No lessons learned from Climategate ? Fred Pearce and the New Scientist attack anti-nuclear book

Guest post by Martin Cohen

When philosopher and long-standing climate sceptic Martin Cohen, and distinguished energy economist Andrew McKillop published a book on nuclear economics [2], they expected it to arouse the hackles of the nuclear establishment.

But they had not anticipated that it would come in from the sort of ‘denial of service’ attacks that only the climate change lobby knows how to dish out. Papers and magazines we had contributed to regularly refused to review it. Radio stations that were previously desperate for comment on nuclear issues backed off. Indeed, in soliciting forewords for the book many academics heisted to participate for fear of incurring the displeasure of certain influential people. (Eventually probably the world’s top nuclear sceptic, Stephen Thomas, author of numerous reports for independent energy institutes and environmental groups such as Greenpeace, whose views the authors had frequently found relevant and insightful in researching the book wrote the foreword.) So when that apparently very proper organ of scientific debate, the New Scientist did agree to review it, the authors expected a scholarly if probing analysis.

What they got instead was a strident personal attack. Calling the book ‘mendacious’ (which means frequently relying on deliberate falsehoods), and under the page tag ‘Climate Denialism’ (the controversial term that links climate sceptics to holocaust denialists), one of the UK’s oldest and most respected Climate Change agitators, Fred Pearce denounced the book as an hysterical drivel. 

The ‘review’ is not so much a review as a series of personal attacks.

“The Doomsday Machine, a sometimes mendacious and frequently anti-scientific book, has one claim to novelty. It combines hysterical opposition to all things nuclear with an equally deranged climate-change denialism. One wonders both why the publishers published, and who they imagine will enjoy it.”

The ‘review’ continues (and bear in mind this is a book about nuclear economics)

“The authors argue that concern about climate change is largely a public relations exercise by nuclear power lobbyists to revive their fortunes. And that it is sustained by corrupted scientists at the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in league with “new nuclear romantics” and “environmentalists [who believe] humanity deserves to be punished for its poor stewardship of the Earth… From this original vantage point, they apparently see no need to challenge the argument that low-carbon nuclear energy can help combat climate change. So instead, a chapter purporting to slay “the myth that nuclear power is green” spends its time rehearsing ludicrous attacks on named environmentalists and climate scientists, such as Gaia inventor James Lovelock, for having the temerity to support nuclear power.”

Fair comment – or something worse? The New Scientist thought the former although it admitted that the might have been certain factual errors in the review.

But one of the key accusations of those Climategate emails, after all, was that academic professors working with environmental campaigners and journalists like Fred Pearce, were deliberately distorting public perceptions of the true state of climate science in order to prevent sceptical doubts being aired. For example, were the vast glaciers of the Himalayas really melting so fast that they would disappear by 2035, as Pearce breathlessly reported some years ago? Climategate was about whether the emails showed that global warming was a scientific conspiracy, in which scientists and others attempted to suppress critics

According to an exhaustive review by The Associated Press, the scientists are keenly aware of how their work would be viewed and used, and, just like politicians, went to great pains to shape their message. In the process, sometimes, “they sounded more like schoolyard taunts than scientific tenets”.

Mark Frankel, director of scientific freedom, responsibility and law at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, put it this way: “The scientists were so convinced by their own science and so driven by a cause “that unless you’re with them, you’re against them,”

Of course, if you ask a leading proponent of Climate Change, doubtless bearing a few grudges against climate sceptics for publicising things like Himalayagate, PLUS someone who is a chum of Jim Lovelock, to review a book ridiculing both – what can you expect? A nasty venomous review, for sure. But not, perhaps crude, factual inaccuracies and equally crude ‘conflicts of interest’. In protesting the unflattering portrait of Jim Lovelock’s nuclear stance, for example, Fred Pearce and the New Scientist failed to note that Lovelock wrote a glowing foreword to Pearce’s latest book, ‘Earth, Then and Now’, which Lovelock sums up  as, simply,  ‘wonderful”.

