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Every nuclear technology starts by promising electricity too cheap to meter, discounts out of hand known technical complexities that impinge on technical viability, not to mention health and safety, covers up (lies about) safety lapses in construction and early operations, and then when things finally go bad for real--Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, but you could also throw in near-misses such as Browns Ferry--explains it away as an old and obsolete technology that can be discounted and ignored because everything is different now.  Until the next meltdown.  

As Malooga says, forget pollution, forget the ever unsolved and ever growing problem of waste storage, forget the known but unasignable deaths due to accidents and leaks--just look at the design issues:  These plants can not be turned "off" without copious, long-term external power for shutdown-mode cooling. These plants are the most insane machines ever constructed.  As Steve from Virginia over at Economic Undertow says, the one great difference of nuclear power over other forms of power generation has been its ability to push costs into the future.  That was done then and those costs are starting to arrive now.  

But does any of this matter?  Industrial civilization is committed to using as much power as possible from any and every sufficiently cheap source for as long as possible, regardless of externalities which typically mean the destruction of the inhabitability of land and the potability of water.  This is in turn a consequence of the demand for infinite growth.  There is no argument nuclear vs. coal, or vs. anything else.  The only question is how much dirty energy of all types Industrial Civilization will develop before the price becomes too high or underlying human life support is destroyed.  All sources of energy--no matter how dirty or destructive--will be used if they can be.  

The only way out--if it can be called a way out--is to use less energy, and that means giving up on growth altogether.  Industrial civilization has no way of not growing.  This is an absolute impasse.  That is, the way out implies the end of industrial civilization, which, it is true, will happen anyway--but the implication is to embrace necessity in the spirit of damage limitation.  

But where is the political will to come from?  If these plants are not shut down, the best parts of North America, Europe, and Asia will become exclusion zones before the 21st century is out.  But there is no money to be made by saving any of these continents:  Money can only be made by destroying them.  So there is no solution within the bounds of the current political economy.  

We need a revolution, sure, but here is the catch:  Unlike previous revolutions, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  The revolution itself would be based on the recognition that nobody will be "better off" as the phrase is currently understood.  The West is currently completely nihilistic--no one believes that a future is possible, let alone likely, and no one has any interest in seeking it.  The short phrase for this is murder-suicide, and murder-suicide is the underlying psychology of the West.  Everyone has bought in to their own death by their own hand.  

Except for a few lone nuts, of course.  But they have no power and no influence.  How can this change?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jun 22nd, 2011 at 11:58:23 PM EST
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