Thursday, March 17, 2011

From Humiliation to Dependency: the Arabs go Nuclear

One, two, three strikes and you're out! An earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9, a tsunami several meters high and a nuclear plant out of energy: 
  • there goes Fukushima,
  • there goes my never existing trust in nuclear energy,
  • and there almost goes Japan, at least so it seems.
What we have witnessed on March 12 2011 is the end of nuclear energy for power production. It was a short but bumpy ride for nuclear energy from the technology enthusiastic 1960s, where everything seemed possible and engineers were still a trusted species of mankind, to the risk averse 21st century, where technology futurists are finally sobering up. The road to Clearview is paved with three distinct toll booths: 1979 Three Mile Island, 1986 Chernobyl, 2011 Fukushima - and probably there have been many more we were not told of, that we somehow missed along our way, but they might come back to haunt us, in there own half-life period. Nuclear energy should have become a non-seller a long time ago, considering and taking into account all the risks that come with this atomic beast contained in a concrete iron cage.

But it hasn't. A reason for this surprising fact are Arab countries, hungry for energy - consumption and thus production - and hungry for technology and Western lifestyle. In times where the nuclear industries in Europe, the US and Asia are eagerly searching for new markets for their products, they are happy to see the uncritical interest of Arab countries in this heavily burdened technology. 

France for instance, with its state owned Areva group, is providing every stage of the nuclear cycle. From mining for uranium in Niger, Africa to building a nuclear plant wherever you like them to, Areva is there to be your partner when things are not cool anymore. Areva is the new Elf Aquitaine. Their interests in Africa are France's interests. Their policies in Africa are France's policies. Their buying politicians in Africa would be France buying politicians. 

Nuclear projects in Arab countries are shooting off the ground like mushrooms. Egypt (despite the recent political turmoil), the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are all striving and competing for the use of atomic energy; Algeria, Libya and Morocco (all three African countries; remember Areva and France...) have also expressed an interest. And this in the most energy-rich region of the world, where petrol, gas, sun and wind are available in abundance, some even in a renewable quality. 

the incarnation of nuclear energy: Hannibal Lecter

Money was not enough for the United Arab Emirates to buy Western technology, to become the first Arab state to use civilian nuclear power. The UAE had to convince a whole lot of people and governments of its peaceful intentions when developing and using nuclear energy. The Emirates negotiated hard with the international community to persuade them of their abilities to contain an eventual terror threat (because all Arabs are terrorists...) and disperse any idea that they could use the nuclear material and technology for military purposes (...and want to build an atomic bomb). At the end it took the UAE a $1.6 million campaign to win the US congress over, to get the final go ahead.

But these are the wrong questions and answers. Arab countries are once again humiliating themselves in front of Europe, the US and Asia when they go down on their knees and beg for nuclear technology. Peaceful intentions for whom? As always, the "West" is more concerned with its own safety than with the safety of the Arab population. Europe and the US are frightened to death that the nukes they deliver to the Arab countries could turn against them - like the Mujahideen they developed to fight the Russians in Afghanistan later mutated into Al Qaeda, ready to fight the United States on their own field. Did it ever occur to anybody that nuclear energy per se is dangerous? That's it is like a ticking atomic bomb waiting to go off at any minute, because of a natural disaster, a technical malfunction or a human mishandling. That it's like Hannibal Lecter confined in a mask and a cage, salivating at Clarice Starling until we hear the silence of the lambs, or whatever we hear from Japan these days. 

Did anybody ask the Arab population if they are ready to accept the risk of a nuclear power plant operating in their neighborhood? Nuclear energy must be democratic energy! It is not about money, it is not about fear, it is about risk management and risk propensity. Do you want to take the risk? Do you have all the information you need to evaluate the risk? It is a democratic decision and not that of regimes with vested business interests.

I could never understand the Arab countries going for nuclear energy. They have sun and they have wind and could become the world leader in renewable, ecological energy. Instead they opt for the nuclear, ever increasing their dependency on Western products and know-how. A huge foreign workforce will be needed to get the power plants up and running. 

Huge business interest were at stake when the king of kings of Africa, Muammar al-Gaddafi, visited France in 2007, pitching his tent on the Champs-Elysées. He signed a nuclear co-operation accord and purchased 21 Airbus aircrafts, the total worth a hefty 10 billion Euros. If they aircrafts have been delivered, they still could operate today: the no-fly-zone in Libya has not been enforced and established as for now - the West didn't want to, the Arabs, much more concerned with the growing influence of a nuclear armed Iran on their turf than with the plight of the suffering Libyan people, didn't care to. Instead a no-fly-zone was declared in Fukushima, Japan. Reactor number 4 is about to go Chernobyl.

Kraftwerk told it all before: "chain reaction and mutation, contaminated population." Here's RADIOACTIVITY.