It is straightforwardly wrong to say, as even a skim of the book reveals, that it asserts the nuclear lobby invented the global warming theory. On the contrary, the book explains that it was an old and discredited scientific theory ‘warmed up (as it were) by special interest groups, primarily governments wishing to get rid of their coal industries. Martin Cohen drew for this section on an influential cover story he wrote in 2009 for the Times Higher (London) saying that the theory of Manmade Global Warming was not science but propaganda.

However, the authors do say that the theory that burning carbon was dangerous was eagerly seized upon by the nuclear industry. Indeed they quote several of the industry’s representatives making that point. As to the suggestion that Cohen and McKillop are too hysterical to “challenge the argument that low-carbon nuclear energy can help combat climate change”, their book specifically argues, for example, that nuclear power supplies less than 3% of world energy and thus that it cannot possibly replace fossil fuels.

Pearce throws in a few broad rejections of the economic arguments against nuclear, apparently determined to give no ground on any points = a tactic characteristic of the scientists in the Climategate emails. He thus says that no one claims that nuclear electricity is ‘cheap’ any more – but of course they do. There is no other way to sell it, given its dangers and unpopularity otherwise. As to no one saying radiation is safe, the papers were full of that after Fukushima exploded recently. Again, the book gives many quotes and examples of all this – including those of Jim Lovelock.

It’s only a short review, but there are straightforward factual errors – the New Scientist itself acknowledged that in a supplementary note to the review.

Commenting on the affair, Cohen said “My point is that Andrew and I have researched the book carefully, and if it is presented in a lively, and in places darkly humorous way, that does not mean that it is not a very serious look at these issues. And these issues deserved a real review, not to be sidelined by a lazy bit of ad hominem.”

So what happened to Fred Pearce, champion of openness who defended the integrity of the climate scientists after their internal email correspondence, apparently potting to suppress dissident views and promote their own came to light? The man who wrote in a ‘special investigation’ for the Guardian newspaper [3]. In his own words:

“Many of the emails reveal strenuous efforts by the mainstream climate scientists to do what outside observers would regard as censoring their critics…  [And[when passing judgment on papers that directly attack their own work, they were mired in conflicts of interest that would not be allowed in most professions.”

Climate sceptics argued that the emails showed that the theory of manmade global warming due to carbon dioxide was bolstered by a scientific conspiracy, in which scientists manipulated climate data and attempted to suppress critics.

The United States National Academy of Sciences condemned what they called “political assaults on scientists and climate scientists in particular”.

The AP said that the “[e]-mails stolen from climate scientists show they stonewalled sceptics and discussed hiding data.” As John Tierney put it in a piece for the New York Times: “these researchers, some of the most prominent climate experts in Britain and America, seem so focused on winning the public-relations war that they exaggerate their certitude — and ultimately undermine their own cause.”

Climategate eventually became something of a scandal, leading to several public enquiries. But no lessons seem to have been learned.




Doomsday drivel: promoting nuclear paranoia 11:20 29 March 2012

[2] The Doomsday Machine: The high price of energy, the world’s most dangerous fuel

by Martin Cohen and Andrew McKillop published byy Palgrave March (US) /April (UK) 2012

[3] Tuesday 9 February 2010 14.05 GMT


Contact details

contact Martin Cohen on docmartincohen at for more details about the controversy contact Laura Conn L.Conn at for more on the book and to request review copies


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George Gillan

Is there a typo in the name of the guest poster?

Brian H

Edit: “many academics heisted hesitated (?) to participate for fear of incurring the displeasure”
The cross-currents of conflicting special interests are getting turbulent!
Fortunately, the price of frack gas is continuing to fall (<$2 soon?), and will render much of this moot. 😉


I always felt that the lack of support for nuclear power generation was one of the key points in proving that the CAGW stormtroopers weren’t in fact interested in CO2 reduction but in wringing the life out of capitalism and economic opportunity.


