The Relevance of Tolstoy, or, Europe after Chernobyl

The Relevance of Tolstoy, or, Europe after Chernobyl

Though the headlines may tell another story, to anyone living in Vienna the most remarkable thing about Europe after Chernobyl is how most remarkably like Europe before Chernobyl it is. In the direct aftermath of the accident, Austria did join in the embargo on Soviet bloc produce, but that expired soon enough. A month later, the markets in Vienna overflowed once more with Polish hams, Hungarian poultry and, best of all, those fabulous Bulgarian vegetables. Chernobyl certainly made the point that vegetarianism in Vienna is almost totally dependent on Bulgarian exports.

That seems to be about the only point it did make. The Soviets and their central European clients are again assuring us that nuclear power plants are perfectly safe, including the one just across the border in Czechoslovakia, perhaps forty miles from Vienna as the cloud drifts. They fully intend to press on with their nuclear power program. So, no less vocally, do the French—and while the Germans are rather less vocal about it, they did dismiss out of hand Austrian protests against the nuclear facility they are building just across the border near Salzburg. We have had our foretaste of the apocalypse and, unless Viennese vegetarians are laying in a stock of dried vegetables, have decided to do nothing about it. Whatever the risks of nuclear power, we are too committed to ever-growing energy consumption to do without it.

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