Skip to main content

Paul Newman on Nuclear Energy

logo The National Review has a terrific piece on our old friend Paul Newman and his support for nuclear energy. Here's a taster:

“In all the meetings I had with Paul Newman, he struck me as very open-minded and inquisitive,” says [Denis Beller, a professor of engineering at the University of Nevada]. “He came out to Nevada in 2002 and visited the Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies, where several faculty members showed him research on the transmutation of nuclear waste. They also discussed why ideas like launching nuclear waste into the sun were not really practical. The visit ended with a trip to Yucca Mountain, where Kevin Phillips, the mayor of neighboring Caliente, whose front porch is only 50 yards from the rail line where waste would be transported, told Newman he was not opposed to the project. Later [Newman] told me, ‘That’s the most impressive thing I’ve seen.’”

There's also a shout-out to NEI's involvement with Newman-Wachs, Newman's car racing outlet:

In 2002 Newman and [Eddie] Wachs formed Newman Wachs Racing, which fielded two cars that carried 26 nuclear decals and a public service message promoting nuclear power. Two year later the Nuclear Energy Institute became aware of their effort and sponsored a car emblazoned with the message “Nuclear — Clean Air Energy,” which won the opening race of the 2008 Champ Car Atlantic season. The car and its racing crew subsequently visited several engineering schools around the country to encourage young people to enter the nuclear profession.

You know that with National Review, there's going to be a few zingers at left-wing Hollywood types, but writers William Tucker and Stephanie Gutmann can't quite get past their bona fides to a central point: Paul Newman supported nuclear energy and was still a committed "lefty."

We've noted many times here that nuclear energy has just about become a post-ideological subject and opposing or supporting it is no longer an index to a person's political leaning. We think National Review missed a great opening here: pat themselves on the back for helping this to occur. Might hurt to lose the issue, but a win is a win. They could then move on to more reliable hot button issues - drilling in ANWR, tax breaks to oil companies - the kind of thing that does still inflame the left.


Anonymous said…
Hi, Stephanie Gutmann here.

Has being pro-nuclear energy really become "post ideological." That's actually really interesting (I'm not being snarky here) and maybe a subject for an article for in itself (I'm always scouting...)

Maybe in the scientific community, but certainly from where I'm sitting in the civilian/academic/journalism community anything to do with nuclear is as taboo as ever. A sure fire conversation ender. A sure fire way to ensure that the person you're talking to will think you're a maniac...
Joffan said…
Journalists have been very slow to wake up from the anti-nuclear misinformation, especially given their responsibility to transmit reliable information. Perhaps this is due to the cognitive bias that attaches to deeply entrenched positions, especially incorrect positions that have been relied on for a number of years.

It will take some courage to shift away from that, and that courage is slowly emerging in the journalism community. I hope you can find that courage, Stephanie.
Anonymous said…
SG again.

no, no...Joffen, you misunderstood the point of my comment. Bill Tucker and I are very pro-nuclear energy. Bill's been writing about this and studying it for years and last summer we toured Areva sites in France and were very impressed. I was just saying that I don't see the evidence that nuclear energy has become a "post ideological" issue. People seem as knee-jerk as ever on this issue.
Anonymous said…
And what Stephanie Gutmann points out has always been my point. The anti-nukes are invariably democrats and if you elect Obama, you can kiss the nuclear rennaisance good bye. Academia, journalism, etc. are all full of left wing liberals and the very few who support nuke power are the oddities. The best bet is to support McCain whole hog and utterly defeat Obama.
Rod Adams said…
I can list a number of left leaning or Democrat, pro-nuclear bloggers:

Dave Walters - Daily Koz
NNadir - Daily Koz
Rod Adams (me) - Atomic Insights

I like nuclear power because it offers the potential to give more power to the people - it completely breaks the paradigm of enormous fossil fuel controlling entities ruling the world.

It is also a great job generator, a terrific support mechanism for local governments and public schools and an amazing way to produce electricity without producing any air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.

For many, many reasons, the left has more logical reasons for supporting nuclear power. I happen to believe that there are a large number of very reasonable and logical people who lean to the left side of the spectrum.

Rod Adams
Atomic Insights
The Atomic Show Podcast
D. Kosloff said…
I enjoyed your joke about the responsibility of journalists "to transmit reliable information". I started laughing again as I typed this.
Anonymous said…
You think maybe all this condescending, indiscriminate bashing of journalists in general as left-wing idiots by nuclear industry types might have something to do with it?
Mark Flanagan said…
Okay guys, simmer down. As nuclear energy settles into being a ideologically neutral topic, overselling its pluses and minuses will become less important than addressing the issues that might impede its progress.

It may rankle to hear Obama talk about "safe" transport and storage of nuclear waste, but it's talk, and it's genuinely heartening to hear from the leader of the Democratic Party - Obama is the leading edge of the next generation of graybeards (which is what the Senate will always mostly be) and he is openly considering nuclear energy a necessary component of his energy policy. Speaks well for the party going forward.

We certainly prefer McCain's all-in expression of support, and think the nuclear industry can live up to it, but it's not quite so unusual coming from him and the Republicans. It's really Obama (and many who came before him - Patrick Moore, for example) who has moved the topic from a reliable conservative go-to topic and toward a post-ideological standing.

That's important, because it will end the stuttering progress nuclear energy suffers when government administrations change. (And at present, it looks like McCain or Obama will be working with a strengthened Democratic Congress and with his former rival returned to the Senate; energy policy might well be an area of common cause for them.)
d kosloff said…
I have never done any indiscriminate bashing of journalists. That is contrary to what some of them have done personally to me. I realize that, on the subject of nuclear power, there are two or three honest journalists. But the rest cannot be "bashed" because the wording that would be asserted to be "bashing" would actually be mild criticism when compared to the truth about them. My conclusions on this are based on decades of personal experience and research on what laughingly passes for "journalism" related to nuclear power and other technical and scientific subjects.
movie fan said…
I have always admired Paul Newman for putting his money to work in such productive ways... His Newman's Own line is high quality stuff and the proceeds go to good causes, win-win

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.

Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …