March 29, 2011
Last week’s European Council took the decision to undertake stress tests for all existing European nuclear power plants by the end of the year. After these tests, the decision will be taken as to whether the security is sufficient to run the different nuclear power plants! But all experiences show that such a policy decision is only to calm public opinion! This is not a ambitious decision towards a quick nuclear phase-out. Quite the contrary: Let us do stress tests and they will probably show that European power plants are safer than others in the World. We have seen the same pattern concerning the stress tests for the banking sector!
We should be very clear, it will be years before we know the full consequences of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.
In Germany this weekend, a considerable number of citizen were on the streets and urged and end to nuclear energy production immediately. Also the federal state elections in the south of Germany were much influenced by the question of long term energy policy.
So the Fukushima disaster is also an opportunity to rethink nuclear power policy in Europe — and reduce the dangers of a similar disaster also happening in Europe.
The industry is still arguing that nuclear power is a remarkably safe technology.
They say, that the 1986 Chernobyl accident ultimately killed about 10,000 people, mostly from cancer. Furthermore, they argue very cynically that coal plants are much deadlier: for example the fine-particulate air pollution they produce kills about 10,000 people each year in the United States alone! Of course, this kind of accounting is beside the point, shameful and unacceptable. Behind this is the simple thinking that for the nuclear-power industry a meltdown means less profitability and benefits!
Let us be innovative! We should propose very urgently in Europe a quick nuclear phase-out.
In France we also have reactors which are more than 30 years old! In the Czech Republic the same. In Germany 8 reactors have been stopped now for a period of more than 3 months because they do not fulfill modern day standards.
The nuclear energy plants are based on a technology of the 1950s. Do we still have TV sets based on technology from the last century? Do we still have vehicules produced in the fifties? Do we still work with type writers in our offices? The list goes on. Industry will argue that such comparison is not valuable. But we also know that we haven’t solved the problem of nuclear waste. So debates are difficult!
But a nuclear catastrophy in Europe will have the same horrible consequences as in Fukushima and we generate disastrous long term economic problems. Better to avoid than to suffer such consequences.
Energy supply is, of course, the key to ecological modernisation. This is often the argument used by the nuclear industry to continue and to enhance nuclear power production. But ecological modernisation can also be defined as a goal for enhancing the production of renewable energies and in search of a massive increase in ENERGY EFFICIENCY. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich has shown that by 2020, through energy efficiency, our societies can diminish from a 6000 Watt per capita consumption to a 2000 Watt per capita consumption.
Such a policy together with a nuclear phase-out will generate growth and jobs! We should, as progressives, work intensively on a convincing and clear policy. The arguments can be based and developed on our common values. This, together with a coherent perspective for the future, should be the focal point of the Europe 2020 strategy
The principle is sustainable development based on ideas for reform. It is in the tradition of Gro Harlem Brundtland‘s report on socially and ecologically based fair development, of Willy Brandt’s North-South initiative of the common survival of our planet and of the Olof Palme concept of a common security. Those three progressives have developed their ideas in the 70ties and 80ties. Already before the Chernobyl disaster.
After Chernobyl everybody argued nothing is as before. Today Fukushima gives the cruel answer: everything is as it was before!Ernst Stetter