Workers Vanguard No. 983
8 July 2011
Greens Anti-Nuclear Hysteria Amnesties Capitalism
The following excerpted article is translated from Spartakist No. 188 (May 2011), newspaper of the Spartakist Workers Party of Germany, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist). Almost four months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan, some 2,500 workers and engineers are still struggling to stabilize three crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Although the full extent of the damage remains unknown, Tokyo for the first time early last month acknowledged that fuel rods in three reactors had probably melted through their inner containment vessels. According to state officials, the amount of radiation released in the first week was more than twice the original estimate.
With the crisis still unresolved, the Japanese government has abandoned plans to expand its nuclear power industry and may forego it altogether. Several European countries are following suit. On June 30, the Bundestag (German parliament) voted to close all of the country’s nuclear power plants by 2022, making it the first major nation with a nuclear industry to completely renounce the technology in years.
As in Germany and elsewhere following the disaster in Japan, much of the reformist left in the U.S. echoed petty-bourgeois environmental groups in beating the drums of opposition to nuclear power. In a Socialist Worker article titled “The Nightmare That Could Happen Here” (31 March), the International Socialist Organization opined, “The potential exists to build a new vibrant anti-nuclear movement here in the U.S.” For their part, the fake Trotskyists of Socialist Action headlined their March 18 article on the Japan crisis “No More Nukes!” The pretensions of these organizations to socialism are once again shown to be so much hot air. Playing to the antitechnology prejudices of the “green” milieu, they hope to conjure up another “movement” premised on the continuation of the capitalist profit system, which sacrifices safety for the bottom line and blocks the rational, full development of technology.
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Millions of people around the world are gazing anxiously toward Fukushima, where power plant workers are risking their lives in a struggle to prevent further explosions that would release yet more radioactive material from the nuclear facility. Many people are concerned over the safety of nuclear power plants in their own countries. Workers experience daily in their own workplaces how speedup is intensified and on-the-job safety undermined by the drive for profits. It’s not hard for them to imagine that the capitalists run their nuclear power plants much the same way. While power companies and capitalist governments claim that nuclear plants are safe, and they may even institute a few safety controls in the hope of calming people down, environmental organizations are beating the drum against nuclear technology and praising “alternative energy sources” such as wind turbines as a replacement for nuclear power.
Some of the most virulent reaction is to be found in Germany. As soon as the catastrophe in Japan became known, nationwide “warning vigils” were organized against nuclear power. On March 12, more than 50,000 people formed a 27-mile-long human chain from the Neckar-Westheim nuclear plant to Stuttgart to protest the extension of operating licenses granted last fall to the seven oldest nuclear reactors by the CDU/FDP [Christian Democrat/Free Democrat] coalition government led by Angela Merkel. A three-month moratorium on license extensions for nuclear power plants was intended to provide a little breathing space for the government and the energy bosses, until fear in Germany—which in some places had risen to hysteria—receded. In the March 27 elections to state parliaments in Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz, the Greens doubled their voting totals.
The petty-bourgeois anti-nuclear movement, with the reformist left in its wake, is channeling rage away from the capitalists, blaming nuclear power itself and, beyond that, modern large-scale industry. In this way, the reformists assist in solidifying capitalist rule, ultimately increasing the danger they claim to be fighting. At the same time, the nuclear weapons arsenals in the hands of the major imperialist powers could extinguish life on earth many times over—this is the main threat to the existence of mankind. Fukushima is a nuclear accident caused by the capitalists’ drive for profits, their corruption and irresponsibility. The atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the calculated mass murder of hundreds of thousands of people, carried out by “democratic” U.S. imperialism.
While the environmental movement may at times rightly protest against crimes of capitalism, nonetheless there is nothing inherently leftist or progressive about environmentalism. In Germany today, it stretches from anti-racist groups like Ökolinx through the bourgeois Greens right into the fascist National Democratic Party (NPD), which also calls for abandoning nuclear power. The Green Party itself was constructed in the late 1970s by demoralized ex-leftists who had turned away from the working class and sought their political fortunes in the petty-bourgeois environmental protests. The ideology of the ecology movement sees modern industry and technology as the root of all evil. It looks to the past and is hostile to science. The Green milieu is permeated by and overlaps with esoteric cultism, practitioners of “alternative medicine” and other such backward nonsense. An example is the Greens’ Renate Künast, who as Federal Minister [for Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture] advocated using homeopathic sugar globules in farming.
