Saving the environment from Environmentalism Part II
by Paul Lorenzini
Part II: Rethinking Environmentalism
Today’s environmentalism is premised on two fundamental ideologies: first, solutions must “harmonize with nature” and second, nuclear power must be opposed at all costs. In the first part of this discussion I addressed the conflicts raised by constraining environmentalism in this way and how those constraints are working against the real goals of environmentalism: reducing carbon emissions and minimizing our footprint on the natural environment as we strive to meet human needs. That analysis only begs the question: how did we get to this point? In Part II I address this question: what led us to these ideologically bounded premises and what should we do about it?
We are products of our history and nowhere is this more the case than with modern environmentalism. It is an inherited dogma, born out of a period four decades ago that conflated environmentalism with social visions of progress and reflected the spirit of an age in our history. A new environmentalism sought more than past conservation movements, more than just preservation and protection; we needed to rethink our ethic toward nature and re-conceptualize what we mean by progress – progress had to be more than the acquisition of material wealth, it had to serve both our human need for material security and spiritual fulfillment, and it had to be sustainable. All are reasonable priorities, but what would it mean?
Woven into this was a basic shift in our confidence in science and technology as the means for human progress. In historical terms the west has been described in a well-known 1959 lecture by the English novelist and science fiction writer C.P. Snow as a culture divided by two competing forces, what he called “Two Cultures”. Those in the natural sciences were seemingly on one side and those he called “literary intellectuals” were on the other. As Snow saw it, these two groups are not just divided, there is a kind of mutual hostility between them. Snow saw this as a problem because he believed decision-makers were failing to value the potential for human progress inherent in science and its technologies. In his review of technological advances over the past century, Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Rhodes refers to Snow and reinforces his observations, noting “appreciation of technology among intellectuals not technically trained was hard to find” over this period. Presuming this is true, what does it mean?
One explanation is that Snow was observing the effects of a two centuries-old fault line in western thought going back to the period of the Enlightenment, a fault line between those who had a reverence for science and objective knowledge and those who rejected its “mechanical and soulless” view of the universe, its materialism and its objectification of nature. Initially expressed by the early Romantics, skepticism of science and its objective view of knowledge has been a continuous theme running from Rousseau, to Nietzsche, to twentieth century existentialism and now postmodernism.
It was a cultural divide that had been lying dormant for decades, but came alive during this period when a new environmentalism was born. In a fascinating critique of this history, Meredith Veldman has linked together early romantic themes with the rise of today’s environmentalism, as especially embodied in the views expressed by E.F. Schumacher. Finding strong parallels with the early Romantic Protest movements in Britain, Veldman believed many of these themes explain the underlying thought behind much of modern environmentalism. They include a rejection of a materialistic view of nature, seeing nature instead as an organism of which we are but one small part; a “revulsion against” the social by-products of industrialization; a “long history of suspicion of the scientific method”; and a conviction that we need to “restore humanity’s links with the natural world.” Nature had become an inanimate thing to be exploited, not an aesthetic aspect of our spiritual existence to be valued.
One can see these thoughts reflected in the work of the two most influential leaders who shaped environmentalism as we know it today: E.F Schumacher in Small is Beautiful (1973), and Amory Lovins, in a 1976 essay in Foreign Affairs: Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken. 
After spending time in Burma and India, Schumacher had concluded people in those societies were happier and more fulfilled without the infrastructure of modern industrialism. He urged solutions that would mirror these virtues which necessarily meant a complete rethinking of the ways we use technology to achieve progress. Instead of large corporate and government organizations seemingly beyond our ability to control, he stressed small, low tech, solutions and community. A critical concern was his belief that we would need to alter the way we live, how we labor and the ways in which our lives intersect with the natural environment. Reinforced by a fear that we were running out of fossil fuels, he saw the solution as a shift toward renewable resources that would be both more “natural” and sustainable. But also small, meaning deployed as low tech solutions that could be locally controlled.
It was left to Lovins to reframe Schumacher’s abstractions into a coherent social vision. In his 1976 essay, Lovins characterized energy policy as a rigid choice between the “hard path”, central station coal and nuclear power, and what he called a “soft path”, one which would exclusively rely on renewable resources, but selectively, only those that would be compatible with a restructuring of our energy infrastructure around small, low tech, distributed energy systems.
What ultimately gave Lovins his greatest legitimacy was his emphasis on efficiency; few would argue with the gains made there or with the continued potential. But it was his emphasis on “soft path” technologies that defined the new environmentalism – a dependence on renewable resources and a complete rejection of nuclear power.
Lovins impact cannot be understated. Years later nuclear critic Charles Komanov would write that Lovins analysis was one of the ten “blows” that “stopped nuclear power”. It was, he wrote, a “tour de force that re-conceptualized the entire energy debate. He held out an enticing, almost irresistible vision of a non-nuclear future that also avoided an over reliance on fossil fuels.” 
By 1980, all of this had hardened into a new environmentalism that was now being embraced with almost no critical thought. Key to the new environmentalism were resources that harmonized with nature, which meant renewable, low tech, and capable of being deployed as distributed generation. Notably there was no consideration of real impacts – land use, biodiversity, demands for resources required for construction and maintenance: none of this was thought through. When Lovins said the soft path was “environmentally friendly, benign and peaceful”, it was embraced at face value because it fulfilled a pre-existing new ideology. Nowhere had anyone seriously considered the size of the undertaking or its impacts on habitat. Where concerns were raised, they were trumped by a “group think” which had taken hold within the environmental movement. As Laura Jackson put it after recently attending a conference where speakers emphasized the need to “believe” in the renewables-only path, it has become a kind of “faith-based environmentalism”.
It was an ideology with two prongs: first, an idealized view of nature; and second, skepticism toward advanced technology as a pathway to progress. The former expressed itself as a commitment to renewables as the sole path to a “green” energy future; the latter was channeled into hostility toward nuclear power.
Nuclear power and modern environmentalism
When the issue of nuclear power is raised, there are usually two explanations for its opposition: either a link to nuclear weapons, or simply fear of the technology itself. Because both have legitimacy, they effectively obscure ideological undercurrents that have shaped the controversy.
The problem with the “weapons” answer is it fails to explain the timing of the anti-nuclear movement. During the decade of the 1950’s, a period when nuclear weapons posed their most intense threat, nuclear power actually enjoyed wide public support. The Sierra Club embraced it with the slogan “atoms not bombs”, and as late as 1962, the radical left argued in their influential Port Huron Statement that “… atomic plants must spring up to make electric energy available.” When opposition did begin to surface, it came as a surprise to the industry. In 1963 an industry news outlet wrote that “industry has been shaken in the past year to find that some in the public are suddenly speaking out against proposed nuclear stations.” 
