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Mar. 14, 2011

Nuclear Option

by Carl Flatow

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No discussion of sustainable energy is complete without inclusion of the nuclear option. When we’re in a moment like this, while a nuclear power plant disaster is playing out, one important component of that discussion is harder to ignore. Risk.

Nobody denies the risk. Everyone agrees that we should be concerned about things like, what happens if there’s an accident, the damage a successful terrorist attack would inflict and the consequences of an earthquake or similar natural disaster.

Of course we try to balance the risk against the reward, but what can balance the horrible downside of a meltdown and release of radioactive material into our air and water? If there were no alternatives — if the only power source we had was nuclear energy maybe it would make sense, just maybe.

What can be the values of a society willing to take these risks when there are viable alternatives with much less destructive risks?

About Carl Flatow

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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