I’m an Addict, and So Are You:
Discussion of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant Controversy
By Michelle Ning Lo – May 01, 2014
What are we believing?
Energy is a drug, and we are all hooked. But what’s more addictive than drugs? Cheap drugs, of course. The government of Taiwan has been storming its elite-filled brain for a way to cope with the nation’s ever-increasing demand for energy while maintaining its inexpensive electricity price, knowing that the energy-junkied population would inevitably freak if the government so much as touched a number on their energy bills.
Therefore, when the politicians discovered nuclear power, a godly light pierced through the storm clouds as angels choired in the background for, to the government, nuclear power was The Solution. It’s cheap to run and super efficient. It doesn’t even pollute the air or contribute to global warming. What a bonus!
And this is what students in Taiwan are being taught in school. I once worked as a lowly essay-grader at an English cram school for high-schoolers. I hated the job the entire time I was there, but I hated it the most when I was marking over 100 grammatical-error-laden essays on the topic of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Not only did many of the students support the construction of this controversial facility, but the arguments they presented were so wrongheaded I found it impossible to grade them objectively without personal prejudice (and so I didn’t). They claimed that nuclear power is so benign it wouldn’t hurt a fly, and that it’s as clean as a kitty in the shower.
The misconceptions these high school kids believe are in fact also present in the minds of many mature, educated grownups, because when these grownups themselves were in high school, they were also taught the same misconstrued ideas, which just goes to show how extensive the influence of education is, which also explains why I can’t stop hating on Confucius and his followers for being such babble-mouths and making my high school Chinese class a living hell.
Joe vs. Moron
Speaking of ancient people and their sayings (The whole Confucius rant up there was really to set up for this transition, but I still hate that old geezer), we all know that history repeats itself. The difference between your average Joe and your average moron is that Joe learns from past experience, specifically the horrible experiences Moron let himself go through because Moron doesn’t understand that one who survives an entire bottle of Bacardi 151 isn’t henceforth invincible.
Joe’s ability is why most of us understand the injurious effects of drugs after seeing over and over again our respected celebrities perishing from drug abuse. People who claim they can safely snort cocaine or shoot heroin, we call Morons, because there is never a guarantee against overdose when you start going down that road.
Now, keep the thought of Moron in mind as I drive the topic of this discussion back to nuclear power, all the way north to the ghost town of Chernobyl, the site of the famous nuclear disaster of 19861. If you haven’t heard about this event, then you really need to get out of that league of legends or your world of warcraft because this event was friggin’ epic. They were just doing some engineer-y test with the nuclear facility and kaboom x2! the entire northern hemisphere was contaminated with traces of radiation, and now people a few years older than me have a greater risk of getting thyroid cancer. Random, but cancer’s weird like that.
“Boo-hoo, history,” Moron would say, snot he refuses to wipe away dangling from his left nostril, “but that was almost thirty years ago. Nuclear technology now is way better than the crap they had in the padded-shouldered 80s.” Alright, then. Let’s come back closer to home. No living, functioning person has not heard of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and remember when that happened? Three years ago. That’s right. Twenty-five years after Chernobyl and our nuclear power plants were still throwing whiny tantrums, this time because of forces beyond our control too. When earthquakes and tsunamis come knocking on your door, you can’t just pretend nobody’s home. And what’s another island country located in East Asia that’s prone to some geological seizures? Ilha Formosa!
Go and Google some pictures of what Chernobyl looks like now2, and while you’re doing that, keep in mind that over 1,500 deaths were reported after the Fukushima disaster due to physical and mental stresses of having to evacuate from home and live in shelters3. Also remember that these nuclear power plants were undoubtedly designed by educated scientists and professional engineers. I’m not challenging the expertise of these people—hell, I can’t even stop an egg from exploding in the microwave—I’m reminding people that even experts like them couldn’t guarantee the safety of their creations.
Taiwan is a country way smaller than Russia and Japan, and we already have three of these landmines patiently waiting for someone to step on them. Any one of them goes off, and Taiwan will be another ghost town contributing horrific photos to the internet, and where will all of us evacuate to, really? Formosa wouldn’t be formosa no more.
Pure as poop
It is true that nuclear disasters are rare. If we consider the amount of people who are doing drugs, it is also true that cases of fatal overdose are rare, but does this make drugs okay? Moron thinks so. That snot I mentioned earlier coming out from his left nostril? If you look closely, you can see traces of white powder clinging to the gooey strand.
