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Italy Votes To Abandon Nuclear Power 848

Posted by Soulskill
from the giving-progress-the-boot dept.
ElementOfDestruction writes "Italy has joined Germany in halting the production of energy from atomic power generation. This differs from Germany in that the Italian decision was made by a public vote, rather than a government mandated shutdown. 57% of Italian Households voted in this public measure. While democracy should trump all, is it wise to hold majority opinion so high that it slows down progress?"
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Italy Votes To Abandon Nuclear Power

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  • Solution? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by countertrolling (1585477) * on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:30AM (#36435576) Journal

    What do you do when the voters are conditioned and misinformed and the majority is wrong?

  • by epiphani (254981) <epiphani AT dal DOT net> on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:33AM (#36435614)

    "US coal power fleet kills 10,000 a year; Fukushima will kill under 100, total. We are very bad at evaluating risks."

    - David Keith, Canada Research Chair in Energy and the Environment, University of Calgary

  • by flex941 (521675) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:36AM (#36435674)
    While democracy should trump all, is it wise to hold majority opinion so high that it slows down progress?
    I'm pretty sure going the nuclear way is actually not the progress. It was regression 50 years ago, it still is.
  • by tmosley (996283) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:36AM (#36435682)
    Actually, what we did is much, MUCH worse. From fear of nuclear power, we have halted all progress in nuclear technology, leaving ancient reactor designs in deployment, while new, safe designs sit on the drawing board.

    In a real way, fear of nuclear power caused Fukushima. That plant should have been decommissioned a decade ago in favor of one of the new generation of power plants, maybe even one that burns thorium, meaning they could have gotten rid of all that waste they instead stuffed into the attic hoping no-one would ever find out.
  • by RazzleFrog (537054) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:38AM (#36435706)

    Sooo. If 51% of Americans voted to teach only creationism in schools and evolution should be illegal that should be ok by your rules?

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:39AM (#36435720) Homepage Journal

    Funny but they have not abandoned nuclear power. They are pretending they have to make themselves feel good. They import no less than 16% of their electricity from France. They have just move the responsibility for the reactors to another nation. As Italy needs more power they will import more from France and use even more nuclear power outside of their own control and regulation. This should be called the Grand Delusion. They are just going to use more and more nuclear power while taking no responsibility for it themselves.
    Welcome to reality 101.

  • Wrong framing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Helpadingoatemybaby (629248) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:39AM (#36435724)
    "Slow down progress?" That's just terribly obvious framing. Actually by voting this way they're speeding up progress towards modern renewables. After all, nuclear fission technology is not a "modern" technology, it's over a half century old and it's simply not needed anymore (Bonneville Power Administration shut down its nuclear plant for refueling and their coal plant was shut down because it was unnecessary and still had excess power to export -- 100% from renewables so please, please don't post stupidly about "baseline" power.)

    They're in a particularly sunny climate, there are already rolling out solar thermal storage systems so that their solar can generate 24 hours per day, They have tidal sources which France used to generate hundreds of megawatts back in the 60's out of a single installation -- ignoring the efficiency increases of what we can do today.

    Fuel is finite, so fuel based sources are out of date. Meanwhile, renewables just keep coming down in price. Solar dropped 20% last year alone, and is expected to drop another 20% this year. Meanwhile, nuclear keeps increasing in cost. Costs for implementation, fuel, owner's costs, massive grid tie-ins, and let's not even discuss the fact that they don't pay for their own insurance and push that on to the public purse in the event of a catastrophe.

    So "progress?" I don't think that word means what you think it does. The first world has made it's decision and you can flog the dead horse of nuclear, but the only new adopters will be the third world and powers that want to refine for nuclear weapons, such as arabic countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:40AM (#36435732)
    preposterous. obviously indirect deaths don't count for nuclear yet they do for coal. what a bankrupt comparison
  • by smelch (1988698) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:43AM (#36435784)
    No I believe the question is closer to "Should we let straight guys vote for number one gay, should we let youtubers vote on internet infrastructure designs, should we let Slashdot vote on best vag, and should Joe Frazier be on the HTML5 standards committee?" It's, you know, the basis for representative democracy. Vote for people smarter than you so they can educate themselves and vote on your behalf, because realistically you aren't qualified and don't have the time for well-informed decision making. This is one of those topics where maybe layman's opinion isn't what we should be basing our decisions on.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:46AM (#36435816)
    This whole conversation reminds me of the guys who insist that Vietnam was winnable. Nuclear died because it was uneconomical, costs were greater than just deaths (such as massive economic costs and long term illnesses), the Japanese who are about as efficient as any group on the planet couldn't do it safely -- as the Onion Put it "Nuclear Plants Perfectly Safe -- Unless Something Goes Wrong."

