Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Anti-Nuclear Camp

The anti-nuclear zealots will go to any lengths to preserve the myth that "no level of radiation exposure is safe." Their tactic is often to use ridiculous anecdotes ("fish so radioactive they glowed in the dark") to incite fear in the technically ignorant.

More than twenty years ago, I was present when the minions of Dr. Benjamin Spock were "debating" representatives of Arkansas Power and Light. [Arkansas Power and Light was then owner of Arkansas Nuclear One - a complex with two 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plants.] It was a rout. Spock's activists had no idea of the reactor contents or of any way to begin quantifying the potential dangers of the plant. But they knew how to frame the debate: It was all about greedy industrialists intentionally endangering children, the elderly, the handicapped, the fishermen on the river, even birds flying over. Indeed, no one was safe from attack by this ruthless, rapacious cartel of profit mongers. Each accusation by Spock's forces brought forth wild cheers and applause.

The utility representatives were reduced to looking at each other with mouths wide open and eyes rolling. They came prepared to talk about containment building integrity and cesium 137 - but not about their war on the community. When anyone from the nuclear camp dared to open his mouth, it was to a chorus of boos and heckling.

When the bloodbath was over, the anti-nukes marched out of the meeting as a cheering horde; the physicists and engineers were still sitting in shock when I left. Attempts to use a logical technical argument with this anti-nuclear group reminded me of trying to teach a pig to sing: It frustrates you and annoys the pig.