Storm Blog

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy: deadly developments

Stan van den Bosch                                                        


Millions of people will die because of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. This is unfortunately a conservative estimate, but luckily a completely unscientific claim made by a second-year student who just wants to grab the reader’s attention. I do however believe this statement is important to consider. And not for the reasons that might seem obvious, but because Angela Merkel completely abandoned the idea of nuclear energy after the Fukushima accident.

In last year’s blog Tom van Petersen addressed the hot potato that is nuclear energy, directly (or maybe partially) leading to Arjen Lubach and Klaas Dijkhoff (VVD) opening the debate on a national level again last week. And as this verbal and emotional battleground no longer reside in the taboo-underworld, it is our chance and duty to carefully consider nuclear energy once more.

June 1982. Nuclear waste is dropped on a Greenpeace activist boat. This video contributed to the popular opinion shifting against nuclear energy altogether.

I could have started out with extensive calculations and educated estimates, delaying this blog by probably six months. Instead I have decided to rely on numbers by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); the United Nations body drawing scientific conclusions from climate change research every year. I can be very concise regarding this report when talking about nuclear energy: we need it, and lots of it. Two of the IPCC’s four scenarios expect that we need five times the amount of nuclear energy that we had in 2010. We might be able to manage with the amount of nuclear power plants we have now but that requires ‘’shifts towards sustainable and healthy consumption patterns, low-carbon technology innovation, and well-managed land systems with limited societal acceptability for Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage.’’ (IPCC, 2018).

While I need to warn you about yet another unscientific claim, I do not believe we can be saved by changing consumption patterns. Moreover, waiting for things like ‘low-carbon technology innovation’ was a relevant tactic for the 70s, when we still had a little more time on our hands. I most certainly do not deny the importance of today’s innovations (yes people, we might need our Helix friends one day), but the incredibly intelligent people that came up with nuclear power a long time ago must not be disregarded.

See the little block on the left side of the picture? That's what a nuclear power plant might look like. These giant blocks are just cooling towers, used in multiple energy generating techniques - not only nuclear. Please don’t use these kinds of pictures when talking about nuclear energy.

I will not write down all the arguments made in Zondag met Lubach, explaining how safe nuclear energy actually is, but will highlight an important response it got. ‘’What about the money?’’ That is the sentence ambitious world-saviours (e.g. Stormers) sometimes forget, be it accidentally or wilfully. It is a strong argument against nuclear energy, as wind turbines and solar panels are built without subsidies on an increasingly regular basis, and nuclear energy is very expensive in the short term. I wholeheartedly agree that it would be wonderful to save the world with wind and solar but as we all know, climate change is not a problem that can be solved with one or two solutions. An entire article (or book (or several books)) could be written about why solar and wind alone will not suffice, leaving me with the strong belief that - just like it happened with wind and solar - we need to invest in nuclear energy. And fast.

Otherwise, millions of people will die from the effects of climate change, which leaders like Angela Merkel cannot effectively combat without nuclear energy.

I invite you to debate me or your friends about this, because I believe this is something that should be spoken about. One thing I ask is to be careful when using Greenpeace’s tactic of saying that it’s better to invest in something else, without saying what that ‘something else’ is.

Zondag met Lubach – Kernenergie (English subtitles available):

Klaas Dijkhoff and national news (ask someone to translate):

IPCC (for my claims see page 19):

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