Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nuclear Engineer the Most Dangerous Job? Nope. Not Even Close

After the nuclear accident at Fukushima, people are thinking, "Surely, nuclear engineering is the most dangerous job in the world." Nope. Not even close.

Not to make light of a bad situation, but as I was inspired by the list of the Top 20 Most Dangerous Jobs in America (at the bottom of that article) where I found that working at a nuclear power plant wasn't one of the Top 20 dangerous jobs. In fact, according to Topixbeing a nuclear power plant operator is so safe that it isn't even among the top 100 most dangerous jobs in America! See here. 

I was again reminded of the power of marketing in today's society and how hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year to get the public to believe as God's gospel truth the things they believe. 

That so many people believe that nuclear power is such a dangerous thing, when the oil industry annually accounts for thousands of deaths from cancer and airborne pollutants (not to mention millions killed in US instigated wars for control of that oil) and that, for every one person killed by nuclear power, 4,000 die from cancers and diseases as a direct result of burning coal and the coal industry just shows a testament to the power of the big money spent by the coal and big oil industry on marketing in an attempt to get you to believe what you do.

I guess they've done a pretty good job.

It strikes me as quite curious that, in some times, people are very anti-fossils fuels. Like when they complain about the environment, pollution or even (chuckle) Man Made Global Warming... Then at other times, like after the recent earthquake and tsunami, they completely drop that kind of thinking and go whole hog against nuclear power.

How, pray tell, do westerners think they are going to support their energy guzzling lifestyles? Well, recent events show that far too many people panic and don't think... So I guess that answers my question right there, doesn't it? 

People don't think.

Of course, people complain about these things while, at the same time, they have three TV's at home - of course one is a energy sucking giant screen; they have three stereos and central heating. They live the lifestyle of constantly leaving the lights on in the house in rooms they aren't using and live a life of general energy wastefulness. They also show their hypocrisy when they pollute the environment by throwing their trash away on the streets or when they go camping or on picnics. Nor do they properly separate their refuse to help recycle their garbage.


As an aside, it has always struck me as odd how people can carry full cases of beer and food up a mountain to go camping or to a picnic, but seem incapable of carrying down consumed, much lighter, empty containers after the party is over.

But, I suppose, that's a discussion for another time.

Let me give you a caveat here as to why these things irritate me about some people. One usually doesn't like to toot one's horn (except I do every chance I get) and since no one does if for me, I have to do it myself: We have no TV at my home - haven't had one in nearly 10 years. No stereo. No central heating. Absolutely never leave the lights on in unattended rooms and are very energy conscious. We use power boxes and completely shut off the power in unused appliances so that even the built-in clocks are off when not in use... 

In fact, even though I don't believe that CO2 is a problem concerning global warming, we always close the toilet seat cover as closing the toilet seat shows good manners and proper upbringing and, from what I understand, closing the toilet seat cover, when not in use, cuts down about 45 kilograms of CO2 released into the atmosphere annually from one toilet.

Do I do these things, and teach my children to do the same, because I worry about the environment (and their manners)? Yes. It's partly that. I do have four children. I do worry that we need to keep the rivers and mountains and beaches clean. But I do these energy saving things mostly because I am an incredibly frugal person (a cheapskate) and do not believe in unnecessarily throwing money away supporting big oil and big power companies.

If I can save $10 a month on electricity and gas, that's $10 more dollars that I can invest in precious metals or save.

But, I am getting off the point of this post. The point is that working at a nuclear power plant is not even listed in the Top 20 Most Dangerous Jobs in America - it is not even in the top 100 - yet it is perceived (in a very comical way, too) as a very dangerous job.

This allows me to give you an undeniably good example of how TV has influenced the thinking of today's society immensely.

I am reminded of Homer Simpson working at Mr. Burns nuclear power plant in Springfield. 

Why am I reminded of Homer Simpson? Well, because, if America's most famous cartoon character - a guy who is loved, yet seen as a buffoon - a guy who represents Mr. Average America to people all over he world - works at a nuclear power plant, then I think that makes a strong statement. I think that is a statement  that just about anyone can agree with concerning the perceived safety of working at such a place.

Now, all I can say is that from watching the Simpson's and from examining popular trends and cultural ideas, in spite of the facts and historical record, I think anyone who watches TV would believe that nuclear power is a very dangerous thing; much more dangerous than the most dangerous jobs.

The fear of nuclear power is certainly much more glamorous and it sparks the imagination of Hollywood much more than the top 3 most dangerous jobs in the world put together: Being a fisherman, logger or farmer? Probably fun. But not as fun a Science Fiction, Spider-man, radioactive aliens from space and 1950's horror movies like "The Day the Earth Stood Still."

That Homer Simpson - who works at one of these places in a cartoon that ridicules nuclear power every episode - could win the award as the "Best American of All-Time," beating out such luminaries as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, is a testament to how people all around the world - if they thought about it rationally for a moment - would most probably agree with me.....

That Homer Simpson's way of thinking and fouled up logic is pretty indicative of the average American's way of thinking... Laugh all you want, but Homer Simpson is the average American guy.

The problem is not that Homer Simpson is a self-centered, foolish, illogical (but lovable) oaf. The problem is that there are 10 million American adult males just like him... (Too bad it seems that a huge percentage of us are not in the least lovable, excepting to our moms...)

Working at a nuclear power plant is probably not an ideal job, but it pays a hell-of-a-lot more and is much safer than many other jobs. According to PayScale, starting pay for nuclear engineers - including bonuses and profit-sharing - is between $53,104 ~ $127,398 per year. 

Not bad for a guy or girl straight out of college.

Even considering the current problems at Fukushima with current deaths still at zero (and hopefully to remain that way) compared to the 11 immediate deaths on the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and the annual U.S. Minerals Management Service report of 69 offshore deaths, 1,349 injuries, and 858 fires and explosions on offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico alone from 2001 to 2010. 

Whether you are Homer Simpson, or someone just like him, in today's America, a person could do much worse for a job than becoming a nuclear engineer. In spite of all its warts and negative publicity, the nuclear industry still compares quite favorable in safety and pay to any other form of energy.

And now, to finally answer the question as to what is the most dangerous job in the world? Even though it is not legal in many countries, the world's oldest profession is also its most dangerous. As All Most reports:

What do you think is the most dangerous job in the world? I bet it would surprise you that the most dangerous job in the world is not even legal in most U.S. states. The most dangerous job in the world is prostitution. I know what you are thinking, prostitution isn’t even a job. But the definition of a job is a regular activity performed in exchange for payment.
Prostitution is named the most dangerous job because of this stat; the murder rate for a prostitute is 204 to every 100,000!!!

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