Nukes and tourism, by Brent Harold

Published under Fair Use

(Brent Harold Journal, Cape Cod Times Blog, 27 June 2014)

Have nuclear power plants have begun to have an effect on tourism? I’m not just talking about Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, or Fukushima; I’m not aware that any of them were big tourist destinations even before their disasters.Cruas nuclear power station in Ardèche, Southern France (Photo: EDF)

My wife and I have spent time in France for many years. I’ve always loved the French Way of Life—outdoor cafes, leisurely meals, well-preserved ancient stone villages. Part of French charm is intangibles such as the French insistence on giving themselves three times the average vacations of Americans. It makes me feel at home in France to know that the laws make it difficult for American fastfood franchises to get a toehold. (I’m especially fond of the story of a load of horse manure being dumped in a McDonald’s some years back.)

But recently I became aware that France is the most nuclearized country in the world, with over three-quarters of their electricity coming from nuclear power plants and a commitment to go for 100%.

I must say I find it turning me off. To some extent it’s the actual risk involved, even if I’m there for just a few weeks every few years. But it’s more than that. It bothers me to know that the French Way of Life includes gung-ho pro nuclear policy. Inexpensive wine, good food, picturesque villages … and nuclear power? Yuck.

Neighboring Spain and Germany are both headed in the other direction. Both have a fraction of France’s dependence on nukes and are committed to phasing that out completely. It makes their stock as vacation destinations go up with this tourist. Spain has a nice long Mediterranean coast, outdoor cafes, old towns and cities. And shares my feelings about nuclear power.

It’s something for a vacation destination such as Cape Cod to think about as the dangers of that antique power plant looming over us just upwind become more widely publicized.

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