[Marxism] (no subject)

David P Á david at miradoiro.com
Sun Mar 11 01:01:47 MST 2012

On 11/03/2012 0:38, Robbie Mahood wrote:
> People are frightened of nuclear energy. Estimates of damage after an
> accident are very quickly politicised so their accuracy may be questioned.

It's true people are afraid. In fact I've read some claims that suggest 
the harm caused by the fear is actually higher than the harm caused by 
the event. Fear has physiological effects which can lead to negative 
health outcomes. The solution to this problem isn't to take the fear as 
a natural and exogenous reality, but to educate people about the actual 
risks (which obviously exist) and their bounds. For instance, the faulty 
zero-threshold linear model of radiation harm must be dropped, both 
because it is empirically wrong (as studies demonstrating radiation 
hormesis make clear), and because it leads to added harm, by people 
getting scared of things they ought not be scared of.

> However,  whatever the scale, Fukishima demonstrates the inherent risks of
> nuclear power even when abstracted from the current capitalist social and
> economic order. Popular fear may or may not accord with epidemiologic
> studies but this is not to say it is misplaced.  Health effects of
> radiation are notoriously difficult to assess and the final verdict may
> take decades. In the meantime, the pre-cautionary principle (anathema under
> capitalism) should apply.

It would be fine to apply the precautionary principle if there existed 
viable alternatives to nuclear power. As it happens, current opposition 
to nuclear power is, I'm afraid, objectively pro-coal. I won't dwell on 
the harms caused by coal extraction and burning, since I believe they're 

Likewise, the problem of global warming requires scalable solutions that 
can be deployed as soon as practical. I don't intend to start an 
argument about the inadequacy of weak ambient sources (so-called 
renewables) to fulfil baseload requirements, and the quantity of storage 
that it would take to deploy such sources in scale to replace coal and 
nuclear power. I'll just point out that such a deployment is, right now, 
infeasible. Perhaps the technologies will improve to the point at which 
this is no longer true, but that's not the state of play right now.

Furthermore, I would point out that, even under admitedly mismanaged 
regimes of operation, nuclear power has the lowest rates of deaths per 
terawatt-hour of all available sources, including solar PV and wind. 
(Not sure if solar thermal is deployed in enough scale to compare yet.) 
So the precautionary principle should lead us to deploying mature, 
existing technology to solve a time-critical need with the least harm to 
people, and such a solution is nuclear fision.


More information about the Marxism mailing list