Yes Nukes?

Friday, September 28, 2007


With climate change looming large in the national consciousness, nuclear energy is experiencing a PR makeover. This Monday saw the first proposal for new reactors in America since the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979. We look into the evolution of nuclear energy's image.

Comments [9]

Rudolf Boentgen from Boston, MA

Critics point to the nuclear waste "problem" as a disqualifier for nuclear power without taking a systems view. Coventional powerplants, whether gas, oil, coal, of refuse powered, spew millions of tons of exhaust and polltants into the atmosphere, including greenhouse gasses, every year when they are working properly. By contrast, nuclear power produces a few tons of waste which can be segregated and not become part of our biosphere. Given that choice, how can you not vote for nuclear?

Mar. 02 2008 02:43 PM
B.T. Mndelsohn from Ashburn, Virginia

6. Enrichment does use huge quantities of electricity, but much less than the electricity it produces. That is NOT the case for all of the renewable options, such as corn-ethanol and solar cells. Furthermore, there is so much U-235 (and plutonium) available from dismantling of nuclear warheads that relatively little enrichment activity will be needed for some time.
7. The problem of what to do with very-long life nuclear waste is largely a political one. In part it is NMBY on steroids. In part it is due to Congressional action that prematurely selected one site (Yucca Mtn, Nevada) before geologic suitability tests were complete. However, that problem needs to be solved even if no new reactors are ever built. Once a suitable site is found for the existing nuclear waste it will be available for future waste as well. The volume of nuclear waste is a tiny fraction of the waste from coal plants.

BUT, Davis-Besse could have been a much worse accident than the TMI accident. It was due to complacency that allowed required inspections to be repeatedly deferred to a "more convenient" time. The danger of the advanced designs is that they are so inherently safe that operators and regulators will become complacent. Enough human errors and shortcuts can probably defeat any safety system. Furthermore, it seems unreasonable for the government to subsidize a mature industry such as nuclear power reactors when there are so many other needs for funding.

Jan. 13 2008 04:47 AM
B.T. Mndelsohn from Ashburn, Virginia

This article and the American public have so many misconceptions about nuclear power and the TMI accident. Let me address a few:
1. All the reputable scientific studies made of the TMI accident concluded that there was negligible radioactive release and that the precautionary evacuation resulted from poor communications and confusion. NRC made much effort following TMI to improve emergency communications.
2. The Chernobyl accident had a huge radioactive release. That is where milk was contaminated, not at TMI. Chernobyl had no containment building, was an inherently unsafe design not permitted in the US, and radiation was spread by the fire that was part of that accident.
3. Reactor regulations and reactor designs are much better and safer than the current US reactors. Other countries are building those improved US designs.
4. Settlement of suits is not proof that the plaintiffs had valid cases. Illnesses could have been caused by the stress of the accident rather than radiation.
5. A large part of the historically high cost of U.S. reactor construction was due to interruption of construction due to intervener tactics, dragging 3 or 4 year schedules into 7 to 10 years. Anyone who has had a custom built house knows how costs skyrocket due to delays and to design changes made after construction starts. Reactor costs in France, which has a different legal and regulatory system, were much less that US costs.

Jan. 13 2008 04:46 AM
Suzanne Reading from Crestline, CA

I was quite shocked by OTM's silliness in this story. The most immediate and undeniable problem with nuclear power is simply nuclear waste. The poisonous byproducts of nuclear power generation never decontaminate.

OTM utterly ignored the reality of nuclear waste and contributed to the dysfunctional public conversation that values denial over all life on the planet.

Please, in the future, recognize that most issues have more than two positions.

Oct. 04 2007 02:59 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

During the Three Mile Island disaster, I lived in Pocatello, Idaho – then the only state accepting nuclear waste. State legislators were threatening jail time for those who linked the waste to agricultural contamination, so I broadcast a public access TV show about the state being held hostage to the industry. They did not jail me.

Later, at the Yale radio station, I did a radio theater piece reporting what a TMI nuclear tech told me at an anti-nuke rally, that a core meltdown had occurred, five years before the NRC admitted it.

Americans believe Reagan defeated the Soviet Union. He did not.

Chernobyl did.

What happens when rising sea levels swamp the waste pools around the Connecticut and Long Island nuclear plants?

Oct. 02 2007 02:53 AM
Kathy from Ohio

You failed to address some of the most important issues surrounding the resurgence of nuclear power - the cost/benefit ratio. I want to know who in particular is going to reap the financial benefits of this new program. Nuclear power has never been financially viable without massive public dollars to prop it up. I'd rather see that public money spent on solar and wind which is spawning many entrepreneurs in the energy field as well as decentralizing power production. Nuclear plants will serve to continue centralized power production. Safety and bulding concerns will favor giant contractors. Is Halliburton the contractor of choice here as they are in Iraq? If not, then what other giant companies will benefit from our tax dollars while viable alternatives languish for funding? Let's not forget that Jimmy Carter (and many others, like Hazel Henderson) believed we could have been 20% solar by 2000. But not if the big, well-connected boys keep raiding the public treasury to enrich themselves. And the other cost to us? Would you rather be downwind or down water of a windmill or a reactor?

Sep. 30 2007 04:26 PM
Tod Larke from Bloomington,Il

Your reporting on this critical issue is concise, and unlike some listeners,I have no axe to grind other than to remind you of the critical book that triggered the"China Syndrome" movie,"We Almost Lost Detroit". This book was critical of the nuclear power industry, and essentially jump-started the anti-nuclear power movement.
On a side note, if you read your home insurance policy, it contains an exclusion for nuclear exposure-does any other power creation system have a similar exclusion?

Sep. 30 2007 11:43 AM
David from Syracuse, NY

On the Media, today is the day you look in the mirror! For years I've trusted and loved your reporting, which dispassionately points out the encroachment of bias and propaganda in the media. Where is the bias and propaganda today? In your own program, I fear.

I am a very serious about climate change, and I think this obligates me to support a massive buildout of nuclear power. Nobody has ever given me one shred of a reason to think that there is any other reaction available to the responsible environmentalist. In this segment you strongly hint, without any evidence, that this is a line put into the mouths of propagandists by the nuclear lobby. I guarantee you that I've had no contact with any lobbyists. Has it crossed your mind that people repeat this argument because it is sound? This is no corporate conspiracy. There is just too much overwhelming evidence that nuclear is the only form of energy generation that can prevent our climate from running catastrophically of control. Maybe not everyone else has looked at all this evidence, but that gives you no right to suggest that the people who have must be involved in a rote repetition of talking points. Why is it so difficult to believe that our motivations are to make this planet inhabitable for our children? (Comment continued below.)

Sep. 29 2007 01:07 PM
David Guinot from Cumberland, Ohio

Your coverage of the Media Rehabilitation of Nuclear Power managed to keep you distracted from the REAL threat posed by Nuclear Plant Proliferation:

It's not the fear of a thre-Mile-Island-style meltdown, it's the garbage Can.
Ask the residents of Idaho, ask the residents of New Mexico, how much they like nuclear waste. I've been to both places, and I know. And I know WHY.

Until you're comfy with the idea of burying nuclear waste in your backyard, you're not as cozy with Nuclear Power as you think. And the Media Blitz is cleverly distracting you from that thought.

Sep. 28 2007 07:23 PM

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