Nuclear engineer Cesare Silvi studied unlikely outside threats to nuclear plants in Italy before changing direction and going solar.
When Italy decided in the mid-’70s to add nuclear power to its power portfolio, young mechanical and nuclear engineer Cesare Silvi was among those attracted to the opportunities it presented. His work centered on nuclear safety issues — in particular, what might happen if something unexpected struck a power plant.
Corners he saw cut there eventually soured Silvi on that endeavor. His next position — at the Italian Commission on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Sources, which included work on nuclear disarmament — eventually soured him on nuclear energy itself.
“[If we] continue with nuclear power, there will definitely be worse accidents,” he argued in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi disaster.
Over the weekend, Italian voters agreed and overwhelming rejected restarting nuclear power in their country.
“Why not consider Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima as warnings of greater catastrophes to come and avoid the inevitable by shutting them down, much like changing your diet and/or lifestyle after finding out that your cholesterol or blood pressure is elevated, rather than continuing down the same path until a heart attack or stroke strikes?”
“… I [have come] to the conclusion that neither international cooperation nor technological advancements would guarantee human societies to build and safely run nuclear reactors in all possible conditions on Earth (earthquakes, floods, droughts, tornadoes, wars, terrorism, climate change, tsunamis, pandemics, etc.). I am sadly reminded of this turning point in my life as I listen to the news about the earthquake, tsunami and extremely worrying nuclear crisis in Japan.”
(Italian voters in 1987 decided to shutter all the nation’s nuclear plants and by 1990 they were closed, although the government opted to restart nuclear power in 2008. Post-Fukushima, the country has placed a moratorium on those plans and over the weekend the country’s voters decisively rejected a return to nuclear power.)
“Nuclear today only generates about 12 percent of the developed world’s electricity. By instituting an energy efficiency program,” Silvi suggests, “we could fill the gap caused by shutting them all down and put this malevolent genie back into the bottle.