Agree? Disagree? Join our nuclear discussion here and send FRONTLINE your
reactions...or send a question, comment or rebuttal to FRONTLINE's
producer Jon Palfreman or, to the program's correspondent Richard Rhodes.
Send your question and read their responses here online.......
Thank you for a technical, sober debunking of the nuclear myths. It is
appalling that people with little or no technical background or the
sensibility to seek the truth are influencing our nation's energy policy in
such a destructive manner. It is also unfortunate that people cannot
separate fact from fiction and that nuclear is only a way for Hollywood to
capitalize on the public's perception of risk. Your program should be
required viewing by high school students and voting adults.
Raymond F. Maddalone, Ph.D.
Long Beach, CA 90808
Nuclear power is the quintessence of greed and will be seen that way
forever. You remind me of the "studies" suggesting nuclear
radiation is OK because certain specific diseases under certain
conditions occur less often among people exposed to radioactivity.
A mind without perspective is not much of a mind.
Finally, a show about Nuclear Power that was well informed, unbiased and
informative. You clearly understand that the issues are social/political and not
technological. You also, and rightly so, explained how perceptions don't always
correspond to reality. The only thing I would have liked to see is more of a
discussion on the impracticalities of solar, wind, biomass, etc that Mr. Nader was
so fond of. It would be great if we could use these renewable technologies for our
energy needs, but the sad fact is that--at least for now--they are unreliable,
expensive and much too intermittent for our cushy lives! And frankly, I am quite
wary of being as dependent as we currently are on fossil fuels given their
diminishing supplies, inherent pollution, and the fact that we must import so much
from unstable regions of the world. Let's face it, nuclear power is here to stay.
No utility that owns so many billions of dollars worth of electric generating
capacity is going to abandon it.
David L. Miller
Professor, Mechanical Engineering
California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), Pomona
Thank you for your program this evening on nuclear power.
I have often wondered why this country seems to possess such hysteria
when it comes to nuclear-generated electricity. Your program answered that
question. There may be things to fear, but I doubt the fear mongering by
Ralph Nader, Public Citizen and environmentalist groups serves any useful
purpose. It may, in fact, be counterproductive to their own stated goals.
Dependence on fossil fuels is short sighted and, as your program
demonstrated, much more dangerous than nuclear power. Yet by effectively
shutting off the nuclear option, these no-doubt well-intentioned individuals
and organizations have actually condemned Americans to at least another
generation of dependence on fossil fuels which pollute our air, cause acid
rain, and, ultimately, kill more people than nuclear power ever will. And as
for solar, wind, and tide -- as Mr. Nader so hopefully suggests -- the
technologies don't yet exist to produce the massive amounts of electricity our
Your program this evening was as well-balanced a report on nuclear power
as has ever been produced. Which is why I'm sure you will get a lot of
complaints from those who would rather exhort us to knee-jerk fear than
examine the issue scientifically.
Keep it up.
The US's rejection of nuclear power and nuclear technology in general has always
disturbed me. I believe that the media's liberal, anti-nuclear treatment of the
topic is the primary reason that this country has rejected a technology that can
help improve all our lives. Why will our society accept hundred's of airline
deaths a year, but not nuclear technology which has resulted in no deaths in our
country? The press will not even cover topics that show nuclear technology in a
positive light; e.g., how many people know that studies of the surviving population
of Hiroshima show a positive, long-term health effect from levels of radiation that
have been defined as dangerous?
Nuclear power is not the only facet of nuclear technology. Nuclear technology is a
major contributor to our Gross National Product: medical and industrial
applications. This country has rejected food irradiation, yet every national and
international agency that has studied the topic have reached the same conclusion --
it can do-away with food poisoning and have a large impact on world hunger.
Frontline ended asking a question on how history will view the US's nuclear choice.
My answer is that, in reference to nuclear technology, history will view us having
acted foolishly without the intelligence or bravery to improve our lives and the
lives of future generations.
The Frontline piece was probably the most even-handed TV coverage of the topic that
I have ever seen. In the interest of public knowledge, I would like to see a piece
on non-power applications of nuclear technology.