    It's not that the majority is irrational, it's that you guys are as emotionally tied to dead nuclear as others are to a lost war.

  • Re:Wrong framing. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by scotts13 (1371443) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:48AM (#36435854)

    So "progress?" I don't think that word means what you think it does. The first world has made it's decision and you can flog the dead horse of nuclear, but the only new adopters will be the third world and powers that want to refine for nuclear weapons, such as arabic countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

    Yes, progress. It's clear that fossil fuels aren't viable even in the medium term, and unless we stop our population growth or drastically change lifestyles, "renewable" isn't going to cut it, either. The "future" ultimately, can and must be fusion. And we aren't going to get it by abandoning high technology, high energy density engineering. Though they aren't directly related, fission makes a good trainer for fusion. Teaches you to be CAREFUL.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:48AM (#36435860) Homepage

    Yeh, just for those who don't remember: Italia has frequent earthquakes, in all regions of the country:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_earthquakes_in_Italy [wikipedia.org]

    Click on the epicentre cities to see where they are, dispersed along the length of the country.

    Nuclear = "Progress"? Bonkers.

    My favourite failed "trust technology!" argument was after the Fukushima quake when Sarkozy tried to reassure the French people by saying that France's nuclear power stations were the most advanced in the world. That's probably correct, and it would be a good point to make after a nuclear accident in a developing country, but this is Japan he was talking about.

  • Re:Impartial? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by epiphani (254981) <epiphani AT dal DOT net> on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:48AM (#36435864)

    Got any logical reason why shutting down an entire branch of energy generation should be treated with any less incredulity?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:52AM (#36435938)

    This vote is just a confirmation of the status quo. But don't let that interfere with your opinion.

    Right, because the status quo is always such a good thing, that the ones wanting to change it must be the idiots.

    Power demand the world over is only going to increase. Saying now that they won't even consider nuclear power to handle future power demands, yes, that makes them idiots.

  • by delinear (991444) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:54AM (#36435980)
    That would only be true if nothing else had changed globally. I'd say the massive increase in oil prices and increasing demand in the far east is enough to change the status quo. This is more like standing on the beach ordering the tide not to come in. It's all very laudable choosing alternative sustainable energy sources over nuclear if someone can tell us what those sources are.
  • by EdZ (755139) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @10:55AM (#36436000)
    Except the reactors at the Fukushima no.1 complex include some of the oldest operating reactors in the world. Reactors 1-4, the ones involved in the Fukushima incident, were built BEFORE Reactor 4, the one involved in the Cernobyl incident.
  • we have halted all progress in nuclear technology, leaving ancient reactor designs in deployment, while new, safe designs sit on the drawing board.

    No design, I repeat no design is safe against corporate mismanagement.

    All the engineering in the world is not going to prevent your plant from exploding when faced with an MBA CEO with a lust for profit.

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @11:01AM (#36436086) Homepage Journal

    And what is your problem with that?

    Your country is likely importing incredible amounts of coal and oil and burning it and you don't care under what conditions it is mined and hoisted and transported and how many miners or what ever die in 3rd world countries. Nor do you care about the effects the CO2 you produce will have elsewhere ...

    Where is the difference?

  • by beh (4759) * on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @11:01AM (#36436088)

    Well - they're already the largest power importer in Europe - because they went out of nuclear power after Chernobyl...

