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Lessons of Titanic for today

April 18, 2012
Messenger News

To the editor:

She was good for the Belfast economy. She crewed-up with the desperate for work. Eight men died before her keel slipped her dry dock. She attracted wealth in an age of industrial prosperity. Her Marconi wireless was preoccupied with the greetings of the leisured, and its operator failed to send the last fateful ice warning to the searching eyes of the bridge. Lookouts called in agony at the size of the iceberg, while frozen force plowed a furrow through iron plate and popping rivets, crucifying the unsinkable idea in a design flaw. Her hull plummeted to a watery grave as the Marconi radioed out for assistance.

The cries have sounded now for 100 years criticizing man's brashness against Nature's power and the sea's relentless vindication over blind pride. April 15, 1912, was the crucifixion of an idea - that man could build something impervious to Nature's wrath - that a redundancy of safety systems could provide security.

Despite the proven geology and history documenting the Tsunami of 869 A.D. on the Japanese coast at the site of the Fukushima power plant, our belief in the invincibility of safety back-up systems continues to raise its specter. Our encounter with wave and disaster and the design flaws in the area of wave-protecting sea walls, and water-tight design against an earthquake's might could not keep the emergency-electrics producing. Today we build and operate nuclear reactors with the belief that redundant safety systems will make them invincible. Man's vanity constructing the newly gigantic in proportion - the biggest, the best, most powerful, unsinkable, safest, the Titanic, will always meet the vengeful wrath of Nature when we tempt disaster.

We build on the myth of "safe" nuclear power. Danger will pour in until yet another zone on Earth is declared forever uninhabitable. We did not learn the lesson when our cheap energy ship hit the radioactive shoals that now surround Chernobyl. Sailing on the dream of endless nuclear power construction we have not altered our energy course. (There is no easy channel between prosperity and the failure of the Grid). In Iowa we will make payments monthly, ignoring the dangers of the New Madrid fault and rivers' once-a-century floods.

As we believe the myth of nuclear safety, our redundant backup systems will be trumped by the hand of Nature. The Titanic lesson teaches us that foolhardy creations will not stand against Nature.

James Ellerston

Fort Dodge



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