Fukushima fearmongers: It's your fault Japan dumped CO2 targets
One major industrial nation and counting
Opinion If the Fukushima crisis has proved one thing, it's that nuclear power is safe. Everything that could possibly go wrong did, the accident was agreed to be at the top of the international scale for seriousness, and yet in decades to come scientists will not be able to attribute any deaths to radiation released from the Daiichi plant.
In that respect the incident was much like Three Mile Island, where again a nuclear core melted down under the unblinking, terrified gaze of the world's media (though at least in that case they weren't largely ignoring a nearby and genuine human catastrophe, as they did with the actual real damage done by earthquake and tsunami).
In the case of Chernobyl, the only other notable nuclear accident, the total death toll that you can actually attribute to the accident - including children who got cancer as a result of radioactive emitted from the plant - and it is 56, not at all a large number for an industrial accident. Anti-nuclear activists like to claim that there will be thousands more cancer cases, based on the idea that hundreds of thousands of people who were affected may suffer a tiny increased chance of cancer, but this will be impossible to verify as the fact is people very often die of cancer anyway. The lives of these "Chernobyl victims" will not be noticeably different to the lives they would have lived anyway.
If we were to close down industries on such grounds, we would not have any industry left and we'd have to live in mud huts and die like flies from disease and malnutrition. Other industries have accidents in which scores (or hundreds, or even thousands) of people are directly measurably killed all the time, and most of them emit huge quantities of stuff into the environment which a keen scientist could easily point to and say they are causing thousands of deaths. Yet they are not closed down.
In particular, one of the other things that other industries emit is atmospheric carbon - and indeed, you will find plenty of people to claim that global warming associated with this has already and will in future kill almost any number of people, perhaps the entire human race at the high end.
The Japanese government, impelled by the colossal international and domestic panic that followed the pretty much completely harmless Daiichi plant incident, has ordered all its nuclear power stations shut down. As a result it has been forced to burn more fossil fuels in order to keep the lights on, and it has now - at the international climate conference in Warsaw - formally abandoned its former carbon emissions reduction targets.
"This move by Japan could have a devastating impact," said Naoyuki Yamagishi of hardline green campaign group WWF, talking to Reuters. "It could further accelerate the race to the bottom among other developed countries."
It certainly could. Germany also plans to shut down all its nuclear reactors in the wake of Fukushima, and is finding that its vaunted renewables simply don't have a prayer of supporting a powerful industrial economy (already, fossil powerplant operators are successfully obtaining extra money to stay in business there, and there has lately been a move into hated coal).
Some of us here on the Reg environment desk - though by no means all - do not hold the standard media/left-wing beliefs on environment/energy matters (ie carbon emissions are definitely an immediate and deadly threat and so is nuclear power). So we're not as panicked at the thought of more carbon emissions as some might be.
But we know as well as anyone that being dependent on Russian gas and Saudi oil will be bad for our society. We might hazard a guess that shale gas, even if it is the bonanza some think, will be harder to develop in the UK than in the much emptier USA - and that one day it will run out just as North Sea oil and gas is now doing.
We would prefer to pay small sums to Australia and Canada for small amounts of uranium, have lots of nice well-paid jobs here in the UK on the rest of our energy money, and perhaps not have our Jetsons future of atomic spaceships closed off forever.
And anyone at all serious is well aware that the idea of running an advanced, developed human civilisation on renewables is a pipe-dream. Just ask Dr James Hansen, doyen of the anti-carbon crusaders. He and some colleagues have just publicly exhorted people like Mr Yamagishi of WWF to just lay the hell off nuclear power, as without it there is not a prayer of ever reducing carbon emissions until all the gas and coal and oil is burned.
But WWF and the other hard greens know the realities too: they know that no carbon + no nukes = economic misery. They just don't care - their plan is that humanity should abandon economic growth and sink into poverty.
So those are the options. Air full of carbon, nuclear power, or shivering hungry in the dark. ®