Nuclear Power Plants

Example: Nuclear power plants

The "peaceful use of nuclear power" for power generation is an example of structures that are increasingly burdened with "guilt" every year; Even without disasters such as those of Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). The probability of a disaster is low. But when it does occur, the consequences are devastating and totally irresponsible.

During normal operation, (weak) radioactive materials and materials are constantly present. However, the disposal and care of these is already a problem and a risk affecting generations to come. The main problem (apart from the risk of a nuclear meltdown) is the storage of the spent uranium fuel rods over millions of years. Nuclear power plants can be operated even in developed countries without a solution to the main problem – THIS is really the main problem.

Thousands of reactors are in operation. The collective and individual willingness to switch to energy conversion is low because it fundamentally affects lifestyle.

Structural aspects of 'guilt':

  • A sustained, significant risk to life and limb through the release of radioactivity and the risk of nuclear meltdown / explosions, which is accepted as the rule (or norm) in regard to "safety"
  • the reference to higher "safety standards in Germany" is severely weak in several places:
    • In Japan nobody had ever even considered the possibility of such a strong Tsunami, in Germany, crashes of large aircrafts are not taken into account. What is considered 'probable' is estimated by humans. What actually happens in nature is altogether a different subject.
    • higher safety standards do not prevent others from enthusiastically welcoming the technology with far lower standards in their country.
    • The lucrative transfer of know-how is not automatically accompanied by the transfer of safety regulations and the ability of a political regime to enforce them.
  • Nuclear power plants have been in operation in Germany since the 1970s. For the last 50 years, highly radioactive end products, (for which no safe storage has, to date, been found) have been and continue to be produced without interruption. Lowering safety standards just makes the "guilt" bigger.

There is only one 'guilt-reducing' decision possible and that is to immediately and globally, halt the growth of these highly radioactive end-product waste dumps. Not doing so results in a new and additional aspect of 'guilt'. One aspect of structural guilt is the constant argument that there is no alternative for todays' energy requirements. This, however, is a failure in the duty to carefully and conscientiously 'weigh- up' the consequences of our actions in a particular situation. It also goes against the ethical Christian concept of social human beings who as creative and intelligent 'trustees of creation' coherently consider social issues together with other related issues. Organizations and individuals ' hide their light under the bushel' when it comes to finding solutions and enabling change of structures! The peaceful use of nuclear power has become a global example of the technocratic paradigm of the encyclical "Laudato si'", that the structures take over the power and control the behaviour.


  • Film „Journey to the Safest Place on Earth" made in Switzerland by Edgar Hagen, Basel; about the search for storage of nuclear waste, widening the view of the problem far beyond the borders of Switzerland to a dramatic global challenge.
    (FSK 0: See with and speak to your children ...)
  • Film "Tomorrow", esp. the chapter about energy efficiency alternatives: shows how easy it is to do it in another way; it's just difficult to begin!

How Christian organisations think about:

What the individual can do:

  • personally change to a supplier that does not consume electricity from nuclear power, but is investing in the expansion of renewable energies and decentralized structures.
  • withdraw share capital from companies that generate their dividends, returns, and gains through nuclear power plants or through trade in electricity from these.
  • by their own behaviour and example reduce the general demand for electricity
  • make known "structures of guilt" in talks / discussions
  • have the courage to influence things for the good

Biblical associations:

It was probably not particularly pleasant either for the Biblical host in Lk 11, 5-13 or Mt 7, 7-11 or the neighbour whom he woke at midnight. But God does not approve of the neighbours' behaviour! God expects us to overcome our "sensibilities" for a good cause. He does not want us to make ourselves comfortable - not now - not ever.

According to the Bible, he also does not want us to give a snake to those who ask for fish ... or that we give, to those who ask for 'energy', radioactivity, poisoning and danger to life, just because it is, at first sight, cheaper and yields higher profits.

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