Our Marxist perspective is diametrically opposed to this. It is capitalist property relations that are the problem. Capitalist competition means that any efforts in the direction of “sustainability” and “friendliness to the environment” that result in additional costs bring with them the threat of bankruptcy. Factories do not produce goods according to need but in quantities that can be sold at a profit. It is necessary to overthrow capitalism through socialist revolution, in which the working class seizes power and expropriates the capitalist class. Only when the productive forces are placed in the service of all humanity will it be possible to develop those forces through science and technology to the point where hunger and poverty become a thing of the past; this improved technology will of course also alleviate the destruction of the environment.
Anti-Nuclear Power: The Left Signs Up
Sections of the SPD [Social Democrats], which was originally a strong advocate of nuclear power plant construction during the chancellorships of Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt, are now calling for Germany to abandon nuclear power. The Left Party [composed mainly of ex-Stalinists and former SPDers] is attempting to portray itself as the most determined opponent of atomic power. It is fishing among the rank and file of the environmental movements, many of whom are quite disillusioned with the Greens themselves, implicitly accusing the Greens of opportunism for not having pushed through the abandonment of nuclear power in 1998-2005, when they were governing the country in coalition with the SPD.
This criticism is not from the left. The supposed opportunism of the Greens is an expression of the fact that their “back to nature” program is a reactionary utopia. Without industry, the majority of mankind would simply starve to death. It is reactionary to reproach the Greens for not having actually made their program a reality. Here the Left Party casts a lustful eye at the next federal elections, offering its services to the Greens as a potential coalition partner in an SPD/Green/Left Party government after 2013.
Some 250,000 people attended the March 26 mobilizations held in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Munich under the slogan “Shut down all nuclear power plants!” They were organized through a trans-class popular front consisting of environmental organizations and the Greens as well as the Left Party along with parts of the SPD and the DGB trade-union federation. The aim was to channel the justifiable anger away from the capitalist state and the profit-driven corporations and direct it onto a parliamentary course.
A more leftist example of spreading illusions is the Workers Power Group (Gruppe Arbeitermacht, GAM), German section of the League for a Fifth International. In the April issue of its journal Neue Internationale the GAM observes that radioactive contamination from the nuclear incident at Fukushima was a true tragedy “because it was preventable, not simply a natural catastrophe, but rather must be placed fully at the door of capitalism.” Simultaneously, the GAM capitulates to the Greens and the Left Party, asserting that the problem was technology itself: “The events surrounding Fukushima show that atomic power presents an insurmountable risk.” This is only to conclude: “Fukushima demonstrates that the modern productive forces, that development can benefit all human society only if the rule of capital and its state is broken. The alternative to nuclear power is not just wind and sun, but socialism!”
The GAM’s gyrations become much more comprehensible when you take a look at the front page of the April Neue Internationale: “Switch Off Black-Yellow!” [referring to the CDU/Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Free Democrats]. In the state elections the GAM had warned that “not voting helps Mappus” [CDU premier of Baden-Württemberg] and called to “vote for the Left Party—but organize struggle!” (Neue Internationale, March 2011). This makes clear how the GAM intends to institute “workers’ control over the energy industry”: via a “left” parliamentary, i.e., capitalist, SPD/Green government, preferably with the participation of the Left Party.
Such leftists have adapted to and deepened the massive retrogression of political consciousness stemming from the destruction of the Soviet Union. They stand opposed even to Marxism’s elementary vision of progress: the worldwide elimination of hunger and poverty through the all-sided development of the productive forces.
