Answer to the “dark side”

Dear ******* ********* *********,

I am interested in looking at the likelihood of chaos in the energy production and supply systems we call “industrialised civilisation”, and in people’s assessment of the risks and their reactions to them.

In early 2010, I worked with a team of fellow students to assess the chaos preparedness of the oil and gas “supermajor” BP. Our class presentation in March 2010 summarised their attitude as somewhat in denial. New oil and gas fields in the non-OPEC regions are deeper and more complex (and smaller) as time goes by, and we shared the view that they were in trouble. The Deepwater Horizon explosion and months-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico validated our findings.

Denial that some business models are reaching the end of the road seems to be something that appears in a basket of other attitudes and behaviours – such as the evidence that BP have been attempting to sweep human rights and local environmental issues under the carpet.

I studied Physics ******** ********* ********** **********. Naturally, we studied Nuclear Energy engineering, something of petrogeology, petrochemistry and petrorefinery, and materials science. I have had a career in Information Technology, where I learned much about systems engineering, trend analysis, process control and the complexities of human systems management.

My critique of the Nuclear Power industry is founded on my observations that the management of fission generation becomes ossified, and no longer able to respond to cracks and leaks. Add to this what I call the “Jenga Effect“, where funding is stripped down to barebones and safety systems start to teeter; and also add the fingers-in-the-ears-and-whistling approach of the industry to third parties and pretty soon the Fukushima Daiichi multiple nuclear accident becomes inevitable.

I agree that there are many uninformed people, and that the mass mob does not always make the right decisions. However, there are a number of credible voices expressing concern that the nuclear power industry is becoming shambolic. This is not a criticism of any particular persons – it is a series of observations and hopefully waving a warning flag. A number of warnings have been given over the last few years – I have reported a number of them on my web log. It is right that the “stress tests” are done in Europe, but that, I feel, is not sufficient to protect the industry from crumbling under the weight of multiple discontinuous changes. One serious nuclear accident is bad enough, but the collapse of the entire industry when so many people are relying on it is a whole new sphere of concern. The economy of Japan has taken a major hit from the failing nuclear industry. And besides the economic impoverishment, the people of Japan have to face chemical and radiological threat for a long time to come. Some, in their irrational fear, may have overplayed the radiation danger card, but to my mind the full spectrum of arguments against nuclear power need to be listened to, and addressed, comprehensively. Dismissiveness can land us in trouble.

It may be that Germany’s decision is the right one for us all – nuclear power plants that are in operation are perhaps getting too old to run reliably and safely.

I hope that this brief explanation may convince you that I am not writing “chaotic bile” and that I am not “crazed” by anti-nuclear “religion”. Like most rational people who care about socioeconomic stability and conflict avoidance, I am zealous for energy security, and my observations indicate that energy cannot be secured with nuclear power. I am not “ideologically opposed” to nuclear power, I am pragmatically critical of what I regard as chaotic developments in the nuclear power industry.

Japan is reeling from a tipping point caused by a “perfect storm”, pitting Earth against Energy. Let’s hope there isn’t another nuclear power bifurcation,


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