Chernobyl anniversary rekindles concerns over nuclear power

Chernobyl campaign. Photo by Oleksandra Bardash on Unsplash

When Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded and burned during a test on April 26, 1986, it emitted about 400 times more radiation than the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. That date is now a day Annual Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day.

But why should we remember?

First of all, we must take into account that even though the biggest nuclear accident in the world happened 36 years ago, the Chernobyl power plant and its surroundings are still one of the most dangerous places in the world. due to its radioactivity. And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including Ukraine’s Chernobyl site in the first weeks of February, reminded us that nuclear energy and war are a potentially deadly combination.

When thousands of tanks and soldiers entered Chernobyl’s forested exclusion zone, they stirred up highly contaminated soil, endangering the health of young Russian soldiers and local communities. And then the nuclear power plant was occupied by Russian forces, with a lack of clarity over who was overseeing the concrete remains of the reactor that exploded in 1986. It was the first time that the occupation of a nuclear power plant was part of a national war. strategy.

The concern extended beyond Chernobyl. Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors, which typically generate more than half of the country’s electricity, all have worrying vulnerabilities in a war zone. A recent report by Greenpeace International suggested that “the existing risks of a serious incident at these nuclear power plants have increased exponentially as a result of the Kremlin war in Ukraine”. He said major war risks are not built into the design of commercial nuclear power plants. Additionally, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has advised governments in 2021 to explicitly exclude the possibility of direct heavy armed attacks on nuclear reactors from risk assessments!

Does nuclear power have a future?

On April 8, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the United Kingdom would build up to eight new nuclear power stations by 2030 to ensure that “we are never again subject to the vagaries of global oil and gas” and “that we are not blackmailed by people like Vladimir Putin.” He made no reference to the unresolved issue of safe disposal of nuclear waste.

However, a greater emphasis on energy efficiency and the promotion of green energies – such as solar and wind – are preferable to any expansion of nuclear power to meet energy needs, according to the eco-theologian , Father Sean McDonagh. He points out that nuclear waste is carcinogenic and toxic and that fossil fuels will be needed to transport and store nuclear waste for countless generations. Father McDonagh believes that the foundation of a secure energy system is to reduce the demand for energy in the first place and then to turn to diverse, dispersed, renewable and local sources.

In November 2019, after a visit to the Japanese nuclear disaster site in Fukushima, and noting a call from the Catholic bishops of Japan to abolish nuclear power altogether, Pope Francis said: “In my opinion, I don’t I wouldn’t use nuclear energy until there was total security. There is not enough security to guarantee that there will be no disaster.

In Britain, we could better insulate the UK’s notoriously energy-hungry homes. Friends of the Earth UK suggests that if the government is serious about promoting energy security, it must come up with a plan to insulate millions of homes over the next few years. Increasing renewable energy capacity in the UK would also be significant. There are over 600 wind and solar projects in the UK that already have planning permission, so they could be built quickly.

Something to think about on the day of remembrance of the Chernobyl disaster.


Green Christian Fact Sheet on Green Energy:

Keywords: Chernobyl, Russia, Ukraine, Fukushima, Nuclear, Radiation, Ellen Teague

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