Nuclear, reopen the debate
Global warming, war in Ukraine, decrease in biodiversity, cost of energy. In recent years problems have been overlapping which until a few years ago were considered distant or impossible by people. However, the drought of 2022 and, before that, the Russian-Ukrainian war have brought to attention these problems that require solutions and not temporary patches. Energy problems affect both the environment and the economy. The economy would benefit enormously from the use of low or very low cost fossil fuels (such as coal) and from a general relaxation of environmental regulations but this would lead to a substantial increase in pollution which would turn, in the short term, into an increase in mortality from pollution and, in the long run, in the worsening of the greenhouse effect.
The new collective awareness of these problems has accelerated the plans to abandon fossil fuels to switch to energy sources with a lower environmental impact, with notable differences according to the nations. Nations such as Spain and Germany, for example, are aiming for the total abandonment of nuclear energy and the use of only renewable energies (mostly wind and photovoltaic). Others are also introducing or increasing the share of nuclear power (such as Poland, the United Kingdom and Egypt) in parallel with large investments in renewables. How does Italy position itself in all this?
The debate on nuclear power has resumed in recent months, after it was interrupted a decade ago following the Fukushima disaster. There is still no concrete plan for Italy since the positions of the parties are antithetical on this issue (as opposed to many other countries where the majority and the opposition agree, as in Canada). A fundamental part of solving a problem is understanding it and, therefore, being informed about the issue, the causes of the problem and the consequences of possible solutions.
Man has always been afraid of what he doesn’t know, of what he can’t explain. Ancient man was afraid of lightning and natural events in general and associated ergot food poisoning (Claviceps purpurea) with witchcraft. Today we have all the tools to understand and cure but, in the past, the supernatural was blamed for these events. Nuclear power is also affected by this knowledge bias; bias due to the poor knowledge of the subject by the population, in turn due to a lack of dissemination of information by government bodies which too often allow themselves to be conditioned by political currents rather than by objective data. Too often, in fact, there is a tendency to give credence to the words of journalists and commentators who, out of ignorance or malice, offer distorted visions of reality, establishing unfounded fears which spread like chain letters, obscure the real problems and delay the search for possible solutions.
This translates into nuclear power’s most important problem: popular acceptance. No one wants something they don’t know enough about or are even told to be harmful. To this end, the local section of Action proposes a public discussion with the primary objective of clarifying doubts and answering questions regarding nuclear energy, making use of both those who support nuclear power and those who oppose it, and make people understand the difference between true problems (such as the huge bureaucratic chain of approval and control of the sector) from only perceived problems (such as waste management). The public can and, indeed, is invited to participate and to ask all the questions relating to the theme to the speakers who will offer answers that are as exhaustive and comprehensible as possible, also supported by data and studies. With this opportunity everyone will be able to build their own opinion. It matters little whether or not this is in favor of nuclear power as long as it is an opinion based on correct information and not on hearsay. This and much more will be the subject of open discussion that we will organize in February in Alessandria.
*Enrico D’Urso, science communicator and mathematics and physics teacher, Giuseppe Abagnale, engineer and environmentalist, “Energy and Environment” working group – Action of Alessandria