No Nukes? and thoughts on establishing a crime of ‘Ecocide’

Click on the image to see the linked article from Reuters, announcing that Japan has switched off its last nuclear power station for maintenance.. and is awaiting national approval before it can switch any of them back on again.

It’s a positioning stand-off that encapsulates the world energy situation. Faced with the frightening challenges of energy security and potential nuclear devastation, which would you choose? The pro-nuclear rhetoric of  ‘the new generation reactors are safe. .. etc.’ can’t wash very well in a nation that hangs in the balance over the outcome of its existing nuclear resource, let alone any potential future one.

If it really is that bad then firstly, God help us all…  what the fuck has been unleashed on the World?

There is still no answer of what to do with spent nuclear fuel rods.. so leaving them lying around in a big pile ends up being an option. There is also no clear idea of how we deal with a nuclear accident once it has happened.  Of course they are not supposed to happen, it is on this basis that we went into nuclear development in the first place.. but they have happened.. and by all accounts they will happen again. The World is headed into energy descent and this reduced energy world would mean that we will have less energy available to deal with the toxic legacy of the last 70 years or so. There are something in the region of 240 nuclear power stations around the World, so what happens as old nation states disintegrate into smaller, poorer ones? Who owns the toxic legacy? Who is responsible? how will we afford to safely decommission the existing plants and deal with the residues?

In his brilliant book Collapse,
Jared Diamond talks about the mining legacy of the US state of Montana… mineral and metal extraction from almost 100 years ago has left the rural state with slowly dilapidating mine infrastructure such as dams and tailings ponds that will cost billions to remediate, well beyond the reach of the state budget, and liabilities incurred by companies that essentially no longer exist; they  have been bought out and resold and historic liabilities have been shuffled off the balance sheets in one way or another. So who is responsible now, today, financially to take care of these huge environmental liabilities? This is an example of what will become a key challenge for the next economic generation, dealing with the long term consequences of short term thinking.

For us to contemplate filling our short term energy gap as we wean ourselves off the hugely destructive carbon fossil fuels , with what is still a hugely flawed technology such as nuclear is simply unthinkable until we have least answered the questions already raised by our collective pursuit of this technology. I will only support further nuclear development when all the existing power station are safe, managed by some global affiliation of nuclear operators and the questions of what to do with the waste has been properly answered. We need a fully fledged nuclear decommissioning industry in place before we invest another penny in building more of the wretched things.

Let us not forget the nuclear is also a fossil fuel industry… uranium has to be mined from the earth’s crust, and it is also a finite resource. The only option that will stand us in good  favour with our descendants will be a quick and total move to clean renewable sources of energy,  I simply don’t care how hard that is, how challenging to our economies, to the sacred alter of economic growth.. the transition away from fossil fuels is of paramount importance.

I read a definition of Permaculture from Patrick Whitefield the other week which seems very apt… Permaculture is the transition from Fossil fuels to design. From fossil fuel power to brain power. We will have to think and design our way out of this mess… investing in more of the same for the sake of short term aims is not going to get us anywhere.

Polly Higgins, talks about her quest to define an international law of Ecocide