Study after study in top scientific journals find that nuclear power plants are far and away the safest way to make reliable electricity. Why then are we so afraid of them?
Many believe it’s because of the historic association of nuclear plants with nuclear weapons. But during the first two decades of nuclear power, people were more excited than afraid of it.
In his magisterial new book, Energy: A Human History, the Pulitzer-winning historian, Richard Rhodes, quotes the inventor of the first peaceful nuclear power plant, U.S. Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover, trying to tamp down excess enthusiasm by the public and policymakers.
“I think we have babied a lot of people in this country too long with the glamour of atomic energy,” Rickover told a congressman in 1957.
How did we go from the glamour of nuclear power in the 1950s to the fears that surround the technology today?
The most common answer to this question is that the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima frightened people.
And yet the accidents proved the relative safety, not relative danger, of nuclear energy. Nobody died from radiation at Three Mile Island or Fukushima, and fewer than 50 died died from Chernobyl in the 30 years since the accident.
Date: Jun 14, 2018