Thursday, 21 July 2016

Who killed nuclear power and why?

  1. In trying to answer the question, we look at who is most opposed to it today: the Green movement. Look back to the period when the green movement moved against nuclear power (late 1960s/early 1970s). The 'Club of Rome' began in 1968. Friends of the Earth, FotE, in 1969. The term 'Renewable Energy' first appears in print in 1971 in Scientific American. FotE first employee was Amory Lovins who became the renewable energy guru. Before he was ever a renewable energy guru, he tried to become the anti-nuclear power guru. Five of his books have 'nuclear' in the title. In Australia, FotE established CANE : The Campaign Against Nuclear Energy, in 1976. It went on to have a major effect in Australia - one of two countries in the world to ban nuclear power early on (the other was Austria, in 1978). Their motive is population control: by limiting energy use, they would stop population growth. Not necessarily an argument you'll often hear them make. Also a wrong argument. Promoting poverty, and energy poverty, has the exact opposite effect: poor people have more children because they can, and perhaps, because they view children as an economic resource.

    This explanation is promoted by ecomodernists at Environmental Progress, The Breakthrough Institute, etc. Many are ex-greens. Other ex-greens also support this premise. PS: by 'ex-green' I mean ex- mainstream green. The story is most convincingly told by Michael Shellenberger (himself once an anti-nuclear activist working to 'constipate' nuclear power by promoting arguments against nuclear waste). The weakness of this argument is it does not give due credence to funds giving greens so much influence (see: Steve Malanga, and Donald Gibson), nor on other political factors at work (see Marsha Freeman), nor Malthusian ideas already widespread in society, nor why the late 1960s/ early 1970s were pivotal. I agree the Green Movement became intellectual victims of Malthusian ideas (see Gibson, page 78). But why? What is the connection between greens and Malthus? Why is it so pronounced. Is something more fundamental at work here? Something more akin to a generalized anti-humanism, which finds its own expression within the green movement as environmentalism. There is certainly a huge schism between generally people loving green nukes, and anti-human green anti-nukes.

  2. US neo-Cons under the influence of Albert Wohlstetter. These were a small number, perhaps only a dozen, ex-liberals, who turned to conservatism in the late 1960s/early 1970s to later occupy influential positions in government. Their argument was anti-proliferation. Anti-proliferation was cited by Carter Democrats in 1977 for stopping breeder reactors, and Clinton Democrats in 1994 when they stopped all US government research into nuclear power. It became a major plank of US foreign policy. All nuclear vendors had to buy into the notion of the 'cradle to grave' nuclear fuel cycle which limited enrichment, breeder reactors, and reprocessing technologies. In politics, bomb proliferation was portrayed as the major threat to world peace and security.
  3. Fossil fuel lobbyists. The Atomic Energy Commission, AEC, lost control of nuclear regulation in 1974 when the US created the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, in response to Fossil Fuel lobbying. The NRC had the sole responsibility to make nuclear power as safe as possible. Previously: the AEC had a dual mandate: to promote safe nuclear power. In response to NRC creation, investment in new US nuclear plants vanished overnight. The NRC licensed no new nuclear plants for decades. This argument is popularized by blogger Rod Adams, AKA atomic rod.

But surely the reader objects: it was public fear in response to the 'disasters' of Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi? No. Public fear in response to the Banqiao Dam disaster of 1975, which eventually killed 171,000 people, did not kill hydroelectricity. The 'disasters' above were responsible for less than 60 deaths caused by radiation.

A lot of people are very confused about what stopped nuclear power. In citing multiple points above it looks like I'm just adding to confusion. The failure of nuclear power had nothing at all to do with Three Mile Island, Chernobyl nor Fukushima. In 1978, an Austrian referendum on nuclear power saw 49.5% vote for and 50.5% against nuclear power in Austria. This stopped nuclear power in Austria before the Three Mile Island incident of 1979. What's so special about Austria? It was the Adolf Hitler's birthplace. His green political movement: the Nazis began the Second World War under the influence of Malthusian ideas. See "Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning", 2015, by Timothy Snyder

What have all these anti-nuke ideas in common? Under whose banner do they rally? The common factor is Malthus. I use Malthus in the wide sense as an obsession with economic limits. None of these arguments above exclude others. The promotion of Malthus, beginning in earnest, in 1968 with the 'Club of Rome', does not exclude anti-nuke contributions from the fossil fuel industry, neo-cons, ex- peace-movement anti-nukes, and deep greens. It welcomes such efforts, and funds them. There were anti-nuclear power people before 1968 but FotE (1969) were the first to dedicate themselves to the task. Late 1960s was a pivotal point leading to an early 1970s tip, which got us where we are today.


  1. I'm not sure Hitler could be termed as a Green -- I'd suspect a more insightful label for his beliefs (assuming Timothy Snyder's analysis is correct) would be "Social Darwinist fundamentalist".

    1. The Nazis created new nature reserves as they exterminated human beings. German green philosophy goes way back. If you don't like my Timothy Snyder interpretation, consider George Mosse: "The Crisis of German Ideology: The Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich" The peculiar nature of Germany greenary - giving rise to Volkisch movements - interwove nature love with racism and German specialness. It dates to Moritz Arndt beginning 1815. Arndt's student Wilhelm Riehl, followed by Ernst Haeckel did much to nourish it. The German world had a far deeper and stronger vision of environmentalism than Britain or America.