How popular is Nuclear energy exactly?


9:10 am - March 14th 2011

by Guest    


      Share on Tumblr

contribution by Climate Sock

Caring about international public views on nuclear power shouldn’t be at the top of many people’s to-do list right now. For one, donating to the Red Cross should be a lot of places higher (and that’s also, sort of, what I’m going to write about).

But pretty soon now, once the stories from Japan of individual tragedy and wonderful survival have been played out, much of the media will turn to the question of whether nuclear power is safe. And a part of that reporting will be, whether people think that nuclear power is safe.

We can safely assume that public enthusiasm for nuclear energy, around the world, is right now taking a battering (as I write, there hasn’t been a nuclear disaster).

In summary from those polls: over the last decade (and possibly longer), overt opposition to nuclear power has fallen significantly. Now (that is, from polls taken before the earthquake), a majority would support the introduction, or continued use, of nuclear power as one of the ways of generating electricity.

UK
I’ve written a couple of times before about attitudes towards nuclear power in the UK, most recently here.

Overall, there has been a relatively consistent fall in opposition to the continued use of nuclear energy to replace existing supply:

That said, other UK polls have shown that though nuclear power may not be so widely opposed as it had been before, it’s seen much less favourably than other forms of power generation. Nuclear only noses ahead of gas and coal when it’s put in the context of global warming and climate change. Read more on that here.

US
Polls from Gallup show that overall attitudes in the US have followed a similar trend. As in the UK, those supporting the use of some nuclear power overtook those opposing it around ten years ago. Since then, the lead has continued to widen:

More details from these polls are here. Intriguingly, the next wave should be due imminently.

As it happens, another annual poll in the US asks an almost identical question, and finds results that are significantly more favourable to nuclear power (now 71% in favour, 26% against – but the gap was wider until recently). This was conducted by a small organisation called Bisconti Research, through (the well-regarded) polling firm GfK. The head of Bisconti has been on the Board of Directors of the American Nuclear Society, and I don’t have access to the data tables. That’s all I’m going to say about that particular tracking poll.

Australia
I’m again drawing on the excellent Pollytics, who a while back compiled Australian polling data on attitudes to nuclear power. The polls only cover a period of a couple of years, but show a familiar picture of falling opposition:

nuke3

So, in these three countries at least, there has been a clear softening of opposition up to this year.

The polls now would certainly show a reversal of this, but that will be from a much higher position than it would have been a few years ago – even if the UK evidence suggests that support was lukewarm.

 

Apologies for having only covered such a small selection of countries (and ones with similar-ish poltical and media landscapes). Do let me know if you see anything interesting from elsewhere, or come across any post-earthquake polls. And don’t forget to donate.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Far East ,Foreign affairs ,Science

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


I think the public can understand that an 8.9 magnitude earthquake is a pretty extraordinary event, the fact all of the stations are still standing and, despite two explosions, haven’t yet caused a major environmental and health disaster is a pretty good example of just how safe nuclear power stations can be.

It’d be interesting to see if the fears of people over-ride the more obvious realities of how well the stations have coped with a huge disaster like this, thanks for the polling data 🙂

It remains a tragic turn 0of events that, of all countries, it should be Japan who is now suffering the threat of nuclear contamination. With the tragic consequences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki barely consigned to the annals of history, it remains bizarre that a country with such a past should embrace nuclear power.

As an island, Japan has, like Britian, the opportunity to embrace a whoe raft of alternative energy sources – wind, wave etc. Regrettably it has faield to do so. Now, as the aftermath of the tsunami subsides and we are left to burying teh dead, we must totally re-evaluate our energy requirements and embrace alternative sources before inconceivable disaster hits us.

it should be Japan who is now suffering the threat of nuclear contamination. With the tragic consequences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki barely consigned to the annals of history, it remains bizarre that a country with such a past should embrace nuclear power.

The absolute worst-case scenario for Fukushima is that the two sites that have already been shut down (the issue now is residual heat and decay of sub-products, not a chain reaction) suffer full meltdowns – which, in the context of the reactor design, means that the rods and fuel will melt into a big puddle, which will be contained by the three-metre-thick concrete shield underneath the reactor.

That will be a massive pain in the arse for Tokyo Electric, as two of their reactors will be unusable, unfixable, and hard to decommission. It makes less than bugger all difference to anybody else.

Japan uses nuclear power because it’s an energy-intensive economy without any natural resources, and so nuclear power is more sensible than importing coal or oil or gas. The Japanese, unlike some people in the West, are sensible enough to understand that a machine that uses a particular physical reaction to generate energy is very different from a machine that uses a particular physical reaction to kill people.

Internal combustion engines and terrorist bombs both work by creating explosive oxidisation reactions. I’m fairly sure nobody would be stupid enough to say “after the 7/7 attacks, how can we *possibly* drive around in cars…?”

