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producer Jon Palfreman or, to the program's correspondent Richard Rhodes.
Send your question and read their responses here online.......
I found you show "Nuclear Reaction" to be very insightful and alarming. It is a
shame that America has caved in to the alarmist reactionist who like to protest and
over dramatize everything and anything. We have shown no faith in our technical
experts to lead us into a new age where energy is available on an enormous scale.
The constant barrage of "not in my backyard" protests and misrepresentations of the
risks involved has resulted in the degradation of all of the major infrastructure
systems in America. We put a man on the moon with 1960's technology, and what have
we done since? Someday we will pay the price for not modernizing our
infrastructure. It amazes me to think that people would rather slowly poison
themselves by burning fossil fuels that have faith in our engineers to master
nuclear energy. Finally, Ralph Nader is dreaming if he thinks that the future
energy needs of this country can be supported through solar, wind and tidal
Thank you for showing what I believe to be the most impartial,
thought-provoking program on nuclear energy that I have ever watched.
I must admit that I was skeptical when I first heard that Frontline would
air a program dealing with our society's fear of nuclear energy as a power
source. As a person directly associated with things nuclear (I work at the
Stanford Linear Accelerator Center) I've found that one of the most
frustrating aspects of my job has been dealing with the various fears and
phobias which people have regarding a subject which they just don't
If only I had the very ability to convey the facts as your program did...
Thank you very much for a job well done,
I found this piece to be absurdly biased. It was obvious from the beginning that
this program was skewed to be an advertisement for the nuclear industry. Nuclear
power proponents were given a hugely disproportionate amount of time for their
arguments, and nuclear power opponents were only referred to for lead-in lines for
the more "rational" rebuttals of the nuclear industry mouthpieces. Indeed,
virtually all of the proponents were in some way making their living in connection
with nuclear industry, so it is not surprising that they defended it so vehemently.
I was distressed that Frontline chose to characterize nuclear industry opponents as
less intelligent, ill-informed, and naive, having been brain washed by the news
media. There are many scientists and informed citizens who understand the inherent
dangers and environmental costs of the nuclear industry, and they have very valid
concerns about the state of nuclear power in this country and throughout the world.
"Nuclear Reactions" by Richard Rhodes was a great
presentation ... balanced in opinion (perhaps tilted a
little towards Naderite-insanities) but nevertheless
balanced in a greater sense than many other commercial media
However, what struck me at the end of the presentation was
the fact that the abandonment of a reasonable source of
nuclear energy and abundant clean electricity was tantamount
to the abandonment of the American Empire ... an event close
to the collapse of the Roman Empire.
As Asia (China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia that I
know well) builds its clean abundant nuclear power sources
it will soon outpace the US. We should be glad to have
lived in the heyday of US global power and leadership
because our children will merely inherit the remnants of
Immediate Past President
American Nuclear Society
I found your program fascinating and frightening. The fascination came with
the information presented about the absolute safety of nuclear power and its
necessity for our future. The frightening came with the final question on
the program. "How will our future generations regard our decision to not use
this energy?" They will be impoverished to such an extent as to make
today's "third world" nations look like they had the Midas touch. Our
progeny will long rue the day that we took these ill chosen paths.
Unfortunately, the education about nuclear energy, like your program, is
coming very late in the process.
As always, I was fascinated with the incredible tales of Ralph Nader. He has
all the lives of a cat with regard to credibility in his "revelations".
Certainly he killed the Corvair --- which allowed the VW Beetle to invade
--- much to Germany's profit. Now we have the Miata, Geo, etc. etc. and not
a word from the guru of safety. What happened? (Or is there no money to be
made in challenging small cars in court these days?)
Nader also threw off those tired old standby's Solar, Biomass (what's
coal?), and Wind --- unfortunately none of these options will ever generate
more energy than the energy required to manufacture and install them. That is
a negative sum game. To say nothing of the inability to generate anywhere
near the levels of energy required to sustain our PRESENT society. There may
be some hope that the Luddites were French and your program showed just how
far they have come with regard to technology and fear.
Excellent program. One can only hope that more such programs will be offered
in the future. Perhaps you can turn the thinking around or at least
stimulate renewed intelligent debate about the subject.
