John Horgan – Converting to pro-nuclear nut after reading Power to Save the World and touring Indian Point
A few months ago, I had an encouraging discussion with an open minded science writer named John Horgan. John had appeared on a Bloggingheads.tv video with George Johnson and expressed some strong anti-nuclear feelings, especially about the Indian Point nuclear plant near his home in New York.
I contacted him via email to offer counter arguments to some of the points that he made. John invited me to meet with him for a Bloggingheads.tv discussion. During that chat, John asked some penetrating questions and listened carefully to the answers. That discussion helped me to remember that there are intelligent and well-educated people who have been taught to respond negatively to nuclear energy. Many of them are willing to listen and learn.
After our discussion, John wrote a blog on Scientific American titled Maybe nuclear power isn’t so bad after all.
He has written another one after taking a tour of the Indian Point nuclear plant and reading Gwyneth Cravens’s excellent journey of discovery titled Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy. This one is titled Nuclear fall in: Why I’m becoming a pro-nuke nut.
It is heart warming to read about Horgan’s continuing pursuit of more nuclear knowledge. It is time for the nuclear industry to adopt a version of the Syms tagline – an educated consumer is our best customer.
Hi Rod. When I first moved out here, anything I said that was pro-nuclear was met by something like: “Oh, I was there for the Seabrook protests. I protested. I am anti-nuclear!” My friend Howard said that if they were arrested at Seabrook, they put the arrest on their resumes. I am not totally sure Howard was kidding. This guy certainly believes his early activism is an important part of his resume.
I actually understand that. It’s his belief that he hasn’t just spent his life making bucks, he has also fought for clean energy. He is misguided, and he doesn’t bother to fact-check, but I actually understand him. Because as a pro-nuclear activist myself, I like to think that I haven’t just spent my life making bucks, but have always fought for clean energy.
Of course, I think it’s easier to make bucks if you inherit a multi-zeros business.
Thanks for the excellent clip.
The comments so far have been quite critical of Mr. Rosenthal. Rod, I think, has posted the best comments of the bunch.
Sometimes I wonder whether these so-blatantly “factually challenged” Op-Ed’s do any good. Sure, they reinforce the opinions of people who have already bought into the whole string of false anti-nuclear talking points, but do they actually change anyone’s mind?
Given the beating that this particular Op-Ed is taking in the comments, I find it difficult to believe that anyone would be swayed to oppose nuclear power by the online version of this article.
Brian – I agree – based on the comments that the online version of the article is receiving, it is difficult to believe that anyone would be swayed to oppose nuclear power.
Here is the beauty of the world that we now live in compared to the cozy world of the Eastern establishment that raised a guy like Rosenthal. A few years ago, he could get an op-ed piece published and have the responses filtered by the letters to the editor process. If the paper has a predisposition to being opposed to nuclear, it would be simple to pick a few supportive letters to give the impression that is the response that they received. They could even carefully pick through the responses to find a pro letter that included misspellings or wild ideas as a way to discredit the whole idea of being in favor of nuclear energy. It would be surprising to see any letters to the editor without at least a couple of days of delay for mail and editorial selection.
Today, the paper published the op-ed online as well as in print. My alerts picked up the story, I did a bit of searching, put together a short video, added some carefully worded, well researched comments, published a couple of tweets Twitter to encourage some of my followers to visit and published my own blog post that includes the video. Atomic Insights is read in 104 countries around the world and hosts about 700 visitors every day.
It is now just noon on the same day as the op-ed hit the streets and I have had time to go out and have a nice breakfast at my favorite sailing bar.
In other words – the anti’s have a much different battle on their hands. Let the battles begin!
” the anti’s”
But Rod you are an anti. You rely on misinformation to to support nuclear power by being against other forms of making power.
Kit P – You have that right. I am anti-coal, anti-gas, anti-oil, anti-wind, and anti-solar in cases when the markets that they serve can be better served by fission. I make no bones about it. If there was no other alternative, I would pick any of them over going without power.
I read the article and the below link and kept thinking of you and all of the comments that you have made here. It has unleashed a firestorm of commentary – well over 600 the last time I checked. Methinks it contains enough facts to cause some of the subjects real concern.
Mr Rosenthal doesn’t feel, in all this inveighing against nuclear power, that he ever needs to disclose that he just got a large subsidy to build solar, he just founded a solar company, and he plans the largest private solar installation in the state of MA.
It’s all there in this Globe article: http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2009/12/04/big_solar_statement_for_fenway_center/?page=full
I just don’t get it. Isn’t some kind of disclosure in order?
Support for nuclear power correlates more strongly with education than with any other demographic factor. All of the “dark” and “gory” “secrets” of nuclear power are already out there (such as they are). There really aren’t that many, and nearly all are ridiculously overblown. You just need to get people the knowledge they need to make an intelligent decision on the merits taking into account the context of the strengths and weaknesses of all energy sources.
