Will we let the pro-nuclear people express themselves with impunity?

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One of the obvious and universally accepted limits to freedom of expression is its use to incite individuals to commit a crime(1). We defend here the idea that civil nuclear power should be assimilated to a crime against humanity, involuntary certainly (as there are involuntary homicides), but nevertheless a crime. This thesis, as shocking as it may seem at first glance, is no less demonstrable.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of July 17, 1998 defines in its concept of crime against humanity a series of acts that may be committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population with knowledge of the attack. Extermination is one of them. Extermination » includes the intentional imposition of living conditions, such as the deprivation of access to food and medicine, calculated to result in the destruction of a portion of the population(2).

On July 7, 2017, the United Nations adopts a nuclear weapons ban treaty. It is signed by 122 states, a large majority. Of course, it was not signed by the nuclear powers, nor by their NATO allies. This treaty declares nuclear weapons illegal and makes the countries possessing such weapons guilty of crimes against humanity. « An enemy would not need a nuclear weapon to attack Belgium, it has built nuclear weapons in its cities! »(3) says Eloi Glorieux, a specialist in the field, referring to the construction of nuclear power plants. Can these be compared to weapons? Can we consider that they can create the conditions for an extermination and thus a crime against humanity?

An accident of level 6 or 7 on the INES scale(4) (like Chernobyl or Fukushima) in the Doel or Tihange power plant could occur for several reasons, accidental or not:

- On the subject of the obsolescence of the reactors, which is already well known to the public, we would like to point out only one fact: the currently cracked reactor vessels would be refused for commissioning in a new power plant(5). Let’s remember that the reactors have all exceeded 30 or even 40 years of operation. This is the case for the Tihange 1, Doel 1 and 2 reactors, which are more than 40 years old, as well as for Tihange 2 and Doel 3, whose tanks are weakened by the presence of thousands of cracks, respectively 3,149 and 13,047;

- Terrorist acts are unfortunately far from impossible in Belgium. It should be noted that, according to reliable sources, the sabotage that occurred at Doel 4 in 2014 is suspected to have been sponsored by Al Qaeda(6). Our reactors are protected by a 2m layer of concrete. This layer seems very thin in front of a determined person equipped with a Milan-type anti-tank missile, capable of piercing 3 meters of reinforced concrete. With an effective range of 2 km and an impact probability of 94%(7), you don’t need to be an excellent shooter to cause an atomic disaster;

- Extreme climatic events (droughts, floods) could cause problems in the water distribution system and, consequently, in the cooling system of the reactors or in the supply of the cooling basins for the highly radioactive spent fuel. In view of the ongoing global warming, the magnitude of these extreme events will increase in number and intensity;

Nuclear power plants can be likened to nuclear weapons. They potentially create living conditions that can lead to the destruction of part of the population

- Earthquakes in the Province of Liege are not unknown, as was proven by the one of November 8, 1983, of magnitude 5.8 on the Richter scale(8). In the recent geological past, our region has experienced earthquakes of magnitude greater than 6.5, which is well above the level considered for plant design (less than 6.0)(9).

In a radius of 30 km around Tihange, the number of inhabitants is estimated at 840,000, and 1.51 million for Doel(10). For comparison, within the same radius, there were « only » 172,000 inhabitants around Fukushima (where 80% of the radiation escaped to the ocean) and 135,000 around Chernobyl(11). The number of deaths related to a nuclear accident is very difficult to estimate. It is for Chernobyl that we have the greatest hindsight. In the most comprehensive collection of scientific data on the nature and extent of damage to humans and the environment as a result of the Chernobyl accident(12)The report states that the number of deaths of the 830,000 « liquidators » who worked on the site after the accident was over is 112,000 to 125,000 and that the number of deaths worldwide attributable to the fallout from the accident between 1986 and 2004 is 985,000. The death toll from a serious nuclear accident at Tihange or Doel, the power plants with the highest population density in the world within a 30 km radius, would therefore be, if not unimaginable, at least much higher.

Nuclear power plants can therefore, under certain circumstances, represent the same danger as nuclear weapons (usable against our own population). They potentially create living conditions that can lead to the destruction of a part of the population, even if this is not their primary goal. Therefore, their mere prolongation can be considered a crime against humanity. Through blindness, negligence, greed, misplaced confidence… the pro-nuclearists have pushed for the creation of such living conditions for the entire Belgian, European and even world population.

We can therefore argue that anyone who makes a pro-nuclear speech, stating that we must keep our plants in operation or even build new ones, is making a statement that pushes to maintain the potential conditions for extermination of the population and to hold nuclear weapons. Therefore, this person is pushing to commit a crime against humanity, no matter how involuntary. We therefore argue that if this person wishes to continue to propagate this discourse, he should first prove that we are wrong in our demonstration. In a court of law?

Thierry Bourgeois and Laetitia Harutunian

(Members of the asbl Fin du Nucléaire)

Painting « Apocalypse’done » by Antoine Demant, www.antoinedemoulin.be, www.demant.be

Contributions : Grégory Defourny, Jean-Pierre Wilmotte, Gauthier Chapelle, Patrick Loodts

Notes et références
  1.  Un exemple : lors du génocide rwandais, les autorités exhortaient les Utus au massacre à travers la radio locale. Cette exhortation est déjà un crime en soi.
  2. Site de la Cour Pénale Internationale
  3. Eloi Glorieux, campaigner énergie Greenpeace Belgique, rencontre avec l’auteur le 7 mars 2018
  4. International Nuclear Event Scale, sert à mesurer la gravité d’un accident nucléaire civil. 6 ou 7 sont respectivement des accidents graves et majeurs.
  5. Ilse Tweer, Les cuves défectueuses des réacteurs nucléaires belges Doel 3 et Tihange 2 — Commentaires sur le rapport final d’évaluation de l’AFCN de 2015 (janvier 2016), p. 2 : une cuve de réacteur avec des milliers de défauts – et avec des défauts d’une telle taille – ne serait pas homologable, ni aujourd’hui, ni à l’époque de sa fabrication.
  6. Laure Noualhat, « Sécurité nucléaire : le grand mensonge » diffusé sur Arte le 5 décembre 2017
  7. https://www.army-technology.com
  8. Site de l’Observatoire royal de Belgique
  9. L’Europe occidentale n’est pas à l’abri d’un grand tremblement de terre. Thierry Camelbeeck, Kris Vanneste et Pierre Alexandre. Observatoire royal de Belgique, 1998
  10. Rapport sur les insuffisances des plans d’urgence nucléaires belges de David Boilley et Mylène Josset, ACRO.eu.org
  11. Ibid.
  12. A. Yablokov, V. Nesterenko, A. Nesterenko, Chernobyl: Consequences of the catastrophe for people and the environment, publié par l’Académie des sciences de New York (NYAS), janvier 2010

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