MADRID – Seen from Europe, the irrationality of the political and media discourse over nuclear energy has, if anything, increased and intensified in the year since the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Yet a dispassionate assessment of nuclear energy’s place in the world remains as necessary as it is challenging.
Europeans should not pontificate on nuclear-energy policy as if our opinion mattered worldwide, but we do. On the other hand, Europe does have a qualified responsibility in the area of security, where we still can promote an international regulatory and institutional framework that would discipline states and bring about greater transparency where global risks like nuclear power are concerned.
Europe is equally responsible for advancing research on more secure technologies, particularly a fourth generation of nuclear-reactor technology. We Europeans cannot afford the luxury of dismantling a high-value-added industrial sector in which we still have a real comparative advantage.
In Europe, Fukushima prompted a media blitz of gloom and doom over nuclear energy. The German magazine Der Spiegel heralded the “9/11 of the nuclear industry” and “the end of the nuclear era,” while Spain’s leading newspaper El Pais preached that supporting “this energy [was] irrational,” and that “China has put a brake on its nuclear ambitions.” But reality has proven such assessments to be both biased and hopelessly wrong.