The Return of Nuclear Power and Political Correctness

P E Hodgson FAITH Magazine November-December 2007

Reality can be ignored for a while, but eventually it forces us to face the facts. Gradually, inexorably, it is becoming clear that there is no safe and practicable way to provide our energy needs except by nuclear power. As Governments realise this, more and more nuclear power plants are being planned and built worldwide. This is a belated recognition of the conclusions of a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as long ago as 1980 that emphasised the worldwide need for nuclear power to provide the energy for an expanding world.

When nuclear power was first developed it was hailed with great enthusiasm. Nuclear power stations were built in many countries and provided an increasing share of world energy needs. Then the public attitude changed, and for several decades very few new power stations were built.

This change was brought about by a massive propaganda campaign orchestrated by the Soviet Union with the object of weakening the West. It was cleverly designed to make it plausible: genuine dangers were magnified out of all proportion. For example, it is well known that nuclear radiations are dangerous in large doses and this was used as an argument against nuclear power. However the radiation nuclear power stations emit is minuscule. The campaign was taken up by left-wing groups worldwide and proved very successful. It was given a great boost by the accident at Three Mile Island and the disaster at Chernobyl. Slowly the public was won over and became opposed to nuclear power.

In recent years several new developments have forced a reassessment of our energy plans. The mounting evidence for climate change, and all its tragic consequences, has provided a powerful argument against fossil fuel power stations: the burning of coal, gas and oil releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and this is almost certainly responsible for global warming. In addition, many poisonous chemicals are released as well. Alternative sources of energy such as wind turbines and photovoltaic cells are unreliable, expensive and quite unable to produce more than a minute fraction of the energy we need.

The endlessly repeated arguments against nuclear power, namely the disposal of nuclear waste, leukemia clusters around nuclear power stations, the cost of decommissioning and the shortage of uranium have all been conclusively refuted or put into proper proportion[1]. Nuclear power stations produce hardly any atmospheric pollution and provide by far the safest way to generate energy (with the possible exception of gas).

Vast amounts of energy are needed even to maintain our standard of living and to increase that of those in poorer countries. Governments realise that the only practicable way to provide this is by nuclear power, and so many more power stations are being planned, using new designs that are even safer and more economical than those presently in operation[2].

The scale of the new programmes is remarkable. At present there are 435 reactors in operation worldwide, with a capacity 368,860 MW. According to the World Nuclear Association there are now 250 reactors planned, proposed or under construction with a total capacity of 215,821 MW, representing nearly a 60\% increase. The principal countries involved are China (68 reactors), Russia (32), India (26), South Africa (25), USA (24) and Japan (14). The total for Europe is only 14.

The present British Government is now convinced of the necessity of building new nuclear power stations, but is failing to take the necessary action for fear of losing votes. Initially, Britain led the world in the development of nuclear power, but has now fallen far behind. There are immense commercial opportunities for companies ready to build the new nuclear power stations. Successive Government decisions have progressively weakened our ability to take advantage of this. Thus Toshiba’s profits for the past year were $1.16 billion, largely due to the purchase of Westinghouse from British Nuclear Fuels.

This tragic story of mismanagement, which has already cost so many lives, is due to letting decisions be influenced, not by the facts of nature, but by political propaganda.

[1] The detailed arguments may be found in many places, such as in my book ‘Nuclear Power, Energy and the Environment’ (Ashgate Press 2005).
[2] Both Mr Blair and Mr Brown have publicly admitted that Britain needs nuclear power.

Faith Magazine

November - December 2007