Category Archives: nuclear energy

A nuclear exit for France?

In the second of a three-part series in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, leading world experts look at the possibility that France — which gets three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power — might phase out of its commercial nuclear sector. The cultural angle is, in my opinion, the most interesting. The primary obstacle to a French nuclear exit, it seems, may well be France’s national notion that being a world power is inherently linked to its civilian and military nuclear efforts. The whole packagenuclear_power_plant_432. My intro.


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Some things to occupy yourself with

Although I think the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists a wonderful publication, it is undeniably specialized and wonkish. If you want the most in-depth, expert information available on existential threats to life on Earth, the Bulletin is where you go. You do not go to the Bulletin for critical assessment of a Lady Gaga performance, much as I like Lady Gaga.

Because this blog generally deals with subject matter somewhere between Gaga and Doomsday, I do not link to all of the Bulletin‘s content by any means.But this piece, by Mark Cooper of the Center for Energy and the Environ-ment at Vermont Law School, raises important questions, such as: Why is the US government acting as the unlimited liability insurer for the nuclear industry, putting taxpayers on the hook for damages that could exceed $1 trillion in a single nuclear accident? This is an important story that market-based, conservative publications (do you read me, Wall Street Journal?) ought to pay particular attention to.

And as long as we’re talking about Wall Street and ridiculous govern-mental subsidies for well-connected industries, I thought I’d link to this stirring video from Occupy Everything. (I tried to embed the video, but the code just won’t work, alas.) I’m not anti-capitalist, but I am pro-fairness, and the system has tilted too far toward the wealthy one percent, and too far from the rest of us. I understand why people have gone to occupy Wall Street. I hope they stay for an unreasonably long time


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The truth about Fukushima. In English and Japanese.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists posted its Fukushima issue today, which I think has a lot of interesting/deep/new pieces written by leading experts about the nuclear disaster in Japan. (Such as “Fukushima: The myth of safety, the reality of geoscience,” which shows that in the decades after the nuclear plant was built, the authorities discovered historical records and other science that showed Fukushima was vulnerable to a giant tsunami, but they did nothing to protect the plant.)

And the Bulletin did something even cooler than good in-depth journalism: It translated these expert analyses of the Fukushima catastrophe into Japanese. This is how Bulletin editor Mindy Kay Bricker explains the reasoning behind translation project: “Those in genuine need of erudite analysis are, of course, those directly affected by the Fukushima disaster, the Japanese population. Stellar coverage by Western news outlets might win awards, but what is the point if those who most deserve the information never benefit from reading it?”

Bricker’s piece announcing the Fukushima issue is here. The Japanese translation of the Fukushima issue is here. The table of contents for the Fukushima issue is here.

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Germany follows a non-nuclear path to prosperity

I’m running between other assignments and can’t go into detailed commentary right now, but this piece by leading German environmental economist Claudia Kemfert lays out a detail-filled analysis leading to an interesting conclusion: Germany’s move to get out of the nuclear power business not only won’t be a financial disaster — it may well create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the sustainability sector. It should be read by every member of Congress. And Rick Perry.

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What we don’t know about radiation can hurt us. Or maybe not.

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, one can  hear the cable chatterers and other newspeople talking about radiation and its connection to cancer is a dizzying number of ways, many and perhaps most of them extremely ill-informed. Particularly, the notion of a “safe” dose of radiation is bandied about, usually in reference to what the government says a “safe” dose is. A lot of research has been done into the health affects of radiation since atomic bombs ended World War II, but actually, the harm done — or not done — by small doses of radiation remains a question unanswered. But don’t take my word for it; here’s a brilliant explanation of this mystery by the director of the Center for Radiological Research, at Columbia University Medical Center. Read it, and you will know more than you did before — even if you thought you knew what you thought in regard to nuclear energy and radiation, post-Fukushima. Very small doses of radiation may be dangerous if distributed over large populations. Or they may not. It’d be nice if, amid its current budgetary insanity, the Congress were smart enough to fund the research that will tell us what we  have to fear, or not fear, from future Fukushimas and the all but inevitable event of radiation-related terrorism.

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