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Article |

Human Sacrifice, or Nuclear Energy?

Jane M. Orient, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1983;143(4):843-844. doi:10.1001/archinte.1983.00350040233046.
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To the Editor.  —The chemical energy in nitroglycerin can result in a devastating explosion or in the relief of angina pectoris. Physicians have no difficulty distinguishing between the two applications of chemistry, and patients do not worry about carrying "dynamite pills" around in their pockets. The physical difference between commercial reactor fuel and an atomic bomb is just as great—reactors cannot explode. The psychological difference is even more profound; the purpose of a nuclear power plant is to provide people with heat and light, and the purpose of a bomb is destruction. Nevertheless, guilt by association, promulgated by prestigious physicians as well as by journalists, helps to fuel public fear of nuclear energy.College students and members of the League of Women Voters both perceived nuclear power plants to be the most dangerous of 30 hazards—hazards that included motor vehicles, handguns, surgery, and general aviation.1 According to actuarial estimates,


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