Nuclear Reactor Safety

Archive Report

Is Nuclear a ’Faustian Bargain’?

The Soviet nuclear disaster at Chernobyl has revived apprehensions in America that nuclear power is a “Faustian bargain,” as it was once dubbed by a leader of the American nuclear power effort.1 Like Faust's bargain with the devil for sinful pleasures in exchange for the tortures of hell, America's investment in nuclear power promises the luxuries of abundant electricity coupled with the possibility of a catastrophic radioactive accident.

Supporters of nuclear power have argued that the probability of a nuclear accident is so low that society never will have to pay for its Faustian bargain. In a debate that has lasted more than 20 years in this country, probability estimates of a catastrophic nuclear accident have ranged from fewer than one ...

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