1. I have had a long-time fantasy for a Discovery or Science Channel reality series I would call “Nukes!”.

    It would go around the world exploring the history, people, and hardware behind nuclear technology, including mining, enrichment, medical isotopes, food irradiation, energy production, waste recycling, and next-generation possibilities. Hell, with that kind of scope, this thing could go on for years.

    I was reminded of this the other night, as I was inside containment showing a young NRC license candidate the intricate choreography of reactor disassembly and fuel offloading. Although he had just come from a tour as a nuclear submarine officer, he was visibly impressed by the scale and coordination of the operation.

    If the public could see these kinds of things I think it would demystify our insular “nuclearatti” culture, and open their minds to the value of this technology which reliably serves them each and every day.

    1. +1 for “Nukes!”

      As an industry outsider who’s been curious about nuclear power since grade school, I’d love to see a series like this and I think most of my family, friends and colleagues would watch it as well. Of course, I can think of a host of hurdles with funding being a big one. For those working in the industry, would the owners and operators of these facilities be willing to open their doors and provide access for a project like this?

      As far as funding, I’d be willing to contribute to a Kickstarter style project to get something like this off the ground.


    2. The public at large does not understand the culture of nuclear professionals. This is a serious industry and is treated as such by the people working in it. When you screw up at a nuke, being simply fired can be the best case scenario.

  2. Honestly, I find the whole model of going to a theater to see screenings of such “documentary” videos to be annoying. If you want me to see it, put it online where I can watch it in my own apartment at my convenience. If it’s that important, you would make it available to the most people you can, and that means online streaming or downloads.

  3. My understanding is that further support is needed EVEN for the Rickover documentary in development:


    This is another example of our lack of a true nuclear industry (Rod cleverly pointed out the lack of nuclear tycoons) vs the reality of our being a collection of side businesses. How to cut this Gordian Knot has been a persistent challenge to nuclear advocates.

  4. Little off topic. I read your blog every day.

    Last week while watching TV, I saw a NEI commercial promoting nuclear power. I was floored, never saw one before.

    1. @JimS

      Just curious, were you watching a DC or Baltimore area TV station? For some reason, NEI often chooses to talk only to the people in the nation’s capital, perhaps under the mistaken impression that they make all of the important decisions.

  5. This is a frustrating pattern to witness when we see either a complete omission or a pre-determined dismissal of nuclear energy. It seems some of these documentaries simply edit the footage to fit the script and are glibly satisfied with whatever brush off an expert can provide.

    I find the hypocrisy of these types of presentations glaring. When it comes to renewables, or anything-but-nuclear, calls for research, problem solving, or subsidies are a OK but not for nuclear. Why do they never ask questions like “how can we make nuclear safer, cheaper, and faster to deploy? How can the operational processes be improved?”

    Those who lay their “faith” in the non-nuclear carbon(less) future need to come to the same realization that Ben Hurd described in your podcast: “[renewables, efficiency, conservation are effective as] a gnat pissing on a bonfire“. I thought that was a particularly honest analogy.

    The scope and scale of our carbon infrastructure is beyond the imagination of most people. The task of replacing that with 80% carbon-free generation is even larger in scope and scale. Perhaps if more people understood the gnat-pissing-on-a-bonfire approach is mathematically doomed to fail, they’ll come to embrace nuclear energy. That shouldn’t have to be a reluctant embrace either with all that nuclear has to offer. The public reaction should be “this is better than we thought!” as finally we have hope for a carbon-free energy supply that will last for thousands of years.

  6. Is Dr. Tasker just a pragmatist that feels nuclear energy, as it is currently regulated, is no longer a factor in US energy (an will ultimately, with no further changes, will just fade away)?

    While Dr. Tasker may not be intending to damn nuclear energy with faint praise, but it certainly appears that that in fact is what he does by omitting any significant reference to nuclear technology in his documentary on worldwide energy. Dr. Tasker may however just be a pragmatist. A pragmatic and even handed assessment of the current status of nuclear leads to the conclusion that unless something is done soon to reduce regulatory obstacles to building new nuclear, nuclear energy will just gradually diminish in the United States, first by just being ignored as irrelevant, and then finally just fading away from the US energy scene.

