Aftershock sparks European Panic

The Earthquake in Japan has shocked the world with its intensity and devastation, and moved the political tectonic plates in Europe.
by Wrinkled Weasel

Germany has suspended plans to extend the life of its ageing nuclear power plants in the wake of the Japanes earthquake. Switzerland has followed, putting "blanket authorisation" for nuclear development on hold.

This is not logical. Nothing has changed. There has been no seismic shift in the seismology. So why have two wealthy European governments suddenly announced a U-turn and should the UK be doing the same?

I am not a geologist but I am certainly a cynic. Angela Merkel has three German state elections to face in a few weeks, and the anti-nuclear power lobby is strong.

The Guardian reports:

It was inevitable, then, that the earthquake in Japan would trigger yet more debate over Germany's nuclear future. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Stuttgart this weekend to protest against Angela Merkel's plans to extend the life of 17 German nuclear plants for an average 12 extra years – an event given extra bite following the crisis in Fukushima.
After the demonstration, the chancellor appeared on TV to reassure voters that Germany's power stations are safe. "The events in Japan are a critical moment for the world," said Merkel on Saturday evening in Berlin. "Germany can't just carry on as if nothing has happened," she conceded, ordering immediate safety checks in all nuclear power stations.

Well Angela, I have news for you. Germany can carry on as if nothing has happened, and so can the rest of the world, because nothing has changed about the nature of earthquakes; they are not getting worse and neither are they getting more common, they are only getting more reported, with pictures.

We still have such a thing as the grandly titled British Geological Survey. It was the first in the world, founded in 1835, when Britain still had a bit of credibility. But I digress. The BGS, and indeed any other credible recorder of global seismic activity will tell you these simple facts:

  • Earthquake acitivity is not increasing.
  • Clustering may make it look that way

Clustering affects all natural random phenomena and it is something which gets the press in such a tiswas. A few weeks ago you saw  headlines like  "Seven more die of xyx3453 Flu in Retford". The truth is, thousands die of flue every year, year in, year out. Most of them either have pre-existing medical conditions, or they are simply too old or too young to fight it. All it means that the nature of randomization means that the effects will be, obviously, not nicely spread out.

Switzerland is interesting because the Swiss are naturally cautious. It is highly unlikely that the guys at CERN allowed the building of a highly complex piece of kit in an area prone to serious earthquakes, but they do happen, even in Switzerland, all the time. One took place in Evian les Bains, just across Lake Geneva in the French shorline, last week. Evian is just over 50 km from CERN, but they had nothing to worry about because it had a magnitude of 1.8, as opposed to one of 9 or nearly 9 in Japan.

And what about the UK? Well yes, we have had a few this week too. We had one in Argyll and Bute in February, magnitude 1.3 and one near Dingwall, Highlands, also in February measuring 1. Germany's last quake took place on St Valentine's Day with a magnitude of 3.9 Magnitude is calculated by using a raft of data, but the designation, shown as a number does not readily reveal the seriousness of such an event, for magnitude increases exponentially. In the official classification of "Normal", "Big" and "XXL" the German event was "Normal". In other words it was no different from the thousands of minor movements of the earth which take place all year round. (Source Geofon, Potsdam)

propaganda or what?
Of course, it is sensible to review measure which protect us. Of course, it behoves governments to act, but the jerking of knees in this instance has caused more seismic activity in Germany than anything on the old Richter Scale.


Elli Davis said...

Why don't you take an example of Austria? There are plenty of ways on how to substitute nuclear energy. It is dangerous not just from the point of view of earthquakes. And these power plants you are talking about were built years ago. Yes, they are being tested, so were the Japanese and yet they blew. Sometimes even unexpected events occur and its better to act green! We will always have wind and rivers, I think its much better alternative.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Welcome Elli

My heart agrees with you but unless people fundamentally change the way they live, or are encouraged to do so by tax breaks etc, we will consume ourselves to death.

Foxy Brown said...

WW, while nuclear power is not without its dangers, I did not have you down as a sandal-wearing ecoloon. The idea of meeting the energy needs of the world's major economies with wind turbines is laughable. This would only work if millions are prepared to return to an essentially medieval way of life, something for which most environmentalists appear to have a misty-eyed nostalgia.

Alternative forms of energy are more expensive and, in this country, any government of the day whether Con/Lib/Lab - they're all the same - will squeeze us for more taxes, not less. Furthermore, I don't think we will consume ourselves to death as the theory of man-made climate change has not yet been proven. Also, the concept of 'Peak Oil' needs to be revised - petroleum deposits keep being discovered, and let's not forget the enormous reserves of shale gas, which are on every single continent.

Anonymous said...

Elli Davis said ...
"Why don't you take an example of Austria? There are plenty of ways on how to substitute nuclear energy....."

Uh yes like buying it from the nuclear powerstation across the border in Checkland , 50 km.away from the abandoned Austrian plant.(which I think the the Check's built it mostly to cash in on the Austrian ban, as they have a hard time wiping the grin off their face anytime somone says nuclear free Austria).

Anonymous said...

Elli Davis says

"Why don't you take an example of Austria? There are plenty of ways on how to substitute nuclear energy...."

Try telling that to the Check's , that built a nuclear powerstation just across the Austrian border, not far away from the abandoned austrian nuclear power project, and have been selling most of it's output ever since at inflated prices to the Austrian power companies.