As Japan faces the aftermath of the triple tragedies of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear pollution the world is again forced to confront the consequences of the faith it has placed in nuclear energy.
While the public is largely united in its desire to move away from nuclear energy the uranium industry remains upbeat in its assessment of what the unfolding situation in Japan means for the future of their industry.
The head of the Australian Uranium Association argues that the ongoing disaster in Japan does not raise safety concerns for the nuclear energy industry, going on to say that “the rest of Japan’s nuclear fleet is safe and of course the global nuclear fleet is safe”.
Given that the mining industry regular describes nuclear energy as clean and green we can only imagine what meaning they attach to the word ‘safe’.
Meanwhile Warwick Grigor, who is described as one of Australia’s foremost uranium analysts, appears less certain about the safety of the world’s nuclear power stations, but also less concerned. He is reported as saying that the industry has “an impeccable safety track record” but that “we need to remember that every industry has its disasters. Nothing is fail safe.” He goes on to say “We seem to accept that there will be deaths in coal mine accidents. It happens somewhere in the world every year. It is reported, dramatised if possible, and then it is back to business as usual. No-one has suggested that coal mining should be stopped.”
While it is unlikely that the Japanese communities that surround the leaking nuclear power stations will be returning to business as usual any time soon, it is even less likely that the nuclear industry will actually invent the much talked about ‘fourth generation’ reactors which are hoped to be cheap, clean and safe. Like ‘clean coal’ it appears that the main role of such imagined technologies is to keep the debate focussed on how good things might be in the future rather than how bad they are at present.