The Catholic Church and nuclear power Fr. Seán McDonagh


Soon after the Fukushima disaster the Japanese bishops issued a statement stating their continued concern about the Fukushima nuclear accidents that followed the March 11th 2011, earthquake and tsunami. A Japanese bishop told the Fides news agency that he opposes the construction of nuclear power plants worldwide. “The issue about the direction we are taking, to build other nuclear power plants, is an important question,” said Auxiliary Bishop Michael Goro Matsuura of Osaka. “Together with the Justice and Peace Commission of the Japanese Bishops, which I headed up until last year, we have raised awareness to fight the construction of new nuclear power plants in Japan and globally. I believe that this serious incident should be a lesson for Japan and for the entire planet, and will be an incentive to abandon these projects. We call on the solidarity of Christians worldwide to support this campaign.” [1]


In June 2009, the Catholic Bishops of Alberta in Canada issued a document entitled Pastoral Reflections on Nuclear Energy in Alberta. The bishops pointed to the “serious ethical questions that must be adequately addressed before a decision (on nuclear power) is reached and implemented. [2] They questioned whether there was sufficient river water available to meet the needs of the proposed nuclear power plant in Alberta.  They argued that there are other ways to reduce greenhouse gases.  In the face of the potential risks to human beings and the environment, the Bishops called attention to the “precautionary principle.” This moral principal states that, if an action can potentially cause major harm to human beings or the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that the action will not be harmful, the burden of proof that it will not be harmful lies with those who are proposing the action not with those who are opposing it. The bishops are aware that nuclear power plants or trains carrying nuclear waste are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. They raise the cost and value for money of going down the nuclear route and there has been a cost overrun in building many nuclear reactors. [3]  The pastoral calls attention to the lack of a permanent place to store nuclear waste. This means that future generations will have to deal with this carcinogenic and toxic legacy.  They also point out that the risk posed by nuclear reactors is such that it is impossible to get full insurance cover for a nuclear reactor.


Four days before the German government agreed to phase out all Germany’s nuclear reactors by 2022, the German Bishops’ conference published a 52 page document in which it repeated its call to the government to shut down their nuclear reactors as soon as possible. They stated that the production of nuclear energy was “unethical.” The document was published on May 26th 2011 was prepared by a commission of experts under the leadership of Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich. The cardinal was also a member of the German Government’s Ethics Commission of safe energy which recently published a report calling for an end to the use of nuclear power. [4]  Writing in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung  on May 29th 2011, Cardinal Reinhard  said  that he felt a technology that had incalculable consequences for entire generations could not be trusted.[5]


In an article in the monthly magazine Kyeonghyan, the president of the Korean Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Cheju, wrote that nuclear power is a monster which cannot coexist with living things.  He said it is a lie to say that nuclear power is a green or clean energy. He urged the Korean government to review its energy policy.  He said a visit to tsunami-hit Saitama and Sendai dioceses in Japan last month to deliver aid, made him question whether nuclear power is really safe.[6] He went on to say that everyone needs to pay attention to nuclear power as it could lead to a catastrophe. Citing Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, he said: “Our natural environment is God’s gift to everyone, and we must take care of it as we have a responsibility towards the poor, future generations and humanity as a whole.” Bishop Kang said the God-given right to rule the earth is not absolute. “We must limit ourselves when it comes to nature,” he said, adding that nuclear power is beyond that limit.


[2] downloaded on April 5th  2011.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, “Bishops applaud nuclear phase-out,” The Tablet, June 4th 2011, page 30.

[6]  Nuclear power ‘monster,’ Bishop warns

Posted By Ivan On May 18, 2011 @ 4:58 pm In UCAN News


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s