Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nuclear Energy and the Fear-Respect Nexus

They write letters:
A reader, whom I assume is opposed to nuclear generation, has recently written listing various incidents that have occurred at nuclear sites, some more than 60 years ago in experimental facilities. The writer described these incidents in highly dramatic fashion.
This is a letter by James Lindsay to the Kawartha Lakes (Ontario)This Week. Most of it refutes the earlier letter, which I did not look up. But this struck me:
If nuclear energy is respected, there is no need for fear.
I’m going to guess, based on the letter, that Lindsay means that nuclear energy should be respected enough that people who are going to spout off against it should know something about it.
That works. Facts beat fear. I’m not sure I’d adopt “Respect, don’t fear” as a motto – it has an intimidating air for what is, after all, a tool for making electricity (among many other things, of course). But the thought behind it is solid.
John Grossenbacher from the Idaho National Labs makes much the same argument vis à vis used fuel in the Idaho Statesman:
Environmental risks created by past waste disposal and storage activities are being addressed by DOE. Very real progress is being made. The cleanup pace and effectiveness should be visible to and understood by the public. These are serious and complicated issues. This discourse is important and will continue for a long time to come.
To improve this vital public discussion about activities at the INL site, we have endeavored to make information available to anyone who is interested - online, in public meetings, through news media and via public tours. We challenge those interested in these issues to seriously consider the following suggestions.
You can read his suggestions at the link, but here’s the summary:  learn about the issues and let that inform commentary about them.
The issues surrounding INL and cleanup activities are not so complex that they can't be accurately explained by public officials, interest groups and media outlets who take the time to inform themselves.
That may seem naïve, but it’s really not. Especially with nuclear energy, which is often a victim of fear-based demagoguery, respecting it enough to learn something about it is well worthwhile.
Visit the Idaho National Labs for more. Grossenbacher isn’t kidding – there’s a lot of good information there.

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