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If Nuclear Energy is safe, why are people so afraid of it?


  1. Confusion between nuclear power and atomic bombs

  2. Misunderstanding of radioactivity.

  3. Fictional stories that become part of our zeitgeist


  1. Nuclear power plants should not be confused with nuclear weapons, the first human use of nuclear fission. Fission is a reaction in which the nucleus of an atom is bombarded by neutrons and then splits into two or more smaller nuclei, releasing additional neutrons and lots of energy. A chain reaction occurs when one nuclear reaction causes multiple subsequent reactions. Nuclear weapons are designed in a complex way to force the chain reaction to accelerate to completion in an instant. Nuclear Power plants maintain a steady, controlled chain reaction to produce heat, which is converted to electricity with a steam turbine.  Power plant fuels are not enriched enough and not configured in a way that can produce a nuclear explosion.

  2. Earth’s creatures are bombarded with radioactivity every hour of every day.  We even choose to expose our bodies to radiation through x-rays, MRIs, and radiation therapy. As the following graphic shows, 82% of our exposure to radiation comes from nature.  Almost all the rest comes from elected medical procedures.

Background Radiation 2.JPG

And this chart:


Note that living next to a coal-burning power plant exposes a person to more radiation than living next to a nuclear plant.

3.  Our stories, full of drama and humor, have led us to believe that anything nuclear is to be feared.  Just as watching the movie “Jaws” gives us angst about swimming in the ocean, the movies “The China Syndrome” and “Chernobyl” take a remote possibility and make it seem much more dangerous than it really is.  Some of the more lurid depictions are not even possible,  The character of Homer in “The Simpsons” gives us the false impression that nuclear power plants are managed by fools rather than highly trained professionals.


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