Pope Francis Calls Nuclear Power Plants a Modern-Day Tower of Babel

In an audience with Japanese Bishops, Pope Francis had criticized nuclear power by comparing it with the Tower of Babel, as reported by Takeo Okada, the Archbishop of Tokyo. When human beings attempted to reach heaven they triggered their own destruction. “Human beings should not break the natural laws set by God,” the Pope said. (Mainichi Shinbun March 22, 2015; Asahi Shinbun March 25, 2015)

This is probably the first clear-cut criticism of the “civil use” of nuclear power issued by the Vatican. The Pope expressed his conviction during an ad limina meeting with the Japanese bishops on March 20. “The destruction of nature is a result from human beings claiming domination (over the earth).” With these statements the Pope referred to the TEPCO-nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March 2011. Soon after the terrible disaster, the Japanese Catholic Bishops’ Conference had publicly demanded from the government the immediate shutdown of all nuclear power plants.

During the audience, Bishop Katsuya Taiji, head of the “Council for Justice and Peace” of the Japanese Catholic Bishops’ Conference, had handed over letters of two activists from Fukushima to the Pope. The first author was Takumi Aizawa, a school clerk from Iidate Mura, the most contaminated place in Fukushima Prefecture, who is involved in health care and protection of children since the disaster. In fact Mr. Aizawa had the great wish to inform the Pope personally about the real situation of the people in the contaminated area because the government, the administration, many doctors and scientists, and the media try to cover up the extremely dangerous situation. The second author is Mako Oshidori, a well-known journalist from Tokyo, who attended most of the TEPCO press conferences with critical questions and who is investigating the contaminated region constantly.

Shortly before, Mr. Aizawa and Ms. Oshidori had delivered presentations about the situation in Fukushima at the international and interreligious conference on “Contributions of religious groups to the energy shift” which was organized by the Center for Ecumenical Work in March 3.-6. 2015 in Arnoldshain (Germany). Prof. Ichiro Mitsunobu S.J., a representative of the “Council for Justice and Peace,” also participated in the conference and gave a talk about the position of the Catholic Church in Japan. Triggered by this conference, the “Council” asked the two activists to write letters to the Pope which the bishops wanted to hand over during their audience two weeks later.

One of the main goals of the conference in Arnoldshain on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the TEPCO nuclear disaster was to stimulate international and interreligious networks to abandon nuclear power and to engage in climate protection. The developments outlined above may be considered a first result of such an endeavor.

Until now the Vatican had condemned only the military use of nuclear power. Since the Vatican is member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it seems that with his critical statements about the “civil use” of nuclear energy Pope Francis deviates considerably from the position of his predecessors und is pursuing a new direction. Many Catholics hope that in his next encyclica on the protection of the environment the Pope will clearly voice also his critical attitude towards nuclear power.

Wolfgang Buff and Martin Repp
April 2015

2 thoughts on “Pope Francis Calls Nuclear Power Plants a Modern-Day Tower of Babel”

  1. I’m sending you these links on biosorption of metals by oyster and mussel shells, how they can be used in stormwater drains, and I am thinking that some oyster shells in the water filter might also have a beneficial effect..
    What do you think?
    This is the oyster stormwater management at Port of Seattle to stop copper affecting salmon.

    This is the Auckland NZ Council using mussel shells to remove heavy metals from stormwater with diagrams of how to retrofit the drains.

    Potential of Mussel Shell as a Biosorbent for Stormwater Treatment Auckland

    The creeks gullies flowing with radioactive water at Fukushima and into the Port could have crates of local oyster and other shells placed in their drainage pits to capture heavymetals on site.
    The bay which has been concreted last year could have shells just dumped in off barges.
    Biosorption into shells means that the sedimentary bacteria will have time to slowly do their transmuting magic on the metals, without them being available to the food chain which it is while still in solution in the water.
    Any comments or thoughts appreciated.
    I had earlier been looking for data on the take up of live mussel sprat and zebra mussels of heavy metals into their shells, as the zebra mussels in the cooling ponds and in the rivers downstream in the watershed from Chernobyl have survived. So I was thinking that an algae grown with the stored radioactive water could be fed to the mussel sprat when they are at their peak shell making age, in the first few months, and with the right temperature, pH and nutrients, could stash away a considerable amount of the heavy metals. As the tritium has a half life of 12 years and it really isn’t safe to go near any of the water at all, then the passive biosorption option may be better for the immediate future.
    Even if they just put a layer crushed oyster shell around the plant at Fukushima to capture some of the radioactive elements off the mist around the reactors.
    After reading about the Organic Kitty Litter explosion in the US where a mistake of using Organic Kitty Litter instead of INOrganic kitty litter to store radioactive waste, I’m just oging to put forward some kitchen table propositions here and there, because doing nothing, isn’t an option.

  2. This is wonderful news, finally the IAEA will have to stop relying on State sanctioned prayer to fix things!

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