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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 energy.

Edison, NJ


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 understand.

If only I had the very ability to convey the facts as your program did...

Thank you very much for a job well done,
Ray Russ


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 journalisms.

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 prosperity.

John Graham
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
Austin, Texas

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 lifestyles.

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.

Thank you.


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!

Louis Varricchio
Middlebury, Vermont


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 France.

I would like to see Frontline continue making documentaries on Nuclear Energy.

Jason Armstrong
Duncan, Oklahoma


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 sources.

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.

Jeff Hoffman


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
Radford, Va.


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.

Tom Rosener
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.

David Hughes
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!

Kevin Mabey
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.

John Piazza
Oakland, CA


Thanks for having the courage to air this alternative view of nuclear power and it's proven ability to produce safe and clean energy.

I particularly enjoyed the honest comparisons of radiation risks from nuclear plants and waste disposal casks to other naturally occurring forms of radiation.

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 generating facilitates.

Thanks again.
Kevin Jessup
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 claim.

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.M.N. Economist
Pullman, WA


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 defeating.

Cliff Watkins
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.

William Thomson


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
Asst. Professor
Department of Nuclear Engineering
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR


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.

Byron Hardy


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 .

Ryan Kelley
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 the uninformed.

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,
Paul Armijo


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 them.

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.

Carolyn Anderson
St. Louis, MO


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