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Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Japanese earthquake and the nuclear energy question

The Fukushima nuclear plant, about 150 miles north of Tokyo:




There will be those who argue that incidents like this shouldn't scare us off going nuclear, because it's the only way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Yeah, well. Take another look at the video. The best engineering in the world, it seems, couldn't prevent explosions and leaks. In the movies, scenes like this are usually followed by official reassurances that everything is under control, no need for mass panic, we have numerous safeguards in place, yada yada yada.

There are, of course, implications that go far beyond this. Is nuclear energy is part of the answer to global poverty because it reduces energy costs, or should we be seeing this in a larger context? And maybe addressing some of the underlying assumptions, such as the idea that encouraging "poor" nations to aspire to our own levels of energy use and consumption is the way to bring them out of poverty?

Perhaps we should give some thought to spreading the costs of energy consumption more equitably, or actually reducing our consumption. Or addressing population growth. Or ensuring that "poor" nations aren't used as dumping grounds for toxic / nuclear waste. Or forced to assume the costs of our efforts to control climate change. Or all of the above.

(H/t Shoq, Naomi Klein.)

Update: They're going to try flooding the containment structure with sea water in an attempt to bring the reactor temperature down. Now what could possibly go wrong with that?

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