- Published on Saturday, 21 February 2015 13:06
Bolivia's announcement of a nuclear development program is controversial and potentially dangerous.
Undoubtedly, there is merit in developing the scientific infrastructure to explore the potential benefits of nuclear physics in areas of health and possibly even nuclear fusion, although its viability as a reliable energy source is some way off in the future (30 years perhaps). A poor country like Bolivia would be better off waiting until richer countries have broken new ground in fusion before embarking on such a program. But to cite nuclear power as a potential replacement for gas and hydro-electric power will, of necessity, mean nuclear fission which runs counter to President Evo Morales's philosophy "The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth". The half-life of nuclear waste is in the order of 24,000 years.
Decentralisation of political and economic power is the direction of travel we need to take to secure the future of our civilisation - Bolivia and Venezuela are leading the world in this respect, lifting millions out of poverty. We also need to decentralise and localise energy production whereas nuclear power needs scale to be viable (currently) - this inevitably means centralisation.
We've seen the horrendous consequences of the concentration of agribusiness, another cited area of interest for Bolivia's nuclear program; we need to decentralise food production - real food is grown and consumed locally. The more processed the food, the more synthetic and potentially harmful it is. We've also seen in the west the consequences of isolating people from the land and food production - burgeoning obesity and cancers.
Why is the development of a nuclear program dangerous? Aside the potential threat from nuclear waste or accidental release of radioactivity, there is a significant geopolitical threat.
Yet another coup attempt in Venezuela demonstrates the unrelenting pressure to remove challenges to the current political economy. Morales came to power at the head of popular, indigenous uprising to challenge corporate power; this defeat of corporate power is neither forgotten nor forgiven. As Iran has found to its cost, the mere existence of a nuclear program can be manipulated in the media into an ambition for nuclear weapons, irrespective that such ambitions have been consistently denied by Iran, denials repeatedly confirmed by US intelligence agencies.
Bolivia please beware.