The lights are on, but no one is home. The Mayor of Namie, one of the towns in the Fukishima Prefecture evacuated during the nuclear disaster two years ago, has invited Google to film the town as it is. The Streetview cameras allow us all to wander the haunting, empty streets of the town, and see for ourselves the mostly undamaged but empty streets that will remain vacant for decades to come while decontamination is carried out. The sight of abandoned bicycles, still colourful but unused vending machines, streetlights still controlling non-existent traffic, and children’s swings that will never be played on again tells a memorable and poignant story about the pitfalls of nuclear power. When it works, it works really well, but when it goes wrong, the people who pay the price are not the investors or energy companies, but the unfortunate 300,000 displaced people still living in limbo, and the Japanese taxpayer who never expected to have to pick up this particular bill.
Compare those views to this one of Bridgewater, the nearest town to Hinckley Point, where EDF plan a new nuclear plant. A similar suburb to Namie, Fukushima, in many respects, similar sized homes, relatively quiet streets, a not very rich suburb, it isn’t much of a stretch to visualise these streets deserted, empty, displaced. Are we prepared to foot this particular bill?
I understand all the arguments for nuclear, but I also understand that big businesses and governments like nuclear for one reason, it only takes one decision to get it going, and once running it stays going for a long time. In a democracy such as ours, where decisions can take a long time to make and are subject to so many checks and balances, nuclear presents a big result for relatively little effort. A windfarm can take a lot of effort, but produces relatively small results compared to a nuclear power station. It’s only one inquiry, one debate, one construction contract. The fact that it is a mammoth contract is less relevant to politicians. Others will deal with the small print, They can say that they have ‘kept the lights on’.
The lights are still on in Namie, Fukushima, but there is no-one there to see them.