It’s the second anniversary of the Japan earthquake and the resulting problem with the Fukushima nuclear plant.
A quick reminder, this earthquake, and the Fukushima problem (which was contained as well as possible), caused such a surge of “Nucleophobia” on the other side of the world, in the west, that Germany decided to withdraw from nuclear power entirely. And do what instead? Plaster the Alps with solar panels? No, of course not. Get more energy from coal and gas plants. Because they are safer… right?
Now, I don’t mean to play down the problems with Fukushima’s nuclear incident. We still need reliable data on how much radiation escaped, and the Japanese government was slow in containing the risks. Admitted.
But – and here is the big point – a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit a nuclear power station, and nothing much happened! Trust me, had the thing blown up, we would have noticed. Had it been another Chernobyl, we wouldn’t be wondering anymore about the scale of fallout. We would know.
The nuclear plant held fast, because it was well-maintained, and there were stringent safety procedures in place. Fukushima, that dangerous nuclear power station, has not killed anyone.
Enter the Guardian today, with this story. Coal power plans, in India (probably less well controlled than here) are estimated to kill 120,000 people a year. In India. Alone.
The cause of death here is not explosion, although coal power plans have lots more deadly accidents than nuclear power plants. It’s their emissions. Soot, sulphur, toxic gases… all the lovely stuff. And that is excluding the CO2, which heats our atmosphere at a scale the planet has never experienced before.
Nuclear power, even though it has its hazards, is CO2 free. It’s clean, as clean as can get. If only governments would spend more money on researching ways to get rid of radioactive waste, we’d have a green energy source big enough to supply the planet right at our hands.
But instead we are panicking, decommissioning, and instead we buy the power from nuclear plants in Russia, thus creating dangerous energy dependency from power plants that are unlikely to be as well maintained as the ones in Western Europe.
And we build lots of nice coal and gas power stations. Because we feel safer. What’s a 120,000 Indians when we want our tellies to be on each night. And our asthmatic babies? Surely that’s just because of vaccinations and horse meat. And not because we are breathing toxic fumes…