Despite the images coming from the nuclear crisis in Japan, is there still a chance the world will see the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy? Peter Stützle believes so.
For two years now there has been cross-party agreement in Germany that no new nuclear power stations should be built. The one thing that's been up for debate has been how long the existing plants should continue producing electricity. The former Social Democrat-Greens coalition government set a fixed deadline for the phase-out of nuclear power; The current government postponed the date. Now, however, the atomic pullout may come earlier.
But maybe not. At the moment, plans are taking shape for several of the oldest nuclear plants, which must now be taken off the grid, not to be restarted. Whether, however, other reactors will also be subject to shorter life spans than recently agreed is still up in the air. The only thing that seems for sure is that there will be an increase in the use of renewable energies like solar and wind power. From today's vantage point, it's fair to assume that they will one day replace nuclear power. But who knows, perhaps in the years to come climate change will be seen as the greater menace, causing us to first switch off our coal-fired power stations.
Deutsche Welle's Peter Stützle
In any case, many people have begun to deliberate in recent days - and not only in Germany. In some places, people will come to the conclusion that nuclear power should be abandoned. In other places, perhaps they will merely raise the security standards at nuclear facilities. And in countries like China, where the opinions of citizens are not readily heeded, the incidents in Fukushima could bear no consequence.
In Japan the remaining undamaged nuclear plants could even continue to operate well into the future. After all, Japan decided in favor of the peaceful use of nuclear energy only a few years after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and until now it was backed by a broad social consensus. That a majority of Japanese will now turn against nuclear power is by no means a given. Seen on a global scale, it is very possible that we have not yet reached the highpoint of the nuclear age - despite the dramatic images coming out of Fukushima.
Author: Peter Stützle / dfm
Editor: Nancy Isenson