Adam Curtis : Nuclear Hero

Despite Adam Curtis’ curious views about ecology and democracy, and his enduring confusions between science and technology, (and between technology and industry), I must remind my readers that in one area he has been a keenly perceptive and accurate observer – in his 1992 “Pandora’s Box” research into the history of nuclear power “A is for Atom” :-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jUELZAdh_w
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT6uDjwkeBw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_8h_twNP_0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAFZEp7cwgU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwB6QAa2yww

Curtis correctly identifies mismanagement as being the root cause of problems in the nuclear power industry – a mismanagement of information, dismissiveness of whistleblowing, and a dangerous overreach of technological ambition.

Let’s talk constructivism here for a minute – Adam Curtis is showing a fine example of how society at large is convinced of an industry’s rosy painted picture of their work. Difficult facts are obscured, financial realities are blurred, branding budgets are inflated to combat negative perception.

What we have been told to see is that nuclear power is clean, safe, essential, urgent. But a minority report has been burbling along, alongside this widespread constructed “reality”. There have been cracks in reactors, but the news was submerged. There have been problems with safety systems, but the contractors told to keep company confidentiality agreements intact. There have been leaks, unplanned outages in response to accidents, reports of shoddy or absent monitoring. The trumpeted “renaissance” in nuclear power could be said to be more about keeping the mining and construction industries in business rather than about keeping the lights on.

Just because the people groups averse to nuclear power don’t have any funds for communications officers, doesn’t mean they don’t have valid opinions. And just because there are some people driven purely by irrational fear in the anti-nuclear groups, doesn’t mean that the whole movement is wrong.

Germany is a country not reputed to have mass fits of insanity – and in Germany, the people have been permitted to speak, and have spoken. The Germany people do not want nuclear power, for a whole spectrum of reasons, including the abuse of control in centralised energy industry.

Scotland is a country with a reputation for care in the use of funds – and in Scotland, the people have expressed their clear choice. The people in Scotland don’t want nuclear power, for a whole spectrum of reasons, including the industry’s incestuous relationship with the war machine.

Maybe it’s time for the rest of the so-called “United” Kingdom to reassess for themselves, as individuals and in their local communities, whether they want to continue to have death factories on their doorsteps.

“Death factories” ? Isn’t that a rather emotive term ? Yes, I suppose so, but it’s one of a range of views amongst the British people about nuclear power. My own personal take on the subject is that nuclear power is highly inefficient and unreliable, and that view is formed from an ongoing minor interest in the industry. It wastes all kinds of resources, including financial and regulatory. And it cannot be relied upon for totally safe, uninterruptible power production.

Technology is only as good as its inputs and its management – that is a key and valid point from Adam Curtis’ analysis. Although it has wealthy backers and airbrushers, it seems that the nuclear power beast cannot be controlled. This history should be kept in mind.

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