Nuclear Nuisance Nuclear Shambles

Spilt Milk : Defusing Disorder

There are two general forces in the universe – things tend towards either order or disorder – and in some cases it is close to impossible to roll back disaggregated order.

We use that saying “it’s no use crying over spilt milk” to indicate that some things cannot be undone, and that is pointless to attempt to do so.

Yet even in the category of things we cannot undo, there is a spectrum of feasibility with a range of outcomes.

The complexity of getting a red wine stain out of white woollen carpet requires far more effort, chemistry and the acceptance of permanent damage than it does to wipe up now undrinkable spilt milk from a linoleum floor.

For many reasons, the human race set ourselves worthless mopping up tasks. National and international courts fine oil and gas companies and order environmental remediation, not necessarily in the belief that environmental fines and community service can put back the clock and undo the effects of a leak or a spill, but in the hope that energy corporations would learn the long-lasting lessons of pollution, and change their practices to prevent further disorder.

The Japanese Government and the agents and employees of the TEPCO company have found that the obligation to clean radioactive isotopes from dusty soil is an impossible curse. The efforts to extract nuclear reactor pollution from the lives of the victims of Fukushima 311 is an order of difficulty higher than Chevron being ordered to clean up in Ecuador, and Shell being fined for their despoilation of the Niger Delta.

Many commentators continue to assure us that nuclear power is safe, even as Europe is struggling to come up with the finance for a permanent shelter for Chernobyl, as design flaws mean that American atomic reactors are subject to regulatory modification, and there is still no timeline for bringing the rolling disaster at Fukushima Dai-ichi under control.

People claim that since tsunamis cannot occur inland, that landlocked nuclear plants are protected from inundation, but climate change is bringing drought and flood, both of which could alter hazard ratings for reactors sited on rivers and lakes rather than coasts. For those nuclear plants actually on the coast, the risks of wider storm extremes and rising sea levels from climate change add to normal risk levels.

In addition, research is showing that the Japan earthquake and aftershocks were also implicated in some of the reactor damage; and many nuclear power reactors are in range of a fault in the Earth’s crust.

What was euphemistically called an “accident” in Japan, a year ago, was entirely predictable with sufficient knowledge of the range of natural hazards that nuclear plants face. Even more so, given the poor record of maintenance at many nuclear power facilities, and flaws in reactor components that mount up over time. The probabilities of serious calamity at atomic energy sites are low, but with apocalyptic potential consequences. And the longer reactors stay in operation, the more their safety will be compromised.

Fukushima 311 could have been – and nearly was – so much worse.

Claiming that nobody has been killed as a result of the disaster is trite : many people have been evacuated; land, property, agricultural and community infrastructure have been lost; and farm produce will continue to be suspect.

Today we remember all those who did lose their lives and their way of life and all their property due to the tsunami – and we pray that people may never lose everything to a nuclear power catastrophe.

Industry-funded lobbyists continue to peddle damaged and uncertain nuclear power technologies, even trying to claim that next-generation reactors are “renewable” as, if they work, they could be able to eat up the dangerous radioactive waste from the last 50 years of nuclear power.

But judging by the history of the nuclear industry, new atomic energy designs will be not only expensive, and require massive state financial support, they will be unreliable, or even not function at all, and will remain potentially ruinous.

Nuclear power is capricious and should be wound down, in the hope of preventing the low risk of exceptionally high disorder, defusing the risks of environmental radioactive chaos.

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