William E. Roberts
P.S. Thank you for confirming my impressions that coal fired plants emitted
far more radiation than any nuclear plant. I have long understood the
environmental impact of particulate emissions, SOX, NOX etc. Once a long time
ago, I thought I saw the radiation emissions from a coal plant but have been
unable to resurrect the data.
I was disturbed about your program concerning nuclear power. I felt that it was
extremely slanted toward interests favoring and/or in the business of nuclear
expansion. Very little attention was paid to environmental concerns. The
progression of our society is not directly correlated to the growth of nuclear
technology. Hopefully our society will evolve not only to investigate alternative
sources of power but study how people can be educated about and live more efficient
Both sides of the issue should have been highlighted equally. Because the credits
rolled so quickly, I question that block of sponsors than zipped through my screen.
I may not be able to provide you the funding you need to create such programs but
my attention to your programs and my respectability of your enterprise should be
of importance. My generation and generations to come deserve objectiveness from a
public broadcast station.
Thanks for airing one of the best television programs in recent years about the
nuclear-power debate. Along with Bill Kurtis' February 1996 PBS "New Explorers"
program titled "Atoms For Peace," FRONTLINE's "Nuclear Reaction" was a very
balanced and straight-forward look at nuclear power in America. Pulitzer
Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes was the ideal correspondent to host the
program--he has spent many years studying the nuclear industry. His conclusions
were correct--sooner or later, we'll need atomic power. By the mid 21st century,
it's likely that we'll end up importing French or Japanese nuclear technology
pioneered by us.
Sadly, Ralph Nader looked like Ralph Nadir; he was truly pathetic as interviewed; he
is so out of touch with reality when it comes to understanding nukes and the
"waste" issue. Nader would rather we have so-called "waste" dumped in Nevada than
reprocessing/recycling it into more fuel because it would validate the technology.
Mr. Nader doesn't want nuclear power. Period. So he's the last one, in my
opinion, to preach about balance, fairness, and the spirit of democracy in this
debate. Nader still spouts the tired old scientifically-invalid environmental
chestnuts and couches them in paternal language that claims he's out to watch out
for the safety of Americans--Mr. Nader wants his vision of the future to come to
past even if it means exploiting public fears and ignorance about atomic energy.
We ask: who appointed Mr. Nader--and other individuals or groups like the Sierra
Club--to be watchdogs that know best how to plan for and manage our future?
Like it or not, we'll come to rely on nuclear power in the future. I'd rather that
Americans be prepared to understand the technology rather than fear it. It's time
scientists and public utilities open up their doors and invite the public to tour
their local reactors. What you fear will be your master, said Crazy Horse. Right
now, the misinformed are our masters. Let's change that paradigm!
Nuclear Reaction was presented very well. Richard Rhodes and his supporting staff
did an excellent job. My wife and I really enjoyed the program.
We found his research in France regarding the perception of nuclear energy to be
very interesting. I came to the startling conclusion that it is true...many
Americans do not appreciate nor have respect for scientists and engineers as does
I would like to see Frontline continue making documentaries on Nuclear Energy.
How much did the nuclear industry pay for this program??? When one of the supposed
'experts' on how to store all this wonderful waste pronounces the word "nuclear" as
"Nuke-U-Lar" , how much credibility can we muster ???
One of the main objections I have encountered to nukes is that it has received HUGE
advantages in terms of research and operational costs compared with some of the
other technologies that would make nuclear power a lot less necessary. If we had
continued the momentum toward renewable and sustainable technologies begun in the
late 70s, we might be able to live with a limited number of nuclear plants designed
to provide a more stable power source where it is really needed.
The gaps in logic and faulty conclusions in this piece are very disappointing
considering Front Line's usual high standards. The main impression I came away
with is a very condescending attitude toward anyone with the nerve to ask a few
hard questions. If nuclear advocates cannot come up with adequate, logical
answers, perhaps it is because nuclear power has been, and probably always will be,
more of a method of keeping people dependent on far-flung energy sources while
ignoring perfectly sound, environmentally far less damaging and sustainable energy
In what was perhaps the ultimate irony of the piece, the closing scene includes a
blazing sun high in the sky. THIS is ultimately where society's energy will be
found, by using current energy inputs instead of plundering and poisoning the earth
in search of ever-dwindling fossil and nuclear fuel sources.