The rise of the anti-nuclear movement would come during the next decade, paralleling both the rise of the new environmentalism and the cultural shake-up of “the sixties”. By 1976, three years before the accident at Three Mile Island, an antinuclear movement had fully matured: the Sierra Club adopted its anti-nuclear policy in 1974; Ralph Nader held his first Critical Mass rally later that year, and by 1976 antinuclear measures had been placed on ballots in six states – all to be defeated by wide margins, a defeat followed by civil disobedience and protests across the country.
Many regard the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 as a turning point in the history of nuclear power, and in terms of public attitudes it is largely accurate. But it offers little to explain the rise of an ideologically driven anti-nuclear movement that was well-entrenched long before that accident.
For most of us, risks have dominated the conversation about nuclear power as evidenced by the response to Three Mile Island. For the average person, that is the issue: risk. Yet it is the very potency of this issue that has obscured the ideological nature of the controversy and, in particular, the manner in which fear has been exploited by anti-nuclear advocates to manipulate public attitudes. This was revealed starkly by a 1982 survey of opinion leaders, including anti-nuclear environmental groups. The survey found that anti-nuclear environmental groups made no distinction from a long list of nuclear issues – if it supported an anti-nuclear position, they agreed. The authors of the survey concluded this could only be explained by an underlying “ideology” that was more potent than the specific issues themselves. At an anti-nuclear conference in 1985, one critic put this thought quite bluntly: “Let’s face it. We don’t want safe nuclear power plants. We want NO nuclear power plants.”
This visceral hatred of nuclear power had become so intense sociologists during the 1980’s would write that “opposition to nuclear power has for many environmentalists become the key issue,” and “the most emotional and divisive of environmental concerns.” , Given all the threats to the environment in the modern world, it was a rather remarkable claim. One relevant threat they largely ignored, for example, was coal – tolerating an expansion of coal to avoid nuclear power, even though virtually every major study has found coal is far more damaging to the environment and human health than nuclear power.
Yet it signaled the power of ideology in shaping the movement. Today, as serious environmentalists rethink the issue of nuclear power, one hears comments such as “I was duped” (Michael Shellenberger in “Pandora’s Promise”), or “I was a knee-jerk environmentalist” (Stewart Brand in an interview on NPR), or even reservations about speaking out due to the threat of a backlash from the environmental community (Mark Lynas in “Pandora’s Promise”).
Still, by the 1990s little progress had been made with renewable visions and efforts turned toward the adoption of laws that would mandate their acquisition, supported by various forms of subsidies – both with finances and stream-lined regulations. It was around this time that concerns over climate change began to surface, and, just in time, climate change was adopted as the justification to push this pre-existing vision. But it was force-fitting a solution to fit a problem, rather than starting with the problem and seeking a solution.
The reality is that the soft path was never about carbon: it was always about opposing nuclear power and restructuring society to fit a socio-political vision. As we are now beginning to see, the opposition to nuclear power is compromising efforts to minimize carbon while the unreserved push for a “renewables-only” solution is forcing an increase in natural gas and unnecessarily damaging habitat.
A new environmentalism
Rethinking modern environmentalism will necessarily mean a reconsideration of the fundamental premises that guide our thinking. A recent “think-piece” released by the Break Through Institute, co-authored by 18 environmental scientists, activists and scholars, has raised these issues, emphasizing the need to shift our focus as we reconsider the needs of what they call a “new geological epoch: the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans”. 
There they “challenge the idea that early humans lived more lightly on the land than do modern societies,” a notion which has implications well beyond energy having framed much of modern environmental energy policies. It is not “harmony with nature” that is important, but intensifying human activities, minimizing our collective environmental footprint, and decoupling our dependence on nature so it can be preserved and protected. Technology is not the problem, it has been the liberator making it possible to serve human needs and achieve progress while severing the dependencies that led to the environmental crisis in the first place. They call for a complete and fresh rethinking of environmental policies that embrace the role of technology as a source of leverage to minimize and control our environmental footprint while simultaneously using it to serve the growing human needs of our modern global society.
Yet it is not enough to offer a new environmental vision going forward, the underlying ideologies that got us here in the first place need to be better understood and challenged. We need to separate the goal of environmental protection from an idealized and romanticized view of nature that is becoming a barrier to its preservation.
Given the emotional, financial and political investments already made in existing policies, change will not come easy. At the grass-roots level, however, while solutions have not necessarily come into focus, the need rethink the basics is increasingly becoming clear. In an almost plaintive cry, Basin and Range Watch has stated it this way:
“Seems like 20 or 30 years ago, folks were concerned about protecting their local places, that specific mountain, the river nearby, those particular named canyons near where they lived, and the wilderness they hiked in. Today the shift among environmentalists has highlighted the global, the abstract, even the corporate model of “saving the Earth.” We are often lectured by this new hybrid of industrial green energy environmentalists about how our attempts to slow down these large industrial energy developments will expedite the warming of the planet and the extinction of the polar bear. We find it ludicrous that these same people would support actions that could lead to the extinction of species like the desert tortoise in an attempt to save the polar bear. Who told them that they were justified in choosing which species get to survive and which do not?”
About the Author: Paul Lorenzini earned his PhD in Nuclear Engineering from Oregon State University and later earned a JD. He had a distinguished career in the electric utility business and was the Chief Executive Officer for NuScale Power for its first five years. He is now retired and sharing some of his thoughts about energy issues.
Editor note: Paul and I have a continuing email exchange about a variety of ways to interpret the historical, political and literary events discussed in this piece. We do not fully agree on the motivations of the primary actors and the identities of the less visible puppet masters, but his thoughts are valuable and worth sharing.
 Richard Rhodes, Visions of Technology, 1999, p. 23 et seq.
 See Richard Tarnas, The Passions of the Western Mind, 1991, pp 366 et seq.
 Meredith Veldman, Fantasy, The Bomb, and the Greening of Britain, 1994
 “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?”, Amory Lovins, Foreign Affairs, Vol 55, No 1, October 1976, pp 65-96
 Charles Komanov, “The Ten Blows that Stopped Nuclear Power”.
 See Thomas Wellock, Critical Masses: Opposition to nuclear power in California 1958-1978, 1998, p. 41; James Miller, Democracy is in the Streets, 1994, excerpt from the “Port Huron Statement, p. 359.
