On the Atomic Insights radar – converts from antis to nuclear energy supporters

Here are some items worth watching or listening to when you have some free time:

On January 28, the Colbert Report included an interview with Michael Shellenberger of The Breakthrough Institute. Colbert introduced Michael as “an environmentalist who believes in nuclear energy. Finally, liberals who glow in the dark.”

On January 30, Mark Lynas, a well-known British environmental author, was interviewed on the BBC’s Hardtalk. The television version of the show is only available to people inside the UK, but the audio is available to anyone in any location for the next 7 days. Though 80% of the interview is focused on Mark’s turn about from anti-GM campaigner to a GM science supporter, the final 4 minutes of the show is a discussion about how Lynas’s position on nuclear power was altered by his design to find effective tools with which to battle climate change.

Though I have never listened to Hardtalk before, it appears to have a similar format to Bill O’Reilly where Stephen Sackur, the show’s presenter, challenges and interrupts the guest with what he considers to be hard questions about the guest’s position on the topic under discussion. Lynas does a great job explaining how he has arrived at his current positions and defending the life-long learning process that saw him through that journey of discovery. Here is a teaser transcript of the first minute or so of the segment on nuclear energy (which begins at about minute 19 of the 24 minute show.)

Sackur: Let me switch now if I may to another issue on which you campaigned for many years, and again, you’ve made something of a U-turn and that is nuclear power. You were “agin it” and now you’re for it. And I just wonder again, the motivation for that change. Was it really because you reconsidered the science or was it because you looked at the big picture of climate change which you are very concerned about and you decided, for pragmatic reasons, you needed to find a way of changing your opinion on a power source which is low in carbon emissions?

Lynas: The latter.

Sackur: The latter? So when you campaigned against nuclear power because it wasn’t safe, you’re not now saying that it is safe?

Lynas: It’s pretty much the safest option on the table. In fact, there’s some studies that show it’s safer than solar power.

Sackur: Well hang on. Why did you ever campaign against it?

Lynas: I didn’t really campaign against it. It’s not quite the same story as it is with GM. I mean I was in the environmental movement and everyone in the environmental movement is antinuclear. That’s well known.

Sackur: Your views are so loosely founded it’s almost unbelievable.

Lynas: Loosely held and strongly argued. Look back at my first couple of climate change books and you can see what I said about nuclear. I don’t think I mentioned it at all in the first one and in the second one I said it’s low carbon but these disbenefits as well.

About Rod Adams

22 Responses to “On the Atomic Insights radar – converts from antis to nuclear energy supporters”

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  1. Joel Riddle says:

    Looks like the word “design” towards the end of the 2nd long paragraph should actually be “desire”. Go ahead and delete this comment after you see it.

  2. Jeff Walther says:

    While I have great respect for Mr. Lynas for changing his mind and for publicly admitting it, I am astounded by all these people who make arguments intended to alter public policy, indeed, who contribute time and money to “causes” and have never taken the time to actually consider the facts pertaining to their causes.

    That third to last sentence points this out, “Loosely held and strongly argued.”

    People. Sheesh.

    The “green” movement has done more to damage the environment in the last forty years, than all the oil companies in the world combined, in my opinion — except to the extent that the oil companies may be funding the “greens’.

    • quokka says:

      Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Conservationists (who are not necessarily Greens with a capital ‘G’) have done some outstanding and invaluable work preserving wilderness and ecosystems that would have otherwise have been lost for all time.

      As a case in point, I have large amount of respect for Bob Brown, Australian senator and former leader of the Green Party. Bob Brown was a key figure in the ultimately successful campaign to save the Franklin River and south west wilderness in Tasmania. It was a landmark event in Australian politics. He campaigned tirelessly and did jail time too for his trouble. Certainly not wealthy, he bought the first two (small) properties for a new NGO – Bush Heritage Australia – that now has nearly a million hectares under conservation management. All of which, of course, demands a great deal more personal commitment than participating in a Greenpeace publicity stunt.

      Bob Brown and his party are quite wrong, indeed dangerously wrong about nuclear power, but they are not wrong about the critical importance of conservation.

    • gmax137 says:

      Really. “Loosely held and strongly argued.” That reminded me of the Marx quote, “These are my principles. If you don’t like them… I have others.”

      • Rick Maltese says:

        That’s hilarious. Love it.
        But the very idea of being prepared to change your mind is a healthy way of thinking.

  3. Daniel says:

    Let us go back in time and remember the series of blogs that Rod hosted on the ‘marginaity’ of certain key members of the ‘green’ community.

    In Europe, and elsewhere, the establishments and the governments, would rather have the most vocal ‘quacks’ be part of the environmental movements than to have them fight on real issues that plague society. Effortlessly they find their way to the easy money provided in the green movement.

    So the ‘greens’ are not so green and you can find some big fishes in quest of a happy meal to keep them going for a while. I know for a fact that some wander for cause to cause in France and even have criminal records. Pretty hard to find an ‘honnest’ job with that kind of luggage.

