Over the past half century at all the nuclear reactors in the West how many have died from nuclear accidents? Would it surprise you to learn that it's the very same number who have died from the Fukushima nuclear plant fiasco? That's right, none.
I did qualify this by limiting it to reactors in what we consider the West. We all know about Chernobyl or at least something about it. Not too many realize how instrumental the attempted Soviet cover-up was in those deaths but, then again, nuclear critics don't much care about that either.
Here are a couple of more questions to give this discussion context and perspective. How many commuters does the Ontario Medical Association estimate die every year from the effects of automobile emissions in the Greater Toronto Area? What is the estimate of deaths worldwide due to the onset of global-warming driven climate change? Maybe you see where this is headed.
Here are three of the prominent voices of the global warming/climate change movement - James Lovelock, George Monbiot, James Hansen. The first and third, of course, are leading scientists, Monbiot is The Guardian's chief environmental writer. What do all three have in common? They all believe, with some reluctance, that nuclear power is the only viable bridge technology to allow the developed world to get off fossil fuels. They wish there were viable alternatives. They wish it didn't have to be nuclear energy. Yet all three of them accept that nuclear is our only option if we're to have a chance of avoiding runaway global warming.
Usually when you hear "climate change" discussed, it's in the context of droughts or floods, famine and migration. Isn't it quaint how we avoid mentioning the real threat, runaway global warming. Runaway as in beyond mankind's control to stop it. We lose sight of the concept of tipping points, any of a number of environmental changes that will trigger natural feedback mechanisms such as the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide stored in permafrost, tundra and taiga or the discharge of once frozen methane stored on the seabed. These are the events that will rapidly multiply atmospheric CO2 levels. These are the events that will warm the earth to a new stable state, one to which our species will not have sufficient time to evolve to adapt. Like most lifeforms on our planet, we're only capable of existing within a certain climate range.
The key to avoiding cataclysmic climate change is to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and especially coal and, by some estimates, we have precious little time left to achieve that - perhaps 15-years. That is 15-years in which the global demand for energy (and pretty much everything else) is going straight up as the massively populated, emerging economic superpowers come looking for "theirs." That's not a candle, it's a fuse burning from both ends with a potentially explosive climate in the middle.
Unfortunately we North Americans are saddled with a political class (of all stripes) that will not grasp the need to change. The American legislators are bought and paid for minions of the fossil fuel industry. Their Canadian counterparts simply see the filthiest fossil fuel on the planet, bitumen or tar sand, as our economic "don't worry, be happy" answer to future prosperity. I guess it's corruption of a different variety.
If you're young, 15-years might see like an eternity. At my age I know full well just how quickly 15-years comes and goes. We seem to be able to do far more bad in 15 years than good. Good, it seems, always takes much longer probably because it's harder and easier to shelve. A 15-year window of opportunity to achieve something good should probably be treated more like a 5-year window. That means we need to get rid of our emotional baggage, become informed of our options and determined to do what our contemptible political class won't - demand meaningful, effective and prompt action.
There is no magic wand. There are options, a range of options, but the best options are gone. They started slipping through our fingers back in the 60's back when we didn't know any better. They're gone and we do not get them back. What we have to work with half a century later are the best remaining options and that's it. Some of those won't be around much longer before they too are lost to us forever. That's how serious our reality really is.
What can you do? Start looking into options: what works, what doesn't; what is viable, what isn't; what is best for the short term, what options may be available in the mid- and long-range; what is our bottom line and how are we going to meet it?
Here are a few articles on nuclear power that contain valuable information that's largely lost in the din over the Japanese reactor failures. They're here, here, and here. You might also want to read professor Barry Brooks' explanation why, for the immediate future, our choices are stark - nuclear power or global warming.
Averting runaway global warming is an enormous challenge but the price of failure is unimaginable. That may be why our degenerate political classes avoid the subject altogether. If you've got kids or grandkids or expect to have them you can't sit back and wait for the Petro-Pols of Parliament Hill to do - nothing.