Friday, April 18, 2008

Baby Steps: Mother Jones on Nuclear Energy

Not the magazine you would consider a go-to for nuclear energy  advocacy, but Mother Jones and writer Judith Lewis make the most honest attempt we've seen to honestly explore issues surrounding nuclear energy from the perspective of those who really, really don't like it. Even with a little too much David Lochbaum and a brief zinger at NEI, we recommending reading the whole thing.

Here's a taster:

Will a nuclear reactor operating under normal conditions give you cancer? It's a question that, surprisingly, still hasn't been conclusively answered. A 1995 Greenpeace study found an increase in breast-cancer mortality among women living near various U.S. and Canadian reactors in the Great Lakes region. Yet peer-reviewed studies by the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation as well as the National Cancer Institute show no significant increase in cancer among people living near reactors. An initiative called the Tooth Fairy Project is currently trying to prove that concentrations of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 are higher in baby teeth from children who grow up near nuclear plants. But those tests are not complete, and no one else has turned up persuasive evidence of such a link.

So, while willing to promote the scary myths surrounding nuclear, it's honest enough to say what's known to date: no increased risk of cancer, Tooth Fairy hooey.

And here's a little more:

Just as there are arguments against public investment in nuclear power, there are arguments for it—and one huge living example. France shifted from oil-burning electric plants to nuclear during the oil crisis of the early '70s, and over the past 20 years it has invested $160 billion in nuclear programs, making the country the largest exporter of nuclear electricity in the European Union. Sixteen percent of the world's nuclear power is generated in France. And where once the French were buying nuclear technology from the United States, now it's the other way round: 6 of the 20 applications expected to be submitted to the NRC before 2010 are for the U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) designed by the French conglomerate Areva.

I may have missed it, but the article doesn't note that France generates 80% of its own electricity from nuclear energy. That's pretty notable.

In the interests of fairness, here's the NEI dig:

For the last four years, I have tried to shut out the chatter—the goofy Nuclear Energy Institute ad (girl on a scooter says, "Our generation is demanding lots of electricity...and clean air."), and the warnings of No Nukes godmother Helen Caldicott, who, rightly or wrongly, cannot think of splitting atoms without thinking of weapons.

Heck, I liked that ad. (But okay: I did enjoy the snark at FINAL'GIRL'-HighRes-2-23-01St. Helen.)

The article's sum-up is honest as can be given the venue; you can read that on your own. We noted the other day that the ideological component of global warming acceptance/denial seems to be fading away, with it no longer being solely liberal/environmentalist issue. The same has been happening to nuclear energy, somewhat relatedly due to nuclear's environmental benefits, but from the opposite direction - shall we call it a reliable conservative/industrial issue that is now finding broader acceptance?

The move to nuclear energy in quarters such as Mother Jones can be measured in baby steps, but they're steps all the same.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You can't mention the Tooth Fairy without linking to the extensive library of posts in the Nuclear Notes archive can you?

Mark Flanagan said...

No need to beat a dead fairy, no?

Anonymous said...

While it doesn't give the 80% figure for percentage of French electricity generated by nuclear, it does give some French stats:
"16% of world's nuclear generation"
"Largest exporter of nuclear power in EU"
"6 of 20 applications" [for new US reactors
See on second web page under "The French Connection."

Joffan said...

The trouble with fairies is that you think they're dead, but people will keep clapping their hands.