Banner
    EPA Joins Bob Geldof And Embraces Nuclear Science
    By Hank Campbell | May 7th 2013 01:36 PM | 12 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

    View Hank's Profile
    Bob Geldof, former singer with The Boomtown Rats, is better known today for his work with poor people. Long after it stopped being fashionable, he has continued to help starving people in Ethiopia.

    It's not the only way he is unfashionable - so is his old-school liberalism, which doesn't care about labels or circling the wagons for Big Tent left-wing causes or being against anyone on the other side by default.  When he spoke nicely about George W. Bush in 2003, it was stunning because we were all told to hate George Bush. Liberals in America were not allowed to say nice things about the man or the pitchforks and "neo-con" labels came out.

    "You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy." That interview included a backhanded compliment to former president Clinton. "Clinton was a good guy, but he did f*** all."

    Progressive groups insisted that Bush did not care about poor people in Africa at all, it was just a way for him to bolster his big corporate friends on...farms. Geldof , a true liberal, was not succumbing to their groupthink and spin; it was American food feeding African people that were starving. Today, most people recognize that mean old George Bush, the 'Christian conservative' and enemy of science, was not what simple media caricatures painted. 

    So it goes with nuclear power. Bob Geldof defied liberal convention again in 2007 when he called for more nuclear power during a period when all of the academic and government fashionistas in the developed world were calling for less of it.  But a 2011 earthquake in Japan and a general anti-science mentality about energy in the US have made it even less fashionable since then.  In 2007, Geldof called renewable efforts "Mickey Mouse." Did Mickey Mouse get handed $72 billion in US government money over the last few years?

    But his point was well made and looks downright prescient today. When Nobel laureate Dr. Stephen Chu got handed the keys to the taxpayer kingdom, he showed why science academics are not better choices to be in government than lawyers. He did what he had long been advocating and that was bad. Like New York Times economist Paul Krugman, whose most famous corporate experience was Enron, some people are best left to dreaming about $9 a gallon gas. When Chu should have been spending money on green energy basic research, taxpayers instead started playing venture capitalist with technology because the person running the Department of Energy had an ideological sandbox.  It was a disaster.

    Yet nuclear power is still out there and it still works. The current administration has an overall anti-science mentality but when it comes to nuclear power, it is really defying the consensus. It would be silly for the White House to say climate scientists can't be trusted about climate science because they are in climate science, yet that is exactly the stance they take about physicists; so they have an anti-nuclear non-physicist running the Nuclear Regulatory Commission - the second time in a row.

    Want to solve the problem of CO2 emissions? Stop creating so much CO2. Natural gas is a solution but activists in America hate it. Nuclear power is a solution but activists in America hate that too.  Basically, they hate all energy that works - if solar ever takes off and they learn how environmentally destructive solar power panels are to make, they will turn on that also but for now they just block its construction with environmental lawsuits.

    Fast forward from Geldof's unfashionable statement in 2007 to 2013. In the face of decades of successful public relations campaigns against nuclear science, the Environmental Protection Agency has done something rational; as we fans of nature say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, so a group that took to blaming fracking for problems without doing any studies and declared water a pollutant is surprising everyone by doing something that makes sense; they created a reasonable standard for radiation.

    Given the demographic of people inside the EPA, and the administration that chooses who is in it, it would have been easy for the EPA to avoid radiation altogether, or adopt the "no safe dose" stance taken by the people who voted for their boss.

    Instead, their new guidelines lay out what are 'safe' versus 'unsafe' levels.  This is really a surprise in, what William Tucker of Nuclear TownHall calls a culture of "head for the hills" thinking about radiation, even though it is all around us all of the time.  As was noted to virtually zero media attention after the Fukushima incident, 100,000 Japanese people were scared into leaving their homes over what are really background levels of radiation in a huge chunk of the world, including areas with no nuclear power plants anywhere near them.

    Well, maybe nuclear power plants should be somewhere near. That was what Geldof was advocating, rather than burning wood, like a lot of poor people do, or engaging in high-profile media events like putting in solar panels that are going to be mostly useless after the reporters leave.

    The US also has big challenges to using nuclear power, of course. Oddly, the biggest obstacle to nuclear power is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself - they exist to block nuclear power and not discuss it. Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the EPA, told David Falcheck of Citizens Voice, "This generation gets its information about nuclear power from 'The Simpsons;' my generation got it from Three Mile Island and 'The China Syndrome'. We are poorly informed about nuclear power. 

    "We had a solution in Yucca. We spent billions on it. But we walked away from it not because of nuclear science, but because of political science."

    Yucca Mountain is arguably the greatest scientization of politics boondoggle of the last 40 years. It was a stunning slap in the face to the thousands of scientists who had done decades of work proving it a safe storage facility, leaving us today with a hundred old places to store nuclear waste. But the current head of the NRC was picked precisely because she was against Yucca Mountain and her predecessor was appointed for the same reason.

