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Will “Pandora’s Promise” Start a New Environmental Movement for Nuclear Power?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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The last line in Pandora’s Promise , Robert Stone’s new documentary about the environmental advantages of nuclear power, comes from Michael Shellenberger, co-head of the Breakthrough Institute. “I have a sense that this is a beautiful thing, the beginning of a movement,” he says. Provoking a new environmental movement in favor of nuclear power is a tall order, but a recent screening of Pandora’s Promise suggests that it might play a part, for some intriguing reasons.

Stone’s film premiered at Sundance to positive reviews (Variety, Slate) and is scheduled for theatrical release this summer. It makes a convincing case for nuclear power as a carbon-free source of energy to reduce the harm of climate change in a world in which population is rising and the demand for electricity is soaring as the developing world develops. (For the record, I was already convinced; See Beware the Fear of Nuclear…FEAR) Nuclear power, Shellenberger says, can contribute to “…a world of seven to ten billion people, living resource-intensive high energy lives, without killing the climate.”

But Pandora’s Promise will probably persuade some environmentalists to rethink nuclear power not just because of the facts but because of how those facts are framed. The information in the film is presented in ways that resonate with many of the emotional, instinctive, affective characteristics that shape how people feel about risks in general, and about nuclear power and climate change in particular.

One of the most powerful of those characteristics is the influence of trust, and the central case of Stone’s main characters is “Trust us, we’re environmentalists and we hated nuclear power too.”  Mark Lynas, author of The God Species, who helped organize radical environmentalist opposition to genetically modified food in Europe, says “We were against nuclear power. As an environmentalist, those two things go together.” Gwyneth Cravens, author of The Power to Save the World, says: “I grew up in an anti-nuke family. My parents were anti-nuclear.” Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue, goes further, and notes how for the baby boom generation, the fear of nuclear power grew directly out of the existential fear of nuclear weapons, and radioactive fallout from atmospheric weapons testing, and cancer, all of which fed the rise of the modern environmental movement. “I grew up having nightmares that my home was bombed into oblivion,” Brand says. “There was Duck and Cover. Those things cut pretty deep. You had the strong sense that this is not a primary energy source. This is a weapon that we feel pretty badly about.”

As much Stone establishes the trustworthiness of the his environmentalist protagonists, he challenges the trustworthiness of prominent anti-nuclear thought leaders, focusing on Helen Caldicott. Caldicott calls those who deny the science of climate change “…idiots,” adding “ How dare they deny science.” But Pandora’s Promise suggests she is doing the same thing by claiming Chernobyl may ultimately kill more than a million people, when more than 20 years of research by the World Health Organization estimates the radiation released from world’s worst nuclear plant accident will cause a maximum of about 4,000 lifetime excess cancer deaths. Caldicott is asked how she can she reconcile doing the same sort of science denial she says the ‘idiot’ deniers of climate change are doing? “I can not,” she stumbles.

The film also directly challenges the groupthink psychology that shapes our perceptions of risk, and certainly has shaped environmentalist opposition to nuclear power. The pro-nuclear environmentalists in the film confess that their original anti-nuke views were more the product of automatic tribal acceptance of what the group believed – Rachel Carson and Ralph Nader and Bill McKibben are against nukes? Then so am I. – than informed independent analysis. They acknowledge that it literally felt threatening to change their minds and go against the whole tribe; “I was at no doubt that my entire career as an activist was at risk if I went and talked (positively) about nuclear,” Lynas.

Stone’s effective presentation will resonate with other psychological aspects of risk perception as well. People worry more about risks that are human-made than risks that are natural. Pandora’s Promise highlights how this is more emotional than rational, showing organizers of a rally protesting against the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant handing out bananas, a single one of which contains more radiation than the daily radioactive water emissions from the plant they were so afraid of. (Radioactive potassium 40 is absorbed into the banana from the soil, see Banana Equivalent Dose.

We worry more about any risk we can’t detect with our own senses, an aspect of risk perception that Pandora’s Promise addresses by ‘visualizing’ radiation, having Lynas display a radiation detector in several locations where people are leading their normal lives; Tokyo, Paris, on a mountain top in New Hampshire, on a plane ride. We also see the levels at Chernobyl, and outside trailers in which Fukushima evacuees are living. In all those places, the now-visible radiation levels are similar, and low.

