My child, I still recall the time when you were a kid, the amazement and wonderment on your face as you saw the very first spark of fire that came from rubbing the wooden sticks. You then had the presence of mind to make good use of the discovery to launch a new way of living, giving out light and warmth where there was none. While I was more than happy to let you trim my leafy exterior for your physical wellness, it got to a stage when your needs were so great that my skins became hideously scarred. And in time, you would also find that chopping down trees all over the place was not that cool after all, especially as there were better ways to start a fire than striking a match.
In time and with more knowledge, you eventually found petroleum and gas deep down in my belly, and civilization took a great leap forward. Having holes drilled all over me was not such a pleasant experience, but that was probably a small price to pay as you aspired to greater things. Sadly, in the name of economic and social growth, you unknowingly ensnared yourself in a game that shamelessly promoted material consumption, luxurious living and insatiable desires. So the resources were slowly but surely drained, as I choked in the smoke you stoked.
And so, my child, you set your eyes on nuclear energy, the inner essence of my being. You, of course, are well aware of the inherent risks. But knowing you, I am sure you will say you have no better choices but to venture down this path in the name of "conservation" and, ultimately, preservation of the lifestyle you so cherish. I must say you are quite good at building on new ideas and possibilities; but on the other hand, you have to admit your track record is not the best in dealing with the leftovers and cleaning up the mess. So what next as the fallout of your abusive tendency again becomes too hot to handle?
Nothing is new under the sun. And nothing is wrong with nuclear energy, or fossil fuel, or matchwood. They are all valuable assets to be utilized for your benefits. You, my child, with your greed and pomposity, have always been your own worst enemy. If only your wisdom has increased in equal measures as you grow older and become more knowledgeable... ... ...
Passing through the Netherlands on my way home, I had the opportunity to visit the once humble but now world famous Dutch windmills. Trying to appreciate the bitter struggle men had with wind, water and energy in the middle ages, I wondered if the nuclear power plants seen on my journey would one day also become UNESCO cultural heritage sites!?
Edwin S.T. Lai
(written while on tour of nuclear facilities in France, UK and Belgium)
(Graphics designed by Ms. Ho Oi-wah, Hong Kong Observatory)