Weekly Roundup 84

One of the strangest things I’ve ever observed, is quite sensible and rational people suddenly throwing that all away when it comes to the topic of nuclear power. Now, nuclear energy is not ideal, in some future society were going to get all our power from wind or tide or something like that. But until we get to that point, nuclear power is an incredibly good option. Most of the resistance to it comes from a fear of radiation and the radioactive waste from reactors. This chart is very helpful for putting in perspective how much radiation your likely to get dosed with through various everyday events. Living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant gives you less radiation than eating one banana (potassium isotopes). The Environmental Protection Agency’s yearly limit for the emission of a nuclear plant is only about four times higher than the radiation dose given by living in a stone, concrete or brick building for a year (as uranium is present in all soil). All of this is quite a bit less than the yearly average background dose anyway and so worrying about it seems ridiculous.

The other major concern is nuclear accidents. With the Chernobyl disaster causing 56 direct deaths, and an estimated 4000 deaths by  induced cancer (with many other estimates being a lot higher) it seems like something we should be worried about. But the safety in a ex-soviet block nuclear reactor built in the seventies is nowhere near comparable to safety standards now. The Chernobyl Plant had an accident in 1982, four years before the well know disaster, but the reactor that failed was back working in a month (the paranoid part of me has always thought this seemed like a rushed job). It should also be noted that there was no nuclear explosion at Chernobyl. There was a chemical explosion that radioactive material but this in no way equivalent to an uncontrolled fission occurring. The Fukushima Daiichi Plant was hit by a tsunami many times more powerful than it had been built to withstand and yet it did through the commendable diligence of whoever designed it. As a result there have been no recorded deaths either directly or indirectly from what is apparently the second greatest nuclear disaster ever.

Ultimately, the point I’m trying to get across is that many of the fears associated with nuclear energy are, not unfounded, but extremely exaggerated. Until tomorrow, goodnight.

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