While I believe that it is important for PBS to air programs which present views
from a wide political spectrum, I regret that you have chosen this particular
vehicle, because with it you essentially market the nuclear industry's line.
Rhodes' framing of the debate as one of nuclear industry proponent's facts set
against emotional, irrational fears of an uneducated American public, is an uneven
treatment that may as well have come straight from the Heritage Foundation.
His many tours of nuclear facilities produced predictable propaganda about nuke
power. Nader attempted to give him the facts, but Rhodes couldn't hear him.
Scientists have never contended that nuclear power plants posed an explosive "bomb"
danger. There is, however, a real danger from radiation emissions during
catastrophic plant equipment failures. The main problem with nuclear power
generation, present and past, is radioactive waste. I was active in the anti-nuke,
pro-sustainable energy movement in the early 1970s when the industry was just
gearing up. People of my ilk were considered almost traitors in those days,
particularly in Super-pro-nuke Washington state where the former head of the NRC
Dixie Lee Ray was governor. Then, as now, the nuke industry and government were
partners and the cautious and farsighted scientists, like Nader and the Union of
Concerned Scientists, were ignored as they warned against the intractable waste
problem and called for the heavy tax investment to go, instead, into sus
were invested during the last 25 years in the failed nuclear experiment, the country
would be much better off now, with no legacy of radioactive waste that will be a
potential problem for millennia. The solar alternative will have to be taken some
day. The sooner we commit to it, the cheaper it will be, the less resources will
have been wasted on non sustainable energies, the less will be the nuke waste we
will have to baby-sit for 200,000 years, and the less environmental pollution will
be produced from fuel-burning plants.
Rhode's program clearly aimed at
resurrecting a dying, and better off dead, nuke industry in this country, is a sad
misstep backward. Find a new environmentalist producer and a new correspondent,
and make a documentary on energy for the 20th century and beyond. That program
should include solar, wind, and wave power technologies, primarily. Nuke should
not be among them. The issue is very timely and important, and you have dug a hole
and jumped into it and need to try and scramble out.
I've waited 25 years for your insightful and balanced
presentation of these issues. For too long we've allowed
eco-terrorists (Nader, et al) to frighten us with
simplistic nuclear-is-bad and solar-is-good pronouncements.
Unfortunately, our elected officials are also cowed, and
we get neither a useful waste management policy nor a
plan for the day our fossil fuels ARE depleted. Keep
up the good work!
Congratulations to all of you at PBS for bringing the truth about a wonderful
source of energy to light. I am a grade 12 student at a Canadian High School,
and have researched nuclear energy several times during my past years here. I
am happy to see that much of what I discovered is now being broadcast so that
more people will be informed.
I found in grade 8, during a presentation, a question was asked about the
'China Syndrome', which is when the reactor core burns right through the
containment vessel into the ground below. It seems that many of my classmates
knew of this possible disaster and were actually afraid, even though in Canada,
where I live, we are no where near any nuclear sites. I have also put up with
other forms of nuclear prejudice, as I call it. My social studies class spent
several classes discussing the fallacies of nuclear fears, instilling fear into
the hearts of my fellow students.
I would just like to say that many more people should view programs such as
yours, and become better informed. The accident in the Ukraine, in 1986, was
just that, an accident, and to this date, other than the incident at Three Mile
Island, there have been no further major nuclear disasters. Perhaps programs
like yours should become mandatory for certain people to watch, so that they
will not misunderstand the marvels of modern technology.
As a long time viewer of public television I am completely disgusted after
watching Nuclear Reaction on Frontline. I have long suspected that PBS is
slipping into the control of corporate advertisers and funders. This program
confirms the suspicion.
>Tonight I vow that our television which is being watched about one to two
hours a week is going to be shut-off permanently. All financial assistance
to PBS and KQED my local station ceases as well.
More and more blatant car commercials, self promotion and corporate
sponsorship simply mean that the objectivity of public television is no
longer trustworthy. The near total nuclear industry promotion and
one-sidedness of "Nuclear Reaction" demonstrates that PBS is now nothing
more than a corporate asset masquerading as "independent" television.
I should not like to trust the safety of our environment to illiterates who
cannot distinguish between the word "nuclear" and the phonetic "nucular".