 “Big Hurdle for A Power gaining public acceptance”, Nucleonics News, October 1963, Vol 21, No 10.
 Robert L. Cohen and S. Roert Lichter, “Nuclear Power: The Decision Makers Speak”, AEI Journal of Government and Society¸ March-April, 1983, pp 32-37.
 A spokesman for the Government Accountability Project, an offshoot of the Institute for Policy Studies, in The American Spectator, Vol 18, No. 11, Nov. 1985
 Stephen Cotgrove, Catastrophe or Cornucopia, 1982
 Lester Milbraith, Environmentalists: Vanguard for a New Society, 1984
 See The Nuclear Energy Option, Bernard Cohen, 1990, p. 135, FN 8; and Pushker A. Kharecha and James Hansen, “Prevented mortality and greenhouse gas emissions from historical and projected nuclear power”, Environmental Science and Technology, March 15, 2013
 “Pandora’s Promise”
 Excerpt from a letter by Kevin Emmerlich and Laura Cunningham of Basin and Desert Range Watch, reprinted by The Zephyr at: http://www.canyoncountryzephyr.com/blog/2009/08/08/some-wise-words-from-basin-range-watch/
“But it was force-fitting a solution to fit a problem…”
I believe you meant to word this differently.
Sorry for the minor nit-pick. Love the article so far. Need to run this past a few of my dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist friends now.
Unfortunately, there has always been an– anti science and technology– component of the environmental movement. This is based on the erroneous philosophy that the problems of the world are due to the technological advancement of the human race– a frequent theme in old scifi movies.
In reality, of course, the world’s environmental problems are almost always due to human over population. Just 10,000 years ago, the Earth was occupied by perhaps 10 to 20 million people. Now, the human population has grown to over over 7 billion– and continues to increase.
Ironically, the advancement of science and technology is the only thing that has enabled human civilization to support such an enormous and continuously growing population.
Nuclear power is frequently viewed as a technology that is too dangerous to exploit and economically unnecessary since their are cheaper renewable alternatives.
In reality, of course, renewable energy resources such as hydroelectric power, wind, and solar have a much larger environment impact than nuclear energy.
And wind and solar energy is significantly more expensive than nuclear energy since they can only produce power when the wind is blowing or when the sun is shining. That means that CO2 polluting fossil fuels have to be used as back up power or the electrical capacity of the solar or wind power plants have to be substantially multiplied in size in order to produce the synthetic fuels necessary to power the grid when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing.
The mass production of small nuclear power plants and floating nuclear power plants, on the other hand, is likely to dramatically reduce the cost of nuclear energy over the next few decades while increasing the safety and environmental advantages of nuclear power even more.
Whew…..gads, I’m exhausted. That was like trying to walk in three feet deep mud.
Paul, I have no doubt you have devoted extensive time, research, and thought in such musings. But after about two minutes I found myself wondering if human nature, and massive social programming through media complicity with our political structures, really needs such lofty and complicated psychobabble and pretentious intellectual ruminating.
And left out of your essay is the premise that “science”, as percieved by the masses, is whatever the media tells them “science” is. FUD, to those that subscribe to it, is in their belief, based in science. And distrust in NE is based more in the nuclear “accidents” of the last half century than it is some sort of social wave of psuedo environmentalism.
Society believes science is going to save the day. And they are steered into percieving which “science” is going to accomplish that, whether it is “sound science” or “actual science” or not. It is not a distrust of science that has brought us to this point. It is a blind faith in science that is to be our ruin. As long as politics, media and big business collude to define society’s definition of “science”, truth will take a back seat to fantasy.
And distrust in NE is based more in the nuclear “accidents” of the last half century than it is some sort of social wave of psuedo environmentalism.
How do you explain the fact that there was a strong antinuclear movement before TMI? What accidents do you assume initiated that movement?
“How do you explain the fact that there was a strong antinuclear movement before TMI? What accidents do you assume initiated that movement?”
Well, I would say nuclear weaponry gave birth to society’s fear. The seeds of radiation fear were planted early, and then TMI, and subsequently massive airings of media fearmongering, such as “The China Syndrome”, pretty much cinched the paranoia. And subsequent “accidents” only compounded it. With the fear that nuclear weaponry implanted, TMI became a “we were right to be afraid” event. The industry keeps experiencing “accidents” that society believes the industry told us “can’t happen”. The distrust NE experiences is, to a degree, self imposed through its own failings. Add FUD to the mix, and…well….
Perhaps the Problem that Envirinmewntalists had with Nuclear was that certain leading envirnmentalists were acting as Lobbiest for coal from the 1970’s omward. Rod Adams offers us smoking gun a long time ago.
Although a nascent movement had begun to form following the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in many ways the modern “environmental” movement can trace its origins to the oil spill that occurred in the Santa Barbara Channel in early 1969. This movement quickly merged with the “peace” movement that was opposed to nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War. The association of anything “nuclear” with something bad, or at least non-environmental, followed.
So blame the oil companies.
Of course. Simply blame the oil companies, and the peaceniks. NE’s stellar track record of accident free power generation has nothing to do with it.
Think hard. How many people were measurably harmed by either the weapons testing or reactor operations/accidents?
Now tell me why “the media,” which makes nearly all of its income from advertisers, chose to portray nuclear energy as something horribly scary to the general public.
All industrial activities have accidents, some far more destruction and lethal than the infamous Chernobyl, but nobody gets as outraged about those from nuclear power. It seems what you are asking for is nuclear power to be immune from corporate greed, government corruption, and overall human incompetence, but perfection is impossible. Nuclear power will never be accident free, just like walking down the stairs. Why do many politicians and regulators, and activists, expect the impossible from nuclear power, but not other areas of life, that kill and damage more people?
“It seems what you are asking for is nuclear power to be immune from corporate greed, government corruption, and overall human incompetence, butperfection is impossible.”
No. “I” am not asking anything. I am simply answering Rod’s query. Just because I believe there are certain specific reasons why NE is distrusted doesn’t mean I believe those reasons are justification for that distrust. My point is that the industry itself has made the fabrication if FUD a very easy proposition. Its the rare bird that knows the abreviation LNT, or has read Pandoras Promise, but you can’t find hardly anyone that isn’t aware of Fukushima in a negative sense.
“Think hard. How many people were measurably harmed by either the weapons testing or reactor operations/accidents?”
