Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ralph Nader Advocates Phasing Out Nuclear Power Industry: With extreme hyperbole

Appearing with the tag "Anti-Nuclear Activist" under his name, Ralph Nader appeared on Democracy Now to deliver a searing demand to completely phase out the nuclear industry. This of course was in the wake of the Japanese 9.0 earthquake, which triggered a large Tsunami, which triggered a nuclear crisis. While he had a lot of good things to say, he also over-hyped his position and said a few outright falsehoods.

This is where he started:

RALPH NADER: The Japanese disaster has ended whatever nuclear renaissance is being considered here in the United States. The problem is that people have got to get more involved, because the government and the industry will defend nuclear power in the United States to the last mutation. They are representing a closed, monetized mind that does not have options for revision, which true science should provide for. Secretary Chu, Energy Secretary, has refused for two years to meet with the leading critics of nuclear power, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, Friends of the Earth and other groups. He has met with nuclear business interests regularly, and he has written articles touting nuclear power.

Uh, okay.. Let's unpack this a bit. Does this event mean it has "ended" the "nuclear renaissance"?

It appears to be true that a lot of people are alarmed about nuclear power. Because of this event.

It's true that the Obama Administration is pushing for nuclear power. On the day of the earthquake Obama held a press conference in which he described Nuclear Power as a "Clean Energy Source" and called for increased use of nuclear power. (see: Obama proposes nuclear power expansion while Japan has nuclear crisis and News Conference by President Obama, March 11, 2011)

Recent history is full of we the people being sold on crazy ideas. It seems plausible the powers that be will sell us again on nuclear power. Ralph seems to understand this when he says "The problem is that people have got to get more involved, because the government and the industry will defend nuclear power in the United States to the last mutation."

What we’re seeing here is 110 or so operating nuclear plants in the United States, many of them aging, many of them infected with corrosion, faulty pipes, leaky pumps and combustible materials.

He went on to say this has been documented by data from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission assembled by the Union of Concerned Scientists. But rather than describe that data he talks about how unevacuable are large cities like New York City, and I suppose he's envisioning the skyscrapers as becoming mausoleums for the people now living there?

Why are we playing Russian roulette with the American people for nuclear plants whose principal objective is simply to boil water and produce steam?

Does he understand engineering well enough to ponder what mechanisms could convert heat into electricity? One of those mechanisms is using the heat to convert water into steam that runs a turbine to generate electricity. In the 1960's (when this design was created) there might not have been other methods for converting heat to electricity. I wouldn't be surprised to learn the typical coal fired or natural gas fired power plant also uses heat to create steam that turns a turbine. Ask yourself, if you have heat how are you going to create electricity out of it?

national security problems, for every nuclear plant is a prime target

It would be cool if he said more about this. But instead he goes on to

It affects our civil liberties. It endangers our workers.

Which again would be cool if he explained but he went directly into explaining that nuclear power is unfinancable because it's too risky. The nuclear industry demands 100% "taxpayer guarantees" from governments. In the wake of the 2008-9 financial fiasco with taxpayer guarantee of the toxic financial industry, this is a line of reasoning which should cause us to stop in our tracks. But he doesn't even explain this very well but instead moves on to list the White House phone numbers, encouraging people to demand hearings.

We must no longer license any new nuclear plants. We should shut down the ones like Indian Point. How many people know that Hillary Clinton, as senator, and Andrew Cuomo, as attorney general, demanded that Indian Point be shut down? That doesn’t matter to the monetized minds in Washington, D.C. We also should prepare a plan ...for the phase-out of the entire industry.

I'm afraid he didn't make a case. He threw out a tremendously tightly packed line-up of statements without explanation.

To be clear - there are a lot of problems with this and I largely agree with him. But just looking at what he said, he doesn't give the evidence to support the suggestion he's making.

He also doesn't give a plan for how to power our society if all nuclear plants are removed from the scene. Abandoning nuclear means somehow replacing that electricity with something - but what? Coal? Natural gas? C'mon...

This is institutional insanity, and I urge the people in this country to wake up before they experience what is now going on in northern Japan: uninhabitable territory, thousands dead, hundreds of thousands at risk of cancer, enormous economic loss. And for what?

Here's where he really lost me with hyperbole. Institutional insanity aside - does the Japan situation yet have "uninhabitable territory" or "thousands dead"? Really? We haven't seen the end of this yet and we do not know yet whether this will be true.

The thousands of dead in this case were from the earthquake and tsunami, not from the nuclear accident. Is Ralph confused?

It's not yet known whether this territory will be uninhabitable, or whether they'll be able to gain enough control over the situation and safely entomb the radioactive material. This is not the same situation as Chernobyl.

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