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考研英语外刊双语阅读:Nuclear Overreactions

After a once-in-300-years earthquake, the Japanese have been keeping cool amid the chaos, organizing an enormous relief and rescue operation, and generally earning the world’s admiration. We wish we could say the same for the reaction in the U.S., where the troubles at Japan’s nuclear reactors have produced an overreaction about the risks of modern life and technology.
Part of the problem is the lack of media proportion about the disaster itself. The quake and tsunami have killed hundreds, and probably thousands, with tens of billions of dollars in damage. The energy released by the quake off Sendei is equivalent to about 336 megatons of TNT, or 100 more megatons than last year’s quake in Chile and thousands of times the yield of the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima. The scale of the tragedy is epic.
Yet the bulk of U.S. media coverage has focused on a nuclear accident whose damage has so far been limited and contained to the plant sites. In simple human terms, the natural destruction of Earth and sea have far surpassed any errors committed by man.

Editorial Board Member Mary Kissel explains the Japanese response to the quake.Given the incomplete news reports, it is impossible to say how much worse the nuclear damage will be. Unlike the Soviets at Chernobyl, the Japanese have been taking sensible precautions like evacuating people near the plants and handing out iodine pills even if they may never be needed. These precautions increase public worry, but better to take them even if they prove to be unnecessary.
We will have plenty of time to dissect events at the reactors and the safety lessons going forward. William Tucker provides some useful context nearby, and one crucial point is that the containment walls seem to have held. These walls are designed to withstand quakes and explosions, and it is good news if they have done so. The crisis seems to have been triggered by the failure of diesel generators that provided electricity to cool the reactors once they were shut down. Mr. Tucker explains that this weakness has been corrected in new nuclear plant designs.
We have no special brief for nuclear power over any other energy source. Our view is that it should compete with other sources on a market basis, without subsidies or government loan guarantees. Every energy source has risks and economic externalities, whether they are noise and bird kills (wind), huge land requirements (solar), rig explosions and tanker spills (oil), or mining accidents (coal).
But more than other energy sources, nuclear plants have had their costs increased by artificial political obstacles and delay. The U.S. hasn’t built a new nuclear plant since 1979, after the Three Mile Island meltdown, even as older nuclear plants continue to provide 20% of the nation’s electricity.
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JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images
 
An aerial photo shows the quake-damaged Fukushima Dai-Ni nuclear power plant.The Tennessee Valley Authority is a couple of years away from completing a reactor at Watts Bar after years of effort. Proposals for 20 new reactors to be built over the next 15 to 20 years are in various stages of review in the multiyear approval process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with two each in Georgia and South Carolina at the front of the line. But the much-ballyhooed "nuclear renaissance" is a long way off, and it will be longer after events in Japan.
Our larger point is less about nuclear power than how we react as a society to inevitable disasters, both natural and man-made. Because a plane crashes, we don’t stop flying. Because an oil rig explodes in the Gulf, we don’t (or at least we shouldn’t) stop drilling for oil. And because the Challenger space shuttle blew up, we didn’t stop shuttle flights—though we do seem to have lost much of our national will for further manned space exploration. We should learn from the Japanese nuclear crisis, not let it feed a political panic over nuclear power in general.
***
The paradox of material and technological progress is that we seem to become more risk-averse the safer it makes us. The more comfortable we become, the less eager we are to take the risks that are the only route to future progress. The irony is that one reason Japan has survived this catastrophic event as well as it has is its great material development and wealth.
Modern civilization is in the daily business of measuring and mitigating risk, but its advance requires that we continue to take risk. It would compound Japan’s tragedy if the lesson America learns is that we should pursue the illusory and counterproductive goal of eliminating all risk. 
 

     文章认为,日本核反应堆在地震中遇到的麻烦引发了过度反应,人们应该从日本核危机中吸取教训,而不是使之造成核能问题上的政治恐慌  
    【美国《华尔街日报》网站3月14日文章】题:对核问题反应过度  
    在发生300年一遇的地震之后,日本在混乱中保持冷静,组织大规模的救援行动,总体上赢得了世界的尊重。真希望美国的反应也能如此。在美国,日本核反应堆遇到的麻烦引发了对现代生活和技术潜在风险的过度反应。问题的部分症结在于媒体对灾难本身的报道力度不够。此次地震和海啸已经造成了近千人甚至可能上万人死亡,损失达数百亿美元。地震释放的能量相当于大约3.36亿吨TNT炸药的威力,比去年智利大地震还多出1亿多吨TNT炸药的能量,强度堪比广岛原子弹爆炸的几千倍。惨烈程度史无前例。  
    然而美国媒体的绝大部分报道却集中在到目前为止破坏仍控制在核电站所在地的一起核事故上。仅就人类而言,地球和海洋受到的自然破坏远远超过人为的错误。  
    鉴于新闻报道不全面,我们不可能断定这次核事故的后果会糟糕到什么程度。与苏联对切尔诺贝利事故的处理不同,日本采取了合理的预防措施,比如撤离核电站附近民众和发放并不一定用得上的碘药片。这些预防措施加剧了公众的不安,但即使事后证明多此一举也还是应当采取的。  
    我们会有充足的时间剖析这次核反应堆事件和今后应吸取的安全教训。核问题专家威廉·塔克介绍了一些有用的相关背景,其中关键的一点就是反应堆的安全壳壁似乎未毁坏。这些安全壳壁是为承受地震与爆炸冲击而设计的,如果它们真的承受住了,那是好事。危机似乎起因于在反应堆停止运转后为冷却系统供电的柴油发电机出现故障。塔克解释说,这一缺陷在新的核电站设计中已经得到纠正。  
    我们没有特殊理由认为核能优于其他能源。每一种能源都有其风险和经济外部性,有的会产生噪音和危害鸟类(风能),有的会占用大量土地(太阳能),有的会发生油井爆炸和油轮泄漏(石油),还有的会带来矿井事故(煤炭)。  
    但核电站比其他能源形式更多地因人为的政治阻碍和拖延而增加成本。美国自1979年三里岛核灾难后就没有再建造新的核电站,尽管过去建造的核电站仍供应着全国20%的用电量。经过多年的努力,田纳西河流域管理局再过一两年将在沃茨巴建成一个核电站。  
    其实更重要的并不在于核能,而在于我们作为一个社会如何应对无法避免的灾难,无论是自然的还是人为的。我们并没有因为一架飞机失事就停止飞行,并没有因为墨西哥湾的油井爆炸就停止(至少不应该停止)钻探石油,也并没有因为“挑战者”号航天飞机爆炸就停止航天飞行。我们应该从日本核危机中吸取教训,而不是使之造成核能问题上的政治恐慌。  
    物质和技术进步的悖论是,它们越让我们安全,我们似乎就越害怕风险。我们的生活越舒适,就越不想冒险,但风险是通往未来进步的唯一道路。具有讽刺意味的是,日本之所以能在这次灾难性事件中幸存,就是因为其拥有显著的物质发展成果和社会财富。  
    现代文明每一天都在评估和减少风险,但文明的进步要求我们继续冒险。如果美国人从日本的悲剧中领悟到的是我们应该追求消除一切风险这一虚幻而适得其反的目标,则将是更大的悲剧。

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