We worry more about risks to children than risk to adults, a psychological ‘fear factor’ relevant to the coming threat of climate change (which the film visualizes with dramatic graphics that show how much the climate has warmed over the last century). So there will be persuasive emotional effect when we see Lynas with his family as he says “Having kids has deepened my commitment to the future and concern about global warming.”

Finally, environmentalist culture generally prefers a society in which people believe ‘we are all in this together’, what the study of Cultural Cognition refers to as communitarians. Communitarians believe in fairness and justice and equal opportunity, and the film appeals directly to that worldview when another central character, Richard Rhodes – Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb – says, “Unless you want to condemn more than half the population of the earth to sickness and impoverished lives, we have to produce more electricity.”

Pandora’s Promise uses these devices instinctively, naturally. They don’t feel overtly manipulative, but just the intuitively applied tools of persuasive story telling. And because they resonate with important psychological characteristics that shape our perception of risk, they will probably persuade some viewers to rethink their opposition to nuclear power. For the same reasons, however, anti-nuclear advocates will probably react to the film defensively, because it threatens their tribal view and their self-identity.

Some will probably bristle at the film’s less-than-flattering depiction of Caldicott and anti-nuclear rallies. Others won’t like how, as we see rows of huge wind mills in California sitting motionless, Shellenberger mocks renewable solar and wind as ‘a hallucinatory illusion’ that can’t supply nearly as much electricity as the world will need. Nuclear opponents won’t like graphics that show how all of America’s nuclear waste would fit on a football field a few feet deep, or video showing that it can be stored safely (the film shows how high level nuclear waste is currently stored in containers outdoors at many American nuclear power plants, and how all of France’s high level nuclear waste is stored in canisters set into the floor in one room at a power plant).

Anti-nukes won’t like descriptions of new nuclear technologies that are safer, and cheaper. They will probably jump on the fact that Pandora’s Promise mentions only in passing that these technologies are probably decades away, and until then, without regulatory assistance, nuclear power technology is way too expensive to compete against cheaper fuels. Nor will nuclear opponents like the way that Pandora’s Promise undermines the claim that nuclear power is a weapons proliferation threat. We see glowing nighttime urban skylines as Brand tells us some of those lights are powered by nuclear material taken from decommissioned Russian and American warheads “Poetic” Brand calls it…swords into plowshares.

Pandora’s Promise is open, earnest, unabashed advocacy, and it makes a persuasive case, using images and emotional framings that will resonate with innate affective cues that influence our perceptions of risk. It may not change the minds of baby boomer environmentalists whose fear of anything nuclear grows from deep historic roots and whose self-identities are too tightly bound to the expected tribal opposition to nuclear power. But to younger viewers, and to any viewer with an open mind, Pandora’s Promise may help encourage fresh thinking about the huge pros, as well as the better known cons, of this important, if controversial, source of clean energy.

(In the name of transparency, I have participated twice in the Breakthrough Institute’s annual Breakthrough Dialogue, a two-day retreat that brings together several dozen experts and thinkers – not sure how I got invited – to ponder solutions to big problems. Shellenberger, Lynas, Brand, Cravens, and Stone, have been part of those conversations.)

David Ropeik About the Author: David Ropeik is an Instructor at the Harvard Extension School and author of 'How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts'. Follow on Twitter @dropeik.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Comments 29 Comments

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  1. 1. gooner 12:58 pm 06/10/2013

    Pandoras Promise needs to look at the reality of Low Bid Contracting. Then come back and tell me where the priority is in this style of construction and how it will be any different if not worse than before.

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  2. 2. krohleder 1:05 pm 06/10/2013

    I think Nuclear power needs to be part of the solution in the short term however it is questionable in terms of long term sustainability. Maybe Fusion will be a better answer. Renewable energy will become more mainstream in the next decade so the picture will change. As for Pandora’s Promise it was not a good film. Very badly done and nothing more than propaganda. It does not weigh out the pros and cons, and it is mostly just dishonest. I am not sure why it is getting so much press with SciAm since there are better energy documentaries to recommend.

