Monday, June 13, 2011

Italy kills the nuclear demon

The result of the Italian national referendum on nuclear energy are out. As I am writing, the data are not yet official, but it seems certain that the votes against nuclear energy were about 95% of the total (*). A landslide, if ever there was one! It is a disaster for the nuclear industry that is sure to have consequences on nuclear policy even outside Italy.

There will be time for a detailed analysis of the vote, for political considerations, and for thinking of future scenarios. One thing is certain, however: nuclear energy has come a long way from the time, half a century ago, when it was hailed as the solution to all of humankind's problems.

The debate on this referendum was extremely polarized from the beginning. Mostly, detractors presented nuclear energy as dangerous and unreliable and voters seem to have seen the problem in these terms. The choice was seen as black and white, good vs. evil, demons against angels.

But, if the downfall of nuclear energy generates the return of coal as a replacement, then who is the demon and who is the angel is a debatable point.

(*) Final results: Against nukes: 94.1%, for nukes: 5.9%


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)