Nuclear Materials: The Good… and the Ugly

Nuclear Materials: The Good… and the Ugly

“With great power comes great responsibility.” This superhero-tinged adage applies to nuclear energy in multiple senses. When nuclear and radiological technology, born out of violence, turned out to also be a highly efficient way to power entire societies, an ongoing debate began over whether we were comfortable having such a potentially dangerous force in our collective “backyard.” Serious incidents with nuclear reactors, rare as they are, and the ongoing problem of nuclear waste have led many people to believe they are not worth the risk. But with climate change already causing danger and death all over the world, might nuclear energy be worth re-evaluating?

Jewish texts from various points in history may not have anything to say about this specifically, but they do offer advice on navigating risk and creating a safe environment. How does our collective responsibility to keep each other safe balance with other, temporary risks we may have to take for each other’s sake?

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(This post is part of Sinai and Synapses’ project Scientists in Synagogues, a grass-roots program to offer Jews opportunities to explore the most interesting and pressing questions surrounding Judaism and science. Marshall Kohen has worked in the nuclear-power field for over 30 years. He is currently a Technical Assistant and advisor at the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and has been lay leader, past President and of course, director of the choir [Shir Isaiah] at Temple Isaiah in Fulton, MD. This event, originally recorded on November 16, 2022, was part of their Scientists in Synagogues series, “New Wars, Old Questions: Military Technology and Jewish Teachings in the 21st Century”).


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