The Union of Concerned Scientists has every reason to be concerned. On July 29, the New York Times, no less, featured two pieces that raised their hackles. The first – “NRC Lowers Estimate of How Many Would Die in Meltdown” – announced a radical revision of the effects of a nuclear power plant core meltdown.
In past studies, NRC researchers estimated that 60 percent of a reactor core’s cesium inventory could escape. The NRC’s the new estimate is only 1 to 2 percent. The chance of a death from acute radiation exposure within 10 miles is near zero, although some one in five thousand might receive doses high enough to cause fatal cancers later in life. Earlier estimates had this at one in 167.
The second blow came in an op ed in the same edition by the CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, entitled “Why We Still Need Nuclear.” In his piece, he concluded: “We believe that nuclear power, developed properly, is not only a promising option, but the best available. Our forecasts for the region’s energy demands by the end of the decade show we will need more base-load electricity — or continuous minimum power — something nuclear plants excel at providing.” In other words: If our customers want reliable electricity, we must use have nuclear power.