Radiation myths continue

May 13, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe


Atomic fission can provide all the world’s people with as much emission-free electricity as they need for prosperity, but the cost of nuclear energy has risen due to excessive regulations that have been enacted in reaction to the general public's excessive fear of radiation. That’s according to Robert Hargraves, who teaches energy policy at Dartmouth’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and is a cofounder of nuclear engineering company ThorCon International.

In an article published by RealClearEnergy, Radiation: More Terrifying Than Night Air?, Hargraves posits that many people fear radiation because they don’t understand it, much like Americans who believed until the 20th century that night air was poisonous.

An old myth …: In colonial America, bad air (mal aria) from swamps and decaying matter was thought to be especially unhealthful at night. Going outdoors in the dark was dangerous, as was leaving the bedroom window open at night. Some people nailed their windows shut.

The myth persisted for a century and a half, though some scientists argued the truth. In one anecdote, Benjamin Franklin was unable to persuade president-to-be John Adams to leave the window open during an evening visit. Adams wrote of the incident in his diary, admitting, “I am afraid of the Evening Air.” Not until the 20th century did people become persuaded that the disease malaria was transmitted not by “bad air” but by mosquitos.

… And a modern myth: Radiation myths are analogous, according to Hargraves. They have intensified for a half-century, as regulators try to appease fearful activists with ever-tighter strictures. “Shall we wait another century, again … or now follow published radiation science?” Hargraves asks before concluding, “Let's follow the science, quell radiation fear, fix the regulations, then build and export economic nuclear power plants that generate 24/7, CO2-free electricity to check climate change.”

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