Nuclear power wants to pose as peace, sustainability. But to the world, it has always meant the bomb and danger. What are governments doing to sell nuclear power to their people? From Moscow and Obninsk in Russia, RICHARD MAHAPATRA reports on a hardsell
In Obninsk there was a mausoleum
In Moscow, a celebration. One date symbolically sutured the two Russian cities: June 27. On that day, in 1954, the world's first nuclear power station hummed into life in Obninsk, producing electricity till 2002. On that day 50 years later, 500 scientists and policy makers from 32 countries attended the inaugural of a week-long conference on nuclear power: 50 Years of Nucler Power -- the Next 50 Years. As an orchestra played Swan Lake, a magician turned a snake into a red handkerchief and vodka flowed -- some stereotypes simply cannot be jettisoned -- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Mohamed ElBaradei told the conference: "Life begins at 50." He said in his keynote address: "As the world warms up and energy consumption induces climate change, nuclear energy remains the saviour for the future," adding that "without adopting nuclear energy, the Kyoto initiative would turn turtle and the world would add more greenhouse gases. An uncertain future for nuclear power means an uncertain future for the Earth." This was the conference's pitch: revive nuclear. And if the reference to climate change was astute as well as fashionable, the point had been made: the public must be made to accept that nuclear power is a clean and reliable energy source.
But when scientists moved to Obninsk, late in the evening of June 27, to discuss the future, the mood was despondent. Fears regarding proliferation would keep nuclear energy production restricted. As ElBaradei put it: "We haven't recovered from Chernobyl. The problem of nuclear energy is massively based on public perception." We could add: the Three Mile Island disaster in USA, or the greatest one: wasn't this a kind of energy the world first witnessed in the form of the atom bomb? Since then people hadn't differentiated between the bomb, and peaceful uses.
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