The Atomic Show #165 – Nuclear Exceptionalism
Inspired by Steve Aplin’s excellent post titled Nuclear exceptionalism: why is a nuclear fatality more noteworthy than a non-nuclear one? show # 165 focuses on the reasons why nuclear exceptionalism exists. We also talk about ways to change the tone of the discussion and actions that are already being done.
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Guests on this episode of the The Atomic Show include:
Margaret Harding, 4 Factor Consulting
Dan Yurman, publisher of Idaho Samizdat, frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe and contributing reporter to Fuel Cycle Weekly
Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World
Steve Aplin, publisher, Canadian Energy Issues
Great show. Here is the “Journalist Wall of Shame” of media coverage about Fukushima:
The main problem with your show has been you’ve been putting them out less frequently since you got your new job. I keep telling people, study Rod’s The Atomic Show archive and you’ll learn a lot about nuclear power.
Re: the discussion of nuclear industry failing to advertise and therefore losing in the image wars.
A passage in Cohen’s online book came to mind. In chapter 5, http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter5.html under a headline “Irrational Fear of Radiation”, there is some discussion of the time about one year after the accident at TMI when some radioactive gas had to be released that was calculated to expose at worst case some Fencepost person to 1 millirem. A “howl of public protest” emerged. Cohen writes:
“One disheartening aspect of that episode was the effort by the NRC to handle it. An early survey of the local citizenry revealed that there was a substantial fear of the release of the gas. The NRC therefore undertook a large program of public education, explaining how trivial the health risks were. When this public education campaign was completed, another poll of the local citizenry was taken. It showed that the public’s fear was greater than it was before the campaign. The public’s reaction on matters of radiation defied all rational explanation”.
I was somewhat astonished to hear Margaret Harding talk about the way Monbiot argued with Caldicott.
Margaret Harding: “What I loved most about his whole thing was he brought in the comparison of the climate deniers, and saying [ to Caldicott ] you’re doing exactly what we’ve complained about these climate deniers doing. Whether or not you believe in global warming, its a great point. You don’t get to say on one side these guys are irrational and non scientific because they’re ignoring the IPCC, and then turn around on the other side and say UNSCEAR is not believeable either. [ One or two other panelists appear to be mumuring approving noises somewhere in around here ] I’m sorry they’re both UN organizations, they’re both founded by a lot of very talented scientists, they both probably have problems with their data, but they’re both trying to get it right. [ Rod interjects “and they both have reasonable points too” ] . They both have reasonable points, and you don’t get to throw either one out. If you accept one, in my opinion, you gotta accept the other. But then I’m sort of biased.”
Rod is on record with his “questioning attitude” denying that ozone science has any kind of similar foundation. The most recent assessment by the UN, a joint WMO UN Environment Program report, “reflects the thinking of hundreds of international scientific experts… blah, none of these people are like the ones Margaret spoke of, they couldn’t possibly be… etc. report is here http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/csd/assessments/ozone/2010/
Dan Yurman hailed well known climate science denier Patrick Moore as the new type of environmentalist we all should emulate or make our hero or something recently on his blog post “Are anti nukes environmentalists?”. http://djysrv.blogspot.com/2010/11/are-anti-nukes-environmentalists.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FYiuo+%28Idaho+Samizdat%29
Moore went so far as to support the climate science denial program of Exxon-Mobil in a letter to the Royal Society. Exxon had promised the Royal Society it would stop funding climate science deniers, they didn’t, the Royal Society publicly criticized Exxon over it, and nuke lobbyist Patrick Moore rode in to assist the poor downtrodden fossil fuel sellers Exxon-Mobil, heaven knows they probably don’t have a tin cup to beg with on the streets.
Moore wrote a letter http://www.greenspiritstrategies.com/D242.cfm where he disputed that the Royal Society knew what science was, discounting that IPCC could possibly link climate change to human activity. He compared the policy the Royal Society has of going after fossil fuel interests who are pouring millions into backing organizations who deny climate science to the Inquisition. Yurman claimed Moore was actually defending the scientific method.
The discussion earlier in this podcast of pro nuclear people keeping their beliefs to themselves to avoid constant conflict with people who are anti nuclear struck me as identical to how I tend to try to be these days when visiting blogs such as Rod’s Atomic
Insights. Pro nuclear people tend to be climate science deniers, as far as I could tell before listening to Margaret on this podcast. I’ve seen enough of it and experienced open hostility enough at Atomic Insights that I hardly visit anymore even thought I appreciate what Rod does and have learned a great deal from listening and studying in the archive.
