The lessons of Fukushima

I am old enough to remember the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine in the 1980s. And one of the lessons of Chernobyl is that the real horrific impact of nuclear incidents takes months to be clear. Decades later families and businesses are still paying the price.

Alison JohnstoneSo we must not rush to judgement about what has happened in Fukushima. At the moment we are still in the fug of information and mis-information (too many so-called nuclear experts have financial links to the nuclear industry for my liking).

But it is a wake-up call surely? Back in the 1980s nuclear power was higher on the agenda. The cold war was still with us and the links between civil and military nuclear industries all too apparent.  By 2011, however, at a UK level, there’s almost an acceptance that nuclear power is part of our future energy landscape, a view led by Tony Blair in his time as prime minister and backed by most Tory and Labour MPs.  That’s in spite of the huge costs of nuclear power and the unsolved problem of waste disposal. Not to mention the manifest risk.

Here in Scotland, Jack McConnell as First Minister was more resistant and, for the last four years, the SNP-led government has had a long-standing anti-nuclear stance. But, at best, that might have slowed down a UK Government, bent on a new generation of nuclear energy plants.

That’s why I am proud that Greens across Europe have united to call for honesty on what is happening in Japan and have renewed calls for an nuclear exit strategy in Europe.

Within the Greens we still have many members who are veterans of the protests at the building of Torness, just along the coast in East Lothian. That campaign, ultimately, was lost. Why must it take a tragedy like Fukushima to remind us of the same lessons all over again?

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About Alison Johnstone MSP

Alison is a Green MSP for Lothian. In what spare time she gets she's a keen runner.