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Here Be Dragons

Life, death and nuclear fallout.

Fortnightly Magazine - April 2011

60 years old. “It is irresponsible to talk about small probabilities and make people rely on them,” Taleb writes.

As a society, we must make every effort to understand the risks we’re imposing on people. If the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster leads to an honest examination of nuclear risks and our ability to manage them, then ultimately the industry might regain public confidence. But if it becomes a hyperbolic argument over unknowable consequences, then it will cause even greater fear and mistrust.

We must avoid that outcome if we hope to learn the lessons of Fukushima-Daiichi. Dragons can’t be allowed to roam freely in our midst.

 

Endnotes:

1. China Labour Bulletin Research Report No. 6  cites figures from the State Administration of Work Safety that report more than 39,000 deaths from 2000 through 2006. Subsequent reports indicate about 9,000 miners died in Chinese coal mines from 2007 through 2009.

2. DOT PHMSA Pipeline Safety Program .

3. The IAEA/UN Chernobyl Forum estimates about 4,000 deaths attributable to radiation from the Chernobyl disaster. By comparison, Greenpeace cites figures totaling 140,000.

4. EU ExternE project and subsequent study, Economic Analysis of Various Options of Electricity Generation – Taking into Account Health and Environmental Effects , Institute of Atomic Energy, Otwock-Swierk, Poland.

5. CBS News  poll, March 22, 2011.

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