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Atomic disinformation

Before I begin, I'd like to congratulate myself. Not only do I have a reader, I have someone who has actually responded to one of these posts. I don't need anyone to temper the enthusiasm by telling me that it was my brother. It still counts. Anyway, Raymond's response to my post on offensive language can be found here.

Anyway, today's dose of random, rambling rants (replete with remorse that alliteration doesn't start with an r, or, indeed, a consonant) concerns the nuclear question. The basics of the nuclear question go like this: A conversation amongst a variety of interests somewhat like this:

Should we build a nuclear powerplant?
What will we do with the waste?
Why do you have to dump the waste within 500km of my home?
Would you please dump the waste in South Australia?
Nuclear is bad. We don't want another Chernobyl (or Hiroshima)
Nuclear is good. Think of all the greenhouse gas emissions we would save

And so on and so forth. The problem with all of this is that the conversation quickly degenerates to a series of uninformed, emotive arguments. In this case, though, it is quite reasonable to be somewhat uninformed. Despite being one of the most pressing and important issues which has faced humanity in the last few years and will face humanity in the foreseeable future, the debate is characterised as follows:

Unrealistic fear campaigns on one hand, unrealistic promises on the other and biased disinformation all round. Organisations like Greenpeace (were they named in 1984?) and various other anti-nuclear organisations cannot seem to go a discussion without mentioning Chernobyl. As if every nuclear powerplant will do the same thing, and as if every plant is built to the same standard, and as if every plant is operated to the same standard. With arguments like that, we would have discarded the wheel when the first caveman rolled his ankle, and fire would definitely be out of the question (besides, look at all the carbon dioxide it releases). This is not to downplay what happened at Chernobyl. This is just to say that it is not an argument clincher for anything (except, perhaps, buying property in certain regions of the Ukraine)

And in the other corner, we have various interest groups, such as Governments and industry, who commission studies which find that fission will bring about an unprecedented reign of peace and prosperity and will feed the cold and clothe the hungry.

Its kind of like a prize fight. We have two heavy weights bent on belting each other around (just ask New Zealanders about France). The difference is that, while they are slogging it out, the general public is standing between them, feeling the brunt from both sides.

And even worse. Neither sides statements are necessarily based on anything as inconvenient as facts. (Fine, neither are mine, but I have a readership which the world's most famous nuclear technician can count on his four fingers. Speaking of Homer Simpson, I have even heard the Simpsons used as an example of the dangers on nuclear power. It is a fictional cartoon, for crying out loud.)

So what is the solution? Obviously, I am going to advocate lots of money being channelled into the sciences of all pursuasions. That way we can build up an understanding of the entire universe, and try all of this out on one of the moons of Mars, that way if something goes wrong, it doesn't have many broader ramifications. And, given the nature of the argument, trying it out on either Phobos or Deimos just seems appropriate.

And that'll happen about the same time that industry, governments and greenpeace unite to provide a balanced argument with facts and without hyperbole.


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