    These are mostly dark times for nuclear, and while there are pinpricks of light in the US nuclear picture (granting of the first two reactor construction and operation licenses for 4 total units in 30 years and mPower SMR reactor innovation getting DOE funding support) overall, the picture for US nuclear to maintain even current levels of electricity generation are bleak.

    As a result of totally unwarranted levels of nuclear regulation, the US nuclear industry is locked in a long term fight for survival. The current business-as-usual approach for nuclear, if no changes to the US nuclear regulator is made, is a series of events ultimately leading to a US nuclear phase-out.

    Even though the NRC granted a 20-year life extension to the Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin, its owner decided to shutter the plant anyway. This is just one of several recent industry moves that show nuclear power has entered a new phase in the United States— one in which market forces challenge the economic viability even of existing nuclear plants, while unwarranted levels of nuclear regulation make new reactors hopelessly unattractive as investments. Regulation is currently responsible for pricing up the cost of US nuclear by in excess of 400% [1], and in the near future some operating nuclear plants may be unable to compete with the cheaper power produced by coal, gas, and renewable sources. As a result of regulation driven high construction costs and regulator forced delays, financial markets will continue to shy away from funding new nuclear plants; as existing reactors run out their licensed lifetimes, nuclear power will, likely, simply … disappear.

    NRC permits for further life extensions may delay matters for a decade or two, but the reactors currently operating are going to end their licensed lifetimes between now and the late 2050s. Unless there is regulatory reform we will gradually see an economics-driven US nuclear phase-out a couple of decades behind the renewable zealot government-led nuclear exit in Germany.

    Dr. Tasker may not be intending to slight nuclear, but his realistic assessment may simply be that unless something significant changes soon in the US nuclear regulatory picture, all forms of nuclear are headed for a relentless slow slide into irrelevance (and a fade to black).

    Will a gradual US nuclear phase-out such as now appears underway hurt national security and reducing America’s influence over other countries in regard to nuclear safety culture and nuclear nonproliferation?

    Can a regulatory crippled and priced up nuclear reactor technology survive in an environment where the energy playing field has been artificially distorted with tax incentives and feed-in tariffs to favor renewable energy solutions that cannot compete in an environment of fair energy competition?

    Will anyone in a position of decision making care enough to try to reform the US nuclear regulator and bring back the realistic and balanced form of nuclear regulation under which every single currently operating US nuclear reactor began life as a project?

    Can the US either adopt an international regulatory standard that all worldwide can build to, and by that means cut the Gordian knot of unwarranted US regulatory obstruction to the construction of new US nuclear, or will US leadership simply decide that both peaceful nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons belong to a previous age, and both of these “dangerous” technologies should just be allowed to fade away?

    Dr. Bernard Cohen, “Cost of Nuclear Power Plants – What went wrong?” –
    (Regulatory ratcheting, quite aside from the effects of inflation, quadrupled the cost of a nuclear power plant).

    1. Hi Robert,

      This is a fair assessment. The decision to close the Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin, really brings questions to my mind about how Nuclear can compete. If a fully paid for plant cannot compete in a market, how can any new plant hope to compete which still has to pay for the cost of capital? For a Nuclear “Nut case” like myself, this is a deep concern. You are pointing to over regulation as a primary cause. It seems to me to be a natural sell to most rank and file conservatives that we have a powerful source of energy that is being held down by unreasonable and excessive Government regulation. While there are “conservatives” who are really establishment businesses types, there are many who will understand and agree with the point about the over-regulation of Nuclear power.

  7. Back to the media side, I note that channels such as Discovery and History do not protray nuclear power in a positive light. For example, nuclear power to the best of my knowledge is not featured in the History Channel’s Modern Marvels series, but does appear in Engineering Disasters – and it was an early reactor on a military base in Idaho, if I recall correctly.

  8. I’m the director of the film Switch, so though I should comment.

    First off, it’s not quite fair to make a pronouncement on any film without having seen it. Rod, please email us, and we’d be happy to send you a copy or even allow you to download it directly. Better yet, you could go to the website and request a screening for a group in your city or town. Nonprofit screenings are very affordable.