People with a field of vision no wider than a horse wearing blinders argue that as long as nuclear power plants don’t go off on us, we can all live happily ever after. Nuclear energy is the ultimate clean energy we all dream about. It doesn’t pollute the air, nor does it produce carbon dioxide. It’s the cure to global warming! Don’t we want that issue out of the way?
I’m not sure if people who believe that male-cow excrement actually don’t know, or choose to forget the fact that nuclear power is far, far beyond the realm of clean energy. Nuclear explosions are preventable, yes, but there is something that is inevitable when we choose to split atoms to charge that smartphone we play Candy Crush with.
This something is nuclear waste. Ever since humans gave birth to nuclear power more than half a century ago, this temper-throwing, fear-inducing baby has been piling radioactive turd in its massive diaper, and we still have no idea how to change said diaper. Sure we could pick out the undigested corn kernels from the feces and feed it to the baby again, but ultimately the steaming heap would be left to stink the planet for millenniums4, and all we can do is scratch our balding heads and shrug our tired shoulders.
Taiwan’s current waste disposal “plan” is to hurl all the dirty stuff at Orchid Isle, because the residents are just a bunch of flying-fishermen wearing man-thongs living on a piece of land we’re too lazy to even try to take from them. There once was a time when we planned to just temporarily store our junk there and then ship the junk out into the ocean5, but then those bullying international organizations said that wasn’t cool, so we thought, “Meh. Let’s just leave it on Orchid then. Forever.”
Of course we didn’t say we were going to leave the waste there forever. We said that we were just keeping it there for the time being and would deal with it when we could, but even after decades of research, the only answer our experts and authorities have for the nuclear waste problem is nothing far from, "We still can't find a solution, but we're positive somebody in the future will figure it out6!"
This complacent optimism isn't just limited to the government. Plenty of people around me have also voiced similar attitudes. Some high school students of mine have argued that it's, like,totally okay forus to bury the waste in the ground for now until future scientists find a way to deal with it. They don’t seem to realize that these future messiah super-scientists would have to be one of their own. More bizarre proposals include using the waste to develop nuclear weapons, and the most mind-boggling suggestion was to send the waste to North Korea, who allegedly accept nuclear waste from other countries so they can create their own radioactive bombs.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could deal with all our problems that way? Global warming? Bury the sun until future people know how to turn the heat down. Sea level rising? Bury the North Pole until future people figure out how to stop it from melting. Difficult math test? Bury that too until future people dig it out and do it for you.
Fortunately our world isn’t completely contaminated with such short-sighted and irresponsible people. You’ve got to admit, baby poo is disgusting, so more and more people are unwilling to let nuclear power plants around the world continue smearing their ass-contents all over our home. Even in France, where the majority of the population supports nuclear power due to necessity, nuclear waste proves to be a deal-breaking issue that threatens the French people’s confidence in nuclear power7.
Besides radiation, nuclear power plants also produce large amounts of warm water, which are dumped into the ocean. In Taiwan, the warmer ocean water is creating mutated fish called Midiao (ugly), which fashion abnormally twisted spines. Although this phenomenon isn’t caused by radiation8, you can’t say these Ugly Betties are not victims to our nuclear baby’s notorious splattering urine.
So why should we let nuclear power plants pee and poo all over our lawn when there are far cleaner ways of acquiring what they offer us? People who say nuclear energy is clean might as well say cocaine is recommendable because it doesn’t give you skin cancer. People who say nuclear waste won’t be a problem in the future might as well say crack lung isn’t a problem until you get it diagnosed. These concepts are based on the logic of an amnesiac goldfish which can’t see out of its bowl (or just of a really hopeless crackhead). This is not how we big-brained homo sapiens should roll.
Whether it’s on the topic of the safety or the cleanliness of nuclear power, we see that people are getting their priorities all mixed up. They dedicate all their attention on the prevention of nuclear explosions while doing jack about the problem of nuclear waste, and they advocate nuclear energy as eco-friendly while again completely neglecting to mention all the pollution it produces.
But this isn’t all. One thing that really, really gets my hackles up is how the controversy of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is becoming nothing but a political issue, and there are self-deemed anti-nuclear advocates who still support the Fourth Nuclear Plant because they believe groups of balding, blabbering, tax-hoarding hypocrites are more important than our beloved earth. These people worry about the money we’ve already spent building the new power plant9, the penalty we would have to pay if we were to stop construction and violate the contract with the power company10, and most importantly their own political ideals, which they think is good enough an excuse to compromise the liveability of our homeland9. Even the politicians who do oppose the new power plant do so in a way that just seems like pure brown-nosing in order to get more support from voters11.