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  3. 3. sault 1:16 pm 06/10/2013

    Nuclear’s role will be very limited. After Fukushima, people worldwide are much more skeptical than they were before, and even back then, people were wary of nuclear power. Many people remember the industry’s implosion in the 70′s and 80′s due to ballooning costs and horrible project management. Even today, reactors cost about $8B a pop and take around 10 years to build. Energy efficiency and renewables can be installed 10x faster or more, and with the climate clock ticking, we don’t have the time or the money to waste with slow to install and massively expensive nuclear power.

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  4. 4. tharter 1:46 pm 06/10/2013

    I’m no luddite. The problem is that this film misses the point. It isn’t a lack of understanding of nuclear power, nuclear radiation (I have done coursework in nuclear chemistry and handled radioactive material, I know what it is and how it works). The thing is it isn’t ABOUT technology. It is about the utter failure of our society to create a trustworthy steward of nuclear materials. Time and time again what we see is that our safety estimates, planning, and engineering are woefully inadequate. No matter how many times we try to improve these institutions they quickly degenerate back into captive institutions working at the behest of a profit-making industry or an elite class who isn’t answerable to the public.

    There’s no problem with nuclear energy itself, except it requires a degree of responsibility which is not possessed by MANKIND. The very fact that even with its relative lack of hazardousness when handled properly we have managed to screw up so badly and take such giant risks. No such risks need have been taken at all, yet they were. Fukushima could have had a 3 meter higher seawall like at least one of its sister plants had, but it didn’t. Chernobyl could have been run properly or had a containment building, but it didn’t. I could go on and on.

    Show me some sort of custodian for this technology which lacks the proven track record of humanity for being irresponsible and I’m all for it. Until then nuclear power remains a foolish proposition, and I’m afraid that isn’t ever going to change.

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  5. 5. M Tucker 2:00 pm 06/10/2013

    “It may not change the minds of baby boomer environmentalists whose fear of anything nuclear grows from deep historic roots and whose self-identities are too tightly bound to the expected tribal opposition to nuclear power. But to younger viewers, and to any viewer with an open mind, Pandora’s Promise may help encourage fresh thinking about the huge pros, as well as the better known cons,”

    Yeah, I know, those young folks haven’t seen any current problems with nuclear power…Oh, let’s ignore Japan. That doesn’t really count. I mean who could imagine anything that might interrupt power to a nuclear plant besides one that is located in a high seismic area with the threat of tsunami? I mean no one is predicting a CME that might interrupt the grid for a month or two or six right? A 9.0 earthquake and tsunami is much more likely than a CME that could shut down the grid right? I mean we will still be able to get gas or diesel for the backup generators if the grid goes down right? Anyway, those young folks don’t have any real history to reflect on.

    Are environmentalists the gatekeepers to nuclear power? Or is it that nasty “too expensive to compete against cheaper fuels” problem that will be remedied by “regulatory assistance”? Don’t you mean something like removing any liability to the utility company if there is a health or safety or engineering problem? Let’s look at a plant that has been in operation, now running at peck profit for the utility company, then comes and unfortunate engineering problem. It requires a 600 million dollar fix. Who pays? The rate payers! Then, oh no, that fix doesn’t work. Bad engineering. It requires another 600 million dollar fix. Again, who pays? Thank you Southern California Edison! Yeah, nuclear looks better all the time. Will any of these new generation reactors require cheaper technology, cheaper engineering, allow cheaper fixes if something goes wrong? It is hard to get past the price problem. Oh, and you didn’t mention that the waste needs to be stored at the plant even after it is retired, shutdown and decommissioned. I imagine that is not free. That’s a power plant that just keeps on giving (or taking), long after it is no longer useful.

    So is it a popularity issue that can be changed by young people? Or is it those nasty aging environmentalists and their imagined and overinflated estimates of risk? Well, I’m thinking those boomers ought to be getting pretty senile by now and they will even be worse off in about 10 years. Since the new tech is about 10 years off that should open the way for massive new construction. I’m just glad we seem to have enough time to replace all those nasty CO2 smokers before we “kill the climate.” This film is just the kind of entertainment that attracts young folks. Any day now we will see all the pro nuke demonstrations.

