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

e statements about nuclear power, and each of them will lead you to different conclusions," Hamblin said. "My point is not that nuclear power is bad, because I don't necessarily believe that, but that the public is torn on these issues because there are a variety of ways to interpret the science."

In his book, Hamblin gives the example of tests being done by the U.S. military in the 1950s. Nuclear bombs were detonated over the Pacific Ocean, and oceanographers then studied how radioactivity circulated in the ocean and how much it was diluted.

"Some oceanographers and radiation physicists tested the water and found that indeed, the ocean seemed to have diluted the radiation and there was little to no risk," Hamblin said. "Then another batch of scientists came out and they started testing the plants and fish and other sea life and they found higher levels of radiation absorption in those things that we eat."

Hamblin's cautionary tale is that unanswered questions regarding nuclear energy need to be addressed with the public, and not in a dismissive way. In addition, he believes that there are lessons that can be learned from history.

"Just over 40 years ago, people thought storing nuclear waste in ocean trenches was a good idea, until the discovery of plate tectonics," he said. "In the 1950s, safety levels of radiation exposure to reproductive organs were based on the assumption that most people were done having children by the age of 30."

"My point is that the science is often informed by the culture and the politics and the technology of the time and those things are always shifting. We need to consider what we want our energy legacy to be, and how we as a society plan to deal with the aftermath of whatever we choose."


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Contact: Jacob Hamblin
jacob.hamblin@oregonstate.edu
541-737-3503
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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