Socialist Worker

Nuclear power dealt blow by protest power

Issue No. 2254

The disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant in March has led to an unprecedented climb down in one of the world’s biggest economies.

Germany says it will close all its nuclear reactors by 2022, following mass protests.

This has massive implications for the nuclear industry. Nuclear power currently provides a quarter of Germany’s electricity.

Germany will become the biggest capitalist power to completely reject nuclear power.

This shows that major capitalist countries will ditch nuclear power if we put enough pressure on them. We should demand that David Cameron does the same here.

But there’s a problem. Germany now plans to open new coal-fired power stations instead.

Europe’s energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said, “There will be more coal power, with consequences for CO2 emissions.”

Carbon emissions are rising at a terrifying rate. The International Energy Agency estimates that emissions increased by a record amount last year and that we now have the highest level of carbon emissions in history.

This makes the goal of limiting global temperature rises to below two degrees Celsius more remote. Ordinary people around the world will be more likely to suffer the effects of disastrous climate change.

Increasing coal use will make this even worse. But nuclear isn’t green—carbon is emitted at every stage of its production.

The full impact of Fukushima is still being revealed. But it’s already clear that it was a bigger disaster than originally thought.

Tepco, the company that owns the Fukushima plant, now admits that there were meltdowns at three reactors at the site. The radiation emitted will have an impact on the environment for years to come.

The real solution to climate change is a massive investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

But this would challenge the entrenched big business interests at the heart of capitalism.

Germany’s decision shows that pressure from below can force change—but it also shows the limits of the changes that capitalism will concede.

We need to fight for a world run by ordinary people if we are to have any chance of stopping climate change.

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What We Think
Tue 31 May 2011, 18:33 BST
Issue No. 2254
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