Monday, September 25, 2006

“Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer”

I’m sure many of the readers of NEI Nuclear Notes already know what I’m going to discuss just by reading the title of this post. For those who don’t know, I plan to take time this week to bore in and give my thoughts on Helen Caldicott’s new book, “Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer.” This is great timing because she will be in D.C. this week for part of her book tour.

To start off her book, she acknowledged many of the usual anti-nuclear suspects. Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith are two whom we have discussed many times on this blog with regards to their lifecycle emissions analysis. David Lochbaum was cited many times throughout the book, as he has been critical of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear industry. Amory Lovins was all over this book with his solutions of using energy efficiency, renewables and decentralization. And of course, we can’t forget one of our favorite anti-nuclear critics who occasionally stirs up debate on this blog, Paul Gunter, of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

Let me begin this series of posts with some general thoughts I’ve had about the book. First, this book could almost convince uninformed readers that nuclear power really is not the answer. There were several times in the book that if I didn’t know anything about the situation I would want to take a stick to the nuclear industry, beat it down and blame it for everything.

However, that was far from what I felt. As I read through it, I kept red sticky notes on every page that I had a problem with. As you can imagine, by the end of the book it was filled with red.

Throughout the book, the main topic Caldicott seemed really bent on was the relationship of nuclear power to nuclear weapons. It does make sense, as she has spent much of her time fighting against nuclear weapons, for which she should be commended.

One thing that kept popping up in my mind was that I couldn’t find one mention of a positive aspect of nuclear power. If I were undecided about nuclear power, I would want to see the pros and cons of every issue. Instead, this book offers only the cons. If Dr. Caldicott is trying to appeal to the undecideds, I’m sure many of them became much more skeptical of the anti-nuclear movement after this book. It is more of a reference for those who already are against nuclear power.

During the series of posts this week, I plan to get into to all of those red sticky notes, offer my thoughts and ask readers for their thoughts. I do ask one thing, though, and that is that we debate the issues and keep it clean. Stay tuned for more.

UPDATE FROM THE EDITOR: Welcome to readers of Tim Blair. David has been continuing his series all this week. His followup posts are linked below:

Dr. Caldicott vs. Nuclear Power – Round One

Dr. Caldicott vs. Nuclear Power - Round Two

Dr. Caldicott vs. Nuclear Power - Round Three

Dr. Caldicott vs. Nuclear Power - Rounds Four and Five

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27 comments:

Norris McDonald said...

We have a similar view for Brice Smith's book: "Insurmountable Risks." The link to our review is below:

http://aaenvironment.blogspot.com/2006/09/review-of-book-insurmountable-risks.html

Marjorie Mazel Hecht said...

Helen Caldicott has no regard for the truth. If you read her autobiography (A Desparate Passion, 1996), this becomes sickeningly clear. (Among other things, she admits to wearing low-cut blouses to sway her male audiences, and talking to them about how radiation affects their testicles.) Therefore, assembling factual responses to all the lies and misstatements in her present book may be admirable, but it’s an endless task, and won’t change her (or most of her admirers) one bit.

In the introduction to Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer, Caldicott states that “Nuclear power is often referred to behind closed doors… as ‘hard’ energy whereas solar power, hydropower, and geothermal energy are referred to as ‘soft’ energy pathways.” This, she asserts is the “psychosexual” clue to what motivates the “men” in the “electricity generating field.” How can you take someone like this seriously?

Finally, note that her fight against nuclear weapons, as discussed in her book Missile Envy (1984) argues along the same psychosexual lines—“these hideous weapons of killing and mass genocide may be a symptom of several male emotions: inadequate sexuality and a need to continually prove their virility….” I think that she, like Albert Wohlstetter, equates nuclear weapons with civilian nuclear plants as a way of getting rid of the latter and thus curbing world population.

Marjorie Mazel Hecht said...

Helen Caldicott has no regard for the truth. If you read her autobiography (A Desparate Passion, 1996), this becomes sickeningly clear. (Among other things, she admits to wearing low-cut blouses to sway her male audiences, and talking to them about how radiation affects their testicles.) Therefore, assembling factual responses to all the lies and misstatements in her present book may be admirable, but it’s an endless task, and won’t change her (or most of her admirers) one bit.

In the introduction to Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer, Caldicott states that “Nuclear power is often referred to behind closed doors… as ‘hard’ energy whereas solar power, hydropower, and geothermal energy are referred to as ‘soft’ energy pathways.” This, she asserts is the “psychosexual” clue to what motivates the “men” in the “electricity generating field.” How can you take someone like this seriously?

