Friday, October 31, 2008

Energy We Can Live With

Presentation at Dutchess County Community College
October 30, 2008

When I originally made plans for this presentation, the title was to be: "The Next Time You Visit The Pump, Are You Ready to Pay Over $5.00 A Gallon For Gas? Energy We Can Live With." It was the summer and the price of gasoline was skyrocketing: to $4 and, indeed, $4.25 and $4.50 and higher a gallon.

That was a few months ago. The oil companies were claiming the fault was China and India going car-crazy and guzzling up gas, problems in the Middle East, then it was refinery capacity, and all along -- if the ban on drilling in areas on the continental shelf offshore was only lifted, everything would be different.

Meanwhile, filling up a car, at 40 or 50 bucks a shot, was hurting people badly. And impacting on the economy.

And, the oil companies were raking in record, indeed obscene profits -- billions upon billions of dollars. People were getting angrier and angrier thinking that some kind of price-rigging was going on.

Then, suddenly, just in recent weeks, the price of gas went down and down. Now it's back to under $3 a gallon. Would you believe? The price of a barrel of crude has dived -- from a high of $145 a barrel in July to as of this week less than $65 a barrel.

And people are still car-crazy in China and India, problems continue in the Middle East, no new refineries have been built in the last several weeks, and as to that ban on drilling on the continental shelf offshore, it was just lifted by Congress -- but, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, if drilling starts ASAP, it wouldn't "have a significant impact on domestic prices...before 2030."

Do you think the oil industry is manipulating the market, grabbing our money to make windfall profits and is deep in deception?

I've thought so for years. Let me tell you a story -- how decades ago I broke the story of the oil industry exploring in the Atlantic -- and received my first lesson in oil industry honesty.

I was a reporter for a daily newspaper on Long Island, the Long Island Press, and I got a tip from a fisherman out of Montauk who said he had seen the same sort of vessel as the boats he observed searching for oil when he was a shrimper in the 1940s in the Gulf of Mexico. I spent the day telephoning oil companies. Public relations people for each said, no, we�re not involved in looking for oil in the Atlantic.

I was leaving the office when there was the yell that a public relations man from Gulf was on the phone. The PR man at Gulf's headquarters in Pittsburgh said he checked and, yes, Gulf was involved in searching oil in the Atlantic -- in a "consortium" of 32 oil companies. These included the companies that all day issued flat denials.

Later on, I looked into whether offshore drilling was really as safe as the oil industry claimed. I visited the first rig set up in the Atlantic -- off Nova Scotia.

Some safe. My article began: "The rescue boat goes round and the man from Shell concedes, 'We treat every foot of hole like a potential disaster.'"

On the rig were capsules to eject crew members in an accident. I wrote, "Workers may all be kept in one piece, but erupting oil won't, the man from Shell admits." The Shell executive acknowledged that "curtains, booms and other devices the oil industry flashes in its advertising 'just don't work in over five-foot seas.'" So, he said, there are "stockpiles of clean-up material on shore. Not straw as in the States. Here we have peat moss."

As the President's Council on Environmental Quality in a report on offshore Atlantic drilling stated: "A major spill along the beaches of Cape Cod, Long Island or the Middle or South Atlantic states could devastate the areas affected�the Atlantic [is a] hostile environment for oil and gas operations. Storm and seismic conditions may be more severe than in the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico."

That's why there was that prohibition on drilling on the continental shelf for 26 years -- and, as of last month, in the midst of our most recent oil crisis, gone. Meanwhile, the price of gas has come down�with about as much logic and sense as it went up.

There's a terrific new book just out: The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry
-- and What We Must To Do Stop It. The author, Antonia Juhasz, writes: "The masters of the oil industry, the companies known as "Big Oil," exercise their influence "through rapidly and ever-increasing oil and gasoline prices, a lack of viable alternatives, the erosion of democracy, environmental destruction, global warming, violence, and war."

She cites a Gallup poll on �public perceptions of U.S. industry -- and reports that the oil industry "earned the lowest rating of any industry."

Americans are on to the oil industry -- and they need to do a lot about it!

And it's not just Big Oil. When it comes to energy, it's Big Oil and Big Coal and Big Nuclear -- vested energy interests -- which manipulate U.S. policy.

S. David Freeman who helped form the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and headed the Tennessee Valley Authority, and also the New York Power Authority here, and is the author of another fine book, Winning Our Energy Independence: An Energy Insider Shows How, calls oil, coal and nuclear, "The Three Poisons," as a chapter in the book

Meanwhile, and this is the central point of my talk today and Freeman's book and something I've focused on for decades: there's a windfall at hand of safe, renewable, clean energy -- if only it would be fully pursued.

But these vested interests, working with their partners in the U.S. government, have fought that. These energy technologies are energy that we can live with, energy that can unhook us from oil, coal and nuclear.

An example of a renewable energy bonanza is hot dry rock geothermal energy. It's a technology originated by the U.S -- at Los Alamos National Laboratory. It turns out that below half the earth, two to six miles down, it's extremely hot. When naturally flowing water hits those hot rocks and has a place to come up, you get geysers like in California or Iceland. But, the Los Alamos scientists found, water can be sent down an injection pipe to hit the hot dry rock below and rise up second production pipe as super-heated water that can turn a turbine and generate electricity or furnish heat. They built a model hot dry rock facility at Fenton Hill near the lab. I was there in the 90s, and the system worked great.

Others in media were equally enthusiastic. As Fortune headlined an article: "Using Hot Rocks to Generate Energy. The biggest -- and cleanest -- power source on earth."

As the New York Times wrote: "The estimated energy potential of hot dry rock nationwide is 10 million quads -- more energy than this country uses in thousands of years."

Here's a television news piece I did:


That was some statement from Dave Duchane, a respected, careful scientist, that "hot dry rock is has an almost unlimited potential to supply all the energy needs of the United States and all the world."

So what happened? A request for proposal -- an RFP -- was prepared by Los Alamos inviting industry take over the Fenton Hill facility that you just saw and to "produce and market energy" from it. It was to be an initial step in getting hot dry rock technology out there into the United States. But on its way to Washington, the RFP was cancelled by the Department of Energy. Cancelled because hot dry rock was seen as too much of a threat to other kinds of energy, sources at Los Alamos have told me. And the Department of Energy ordered the Fenton Hill facility decommissioned.

Some work has restarted with hot dry rock geothermal in the U.S. But much, much more is going on in other countries among them Australia, The Phillipines, Switzerland and Japan.

During the oil crisis of the 70s President Jimmy Carter set up what's now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The 1,000-employee NREL in Golden, Colorado is a beacon for a sustainable, independent energy future.

Let's consider hydrogen -- it's the fuel choice for locomotion in the future. For moving vehicles of all types -- and more.

As environmental analyst Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, in his book EcoEconomy: Building an Economy for the Earth, says: "In the eco-economy, hydrogen will be the dominant fuel, replacing oil, much like oil replaced coal and coal replaced wood. Since hydrogen can be stored and used as needed, it provides perfect support for an energy economy with wind and solar power as the main pillars. If this pollution-free, carbon-free energy source can be developed sooner rather than later, many of our present energy-related problems can be solved. Electricity and hydrogen can together provide energy in all the forms needed to operate a modern economy, whether powering computers, fueling cars, or manufacturing steel."

The ideal way to produce hydrogen? Through solar energy breaking water down into its two components: hydrogen and oxygen.

Indeed, that's exactly what's being worked on at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Here's my interview with John Turner, senior scientist, at NREL.


Here is Dr. Turner, another respected, careful scientist speaking of "sunlight to hydrogen -- basically an inexhaustible fuel...the forever fuel."

The hydrogen-through-solar-energy approach of NREL is also the way Volkswagen envisions a hydrogen infrastructure. It has opened a solar hydrogen filling station in Germany built in collaboration with the German solar energy company Solvis. You drive up and see a large solar array which, through electrolysis, produces hydrogen from water. And you fill'er-up -- with hydrogen. It's all part, says Volkswagen, of people being able to move around in "emission-neutralized vehicles at standard market prices."

That combination of endless hydrogen from water and endless solar from the sun to produce it is being called green hydrogen. But what has the administration of George W. Bush been up to -- with its cronies in the coal, oil and nuclear industries -- looking to use coal, oil and gas, and nuclear power to produce hydrogen.

Not long ago I was in Idaho where, at the Idaho National Laboratory, a nuclear power plant -- yes, a nuclear power plant -- is being built to make hydrogen. To get clean hydrogen -- and when hydrogen burns, all that's left is water vapor -- the Bush administration would use atomic power with all its dangers: the potential for catastrophic accidents, routine radioactive emissions, the production of nuclear waste that somehow must be safeguarded for millennia, problems of nuclear proliferation, and so forth.

And, according to The Financial Times, "you come up with a requirement of about 4,000 reactors" needed to be constructed in the U.S. to produce the nuclear power-produced hydrogen to replace gas."

Talking about screwing up a great idea. As Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, says: "President Bush and the environmental community agree that hydrogen is America�s future. We disagree on where to get the hydrogen from. The White House would like to extract hydrogen from coal and natural gas and by harnessing nuclear power to the task ---locking us into a black hydrogen future. The environmental community would like to use renewable sources of energy like wind, solar, hydro and geothermal to extract hydrogen from water or to extract hydrogen from biomass -- a green hydrogen future."

A coalition -- the Green Hydrogen Coalition -- which includes Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Foundation on Economic Trends, and others, charges that the Bush administration is "attempting to hijack America's hydrogen future to promote the interests of the coal, oil, gas and nuclear industries."

Returning to that good U.S. Department of Energy laboratory committed to clean, safe, renewable power -- the National Renewable Energy Laboratory-- I think what I have been most impressed visiting there has been that whatever division I went to, the outlook is for boundless energy. Not only by using solar to generate hydrogen but through new amazing solar energy technologies including "thin film photovoltaic," scientists at NREL's Solar Energy Research Facility say that through solar we could get all the energy we need.

"Thin film photovoltaic" -- developed by NREL with the solar industry -- is quite something. Different than conventional rigid solar panels put on roofs, it involves flexible membranes impregnated with high-efficiency solar collectors. These sheets of solar-collecting membranes can be applied over glass buildings. Skyscrapers that rise in Manhattan or Chicago or office buildings here in Poughkeepsie could serve as electricity generators. "Thin film photovoltaic" is is now being widely used in Europe.

At NREL's National Wind Technology Center, scientists speak about wind providing all the energy we need. They were pioneers, working with the wind power industry, in the great advances in wind energy in recent years -- especially the development of turbines with highly-efficient blades. Wind turbines that can be -- and are...being placed on land and increasingly, in Europe, offshore. Bluewater Wind is getting set to build the first offshore wind farm off Delaware. It would be this country's first.

Wind is now the fastest growing energy technology. Last year, wind energy grew 25 percent worldwide and that kind of future annual growth is predicted. Wind energy costs a fifth of what it did in the 1980s -- and is now fully competitive with other energy technologies -- and a continuing downward cost trend is anticipated.

And at NREL's National Bioenergy Center, the scientists say biomass could fulfill a huge portion of the world energy needs -- and we're not talking here about using food stocks, corn, but switchgrass and poplar trees and other, again, non-food energy crops.

The scientists at NREL might not be right on any single energy source -- but all together these and other renewable energy sources, can, in a mix, provide all the energy we need. And energy we can live with.

As NREL declares on its website: "There's no shortage of renewable energy resources."

And there's so many more:

Consider: wave power. In Portugal, a wave power project has just begun. Pelamis Wave Power, a Scottish company, has engineered it -- a line of machines will be tapping nature's constant ocean power.

And tidal energy. The government of Novia Scotia is moving ahead with tapping the enormous power of the 40 and 50 foot tides that twice a day rush in and out of the Bay of Fundy-- driven by the moon.

And there's micro or distributed power, returning to the vision of Thomas Edison who saw small power plants providing electricity -- this way cutting energy loss from transmitting electricity over long distances.

And throughout, we must remember efficiency, a key across the board. Here's my interview with energy analyst Amory Lovins.


Here's the current issue of New Scientist magazine: "A Special Issue," it says: "A Brighter Future. Running the World on Guilt-Free Energy."

As the magazine editorializes, "Our sustainable future. The means to generate zero-carbon electricity are already here." It continues: "The UN says the renewable energy that can already be harnessed economically would supply the world's electricity needs 15 times over. As yet only a tiny proportion of electricity is generated this way, but replacing existing coal, gas and oil-fired power stations with renewables and you achieve a colossal environmental win...It's time on with making it a reality."

There is a political dimension to all this, however. Energy is not necessarily a partisan issue. It was the Clinton administration's DOE which put the kabosh on the hot dry rock facility at Fenton Hill.

And I don't want to get highly political in this presentation -- but there are tremendous differences on energy between the two candidates for president up for election next week. John McCain's call for many more polluting, catastrophic accident-prone, multi-billion dollar nuclear plants, and Sarah Palin's call to "drill baby drill" for oil in sensitive marine environments, is just the wrong direction. Let me note that I have a connection with the McCain family. His oldest daughter was my student. Indeed, has heard my findings on nuclear and renewable energy. I wish she had some pull with her father.

Barak Obama, meanwhile, has long thoroughly embraced safe, clean renewable energy technologies.

Renewables Are Ready was the title of a book written by two Union of Concerned Scientists staffers in 1995. They're more than ready now. And so are we -- after all the manipulation and, yes, tyranny of Big Oil, Big Coal and Big Nuclear. More than ready for energy we can live with.

Now, questions.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Protecting People from Poisons

The European Union has just come out with new restrictions on chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases—and U.S. chemical companies and the Bush administration are moaning and groaning.

New laws of the European Union require that chemical manufacturers show that a chemical is safe before it enters commerce.

This, notes the Washington Post, ”is the opposite of policies in the United States” where we depend on the government to act, if it does, and it comes “at a time when consumers are increasingly worried about the long-term consequences of chemical exposure.”

The European approach is an outgrowth of the Precautionary Principle which states that if an activity or product might cause severe or irreversible harm to people or the environment the burden of proof falls on those behind that activity or product—in this case, chemicals—to show that it would not do harm. The Precautionary Principle has been spreading around the world in recent years.

The Center for International Environmental Law says the new EU laws will “compel companies to be more responsible for their products.”

In the U.S., control of toxic chemicals has been—well, a sham. The Toxic Substances Control Act was enacted in 1976 but, noted the Washington Post in its article on the new European Union laws, noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has banned only five chemicals since that time.

Indeed, said the Post, the EPA hasn’t even been able to ban asbestos under the act, even though it is “widely acknowledged as a likely carcinogen and barred in more than 30 countries.”

There are 80,000 chemicals on the U.S. market, noted the Post, and the U.S. government “has had little or no information about the health hazards or risks of most of those chemicals.”

American chemical companies would have to either comply with the new EU laws or lose access to a market of 27 countries and 500 million people. Mike Walls, director of government and regulatory affairs for the American Chemistry Council, complains that some its chemical manufacturer members will be unable to “afford the cost of compliance” with the new European Union laws.

What about all the people who get sick and die, and the cost to them of the current way toxic chemicals have been distributed?

The European Union is on the right track—and the U.S. should have similar laws protecting people from poisons.

Green Light for Nuclear-Powered Amphibious Assault Ships

New large U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships will be required to be nuclear powered as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2009 signed into law by President George W. Bush on Tuesday, October 14.

The Senate had originally not included this provision in its version of the act. It had been part of the House version, pushed by Representative Gene Taylor, chairman of the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. A major shipyard for building amphibious assault ships, Northrop Grumman’s Ship Systems facility, is located in his Mississippi district.

But in recent weeks, the Senate Armed Services Committee added under a section of the act titled “Policy Relating to Major Combatant Vessels of the Strike Forces of the United States Navy,” a parallel requirement that new “amphibious assault ships including dock landing ships (LSD), amphibious transport-dock ships (LPD), helicopter assault ships (LHA/LHD) and amphibious command ships (LCC) if such vessels exceed 1,500 dead weight ton…displacement” be nuclear-powered.

Safe-energy and environmental groups have been critical of the scheme.

“This reckless plan gives ‘we'll fight them on the beaches’ a whole new sinister meaning," said Linda Gunter of Beyond Nuclear of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. "If one of these amphibious ships is hit, or has an accident, we would be fighting a tide of radioactivity on beaches that could leave them contaminated indefinitely."

“Expanding the use of nuclear technology as a form of propulsion puts our sailors at risk,” said Jim Riccio of Greenpeace U.S.A. Also, because “nuclear-powered vessels are already rejected from ports around the world, it undermines the ability to actually use them.” Further, they would be “more of a target” for terrorists. “And what if the Cole had been nuclear powered?”

Indeed, if the U.S.S. Cole, struck by suicide bombers who crashed into it with explosives off Yemen in 2000, had been nuclear-powered, a nuclear disaster could have occurred killing many more than the 17 crewmembers who died.

The Navy has also been concerned because the price of the nuclear-powered amphibious assault ships is estimated at $1.5 billion-plus each, some $700 million more than if built with conventional power systems. There would also be the tens of millions in cost for their eventual radioactive decontamination and disposal.

The rationale for the plan, which Taylor’s subcommittee had included in the House version of the act, is that “the future naval force should not be reliant on the availability of fossil fuel for fleet operations. Removing the need for access to fossil fuel sources significantly multiplies the effectiveness of the entire battle forces.”

The National Defense Authorization Bill of 2008 required that all new U.S. aircraft carriers, cruisers and submarines be nuclear-powered. The 2009 act’s provision that amphibious ships, too, be nuclear-powered is set up as an amendment to this.

The New Scientist, a British magazine, noted in a June 14th article on the U.S. plan for nuclear-powered assault ships that the “vessels’ position in combat can…vary—from a ‘stand-off’ over-the-horizon location to be being moored to a pier in a combat zone.” It added that “a U.S. Navy website confirms that such ships ‘are designed to get in harm’s way.’”

Another problem involves nuclear proliferation. “Military reactor fuel,” said the New Scientist, “can reach 90 percent enrichment level.” That is atomic bomb-grade. “This could make reactor maintenance sites at U.S. bases in ports around the world a tempting target for any thief intent on making weapons-grade fuel for a bomb.”

The Congressional Research Service, in a December 2006 report to Congress, examined a variety of non-oil energy alternatives for Navy ships. Titled “Navy Ship Propulsion Technologies: Options for Reducing Oil Use,” it considered “integrated electric-drive propulsion,” fuel cells, solar power, nuclear energy and various “synthetic fuels” especially “alternative hydrocarbon fuels.” It noted that the Navy “started making its own biodiesel fuel” in a pilot program in 2003.

This report said that “shifting” amphibious assault ships to using nuclear power “might make them potentially less welcome in the ports of countries with strong anti-nuclear sentiments” and “reduce the number of potentially suitable location for forward-homeporting the ships.”

A May 2008 Congressional Research Service Report, “Navy Nuclear-Powered Surface Ships: Background Issues, and Options for Congress,” related that in the 1960s the Navy began building nuclear-powered cruisers and nine were constructed, indeed at one point Congress mandated it, but after 1975 “procurement of nuclear-powered cruisers was halted…due to…costs.”

In addressing environmental impacts, it spoke of “those associated with mining and processing uranium to fuel reactors, and with storing and disposing of spent nuclear fuel cores, radioactive waste water from reactors, and the reactors and other radioactive components of retired nuclear-powered ships.” Also, “a very serious accident involving a nuclear-powered Navy ship…or a major enemy attack on a nuclear-powered Navy ship might damage the ship’s hull and reactor compartment enough to cause a release of radioactivity.”

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Alan Greenspan and the Economic Meltdown

As the economy melts down, not enough attention is being given to the motivation of Alan Greenspan that led to his role—a major one—in causing this mess.

Greenspan, from the time he was in his late 20’s to now, has been an ardent follower of Ayn Rand and her view of extreme laissez-faire capitalism. In the early 1950s Greenspan joined Rand’s inner circle. He wrote for Rand’s newsletter and authored several essays in her 1966 book Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal, which in non-fiction form offered the economic philosophy presented in Rand’s novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Rand stood besides Greenspan in 1974 when he was sworn in to his first job in the federal government, as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Gerald Ford.

Greenspan’s close personal—and ideological—relationship with Rand continued until her death in 1982.

He was appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve by Ronald Reagan in 1987—and somehow stayed, through Reagan, the first George Bush, Bill Clinton and then the second George Bush, until 2006 when his fifth term as head of the Federal Reserve Board ended. He was replaced by Ben Bernanke—the person we see often these days trying to deal with the crisis.

Greenspan “didn’t believe in regulation,” says Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz. His perspective was “self-regulation—an oxymoron.” For Greenspan, it was an oxymoron rooted in the Rand perspective.

Meanwhile, when the economy wobbled, Greenspan sought to deal with it by lowering credit rates precipitously—to allow people to get mortgages at rock-bottom rates thus creating what became the real estate boom. And he promoted adjustable rate mortgages.

As warnings came of this boom, which had sent the prices of housing up to stratospheric levels, going bust, Greenspan did nothing.

The New York Times, in the middle of its extensive October 9th examination of Greenspan’s “legacy” as Federal Reserve chairman and its link to the financial crisis, noted: “A professed libertarian, he counted among his formative influences the novelist Ayn Rand, who portrayed collective power as an evil force set against the enlightened self-interest of individuals. In turn, he showed a resolute faith that those participating in financial markets would act responsibly.”

The article, by Peter S. Goodman, declared: “Over the years, Mr. Greenspan helped enable an ambitious American experiment in letting market forces run free. Now, the nation is confronting the consequences.”

How did such a fringe figure become central to the U.S. economy?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nuclear-Powered Amphibious Assault Ships?

Most new large U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships would be required to be nuclear powered under the National Defense Authorization Act for 2009 which the House of Representatives has passed by a vote of 384 to 23. It now goes to the Senate where many senators are uneasy about the scheme--as is the Navy and the shipbuilding industry in the U.S.

As to safe-energy and environmental advocates, "This reckless plan gives 'we'll fight them on the beaches' a whole new sinister meaning," says Linda Gunter of Beyond Nuclear of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. "If one of these amphibious ships is hit, or has an accident, we would be fighting a tide of radioactivity on beaches that could leave them contaminated indefinitely."

"Expanding the use of nuclear technology as a form of propulsion puts our sailors at risk," says Jim Riccio of Greenpeace U.S.A. Also, because "nuclear-powered vessels are already rejected from ports around the world, it undermines the ability to actually use them." Further, they would be "more of a target" for terrorists. "And what if the Cole had been nuclear powered?"

Indeed, if the U.S.S. Cole, the destroyer struck by suicide bombers who crashed into it with explosives off Yemen in 2000 had been nuclear-powered, a nuclear disaster could have occurred killing many more than the 17 crewmembers who died.

The Navy is concerned about the cost of the plan. The price of the amphibious assault ships that would be mandated to be nuclear-powered is $1.5 billion-plus each. Adding nuclear propulsion would raise the price by $800 million each. And there would be the tens of millions in cost for their eventual radioactive decontamination and disposal.

The U.S. shipbuilding industry is worried about the impact on an industry already in precarious shape. Only two shipyards in the nation, Northrop Grumman's Newport News, Virginia facility and General Dynamics' Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut are certified to build nuclear-powered ships.

The push for nuclear-powered amphibious assault ships is being led by Representative Gene Taylor, chairman of the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. Taylor, a Democrat, also has in his Mississippi district a shipyard that is the major one for the construction of amphibious assault ships, Northrop Grumman's Ship Systems facility in Pascagoula.

The rationale for the plan which his subcommittee had included in the act is, after its declaration that all new "assault echelon amphibious ships"must be constructed with integrated nuclear power systems, that "The future naval force should not be reliant on the availability of fossil fuel for fleet operations. Removing the need for access to fossil fuel sources significantly multiplies the effectiveness of the entire battle forces."

The National Defense Authorization Bill of 2008 required that all new U.S. aircraft carriers, cruisers and submarines be nuclear-powered.

Although there was some reluctance to this in the Senate, it passed and was signed by President Bush.

Dr. Ralph Herbert, professor emeritus of environmental studies at Long Island University, sees the Bush administration, ardent about all things nuclear, seeking nuclear power for amphibious assault ships, too, because "it wants to get as much nuclear as it can in the pipeline before it's finished--it's harder to get rid of once it's in. The Bush administration will do anything it can to solidify its damage."

The amphibious assault vessels to be built with nuclear power, if the Senate approves this year's act, are those designated as LHA and LHD, ships with large flight decks for helicopters and vertical-take-off-and-landing airplanes, and the LPD, a smaller vessel mainly carrying landing craft and troops. "The vessels' position in combat" can "vary from a 'stand-off' over-the-horizon location to be being moored to a pier in a combat zone," noted the New Scientist, the British magazine, in a June 14 article on the plan. It added that "a U.S. Navy website confirms that such ships 'are designed to get in harm's way.'"

The Congressional Research Service, in a December 2006 report to Congress, examined a variety of non-oil energy alternatives for Navy ships. Titled "Navy Ship Propulsion Technologies: Options for Reducing Oil Use," it considered "integrated electric-drive propulsion," fuel cells, solar power, nuclear energy and various "synthetic fuels" especially "alternative hydrocarbon fuels." It noted that the Navy "started making its own biodiesel fuel" in a pilot program in 2003.

This report said that "shifting" amphibious assault ships to using nuclear power "might make them potentially less welcome in the ports of countries with strong anti-nuclear sentiments" and "reduce the number of potentially suitable location for forward-homeporting the ships."

A May 2008 Congressional Research Service Report, "Navy Nuclear-Powered Surface Ships: Background Issues, and Options for Congress," related that in the 1960s the Navy began building nuclear-powered cruisers and nine were constructed, indeed at one point Congress mandated it, but after 1975 "procurement of nuclear-powered cruisers was costs."

This report, in addressing environmental impacts, spoke of "those associated with mining and processing uranium to fuel reactors, and with storing and disposing of spent nuclear fuel cores, radioactive waste water from reactors, and the reactors and other radioactive components of retired nuclear-powered ships." Also, "a very serious accident involving a nuclear-powered Navy ship...or a major enemy attack on a nuclear-powered Navy ship might damage the ship's hull and reactor compartment enough to cause a release of radioactivity."

Another issue involves nuclear proliferation. "Military reactor fuel," said the New Scientist, "can reach 90 percent enrichment level." That is atomic bomb-grade. "This could make reactor maintenance sites at U.S. bases in ports around the world a tempting target for any thief intent on making weapons-grade fuel for a bomb."

The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2009 does not include having nuclear-powered amphibious assault ships.

Will the Senate stick with common sense?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Half-Trillion Dollars for Nukes!

With Wall Street unwilling to finance new nuclear plants, U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and John Warner of Virginia have cooked up a scheme to provide $544 billion—yes, with a “b”—in subsidies for new nuclear power plant development.

Their move will be debated on the floor of the Senate Tuesday, June 3.

A Lieberman aide describes the plan as "the most historic incentive for nuclear in the history of the United States."

The Lieberman-Warner scheme is cloaked in a climate change bill—the claim being that nuclear power plants don’t emit greenhouse gases and thus don’t contribute to global warming. However, the overall “nuclear cycle”—which includes mining, milling, fuel enrichment and fabrication, and reprocessing—has significant greenhouse gas emissions that do contribute to global warming.

Moreover, nuclear power is enormously dangerous. Accidents like the Chernobyl explosion of 1986 stand to kill and leave many people with cancer. Nuclear plants routinely emit life-threatening radioactivity. Safeguarding nuclear waste for millions of years is an insoluble problem.

Nevertheless, there have long been powerful forces in government and the nuclear industry promoting atomic energy.

Wall Street is uneasy—rightfully regarding nuclear power as terribly risky. Six of the nation’s largest investment banks including CitiGroup, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley last year told the U.S. Department of Energy that the risks “make lenders unwilling…to extend long-term credit.”

Enter Senators Lieberman and Warner.

Safe energy advocates are outraged by their scheme. Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth, says: “It’s time to focus on real global warming solutions like solar, wind and energy efficiency, not to further fatten the moribund nuclear calf.”

John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA, says: "After 50 years of unresolved safety and waste disposal issues, it perplexes many Americans why Congress would support massive subsidies for the nuclear industry. Nuclear power is a dirty and dangerous distraction from real global warming solutions.”

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear says: “If the nuclear power industry attains this $500 billion-plus in federal taxpayer subsidies, it would effectively double the subsidies this industry has already enjoyed over the course of the past 50 years which has made it the single most subsidized industry in the energy sector.”

“Taxpayers should not be asked to continue bankrolling a nuclear power industry that has never been financially or environmentally viable,” says Sandra Schubert, director of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group. And this “especially” must not happen “in times of tight budgets.” Instead, government “should do everything in its power to rapidly pursue clean energy solutions like solar and wind.”

Sneakily, the $544 billion for nuclear power is not specifically listed in the Lieberman-Warner measure. It is “covert” legislative sleight-of-hand, says Blackwelder, with the nuclear subsidy contained in a “vaguely-entitled category for zero and low carbon energy technologies.”

“Why are they hiding it?” asks Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “Because they know that the environmental movement in this country is serious about addressing climate change and will not tolerate a reversion to dangerous, dirty and expensive nuclear energy.”

“It’s so deceitful,” says Kay Drey of Beyond Nuclear, who is also incensed that the media have virtually made no mention of “this would-be half-trillion dollar nuclear bail-out.”

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service has organized a campaign for people to e-mail or write or telephone their senators to stop the Lieberman-Warner effort.

But the move has major support in the Senate—especially from John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate for president.

Among the subsidies nuclear power already gets is $20 billion approved by Congress and President Bush only last year. And there’s a law Congress passed, called the Price-Anderson Act, that limits liability to $10 billion for a catastrophic accident—although, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, this is a small fraction of what a nuclear plant disaster could cause in property damage, not to mention birth defects, cancers and deaths.

Turning to nuclear power to deal with climate change is like trying to treat heroin addiction with crack. Lieberman and Warner would have us pay for hundreds of billions of dollars for atomic crack.

It’s not too late to contact your senators and urge them to vote no on the Lieberman-Warner scheme.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Hoax of Eco-Friendly Nuclear Energy

The following article was published in the January/February 2008 issue of Extra!, the magazine of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)--

By Karl Grossman

Nuclear advocates in government and the nuclear industry are engaged in a massive, heavily financed drive to revive atomic power in the United States--with most of the mainstream media either not questioning or actually assisting in the promotion.

"With a very few notable exceptions," such as the Los Angeles Times, "the U.S. media have turned the same sort of blind, uncritical eye on the nuclear industry’s claims that led an earlier generation of Americans to believe atomic energy would be too cheap to meter," comments Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "The nuclear industry’s public relations effort has improved over the past 50 years, while the natural skepticism of reporters toward corporate claims seems to have disappeared."

The New York Times continues to be, as it was a half-century ago when nuclear technology was first advanced, a media leader in pushing the technology, which collapsed in the U.S. with the 1979 Three Mile Island and 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant accidents. The Times has showered readers with a variety of pieces advocating a nuclear revival, all marbled with omissions and untruths. A lead editorial headlined "The Greening of Nuclear Power" (5/13/06) opened:
"Not so many years ago, nuclear energy was a hobgoblin to environmentalists, who feared the potential for catastrophic accidents and long-term radiation contamination. . . . But this is a new era, dominated by fears of tight energy supplies and global warming. Suddenly nuclear power is looking better."

Nukes add to greenhouse

Parroting a central atomic industry theme these days, the Times editors declared, "Nuclear energy can replace fossil-fuel power plants for generating electricity, reducing the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute heavily to global warming." As a TV commercial frequently aired by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the nuclear industry trade group, states: "Nuclear power plants dont emit greenhouses gases, so they protect our environment."

What is left unmentioned by the NEI, the Times and other mainstream media making this claim is that the overall nuclear cycle--which includes uranium mining and milling, enrichment, fuel fabrication and disposal of radioactive waste--has significant greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

As Michel Lee, chair of the Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy, wrote in an (unpublished) letter to the Times, the
"dirty secret is that nuclear power makes a substantial contribution to global warming. Nuclear power is actually a chain of highly energy-intensive industrial processes. These include uranium mining, conversion, enrichment and fabrication of nuclear fuel; construction and deconstruction of the massive nuclear facility structures; and the disposition of high-level nuclear waste."
She included information on "independent studies that document in detail the extent to which the entire nuclear cycle generates greenhouse emissions."

Separately, Lee wrote to a Times journalist stating that the "fiction" that nuclear power does not contribute to global warming "has been a prime feature of the nuclear industry's and Bush administration's PR campaign that unfortunately . . . has been swallowed by a number of New York Times reporters, op-ed columnists and editors."

Greens for hire

In "The Greening of Nuclear Power," the Times, like other mainstream media touting a nuclear restart, also spoke of environmentalists changing their stance on nuclear power. "Two new leaders" have emerged "to encourage the building of new nuclear reactors," according to the editorial. They happen to be Christine Todd Whitman, George W. Bushs first Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and Patrick Moore, "a co-founder of Greenpeace." The Times heralded this as "the latest sign that nuclear power is getting a more welcome reception from some environmentalists.

However, "both Whitman and Moore . . . are being paid to do so by the Nuclear Energy Institute," noted the Center for Media and Democracy's Diane Farsetta (, 3/14/07). In her piece "Moore Spin: Or, How Reporters Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Front Groups," Farsetta also reported:
"A Nexis news database search on March 1, 2007 identified 302 news items about nuclear power that cite Moore since April 2006. Only 37 of those pieces--12 percent of the total--mention his financial relationship with NEI."
Whitman and Moore were hired as part of NEIs "Clean and Safe Energy Coalition" in 2006, which is "fully funded" by the institute, Farsetta noted. As for Moore and Greenpeace, his "association . . . ended in 1986, and he has now spent more time working as a PR consultant to the logging, mining, biotech, nuclear and other industries . . . than he did as an environmental activist."

According to Harvey Wasserman, senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and co-author of Killing Our Own: The Disaster of Americas Experience With Atomic Radiation (Brattleboro Reformer, 2/24/07), "Moore sailed on the first Greenpeace campaign, but he did not actually found the organization." Wasserman went on to cite an actual founder of the organization, Bob Hunter, describing Moore as "the Judas of the ecology movement."

Scarce high-grade fuel

Insisting that there is good reason to give nuclear power a fresh look, "The Greening of Nuclear Power" further claimed, "It can diversify our sources of energy with a fuel-uranium--that is both abundant and inexpensive."

This, too, was bogus. The uranium from which fuel used in nuclear power plants is made--so-called "high-grade" ore containing substantial amounts of fissionable uranium-235--is, in fact, not abundant. As Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation told BBC News (11/29/05), another "dirty little secret" of nuclear power is that "startlingly, theres only a few decades left of the proven high-grade uranium ore it needs for fuel." This has been the projection for years.

Indeed, this limit on "high-grade" uranium ore is why the industry projects that, in the long-term, nuclear power will need to be based on breeder reactors running on manmade plutonium. But use of plutonium-fueled reactors has been stymied because they can explode like atomic bombs--they contain tons of plutonium fuel, while the first bomb using plutonium, dropped on Nagasaki, contained 15 pounds. Because it takes only a few pounds of plutonium to make an atomic bomb, they also constitute an enormous proliferation risk.

Blaming Jane Fonda

"The Jane Fonda Effect" (9/16/07), a Times Magazine column by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, blamed nuclear power's stall on the 1979 film The China Syndrome, starring Jane Fonda, which opened days before the Three Mile Island partial meltdown. "Stoked by The China Syndrome, "it caused widespread panic," wrote Dubner and Levitt, even though, they maintained, the accident did not "produce any deaths, injuries or significant damage."

In fact, the utility that owned Three Mile Island has for years been quietly paying people whose family members died, contracted cancer or were otherwise impacted by the accident. While settlements range up to $1 million, the utility company continues to insist this does not acknowledge fault. The toll of Three Mile Island is chronicled in my television documentary Three Mile Island Revisited (EnviroVideo, 1993) and Wasserman's book Killing Our Own (which includes a devastating chapter, "People Died at Three Mile Island"), among other works.

But Dubner and Levitt continue undeterred, declaring, "The big news is that nuclear power may be making a comeback in the United States." They acknowledge the Chernobyl accident, stating that it killed at least a few dozen people directly. They admit that it "exposed millions more to radiation," but keep silent about the consequences of this in terms of illness and death. This atomic version of Holocaust denial flies in the face of voluminous research on the disaster that puts the number of dead in the hundreds of thousands.

"At least 500,000 people--perhaps more--have already died out of the 2 million people who were officially classed as victims of Chernobyl in Ukraine," said Nikolai Omelyanets, deputy head of the National Commission for Radiation Protection in Ukraine (Guardian, 3/25/06). Dr. Alexey Yablokov, president of the Center for Russian Environmental Policy, calculates a death toll of 300,000. In the book Chernobyl: 20 Years On, which he co-edited, Yablokov writes, "In 20 years it has become clear that not tens, hundreds of thousands, but millions of people in the Northern Hemisphere have suffered and will suffer from the Chernobyl catastrophe."

The New York Times Magazine also published "Atomic Balm?" (7/16/06), by Jon Gertner; the subhead read, "For the first time in decades, increasing the role of nuclear power in the United States may be starting to make political, environmental and even economic sense." Gertner used the term nuclear "renaissance," and again forwarded the claim that "the supply [of uranium] is abundant."

Gertner told of how the "lifespan" for nuclear plants was set at 40 years because this was considered "how long a large nuclear plant could safely operate." This has "proved a conservative estimate," he states--without providing a factual basis. So the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been "granting 20-year extensions" to the 103 U.S. nuclear plants "so they can run for a total of 60 years." (Consider the safety and reliability of 60-year-old cars speeding down highways.)

"Even with such licensing renewals, though, its doubtful the current fleet of plants will run for, say, 80 years," he continued, and "that means the industry, in a way, is in a race against time." It needs to build new plants because the "absence" of nuclear power "would probably pose tremendous challenges for the United States."

The New York Times also allows its nuclear advocacy to slip into its news stories. In an article (11/27/07) about the French nuclear power company Areva signing a deal with a Chinese atomic corporation, Times reporter John Tagliabue wrote of Areva chief executive Anne Lauvergeon's "long path from dirty hands to clean energy." The "dirty hands referred to a youthful interest in archaeology; that nuclear power is "clean energy" appears to require no explanation.

Another story, datelined Fort Collins, Colorado (11/19/07), reported on two energy projects proposed for what the paper calls "a deeply green city." Describing the plans as "exposing the hard place that communities like this across the country are likely to confront," Times reporter Kirk Johnson wrote:

"Both projects would do exactly what the city proclaims it wants, helping to produce zero-carbon energy. But one involves crowd-pleasing, feel-good solar power, and the other is a uranium mine, which has a base of support here about as big as a pinkie. Environmentalism and local politics have collided with a broader ethical and moral debate about the good of the planet, and whether some places could or should be called upon to sacrifice for their high-minded goals."

Other revivalists

Other media promoting a nuclear revival--their words prominently featured on NEIs website--include USA Today (3/5/06): "The facts are straightforward: Nuclear power . . . creates virtually none of the pollution that causes climate change and delivers electricity cheaper than other forms of generation do." And the Augusta Chronicle (8/21/06): "Nuclear power--for decades perceived as an environmental scourge--is emerging as the cleanest and most cost-efficient source of energy available, a fact conceded even by environmentalists." And Investors Business Daily (12/1/06): "We can worry about imaginary threats of nuclear energy or the real dangers of fossil fuel pollution."

Glenn Beck of CNN Headline News also joined the chorus of support (5/2/07): "Look, America should embrace nuclear power, even if it's [just] to get off the foreign oil bandwagon." This is also common nuclear disinformation, that nuclear power is needed to displace foreign oil. The only energy produced by nuclear power is electricity--and only 3 percent of electricity in the U.S. is generated with oil.

There are a few exceptions in the mainstream media, notably the other Times, the Los Angeles Times. "The dream that nuclear power would turn atomic fission into a force for good rather than destruction unraveled with the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979 and the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986," the paper stated (7/23/07) in an editorial headlined: "No to Nukes: Its Tempting to Turn to Nuclear Plants to Combat Climate Change, but Alternatives Are Safer and Cheaper." Those who claim nuclear power "must be part of any solution to global warming or climate change make a weak case," said the L.A. Times, citing
"the enormous cost of building nuclear plants, the reluctance of investors to fund them, community opposition and an endless controversy over what to do with the waste. . . . Whats more, there are cleaner, cheaper, faster alternatives that come with none of the risks."

Staggering numbers

As to the risks, the mainstream media's handling--or non-handling--of the U.S. government's most comprehensive study on the consequences of a nuclear plant accident is instructive. Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences 2 (known as CRAC-2) was done by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the
1980s. Bill Smirnow, an anti-nuclear activist, has tried for years to interest media in reporting on it-sending out information about it continually.

The study estimates the impacts from a meltdown at each nuclear plant in the U.S. in categories of "peak early fatalities," "peak early injuries," "peak cancer deaths" and "costs [in] billions." ("Peak" refers to the highest calculated value--not a worst case scenario, as worse assumptions could have been chosen.) For the Indian Point 3 plant north of New York City, for example, the projection is that a meltdown would cause 50,000 "peak early fatalities," 141,000 "peak early injuries," 13,000"peak cancer deaths," and $314 billion in property damage--and that's based on the dollars value in 1980, so the cost today would be nearly $1 trillion. For the Salem 2nuclear plant in New Jersey, the study projects 100,000 "peak early fatalities,"70,000 "peak early injuries," 40,000 "peak cancer deaths," and $155 billion in property damage. The study provides similarly staggering numbers across the country.

"I've sent the CRAC-2 material out for years to media and have never heard a thing," Smirnow told Extra!:"Not anyone in the media ever even asked me a question. There's no excuse for this media inattention to such an important subject, and it shows how they're falling flat on their faces in not performing their purported mission of educating and informing the public. Whatever their reason or reasons for not informing their readers and listeners, the effect is one of helping the nuclear power industry and hurting the public. If the public was informed, this new big pro-nuke push would never happen."

Also in the way of sins of omission is the media silence on "routine emissions"--the amount of radioactivity the U.S. government allows to be routinely released by nuclear plants. "It doesn't take an accident for a nuclear power plant to release radioactivity into our air, water and soil," says Kay Drey of Beyond Nuclear at the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. "All it takes is the plant's everyday routine operation, and federal regulations permit these radioactive releases. Rarely, if ever, is this reported by media." The radioactive substances regularly emitted include tritium, krypton and xenon. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sets a "permissible" level for these routine emissions, but, as Drey states, "permissible does not mean safe."

Hidden subsidies

Another lonely voice amid the media nuclear cheerleaders is the Las Vegas Sun, which recently has been especially outraged by $50 billion in loan guarantees for the nuclear industry to build new nuclear plants included in the 2007 Energy Bill. The Sun demanded (8/1/07): "Pull the Plug Already."

