Is the nuclear debate a moot point?

The point of this blog is/was to study the debate about nuclear power. I want to understand what both sides want, what their motivations are and how they interact. One thing that I recently realised I haven’t covered however, is what can possibly be achieved by this debate.

This thought occurred to me while reading this article. Called ‘China eyes 110 nuke plants by 2030′, this article describes the plan of the Chinese government to vastly increase its nuclear power grid, which currently only supplies 2% of China’s total power needs. 

Countires like the USA, Russia and India already have nuclear power, and there are a lot of countries considering taking it up (most of which don’t have strong environmental concerns).

The people who campaign against nuclear power definitely occupy a lower position of power, compared to those who would invest in nuclear energy. And it seems to me that the likelihood of the anti-nuclear movement ever being able to stop nuclear power altogether is remote. So what can they hope to achieve?

All that seems possible is more regulation. This was talked about in the Slovic paper I discussed in the last couple of posts. As the unknown and dread rating of a technology goes up, so does the demand for regulation. But as it stands in countries like the USA and Russia, where nuclear power has been around for a long time, there are extremely high levels of regulation on all facets of the nuclear power process: plant design, building processes and building materials, built-in redundant safety protocols, fuel storage and handling, spent fuel storage and handling. What more can be done that is achievable?

Does the nuclear debate in developed nations actually serve a purpose anymore? There are now governmental bodies that are responsible for ensuring the safety of populations under threat of nuclear technology, so does us arguing about it really matter?

Matters might be a little different in developing nations like India and China, and in the many countries where there are plans for developing nuclear power, but it still seems like there is little that can be done to stop the world investing in this technology. And, as members of the “first world” do we have any right to? Do organisations like Greenpeace have any right to? We can encourage them to be safe, and help them learn from our mistakes, but ultimately it’s up to them.

Say something controversial.

Matt