Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What the Best Science Shows

So. Still nervous about nuclear power, given the disaster that occurred at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in early 2011 when it was first damaged by an earthquake and then a tsunami?

You shouldn’t be.
Nor should you believe the majority of what’s been reported on the accident, its severity, and government “worst-case scenarios” that had 30 million people in metropolitan Tokyo evacuating due to an impending plume of radiation.
So says Paul Blustein and a bevy of nuclear experts he interviews at Slate.com, in an article that should be read by anyone in favor of nuclear energy and by those who oppose it. Especially those who fear nuclear energy but rail on those who fear climate change.
Here’s the deal, summed up: politics and misinterpretations by news agencies across the world made the disaster at Fukushima seem much more dangerous than it ever was.
Says Blustein:
[T]he public deserves to know what the best available science shows. Whatever conclusions people draw about the implications of the accident, the following should be borne in mind: The claim that an evacuation of Tokyo could have been necessary is based on flimsy, easily rebuttable evidence. Furthermore, the falsity of that claim is indicative of the distortions in much of the Fukushima news coverage. That coverage has given rise to baseless fears about Fukushima that have heavily influenced public opinion. It is time to dispel those fears.
Even more illuminating is what Gregory Jaczko, chariman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in the days after the disaster, per Blustein:
There’s what’s worst-case, and then there’s what’s possible. We should produce a worst case that’s actually possible. I mean, a worst case would be that you eject the core and somebody puts it in a bag and carries it across the ocean and pus that in  . . . California. So I think we should produce a source term that is truly what I would call a worst case but a possible scenario.
Politicians looked at some worst-case, but implausible, scenarios, spun up their own, and fed it to a media primed and ready to shout about the nuclear boogeyman. At the same time decrying those who do the same with climate change – ignoring the science, trumpeting exactly what the echo-chamber listeners want to hear.
We deal with worst-case scenarios where I work all the time. There was a time when an airplane crashing into one of our waste retrieval tents seemed implausible. Not now. We drill for that. We drill for fires and waste spills and earthquakes and other events – but all are possible. We don’t deal in the improbable. And neither should our trusted nuclear experts nor politicians nor the media.

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