Monday, October 24, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi vs. Deepwater Horizon

Here's the text of a letter I submitted to The New Yorker:


Dear The New Yorker,

Evan Osnos makes useful comparisons between the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown and the meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl ("The Fallout", October 17), but an even more useful comparison would be to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Both disasters were man-made (although one was catalyzed by a natural disaster of historic proportions, and the other only by human error); both exposed its workers to acute risks (although one killed eleven people, and the other killed no one); both continue to have enormous environmental and economic impact.  The decision to pursue nuclear power is unquestionably not without risks, but neither is the decision not to.  If, in an effort to avoid disasters like Fukushima Daiichi, we increase our reliance on fossil fuels, we can expect in the future more disasters like Deepwater Horizon.


In particular, Germany decided to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 (and that probably has more to do with its slow economic growth recently than Euro crisis does, since Germany exports electricity (or, used to)), but no one's talking about quitting drilling for oil, even though it seems clear to me that in any comparison between Fukushima Daiichi and Deepwater Horizon, the latter was a more serious disaster.  And that's not even getting into the long-term impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

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