The distrust of nuclear power

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Science  01 Apr 1977:
Vol. 196, Issue 4285, pp. 25-34
DOI: 10.1126/science.841337


Society seems content to strike a more moderate or uncertain balance with other technologies than with nuclear power. This attitude is traced to the social history of nuclear power, the genuine uncertainty and complexity of safety issues, underestimation of the regulatory task, and the rancorous nature of the debate. Nuclear power is not just another problem of technology, of environment, or of health. It is unique in our time. To be more demanding of nuclear safety may be to apply a double standard, but not necessarily an irrational one. Our best course appears to be to keep the nuclear option open, work toward the rapid resolution of problems such as waste disposal, but postpone recycling and the breeder reactor. Time is needed to resolve immediate problems such as transport and disposal of nuclear wastes; to come to terms with trans-scientific issues such as plutonium toxicity, sabotage, and weapons proliferation; and to evaluate long-term energy alternatives.