The Genie in the Bottle

In the March/April issue of Analog C. Stuart Hardwick presents an analysis (Taming the Genie: How Fear of the Atom Threatens our Future) of the safety of nuclear power generation compared to that of other sources. He shows what every competent physicist knows: nuclear power, even  considering Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, has caused far less environmental damage and human health detriments than any other source.  (I have a Ph.D. in Radiation Biophysics and I have expert knowledge of his arguments. He’s right.) There’s a lot of excellent detail, all of it scientifically sound. Even the risks of nuclear waste storage are addressed.

Fear, as he points out, has made nuclear power a bete noire far out of proportion to its actual ability to do harm. As Japan and Germany retreat from nuclear power, they damage the environment far more than keeping them while reducing reliance on coal-fired plants and moving toward exclusive reliance on wind and solar. New designs make even the accidents we are familiar far less likely to recur. And lest anyone complain about the high cost of nuclear, by far the biggest contributor is misguided regulatory hurdles placed in front of potential nuclear power plants. For those of us who consider the future of travel throughout the solar system, nuclear power in its many forms can be a key component.

We are science fiction enthusiasts, mostly not scientists, but we need to make our voices heard about the terrible neglect of the  environmentally cleanest source of centralized power. Ironically, buying a plug-in electric car may make your carbon footprint increase due to the large reliance on coal for electricity in the U.S.

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