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May 8th 2009     

A Little Pitch For Nuclear Power

Posted by: Laer at 07:00 am

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nce upon a time, I bought the environmentalist diatribe against nuclear power.  Once upon a time, I was that kind of fool. I’ve learned a lot since then, and while I can’t verify everything in the email below, it does show just how extensive the Greenie misinformation campaign has been.  The email is from DuPree Moore and ran originally in Greenie Watch.

From 1968 to 1973, I was an engineering officer aboard U. S. nuclear submarines. The chief engineer would routinely sneak back into the engineering spaces and trip some piece of equipment off the line. These were not computer simulations. The equipment really would be in an emergency condition. We would be sitting in the reactor control room, and suddenly alarms would go off. We would have to figure out what had happened, and recover from it. The equipment is designed to survive such accidents. After many decades of operation under those conditions, the Navy has had zero deaths from nuclear power. You are more likely to drown in your bathtub than to die from operating a nuclear reactor.

A coal-fired electric power generating plant uses 120 railroad cars full of coal every day. A nuclear plant uses one semi truckload of nuclear fuel rods every few years. All the spent fuel from every nuclear reactor in the United States could be stored on one football field, a pile nine feet tall. Recycle it as the French do, and the pile shrinks to three inches. In 500 years it will be less toxic than coal ash.

It is preposterous to talk about nuclear waste remaining toxic for tens of thousands of years. It is preposterous to talk about tens of thousands of deaths from a nuclear accident. Those analyses are based upon a laughable error. If one person eats 200 aspirin, he will die. These people figure that if 200 people eat one aspirin each, there will be one death. If two million people are exposed to a dose rate of one aspirin per person, there will be 20,000 deaths. In fact one aspirin is beneficial, and low levels of radiation are beneficial. Geographical areas with higher background radiation have lower levels of cancer.

Chernobyl proved just how safe nuclear power is. There was no containment vessel. All radiation was released to the environment. There were less than 200 deaths, all among on-site personnel. An exhaustive international inquiry under the UN found no documented health damage beyond the immediate vicinity (except for a slight increase in thyroid cancer among children, which can be completely prevented by taking inexpensive iodine supplements in the event of a nuclear accident). The area around Chernobyl has been declared a radioactive dead zone at radiation levels about the same as downtown Warsaw, Poland, and five times lower than Grand Central Station in New York City. Plants and animals flourish in the region, showing no ill effects. It is stark raving mad.

Three-Mile Island nuclear accident caused zero deaths, zero injuries, and zero radiation release to the environment. And it was not a close call. It might have been a close call from having much more extensive equipment damage, but the worst possible accident would still have been kept entirely within the containment vessel. There would have been zero deaths, zero injuries, and zero radiation released to the environment. If terrorists flew an airplane into a nuclear reactor, it would not rupture the containment vessel.

During the 1970′s there was an anti-nuclear campaign, similar to the global warming campaign today. It was based on grossly inaccurate information, but it prevailed politically to impose onerous regulations which killed nuclear power as a source of electricity. I have seen a comparison of two nuclear power plants in the United States which began construction at about the same time. One finished up before the new regulations went into effect. It came in on budget, and generates to this day the cheapest, safest, and cleanest electricity on this planet. The second reactor ran afoul of the new regulations. It ran into massive cost overruns, and never was completed.

Lawrence Solomon was part of the anti-nuclear campaign during the 1970′s. Today he has done some excellent research disproving the global warming theory, especially disproving the assertions of a scientific consensus about it; but to this day he is wrong about nuclear power. To this day he says, “Nuclear reactors run flat-out 24/7″, and cannot be adjusted to match power demand. He is simply wrong. The reactor remains critical 24/7, but a reactor can be critical at zero power. The power output automatically matches the power demand. I have personally operated nuclear reactors, and I know for a fact what I am talking about. That is the kind of misinformation which has destroyed nuclear power, the greatest scientific advance in the history of the world.

And that’s the way it is … not the way Greenpeace and others say it is.

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Posted in Energy Policy, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | 4 Comments » | |

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  1. Francis Drouillard

    Laer,I think you’re letting the media off the hook on this issue in order to paint all environmentalists as anti-nuclear energy zealots. That is not true of me or others that think like me.Fewer environmentalists would oppose nuclear energy if the media had done a better job of presenting all sides of the issue, just as fewer environmentalists would support CO2 reductions to fight climate change if they had all the facts (and fewer outright lies).The types of “they” attributions you employ will do little to convince Americans to embrace new nuclear energy plants. I don’t consider “greens” an evil cabal that thinks and reacts with uniformity on all issues. That condition more aptly applies to the media, which fails to correct the misconcpetions Americans have regarding nuclear energy.The culprit here is not the group of Americans you refer to as “greens.” It is the media. Had they presented both sides, groups like Greenpeace and individuals like DuPree Moore would have their say and Americans would have a better grasp of the pros and cons of nuclear energy, and we would likely have more nuclear power plants.

  2. Laer

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Francis.  This was a hurried post as my daughter worried aloud at being tardy to her first period class if I didn’t get off the blog and get in the car SOON!  The media went nuts over Three Mile Island and Karen Silkwood, and have remained hostile to nuclear power ever since, perhaps for no better reason than to justify their early hysteria.

  3. 11B40

    Greetings:Reminds of of that old bumper sticker, “More people have died in Ted Kennedy’s car than all the nuclear power plants in the US of A.” 

  4. Landon

    Beware this guy and his information on nuclear energy and chernobyl. he has done no research, posses’ no scientific formal education and is oblivious to how harmful nuclear energy is. Absolute drivel. less than 200 hundred deaths in Chernobyl? garbage, this article should be stricken from the net and placed in a “National Enquirer”. I would like to see this guy report from inside the sarcophagus in Pripyat. Life has returned to normal outside the Pripyat reactor? go there then you moron and spend a few days picking up rocks and walking inside the failing containment. I cannot stress enough how simple this man must be, propaganda doesnt even describe this level of unabashed pathetically useless journalism.

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