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Goldlin, Jan (ed.) / Wisconsin engineer
Volume 80, Number 2 (November 1975)

Fumo, Joe
Bot sides--now! Pro, con, indifferent: it's time to take a stand on nuclear power,   pp. 7-9


Page 7


                          I
"Both sides admit that if a significant amount of fission
by-products reach the environment, over a thousand peo- i
ple could die."                                     I
                          I
  Critics believe reaction waste
products cannot adequately be
protected against sabotage and
theft. They say that because so
much effort and money has already
gone into the industry, the nuclear
"bureaucracy" refuses to slow
down and consider if their
programs are justifiable.
          Safety study
  In order to settle the safety dis-
pute, the Atomic Energy Commis-
sion (AEC) conducted an intensive
study, The Rasmussen Report, on
this topic. Released in August, 1974,
the study concludes that emergen-
cy core cooling systems, designed
to prevent the fuel core from
melting and seeping into the en-
vironment, are safe.
The study describes that the
chance of all systems failing
simultaneously with a resulting
catastrophic accident is as likely to
happen as a severe earthquake oc-
curing during a major volcanic
eruption in the midst of a
hurricane.
  The report is the nuclear
proponents' chief weapon in com-
bating attacks on nuclear growth. It
appears to answer favorably all
safety problems except for theft
and sabotage of nuclear materials.
Nuclear critics also have a weapon.
  The AEC, in one of its final ac-
tions (before being split into two
separate agencies in January)
issued the Proposed Final En-
vironmental Statement on the
breeder last December. The AEC
consistently found that the
program benefits outweighed the
costs. The Environmental Protec-
tion Agency (EPA), however, ruled
that the statement was inadequate
primarily because of deficiencies
in the AEC's cost-benefit analysis.
The environmentalists' main
concern, simply, is what would
happen if things went wrong, not
what is the likelihood of such a
catastrophic accident. Both sides
admit that if a significant amount
of fission by-products reach the
environment, over a thousand peo-
ple could die. There is no disagree-
ment that plutonium is the most!
toxic element known. One particle
lodged in the lung will cause i
cancer-no questions asked.
    Introduction of Atomic
         energy in U.S.
  Nuclear opponents argue that
since its creation in 1946, the AEC
has acted in arrogance and secrecy.
It seemed to take the father-knows-
best-so-don't-ask-questions  at-
titude. Even proponents can un-
derstand why people got so upset
when they finally realized what
was going on. (There were only six
nuclear plants in operation in 1965,
compared to 56 now).
  Though it may be surprising to
some, nuclear power has been a
safely-operated industry. Forbes
magazine, July, 1975, said the in-
dustry's safety record is "far better
than that of the railroad in its early
days or the airplane or even of coal
generation of electricity." Nobody
has ever been killed or seriously
hurt by a nuclear reactor, a good
record for a new industry.
     Delaying construction
  There has also been concern
over the cost of the breeder
program-it keeps increasing. The
original estimate in the late 60's for
the total cost of development was
$2 billion. It has been adjusted this
year to $10 billion.
  A  key breeder demonstration
reactor project near Oak Ridge, -
Tennessee has also soared in cost
predictions. It is expected to cost
$1.7 billion and be completed in !
1982, rather than the $700 million
figure given two years ago when '
the project was set for a 1980 com- i
pletion date.
  Higher cost of materials and i
labor have been cited for the rises
in each case. Proponents blame !
these results on schedule delays.
The longer you wait-the more a i
project will cost.             i
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