What we don’t know won’t hurt them

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is trying to keep the lid on a National Academy report about how terrorists could create a Chernobyl at any of dozens of reactor sites.

Frank von Hippel, whose smarts, cool, and good judgment are universally respected among experts in arms control and nuclear security, published a paper (with several colleagues) two years ago in Science and Global Security warning that terrorists could, by draining one of the cooling pools that hold the nuclear waste stored at reactor sites across the country, create an incident “significantly worse than worse than … Chernobyl.”

Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to analyze the question. The Nuclear Reglatory Commission has managed, so far, to keep the National Academy report secret, despite the absence from it of any actually classified information.

It’s pretty clear that the NRC, under BushCheney, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the nuclear power industry, and that the industry doesn’t want to spend the $5 billion or so von Hippel and colleagues say would be needed to fix the situation. So they’re pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

Don’t worry, though: What you don’t know can’t hurt them. After an attack happens, any complaints about lack of planning will, of course, be shrill and partisan.

Excessive secrecy, let us never forget, represents a profound threat to national security.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com