Fueling Fears

Expert Warns of Nuclear Horror at Indian Point

In the same way the Founding Fathers never imagined the AK-47 when they created the right to bear arms, Thompson contends, the NRC failed to anticipate the threats we now face. He believes the current reliance on cooling pools is behind the times, but hasn't been updated because workers in the field fail to understand that it's potentially harmful. He also blames the closure of nuclear departments at universities through the 1970s for a dramatic decrease in research. "You've got what can politely be called an immature industry, not particularly curious or creative," he says. "The ones in it now are not capable of making the leap. For most people in it, it's their meal ticket. The idea that there's something they can't understand . . . a clever scientist faced with a mystery says, 'Ooooh, ooooh, tell me more.' A person who is less of a scientist doesn't want to be bothered.

"Complacency is really very amazing," he adds. "The bottom-line attitude is, 'We don't have to do anything about high-density pools because the danger of a pool fire is so low.' "

What troubles Thompson, and many of the people who have to live within 50 miles of Indian Point, is that the consequences would be so grave.

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