressurized vessel.

      Do you mean molten-salt cooled, molten-salt fuel, or liquid-metal cooled… or any of the above?

      Reply
  2. James Greenidge

    The real catastrophe of Fukushima is that the media dropped its energy-neutral pretensions and finally strummed nightmares and wild specutulations to try to drive nine-inch nails into nuclear energy, to hell with fact and perspective, much less giving equally critical regard of antis and greens. Another side catatrophe is the chronic laid-back push back by the nuclear community — individual pants, atomic unions. nuclear professional organizations — to correct media FUD and dark-colored lenses at all things nulear by implementing long overdue public nuclear education via Ads and PSAs instead of local tupperware party teach-ins. I mean, imagine just how effective the antis have been if they can convince a mom with three kids to be fearful of clean nil-mortality nukes and welcoming of coal and oil plants and their regular pollution and far more frequent — and deadly accidents. It’s like nuclear’s community is snatching defeat from the jaws of PR victory! The tally of operational nuclear plants is dropping by decommissions and bankaraupcies and cancellations despite much lauded few new projects. That ought be a PR wake-up call.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    Reply
    1. Steve Darden Post author

      @james, Thanks – an excellent summary of the information imbalance. I agree that nuclear-informed sources are far too laid back. But, suppose every industry source was fully engaged – how much would that shift the media focus?

      Personally, it looks to me that the scary-nuclear story is just so sweet that media will always exploit every opportunity. “If it bleeds it leads” is even more succulent when it costs nearly nothing to publish. No reporting need be done. All they have to do is email UCS, Greenpeace etc. for their FUD-bomb.

      Nuclear/radiation shares the bed of nails with many other areas that require a bit of effort to understand – while being easily exploited for emotional impact. E.g., GMO food, vaccine-autism, tax-reform, immigration.

      Reply
    2. F. R. Eggers

      Considering that the oil and coal extractors are not at all shy about touting the use of oil and coal, it does seem strange that the nuclear industry supinely refuses to defend nuclear power adequately. I do not understand it.

      Reply
      1. Engineer-Poet

        Almost all nuclear power goes for electric generation, and the utility industry is majority non-nuclear… and also very vulnerable to political retaliation from the likes of Harry Reid.

      2. Steve Darden Post author

        >>… and also very vulnerable to political retaliation from the likes of Harry Reid.

        {facepalm} so obvious once you said it!

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