Nuclear Power, Pollution and Politics

Nuclear Power, Pollution and Politics

Nuclear Power, Pollution and Politics

Nuclear Power, Pollution and Politics

Synopsis

Places the environmental issues related to the production of nuclear power in their political context. It evaluates the extent of nuclear pollution, in comparison with other forms of power, and looks at the future of energy.

Excerpt

A few decades ago, Professor Northcote Parkinson published a series of essays on the science of public and business administration in ‘Parkinson’s Law or The Pursuit Of Progress’ (Parkinson, 1958). The basic form of Parkinson’s Law is that ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’. A sequel to this is his Law of Triviality (related to finance committees)—‘the time spent on any item of the agenda will be inversely proportional to the sum (of money) involved’. An example of the latter law in the above book describes the perfunctory discussion on an item concerning an expensive and technically complex nuclear reactor and compares this with the fierce debate over the proposed new bicycle shed for the clerical staff. Though well out of depth on a matter of high technology, no self-respecting committee member would confess to not understanding the construction and economics of a bicycle shed!

Few better illustrations of the workings of the various laws enunciated by Parkinson could be provided than the development of nuclear power and its replacement of fossil-fuelled power. In the decade or so after the Second World War, the future of nuclear power looked distinctly rosy. The basic features of operation had been demonstrated on reactors built for military purposes and, in principle, it was only necessary to abstract heat from a fluid that cooled the reactor, in order to raise steam and operate turbines for the production of electricity. Prospects looked good in the 1950s, as increasingly the debate over the environmental consequences of emissions from coal-fired power and the rise in oil prices lent support to a clean nuclear system of low cost. Politically,

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