Next Salon Discussion
Tuesday 2nd May: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion
Discussing First topical issue (Simon Belt) and Second topical issue (Mark Iddon)
Dr John Roberts, Dame Sue Ion and Rob Lyons introduced a discussion about where the fallout from Fukushima leaves the future of nuclear energy, chaired by Tony Gilland.
This year's earthquake off the northeastern coast of Japan, and the subsequent tsunami, had a devastating effect on that country, including the highly-publicised damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the days and weeks following the earthquake, press coverage of the plant was intense, with many predicting a catastrophe - especially as some parts of the plant dated back to 1967.
Fears of a 'new Chernobyl' spread across the globe. The fallout from the disaster has included Germany shutting down some of its plants and declaring all will be shut down by 2022. Meanwhile, some environmentalists who had recently begun to support nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels are having doubts, or simply reverting to the anti-nuclear position.
With the prospect of oil and gas production declining, with coal widely seen as unacceptable and alternative forms of 'green' energy production seemingly unable to satisfy increasing demands, the nuclear option had looked set for a renaissance.
Will the new political climate allow the expansion of nuclear power that would be required to meet demand? What if any are the barriers to long-term safety? Will scientists be able to convince a sceptical public of the merits of nuclear power over traditional or other 'green' technologies still in their infancy? Are politicians willing to discuss the scientific merits or otherwise of nuclear power more openly, and help develop a balanced approach to political decision-making about energy?
This discussion will be preluded with a short presentation by the science writer Stephen Purver, on the wider effects of the Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011.
Some background readings
Japan nuclear crisis should not carry weight in atomic energy debate, George Monbiot, Guardian 16 March 2011
What we know, and don't know, about Japan's reactors, by David L Chandler, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 16 March 2011
Japan: Nuclear panic is 'over-reaction' says scientists, Channel 4 News 17 March 2011
Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power, George Monbiot, Guardian 21 March 2011
The dangers of nuclear power in light of Fukushima, by Mark Lynas and Chris Goodall, Mark Lynas blog 30 March 2011
Nuclear energy: clean, reliable and powerful, Rob Lyons, spiked online 15 April 2011
Why Germany said no to nuclear power, by Daniel Johnson, The Telegraph 30 May 2011
European Pressurized Reactor, published on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Japan PM calls for nuclear-free future, Guardian, 13 July 2011
After Fukushima: The Fear Factor, WORLDbytes video report, August 2011
“After Fukushima, we should abandon nuclear power”, Debating Matters Topic Guide by Tony Gilland August 2011