For decades, The New Yorker has set a high bar for journalistic excellence.
Graced by its signature brand of droll, sophisticated cartooning, the magazine’s exquisitely edited screeds have reliably delivered profound analyses of the world’s most pressing issues.
But in a breathless, amateurish pursuit of atomic energy, the editorial staff has leapt into a sad sinkhole of radioactive mediocracy.
The latest is Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow’s shallow, shoddy “Activists Who Embrace Nuclear Power,” yet another tedious plea that we learn to love the Peaceful Atom.
For at least a century, countless scientific pioneers have exposed the murderous realities of nuclear radiation. Legendary researchers like Marie Curie, Alice Stewart, Rosalie Bertell, Helen Caldicott, John Gofman, Ernest Sternglass, Thomas Mancuso, Karl Z. Morgan, Samuel Epstein, Robert Alvarez, Arnie Gundersen, Amory Lovins, and others have issued vital warnings.
In Pavlovian opposition, the industry has rolled out an endless array of amateur “environmentalists” whose activist credentials are distinguished only by an endless love for atomic power.
Most infamous are Greenpeace veteran Patrick Moore and Berkeley-based Michael Shellenberger, both climate skeptics who share a theatrical passion for uninspected, uninsured nukes. With no credible scientific credentials, this unholy pair has conjured imaginative advocacies for companion corporate embarrassments like genetically modified food, clear-cut deforestation, and more.
With far more prestige, climate pioneer Dr. James Hanson and Whole Earth Catalogue founder Stewart Brand have brought significant gravitas to the nuclear debate.
But The New Yorker dotes on two workers at California’s Diablo Canyon. Neither is a scientist. Both claim to be “environmentalists.” One wears a lavender pendant made of uranium glass which “emits a near-negligible amount” of radiation, despite a huge body of scientific evidence warning this is a literally insane thing to do—especially for someone who might be around small children.
The writer lauds her heroines for calling themselves “Mothers for Nuclear” while snubbing legendary “Mothers for Peace” activists who’ve organized locally for a half-century. While touring Diablo with her new best friends, the author coos that “we smiled as if we were at Disneyland.”
Such “Nuclear Renaissance” absurdities are very old news.
Given The New Yorker’s stellar history, we might expect a meaningful, in-depth exploration of today’s core atomic realities: no more big reactors will be built in the US, and our 90+ old plants are in deep, dangerous disarray.
Forbes long ago branded atomic power “the largest managerial failure in US history.” America’s very last two reactors (at Georgia’s Plant Vogtle) sucked up $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees from Barack Obama plus $3.7 billion more from Donald Trump. Years behind schedule, Vogtle’s final price tag (if it ever opens) will exceed $30 billion.
South Carolina’s engineering and legal morass at V.C. Summer wasted more than $10 billion on two failed reactors. In Ohio, $61 million in utility bribes for a massive nuke bailout have shattered the state.
As for alternatives, Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow says, “nuclear scientists, for their part, are working on smaller, more nimble nuclear reactors. There are complex economic considerations, which are inseparable from policy.”
In other words, the proposed Small Modular Reactors are already so clearly uncompetitive that only obsessive pro-nukers (like Bill Gates) think they’ll hold market value against wind and solar (which The New Yorker attacks).
Precisely as ice storms froze feedwater pipes and shut one of two reactors at the South Texas Nuclear Plant, the magazine falsely claims that atomic reactors do “not depend on particular weather conditions to operate.” Globally-warmed rivers can no longer reliably cool many French reactors. Earthquakes have dangerously damaged US-designed nukes in Ohio and Virginia. Intake pipes at Diablo and other coastal plants are vulnerable to tsunami surges. Staggering design and construction flaws (a major Diablo component was once installed backwards; boric acid ate through key parts of Ohio’s Davis-Besse) give the entire industry a Keystone Kops/Rube Goldberg aura.
Tuhus-Dubrow skims the waste issue. Dry casks at Diablo and elsewhere are generally less than an inch thick. They can’t be re-opened for inspection or maintenance, and are already cracking (more-versatile German casks are 19 inches thick).
With an average age of well over 30, US reactors face dangerous decay. After four years of Trump, and even longer as a corrupt rubber stamp, the infamously dysfunctional Nuclear Regulatory Commission has left these collapsing, uninsured jalopies virtually unregulated and uninspected.
Tuhus-Dubrow ignores the fact that (unlike Disneyland) Diablo Unit One was long ago reported to be severely embrittled. That means critical components could shatter like glass if flooded to contain a meltdown. Ensuing Chernobyl-scale steam and hydrogen explosions would spread apocalyptic radiation throughout the ecosphere.
Despite a petition signed by more than 2,000 Californians and key Hollywood A-listers, Gov. Gavin Newsom refuses to inspect Diablo’s decayed reactors.
The New Yorker says smoke coming from huge northern California fires dimmed solar panels. But those fires were caused by the gross incompetence, neglect, and mismanagement of the twice-bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric, which runs Diablo.
PG&E is a federal felon, convicted for killing scores of Californians in avoidable explosions and fires. Tuhus-Dubrow simply ignores such slipshod mismanagement, which could prove catastrophic at a nuke as old as Diablo.
Overall, the nuke power debate has long since transcended random, folksy industry devotees who like to label themselves “green.” No serious analyst argues that, after the fiscal fiascos at V.C. Summer and Plant Vogtle, any big new reactors will ever be built in the US. Small ones are cost-prohibitive pipe dreams, especially as wind, solar, battery and LED/efficiency technologies continue to advance.
The question of how long America’s 90+ jalopy nukes can run until the next one explodes remains unanswered … and utterly terrifying.
Somehow, the revered New Yorker has polluted its pages with a pro-nuke fantasy while missing this most critical atomic issue.
Let’s hope it corrects the deficiency before the next Chernobyl lays waste to our own nation.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work.