Wednesday, October 10, 2012

22. Debunking Antis (Peter Bradford) - The Weight of Lies

You may or may not have known it yet, but the Wall Street Journal has been conducting an online poll regarding the question "Should the World Increase Its Reliance on Nuclear Energy?". (Helpful Hint: click on the 1st entry of these search results, the WSJ gives access to things when accessed via Google search results). The poll has been up for at least several days, and I am not sure how much longer it will be up. If you have read any of the posts here, or met me in person, you could probably guess that my answer would be a resounding "HECK YES!! and faster than what we've done during any point in my lifetime (which began in the mid-80's)".

Within the past few days, commentary from Mark Lynas on the "pro-nuclear" side and from Peter Bradford on the "anti-nuclear" has been added. Mark Lynas is a British environmentalist and has relatively recently come to the realization that increasing the usage of nuclear power is an imperative for the world to have a successful future. Peter Bradford was a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner from 1977 to 1982. He has since made a bit of a career for himself as an anti-nuclear activist.

I will let Mark's words stand on their own (although I make zero claims of possessing climate change expertise).

In this post, however, I will break down Mr. Bradford's editorial, add some corrections and/or things he omitted, and add in a video of a song from my favorite musicians, the chorus of which makes me think of anti-nuclear folks almost every single time I hear it. My strong speculation is that almost anyone who would wish to get in touch with Mark Lynas would have an opportunity, by simply Tweeting him. I imagine/speculate Mr. Bradford is much tougher to get in touch with (and I will leave it to the reader to guess how that sways my idea of the overall integrity of each man).

1. My assertion regarding ease of getting in touch (despite an Atlantic amount of distance) has been proven true in under 12 hours.
2. Check out Leslie Corrice's commentary on Bradford's writing over at his Hiroshima Syndrome site.

The Breakdown/Analysis/DeBunking:

Bradford starts off with a straw man argument comparing the utilization of nuclear power to using caviar to fight world hunger. This is not even close to a comparable comparison on a cost basis. Additionally, many of the costs associated with nuclear construction have been concocted precisely by the actions of anti-nuclear activists combined with the timing of extreme inflation rates within the U.S. (see: this chapter of a free online book written by Bernard Cohen).

Bradford goes on to make the claim that the full impact on people's health from Fukushima won't be known for years, if ever (cue cheesy, scary sound effect). I disagree. The majority of the region around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake has had radiation levels far below those that cause harm to humans and far below the naturally-occurring levels of quite a few places around the world that experience no negative health effects. The over-exaggeration of potential negative health effects is, from my viewpoint, highly immoral in that it has caused actual harm while preventing no real harm.  I agree with Mr. Bradford that people not being able to return to their homes is a tragedy, but I actually realize that it is efforts of people like Mr. Bradford himself that are the biggest impediment to those people being allowed to return home, rather than trivial amounts of radiation that could be easily managed/worked around.   Next

Pete B., what do 1970's advertisements have to do with anything regarding the present discussion? The Shah was basically a puppet ruler put in place by the U.S. government, who was overthrown by the people of Iran. U.S. over-extension in Iran in 1953 is a major contributor to the Iran situation today. Bringing that up has ZERO relevance to today's nuclear power discussion.  Next

"If the next nuclear-power-related catastrophe is a bomb........." - Yet another fallacy. Nuclear power and nuclear weapons are not a "Like-for-Like" equivalent, Pete. The bomb pre-dated nuclear power. Diverting fissile material from a nuclear power plant to create a bomb would be a far-far-from-optimum way to obtain nuclear weapons. Find another straw man.  Next

"Of course new reactor designs are safer." Thanks, for admitting that, Pete. Maybe we can actually get somewhere with this discussion. "However, safety depends on more than design." I agree completely, Pete. Operations are highly important. I mean, Technical Specifications specifying the minimum requirements of plant OPERATION make up an integral portion of a plant's OPERATING license granted by the Commission you were once a part of (a fact you have utterly milked in your activities subsequent to 1982). Oh, you didn't mention that operations and maintenance also ensure safety. I'll grant that you simply forgot that.  Next

"A world more reliant on nuclear power would involve many plants in countries that have little experience with nuclear energy.........."  Mr. Bradford, to suggest that these countries wouldn't be completely willing, able, and eager to learn all the things that they would need to know to properly build, maintain, and operate nuclear power plants screams of an air of arrogance on your part. People are capable of learning, particularly if the reward will enhance their society's well-being.  Next

Expense - I covered this above   Next

Quoting John Rowe - See the Rod Adams collection on John Rowe. I will summarize for you. The way Exelon is currently structured and positioned, they have basically no incentive to build new plants as extra capacity would merely hurt the profit margin of their existing TWENTY-TWO CASH COW plants.
(Lengthy Disclosure: I have been intending to purchase Exelon stock for months now, and at under $36/share, I need to do it soon particularly with the possibility of a normal amount coldness this winter leading to considerably increased natural gas demand and somewhat increased natural gas price which equals increased profit margins for Exelon's TWENTY-TWO already-built, operating nuclear plants). Next

Then, Peter Bradford goes into full-on, Tea Party market-based capitalism-mode, which I doubt he would do for ANY other topic. I admit that there is a severe disconnect between "pure" free-market capitalism and the utility industry as a whole. There are rather complex and diverse market structures involved (including the U.S. Government Corporation that is the Tennessee Valley Authority). This disconnect is not reason to abandon nuclear power, it is a reason to figure out methods of properly figuring out how to plan for, pay for, and build nuclear power plants.

You can't decide you want a nuclear power plant one day and start getting power from it the next. If you could, a "pure" free-market capitalistic approach would show, unequivocally, in the long term that nuclear power is the most cost-effective energy source.

Now the Music:

And now for a song from my present favorite musicians. These guys are my favorite in large part because I have 2 brothers (one of whom actually called in the middle of me writing out this sentence), but also because these guys are extremely talented and put tons of ENERGY and emotion into their songs.

"How does this song apply to anti-nuclear activists?" you might ask. The chorus starts off with a slightly obvious statement "The weight of lies will bring you down", but the part that always made me think of anti-nuclear folks was the end of the chorus, "so when you run make sure you run; to something and not always from; cause lies don't need an aeroplane, to chase you down". 

The anti-nuclear movement is a move away from technological progress. I see no way to argue against that. Turning away from peaceful atomic energy would be a step backward for humanity, and would lead to enhanced energy scarcity in a time when increased energy abundance is needed to minimize physical human suffering. Bill Gates understands the situation, thus he has helped fund TerraPower

Thus, I say we (the World) should run TO increased reliance on Nuclear Power, so vote YES in the Wall Street Journal poll while it is still open.

/An Aside
Also, a link that was shared this evening on Facebook titled "5 Biggest News Stories that Left out the Most Important Part".  

#1 on the list: The "Fukushima 50" Sacrificed Their Lives to Prevent Disaster (also, They're All Still Alive)

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