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Len Rosen's picture
Principal Author and Editor, 21st Century Tech Blog

Futurist, Writer and Researcher, now retired, former freelance writer for new technology ventures. Former President & CEO of Len Rosen Marketing Inc., a marketing consulting firm focused on...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Mar 24, 2022

It’s a big ask to tell countries with very little access to electricity to accept the same level of responsibility as electricity-rich nations striving to achieve the net-zero emissions target that the United Nations has set for the mid-century. And it is even made harder by abandoning the use of nuclear power in the energy mix.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 25, 2022

Len, I think your journey to the acceptance of nuclear power is one many are traveling in 2022. It's a rough road - like many others, for decades, you've been misled by sensationalist media reports that have deliberately exaggerated its dangers.

Unfortunately, fear sells. We pay, not to better understand things we don't, but for reassurance. We donate to organizations like Greenpeace, Environmental Defense Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council (and yes, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, written by authors none of whom is an "atomic scientist") that will comfort us, to those who will fight the big, bad, nuclear genie that has been set free from its bottle.

If that genie could protect us from one that represents a far greater threat, we might be forced to accept it on its terms, accord it the respect it deserves, and work with it, not against it. For unlike fear of nuclear energy, that of climate change has a legitimate, reasonable basis - and it will take millions to undertake the journey you have if humanity is to have any hope of salvation.

Without diminishing the very real dangers of nuclear power, I'd like to try to shed some light on why your fears stemming from the Chernobyl accident are still exaggerated. I know something about nuclear power - it's a subject I've been studying for decades. So instead of trying to convince, I offer facts for you to consider in the hope that knowledge, and not fighting an imaginary foe, might offer the comfort it has for me.

"When Chernobyl’s Reactor 4 melted down because of human operational errors, the damage to human lives has yet to be fully accounted for to this day."

The World Health Organization, probably the most qualified and impartial source to make such an accounting, did so in 2005. Their conclusion:

"A total of up to 4000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) accident nearly 20 years ago, an international team of more than 100 scientists has concluded.

As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident but others who died as late as 2004.

The new numbers are presented in a landmark digest report, “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts,” just released by the Chernobyl Forum. The digest, based on a three-volume, 600-page report and incorporating the work of hundreds of scientists, economists and health experts, assesses the 20-year impact of the largest nuclear accident in history. The Forum is made up of 8 UN specialized agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), and the World Bank, as well as the governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine."

The most important finding of all:

"Alongside radiation-induced deaths and diseases, the report labels the mental health impact of Chernobyl as “the largest public health problem created by the accident” and partially attributes this damaging psychological impact to a lack of accurate information."

After nuclear accidents, fear has always been to blame for more casualties than radiation. At Chernobyl, it was by suicide and complications from alcoholism; at Fukushima, it was the panicked evacuation of a prefecture of mostly elderly residents (estimates range from 1,500 to 2,000 deaths).

This famous remark from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first inaugural address is nowhere more applicable:

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Len Rosen's picture
Len Rosen on Mar 30, 2022

I have always felt that nuclear power had a place in the energy mix. My concerns were two:

1. the handling of degraded radioactive fuels and materials with the need to find technologies that could address the issue either by reprocessing and reuse, or safe disposal.

2. the location, and size of nuclear power plants. For a technology first conceived to power submarines and ships, how did we get to these monster facilities? I thought that nuclear could best be facilitated through small reactors that could be daisy-chained where larger power requirement was needed, or run alone to meet smaller community and neighbourhood needs.  I will never understand why plants have been built in zones of likely seismic activity: i.e., California and Japan. But humanity thinks it can engineer solutions even when nature shows us up.  

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