“It is becoming evident to many that the March nuclear catastrophe at Japan’s six reactor Daichi Fukushima complex has dealt a huge, possibly fatal, blow to the nuclear industry’s hopes of a revival.” John Daly, PhD, contributor at OilPrice.com and a leading energy expert. Dr. Daly opines in “Nuclear Twilight in Europe” that the public fear generated by the effects of the 2011 Earthquake-Tsunami caused reactor damage in Fukushima’s nuclear complex was the third in a multi-decade “triple whammy” against nuclear power. Concerns for the future of nuclear energy advancement appear valid in light of Germany’s hysterical response.
At this time, based on my reading, France is holding steady as the nuclear Voice of Reason on the European continent. Perhaps I misunderstood some of the history lessons from World War II, but I recall reading of a German occupation of France, some 65 years ago. Yet, soon will it not be the Germans holding their hands up to the French, asking to buy their nuclear-generated electricity? I suspect the German’s will tire of this subservient position, given time to digest the impacts more fully as 2014 - 2022 approaches.
Daly poses the idea that this third major disaster is the crowning blow – Three Mile Island’s partial meltdown being the first, followed by the second blow, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The baseball analogy works well if three is somehow a magic number. But, is it? Who says? Is it, indeed, “curtains” for civilian nuclear energy power generation? Before I respond to this question, I want to delve a little further into Europe’s reactions and discover which issues, if any, might apply to the United States nuclear energy policies.
Germany’s internal debate on nuclear energy was borne of a political climate far different than what Americans or other nations have experienced. Young people, like myself, who have never traveled to Germany, will probably be surprised to learn the German population is hardly concerned with the technical merits of power generation. Rather, there is a strong emotional component - a fear – that defies logic, and in many cases renders a rational energy conversation obsolete. Daniel Johnson, in The Daily Telegraph, captures their mood, “An irrational fear of nuclear energy runs deep in Germany … the enduring influence of romanticism, the love of forests, and the worship of nature all contribute to the highly charged atmosphere.” Beginning in the late 1960s, the German far-Left equated nuclear power with a symbol of capitalism and militarism. This political position has only strengthened in years since, as the Greens gained momentum, Chernobyl occurred, and the issue of climate change entered the environmentalist mindset.
Daly poses the question: “Should it matter to us if Germany chooses to impose unnecessary costs on its own industrial and domestic energy consumption?”
I suggest an answer of both “yes and no.” Yes, the United States and others could suffer negative consequences to Germany’s decision. As the largest economy in Europe, Germany’s prejudices could be imposed on the E.U. in the form of government regulations and influence. Significantly, the enemies of nuclear energy will be emboldened; the battle cry and slogan can be dusted off from the 1970s: “Atomkraft? Nein Danke.”
However, in my opinion, the enemies’ voices will be loud, but they will not prevail. Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and other nations will soon realize an expensive lesson: that wind power, solar power, and all the energy alternatives, combined, are a romantic fancy that cannot supply the needs of a modern industrialized nation. Nuclear IS green energy. And, in the logical mind of at least one Green fundamentalist, George Monbiot, “If an aging nuclear plant, incompetently managed and with obsolete safeguards, is hit by one of the worst earthquakes in history, yet hardly anybody is killed, then we must conclude that nuclear power has a lot to be said for it.”
The United States lags behind other nations in nuclear energy advancements. This was true before Fukushima, and remains true today. The U.S. should be the world leaders in nuclear energy developments. We have the knowledge, expertise, and experience. It could turn a 16 year-old into a serious cynic to learn that the blueprints to our nation’s energy crisis and shortage of nuclear medicine radioisotopes sit on a corporate shelf, in mothballs, suffocated by politics and anti-nuclear energy regulations. But, this is not the time for cynicism and laments.
So, is it, ‘one, two, three strikes ye’r out’ for nuclear energy in the post-Fukushima world? For the United States, the answer is a definitive “no.” Undeniably, Fukushima is a game-changer for nuclear energy advocacy. Baseball is a game with nine innings. Germany’s (Merkel’s) political nuclear energy capitulation and Switzerland and Italy’s nuclear swoon response gave us a tough inning – but the game is far from over.