Tag Archives: Nuclear energy

Nuclear is the safest mainstream energy source

Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power will hopefully eliminate, or make negligible, the negative health outcomes of energy production. However, renewables still account for only 4% of global energy production. Until that changes, the majority of our energy is being produced by coal, oil, biomass, gas, and nuclear energy. It’s therefore important that, in the meantime, we produce energy from the least harmful of the currently mainstream energy sources.

And that’s where the problem arises. Nuclear energy is in fact the currently mainstream energy source responsible for the smallest number of short term (generational) and long term (intergenerational) deaths. This article does a great job of outlining the reasons and data supporting why this is the case.

However, deaths from the production of nuclear energy, which take place mainly as a result of nuclear accidents, are very visual. They also occur in the form of a very low probability event with a single large toll, in contrast to deaths from today’s other mainstream energy sources which occur with more predictable higher probabilities, each of a smaller magnitude.

As a result, people fear nuclear energy more than other currently mainstream energy sources, even though nuclear energy is actually safer. Hopefully articles like this will help raise awareness of the large cost of our fears and lack of knowledge.

Utopia and dystopia

Founders Fund recently released a podcast series called Anatomy of Next. The series consists of 5 sessions, one on each of nuclear energy, biological engineering, robots, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality.

There are two common themes which unite each of these areas. The first is that the adoption of these technologies each represents a big change from our current status quo. The second is that they each carry the potential for big positive and negative outcomes.

However, when the potential for big change comes together with the possibility for big positive and negative outcomes, we tend to focus our attention on the downside risks rather than the upside potential. Big change means moving into the unknown, and our fear of the unknown makes us default to thinking about the negative outcomes.

The podcasts attempt to go beyond this default inclination by highlighting not only the dystopian, but also the utopian possibilities brought about by each of these technologies. For example, nuclear energy could destroy the world, but it also has the power to solve our energy problem. Biological engineering could create a race of superhumans that dominate over non-superhumans, but it could also be used to cure all sorts of diseases. Robots could kill us, or they could take care of our repetitive tasks so that we focus on creative ones. Virtual reality could turn us into isolated individuals who try to escape the real world, or it could provide us with a great source of entertainment while also letting people interact with others thousands of miles away in a way that allows for many more use cases than the phone and video calls that are currently available to us.

Most important, as the podcasts emphasize, it is humans who will decide which outcomes will prevail. As Irish statesman¬†Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

You can listen to each of the podcasts here.