4. Luis Enrique

consistent with what John B is saying above, this post by an MIT nuke scientist is worth reading

5. Luis Enrique

correction – not a nuke scientist, I read too quickly, apologies, plenty of people in comments casting doubt on analysis.

6. Huw Spanner

The word “nuclear” is associated in this country with two totally opposite and equally unreasonable positions. On the one hand, both the establishment and the general public seem to believe that Britain would be mad to give up nuclear weapons because they are an essential deterrent to those countries that would dearly love to nuke us. Which countries those might plausibly be, no one can actually say. North Korea? Iran? It’s all paranoid fantasy.

However, when it comes to nuclear power, suddenly rulers and ruled alike are overtaken by utter complacency. It’s only 70 years since the Luftwaffe was hammering this country – and in those days they didn’t have cruise missiles or bunker busters. But suddenly it’s taken as read that Britain could never come under attack during the lifetime of our nuclear power stations. Which seems to me unwarranted optimism, to say the least.

The fact is that nuclear power stations are a massive liability. Sure, they’re pretty safe – in times of peace and prosperity. But history tells us that those times do not last forever.

plenty of people in comments casting doubt on analysis.

If by “casting doubt” you mean “spreading hysterical, ad-hominem bullshit” (there are people suggesting there is no such thing as “a PhD scientist”, FFS. That’s, erm, someone with a PhD in a science subject…), then yes. If by “casting doubt” you mean “casting doubt”, then no, not really.

But suddenly it’s taken as read that Britain could never come under attack during the lifetime of our nuclear power stations. Which seems to me unwarranted optimism, to say the least.

Eh? There is no possible way in which any kind of conventional explosive could cause an uncontrolled release of radiation at a UK nuclear power station. Like the ones we’re dealing with here, their design makes this impossible.

OTOH, if we’re fighting an enemy with nuclear weapons, then it doesn’t really matter whether we’ve got nuclear power stations or not…

9. So Much For Subtlety

2. Tacitus – “It remains a tragic turn 0of events that, of all countries, it should be Japan who is now suffering the threat of nuclear contamination.”

An utterly irrelevant level of radiation that would probably even be good for those exposed to it. Nor do I see why it is especially tragic Japan suffers this.

“As an island, Japan has, like Britian, the opportunity to embrace a whoe raft of alternative energy sources – wind, wave etc. Regrettably it has faield to do so.”

Yeah but Japan actually wants to have power when they need it. They actually like cheap power too. They do not want to be paying ten times as much for power that comes on at random times.

“Now, as the aftermath of the tsunami subsides and we are left to burying teh dead, we must totally re-evaluate our energy requirements and embrace alternative sources before inconceivable disaster hits us.”

Nuclear has been tested as it has never been tested before. Nature threw everything it could at these reactors. And they survived pretty damn well. If anything they prove how safe nuclear power is.

10. So Much For Subtlety

8. john b – “Eh? There is no possible way in which any kind of conventional explosive could cause an uncontrolled release of radiation at a UK nuclear power station. Like the ones we’re dealing with here, their design makes this impossible.”

I don’t disagree with you in general, but actually that sort of thing simply serves as a red flag to a bull. There is no likely way that they could do so. But it is a simple engineering challenge if you say there’s no possible way. Enough conventional explosives, in the right shape, going through the containment shield and into the reactor core is a simple brute force approach. That it is extremely unlikely that anyone would pile a 2000 tonne shape charge in the right spot does not change the fact that it is possible.

Although, of course, the real threat is not to reactors. And I note you said power reactors. But other associated nuclear sites.

The problem is that the lights *will* go out within the next 10-15 years, the privatisation of electricity generation was bungled and it meant that investment was not encouraged: it was all about profits. So our power stations (fossil fuel and nuclear) are substantially the same as when they were privatised, and they cannot last much longer. We have to do *something*.

It is naive to say “replace them with wind turbines” since everywhere else in the world that has a large proportion of wind generated power also has fossil fuel power stations (or imports electricity from another country which has fossil fuel or nuclear power). The wind can stop blowing, you know. There has to be a balance.

Chris Huhne has shown that he has completely missed the point. Moving to a low carbon future means that there must be a huge shift towards low energy usage. Pathetic attempts like mercury laden CF light bulbs are not the solution. Instead, we need to have energy audits of every building and substantial grants provided to lower energy usage (heh, Keynesian). We need a large investment in connectivity and a huge shift in management attitudes so that telecommuting becomes the norm. We need a proper, integrated transport system to reduce the energy used in the travelling that we have to do. We have to realise that consumerism is wasteful and move to a lower growth, but more sustainable way of consumption.

Are this government doing anything about these issues? Nah! Huhne is a disgrace.

As for power generation, we should bite the bullet and finally accept that electricity is a strategic resource and it is too important to leave to the market. Regulation has to be introduced to impose mandatory investment in future generation by the current generation companies. The current situation is that they can make profits until their power stations stop working, and then they can simply walk away. There should be a requirement that if a company generates electricity, they should have the commitment to providing it long term.