    Remember this one? A storm felled a tree that cut one of the power lines transporting power to Italy - this tripped of a cascading effect cutting off all of mainland Italy:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_Italy_blackout [wikipedia.org]

    But - even when you say 'This differs from Germany in that the Italian decision was made by a public vote, rather than a government mandated shutdown.' - this is only part of it. Germany had already decided on a nuclear exit before - it was the current government that extended the runtimes of nuclear reactors, causing public outrage. They mostly reverted back to the original targets now, since they increasingly find themselves becoming more and more unelectable, keeping to nuclear power. The governments stance pro nuclear power might have carried for a while longer, if it wasn't for Fukushima. Basically, the pro nuclear lobby said something like Chernobyl couldn't happen in Germany as our plants are safer than the Russian ones -- they couldn't convincingly say that they're safer than Japans...

  • Re:Solution? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RazzleFrog (537054) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @11:06AM (#36436202)

    Sorry that you live under that illusion but the founding fathers had a very low impression of the average person and their ability to make intelligent decisions. That's why the original voting populace was so small.

    Look at California - they vote on almost major even using propositions and the outcome changes depending on who does a better job on getting out the vote. Pure democracy only works if ever person is perfectly informed and actually votes.

  • by squizzar (1031726) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @11:16AM (#36436380)

    What's uneconomical about it? There's a huge investment cost, made worse in some cases by the amount of legal objection to building plants, but after that's paid off the plants print money. Have you seen how much tax the German government is taking of Nuclear power plant profits?

  • by tnk1 (899206) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @11:29AM (#36436608)

    Let's be careful about what we think democracy does for us.

    Democracy is the best system out there because it recognizes that ultimately, the people are what gives any government its power and authority. Therefore, not only is it fair, it is also wise to co-opt the largest number of people into the system and have them feel like they are part of it.

    On the other hand, just because the majority votes for something, it doesn't mean it is correct. That's not to say that the masses are ignorant, although they certainly may be about certain specific and advanced topics. What it is saying is that voters have local self-interest in mind, and tend to lack perspective.

    Consider that 3,000 people died on 9/11 from planes hitting the World Trade Center. Not only were there direct deaths, but other people, particularly responders and bystanders in the local area could well have chronic health issues for years to come. Yet, we are in the process of building yet another huge building on the site, which could also become a target and no one has called for people to stop using planes.

    Why does no one want to outlaw massive skyscrapers or jumbo jets? Well, that seems obvious: we feel that we really can't do that.

    However, the underlying reasoning is that we can manage the risk from planes hitting skyscrapers. If we couldn't manage the risk, planes and/or skyscrapers really would face being outlawed because no one wants to constantly face waves of jets being used like guided missiles at buildings.

    Now take nuclear plants. There is also risk there. But how much more risk is there in a power plant than there is in a jumbo jet with a skyscraper target? How much more is there from a nuclear plant than the air pollution, heavy metals and radioactive material produced by a coal plant?

    The fact is that democracy is indifferent to facts, it is simply a way to produce effective governance. Sometimes, democracy tells the truth where a self-absorbed dictatorship won't or can't. This gives the impression that democratic governments are also "smarter". We know that isn't always the case. Voters can be convinced of things that are not scientifically reasonable. Both sides of the aisle know this. Democracy is a system that provides high legitimacy for a system by recognizing the people, but it can be held captive by small groups that have specific agendas.

    So yes, the Swiss have a long tradition of working democracy. That only means that democracy works for them. It does not mean that their democracy makes correct decisions, only that the decisions they have made have yet to cause their government to fail. Chances are that Switzerland is small enough that it can dispense with nuclear power, if it wanted to. That doesn't mean that the rest of the world can. It doesn't even mean that the Swiss won't be using nuclear power, it just means it won't be produced locally. It means that the Swiss will be happy to let someone else take the risk to provide them power, confident in the knowledge that someone else will.

  • by Batmunk2000 (1878016) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @11:39AM (#36436782)

    Absolute Democracy is the exact opposite of freedom. You cannot have a Right when all laws are subject to the will of the majority. The act of voting doesn't make a policy moral or even "effective." When your rights are violated it is little consolation whether it was done by a vicious dictator or by the voting of your neighbors. Both pure democracy and pure dictatorship are morally vacant and eventually, self-destructive. The only useful form of government is one that recognizes the individual and their inalienable rights.

  • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @11:39AM (#36436790) Journal

    I'd trust that "lust for profit MBA CEO" much farther than a typical "Friends in Gov CEO" that has enough favors to produce the right kind of regulation to insure he profits and nobody else can. We need to get government out of business and allow free-markets to actually work.

