"Nuclear power is unsafe because it's so safe". Wait... what?!

By Michael Karnerfors, 2009-11-04
This is an very unsafe stairway, because it is physically impossible for you to fall over the side and hurt yourself. Uhm... what?!
This is a very unsafe stairway, because it is physically impossible for you to fall over the side and hurt yourself. Uhm... what?!

(Image source)

Every now and then I come across (link in Swedish) the following argument against nuclear power:

"All the safety devices, procedures, regulation and supervision prove that nuclear power is unsafe."

And it baffles me every time, because what that boils down to is someone saying something that means: "It's unsafe because it's so safe!".

The (lack of) logic reasoning applied to something else, say a staircase, is exemplified thus:

- This staircase is unsafe, because it has a railing!

- How do you mean?

- Because if the railing wasn't there, I could fall over the side and hurt myself.

- Yes but the railing is there to stop you from falling over the side and hurting yourself.

- Exactly, so the staircase is unsafe, because it needs the railing.

- But the railing is an integral part of the staircase now. Are you suggesting you can run right through a two inch thick stainless steel railing?

- Well if I could I'd fall over the side and hurt myself.

- So... can you make your way through stainless steel railing or not?

- That's not the point! The point is that it needs the railing so it's unsafe!

- Look, not only does it have the railing, but the railing is in turn stuck to a concrete wall that goes all the way up to the ceiling.

- Oh my!! Then it's really unsafe if it has that much safety! Now I won't got near that damned thing because I just know I'll fall over the side and hurt myself!

...and so on.

Kafka would have a field-day with this...