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Answer of the main coordinator to the ICOR member organization SMKC (Czechia)

by ICOR-ICC, 30 November 2011

Dear comrades,

in March this year you rejected to support an ICOR resolution calling for the shutdown of all nuclear power plants proposed by the CC of ICOR because of „principle reasons“. That is an opinion of a minority which nevertheless shall be discussed respectfully.

In the meantime the ICC of ICOR and the Coordinationg Committee of ILPS (International League of Peoples' Struggle) have agreed on carrying out a one-year international campaign for the shutdown of all nuclear power plants. While elaborating a joint call we once again intensely discussed all arguments for and against the use of nuclear energy for the generation of electricity. You can read the call on the website of ICOR.

Still, once again I would like to deal with your most important objections:

1. Must the civil use of nuclear energy only be rejected under capitalist conditions?

You don't deny the problems of civil use of nuclear energy, but only regard them as consequences of its irresponsible handling by the energy monopolies and their imperialist governments being only interested in profit, if e.g. in Japan nuclear power plants have been built in earthquake-prone areas. You hold the opinion that under different social preconditions a safe use of nuclear energy would be possible and make sense and you refer to the nuclear policy of the early Soviet Union.

For a long time your point of view was shared by large parts of the revolutionary movement. In the 1930s until the 1950s the idea of being able to produce huge quantities of energy with allocation of only small amounts of raw materials fascinated revolutionary politicians but also progressive physicists and technicians all over the world. But already after the experiences with producing nuclear weapons and the devastating consequences of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki there were also warning voices, for example Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer and other responsible scientists. And history has proven these warnings to be more than right.

While the USA at first used the discovery of nuclear fission only for the production of nuclear arms, the in those days socialist Soviet Union besides thus being forced to nuclear armament, pursued the use of nuclear energy for supplying the population with electricity as the first country of the world.

On 27th June 1954 the worldwide first reactor for power production in Obninsk, about one hundred kilometers southwest of Moscow, went up to the net. Although that was doubtless an admirable technological accomplishment and the objective was supposed to serve the building of socialism, also the former Soviet Union could not get the fundamental problems of nuclear energy under control.

On the contrary: On 29th September 1957 in Kyschtym a grave nuclear disaster happened. A container of 180 cubic meter containing highly radioactive material exploded and released an amount and riskiness of radioactivity of a magnitude of the disaster of Chernobyl. An area of 23,000 square kilometers was contaminated. More than 270,000 people had to be evacuated and permanently resettled, the livestock was killed and buried, the ground plowed up wherever possible. Worldwide little has become known about the consequences – lasting till today.

You could have dealt with all this as belonging to the category of lacking experience. But so far the history of generating nuclear energy proves irrefutably that it is uncontrollable in regard to today's given and foreseeable level of science and technology. Every revolutionary has the duty to critically and self-critically review positions taken so far on the basis of new experiences and draw the necessary consequences.

  1. Nuclear radiation emits constant dangers even without devastating accidents

Nuclear radiation also exists in nature – however in very small doses. It is only artificially produced nuclear fission that brings about large quantities of isotopes which don't exist in nature. These isotopes of chemical elements are radioactively charged or possess highly toxic qualities themselves.

In principle it is impossible to absolutely separate the processes of nuclear fission from the outside world, because an exchange with the environment is always necessary. Radioactive particles which have once been released in the air, ground or water don't simply disappear again somehow – biological organisms „mistake“ them for valuable substances, accumulate them and in this way earlier or later they always reach the human food chain. There they cause severe diseases, which will sometimes occur only decades later – up to damaging genetic material.

The limiting values up to which humankind can absorb nuclear radiation without being damaged are fixed by bourgeois nuclear policy and are very often arbitrary – there is no safe nuclear radiation. This is not least proven by extensive examinations saying that children living in the surroundings of nuclear power plants, definitely fall more often ill of leukaemie - although the limiting values in those areas almost always are below the official standards.

Inevitably technicians and workers in nuclear power plants are exposed to strains endangering their health. Workers employed for maintainance or cleaning tasks, almost always young temporary and contract workers, are especially affected. For example in France they call themselves „food for neutrons“.

Miners employed for uranium mining extremely often get lung cancer, whole regions are contaminated by overexploitation.

  1. The storage of nuclear waste is completely unsolved

Until today – also 60 years after the first civil use of nuclear energy – nowhere in the world is there anything coming close to a model of what is to become of the huge quantities of toxic waste which will still be radiating after 100,000 years. So far all places of storage proved to be complete failures already after a short time, they have become „ticking time bombs“ in regard to contamination of rivers and ground water.

No revolutionary obliged to the interests of humankind can support building just one nuclear power plant or a period of operation for only one more day of a nuclear power plant, before this problem for future generations will be really solved – and there are no prospects for this so far.

4. The danger of severe accidents is increasing in an unstoppable way

Besides its close connections to nuclear armament the civil use of nuclear energy has brought about a never broken chain of severe accidents and highly explosive malfunctions. They have been systematically covered up or denied by the operators. The largest catastrophes happened in Three Mile Island in the USA in 1979, in Chernobyl in the Ukraine in 1986 – and just lately in March 2011 in Fukushima, Japan, the extent and consequences of which are not yet foreseeable.