Yet again, Huhne has been pathetic in his forward planning. But what else would you expect from a Lib Dem?

9. So Much For Subtlety – While acknowledging nature threw everything it had at those nuclear reactors, it remains to be seen whether japan will survive without devastating consequences. Looking at the current news, the prognosis is (thankfully) hopeful. However, I still stand to my original thesis and that can largely be described as – you show yourself to the enemy too iften and sooner, or later you are going to get shot. Can we truly afford the luxury of taking such risks when the consequences could be so terrible?

13. Huw Spanner

8. john b Presumably the designers of the Fukushima nuclear power plants said that there is “no possible way” that a tidal wave could result in two large explosions there. And the designers of the Twin Towers never imagined that flying an airliner into one of them would lead to its collapse. And the designers of the Mohne and Eder dams never imagined that someone would work out a way to blow them open. Which seems to suggest that human ingenuity can be trumped by a) really bad luck and b) yet more human ingenuity.

Huw, have you expressed to DECC your concerns about the re-emergence of the Luftwaffe as a threat to the UK and its nuclear power plants?

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 13 Huw Spanner

“And the designers of the Twin Towers never imagined that flying an airliner into one of them would lead to its collapse. ”

As I understand it, the pre-9/11 American attitude to terrorism on home soil wasn’t so much “our buildings can withstand it” as it was “nobody would dare”. Hence the ultimately tragic lack of security procedure on domestic flights. I doubt anyone thought about working out how well the Twin Towers would stand up to an attack in the first place, whereas I would very much hope that the builders of nuclear stations are more thorough.

‘Which seems to suggest that human ingenuity can be trumped by a) really bad luck and b) yet more human ingenuity.’

Well yes, with sufficient luck and ingenuity, you could probably wipe out 13% of the population of Belgium with a plastic coffee stirrer.

That doesn’t mean that, on the whole, assessment of relative risks of different power generation solutions isn’t mostly a job for engineers and scientists, rather than amateur philosophers and advertising agencies.

Something to throw into the mixer… Speaking to a physicist friend of mine last year about energy etc I asked him, as a point of interest, how much plutonium, uranium etc there was available to provide electricty.

Now his answer was, naturally, full of caveats along the lines of based on projected demands…. current knowledge of mineral deposits….. current and likely developments in mining and purification technology and so and so forth but, his answer (which was quite literally scribbled on the back of a beer mat) was somewhere in the order of 150-200 years worth.

Now of course we should hardly base energy policy on the basis of what one physicist to a random bloke over a couple of pints of Old Peculiar however whatever the answer to how much radioactive material there is in the earths crust to play with that answer will ultimately be a finite number and just like fossil fuels will one day run out.

So while nuclear may be a medium term solution maybe we need to be thinking longer term of those sources that will never run out.

I genuinely hope this doesn’t put back the case of nuclear power significantly.

Really it should be seen as a success, a 70s power station with what would now be considered a flawed design (no gravity based water cooling system that would work regardless of power for example) has gone through an unprecedented earthquake many times stronger than it was designed to withstand and tsunami and likely the very worst that could happen will be a molten core sealed and localised to that very point and quite possibly will not even get that far.
It demonstrates a success of the earthquake warning system and the reactor design even in the worst case scenario of Fukushima.

I used to be fundamentally opposed to nuclear and like the majority of those who are anti-nuclear power (including it seems the leading lights of such groups) I basically had no idea how it worked assumed there would be immense amounts of waste lots of danger of nuclear explosions and chernobyl like disasters and terrorist attackes etc etc.
It turns out almsot all of these claims are wrong.

It annoys me so much the Greens (a party whose policies I increasingly support) do not support nuclear, clearly do not seem to understand it and not only that actively mislead the public and their supporters on the issue (see the thing they put out on sunday to do with nuclear power)

I happened to hear some stuff about nuclear power and did some research into it (on the way learning things like chernobyl which was a dangerously old reactor type illegal in the west whose meltdown was caused by human error which would have been farcical if it wasnt do horrific) and on reflection of the actual facts completely changed my mind.

If we want a low carbon future (and we emphatically need one), and large safe and reliable engery sources at a reasonable cost realistically nuclear is the best option. A plurality of sources is of course a good idea but the benefits of replacing coal power with modern nuclear are so large we would be fools not to.

Fusion is the real future but till we get that generation 3+ and in the next few decades gen 4 nuclear reactors are the best option.

You have to consider electricity usage is going to increase significantly in the future and i f we want to move to electric cars for example we need nuclear.

Eh? There is no possible way in which any kind of conventional explosive could cause an uncontrolled release of radiation at a UK nuclear power station. Like the ones we’re dealing with here, their design makes this impossible.

Ummm really? You’re absolutely sure about this, given that a tsunami has managed forced the govt to evacuate people 60miles from the plants?

Secondly, nuclear energy is entirely as cost effective as renewable energy – ie, not very much. But one produces a LOT of radioactive waste and is dangerous and takes years to get off the ground, the other doesn’t. I know which one I prefer.

