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The nuclear power industry should focus more on addressing people’s irrational fear of low-level radiation rather than adding to the hysteria around global warming.
Constellation Energy, for example, supports Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to tax carbon dioxide emissions of electricity generators. The tax would force the closing of power plants fueled by coal and at least some natural gas-fired plants. Constellation operates electric-generating facilities powered by nuclear fission, wind, solar and hydro.
Pushing competitors out of business through government coercion is distasteful. Eliciting political support by embracing a false narrative of carbon dioxide dangerously warming Earth compounds the offense.
Ethical considerations aside, there is simply no need for nuclear supporters to whip up climate frenzy. Nuclear has plenty of real advantages: Few emissions, whether of carbon dioxide or anything else. Squeaky clean industrial facilities compared to steel mills, stone quarries or coal-fired plants. Containing at least 70,000 times more energy than other sources of the same quantity, nuclear fuel is by far the most efficient.
Nonetheless, the industry’s “carbon-free” mantra has only increased since it began piggybacking on the nascent global warming scare 30 years ago.
“Constellation is the nation’s largest producer of carbon-free energy,” declares the company’s home page. That is the same carbon of which we exhale daily two pounds in gaseous form. And the same element in the hydrocarbons that fueled the creation of the greatest level of prosperity and longest lives ever.
The website of the Nuclear Energy Institute, has more of the same: “To address the climate crisis, we must embrace a carbon-free future and commit to more nuclear energy with wind and solar to power a brighter future.”
Fact check: 1. There is no climate crisis, only hyperbole over modest warming that began with the waning of the Little Ice Age centuries ago. 2. The cost and intermittent nature of wind and solar make them useless as energy sources for large populations.
Ironically, nuclear power itself has been victimized by critics spreading irrational fears about low-level radiation. Nobody questions that high levels of radiation are dangerous. However, amounts bordering on natural background radiation emanating from Earth and outer space are another question entirely.
Everybody is exposed to some level of radiation, depending on location. People in mile-high Denver receive more than somebody at a beach. Jet passengers get still more. Background levels vary according to the type of rocks and soil in a locale.
Yet, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission assumes that any level of radiation — right down to zero — poses a risk. This approach seems illogical in actual life where, for example, many nutrients vital to health in small quantities are toxic in larger. Why not regulate as poisons down to micro-doses the vitamins A and D?
Zero-tolerance regulation stems from the desire of atomic scientists to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the 1950s, reports an article in the May issue of the American Nuclear Society’s “Nuclear News.”
“(T)his principle is based on the public health philosophy of fear; it contradicts all known evolutionary biology,” writes author Dr. Jerry M. Cutler.
“The false radiation scare not only blocks the provision of affordable nuclear energy, it also
blocks the provision of low doses of radiation to remediate cancer metastases, inflammations,
infections, autoimmune diseases, and neurodegenerative Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s
Nuclear power is one of the safest forms of electric generation. Nobody has ever died from radiation exposure at a U.S. plant. The industry should do more to discuss this record and address exaggerated concerns about radiation exposure. Yet, it is the sophomoric carbon-free message that is highlighted on the Constellation Energy and NEI websites.
The first data seen on the Constellation site is “#1 producer of carbon-free energy in the U.S.” It takes another click or two to find discussions of security and safety systems, operator training and emergency planning. We could find nothing about the relative risks of radiation, whose importance apparently doesn’t match that of a faux climate emergency.
Carbon dioxide, increasing warmth and low-level radiation are not the bogeymen the madding crowds would have us believe. These facts should be acknowledged by grown-ups just as should be the dangers of making energy — an economic foundation of life — unnecessarily expensive and its supply less reliable.
This commentary was first posted at Real Clear Energy on May 18, 2022