2014/09/28

TOP TEN WAYS Pro-Nuclear MEN STRIKE OUT WITH Anti-Nuclear WOMEN

TOP TEN WAYS Pro-Nuclear MEN STRIKE OUT WITH Anti-Nuclear WOMEN

(updated 2016/03/18)

Yes, this is a shameless attempt to create some click-bait. Nothing attracts internet traffic as well as putting a complex message in the format of a ten-point listicle related to dating tips, so I've put this spin on a list that sums up the pro-nuclear talking points that anti-nuclear proponents have tirelessly refuted over the years. It wasn't too much of a stretch to put the nuclear energy issue into this format because it can actually be seen as a perverse sort of mating ritual. One side wants to mess with the other’s genetic material, and the other has to decide whether to let that happen. Thus nuclear energy proponents play the suitor to a very skeptical object of attention who wishes not to have herself or the planet despoiled by radiation. Overconfident about their weak arguments and rhetorical skills, and underestimating the strength of counter-arguments, the would-be seducers miss the subtle cues that indicate they are failing to persuade. They might benefit from reading this list so that they can start thinking of better rhetorical tricks and pick-up lines, but I suspect that if there were any, they would have used them by now. Unfortunately, the majority of the population doesn't think too critically about the issue, so the lame arguments have been good enough to fool most of the people (and most journalists) most of the time.
Read more on this topic in this free book written by Ace Hoffman
1. You can use electricity and still be anti-nuclear

Supposedly, one is a hypocrite to be anti-nuclear if one has ever used an electrical appliance, as if there are no other ways electricity could be generated, or ways we could use less of it. Jane Fonda had great big hair in The China Syndrome way back in 1979 when she played a journalist investigating corruption at a power plant. The engineers in the story muttered among themselves about her hypocrisy because they were sure that she couldn't live without her hairdryer. Dan Aykroyd made great fun of this argument on Saturday Night Live the same year in a hilarious Point-Counterpoint segment of Weekend Update:

Who’d be the first to complain when the electricity goes out, Jane? You and your horde of promiscuous anti-nuclear harpies. I can just see you now sitting alone in your darkened apartment staring forlornly at your now useless vibrator. You’ll be humming a different tune then, Jane.

2. Anti-nuclear people are not unscientific, extremist conspiracy freaks

Someone, somewhere found a map of the 2011 tsunami rippling over the Pacific and declared over the internet that it showed the spread of Fukushima radiation stretching all the way to Chile. The message went viral for a while, and nuclear advocates had great fun using it as an illustration of the irrational panic over the disaster. Anti-nuclear people were said to be just a bunch of scientifically illiterate conspiracy freaks, incapable of rational assessment of the risks. The ridicule conveniently ignored the fact that most of the anti-nuclear movement is serious, well-informed and careful not to spread bad information. It was actually not too paranoid to suspect the easily-ridiculed rumors were a deliberate disinformation campaign designed to discredit legitimate criticism. When the truly awful news coming out of Fukushima isn't so easy to laugh at, the pro-nuclear side decides to lie shamelessly, turn off monitoring equipment, hide data, deflect attention, or just say nothing.

3. Nuclear energy is not the solution to global warming

The nuclear industry has been quite successful in getting the mainstream media to perpetuate the myth that nuclear energy is carbon free. But the line only works on people who don’t bother to ask some simple questions. If the pro-nuclear seducer realizes his target knows too much, he’s likely to become evasive and make excuses to move on. When pressed on the point, they admit that nuclear does have a carbon footprint, it involves tremendous ecological and health damage and risks, and—even if these problems didn't exist—it costs too much to provide a timely and significant reduction of global warming effects.

4. Nuclear weapons and nuclear energy are connected

Many have tried to argue that the world could have nuclear energy after abolishing nuclear weapons. Yes, hypothetically, it is possible. Thousands of people throughout history have taken vows of celibacy, so tomorrow it is possible that the entire population of the world will suddenly want to follow their example. In the same way, one can argue that nations could continue to mine uranium and enrich it, and create plutonium in their nuclear power plants, and never once be tempted to put a little aside for use in a bomb. However, sensible people are pragmatic when they look for ways to restrain the worst impulses of human nature, and pragmatism dictates that one should stay several steps removed from the most dangerous objects of temptation. The idealism of the nuclear proponents in this argument is remarkable because in most other cases they view themselves as the hard-headed pragmatists and their opponents as utopian dreamers. You actually have to be a utopian to insist that the nuclear industry could be de-militarized yet continue to exist only for peaceful purposes.