20. Planeshift

“So while nuclear may be a medium term solution maybe we need to be thinking longer term of those sources that will never run out.”

well a resource with a time frame of 150 to 200 years left will be hell of a lot better than oil, and as it is cleaner will also help with carbon emissions.

Rumours are though that witnesses at the nuclear facilities overheard a loud scream of “DOH!” just before the explosion.

@11 Richard Blogger

Well said!

SMSF – red rag yes, but – certainly for the UK’s reactors out there – even Arthur Harris’s best job wouldn’t have brought them down. That was a design criterion.

Huw – the Jap reactor was built to stand a Richter 8 earthquake. It’s survived something way beyond the design threshold. Similarly, the WTC was designed to have a 727 flown into it – it just wasn’t designed to have a just-taking-off-fuel load transcontinental 767 flown into it.

Sunny – there isn’t any nuclear risk. If I were in Japan and had nothing better to do, I’d head to Fukushima for a picnic and a chat. The reason for the evacuation is simply bureaucratic – if the media are saying “OMG NUKE RISKS!!!!!” then nobody wants to be the dude who says “actually, it’s all fine, sod it”. Being part of the chain of command that makes everyone leave their homes in the aftermath of an earthquake for no reason is objectively far worse, but it isn’t going to get anyone fired.

23. So Much For Subtlety

17. Akela – “So while nuclear may be a medium term solution maybe we need to be thinking longer term of those sources that will never run out.”

That is probably true with our present extremely inefficient once-through Light Water reactors. But with a move to Fast Breeders, we will never run out of resources. Literally never. Not until we run out of granite first.

To all intents and purposes nuclear power can support an indefinitely large number of people on this planet for an indefinite period of time.

24. So Much For Subtlety

19. Sunny Hundal – “Ummm really? You’re absolutely sure about this, given that a tsunami has managed forced the govt to evacuate people 60miles from the plants?”

Or to put it another way, the worst that could possibly happen (short of a volcano openly up underneath the reactors) happened. And the results were minor. The evacuation is a PR stunt, not for any real safety reason. Indeed it is likely to kill more people than the accident. As Three Mile Island probably did.

“Secondly, nuclear energy is entirely as cost effective as renewable energy – ie, not very much. But one produces a LOT of radioactive waste and is dangerous and takes years to get off the ground, the other doesn’t. I know which one I prefer.”

Nuclear power, after coping with deliberate Green efforts to kill it, is about as cost effective as renewables. But it is still reliable. We get the power we want when we want it. Can’t say that for anything but hydro. It does not produce of lot of anything except heat and power. The waste is small in volume. A reactor twice as big as this one would produce a cubic metre of waste a year. It takes years to get off the ground because of obstruction and it takes less time per megawatt hour of power produced. You can build a small wind turbine quickly. But to build 1000 megawatts of them takes a long time.

As for danger, to quote James Delingpole, who may be right:

Nuclear fatalities in the last ten years: 7

Wind farm fatalities in the last ten years: 44.

Renewables are also more dangerous. Vastly more dangerous if you look at dam failures.

SMFS,

Vastly more dangerous if you look at dam failures.

Ah yes, Banqiao Dam.

But do you really think wind farms are more dangerous than nuclear power plants? In the sense of comparing worst case scenarios, say?

26. So Much For Subtlety

25. ukliberty – “Ah yes, Banqiao Dam.”

The worst hydro-electric dam failure I can think of, but not the only one. The one I was thinking of, of course.

“But do you really think wind farms are more dangerous than nuclear power plants? In the sense of comparing worst case scenarios, say?”

The problem with wind farms is not the worst case scenarios. It is the routine every day deaths that are part of wind power. Boring, mundane deaths, but deaths none the less. People falling to their deaths while they clean solar cells for instance. Or repair wind turbines. People who have things drop of them. It is the difference between terrorist atrocities that kill reasonable numbers of people in a spectacular fashion and the every day carnage of cancer or the roads which is barely even reported.

So no, I don’t think comparing worst case scenarios is sensible. Nor is the every day routine deaths. But an overall picture that looks at both is sensible.

SMFS,

So no, I don’t think comparing worst case scenarios is sensible. Nor is the every day routine deaths. But an overall picture that looks at both is sensible.

Agreed.

Bit late coming to this thread but it appears that many of the previous comments were a little premature in view of further developments.
We need to look at the whole picure and the real end game before we can make any realistic analysis.

Until last night I was very much of the opinion that the media were whipping this into a shit storm, but unfortunately things have taken a turn for the worse and made a lot of experts who were saying a harmful leak was impossible look a bit disingenuous.

I still think that it is being over-hyped relative to the rest of the very serious harm from the earthquake and tsunami; there’s a psychological element to the perceived invisible threat from radiaition.

A few people are now saying this reactor type was obsolete and would have been replaced by safer technology but for anti-nuclear opposition, but that seems a bit convenient, as no one seemed to be saying this before. On the other hand the plant did stand up fairly well to an unprecedentedly powerful earthquake (which will not be a risk in western Europe.)