I hope Frontline will do better in the future at presenting both sides of an issue
in a balanced manner, not simply act as an apologist for an industry that has a lot
of questions to answer.
My wife, my 8 year old son, and I watched your program with much interest. Very
interesting and well done. It got to some fundamental issues concerning ANY
discussion about this topic (i.e., PERCEPTION Vs REALITY). I consider myself an
environmentalist and I am certainly NOT an ultraconservative. I do believe that the
public is VERY misinformed, or more accurately, Uninformed about nuclear energy and
nuclear physics in general. I hope PBS continues the "discussion" about nuclear
power and energy sources in general. The TV and the internet may be our closest
thing to "town hall" meetings for furthering quality discussion about this topic.
I found this program very well written and refreshingly clear. Programs
such as this do a very great public service by educating people about
subjects that they know little about and cannot acquire accurate
information from the news media. With better education about nuclear
energy, people will not have such great fear and concerns for its use.
Thank you for this quality program
William A. Fleisher
Your program should have been identified as "editorial". The facts and opinions
expressed were certainly biased. You tried to fool people by giving the appearance
of presenting both sides of the issue. You trivialized the opposing views and
tried to make them look silly. This is certainly within the producers prerogative,
but I think PBS has an obligation to clearly identify such material as editorial.
The public tends to view PBS as a source of un-biased programming, which this
Frontline certainly was not.
With regard to the subject matter, I am unconvinced that nuclear power is a wise
choice for the USA. The argument was put forward that only a "highly concentrated"
energy source is suitable for power production. Maybe this is because it's hard to
put a watt meter on free sources of energy. Using hydro, solar, wind, tidal, etc.
as a BASE and fossil fuels only for peak loads may be viable. Active and passive
solar built into every home and factory would go a long way toward reducing demand
on the power grid. Supplement these distributed source with solar / windpower /
fossil fuel plants connected to the power grid to supply peak loads and power during
cloudy days / no wind days. Has this been evaluated fully? Your program trivialized
or ignored this proposition.
With regard to nuclear, I am concerned on several points --
Terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and radioactive waste.
In my opinion, Frontline glossed over the issue recoiling fuel rods, making sound as
if there are no serious concerns -- that people in the USA like to create "dumps"
rather than recycle -- because we're too lazy or too stupid. I did not see a fair
presentation of the dangers (terrorist and otherwise) associated with Breeders.
Aside from fuel rods, there was no discussion of what to do with the huge mass of
materials that result from a plant reaching end-of-life.
I am a proponent of many technologies, but even after viewing your program, I don't
believe in fission as a wise choice.
There was no discussion of (potentially cleaner) fusion -- why not?
nor did it mention Three Mile Island -- why not?
In the last few weeks, I have seen much publicity regarding your
Frontline presentation "Nuclear Reaction," which aired last night,
locally, on Alabama Public Television.
After watching it, I must commend you on a fair and balanced approach
to the issue of nuclear power and the use of radiation in our society.
In this era in which the Anti-nuclear groups use words such as "deadly"
to describe any radiation and "extremists" to describe those advocating
its safe use, I am heartened to see a reasoned and educational show
on the topic.
I hope that members of the general public, having watched your show,
are the better for it. Keep up the good work.
John E. Aperans, RRPT
Health Physics Office, US Army Chemical School
Ft McClellan, AL
Congratulations on producing a first-rate program on the facts about nuclear power.
The American people have for too long listened to the rhetoric of the anti-nuclear
movement and the fiction of Hollywood. It is a breath of fresh air to watch a
program that is balanced in its content and informative in its approach. Keep up
the great programming.
West Point, New York
I used to love Frontline. I found it to be a great source for the truth on
subjects not covered by mainstream media. Your latest edition, "Nuclear
Reaction" makes it clear how far you have gone from those good old days.
