FREAK-TV: Jane Fonda, the Ellsberg Paradox, and Nuclear Power

Video

We’ve got a new column in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine about the past, present, and future of nuclear energy. The column is called “The Jane Fonda Effect” — any guesses why? — and the research took me down to the Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pa. (That’s why my family and I got to spend a little time in nearby Hershey, Pa.) We’ll be posting more on this site later about the research behind the article. For now, you can see a brief preview in the video player, featuring an interview with Chris Crane, the COO of Exelon Generation, the operator of T.M.I. Interestingly, Crane acknowledges that the public panicked over the 1979 accident at T.M.I. in part because T.M.I. didn’t do a good job letting the public know what had actually happened.


PeeDub

"The column is called “The Jane Fonda Effect” — any guesses why?"

The China Syndrome??

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078966/

Rita: Lovely Meter Maid

"The Jane Fonda Effect" - is it called that because the idea of nuclear energy is a tainted one (with strong overtones of an evil, destructive force), similar to how Ms Fonda has been (mis)perceived by many for her actions during the Vietnam War? I may be reaching, here...

mgroves

Those control panels look really outdated.

reversecause

Let me guess, after 3-mile island, Jane Fonda's China syndrome movie and anti-nuke campaigning will be blamed for this country's abandonment of nuclear power plants which perpetuated C02-emitting fossil fuel power generation, therefore contributing to global warming.

.. the only question is how to demonstrate that it was Jane Fonda, and not three-mile island (and later meltdowns like Chernobyl or the leak at the Japanese nuclear power plant built on a fault) that leads people to be afraid of nuclear power, and at the same time propels the China syndrome and Jane Fonda into the spotlight.

Dagny

I was nine years old and living in Harrisburg when the TMI accident occurred. School stopped in the middle of the day and I was evacuated amidst much fear and urgency - with many hysterical claims about sterility and blindness. To this day, even with much education and rational knowledge, this is my strongest primal association with nuclear power. I actively demonstrated and worked against nuclear power throughout my teens and twenties. I am much calmer now that I am approaching 40.

Linda Loomis

The other, lesser known Hershey plant in the U.S. is in Oakdale, Calif.--where local cows' milk and almonds merge. The chocolate is imported. It's possible to tour the plant and get a free chocolate bar.

I spoke too soon, I see. According to this website, it's no longer possible to tour the factory. Sigh--I remember when...

http://www.hersheys.com/discover/oakdale.asp

Jaret

Perception aside, what's the ratio of energy in uranium form a power plant versus the energy in all the diesel needed to dig it up (it doesn't occur in dense patches) and coal ( I assume ) neccesary to refine the ore to a usable state? Is it really a sensible alternative?

dry

advancement is always terribly expensive in thought and acceptance.

Dan

I think the fact that many environmentalists refust to endorse nuclear power proves that they themselves do not believe the scenarios the are pushing for the rise in sea levels over the next hundred years.

If all coastal cities really might be underwater, what is a few extra cancers and even a Chernobel type accident every generation? The question of nuclear waste would become completely trivial, in that scenario.

Any answers, from rational decision makers like we have on this site? (LOL)

Peter Gerdes

Jaret:

Extremely high especially compared to the energy required to dig up more gas and refine it.

If you include breeder reactors and the like that let us reuse spent uranium fuel it's an even better ratio. Of course those technologies, while great in theory, have some proliferation problems as they are easy to modify to produce plutonium.

mike

Jaret, no comparison. Nuclear energy just keeps on giving and giving and giving. Do you think France and Japan would find it cheaper to import oil? Not even close.

What is the connection to, I assume, Daniel Ellsberg? Oh, just looked up his entry in Wikipedia. Had no idea that his Harvard PhD was in Economics and his thesis is now known as the Ellsberg Paradox. What that has to do with all this, I can't wait to read.

I would like to say its a shame the Nixon Whitehouse and others today continue to disparge Ellsberg, a great patriot, and true renaissance man.

janie

why are nuclear and fossil fuels the only options in your world?

Linda Loomis

Daniel Ellsberg has seen his share of Texas in the last several years--supporting the anti-war demonstrations and protests of activist Cindy Sheehan in Crawford. I'm interested to see what the Freakonomics duo will do with the Ellsberg Paradox in relation to nuclear energy.

