Saturday, April 2, 2011

Monbiot goes nuclear

The environmental campaigner George Monbiot has made his strongest pitch yet for nuclear energy to be an ingredient in the struggle to forestall climate change.

And yes, this does actually follow the Fukushima debacle.

George Monbiot : "Irresponsible"
“Yes, I still loathe the liars who run the nuclear industry” he says. But in a Guardian article (21st March) “Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power” he argues that it’s hugely reassuring that, so far as we know, no-one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

This despite the fact that Fukushima is old, has inadequate safety features, was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami causing multiple malfunctions, a reactor explosion and the beginning of a meltdown.

Yes, yes, yes he says, the disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting ... Yet ... No-one died from it!!.

If the nuclear industry can survive this it can survive anything, he says. Whatever George Monbiot writes is worth reading even if like me you're not convinced by this one. His point against biofuels is especially strong.

Naturally enough, all this brought a heap of criticism on his head. Irresponsible is the politest word used.

His critics say as follows :

#  The nuclear fuel cycle generates around 7 times more carbon emissions than wind power

#  It's very hard to keep military and civil aspects separate

#  Its economics are at best dubious

#  We don't have any idea where the waste will go (except in so-called 'interim' stores alongside the new plants)

#  A focus on nuclear absorbs funding and resources that would be better allocated to the large range of less risky and more sustainable energy options.

#  Some scientists claim that given proper attention to energy efficiency, renewable can supply almost 100% of EU, and also global , electricity, and also possibly, energy, by 2050.

#  We don’t need to face the problems of nuclear energy, so why divert scarce resources to it?

I also recommend this article in the leading science journal Nature (30th March). Colin Macilwain says that reassurances from 'experts' on the safety of nuclear power don't wash.  Nuclear experts have popped up in the media to 'inform' the public about the crisis, and the collective impression has been unconvincing, defensive, selective, and condescending.

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