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  6. 6. marclevesque 3:14 pm 06/10/2013

    David -

    Some people have erroneous views on nuclear power, and some media have presented specious or emotional arguments against nuclear power.

    Considering that you and Pandora’s Promise are often using the same kind of specious and emotional arguments for the promotion of nuclear power, overall, how do you see this affecting the public’s trust in science and scientists ?

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  7. 7. rshoff 4:29 pm 06/10/2013

    Humans cannot manage such long term waste. If we can’t even handle CO2, how the heck to you think we can handle nuclear waste over the long term? You think it wouldn’t be so difficult to boil water.

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  8. 8. sethdayal 6:24 pm 06/10/2013

    All the usual suspects.

    Since there are obvoiusly no cogent or science based arguments against nuke power, the film clearly has no more obligation to mention Big Oil’s junk science anti nuclear spew as a “balanced” view than Al Gore does to mention the same Big Oil junk science spew from Denier sources in his films.

    The 1980s’s problems with nuke delays and cost overuns ,none of which existed in the seventies prior to the NRC, were 100% related to the appointment to the NRC of Big Coal shills like Peter Bradford by Big Coal’s Jimmy Carter. There were no safety related improvements.

    The VC Summer in S Carolina project 30% complete is on schedule to complete in 5 years at $4.5B/Gw and 7 cents a kwh the cheapest energy there is. Build by public power that cost would be under $4B/GW All 7 Candu’s built in the last 20 twenty years were built on time and on budget in 4 years and less at $2B/Gw – 3 cents a kwh. This the cheapest energy there is. With modular construction todays Gen III+ plants will drop in cost to 3 cents a kwh for public power and 3 year time frames. The new Gen IV machines will further reduce those numbers to a penny a kwh and 2 year build times.

    Large scale wind and solar plants take more than three years to complete, cost two orders of magnitude more and save no GHG’s at all being 100% dependant on inefficient gas backup run inefficiently. A deadly waste of time, treasure, and millions of lives annually in the AGW/air pollution war

    With new nuke costs in the US already half the cost of gas if built by public power, and still slightly cheaper if privately built, only corrupt regulation allows gas plants to be built. Gas prices are currently are less than half the cost of production and according to Forbes due to rise to cost shortly

    Not a single gas power plant would be built if owners had to guarantee the input price of fuel for 60 years like nukes in effect do. With the current crop of Big Oil corrupted regulators these sharks just build the dirt cheap gas plant and pass the gas price costs on to the rate paying sucker while tacking on a 15% gratuity needed to satisfy the graft.

    The only regulatory assistance needs is the removal of the regulatory corruption that favours Big Oil’s filthy gas product.

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  9. 9. sethdayal 7:10 pm 06/10/2013

    I always get a kick out of the low info no nuker with the rather silly human error spew.

    The kind of accidents that occurred at 50′s designed TMI and FUKU are impossible in a modern nuke and doubly so in a modern regulatory environment. FUKU only occurred in a corrupt third world regulatory environment that even the Japanese have eliminated.

    Even then the worst case nuke accident at FUKU hurt nobody and caused no long term damage maintaining almost 60 years of a perfect safety record for nuke power. The chance of a nuke accident in any new reactor are infinitismal in the same order of an asteroid strike destroying NYC.

    There is nothing complicated about a nuke plant. It consists of a few metallic cylinders filled with uranium pellets immersed in a thick steel pressured water tank. The water gets slowly pumped through a heat exchanger running a steam generator. Add a few control rods and some control electronics When things go wrong all that happens is the control rods drop and water keeps circulating – even a fire hose would do. A generation IV plant just shuts down when it gets too hot.Infinitely easier to keep safe than a 787.

    The human error stupidity is compounded by the impossible to store nuke waste crowd who refuse to accept that all world’s nuke waste would occupy a football field in space buried in old mines or equivalent like the US uses at WIPP’s or Finlad or Sweden has designed. After 300 years the stuff is safe to touch but not a good idea to eat. Composed of 99% usable fuel the stuff is going to burned in Gen IV reactors long before we hit 300 years.