It may be a great debating point for Monbiot when taking on Caldicott, but keep in mind Caldicott isn’t much of a climate change activist. She isn’t going to be slowed down by anyone pointing out the contradiction in her denying UNSCEAR supposedly because she supports the IPCC. She may not even know what the letters IPCC stand for.
There are many pro nukes who point to UNSCEAR and at the same time claim the IPCC has been totally discredited and see no problem in doing this.
First of all thank you very much for the show.
Several days ago, in the wake of events in Japan, I was discussing nuclear issues with one of my colleagues. All my pro-nuclear arguments were bounced back by a line of reasoning I think you discussed in the show. The main contra-argument was a fear of “What if…” scenario. Yes, it’s been safe, but what if there is an accident. It’s going to be like Chernoble… And we start going through the same argument again.
Here is another one. Last year, before the general election in the UK, I sent a letter to N. Clegg, who now co-runs the government over here. I expressed my disagreement with the LibDem party’s views with regard to nuclear power (for the record I have nothing to do with the party, but don’t ask me how I got into sending letters to them). I wrote, reflecting upon the party manifesto, that “in my opinion abandoning the nuclear power as one of the main and possible the only one reliable sources of the base load is a huge mistake and displaces misunderstanding of disadvantages of renewable sources when it comes to providing that base load.”
Here is the response from some Bess Mayhew, Office of Nick Clegg MP. Sorry, it’s quite long.
“…We do understand your concerns regarding our present policy on nuclear power and we appreciate that many people do see it as a means of combating climate change. However, I think nuclear power raises a number of very serious concerns. Although nuclear power plants do not emit as much carbon dioxide as other types of energy plants, it’s important to note that nuclear power plants do have substantial hidden lifecycle emissions – and, of course, there is the issue of toxic waste. Crucially, the nuclear route would do nothing to address the issue of reducing overall energy consumption in the UK and building many more plants would be unnecessarily time-consuming – we simply do not have the time to spare when it comes to climate change. There is a real danger that nuclear power is used as a ‘silver bullet’ to tackle climate change, ignore the much more fundamental changes which need to be made if we’re to stop catastrophic climate change.
Furthermore, Britain’s position as an island nation means that it has the potential to become the renewables powerhouse of Europe – there is no need for us to rely on nuclear. The sheer cost of nuclear energy to the taxpayer – over £83 billion – would be very damaging to attempts to support and promote renewable energy. New nuclear power stations would detract resources (both in terms of money and policy minds) that could be better directed towards renewables and efficiency. We have also pointed out that uranium, too, needs to be imported – and while some of the relevant regimes are stable, this is by no means true of all. The concern has to be that, apart from its inherent disadvantages, nuclear could come to be used as a ‘silver bullet’ by politicians – harming efforts to reduce energy use and promote renewables.
As I’m sure you know, Liberal Democrats have outlined radical plans to create a low-carbon electricity generation system, without recourse to nuclear power. Instead of nuclear re-builds, the paper proposes conserving energy, using renewables and encouraging the use of alternatives such as hydrogen fuels as technology develops. Crucially, we would set a target of 40% of the UK’s electricity to come from clean, non-carbon emitting sources by 2020, rising to 100% by 2050.”
Here you are. I did write a long a detailed response, but got nothing back.
I just wanted to leave a message of appreciation for all your work on this podcast. After the Bloggingheads interview you did with John Horgan, I came and found this podcast and as is my habit with podcasts, I went back and listened from the beginning, only finishing up with this episode today.
In the mean time, I made a rather momentous life decision (it’s still the first post up on my blog) and I can say that I made it in no small part as a result of listening to your discussions and doing some research of my own on the side.
Thanks again and I hope to hear more in the future.
Hi Rod.. great podcast! When will the next episode be up?
It’s been roughly a month since Flibe Inc. was set up with the goal of realizing the commercialization of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. Kirk Sorensen’s on board, perhaps you can interview him and get us some details on Flibe Inc’s plans and what they intend to bring to the market? It’s been a while since you last had Kirk on your show.
I’m pretty sure it would be interesting, considering the fact that China’s racing to get their own thorium-based molten salt reactor up and running by 2015.
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