Nuclear culture v. non-nuclear culture

Barrels of nuclear waste leaking in a salt mine in Saxony, Germany, threatening groundwater, according to Spiegel

The tacit assumptions of nuclear culture … and the rival assumptions of non-nuclear culture
Theoretical thinking. Real-world thinking.
“It’s okay to create huge amounts of nuclear waste without having first developed a proper solution for dealing with it.” “No technology should be deployed without the means to safely and permanently deal with all its consequences.”
“We think technological civilisation will grow and develop indefinitely.” “We don’t know what the future holds and prefer not to take chances.”
“We think future generations can cope with our nuclear waste, and that it’s fair to leave them with the problem.” “It’s selfish to burden future generations with nuclear waste.”
“We can live with the thought that in 500 years time, people who know nothing about radioactivity might stray into our waste.” “We are appalled to think that in 500 years time people might stray into our waste.”
“We need to support growth (at almost any cost).” “Economic development should not trump all other values.”
“The solution to an energy shortage is generating more.” “We need to learn to make do with less or to come up with better solutions.”
“Cheapest is best.” “Safer is best.”
“We can solve that problem.” “There is, all too often, a yawning gulf between theory and practice.”
“Experts know what’s best for ordinary people.” “Ordinary people’s opinions should be taken seriously.”
“Wouldn’t that be cool?” “Shit happens.”

A few months ago, if you’d asked me, I would have said I was not anti-nuclear. Coincidentally, various people then asked me what I think about nuclear energy. I read things. I thought about what I had read. I wrote a lengthy screed carefully designed to avoid conventional anti-nuclear sources. And then I wrote the above. Which seems to simplify it all, for me at any rate.

Arguments about nuclear energy, like a great many arguments about technological and economic development, are frequently represented as being about facts. I suspect that, at root, they’re far more about values. Does my values breakdown terribly over-simplify things? Or does it just simplify things?

About David

I am an environmental writer, journalist and speaker living in Cape Town, South Africa.
This entry was posted in Environment, Going greener, Human rights and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Nuclear culture v. non-nuclear culture

  1. Harry Springer says:

    If the “Prime Directive” for ethical humanity is to Do No Harm, then human life itself becomes difficult to justify.

    Even vegan life practices consume the lives of other species, and the most central acts of the human species (such as procreation) involve harm to the mother, and certain harms perpetrated on the newborn.

    Thus the choice is more stark than most budding amateur ethicists imagine.

    Like the sky-clad Jains, we can fast ourselves to transcendency (death), while harming no being,


    We can accept that life is death for something else, and revere the Kali principle, and thus move forward bravely, with some sadness for those who must be harmed, but a wisdom informing our survival telling us that we too, express the Tao of our planet, and so have a right to utilize our best discoveries…. including nuclear science.

    Write me at, if you care to discuss these issues in a deeper way.

    Have a nice life.

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