Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/666/11765
No to nuclear power - nationalise the environment-unfriendly energy giants
After the tsunami hit on the reactors at Fukushima power plant, the Japanese government is raising the nuclear alert level to seven, on a par with the horrors of Chernobyl a quarter of a century ago. Before that, in scenes reminiscent of BP's desperate attempts to stem last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, emergency workers took emergency measures.
They resorted to pouring sawdust, absorbent polymers and newspapers into a pit connected to the damaged nuclear reactor in a desperate attempt to stop leaking radioactive water pouring into the ocean.
Tragically the bodies of two workers have been recovered from the site, yet as workers from towns in the shadow of the plant face lack of food, water and shelter and the invisible threat of radiation, the world has been split on the issue of nuclear power.
In Germany mass protests have led chancellor Merkel to close seven of the country's oldest reactors and announce a freeze on the development of future power stations. But in the UK the Con-Dems' energy bill is due to underwrite nuclear power stations with yet more public money. And liberal environmentalist George Monbiot has said: "As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology."
Monbiot believes that renewable energy is not a realistic alternative under capitalism. Coal, Monbiot argues, is "100 times worse" for the environment and industrial health than nuclear power.
If the world's energy is left to the anarchy of the profit-driven free market, then Monbiot may be right. Profits from carbon and nuclear fuels mean there has been relatively minimal investment in renewable energy. Yet why should the issue of energy, fundamental to modern society yet potentially disastrous for the environment, be entrusted to a system which puts millionaires' profits before the needs of the millions?
Consider Tepco, the Tokyo Electric Power Company that owns Fukushima nuclear plant. It holds the monopoly over power to Tokyo and eight of Japan's prefectures. Tepco, the world's fourth largest power company, has a deplorable record of placing short term profits before safety.
In 2002 it was revealed that Tepco had forged safety inspection reports for its nuclear plants while, claims CNN, the seismologist Yukinobu Okamura warned Tepco safety executives that the ageing Fukushima plant was vulnerable to damage from a tsunami.
The solution is to reject the free market in favour of a socialist plan for energy as part of a wider, democratically planned economy. The nationalisation of the energy giants, under democratic workers' control, would allow for a massive investment in renewable energy.
We should reject the technology which has threatened and failed communities from Chernobyl to Three Mile Island. We should also reject the mismanagement of our energy supply, inherent under capitalism, in favour of a socialist alternative which fulfils the needs of both our society and the environment.
Nationalise Tepco and the giant energy corporations under democratic workers' control and management.
For huge investment in renewable energy, based on needs not profit.
For a socialist plan for energy as part of a wider democratically planned economy.
In The Socialist 13 April 2011:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Youth Fight for Jobs
Socialist Party news and analysis