March 27, 2011

General Musings For The Week 27th March 2011

Bit of a hot topic this week: Nuclear Energy

With all the furore over the Japanese nuclear reactors that has occurred since the earthquake and Tsunami of two weeks ago, there have been a lot of people eager to jump on the 'This is why we shouldn't have nuclear energy' bandwagon.

Let me put my cards on the table so there is no confusion here. I am neither for nor against nuclear energy. I have no great feelings either way. It is, demonstrably, the most efficient way of creating energy. But it is also the one with the greatest potential downside. I think nuclear energy can be a great helper to mankind, bit I would also hesitate to have a power station situated close to where I live. Sure, it's a hypocritical thing, but that's why I say I am neither for nor against it.

But I read two articles this week which were so unbalanced against it that I had to retweet them to my followers.

One of them was from the St Louis Journal and was entitled "Nuclear Energy is No Alternative". The person writing the article had formed an argument around the following statement "If the people in government who manage nuclear energy are corrupt then nuclear energy is not safe".

At the highest level there is a degree of truth in that - corruption can be one of the causes of safety protocols being bypassed. This can lead to accidents etc. But what annoyed me about the article was that it presented no other arguments against nuclear energy, nor did it apply the same logic to other forms of energy. After all it could be said that one of the reasons behind the Gulf Oil spill of last year was a safety issue. This could have been caused by a lax regime. This could have been a result of corruption somehwre (although i have no evidence to suggest it was). So why not include oil (or coal, or biofuels) into this article? Simply because it was an unbalanced and one-sided argument

The second article, called "Forgetting Fukushima" was from Greenpeace. Surprise, surprise they are quoting a fantastic statistic which says that if we built one nuclear power station every 10 days from now until 2050 we would only decrease the CO2 in the atmosphere by 4%. Their logic was that if that's the case then nuclear energy is not worth having and the dangers outweight the benefits.. The also roled out the old chestnuts about how dangerous is it. But again, it's a one-side argument. At no point did they quote any statistics related to how much alternative energy methods would reduce carbon emmisions. Sure, they told us that Germany is producing x% of its energy through solar and wind, and Portugal is doing similar, but without comparison like-for-like figures it becomes a one-sided, unbalanced argument.

In comparison to that Seth Godin (A marketeer with a knack for stating the obvious in a way you don't think is obvious) has shown a graphical statistic which compares the number of deaths per production of a set amount of energy from Nuclear fuel, oil and coal. The difference is quite startling. I would urge you to look at it. But when you do, please make sure you read the admonishment he puts underneath which is "Any time reality doesn't match your expectations, it means that marketing was involved".

I wonder how big and effective the Greenpeace marketing department is?

Video of the week is this Silent City a short sci-fi movie made with the help of the Irish Film Council. It's a very impressive short which - I believe - was mainly done by a guy in his room. If you want to see the behind the scenes footage, it's here

Everyone in the UK don't forget the clocks went forward an hour last night and today is the day you are supposed to complete your census forms (it's a legal requirement, you know!)

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