Throughout these articles, drawn from a 2013 symposium organized by the editor, scientists and activists repeat key points with passion and rigor:
1) “Considering the risk of losing half our land and evacuating half our population,” writes Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan during the March 2011 disasters, “my conclusion is that not having nuclear power plants is the safest energy policy.” Kan’s fellow contributors add that the risks of a meltdown, as well as the difficulty of storing nuclear waste, make the technology unsafe.
2) Official reports—whether from governments or international bodies—should be treated with skepticism. Though official estimates of the risks of radioactive fallout after the Fukushima meltdowns assumed that radiation would be evenly distributed throughout the body, research conducted after Chernobyl showed radiation concentrating in certain areas of the body such as the thyroid, thereby increasing risk.
3) Scientists and other experts should “not just…write doctoral papers but…speak out and speak to the layperson.” Honest, open communication between scientists, the public and the government can help ensure that policy is motivated by scientific as well as political concerns.
These articles occasionally lapse into moralizing—“The scientific community should understand that the main threat to research is lack of critical thinking”—but, for the most part, represent the ideal combination of scholarship and activism. They don’t feign objectivity (and shouldn’t), but argue their points with evidence rather than anecdotes or righteous indignation. The data within them is worth a look by proponents of nuclear power.
Such proponents include current Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who’s called on his government to restart nuclear power plants shut down after March 2011. Last month, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Agency approved the restarting of a two-reactor power plant in Kyushu.
–Published in October by the New Press