You guys really don’t get it, do you? You had an entire generation of children, the baby boomers, who were greeted by their teacher in the morning, as she screamed DROP!!!! at the top of her lungs. And we’d scurry under our desks, assume the position, pointed away from the windows, (we were told to do so because of the the flying glass that would surely erupt into the room), and remain that way for a full ten minutes, not knowing whether it was a drill, or the real deal. Then, after school, walking home, we would see the excavations and equipment providing our better heeled neighbors with bomb shelters. Water was horded and stored. Canned goods were accumalated in great quantities. And the dinner conversation was muted, parents looking at their kids, wondering if they’d be embers by morning. And if not incinerated would the poor little darlings survive the “fallout”? Going to bed, we’d hear the worried and hushed talk of our parents, fretting in another room.
Just what the heck do you think that did to our nation’s psyche, Rod? Made one and all fall in love with the wondrous atom?
I understand Brian’s youthful naivette, for I suspect he’s just a young punk that thinks the world began when he poked his head out and started braying. But I figured you’d have a grasp on what it was like when everyone thought the nukes were gonna fly. And what that did to put the atom on society’s sh*t list.
I get it alright. I also get the fact that many of the people at the top of the heap in the arms race had substantial financial interests in creating as much fear of the atom as possible.
At some point, critically thinking people who have been purposely taught to be afraid so that they can be controlled and manipulated need to recognize that fact and get mad, not at the thing created as a bogyman, but at the people who created the bogyman out of a powerful natural force that could be used to make their lives better.
You claim to be an independent thinker who has seen through the BS that you’ve been fed, but you cannot seem to see the way out of the continuing diet.
I know you think I’m hopelessly idealistic and am putting too much faith in the ability of “the public” to understand and take back control, but what is your recommended alternative course of action?
Please remember that I have a bit of a pedigree as a graduate of one of the most respected leadership training institutions in the world. I learned a bit, refined my skills during a lengthy career, and am now working with many others to show that there is a better direction to take.
“I get it alright. I also get the fact that many of the people at the top of the heap in the arms race had substantial financial interests in creating as much fear of the atom as possible.”
“At some point, critically thinking people who have been purposely taught to be afraid so that they can be controlled and manipulated need to recognize that fact and get mad, not at the thing created as a bogyman, but at the people who created the bogyman out of a powerful natural force that could be used to make their lives better.”
Roflmao! You mean now, when they are swallowing the “war on terror” thing hook, line, and sinker? Even after being fed the “Iraqi WMD” dish, they are eating the “Iranian nuclear weapons program” for desert.
You mean those “critically thinking people”, who seem to abound right here on your website’s comment section?? You gotta a long way to go, Rod. Those very people you describe in your first paragraph are heros to many here. Boo! is an effective propaganda tool, and its being utilized now to great success. Once again, the atom is being scapegoated to justify a political agenda, and your compatriots are bending over for it.
I need to remind you once again that Atomic Insights attracts something like 15,000 unique visitors every month. Perhaps two dozen take the time to engage in the comment section.
That’s not exactly a representative sample. Even if it is, your comments are only applicable to a few of the people who do comment.
You appear to be someone who selectively chooses data points to support a preexisting position.
“That’s not exactly a representative sample. Even if it is, your comments are only applicable to a few of the people who do comment.”
Silence speaks too, Rod. I recall that when I brought up the asassinations of Iranian scientists, not one person here expressed concern for the policy. That spoke louder to me than the ignorant crap that was offered in defense of the policy. These are scientists being murdered. No due process. Guilt by association. Such a policy doesn’t cry out for dissention?? Silence suffices? Where are the voices of american nuclear scientists, protesting these asassinations? Protesting the coupling of NE and nuclear weaponry, as is done in the efforts to demonize Iran? Silence is all I hear.
We’re getting off topic again, Rod. And I really don’t wanna do that to Paul’s extensive efforts he devoted to his musings. Suffice to say that nuclear weaponry, and the visceral fear americans have of a nuclear holocaust, is still a major factor in how radiation is demonized by the special interests you are so fond of correctly villifying. It is occuring as we speak, demonstrated by this whole Iran thing. NE has more hurdles to jump over than special interests using pseudo environmentalism in order to pursue agends. There is also a national psyche, a fear of radiation that is over 50 years old, and still nurtured by the media and the M/I complex. “We shall overcome” is an optimistic and positive mindset, and I understand why you feel driven to possess it. But you’re in for a long slog.
poa, I think you raise essential issues in this discussion thread and I agree with you.
But I think you underestimate the number of people among the public who do realize that fear of NE is largely overblown and that NE has an important role to play in solving environmental problems. I meet people all the time who – sometimes after just a little bit of discussion – agree that NE is beneficial and probably an essential part of any sustainable energy supply, but who keep that viewpoint private for fear of negative reactions from friends, colleagues or clients. They see only anti-nuclearism in the media and in environmental/sustainable literature around them. They believe they are a powerless, irrelevant minority unable to stand up to popular opinion.
I think this group of people who are ‘closet pro-nukes’ is larger than these people (and you?) might think. Just a few months ago a poll in our local newspaper (in the Netherlands) showed that 66% of readers preferred NE over natural gas. Such a poll result goes completely against the myth that only a minority of the population supports NE. The effect on society of this group eventually finding the courage to ‘come out’ should not be underestimated imo.
I think that articles like this one from Paul Lorenzini can contribute to increasing the resolve of such people, because it provides them with insights and arguments which can help them express and support their ‘secret’ viewpoint on NE. It helps me in the way, at any rate.
“I meet people all the time who – sometimes after just a little bit of discussion – agree that NE is beneficial and probably an essential part of any sustainable energy supply, but who keep that viewpoint private for fear of negative reactions from friends, colleagues or clients”
Thank you for your comment, Joris. I, however, rarely meet such people. Most people I meet are either uninterested in what power source turns their lights on, and are interested in NE only when it makes the headlines.
And, in my community, they need only walk outside and look to the east to form a prejudice, for the hills are covered with wind towers. The wind industry is viewed favorably here, and the headlines they’ve seen about NE have never been favorable. Fukushima is a word recognized by most. Mention LNT, and you only get a blank stare.
When I express the opinion that NE is also a viable source of power, (which I do often, Rod), I am not villified, or rebutted with force. Honestly, they simply don’t care, because they are convinced by their own eyes that we have the solution in place. Many of them are feeding their kids on the paychecks stamped by wind generation companies. I don’t get arguments when I tell them Fukushima is not the deadly event they have been told it is. Again, they simply don’t care. Fukushima is yesterday, as long as it stays out of the headlines.
