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Response to sfwriter (Reply #3)

Mon Dec 24, 2018, 11:48 PM

4. You've made an important point.

I have a certain ambivalence about the Manhattan project.

I actually don't believe a nuclear reactor would have ever been built without. Alvin Weinberg, former Director of Oak Ridge, inventor of the highly successful pressurized water nuclear reactor, the much hyped (in modern times) molten salt reactor, and, in fact, one of the prime drivers of the revived study of climate change (along, ironically, with Freeman Dyson), coined the term "Big Science" to describe what it took to build a nuclear reactor.

What drove the development was fear of Werner Heisenberg's refusal to leave Germany, and a real well founded fear by Jewish scientists of Nazism's cruelty.

I've vacillated many times on the issue of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and whether they were justified in any way, and often was inclined to condemn the whole affair with high minded moral contempt. Nevertheless, over a long period of time, and a large number of readings about the events of the times, I've come to believe that given the circumstances and realities of the time, and given the knowledge base of those who needed to make the decisions, in particular, Truman, I am certainly open to the idea that it actually saved not only American lives, but Japanese lives as well. In his broadcast Imperial Rescript spelling out surrender, the Emperor specifically mentioned the weapon, and even after his broadcast, there was a threat of a military coup by soldiers who wanted to continue the war. At the time, Japanese war death rates were much, much, much higher than than American deaths, and the civilian death toll from dangerous fossil fuel weapons of mass destruction were enormous.

The shock may have ended the war; and the war needed to end. It had reached the point of a vicious absurdity.

Regrettably however, the great discovery of sustainable nuclear fission was the subject of too much selective attention as a result. When the Russians matched the American technology, attitudes began to change about nuclear energy as a whole, despite Dwight Einsenhower's wise "Atoms for Peace" program. After 1963, the Cuban Missile Crisis, along with the "Fail Safe" and "On the Beach" fiction tales, the deaths of Japanese fishermen because of proximity to nuclear weapons test, people began to take an inflated view of the danger of nuclear materials. It lead to a scientifically and technologically unjustifiable fear of radiation, the fear being far more destructive than radiation itself. The over reaction to Three Mile Island, and for that matter, Chernobyl and Fukushima was incredibly ignorant, given that all three events combined didn't kill anywhere near the number of people killed continuously by the normal operations of dangerous fossil fuel plants.

Nuclear materials - including radioactive materials - can do things nothing else can do, and nuclear energy is, frankly, the only form of sustainable energy. Fossil fuels are simply not acceptable, are far more destructive than nuclear energy has ever been, and equally frankly is the reality that so called "renewable energy" has not worked, is not working and will not work, despite the squandering of trillions of dollars on it. Every single element is so called "nuclear waste" is a valuable material, with important properties that can do exceptional things, notably for the remediation of serious chemical pollution of air, water, and land.

As a baby boomer old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis - even though I was a child at the time - I understand the nature of the fear, but the fear itself is highly destructive, again infinitely more destructive than the thing itself.

We're in a hell of a bind, but it's not driven by reality. It's driven by fear and ignorance.

Thanks for your comment.

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