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Nuclear energy proponents downplay its unresolved moral and ethical concerns

Nuclear energy, ten years after Fukushima,  Nature, Ali Ahmad & Francesca Giovannini, 4 Mar 21,      ” …………..Many academics have cast nuclear power as an inevitable choice if the planet is to limit global warming1. But, given the environmental and social concerns, others are more circumspect, or remain opposed2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its 2018 special report on global warming, acknowledged a possible role for nuclear energy in limiting global temperature rise, but highlighted the crucial role that public acceptance will have in boosting or derailing investments.

Safety and cost are frequently highlighted as the central challenges for the nuclear industry. New technologies are tackling these issues, but such reactors might not become commercialized until mid-century. That time frame could render them obsolete, as competing technologies such as solar and wind energy (plus storage) become increasingly dominant3.

In our view, a larger problem looms: the opaque, inward-looking and inequitable ways in which the nuclear sector has long made technology and policy decisions. Hence, two crucial questions concerning the future of nuclear energy need to be asked. First, can and will the sector ever overcome public disapproval? Second, are its benefits worth the risks and costs to people and the environment?……………
 
 much of the support for nuclear energy focuses almost exclusively on its techno-economic characteristics, downplaying unresolved moral and ethical concerns. Proponents often fail to consider inequalities in how the benefits and risks of nuclear technologies are distributed at the local, regional and global scale. Nor do they consider who is left out of the decision-making processes about what to build, or who will be most affected by problems that arise7.
 
Nearly three-quarters of all uranium production globally, for instance, comes from mines that are in or near Indigenous communities, for example in the United States and Australia. These mines, left unremediated after use, have poisoned lands and peoples, and upended traditional ways of life (see go.nature.com/37w5be6). Nuclear waste is similarly mired in equity concerns, given that long-term repositories will probably be sited far from communities that have typically benefited from the production of nuclear electricity. The nuclear industry often presents the problem of waste storage as having known technical solutions. The reality of exactly where it should go, and how, is still highly contentious.
In stark contrast, the ‘Green New Deals’ proposed in several countries explicitly aspire to wealth redistribution, social fairness and environmental equity. In the United States and other countries where such discussions have emerged, public support for nuclear energy is mixed.

The nuclear sector has consistently failed to engage meaningfully with the public over such concerns. This failure can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s. Psychological studies of risk at that time described the public as affective, irrational and neglectful of probability in its assessments of risk, and called on the nuclear industry either to accept and design for the public’s perceptions of risk or to educate the public8.

Industry chose the latter path, typically attempting to engage the public only at the final stages of plant regulation and focusing on educating the public with the industry’s own view of risk. This is a straightforward, quantitative equation that multiplies the probability of disaster and consequence. It often avoids or ignores the public perspective. For example, many people are willing to accept risks that are voluntary or familiar — such as flying, smoking or driving a car — against risks that are unfamiliar and over which they have little control. For involuntary risky activities, most individuals tend to de-emphasize probability and require higher levels of safety and protection for their comfort.

The industry’s mode of engagement with the public has led to an antagonistic expert–public divide. Fukushima, for example, left an undeniable mark on the public psyche. But the nuclear industry consistently plays down the disaster by focusing on the fact that it did not cause any direct casualties. Although no human deaths resulted directly from the accident, disruptions to livelihoods, social ties and irreversible damage to ecosystems have been significant. An estimated 165,000 people were displaced, and, a decade later, some 43,000 residents are unable to return to their home towns9. Industry risk assessments capture the economic impacts of such issues, but usually fail to capture the harder-to-quantify collateral damage to people’s lives and the environment………https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00580-4

March 6, 2021 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, Religion and ethics

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