Fukushima should warn us off nuclear power, says eco-theologian

Explosion at Fukushima

Explosion at Fukushima

Columban priest Sean McDonagh takes the view that nuclear power should not be seen as the solution to global warming. He will be saying as much next Thursday when he launches his latest book, ‘FUKUSHIMA: THE DEATH KNELL FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY?’ at Heythrop College in London. More emphasis on energy efficiency and the promotion of green energy is preferable to any expansion of nuclear power, says the eco-theologian.

Fr McDonagh has been involved with the issue since the 1970s when the Marcos government in the Philippines decided to build a nuclear power plant at Bataan on Luzon Island. On mission in the country, the Irish priest was active in popular opposition to the plant. The Supreme Court eventually forbade the generation of electricity there and a team of international inspectors declared it unsafe. The building – now empty - had been constructed near a geological fault line and there were four active volcanoes within a range of 30 miles.

The link between civilian nuclear power and nuclear weapons programmes is another important issue. Currently about 60 countries in the world have civilian nuclear power plants, and Fr McDonagh points out that around 20 of these countries have used their civilian nuclear facilities to undertake covert research on weapons programmes. He also highlights the health consequences of nuclear accidents, such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

But is nuclear energy a green alternative to fossil fuels? Fr McDonagh points out that whilst it is true that very little fossil fuel is used to produce electricity in nuclear plants, an enormous quantity is needed at almost every phase of the nuclear process which begins with uranium mining. Nuclear waste is carcinogenic and toxic and fossil fuels will be needed to transport and store nuclear waste for umpteen generations. At the end of their 30 or 40 years life-span, vast amounts of fossil fuel will be needed to decommission nuclear plants.

In his latest book, Columban priest Sean McDonagh focuses on the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant in March 2011. He says: “Although nuclear plants have been supplying energy in the context of ‘peaceful use’ to society until now, they have also released an enormous amount of radioactive waste such as plutonium. We are placing the custodial responsibility of these dangerous wastes on future generations for centuries to come. We must consider this matter to be an ethical issue.”

The Columban Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Team has organised a book launch of Sean McDonagh’s FUKUSHIMA: THE DEATH KNELL FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY?
on Thursday 22nd November 2012, 7.30pm – 9.30pm
at Heythrop College, University of London, Kensington Square, London W8 5HN
Speakers will be Sean McDonagh and Bruce Kent. The Chair will be The Guardian’s Environment Editor, John Vidal.

Photos of Catholic parishes in the Fukushima area will be displayed.

ALL WELCOME; free, but please register for numbers regarding refreshments.


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