    Now lets compare those infinitismal chances of harm with the absolute certainly that fossil fuels either burned directly or used to back up wind and solar murder every year 3 million souls and sicken more than a hundred million. Other than nuclear the only hope is that sometime in the distant future some yet unvisioned form a usuable energy storage will rear its ugly head and some kind of renewable/storage solution at 3 orders of magnitude the cost of nukes can take its place.

    Rather than just plain silly I think a case that could made that these folks who continue this foolishness long after the facts are pointed out, are just a form of ghoul who actually revel in the human misery they have a big part in causing.

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  10. 10. sethdayal 7:20 pm 06/10/2013

    “Pandora’s Promise mentions only in passing that these technologies are probably decades away”

    Probably because they aren’t decades away. I have no idea why the propagandist persists in this fiction.

    The Soviet Alfa sub ran successfully on Gen IV lead based nukes for a decade and several SMR’s with the same technology are on track for service in less than 5 years. The Russkii’s have worked out their Gen IV BN-600 on the grid for 10 years or so and both India and Russia have new Gen IV designs going into service this year in India’s 500 MW case at less than 3 cents a kwh and first of 5 to 2000. China’s Gen IV HTGR is under construction for 2017 service after a successful run as a test unit.

    GE has offered to have its design approved ready to build Gen IV IFR Prism in service as designed and tested at the Idaho National Labs in the early 90?s on its own dime within5 years if the Brits are willing to pay them to destroy their plutonium stocks.

    Numerous nuclear scientists and engineers believe they could have the MSR concept in service within 5 years – if the government was willing to overrule its Big Oil donators, pry 1% of the money spent on wind and solar and give them a shot on a technology already proven to work on a smaller scale.

    Finally, there is no cogent argument that today’s civilian nuclear industry has any effect on proliferation. As N Korea shows anybody can build a nuke weapon with a $10M test reactor.

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  11. 11. GuestPosting 8:40 pm 06/10/2013

    Too many millions of people have been sickened and killed by nuclear energy.

    (1) One MILLION deaths attributed to Chernobyl’s meltdown

    Read: “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment”

    (2) Statistically significant increase of One MILLION deaths attrributed to the Three Mile Island partial meltdown.

    Watch: (youtube) the award-winning video “Three Mile Island Revisited”

    (3) Fukushima children with Thyroid Cancer, bloody noses, diarreah, vomiting and more radiation-related diseases.

    Read: the headlines on ENENEWS

    (4) Horrible, continuing birth defects, neural tube defects, conjoined twins, microcephaly, etc. caused by Chernobyl radiation

    Watch: The Symposium on ‘The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident” which can be found on ENENEWS

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  12. 12. rshoff 8:46 pm 06/10/2013

    I think seth, that you’re downplaying the risks as much as the anti nuclear is ‘reacting’ to the danger… ‘reacting’ sorry for the pun.

    Anyway, I don’t think it’s as safe as you believe. Things happen. Things always happen. That is not limited to nuclear power plants and nuclear waste, but it does include them. It happens because we humans always mess something up. Always. Multiply that by 300 years, and it’s guaranteed. And there’s not a thing you can do about it. I’ve not heard the 300 years of a football field analogy before. Are you referring to heat or radioactivity? Perhaps thousands of years, especially when you take into account the exponential increase in reactor hours as we build more and more. As far as an asteroid striking NYC (kinda far fetched), what if that same asteroid strikes a nuclear waste depository instead? Also far fetched, but we’re talking risk management.

    So I agree that the technology is wonderful. And I used to fervently believe it was our solution. Years ago, back in the 80s. Now, I just don’t think we can manage it very well. As far as CO2, true, global warming might wipe us out, but it won’t damage the earth. Earth will convert the CO2 as soon as we humans are out of the picture…. Not true with the radio isotopes.

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  13. 13. rshoff 8:55 pm 06/10/2013

    According to this 2009 SA article, it takes about 250,000 years to become inert. Here’s the link if they allow it to be inserted to my comment.

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  14. 14. David Ropeik 11:45 pm 06/10/2013


    I guess we disagree on the definition of specious. Or emotional. A great deal of what I’ve written here and elsewhere about nuclear power, particularly about how ionizing radiation is not nearly as harmful to human health as is widely and naively assumed, is quite direct, factual, and cites reputable neutral sources.