    By discussing safe standards for radiation, the EPA may be doing what the NRC is afraid to do; embrace nuclear science.  Activists are in a panic; whenever you read the term "legal standards" in statements you know you have left the world of science behind. But they are using it now. What they mean is 'our lobbyists spent a lot of time and money getting a politician to enact this and we don't want it changed', science and reason are not parts of the equation. Yet the EPA has not made any legal standards recommendation, it simply made a science guideline.

    Look for the NRC to retaliate against the EPA by embracing fracking - that is how science works when scoring political points and getting media coverage matters most.

    NOTE:

    The Boomtown Rats. They are doing a reunion.



    "Do They Know It's Christmas Time?", which he co-wrote and produced for Band Aid/Live Aid. This is nice because it has the artists introducing themselves, and I know after almost 3 decades I forgot a lot of them.



    And a 'behind the scenes' video including tracks of the individual artists singing their parts:

    Comments

    MikeCrow
    One might think, if climate activists, er scientists were that scared of Co2, they would be lobbying for Nuclear power stations to be built, or doing research on liquid thorium reactors that can burn nuclear waste. Something that can actually displace large amounts of fossil fuel use.
    Never is a long time.
    Does Campbell really run into nuclear power-hating activists who *also hate natural gas*?

    A gigawatt-year of nuclear electricity production from CANDU reactors requires about $16 million worth of mined uranium. If government forbids this, $270 million worth of natural gas is the likely replacement, and on this, government gets royalties of $30 million to $50 million. Greenpeace has produced a study, I think they called it "rEvolution", projecting large increases in gas-fired generation for the next 30 years.

    A behavioural test: does the hatred these activists feel for the use of natural gas ever inspire them to mention, unprompted, the San Bruno disaster of two or three years ago, or the New Mexico one in 2000?

    Many climate scientists recommend nuclear energy. James Hansen and Barry Brook are commendably loud about it. Many others are, unfortunately, soft-spoken in this as in their climate alarmism. "Don't be such a scientist", they are told, but it's a package.

    Hank
    Does Campbell really run into nuclear power-hating activists who *also hate natural gas*?
    I'm more surprised you don't. People who are anti-science about energy are anti-science across the board, though admittedly primarily after something becomes popular. The same people that are anti-nuclear were once in favor of natural gas, until it actually dropped CO2 emissions in the energy sector back to early 1990s level. Now they dislike it. They also loved ethanol and spent 15 years pushing for it. They only turned on that when a Republican president and legislature agreed to mandate and subsidize it like they wanted; then they started listening to science.
    The same people that are anti-nuclear were once in favor of natural gas ... Now they dislike it.

    And the behavioural test of that theory? You know, mentioning, without being prompted, the Kleen Energy disaster, or another of many such?

    Another one: mentioning government's natural gas royalty income.

    Hank
    ha ha "royalty income".  So the evil Obama administration is leasing federal land for payola when it comes to gas but if they lease it for solar companies it is okay? No companies should pay taxes, since that is also 'royalty income'? Doesn't the government get royalty income if they put up 50% of the money for a nuclear plant?

    There is no technology that has not resulted in a 'disaster' - people die on organic farms.  Heck, we have had more people die to the effects of manure pits the last few years than can possibly have died due to the effects of fracking.

    We're not going back to the 13th century, we will have energy, and anti-science activists do nothing to contribute to a clean energy future, they just deny what exists now. 
    MikeCrow
    We're not going back to the 13th century, we will have energy, and anti-science activists do nothing to contribute to a clean energy future, they just deny what exists now.

    If we're not going back to the 13th century, we have to have energy, and anti-science activists do nothing to contribute to a clean energy future, they don't seem to understand how much modern society requires adequate sources of inexpensive energy.

    There I think that's better :)
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    While activists are an easy target, the point remains that there is no coherent public policy regarding energy or much of anything else.

    This is precisely what opens the door for all manner of activism, because there is no point of actual contention.  It's all spin.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    True, but I would not like it if the policy was a decree of all renewables by next year. I'd rather see gridlock, than locking in a policy that I believe would be our ruin. It's also why I'd rather see it managed by the "Market", usually if a business does something wrong enough, they go under, while when the government writes it into law it takes way to long to get rid of bad ideas.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    Or it never happens, as the continued existence of the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows.  Even Princeton eventually got rid of its paranormal department, but government never has to get rid of anything wacky.
    Gerhard Adam
    I guess it depends on what you mean by "wrong enough".  To date, it seems that they just get free money.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    In another example of how anti-nuclear the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has become under the back-to-back care of Harry Reid's assistant and now a geologist who hates nuclear power, the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York will be operating without a license.

    The renewal process has been made so arcane and bureaucratic that even the NRC doesn't know how to do it.

    It wasn't an oversight, either. The plant filed for renewal 5 years ago. 'Operating without a license' will now become the reason anti-science activists insist it should be closed.
    MikeCrow
    But let's get all apoplectic on the only other viable source of energy. Fraking morons.
    Never is a long time.