Reactors or no reactors
Journalist Lewis Page blasts the recent media coverage of the Fukushima Nuclear meltdown in an attempt to identify how misinformation and misunderstanding have fueled panic over the consequences of the reactor misadventure. To a large degree his comments are entirely authentic and pervasive regarding the event however, he makes a key point worthy of closer scrutiny.
Certainly, I can empathize with sentiments that suggest we continue to access nuclear power in the future, however, the proximity of these power plants to populations is unacceptable. Why? Because there is no eliminating the forces within once they are beyond control. Simply put, we remain at the hands of nature in a fashion not unlike trying to predict or out-design the forces of any natural disaster. As Mr. Page so eloquently suggests, “the reactor withstood an Earthquake five times stronger than what the reactor was designed for.” That statement in itself should serve to bring some degree of clarity to the human ability to withstand, design for, or otherwise outdo the forces of nature.
Furthermore, choosing to suggest the Fukushima reactors withstood the disaster is a matter of opinion and context. At present, many may feel they did not, after all, if they did, we would not be having any discussion about the reactors at all. Now Mr. Page might say that this is simply an unrealistic perspective, is it? Is it unrealistic to presume human engineering can protect and insulate humanity against any and all potential threats? Then, why is it ok to presume since this is not possible, that these plants performed well in light of the circumstances?
Make no mistake this author is entirely sympathetic to the idea of using nuclear power, the extent to which our perspectives differ is only in matter of degree. Nuclear reactors should not be placed in close proximity to populated areas and they should not be on the surface of the Earth. The knee-jerk response to this will doubtlessly entertain that it is cost-prohibitive to entertain such degree of safety and concern. Nevertheless, it is cost prohibitive to design appropriately for the forces of nature. Why not adopt criteria for no less than a fifteen point Earthquake instead of a seven or nine? When we are talking about forces entirely beyond comprehension and control, where do we draw the line? The forces within nuclear reactors are no less daunting than trying to predict adequate design criteria for Earthquakes and Tsunami’s.
While Page correctly observes structurally, “nothing else in the quake-stricken area has come through anything like as well as the nuclear power stations, or with so little harm to the population.” This is not equivalent to being completely impervious to the forces of nature. Similarly, one may intimate that the consequences of the Fukushima reactor incident are mitigated with little harm or impact to humanity, then again, is this a calculated response designed and engineered or simply a matter of blind luck? How can we even know for sure?
To suggest that we can know for certain what any outcome may be in the event of a natural catastrophe is the equivalent of stating we can control the consequences of nuclear reactions. This is simply ridiculous…Why? Look in the sky on any clear night and explain exactly what force in the Universe actually can control the power of any one of the twinkling lights. Recognizing that it takes eight minutes for the Sun’s light to travel the 93,000,000.00 miles to Earth and realizing that the energy from this light is still capable of burning the surface of human skin. This should provide some sobering clarity to the extent of power within a nuclear reaction. There is no known force in the Universe that can control a nuclear reaction; we remain at their mercy entirely not the other way around. It is only a human predisposition towards arrogance that would try to suggest otherwise.
Yes, Mr. Page’s apology for the unbelievable levels of fear and misinformation purveyed this week by journalists who are ill-equipped intellectually and educationally to actually discuss the matter makes sense, nevertheless, these people may be ignorant but they are rarely dumb. The reasons for the extent of their dissatisfaction regarding the events at Fukushima stem from tautological arguments such as the one Mr. Page makes, that is, “how dare you criticize my industries uncontrollable natural consequence when faced with an uncontrollable natural consequence.” If we are to believe that it should be acceptable for people to die and suffer as a result of a reactor failing because it was hit by a bigger Earthquake or Tsunami than that which the plant was designed for, then you Mr. Page should not be disappointed when the population expects you to stop building factories that when out of control are not controllable.
This is the usual dilemma when discussing these issues. Why try to confuse politics and position with mathematical certainty. Everyone knows with certainty the chain reactions in nuclear reactors when under control are beneficial, they also understand these very same reactions when out of control are left largely to chance and the hands of God. This is no different than saying that because and act of God exceeded anything we could have anticipated we should not be held accountable. Furthermore, I don’t think anyone is being held accountable, they are just saying, “don’t do this in places where it subjects us to unimaginable consequences.”
In summary, what this means is, do not manage the risk of something that is unmanageable, instead build it outside the area of influence on human populations. Well then the rejoinder is, “that is cost prohibitive.” Simply put, do not weigh the benefits of cost or factor in the returns. Simply make certain that human populations are the priority and build to that criteria…In other words, do what you are expecting the public to do, eat the consequences of the action. The only distinction being, in this case it is a financial cost…Dead people don’t come back.