Enviromentalists and Nuclear power

What if the enviromentalists never stopped backing nuclear power? They used to campaign pretty well for it, since its pretty much clean.
 
More NPPs, less dependancy on oil, cleaner air, less alternative energy sources (wind, solar pannels, bio mass). More countries close to nukes (or having them)
 
I'm feeling too lazy to come up with new topics, so I'm just gonna bump a few of my old threads.

Consider this one bumped.
 
The basice problem is that most (not all, but most) environmentalists are anticapitalist luddites, and nuclear power technology is high technology (at least at first) and highly capital intensive. I cannot imagine how the greens and their ilk would be able to embrace it for any period of time...

That said, it would be a good thing if they did... Not only would we all benefit from the technology itself, but the political bent of the greens would remain somewhere within the broad spectrum of real politics, and hence some of the worthwhile ideas of the environmentalists (limited though they are) wouldn't be lost in the debate.
 

Ian the Admin

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Scott Rosenthal said:
The basice problem is that most (not all, but most) environmentalists are anticapitalist luddites
Most environmentalists are not "anticapitalist" and are very much into certain forms of high tech (such as solar and wind power). The bulk of the environmental movement is politically moderate to liberal - "deep greens" haven't much impact outside of conservative scare stories. Many environmentalists are wary of nuclear power for the exact same reasons that MOST people are - overestimating the harm of spectacular accidents vs. ordinary pollution, and being intrinsically more worried about "radiation" than other forms of harm without really understanding what it is.

It's a common human trait to be much more worried about very unlikely but very bad things, than to be worried about everyday bad things that happen all the time. Therefore people worry disproportionately about another Chernobyl, than about the health damage done by pollutants released by fossil fuel.

It also doesn't help that for decades (50s/60s), nuclear power was VERY oversold as the greatest thing since sliced bread, there were a lot of lies and coverups about the harm of radiation, and since then nuclear plants have had lots of problems with incompetent operators and coverups. A lot of people make the pretty straightforward "where there's smoke there's fire" sort of conclusion based on that, rather than understanding that the reality under the coverups and bullshit is still on balance less harmful than fossil fuels.
 
Its no so much that the majority of enviromentalists are anticapitalist luddites, its just that the majority of the really vocal ones are...

The silent majority of any group usually contains the rational people. Probably because they've got their own lives to worry about, rather than spouting off whatever their opinions are.
 
Touched a nerve did I?... Good...

As for who is or is not an anticapitalist luddite, numerous opinion surveys in fact show strong correlation between those who profess green (not deep green, I believe we can all agree that they are a bunch of nutters, and utterly unrepresentative of any rational worldview...) positions and those who evince strong anticapitalist and antitechnological views. Yes, there are some who don't follow this sad path, but by and large they are the exception, and not the rule.

All of that said, Ian makes an excellent point when he describes nuclear technology as 'oversold' during the 1950s and the 1960s. Unfortunately this is altogether too common with the introductory phase of almost any technology (those of us in computer business know exactly what I am describing...sigh...), and when combined with the abysmal public ignorance regarding radioactivity in general, it goes a long way to explaining how the greens were able to sabotage a worthwhile technology.
 

Ian the Admin

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Scott Rosenthal said:
Touched a nerve did I?... Good...

As for who is or is not an anticapitalist luddite, numerous opinion surveys in fact show strong correlation between those who profess green (not deep green, I believe we can all agree that they are a bunch of nutters, and utterly unrepresentative of any rational worldview...) positions and those who evince strong anticapitalist and antitechnological views. Yes, there are some who don't follow this sad path, but by and large they are the exception, and not the rule.
Such as what opinion surveys? Do you have any examples?

I've never seen such a result and I have quite an interest in political and opinion research. I strongly expect, for example, that what you describe as "anticapitalist", I might describe more accurately as "standard liberal anti-laissez-faire attitudes". I also expect you'd find that environmentalists as a group are more comfortable with computers than most of the population, despite being less comfortable with, say, SUVs and nuclear plants.

As for nuclear power specifically, I know from lots of firsthand experience that nervousness about or opposition to it is MAINSTREAM in North America, it's not even remotely close to being an issue that needs some special explanation of "luddism" for the environmentalist position on it. And most of the opinion results from people having a lack of perspective on how much of a threat radiation is from nuclear plants, versus other sources of radiation and other forms of pollution. Heck, when I was in high school we had a representative from CANDU (Canadian Department of Uranium) give a presentation on nuclear power, pointing out rarely-known things like how much radiation is present in the natural environment. Before the presentation the average opinion in the student body was pretty anti-nuke, afterwards even the most pro-environmentalist students basically responded that, wow, they'd never even encountered such information before.

Most people in the environmental movement, like most people in ANY political movement (including any large movements who like nuclear power), are basically ignorant of any real science behind their position on the issues.

When you get right down to it, the reason the US doesn't use much nuclear power is more due to standard right-wing attitudes, than to any activity by "greens". Very liberal countries outside the US - France, for example - often make heavy use of nuclear power. Canada's CANDU is a world leader in nuclear power, and Canada is generally more liberal and environmentally conscious than the US. What are the main differences of energy policy between these countries and the US? The US has a more privatized, decentralized energy system, lower taxes on fossil fuels, and in many ways less strict rules about pollution resulting from fossil fuels. The US also has a national energy policy focused on keeping lots of fossil fuel available. The combination of these factors actually makes nuclear plants considerably less economical in the US than they are in many other countries.

The greatest possible boon for nuclear power in the US would be to give the mainstream environmental movement exactly what it wants - taxes or limits on CO2 emissions, more stringent pollution laws with less "grandfathering" of old plants, and so on. And to give liberals what they want in terms of public utilities being responsible for power, and a national energy policy less reliant on using military power to keep a stable supply of Middle Eastern oil.
 
One of the big problems with Nuke reactors in the US is that we won't build breeder reactors, because they can be used for to make weapons. The reasoning being that we don't want anyone else to build these plants, and potentially get nuke weapon programs started. Of course, everyone who has nuke plants builds breeder reactors anyway.
 
Ian, you're right about the general anxiety and ignorance regarding radioactivity. On the other hand, I think you're wrong about the limits of nuclear power in the US being due to less government regulation. Fossil fuels have been cheaper and less regulated in the US than in Europe for many decades, but the US had a boom (pardon the expression) in nuclear power reactor construction from the 1950s through the 1970s. By the 1980s, though, so many regulations and restrictions were imposed that it became almost impossible to profitably build any new nuclear plants. This would still be the case even if fossil fuels were considerably rarer and more expensive. Public fear and endless government restrictions have basically choked off any growth in nuclear power for the last 20 years or so in the US.
 
March WIRED magazine has an article on an "eco-traitor" who helped found Greenpeace and now supports nuclear power (among other things).
 
@tom: Isn't it astonishing how much a LOT of money can buy?

Else: Let's not forget that the ecology movement wasn't started by crazed esoteric fans but by scientists who actually knew what was happening. Let's also not forget that many people only learned after Chernobyl what a "Becquerel" is (at least in Europe). Do you think it's sad that there are some wackos in the eco scene? Yes? But it's even sadder that supposedly sane people (politicians, managers...) don't understand what they're messing with.
 
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