by Will Davis
Nuclear energy is perhaps mankind’s ultimate technical achievement. (Big Rock Point photo from Consumers Power brochure in my collection.)
The upcoming American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting in June has, as its theme, “The Value of Nuclear.” I am aware that this phrase covers many different things felt by many different people; I’d like to tell you what it means to me.
Since before I could legally obtain a learner’s permit to drive a car, I’ve been interested in and fond of machines. I was fortunate to have a very technical family in many ways – between farmers who used mechanized equipment such as tractors and hay balers to make work on a huge farm manageable, to railroaders whose efforts allowed the transport of goods (and the food from the farms!) all over the nation. In fact, I could run a farm tractor and a steam traction engine before I could drive. Moreover, my father was a bank vice president, involved in the corporate trust side of things – so I knew, early, about the machinations of large corporations, many of them involved in heavy industry as it would happen.
The point here is simple: Humanity designed and built these various and ever-increasingly-complex machines to do work, and to make more of whatever it was that was being made. Without the machines, we’d be doing far less. Plowing would be by horse or ox team; goods would only be local without railroads. Very luckily for me, all this was made obvious through experience, early.
Of course each machine, from lever to pulley to McCormick Farmall to airplane, has an increasing level of complexity and, naturally, risk to be managed. But that’s accepted everywhere; when I was young, a distant but known neighbor to my farmer uncle was killed when his tractor rolled down
by Will Davis