The Incredible Safety of Nuclear Energy Part Three

Risk is Unavoidable

It is not reasonable to expect that one can avoid all risk in life. Many of the things we do every day involve some risk.

Every time we get in the car and drive down the road or to work, we take some risk of being involved in a car crash and possibly dying. Every time we go outside we expose ourselves to more UV rays from the Sun, ever so slightly increasing the chances of us one day developing skin cancer.

Getting an x-ray exposes us to radiation, albeit far less than can cause any significant risk of harm. Getting a CT scan or the like exposes us to radiation as well, but again far less than we have any reason to be concerned about.

We do all of these things and yet most of us do not worry about these things. Why? Because these things might involve some risk, but these are such statistically insignificant risks that we do not worry about them.

If we wanted to avoid all risk in life, we would have to stay in our house and never expose ourselves to anything with any risk. We would not turn on appliances, just in case we got an electric shock. We would not eat new foods, just in case we were allergic.

car crash more dangerous than nuclear
This could happen anytime you go driving. Does that stop you driving?

It would diminish our quality of life to almost zero and yet we could not avoid all risks. What about the risk of randomly choking when we swallow food? It is typically statistically insignificant, but it is still a risk!

Our quality of life requires that we accept very small risks. How big a risk we take is up to us. We have to weigh the potential consequences and the chances they will occur versus the benefits and decide whether the benefit vastly outweighs any expected cost.

If we do that with nuclear energy, we find that the risk is in fact tiny. In fact, we routinely engage in activities which are provably far riskier than nuclear energy. Yet, some of us consider nuclear energy too dangerous?

This is hardly rational. Granted, improper management of nuclear energy can kill thousands of people. But, if we handle nuclear energy properly and follow proper safety procedures, then the casualty rate is very low and the average person has little or no risk of being negatively influenced by nuclear energy.

And they stand to derive great benefit from it! Nuclear energy allows us to efficiently produce large amounts of energy with little or no significant negative environmental impact.

When considering whether or not to engage in risky behaviour three things must be considered: What can go wrong and what the consequences of it do? Can I manage the risk so that the risk is acceptably low? And, what do I stand to gain if I take the risk?

In other words, one must decide if the potential benefits outweigh the expected outcomes of taking the risk. And whether that requires reasonable steps to be taken to manage the risk involved.

Yes, things can go wrong and it might be very bad if they do, but if I take the proper steps it is very improbable that the outcomes will be nearly as bad as the benefit when things are going right.

And this is the way things are with nuclear power. Yes, the risks are potentially great. But proper management greatly reduces those risks. Not to zero, but to a point where it is low enough that the benefit outweighs the cost of when things do go wrong.

nuclear power plants
So, more nuclear power plants then?


What can we conclude from all that we have seen in this series? We should conclude that nuclear energy is in fact incredibly safe. Yes, it involves risks but we can manage them relatively easily. This can reduce the risks to almost completely negligible.

History has shown this. There have been three major nuclear accidents in over 17,000 reactor years of nuclear power plant operation. One of these does not accurately represent the risk presented by nuclear power plants run according to modern safety procedures.

The other two show that there are few serious casualties or deaths to be expected from nuclear power plant incidents.

Nuclear energy is, according to the statistics, safer than many of the alternatives, including hydroelectric power. All the other forms of energy production apparently involve greater risk, despite the general misconception to the contrary.

So then, should we be demonizing nuclear power production? Evidently not. It is extremely safe and environmentally friendly, as we have seen.

Yes, there are risks, but when faced with risks we must ask ourselves two questions: can we manage those risks and what do we stand to gain if the risk is an acceptable one?

But to avoid all risk would be to lose one of the most efficient imaginable sources of energy production. One with far more potential than anything else we currently have available. One which could help end power shortages in areas where other energy production means are not sufficient.

Why should we choose to sacrifice such a great value? And a sacrifice it would be. A sacrifice is when you surrender a value in the name of nothing or in the name of lesser value. And surrendering nuclear energy in the name of ignorant hysteria surely qualifies as a sacrifice!

So, let us stop making this sacrifice! We should embrace nuclear energy, not fear it. It is safe, green and wonderfully efficient!

Let’s go nuclear!

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