Physical Insights

An independent scientist’s observations on society, technology, energy, science and the environment. “Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.” – Carl Sagan

The nuclear energy “live debate”

with 3 comments

A great debate over the importance of nuclear energy as an important source of clean energy is currently happening over at Green Options and promises to be exceptionally broad ranging. Rod Adams of Atomic Insights  is starring in the debate, along with Matt Simmons, a sustainability consultant and engineer who writes regularly for TalkClimateChange, who is taking the argument against nuclear energy.

It looks like a very interesting debate to keep an eye on.

Not to be too judgemental – but personally, I think there’s a recurring theme to Matt’s posts thus far: combined-cycle dangerous fossil fuel turbines, combined dangerous fossil fuel heat and power cogeneration, and the dangerous fossil fuels oracle or shill, depending on who you ask, Amory Lovins.

If nuclear energy costs only 5% more than the combined-cycle dangerous fossil fuel turbine, which discharges its dangerous fossil fuel waste straight into the atmosphere, why would you reject nuclear energy?

I’ll be watching this one with interest.

3 Responses

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  1. My prediction is Rod leaves him hanging in his underwear, twisting in the wind.

    DV82XL

    April 1, 2008 at 1:42 am

  2. Oh, this guy is classic. He’s like the worst sterotype of anti-nuclear-energy people who make all these emotionally loaded rhetoric and appeal to the audience, without any actual research or factually-oriented arguments at all.

    “The bomb at Hiroshima killed an estimated 140,000 people. Nagasaki, 80,000. And that was with the first nuclear bombs – they are more “efficient” now. And these of course are estimates and don’t include a complete account of deaths from fallout. This is one of nuclear’s “uniquely disagreeable problems”.

    “With nuclear, we have an inkling. We have seen the bombs. We have seen the fallout.”

    I’m not quite sure how Hiroshima and Nagasaki relate to nuclear power – but the large populations around those cities certainly do get quite a bit of their electricity from atomic fission.

    “Rod is asking you to put aside this knowledge, to ignore the economics, and to ignore the environmental and terror threats. He is asking you to ignore the Precautionary Principle. And he is asking you to because if you agree with him, you might buy one of his engines.”

    Who’s the one “putting aside knowledge”?

    “We have in the last two generations become aware of mankind’s impact on the planet, particularly at a macro-level. We are now faced with a simple question: do want to heal the injuries we have caused our planet, or do we want to rush ahead with an attack on it’s very fabric?”

    OK… what exactly is he arguing?

    enochthered

    April 1, 2008 at 12:33 pm

  3. For those of you watching at home – let’s play anti-nuclear-energy-argument bingo! Check off each one if you find Matt using it:

    * Ad hominem – attacking the arguer and not the argument.

    * Argument from “authority”.

    * Argument from adverse consequences (putting pressure on the decision maker by pointing out dire consequences of an “unfavourable” decision).

    * Appeal to ignorance (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).

    * Begging the question (assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased).

    * Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses).

    * Statistics of small numbers (such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes).

    * Misunderstanding the nature of statistics

    * Inconsistency (e.g. military expenditures based on worst case scenarios but scientific projections on environmental dangers thriftily ignored because they are not “proved”).

    * Non sequitur – “it does not follow” – the logic falls down.

    * Post hoc, ergo propter hoc – “it happened after so it was caused by” – confusion of cause and effect.

    * Meaningless question (“what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?).

    * Excluded middle – considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities (making the “other side” look worse than it really is).

    * Short-term v. long-term – a subset of excluded middle (“why pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?”).

    * Slippery slope – a subset of excluded middle – unwarranted extrapolation of the effects

    * Confusion of correlation and causation.

    * Strawman argument – caricaturing (or stereotyping) a position to make it easier to attack.

    * Suppressed evidence or half-truths.

    * Weasel words – for example, use of euphemisms for war such as “police action” to get around limitations on Presidential powers.

    enochthered

    April 1, 2008 at 12:40 pm


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