Monday, April 11, 2011

“Years of Unchallenged Mythology”

Mark-Lynas_1753419c Four weeks after the earthquake in Japan and this is the editorial view in Wisconsin:

Gov. Scott Walker is going to unveil sometime in the next several months a statewide energy plan. Included in the plan will be a proposal to lift the state's moratorium on building new nuclear plants. It should be.

That does not mean that someone will start building new nuclear plants tomorrow. Nor does it mean that the tragedy in Japan doesn't have lessons for Wisconsin. It just means that discussion and proposals for eventually building new plants will no longer be off the table.

Walker has become a controversial figure, but this wouldn’t be one of the things that makes him so.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel goes through several other energy sources and notes their shortcomings then proceeds:

Those alternatives should receive more encouragement and support from Walker's administration - and he said last week he is open to them - but right now they can't meet the full need.

Nuclear power can provide base load generation. And although there are some environmental issues in production of the fuel, the plants themselves generate zero carbon emissions. That continues to make nuclear a viable option if the state and country are serious about reducing carbon emissions.

We’ll stop there. It’s a long editorial and deserves a fuller reading – we await Gov. Walker’s energy plan with great interest.


Mark Lynas is a British journalist with a focus on climate change issues – something The Los Angeles Times fails to note about him. But still, he’s contributed an interesting op-ed:

The irony of Fukushima is that in forcing us all to confront our deepest fears about the dangers of nuclear power, we find many of them to be wildly irrational — based on scare stories propagated through years of unchallenged mythology and the repeated exaggerations of self-proclaimed "experts" in the anti-nuclear movement.

Boy, do I agree with this. Lynas’ larger point is that Fukushima, instead of uniting environmentalists against nuclear energy, has further divided them on the atom.

Again, it’s a long article and worth attending to. Here’s a bit that seems to extend a theme we’ve seen from many writers:

What is needed is perspective. Nuclear energy is not entirely safe, as Fukushima clearly shows, even if the current radiation-related death toll is zero and will likely remain so. But coal and other fossil fuels are far, far worse.

To be honest, all this needs to be put into perspective – an overview of risk assessment would be a good thing – but nuclear energy, at least, is being seen whole by many and not to its disadvantage.

Mark Lynas. If you’re going to have a career as an environmental writer, this is the way to be photographed.

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