Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nuclear Power Plants, Sí! Nuclear Weapons, No!

Yes, it seems to me to be altogether reasonable for a person to be against the continuation of American R&D on nuclear weapons, while encouraging the drive toward the eventual world-wide abolition of these absurdly horrific weapons, and simultaneously to be for the continued push to build and operate more nuclear power plants in America.

Last night (Aug. 2, 2011), on C-SPAN, I watched the Senate hearing on nuclear power plant safety, chaired by Sen. Boxer (Environment and Public Works Committee.) Four NRC commissioners were seated as witnesses, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman, Dr. Jaszco.

The following is the text of a note that I sent today to Sen. Boxer:

Senator Boxer, in the context of your review of concerns that were expressed recently by members of the general public regarding the disaster at Fukishima Daiichi, and its possible implications for nuclear power plant safety in the USA, I agree with the pertinence of the observation made last night by your colleague Sen. Alexander that "each year in the USA there are 38,000 auto-related deaths on the highways" (as well as 100,000's of serious injuries).

It is, therefore, astonishing to me that members of the general public, who would no more consider giving up driving their beloved cars (cars which, over a 50 year period of use could, demonstrably, lead to their death with probability ~0.01, and/or to their serious injury with probability ~0.1) than they would consider giving up eating tasty but unhealthy foods (foods which, when consumed over the course of a lifetime, could lead to serious health problems, and even early death, at predictable average rates); they, nevertheless will excitedly agitate over the possible dire consequences of radiation releases from nuclear power plants, power plants which, in their ~50 yearlong history of use, have never been shown to be the cause of a single human death in the USA. 

Senator Boxer, it seems to me that you could be more of a leader than a follower on this issue, and could stop catering to the, in my view, irrational fears expressed by some members of the general public. You may be aware of the fact that, when the incandescent light bulb was first introduced into wide use, ~100 years ago, there were many urgent expressions of fear by members of the general public concerning the possible ill effects of the "unnatural glow" emitted by, what was then, a very unfamiliar light source.

Interestingly, nowadays, libertarian elements in our society complain bitterly about an incipient ban by the federal government on the sale of the now very familiar incandescent light bulb; i.e., to be banned by the feds because it is so inefficient, in terms of energy use, and because there are much better alternatives available in the form of plasma lamps and solid state illuminators. Evidently, while familiarity breeds contempt (or love, in the case of libertarians), unfamiliarity can breed suspicion and even fear.

Whatever! Or, as some say in California, New Mexico,and other places of diverse culture: "Cada loco por su tema."

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