This outrageous program was, in a word, unethically the manner in which it
presented such a pro nuclear biased format. The fact that it made it on
the air under the auspices of Frontline only tells me how corrupt you have
become. It's a shame and you should be ashamed of yourselves. The
consequences of such untruthful programming are enormous, the least of
which is the ruination of Frontline's once good reputation. I am notifying
my local PBS affiliate that I will never support their pledge drive again
as a result of this unforgivable airing of pro nuclear propaganda. I will
also tell everyone I know to stop watching Frontline and stop supporting
WQED. I have a detailed analysis of how "Nuclear Reactions" was totally
unfair. But what's the point, the damage has been done by you.
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
I just wanted to say that the Frontline program on nuclear was exceptional. I
myself live fairly close to Indian Point Nuclear facility, and don't consider it a
threat. What amazed me the most is the ignorance of people to say that radon isn't
a concern for them while they watch the power plants so carefully. It is
unfortunate that the United States as a whole has such a short-sighted concept of
nuclear energy and that we aren't doing more, like the French. I guess the
government's thinking is that we won't be around if there ever is a problem anyway,
and that is too bad.
I must say that until your program on nuclear power
last night, I have had some hidden fears about the core
exploding and causing massive chaos. you did a superb job in
calming those fears.
Ralph Nader is correct in saying that solar power
is the only viable source of energy for the future. But it
seems the technology is far away. so given the choice
between burning fossil fuels of nuclear power for the next
twenty years until solar becomes the mainstay. my vote is
now for nuclear!
Hanover, New Hampshire
I always thought your show to be impartial, but this week's show could have been
a paid advertisement for nuclear power. Important safety issues such as waste
disposal were not adequately addressed and the use of renewable resources such as
solar and others suggested by Mr. Nader were dismissed as not being serious
options. The dominant opinion of the show seemed to be that non-renewable power is
our only option, but this is a false assumption when one considers the technology
that is now available in alternative power.
Thanks for having the courage to air this
alternative view of nuclear power and it's
proven ability to produce safe and clean
I particularly enjoyed the honest comparisons
of radiation risks from nuclear plants and waste
disposal casks to other naturally occurring forms
Some will no doubt say the show was biased and,
in some cases, may have "stacked the deck" in
favor of nuclear power. As if the anti-nuclear
crowd has not repeatedly done the same thing and
to a far greater extreme.
And let's not forget the people who have died
mining coal and the numerous documented accidents
due to the wide-spread use of fossil fuels. To say
nothing of the naturally occurring radiation in coal
that continually spouts from the stacks of our coal-fired
West Bend, WI
If the focus of the program was to point out inconsistencies in the public's
perception of the risk associated with nuclear energy, the program was successful.
However, it strayed off course at several junctions.
First, I am not sure that opponents of nuclear energy are concerned only with
"risk" of an accident or disaster. What's also important are the economic benefits
and costs associated with the life cycle of the nuclear energy production process.
In this context the "risk" is that nobody knows the true cost of waste management
... because proven technologies do not exit. On the surface, recycling nuclear
waste seems to be the answer, yet the plain fact is that any process involving
nuclear waste exposes facilities and equipment to contamination and creates more
nuclear waste. Hence, the recycling process also has hidden costs. One only has
to investigate the waste problems at US nuclear facilities to substantiate this
Second, it is not simply the public's perception that has weakened the nuclear
industry (a point of view that our nuclear scientists would like to believe and the
host seems to accept without argument). Rather, we live in a country which has as
the basis of its economy the competitive market. Competitive markets take into
account risk and uncertainty over time. And, frankly, given today's technology,
they are speaking loudly. Nuclear power is not economically feasible at this time.
In the event a new technology enters the market and reduces costs, nuclear power
may become economically feasible in the future.
Finally, given the demise of the US nuclear power system is due to the market
process, your comparison to France's centrally planned nuclear program is not well
grounded. France has the same fundamental nuclear waste problems as the US, only
in a centrally planned economy it is easier to "ignore" the costs and benefits of
the process. Or, are you suggesting that France has technologies far superior to
the US which enables them to adequately recycle their nuclear waste. I doubt it.
One advantage of a competitive market is that it can quickly adapt to new
technologies ... not so in centrally planned economies.
In conclusion, although public perception of the US nuclear industry remains
negative, the real demise of the nuclear industry is that the true cost of
operating the facilities is slowly being recognized.