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  15. 15. rshoff 1:19 am 06/11/2013

    from what I recall, 95% of the dna damage as a result of ionizing radiation repairs itself, or dissipates. That means 5% is residual. Of that residual, it aggregates over time with additional exposures.

    Furthermore, the damage from ionizing radiation may not affect an individual, while still affecting the decedents of a group of people as that chromosomal damage is handed down. So persistent or repeated exposure to ionizing radiation is much or more of a problem for our species as it is for the individual.

    Just some thoughts.

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  16. 16. sethdayal 1:24 am 06/11/2013

    I see you are still having problems reading rshoff.

    What part of 3 million dead and hundred million sickened every year we delay getting off fossil fuels are you not understanding. YOu are equating that to some touchy feely idea you dreamt up without evidence that a modern reactor will melt down and hurt people when a 1950′s designed reactor did meltdown and hurt nobody. Give your head a shake my friend.

    Then this claptrap about nuke waste. Do some reading my friend. We are not talking about neutral here, but just the equivalent of natural uranium. Big difference.

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  17. 17. sethdayal 1:26 am 06/11/2013

    Hey guest posting. Stop posting Big Oil junk science debunked years ago. This is a science blog.

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  18. 18. marclevesque 11:33 am 06/11/2013

    David -

    “I guess we disagree on the definition of specious. Or emotional”

    As you mention, some of what you say here and elsewhere is clearly relevant and accurate. My question is in the context of things like the following :

    “the central case of Stone’s main characters is ‘Trust us, we’re environmentalists and we hated nuclear power too’ … Stone establishes the trustworthiness of the his environmentalist protagonists”

    It is specious (fallacious) to advance that someone’s position is trustworthy, or has become more trustworthy, because they used to hold the opposite position.

    “Pandora’s Promise is open, earnest, unabashed advocacy, and it makes a persuasive case, using images and emotional framings that will resonate with innate affective cues that influence our perceptions of risk”

    And using framing, or emotional arguments, to move someone to take on a position says nothing about the validity of that position, and moreover, it makes it harder to get at and evaluate the issues from a scientific perspective.

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  19. 19. rshoff 12:15 pm 06/11/2013

    @Seth, stats are used by both sides. I’m against it and fortunately my vote counts. I am also correct. Technology is only a tool. It’s neither good nor bad. What you call touchy feely is a common sense that humanity has been gifted with. You don’t need to be a nuclear physicist to understand the human part of the equation of using a volatile tool such as a nuclear reaction to basically boil water is where the failures will continue to occur. And the perspective of what is better for humanity today is better for the planet for the next couple of hundred thousand years is wrong. The pro nuke clan’s dismissal of the risks of nuclear is based on a very human-centric perspective. Even if there were never another nuclear accident (where you cannot possibly capture statistics for the damage done), then what about the persistent waste that must be managed for tens of thousands of years. What if we aren’t even around by then to be guardians of our waste? What if we enter another dark age between now and then?

    All that still beside the point. If we continue along the nuclear route, there will be more accidents involving human error at the plants and lack of oversight and waste management. Those will happen more frequently as we exponentially increase production. Even if the incident per plant is reduced, the number of plant operating hours and the amount of waste will be exponentially increased. The net result -an increase in the number of overall accidents.

    How can people not ‘know’ this by simple observation about how the real world really works. That’s all science is anyway.

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  20. 20. rshoff 12:44 pm 06/11/2013

    Ok, I don’t know why I’m arguing against the pronukes. Nuclear power plants can be a source of cheap plentiful electricity for me into my retirement. That doesn’t sound like pandora’s box, it sounds like a treasure chest!

    No problem for me. I will not be living near a nuclear plant, nor its waste. But I will be alleviated of the economic and political consequences of purchasing energy from abroad. And it really doesn’t matter to me whether the earth is left dealing with an over abundance of CO2 or tons of nuclear waste that will persist for hundreds of thousands of years. My needs do not stretch beyond mid-century. And my reproductive years are behind me anyway. No problem there.

