A is for Atom
Given the 32nd Anniversary of the Three Mile Island partial nuke meltdown and the ongoingÂ 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 withÂ 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 educatedÂ in, andÂ 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 documentaryÂ shows how the heroic postwar scientists and technologistsÂ were quickly co-opted by the politicians and dominatedÂ by corporate interests, particularly at GE and Westinghouse.
As politicians andÂ industry PR oversoldÂ the utopian benefits of the nuclear power genieÂ (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),Â the regulatorsÂ were boxed inÂ and lacked theÂ effective power to control theÂ 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 thatÂ 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 andÂ liberal democracyÂ coexist?”
InterviewsÂ with scientists and regulators disclose how the nuclear industry deliberately concealed true risks, and cut corners on safety.Â Government regulators admit that they were pressured toÂ cut costs and expedite approvals of construction of excessivelyÂ scaled up,Â dangerous designs andÂ technology.
This is a must see documentary.Â
Is is part of Curtis’Â superb BBCÂ multi-part series on the history on modern science called “Pandora’s Box”.Â Click on and Watch them all when you get a chance.Â