Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Dangers of Smoking, Over-Eating, and Chernobyl

If any of you have ever talked to me about the public perception of nuclear power/research, you know that I am of the opinion that most people are morons in that department. Well it turns out there's research to back me up. A team of researchers from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in the United Kingdom has concluded that the increased health risks that have come to those most affected by the Chernobyl accident have about the same magnitude as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day or constantly overeating. In fact, even for those living in what is known as the 'kill-zone', the area that was officially evacuated by the Russian and Ukrainian governments, the increase in mortality rates was only about 1%, the same as with passive (less than 1 pack a day) smoking or mild over-eating. A news story on the study can be found here.

What drives me nuts about nuclear issues is that most people are blindly afraid of anything with the word 'nuclear' associated with it. This fear forces nuclear power plants to store hazardous waste in unsafe conditions rather than transport it to much safer storage facilities like Yucca Mountain National Repository in Nevada. It also prevents the US from utilizing nuclear power to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, which in my opinion are far more dangerous to humanity than very small amounts of nuclear waste.

The bottom line is that the dangers of nuclear power, even in the worst case situation like Chernobyl are much less than most people think. Perhaps someday people will grow out of their Cold-War induced ignorant fear of the word 'nuclear'. I just hope it's sooner rather than later.

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