The myth of nuclear safety

March 24, 2011

While the nuclear power industry no longer promulgates the myth of nuclear energy as an inexpensive source of power, failures at the Japanese nuclear complex will undoubtedly lead to increased lobbying efforts to restore public confidence in the safety of its facilities. Sadly, and despite similar reassurances, the residents of Fukushima Daiichi can bear witness likewise to the myth of nuclear energy as a safe source of power.

Safety and thereby risk is a function of gauging the likelihood of any adverse event and the magnitude of its negative consequences. When carefully regulated, the nuclear industry can be rightfully proud of its ability to prevent an accident from taking place. Nevertheless, it is disingenuous of the industry to equate this record with overall safety by obfuscating the potentially catastrophic impact of an untoward nuclear event.

However unlikely, the circumstances of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the Japanese power complex can only be characterized as disastrous. Although the industry will tout its reliance upon state-of-the-art engineering in order to further expand the use of nuclear energy, the inability to create a fail-safe system of power generation renders it inherently dangerous.

It is far more prudent for the U.S. to rely upon the development of safer, greener and ultimately more effective means of energy production. This can only come about from the thoughtful consent of our citizenry rather than from the interests of the nuclear industry.

Irwin Fried, Baltimore

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