Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal

Two weeks ago (Aug. 18), the WSJ published a Saturday essay from Dr. Richard Muller titled “The Panic Over Fukushima”. I submitted a letter to the editor. Sadly, the WSJ decided not to publish it. However, I wanted to share it with my readers. I might add that anti-nuclear people hate his essay, and a fair number of pro-nuclear people hate it as well. Both claim “bad science” as the enemy. While his science isn’t completely accurate, it does provide something a lay person can get their arms around and understand. And it makes clear how miniscule the risks really are. For that I was glad the essay was published.

I want to thank the Wall Street Journal for Dr. Muller’s Saturday Essay. He did an outstanding job in making clear how even using the most conservative limits and estimates, the radiation released during the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility will not have a measurable impact on the residents of the region. The FEAR that has been instilled by those with an agenda and the hopes of other economic gain has done far more harm to Japan and to the rest of the world by convincing people to abandon nuclear energy.

This reliable form of energy generation has few incidents, so each time anything goes wrong, it is news, even when no one gets hurt and the risks are minimal. Unfortunately, this “no news is good news” method of coverage has left many people under the impression that these plants are dangerous and difficult to operate. Dr. Muller’s article helps clarify the fact that one of the worst nuclear accidents in history has had a minimal environmental impact. I hope that this understanding will allow people in Japan to return to their homes and begin the difficult job of picking up the pieces after a devastating earthquake and tsunami ravaged their lives. Restarting their nuclear facilities will go a long way toward bring Japan back on track as one of the largest economies in the world.

The benefits of the high energy density of nuclear energy are enormous. A typical currently operating nuclear energy facility generates nearly 8000 GWH of electricity every year from a facility that takes less than 2 square miles of land. That’s enough electricity to power more than 650,000 households. It takes only 750-800 people to safely operate the plant. But the impact on the local economy of well-paying jobs and high tax base of these facilities makes most localities very supportive of the plants. The presence of these power plants can attract industry, interested in reliable, low cost electricity. Increasingly new industries are concerned about clean energy and nuclear fills the bill nicely with ZERO carbon emissions, low cost and reliable generation. Only hydro power can come close to nuclear energy’s ability to unleash an economy.

Nuclear Energy can continue to provide clean, low cost electricity to power America, allowing manufacturing and high-tech energy intensive industries to employ thousands and recharge the US economy along the way. Only if we don’t let scare tactics and fear mongers frighten us into the next dark age. Let’s keep the lights on!

Now, tell me what YOU think…

8 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal”

  1. The rejection of the WSJ of your fine article points out the major hamstring of getting nuclear acceptable; access to mass public education. If we can’t hope for fair-minded editors then me must take another path but one must be WILLING! I see puppy-rescue PSAs on cable by groups nowhere as deep-pocketed as nuclear industry or organizations but we see zit nuclear PSAs. Getting the word out, the truth out, the proof out that nuclear isn’t Darth Vader is the industry’s greatest public challange, not much new generation of reactor is best.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    • You have good points. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the willingness to advertise and get correct information out there.

    • It kinda seems as if the Nuclear Industry is still in the mindset of keeping their heads down and out of view, like they have been for the past 20 or so years. In light of Fukushima and the whole Clean Energy debate/situation/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, it looks like they’re trying to come out a little bit. Could it be that there are people with ideas to get the word out there, but are being help back by the industry or a lack of ways to collaborate?

      I guess it was a couple weeks ago that Margaret did a blog about ANS’s Center of Nuclear Science & Technology. It certainly looks like they’re getting the right idea.

  2. I managed to get a letter into a free publication, and I think I made a point:

    “[Fukushima hysteria is] a false panic on the scale of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds.””

  3. Good letter. It has always been difficult to get the main stream media educated in this area. The no news issue point is a good one; but the good news doesn’t sell. Maybe the pain of the Japanese people will help others to understand the value.

  4. Margaret, I certainly agree with your and Muller’s views. But the overpowering, everlasting dread factor, fanned by decades of antinuclear vitriol, once again trumps a reasoned analysis in the view of many people. They’re too afraid and disgusted to listen to reason.

    From my viewpoint, the worst outcomes of this accident were: 1) the lengthy displacement of people from their nearby properties; 2) the shocking exposure of engineering and operational weaknesses that had been ingrained in the plant operator and its regulator; and 3) the sudden, unanticipated, and horrendous financial hit to TEPCO, the surrounding community, and Japan.

    We in the world-wide nuclear community who design, construct, operate, and maintain these plants must do better, and do so consistently. Even without the increased dread fostered by TMI, Chernobyl, and now Fukushima, we nukes would be facing a tough sell. We’re giving the antis too many opportunities to fan the dreadful flames.

    Having just grumbled, let me state that we should not stop challenging the exaggerations that spring from the antis. But better performance would help us make our case.

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