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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > March April 2017 > Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Nuclear Power and Risk Psychology

In his excellent article on nuclear power (“Nuclear Power and the Psychology of Evalu ating Risk,” November/Decem ber 2016), Daniel Vogel compares nuclear power to a hypothetical perfect alternative that is completely risk free. In spite of doing so, he makes an excellent case for why nuclear power is not the dirty and dangerous energy source it is made out to be.

How does nuclear power stack up to a real alternative such as coal? Coal miners are subject to black lung disease. Their deaths are every bit as horrible as what people imagine dying from radiation poisoning would be like. And coal mining has despoiled vast tracts of land in the “coal country” parts of West Virginia and Kentucky. But what about the storage of radioactive materials? The mining and burning of coal concentrates chemical toxins like arsenic and mercury. After ten thousand years, almost all the radioactivity in nuclear waste has cooked off. After ten thousand years, all of the toxicity of the arsenic, mercury, and the many other toxins in the tailings produced by the mining and burning of coal remains. Coal is the worst, but there are problems with all of the alternatives. The question should not be the one that is usually asked, namely “Are there problems with nuclear?” but instead, “Are the problems with nuclear greater or less than those of the alternatives?”

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