Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nuclear Bugaboo

A few weeks ago, an explosion at an oil refinery near Woods Cross, Utah, damaged millions of dollars of equipment, shattered windows more than a mile away and blew at least one neighboring house off its foundation.

Yesterday, one sensor at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear power plant showed a slightly elevated radiation sample while two neighboring sensors showed no problems whatsoever.

Which incident is going to stir up more gloom-and-dooming about our energy future?

I don't disagree that nuclear power has to be treated carefully. I disagree, however, when doomsayers use minor incidents such as what happened at TMI yesterday into a bigger deal than it has to be. The only thing that irritates me about TMI is that no one has posted the Saturday Night Live-Mutant Jimmy Carter sketch they did of TMI in 1979.

I've worked at a nuclear facility for almost four years now. Part of my training includes recognizing radioactive hazards and being monitored for any radiation does I might pick up as I go about my daily business. The building I work in is checked monthly for its radiation levels. And in the nearly four years I've worked there, I haven't picked up even a millirem of radiation. I've gotten more radiation from dental x-rays and sitting in my basement breathing radon than I have from the nuclear industry (and I'm not in power; I'm in legacy Cold War waste).

What do I worry about more? All summer, not four blocks from my house, the railroad all year stores tankers that are either filled with liquid fertilizer or are partially empty. I'm much more concerned about one of those blowing up than with anything untoward happening at work, or at a nuclear power plant.

No comments: