“We do not need to plunge headlong into the nuclear future,” says the author of the book Sergei Plohi. Atoms and ashes: from Bikini Atoll to Fukushima.
He notes that Belgium is adding a 10-year extension of the life of two of its nuclear reactors, France’s program to build 14 new reactors and Boris Johnson’s promise to provide 25% of Britain’s electricity needs by 2050.
From the point of view of the transition to nuclear makes sense. This will not only enable European countries to reach their ambitious zero targets because they do not produce CO2. It would also make them less vulnerable to Russian threats and stop funding for the Russian military machine …
What a Russian capture [Ukraine] nuclear facilities that are exposed are a danger inherent in all nuclear energy. For this way of producing electricity to be safe, everything else in society must function flawlessly. War, economic collapse, climate change itself – all these increasingly real risks make nuclear facilities potentially dangerous places. Even without them, the danger of nuclear fission remains, and we must ask ourselves: are they really worth the price …?
Technological developments, the growth of international cooperation and the raising of safety standards have really done much to ensure that no major nuclear accident occurs within 25 years of Chernobyl. But the explosions at Fukushima have shown that such improvements have not eliminated the dangers around nuclear power plants … Is there anything that can be done to make the reactors safer? A new generation of smaller modular reactors designed from scratch to generate energy rather than to facilitate war was proposed by Bill Gates and, among others, adopted by Macron. The reactors promised by TerraPower Gates are still in the computer simulation stage and still a few years away from construction. But his assertion that in such reactors “accidents are literally prevented by the laws of physics” should be taken with a pinch of salt, because there are no laws of war that protect neither old nor new reactors from attack.
There are also serious concerns that the rapid increase in the number of plants, which is being promoted as a way to combat climate change, will increase the likelihood of accidents. While new technology will help avoid some old pitfalls, it will also bring new risks associated with untested reactors and systems. Responsibility for dealing with such risks is now being passed on to the next generation.
This is the second big risk of nuclear power: even if the reactor is running without incident, you still have a lot of hazardous material left. Nuclear fuel will pose a threat to human life and the environment for future generations, and the half-life of some radioactive particles is measured in tens of thousands of years … Nuclear power plants usually have no alternative to storing their high-level radioactive waste on site …. If what we hide today in the New Mexico desert – the waste created by our nuclear ambitions – is so repulsive to us, why do we pass it on to others so that they can deal with it?
Author’s counter-proposal: expanding the use of renewable energy sources:
New research should be encouraged, network infrastructure should be created and storage capacity should be increased. The billions that would otherwise go to new nuclear infrastructure, with all the associated cleanup costs that continue for decades and beyond, must be pumped into clean energy.
Meanwhile, we obviously have a nuclear industry, and the solution is not to flee in panic, but to take good care of the facilities that have already dotted our village. We should not leave the industry in its current economic state, as that would only mean inviting the next accident sooner rather than later.