Jewish World Review March 16, 2011 / 10 Adar II, 5771
Talk About a Meltdown
By Jonah Goldberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When a loved one dies (as my brother did last month), one of the standard pieces of advice is to not make any big decisions. Don't reorganize your life in a moment of existential panic or remorse. Take your time. Cope.
But when thousands die, or when some sudden calamity befalls us, the tendency of politicians, journalists, policymakers and experts is to seize on the moment to advocate some radical changes. "A crisis,"
That this axiom didn't generate more controversy always struck me as bizarre. I mean, shouldn't it be "a crisis is a terrible thing to exploit"?
So here we go again in
And yet the search for scapegoats and the thirst to confirm one's preferred policies kicked in almost immediately.
The most egregious examples were attempts to link, no matter how tenuously, the earthquake with climate change. Though in fairness, such naked balderdash has been far less common than it was in the wake of the Asian tsunami of 2004, never mind the riot of idiocy after Hurricane Katrina the following year (when, for example,
This time, all eyes are on the nuclear industry. Many opponents of nuclear power are pouncing not on the actual facts, but on the climate of fear. The reactors aren't contained yet, and the situation is very serious, but the vast majority of nuclear experts made it clear early on that there were would be no "Chernobyl" in
True enough. But let's remember that no one was hurt, never mind killed, by the
Well, that's just it. Who said anything, anywhere, is invulnerable to disaster? At 9.0, this was
The damaged reactors are ruined, but so what? Cars are designed to be ruined after a major accident too. We routinely, and wisely, trade salvageability for survivability. Few skyscrapers in
More to the point, much of the discussion about what this means for American nuclear energy leaves out that even the Japanese reactors are 30 years out of date compared with new designs. So-called Generation III plants have passive cooling systems that do not depend on the electricity grid. Hence any moratorium on new nuclear construction -- as being discussed in
And yet, many in the industry fear that the unscientific hysteria over the Japanese reactor will deal a mortal blow to nuclear power. You would at least think that climate change activists, who want fossil-free energy (and to bolster the reputation of scientists) would be throwing coolant on the public meltdown. After all, a major backlash against nuclear will be a boon not for wind and solar -- still profoundly inadequate to our energy needs -- but for coal and natural gas.
Of course the situation is grave. And who knows what the lessons of this tragedy will be? But rather than worry about letting this crisis go to waste, this strikes me as a great moment to simply cope.
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