Skip to main content

On "Frontline" and "Nuclear Aftershocks"

My colleague, John Keeley, asked that I share the following note with our readers:
On January 17, PBS’ "Frontline" program will air "Nuclear Aftershocks," a documentary which purports to examine “the hazards and benefits of nuclear power.” Former CNN science reporter Miles O’Brien, with 30 years of journalism experience covering space, science and technology, leads the investigation and analysis for the program. O’Brien is a solid journo with a reputation for resisting the melodramatic and sensational in favor of substantive and balanced pieces. Would that we’d seen more of that among O’Brien’s broadcast peers covering Fukushima last spring.

Still, there are focus points to the piece we already know about that cause concern. O’Brien – who has been tweeting about the production for a few weeks – and his documentary team visited Indian Point Energy Center ostensibly on the premise that what happened at Fukushima Diachii could potentially happen at the New York plant located on the Hudson River. Indian Point is very much a political piñata in New York, but few of its critics, I think, posit any likelihood of the plant being visited by a 48-foot tsunami. And in the U.S., we don’t locate our nuclear plants on subduction zones.

Know this: industry offered PBS inordinate assistance with this project. Both Exelon and Indian Point’s operator, Entergy, afforded "Frontline" generous access to their respective plant sites, and made executives available for reflection about industry in a post-Fukushima world. Exelon spent a full day with Frontline last August at its LaSalle site. The Frontline team was afforded a tour of the fuel pool/building, the B5b equipment stage areas, the cask loading area, dry cask storage, a working hydrogen recombiner, and a number of underground spaces where backup equipment, emergency fuel supplies, and submarine doors were visible.

Industry had hoped to preview this program in advance of its airing, but the representative of one of our member companies has yet to hear back from the producers of the program. We will be paying close attention to "Nuclear Aftershocks" to see if the show attempts to achieve some context for decisions made in both Germany and Japan to shutter nuclear plants, such as acknowledging that globally today more than 60 new nuclear plants are under construction. We do know that "Frontline" met with individuals outside of industry concerned by recent decisions by some countries to abandon nuclear power.

“We have not yet found a base-load electric power without carbon emissions, other than nuclear power,” NASA’s James Hansen informed O’Brien in an interview.

The program airs on PBS around the country beginning on January 17. Click here to check when it will air on your local PBS member station.

Comments

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 …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…