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March 31, 2011
Nuclear Townhall

Perhaps the most visible impact of the Fukushima accident on the nuclear debate has been the conversion of British global warming alarmist George Monbiot to nuclear power. In an article written two days after the earthquake entitled, “Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power,” declared, “You will not be surprised to hear that events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed. . . I am no longer nuclear neutral. I now support the technology.” 
Monbiot debuted in his new role yesterday in a television debate with veteran nuclear critic Helen Caldicott. While Caldicott has been at this since the 1970s and has reportedly been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts, it was entirely novel to have the relatively young and dashing Monbiot as her opponent instead of the usual mumbling utility executive who says solemnly that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s article 7D, section 14 assures that such accidents can’t possibly happen.
Monbiot tells it straight. Getting rid of nuclear means going back to coal. And coal kills more people in a week in China than the official death toll from Chernobyl. (If he ever has the opportunity to visit a coal plant, he’ll find it’s much worse than he imagines.)  Caldicott counters with a scenario straight out of the standard anti-nuclear stockpile. The reports from Japan, she says, already say that the nuclear fuel has melted through the pressure vessel and is on the containment floor. There the plutonium is going to react with the concrete to cause a hydrogen explosion that will shatter the containment and spread a plume of radiation that will make Japan uninhabitable for all time and reach the United States and kill a lot of people there as well. Even the stodgy Democracy Now anchor seems a bit skeptical of that dissertation.
Monbiot counters nicely. While admitting that such a scenario could take place, he says, “I would disagree that such a scenario could devastate a large part of Japan forever. I think that’s an overstatement. . . . We’ve got to be very careful about not doing what the climate-change deniers do when they say there’s no danger from climate change, cherry-picking studies, plucking out work that is very much against the scientific consensus. When it comes to low-level radiation, unfortunately environmentalists have been responsible for quite a similar approach by making what appear to be unjustifiable and excessive claims for the impact of that radiation. That is not in any way to minimize what could well happen as a result of the events in Fukushima. What it does say is we have to use the best possible science to work out what the likely effects are to be and not engage in what could be far more devastating to the lives of the people in Japan – a wild overreaction in terms of the response in which we ask the Japanese people to engage.”
An auspicious debut, George – congratulations!

Read more about it at Huffington Post


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