One of the results of getting older, or of having any sort of education, for that matter, is that you become less inclined to rush to conclusions. When they had the nuclear meltdown in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania some thirty-odd years ago, I turned against the use of nuclear energy. It was blatantly unsafe, and should not be used.
Over the years I rethought the matter of nuclear energy. It had many advantages. The recent events in Japan, however, have made me think again.
In some ways, this matter is similar to that of drilling for crude oil, which has been so vociferously touted of late. Such drilling, we are told, is safe. Drilling on American shores would reduce gas prices, and make us less dependent on the volatile Middle East.
What is less said is that the legal safeguards effecting the drilling and transportation of crude oil have been drastically reduced. The Congress and Dick Cheney largely deregulated the oil industry, as a result of which British Petroleum had little incentive to safely handle oil. Hence, when the disastrous oil spill occurred last year in the Gulf of Louisiana, BP had no effective plan for cleaning up the oil slick.
In the area of nuclear energy, the Japanese place a greater emphasis on safety than we do in the U.S. They are more sophisticated in their handling of nuclear technology. Yet when a major earthquake occurred recently, not even the Japanese had the means to prevent widespread radiation from occurring. After much dodging about, the Japanese government finally admitted that its country had experienced the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Our obligation is to the earth that nourishes us. It is not our private property but rather a living gift that we must steward for the sake of the humans and other creatures that come after us.
Nuclear energy has many virtues. It is cleaner than coal. It is more efficient than many other means of energy. But under our present capacities, it is not safe.
Let Japan be a warning.