If NE wants to gain favor, it might be a good idea to either change the reasons it lands on the headlines, or stay off them altogether.
But keep in mind, generally, people just don’t give a sh*t. When they hit that light switch, they just want light, and they could care less where it comes from. Turn the lights off for a week, and all their lofty idealistic groupspeaks will disappear like a wisp of fog in the sunlight.
“But keep in mind, generally, people just don’t give a sh*t.”
Absolutely. Those participating in the environmental/energy debate keep this in mind too little. Being passionate about energy, the environment and our common future is essentially a luxury. We who are interested in these topics tend to forget that the large majority really couldn’t care less.
There is a good reason for that. They have many concerns about issues which immediately affect them on a daily basis, (let alone the many faux issues which they are told they should be concerned about in the asinine mass media) and while those of us who are concerned about energy issues also have such other concerns we should not think that the rest of the population shares our determination to assign some weight to the energy issue, despite other concerns.
I think this aspect is linked to the statement by (I can’t remember) who said that pro-nukes should stop talking about the risks of NE and how modern technology reduces that risk, but they should talk more about the benefits of nuclear. The general public doesn’t care about energy, and certainly doesn’t care about technical details, so if they come to spend a fleeting moment on learning about NE, then what they should preferably hear about is benefits, benefits and more benefits, not (for them) incomprehensible assurances about safety, safety, and more safety.
About that same time period the intervenors first got very organized and learned just how difficult they could make it to build and license a plant. Diablo Canyon U1 construction started in ’68, licensed in ’84. Yes at least one self inflicted problem there. But my point is that about “wrote the book” on just how to hassle and delay and add expense to licensing a nuke plant.
Brian — no question the 1969 oil spill had an effect, but it was one of many during the 60’s. During that decade, the anti-nuclear movement grew gradually as more and more site-specific actions were taken — in some cases because the sites themselves were poorly chosen. The reference to the “peace” movement is also important, but I would characterize it more broadly as the counter-culture/New Left of the 60’s. The former embraced the entire idea of reconstituting progress around harmony with nature, and the latter emphasized mistrust of govt institutions. Mistrust was a key ingredient in the anti-nuclear mindset.
An interesting aspect of the development of mistrust was the very strong endorsement of nuclear energy in April 1973 by one of the Left’s most despised persons.
In Propaganda, Edward Bernays described the importance of selecting likable, personable product endorsers. Of course, people that want to discredit or spread dislike of a technology or product would choose just the opposite if they are given the opportunity.
You guys really don’t get it.
I hope Rod puts up the post I just submitted, that didn’t appear. You are missing one HUGE part of the puzzle.
Yeah Rod, a known liar and criminal probably wasn’t the best salesman to employ. Tricky Dicky said its so, and you could take it to the bank? But really, I think you are giving him, and the left’s angst, too much credit. Most people didn’t care one way or the other what Tricky Dicky said about NE. There were too many other issues captivating the nation.
My point is that people who had no desire for atomic energy to succeed, including Tricky himself, wrote that speech and made sure that people who already distrusted him from his Watergate actions (revealed to public in June 1972) knew that he thought nuclear energy was a key tool to use as a response to the energy crisis. Making Tricky a spokesman for nuclear was part of a planned effort to “Take the bloom of the nuclear rose.” (Using a phrase created by F. William Engdahl)
Some people forget how worried the public already was about energy supplies in April 1973, six months BEFORE the world’s oil suppliers successfully rode on the “OPEC initiated” Arab Oil Embargo to impose a quadrupling of world oil prices in just a few months.
At this point, I need to again recommend that all people interested in a better understanding of what really happened during that period read F. William Engdahl’s A Century of War. Pay particular attention to Chapter 10 – Europe, Japan and a Response to the Oil Shock.
I was in New Hampshire in 1975 to kick off the protests at the announcement of the construction of the Seabrook site. I can tell you that the public were already educated about the inherent danger of nuclear power with the partial melt down at Fermi 1 and the near miss accident following the Browns Ferry fire in 1975,
Thanks for visiting and providing a first person history. Though I’m a retired grandpa, I was still in high school in 1975, but I have done some reading.
Can you help me remember – just how many people were injured at Fermi 1 or Browns Ferry? Was either facility irreparably damaged? Was there an environmental effect that was as large as the oil train derailment in my hometown a couple of years ago?
Perhaps those events were memorable and responsible for stoking fear because the advertiser supported media was encouraged to exaggerate the effects by some large, persistent customers that preferred to sell oil and gas at the high prices resulting from artificial scarcity?
Mr. Paul Lorenzini, your thoughts are the best summary of where we are, how we got here, and where do we need to go that I have ever read. Thank you sincerely. But the next obvious question is how will we proceed from this point to make a serious impact on changing the “ideological” mindset that does provide an impressive barrier? My thoughts are that you need to do a “Pandora’s Promise” type of project. And I would guess that an impressive amount of grass roots financial support would become available for such a project, should you ever decide to pursue it. Thanks again.
Pandora’s Promise is excellent. We know it was, because in Europe it was blocked by the public media. Even today, the only way to watch PP in Europe is to buy it or watch it on Netflix. It was not and will not be shown on public television.
This is indirectly encouraging. It indicates that public sentiment against NE is artificial and still needs carefully nurturing by the media. Such an unstable situation can collapse rapidly if quality pronuclear advocacy is maintained and expanded.
Re your comment that “you guys just don’t get it, do you”, in apparent reference to the influence of nuclear weapons, let me just say that I went to high school in the 1950’s and don’t need to be lectured on the political climate of that period. I specifically addressed this issue in my article because I know there are many like you who hold to the narrative that the opposition to nuclear power grows out of the fear associated with nuclear weapons. I challenged that narrative because I think it is incorrect. Yes there are those who make that association and yes there are those who link the two together, but I do not believe the association is as influential in explaining the opposition to nuclear power as many believe. As a general proposition, throughout the 1950’s, when the fears of a nuclear holocaust were most acute, commercial (peaceful) nuclear power enjoyed popular support, perhaps more than in any other decade. There are many ways to explain it, well beyond the space we have here, but I cited three examples to verify that claim: first, the Sierra Club supported nuclear power in the 1950’s and continued to be ambivalent about it throughout the next decade. Their opposition to Bodega Bay was on scenic grounds and when David Pesonen chose to make the issue nuclear safety, he resigned from the Club. As is well-known, David Brower resigned in 1969 because, in part, of differences over nuclear power and it was not until 1974 that the Club officially adopted an anti-nuclear policy. Second, even radicals who wrote the Port Huron Statement in 1962 supported “atomic” power, and if anyone would be inclined to let the nuclear weapons issue drive them, it would have been them. Finally I cited an industry article from Nucleonics Week indicating that when opposition did begin to surface in the early 1960’s, it came as a surprise. If you need access to it let me know – it is quite informative as to the way the industry thought at that time. That said, I do believe the weapons controversy has had its impact – -first the fallout debates contributed significantly to the fear of radiation; second the New Left eventually made the link between nuclear power and the Military Industrial Complex, but it was for them a political connection, not a matter of fear. There remain many who resist nuclear power because they fear proliferation risks, but I do not believe the anti-nuclear movement can be explained on that basis. As I indicated, I believe the answers lie in understanding the ideologies that have informed modern environmentalism.
