Thursday, February 17, 2011
In the midst of debates/countering propaganda about Iran's nuclear program, as I find myself making arguments that should be familiar to readers here (e.g. there is little evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and that it has a right under international law and the non-proliferation regime of which it is a signatory to develop nuclear energy "for peaceful purposes"), I occasionally stop and try to remind myself of the conclusion I come to any time I think in any sustained manner about the possible-to-likely consequences of nuclear power. That conclusion is that no-one should have nuclear power, as it is just too dangerous to trust in the hands of humans. Two major reasons for this include the fact that the very production of nuclear energy helps create the materials necessary for nuclear weapons and the fact that I just don't trust capitalists (or anyone really, but capitalists least of all) to operate nuclear plants in a manner that is consistently safe. And as these stunning and horrifying photos by Robert Knoth, detailing some of the effects of the Chernobyl disaster some 20 years after the melt-down, graphically attest, the consequences of an accident can be severe and long-lasting. The victims shown in these photos, many of them born years after the disaster, will not be the last.
I was reminded of a third reason today while watching the documentary Into Eternity about the Onkalo nuclear waste depository under construction in Finland, which does an excellent job of illustrating the folly and hubris of thinking that we are remotely capable of safely disposing the nuclear waste we are now producing such that it remains isolated for the next 100,000 years. I haven't investigated any of the politics of the selection of the site itself and neither does filmmaker Michael Madsen in Into Eternity, which is not necessarily a failing given the conceit embedded in the film that it is a message to the future, but I find that I can't in theory oppose such projects because we do after all currently have on hand some 250,000 tons of radioactive waste that we need to do something with and, given the time-scale involved, I find any above ground scenario an even greater risk. But it certainly raises the question of why we would be continuing to produce more and more waste and creating the need for 100s and 100s of Onkalos on into the future.
I would recommend viewing this documentary, and if you have an hour-and-a-quarter to spare, here's your opportunity.