This is a fission chain reaction. It is a series of events, one leading inexorably to the next, with a predictable consequence: the release of tremendous energy.
Here is another, less predictable, series of events. Eleven years ago, the mightiest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history pushed forth a 49-foot tsunami that flooded the backup electricity generators at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. With no electricity, the workers at the plant could not control the cooling water, and the reactor’s core melted. Tsunamis pose no risk to Western Europe, but two months after the earthquake, the German government decided it was done with nuclear power.
The decision marked a dramatic reversal for then-Chancellor Angela Merkel, a former scientist who had declared a few years earlier, “I will always consider it absurd to shut down technologically safe nuclear power plants that don’t emit CO2.”