I found your report on nuclear energy to be very well done. Congratulations for
taking a pragmatic look at an industry that, like it or not, will be in the future
of Americans due to the fact that fossil fuels will not last indefinitely.
The only issue that I wish had been addressed was the fact that environmental
contamination has occurred at most DOE National Laboratories and even in France
where nuclear power is so accepted. While it is true that most of this
contamination is a result of poor waste management practices in the early years of
weapons production, it is also true that the contamination exists and it also
concerns the public. It would have been good to mention this fact and discuss any
other known contamination around nuclear power plants.
All in all, I found the report to be a positive, fair, and factual account of
scientific facts associated with the risks associated with the nuclear power
industry. I work in hazardous, nuclear and mixed waste management and I found it
very enlightening to see the different philosophy the French have used to turn
their nuclear waste facilities into "research projects." Perhaps our politicians
would be better served to discuss both the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New
Mexico and Yucca Mountain in this context rather than as a graveyard.
A good report, I hope there will be a few Americans that are not too head strong to
see that the facts presented show that our national nuclear paranoia is self
Idaho Falls, ID
Hats off to you on your fine presentation. It's one of the rare instances
of rational discussion of nuclear energy in this country.
Some of the press articles on this documentary have criticized that it was
unbalanced in its coverage, that it did not giving enough time to opposing
views or presented such views in a biased, unfavorable light. I read one article
in the "reactions" section of your web site, where the author says that
anti-nuclear views were presented as "irrational." Well, he's exactly
right, the arguments of the vast majority of those opposing nuclear energy
ARE mostly irrational or otherwise not supported by the facts. That seems
to be the point the documentary was making, so of course such persons are
going to look bad.
Another point: Mr. Nader errs in saying that solar power is a viable
energy source--it will be several decades at least before solar power
even approaches being technically and economically feasible, if it ever
becomes so. This is also true of other energy sources such as wind and
tidal energy. Only schemes such as obtaining alcohol-based fuel from
plants (such as crop waste) appear to be viable and then only if enough
is invested in them.
Perhaps with time--and the increasing expense of fossil fuels-- the American
people will begin to regard nuclear energy more favorably--but that's
the cynical side of me speaking.
Nuclear Reaction was the best program on the subject of things
nuclear the I have seen. This program was an assignment for my chemistry
class of non-science majors and I couldn't imagine a more cogent, accurate,
and understandable presentation. I intend to use portions of this program as
an adjunct to this course in the future. I think that this group of students
is more important than the science majors, as these are the people that will
be making decisions on technical subjects in the future and their contact with
science is usually minimal.
This is a program that you should consider showing once or twice a
year as the consciousness of the general public needs to be tweaked and raised
if we are ever to have a sane and rational nuclear policy.
Everett E. Turner
I was terribly disappointed in the show Frontline aired last night -
4/22/97. The producer was really biased, and this detracted from what should
have been a good show on the status of nuclear reactors in this country. By
interviewing only activists and none of the scientists opposed to nuclear
power, the producer made it seem as if there were no scientists concerned
about this issue. For example, he could have talked to the Union of
Concerned Scientists, headed by a Nobel laureate, and found a number of
reputable scientists opposed to the nuclear industry.
The producer ignored the known problems with the Yucca Mtn. site that
should rule it out as a repository for waste with a half-life of 240,000
years. In addition, if the containers to be used in the shipping are so
safe, why ship the waste through densely populated cities on its way to
Nevada? Why not keep the waste where it was created? These important issues
were not mentioned at all.
Does the producer believe that the scientists he chose to interview have no
vested financial interest in the continuation of the nuclear industry? Is it
possible that the scientists might have been protecting their pocketbooks
with their comments? In the same way, did the Alfred Sloan Foundation and
its interest in technology color the producer's perspective?
This show was not up to Frontline's high standards. I am disappointed that
it was shown without the opportunity for scientists who oppose the nuclear
nightmare to be heard. In addition, the producer's admitted bias towards
nuclear energy certainly colored his questioning. Compare his questioning of
the activists vs. his awe for and respectful questioning of the scientists.
