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Historian says history of nuclear power needs to be addressed
Date:4/5/2011

CORVALLIS, Ore. The long-standing conflicts over nuclear power and the risks of radiation exposure are nothing new in fact, the debate over the damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in Japan are similar to arguments happening between scientists, governmental agencies and the public since 1945, according to an Oregon State University expert on the history of science.

Historian Jacob Hamblin is the author of the 2008 book, "Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age." He specializes in the history of the Cold War era, with a particular focus on environmental sciences and the history of nuclear issues.

"Science without history is just ignorance," Hamblin said. "Much of the current media debate about the safety of nuclear power and radiation exposure is an echo of conflicts going on since the dawn of the nuclear era."

Hamblin said nuclear scientists have long decried public concerns over radiation exposure and the safety of nuclear power plants. Yet he says these same issues continue to cause conflict between anti-nuclear activists, scientists and pro-nuclear advocates.

"In the 1950s, the response to the public was that it was irrational and that its fears about nuclear energy were based on emotion," Hamblin said. "I don't believe the public is irrational, but I do believe that the nuclear industry has failed to address some key issues, namely the issue of nuclear waste disposal and the risk of radiation exposure and contamination when something like Fukushima occurs."

Hamblin's book tells the history of how policy decisions, scientific conflicts and public relations strategies were employed from the end of World War II through the blossoming environmental movement of the 1970s. By avoiding simplistic pro-or-con arguments, Hamblin said his goal was to research how and why decisions are made.

"You can talk to scientists from a variety of backgrounds and hear five different tru
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Contact: Jacob Hamblin
jacob.hamblin@oregonstate.edu
541-737-3503
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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