I fear the threat from increased fossil fuel use if this leads to mass abandonment of nuclear. Fossil fuel burning also releases masses of radioactive, and otherwise toxic, material straight into the atmosphere. We have to generate power somehow, and the actual human casualty list from this nuclear incident will likely still be low in the scheme of things, but it’s hard to preach relative risk when people are suffering and it seems insensitive. Lots of people will have been killed by bridges or other structures collapsing, but somehow that seems more intuitively acceptable: the risk in building them does not seem too great, even if they will kill people when they collapse in an earthquake. I feel I cannot satisfactorily explain why though. Sorry if this post seems confused, I need somewhere to vent my thoughts.

A few people are now saying this reactor type was obsolete and would have been replaced by safer technology but for anti-nuclear opposition, but that seems a bit convenient, as no one seemed to be saying this before.

With respect, was anyone interested in Fukushima before? AIUI, the reactors in question are over 30 years old – it’s no surprise that the design is obsolete and the hardware due to be decommissioned.

I am pro-nuclear and I agree, so you don’t really need the ‘wadr’ prefix. But I am a little shocked that two days ago I was showing people the assurances by experts that it was impossible for there to be a radiation leak, and now the final-defence containment appears to have cracked, which was said to be impossible. It hasn’t made them (or me) look very good, but overall I’m still starting to lean back towards this being overhyped relative to the earthquake and tsunami themselves.

“Do let me know if you see anything interesting from elsewhere, or come across any post-earthquake polls. ” Well, I must say the debate and public attitude here in Germany is completely different to what appears to be the case in the UK:

http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/deutschlandtrendakw100.html

The vast majority of the German public want to see the country out of nuclear energy as soon as possible. Governments of all colours here agree that nuclear power needs to be ditched in favour of renewables. The only question is the time span. There’s a growing technical confidence, based on real industrial development, here that renewables can deliver over the next 10 to 20 years. In comparison, commentators in the UK seems strangely pessimistic – and thus are inclined to favour nuclear.

Having watched the debate in both the German and the British media for the past 10 years or so, I can only conclude that the relative strength of the Greens in each country has shaped such different agendas. Scientific knowledge about nuclear power in Germany has to some extent been shaped by the Austrian experience (they shut down all their nuclear reactors some years ago), where substantial physical defects have been found inside decommissioned reactors. But there is too a clear understanding that the big generating companies that run nuclear hinder renewables through their domination of the energy market. And there are many new jobs riding on the latter (the German TUC strongly opposes nuclear).

Scientific knowledge is a strangely malleable thing, driven in certain directions by both economic and political forces. When so-called “medical experts” argue that all cyclists should by law wear a helmet, you just know that their socio-political expertise is less than zero.

Tom @32, I think too many people (on all ‘sides’) spoke too soon about it, given the rapidly changing situation. But in a sense I blame the anti-nuclear and sensationalist elements in the media for this, because if there are people shouting “we are all going to die” and it looks like we aren’t, it’s inevitable that someone will stand up and say we aren’t and possibly get details wrong (not worded that very well, but I hope you see what I mean).

I think too many people (on all ‘sides’) spoke too soon about it, given the rapidly changing situation. But in a sense I blame the anti-nuclear and sensationalist elements in the media for this

Well you have no business doing so. There have been a succession of experts on blogs and in the media, telling us that now the situation is being brought under control, and that in any case the worst case scenario is really not that bad anyway.

Wrong and wrong.

Whatever “sensationalist elements in the media” may say, the reality is an ongoing, multi-faceted emergency, which the authorities are desparately struggling to deal with, and with a genuine possibility of a worse disaster to come.

Let’s all just hope that now things really are finally being brought under control.

Larry,

Whatever “sensationalist elements in the media” may say, the reality is an ongoing, multi-faceted emergency, which the authorities are desparately struggling to deal with, and with a genuine possibility of a worse disaster to come.

Had a slightly more balanced version of this been ‘the message’ I wouldn’t have commented @34.

@34 completely disagree, quite the opposite. I think you will find that opinion, certainly in Japan is that media sources are being blamed for not releasing information about the situation quick enough.

I have noticed that our media, in particular the beeb has rolled-out countless spokepeople/experts telling us that the situation is under control, there is no increasing risk, the radiation levels are declining. There have been conflicting stories on all media sources (particularly web). I would imagine vested interests, particularly professionally, have led some experts to play-down this situation, or ‘say whatever to avoid nuclear hysteria’.

@37 Spot on, DavidM. I’ve been checking the news coverage in Germany and the UK, and the difference between groups of “experts” is unbelievable. German TV has brought in scientists from the industry, universities, institutes and the environmental movement. Only industry spokesmen (yes, all men) have echoed the line that the BBC is currently spouting. From over here, it looks as though the UK is the victim of information control much like Japan.

