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lavoro pubblicato sabato 10 settembre 2011
ultima lettura venerdì 27 novembre 2020

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di Lolu. Letto 1552 volte. Dallo scaffale Straniera

It would be worthwhile investigating the impact of a sunny day on a person's mood. I was happily strolling along the sidewalk in my town heading tow...

It would be worthwhile investigating the impact of a sunny day on a person's mood. I was happily strolling along the sidewalk in my town heading towards the park. My footsteps proceeded certain, doubtless and casually towards my favorite spot in the park. Footsteps of this kind are typical of an individual who is joyfully thoughtless.

Whilst I sat on the sun-blessed bench I was aiming for, I noticed that someone had left a brochure of some sort. Carelessly I picked the brochure and headed towards the nearest garbage bin. I would have thrown away without any type of remorse the colored brochure if only a phrase hadn't caught my eye.

"The infallible guide to the world of Nuclear Energy"

It was probably the use of the word "infallible" that made me think for the first time in that day. "How can the author of the brochure be so sure of himself?" I wondered retreating towards my bench once again. I sat and I opened the brochure to examine its contents.

"Uranium mines inevitably pollute their environment, tailings dams cause pollution through leakage."

Uranium mines. I hadn't even considered that uranium was to be mined. Would the same gravel on which the bench morosely sat host such a powerful guest? Apparently it could. Reading in further depth I learnt that the countries excavating uranium from their underground are Kazakhstan, Canada, Russia, Australia, Nigeria and United States. Reading these countries allowed me to relax acknowledging that the gravel beneath was nuclear free. The Italian floor remained safe.

I stood up relieved and reassured heading once again towards the bin, adamantly convinced that I would throw away the brochure when a thought tumbled through my consciousness. Why would I be relieved in knowing that there is no Uranium beneath me? Why wouldn't I worry if I happened to read that I was sitting above the greatest coal mine in Italy? The answer was very clear: I don't know anything about uranium and nuclear energy. Ignorance and unawareness can be easily mistaken for fear.

Reluctantly I placed the brochure in my pocket and headed back home.

For a few days I didn't really think about the wrinkled bright paper abandoned on my desk. I would have obliviously cancelled the thought that had struck me in the park if it wasn't for Angela, the cleaning lady that fetched the paper and asked me if I needed it or it was to be thrown away. Carelessly I told her to leave the brochure on the desk ( I don't really like people cleaning through the mess of my desk). When I realized that I had saved once again this leaflet form the garbage once again. I felt very heroic. The brochure owned me its life, twice. With this unusual thought still drowsily embedded within my reflections I gazed at the words on the page.

"Uranium mines today aim for zero emission of pollutants. Any water release is of surface run-off and is close to drinking standard. Tailings retention does not normally cause pollution off site. Major uranium mines in Australia and Canada have ISO14001 certification."

Yet again these mines. According to this paragraph it isn't as bad as I thought. Technology has allowed men to limit the pollution produced by a Uranium mine." Very well" I said to myself. I thought that after all this big mess about nuclear power was truly unjustified. I believed at the time that nuclear couldn't be as scary as the news portrayed it. Furtively I gazed at a column that stated "CONS" with a thick red font, to check whether there were other issues to be examined.

"Uranium is potentially hazardous to miners' health."

Simple, clear and yet so indisputable. Even I know that Uranium has caused huge disasters in the past. Chernobyl, Fukushima, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are all things that I have always seen being mentioned by experts in fancy television shows. I also saw all sorts of gruesome photos portraying disfigured humans or destroyed cities. However I had never heard that "uranium mining is highly regulated in most countries and standards ensure that no adverse health effects are likely."

This information cheered me up a little but still it didn't seem very convincing. A photo of a malformed newborn baby is way more effective than a group of formal phrases in an argument. Still in need to find something doubtlessly good about nuclear, that would support my view, I shifted my reading to a section stating in a green soothing color "Pros".

" Currently nuclear energy saves the emission of 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 relative to coal. For every 22 tonnes of uranium used, one million tonnes of CO2 emissions is averted. Energy inputs to nuclear fuel cycle produce only a few (eg 1-3) percent of the CO2 emissions saved. Doubling the world's nuclear output would reduce CO2 emissions from power generation by about one quarter"

Being bombarded with figures that I don't understand is cool. I didn't get half of what was written above at the time and only now I get three quarters of it but still a series of deadpan statistics, cleverly crafted and modeled with some scientific facts made me feel very reassured.

The red color of the cons caught my eye in a floundering attempt to regain balance in the argument. Skeptically I read through the Cons, fairly convinced that after having read about the Pros I could not possibly change the view in which I had adamantly believed for the last ten minutes.

"We cannot be sure that our uranium does not end up in weapons, eg in Turkey or China."

