Open Engineering
Environment and Development.

Surely Nuclear Scientists and Engineers Wouldn't Do Anything Dangerous?

The scientists and engineers who design and run nuclear power plants are highly trained and skilled. So surely we should take their word for it that nuclear power is safe and economical? This is a very understandable point of view, so here are some reasons why we should very definitely NOT leave it to the 'experts':

Starting with the obvious, anyone who undertakes the lengthy training to become a nuclear engineer and works in the sector is unlikely to oppose nuclear power because it means throwing away their skill set and career. Also familiarity with a technology makes you trust it more - most people who drive frequently but fly seldom, feel less nervous in their car than they do in an aeroplane (though in fact the plane is statistically safer).

Secondly since when were engineers cautious and restrained? Engineers are usually male: most boys like things that are big, fast and go bang, and many of us continue this into adulthood - why else the large numbers of ridiculously over-powered motorbikes and sports cars on the road. Engineers can often recount hair-raising, irresponsible 'experiments' that we carried out in childhood. The natural engineering mentality is "If we can do something - we want to do it". Some readers may find it hard to believe that whatever they had done as children, highly educated adults might want to do crazy things ... so let's take a look at some examples in the nuclear egineering field:

So our conclusion must be that there are plenty of engineers and scientists who are perfectly willing to work on projects verging on lunacy for as long as the politicians pay them (with our money) to do so. Some of these projects were stopped so we don't yet have rockets raining atomic bombs behind them as they soar into space. But we do have hundreds of reactors dotted around the world which generate material for dirty bombs and atomic weapons, which produce waste that we don't know what to do with and is dangerous for pretty much eternity, and which could render much of the globe uninhabitable if they are destroyed by accident or war. Sanity has not broken out yet.

Finally we should note that some of the engineers and scientists who have worked on nuclear technologies have come to have grave concerns about the dangers. One such was Dr. John Gofman, the pre-eminent Manhattan Project nuclear scientist and medical physician who said "Licensing a nuclear power plant is in my view, licensing random premeditated murder."


[1] Nuclear bomb spaceships. See Project Orion in wikipedia.

[2] Nuclear excavation and project Plowshare. See: Phys Org - Geography professor writes first in-depth account of scheme to engineer with atom bombs; wikipedia - Operation Plowshare.

[3] Atomic Planes then. See: Article by radiationworks, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

[4] Atomic Planes now. See: The New Scientist - Nuclear Powered Drone Aircraft on Drawing Board.

[5] Nuclear Car. See: Ford Media - Ford Concept Cars; wikipedia - Ford Nucleon.

[6] Irradiated food. See The Food Commission - Irradiated Food.