The “Pump Six” Antinuclear Argument

“Pump Six” is a story by Paolo Bacigalupo, which is part of the collection published under the same name. I have reviewed this collection here.

The basic theme of “Pump Six” is a world full of lazy and stupid people. They depend on technology developed by previous generations. But they don’t understand it anymore. The “Pump Six” in question is used to pump sewage, but it finally breaks down, and no one can do a thing about it.

Nuclear power plants require operators that understand what they are doing. Making mistakes will lead to costly accidents.

I recall that there were some incredible mistakes that have caused the Fukushima accident. And made it worse.

Locating all the backup power generators in basements that were flooded. Shutting down an emergency cooling system because that was what the manual said. Leaving dealing with the accident to TEPCO, a civilian company, instead of going all in with at least 50,000 military personnel, as the Russians did at Chernobyl, to name only the most glaring feats of stupidity.

German Chancellor Merkel concluded that if even the Japanese, which have a reputation for being smart in Germany, were unable to handle nuclear power safely, there was no way nuclear could be safe.

It would be really nice if nuclear, a fairly large source of low carbon energy, could be counted on in the fight against global warming.

But that would require, among many other things, that humans refrain from becoming too goddam lazy and stupid to operate these power plants safely in the long run. I am not sure if we can count on that. Actually, I am not sure if humans are not already too stupid to handle nuclear safely. Fukushima has not helped my confidence.

Renewable will have to do the job alone. Don’t count on the nuclear bailout.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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