    So it would benefit me to support building nuclear plants after all!

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  21. 21. rshoff 12:51 pm 06/11/2013

    “and notes how for the baby boom generation, the fear of nuclear power grew directly out of the existential fear of nuclear weapons, and radioactive fallout from atmospheric weapons testing, and cancer, all of which fed the rise of the modern environmental movement.”

    Firstly, this is incorrect. We know the difference between a nuclear bomb and a nuclear water heater. Secondly, the ‘baby boomers’ have so far been blamed for the destruction of the economy, the destruction of jobs, the destruction of the environment. We are (wrongfully) blamed for handing the next generation a broken world. Well how about this. Is generation x and y about to embark on a path to do the exact same thing to generation z ?!

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  22. 22. TTLG 6:40 pm 06/11/2013

    The problem I see here is that something as potentially harmful as a nuclear reactor does not mix well with capitalist greed. This type of reactor can be built and operated safely (including waste), but doing so while also trying to maximize profits by cutting costs does not work. Which is why we keep seeing problems such as what caused the final shut down of the San Onofre power plant.

    Though, to be fair, I think the same sort of statement could also be made about the fossil fuel industry, what with black lung disease in coal miners to easily avoidable oil spills in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

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  23. 23. ochar 8:44 am 06/13/2013

    Who pays Articles of science fiction and future, on current science magazine? I congratulate you.

    But, could report what we are smokin, which does not permit also give value to real science, as to fund a scientific paper above the discovery of third world: OCEANOGENIC POWER?

    Or: which is what happens to us?

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  24. 24. bob_bresnahan 9:33 am 06/14/2013

    Intermittency is the basis of the pro-nuclear argument against reliance on wind and solar, and it is relatively simple to deal with using existing technology. I agree with Andy Revkin — we need to open the discussion about nuclear, particularly given the costs mentioned in this discussion. I would be astounded, however, if a rational discussion led to more than a supporting role for nuclear. The solution to our energy crisis is here — wind, solar, some supporting technologies, efficiency, and a few small (in the grand scheme of things) cultural changes. All that stands in the way is poor accounting, obscene self-interest, and politics. That may be enough to push us beyond the tipping point, and I doubt that an emotionally charged harangue over nuclear will do much more than delay progress.

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  25. 25. marclevesque 7:57 pm 06/15/2013

    “Pandora’s false promise”

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  26. 26. Cheesegypsy 12:57 am 06/17/2013

    I want to feel better about nuclear power, really I do, but solar and wind don’t ruin entire swaths of land for centuries to come if they fail, and last I checked all nuclear power plants are operated by humans. If you nuke folks are willing to move you and your family to Chernobyl, then maybe I’ll take a second look. As soon as a reactor is designed that cannot fail, then I’m all for nuclear, until then I’m for sticking a solar panel on every roof.

    Only utility-scale solar takes years. You can have them on your house in a couple of months, as we see happening every day in California (or on my roof). Distributed power is better for the future of the grid, anyway, and V2G technologies will wipe out baseload concerns. I leave the electric future to Elon Musk.

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  27. 27. bucketofsquid 1:08 pm 06/28/2013

    Just read about the lithium sulfur solid electrolyte battery. If it performs as expected then storage of off peak generation just became a lot more economical. As for nuclear, there are far less dangerous forms of nuclear fuels with much shorter half-lives such as thorium.

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  28. 28. Jfreed27 9:38 pm 03/22/2014

    The film’s premise is a. environmentalists killed nukes and b. they are the best solution to AGW.

    a. doubt it. California is as left as you get, and we have San Onofre (now decommissioned at the cost of $billions). I have seen figures that put solar/wind less expensive.

    b. Other alternatives are accelerating adoption and new one (such as tidal “wind) are coming on. Nuclear, even with billions in gov’t subsidies cannot pick up the pace in time to say under 2 dg. C. I do not get Dr. Hansen. He speculates about new nuke technologies, while knowing we have no time for this!

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  29. 29. Jfreed27 9:41 pm 03/22/2014

    Forgot to mention the Ted Talk between Brand and Jacobson. (“Does the World Need Nuclear Energy?”) Watch and make up your own mind.

    Link to this

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