Friday, April 1, 2011

A glimpse of how nuclear industry bosses think

As the mess at Fukushima gets slowly worse and worse and more leaks out about Tepco's lying, cost-cutting and ignoring of safety requirements, we've seen the debate about the future of nuclear energy heat up too. I was reminded of investigative reporter Mark Hertsgaard's book, Earth Odyssey: Around the world in search of our environmental future (1998), in which he has a memorable account of a conversation with a "top executive" in a nuclear company.

   Hertsgaard brought up with him the thorny issue of safely isolating the enormous and growing quantity of radioactive materials "from ecosystems and human contact for a period of time equal to the known length of human civilization" (p.144). He'd been assured by others that there were all kinds of great solutions to this ten-thousand-year problem. Then he writes (p.145):
And if the industry's certainty about nuclear waste storage turned out to be wrong, so what? "To me, it's the craziest thing," another top executive told me, referring to the many governors, legislators, and average citizens who had declared their states off limits to nuclear dumping in the late 1970s. "Neither they nor their descendants are going to be there at the time when anything could conceivably go wrong. If you do a halfway decent job of disposing of [nuclear waste], it's at least a few hundred years before anything could go wrong, and they won't even be there then."
  And the nuclear industry wonders why people don't trust it.

1 comment:

  1. It is probably worth mentioning that the major effect of anti-nuclear-waste-dumping movements has been to cause nuclear waste to pile up endlessly in ponds outside reactor buildings, where it is vastly more dangerous than it would be dumped in some cave This has already caused much trouble at Fukushima.