DavidM @37,

@34 completely disagree, quite the opposite. I think you will find that opinion, certainly in Japan is that media sources are being blamed for not releasing information about the situation quick enough.

I have seen Japanese complaints about the lack and quality of information.

But I’ve had news.google.com in the background and since the nuclear ‘issue’ started being talked about it seems to have had undue prominence relative to the the numbers of people killed, injured, displaced and made without water, food and electricity by the earthquake and tsunami.

I have noticed that our media, in particular the beeb has rolled-out countless spokepeople/experts telling us that the situation is under control, there is no increasing risk, the radiation levels are declining. There have been conflicting stories on all media sources (particularly web). I would imagine vested interests, particularly professionally, have led some experts to play-down this situation, or ‘say whatever to avoid nuclear hysteria’.

It’s funny that it’s the other team that has ‘vested interests’ – my team is completely objective.

ISTM a good thing that they are attempting to avoid ‘nuclear hysteria’ – the last thing that the Japanese people need is more stress, if such a thing is possible. What they ought to be told is the best means of mitigating risk to themselves and their loved ones from all the circumstances. AIUI they are now getting on with this regardless of the Western mainstream media.

Perhaps either / both of us are affected by confirmation bias.

Richard,

German TV has brought in scientists from the industry, universities, institutes and the environmental movement. Only industry spokesmen (yes, all men) have echoed the line that the BBC is currently spouting.

What line is that? ISTM the picture painted by the BBC about the nuclear situation is a dreadful one.

Have nuclear physicists or people qualified to talk about nuclear physics and radiation exposure – iow not some bloke from Greenpeace or FoE who is ‘a writer and environmental activist’ – said the situation is really dreadful?

The BBC were hyping this up out of all proportion from the start. It looks more to me as if they are now a bit embarrased so are treading a careful retreat from the more exagerrated claims. Burning crude oil in the refinery fires must be causing far worse pollution, but the nuclear aspect has become a soap opera (not helped by the threatening appearances of the people in suits etc. due to greater risk aversion), so every development is still ‘breaking news’.

@39 ukliberty. By the BBC line, I mean “everything is under control”.

The important issue about media coverage of any event is the implied agenda, and the difference between the UK and Germany here is vast. In the UK, we are still debating nuclear power safety in terms of statistical probabilities of a certain kind of accident, whether 1 in a 1,000 or 1 in 1,000,000,000. In Germany, it was long ago agreed that a) playing casino games with nuclear safety was not acceptable; b) nuclear power is actually extremely expensive; c) power generation from a subsidised nuclear power industry stifled the development of sustainables – all forms compete for the same market; so d) nuclear power will be phased out.

Statistically this nuclear accident was not meant to happen. Japan has one of the most technically advanced nuclear industries in the world. They thought they could account for anything nature might throw at them. They couldn’t. And after all these years of nuclear generation development, where is the sustainables industry in Japan?

ukliberty@ 39

Disagreements about the ‘quality’ of the news coverage are just that. Let’s beg to differ.

By vested interests I was not concocting a conspiracy theory. I merely feel that making a living in a particular area, experts will be pre-disposed to protect their positions. I have seen/heard experts that have put forward more critical (?) predictions of the unfolding situation. I am considering opinion ‘on the whole’. I hope you are willing to consider myself as unbiased as you. Although I know nothing of you or you of me 🙂

Mitigating risk. Just think about it. If you were living some distance from the Fukushima plant and felt that perhaps it would be safer to put as many miles between you and it for a better chance of survival for you, your family, friends?

Or close the doors, shut the windows and put on a paper mask?

I can’t help but remember the scary protect and survive ‘precautions’ from the seventies.

Also, fyi I have worked in and around this industry, albeit some years ago. The factors raised by @41 reveal why I felt compelled to respond to earlier posts that were complacent about the risk and confident about the advantages.

ukliberty@ 39

Disagreements about the ‘quality’ of the news coverage are just that. Let’s beg to differ.

By vested interests I was not concocting a conspiracy theory. I merely feel that making a living in a particular area, experts will be pre-disposed to protect their positions. I have seen/heard experts that have put forward more critical (?) predictions of the unfolding situation. I am considering opinion ‘on the whole’. I hope you are willing to consider myself as unbiased as you. Although I know nothing of you or as you of me 🙂

Mitigating risk. Just think about it. If you were living some distance from the Fukushima plant and felt that perhaps it would be safer to put as many miles between you and it for a better chance of survival for you, your family, friends?

Or close the doors, shut the windows and put on a paper mask?

I can’t help but remember the scary protect and survive ‘precautions’ from the seventies.

Also, fyi I have worked in and around this industry, albeit some years ago. The factors raised by @41 reveal why I felt compelled to respond to earlier posts that were complacent about the risk and confident about the advantages.

Richard,

The important issue about media coverage of any event is the implied agenda,

Or inferred!

