The Daily Yomiuri,
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-8243
Modern life in a developed world requires so much energy that it seems impractical for Japan or any other energy-hungry society to abandon the nuclear power option once taken. So, despite the current nuclear crisis, I do not expect Japan to reject nuclear energy. Compared to other conventional power sources nuclear is actually quite clean - except for that nasty radioactive waste that can’t be got rid of - and odd though it may sound, statistically it is the safest among the electricity generating industries. Also, no ‘clean’ renewable energy source - solar, wind or wave generation - can possibly replace the kilowattage of nuclear power, despite enthusiastic eulogies from environmentalists.
If a nuclear power plant goes kablooie, like Fukushima or Chernobyl, the crescendo of calls to abandon nuclear energy is predictable. But unbeknownst to us some of the expert nuclear commentators in the media who interpret information and shape opinion are uncovered as anti-nuclear advocates, thereby compromising the balance of their contributions. Airplane crashes have killed far more people than nuclear accidents have done. But when an airplane crashes no one calls for the abandonment of air flight. This analogy might be weak, but the formula is congruent. Furthermore, it did not take the crisis of Fukushima to expose nuclear safety myths as myths. We already knew they were myths. What scares us the most is how operators manage their service - and their crises.
Most of us do not understand nuclear physics or reactor mechanics. The language is discouragingly technical, we cannot see radiation, and the media prejudice us. And most people forget - or they don’t know - that the world is naturally radioactive in the first place. Finally, I admit to enjoying the convenience of unquestioned, copious, uninterrupted electricity in my life.
Printed on Friday, April 29, 2011 as “Modern life needs N-option,” as part of the Reader’s Forum page.