Nuclear doesn’t need better PR. Besides, nerds aren’t in the business of selling or spinning things to be what they’re not. The public just needs better education so they can make an informed decision. So, if you want people to support nuclear power, don’t sell them, educate them and let them come to their own conclusion. I’m confident that the conclusion they’ll come to when they know the facts is that there really is a better way, and that way is nuclear.
(The ironic thing is that I have a feeling most of the professional anti-nuclear activists – the ones who actually get paid to do this – know that nuclear really isn’t that risky, they’re just attacking it because it stands in the way of their strategic plan (detechnologization, deindustrialization, and ultimately depopulation) or their benefactors (cough…cough…FOSSILS!))
@Dave – I just came across an example of highly educated people who need far more advertising and PR explaining the benefits and low risks of nuclear energy.
The article is about two MIT PhD’s and their quest for solar energy riches. Here is a quote from the article:
In additon to silicon? efficiency, a no-less-potent driver for 1366 is PV? relative simplicity. It literally has no moving parts. That? important to Sachs and van Mierlo who consider complex systems like nuclear power plants and deepwater oil drilling as vulnerable to accidents. Sachs calls such ventures ?echnology Towers of Babel?and says ?e are assuming things built by humans can be perfect and can operate perfectly.?In reality, ?emarkably insane things?happen all the time.
Van Mierlo agrees and suggests a lesson from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is not to oppose drilling so much as to oppose nuclear power.
?aybe as the human race we should not do stuff where the cost of failure is so enormous,?he says. The consequences of a nuclear accident would likely be much greater than an oil spill. As a result, 1366 Technologies?work focuses on designing PV systems that are simple to operate and whose adverse consequences are tolerable.
It is hard to argue that the issue is lack of education for these two gents. They need repetitive messages to move them away from their prejudices. Of course, the problem could also be simple greed and a desire to spread FUD about a competitor for emission free electricity generation.
I agree. The direct declared opposition – the true believers – aren’t susceptible to education. Their message needs to be countered more directly. That’s what you’re about, and I’m about, too.
@Dave – I respectfully disagree. Nuclear energy needs better advertising and PR because there are still far to many people who do not understand its enormous benefits. Sure, people who have a good education in engineering, math and science know that it provides reliable power without producing pollution and with acceptable safety performance. However, I do not think they understand that the long term cost of production is extremely low, that it is not expensive or difficult to safely store used nuclear fuel as long as necessary, or that used nuclear fuel still contains 95% of its valuable energy content.
I also assert that there are a large number of decently educated people whose formal and informal education does not include much in the way of math and science but does include a lot of scary sounding stories about nuclear energy. There are still a lot of people holding PhD’s (even some in nuclear physics who run important government agencies) who are agnostic about the benefits of nuclear energy compared to other ways of producing useful power.
I was a little surprised by the positive comments. Over the years I have encountered many with a very science background with an irrational fear if radiation. Only one really negative. The advocate of geothermal does not know much about geothermal.
While I think geothermal is a good way to make electricity it has a much higher environmental impact than nuclear. After the closure of Rancho Seco I ran into our HP supervisor. He had gone to work at one of SMUD’s geothermal plants. Geothermal has significant industrial safety issue. That ubiquitous white dust is arsenic. Water that comes out of the ground is also radioactive.
Concern about running out of fissionable is interesting when you consider that California does not have enough remaining geothermal potential.
Since I do not have an irrational fear radiation or arsenic, I think geothermal is fine. If you live in California, having of running out of electricity is rational.
I’m not sure if ‘pro nuclear nut’ is the best description for him, is ‘nut’ a moniker that has positive connotations?
All it takes is a little education and an open mind!
I agree with you, Rod. I’ve talked to scads of environmentalists inclined to be anti-nuclear in varying degrees of fervor, and almost every time they come around quickly, especially when introduced to integral fast reactors and the concept of the closed fuel cycle. The pros, including some nuclear physicists who’ve made a living spreading fear about nuclear power, are lost causes. Not everybody with a Ph.D. has intellectual integrity. I forget the quote exactly, but someone said something pertinent to the effect of “Nobody is harder to convince of a fact than someone whose job depends on them NOT believing it.”
Comments are closed.
Recent Comments from our Readers
The Clinton Nuclear Plant also in Illinois was shutdown essentially for almost 2 years before it was taken over by…
Good Podcast – Very informative One thing that was not discussed is how to deal with a particular fear that…
Renewables people are masters in marketing. Unreliable intermittent generators whose output is all over the place, and usually badly correlated…
Looking at their lineup, Westinghouse seems bound and determined to keep Gen IV in its “place” which is apparently the…
So they are developing a scaled down version of the AP1000, which is a scaled up version of the AP600,…