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November 17, 1989

Medical Perspective on Nuclear Power

JAMA. 1989;262(19):2724-2729. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430190108041

IS GENERATING electricity with nuclear power safe in the United States? Could the explosion of a nuclear power reactor cause widespread dissemination of radioactivity, as the Chernobyl explosion did in 1986? How do power reactors operate, and what principles safeguard their operation? What should be the role of the physician with regard to nuclear power? A recent report of the Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association (AMA), entitled "Medical Perspective on Nuclear Power," considered such questions. The report, prepared by an expert committee, received the endorsement of the AMA's House of Delegates and is available from the Council on Scientific Affairs. Major issues delineated in the report and all of its conclusions appear in this summary.

ROLE OF AND DEMAND FOR ELECTRICITY  Since the mid-1800s in the United States, energy use has grown steadily as energy availability has increased and energy cost has decreased.1 In the