CGEP Discussion on Nuclear Technology and Policy

On April 10, 2015 the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy hosted a “Discussion on Nuclear Technology and Policy.” The CGEP panel:

Tom Blees, President, The Science Council for Global Initiatives;
Travis Bradford, Associate Professor of Practice in International and Public Affairs; Director, Energy and Environment Concentration, Columbia SIPA;
Eric Loewen, Chief Consulting Engineer, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy; and,
Robert Stone, Director, Pandora’s Promise.

There is a lot of well-informed discussion – I recommend the 90 minute video. Around 1:04 Robert Stone was asked to comment on current public attitudes towards nuclear power. He replied that of the screenings where he was present “the response overwhelming support, over 90% in favor of what I’m saying in the film.” At 1:06 Robert goes in to the exceptions to this positive outlook. Following is a loose partial transcript:

Surprisingly, audiences in Europe are still infused with this idea that Chernobyl killed 100s of thousands of people. There are continual documentaries on television about that.

(…snip…) Probably the most controversial and shocking aspect of the film was what the World Health Organization has reported after years and years of study. WHO has published that substantially less than 100 people have had their lives shortened by the Chernobyl accident.

The mayor of the town of where 50,000 people were relocated from Chernobyl asked me to bring the film. They were so grateful for the film because there is this perception that we all have two headed babies, we are all dying of cancer. They said no documentary film maker has ever talked to them or visited them.

Europe: there have been so many EU TV documentaries claiming great damage/death caused by Chernobyl – and more that talked about Fukushima in the same way. No European broadcaster has shown Pandora’s Promise. 

They said we can’t show your film because it contradicts all the films that we have produced. They can’t both be true. It will undermine our credibility with our audience.

Geoff Russell on Chernobyl, Crikey

Geoff is seriously well-informed on Chernobyl. E.g., this ongoing discussion on the helicopter pilot myths:

Shamus: What I claimed in the article is that no pilots died of ARS … “sloughing their skin” is Rundles description. If you read the full article of Gales which I link in the UNSCEAR 2000 report, you can get a feel for what happened. 500 people hospitalised, which would include people with relatively minor injuries like the burns at Fukushima. Gale was involved with all the worst cases, these were multi Gray (Sievert) serious cases requiring lifesaving emergency acute care, bone marrow and the like. The worst of the pilots was in the 260 milli Sievert range. Some may have been a bit higher and had acute radiation sickness, but they just wouldn’t have been on his radar precisely because he was dealing with the people who really did have serious ARS. I don’t see these people, mostly firemen as being any different from any other front line emergency workers in large industrial accidents … refinery fires … coal mines (or things like 9/11). Heroes indeed, but no more or less heroic than all of the people who do such work. To use these people to oppose nuclear power you need, for starters, to make a case that somehow many more emergency workers are put at risk from a nuclear accident than other kinds of accidents. You actually need much more than that, but if you can’t even get that much, then you’ve got nothing. The alternative approach is to begin your case with the risks to the surrounding population, not the emergency workers.

If I had read Rundle’s piece about 4 years ago. It would have been totally in accord with my understanding of Chernobyl … picked up by osmosis and a long history of being anti-nuclear without bothering to check my information sources. Why would I check? Everybody knows what happened … just like Rundle knows. The challenge is to make people WANT to check. They have to care about whether their view of history is accurate or not.