The horrible catastrophes in Japan are playing out like a bad Sci Fi movie of the week. If any writer had said to me, I’m writing a story about a major earthquake, followed by a lethal tsunami, followed by several nuclear plants having meltdowns, my reply would probably have been, chose one, maybe two, but you can’t have all three. It’s just way over the top.
And yet, here we are, with these very real horrors. As I watch what is happening, a visual and virtual partner via my TV and the internet, I feel almost a part of it.
In one way I am, but not in a way I’m comfortable with. After all, I can't control Mother Nature but I can control how energy is provided, can't I?
When I was having a self-righteous moment and condemning nuclear plants, my husband pointed out that I like my life just the way it is and would be unwilling to give it up. And the piper must be paid, he said. Nuclear energy is the piper.
I thought about it. My usual day consists of getting up in the morning, making coffee and breakfast on my stove in my all-electric kitchen, sitting down to my computer in my heated or cooled office depending on the weather, washing and drying clothes, vacuuming, getting into my car to go shopping for food, watching TV, listening to the radio, CD, or whatever, and so forth. A typical day.
I am a consumer. I am consuming vast amounts of energy just to maintain a very ordinary, humdrum life. Whether it’s oil, coal, or nuclear power that is converted into electricity, there is an ultimate price, far more than dollars and cents. We are seeing just a small part of it in Japan, a country that is the foremost leader and expert in nuclear energy, touted as the cleanest form of energy.
Solar and wind energies are but promises. Water energy is limited. Fossil fuels burn cleaner but do not burn clean, no matter what my beloved president says. We are dependent on oil from countries that sometimes love us, sometimes hate us, but always charge us top dollar for our gluttonous ways. And nothing much has changed or seems to change. Certainly not in the decades I’ve been around this planet.
Would I be willing to go back to beating clothes on a rock, reading by candlelight and living in a cave? No, for certain. But is there a compromise? And if there is, how much would I give up to ensure a brighter future for the generations to come?
Sticking to smaller cars, for sure. Using low energy light bulbs and turning them off when I leave the room, of course. Not running tap water unnecessarily. But they all seem like paltry contributions in the scheme of things, when I have a momentary overview.
So I see, in our not too bright future, nuclear energy. I don’t like it, but that’s what I see. It’s just too in your face and we are too unwilling to change our ways drastically enough to avoid it.
We will all watch this problem play out in Japan. But it’s not just their problem, it’s everyone’s problem. As a nuclear scientist said on CNN about reactors - and I’m paraphrasing but not my much - ‘When they are good, they are very, very good. But when they are bad, they go really bad and really fast.’
Whatever happens, let’s hope we learn something from this one.