Safer costs more?

The International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy held in Geneva in 1955 had a profound effect on technology history. America’s nuclear trade journal Nucleonics reported just after the event. An oddity on its editorial summary of a huge program is this:

The U.S. AEC spends about $100/yr/man on radiation protection. This is about 1% of the total operating expenses. To protect against radiation by an additional factor of 10 would cost 2% of operating expenses. This additional 1% would correspond to 20% of the total profits of a commercial enterprise, based on 5% net profit.

I think the numbers bandied about are nonsense but I enjoy the realisation that even then, before any power reactors were up and running, everyone was acutely aware of the trade-off between being careful with this new technology and the need to make money out of it.


Nucleonics. 1955. “Administration.” Nucleonics, 13, Sep., pp. 34-39.