In the face of this farce we reaffirm what we wrote in “Nuclear Power and the Workers Movement” (Kommunistische Korrespondenz No. 18, May 1977, the predecessor to Spartakist [also printed in WV No. 146, 25 February 1977]):
“As Marxists we generally strongly support the introduction of new technology, including the development, construction and operation of nuclear fission reactors. Certainly proponents of a socialist society based on material abundance have a vastly different viewpoint on this subject than ecological crackpots who in effect seek a return to pre-industrial society. At the same time we point out that the economic advisibility of nuclear fission power can only be judged within the framework of an internationally planned socialist economy.
“There are very real problems of safety connected with nuclear reactors. As throughout industry, we demand union control of working conditions and, where there are specific hazards, action to shut down dangerous facilities. But beyond this we have no particular interest in determining how the bourgeoisie meets its energy needs. Those who assume that ‘wide public discussion’ within the framework of capitalist rule will satisfactorily resolve this question are guilty of sowing the worst utopian/reactionarypacifist illusions.”
Raw Materials and Self-Sufficiency
There was turmoil in Germany when Russia turned off the spigot of natural gas to Ukraine in the winter of 2006 after Ukraine refused to pay the higher natural gas prices imposed by Russia in retaliation for Ukraine’s tilting to the West. It was in this context that Hermann Scheer, the SPD’s spokesman on energy questions and winner of the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” articulated an encapsulation of bourgeois “alternative” energy strategies in a 9 January 2007 interview on German radio:
“In 1950 in Germany, 5 percent of our energy consumption depended on imports. Today, this figure is around 75 percent and it is much the same for other countries. This is related to the fact that there simply aren’t that many countries where petroleum, natural gas, coal or uranium can be extracted, while the need for energy is universal. The logical conclusion is that one can escape this trap of energy dependence only through a comprehensively devised mobilization of renewable energies, so as to replace fossil fuels and nuclear energy.”
This explains why the SPD/Green government decided to abandon nuclear energy in 2002 as it pursued a more independent course vis-à-vis U.S. imperialism (for example, its rejection of the 2003 Iraq war).
The capitalist great powers strive to increase their self-sufficiency so as to be less subject to blackmail and to maintain a stronger position in the world market and in the struggle for resources. The heyday of nuclear power plant construction was the 1970s, in the wake of the oil crisis of late 1973, when the capitalists aimed to decrease dependence on imported oil. In addition, domestic German coal extraction became less and less profitable and oil reserves were declining in the U.S., while Japan and France possessed hardly any domestic resources from which to generate energy.
How the Bourgeois State Serves the Capitalists
In “Corruption, Cronyism, Fukushima” (31 March), Spiegel online gives examples of how the state and businesses are intertwined. There are 20,000 instances documented by the Japanese government of a civil servant shifting over to the private sector following retirement and “then frequently working for a company that he had previously regulated as a civil servant.” TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company, owner of the Fukushima Daiichi plant] knew how to make “optimal” use of such connections to maximize profit. In the ’80s and ’90s TEPCO repeatedly falsified data from inspections, including the number of cracks in reactor containment vessels. [For more information see “Japan Tsunami Disaster and Capitalist Criminality” (WV No. 978, 15 April)].
Germany (or the U.S., etc.) is no different. The nuclear incident in Block A of [utility giant] RWE’s Biblis power plant in 1987 demonstrates the same intertwining of regulatory authority and the nuclear industry in Germany. When the reactor was powered up on 16 December 1987, a cooling system ventilator, which had been opened during the three-day shutdown to discharge the remaining heat, failed to close. It took over 15 hours for the problem to be noticed. Even then the reactor was not shut down immediately, as the situation demanded, since this would have meant writing off at least a day of production at full power. In addition, there was the possibility of the authorities getting riled up. Instead, an attempt was made to shut the valve while the reactor was running, causing 300°C [572°F] radioactive water from the primary cooling system to spurt at high pressure outside the reactor containment vessel. It was extremely fortunate that a second safety valve didn’t seize up like the first one and closed after seven seconds.
The [Hessian Environmental] Ministry and government investigators kept the matter secret for nearly a year. Only thanks to research by the U.S. technical journal Nucleonics Week was the fact exposed that Biblis had risked a leak of a type that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a 1975 study had determined would cause the system to fail, “initiating a core meltdown and the escape of radioactivity outside the containment.”