  4. Jeff Walther says:

    Now that I’m over my first reaction…

    I need to remember, and I think we all need to remember that we need to make it easy for the “greens” to change their minds. In much the same way that a smart commander makes it easy for the troops of a foe to surrender. Good treatment, fresh food, clean water on surrender. In this case, friendly welcome and no blame.

    It’s the smart way to be if we want to win the war for clean affordable energy.

    But the damage those yahoos have done with their passionate, self-righteous ignorance over the last four decades. It’s infuriating, and it makes it hard to be smart.

    • greg says:

      Excellent point, gloating or antagonizing will set you back. The question is do you want to be right or do you want to be effective? In communications, being right is half the battle.

      I have switched my stance on nuclear energy. I was never one for the barricades to protest but it’s still been a difficult conversion. And it took at least a year of reading and educating myself. I still find myself reading articles on nuclear and arguing against it in my head reflexively. The brain is a weird thing.

      Back to your point, you need to make the landing soft. But count me as another former anti who supports nuclear. (Financing models still trouble me though.)

      • Rod Adams says:

        In communications, being right is half the battle.

        Sometimes, being right is far less than half of the battle. It is often easier to be correct than to be effective.

        The real trick to communications is figuring out how to tell the truth in an effective manner so that the listener can accept it.

        Financing models for nuclear energy are challenging, but I am pretty well convinced that one of the least bad models is the rate regulated monopoly utility that trades a limitations on its profitability and an obligation to serve for guarantees of its profitability.

        I have a bias towards the system that creates a market situation in which electric utilities (and banks, by the way) are boring, predictable investments suitable for widows and orphans.

        • greg says:

          Rod,

          I was being generous with the 50% for sure, but professionals in the scientific fields often think and act as if it’s enough on its own. A good deal of credit for my nuclear education belongs to Atomic Insights and your guests.

          I’ve been in several conversations in the past few months where I argued in favor of nuclear and was able to do so with facts on my side. I’ve always believed simplifying the message is best. ID your top 5 statements for support and hammer them home over and over.

          Appreciate the site and info.

      • John Tucker says:

        Political argument is a tricky thing. In normal argument there are certainly near term benefits to prevailing but truth always wins the race.

        The greens are probably arguing on a philosophical level that isn’t going to include a reasonable surrender, in which case I think its better to throw everything out there, including the kitchen sink so to speak and just accept and have faith that the pieces will come together in their own way. Eventually. Populist left political “Green” being closer to a religion or belief system than a reasoned position.

        To misquote David ( http://www.weylandindustries.com/david ) in Prometheus – “Sometimes you have to destroy in order to create. ”

        Actually two of my favorite real quotes:

        “Argument is meant to reveal the truth, not to create it.” – Edward de Bono

        “Opinion is a fitting thing but truth outlasts the sun – if then we cannot own them both, possess the oldest one.” – Emily Dickinson

        • John Tucker says:

          Gaia founder North Devon-based Professor James Lovelock objects to wind turbine plan

          The professor, who is now in his 90s, has become known in recent years as an advocate of nuclear power and a staunch opponent of wind energy.

          In his letter he says: “We need to take care that the spinning windmills do not become like the statues on Easter Island, monuments of a failed civilisation.”

          “We never intended a fundamentalist Green movement that rejected all energy sources other than renewable, nor did we expect the Greens to cast aside our priceless ecological heritage because of their failure to understand that the needs of the Earth are not separable from human needs.”

          ( http://www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk/Gaia-founder-North-Devon-based-Professor-James/story-18031234-detail/story.html )

  5. John Tucker says:

    The bad thing about populist liberal outlets is they have their own brand of conservatism. They resist change and the incorporation of new/better information.

    Its so depressing.

    Somehow National Renewable Energy Laboratory (A government funded full renewable promotion organization ??) published a report (July 2012) being promoted around the interwebs now claiming 80 percent of US energy needs could be met with renewables and technology available now.

    Renewable Electricity Futures Study ( http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re_futures/ ) [ http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re_futures/ ]

    It takes no account of environmental impact, land use and other factors that a responsible regulatory body would.

    Its nauseating Rod, considering the NRC wont discus climate change/acidification impacts/reductions , land use issues, wont even raise a finger to counter gross misinformation and irrational doubt AND its last director even participated in dispersing it.

  6. Matte Patte says:

    We are a small group of nuclear advicates who engage the green movement in Sweden, arguing the case for nuclear (and occasionally basic science). It is quite depresing really, if you get the grass roots they will just tel you that the “party leaders tell me nuclear is bad so I think it is bad too.” If you show them the facts you are just “lying”, the few clever ones might give you the point but say the are supporters of the environment!?

    If you move up the ladder it gets even worse, they listen to your argument and when you proove them wrong they are incapable of admitting it publicly as it will threaten their place within the party, so your argument and case gets ignored and even censored if it is online.

    If you go at the people at the top they just plainly ignore you. They know we will rip them to shreds (we have tried to engage in public debate with senior members of the Swedish green movement, guess what happened?!) so they ignore us and will not even respond to or invitations. A few times they have sent some poor underling who even I could verbally destroy, but then we just look like mean bullies.

