Climate change and nuclear power: it isn’t broke, but it does need fixing
The Guardian’s story “New nuclear technology ‘could benefit developing countries” (reprinted from SciDev.net) reports on the issue the anti-nuclear power lobby relentlessly ignore – our ability to improve things. Instead, we could discuss in context the urgent need to find new sources of power that don’t add to the climate change burden.
Despite the fact that some of my fellow-travellers rather despair of my views on nuclear power, I must repeat for the record that if we are capable of inventing a thing, we are also capable of improving it.
Nuclear power is like the coal industry a century ago. The need for the coal and the price it maintained meant that economic and legislative measures to address safety and pollution control were simply unattractive, for one ugly reason after another.
Same goes with nuclear – there hasn’t been an imperative to sort out this immature technology, but I would take issue with any argument that suggested it was beyond our ability to do so. It is striking that people I know and respect get really silly, entrenched and regressive when it comes to nuclear power. It hasn’t been some monumental disaster so far – the French are not now a nation of mutants filing into the Parisian version of Fallout 3’s underground shelters – and while there have been spills, a meltdown and a lot of pollution, the situation is no worse than concomitant problems in other areas of the energy industry.
We are a clever race and, when we can be bothered, sufficiently frightened or inspired, prodigiously inventive. All the problems surrounding nuclear power are technological, and can be solved. Perhaps instead of the knee-jerk anxieties that cripple the environmental movement, we should look to our own abilities to make good the promise that nuclear power has yet to deliver.