Yes, Paul, I hear what you are saying. But in my opinion you can separate the positive feelings towards NE in the 50’s, and the fear of radiation that nuclear weapons instilled in the general population. Atomic energy, as it was more generally known at the time, had excellent PR, (Disney style), and was generally accepted as capable of containing any dangers that the radiation posed. Its not that people didn’t fear radiation, its that they didn’t think “atomic energy” was going to expose them to it. TMI, burst that bubble, thanks to a media blitz sponsored no doubt by Rod’s “usual suspects”. That nasty invisible danger that the bomb represented now had a new representative; NE.
Paul/PoA: I think when discussing the time lag between the fears of a nuclear holocaust and the anti-nuclear movement it is important to understand the power of childhood indoctrination. What we learn in childhood becomes part of our personality on a very emotional level, and is very difficult to counter with rational arguments. The children of the 50s made to duck under desks to escape incineration and fallout were the students of the 60s.
They obviously had a completely different outlook on all things nuclear than Freeman Dyson, whose childhood exposure to the idea of nuclear power was mainly focused on the tremendous opportunities this amazing power source opened to humanity.
I agree with Rod that the anti-nuclear movement was most likely seeded by fossil fuel companies, but the seeds fell on very fertile ground that was tilled by the fear of nuclear weapons.
Exactly my point. And the dichotomy between the wonderful PR of “atomic power”, and the fearsome specter of nuclear holocaust was a dichotomy that young minds were incapable of grasping a connection. The fear of “fallout”, and massive incineration, versus the wondrous concept of clean and efficient energy powered by the atom, pushing modern cruise ships and sleek new submarines, made it seem as though the two facets of exploiting the atom were two totally different issues, unrelated in any way. Radiation seemed to be this dangerous monster that only lurked behind the smoke of war. We just didn’t connect it to the Disney like presentations heralding the modern and wonderful development of atomic power. But the fear of radiation was being nurtured and ingrained by the times. And you’re right, as I stated above, it created a generational national pysche that is still very much at play even as we speak.
Once again, I’m going to have to ask you if you are here to learn and help figure out a way to overcome the fear that you developed as a child or if you are going to stubbornly insist that the object of your fear is real and that — in your opinion — you stand with the majority of your generation in stubbornly defending your preexisting notions.
If you choose to remain fearful and to keep repeating that you think most people are like you, please consider taking your commentary elsewhere.
Its an amazing theory — an entire population raised in the 1950’s embraced nuclear power, including radical college students in the early 1960’s, but through some kind of delayed reaction, an anti-nuclear movement grew during the late 1960s and early 1970s, mobilized largely by students who were infants at the time and many who had never been born yet???? Great fodder for amateur psychobabble but I have never heard that theory expressed or developed by anyone qualified to do so. I invite some references.
Can you clarify whose theory you are responding to?
Because I describe a phenomena doesn’t mean I subscribe to it, Rod. You are misunderstanding my motives, and my current beliefs.
I tried to make my theory clear Paul. You need to realize that under my theory, in the fifties and early sixties, radiation exposure was not seen as a danger posed by “atomic energy”. FUD had not began in earnest, and the public had no nuclear “accidents” to demonstrate to them that such exposures could occur. The fear of radiation was very real, nurtured by the specter of nuclear holocaust that they had experienced, (not as “infants”, as you offer, but as elementary school age children), but did not carry over to the generation of atomic power. It was widely believed that radiation was safely contained in the power plant, and simply could not escape. TMI enabled media FUD, (sponsored by Rod’s “usual suspects”), and media events such as “The China Syndrome”. Now, the fear of radiation exposure, “fallout”, could be attached to the generation of atomic power.
People aren’t afraid of nuclear energy, they’re afraid of radiation. Convince them that nuclear energy won’t expose them to radiation, and you’ve got it licked. Unfortunately, industry accidents have convinced them of the opposite. Or, absent proving the safety of the process of nuclear energy generation, convince them that radiation ain’t the deadly monster they believe it is. And in that respect, you’re losing the battle to the FUDistas.
It’s designed not to, and generally it won’t. Thousands of reactor-years of experience in the USA alone proves that.
The industry accidents outside the Soviet Union have had exactly zero casualties to the public. The chemical and fossil fuel industries can’t claim anything like that.
Easy enough to do; just measure the radiation levels and radon concentrations in hot springs where people bathe for their health, on monazite beaches like Guarapari, and the down-sloping trend of lung cancer rates vs. home radon concentrations observed in the USA. But getting publicity for this anti-narrative set of facts might be difficult; none of the people with money have any way to profit from it as they do from the narrative’s anti-factual view.
EP…..Thanks for the tone and content of that response.
“Finally I cited an industry article from Nucleonics Week indicating that when opposition did begin to surface in the early 1960’s, it came as a surprise. If you need access to it let me know – it is quite informative as to the way the industry thought at that time.”
I’d like to read that article but unfortunately my employer saw fit to toss all of the library materials into a dumpster 12 years ago. Is it available somewhere on-line?
