press reactions

From The New York Times

By Walter Goodman

"Tonight's FRONTLINE takes on the anti-nuclear-power industry. Richard Rhodes, the author of The Making of the Atom Bomb, brings in scientists and engineers to make a provocative case that nuclear energy, now being abandoned by the United States, is safer, cleaner and more efficient than the coal, oil and natural gas on which the nation continues to rely.

If that goes against what you have read or heard Nuclear Reaction blames fear-mongering by environmentalists (Ralph Nader to the fore), Hollywood studios (there's a clip from The China Syndrome) and television news deliverers (yes, even Walter Cronkite).

......Explosive reactions to Nuclear Reaction are to be expected from the anti-nuclear cadres. Fine. Let's hope they will make their case with scientific evidence, as Mr. Rhodes does tonight, rather than with the toxic imagery that has contaminated the debate."

From Seattle Times

By John Voorhees

"Nuclear Reaction the FRONTLINE episode, is reported by Richard Rhodes,... a controversial choice, according to a press release by an organization called Safe Energy Communication Council. It claims the program was designed mainly to prove Americans rejected nuclear power because of fear. But while that is an aspect of the presentation, Rhodes also makes clear nuclear power has not been as economical as it once was touted, a point also made by the Safe Energy's press release.

Fifty years after its appearance, nuclear power remains a controversial subject, and whether you agree completely with FRONTLINE: Nuclear Reaction or not, it is a stimulating report."

From New York Daily News

By Eric Mink

FRONTLINE: Nuclear Reaction,...is a lot closer to polemic than journalism.

The film's point of view is that American's negative attitudes toward nuclear power are fundamentally irrational. But rather than fairly presenting and then shooting down opposing views, the program pays them little more than lip service. Indeed, it often presents them in absurd and unflattering contexts (clips from The Simpsons ) and stops just short of suggesting a media/environmental movement conspiracy.

But the program really drops the ball in segments contrasting American attitudes with those of the French, who apparently love their nukes. After suggesting that industry/government PR campaigns have made the French better informed about nuclear power than Americans, Rhodes comments, 'But I noticed a more striking difference: Unlike Americans, the French seemed to trust their experts.'

An excellent point, but FRONTLINE leaves it hanging. Perhaps that's because an honest exploration of American's distrust of their nuclear establishment would run smack into a well-documented record of lies and deceptions spanning more than 40 years.

America's nuclear power industry and associated government agencies do indeed suffer from an alarming lack of credibility, but they got it the old-fashioned way: They earned it. Tonight's FRONTLINE would have earned some points for fairness had they acknowledged as much."

From Philadelphia Inquirer

By Rich Heidorn Jr.

"Does America have it right or wrong? Rhodes and producer Jon Palfreman post the question, but there is no mistaking the answer they seek to leave with viewers.

Americans accept the risks of hundreds of other technologies; should nuclear power be held to an impossibly high standard?

It is a question future generations may not have the luxury of ignoring. Fossil fuels will become more expensive as they grow scarce, and their environmental damage is well documented.

Unfortunately, Nuclear Reaction may do less to open antinuclear minds than to provide fodder for conspiracy theorists who contend the government lied about the amount of radioactivity released at TML.

Nuclear Reaction is a provocative documentary that raises some very good questions. Just don't take its answers as gospel."

From Toranto Globe and Mail
By John Haslett Cuff

"If television has any power to change attitudes toward nuclear power, tonight's documentary, FRONTLINE: Nuclear Reaction ...could make believers out of millions. I've seen numerous antinuclear films, but this is the first to include an extensive overview of the benefits of energy produced by nuclear reactors and cogently present both sides of the issue. It not only contains solid statistical information, but also explores the impact of media in shaping perceptions of the technology in such a way that most viewers will probably reconsider their own feeling on the subject.

'Nuclear power is finished' in the United States, says Ralph Nader, the U. S. activist who was instrumental in forcing auto makers to consider the safety of drivers. Although it was once thought there would be up to 1,000 reactors in the US. by the year 2000, there are now only 109, with many of those currently being phased out. Because of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, and such Hollywood disaster flicks as The China Syndrome and Silkwood , most North Americans are convinced nuclear power is evil.

Richard Rhodes, who spent 15 years researching his acclaimed history The Making of the Atomic Bomb, presents a great deal of evidence to the contrary and shows how irrational both public attitudes and U. S. policy appear to be, given the exceptional safety record of the industry and proven efficiency of the technology. In 40 years, nobody has been killed or injured in a US. commercial reactor accident involving radioactivity. In contrast, thousands of people are killed or injured annually in accidents related to the aviation, automobile, chemical and coal industries."

From USA Today

By Matt Roush

"Better yet to appreciate the film, even if you disagree with its conclusions, for daring to defy conventional wisdom as it analyzes the psychological and cultural factors that have stalled the nuclear industry in its tracks. (Meanwhile, in countries like France that harbor fewer natural resources to produce energy, nuclear plants have become popular tourist destinations.)

Rhodes compares the dangers of nuclear energy to mishaps in the chemical industry. He suggests the results of fusion are less deadly than electricity or natural gas, and charges that coal burning is more harmful to the environment. Yes, he stacks the deck.

He seems to be on fresher ground when turning from risk analysis to what psychologists call "risk perception," the notion that deep-rooted anxieties about nuclear power lie in a dread of catastrophe or war, inflamed by disaster movies, and uncertainty about who's in control."


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