Everything I’ve said so far is more or less particular to Germany, but there is a factor that makes it very probable that the history of nuclear power will develop in a similar way all over the world:
Nuclear energy production as we know it is not safe.
The reasons for this are simple; immediately after its development, nuclear technology became an object of national prestige and private profit, two things that don’t mix well with public interests such as safety or environmental soundness. As long as there is an extra dollar to be made, it is going to be made. No matter what the cost to society. By now we know that what happened in Japan was not caused by the earthquake. The earthquake was the trigger of the catastrophe, but its causes lie in the greed for profit of the company that ran the plants and illegally saved on maintenance and safety procedures.
I am not against nuclear energy. I’ve never been to a protest march, anti-nuclear politics don’t appeal to me. But I know that what we have is not what we need; it neither is safe, nor does it have a future. I wish nuclear technology did have a future. I wish its development had been pursued in the last sixty years with the same zeal as in the beginning. I wish it had been taken to the stage of becoming a safe and clean unlimited source of energy as it once promised to be. I wish it had been kept in the hands of the state, a state more concerned with the upkeep of its citizens’ interests than with beating the other side, facilitating the profit making of the private sector, or increasing the prestige of its leaders and its ideology.
It might be too late for nuclear energy, but humanity still is going to have to make the same considerations with regard to its alternatives, because even if they can’t blow up in our faces in the same deathly way, they also won’t serve to solve our problems if we deal with them in the same stupid manner. Just think of the already ongoing madness of human beings starving while others drive around in food fuelled cars feeling blissful about their contribution to the saving of the planet.