Archive for April, 2011

Nuclear Crisis: A Socialist Solution for Energy and the Environment

April 4, 2011

In scenes reminiscent of the desperate attempts by BP to stem last year’s oil spill, emergency workers at Japan’s Fukushima power plant have begun pouring a mixture of sawdust, absorbent polymers and newspapers into a pit connected to the damaged reactor to stop leaking radioactive water pouring into the ocean.

 Tragically the bodies of two workers have also been recovered from the site, yet as workers die and evacuees from towns in the shadow of the plant face the invisible threat of radiation the world has been split on the issue of nuclear power.  

 In Germany mass protests have led Chancellor Merkel to announce a freeze on the development of future power stations, while in the UK liberal-environmentalist George Monbiot writes: “As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.”

 Monbiot has turned towards nuclear energy as he believes that renewable energy is not a realistic alternative under capitalism. Nuclear power, Monbiot argues, is better for the environment when it goes wrong, than a coal power station when it’s working right.

 If the world’s energy is to be left to the anarchy of the profit driven free market than Monbiot may be right. Yet why should the issue of energy, fundamental to the workings of modern society yet potentially disastrous for the environment, be left to a system which puts the profit of the few before the needs of the millions?

 This catastrophic drive for profit is typified by Tepco, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which not only owns the nuclear plant at Fukushima, but holds the monopoly over power to Tokyo and eight of Japan’s prefectures.

 Tepco is the forth largest power company in the world, yet as the ongoing crisis continues to prove, it has a deplorable record of placing profits before safety.

 In 2002 it was revealed that Tepco had forged safety inspection reports for its nuclear plants, while according to CNN the seismologist Yukinobu Okamura warned Tepco safety executives that the aging Fukushima plant was vulnerable to damage from a tsunami.

 The solution, over the head of Monbiot’s debate about what can be achieved within the constraints of capitalism, is to reject the free market in favour of a socialist plan for energy as part of a wider democratically planned economy.

 With a socialist planed economy, with democratic worker’s control at its heart, energy production can be determined by social need, not by profiteering executives.

The nationalisation of the energy giants, under worker’s control, would allow for a massive investment in renewable sources of energy which are environmentally friendly, but are deemed ‘unprofitable’ by the executives. 

 As the crisis at Fukushima continues to unfold with tragic consequences, it is vital that we not only reject the technology which has threatened and failed communities from Chernobyl to Three Mile Island, but reject the mismanagement of our energy supply inherent under capitalism, in favour of a socialist alternative which fulfils the needs of both our society and the environment. 

  • Nationalise Tepco and the giant energy corporations under democratic worker’s control
  • For investment in sources of renewable energy, based on needs not profit
  • For a socialist plan for energy as part of a wider democratically planned economy