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What’s Hard to Grasp About Nuclear Energy

nyt_logoThe New York Times addresses nuclear energy as part of it Retro Report video series. The story by Clyde Haberman that accompanies the video fulfills the retro side of the agenda with a look at Three Mile Island, then continues:

Yet American attitudes on nuclear power, as measured by opinion polls, are far from irrevocably negative. As TMI faded in collective memory, the popularity of that energy source has waxed and waned, each rise tempered by a new cause for alarm, notably Chernobyl and Fukushima. Many power plants that had been on the drawing boards before 1979 were built. In the last few years, new ones have been proposed, encouraged by President Obama, who has described nuclear energy as necessary — along with renewable sources like wind and solar — in any plan to wean the country from fossil fuels. The need for swift action would seem greater than ever, given new warnings from a United Nations panel that time is running short for countries to adopt strategies to keep worldwide carbon emissions from reaching intolerable levels.

And the next paragraph begins:

It is hard to grasp how American reliance on nuclear energy could disappear soon, if ever.

This is so judicious that it just seems – well, not like a lot of what one sees online. Most of the video report will come as nothing new to anyone visiting this site, but Haberman’s story is worth close attention. He notes that nuclear energy can frighten people because cultural touchstones – he points to radiation-created monsters like Godzilla and The Amazing Colossal Man – have created a skewed view of it. I think it’s much more complicated than that, but Haberman doesn’t have that much space. It’s okay as far as it can go. Overall, it’s a superb piece.


And right on schedule, note this headline form the International Business Times:

U.S. Nuclear Power Plant Closures Impede Climate Goals, According To Research Group

We’ll take a closer look at the report being referenced here later – it’s from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions aka the Former Pew climate change group. It’s an interesting paper – you can read it here – but for right now, just note the serendipitous collusion between the Times and IBT to figure out the same thing at the same time. May it be a rising tide.


jimwg said…
"Haberman’s story is worth close attention. He notes that nuclear energy can frighten people because cultural touchstones – he points to radiation-created monsters like Godzilla and The Amazing Colossal Man – have created a skewed view of it. I think it’s much more complicated than that,"

Haberman "gets it" far more than most realize. It's easy to over-intellectualize the reasons the American public has the willies over nuclear energy, but the answer can often be found in simple places such as the boob tube. Homer Simpson's antics alone creates more anti-nuclear converts per episode than manyfold the pro-nuke sentiments generated in a whole year of current pro-nuclear public education. Conduct your own man-on-the-street interview with questions about nuclear energy and prepare to be shocked silly. More people (Americans at least) sincerely believe in UFOs and faked lunar landings than being told that nuclear power's only killed as many people worldwide in over 50 years as one can pack in one bus or that Fukushima injured no one and only caused local damage. If you're asking WHY this is so, the answer is simple as zero green competition, i.e. zero public challenge and zero retorts to FUD and maligning programming about nuclear power. If the public sees no one prominently standing up for nuclear power or zit positive programming about it, what else are they to assume??

James Greenidge
Queens NY

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