Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Okay, You Got My Attention

This morning I've been reading reviews on Rotten Tomatoes of "Pandora's Promise," a documentary on nuclear energy by filmmaker Robert Stone that we watched yesterday. It makes the case that much of what we've been told about nuclear energy is hyped-up fear-mongering and that nuclear is the safest and cleanest alternative to the poison of fossil fuels, particularly coal.

But ... Robert Stone? The guy who made the first Earth Day film? The guy who did the anti-nuke film "Radio Bikini" about the A-bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. He's changed his mind about nuclear energy, as have Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, and a number of other well known environmentalists who are interviewed in "Pandora's Promise."

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima ... the major nuclear disasters of our era, the names that send a chill down spines, and the Exhibits One, Two & Three for why nuclear energy is unsafe, unwise, and deadly. Stone faces those negatives head-on, goes to all three locations and tests the radiation levels with those little yellow monitoring devices.

Famous anti-nuke activist and liberal hero Helen Caldicott claims that 1 million people died at Chernobyl and that there's been a massive cover-up, for which no evidence exists. Pretty hard to cover up 1 million dead bodies. For sure, 50 people did die almost immediately at Chernobyl, and rare cancers will likely take others as the years advance. But compared to deaths directly linked to respiratory ailments linked to air pollution caused by fossil fuels ... well, you can make up your own cost-benefit analysis of nuclear power vs. fossil fuels. Wind and solar -- "renewables" -- aren't even on the playing field and likely never will be.

A younger generation will have to decide our direction, and the ones I've talked to since yesterday don't even seem to know that being anti-nuclear is supposed to be a birthmark of liberalism. Only conservatives are supposed to be pro-nuclear energy, but perhaps that's breaking down, and perhaps it should.

Stone proves that at least some of the anti-nuclear chatter has been gleefully propagated by the oil and gas industry, that the newest generation of nuclear reactors cannot melt down (Chernobyl didn't even have a containment building and Fukushima was old technology positioned on the assumption that no tsunami would ever reach higher than three meters). If I believe Robert Stone, I get a higher dose of natural radiation on a transcontinental plane ride than I would get standing next to a modern nuclear reactor.

I found "Pandora's Promise" a challenging and thoughtful film. You might too.


Meatcamp said...

Nuclear fuel is dirty and expensive to extract and the facilities are are massive and costly to build and maintain. Transporting the fuel is dangerous in itself and creates vulnerabilities for sabotage and terrorists. Many redundancies and safeguards must be built into every step of the process. Many locations are unsafe or otherwise unsuitable for nuclear plants.And it leaves our power grid centralized and vulnerable to breakdowns caused by human error or deliberate sabotage.
Decentralized solar systems interconnected with each other could keep power flowing in the event of disasters in several locations. And a huge solar spill is called a beautiful sunny day.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Meatcamp on most of this. And the issue of storage for spent fuel rods, radioactive cooling water, etc. are the main issues for me. Meltdowns? Not common. Leaks from the everyday operation of the plant - probably not a big deal. Transportation and storage of the fuel and 'spent' (but still radioactive) fuel rods....we still have NO solution to these issues 60 years after being reassured we'd have safe methods for long-term storage 'any day now'.