Serious accidents and also such catastrophes can by no means be excluded for the future – on the contrary: the risk is growing. The longer a nuclear power plant is in operation, the larger is the risk of damages because of wear and tear, corrosion etc.

As with every man operated technology errors and mistakes can already occur during construction and operation of a nuclear power plant – but here such mistakes have uncontrollable consequences. For example accidents also happen along with the extraction of raw materials and in the chemical industry which can have severe consequences as well. But different from a nuclear catastrophe you can get these consequences more easily under control, as a rule their effects remain locally or regionally limited.

5. Nuclear energy does not contribute to the reduction of CO-2-emission and is extremely expensive

Even if a nuclear power plant emits relatively less harmful climate gases than a coal power station when in operation – construction, transport, uranium enrichment and waste storage consume enormous amounts of energy, so that the nuclear power plants can by no means contribute to decreasing the greenhouse effect. In addition the meanwhile very costly security technology makes the construction and operation of nuclear power plants exetremely expensive. Anyway it is the most expensive way of generating energy and it is only profitable for the international energy monopolies, because it is state-subsidized like no other form of energy generation.

6. Construction and technological know-how of nuclear power plants are used by only few international corporations as positions of power

In various countries the peaceful use of nuclear energy is justified like this: that it can help evade the dependence on imperialist powers and strengthen national sovereignty. For example the present Czech government uses as an argument, that by continuing to extend nuclear energy they want to replace the dependence on coal-, oil- and gas supplies from Russia.

This is baloney. Deposits of uranium exist in only a few countries and uranium mining as well as enrichment of uranium are dominated by just a few imperialist states and corporations. Besides only a handful of international corporations dominates the nuclear technology worldwide. They profit from construction and equipment of nuclear power plants and also during operation they are at no point of time ready to share their knowledge.

For example in Brazil and Argentina it is the daughter company of the German Siemens corporation KWU, which plays a decisive role in carrying on the nuclear power plant construction there. Even after the opting out of nuclear energy announced in Germany this policy is promoted by the German government and by so-called Hermes credits.

The nuclear power plant in the Czech Temelín, infamous for its tendency to develop malfunctions (which is located very close to the German and Austrian border) is being built and operated in cooperation with the Russian nuclear monopoly Rosatrom and the US-American big corporation Westinghouse. They will never voluntarily hand over their know-how completely.

7. A worldwide energy supply from environmentally friendly sources can be realized in a few years

In rejecting the ICOR resolution you doubt that a safe energy supply with the help of alternative, environmentally friendly energies could be possible and you are afraid that then „half of Europe must be flooded and equipped with windmills“.

We agree with you that the alternative to nuclear power plants can't be the extension of power stations relying on burning fossil fuels like hard or brown coal, gas or oil. The imperialist overexploitation of the international coal and gas deposits is extremely damaging to the environment and is carried out in a way contemptuous of humankind. There is no doubt that the CO-2-emission connected to fossil burning is a decisive factor for the greenhouse effect and the climate catastrophe having already started and that it must be drastically reduced. And that is possible!

Even serious bourgeois inquiries prove what environmentalists have been saying for a long time: The complete need of energy of humankind can be supplied by wind, water, biological waste and sun. A study of the Stanford University for example proved in a „plan for a world without emissions“ that windmills, hydroelectric power plants, use of tidal currents, geothermal heat as well as solar energy via photovoltaics or solar energy make a complete supply possible until 2030. For this they considered only technologies which have been well-developed and have been experienced on a large scale until today. („Spektrum der Wissenschaft“, December 2009 - „Spectrum of science“)

There they also prove that the demand on land by windmills (even more so if they are built in the sea) and by solar technology is minimal.

Of course it is right to protest against huge dam projects as they are sometimes being built today, because they themselves cause severe environmental damages. But the alternative energy sources in combination with decentralized storage capacities make an environmentally friendly and to a high degree regionally controllable energy supply possible.

Not to mention the immense potential to save energy compared with today's organized waste of energies.

That's why we are certain that your skepticism about the possibilites of environmentally friendly generation of energy is not justified.

8. Worldwide coordinated resistance is necessary

But we also know that this cannot be achieved without the active resistance of the masses worldwide. Our joint campaign with the ILPS shall support that. That is why it reads in the ICOR-resolution of 20th March 2011:

Despite the unbelievable risks, the international nuclear power corporations … have plans … where about 400 new nuclear power plants are to be built by 2030. Nothing proves more clearly that the international monopolies are knowingly prepared to go over dead bodies for the sake of their profits and take the permanent destruction of entire regions or even continents of the earth into account.

These policies must be brought to fall through worldwide coordinated resistance. The question must be raised with all determination – either imperialism destroys the existential foundations of humanity through a worldwide environmental catastrophe or capitalism will be defeated and the unity of man and nature will be restored with a new upswing in the struggle for socialism.“

Dear comrades, we are ready and would like to also offer at your places events for information and discussion with well-informed speakers as they are planned during the campaign.

I am looking forward to your feedback and remain with cordial greetings and in solidarity!

Stefan Engel

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