Dutch feel far removed from Fukushima

15th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

People in the Netherlands are concerned about the radiation scare surrounding Japan's quake-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant - but the 9,000-kilometre distance between the disaster area and the Dutch is enough to make them feel safe and far removed from nuclear clouds.

It's 25 years since Chernobyl, a disaster which prompted promises of a never-again narrative at the time. But nuclear power has seen a revival, its advocates citing climate change and a growing dependence on overseas energy to help push it back in from the cold. In the Netherlands last year, 51 percent of the population was in favour of building new nuclear reactors, an increase of 4 percent on 2005.

It could never happen to us Even though 71 percent of the Dutch regard Fukushima as a huge disaster, with fears of serious radioactive leaks yet to come, 47 percent says they're still in favour of increasing the use of atomic energy in the Netherlands. Despite the stream of real-life harrowing TV images into our living rooms, the nuclear-nightmare-would-never-happen-to-us seems to be the prevailing outlook.

Germans anti-nuclear Gerrit Boersma of the nuclear energy foundation Kernvisie says the fact that political stability is faltering in supplier countries of traditional energy forms like gas and oil ensures the increase of nuclear power for the coming decennia. In Germany, we're seeing a different reaction - there the nuclear debate is revived and kicking. Last Saturday, some 60,000 protesters took to the streets in Stuttgart. "I think the way we view atomic energy in the Netherlands is much more rational than 20 years ago. And that's a sensible attitude," he thinks.

Ron Wit from the Netherlands Society for Nature and Environment attributes the different mindset to cultural developments: "For the German people, creating a clean life has a much bigger priority in everyday life. You can see this very clearly in the food industry; they've invested far more in organic food and sustainable energy."

New Dutch reactor The Dutch government isn't letting possible doom scenarios from Fukushima affect its plans for a new reactor. The Swiss, on the other hand, are freezing their plans for the moment, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reconsidering an earlier decision to keep older reactors open.



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