Beyond that personal observation, I offer the fact that plutonium - though
harmless when not ingested - is easily ingested and inhaled when it falls
out from a release into the atmosphere, as could happen from an unsafe
reactor. The safety record of the nuclear power industry and its
governmental nursemaids, the old AEC and the new NRC, is bad. The industry
is coddled by the federal "watchdogs". No one has been prosecuted for
criminal negligence, even in the case of Three Mile Island. The fines are
small in the case of safety violations, mere slaps on the wrist. There is
no reason to trust either the federal government or the nuclear industry,
from the past record.
Your program was not a balanced treatment of nuclear fission-power. You
gave far more time to the proponents than to the critics. You skirted the
serious problem of long-term waste disposal, and I mean hundreds of
thousands of years.
Frontline disserved the American people and demeaned their good judgment.
Alvin D. Hofer
Bravo to Frontline and PBS for the piece on nuclear power aired April 22!
I have carefully followed nuclear power-related issues for the past 18
years. Your presentation is the first and only media piece that I am aware
of which fairly presented the facts and issues without the hype,
sensationalism and often outright misrepresentation that generates
advertising dollars for the more mainstream media.
The assertion that fossil fuels are a cheaper source of concentrated
energy, ignores the deferred costs associated with the use of these fuels.
Damages to our environment caused by the buildup of greenhouse gasses,
heavy metals and other pollutants all have a cost. These environmental
costs, being incurred now, are substantial and will be paid for by future
generations, with interest.
Timothy E. Woenker
Fort Wayne, IN
This so-called documentary was blatantly biased and highly selective in its
choice of "experts." Contrasting the views of pronuclear scientists and engineers
with consumer activists was not only irresponsible but an insult to your viewers'
intelligence---the implication being that there are no scientific arguments against
civilian nuclear power production. I only hope that PBS got its money's worth for
this hourlong infomercial. What next---an expose on the hidden health benefits of
BTW, I just took your survey and learned that the only question answered
incorrectly was whether I preferred living 50 miles from a nuclear or coal-fired
plant. As a former resident of Hershey, Pennsylvania (about *10* miles from Three
Mile Island), I was naturally surprised to learn that the reactions of me and ten
of thousands of my neighbors (ie., evacuating the area) was "wrong."
I'd be very curious to know where Rhodes, Palfreman and Fanning live? Maybe
they'd like to tell my father he was "correct" to continue working at the State
Department of Education in Harrisburg (5 miles from TMI) during the accident. If
so, I warn you it will be difficult since he died of cancer two years ago.
I've always been a supporter of the research into the use of Nuclear energy,
especially when one thinks about the consumption increases that will occur as more
of the planet moves into our lifestyle. The question of the wastes from the process
has always been on my mind from the very beginning...what do you do with something
that's going to last "forever", and it's very bad? After last evenings broadcast, I
wonder if the French are on to something. It seems better to me than sticking the
hot stuff under the ground at Yucca...what happens if the Earth shudders and
decides to shift things around a bit? I can forsee problems if this were to happen
and everything were aboveground as well. Nothing's perfect, but from your report,
the risk of a "blowup" at a reactor within this country seems so remote as to be
safer than driving home tonight.
I will admit I was quite concerned after Chernobyl let
loose, more so because my daughter was in Sweden then. It made me wonder what would
happen in this local area if our Nine Mile Reactor let go, but I have a better
comfort zone after your report.
Sometimes I wonder if our leaders react to quickly to get things off the front
pages...out-of-sight..out-of-mind. Nobody wants to handle the impossible tasks on
their "shift". Pass it on to the next person, etc.
'and I like Jimmy Carter for his thoughtfulness. He is one great thinker, and a
trained Nuclear Engineer too, I believe.
Great show, I love them all because they make you think.
How surprising to see such a slanted, pro-nuclear industry documentary
on public television. It's like the network presenting films of DDT
being sprayed on school kids with the narrator praising its benefits, as
was done decades ago. Is this film funded by the same interests that
knowingly performed radiation experiments on human guinea pigs? Or
might it be funded by the food irradiation industry? How can rational
minds believe the individuals who, with impressive titles such as
Ambassador for Future Nuclear Waste Site Development, routinely
mispronounce the word "nuclear" as "NU-CU-LR". Ten Four, Good
Buddy!!! I'll certainly remember this program before I give
additional contributions to public television.
