Lean on Reason

Geoffrey Lean has won awards as a journalist. These are not inconsiderable awards, and between them and his record as an investigative journalist, one might imagine that he would appreciate the value of evidence in driving conclusions.

This makes his weak conclusion to his article on future nuclear policy all the more disappointing.

But, equally, the huge disruption that a disaster can cause, as reactors are subsequently closed for safety checks and new ones delayed, and the anti-nuclear revolt that inevitably ensues, make it unwise to become too dependent on nuclear power. Instead of falling in and out of love with the atom, as we regularly do, we need a more sensible, watchful, relationship.

Come again? We have to be wary of nuclear power, because historically, a fraction of the public is wary of nuclear power? That can’t possibly be a valid reason. Large swathes of the population have been afraid of things in the past. They got better.  When the automobile was invented, a great many people believed that the human body would disintegrate if subjected to speeds greater than 30 miles per hour.  Physics education was, obviously, not mandatory then: we now routinely drive at over 60 miles per hour, and it is to be hoped that most adults will now recognize that it is acceleration which places stress on the body, not speed.

Irrational fear of nuclear energy is not some immutable truth of human nature.  If people are educated about the basics of nuclear physics, they will stop reacting with mass hysteria every time nuclear power is in the news, and start making reasoned decisions about how much nuclear power they want in their society.

Isn’t that the goal of democracy?


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