A significant part of the costs of nuclear energy plants is from over-regulation and insurance costs rooted in the anti-nuclear hysteria that grew out of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl events.
The Three Mile Island event, in which much went wrong but still no one died, should have taught the lesson that nuclear energy can be safe with reasonable and prudent regulation. I was living in Philadelphia at the time and remember the hysteria of people—especially academics at the U Penn campus where I was in med school—-who should have known better.
The Chernobyl event was not about nuclear energy as we know it—the plant had no containment on our scale and the accident grew out of “experiments”, not the generation of commercial power.
Similarly, wrong lessons are coming out of Fukushima—–where about 20,000 people died from a horrific natural event (the tsunami), and a few may have gotten lethat doses of radiation while trying to shut down the injured, old-style, nuclear plants. This disproportion of concern is shocking. Better design and siting of plants could eliminate a risk of a Fukushima event.
Every form of mass-produced energy will have some risks. Per kilowatt of energy produced, modern nuclear plants may have lower risks for death than coal mining or oil platforms exposed to hurricanes, and certainly kill fewer birds of endangered species than windmills.

This article wants severe editing and revision. I have no idea what point it was making! it is garbled!

SIDC’s March SSN = 64.2, the new multivariant, non-stationary Hathaway’s April ‘Prediction’ available here:


I haven’t read the book but what is their take on the LFTR design? Do they get into the economics of molten salt designs?


A very interesting debate that needs to be out there. It seems the development of modular nukes have great promise and were to be first installed in 2013.
I can see how Cohen and McKillop would raise the ire of legions of critics. The nuclear power issues need to be strenuously and openly debated concerning its own merits.


Are there people who read New Scientist? Presumably those are the ones that failed science at school

Berényi Péter

I still think nuclear energy can be made safe & cheap & abundant, we just need to re-design our technology. Current plants were designed & built during the Cold War and are not optimized to produce energy, but raw material for weapons. Energy is only a happy by-product, so to speak, while utilization of fissionable material is terribly inefficient.
What is needed is
1. Inherently safe design, that is, as soon as anything goes wrong, the reactor has to stop working immediately with no intervention at all. It should be constructed in a way that passive cooling be sufficient at this stage.
2. It should “burn” all fissionable material fed into the process with no transuranic leftover, especially no Plutonium. There should be no long half life isotope left in waste and nothing that could be used to build weapons.
These two requirements can be satisfied, actually there is more than one way to do it. An additional benefit is that our radioactive wast heaps can be used up as fuel for these new designs. Both volume and half life of waste would decrease dramatically, so even with extensive use of nuclear power no waste buildup is expected in the (not so) long run, that is, in a several hundred years time frame.
The trouble is the nuclear scare came before CO₂ related climate madness, so all innovative development was killed by the time it could have been put to production.
It is still true however, that nuclear industry is a net beneficiary of cAGW propaganda, but for the moment the clear-cut loser is coal against hydrocarbons, because it generates twice as much CO₂ emission for the same energy output.
If you ask cui prodest? (who gains), it gets pretty funny. It turns out warmistas should be backed by Big Oil & Big (fracking) Gas. Sequere pecuniam (follow the money).

I wrote a scathing response to a poster here, about a year ago…noting that the “Nuclear Industry” was NOT “the” promoter of Gorebull Warming.
Then, alas, I decided I’d better “check around”.
Having dropped out of “nuclear power” in 2000, I was completely SHOCKED to find that the “Nuclear Energy Institute” has COMPLETELY, without question, bought off on Gorebull warming as “the way” to promote nuclear power.
Shame on them, and shame on me for not realizing that “souls can be bought….for a price.” (In classic western theology, there is a place where these souls end up. A place where there is plenty of “thermal energy” to be used, freely, without penalty.)

Why is one bad review of a negligible book turned into a conspiracy?
I’ve never heard of Cohen. But if is anything to go by, then he is clueless about GW.
> Guest post by Martin Cohe[n]
> When philosopher and long-standing climate sceptic Martin Cohen…
Why is he talking about himself in the third person?
> What they got instead was a strident personal attack
No, what got attacked was the book, not them.
>.Calling the book ‘mendacious’ (which means frequently relying on deliberate falsehoods),
Is this for children? Adults don’t need to have mendacious explained to them.

