|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?
Can nuclear power overcome nuclear fear?
How do we overcome nuclear fear?
Isn't nuclear fear better than nuclear arrogance?
Is nuclear fear an American phenomena?
A question from Ronan Dougherty of Washington, D.C.
How much of the "Nuclear Fear" phenomena can be blamed on the Cold War? It seems that without the great "Evil Empire" of the Soviet Union, nuclear weapons and nuclear power have essentially dropped off the radar. Is it possible in the post-Cold War era thaat Nuclear Fear will begin to ebb or is it too engrained in America's subconcious?
Dr. Spencer Weart responds:
If you were locked in a room with a paranoid Russian who was holding a flamethrower, you'd jump if someone lit a candle. Now that we are less likely to be killed without warning by nuclear bombs, we can start to think more clearly about nuclear energy in general. Moving against proliferation of weapons (see Monday's forum) will also help calm down nuclear reactor debates.
Also, as the Cold War ended it left more room for other concerns including the future of the environment. The increasingly plausible prospect that disastrous climate change will result from carbon dioxide emissions ("Greenhouse Effect") is making even some longtime opponents of nuclear energy rethink their position.
This doesn't mean nuclear fear will just evaporate, because it has many other roots. For example, for historical reasons nuclear reactors are closely associated with arrogant authorities, technologically overoptimistic and quick to scoff at public concerns. In the former Soviet Union the connection between reactors and the centralized control from Moscow meant that vehement opposition to nuclear energy exploded once the lid was lifted.