The Sin of One, the Fall of All

Modernity has created this odd consequence: there now exists a man-made hazard so dangerous that it must be capped and contained, by the combined knowledge of the world’s industrial nations, for all of the foreseeable future; an indelible human mark on the landscape to cover a permanent scar. This is Chernobyl — which will require something shy of a billion from the world’s governments to continue to contain — an uncomfortable illustration of just how powerful we’ve become, and how much havoc simple negligence can wreak on the world.

Don’t miss this 2006 article from The Guardian, on the twenty-year anniversary of the disaster, offering an in-depth, poignant view of the loss of Reactor Four from those who lived through it. If there’s a better illustration of the ties that bind us all than this shared disaster, I’m unaware of it.

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9 comments

  1. david boudreau · ·

    Fifty-seven accidents have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster, and almost two-thirds (56 out of 99) of all nuclear-related accidents have occurred in the USA. There have been comparatively few fatalities associated with nuclear power plant accidents or so they say?

    1. Or so who says?

    2. david boudreau · ·

      NO I don’t think anyone has looked at long term radiation exposer in these areas so that’s why they can say “Few Fatalities associated accidents. If you don’t look you will not find!!

      1. I can’t speak for all of these accidents (and where did you get those numbers, anyway?), but there have been numerous long-term studies for the big ones: Examples:

        http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/annexj.pdf
        http://rpd.oxfordjournals.org/content/113/2/214.abstract

  2. 2006 was the 20th anniversary

    1. Yup. Keystroke error, that.

  3. david boudreau · ·

    I was curious because of Fukushima and just googled like most and found the following >

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_the_United_States

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/mar/14/nuclear-power-plant-accidents-list-rank

    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0001457.html

    and Green peace if you care to look?

    http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/nukes/chernob/rep02.html

    Of course thousands of other/better sites!

    1. The problem with the Greenpeace site is that is really doesn’t give you any perspective on how bad some of the problems are. Jan 21 1969 has a release of radioactive water? How much? A few liters? What was the “technical failure” at Sizewell on June 15th 1992?

      Or it has various countries doing nuclear tests–how exactly does that reflect on the peaceful use of nuclear energy? Shall we count the use of Greek Fire as a strike against fossil fuels?

      The thing is to keep radioactivity in perspective–radioisotopes are hazardous materials, and should be treated as such. They are an unfortunate consequence of a modern, industrial society. But it’s silly to say that “if it’s radioactive, it must be avoided at all costs.” No, it must be properly handled, like all other hazardous materials.

      Consider our alternatives: Society at large is going to continue using electricity as long as it can, so we must ask how we’re going to generate it. Fossil fuels? It’s not like fly ash is a particularly wonderful thing to deal with (http://acandidworld.com/2008/12/24/oops-clean-coals-got-a-problem/). In fact, coal has its own radioactivity problem (http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html). And the most obvious thing: they sticks all these other nasty things into the environment (particularly coal) and we have all the CO2 going into the air.

      Solar? That’s a decade or two out from being remotely competitive, if we are even able to come up with something that can be sufficiently scaled up. There’s only so much Gallium in the Earth’s crust, particularly if you’re rather keen on not mining every bit of nature around. Hydroelectric? Way to destroy a river. Wind? There’s a limited amount you can do, particularly if you start worrying about destroying the view. Biofuels? Sure, turn every last acre into cropland and keep the world hungry.

      Really, the most important thing to do environmentally is to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we’re using. You need to establish a baseline of power that renewables can be put on top of, and nuclear is probably the best way to do that.

  4. david boudreau · ·

    Yep ! Green Peace ain’t my fav-or-rite group, they started off doing so much good and then ????
    well you know.

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