An excellent show, balanced and very well done.
A sad commentary on the level of radiophobia in the US.
Most memorable segment, Cronkite's voice describing the
"deadly effect" of plutonium on the skin. This is the root
cause of the present situation; pathetic journalism by people who should have known
better and it continues today
creating countless "true believers" impossible to convince
I do regret my first email to Frontline turns out to be a flame! Your
episode on nuclear power is the worst of all Frontline episodes I have
It is a curse on America that our educational systems are seriously
underfunded, and continue to degrade under political pressures. It is a
slander to our democracy when corporate giants dictate content of our
mass media. Never have I felt more insulted than to see Frontline, my
most respected and admired source of quality news and challenging ideas,
stoop to such low levels of banality and propaganda.
How can you tolerate airing trash? It has never been Frontline's
position to persuade the public, and now you attempt to convince the
public that nuclear power is safe? Any documentary to interview a
professional who calls 100,000 millirems "a reasonable dosage" and a
"lethal dosage" in the same paragraph, requires serious scrutiny of this
professional's humanity, and your producers scruples!
Transparent, and poorly reported, this program has failed a variety of
quality investigative issues. Ask the northern Europeans dosed with
Chernobyl radiation if they agree with French people: as if the
opinions of the French were of anybody's interest. Where are the costs
of nuclear energy discussed, WHOOPS, missed a big issue, huh? And what
about the future of nuclear waste? And the bottom line issues, to build
and license reactors in an atmosphere of corporate power and greed. You
may feel safe, but you're children's children will bless you for NOT
BUILDING NUCLEAR POWER, when you can still prevent it.
Your nuclear power program sucks.
Bravo! Bravo! to the hour dedicated to the nuclear power debate. It is
unfortunate that the American population is so uneducated that it prevents
the proliferation of this vast energy resource. It is even more
unfortunate that there is no easy answer to quell the fears of the ignorant.
Chalk this and most of our other problems up to career politicians. It
cannot be denied that a wise person who wishes to reach the pinnacle of a
political career should follow the path of least resistance. Unfortunately
for the majority, the path of least resistance is lined with greenbacks.
It is disappointing that the US has taken a back seat in the technology of nuclear
energy. Aside from the negative emotional reactions that most in the US have, the
economics of nuclear energy is not viable in this country, for now. Ironically,
although more environmentally harsh, the use of coal and oil will continue to be
the primary sources of energy for a while. This will continue as long as supplies
are cheap and/or the government subsidies keep them economically viable. However,
this cannot last forever. Eventually, coal and oil supplies will become depleted.
It may take 50, 100 or even 200 years, but nuclear will return as the source of
energy of choice. Unfortunately, by then, the US nuclear industry will be all but
gone, and we will have to rely on the French or Japanese to build our reactors. So
much for the balance of trade!
Manhattan Beach, CA
I thought the program was very interesting and informative.
We do live in a society that is frightened by any form of nuclear power, but I
believe that it is our own fault. As Mr. Rhodes pointed out that more illness and
death are contributable to electric and natural gas plants, but we have not dropped
a bomb made out of either of these energies. So, I feel, our fear is based on what
this power can do when in the wrong hands, because we have seen what it can do in
the right hands.
Rio Rancho, NM
I applaud the Frontline special on nuclear power I just watched on KQED
channel 9 in San Francisco. Nuclear power holds the promise of unlimited,
safe, cheap power - just as it was billed when first introduced to the public
in the '50s. I have no connection with the nuclear industry, and stand to
gain nothing by promoting it - except a reduction in: air pollution,
radiation released into the air (from fossil fuel combustion), lung ailments
(from particulates in fossil fuel emmisions), reliance on foreign sources of
oil and the attendant risk of wars and police actions to protect it, how
windy it is and where we'll find the acreage to erect enough windmills to
serve huge public and industrial demand (in the case of wind power), how
sunny it is and where we'll find the acreage to erect enough solar panels to
serve huge public and industrial demand (in the case of solar power), etc.
