Friday, June 21, 2013

Memo to Fox News: Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Energy Are Not The Same

Last Wednesday, word leaked out through media channels that President Obama would include a call for further nuclear arms reduction in a speech has was scheduled to deliver in Berlin, Germany at the famous Brandenberg Gate. When Fox News got hold of the story, they figured the best image to twin with a picture of the President would be a shot of a cooling tower at an unnamed nuclear power plant.

Now you see the cooling tower ...
Needless to say, while I understand why editors and reporters often conflate nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear energy, it doesn't make it any less annoying when it happens. As we've pointed out in the past, generating nuclear electricity actually contributes to a more peaceful world. The best example of why that's true has to be the Megatons to Megawatts program, an effort to downblend former Soviet nuclear warheads into reactor fuel. Right now, about half of the electricity generated by our nation’s nuclear energy facilities is from fuel that was once part of the Soviet Union's Cold War nuclear arsenal.

It's a powerful story, and one that's actually part of Pandora's Promise. Here's Stewart Brand:


Thankfully, the error didn't persist for long thanks to nuclear energy consultant Brian Gutherman:
And then a few minutes later ...
... And now you don't.
Thanks to Brian for the heads up, and thanks to Fox News for correcting the error so quickly.

2 comments:

jimwg said...

Major kudos to Brian and NEI for springing to their feet to correct this mass misconception. Unfortunately, to way too many, nuclear plants and bombs are just sides of the same coin. Call me semi-conspiratorial, but maybe by local political experience I always had long doubts that such feature image "mismatches" are simply accidental by ignorance or incompetence in lieu a media that largely hates nuclear's guts and go out of their way coyly fanning FUD (re: the infamous Tokyo oil fire featured during Fukushima stories during and AFTER the quake) than fairly educate their public more about nukes. I'd love to see the percentage of positive/neutral nuclear plant stories against windmill/solar farms presented in the media in one year. No doubt the tallies would be shocking!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Jeff Schmidt said...

The way those cable news channels work is that whenever there's any story, they need to find something, anything to show on screen related to that story. What will they show? A mushroom cloud?

There's not a lot of pics or video available commonly for nuclear weapons. Since Fox crowd tends to try to craft a message which is pro-nuclear weapons (or, at least, the opposite of whatever Obama is for, it seems at times) , they don't want to show a nuclear explosion, as that might be a bit alarming and tend to make people watching think maybe Obama is right about arms reductions (and Obama can't be right about anything, at least to Fox News).

So, they try to show something which people readily associate with nuclear, but which doesn't appear to be too scary.

I know, it's sad, and I too wish they wouldn't conflate civilian nuclear power with weapons of mass destruction, but nuclear weapons is just a topic, at least I think, for which there is virtually no footage available.

I don't know, though, there's got to be some pics/videos of ICBM's somewhere, they could use.