Nuclear Irrationalities in Libya and Japan

Published on Red Pepper, by Dan Plesch and Harald Heubaum, Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at School of Oriental and African Studies SOAS, University of London, on the strengthened case against new nuclear power, March 17, 2011.

Our attention is suddenly torn from Libya to the potential nuclear tragedy in Japan. But the events in Libya and Japan have one thing in common. In each case powerful, yet short-sighted interests have obstructed a rational approach to nuclear power. Recent Western support for Moammar Gaddafi’s ambition to build a Libyan nuclear energy programme reinforces the point … //

… In the case of Libya, Western states normalised military-industrial relations while ignoring Gaddafi’s internal repression. France led the rush to supply Gaddafi with  nuclear reactors to US approval while Europe has a special guilt since the EU had him imprison thousands of would be immigrants who have failed to cross the Mediterranean moat, and failed to ensure any UN or Red Cross presence or attention to human rights at all … //   

… If the West pursues nuclear energy further, building a new generation of reactors to replace and add to those already in existence in the UK, France, the US and Japan itself, it will be impossible to convince others to do without. China and India are currently constructing a number of new reactors. In the Indian case, the United States played a key role by lifting its trade moratorium. In doing so it damaged its own attempts at preventing the further spread of nuclear technology and set a dangerous precedent for other nuclear powers to follow.

As studies at our Centre have illustrated, nowhere in the industrialised world is there an official public assessment of the impact of warfare on nuclear reactors. We should heed a warning at a SOAS conference in 2007 from Bahraini Ambassador to the UK Al-Khalifa that a Middle East full of nuclear powers would result in a ‘mushroom field.’ Even so, South Korea recently reached deals with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan over exporting nuclear technology and building reactors. ‘Do you think we have the culture for nuclear?’, Al-Khalifa asked. ‘I do not think so.’

If an open, democratic and reasonable society is what we aspire to then the evidence suggests that while human rights certainly need a renaissance in much of the world, nuclear technology does not. (full text).

Link: Libya – British fighter jets get ready for war, on The Telegraph, by James Kirkup, March 18, 2011.

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