Public interest activist Ralph Nader brought his campaign for nuclear power safety to Harvard yesterday, criticizing the Harvard community for non-involvement in an effort to enlist support for his "scenario on how to defeat nuclear energy and open avenues to geothermal and solar energy."
Nader told an audience of about 400 at the Science Center that "Harvard is walking backward into the future" with regard to the problems of atomic energy.
"Your behavior is reminiscent of that of medieval serfs," Nader said in reference specifically to Daniel Steiner '54, general counsel to the University and President Bok.
Nader, who graduated from the Law School in 1958, criticized the University community for not getting involved with the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a group working for the enforcement of nuclear energy safety standards.
On April 10, the Committee on Housing and Undergraduate Life (CHUL) almost unanimously rejected a motion to let students voluntarily add a $2 donation to Mass. PIRG to their term bills.
Nader discussed the potential hazards of using nuclear reactors to produce electricity, and said that the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has been attempting to suppress reports that indicate that nuclear power plants are unsafe.
"Nuclear plants are unreliable: at any given time, one-third [of the 43 reactors in the U.S.] are shut down for repairs and other problems," Nader said. The amount of radioactive material contained in a single reactor varies from one to two thousands times as much as was contained in the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, he said.
Henry W. Kendall, a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Boston and professor of Physics at MIT, said before Nader spoke that nuclear power plants in the U.S. have been built hastily, through "massive mismanagement in the AEC."
"If 2 to 5 per cent of a plant's radioactivity were released to the environment, lethal effects would be felt up to 100 miles away. The effects could be more severe than those of a nuclear explosion," Kendall said.
"The potential damage from a single reactor is in the range of tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of casualities," Nader said.
"The sun has a great thing going for it: it's practically inexhaustible, it's everywhere, and it goes straight to the consumer," Nader said