So the letter of the day for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is “N” and the recent events at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station in Japan, triggered by the damage caused by a massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami, led me to think of using nuclear as the topic of today’s post – although I’m not going to say anything more about that particular incident, as there’s been plenty said about it already.
Rather, coming as I do from the first generation to grow up with nuclear energy – and the spectre of imminent nuclear war – I have seen the ups and downs, the positives and the negatives, of the nuclear age.
I was born in the latter half of the 1950s and during my childhood the news was filled with stories both ominous and, for a propellerhead like the young me (OK, so I’m still pretty much a propellerhead…), full of promise for a bright future. That was a time when nuclear brinksmanship between the USA and the USSR brought the doomsday clock perilously close – within 2 minutes – to chiming the eternal midnight signalling the end of mankind. Cheerful stuff, that.
But it was also a time when civilian uses of nuclear power became a symbol for a fantastic future – the path to better living through technology. And while the nuclear genie has certainly helped meet our increasingly voracious appetite for more power, we need to remember that once released from its bottle it may be impossible to get back in, so we’d better think very carefully about what we ask it to do for us.
In the end, I am neither a nuclear apologist nor an anti-nuclear activist – like most technologies, I find that the most dangerous aspects come from blindly taking an extreme position at either end without fully acknowledging or understanding both the risks and benefits that can result from the use of that technology.