The 2007 Greenpeace report “Black Book on Obstacles to Climate Protection—The Intertwining of Politics and the Energy Industry” names ten members of the Bundestag with seats on either the advisory or the supervisory board of the five largest German energy companies, among them the SPD and CDU/CSU spokesmen for energy questions. Twenty-eight former politicians or top governmental regulators are currently working for the large energy companies.
Reformist Illusions in the Bourgeois State
The intertwining of state and business is not peculiar to Japan or Germany, nor is it limited to energy companies. Rather it is an expression of the class character of the bourgeois state. In The State and Revolution (1917) Lenin explains the teachings of Marx and Engels regarding the state:
“The ancient and feudal states were organs for the exploitation of the slaves and serfs; likewise, ‘the modern representative state is an instrument of exploitation of wage labour by capital.’
“In a democratic republic, Engels continues, ‘wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely,’ first, by means of the ‘direct corruption of officials’ (America); secondly, by means of an ‘alliance of the government and the Stock Exchange’ (France and America).”
First, capitalist governments shifted the costs of the ongoing financial crisis caused by the banks onto the shoulders of working people. The lust for profits of concerns like TEPCO as well as state corruption then endangered the existence of millions of Japanese. Faced with such a state of affairs, the Left Party sees a “danger” that workers’ and leftists’ illusions in bourgeois democracy might suffer some “erosion.” Left Party leader Gregor Gysi opined in a speech in the Bundestag (March 17):
“In the past year, during the financial crisis, everyone could see how the speculators and heads of the banks were dominating events and politics.... Only if politics can acquire the courage and the power to breach the dominance of these speculators, bank heads, nuclear power and other industry lobbyists and secure the primacy of democratic institutions will we be acting for our population, will we save our democracy and live up to our function as representatives of the people in the Bundestag!”
Well, the state governments in which the Left Party participates, as in Berlin and Brandenburg, are no less servile to capitalism. These capitalist governments guarantee the “dominance” of the banks and industry. In Berlin, the SPD/Left Party [city] Senate bailed out the Berlin Bankgesellschaft bank, which cronyism and speculation had driven into bankruptcy, at the expense of the working people, ripping up contracts, slashing wages and eliminating public services.
And when there’s resistance, then the core of the state—the “special armed bodies,” i.e., the police, army and prisons—are employed. This is seen in attacks on picket lines, as occurred recently in France in the oil refinery strikes that were protesting the assault on pensions, or the bludgeoning of leftist demonstrators to clear the way for a Nazi mobilization, as happened repeatedly in Berlin under the SPD/Left Party Senate.
Profits at the Expense of Safety
At Fukushima Daiichi 450 workers, mostly unskilled and hired through subcontractors, are risking their lives to fight a catastrophe for which the TEPCO bosses are responsible. As of April 1, 21 workers had been subjected to excessive radiation with more to follow, since, according to the government, it will take months before the power plant is sealed off. For decades, nuclear firms have employed low-wage contract workers. This has been spurred on by privatization and, in Europe, the intensified competition deriving from the liberalization of the European Union energy market. Die Zeit (31 March) wrote that hundreds of temporary workers died of radiation sickness in the ’70s in Japan.
In Germany, there are 23,000 contract workers employed in this field. In 1985, in his well-known book Ganz unten [Rock Bottom], Günter Wallraff, who had disguised himself as a Turkish “guest worker,” described his experiences as Ali Levant Sigirioglu. As we wrote in “Turkish Workers in the German Fourth Reich” (WV No. 399, 14 March 1986):
“The final act in Wallraff’s career as Ali came when friends of his made entrepreneur Vogel [an SPD member] a fake offer to see just how far he would go. Six Turks were supposedly needed to repair equipment in a power plant poisoned by escaping radioactive fumes. To avoid a scandal only Turks who would soon be returning to Turkey could be chosen so they would not die in West Germany. Vogel had no qualms accepting this deal, demonstrating that West German capitalists would kill foreign workers in order to make a profit.”
Wallraff accused the nuclear concerns of sending mostly ethnic Turkish contract workers “into radiation” where they were “consumed like fuel.” A report by former nuclear workers in the Berliner Zeitung (8 January 1999) confirms that this is common practice.