Re Nucleonics Week, I found it in the Sierra Club files at UC Berkeley, Sierra Club Box 79 Nuclear Energy ’63-‘69 — not allowed to remove or photo copy, but could take pics from iPad. I have pics someplace, but these are the notes I transcribed:
Nucleonics News, October 1963, Vol 21, No 10: “Big Hurdle for A Power gaining public acceptance”
i. In 1953, Teller warned that nuclear power ad evoked unreasoned fears and that efforts must be made to dispel the mystery
ii. “Since 1953, 17 nuclear power stations representing 2000 MW of electric capacity have either been put into operation or will be in operation shortly. With possibly one notable exception, there has been no unreasoned fear or public alarm regarding any of these stations … these circumstances have undoubtedly contributed to the general belief within the nuclear industry in recent years that public acceptance of nuclear power would not be a significant problem. … industry has been shaken in the past year to find that some in the public are suddenly speaking out against proposed nuclear stations … in some parts of the country very substantial public opposition has arisen. In others it has been minimal.”
iii. This article focuses on four plants – three in California (Bodega, Malibu, San Onofre) and Ravenswood in NY. (Note: three of the four were ultimately cancelled)
iiii. “The most clamorous opposition – probably the most sincerely motivated but based largely on appeals to the emotions, and not above using the half truth, the deliberate-misleading juxtaposition and the outright misstatement of fact – has come at Bodega and Ravenswood”.
v. Bodega – Pesonen as Executive Sec’y of the 2000 Northern California Association to Preserve Bodega Head, formerly conservation editor of the SC
It is relevant that these concerns arose as the fallout debates were at their most intense
Thank you for an interesting clue for me to track down. Seems intriguing to think about Edward Teller, who had played a major role in the development of the Teller-Ulam configuration that led to the November 1952 test of the Ivy Mike was asserting in 1953 that nuclear power had evoked unreasoned fears.
That statement was most likely made BEFORE Eisenhower had made his Atoms for Peace speech in December 1953. There were no nuclear power plants anywhere in the world, so the only “nuclear power” that Teller could have been referring to was the geopolitical power associated with massive explosions.
He was right to notice that the public was turning against his beloved nuclear weapons and the atmospheric testing of those weapons, largely as a result of the uncontrolled fallout produced the the Ivy Mike test, which led to the need to evacuate Marshall Islanders to protect them from fallout concentrations high enough to cause acute radiation sickness and the international incident of contaminating the crew of the Lucky Dragon, again with high enough levels of contamination to give them visible signs of radiation sickness.
There was no mystery about why the public was fearful of that aspect of “nuclear power.”
Another interesting thread to pull is the fact that Teller was the first chairman of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and insisted on applying enormously conservative rules that started the trend of adding layers of cost and schedule uncertainty to all reactor development projects, even before commercial reactor development had begun.
Nit: the Lucky Dragon caught fallout from the Castle Bravo test, not Ivy Mike.
Just a general comment — both this website and the nuclear community in general suffer from an inclination to have pet theories about the nature of the nuclear controversy, usually personal biases based on their own gut feeling, and generally without much awareness of the vast literature on the subject that is out there. Yes there are examples of people who were traumatized at a young age over weapons — Jane Fonda is discussed by Spencer Weart as one such person, David Brower is another as discussed in his biography and an extended interview with the Sierra Club historians where he described nuclear power as the “glove” and weapons as the “fist” with both going together. But we aren’t talking here about individuals — them or individuals here — we are talking about an entire movement and trying to understand it. It is complicated because multiple threads run through it — a good overview is “The Antinuclear Movement” by Price. My point was to acknowledge the influence of the weapons connection, and by inference the way the peace movement was an important piece, while at the same time contending – for reasons I have already given — that it was one piece but not the entire story, not IMO even the main ideological force behind it. I’m sorry if got a little deep for some, but I think some depth is required to understand it for it goes to the underlying ideological set of forces that were part and parcel of the sixties. For a view from sociologists I would suggest a google search on Wellock, Hays, Ingelhart and Balogh (who collectively contend it was about “non-materials values”); for risk there is much by Slovic; for environmentalism in general read Riley Dunlap and related articles on the New Environmental Paradigm, plus multiple books on the New Environmentalism — and that is just a sampling off the top of my head. My point is simply that this is a subject that bears more intellectual curiosity and research and less personal hip-shooting than we collectively seem to give it. That said, I stand by the analysis in my article.
I share your recognition about the complexities of the entire antinuclear movement, but my experience with people — especially those with the responsibility to make organizational level decisions — has been that more of them are motivated by employment, income, power, wealth, groupthink and status than by ideology. Though my experiences with religion are related to a specific faith, I was an active member of enough different congregations in different parts of the US to believe that my observations include people who profess deeply spiritual motives.
Daniel Yergin’s work, especially The Prize illuminates the importance of the quest for money and power as it relates to the energy industry. F. William Engdahl’s A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order provides a different lens on the same quest. (Yergin is a fully fledged member of the hydrocarbon economy Establishment, while F. William Engdahl moved to Germany many years ago and provides his observations from there.)
My list of influencing literature is too long to list here, but it includes such tiles as Chain Reaction, The Atomic Complex, Power Hungry, Power Trip, Yellowcake: The International Uranium Cartel, The Politics of Uranium, Outsider in the Senate, Genes, Radiation and Society: The Life and Work of H.J. Muller, US Philanthropic Foundations, Physician to the Gene Pool, and Empires of Light to name just a sampling of my print book library. My e-book library such titles as Oil, Coal: A Human History, Energy and Empire, and Why We Hate Oil Companies, plus about 100 more with about 75% of them related to energy.
Please trust me when I say that I have applied a great deal of intellectual curiosity and research to this issue. I am not simply spouting off the cuff theories or creating my smoking gun stories out of my imagination.
Please don’t think I do not respect your opinion, your research, or your conclusions. You’ve devoted far more time, education, research, thought, and sweat to this topic than I ever can. Or even desire to.
I don’t offer my thoughts in opposition to your own. I offer them in addition to your own. Sometimes a lay opinion can represent a straight line to a conclusion that doesn’t have all the twists and turns that a proffessional opinion requires. I personally experienced the nightmares as a child, fostered by the specter of nuclear holocaust. Having little children cower under their desks, en masse, nationwide, had an effect that cannot be denied.
I also remember experiencing the awe and fascination that the ads about “atomic energy” engendered in me. Its a dichotomy that I can understand today, looking back. I simply as a child, did not connect the possibility of radiation exposure to the generation of atomic energy. So my fear of radiation did not dull my fascination.
But I am being repetitive here. Perhaps I just haven’t found the words to make my theory understood. Oh well.
Rod — my comment was not directed at you. I know you’ve thought a lot about this, and know from our dialogues that we come at the issue from different perspectives. My only point was that we need to appreciate all the thought that has been given to this issue and satisfy ourselves that we are we are working to I integrate it into our thinking all the prior work that has been done.
Re Poa — thank you for your comments.
Rod – I’d like to take your last post and develop it a bit. And yes, I appreciate that you have given much thought to these issues and I know from following your blog your views are heart-felt and you have held them for some time. That said, I wish this had come sooner in the comments because I believe the following comment goes to the heart of the controversy and how we see it so differently:
“… my experience with people — especially those with the responsibility to make organizational level decisions — has been that more of them are motivated by employment, income, power, wealth, groupthink and status than by ideology.”
