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The Chernobyl disaster strikes a second (and a third?)

Opinion: The cessation of investment in nuclear energy after the Chernobyl disaster increased the dependence of European countries on fossil fuels from hostile and semi-hostile countries, such as Russia - which allowed Russia to invade Ukraine unimpeded, stops the countries from standing by the Ukrainians - and may even lead to a nuclear disaster Now that Russia is occupying active and decommissioned nuclear reactors

Dr. Daniel Mader, Angle - news agency for science and the environment

A monument to the rescuers who went in to stop the radioactive leak from the Chernobyl reactor. Illustration: depositphotos.com
A memorial to the rescuers who went in to stop the radioactive leak from the Chernobyl reactor in 1986. Today the other miners in the same facility have been occupied by the Russians Illustration: depositphotos.com

On April 26, 1986 at 1:23 a.m., reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine, exploded due to poor planning and human error. There is no doubt that it was a tragic event, in which people lost their lives, fell ill, were displaced from their homes and lost their property, and its consequences affect the region and its residents to this day. However, this event also had long-term and completely different world-wide consequences - and it set in motion a chain of events that made it easier for Russia to invade Ukraine these days.

Nuclear energy production Beginning in the 50s, and in the 70s and 80s, the scale of production Doubled every 6-2 years. In these decades, the volume of electricity generation from nuclear energy jumped 16 times in just 15 years, and its rate reached about15 percent of all electricity production in the world. If this rate had been maintained, the average rate of electricity production from nuclear energy in the developed countries would have reached over 80 percent already in 1997, and to a similar extent in developing countries 3-2 decades later.

However, the Chernobyl disaster put a stop to this meteoric rise. In fact, since 1986 the rate of increase in the production of nuclear energy has slowed down, until in 2005 this increase stopped. In 1996, the proportion of electricity produced by nuclear energy peaked at almost 18 percent of all electricity produced, but since then it has fallen by almost half to only about 10 percent today. Why did this happen?

Since the 60s, anxiety, lack of knowledge, sincere concern and good intentions have driven the global environmental movement in the developed world to oppose nuclear power. Memories of the horrors of dropping the atomic bombs on Japan in World War II led to serious concerns also regarding the use of nuclear power to produce electricity. The catalyst for the establishment of many green parties in the 70s and 80s was The resistance to nuclear. This opposition intensified with the nuclear accident that occurred on Three Mile Island in the USA in 1979. In 1986, after the Chernobyl disaster, the field of nuclear energy froze almost completely.

467 times fewer deaths

However, is the bad name given to nuclear energy justified? The answer is no, In almost every possible parameter. The number of deaths from nuclear energy stands at 0.07 per terawatt-hour (billion kWh) of electricity - a similar order of magnitude to that of renewable energies, and 467-40 times lower than that of the various fossil fuels. The scope of nuclear energy's greenhouse gas emissions is also similar to that of modern renewable energies, and is 283-167 times lower than that of fossil fuels. While the cumulative economic damages of the nuclear energy disasters in the 60 years in which nuclear energy has been used less than a trillion dollars, the economic damages of fossil fuels are about6-5 trillion dollars every year (And they are expected to increase dramatically as the climate crisis continues to worsen).

This data also existed in the 80s (even if not as fully as today), and even more so in the 90s. As evidence, the developed countries have been working to reduce air pollution from fossil fuels since the middle of the 20th century, and since the 80s a global movement of scientists and politicians has begun to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, despite this, in the end, dozens of developed countries froze or closed their nuclear energy programs.

This move resulted in unnecessary air pollution, which resulted in death and illness, economic damage and accelerated the worsening of the climate crisis. These countries have perpetuated for decades the geopolitical dependence on fossil fuels and the countries that produce them. Not only did these countries hurt themselves, the global opposition to nuclear energy also seeped into developing countries, which built fossil fuel-based power plants instead of nuclear power plants.

Addiction and dependence that led to war

If we go back to the war between Russia and Ukraine, we can see that Ukraine has now been hit a second time by the Chernobyl disaster. Those European countries that decided to stop building nuclear reactors and/or close the existing ones, mostly replaced them with fossil fuels. Thus, today the continent of Europe is addicted to coal, natural gas and oil, and is therefore geopolitically dependent on hostile and semi-hostile countries - such as Russia. Every purchase of a barrel of oil, a ton of coal and a pinch of natural gas from these countries strengthens them. Last winter Russia created European energy crisis targeted and did not increase the supply of natural gas in light of the energy shortage on the continent. Therefore, the countries that depend on it, Germany in particular, hesitated to stand by Ukraine fully. Germany's aid to Ukraine before the invasion, for example, amounted to 5,000 helmets. Small and modest countries from it sent much greater economic and military aid. If the various countries were not geopolitically dependent on Russia, support for Ukraine would have appeared earlier, been stronger and more vigorous, and perhaps the invasion would have been avoided.

Beyond that, avoiding the nuke could actually cause a nuclear disaster, and lead to the Chernobyl disaster hitting Ukraine for the third time. It is not unreasonable to think that Putin might threaten to blow up the concrete and steel dome that seals the failed nuclear reactor in Chernobyl that he took over, and that prevents the continued leakage of nuclear fallout, if he feels that he is unable to achieve his goals or feels threatened. Or he will threaten to blow up another nuclear reactor, like the one Russia captured last Friday - such fears have already gone up in Ukraine. It is also not unreasonable to think that Putin will not only talk, but also carry out his threats.

make science-based decisions

If there is anything that the affair of giving up nuclear energy teaches us, it is first and foremost that weighty national decisions with health and environmental consequences should be made after examining the relevant scientific knowledge and real data, and not out of populist or emotional considerations. There is certainly a place to consider the public, but it is possible that intensive public information work on the subject of nuclear energy could have reduced public opposition to the field.

Is there room for the construction of new nuclear reactors? It's possible. It should not be ruled out outright. However, today there are cheaper, simpler and safer solutions for the energy sector - such as renewable energies and energy storage.

Only stopping the import of fossil fuels (or raw materials and other critical products) from hostile or semi-hostile countries will allow the liberation of democratic countries (and others) from a shameful geopolitical dependence at best, and averting a disaster at worst (as in Ukraine), and will allow them to promote a foreign policy according to the values ​​of Freedom, human rights and equality. When the energy sector of democratic countries will be based mainly on renewable energies, energy storage and nuclear, their dependence on autocratic countries will be greatly weakened and even disappear.

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