Finally, note that her fight against nuclear weapons, as discussed in her book Missile Envy (1984) argues along the same psychosexual lines—“these hideous weapons of killing and mass genocide may be a symptom of several male emotions: inadequate sexuality and a need to continually prove their virility….” I think that she, like Albert Wohlstetter, equates nuclear weapons with civilian nuclear plants as a way of getting rid of the latter and thus curbing world population.

Brian Mays said...

Marjorie Mazel Hecht insightfully wrote:

(Among other things, she admits to wearing low-cut blouses to sway her male audiences, ...

Let's see, she's now pushing 70. Good god! Let's hope that she has given up on that tactic.

Paul Primavera said...

You guys just made my buddy and me break out laughing hysterically!

Wonder what effect this would have on the eyesight of her audience!

;-)

Anonymous said...

It looks like only comments bashing Caldicott will be admiited to this thread. My remark, submitted before the last 3 that are posted now, is nowhere to be seen.

Pretty ironic in light of the original post's indictment of Caldicott, which is that she doesn't present both sides of the issue.

And don't say it's a matter of keeping the discussion "civil" -- you've already admitted posts making fun of Caldicott's age and physical appearance.

Janice Cane said...

Anonymous, my apologies that your earlier comments were not posted. In Eric's absence this week, I am moderating the comments, which means I receive them by e-mail and then publish them. I did not receive your earlier comments, so if you would like to re-post them, I will be happy to add them to the discussion. Thanks, and sorry again.

Anonymous said...

My original point was that Caldicott's book is an advocacy work, not an academic treatment of all sides of the nuclear power issue. NEI is also an advocacy organization; its materials don't say, "On the other hand, nuclear power has these problems..."

One shouldn't say Caldicott's work is not balanced when one's own organization is also dedicated to a mission and doesn't zealously report both sides of every nuclear issue.

I also must point out with displeasure the strong undercurrent of misogyny in this thread. No one would be commenting on Caldicott's age and physical appearance, let alone debating the relative attractiveness of her cleavage, if she were a man.

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

I agree it would be misogyny if Caldicott herself had not said the things she had! I would be just as disgusted if a man had associated anti-nuclear movements with degrading feminine characteristics and then gone on to say that he purposely wears tight-fitting clothes and flexes his biceps to sway female audience members.

Anonymous said...

So she asked for it because she dressed a certain way? I thought that kind of thinking went out a long time ago. Men at NEI (and everywhere else in society) dress to impress and make an impression as well, but their arguments aren't dismissed based on their apparel.

Brian Mays said...

Anonymous wrote:

One shouldn't say Caldicott's work is not balanced when one's own organization is also dedicated to a mission and doesn't zealously report both sides of every nuclear issue.

Eh ... that's BS, plain and simple. David, I, you, whomever, can say anything we want. Your point that Dr. Caldicott's book is a piece of advocacy is well taken, but nowhere in David's article does he say what she should or should not have written. He merely commented that the book sufferers from a deficiency of addressing both sides of the issue, and perhaps it would have been a more convincing work if she had tried to acknowledge something from the other side. He might have also commented that the writing sucks, picture on the cover is ugly, or whatever. The point is that this is simply his opinion, his critique of the book, and he's entitled to it.

Anonymous also wrote:

I also must point out with displeasure the strong undercurrent of misogyny in this thread. No one would be commenting on Caldicott's age and physical appearance, let alone debating the relative attractiveness of her cleavage, if she were a man.

Whatever ... It seems to me that Dr. Caldicott is the only person quoted in this thread as referring specifically to her cleavage or the potential power it has to sway male opinion.

Anonymous later added:

... So she asked for it because she dressed a certain way? I thought that kind of thinking went out a long time ago. Men at NEI (and everywhere else in society) dress to impress and make an impression as well, but their arguments aren't dismissed based on their apparel.

Well, if you can cite a case in which an employee (male or female, I don't care) of NEI has admitted to dressing a certain way with the purpose of "turning on" the members of the opposite sex to more effectively "communicate" his or her message, then I'm all ears. Go for it! So far, the only disgusting thing that I can find in this discussion is the rather sexist remarks attributed to Caldicott herself.

Now, perhaps she has been misrepresented -- I don't know, since I haven't read her autobiography myself -- and if that is the case, then please speak up and clarify the issue.

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

Thank you, Brian.

If I had simply seen, or read about, Caldicott wearing low-cut cleavage-enhancing shirts or a man wearing ill-fitting clothes to speak to audiences my first thought would be only that they lack taste.

But I find Caldicott's own descriptions of her motives and methods to be more sexist and degrading than anything anyone said here.

I thought "what went out a long time ago" was the thinking that people (men OR women) are so enslaved to their sexual desires that a mere flirtation will overrule rational thought.

