Unsure about nuclear power?

Unsure about nuclear power?

Here are the five questions you must answer to decide

avatar for Damian Carrington

by Damian Carrington

26 Apr 2011 2:21 AM

Cross-posted from The Guardian.

ChernobylChernobyl begs a lot of questions 25 years later.Photo: Pedro Moura PinheiroContaining the elemental forces that rage inside a nuclear reactor is one of the great achievements of science, but losing control, as happened 25 years ago today at Chernobyl, is one of its greatest failures.

So what to think of nuclear power? People often ask me if I support or oppose the building of new nuclear power stations, presuming that because of my job, I’ll know the answer. If only it were that easy.

Until the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant, I would say I was 51 percent in favor, on the basis that we need all the low-carbon electricity we can get to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and that I tend to trust scientists, having been one.

But 51 percent in favor is a pretty unsatisfactory position — it’s 1 percent off “I don’t know.” Surely I can be more certain than that, I thought.

As the debate has raged, not least between my colleagues George Monbiot and John Vidal, it struck me very clearly that this is not an issue that can be resolved with cold facts alone, for the simple reason that many of the facts are not known. And how do you fairly assess the relative importance of political, economic, security, health, and engineering factors?

The answer, it seems to me, must lie in a series of personal judgements on the critical factors that we all must make for themselves. So I have tried to devise a series of questions which, if you answer based on your own priorities and judgments, should allow you to decide your position on nuclear power.

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