Training specialists is costly, and the trained specialists are themselves expensive. Thus, as few specialists as possible are hired, with barely trained and unskilled laborers left to do the dangerous hands-on work. All of these are employed by subsidiaries. Even under “normal” operating conditions, this is often fatal for the workers, but it generates a fountain of profits. If, however, there is a breakdown in the highly complex nuclear plants, as now in Fukushima, it paves the way for catastrophes. There is no competent, well-rehearsed team, one that knows what has to be done, with sufficient numbers to reduce the radiation health risk by frequently rotating workers.
Far from being an “anomaly,” these conditions make evident the regular workings of capitalism. In Volume One of Capital, Karl Marx explains:
“Après moi le déluge! [After me, the deluge!] is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer, unless under compulsion from society. To the outcry as to the physical and mental degradation, the premature death, the torture of overwork, it answers: Ought these to trouble us since they increase our profits? But looking at things as a whole, all this does not, indeed, depend on the good or ill will of the individual capitalist. Free competition brings out the inherent laws of capitalist production, in the shape of external coercive laws having power over every individual capitalist.”
Since this was written in 1867, free competition led to the forming of monopolies, to monopoly capitalism. As analyzed by Lenin, domestic monopolies intensify competition on the world market, i.e., they reproduce and intensify the contradictions of capitalism.
Despite not being all that numerous, energy workers possess enormous social power. The trade unions must lead a struggle for the companies to make contract workers regular employees and for their appropriate training and remuneration as well as lifelong health care. The dangerous lack of specialists and the reduction in regular fixed staff must be fought through class struggle. Such a struggle would generate strong support in the working class, which has the greatest interest in the safety of power plants, especially nuclear plants. But the trade-union tops at BCE [Mining, Chemistry, Energy Industrial Union] and ver.di [public employees union], in which nuclear workers are organized, instead pursue a policy of class collaboration. Again and again, BCE has issued statements jointly with capitalist associations calling for maintaining “competitiveness” and “Production-Site Germany.”
The union misleaders limit the workers’ demands to what is “acceptable” to declining, rotting capitalism. The fight for basic needs must be linked to the struggle for expropriation of the energy concerns without compensation. This must be part of the fight for a socialist revolution to establish an internationally planned economy under the control of workers councils. Only then, based on an international division of labor, will it be possible to consider whether it is really necessary to construct nuclear power plants in thickly settled earthquake zones like Japan.
Pacifism Disarms the Workers, Not the Capitalists
In his March 17 response in the Bundestag to Chancellor Merkel’s governmental statement on the conclusions to be drawn from the events in Japan, Gregor Gysi stated: “Anyone having at his disposal the technology for the peaceful use of atomic energy and the ability to produce electric current from nuclear plants is also potentially capable of producing nuclear weapons.... The examples of Iran and North Korea demonstrate that these dangers have not been eliminated. Consistent initial steps must be taken toward finally destroying all the nuclear weapons in the world. Only then will the international community have the right to ban the production of new nuclear weapons worldwide.”
We’ve been hearing such disarmament appeals since the “peace” movement of the 1980s. As against the appeals of the pacifists for the Soviet Union to carry out nuclear self-disarmament, we were damn glad that the Soviet Union had developed, produced and had at the ready the atom bomb. Otherwise, U.S. imperialism would certainly have made a horrific reality of its atomic first-strike scenarios—that was the message of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Hatred for the Soviet Union sprang from its class character as a workers state that continued to embody the gains of the 1917 October Revolution despite the degeneration it underwent under Stalin starting in late 1923. This is equally true of China and North Korea today, which escaped nuclear incineration in the 1950s, as called for at the time by U.S. generals, only thanks to the existence of the Soviet nuclear shield. The destruction of the Soviet Union by capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92 has made the world a much more dangerous place for the oppressed. The imperialists can now tromp around on the neocolonial oppressed peoples of the world unhindered by the Soviet military counterweight. Having starved Iraq since 1991, bombed it flat and finally bloodily occupied it in 2003, the imperialists now have Iran in their crosshairs for supposedly intending to develop nuclear weapons. The example of Iraq, which could be leveled because it possessed no weapons of mass destruction, is instructive: Iran needs nuclear weapons to ward off invasion by the imperialists.