Hey TRM, this entire article about molten salt economics is interesting reading.


How many peoples died in coalmines last year? How many has died earlier? How many deaths is oil and gas accidents? What ever you say, nuklearpower is most safe and effetive way to produce energy.

Alan Watt

marchesarosa says:
April 2, 2012 at 10:30 am

This article wants severe editing and revision. I have no idea what point it was making! it is garbled!

I won’t go quite that far, but I too fail to understand the central point.
Revise & resubmit please.

….Fred Pearce denounced the book as an hysterical drivel…
poor old Fred
…. Lovelock wrote a glowing foreword to Pearce’s latest book, ‘Earth, Then and Now’, which Lovelock sums up as, simply, ‘wonderful”.…
that’s a bit better
I know Fred to be a thoroughly nice fellow.
Hi Dr. Pearce.
with regards. vukcevic

Pete Olson

“…potting to suppress dissident views…” ???

Mike McMillan

marchesarosa says: April 2, 2012 at 10:30 am
This article wants severe editing and revision. I have no idea what point it was making! it is garbled!


More Soylent Green!

marchesarosa says:
April 2, 2012 at 10:30 am
This article wants severe editing and revision. I have no idea what point it was making! it is garbled!

I, too, had a hard time following this. Putting quotes like this in blockquotes as shown below would greatly increase readability.

“The Doomsday Machine, a sometimes mendacious and frequently anti-scientific book, has one claim to novelty. It combines hysterical opposition to all things nuclear with an equally deranged climate-change denialism. One wonders both why the publishers published, and who they imagine will enjoy it.”

Another issue is being unfamiliar with the book being reviewed. Give us a little more information about the book, and the premise that the nuclear industry is promoting fears of climate change from greenhouse gas emissions to promote its own interests. (Well, duh, to that, BTW.)

Billy Liar

William M. Connolley says:
April 2, 2012 at 11:26 am
I never thought I’d ever say this but I agree with you.
Why is he talking about himself in the third person?
… bit of a(n alleged) Gleick moment?


This should not have been promoted to guest post status. If a kind person were to critique it, they would say the arguments are poorly constructed and the general style is very sophomoric.

Darkinbad the Brightdayler

I’m afraid I stopped reading New Scientist about ten years ago.
Perhaps it was when they started to lose their critical faculties and started to herd together for security.
A gradual morphing from Wasabi to Sticky Rice.

Mike McMillan says:
April 2, 2012 at 11:49 am
marchesarosa says: April 2, 2012 at 10:30 am
This article wants severe editing and revision. I have no idea what point it was making! it is garbled!

Double ditto. Did Mr. Cohen write it? It reads like a post from some other source about a review of Cohen’s book. Very confusing.
/Mr Lynn


Looking at some page of “The Doomsday Machine” on Amazon’s web site, I have to agree it is poorly written and contains errors. For example, what is written in the Glossary regarding Yucca Mountain is laughably incorrect (the court case is ongoing; it will be heard by the DC Circuit Court in May) as well as poorly written.


I thought that April Fool’s Day was yesterday.
I can’t believe that this was posted here in earnest. It’s sad, really.

Fukushima was an illustrative example of the power of the media to distort relative risks. AFAWK no one outside of a few workers who volunteered to enter the plant received a dangerous dose of radiation, but the media focused on the radiation risk for months, while mostly ignoring the fact 20,000 died in the tsunami. Worse, I have seen reports where the fatalities were attributed to the tsunami and the subsequent nuclear accident.
No energy source is without risk. Today a worker in Australia was seriously injured by a wind turbine.


