Letters to the Editor | The Economist
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Ten years later
The coverage of the Fukushima disaster tends to confuse two key facts (“Lessons from Fukushima”, March 6). The first is that Fukushima has the lowest seawall elevation of any Pacific-facing nuclear reactor site in Japan, making it much more vulnerable to the risk of a tsunami. A higher location with backup power and cooling systems would have avoided disaster. Despite doubts about its low position, the choice of the site was motivated by politics. Obtaining the approval of local constituencies is a clear requirement for nuclear operations in Japan compared to other considerations.
The second key factor is the design. On the afternoon of March 11, 2011, all reactors in the Pacific, including Fukushima, safely initiated emergency shutdown sequences in response to the earthquake, testifying to the strong safety record of the Japanese nuclear industry.
It was not the earthquake that caused the disaster, but an abnormal tsunami, combined with the inability of the Japanese nuclear industry and the population to debate the risks. The nuclear renaissance can be sure even in earthquake-prone Japan, and is essential if the country is to achieve carbon neutral energy.
Nuclear fuel team
Japan “Sogo-Shosha” General Trading Company, 2010-14
West Linn, Oregon
The new generation of advanced modular reactors being developed in Japan, America and Canada addresses all of the issues you raised. Japan, for example, has a high temperature gas-cooled reactor that is inherently safe, is 45% more efficient than a pressurized water reactor, and can be factory built in three to four years, rather than 15 years. . It complements intermittent renewables as part of any reliable energy portfolio.
the HTGR also produces 75% less waste than current reactors. As some of the new advanced reactors can reuse spent fuel, the waste left over from Britain becomes an asset with intrinsic value, not a liability. And how much better to face it under the watchful eye of the British regulator.
University of Newcastle
A “high level of regulation” is only a necessary condition to achieve, as you claim, a “very low” risk of failure. In order to make nuclear energy safer, we must pay equal attention to promoting a strong culture of safety among our nuclear energy utilities. A culture of safety is analogous to the human body’s immune system which protects it against pathogens and repels disease. A culture of safety based on trust, transparency and accountability is key to the safe operation of nuclear reactors; it must also be the basis for relationships and interactions between suppliers, operators and regulators of reactors.
PROFESSOR NAJMEDIN MESHKATI
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Southern California
Nuclear power has had its day. Its construction cost is now prohibitive. Britain’s Hinkley Point C reactor was licensed in 2012 and is not expected to be operational until 2026. It will have cost £ 23 billion ($ 32 billion). When it comes to small modular reactors, the NuScale reactor project in America is scheduled for 2029.
The US government has not been able to prove that buried nuclear waste will be dealt with effectively. Yucca Mountain in Nevada was chosen as the least unsatisfactory location only because Nevada has a small population and large remote areas.
DAVID CALVIN GOGERTY
A forgotten atrocity
There are other candidates to compete with Hitler as “the worst racist in history” (“Nazi parties”, March 6). David Olusoga and Casper Erichsen’s “Kaiser’s Holocaust” sheds light on a chapter from the past that few of us learn: the genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples of Namibia. Their massacre served as a model for the Nazis in many ways. General Lothar von Trotha’s name may not be well known outside of Germany and Namibia, but he is on a par with Hitler.
Lopez Island, Washington
A minimum minimum wage
Uber may have accepted the Supreme Court’s decision in Britain to treat its drivers like employees (“Move fast and fix things,” March 20). But he won’t pay minimum wage until a driver accepts a reservation. The drivers claimed that almost half of their time was spent waiting for trips, which should rightly be considered part of their working hours. Would it be okay to only pay supermarket workers when they scan items?
Justice in real life
You suggested that the decision to host the trial of journalist Andrea Sahouri at Drake University Law School was bizarre (“Press Freedom Under Pressure”, March 13). On the contrary, the selection of the dossier for our annual trial internship was an invaluable learning experience for our students, and also helped to bring international attention to this pursuit.
Remarkably, the vast majority of American law students can graduate without ever having attended a trial, let alone participated in a trial. This does not happen with Drake Law; we are suspending regular classes for a week so that first year law students can attend a real trial from jury selection to verdict. Students have the opportunity to discuss rulings and tactical decisions with attorneys and judges, and in most years, once the jury has rendered their verdict, they are able to speak to jurors about their views on the proof.
The real nature of the case makes it a much more meaningful experience than a typical law school simulation. Seeing an accused handcuffed at the end of a murder trial, as the students witnessed several years ago, is something they will never forget, bringing to light the dramatic power of the legal system over life and people’s freedom.
Professor of Law
Drake University Law School
Des Moines, Iowa
Support your local pub
One of the greatest opportunities offered by the separation of Great Britain from the EU (“Growing apart”, March 13) is a differentiated excise tax. Allowing British pubs to benefit from a lower level of tax on draft beer, for example, was illegal under EU rules. Reducing the tax would give a boost to a popular industry.
Pursuing the Dylan meme
“Shelter from the storm” (March 6) described welfare initiatives to beat the silly wind. The pandemic left us entangled in the blue and was no mere twist of fate. We are together through life but mourn the fallen angels. And yes, we want another side, more free. I just got my first love pic from AstraZeneca, leaving me stunned loaded. Oh please. A new morning.
This article appeared in the Letters section of the print edition under the title “On Nuclear Power, Namibia, Uber, Jury Trials, Beer, Bob Dylan”