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Reblogged:Why does my (only) head still have hair, ...

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... and where are all the exploding nuclear submarines?

"It is only on the premise that the environmentalist movement is truly driven by a concern for human well-being that its vehement attacks on carbon-based fuels (without which human life as we know it in the developed world would be impossible), its cavalier lack of any alternative plan, and its active opposition to proposed alternatives (whether real ones like nuclear or hydro, or fantasized ones like solar), make no sense." -- Keith Lockitch ("Energy Privation: The Environmentalist Campaign Against Energy" (2011, continued here) originally in Why Businessmen Need Philosophy)

The only thing that surprises me about this disingenuous, cherry-picking op-ed against nuclear power is that it took so long for one to emerge from the bowels of the establishment media. The title just about says it all, when one keeps the above words in mind: "Nuclear Energy Backers Say It's Vital for the Fight Against Global Warming. Don't Be So Sure."

I don't have time to rebut the many obvious problems with this piece -- and Michael Shellenberger adroitly recaps and rebuts its general arc within the pages of Apocalypse Never, anyway -- but one little example with which I am more acquainted than average is worth considering.

In a piece that happily repeats many of the smears and innuendo against nuclear power that the press has happily doled out almost since its invention, Michael Hiltzik decides to use -- and I mean this figuratively -- the expertise of one Hyman Rickover, renowned as the father of America's nuclear navy:
Rickover abandoned any thought of using [early liquid sodium-cooled] reactors in his submarines. He determined them to be "expensive to build, complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shut down as a result of even minor malfunctions, and difficult and time-consuming to repair," as he advised his Navy superiors and technical experts at the Atomic Energy Commission in late 1956 and early 1957.
Image by U.S. Navy, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Although even Hiltzik has to admit Rickover's navy was "a success," it is clear he does this only so he can misuse his words to smear modern nuclear technology he knows little about, as well as to perpetuate the common and irrational fear of nuclear power most people have.

I haven't studied the modern design Hiltzik wants to scare everyone away from, but: It strikes me as a very odd way of thinking for someone who plainly wants to "leave it in the ground" to basically dismiss nuclear energy on the grounds of a reactor design from over half a century ago that was rejected -- also over half a century ago on the grounds of safety.

Furthermore, the man who rejected that design found one that was and is safe, as attested by the longstanding, excellent safety record of the nuclear navy. Hiltzik says nothing about that, apparently hoping we have forgotten about it by the time we've finished his screed against the old sodium-cooled reactor design that nobody is using.

We're to assume that nobody has thought of any improvement to the old design, that it would be a rip-roaring success in a free market even if it were unsafe, and that if any reactor design is unsafe, they all are.

And I sit here, like many other ex-submariners, scratching the hair I somehow still have on my somehow still-only head, at the willful evasion of someone who is somehow employed as a business columnist -- over a quarter of a century after I walked within feet of a running nuclear reactor on a daily basis over the course of several years.

Hiltzik doesn't actually indulge the cartoonish fantasies about "mutations" and exploding reactors that are a staple of popular culture, but I am sure he knows that many in his audience hold only slightly-less farcical preconceptions about nuclear power. (For example, Shellenberger notes that many people believe that a reactor can explode like a bomb, even though that is impossible.)

In any event, even if these things were true, since billions of people would die without access to reliable energy and recent troubles in Texas and Europe would seem to indicate that "renewables" aren't ready to take the load, Hiltzik's fixation on the alleged danger and unprofitability of nuclear power seems ... off ... to say the least.

Perhaps Hiltzik, rather than using Rickover's words to scare people, could try learning from his accomplishments. And that's just regarding safety. The news media, having scaremongered the public and officialdom into basically criminalizing nuclear power have thereby also made it inordinately expensive to deploy. But that's also a post for another day

Talk about "reporting on the problem you create," to borrow a very apt expression...

-- CAV

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