It is because of the politicization of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant that once when I mentioned the topic in an IELTS class, some students started to get uncomfortable. The topic of the essay we were working on was about the energy crisis, but that didn’t stop the students’ tendency to avoid political discussions. They were coming here to learn how to write argumentative essays, not to express opinions!
But ask anyone who knows me well and you will see that I’m the last person in this universe who would want to talk politics with you. The number of fecal pieces I give about what those unsightly suit-wearing vote-bribers think is a big, fat zero, and I would make that number a negative integer if I had the mathematical ability.
Yet I still find it necessary to talk about our nation’s nuclear problem because, get this, it is not a political issue. I don’t oppose the new power plant because I dislike the governing party or because I’m an attention whore and so are all politicians, I oppose the plant because it’ll wreck our island, our home. When a doctor tells you to stop smoking lest you get lung cancer, you don’t accuse him of being jealous of the tobacco industry for making so much money.
I try to make you go to rehab, but you say, “No. No. No.”
So what do you do when your doctor tells you to put out those cigarettes? What you’re told to do, duh. It’ll be difficult, trust me. You’ll constantly have to fight your cravings and find other things to occupy all that time you have free now that you can’t go out for some “fresh air.” You might have to spend money on therapies and nicotine replacements, and so much more food (eating would now be how you kill all that extra time). But once you get past that adjustment stage, you’ll finally understand what “going out for some fresh air” truly means.
Eliminating nuclear power would be like that. The government constantly threatens us that if we don’t build the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, electricity prices in Taiwan would increase 40%12; there would be periodical blackouts and power consumption limitations13; factories and businesses would shut down, causing an economic crisis13.
These warnings sound pretty frightening, but compare them with the problems that we’ve mentioned already—the nuclear explosions, evacuation limitations, waste disposal issues, mutant Gollum fish—and suddenly money problems seem relatively negligible when the other problems concern life and death.
Scientists who advocate nuclear power, however, are still stubbornly obsessed with nuclear energy’s low carbon footprint14. Looking at their arguments, it seems they are more concerned with Taiwan’s international reputation (“We need to lower our carbon footprint so other countries will like us!”) than Taiwanese land itself. And if they actually care that much for our environment, what are they suggesting to reduce nuclear pollution? Nil.
Other scientists have figured out a potential way to reuse residual uranium found in nuclear waste, but this technology doesn’t completely solve radiation issues15. And even if this is our answer to nuclear waste concerns, how come Taiwan isn’t building a waste-processing plant alongside the power plant?
But just think about it. If we have that much money to run a power plant, establish a waste-processing plant, and film nuclear power promotion commercials that have the quality of amateur pornography16, wouldn’t it be more worthwhile to use the money to enhance the efficiency of cleaner energy and to develop ways to reduce energy usage? We’re so optimistic that future generations would be able to truly solve the nuclear waste problem, but why not use that optimism on the hope that future scientists would be able to decrease the prices of cleaner energy?
We need to start limiting the amount of energy we use, and higher electricity prices is one solution. Though it would be an inconvenience, especially when there are just so many awesome games on Apple Store, this is the nicotine craving we have to fight until we are able to improve existing clean energy, develop new clean energy, or just get accustomed to using less energy. Indulging our cravings for cheap energy while flinging radioactive junk at our future generations is not how we leave a good name in their history books.
A drug addict’s biggest problem isn’t how to acquire enough drugs. If that statement just blew your mind, then you really need to go to rehab.
1. BBC News – The Chernobyl Disaster
2. Memory – 海洋石頭 – 【分享】走進車諾比核災現場
3. Global Post – Indirect deaths from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster stand at 1,605
4. The Guardian – Nuclear waste: Keep out – for 100,000 years
6. 自由時報 - 台灣核廢料處理專家：無解
7. Frontline – Why the French Like Nuclear Energy
8. 環境資訊中心– 秘雕魚確係高水溫所造成，非關核污染
10. 三立新聞網 – 燒錢無底洞？核四若續建封存恐花4300億
11. 東森新聞 – 不謀而「核」！蔡英文昔挺續建今改口
12. 三立新聞台 – 恐嚇人民？經濟部：廢核有代價！電價恐漲4成
14. 台灣立報 – 為求減碳李遠哲支持核四續建
15. Radioactive Waste Not Wasted with New Green Chemistry Technology
16. YouTube – 核四廣告浪費錢？綠委質疑起舌戰—民視新聞
王小明 vs. 腦殘