The principle “hazards” and costs of nuclear power are tied to the obsolescent and thermonuclear-war-oriented decisions made on what kinds of reactors to use to generate electricity and the subsequent blind emulation of these decisions by non-nuclear states. The hysteria linked to the health “hazard” posed by radiation is tied directly to a linear extrapolation of health issues vs. exposure. The fact was that when that extrapolation was made, there was no data available on the effects of low-dose radiation. Since then, thanks to accidental “experiments” it has become evident that human health in fact is dependent upon some “radiation” exposure. It was noted for instance that n-plant workers tended to be healthier and to be subject to fewer radiation linked diseases. Studies of breast cancer related to radiation exposure become less statistically correlated, uncorrelated or even reversed as exposure declines. A search on the key words “lose dose radiation hormesis” will yield about 130,000 hits. The topic is subject to intense debate. Once again the precautionary principle appears to a bad idea when over done.

I have no idea what point this article was trying to make. I have been a daily reader of WUWT for probably 5 years now, and this is the first time I have been moved to make such a comment.
So kudos to your regular writers, moderators and editors. We appreciate them most when we see what could happen otherwise!


Kaboom says:
April 2, 2012 at 10:22 am
“I always felt that the lack of support for nuclear power generation was one of the key points in proving that the CAGW stormtroopers weren’t in fact interested in CO2 reduction but in wringing the life out of capitalism and economic opportunity.”
Nearly correct… but of course, what you want to wring out of capitalism is not its life. Nobody kills the cow that feeds them…

Michael Larkin

Triple ditto.


the anti-nuclear, solar/wind CAGW advocates who must, by now, realise their solutions will not meet baseload power demands, have been shocked to find so many of their CAGW/MSM darlings declaring for nuclear with such indecent haste following Fukushima (which is ongoing, despite what the MSM omits to say):
15 March: Mark Lynas: A letter to David Cameron
Countering the letter sent to him by four former directors of Friends of the Earth.
From George Monbiot, Stephen Tindale, Fred Pearce, Michael Hanlon and Mark Lynas.
We write because we believe you have been misled by four prominent environmentalists who contacted you recently about nuclear power. This quartet – Jonathon Porritt, Charles Secrett, Tom Burke and Tony Juniper – were all in the past directors of Friends of the Earth, an organisation which also put its official seal of approval on the letter sent by them to you on 12 March 2012.
We believe their advice to be wrong both in fact and interpretation, and feel that if you act on it without further consideration of the alternatives, you risk threatening both the energy security of the UK and our climate-change targets.
As writers and thinkers who are interested in and concerned with environmental issues, our job is to assess the technological and policy options on climate change as objectively as possible. Independently of each other, we have all reached the conclusion in recent years that the gravity of the climate crisis necessitates a re-examination of deeply-held objections still shared by many in the green movement towards nuclear power, including, until recently some of our own number. Needless to say, none of us has any financial or professional relationship with the nuclear industry whatsoever…
Secondly, and most importantly, we believe that abandoning nuclear new-build in the UK – as the authors propose we should do – would be a serious environmental mistake…
it’s irrelevant who started the CAGW bandwagon rolling, and who perhaps co-opted it, or who had the power to get the MSM on board in such a big way. WUWT/Climategate etc have shown CAGW itself is in question, so let’s just call the whole thing off and let the factions fight it out without subsides, carbon taxes, cap’n’tax, etc:
26 June 2004: BBC: Richard Black: UN predicts rapid nuclear growth
By Richard Black
The International Atomic Energy Agency has forecast that the use of nuclear
energy will increase rapidly in the coming years.
In a report released on the eve of a conference in Moscow marking 50 years
of commercial nuclear power, the UN’s nuclear agency says that more reactors
are being built in Asia than anywhere else.
Nuclear power now generates about one-sixth of the world’s electricity.
The IAEA believes this is likely to rise as concerns over fossil fuel use
and global warming increase.
It forecasts that nuclear reactors will meet a quarter of the world’s needs
by 2030, with further expansion over the following decades.
But according to Alan MacDonald, an economic specialist with the IAEA, that
is only going to happen if international treaties like the Kyoto Protocol
impose financial penalties on technologies which produce large amounts of
carbon dioxide. ..
In North America and western Europe, the IAEA says construction of new
reactors has “virtually halted” because of environmental concerns, accidents
like Chernobyl, and the economic advantages of natural gas.
But some countries will exhaust their supplies of gas in the next few
decades, and some arms of the environmental movement now advocate nuclear
power as a way to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.

