• Nuclear power: stuck in the past in more ways than one

    Blogpost by Justin McKeating - November 9, 2012 at 13:38 Add comment

    Take a look at this cartoon as featured by Nuclear Engineering International in a comment piece on their website:

    Nuclear Engineering International's cartoonLook at the white men in their suits offering their nuclear reactors to the semi-naked “natives” with feathers in their hair, and their spear and shield lying close by.

    And look at the poor, backward prehistoric non-whites being saved by the modern, forward-looking technology of the white man.

    Clearly these island-dwellers are too stupid to understand the complexities of how the white man does business – look at them demanding that 75% of the equipment be locally sourced!

    Perhaps the cartoonist and Nuclear Engineering International think these people will pay for nuclear reactors with beads and pretty shells.

    How could these “savages” possibly provide energy for themselves without paternalistic colonialism? Are we reading too much into a cartoon? Take a look at the accompanying comment piece – by Steve Kidd, the deputy director-general of the World Nuclear Association (“the international organization that promotes nuclear energy”) - which says as much:

    If countries are too ambitious and try imposing inefficient local suppliers on a [new nuclear reactor] project, this will create severe problems. It is important to secure the cost advantages of international component supply until local industry can rise to the challenge.

    How dare these people demand control over infrastructure projects in their own countries? The white man knows better than they do and must teach them a lesson.

    The nuclear industry continually claims the developing world needs nuclear reactors to

    be able to realise their potential. Ironically, the cartoon shows how that would look in reality.

    We’re told nuclear power is a magic bullet for the creation of jobs and growth. This amounts to little more than propaganda as part of the sales pitch to build new reactors. Nuclear companies bring their own workers and keep the profits.

    Look at Bulgaria where Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese workers were imported to work on nuclear projects there. Look at Niger that fulfils 40% of France’s uranium demands and yet languishes at the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index which measures life expectancy, education, and incomes.

    We’re told that nuclear power will provide “energy security” and independency to those countries adopting it. But here we see starkly how that is a lie - countries buying nuclear reactors are dependent on a handful of suppliers and countries who control the technology as well as the nuclear fuel supply.

    Nuclear power is an old technology – its fundamental principles have hardly evolved since the 1950s. It looks like much the same could be said for some of its supporter’s views about nuclear power’s potential “customers”.