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Making Peace With Nuclear

Fortnightly Magazine - April 2008

incident, support for nuclear energy fell below 30 percent. Now it’s up to 70 percent, and 80 percent among people who live near nuclear plants. Eighty percent support is phenomenal for anything, especially something controversial.

Of course, it’s a different question to ask, ‘Do you want me to build a nuclear reactor next to your house?’ But the people who already live near a reactor are interested in keeping them there. They’ve experienced how they work, the jobs they create and the tax dollars they bring to the community. The fact new plants will be going on existing sites augers well for success in this initial phase of new construction.


Fortnightly: What strategies should we expect nuclear opponents to use against nuclear developments?

Moore: Activists will intervene at every opportunity in the process, but I don’t think they’ll have sufficient support to get tens of thousands in the street like we did in the peace movement.

Nuclear opposition grew out of the peace movement. They’ve tried to move the fear of nuclear war into the fear of nuclear energy. Words are important in propaganda, and ‘nuclear’ conjures fear without saying anything more.

If you look at Greenpeace’s utterances about nuclear today in the United States, they are almost totally fixated on an aircraft crashing into a nuclear plant. They are preying on people’s fears of 9/11. They’re using scare tactics but they aren’t succeeding, because local people resent protestors who arrive on buses from outside the community.


Fortnightly: So opponents will bring their own protestors into local areas?

Moore: That will be the plan. There’s very little opposition in the local community, so the only way to get a decent showing at a public hearing is to bring people in from outside.

The anti-nuclear movement has devolved into a grump group with very few credible spokespeople. It’s been reduced to something of a rabble, and their interventions tend to be of a low caliber in most places.

There are still a few people who are anti-nuclear by profession, and who are fairly articulate. They will continue to argue in a way that some people will find believable.

The most contested case is the Indian Point plant where the local politics are liberal and you have the D.C.-based lobby groups nearby. It’s not hard to get 50 nuclear opponents to turn out for a meeting there. But they tend to be shrill, lacking in factual basis. The River Keepers, for example, say Indian Point is killing 20 billion fish every year, but there is no record of a single fish actually being killed. Where did they get this estimate? It’s an estimate of the fish eggs going through the cooling system. In nature only one egg in a million produces a fish that survives, so the argument is just laughable. But they are getting away with saying stuff like that, and the media picks it up.

Opponents are clutching at straws because they are against nuclear energy, and the logic and science don’t matter.


Fortnightly: What should the utility industry