Saturday, March 19, 2011

A little perspective

The reaction to the Fukishima nuclear disaster demonstrates a fear of radiation that does not comport with the facts.  Newscasters and commentators have said that there should be no risk of injury or death from nuclear power plants.  That standard has been achieved in the United States in the last 40 years since nuclear power plants came on line.  Other aspects of our modern life do not have such a record.  In the 40 years that Fukishima has been operating,  approximately 2 million Americans  have died in auto accidents, and nearly 80 million have been injured.  Other sources of power have resulted in death and destruction.  Oil, gas, even wood heat have cost thousands of lives over that same period.  Even wind power, a miniscule source of power in this country, has killed 35 people in the last 40 years.  If we use the standard of zero tolerance of risk for other sources of power, or for other modern aspects of our lives, we would close down our roads, ban woodstoves, oil burners, even wind power.  And more people would suffer and die without reliable sources of electricity and heat and reliable sources of transportation.  We need to assess the risk of nuclear power the same way we assess risk elsewhere:  how much is the risk compared to the reward?  Even with the disaster at Fukishim, nuclear power will pass with flying colors.    

1 comment:

  1. Never say never -- because any horrific accident is possible. I agree with that. But, it's true that people are so risk-averse today that I wonder if we'll ever take a risk again! I'm just grateful we all got electricity in before people became so scared of -- everything. I am most aware of it as a mom, when I am inundated with emails and various printed warnings about all the dangers for our kids. ("Eek -- throw out your car seat! One of the little plastic thingys may break off and kill your little darling! YES, IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!) The latest is cribs with rails that descend (horrors!) Parents are supposed to avoid at all costs any crib with a rail that lowers. Of course, five of our kids had cribs with rails that lowered and have all survived baby-hood (I think the sixth might make it too), but no matter, because SOME children did not survive. So we all have to go out and burn our old cribs (actually, that might not do either -- just think of the toxins that might be emitted into our atmosphere and kill us all!) I am waiting for the day when Legos will be banned -- kids are always putting those up their noses or chomping one over their teeth; stairs will be ruled off-limits to families with children (talk about dangerous -- at least one kid in our house seems to slip down the stairs every week!); garage doors that open -- and close; driveways; automatic doors in vehicles or just doors in general -- just think of the little fingers we could save; tricycles -- those have wheels after all, and are driven by unlicensed, barely verbal, short people.