From Counterpunch (4/16/2012), by Karl Grossman:
The Perils of Technological Hubris
On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, The Japan Times yesterday ran an editorial titled “The Titanic and the Nuclear Fiasco” which stated: “Presenting technology as completely safe, trustworthy or miraculous may seem to be a thing of the past, but the parallels between the Titanic and Japan’s nuclear power industry could not be clearer.”
“Japan’s nuclear power plants were, like the Titanic, advertised as marvels of modern science that were completely safe. Certain technologies, whether they promise to float a luxury liner or provide clean energy, can never be made entirely safe,” it said.
It quoted from a piece by Joseph Conrad written after the Titanic sank in which he noted the “chastening influence it should have on the self-confidence of mankind.” The Japan Times urged: “That lesson should be applied to all ‘unsinkable’ undertakings that might profit a few by imperiling the majority of others.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/ed20120415a1.html
Yes, the same kind of baloney behind the claim that the Titanic was unsinkable is behind the puffery that nuclear power plants are safe. The nuclear power promoters are still saying that despite the sinking of atomic Titanics: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants.
In fact, underneath the PR offensive are government documents admitting that nuclear power plants are deadly dangerous.
The current issue of Popular Mechanics features an article “Why Titanic Still Matters” by Jim Meigs, the magazine’s editor and chief, which states: “In one respect, little has changed. As the recent loss of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia demonstrates, bad decision making can overcome even robust engineering. Virtually all man-made disasters—including the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the space shuttle Challenger explosion, and the BP oil spill—can be traced to the same human failings that doomed Titanic. After 100 years, we must still remember—and, too often, relearn—the grim lessons of that night.”
Indeed, human error is a big part of what can go wrong at a nuclear power plant. However, even without human error, nuclear power is fraught with the potential for immense catastrophe. A mechanical malfunction simple or complex, an earthquake, a tornado, a tsunami, a hurricane, a flood, a terrorist attack, these and other threats can result in catastrophe. Nuclear power plants and the process of atomic fission in them are inherently dangerous—at a scale of technological disaster that is unparalleled. ...
(The entire article at the link.)
For the counter-argument, there is always George Monbiot of The Guardian, who expressed love for nuclear precisely because of Fukushima.
(h/t John Noah)