5. The banana equivalent and natural background radiation

All potassium on earth consists of a small percentage of radioactive isotopes. Bananas are rich in potassium, so every time you eat a banana you load your body up with a bit of radiation. Pro-nuclear explainers love to use the banana equivalent to tell people that they have nothing to worry about when they are caught downwind of a nuclear accident, or they have to accept a certain amount of radioactive cesium in the food grown on contaminated land. Potassium is a vital mineral that is always in our bodies, so we always carry a certain amount of internal radioactive contamination.
It is sad that so many professional engineers and scientists are not able to see the flawed logic here, or worse that they see it but don’t care because they think the argument is good enough to have an effect on the majority of people who won’t think about the issue too much. Potassium is always in our bodies, and the amount is always in the equilibrium that lets our nervous system function normally. Life has evolved over a billion years to co-exist with this very low level of radiation from a limited amount of potassium. Although cesium is chemically analogous to potassium in many biochemical reactions, the body doesn't have a way of keeping the level of cesium in equilibrium. If it is continuously present in the food supply, it accumulates in muscles and other tissues and can do serious damage. It doesn't just cause cancer. It kills cells and can, for example, cause fatal amounts of muscle atrophy in the heart.
In addition to cesium, nuclear accidents expose people to other isotopes that get absorbed internally. They pose specific radiological and chemical risks to different organs of the body. It is absurd to compare natural radiation exposure to the exposure that happens from man-made nuclear technologies. There is no banana equivalent.
A variation of the banana equivalent canard refers to natural background radiation. Various forms of natural radiation exposure (from high altitude flying, for example) are compared to the types of contamination that are caused by the nuclear industry. Nuclear advocates deliberately speak only about the external gamma radiation dose, always deflecting, or deaf to, questions about internal contamination. However, people living in a contaminated environment want to know specifically what damage will be done, for example, by the strontium in their bones or the plutonium in their gonads.

6. The total supply chain matters

The belief that nuclear energy is safe and carbon free relies on keeping people focused on nuclear fission, and not on how nuclear fuel is created or what is to be done with it after it is used. When nuclear waste must be discussed, nuclear experts ignore the larger volumes of mining waste and depleted uranium that have been left in tailings ponds, dumped in mine shafts, or spread more widely through the ecosystems around mines or in war zones where depleted uranium weapons have been used. Ideally, we should be asking questions about collecting and permanently isolating mining wastes from the environment, just as we do about storing used nuclear fuel, but the solution to the latter problem has been so elusive that no one in the nuclear industry wants to talk about the former. As with most of the items in the list, the attitude in the industry is to assure that the public maintains an awesome regard for the wizard while asking no questions about the man behind the curtain.

7. A nuclear waste solution does not exist

The nuclear industry likes to say that a solution is at hand, but they’ve been saying this for a long time. Nuclear power plants have existed for over fifty years, yet no country has built a permanent, functioning repository for nuclear waste. A few have been built, but waste containers in them failed just as critics predicted they would. The failure to construct repositories is often blamed on NIMBY politics, which is surely a factor, but the truth is that projects like Yucca Mountain in Nevada have been cancelled because of technical uncertainties about whether waste containers can stay intact for hundreds of thousands of years, and whether geological features will be reliably stable over the same length of time.
Another supposed solution for nuclear waste is that the next generation of nuclear reactors will burn up nuclear waste or leave only short-lived waste products. The problem is that the next generation is actually the last generation. Fast neutron reactors and thorium reactors have been built over the decades, and they have failed or been abandoned in development in almost every case. Only Russia successfully operates a couple fast neutron reactors, while France, the US, the UK, Japan and Germany have all wasted billions of dollars on this technology. Rebuttals to the next generation proposals raise objections in terms of long-term management of the complex technology (the need to dismantle and build new reactors long into the future in order to "burn up" all the existing nuclear waste), ecological issues related to mining thorium, high costs, long development timelines and political acceptance.
There is also the possibility that present marketing campaigns are no more than elaborate Ponzi schemes that have come into existence at a time when central banks are “printing” money and letting it slosh around in the financial system (as opposed to putting it in consumers’ pockets). You know something is fishy when you see banner ads suddenly appearing frequently that tell how you too can learn how to invest in thorium, “the future of nuclear energy.”

