Industrial risk: the red sludge

With all the panic about radiation and comparisons to Chernobyl, the nuclear-phobia is in full face. PhysOrg provides another industrial catastrophe for comparison and contrast — Wildlife still largely absent from red sludge area: WWF.

Ten people were killed last October when the retaining walls of a reservoir at the alumina plant in Ajka in western Hungary burst, sending 1.1 million cubic metres (38.8 million cubic feet) of poisonous, stinking red-coloured mud across an area of 40 square kilometres (15 square miles).

At Chernobyl there were also some deaths at the initial event and some who did not take appropriate precautions became sick. Now it is a wildlife refuge as people avoid it due to residual radiation that doesn’t seem to bother the wildlife.

At Fukushima, the tsunami also killed a couple of workers but there have been no other deaths and no one has been subject to excessively risky radiation exposure.

The chemical spill arguably did a lot more damage to land and wildlife and human health than the nuclear power plant incidents.

But what gets headlines? Where is the fear? How is it rationalized?

Meanwhile, reasonable people are cleaning up the mess, learning lessons, and taking reasonable precautions to provide the materials and energy needed to support the health and welfare of society that we have come to accept as a given.

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