Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island: Flawed Science and Accident Cover-Up

Kristin Shrader-Frechette

in What Will Work

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199794638
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919277 | DOI:

Series: Environmental Ethics and Science Policy Series

 Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island: Flawed Science and                         Accident Cover-Up

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Chapter 4 argues that atomic energy is also costly in terms of human health, scientific data, and practical reliability. Because of industry cover-ups, scientific misrepresentation, and violation of conflict-of-interest guidelines, this chapter shows that industry's atomic-energy-accident data are grossly flawed. These data significantly undercount harmful nuclear consequences. As a result, the chapter shows the public has been seriously misled about atomic energy, as medical journals confirm. In particular, industry PR caused many people to erroneously believe that the 1979 Three Mile Island (TMI), Pennsylvania, nuclear accident and core melt was a minor mishap that killed no one. In fact, there was a documented, 64-percent cancer increase, especially in childhood cancers. This chapter argues that the dominant or accepted scientific position about what has caused post-accident, TMI-related health problems fails. The most likely explanation is that TMI radiation caused these health harms. Flawed inductive methods help explain why the dominant or accepted causal hypothesis about TMI health effects—that nuclear-accident-related stress, not radiation, is the culprit—errs. Many scientists erroneously reject the radiation cause, partly because they fall into conflicts of interest and also misunderstand randomization requirements in statistics; thus they misuse classical-statistical tests to draw causal inferences from non-experimental data. However, given actual, non-experimental data from TMI, inference to the best explanation, especially contrastive explanation, better reveals the cause of TMI health harms. Once scientists use correct statistical methods, it is easy to show that nuclear fission is an extremely risky technology, thus a questionable way to address climate change.

Keywords: atomic energy; cancer; human health; practical reliability; scientific data; Three Mile Island

Chapter.  22955 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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