Philip White’s argument against nuclear power in his March 30 article (“A silver lining to the Fukushima disaster?“) is weak. It’s typical of the attacks used by opponents of atomic energy in that it includes no hard data, relying on vague fears of unseen or unknowable impacts as it tries to steer us away from a great source of electrical power. Worse, it does not offer a concrete or even a comprehensible alternative.
White asks us to imagine a world with “decentralized systems that reward the efficient provision of energy services” without telling us what that means or might be, or why it would be safer than nuclear power.
Like it or not, modern society needs huge amounts of electricity, and nuclear energy is the safest and cleanest way we know to produce it. The human and environmental costs, both potential and realized, are far lower than those of all fossil-fuel energy sources. No “clean” alternative energy sources developed to date have produced even a fraction of the power that nuclear energy can.
Nuclear energy’s problem, of course, is radiation. Most people don’t understand it and, unfortunately, don’t try to. This leads to ridiculous situations as we saw recently — people boarding aircraft to “flee” Tokyo because of Fukushima nuclear plant radiation and, in the process, taking far more radiation with them by boarding the plane than they would have by staying put.
What is needed, clearly, is better education on the true risks and rewards of using radiation in human society. In the entire history of using nuclear power, far fewer people have been killed or injured than from even a single airliner crash. And if one only considers the properly designed and constructed reactors outside of the former Soviet Union, the number of nuclear power fatalities falls to zero.
We don’t stop flying after planes go down, because the benefits of air travel far outweigh the risks. Same with nuclear energy.
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