The word "nuclear" has for some time struck fear into the American public. Of course, there is a good reason for this. Nuclear weapons became a significant threat during the Cold War. Everyone was on edge over the powerful weapon.
By the time of the 1980s, the word nuclear was scary enough to the American public that a name change to an important imaging technique was made. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging changed to Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The name change occurred specifically to encourage more people to undergo this type of imaging.
It turns out that MRI is one of the safest ways to learn about what is going on in a person's body, yet the psychology of the word nuclear (which, by the way, is meant in a different context for NMR) is enough to make people afraid.
It is unfortunate that nuclear weapons were ever made, perhaps even more unfortunate that they were named nuclear weapons, giving rise to this negative psychology. But as a society we are stuck with the name and its connotation.
Of course, that negative connotation has carried over to nuclear power. The safety of nuclear power has always been a concern, even more so now after the accident at the Fukushima plant. The interesting thing about this accident is that it has led many countries, including the U.S. to rethink making more nuclear power plants, despite the fact that Fukushima in terms of human life was a success story.
No fatalities resulted from the Fukushima triple meltdown, for the most part the radiation was contained. Of course radiation was released, and workers were exposed, but none were exposed to life threatening levels.
There has been, in fact, very little loss of life due to nuclear power and only three major accidents; Fukushima, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Interestingly, in two of these events there was no loss of life. Chernobyl was the only accident to have loss of life contributing 31 deaths.
By comparison with coal, natural gas, and hydro power, nuclear power is actually the safest method to generate electricity, (The others have death tolls in the thousands vs. the 31 of nuclear power.) Of course it also is a much greener way to generate electricity than coal and natural gas.
There are many fail safe's built into the reactors and proposals for newer reactors would have even better measures to protect the public. The fact that the public remained unharmed even after the Fukushima meltdown is proof that the nuclear industry has done its job to protect the innocent public from the possible hazards that are created by nuclear power generation.
Of course, nuclear power does come with its problems, such as waste storage, but safety does not appear to be one of them. Nuclear power has proven to be safe in its 50-year existence, and until we can start meeting the world's power needs with other green energy, nuclear power seems to be our best bet. Let us stop preventing new plants from being built.
Jeremie is a Wilmington resident and Clarkson University graduate student. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.