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The banality of death by nuclear power via The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Whatever the thinking, rationale, or analogy, one thing is clear: Terrorism is fought at any cost; but nuclear accidents are deflected. The billions of dollars spent and lives sacrificed in pursuit of eradicating terrorism is an enormous price to pay in response to the deaths of 3,000. So why won’t the government pour those kinds of financial and human resources into fixing safety problems at nuclear power plants to ensure that another 1,000 people or more do not die from radiation exposure in the wake of a future accident?

How can we make sense of these different ways of thinking about death? Radiation deaths from nuclear industry accidents quickly lead to talk of risks and rewards, costs and benefits. But with deaths from political violence, the discussion immediately turns to justice and retribution — no matter the toll. In the liberal democratic tradition, we learn that each individual life is unique, that each person’s vote counts, that one death diminishes us all, and that the death by execution of even one innocent person is an outrage that cannot be tolerated in civilized society. How then can we reconcile the nearly incalculable value of each individual life with a cost-benefit analysis that can sacrifice those lives for the benefits of economic development, higher standards of living, and technological progress?

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