I find it hard to imagine anything more counterintuitive than the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe in Japan.
The only place in the world that has suffered nuclear attack is Japan. The only people on earth who have ever been fired on by nuclear weapons were Japanese. The country on earth that should be most terrified of nuclear power is Japan. The country on earth most vulnerable to earthquake is Japan. The most dangerous place to site a nuclear power plant is wherever earthquakes are likely. WTF are nuclear power plants doing in Japan?
The only species of life on the planet that would contemplate (let along follow through on) a plan so patently suicidal as to locate a nuclear reactor in the place most likely to be rocked by earthquake is homo sapiens. The translation for “homo sapiens”? Wise man, or knowing man.
I’m certainly not the only, nor the first, writer to object to the whole idea of nuclear power plants, but I’m proud to be among them. My argument against them is quite simple. 1) They can release as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as nuclear bombs. 2) We should avoid massive releases of radioactivity. 3) The chance of a meltdown is small but measurable. 4) The more plants we build, the more we increase the odds of a meltdown. 5) Eventually (and especially if we build them where earthquakes are likely) one will fail and melt down, and the containment building will be so compromised it can no longer contain anything. 6) As bad as they are, coal burning plants never release radioactivity.
Here’s how Greenpeace feels about it at the moment.
Renewable energy resources seem like the practical solution, but apparently CO2 and Cs in the atmosphere don’t pose enough of a health risk. Lets just keep building more nuclear reactors where 8.8 earthquakes happen and see how that goes!!
My only problem with coal power is—barring the problems with the smoke—is that coal mining, itself, is lethal. As lethal as nuclear power? Obviously not in the same ways, but far more dangerous, far more injurious to the miners, in the short term.
Ideally, I’m for wind and water power, solar, and living within our means–but most people will not willingly accept such limitations when there are alternatives. Dangerous or not.
We’re choking on coal now, Emily, and have been for decades. Within 10-20 years China, with its vast coal reserves and energy-hungry population, will be the new Middle East, able to hold the rest of the world hostage as we deplete supplies of easily-available oil and start spending more to drill for less. If we ever paid what fossil fuels really cost in health expenses, climate change, and defense spending, we’d have been urgently developing renewable resources since the first gas crises of the 1970s. By now, we’d have the technology.
One way or another we pay, but, as you suggest, we don’t like to knowingly pay.