James Hansen on nuclear power July 27. 2013

There was a video published in the New York Times by James Hansen (h/t my brother, Tim, and Hattie have asked me to comment on the piece). As many know, Hansen is the former head of NASA who recently left government to campaign about global warning. I found some difficulties in blogging, as his piece is the form of video, without the usual links to references.   For a meticulous scientist, he expresses his opinions on a wide range of topics such as economics, nuclear safety, without references.    In his piece he advocates on behalf on the new, fourth generation nuclear reactors without reference to what they were.   He says they are safe, despite the fact that they have not yet been developed.   This is a common plea, that, indeed, the old technologies are flawed, but that the new ones solve the problems.  He reports that Fukushima is “unfortunate,” at this time, and because it makes people doubt nuclear reactors.  He does say that the old reactors are unsafe with old technologies, but he does not say that they should be shut down.  He states that the problem of nuclear waste remains unsolved.   He minimizes the events at Three Mile Island, saying that the release of radiation is comparable to flying back and forth across country.  Unfortunately, he mistakes the release of one isotope, iodine, from the total release.

He does offer an interesting analogy about the airplane industry. However,  In the airplane industry, if a plane crashes, the entire fleet is grounded until the problem is resolved and the next version is made to be safer.  There are many lessons to be learned from the events at Fukushima, and the NRC plans to implement them at some time in the future.   Meanwhile, the aging reactors continue to run.

He makes a plea that objective scientists and not Jane Fonda should be the people to make the decisions about the safety of nuclear reactors.   However,   since the dawning of the nuclear age,  the information about the health effects of radiation have been suppressed and science has been politicalized.

He makes the argument that currently fossil fuels are the cheapest argument, without doing a reasonable economic analysis about the total costs of fossil fuels:  tax breaks for the oil companies, subsidies of the highways, involvement in foreign wars such as Iraq, source of so much oil.

There is also a movie, Pandora’s Promise, just released.  There is essay in the New York Times about Pandora’s Promise.   There is a strong voice from the pro-nuclear side.   I am reminded of my Friend the Atom.   Then I recalled that Paul Allen had been linked to Pandora’s promise, and googled Paul Allen and Pandora’s Promise.   The oldest link appeared in the Hollywood Reporter:

Paul G. Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, is lending his support to Robert Stone’s documentaryPandora’s Promise, which explores the idea that nuclear power can be used to combat climate change and provide energy to the developing world.  Vulcan Productions, Allen’s production company, is joining Jimand Susan Swartz and Impact Partners as a producing partner on the the film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

The next piece appeared in Forbes magazine.   Allen is quoted as saying: “Even before Pandora’s Promise was made, I’d become convinced that nuclear energy should be part of the climate change solution.”

The third piece comes from the Seattle News, written by Brian Miller, and is entitled: Pandora’s Promise: Would you buy a nuclear reactor from Paul Allen.  He states that the movie portrays 5 environmentalists who have changed their anti-nuclear stance and have come to believe in a nuclear future.   The only anti-nuke piece shows Helen Caldicott in an unflattering light.  He goes on to say:

But you have to study the credits and press notes to see how close Pandora’s Promise is to its subject. Gates, Nathan Myhrvold, and other tech-world peers of Allen are backers of Bellevue-based TerraPower, which seeks to make fourth-generation “traveling wave” reactors that are supposedly cleaner, safer, and more efficient than the kind that gave our state the costly Hanford and WPPSS debacles

Now the story seems clear to me.   The billionaires of this country have taken an interest in a local company, TerraPower.  They have the money to produce films to express their point of view.  Within this context, the piece by Hansen becomes part of a series of trailers for the movie about a company that is seeking R&D funds for their latest start-up.  It is a brave, new world.  Orwell would be impressed.  This piece is consistent with the corporate response that there will be nuclear reactors in the future and that dissent is to be marginalized.   Finally, in the ancient myth, Pandora is told not to open a box given her by the Gods.  She yields to temptation, and opens the box, and all the evils of the world escape.  Did we not open Pandora’s box with the explosion of atomic weapons, and has not evil come out with the world wide spread of radioactive material. Pandora’s Promise is that evil will come to the world?

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3 thoughts on “James Hansen on nuclear power July 27. 2013

  1. Pingback: Powerful voices speak for the nuclear industry | Vernon Radiation Safety

  2. Pingback: US govt chooses small Oregan company for grant for small nuclear reactors | Vernon Radiation Safety

  3. Pingback: Support for Nuclear Reactors | Vernon Radiation Safety

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