Daniel said...

Typical attack the messenger mentality around here. Enough with the name-calling.

Either refute Caldicott's ideas and assertions with your own ideas and assertions or admit that perhaps nuclear power is not the answer...
(yeah yeah fat chance I know)

Anonymous said...

This is what I was referring to. Quotes are from earlier posts on this thread:

"Let's see, she's now pushing 70. Good god! Let's hope that she has given up on that tactic"

"Wonder what effect this would have on the eyesight of her audience!"

I think the debate would be better served if posters confined themselves to Caldicott's arguments. Many of the follow-up articles on this blog are substantive challenges of her specific claims. Why not keep it at the policy level and eschew ad hominem (or in this case ad feminem) attacks? "She dresses sexy for audience appeal" is not refutation; it's a non sequitur.

Brian Mays said...

Let's see ... At 2:04 PM, someone named Daniel wrote:

Typical attack the messenger mentality around here. Enough with the name-calling.

Either refute Caldicott's ideas and assertions with your own ideas and assertions or admit that perhaps nuclear power is not the answer...


Gee, Daniel, you don't read this blog much, do you? As for refuting Caldicott's ideas and assertions, why don't you start here, here, here, here, and here. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg; there's more out there. I recommend a little tool called Google, which can pull up much more of this, and then some, in case you are interested.

Her "ideas and assertions" have been refuted over and over, and they really are no longer interesting. Still, it is obvious from reading the press releases of her latest book that the "Nobel Peace Prize nominee" Dr. Caldicott enjoys the spotlight. She's not afraid to put herself, as well as her ideas, forward to win people over and bring them over to her side. In light of this, I consider her, and the tactics that she herself claims to use, to be fair game.

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous (I assume the same anonymous as earlier) said...

I think the debate would be better served if posters confined themselves to Caldicott's arguments. Many of the follow-up articles on this blog are substantive challenges of her specific claims. Why not keep it at the policy level and eschew ad hominem (or in this case ad feminem) attacks? "She dresses sexy for audience appeal" is not refutation; it's a non sequitur.

As for my one comment that has been called into question here, I must say that I was quite taken aback by the blatantly sexist remarks in this discussion -- that is, the remarks attributed to Dr. Caldicott in both her biography and her latest book. Personally, I found the attitude and methods attributed to her to be disgusting, and I thought that they merited comment.

The difference between you and me, anonymous, is that apparently I actually have a sense of humor. I am sorry if that has offended you, but perhaps you will take your own advice and restrict your future comments to the specific claims advanced in her book and elsewhere. After all, aside from your one comment that Dr. Caldicott is acting as an advocate, not as an impartial reviewer, you have not advanced this discussion very far in that direction.

Daniel said...

The 1st here: discusses the amount of CFC released during uranium processing, and if I followed the math properly refuted the assertion that processing releases 93% of the CFC in the US (which it may done so at least up to 2001). According to USEC, uranium processing now only releases 1/3 as much CFC, so I would presume that means uranium processing now releases only ~80% of the CFC released in the US. [(0.93*0.33)/{(0.07 + (0.93*0.33)}] Apparently that is supposed to go down when a new processing facility starts sometime this decade.
I also found that the reprocessing plant gets most of its energy from the TVA (and only 60% of TVA power is coal based)

The 2nd here: A restatement that the Paducah, Ky facility gets its power from the TVA which in turn gets 40% of power from non coal sources, and more discussion of CFC used during processing. CFC is identified as Freon (specifically used Freon). Also it is noted that USEC (the uranium processor) has an active program to identify leaks and reduce them.

The 3rd here: essentially “even if we accept nuclear power is bad, the alternatives are far worse” and Sure, we have to store nuclear waste for an indefinite period. That's not unique.

--Actually I believe that storing nuclear waste is unique to nuclear power—

The 4th here: reiteration of 1-3 above, plus some discussion of genetic mutation from radiation and what it may or may not cause in the comments.

Last here: discussion of Judith Lewis LA Weekly article about Scott Peterson and his unbridled optimism or lack thereof.

So indeed you have multiple posts which point out that contrary to Dr. Caldicott’s assertion that 93% of US CFC emissions come from uranium processing at a KY plant, only 80% does. Furthermore this same reprocessing plant gets 60% of its power from coal and 30% from nuclear.

Is this why some here say that Helen Caldicott has no regard for the truth?

Anonymous said...

I find it hilarious that participants in a discussion blog can't take a little criticism of the nature of their discussion. As for my sense of humor, don't make assumptions about people you don't know. My radio show audience finds me fairly entertaining. And this blog isn't exactly a font of humor to begin with.

Sigivald said...

