(March 17, 2011) When even experts disagree about how safe nuclear reactors are, or ought to be, what do we make of nuclear? The Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente looks at the pros and cons of nuclear energy and finds concern in the less obvious.
The more obvious risks – safety:
“The Japanese weren’t expecting a magnitude 9.0 earthquake or a 33-foot tsunami, and they are the most experienced earthquake watchers in the world,” says Norm Rubin, director of research at Energy Probe. “We are neophytes at this.”
“The question of whether nuclear can compete is still an open question,” says Mr. Rubin. “Every new safety requirement adds to the cost.”
“The reactors that really ought to make us nervous are probably the ones located in places where construction standards, regulatory protocols and engineering expertise may be a little shaky. Take China, which is building more plants than the rest of the world combined,” writes Wente. “As it happens, anyone familiar with Chinese construction standards – to say nothing of its culture of corruption – has good reason to be wary. China’s former head of nuclear construction, Kang Rixin, was recently sentenced to life in prison for taking bribes and abusing his position. It’s safe to predict that another nuclear accident is inevitable. It’s just a matter of where, and when.”
* Margaret Wente is a member of Energy Probe’s advisory board.