Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Today's Crikey highlight

Under Comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ckups, journalist Diana Simmonds writes:

'While a powerful earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra yesterday in Australia, a poll was said to be indicating a softening in public attitudes towards what the Howard government sees as the inevitability of nuclear power stations being built across this country. As the Indonesians are struggling to cope with extensive damage, the deaths of more than 70 people and hospitals struggling to cope with scores of injured, it's worth remembering that the epicentre of the quake (6.3 on the Richter scale) and its aftershocks, which were felt hundreds of kilometres away in Singapore and Malaysia, is also the region where, more than a decade ago, the then Indonesian government planned to build a string of up to 17 nuclear power stations. It wasn't late onset good sense that stopped the scheme, merely a lack of money.'

6 comments:

Fyodor said...

Regarding earthquakes and nucular power, Indonesia is smack bang on top of colliding tectonic plates (i.e. the "Ring of Fire"), making it susceptible to earthquakes.

Australia's much more geologically stable and less prone to earthquakes. While I'm not gung-ho on the nucular option, the argument's a furphy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Pacific_Ring_of_Fire.png

Pavlov's Cat said...

It would certainly be a furphy if one took it literally as a direct analogy (and you will note she refrains from explicitly drawing any such analogy, as do I), but I understood her to be making a more general point about a lack of, or a refusal to exercise, foresight when exercising political (or any other kind of) will -- particularly with something as potentially lethal as this.

In my experience people will, at all levels from the individual to the national, do what they most want to do, and will rationalise away all possible objections to it. They are then genuinely outraged and bewildered when something bad happens as a direct result of their choice. I can't speak for Simmonds' own intentions here, but what she said resonated with me at that more abstract level.

Having said that, however, I still think it's a good thing nobody built a nuclear reactor in Newcastle (NSW), n'est-ce pas?

Fyodor said...

Pas du tout.

Natural disasters are a known risk to nuclear power plants, and are provided for in places like Japan etc. Earthquakes of a severity large enough to damage a well-constructed nuclear plant have a very small probability of occurring, and there are ways to minimise the damage from related nuclear accidents. Of MUCH greater concern are the risks incurred in simply operating a plant. Human error has caused more nuclear-related damage than any earthquake, or any other natural disaster, for that matter.

Likewise, the (known and certain) massive cost of environmental protection associated with nuclear power is far more important. On a risk-management basis, earthquakes are well down the list of problems/issues with nuclear power. That's why the earthquake argument is a furphy.

"In my experience people will, at all levels from the individual to the national, do what they most want to do, and will rationalise away all possible objections to it. They are then genuinely outraged and bewildered when something bad happens as a direct result of their choice. I can't speak for Simmonds' own intentions here, but what she said resonated with me at that more abstract level."

Strangely enough, that was also the point I was making, except I'm suggesting that earthquake risk is being used, irrationally, to rationalise a prejudice AGAINST nuclear power. There are all sorts of problems with nuclear power, but earthquakes are a manageable risk.

P.S. am I Imagining things, or did you have another post up yesterday arvo that has disappeared? Did you self-censor a post on censorship?

I draw attention to the post because I was exceedingly diverted by your determination to bags Jane Eyre should we enter a F451 regime. It immediately suggested to me a great meme (which has prolly already been done, but WTFF), e.g. "which book would you memorise..." and, in a similar vein, "which book would you burn if you could..."

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh all right.

I'm still glad they couldn't afford to build them. I certainly agree with you about the environmental risks, as about the danger re human error. I have a much higher tolerance for human error than a lot of people, having made so many myself, but that's cold comfort when your eyeballs are melting.

The Jane Eyre post is still there: 'Every move you make', March 1. It links the censorship of Philip NItschke's book with the proposed badly designed censorship of phone pr0n. You are right about the excellence of the proposed meme (as I've said there, I think) and I shall put it up forthwith (with proper acknowledgement of my sources), though I have a faint recollection of answering the 'which book would you burn' question in a different one.

Funny you should mention self-censorship though -- there was a more recent post I did take down, because on reflection, and being more thin-skinned than one wishes one were, I thought it likely to attract the attention of the kind of person who calls one 'silly', 'stupid' and 'insane' if one expresses views that diverge from their own, and I've had a bit too much of that lately around the place. I don't mind being called insane, but being called stupid annoys me.

Fyodor said...

Ta muchly.

Unfortunate that you should feel constrained by the inadequacies of others, Mme. Pavlova. It's almost certainly the case that anyone calling you stupid isn't the best judge on the matter, to be unduly (and thus - most deliberately - patronisingly, if not altogether downright adverbially) generous to those poor deluded souls.

lucy tartan said...

There was an earthquake 70km from Melbourne yesterday, of 3.5 on the R scale (ie pissweak.) On the radio one person interviewed said all her friend's animals in Gembrook had gone 'beserko', and the other lady said she had been having a ten-minute lie down upstairs when the tremors hit. 'I thought the dog had jumped on the bed', she said.