David S

If we are extra nice to you Mr Stoat can we have our MWP back please?

Claude Harvey

Re: kwinterkorn says:
April 2, 2012 at 10:27 am
“A significant part of the costs of nuclear energy plants is from over-regulation and insurance costs rooted in the anti-nuclear hysteria that grew out of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl events.”
Insurance companies make their living accurately assessing risk and pricing their product accordingly. Insurance companies WILL NOT ACCEPT THE FULL LIABILITY RISK OF A SINGLE COMMERCIAL NUCLEAR POWER PLANT in either the U.S. or Japan for any price. That should tell you all you need to know about the downside risk of nuclear power. Had Congress not shifted that risk to U.S. taxpayers’ backs with the Price–Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, no one would be even contemplating such a new plant in either country today. The following from Wikipedia:
“At the time of the Act’s passing, it was considered necessary as an incentive for the private production of nuclear power — this was because electric utilities viewed the available liability coverage (only $60 million) as inadequate.”
“At the time of the Act’s passing, it was considered necessary as an incentive for the private production of nuclear power — this was because electric utilities viewed the available liability coverage (only $60 million) as inadequate.”

Follow the Money

DirkH “Nobody kills the cow that feeds them…”
Believe me, irony does not work on them. They have a huge blind spot in their minds. Take this article and reactions, for instance. Pearce, I take it, is British. Pro-AGW nuke business interests did indeed warm up the debate in the 1980’s in Britain. It stands likely therefore that public proponents are and have been taking cash, junkets, grants, whatever, from the nuke interests. That’s why there is an overreaction. Another examples are the various “denier” opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal. There was no huge overaction to them from the cult except to the last one, in February I think. What was the difference? That one wrote about funding, tracing funding, and generally that money was distorting the science. i.e., “follow the money.” Those who purport themselves to be green don’t like it to be known they are getting paid, and often by those big corporations. On the other side, there are those who idealize big corporations and think of them as naturally beneficient to all and if given more freedom will act to benefit all more by pursuing more self-interest. IOW, they think like Rush Limbaugh or Ayn Rand, they think of “capitalism” as something like Orwell’s Sugar Candy Land.. They actually cannot reason why an industry might take steps to benefit themselves if it jars with their own beliefs of how capitalists should benefit themselves. They have the same shocked, indignant moments lefties have if you suggest the Democratic party is a corportist shell.
The atomic lobby waned in significance in the late 1990’s when Enron and their pet Al Gore compelled the Euros to include cap and trade in the Kyoto Protocol. The fast enablement of cap and trade in Europe over America is evidence Americans can recognize American-style corporate-government partnership scams better than Euros. Then the traditional “green” interests hopped onto AGW. The biggest force behind AGW is the financial industries. Yet the persons with seeming the most energy to fight the AGW scams are often those with the least reality-based appreciation of actuallyhow business works. So, they obsessed on the scams smaller elements, like the control freaks, or the Limbaughian delusions that businesses are all poor sorry, voiceless, victims of US Government actions. Try telling one of them the EPA CO2 standards proposed have little to do with warming, and mostly to do with increasing the valuse of natural gas. They get an idle, confused look. Try telling them that Obamacare is a product of industry lobbyists, not Obama wishing to undermmine “capitalism.” Try telling them the biggest bar to nuke plants in not some regulation they seem ridiculous, but the one, produced after TMI, that make nuke plants take into account the immense deactivation costs, rather than dumping them on the taxpayers’ plate. Whenever their little world of comfort seems to be threatened, they start talking about some kind of fantasy economic system and huff and blow. On the otherside, when the greenies comfort world is threatened, they start talking about some kind of fantasy economic system and huff about deniers and science and tea partiers. Two sides of the same emotional coin.
Moral: The flak is always thickest when you are directly over the target.

