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Again, On Nuclear Energy and the Southern Drought

Here's a letter to the editor that NEI has been sending around the country in response to last week's AP wire on nuclear power plants and the drought in the American South:
Contrary to the impression given in the Associated Press article, "Drought could close Southern nuclear plants," (Jan. 24), all steam-based power plants (coal, nuclear, natural gas) potentially can have their operations affected by drought conditions.

The extent to which readers received a skewed account of the facts is most evident from the article's first sentence, which begins, "Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back." In reality, the percentage of electricity produced by coal-fired power plants exceeds the percentage of electricity produced by nuclear power plants in the following Southeast states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Although the Southeast is suffering from drought conditions, the reality is water levels have not significantly impacted the ability of nuclear plants to operate as the most efficient and reliable power plants on the electric grid today. To the contrary, they were instrumental in meeting record electricity demand during the sweltering two-week heat wave last August.

By focusing only on nuclear plants and ignoring this broader context relevant to all steam-cycle power plants, the article rates as a journalistic "F."

Scott Peterson
Vice President
Nuclear Energy Institute


Anonymous said…
An F is too kind if you ask me. Expulsion-worthy is more like it for what I consider intentional malpractice.
DV8 2XL said…
Good for you. This is exactly the sort of response that was needed. I also agree with the last poster F is too high a mark.
Alex Brown said…
Well I can't speak to the journalistic "grading" of the article since one really shouldn't expect that a journalist is going to understand thermodynamics or anything like that, but since they apparently were informed you would at least hope they would look into it. I know in some pieces I have seen they mention one unit at TVA's Brown's Ferry plant being off for 1 day, however a simple call to TVA to confirm this will also find out that 1 of the 1300MW coal units at Cumberland was also off for the exact same reason at the exact same time, any unit that big is going to be affected by this issue no matter what the fuel, it is unfortunate that journalists writing on energy topics do not understand this and several other basic principals that would actually allow them to write balanced pieces instead of being unwitting (or maybe not so unwitting?) mouthpieces for ant-nuclear propoganda.
aa2 said…
Has anybody ever thought of suing journalists, writers, or greenpeace type spokespeople on television who publish blatantly wrong information for defamation? The nuclear industry could estimate the costs to the damage of its reputation that the lies caused and sue for it.

A lot of lawyers would be interested as their cut on a huge number would be huge itself. Of course the lawsuit would be against something like the BBC or CBS news or the newspaper chain, or the publishing company.

Anyway something to think about.
Matthew66 said…
Aa2, I doubt that a libel or defamation suit would succeed either in the USA or in the UK. In the USA, the Constitutional right to freedom of the press affords protections to news outlets, except in cases where an individual or business can prove that the news organization deliberately and maliciously disseminated information they knew, or should have known was false. There have been a few successful suits against tabloids but that's about it.

In the UK, an individual or business would have to prove that what was printed was false and that they'd suffered an injury to their reputation that should be compensated.

The stickler is that these sorts of articles attack the industry in general, rather than an individual or a particular business. So finding someone with status to sue is difficult, further proving that you've suffered an injury is also difficult. Whilst the burden of proof in a civil action is lower than in a criminal action, the burden still lies with the plaintiff.
Anonymous said…
"Has anybody ever thought of suing journalists, writers, or greenpeace type spokespeople on television who publish blatantly wrong information for defamation?"

Only those who've never read the First Amendment.

In a free society, the solution to inaccurate speech is not repressing it but answering it. It's known as the marketplace of ideas.
Anonymous said…
"In a free society, the solution to inaccurate speech is not repressing it but answering it. It's known as the marketplace of ideas."

In a free society, individual men and women act with responsibility and accountability. There is not a single anti-nuke who does this. Freedom is NOT license to spread disinformation and hysteria. A line has to be drawn.

That's exactly why I don't think NEI Nuclear Notes should give any voice to Paul Gunter or any other anti-nuke. They have their own forums and they just about own the liberal news media as the recent AP story demonstrates.

In a truly free society, those who spread lies are held accountable for their lie-spreading and are stopped. Lie-spreading is NOT the free market place of ideas. It's license with neither responsibility nor accountability. That's why our Republic is in such sad shape, and that's why we are on course towards Empire if the Republicans win the next Presidential election, or Dictatorship if the Democrats win.

Stifle the liars. Sue them. Make them accountable before God and man. When that is done, then they'll think twice before lying again. Using the First Amendment of the US Constitution as an excuse to justify liars is morally reprehensible and NOT what the forefathers of our Republic ever intended.