    Getting to grips with the greens is like trying to grab slime, everything slips through your fingers…

    • Jeff Walther says:

      It is exactly like trying to engage with pathological liars. Any time you get close to penetrating one lie, they will immediately and violently switch to another and never acknowledge that they have changed the subject.

    • John Tucker says:

      You are to be commended for actually taking the time and effort to publicly engage them. That is for sure. Especially considering how difficult it is.

  7. k patrick says:

    You Won the War, Is Conversion an Imperative?

    Just thought I would check in on the eve of destruction of the Democratic process in VA. It isn’t the U-mine or the Nuclear Consortium with no FOIA access thing, it is the contemptuous nature of business and politics. It was my displeasure to meet some of Nukedom’s rankest trolls this week and Virginia’s most corrupt politicians.

    After getting hacked today while hosting an invited event on line, I must admit this has gone beyond a polite discourse and into physically dangerous territory. When the nuke boys let you know there is a target on your back for even trying to make one last play in a crooked house, it is time to concede not just defeat, but to run for your life. Sorry for having a different view for the future of my planet, my home and my life. For Christ sake, the General Assembly is bought and paid for, what harm would it be for a handful of activists to call and email their legislators?

    Between the Teaparty and the Nukeparty, my home state not only controls the most minute details of my life right down to my hoo-hoo, but forces me to subsidize an industry that I have some legitimate concerns about. Not just subsidize, but have no ability or right to question. That is the most troubling aspect. Both political parties have benefited from the largesse of the Nuke Industry, first place in political bribery goes to VUI. They even have the Democrats so scared, Terry McAuliffe runs like the puss he is when questioned on uranium mining. No three dollars a day for you Nancy boy! Cuccinelli is a tool that totally sucked as AG and is now burning my buck doing publicity on his Book tour/Gubernatorial campaign.

    Back in Richmond, McD trembles, knowing defying the will of over 90% of the population is political suicide, and defying his corporate masters is suicide. Jump! jump! Luckily, Watkins is the cool hand on the throttle, not bitch, but courtesan to Alpha Energy, Dominion and now VUI, he knows he is secure in his seat as every Watkins before him, even before the Revolution. Not a silver spoon, but a King’s Grant baby, he knows he is the real King of Virginia, able to control the weak Governor, already on his knees. This is a fast deal, the wholesale control of Virginia’s colleges, government funding and people to the Nuke Industry.

    Which is most concerning, knowing this deal would never be touched by the profane will of the people, it should have been totally unknown to the people, except for a few nosy women that found out and objected, what is the harm in giving them their say? I guess it is just disrespectful to power that only pretends to belong to the people. I hear a Senator confided, ” I have never, in all my years in Richmond, seen a more ill-informed, rude, uncivilized, and down right ignorant group then were here in Richmond. If they think they got their “message” across then they are sadly mistaken. If this is what is opposing the mining then the pros have nothing to worry about.” .

    Thanks for the contempt, you won’t be getting any more of my tax dollars, and shove that golden sceptre y’all so ceremoniously tote out up your imperial sphincter. I remember as a child on a field trip hearing some crap about it representing the will of the people, maybe it used to. So it’s all yours you Nukesters! After that and all of the contempt from the nuke trolls including thinly veiled threats, it is truly time to put the sign in the yard. All can say is I feel like a refugee in any country taken over by a Dictatorship, I loved my country, it is sad to see it overrun by hooligans. You won, please let me take a few personal things I might carry, it makes me sick to think of my beautiful home occupied by the Nuke pogrom. I pray there is a God, and a hell, and that these crooked and contemptuous politicians and nuke cossacks will burn for eternity, not for having a differing opinion, but for destroying Democracy after all these years in Virginia.

  8. John Tucker says:

    So I take it this is decidedly in the “not a convert” category. Other than that, despite this post’s length, I have no idea what it is about.

  9. Twominds says:

    I hear the phrase ‘Glow in the dark’ differently now, as something positive. As trying to shed some light. I may even use it in conversation.

    Thanks to Colbert who gave it a nicely ironic twist in his show.

  10. c Dunlap says:

    The general assembly in Virginia failed to act to lift the uranium moratorium. The author of the rant above is a rabid “anti” ignoring the fact that 40% of the electricity in Virginia is nuclear. She and her merry band of NIMBY’s all want the bacon but no one wants to know where the pig farm is! Uranium mining in Virginia will provide much needed employment to an economically depressed area. The “antis” ignore the science and insist, in their usual rants, that mining will contaminate millions and lead to another Chernobyl. Even though several studies have proven that ,with proper safety precautions, uranium mining can be done safely. They ignore the fact that this is 2013 and not 1950 and mining is done differently. They ignore that the uranium ore already has water running through it and has for millions of years. They ignore the fact that the company already has a plan to control tailings in below grade, above flood zone storage areas. They have become so smitten by their own fairy tales that reality escapes them. The governor has the power to order mining regulations to be developed. Over 1,200 people signed on urging the governor to approve the start of the process. So her 90% figure is so far from reality that it is hard to take her seriously. But such is life among the uninformed lemmings who will follow any supposed “green” leader over the cliff into the sea of ignorance……