published Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Emotion and nuclear power

Promoting nuclear power is difficult primarily for one reason: You have to get past deeply imbedded, but generally irrational, fear. And all too often, emotion trumps reason.

Let us stipulate that there are legitimate concerns about nuclear energy -- particularly with regard to transporting and storing long-lasting radioactive waste.

The United States had a sound, well-researched plan for storing that waste, at remote Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But the Obama administration defied science and common sense by mothballing the project after site preparations already had consumed billions of dollars. The Government Accountability Office reviewed that decision and found that it "was made for policy reasons, not technical or safety reasons."

Moreover, the politically motivated closing was an especially hasty affair.

"Several [Department of Energy] officials told us that they had never seen such a large program with so much pressure to close down so quickly," the GAO report stated.

And for what? Where are the radiation-related deaths from America's nuclear energy program? When you get past the fear tactics of anti-nuclear activists, where is the evidence that nuclear power, at least as generated in this country, poses a massive, unjustifiable threat to human life? It's just not there.

But Yucca Mountain or no Yucca Mountain, at least the United States still produces nuclear energy. You may have read that over in Japan, there were celebratory marches recently on the news that the last of that country's 50 nuclear reactors had been shut down -- for "routine maintenance." Thus ended, temporarily or otherwise, a source of energy that had helped meet Japan's needs for 40 years.

Now, costs will go up and the dreaded "greenhouse gases" from greater use of oil and natural gas will increase. There may even be blackouts.


Again, emotion pounded reason into submission.

It's no secret that the massive March 2011 tsunami and earthquake caused meltdowns at a nuclear plant in Japan. And in the days following the catastrophe, there were epic predictions of loss of human life to radiation.

The radiation-related death toll more than a year later? Zero.

It is understandable, though, if you didn't know that, because most news accounts irresponsibly fail to mention it.

It's regrettable that Japan has halted its nuclear energy production -- at least for some indefinite period of time.

It's equally regrettable that the anti-nuclear set in the United States would like to do the same here -- with at least some backhanded support from the Obama administration's decision on Yucca Mountain.

But it is appalling that so much of the "success" of the anti-nuclear lobby is rooted not in clear evidence that U.S. nuclear power production is some huge gamble with public safety, but in an unskeptical willingness to buy scary rhetoric.

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nucanuck said...

The safeguards in the nuclear power industry insure that a major accident would be very rare, not that it won't happen, but very rarely happen. The problem with that is the severety of an incident could create an unsafe environment for an entire hemisphere.

Reactor number four at Fukishima is still critical and may still become a catastrophic event for the northern hemisphere.

Nothing has the destructive potential of nuclear and to believe that we are smart enough to NEVER have an earth altering nuclear accident is the height of arrogance.

May 15, 2012 at 12:28 a.m.
librul said...

Why not "Cancer and Nuclear Power"? Because honesty and integrity in journalism have been shoved aside as much of it has become a mouthpiece for corporatism, political propaganda and warmaking. To say there have been no deaths as a result of Fukushima only one year out would indicate a sad lack of interest in the question of how nuclear accidents affect people and their environment. Reading this tripe, you would think that laughing children had reclaimed the playgrounds of Chernobyl. Not so.

And confidence is not inspired by events like this, either:

May 15, 2012 at 8:49 a.m.
librul said...
May 15, 2012 at 10:27 a.m.
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