Orange County Register: Anti-nuclear madness grips developed world
Gwynn Dyer, an independent journalist, writes:
After the loss of 10 million American lives in the Three-Mile Island calamity in 1979, the death of 2 billion in the Chernobyl holocaust in 1986 and, now, the abandonment of all of northern Japan following the death of millions in last year's Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, it is hardly surprising that the world's biggest users of nuclear power are shutting their plants down.
Oh, wait a minute. Nobody died in the Three-Mile Island calamity, 28 plant workers were killed, and 15 other people subsequently died of thyroid cancer in the Chernobyl holocaust, and nobody died in the Fukushima catastrophe. In fact, northern Japan has not been evacuated after all. But never mind all that. Governments really are shutting down their nuclear plants. ...
She explains that Japan has closed their 50 nuclear reactors for inspections and the government promises to close them permanently by 2040, replacing them with renewable energy. Angela Merkel wants to close German plants by 2022. France is proposing to scale back their nuclear sector.
The Greens prattle about replacing nuclear power with renewables, which might happen in the distant future. But the brutal truth for now is that closing down the nuclear plants will lead to a sharp rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
Fortunately, their superstitious fears are largely absent in more sophisticated parts of the world. Only four new nuclear reactors are under construction in the European Union, and only one in the United States, but there are 61 being built elsewhere. Over two-thirds of them are being built in the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), where economies are growing fast.
But it's not enough to outweigh the closure of so many nuclear plants in the developed world, at least in the short run. India may be aiming at getting 50 percent of its energy from nuclear power by 2050, for example, but the fact is that only 3.7 percent of its electricity is nuclear right now. So the price of nuclear fuel has collapsed in the past four years, and uranium mine openings and expansions have been cancelled.
More people die from coal pollution each day than have been killed by 50 years of nuclear power operations – and that's just from lung disease. If you include future deaths from burning fossil fuels, closing down nuclear power stations is sheer madness. Welcome to the Middle Ages.
Many of the existing plants, like Fukushima, are second generation nuclear power. Third generation nuclear power is much safer. Fourth generation, projected to come online in about twenty years will be even safer, more efficient, and generate wasted that must be protected a few hundred years instead of millennia. There is reason to believe that even better methods are in the offing. What an irony that those countries that have been the most adamant about reducing greenhouse gas emissions may become the biggest stumbling block to curbing them.