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @11:52AM (#36436980)

    That must be why no-one lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • by Anubeon (1328981) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @11:53AM (#36437010) Homepage

    "US coal power fleet kills 10,000 a year; Fukushima will kill under 100, total. We are very bad at evaluating risks."

    - David Keith, Canada Research Chair in Energy and the Environment, University of Calgary

    I find thus statement along with the quoted figures a tad misleading. Does it take into account the largely immeasurable risks (both to human health and the environment) associated with containment of long lived nuclear waste? Whilst I'm no fan of coal (and have for along time been a fence sitter w.r.t. nuclear), coal power doesn't leave future generations with tonnes of highly radioactive and long-lived waste to manage and dispose of. Whilst coal power does leave future generation with a significant environmental burden (atmospheric contaminants and greenhouse effects) there is at least the prospect of clean coal and carbon capture on the horizon. There is no such equivalent for today's generation of nuclear fission (unless you count the possible, and as of yet unproven, ameliorative effects that the thorium cycle might have on the lifetime of nuclear waste).

  • by jmauro (32523) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @12:02PM (#36437178)

    It's cheap until you ignore dismantling, cleanup costs, and insurance for if something goes wrong (think 100's of billions of dollars). This is what the US made the Nuclear operators consider in the 1970's for their proposals and why they became uneconomical.

  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @12:10PM (#36437334)
    Oh, great. This is a lovely talking point of the right lately - the made up idea that the US are no democracy - even from the beginning. Well, that's how you guys would like it, isn't it? In reality (you know, the thing rational people perceive), "republic" and "democracy" are orthogonal axes. You can have a republic without democracy - and that is why the right loves this talking point so much. To finally get rid of those pesky voters and install that feudal system with your corporate masters at the top and everyone else at serf level, wouldn't that be great?
  • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @12:14PM (#36437408) Journal

    Yes, Japan is advanced.

    No, Fukushima was not. First criticality at Fukushima was in the 1970s, meaning that construction started in the late 60s, meaning that they place was designed in the late 50's.

    I don't think we can call anything that is 60 years old in design "advanced." Please stop distorting facts with your bias.

  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @12:24PM (#36437564)
    Do you think it would help if they pointed out that bean sprouts killed more people this year than the Fukushima power station "disaster"?
  • by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @12:40PM (#36437846) Homepage Journal
    yes. endless dosage of radiation, officially dubbed level 7+ has been spread around by the plants, but, an earless bunny cant be due to radiation. more than that, you are even questioning the rabbit being born there, despite it was on every major news outlet.

    just fuck off.
  • the other 49% didn't deserve that.

    People are manipulate to easily when dealing with thing the have no experience with.

  • by 1karmik1 (963790) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @02:08PM (#36439050) Homepage

    You all are completely missing a key part of the picture. Regardless of the environmental issues around nuclear waste disposal and all the arguments against coal power generation, Italy has one crucial difference with the rest of the world: Mafia. Mafia is in every aspect of the public life, especially public investment programmes and subsidies.

    We have buildings crumbling and killing dozen of people, chemical plants exploding, all because of negligence tied to assigning public funds to mafia-owned companies that drain public money knowingly saving on safety measures because they are above the law and they will never pay if someone dies because of it.

    Can you imagine what would happen in a power plant built using mafia contractors in the south of italy, close to rivers and farming fields? No thanks. We have far more pressing issues to solve before we can venture in something so volatile and risky.

    We have a chemical chernobyl in the countryside region outside naples, lymphatic and bone cancers skyrocketing because of the widespread, systematic illegal disposal of wastes from the whole europe. Endemic corruption.

    Even if i was in favor of nuclear power (which i am not, except for research), i cannot see how this technology can even be remotely safe in Italy. Italian scientists, traditionally supporting nuclear power, agree with me (cfr: Margherita Hack's claims about the vote).

    This vote is not against nuclear power per se. It's against nuclear power *in Italy*, because we know we don't have the social, economical stability to tackle such a venture. The same reasons led to very harsh protests against building a massive bridge between mainland Italy and sicily. We can't really face modernization unless we get rid of this plague, and a lot of Italian people know this and voted accordingly.

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