March 11, 2015, a helicopter crash on a reality TV show makes headlines in the French press. The tragic death of the sports stars who were there also caused a stir in the Belgian media. However, this 11th of March also marks the 4th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, a major accident in the short history of nuclear power. However, the information will be if not absent, treated in the background by the mass media. Among those who can avoid misinformation, nuclear energy continues to raise fears and questions, which this dossier will show you are more than legitimate.
So on March 11, 2011, the « fissioned » atom spilled off the northeast coast of Japan and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was abruptly shut down. It would have been easy to explain to a young child at that time why such a disaster required a debate in Japan, but also in all nuclear countries. One would have thought that the disaster would curb the nuclear ardor as it pointed out the inherent danger of this technology. Sad reality, however, the only response was to rush forward, after a few « shattering » political declarations whose authenticity could be measured by the vacuum of effective measures that followed. Feigning change to continue as before…
Is everything going to hell? Let’s keep going! In the middle of summer 2015, the Japanese reactors are starting, slowly and in the most total popular disavowal, to restart; on its side, France continues the development of its chronophagous and expensive project of new generation power plant EPR(1) The so-called emerging countries are planning to establish new power plants on their territories (Iran, Turkey…), while Japanese nuclear experts are giving out their good advice. In Belgium, in spite of the media coverage, the question of safety is quickly forgotten when it comes to the ten-year extension of the life of our old reactors. In short, in the midst of widening and multiplying cracks, sabotage that has still not revealed its secret(2) and other untimely and opaque breakdowns, our reactors have the green light to extend an already precarious life in the name of the sacrosanct « energy security »(3).
As for « energy independence », it is hard to miss the latest, vaguely discreet offensive by the nuclear lobby and the Belgian state this winter: while reactor closures were fast approaching and some of them were in trouble, the introduction of the « energy security index » announced during the weather flashes — subtly signifying the « natural » character of the announcement — insidiously marked people’s minds, even if it remained green. This was followed by scholarly analyses that highlighted the mildness of the 2014 winter to better remind us that harsher ones will definitely weaken our energy independence. How can we not perceive here a manoeuvre which aims at placing nuclear power in pole position of the realistic solutions to mitigate our growing consumption? As a reminder, the load shedding plan refers to periods of three hours without electricity (between 5pm and 8pm), announced the day before by zone. Instilling the fear of scarcity, this possible measure obscures two essential elements: our energy-intensive ways of life and the possibility of imagining other ways of living. The sustainability of our « non-negotiable » way of life then takes precedence over all other considerations.
But beyond the time of the disasters experienced in Chernobyl (1986), Fukushima (2011) or the more confidential ones such as Mayak (Soviet uranium production site 1957), the fire of two reactors of the Windscale power plant in England (1957) or the meltdown of the Three Miles Island reactor in the United States (1979), the exploitation of nuclear energy is characterized by, among other things, an inability to deal with the waste except by burying it in inviolable vaults worthy of modern pyramids The imperative to continue as now excludes any questioning of the after. This durability is accompanied by more or less latent conflicts of interest within the international structures in charge of nuclear regulation and by a whole bunch of scientific fantasies that ensure its future. In this configuration, the media omerta and its daily percolation of the necessary fear, occupies a place of choice: to make fear, then to reassure, this in order to continue without questioning. Simple but effective.
Can we claim that the political authorities and the Western media would have reacted differently than the Japanese in case of major accidents in our countries? How else can we understand, for example, the Belgian evacuation plan officially set at a 10 km radius around the power plants in case of major problems, when we know that 30 km is the observed norm?
Although odorless, nuclear energy stinks as much as it fogs us. In this dossier we will try to lift the smoke screen, before coming back in a second dossier planned for November on the Belgian news and different aspects of the evolution of the Japanese situation.
File coordinated by Nicolas Bras and Alexandre Penasse