The fundamental basis of pacifism is support to capitalism. It disarms only the working class and the oppressed, never the capitalist class. In fact, it actually contributes to the preparation for war, through spreading the illusion that capitalism can be made peaceable. This is also shown by the example of the Greens, who like to put on a show as saviors of mankind and the environment. In their coalition government with the SPD in 1999, they pushed through German participation in the NATO war against Serbia, followed in 2001 by participation in the occupation of Afghanistan. Incidentally, among the weapons raining death and destruction down on the Serbian population were shells made of depleted uranium. Today, the Greens are some of the most vehement warmongers against Libya, advocating sending in the Bundeswehr [German army].
Anti-Communist Hysteria Over Chernobyl
Even today, in the reactions to Fukushima one can discern reflections of the anti-Communist arrogance toward the  Chernobyl nuclear accident, which was dismissed essentially as the result of the incapacity of the “backward Soviets” and their planned economy, which had built an unsafe type of reactor. Federal chancellor Merkel remarked in her March 17 statement that the situation had changed because “the seemingly impossible had become possible in such a highly developed country as Japan.”
Basically the imperialist powers believed their own fairy tale that Western reactors were much safer and that something of this sort was impossible in the highly developed nuclear power plants of the West. At the time of Chernobyl, they deliberately overlooked the fact that this was not the first major accident in a nuclear power plant. On 28 March 1979 there was a partial core meltdown in a “highly developed country,” the U.S., at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Whereas opponents of nuclear power let the March 28 anniversary pass by, major mobilizations are being planned for the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl reactor disaster.
After Fukushima, Iouli Andreev, who was for years responsible for the decontamination work around the stricken Chernobyl reactor, made the obvious point that nuclear plant operators have intentionally ignored the lessons from Chernobyl in their hunt for profits and that the government encouraged them. In “Ten Years of Chernobyl,” he wrote:
“Both ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ [Soviet] reactor technology demonstrate strengths and weaknesses: The strength of the Eastern technology lies in the fact that both material-intensive construction and highly trained staff were inexpensive. The result is robust technical facilities with a low degree of automation. This must be viewed positively, as highly trained people are always preferable to robots, as exemplified in air travel, where even today planes are still being flown by pilots. Lack of quality control must be seen as the weak side of Eastern technology. Compared to this, Western reactor technology has developed under the limiting framework of economic competition, with high costs for both personnel and technical components. The result is less robust facilities with a higher degree of automation and fewer skilled personnel.”
But lack of quality control was the direct expression of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet regime. Only a regime of workers democracy can ensure the necessary safety and work morale. The reaction to the catastrophe testified both to the possibilities of a planned economy and also to its bureaucratic deformation. Over 600,000 engineers, scientists and soldiers were marshaled to deal with the radioactive pollution around the sealed reactor. But Andreev is probably right that the large number of deaths could have been avoided had the other three reactor blocks at the facility not been restarted and if technically well-prepared cleanup work had been carried out after more time had passed.
One of the arguments of Western “experts” was always that reactors like Chernobyl had no secondary reactor safety vessel. But New York physicist Michio Kaku remarked in a talk on Chernobyl (reprinted in WV No. 405, 6 June 1986): “Well, the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant in Long Island has a containment structure which is weaker than the containment structure at Chernobyl. The reactor there has a containment—not the four-foot concrete dome characteristic in U.S. plants, it has a structure which can contain 57 pounds per square inch overpressure.” The Long Island reactor, he said, could withstand only 30 pounds.
So-called third-generation reactors have been in operation since the 1990s in Japan. In contrast to second-generation reactors like that in Fukushima and most other commercial nuclear power plants, they depend on so-called passive safety devices based on physical principles (gravity, convection, resistance to high temperatures), not on technological safety controls that depend on electrical power or operator intervention to avoid a catastrophe in the event of a malfunction. They possess, for example, the capability of a controlled burn-off of accumulated hydrogen, thereby averting explosions like those in Fukushima. Additionally, in the light of the rescue operations after Chernobyl, so-called core-catchers were developed that, in the event of a core meltdown, catch the hot material and cool it down. In Chernobyl, such a core-catcher was constructed beneath the devastated reactor using an underground tunnel. Fortunately, it proved unnecessary.
