|THE FUROR OVER FISSION|
The Images and Realities of Nuclear Technologies
November 20, 1996
The Nuclear Power and Fear
Other Forum Topics
How has the media impacted the perception of nuclear technology?
How has morality impacted the growth of nuclear technology?
How do we overcome nuclear fear?
Isn't nuclear fear better than nuclear arrogance?
Will fear ebb as memory of the Cold War fades?
Is nuclear fear an American phenomena?
A question from Ray Barrett of Fort Washington, MD
I believe that we need nuclear power as a means to assist with environmentally bad gas emissions. Paranoia is holding back the next generation of power plants.
How can we overcome the irrational fear of nuclear plants?
Dr. Spencer Weart responds:
The biggest steps must be to make nuclear energy as safe and cheap as possible. No more Chernobyls! This is tricky, because piling on safeguards and regulations adds to the cost (and may even get so complex that safety begins to suffer). Yet over the long run the public will be happy to get their energy from a cheap source, provided they see no serious harmful events. In sum, first deal with rational concerns.
Over the short run, we must deal with less rational fears of invisible harm. I think a good start is to demand that anyone who talks about nuclear risks also talk about alternatives. For example, if you complain about radioactive wastes, I ask what you will do about the chemical wastes from producing power with coal--aren't those carcinogenic too, and more likely than nuclear wastes to get into my body? Answering such questions isn't as important as asking them. For the irrational component of nuclear fear is largely based on feelings that anything "nuclear" is beyond human grasp, a weird force bordering on the supernatural. Reasoning about nuclear energy on the same plane with other sources of energy will help people to address the real issues.