Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Our attention is suddenly torn from Libya to the potential nuclear tragedy in Japan. But the events in Libya and Japan have one thing in common. In each case powerful, yet short-sighted interests have obstructed a rational approach to nuclear power. Recent Western support for Moammar Gaddafi’s ambition to build a Libyan nuclear energy programme reinforces the point.
In Japan, critics have argued for decades that building nuclear reactors in an earthquake-prone zone, such as the one in Fukushima, is a disaster waiting to happen. Radioactive material has a half-life far longer than modern human history and wind-born radiation can have a global impact. Even with the best safety measures in place, there is no guarantee against human error, backup systems not working properly or threats to a stable supply of electricity when a large number of reactors shut down for days.
In the case of Libya, Western states normalised military-industrial relations while ignoring Gaddafi’s internal repression. France led the rush to supply Gaddafi with nuclear reactors to US approval while Europe has a special guilt since the EU had him imprison thousands of would be immigrants who have failed to cross the Mediterranean moat, and failed to ensure any UN or Red Cross presence or attention to human rights at all.
Nuclear power has often been called a bridge technology in the fight against global climate change and the pursuit of diversified energy portfolios. Reactors currently in existence may well be kept online for as long as renewable energy sources cannot fill the gap. However the technology is fundamentally problematic for humanity, as the unresolved issue of nuclear waste, concerns over nuclear proliferation and the genuine security threat to nuclear infrastructure, be it through natural disasters, terrorist activity or civil war, reveal.
If the West pursues nuclear energy further, building a new generation of reactors to replace and add to those already in existence in the UK, France, the US and Japan itself, it will be impossible to convince others to do without. China and India are currently constructing a number of new reactors. In the Indian case, the United States played a key role by lifting its trade moratorium. In doing so it damaged its own attempts at preventing the further spread of nuclear technology and set a dangerous precedent for other nuclear powers to follow.
As studies at our Centre have illustrated, nowhere in the industrialised world is there an official public assessment of the impact of warfare on nuclear reactors. We should heed a warning at a SOAS conference in 2007 from Bahraini Ambassador to the UK Al-Khalifa that a Middle East full of nuclear powers would result in a ‘mushroom field.’ Even so, South Korea recently reached deals with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan over exporting nuclear technology and building reactors. ‘Do you think we have the culture for nuclear?’, Al-Khalifa asked. ‘I do not think so.’
If an open, democratic and reasonable society is what we aspire to then the evidence suggests that while human rights certainly need a renaissance in much of the world, nuclear technology does not.
Corbyn just won a prize for peace activism - so why is the Labour Party still committed to renewing trident? Lily Sheehan investigates.
Connor Devine writes that whilst Brexit might be a car crash, we can't just side with an institution responsible for enforcing austerity.
Michael Coates reviews a new film revealing the shocking state of housing inequality in the UK.
The vicious media campaign against trans people is part bigotry, part strategy, writes Roz Kaveney
Jon Trickett MP reports on 'Dickensian' levels of poverty and hardship felt across the UK.
Natasha King busts some myths around the No Borders debate
He was once a radical icon, but now he's a mouthpiece for racism and nationalism. Time to get off stage, writes Michael Calderbank
Consensus seems to have shifted, but austerity is far from over. The chancellor has committed us to yet more years of misery while the rich get richer, writes Richard Seymour.
Frustrated at the idea of another royal wedding? You're not alone. Joana Ramiro argues we should stop idealising a fundamentally undemocratic institution.
Liberal elites are using Russian interference to minimise their own political failures, writes Matt Turner
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny