I do however, believe nuclear materials needs to be treated with respect. But that is true of 100's of other materials we also need for our daily needs. We need to keep things in proportion.
Nuclear energy has the potential to transform power generation around the world. It is the only viable generation source that can displace coal and even gas. It is safe and secure and remarkably resilient to even massively catastrophic events - like the recent Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami (including the clapped out 50 year Fukishima plant).
Compare Fukishima to the Banquao disaster, (Wikipedia page here) where a hydroelectric plant failed in China in 1975 resulting in at least 200,000 deaths. Nobody believes we should shut down our hydroelectric plants even after the catastrophe at Banquao. Neither should we shut down our nuclear plants because of the failure of one 50 year old, obsolete plant under ultra extreme conditions.
Particularly we should shun the insane German decision to shut down nuclear and build polluting coal plant to replace it.
But what about the risks of Nuclear? If it is so safe why did they evacuate Fukishima? Why was Three Mile island treated so seriously although nobody died?
Once, a long time ago in I heard a analogy regarding nuclear safety and the extreme precautions that are taken.
The analogy revolves around the question: "Why, if nuclear power was so safe, do we have to take so many precautions?"
Here is the analogy:
A man had two children. His children were frightened of the dark. The children believed there were ghosts and goulies waiting in the dark. Unfathomable horrors waiting for them.
Consequently, to allay their fears, their father left on the hall light. He knew there were no ghosts. But he also knew that without the light, his children would be frightened.
He took the precaution.
Much of the rigorous safety precautions surrounding nuclear and the extreme low dosimetry involved are the equivalent of putting the hall light on.
The irony of the fathers compassionate decision was that by lighting up the hall he would reinforce the fears of his children that there actually were ghosts and ghoulies waiting in the dark.
After all why would he put the light on unless there really were bad things waiting in the dark?
Why should they believe their fathers protestations that there were no ghosts? After all he is the one that puts the hall light on.
One day the father and his children would have to confront the issue, or continue wasting resources on the unneccessary light.
For us today the stakes are much higher than a single light bulb.
But perhaps it is time the nuclear industry stopped pandering to the childish fears about nuclear power that infect our society.
Professor Wade Allison of Oxford University makes a compelling case far a more mature approach to nuclear risk in his book Radiation and Reason. It is available at Amazon (here) I also have a number of other links related to this book/reviews/websites On This Post Here
Perhaps it is also time we treated the ridiculous and immoral scare-mongering claims made by the anti-nuclear lobby (See this Post), with the contempt and derision they deserve.