[ RadSafe ] Your eminently readable books

parthasarathy k s ksparth at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Jan 18 12:01:52 CST 2006

Dear Professor Cohen,
  I was impressed by your eminently readable books  (The nuclear energy option and Before it is too late,A scientists case for nuclear energy). I read them virtually at one go and purchased them for the library of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (I was then Secretary of the Board and Chairman of the library Committee). I have recommended your books to every engineer and scientist who participated in the public awareness programmes of  the Department of Atomic Energy.
  Your narrative is simple; you present every concept logically. In your books, the arguments for nuclear energy evolve gradually. Though I read the books several years ago, I still vividly remember your description of the toxicity of plutonium versus coffeine, the anecdote of the graduate student who claimed that he designed a nuclear bomb etc.
  But anti nuclear sentiments have gone too deep in the psyche of individuals; Hiroshima , Nagasaki, vague fears of leukemia, spectre of children suffering from birth defects allegedly due to radiation exposure; exaggerated notions about the incompetence and callousness of the nuclear community, leaky pipes; anaemic children exposed to Chernobyl fallout; there are plenty of  bizarre images which will bias any one against nuclear energy.
  Apart from reassuring discussions, what we need is a conscious effort to prove that the shocking images associated with nuclear energy are not real. It is evidently an unenviable task. 
  More often the effort of the nuclear community is directed towards converting the converted. I am afraid to say that in India, the nuclear community remained elitist and isolated for long. But there is perceptible change now. The nuclear community settled down near the nuclear power stations started mixing with the local population. But they have a long way to go.
  Uncommitted people identify nuclear community with a special agenda; this leads to the erosion of credibility. A university professor  has a different  image.
  In a free and frank interview with me, Professor Roald Hoffman, Nobel Laureate, had suggested that nuclear power protagonists can have a natural alliance with informed environmentalists.I did not then realize the importance of his suggestion. It was nearly seven years ago. He felt that the information on the environmental advantages of nuclear power is new. ( I published that interview in AERB Newsletter and had then received excellent feedback). The shift of loyalties of many environmentalists who were not friends of nuclear energy is an instance in point.
  Many factors influence public perception of nuclear energy. Imparting scientifically accurate information will be helpful. Particularly for the discerning public.Equally important are the efforts to remove unfounded fears and baseless apprehensions,
  (Formerly, Secretary, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board)
  Raja Ramanna Fellow
  Department of Atomic Energy
  GN18, Vikram Sarabhai Bhavan,Mumbai 400094
  91+22 25555327 (O)
  91+22 25486081 (O)
  91+22 27706048 (R)
  9869016206 (Mobile)

Bernard Cohen <blc+ at pitt.edu> wrote:
  I am writing in response to your letter of Jan. 6 bemoaning the fact 
that theYucca Mountain repository seems to be going nowhere, summarized 
in your sentences "Maybe the repository will be finished bo 2030. Maybe 
I believe it is extremely important to educate the public to 
understand that buried radioactive waste is not an important potential 
threat to human health. I don't think the public can ever understand or 
become comfortable with the Probabilistic Risk Analysis (PRA) approach 
used by DOE; It is vulnerable to criticism on many points and the 
critics are only too happy to take advantage of this, and the public 
cannot judge between "experts". I have long advocated doing a PRA for an 
average U.S. location (which I have shown is very easy to do and to be 
understood by the public, and which comes out quite acceptable), and 
relying on the public to believe that the experts can choose a site at 
least as good as an average site. My most recent presentation of this 
viewpoint is published in "Probabilistc risk analysis for a high level 
waste repository", Risk Analysis 23:909-915;2003
An improved approach to achieving public understanding was recently 
published in my paper "Understanding the toxicity of buried radioactive 
waste and its impact", Health Phys 89;355-358;2005. It shows in easily 
understandable fashion that the buried waste from a continuous nuclear 
power program operating over thousands of years will cause about 1.0 
deaths per year in U.S. based on assuming LNT and no improvement in 
cancer cure rates.
If someone would figure out how to present these ideas to the mass 
public audience, I think it would do a lot of good. Any advice on how I 
might help in this would be greatly appreciated.

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