I would like to mention that San Antonio Express-News columnist Jaime Castillo gave Sheehan's name as "Nancy" in his Sept. 11 column this month. The error has since been corrected in the electronic version of his story. Not sure how that mistake slipped past his editor.

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/columnists/jcastillo/stories/MYSA091207.01B.Castillo.37f852c.html

Bruce Hayden

"why are nuclear and fossil fuels the only options in your world?"

They obviously are not. However, in the short and intermediate term, and being an economics blog, I am sure most remember what Keynes supposedly said about the long term.

Wind - expensive, eats birds, and obscures views. You might want to ask Sen. Kennedy why he is working so hard against the proposed wind generators off Nantucket. Can't ever expect to generate more than a couple percentage of our needs.

Solar - very expensive, not very efficient, and would take up a lot of area. Ultimately, may be useful when we can get yields up and costs down. Probably more promising than wind, but still can't expect that much contribution, regardless. And what about the possibilities of global warming from the change from the natural background?

Hydro - DOA in the U.S. for environmental reasons. We just have to look at the mega Chinese dam that was just built.

Waves, geothermal, etc. - expensive for little potential power.

My preferred long term alternative is to move power generation and industrial power usage into space. Most of the problems with both solar and nuclear disappear there. It would be great to be able to get power back to Earth, but so far, the schemes for that mostly seem to have potential side effects, like frying birds with microwaves.

Read more...

Bruce Hayden

One thing that all need to keep in mind is that all of our energy is nuclear in origin. Most comes from solar based fusion, but some from local fission. Nevertheless, all based on conversion of mass to energy conforming to E=M*C*C.

- hydrocarbons, biofuels, etc. - ultimately based on photosynthesis organically capturing solar energy.
- wind, waves, hydro - all ultimately based on the sun warming up water or air. The first two are a direct result of such, while the later (hydro) requires (sun based) evaporation.
- geothermal - center of the Earth stays hot through fission.

And of course solar and nuclear power are obvious here.

Barry

"an interview with Chris Crane, the COO of Exelon Generation, the operator of T.M.I. Interestingly, Crane acknowledges that the public panicked over the 1979 accident at T.M.I. in part because T.M.I. didn't do a good job letting the public know what had actually happened."

Really?

Didn't he hire professional liars at Burson Marsteller to spread the lies to the public at the time? Same Burson Marsteller that spread lies over Exxon Valdez, Marlboro and countless other issues.

More:

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Burson-Marsteller

david vartanoff

Indeed the prime reason not to embrace nuclear is the ethics/quality deficit of both the builders and operators. Stories of intimidation of inspectors, misread blueprints, unexpected corrosion/leaks, let alone 'operator error' are sufficient to blackball further investment.
As to actual energy needs, no single source magic bullet will do, but a multi-pronged SERIOUS program of solar PV, solar HW, more efficient buildings, and much less waste will go a long way.

pork rind

Solar is not expensive. It is ot exspensive simply because it does not foul the land the air or the sea. Sola does cover some land area, but not an appreciative amount. A 100 square mile grid could supply 33% of the USA's peak electric needs. What percent of 3,000,000 is 100 ? In addition to not polluting and not causing serious health problems for human beings, a massive investment in photovoltaics would help save precious finite resources often reffered to as Fossil Fuels. And photvoltaics are a complete departure from the majority of electric power production, requiring a new industrial base in order to know just how low a price it can be made at. Thats right, no fires, no toxic exuast, no steam, no turbines, no generators.
And the proper method is to have government build the entire program since almost all the cost is contained in the upfront production. We build the photovoltaic electric production facilities and then collect the electric rate payers money directly and deposit the proceeds into the tax revenue stream for a continuing source of new governmental fiscal resources. With government providing the electricity it doesnt have to look for profit and can set the price at any level that provides certainty of conservation of usage.

Read more...

PeeDub

"The column is called "The Jane Fonda Effect" - any guesses why?"

The China Syndrome??

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078966/

Rita: Lovely Meter Maid

"The Jane Fonda Effect" - is it called that because the idea of nuclear energy is a tainted one (with strong overtones of an evil, destructive force), similar to how Ms Fonda has been (mis)perceived by many for her actions during the Vietnam War? I may be reaching, here...