Nobody's perfect, and so mistakes
do happen. But while I doubt if any of us could conceive of the tragedy
coming with a reported 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil daily entering
The Gulf, are we any more capable of conceiving what might come with a
nuclear disaster? While optimism is important, it's
sometimes a trap - just ask BP.
Before we are 'sold' into a
wholehearted embrace of the 'clean, safe, and reliable' energy that gave
us the Chernobyl Disaster, perhaps
we might want to consider why so many of us are so sure 'the
unthinkable' can never occur...at least until it does.
are an interesting species, our achievements demonstrating that we are
capable of virtually incalculable greatness. Unfortunately, our
catastrophes - such as that ostensibly 'one in a million' chance oil
debacle in The Gulf - demonstrate that we have our downsides too. Of
course, sometimes even I happen to have that ever so rare occasion when,
dare I say it, even I actually make an error; though, I reassure myself
that this just means I'm only human. But that's precisely
it - 'human error' can be a problem.
I recently read an
opinion piece titled "Recipes for Ruin, in the Gulf or on Wall Street".
The author, an academic from the University of Chicago, indeed
making a good point about our society's capability for estimating the
capacity we have for grave miscalculation, not to mention its
consequences. Pointing to The Gulf Debacle and Wall
Street's financial crisis, he noted our track record for foreseeing
disaster could be better.
The Professor seemed to feel that we
have been, and yet remain, unduly optimistic. He also
noted that "we do not live in an ideal world", and then (simultaneously
offering that he felt compelled to utilize a genteel term) strongly
observed that "stuff happens". And indeed it does.
legislation dating from the Exxon Valdez disaster, we
have some recourse to seek damages from those business entities that,
for one reason or another, find themselves responsible for adding oil
pollution to our already less than pristine environment. But just as our
all too human capacity for making mistakes was responsible for 'Exxon
Valdez', and certainly appears to have played a role in The Gulf, it
also was found to have been a factor in America's best known nuclear
accident, 'Three Mile Island'.
we got lucky at Three Mile Island, managing to avoid a scenario that
could have been far worse, the illusion of infallible nuclear safety
systems was temporarily tarnished. Then came the Chernobyl, and with it a
reminder of our sad capacity for boundless technological optimism, plus
the inherent dangers which we, as beings that are 'only human', bring
to any equation.
that it will be a couple centuries before the countryside in the
vicinity of Chernobyl is safe
again; though, it's thought that the immediate area of the meltdown will
take an estimated 2,000 years before being habitable. The
human costs were staggering as well, and though only about thirty died
either immediately or not long thereafter, excess cancer cases, birth
defects, and a host of radiation induced maladies are yet debated as to
their eventual toll. According to a Greenpeace
report, the number of
additional cancer fatalities could top 100,000.
Even if we had legislation
guaranteeing payment for 'damages' in case of nuclear mishap,
realistically, how can one put a price tag on the catastrophic
suffering, not to mention those parts of America that would be
uninhabitable? Perhaps we have been 'unduly optimistic',
but we're only human.
I won't mention that our faith in those
with the US Minerals Management Service,
and their 'faith' in those they were meant to regulate, brought us that
huge bowl of 'oil chowder' we had once called The Gulf of Mexico. If
there's currently a better example of our all too natural capacity for
error, then it escapes me.
I won't cite President Obama's March decision
ending the moratorium on offshore drilling just weeks before BP's Gulf
Debacle began, but it does show that even those who are smart and
capable do make mistakes. However, what concerns me far more is the
President's February decision to support the construction of two new nuclear power plants,
the first since the 1970's.
While the ongoing Gulf Spill
presents an ecological crisis of yet untold proportions, the effects of
any substantive 'nuclear spill' would be far worse. But hey, even the
best of us 'make mistakes', and given that, maybe the President will
realize his position on nuclear power could well prove a huge one.
The Gulf leaving the consequences of human error so fresh in our minds,
perhaps now is the time for phasing out nuclear power, not increasing
Of course, President Obama has also called for a vast increase in renewable energy,
and that does seem a better idea. I sincerely believe the President to
be a decent and capable man, it's just that no ones perfect, and so
perhaps we must indeed try and avoid our all too human potential for
mistakes, especially those that are 'nuclear'.
effects of radiation can last a lot longer than those of oil. Though
some of us certainly claim that today's nuclear power is 'clean, safe,
and reliable', of course, wasn't the same said of today's deepwater oil