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A is for Atom

Salem nuke plant (NJ)

Salem nuke plant (NJ)

Given the 32nd Anniversary of the Three Mile Island partial nuke meltdown and the ongoing  crisis in Japan, I thought it would be a good time to repost a link to a superb BBC documentary on the history of civilian nuclear power.

Please watch this BBC documentary by Adam Curtis “A is for Atom“.

It begins with the quasi-religious utopian origin of the nuclear technology and virtual public worship for scientists that spawned the phrase “nuclear priesthood“.

This is the period I was born and educated in, and it still resonates. I can still recall my disillusion with science, which really didn’t begin until college, as I learned of the social and environmental consequences of science and technology abused under a corporate capitalist system.

The documentary shows how the heroic postwar scientists and technologists were quickly co-opted by the politicians and dominated by corporate interests, particularly at GE and Westinghouse.

As politicians and industry PR oversold the utopian benefits of the nuclear power genie (the way to a better world – electric power too cheap to meter – on the threshold of a new age – even your toothpaste may be a product of the atomic age), the regulators were boxed in and lacked the effective power to control the nuclear industry.

Scientists, regulators, and politicians could not admit mistakes they made, because so much had been committed to nuclear power technology:

“after having told the public that the nuclear technology was safe, we just couldn’t admit that we were wrong’ according to one scientist.

There are incredible interviews with scientists and regulators, in US, Britain, and Russia.

One famous US scientist, an early champion of nuclear power, in retrospect frames the issue thusly:

“I think the basic question is: can modern intrusive technology and liberal democracy coexist?”

Interviews with scientists and regulators disclose how the nuclear industry deliberately concealed true risks, and cut corners on safety. Government regulators admit that they were pressured to cut costs and expedite approvals of construction of excessively scaled up, dangerous designs and technology.

This is a must see documentary.

Is is part of Curtis’ superb BBC multi-part series on the history on modern science called “Pandora’s Box”.¬† Click on and Watch them all when you get a chance.

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  1. gary
    March 29th, 2011 at 22:21 | #1

    Oil, gas and coal aren’t looking so bad now, eh Bill…….

  1. April 28th, 2015 at 00:39 | #1
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