As of now, there exists only a single nuclear power plant equipped with such a core-catcher, and it is in China. China is now being subjected to an anti-Communist attack for having decided to massively expand its nuclear capacity in mid March as part of its five-year plan; at the same time, it is disparaged as the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide.
In the case of China, and previously the Soviet Union and East Germany (DDR), the Greens’ and the environmentalists’ anti-Communism and hostility to large industry and centralism come together on the basis of their glorification of bourgeois democracy. Every five-year plan that expanded these countries’ industrial capacity filled these types with horror. This is why they cooperated in fueling the Chernobyl hysteria in 1986. Following German reunification, as a spearhead of the witchhunt against the Stasi [secret service], the Greens assisted in the smashing of DDR industry by the Treuhand [privatization agency]. This led to massive unemployment in East Germany and the emigration of over a million people. Now they’re in the vanguard in the anti-Communist witchhunting of China.
The Question of Final Storage
A further prevalent argument against nuclear power plants is the question of nuclear waste and its final disposal. In this question of ultimate storage, profit and irrationality distort what is basically a geological/technical question. Such distrust of capitalist governments and companies is rightly indicated by the more than 40-year-old “trial repository” in the former salt mine Asse II near Wolfenbüttel in Lower Saxony. Following a report in the Braunschweiger Zeitung (11 June 2008) of brine contaminated with radioactivity in Asse, a status report by the then-Federal environmental minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) revealed that it had been known, even before the first nuclear waste was deposited in the former mine, that it was not watertight. Nonetheless, from 1967 to 1978 126,000 barrels were deposited, some of them damaged in loading and others rusted through. Since at least 1988, water has been gushing into the mineshafts, and since about 1994 radioactive brine has been collecting there, which ultimately the facility’s operator secretly pumped out underground. There is a threat of collapse, and no one can say whether some of this brine might at some time reach the outside.
This has fueled ongoing protests since plans were revealed in 1977 for a new final repository in Gorleben in Lower Saxony. Since 1995 there have been regular protests against the Castor [casks of radioactive material] transports from the French spent fuel treatment plant La Hague to the temporary Gorleben repository, whose suitability as a final repository is still being investigated. As many as 30,000 police were mobilized to escort the transports and bludgeon nuclear power opponents and residents of neighboring localities who had blocked the way in protest. The workers movement must, of course, defend the protesters against state terror. But even a planned economy would in all probability require ultimate storage facilities, if only to store already existing wastes. These could, however, in the absence of corruption and the demand for profitability, be set up in a way that took into account the interests and opinions of the local population.
In Germany, compared to the 123,000 cubic meters of radioactive nuclear waste generated so far, 500,000 cubic meters of toxic chemical waste are produced per year, which has to be deposited in final repositories. In contrast to radioactive waste, the potential danger of toxic chemical waste does not decrease with time. Whether or not it’s radioactive, the capitalists don’t give a damn what happens to their waste.
Opponents of nuclear power cite Greenpeace to the effect that there’s only enough uranium for 60 years of production. But even if this were true, using fast breeder reactors it is possible to split uranium 238, the majority of which is now being discarded unused. Thorium, which exists in much larger deposits than uranium, could be employed for the production of nuclear energy. Fast breeders also produce noticeably less nuclear waste than second- and third-generation reactors. Finally, the technological realization of nuclear fusion, such as occurs in the sun, is also being researched. Fusion holds the promise of an abundant source of power whose by-product is helium, a harmless noble gas.
Nuclear energy—whether generated by fission or fusion—has, alongside its very real risks, a gigantic potential for propelling forward the development of humankind, and thereby its social liberation. But for this the rule of capitalism must be overthrown and a socialist society established. We fight for the construction of a revolutionary multiethnic workers party as part of a reforged Fourth International, the world party of socialist revolution.