Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nuclear Power at What Cost? Speaker Manu Mathai March 9th

Comments from our Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo meeting March 9, 2014 with Manu Mathai talking about Nuclear Energy and how we got to where we are.

 Manu Mathai (a research fellow in Science and Technology
for Sustainable Societies at UN University's Institute of Advanced
Studies) presented a stimulating talk and discussion about "Nuclear
Power--at what cost?"...

        His choice of graphs/visuals of the dire dangers the world
faces --even since 2008--was especially sobering. And the poor will
feel the pain and destruction of climate change/ food/ water shortages
etc. far sooner than we rich elites.
Mathai inspired us all to think more about possible answers
to the dilemmas of development and eradication of poverty (basic
justice and fairness) without nuclear power. He discussed some of the
inherent risks of nuclear power --which when there is not an emergency problem is
a short-term much cleaner producer of electricity than fossil fuels.
He had some details about the big demerit of lingering pollution--the
problem of waste from the power plants that we have already generated
in 50 years of nuclear power that will linger far longer than our two
thousand years that human's have been writing.

       How can we provide energy/electricity to populations in
countries like China and India whose growth is creating tremendous
material needs coupled with rising expectations?? 
 He graphically pointed out how humans have already overwhelmed the
limits of the natural ecosystem balance in many aspects of our world
and pushed us far closer to disaster than many of us understood
(especially with our use of fossil fuels). We are in the
"anthropocene" period when the impact of humans indeed is overwhelming
the other forces of nature and geology.
Mathai, when he touched on the history of nuclear power and
its promotion by the military and nation-states seeking to maintain
power (and the status quo), was particularly informative. With the
present framework of national governance and competition between
countries (he talked about foreign relations and policy) , with our
societies pushed by capitalist economics/business profits, with
incompetent politicians and dithering government bureaucrats finding
solutions seems as he pointed out particularly difficult.

          Mathai was not without hope, pointing to the example of
Germany that is being watched by the whole world for its commitment
not to use Nuclear Power. Mathai showed (and others mentioned in the
discussion that followed) a few examples of how we could so much
better use and distribute the material goods we have now (NOT more
growth--but fairer sharing for all people's wellbeing). For example
with policy to encourage bicycles not automobiles. Thermal energy.
How to change people's ways of thinking and living?

 Peggy Kanada, moderator, March 11, 2014

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