Translated and with an introduction by C. Douglas Lummis
(Nuclear) Power Corrupts
A puzzle for our time: how is it possible for a person to be smart enough to make plutonium, and dumb enough actually to make it?
Plutonium has a half life of 24,000 years, which means that in that time its toxicity will be reduced by half. What could possess a person, who will live maybe one three-hundredth of that time, to produce such a thing and leave it to posterity to deal with? In fact, “possess” might be the right word. Behind all the nuclear power industry’s language of cost efficiency or liberation from fossil fuel or whatever, one can sense a kind of possession – a bureaucratized madness. Political science has produced but one candidate for a scientific law – Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely. But the political scientists haven’t noticed that the closest thing we have to absolute power is nuclear power. Nuclear power corrupts in a peculiar way. It seems to tempt the engineers into imagining they have been raised to a higher level, a level where common sense judgments are beneath them. Judgments like (as my grandmother used to say) “Accidents do happen”.