We already knew that nuclear accidents could happen. That is not new information. Nuclear accidents happening once-in-a-whatever is a totally-expected phenomenon and should have and would have already been factored into the calculations of anyone advocating nuclear power use. So, now we have come across that once-in-a-whatever event we already knew would come along from time to time. There may be and probably are things we can learn about nuclear plant safety from it, but the idea that it forces us to rethink all nuclear power in general is daft. For how many safe operating-hours has the collection (all nuclear power plants in the world) been running before this? Is the post-Japan observed frequency of accidents (once you put in appropriate error bars) even out of line with what we already thought about nuclear safety? Must we now statistically reject the null hypothesis that nuclear power plants are no-more-and-no-less-safe-than-we-already-thought? You have to at least try to do that calculation before sounding off about it, I would have thought.Robotically, it's dialing up the alarm to 11 in order to sell newspapers. Should the alarm be dialed up to 11? I don't know, but don't expect that I'll figure out the answer by listening to the press ...
There is something annoyingly innumerate about the tendency to greet events such as these with claims that they must change all our thinking. It’s like being surprised that there’s a lottery winner, or thinking it was a bad idea to buy insurance if you don’t get sick, or thinking we need to throw all of society’s efforts behind building a planetary lightning defense system if someone gets struck by lightning. There is no sense of proportionality or statistics behind any of the commentary I’m seeing, it’s all dumbly, robotically reactionary.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Quote of the Day: (Media) Meltdown edition
Sonic Charmer looks at the reaction by the media to the earthquake damaged reactors in Japan, and is unimpressed: