March 15, 2011

Since there’s been a lot of hysteria about the problems with the reactors in Japan, I thought I’d link this: Fukushima is a triumph for nuke power: Build more reactors now!

The whole sequence of events is a ringing endorsement for nuclear power safety. If this – basically nothing – is what happens when decades-old systems are pushed five times and then some beyond their design limits, new plants much safer yet would be able to resist an asteroid strike without problems.

But you wouldn’t know that from looking at the mainstream media. Ignorant fools are suggesting on every hand that Japan’s problems actually mean fresh obstacles in the way of new nuclear plants here in the UK, Europe and the US.

That can only be true if an unbelievable level of public ignorance of the real facts, born of truly dreadful news reporting over the weekend, is allowed to persist.

One of my pet peeves is people’s ignorance of what radiation is and how prevalent it is in nature. Lots of everyday things are radioactive. That bright thing you see in the sky in the daytime, that’s a humongous thermonuclear reactor a mere eight light-minutes away. When I was a T.A. teaching physics labs, one of the hottest sources we had for the radiation lab was a set of dinner plates one of the professors had bought at a roadside stand in Mexico. Bananas and brazil nuts are radioactive. Heck, even we are radioactive: you’ve heard of Carbon-14 dating? That works by comparing how much less radioactive things are than what they would be if they were still alive.

Radiation and radioactive materials certainly should be treated carefully; they can be very dangerous. But so are lots of other things that we take for granted because we’ve always been aware of them. Nuclear energy can be safe, and what’s happened in Japan hasn’t refuted that.