… and the difference between the UK and Germany here is vast. In the UK, we are still debating nuclear power safety in terms of statistical probabilities of a certain kind of accident, whether 1 in a 1,000 or 1 in 1,000,000,000. In Germany, it was long ago agreed that a) playing casino games with nuclear safety was not acceptable; b) nuclear power is actually extremely expensive; c) power generation from a subsidised nuclear power industry stifled the development of sustainables – all forms compete for the same market; so d) nuclear power will be phased out.

It’s interesting that 100% safety is demanded from nuclear but not – apparently – from any other means of energy production.

Note to all pro-nuclear activists: the time to crow about what a great safety record the industry has, and gloat about what a triumph this all is, is *after the situation has been brought under control* rather than *while the reactors are exploding*.

46. Shatterface

No power source is 100% safe

As a percentage of environmental damage caused by the energy industries how much is attributable to nuclear energy as opposed to nuclear power?

How many have died due to irradiation as opposed to mining accidents or pneumoconiosis?

How much global warming is due to nuclear power?

How many wars have been fought, so far, over nuclear resources?

Nuclear power stands to the coal industry as exstacy stands to alcohol: a small number of high profile disasters compared to a greater but largely unreported casualties.

47. Shatterface

Sorry, had meant to write that in English.

@shatterface.

We are looking forward to the future when decisions about nuclear power are made, not back to the past. Try testing your questions against wind and solar power. This is the investment choice for the next 30 years – nuclear or renewables.

49. Chaise Guevara

@ 46

If we invest solely in renewables from now on, though (assuming we don’t inject a hell of a lot more funds than we would otherwise), we won’t be able to meet energy demand.

So the options would be:

1) Carry on with fossil fuel, continuing to wreck the environment and putting ourselves at an ever-increasing risk when supplies run low.
2) Move from conventional energy towards nuclear, creating more risk of major catastrophes and failing to wean ourselves off non-renewable resources.
3) Move solely toward renewables, and end up with a power supply that is either punishingly inefficient or sporadic.
4) A rather more palatable combination of the above.

I think the best policy is to use a priority system: use renewables where viable, then nuclear, then fossil. Although you’d also want room to manoeuvre for specific situations.

43
As far as I understand, we demand 100 percent safety from all energy sources and most products sold in the UK have to meet quite stringent safety standards.

“Lies, damned lies, and polls.”

The author has selected just a few polls from many – but the overwhelming majority show widespread public opposition to new nuclear:

* Poll on nuclear power: 73% of Europeans want nuclear reduced or maintained. 34% want nuclear reduced and only 17% want it increased. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_324_en.pdf

* Most popular spending cut is to subsidies for new nuclear plants. http://climateprogress.org/2011/03/03/poll-spending-cut-subsidies-new-nuclear-plants/

* Poll: Opposition to nuclear power: Germany (63%), Russia (60%), France (57%). “There is lukewarm support for more nuclear energy in the context of reducing reliance on fossil fuels. … Strong majorities across the 19 countries want governments to actively address energy issues, especially through tax incentives to develop renewable energy supplies (80% favor)…” http://www.globescan.com/news_archives/bbcwsenergy/

* Global public opinion on nuclear energy: only 28% want more nuclear power; 34% say build no new ones; 25% want all nuclear plants closed. http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Reports/gponi_report2005.pdf

Pretty much the only time people support nuclear is when they are offered a worse situation – e.g. unmitigated climate change. Thing is, the suggestion that it’s a choice between accepting nukes or accepting unmitigated climate change is a huge lie propagated by the nuke propaganda department and regurgitated by the Useful Idiots (present and correct in this thread!).

> We can safely assume that public enthusiasm for nuclear energy, around the world, is right now taking a battering…

And the rest! Also, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where public opinion is going to head following the Japanese disaster that is still unfolding.

> (as I write, there hasn’t been a nuclear disaster).

There certainly is now. Explosions, radioactive contamination tens of kms away, failed attempts to cool the reactors. Even if there’s a miracle and they get all the nukes under control with no further release of radioactive material, the Japanese have just written off several multi-billion nukes and a large lump of land that will be poisoned for centuries or millennia.

‘Clean, safe’ nuclear power strikes again.

8. john b:

> There is no possible way in which any kind of conventional explosive could cause an uncontrolled release of radiation at a UK nuclear power station.

There are two options. You’re a laughable nuke shill. Or you’re a cretinous idiot. Or you’re parodying a nuke shill or cretinous idiot. So that’s three options.

~~~

11. Richard Blogger:

> The problem is that the lights *will* go out within the next 10-15 years,

No, they won’t. It’s entirely possible we will be leading different lifestyles with much more efficient homes, much higher use of feet, bicycles and public transport – but the lights will not go out. That’s just ignorant, unfounded fear-mongering.

> It is naive to say “replace them with wind turbines” since everywhere else in the world that has a large proportion of wind generated power also has fossil fuel power stations…

A nonsense argument. It’s like claiming in 1900 that cars could never replace horses because most people still use horses.

Scotland plans to be 80% wind-powered by 2020 – recently raised from 50%. Denmark 50% by 2025. Wind energy works and the UK has more than enough to power the entire country *and* export to Europe.

> The wind can stop blowing, you know.

Amazingly, energy scientists and engineers are aware of this phenomenon. Did you think they weren’t?

* Wind Power and the UK Resource. “Wind power greater in the winter and during the day; wind power delivers around two and a half times as much electricity during periods of high demand as during low periods of demand. … Low wind speeds affecting 90% or more of the UK would occur in around one hour every five years during winter”. http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/publications/downloads/sinden05-dtiwindreport.pdf

~~~

15. Chaise Guevara:

> …I would very much hope that the builders of nuclear stations are more thorough.

