An article titled Fukushima inspires safety features for Georgia nuclear reactors is a recent addition to CNN’s Powering the Planet series. It is packed full of misinformation about nuclear energy along with subtle and not so subtle promotion of natural gas, one of nuclear energy’s strongest competitors.
The most important misinformation in the article is the notion that the design features of the AP1000 were inspired by Fukushima. The truth is that the nuclear energy industry has been working on improved reactors that are less dependent on external power sources for several decades.
Designers have been tasked for years with the mission of creating passively safe systems that can withstand a complete station blackout without resulting in a release of radioactive fission products to the environment. The AP1000 design concepts can be traced to the AP600, which was conceived in the 1980s and received a design certification in 1999.
After damning nuclear energy with faint praise, the article moves on to its apparent mission of promoting natural gas as a better alternative that is supposedly safer and cheaper than that scary nuclear stuff. (I wrote that with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.)
Here is an example quote from the promotional section:
According to Mike Altizer, Southern’s nuclear engineering programs manager, tests involving floods, earthquakes, fires and tsunamis were conducted in hopes of ensuring a natural disaster wouldn’t affect the reactors.
Yet while Southern moves forward, last year’s disaster has soured the prospects for nuclear energy in some European nations, while critics ask why more isn’t being done to tap safer energy such as natural gas.
Here is another one:
Along with the safety concerns, critics have other questions about the reactors.
For one: Why build new reactors when there are cheaper energy sources, namely natural gas?
Lyman is one of those critics, and he points to the $14 billion price tag for the two reactors, which some estimates indicate may be $1 billion short of the actual cost.
“The enormous price tag of new nuclear power projects, such as Vogtle 3 and 4, means that nuclear power is not cost-effective, especially given the low price of natural gas,” Lyman said.
It is probably just a coincidence that Ted Turner, CNN’s founder, is heavily involved in the natural gas industry. He has been working with T. Boone Pickens to promote its use as a bridge fuel to an alternative energy utopia. He is not just a promoter, his property hosts in excess of 10,000 natural gas wells. Turner, of course, gets lauded for his green activities in the media that he partially created, even when those activities include promotion of a fuel source that produces at least 50% of CO2 released by burning coal.
As one of the largest land owners in the United States. Turner also stands to profit from any effort to move towards increased use of wind and solar energy. Building the alternative energy utopia that he promotes would require that someone purchase or lease large tracts of land to host the required collecting systems.
Like many other famous “Environmentalists” who fight both coal and nuclear energy production, Turner has serious financial interests in energy sources that benefit from reduced competition and alternative energy subsidies. The tie between CNN and Turner, even though it is less direct than it was when he was actively involved in running the network, is what qualifies this post as a smoking gun.
Here is a comment that I left in response to the article on the CNN web site. It might not make it through moderation.
Wonder how much ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and the American Natural Gas Alliance have paid CNN to run advertisements over the years? Is this article a “make good” or just a freebie in return for all of that exceptional business from loyal customers?
Natural gas is not “safer” than nuclear energy. In just the past month, we’ve seen houses explode in Indianapolis, IN (killing 2), a gentleman’s club in Springfield, MA blow up (fortunately after evacuation so only first responders were hurt), and a small factory in German explode and burn (killing 14 workers) all because of natural gas related actions.
In contrast, no one was even injured by the radiation released by melting three operating reactor cores when the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station’s back up power systems were inundated with the largest tsunami recorded in the past 1,000 years.
Why doesn’t CNN mention the fact that there were at least 10 more reactors hit by the same wave that survived with little damage.
One more thing – why does CNN allow the Union of Concerned Scientists to portray itself as neither for nor against new nuclear power stations? The organization has been fighting against the use of nuclear energy since the mid 1970s. Even in the context of fighting global climate change, the UCS says a lot of very negative things about the prospects for nuclear energy, while apparently accepting a power source that routinely kills people with explosions and that produces about 500 grams of CO2 for every kilowatt-hour produced – even using the most modern systems available.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Proud to be a nuclear energy professional