The Post-Nuclear Transition
BERLIN – The Fukushima disaster in March reminded the world, 25 years after Chernobyl, that nuclear energy is anything but clean, secure, and affordable. Unfortunately, another nuclear catastrophe was needed to trigger a fresh debate on the use of nuclear power.
Germany’s decision in June to phase out nuclear power by 2022 has provoked irritation among its pro-nuclear neighbors. Other European countries have yet to indicate whether they will follow Germany’s example; a world free from nuclear energy is hard for its supporters to imagine. Europe’s economic and ecological future, however, depends upon the rising opposition to this high-risk technology, such as in Italy, where a recent referendum delivered a large popular majority against nuclear energy.
In Germany, the idea of a nuclear phase-out has been gaining support ever since the Chernobyl disaster. Over the past few decades, anti-nuclear activists, together with their political representatives in the Green Party, have succeeded in mobilizing hundreds of thousands of protesters. In 2000, growing political pressure finally led to a consensus between the German government and energy companies, which agreed to limit the life span of nuclear-power plants to 32 years.