16 March 2011

Nuclear MADness

In the light of the tragedy in the Fukushima nuclear power plant the European nations at least, are reconsidering the safety of their own nuclear reactors. I don't just think it is a "shutting the stable door" reaction, but rather they have all woken up to the fact that "Sod's Law" does exist, as I mentioned earlier and is relevant to safety planning. This can only be a good thing for all of us. 

Germany was going to be the first nation to get out  of nuclear power production, then they extended the life of their plants and now in the light of the catastrophe in Japan are shutting down 7 plants immediately and considering the position of all their other plants. It will be interesting to see at the end of the four months moratorium what the German government decides to do. Last night in my English conversation class I used Japan and nuclear power production as a main topic of conversation, but was surprised at how little they knew about the subject. Few could list the pro and cons of nuclear power yet generally they were against it all. I am gradually becoming  an anti nuclear energy person myself, but I have at least some knowledge of the subject. 

In the 60's when I was secretary of a student's union I took part in "Ban the Bomb" marches and still have my pin. Later I joined the army and was trained as a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare Officer! Now I knew more than most and learnt that NATO had a MAD strategy. MAD being Mutually Assured Destruction! What ever your views on the Bomb, and as crazy as it sounded, the strategy worked. Recently I read a novel by Nelson Demille, called "Wild Fire", which was about a similar MAD strategy, but this time directed at Islamic terrorists. The book said that the USA would set off nuclear bombs in many Muslim nations if any Islamic terrorist exploded a nuclear devise in the USA! A horrendous thought and thankfully it was a novel which ended happily. And yet...... it makes one think, just maybe that is why they have not done so yet, despite the fact that a number of nuclear devises have gone missing from the former Soviet Union.

Back to nuclear energy. What ever your own thoughts on the subject, I believe nations decide what level of risk they are prepared to take. We do this with the motor car for example. Last year in Germany 3,657 people died in traffic accidents. In the USA it was 33,808. We accept that deaths will occur on the roads. Just as we accept, or rather our governments do, that accidents and deaths may occur in nuclear reactors. Statisticians work out the risk factors and if they are low enough we accept them since the advantages can be greater.

 Japan has shown us all that my Sod's Law is at work and destroys all concept of statistically low risk factors.  Nothing in life is safe, but a nuclear accident is not like a traffic accident which can get cleared up in a day. A nuclear accident pollutes our planet for thousands of years to come. The time has come, "the walrus said" to stop this nuclear madness.


Spring is coming