Keywords: nuclear safety, nuclear risks, severe accidents, exaggerated concerns, radiation hormesis, public acceptance, low radiation, risk assessment, radioactivity release, nuclear power plants, nuclear accidents, low dose, beneficial effects, radiation exposure, nuclear energy
What becomes of nuclear risk assessment in light of radiation hormesis?
A nuclear Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) is a scientific calculation that uses assumptions and models to determine the likelihood of plant failures and the corresponding releases of radioactivity. Estimated radiation doses are linked improperly to risks of cancer death. Using very pessimistic assumptions, PRAs indicate nuclear power plants are very safe compared to other generating options or other accepted risks. Because of the frightening negative images and the exaggerated safety concerns, people judge nuclear risks to be unacceptable. Tests and experience demonstrate that even severe nuclear accidents expose the public to only low doses of radiation. A century of research has demonstrated that such exposures are beneficial to health. A scientific basis for this phenomenon now exists. PRAs are valuable for improving plant designs, but if nuclear power is to play a role in meeting future energy needs, we must communicate its many real benefits and dispel the negative images.