Nuclear Safety: Combating Public Misconceptions

Most individuals outside the world of science and engineering are hell bent on scrutinizing the nuclear industry for what they understand is an industry that is anything but safe. Who could blame them? Since the Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima nuclear disasters, the media has done a great job (maybe justifiable at times) of portraying nuclear reactors as a Darth Vader-like character invading an Elmo themed 1st birthday party. With that kind of vision no wonder so many are turned off or unsure by “nuclear”, a word that if you alter the placement of the very first two letters actually spells U-N-C-L-E-A-R.  

As a society we should really reconsider the antiquated image of Darth Vader representing the nuclear power industry. Long a fan of filmmaker George Lucas’ “Star Wars” epic space films, I distinctly recall when Darth Vader was unmasked in the “Return of the Jedi” installment. During that classic movie scene, Darth Vader is shown to really be Anakin Skywalker and the thought of seeing his son (Luke Skywalker) suffer at the hands of Emperor Palpatine, causes him to remember he can still do good. I think its time we take the proverbial mask off the nuclear sector and see the good it really can posses. 

The discovery of nuclear reactions need not bring about the destruction of mankind any more than the discovery of matches”
— Albert Einstein, Nobel Prize Physicist

As for the issue of safety, consider this: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is safer to work at a nuclear plant than at a fast food restaurant or a grocery store or in real estate. In fact, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reports that people living close to a nuclear power plant receive far less radiation exposure than from a single whole-body CAT scan. Now that is fascinating!