Frontline, a high-quality PBS investigative
journal, recently aired a program entitled Nuclear Reaction. It was a
masterpiece of pro-nuke propaganda. This letter was sent to
PBS's e-mail address less than two hours
after the program was shown on WGBH in Boston, on April 27, 1997.
224 Mast Road No. 9
Durham, New Hampshire 03824
Your program on April 27, 1997, entitled "Nuclear Reaction," was an appalling whitewash of the Nuclear Reality. It was so full of distortions and lies that I hardly know where to begin...
To name only a few -
You claim that only 31 people, some of the volunteer firefighters, were killed as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986. Yet you have completely ignored the claim of the Ukraine Ministry of Health that the real number is more than 130,000!
You repeat the claim by the U.S. nuclear industry that nobody has died or been injured as a result of the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island. You have completely ignored two important facts here:
You repeat the claim that coal-burning plants put more radioactive effluent into the environment than nuclear reactors. But the American Physical Society has already published on this (Physics Today - sorry, I don't remember the issue and page number), and found that fossil-fuel burning plants put out only about one percent as much radioactivity as nuclear reactors.
You claim that nuclear reactors release "nothing but steam," yet with five minutes of research you would have learned that normally operating nuclear reactors release a plethora of radioisotopes, and, in fact, must file annual reports on the amounts of each isotope released into the air and water with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (See 10 CFR 20.)
You state that 20 percent of U.S. electricity is generated by nuclear power. That might have been true several years ago, but the current figure is only 13 percent.
You point out that there is as much energy in one gram of plutonium as there is in a ton of oil. How much uranium ore did they have to dig up to get that one gram of plutonium? How much work (energy) did they have to put INTO that ore to get that one gram of plutonium? Did you know that the single reactor fuel processing plant in the U.S. uses, all by itself, three percent of the electricity generated in the entire country? That's a lot of energy! Is nuclear really that efficient when you consider all these other facts?
You lament that Americans just seem to have an irrational fear of nuclear power, and an unreasonable distrust of the officials and engineers that run it. But what about:
You claim that all is well overseas. In France, where you paint a rosy picture, some of the largest anti-nuclear demonstrations anywhere, ever, have taken place. There have been recent scandals in Japan's nuclear program, surrounding the release of radiation from one of its new reactors, the subsequent, inevitable cover-up, and the public firing of the official in charge.
About containment: The U.S. nuclear industry has been quick to claim that the Chernobyl-style reactors have no containment. You repeat this claim. It is a lie. The reactor that blew up was capped with a one thousand ton steel and concrete cover. The explosion blew it clear off. It flew up into the air, flipped a 3/4 turn, and jammed itself back in the hole sideways. The hydrogen gas explosion that nearly happened at TMI could well have ruptured that reactor's containment structure.
There's a reason why the majority of people in America want to be rid of our reactors: They are the dangerous product of a corrupt, bankrupt industry that could poison thousands of people through its reckless attempts to recover the money it lost on its nuclear programs, and the blind pursuit of new profits. A U.S. government study found that up to 50,000 people could be killed or injured as a result of a single nuclear accident, and the NRC itself estimated a 50:50 chance that a major nuclear accident could happen within twenty years. Why take such a risk when it isn't necessary? Americans oppose nuclear power because they are reasonable people.