I could not disagree more. When I say I disagree, I do agree that money, power and self-interests do play a role – as they do on both sides of this controversy. The question is what role and how much does it explain. If I take the position you state at full value, I understand it to mean those who form the core of the opposition to nuclear power – who lead it and who fight it – are inauthentic. They do not really believe it is wrong on the merits, they are opposing it for other self-interested reasons. I can’t speak to your experience but I can speak to mine, and that does not describe my experience.
Back in the 70’s when the intense debates were going on, Bert Wolfe, GE Exec and former President of the ANS, wrote a classic article he called “The Hidden Agenda”. Focusing on leaders such as Paul Erhlich, Amory Lovins, Barry Commoner, and Ralph Nader, he noted three general themes: (1) “a general distrust of a society with abundant energy supplies”; (2) “that society should be forced to alter and reorient itself to minimize energy use”; and (3) “a general dissatisfaction with our present social and economic structure and the suggestion that energy should be used as a means for societal changes not directly connected with energy”, all issues grounded in ideology and none related to an actual assessment of the risks of using nuclear power. With these unstated motivations playing such a key role in the controversy, he argued, an honest public discussion was almost impossible. He concluded:
“A public discussion of energy development between groups with these opposing views is like a discussion of pork processing between farmers, meat processors and Orthodox Jews and Muslims. One may talk about humane slaughtering techniques, but the underlying issue is whether or not pork should be eaten.”
I believe Bert Wolfe was right and he stated what I had experienced in public debates over nuclear power. We were talking past each other. It is too easy to dismiss those who disagree with us by challenging their motives – it is an easy path because we don’t have to take the next step, the really hard step, and understand what is truly motivating them at an ideological level, and then deal with them at the level of what they believe. Yet that is these level at which I believe we must engage. To do otherwise dehumanizes them and in the end diminishes us.
It is important here to draw a distinction between motives and tactics. I do agree nuclear opponents have been dishonest in their arguments, as we all know, but I believe they do so not because of venal self-interest, but because they genuinely believe they are working for a just and good cause – it’s a means to an end kind of thing. That was the sense of the first part of this article. Our point of disagreement is that we do not believe, as they do, that their cause is just and good.
Finally – and I apologize for the length of this comment, many of your views on this seem rooted in the shadow cast over this controversy by big fossil fuel interests. I take as a given that you are correct about their power and desire to influence this controversy. My view is simply that the fossil fuel role is one piece of a larger whole – they may be standing in the background doing what they can to push things along, I just don’t see them as the means to understand the nuclear controversy or the way to confront its challenges.
The visible, attention-getting, highly publicized activists that you listed are not the decision makers that I was talking about. For all I know, they might all have been truly idealistic when they began their careers.
I don’t believe they became famous because their message fell on fertile ground; I believe they had strong backers who liked the implications of their message. Because the strong backers wanted the message to be heard, they provided the means to amplify it and repeat it often enough to make an impact. As others in this thread have mentioned, most people who have access to energy don’t spend too much time thinking deeply about energy issues. However, those who do think about the business aspects of energy think very hard because they understand its importance and the financial and political rewards of bending the market in their favor.
In my opinion, and I want to acknowledge loudly that I could be entirely off base, we will not succeed if we focus on trying to help the public “understand the nuclear controversy.” Instead, I’m focusing on discrediting the antinuclear movement as fundamentally flawed because it is the carefully created and nurtured tool of people who put their special interests above the common good.
Of course, that is not the only tactic needed. We have to also talk — as Joris said — about “benefits, benefits, and more benefits.” Think about the potential shift in public opinion when they hear that they have been fooled because people they thought were trustworthy were really spreading the message of people they have never trusted AND that they have a hugely promising future ahead when they change their mind to become strong advocates for enabling nuclear energy.
I’m also trying to attract strong backers who recognize that this message deserves amplification because it is correct and because it will open incredible new opportunities. Some of the people who will benefit the most have ridden the hydrocarbon wave for a very long time, but recognize that it is time to pull out and gather themselves to be well positioned for the much larger and longer lasting wave that is already in view.
It’s been a good exchange and I’m not sure there’s a lot of value in beating it to death, but I do have one last thought. It’s been a while since I’ve debated this but when I was active in the 1970’s, I had an answer for every question except this: “If you’re so right, how do you explain the scientists who oppose nuclear power.” Indeed, as a practical matter, the anti-nuclear scientists and engineers gave the opposition its legitimacy and the movement would have faltered without their technical support. To the public, they were hugely important and good enough that discrediting them publicly was not a simple matter. My stock answer was these are questions where reasonable people can disagree. I hated myself because I did not believe it, I just didn’t have a better answer. I believed a better answer was to understand the underlying ideological reasons for their opposition and speak to the question at that level — when it was asked (I.e., it was not the center of the argument, but when it came up, I needed an answer). It was not just their ideological motivation that puzzled me, it was the nature of an ideology that made it tolerable for them to willingly manipulate science to achieve their goals. It was this as much as anything that has motivated me over these past years to delve into the ideological aspect of the controversy. If I had said they were motivated by self interest, as many in our industry did, it would have made me look defensive and self-serving — no one who was in the undecided camp would have accepted that as an explanation,
As for the best way to engage the issue today, I certainly agree we need to press the advantages and make the case for nuclear power on that basis. But I also believe we need to understand the nature of the opposition we are facing and formulate strategies and tactics that reflect those understandings.
It has been a good discussion. I agree that it would be an ill advised tactic to introduce “self-interest” as a short answer in a debate situation.
That’s an issue that has to be firmly planted well before the debate begins. I want to eventually reach a situation where the audience or the moderator is already thinking “I wonder if the person who keeps talking about all the potential problems with nuclear energy that never seem to happen has any ulterior motives?”
Nuclear energy opponents did a good job of capturing “the moral high ground” and appearing to be sincerely motivated by ideology. Too many of the first generation nuclear engineers and scientists were consumed by what I call “original sin guilt” based on their involvement with The Bomb development or the arms race. They gave up that moral high ground far too easily.
I wonder how many of Amory Lovins’s adoring fans would feel if they knew that his average annual salary from Rocky Mountain Institute over the past decade or so has been close to $500 K? That’s a pretty rich package for a guy leading a small non-profit, but it probably doesn’t even include a number of other sources of income.
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