Here's the principle: know the truth and the truth shall set you free. There is no freedom when lie-spreading is called free of speech.

And by the way, I am no fanatic as some of you have accused me. I am pro-nuclear power to the core (no pun intended). I want the anti's stopped cold and I want our Republic to prosper. It won't without nuclear power. It simply won't.
Anonymous said…
Well, my comment probably won't get published, but Bishop Aquila said it best at during his address of Jan 25th at Loyola College in Baltimore, MD:

"Second, there is a false idea of freedom and a disconnection of freedom from truth. This disconnection leads to a subjectivism and relativism that negates objective truth about what is good and what is evil."

As long as we tolerate anti-nuclearism, more people will die from fossil fueled power plant pollution. The Bishop's speech wasn't about that, but his words still apply. The 1st Amendment to the Constitution is NOT license to spread disinformation and hysteria.
DV8 2XL said…
The real solution here is not to litigate, which as many have pointed out is not likely to be successful, no mater how richly deserved, but to get even.

We have reached a point in the support of nuclear power where we must engage our opponents in public. For too long this fight has been a scrap on the web in forums that only attract the interested. The antinuclear movement has long had the ear of the media and quite frankly we have let them have it. It's time to change that and go on the offensive.

Since we are not going to get free press at this point we're going to have to pay for it. Some sort of strategy has to be formulated to start to gather funds to buy advertisements in newspapers, magazines and finally television to get the message out.

Now I know the small number of people that gather on the web in support of nuclear power cannot, undertake a project of this magnitude, but there must be existing pro nuclear groups that can, and it's time for them to take it to the next level.
aa2 said…
Interesting points.. Free speech doesn't apply to lies causing economic damages. As an example a media outlet cannot say that American Airlines crashed 8 planes last year killing 1500 people. Because they'd get sued. Even if they allegedly didn't realize they were lying.

Here is something with lawsuits you have to remember.. you don't have to win for it to succeed. If every anti-nuclear newspaper and media outlet knew if they published lies they would have to fight a costly, long legal battle .. Even if they 'win' every case(which is unlikely they would win some and lose some), they are stuck with huge legal bills. They would step up and make sure they had their facts in order before publishing.
David Walters said…
Folks, we answer, that's all we can and should do. We HAVE been prevailing...we ARE winning!

I'm more concerned about the seriousness of things like the recent POWER article on the stagnation and potential reversal of the nuclear renaissance here in the US. []. You have to get the printed edition. Its VERY pessimistic about nuclear's future.

Gunter said…
Wow! This journalist grading thing absolutely amazing.

This is sort of like seeing the jihadist reaction to "Satanic Verses."

However, I dont think any on the blog, including Kerekes or Peterson, have risen to the level of journalistic award of a Pulitzer like Weissman. So this is just the reaction of the investigated and the exposed.

The difference between a coal fired plant and nuke not getting enough cooling water is the difference between profit margins and public safety margins.
perdajz said…
Gunter strikes again! This time he is inadvertently comparing the safety margin of coal plant to that of a nuclear plant. This is a simple exercise: a coal plant has no safety margin. A coal plant is free to kill, pollute and use the atmosphere as a sewer of sorts, while a nuclear plant maintains and contains every speck of hazardous waste, now and indefinitely.

Yes, Gunter and his journalistic ilk merit an F here. With capacity factors are in the 90s, with no signs of slipping below 90, I don't see how anyone attacks NPP reliability and availability.
Kirk Sorensen said…
Boy, ain't it the truth. I got to do my own little nuclear/coal comparison the other day. I got to visit the Watts Bar nuclear plant, and it was clean, efficient, and magnificent. On the way back to Huntsville I swung by the Widows Creek Fossil plant, one of the filthiest coal plants in operation. Both plants were run by TVA. What a stench and filth at Widows Creek. What a nice experience at Watts Bar.

Coal turns our atmosphere into its spent fuel pool. Remember that Gunter.
Anonymous said…
Free speech for all, except those who disagree with you? Nice.

You can't sue someone for libel just because they're inaccurate. Under US law, they must also KNOW they're wrong, and have created the libelous speech with malicious intent.

Just because you don't AGREE with Helen Caldicott, Paul Gunter, or Amory Lovins, doesn't mean they're LYING. Rightly or wrongly, they believe their positions, your ad hominems against their ethics aside.

It's funny to watch industry advocates bemoan all this "excessive litigation" when it comes to licensing new plants, then turn around and scream "SUE THE B%$#ARDS!" when their opponents dare speak against them.

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