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Psychoanalysis shows Nuclear Power stops countries meeting climate targets

Only higher education could produce something this silly.

The University of Sussex gets the credit for a paper that argues that countries that are committed to nuclear energy are progressing slower towards the holy grail of meeting “climate targets”. This discovery  coincidentally comes exactly as the UK Hinkley Point “hangs in the balance”. What were the odds?

The Newspeak starts in the headline — what’s a “climate target”. My personal climate target is to move into the tropics each winter, but the EU climate target is not about reducing temperatures over Spain, but about “more windmills”. The climate target of the EU has apparently got nothing much to do with the climate:

…the EU’s 2020 Strategy — to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increase the share of renewable energy to at least 20% of consumption, and achieve energy savings of 20% or more by 2020…

 They cluster countries in to 3 groups and discover that the countries that plan to maintain or expand nuclear energy (eg Bulgaria, Hungary and the UK) are not cutting emissions as fast as countries that have no nukes (Denmark, Ireland, and Norway).

Could it be, I wonder, because countries that have nukes have already cut their emissions (they only start counting the reductions from 2005). I scoff, I must be missing something. That’s too obvious.

But then the paper proves me wrong and does national psychoanalysis:

The team say that the gigantic investments of time, money and expertise in nuclear power plants, such as the proposed Hinckley Point C in the UK, can create dependency and ‘lock-in’ — a sense of ‘no turning back’ in the nation’s psyche.

I turn to the actual paper, thinking this must be a marketing mistake. Not so.

You may have thought energy production was about joules per megawatt hour, but it’s really  a conditioning system of governance.

 Whereas nuclear is nowadays often regarded simply as one type of sociotechnical regime among many, several decades ago theorists recognized that the way they operate is quintessential of the deeply political self-reinforcing dynamics in infrastructures and institutions – and even more widely, in economies, cultures, and political discourse – that are better understood as conditioning systems of governance themselves.

Nuclear power creates totalitarian states?

As one environmentalist lamented in the 1970s: ‘The increased deployment of nuclear power facilities must lead society toward authoritarianism. Indeed, safe reliance upon nuclear power as the principal source of energy may be possible only in a totalitarian state’ (Winner, 1999Winner, L. (1999). The social shaping of technology. In MacKenzie, D., & Wajcman, J.(Eds.), The social shaping of technology (pp. 8–40). London:Longman., p. 19). Entrenchment of nuclear technologies require the structuring of social environments in particular ways (Winner,1986Winner, L. (1986). The whale and the reactor: A search for limits in an age of high technology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press., p. 32). Put simply, the distinctive nature of nuclear technologies provides a convenient means for reinforcing wider pressures towards concentrated power and authority.

So nukes are special and concentrate power and authority — unlike a global weather scare which can only be solved by One World Government, right?

The paper is freely available. Though Sussex University costs UK taxpayers a lot.



The University of Sussex : Nuclear energy and path dependence in Europe’s ‘Energy union’: coherence or continued divergence? Climate Policy,Volume 16, 2016 – Issue 5.

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