    The film will also soon be released on Amazon and other online outlets.


    To my comment: We try very hard to be objective and practical in our review of every energy resource. We’re not out to promote one over another, but to compare them rationally and fairly. All benefits come with costs, and all energies have challenges. I believe, in the primer video (link below), we fairly assess nuclear’s benefits and challenges, but we welcome comments.


    In the film we deal only with current technologies or those that can contribute at scale within the next 2 to 3 decades. While new generations, types and sizes of reactors certainly have great promise, there are few to no working models, even including China’s pebble beds, and the time for them to reach materiality in the market, if some were to be adopted, would unfortunately be decades.

    We agree that nuclear is the only non-regional resource capable of providing carbon free baseload power at the huge scale the world requires. Whether we choose to implement it will depend, likely, on whether concern over CO2 emissions eventually cause a reevaluation and better public understanding (and opinion) of nuclear.

    Thank you for promoting energy awareness and education through your writings. The world clearly needs it!

    1. @Harry Lynch

      Have you come across my follow up post, written after attending a screening in Lexington?


      In the film we deal only with current technologies or those that can contribute at scale within the next 2 to 3 decades.

      Though I think your film is extremely valuable, that statement is not quite true. There are at least two segments that deal with technologies that are not current and may never contribute at scale – carbon capture and sequestration and cellulosic ethanol. Compared to those, pebble beds are exceedingly mature technologies, with an operating 10 MW unit (HTR-10), a 30 MW unit that operated in Germany for more than 20 years (AVR), and two 250 MWth units under construction.

  9. An addendum to my comment:

    China is currently building 26 reactors, and India 7. India has plans, though not likely realistic, for 40 in the next 15 years. Clearly these rapidly growing countries hope to make it part of their future. But they’re building coal much faster.

    India might make thorium work — that’s their plan — but no one has yet. LFTRs are a great idea, but there are no working models.

    There are a few new reactors coming together elsewhere — France and Finland are building EPRs, slight advances to typical PWRs, but experiencing construction delays and cost overruns, despite Areva’s promises and hopes otherwise.

    We actually filmed at the South Texas Project, when they were planning two new reactors, to become a 4-reactor site and the largest in the US. Fukushima scrapped those plans, and we had to reshoot our nuclear scene at Comanche Peak, to discuss safety and back-up generators.

    Bill Gates, the Russian Navy, and remote Alaskan towns, are all banking on self-contained micro-nuclear to power communities. This perhaps has the most potential. Because of nuclear’s great energy density, small reactors can make a big difference.

    1. It seems you’re missing that the two Chinese EPR are almost ready to run and did not have construction delays and cost overruns, even for the parts that were built in Europe.
      The France and Finland EPR failures are a lot more a construction work failure rather than a really nuclear one.

      And also the one point where newer reactor like the EPR and AP1000 have the most significant progress is the one that the public would care most about, security in case of a full power and cooling blackout like at Fukushima.
      They’ve both been conceived so that they should release no radioactivity to the outside if that happens.

    2. @Harry Lynch

      We actually filmed at the South Texas Project, when they were planning two new reactors, to become a 4-reactor site and the largest in the US. Fukushima scrapped those plans, and we had to reshoot our nuclear scene at Comanche Peak, to discuss safety and back-up generators.

      The segment at STP was terrific, and you are correct that the expansion project was cancelled after (and as a result of) Fukushima. It should be noted, however, that the cancellation was not a result of safety fears; it was a direct result of the financial losses that Tepco incurred when they lost four operable units forever, and also lost the income associated with operating all of the rest of their units.

      Tepco held a 35% share in STP 3&4 and planned to invest a large amount of capital into the project. After Fukushima, that particular company had no more money to contribute to the construction project; there was no time to line up additional partners. The currently low market price of electricity in the natural gas dependent ERCOT region played a role.

      You might have considered reshooting your nuclear segment at Vogtle or VC Summer, both of which have two new units actually under construction. In total, there are 5 large nuclear plants under construction in the US. I’ll grant that the progress is not as rapid as I would prefer, but those new nuclear plants, with a total projected capacity of about 5,600 MWe, will do a lot more to reduce CO2 than Tesla, cellulosic ethanol, solar parking lots, or carbon capture and sequestration – put together.