It seems as if the producer believes that scientists are unbiased, have no
vested interests, and have all the answers. Doesn't the producer understand
that scientists are the ones who have gotten us into this mess? Why should I
put any faith in what they say when they have been wrong on this issue since
day one? For example, where is the electricity that is too cheap to meter?
Ronald Forthofer, Ph.D.
P.S. - Congratulations on your show about Mexico's problems and the Salinas
family. That show was more in keeping with Frontline's standards.
I was very impressed with the neutrality of the program
"Nuclear Reaction". I felt that the density of factual
information was large, and that many of the anti-nuclear
activists arguments fell flat by comparison. I am not
surprised by the furor that this is causing in the anti-
nuclear camp; when the facts are presented in an unbiased
forum, anti-nuclear arguments tend to fall apart.
Thank you for a candid presentation of the issues.
Todd S. Palmer
Department of Nuclear Engineering
Oregon State University
I was pleased to see a balanced examination of the rift
between nuclear technology and the public's perception thereof.
Although it required two viewings, I realized that the program
contained valuable although de-emphasized insights. For example:
500 additional deaths were attributed to radiation among the 50,000
survivors of the atomic bomb. At worst the radiation injuries may
have contributed a 1% increase in cancer fatality among the study
population. I was reminded of John Stossel's report "Are We
Scaring Ourselves to Death?" Mr. Stossel attempted to bring
perspective to risk perceptions and pointed out that risk of
cardiovascular disease and other medical conditions greatly outweigh
the risks from sensationalized issues de jour. Indeed, less than 1%
of deaths among US. citizens can be attributed to radon induced
lung cancers. This despite the fact that radon exposure represents
approximately 50% (200 mrem) of our percapita annual radiation dose.
Another subtly incorporated fact was that nuclear fuel reprocessing
and the use of Breeder Reactors (producing new fuel, transmuting
long-lived nuclear wastes into short-lived nuclear wastes, and
simultaneously providing electric power) by other nations makes the
US. nonproliferation policy ineffective at best.
One or several sequels to this report could do wonders in raising the
technical awareness of the American public to the benefits and
quantitative risks of nuclear power.
It is commendable that "Nuclear Reactions" was produced and aired
despite the pleadings and threats of opposition groups. Ignorance is
not a pretty sight.
I thought your show on nuclear energy was excellent. I'm an
8th grade Jr. High student and did a report on nuclear energy last
year. It seems to me that nuclear energy is the safest and most
affordable to date. And I think the American public has been warped
into thinking that nuclear power is going to turn us all into freaks
and destroy the planet. True Chernobyl was a horrid disaster. But that
is old Soviet technology. Our western version of a reactor seems safer
and more reliable. I think the French and Japanese have something going.
I think the idea of burying the waste is flat out stupid. Recycle it.
The benefits to the environment are great too.
I also feel the scientist know what they are doing.
Nuclear energy seems to be the safest for the environment. And
affordable. And I think the American people have not heard the full
story on nuclear energy .
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Finally, a real world analysis of the pros and cons of nuclear energy. Having
studied the subject, and knowing people who work in the industry, I can
say that I have never seen such a beneficial technology so pilloried by
It would have been interesting to ask Ralph Nader what would be the
size of a Solar Generation facility that could produce the same amount
of energy as a typical Nuclear Reactor. Also, what would be the
cost/kilowatt hour for solar as compared to nuclear.
Thanks for the story,
Thank you very much for your very fine piece on the nuclear hysteria of
Americans. I have fought this battle for years. I have no investments,
no stake in the nuclear power industry, I simply saw that people were
hysterical and totally uninformed on the issues.
One point that your writers missed: many people when they chant the no
nukes mantra believe at some level that atom bombs and nuclear power
plants are somehow equivalent, even when the obvious is pointed out to
Anyway, thanks for your note of sanity in an otherwise thoroughly
insane debate. I'm off to France to spend the summer.
John F. Levy
This show points out that the heart of the issues of fear against anything nuclear
are ignorance and lack of trust. This show should be required viewing for most of
the US. population, and at the very least, high school students.
I have been a long-time fan of Richard Rhodes and his ability as a non-scientist to
understand nuclear science and the people who are involved. I applaud his decision
to show both sides of the nuclear power issue.
St. Louis, MO
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