Friday, October 14, 2005

Looking Back at ABC News and "Loose Nukes" with Dr. Andrew Karam (Part IV)

And finally, here's Dr. Karam's summary of his thoughts on the ABC report:

I think that this program was neither fair nor balanced. It would have been more fair to have given an accurate assessment of the actual risks. Access to a research reactor does not automatically lead to a dirty bomb or a nuclear bomb - there is a lot of other work that would have to be done to make these happen. It is possible, but difficult to pull off in practice.

Regarding the lack of balance, I would have liked to have seen a radiation safety professional to discuss the real risks from exposure to low levels of radiation, rather than the assumption that it is automatically deadly. In other words, I think they are underestimating the difficulties involved in turning "access" into a terrorist weapon, and I think they overestimated the risks from such an attack.

The bottom line is that the show said that a lot of things were "possible," but didn't mention anything that was "likely." They pointed out legitimate security risks but I don't know that the manner in which they presented their information did much to advance the public debate on this matter. And, unfortunately, the network (like the government) continues to tell everyone in the world that universities are "soft" targets, making it that much more likely that a university will someday be attacked by terrorists - even if they upgrade their security, because I doubt that there will be a future show lauding universities on these improvements. This is too bad.

In my mind, the real research reactor risks are posed by overseas research reactors, of which much has been written. While there are some potential concerns, there are far easier and more effective ways of making dirty bombs.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We all need to take a step back and look at this as part of the bigger anti-nuke efforts of GAP, Sierra Club, whatever they are calling themselves now.

They tried to stop us based on safety issues in the late-70's but it didn't work - the thousands of deaths at TMI-2 and even Chernobyl (about 50 actual last I read) demonstrated this.

They tried to stop us by driving costs up through regulatory delays and litigation, and now that doesn't work as energy costs continue to escalate with our costs flat.

So the latest target is our weakest link, human resources in the form of trained nuclear engineers and techs.

This story looks like another plant by GAP et al into the ABC news room - "gee Mr. Reporter, all this effort to protect nuclear power plants but are you aware of all the research reactors that are largely unsecured?" Yellow ABC journalist works with some naive students (I bet they all worked for free?) and sends them out to flirt their way in. Edit the tape to look sinister, only use selected pieces of Roy Z. as a whipping boy for the NRC, and then include the 'media savvy' GAP alarmist.

Surprise, you have lots of negative press that will drive costs up and result in every campus (already home to anti-nuke sentiment) to question their need for research reactors and nuke departments. Expect half the reactors to be forced to roll over and close in the next few years if NEI and the utilities don't jump on this with both feet and thrash ABC over this staged alarmist reporting.