Ouch. Once again a very simple, statistic-free statement boisterously blew my eradicated conviction that nuclear energy was positive. The statement seemed absolutely unassailable. How can our government handle such a destructive source of energy safely?

Staggered I backed from my desk. I had made my mind up. Nothing could possibly undermine my new belief. I walked towards my sofa soothed by my definite decision. Sitting down on the shabby sofa I felt the awkward sensation of the remote, squashed beneath my weight and decided to turn on the news channel. Now that I had an opinion I had a right to be informed on the latest developments of the issue.

"Furious debating today in Rome's parliament today......."

"Italian senate calls upon popular referendum..."

A referendum! The perfect occasion to manifest my opinion and play my part in society!

" The selected date for the referendum is September 2..."

I smiled thoughtfully considering the September was very close.

September second

The big day had finally come round. Today every man and woman in Italy was called to perform its duty, choosing whether we should allow the construction of nuclear power plants in our country. With this solemn knowledge I waited in the cue to enter the sterile room in which I would fulfill my task. I stood stoically in the bustling cue, attending my go. In my pocket next to a well sharpened pencil (I was told that I was going to be given a pen, but you never know, it's easy to walk out of a room with a new pen) rested the brochure. I pulled out the brochure once again to reassess the statements that had forced me to take my final decision.

-"Uranium tailings retain almost all their radioactivity, which continues for hundreds of thousands of years"

-"Nuclear reactors are unsafe, Chernobyl was typical, and resulted in a huge death toll."

-"In the whole fuel cycle, nuclear power uses nearly as much energy as it produces"

Then I was more convinced than ever to place my "x" against the development of nuclear energy. Lifting my head up to observe if the line had moved my attention was captured by a man walking out of the room. The man seemed to be heading towards his fifties, the gray mutinous hair seemed clammy in sweat and his eyes were wide open and shocked. I seemed to be the only man in the room not so absorbed in reading brochures alike mine or discussing with querulous voices the results of the referendum to notice the tormented expression of the man who had just left. The torment behind that expression could have been doubt? No one would have ever known and I was left alone in the crowded room thinking back to that face.

Puzzled I gazed at the men and the women standing next to me. The ruddy faces next to me didn't conceal the slightest hint of a doubt. These faces looked much closer to the ones of football fans outside the stadium than to those of informed men trying to make a decision that will concern the future of their children. These fans were there to support blindly an idea exactly in the same way they would behave watching Ac. Milan and Inter play in San Siro.

Entering the small room I remember thinking distinctly that I didn't want to belong to one of the two beliefs standing outside the room. I only wanted to belong to my ideas.

Seized by doubt I stood sweating copiously next to the formal slip on which I was to mark my decision. In an attempt to find the courage I opened for a last time my brochure. This only helped me to notice that for every good reason there was to support an anti-nuclear policy there was one to support nuclear power.

-"True, but the level of radioactivity is very low & with normal engineering, they pose no threat to anyone. All the radioactivity is from the original orebody (no more is created). Uranium mine rehabilitation ensures that these are safe, stable and will cause no harm."

-"The nuclear industry has an excellent safety record, with some 12,000 reactor years of operation spanning five decades. Even a major accident and meltdown in a typical reactor would not endanger its neighbours. Some Soviet designed and built reactors have been a safety concern for many years, but are much better now than in 1986. The Chernobyl disaster was basically irrelevant to any western reactor, or any that might be built today"

-"Nuclear electricity is mostly competitive with coal, in some places it is cheaper, in some more expensive. If external costs are accounted, nuclear is very competitive. Energy efficiency is vital but cannot displace most generating capacity. Wind power typically costs much more than nuclear - often twice as much per kWh."

It now was clear that even though I did not believe that nuclear was entirely a negative thing I didn't even believe that it was utterly positive. What could I do? I was in a room with men and women waiting to state their idea and I couldn't make my mind up. I took the pencil out of my pocket ignoring the black biro next to the slip and I studied the prissy lead. What was I to mark? Did I really want to take a position that I really didn't believe in? Can I believe in something doubtlessly just because of what I have heard or read? Apparently all the humans cueing outside the room could. Why couldn't I just choose?

Suddenly I realized that my pencil was oscillating above the slip like an eagle ready to hit its prey. I decided that I didn't have the authority or the knowledge to choose a prey. Silently I lowered the pencil and abandoned it next to the pen. Just before leaving I took the pen and placed it in my pocket. You may believe that this action lacked logic but I am convinced that it was the best I could do. A pencil mark is not something indissoluble like a pen mark. A pencil is neither black or white like the positions that I was asked to decide upon. The pencil's lead was gray, exactly the same gray that floated and still floats next to my thought regarding nuclear energy.

Exiting the room I didn't turn back to look at the blank slip and the wooden pencil but I hoped that that pencil would be able to inspire doubt and humility. Since I wanted to belong to my ideas and to no one else's I left, knowing that I did not have a true opinion.


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