Article of the Day: Nuclear power—Why the panic?
Posted by Michael Dickens on March 19, 2011
Today’s article is about the reactions to the recent meltdown in Fukushima. It discusses how people react too strongly to rare accidents, which is a widely observed phenomenon. People worry more about dying from a shark attack than about drowning, even though sharks only kill about five people per year while about ten people drown per day. Sensational or outlandish events have a tendency to stick in our minds, while more mundane occurrences are forgotten.
When it comes to power plants, human psychology works no differently. Pollution from coal causes more deaths than nuclear radiation and nuclear meltdowns put together. But on the rare occasion when there is a meltdown, it is spectacular. It’s on every news channel and quickly gains international attention. This is a serious problem because it actually causes people to make seriously poor decisions. Policymakers who decide to shut down nuclear power plants are wasting huge amounts of money. Nuclear power is quite safe and one of the cheapest alternatives to fossil fuels. We should probably be building more nuclear power plants, and we certainly should not be shutting them down.