A long view of nuclear
More than a century has passed since radiation and nuclear energy were discovered and the image of those energy sources has undergone much evolution with the passing of several cultural waves, each of which left its mark on the public's perception and attitude to nuclear power, writes Jeremy Gordon.
At the time radiation was discovered, in 1898, science was in an era of rapid progress with new inventions changing the world before their downsides were known. There were no controls on what was said about radiation and deliberate myth-making by some early nuclear scientists and salesmen connected radiation deeply with biology and life, while also supposing that radiation possessed almost unlimited potential in these areas and others.
Although these ideas proved to be fantasies, they were in parallel with a concept that had been developing in several science fiction novels - that of a 'mad scientist' who through error or misjudgement might accidentally unleash a force beyond his control or even destroy the world. So it is no wonder that, as the world stood horrified by the destruction by the first atomic bombs during the last days of World War II, the nuclear scientists themselves were also shocked to the core.