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Nuclear Plant Workers Don’t Flee

One of the more disturbing memes we’ve seen in the last few days occurred when plant workers at Fukushima Daiichi fell back when it seemed that radiation levels jumped at one of the reactors. More than one TV commentator I saw said the plant workers were “fleeing.” Fleeing!

Nuclear plant workers don’t flee. So I was greatly heartened to see this op-ed in the New York Times by Michael Friedlander, a nuclear engineer called Homer Simpson Need Not Apply:

The field attracts a very particular kind of person. I became a nuclear worker in the 1980s, in the wake of the oil crises of the 1970s. Nuclear power, for all its risks, seemed like the best alternative, and people like me who signed up at the time saw ourselves as the guardians of America’s energy future. We were the ones who would prevent the risks of nuclear power from becoming a reality, who would keep the plants safe and, in turn, the country’s way of life secure.

The same spirit motivates today’s workers. Contrary to the depiction of nuclear operators as bumbling slackers in “The Simpsons,” the typical employee is more like a cross between a jet pilot and a firefighter: highly trained to keep a technically complex system running, but also prepared to be the first and usually only line of defense in an emergency.

Exactly so. His conclusion is just right:

These operators will be hailed as heroes, and deservedly so. But if they are like the rest of the tightly knit community of nuclear workers, they will simply say they were doing their job.

Read the whole thing. It’s a beauty.


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There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
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To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
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Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…