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Time to Go Nuclear
David Cavena • 28 Jun, 2023 • 3 Min Read
Oliver Stone: If not now, when?
Director Oliver Stone has made and is exhibiting early showings of a film “Nuclear Now” (based on the book A Bright Future), about the benefits of and need for nuclear power. Stone is just one of a growing number of environmentalists who are accepting that if their desire is to transition the modern world to a clean, green, low carbon, and inexpensive baseload electrical grid, nuclear is the best option available today.
Whether or not one accepts the myth of man-caused “climate change,” we should all be in favor of increasingly clean power generation. In fact, western civilization has spent the past several decades making energy cleaner (while also keeping it relatively inexpensive) through innovation. The mass of environmentalists, who demand that we surrender our modern comforts, food security, industry, modes of transportation, etc, in order to bring about their green utopia, want to take us off of that track.
Dr. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, an organization formed to protest nuclear weapons, agrees with Stone, as do people like Stuart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, long-time environmentalist and thinker, James Lovelock (founder of the Gaia theory), and author Jared Diamond.
The perception of nuclear power has changed a lot over the years. In the 1960s, it was viewed with quite a lot of optimism. It was the inexpensive energy source of the future. Four events, three real and one fake, changed that perception for the worse: The real events were the nuclear disasters or near-disasters at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. The fourth was The China Syndrome– a disaster-thriller-conspiracy movie featuring Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda, and Michael Douglas which sold an apocalypse wrapped in a nuclear reactor inside Hollywood special effects, about an old-style, old-technology reactor meltdown.
Each of these events severely compromised public support for nuclear energy, while also scaring off permitting agencies and insurance companies. Between 1979 – the year of both the Three Mile Island incident and The China Syndrome – and 1988, sixty-seven nuclear reactor construction projects were canceled, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The problem with the incidents mentioned above is that all were based on outdated, first-and second-generation reactor designs. Fukushima and Chernobyl were 1960s Gen-1 designs. Three Mile Island was a Gen-2 reactor. But today’s Small Modular Reactors, or SMRs, are Gen-4. New designs, such as the SMR design recently signed off on by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, have taken the failures from those incidents into account. They cannot fail as those other reactors did.
Now before you roll your eyes at the seeming hubris of that statement, let me clarify. The fact is the previous failures, whether through human error (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island), or a freak accident of nature in the form of a tsunami crashing the cooling system (Fukushima), were the result of overheating when a cooling system broke down or was taken offline. SMRs are the opposite – if power goes offline for any reason, they shut down via condensation, gravity and convection without human input. Ars Technicaexplains:
[Their] operator-free safety features include setting the entire reactor in a large pool of water, control rods that are inserted into the reactor by gravity in the case of a power cut, and convection-driven cooling from an external water source.
In large part, the perception of safe, effective, constant, "green" generating capability of nuclear power in America was killed by a Jane Fonda movie. It might just be that the resurrection of the reality of the only carbon-free energy source that can reliably generate electricity in quantity, and can counter the “climate change” argument as currently sold, will begin with a movie by another iconoclastic leftist, Oliver Stone. Hey, if Sweden -- which was totally right about the foolishness of the Covid lockdowns -- can do it, why can't the rest of us?
David Cavena is a native southern Californian exfiltrated to Arizona. An IT professional for 40 years, he has pushed cows in California, dudes and horses in Wyoming, and programmers in Los Angeles and Phoenix. An avid outdoorsman – skier, backpacker, water skier and scuba diver – David writes from Arizona.