Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Element of Fear

When the topic of nuclear technology first breaches into peoples minds, the first thing that runs through their heads is destruction and more destruction. The negativity behind it for years has overshadowed the good behind it. All people see is the accidents of the plants and claiming that there is other options. The truth is the other options are not enough and that is why nuclear technology comes in. Kenya is in need of energy to push it to it potential. A lot claim that the other sources are viable but they tend to turn a blind eye on the consequences. The land question in Kenya is one such consequence and that points to solar power and wind as for it to produce the needed power output, a lot of families will have to be relocated and that is a recipe for forthcoming disaster that might last for years. Anther fear is based on the historical events of the second world war of 1939 and the cold war, that brought the rise of the Nuclear weapons race for more than thirty years. Other countries had formed factions during the cold war era and some followed to make nuclear weapons of their own for 'fear' of attack and to defend themselves and to flex their military muscle. This has made people fear the use of nuclear technology and some have risen to speak out against it. Nuclear technology goes beyond just making weapons and causing environmental degradation. Ironically if we look at the good side of nuclear technology that people have turned a blind eye. Lets begin with the basics, such as X-ray scans in hospitals for medical purposes, the cruise ships, the air craft carriers and the submarines all run on nuclear fuel, factories such as the Al Jubail 2 a water desalinization plan in Saudi Arabia that runs on nuclear fuel for the process. This is however ironic as Saudi Arabia is one of the leading countries in oil production and exportation. Other uses of nuclear technology are in agriculture, for the production of new strains that are resistant to drastic weather conditions that Kenya should borrow a leaf from. In Mali, they have embraced the use of irradiation for the production of drought resistant sorghum and rice that have a high market value. Unfortunately, in Kenya there has been fear of the so called genetically modified foods claiming that it will have adverse effects to peoples' health and take a country like Mali that have no reported cancer cases based on the irradiated strains of their farm produce. So the element of fear strikes and brings out the negativity and later Kenya ends up having to deal with drought and famine, while a permanent solution is painted as wrong. The fear of nuclear technology also brings about lack of the capacity needed for the nuclear electricity generation program. Proof of this was at the Nairobi International Trade Fair, when a concerned citizen asked me if the nuclear science program was marketable. I noticed the fear in the person as if should one decides to take a career in nuclear science as to what are the odds of one getting a job. I had to explain the numerous benefits of nuclear science and it transcends or cuts across several careers. As for electricity generation, the fear of accidents is already in the minds of many due to the recent situation of the Fukushima Dai chii power plant in Japan. Many think of it as human error but it was the unforeseeable disasters that affected it. The environmental degradation that comes with it that overlooks that the nuclear fuel cells are recyclable and its energy output makes it last for years before decommissioning. All in all the element of fear, coupled with ignorance is a serious challenge to Kenyans and nuclear technology is the key to unlocking new discoveries and solving the current and future challenges in Kenya.

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