As Low As Reasonably Achievable. ALARA for short. This regulatory requirement for the design of nuclear power plants means, in the words of the Health Physics Society, “making every reasonable effort to maintain exposures to ionizing radiation as far below the dose limits as practical.” Because dose limits were guided more by politics than health physics, and because the politics involved public fear of nuclear war, ALARA seemed the moral way to go. In the mood that prevailed at the time, to question the reasonableness of the dose levels—let alone the reasonableness of designing as far below them as possible—was to question the morality of opposing nuclear war. For this reason, few people dared to question it. The heavy emphasis on the possibility, however remote, that ionizing radiation might cause harm (when the possibility also exists that will cause no harm at all), was a product of the anti-weapons morality. ALARA today, in the nuclear power field, serves no practical purpose other than to require over-engineering of new nuclear plants for no increased safety benefit or risk mitigation; in effect serving only to impose unreasonable obstacles and costs to building nuclear plants, which are already by far the safest power generation plants in the world.
But when it comes to other types of power generation, ALARA, as a guiding principle, is useful. Hugely useful, in fact. If ALARA were applied to planning across the entire power sector, not just nuclear, and if it referred to carbon emissions instead of ionizing radiation (the mitigation of which was easily mastered in the early days of non-weapon nuclear engineering), then we could very easily and quickly eliminate enormous amounts of carbon emissions from power generation.
For ALARA to work in minimizing carbon, regulatory authorities would have to become as familiar with such terms as CIPK as nuclear regulatory authorities are with terms like becquerel or curie, gray or rad, and sievert or rem. Fortunately for the carbon regulators, CIPK is easy to comprehend and communicate.
Once regulatory authorities, and the general public, become familiar with CIPK, the easy and fast route to massive CO2 reductions will become immediately obvious.
And if there was ever a time to apply easy and fast solutions to an existential problem, this is it. Item A1 in the upper left shows the current concentration of CO2 in the air at the Mauna Loa CO2 observatory. It just dipped below 400 parts per million, but it will soon rise above 400 and will stay there, permanently, until we humans quit dumping so much CO2 into the air.
Here is a presentation that lays out how we can quickly and easily achieve giant-size CO2 reductions.