That’s what they hope for: the credulous and ignorant assuming that it’s all under control and totally safe. Evidently some people are so credulous that they don’t see reality staring them in the face. “You can fool some of the people all of the time….”

> If we invest solely in renewables from now on … we won’t be able to meet energy demand.

Evidence for your startling claim? Oh, I remember – *you* don’t need any. Your opinion is irrefutable. Idiot.

* David MacKay’s “…inflated demand figure of 490 GW is nowhere near our real energy demand, and has mislead people into believing the myth that Britain’s energy demand exceeds its renewable resource, whereas the reverse is true: our renewable resource is much greater than our energy demand.”

~~~

19. Sunny Hundal:

> Secondly, nuclear energy is entirely as cost effective as renewable energy – ie, not very much.

You’ve got that right about nukes – but renewables’ inexorable fall in cost makes them *very* competitive with fossils. Try these:

* Wind power cuts your electricity bills. http://www.350resources.org.uk/2010/07/25/all-power-to-the-wind-%E2%80%93-it-cuts-your-electricity-bills/

* California Buys 20 Years of Solar Power for Less than Natural Gas. http://cleantechnica.com/2011/02/01/sce-buys-20-years-of-solar-power-for-less-than-natural-gas/

* Solar Photovoltaic is Cost-Competitive Now. There are places and PV systems today that can sell electricity at 10 c/kWh. They are cost-effective without incentives, no carbon price, no traditional depreciation. As years go by they will diffuse from the sunniest to less sunny places. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2010/06/solar-photovoltaics-pv-is-cost-competitive-now?cmpid=rss

~~~

33. Richard Grassick:

> The vast majority of the German public want to see the country out of nuclear energy as soon as possible.

Yes, it appears the German people are very educated about these matters – and also your political dialogue is not polluted so much with corporate propaganda.

> When so-called “medical experts” argue that all cyclists should by law wear a helmet, you just know that their socio-political expertise is less than zero.

Yes, another area where ideology takes over from evidence. They are trying to introduce such a law in Northern Ireland right now. You may have noticed that it is never cycling organisations that call for these laws – it’s the car-loving, pro-pollutionists who suddenly become concerned about the health of cyclists and want to force them to put on a helmet to cycle 100 m. to buy a litre of milk. 😉

P.S. Do not judge British sentiment with what you see in comment threads – especially on left-wing blogs such as this one which are infested by right-wing trolls and their sockpuppets.

~~~

Nukes = dangerous, expensive, dirty, slow to build.

Renewables = clean, safe, quick to deploy, and economically and socially *sane*.

And we still consistently under-estimate the risks involved: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/risk-of-nuclear-technology/

Here’s a nice way to keep nuclear power popular. Just compare the Guardian’s (tucked away) take on the latest news from Japan today:

“The detection of plutonium could mean that there has been a partial meltdown at reactor number 3, though that cannot be confirmed”.

with that of Die Zeit in Germany:

“Toxic plutonium has been found on the ground around the Fukushima nuclear power plant-1 . Japan’s government admits what experts said long ago: A meltdown has taken place”.

Meanwhile, the Greens are excluded from tonight’s STV debate in the run up to the Scottish elections. Two days after the Greens come to power in Baden-Wurtemburg. Who needs “helpful idiots” when the media can merrily censor any kind of information that might make nukes unpopular?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    How popular is Nuclear energy exactly? http://bit.ly/fVrGdz

  2. Dave Shoreham

    How popular is Nuclear energy exactly? http://dlvr.it/K9dwV

  3. Cassidy Baker

    How popular is Nuclear energy exactly? | Liberal Conspiracy: How popular is Nuclear energy exactly? by Gue… http://tinyurl.com/4lrutl8

  4. Michael

    RT @libcon: How popular is Nuclear energy exactly? http://bit.ly/fVrGdz

  5. Liberal Democrats rattle Cameron over the NHS, Britain’s nuclear power plans are shaken by events in Japan, and liberal interventionism is presented with a new test case in Libya: political blog round up for 12 – 18 March 2011 | British Politics and

    […] to derail Britain’s nuclear power plans. Liberal Conspiracy takes a look at just how popular nuclear energy is, as The Staggers predicts that global opinion will shift away from the nuclear option. Robert […]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.