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Legislators Declare Nuclear Plant Is Safe, Revealing Heretofore Unexpected Expertise In Physics

Yesterday, The Sun Sentinel informed the world of a Monday tour of FPL's Turkey Point nuclear power plant by Congressfolk Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, David Rivera, Mario Diaz-Balart and Frederica Wilson.

"We understand how different this facility is from the facility in Japan," said Ros-Lehtinen. "So we have a responsibility to reach out to our constituents, explain what the dangers, and the problems, and the challenges are -- and allay their fears."

Much as I like nuclear power (and I do!), I'm vaguely troubled that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who makes decisions which will impact the fate of humanity, believes an FPL-guided tour of a nuclear power plant makes her sufficiently expert on matters of fission, radioactive waste and fallout -- as well as the natural disasters which may bring such matters to the fore -- to authoritatively "allay the fears" of the public. Or even to know what the hell FPL was showing her.

Does Ileana Ros-Lehtinen know her neutrons from her kneecaps? Ros-Lehtinen's background is in education, as is Frederica Wilson's. David Rivera's is in poli-sci. Diaz-Balart, at least, has put some serious time into thinking about natural disasters.

But that doesn't matter. We Americans love to speak authoritatively on shit we know nothing about, and if our politicians do likewise, hell, the worst we can say is that they're representative representatives. "I am concerned that no matter how secure [the nuclear waste] is kept in a sealed room, or container, or box -- or how many levels of cement that they have put there -- there's always some way," said Frederica Wilson. "Some terrorist, some kind of activity [could] take place that would destroy that."

That's very true, Frederica. There is no such thing as an indestructible box. (This may be a good time to point out that one of Wilson's earliest public safety campaigns was against the dread scourge of "dirty dancing" which infested our high schools in the 90s.)

Here's the problem: A bunch of non-experts, given a tour of a highly sophisticated nuclear power plant by the individuals who run it, will always think everything looks peachy. And if we don't stop to think about it, we may think these photo-op tours actually represent some kind of public oversight. They don't. Unfortunately, when scientists tour places like Turkey Point, their words are most often unrecorded, 'cuz scientists aren't sexy.

I'm in the media, so this sorry state of affairs is my fault, too. I just sent FPL a note, requesting that they clue me in next time somebody who knows something about nuclear power gives Turkey Point an appraisal. Hope they write back.

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Brandon K. Thorp

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