Wednesday, 13 April 2011

In Defence Of Nuclear Power


An honest critic attending to the risks to human safety posed by industrial-scale electricity production in Taiwan would have reason to be concerned about the possible election of a DPP administration next year. Its' two possible presidential candidates have both stated their intention to abolish the safest form of industrial-scale electricity production: nuclear power. According to WHO statistics, not only have fewer deaths occured per TW hour of electricity from nuclear power than from any other source (0.04), but were a critical situation to develop at a nuclear power plant - even one as poorly managed as Taipower's three plants - the time scale would be so slow as to ensure few, if any human deaths or injuries (except perhaps from those resulting from irrational public panic). An honest reader must also consider how many lives have been saved, and continue to be saved, in hospitals around the world for the past fifty years due to the availability of nuclear technology and the cheap electricity supplied by nuclear power.

Likewise, a scrupulous observer careful only to the environmental aspects of industrial-scale electricity production in Taiwan would regard with trepidation the possible election of a DPP administration next year. The reason for that is - again - the DPP's stated intention to abolish nuclear power, the one form of industrial-scale electricity production with arguably the lowest environmental impact of all; it requires the least amount of land per electricity output; it requires comparatively low quantities of metals and concrete for construction; and its' waste products naturally decay over time and can be disposed of with little or no threat to the wider ecology (despite the scare-mongering over the low-level waste disposal site in Lanyu).

By contrast however, a dishonest politicist, sensitive only to the crass sentiments of Sunday-cycling posers and the smell of government-largesse scented subsidies, would relish the prospect of an elected DPP administration next year. The reason for this is that renewable sources of electricity generation - wind, solar, hydro and biofuels - are so costly in both capital outlay and land, so meagre, inefficient and unpredictable at generating electricity, so expensive and challenging to properly maintain and manage, and so environmentally damaging in respect of the chemical requirements for their manufacture ... that their construction will necessitate either reduced standards of living for the vast majority of Taiwan's working poor via increased electricity prices, or the construction of yet more fossil-fed, thermal power stations - in which more working people may die in accidents.

It is to their great discredit that such people clamour uncontrollably for the political destruction of nuclear power in Taiwan.

(Sent: Wednesday April 13th 2011. Unpublished by the Taipei Times.)

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