Jun 26, 2008

Thomas Donlan on nuclear power

The U.S. has 103 nuclear power plants, generating about 20 percent of American electricity needs. But no plants have been ordered since the accident at the Three Mile Island plant in 1979. No accidents have occurred in the U.S. since 1979, and even that accident did not kill or sicken anyone. Dozens of people die every year in U.S. coal-mine accidents, hundreds are injured, and hundreds more suffer before death from black-lung disease, but American utilities have ordered many big coal-fired power plants since 1979.

The explanation is that many people are afraid of nuclear power. They associate nuclear fission with the bombs that so shockingly destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. They don't understand the science and engineering that makes nuclear power generation different from atomic bomb-making, and they have little faith in those who tell them it's safe. The 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, which was dangerous but caused no serious damage to anything but the reactor, took its toll on public trust in nuclear power. The deadly Soviet accident at Chernobyl in 1986 was even more shattering. Unfortunately, some wild estimates of deaths and long-term damage were current in the news at the time and never reduced in the public mind to reflect reality.

~ Thomas G. Donlan, A World of Wealth (2008), p. 14

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