The problems that currently exist in the US are the result of too many
different reactor designs, and a paranoia bordering on the psychotic that we
not take advantage of the enormous energy potential of plutonium for fear
that it will fall into the wrong hands. These two items are exactly what
government regulations were designed for and are best at mitigating. Why
can't we admit that the French have a great system, pay them whatever homage
due them, and copy it? In this age of globalism, the "not invented here"
attitude is not only petty, but costly beyond all reason. We can't afford
*not* to pursue nuclear power as an energy solution. And we can create the
regulations, governing bodies, and safeguards to make it safe.
We need a leader with vision to begin the work of educating the public as to
the truth about nuclear power. Maybe then we will have the sense to move
forward and take advantage of this plentiful, clean, cheap, and virtually
unlimited source of energy.
Thank you for pointing out to the public what really is the problem with nuclear
power...Fear of the unknown.
I used to be one of those people who didn't know anything about nuclear power except
what was portrayed on films and the movies. There are no programs that are widely
known that teach the public about nuclear power and its benefits. Therefore, it is
understandable that the publics perception is not a positive one.
I finaly learned about nuclear power through the military when I joined the Navy as
a Nuclear Machinist Mate. I was trained for over 18 months on the science and
operation of nuclear power. It is because of that training that I now have an
understanding of the benefits of nuclear power. I was hoping to use that nuclear
training to continue a career in the nuclear field at the end of my enlistment. As
you stated in your report, the Nuclear power generating field is on a down swing in
the United States. Therefore condeming my job field as a career.
This is dishearting at best, but I do not put all the blame on the average citizen.
The government and the businesses that manage the power plants should have done
what France has done. They should have embraced the public with the advantages,
the science, and the absolute safety of nuclear power. This would of made a
difference to the economical life of nuclear power plants. Instead, information
was poorly managed and distributed. It is, as a society, our own fault, our own
ignaurance that has provented us from progressing into the new future of power
Nuclear power is the way of the future, we can either go foward and reach for new
levels of science and society or stay on the well trodden path and make slow
progression at best.
I thought your show on nuclear power was interesting, informative and generally well
done. I agree with what I believe to be the intended conclusion. That is, the
problems with safely increasing the use of nuclear power in this country are social
and political. They are not technical.
However, there are two important topics that I was sorry your show did not cover
There are some legitimate reasons for the lack of trust listed as one of the four
causes of nuclear fear. I am familiar with the Department of Energy's oversite of
the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant near Boulder. Granted, Rocky Flats isn't a
power plant, or is the DOE the same as the Nuclear Regulatory Agency but it is an
example of the government performing oversite on a private organization which
handles nuclear material. One would hope, in fact, that the fact the the private
organization is contracted to the government would improve the ability of the
government to perform oversite.
The sad fact is, and the public record shows, this plants history is filled with
examples of lies to the public, lies to the Colorado agencies, lies to the EPA,
unacknowledged fires, leaks of radioactive material and general disregard for the
safety of both the workers at the plant and the public in the surounding
The management of the St. Vrain nuclear power plant, also in Colorado, has also been
very damaging to the public trust. I suspect that there are plenty of examples in
other states had they been looked for.
The other important topic, one which bothers me a lot, was your discusion on the
dangers of radioactivity. Your show distributed one of the most grievous falicies
promolgated by the nuclear industry. This falicy is that any millirem of exposure
has the same risk as any other millirem. The risks of exposure are very dependent
on how you are being exposed.
This is best illistrated with an example. 200 millirem of gamma from the sun,
averaged over your exposed skin has a much lower risk than 200 millirem of alpha
coming from a small insoluble particle lodged in your lung. This is the sort of
particle you can inhale, if you are unlucky enough, from the dust around Rocky
Flats. The primary difference is that with the particle in the lung, the alphas
kill the closest cells and then repetitively expose those cells which are rapidly
multiplying to replace the dead ones. In the situation of inhaled particulates,
the comparison to exposure from the sun is irrelevant. Any conclusions drawn from
such a comparison are meaningless.
Thanks for your show.