The cover of the book clearly proves that nuclear power causes sunflowers to wilt.

Therefore it's bad.

Brian Mays said...

An anonymous radio show host wrote ...

"I find it hilarious that participants in a discussion blog can't take a little criticism of the nature of their discussion. As for my sense of humor, don't make assumptions about people you don't know. My radio show audience finds me fairly entertaining. And this blog isn't exactly a font of humor to begin with."

Cool ... random troll ... glad we could give you some laughs ... NEXT!

Daniel followed with ...

"So indeed you have multiple posts which point out that contrary to Dr. Caldicott’s assertion that 93% of US CFC emissions come from uranium processing at a KY plant, only 80% does. Furthermore this same reprocessing plant gets 60% of its power from coal and 30% from nuclear."

Read more carefully, so that you don't make such incorrect calculations. The vast majority of CFC emissions come from air conditioners. You probably have one or more in your house and in your car. The tiny amount that is used in (let alone leaks out of) one uranium processing plant is trivial compared to that. It's truly pissing in the ocean.

As with most of her assertions, Caldicott takes liberties with the truth. She gets by with her claim by referring to one specific type of CFC (CFC-114), which does not have many other industrial or commercial uses, but is used in the Kentucky plant. So, yes, in terms of this one particular variety, the enrichment plant does use the majority, but this amount of CFC's is so small compared to all of the CFC's out there that it is insignificant. So at best, you can say that she is being misleading, but the way she presents it and the way it gets quoted by fools who don't bother to check their facts, I would argue that it's an outright lie.

"Is this why some here say that Helen Caldicott has no regard for the truth?"

Yes. I would say this is the reason. That woman has no regard for the truth.

By the way, if you have a problem with TVA's portfolio and the amount of coal generation that they use, then please feel free to write to them and tell them to build more nuclear plants to replace their coal plants. If they take your advice, then problem solved.

Anonymous said...

"random troll"

If you can't refute, call names. Nice.

Again, don't assume about those you don't know....I've probably been covering nuclear power and other energy sources longer than you've been in the industry!

Janice Cane said...

For commenters of this and all other related posts, let's try to keep things in perspective. By all means, critique a fellow commenter's content, but please avoid name-calling. "Random troll" and the like are not necessary or welcome here. If you are a recognized blogger of NEI Nuclear Notes, I am unable to moderate your post before it goes up, so please help me avoid having to take it down afterward.

Brian Mays said...

Janice,

Please understand that my reference to "troll" was not a case of name calling; rather, it's actually technical internet jargon for someone who intentionally attempts to annoy or antagonize the other members of a group or disrupt the flow of discussion. Now, please read the posts of the person in question and see whether you do not agree in my assessment. I have endeavored to keep this conversation on topic and relevant. This person, however -- particularly in her last post -- has done nothing of the sort.

Besides, I'm not the first person to use this term on this blog. In fact, Eric has used it himself. I suggest we take Eric's advice and refrain from being trolls.

Anonymous said...

"someone who intentionally attempts to annoy or antagonize the other members of a group or disrupt the flow of discussion."

But some on this blog have apparently expanded this definition of "trolling" to include any comments that don't agree with their perspective. Attempting to engage discussion by challening someone's points shouldn't be dismissed as polling. I thought that was the point of a blog, but if it's meant more to be a place where the already-convinced gather to make fun of those who disagree with them...well, that's free speech, but it doesn't advance informed debate.

Brian Mays said...

Anonymous wrote:

"But some on this blog have apparently expanded this definition of 'trolling' to include any comments that don't agree with their perspective."

And your evidence for this is where? Can you point us to an example of where someone who has remained on topic, contributing to the discussion at hand, has been labeled a troll on this blog?

I'm sorry, but this is an accusation without merit, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

I started reading this book and couldn't get past the first 3 pages of the Introduction...because I threw up on them. Instead of burning the book, I bought 8 more, stacked them in a 1-2-3-2-1 array, and let them go critical from the mass of ENORMOUSLY DENSE BS they contain. I think the meltdown might have traveled through the Earth to Australia by now...

Anonymous said...

Why is a doctor telling us about nuclear power, anyway? I'm an engineer--I'm not about to start telling doctors they're wrong.

But if I went all HelCal-style: I think heart transplants are bad because...because they make you bleed! Yeah! Booo heart transplants!

Anonymous said...

I was reading the energy cost section in this book. I enjoy the use of metric prefixes that are supposed to sound scary, like peta-. Of course, the .00xx peta whatevers is really just x.x tera whatevers, but peta- does sound frightening. A nice choice of words to confuse the lay audience.
All in all, I think this book deserves 0.000000000000002 peta thumbs down.