Last weekend, a friend who regularly publishes diaries on Daily Kos asked permission to reprint my Atomic Insights post titled Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail Warns Readers – Proposed Nuclear Plants Could Affect WVa Coal. Knowing that Daily Kos often attracts some passionate commenters, especially when it comes to matters that might challenge their normal world view, I provided the permission and set aside some time to participate in the discussion. You can find the post and comment thread at Coal vs Nuclear Energy, a Guest Diary
After several days and about 125 total comments, the discussion is dying down, but there have been some interesting exchanges of thoughts and information. I applaud those fellow nuclear advocates who have explained in well referenced comments why they believe that nuclear fission is a threat to coal industry prosperity and why the coal, oil and gas industries do not seem to view other alternatives as threats.
One frustrated and frustrating commenter, who actually seemed to dominate the anti-nuclear side of the discussion, published an interesting comment rather late in the discussion. He was not addressing it to me, but I thought I would answer it anyway. I think the comment is worth sharing, or at least saving in a place where I can find it later. Here is the question that initiated my response:
BTW, why are you so pro-nuke? You seem interested in little else. You don’t seem to consider other ways to solve our energy problems, at least I’ve found nothing except nuclear in your diaries and posts.
Here is my response. I hope it does not sound too obnoxiously vain, but when you are a fission fan, it can be hard to be humble.
I am “pro-nuke” because I am what US Navy sailors call a “nuke” – though most sailors add an honorific starting with ‘f’ and ending with ‘g’ in front of the word ‘nuke’. I worked pretty hard in school, managed to be accepted for an interview with Admiral Rickover, and got accepted into a demanding, exceptionally well implemented training program. I worked hard in that program and learned more than I did in 4 years of college about calculus, chemistry, physics, system design, material science, personal accountability, integrity, and the health effects of radiation.
After a year of intensive study that included six months with books and blackboards and another six months on an operating reactor in Ballston Spa, NY, I then spent another 5.5 years assigned to nuclear powered submarines in positions that included electrical officer, main propulsion assistant, chemistry and radiological controls officer and finally Chief Engineer Officer.
I lived, worked and breathed in an environment completely enabled by human control of atomic fission. I liked it so much that I then spent a few years in alternative energy classes and libraries trying to figure out why the rest of the world did not seem to like it very much.
My quest to answer that question reinforced my awe and acceptance that fission was FAR better than any alternative by all rational measures of effectiveness. I also included some studies of markets and human nature in my research, so I realized that the suppliers of other kinds of energy did not want to let their markets slip away to the new competition. Coal, oil and gas interests LOVE the power and wealth that they have accumulated through many decades of supplying an important tool for human development and they fight against any new source that has the potential for reducing their power and wealth.
That is why so many fossil fuel companies spend so much money money on touting their expenditures in alternative energy. (At least it looks like a lot of money to most of us; for them it is “decimal dust” in their P&E statements). Wind, solar and geothermal have no hope of competing with fossil fuel, but talking about them sure makes people THINK that the fossil fuel companies are suddenly getting religion.
Anyway, it was a pleasure sparing with you. I am vain enough about the knowledge I have gained through education and practical energy experience to occasionally enjoy doing intellectual battle with an unarmed opponent.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast