following essay by Malcolm Wells was originally published
in Energy Essays, Edmund Scientific Co., and
reprinted in Notes from the Energy Underground,
1980, Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Return to Index of Essays.
Washington, D.C.(UPA)1980. According to high administration
sources, the President's move to demonstrate nuclear power-plant
safety b) offering to build a full-size atomic reactor inside
the dome of the Capitol has left other world leaders years
behind in the energy race. The proposal is expected to give
a long-delayed boost to the nuclear power movement, and has,
at least temporarily, stunned into silence congressional and
environmental critics alike.
By 1981, the thousand-megawatt reactor inside the Capitol
will contain the radioactive inventory of over a hundred Hiroshimas.
When asked by reporters about the frightening possibilities
of disastrous accidents-explosion, sabotage, vessel rupture,
meltdown, earthquake, or the leakage of radioactive materialsa
White House spokesman pooh-poohed such worries and called
for a greater measure of faith in the judgment of our political
leaders. His appeal was followed by a sharp jump in the stock
prices of the energy companies involved in nuclear power.
Not to be outdone by the President, the governors of more
than 40 states have by now declared intentions to build similar
reactors inside their own capitol buildings. "Nuclear
reactors have always before been built far away from population
centers because accidents out there would kill only a few
farmers and cattle," said one governor, "but now
all that has changed." Later, his press secretary issued
a clarification, stating that the governor had nothing but
he highest respect for farmers and livestock, and that nuclear
power was now 100% safe, just like air travel.
Most recent of those boarding the nuclear bandwagon is the
mayor of a large suburb, who announced late today at a hastily
called press conference that he planned to go even further
than the President and the governors by accepting bids for
a nuclear power plant to be build tin his very own basement.
Noting that "in this age of infallible computers, 'lemons'
have become things of the past," the feisty mayor closed
his statement by calling his decision "one small step
for me; one giant leap for mankind."
As a further show of confidence, he encouraged trucks carrying
supertoxic plutonium wastes to pass freely through his town.
"Let other towns ban the transport of nuclear wastes;'
you won't be banned from ours. Come on down," he said.
"We don't believe all the danger-talk." (The
mayor was referring to recent scientific evidence that as
little as one-millionth part of an ounce of plutonium can
cause an incurable type of lung cancer.Ed.)
Industry observers, noting the public's placid acceptance
of these developments, predict that fission reactors will
soon be used in the most densely populated parts of all major
cities, making the energy crisis a thing of the past, and
paving the way for a nuclear boom beyond our wildest dreams.
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