8. Flawed models for health surveys

The established norms for radiation safety were created by the military and civilian nuclear complex which had no motivation to support research that would produce unfavorable data. Dissenting scientists were continually sidelined, and the official view came to focus on external gamma radiation and cancer, whereas victims are more concerned about the long-term effects of internal alpha and beta radiation, and about both cancer and the non-cancerous health effects of radiation.
From the very beginning, doctors on the ground in Hiroshima protested against the censorship and the neglect of some of the observed health effects, by both the American Occupation and the Japanese government. In subsequent years, any time researchers found illnesses related to nuclear accidents, their findings were dismissed because they didn't fit the established “Hiroshima model” that was, besides being flawed, based inappropriately on a unique event in terms of bomb type, population affected, geography, soils and weather conditions.

9. False analogies to other risks

Hey, life is dangerous, right? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We take risks just get to a workplace every day. The average schmuck puts so much tobacco, booze, drugs and bad food into his body that it is hypocritical of him to worry about a few atoms of tritium in the drinking water. So the argument goes, but pointing out humanity’s tendency toward self-destructive risk-taking doesn't seem to support the pro-nuclear argument. This reasoning also conflates the risks that people freely choose to take with those that are imposed on them, or imposed on people yet to be born far into the future. Furthermore, even though it is natural to take risks, we have lines we will not cross in order to achieve our goals. If we are not pathological, we don’t sell our children into prostitution, or hire hit men to eliminate our rivals. The continuing accumulation of nuclear waste at nuclear power stations is the same sort of moral line many people do not want to cross. We don’t want to gain a benefit from anything that leaves future generations with this hazard.

10. No one has died from radiation at a nuclear power plant

Your point being???
The point doesn't seem relevant to anything, but even for this statement to be true, it has to be so narrowly defined that it loses whatever persuasiveness it might have. OK, no nuclear plant worker has ever died from acute radiation sickness during a nuclear emergency, but in order to celebrate this achievement, we have to say the firefighters who died at Chernobyl weren't officially nuclear plant workers. And, of course, the pro-nuclear lobby follows a capitalist ideology that easily dismisses Chernobyl as an anomaly created by an inferior political system. That line of thinking lost its power when three General Electric reactors melted down in capitalist Japan.
The statement is also true only if we exclude the two radiation deaths that occurred in 1999 in the Tokaimura accident in Japan. Those workers don’t count because they were mixing fuel at a nuclear facility but not at a nuclear power plant. The list of exclusions goes on like this. More importantly, any honest discussion of nuclear energy has to include all of its effects, including those that are inseparable from the military applications. Uranium is mined, processed and enriched to make fuel for both reactors and bombs, and the depleted uranium is used in weapons. Millions of people have been, and will be for a very long time, affected by the radiation that has spilled out of the activities of the nuclear industry, though no one can put a definitive number on the toll of death and disease. Additionally, the narrow focus on fatalities at nuclear power plants is also an absurd distraction from the sacrifice zones, social disruption, national security anxiety and social engineering that the nuclear age brought with it.

Further reading

I haven’t footnoted and referenced the points made here. Readers who want to question or know the basis of the information above can begin with these sources:

Svetlana Alexievich, Voices from Chernobyl (Picador, 2006).





Chris Busby, " It's not just cancer! Radiation, genomic instability and heritable genetic damage," The Ecologist, March 17, 2016.


Kate Brown, Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Y.I. Bandashevsky, “Non-cancer illnesses and conditions in areas of Belarus contaminated by radioactivity from the Chernobyl Accident.” Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, Lesvos Greece, May 5-9th 2009. Brussels: ECRR.

Helen Caldicott (editor), Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe (The New Press, 2014).

Stephanie Cook, In Mortal Hands (Bloomsbury, 2009).

Gabrielle Hecht, Being Nuclear (MIT Press, 2012).

Shuntaro Hida, Under the Mushroom-Shaped Cloud of Hiroshima: A Memoir by Shuntaro Hida, M.D. World Citizens for Peace, 2006. (Free book, published online).

Takashi Hirose, Fukushima Meltdown: The World’s First Earthquake-Tsunami-Nuclear Disaster (Createspace, 2012 Amazon e-book).

Ace Hoffman, The Code Killers. 2008. (Free e-book, pdf format).

Joseph Mangano, Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment (OR Books, 2012).

Gar Smith, Nuclear Roulette (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012).

Eileen Welsome, The Plutonium Files (Dell Publishing, 1999).


No comments:

Post a Comment