The Nuclear Energy Option: An Alternative for the 90's

By Bernard L. Cohen | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

/ UNDERSTANDING
RISK

One of the worst stumbling blocks in gaining widespread public acceptance of nuclear power is that the great majority of people do not understand and quantify the risks we face. Most of us think and act as though life is largely free of risk. We view taking risks as foolhardy, irrational, and assiduously to be avoided. Training children to avoid risk is an all-important duty of parenthood. Risks imposed on us by others are generally considered to be entirely unacceptable.

Unfortunately, life is not like that. Everything we do involves risk. 1 There are dangers in every type of travel, but there are dangers in staying home—25% of all fatal accidents occur there. There are dangers in eating— food is one of the most important causes of cancer and of several other diseases—but most people eat more than necessary. There are dangers in breathing—air pollution probably kills 100,000 Americans each year, 2 inhaling radon and its decay products is estimated to kill 14,000 a year 3, and many diseases like influenza, measles, and whooping cough are contracted

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