In reporting on the economics of nuclear power, mainstream media virtually never mention the many government subsidies for it, while continuing to claim that it's ""cost-effective (Augusta Chronicle, 8/21/06). One such giveaway is the Price-Anderson Act, which shields the nuclear industry from liability for catastrophic accidents. Price-Anderson, supposed to be temporary when first enacted in 1957, has been extended repeatedly and now limits liability in the event of an accident to $10 billion, despite CRAC-2's projections of consequences far worse than that.

Writing on (9/11/07), Ralph Nader explored the economic issue. "Taxpayers alert!" he declared: "The atomic power corporations are beating on the doors in Washington to make you guarantee their financing for more giant nuclear plants. They are pouring money and applying political muscle to Congress for up to $50 billion in loan guarantees to persuade an uninterested Wall Street that Uncle Sam will pay for any defaults on industry construction loans. . . . The atomic power industry does not give up. Not as long as Uncle Sam can be dragooned to be its subsidizing, immunizing partner. Ever since the first of 100 plants opened in 1957, corporate socialism has fed this insatiable atomic goliath with many types of subsidies."

Ignored alternatives

Yet another claim by mainstream media in pushing for a nuclear revival is the success of the French nuclear program. 60 Minutes (4/8/07) did it in a segment called "Vive Les Nukes." (See FAIR Action Alert, 4/18/07.) Correspondent Steve Kroft started with the nuclear-power-doesn't-contribute-to-global-warming myth:
"With power demands rising and concerns over global warming increasing, what the world needs now is an efficient means of producing carbon-free energy. And one of the few available options is nuclear, a technology whose time seemed to come and go, and may now be coming again. . . . With zero greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. government, public utilities and even some environmental groups are taking a second look at nuclear power, and one of the first places theyre looking to is France, where its been a resounding success."

Though she was totally ignored, Linda Gunter of Beyond Nuclear told 60 Minutes of radioactive contamination in the marine life off Normandy where the French reprocessing center sits, leukemia clusters in people living along that coast, and massive demonstrations in French cities earlier in the year protesting construction of new nuclear power plants.

The Union of Concerned Scientists was upset by 60 Minutes downplaying of alternative energy technologies such as wind and solar. UCS's Alden Meyer wrote to 60 Minutes:
"In fact, wind power could supply more energy to the U.S. grid than nuclear does today, and when combined with a mix of energy efficiency and other renewable energy sources, could provide a continuous energy supply that would help us make dramatic reductions in global warming."
Dismissal of renewable energy forms is another major facet of mainstream media's drive for a nuclear power revival. As the St. Petersburg Times put it (12/08/06), "While renewable sources of energy such as solar power are still in the developmental stage, nuclear is the new green." Renewables Are Ready was the title of a 1999 book written by two UCS staffers. Today, they are more than ready. "Wind is the cheapest form of new generation now being built," wrote Greenpeace advisor Wasserman (Free Press, 4/10/07). He pointed to an "array of wind, solar, bio-fuels, geothermal, ocean thermal and increased conservation and efficiency."

Wasserman has also written about another element ignored by most mainstream media (Free Press, 7/9/07): "The switch to renewables defunds global terrorism. Atomic reactors are pre-deployed weapons of radioactive mass destruction. Shutting them down ends the fear of apocalyptic disaster by both terror and error." He stressed, again, that safe, clean energy is here and "we could replace everything with available technology that could easily supply all our needs while allowing a sustainable planet to survive and thrive."

The one green thing

What are the causes of the media nuclear dysfunction? The obvious problem is media ownership. General Electric, for one, is both a leading nuclear plant manufacturer and a media mogul, owning NBC and other outlets. (For years, CBS was owned by Westinghouse; Westinghouse and GE are the Coke and Pepsi of nuclear power.) There have been board and financial interlocks between the media and nuclear industries. There is the long-held pro-nuclear faith at media such as the New York Times. (See sidebar.)

There is also the giant public relations operation--both corporate, led by the NEI, and government, involving the Department of Energy and its national nuclear laboratories. "You have the NEI and the nuclear industry propagandizing on nuclear power, and journalists taking down what the industry is saying and not looking at the veracity of their claims," Greenpeace USA nuclear policy analyst Jim Riccio told Extra!.

And then there's lots of money. FAIR recently exposed (Action Alert, 8/22/07) how National Public Radio, which broadcasts many pro-nuclear pieces, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from nuclear operator Sempra Energy and Constellation Energy, which belongs to Nustart Energy, a 10-company consortium pushing for new nuclear power plant construction.

The only thing green about nuclear power is the nuclear establishments dollars.

Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury. Books he has written about nuclear technology include Cover Up: What You ARE NOT Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power. He has hosted many television programs on nuclear technology on

Article Sidebar:

The NYTs Nuclear Promised Land

The New York Times is not alone in promoting a revival of nuclear power. But as the U.S. paper of record, it sets the media tone. Its pro-nuclear editorial culture began decades ago when the Manhattan Project and its corporate contractors (notably General Electric and Westinghouse, which became the major manufacturers of nuclear power plants) sought to perpetuate what was established during World War II, by making other things atomic.

Because of the Times' importance, Manhattan Project director Gen. Leslie Groves personally arranged for its reporter, William Laurence, to join the project. Laurence was responsible for the first piece of nuclear media disinformation; he wrote a press statement to cover up the first test of an atomic device, claiming there had been an ammunition dump explosion. Laurence later, as the only "journalist" that had been at the 1945 Trinity test, wrote that it was like being present "at the moment of creation when the Lord said 'let there be light.'"

After atomic bombs dropped on Japan, the Times both ran and "distributed free to the nation's other newspapers" a 10-part series written by Laurence glorifying the Manhattan Project, notes News Zero: The New York Times and The Bomb by Beverly Keever (Common Courage Press). Radioactivity was all but unmentioned in the series.

And the Times science reporter continued for years to wax poetic about atomic technology. "From the dawn of the atomic-bomb age, Laurence and the Times almost single-handedly shaped the news of this epoch and helped birth the acceptance of the most destructive force ever created," writes Keever, professor of journalism at the University of Hawaii. Laurence would describe nuclear power as "making the dream of the Earth as a Promised Land come true."