  10. a few final thoughts:

    we do believe that in the long term, nuclear has to play a larger part in the energy mix. there are only so many viable places for intermittent renewables and only so much of them we can integrate into a developed country’s energy system. and none of them provide baseload.

    abundant natural gas, in the US, and soon to be spreading elsewhere, may delay this though. it’s cheaper, easier, faster, less controversial and requires less water to build a new gas turbine plant. there’s an awful lot of methane out there.

    and coal is on the rise, not the decline. european countries as well as the big growing nations are building new plants. the growing chinese middle class is getting fed up with local pollution, so expect to see those plants get cleaner, and their build rate decline. but even so, over the last few years coal has consumed a lot of the potential market for nuclear, and those plants last several decades. to me this seems retrograde, but them’s the facts. coal is cheap, simple and readily available, nearly everywhere.

    1. @Harry

      I am very pleased that you have visited. I hate to point this out, but your comments provide additional support for my headline – you are damning nuclear energy with faint praise based on the current market acceptance, not its technical potential.

      As one of your guests in the movie pointed out, distillate petroleum is a rather magical fuel. My diesel engine Jetta can carry four people nearly 600 miles on a tank of fuel weighing slightly more than 100 pounds. The tank lasts for about 10 hours at highway speeds. My Jetta is a “clean diesel” running on ultra low sulfur fuel, so it only produces about 250-300 pounds of exhaust, mostly in the form of CO2 and H2O.

      In contrast, the 1962 vintage 9,000 ton submarine that I used to operate ran for 14 years on a load of uranium that weighed about twice that amount. The core could fit under my office desk. The submarine did not even need an exhaust pipe for its normal power supply; the waste produced in 14 years weighs slightly less than the original core.

      There is enough uranium and thorium in the world to provide all of the power that humanity will ever need for as long as the earth will support life.


      Now THAT is magical fuel that poses a substantial competitive threat to the purveyors of methane, butane, petroleum, coal, solar panels, ethanol, and wind mills.

    2. Harry, I hope you do realize the age of energy hypocrisy we live in. If the world has such lofty goals such as an 80% CO2 reduction by 2050, there is *zero* chance of achieving that goal without nuclear energy and perhaps at least a small chance if nuclear is fully embraced. Those who would argue otherwise have no appreciation for mathematics and poor analysis skills.

    3. Harry, thank you for visiting AI – it is unusual to see a communications professional here, especially one so well-informed about the potential of atomic energy, instead of the usual trusty band of nukes and pro-nuke laymen.

      Did you see my post about “Nukes!” at the top of the comments? If you ever think about doing a series along those lines I’ve got a heckofa script outline worked up. With cameos by a couple of the highly-informed commentators you might see right here.

      Regardless, best wishes with your project, and I hope it becomes widely distributed and discussed.

  11. Real Climate’s Ray Pierrehumbert reviewed this film as well, and come to similar conclusions as Rod.

    Some quotes from Ray’s review:
    Given the mismatch between what the movie promises and what it delivers, it would be more aptly titled, “BAIT AND SWITCH.”

    Natural gas has at best a very short-lived role as a bridge fuel. Moreover, if cheap natural gas kills off renewables and next generation nuclear, it is not only a short bridge, but a bridge to nowhere. I think expansion of nuclear energy has an essential role to play in decarbonizing our energy supply, and I greatly admire the success France has had with their transition to nuclear electricity.

  12. Unfortunately, Ray is a highly biased (and non-professional) reviewer, coming at the film (and energy in general) with a very narrow perspective. Because the film does not promote any one energy, those who do have problems with it – nuclear proponents included.

    In that way, our objective stance has made us a lot of enemies. Here’s a review from an anti-nuke blogger claiming the film must be stealth marketing by the nuclear industry, since it doesn’t damn it outright.


    We’ve been called pro-coal and anti-coal, that we beat up renewables or were too easy on them, you name it. For excerpts of more objective (granted, cherry picked) reviews, please see:


    Thanks to all on this forum for your comments.

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