John Blake

The Internet’s great virtue is that anyone, anyone at all, can efficiently gather numerous threads, evaluate them in many guises for interest and integrity, finally weave a synergistic skein addressing objective, rational arguments as a coherent whole.
Alas for “climate science” (not an empirical discipline but a classificatory exercise akin to botany), its supremely hubristic and self-important Green Gang of Luddite sociopaths are not only mendacious ideologues but classic rent-seekers, concerned above all else to secure unfettered access to the public trough.
Over time, anyone entering precincts beholden to Briffa, Hansen, Jones, Mann, Trenberth, and others of their ilk will find their constant asininities unbearable. By now, we consider sites such as WUWT not mere correctives but primary sources for ongoing environmental issues. Death-eating extremists such as Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Keith Farnish, are nihilistic totalitarians without a grain of common sense or humanitarian good will. Having seen their like before in many guises, we do know their kind.

Julian Flood

Darkinbad the Brightdayler says:April 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm
I’m afraid I stopped reading New Scientist about ten years ago.
My daughter used to buy a subscription as my Christmas present each year. I got so irritated by their GW obsession — there was literally something telling the tale of doom on each page with editorial content — that I forbad her to continue. I had been reading it since the days when it had pulp covers. Now they can’t even give it to me for free.
I’m nearly as upset about NS as I am about what the last three PRSs have done to the Royal Society.
BTW, did I see Connolly here again? We are not worthy, we are not worthy!

Stas Peterson

All these people that urge Thorium designs as somehow “safer” , (they are NOT), are just wasting their and everyone elses time. Based on the past records of the NRC, it would take a minimum of 30 years if we were starting today,which we are not, to obtain a valid design and a construction license for the commercial use of a Thorium based design; and allow the beginning of contruction of a Thorium reactor.
Thirty years is essentially the time when commercial Fusion designs will be under design, and a Fusion plant IS much safer, can’t run away, and contains no large repository of highly radioactive materials, that must be carefully contained. So the design approval might be as short as five to ten years. Fusion will make any such Fission design obsolescent.

Alex Heyworth

Judging by the standard of this article, I’d say there’s a good chance the book is hysterical drivel. Mr Cohen has certainly not done himself any favors here.

Bob Wilson

Is this article an April Fool’s joke?

old engineer

Assuming the poster, “Martin Cohe” is the book co-author, Martin Cohen, I think I have figured out what this post is about.. I may be all wrong, but it seems to me that this is an attempt to persuade WUWT readers who are notorious CAGW skeptics, that “ the enemy of your enemy is your friend.”
Not so, Mr. Cohen. Many of us who are very skeptical about CAGW, are big fans of nuclear energy, as you can tell from the comments.


I hate to join the chorus but the article seemed a bit incoherent and very disjointed. The book in questions name isn’t even given until the 4th paragraph and then only in passing as part of a quote that was the real point of paragraph 4.
That said and not having read it but only glanced at its summary, [a so so way to get any feel for a book[, I can take an educated guess that much of the books conclusions are something I wouldn’t agree with. While not an expert in nuclear safety I do know something of the subject. Enough to know that any argument about the economics has to take into consideration the excessive costs put upon nuclear by government. No real evaluation of it can be made without recognizing that the current cost of nuclear energy is many times higher than it needs to be or than it could be.
It is essentially a case of the government playing favorites between different energy sources. Just as we see massive subsidies given to energy sources that don’t and can’t meet the power grids generation needs with nuclear we see the price driven vastly higher than it needs to be by the same government.

Alexander K

The main point of this article is the dishonest way in which the book in question was reviewed. Agreed that the structure of the article is a tad convoluted, but I guess I have an advantage after half a lifetime spent spent reading and marking high school essays.
Anyone who is surprised by the spiteful tone of the review probably doesn’t realise that Fred and The New Scientist have serious form. As does Connelly of Wikipedia notoriety, whose comment above is equally and unhelpfully spiteful about Dr Cohen.


Stas Peterson says: April 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm “30 years”???
– Please do check out the Google Tech Talk link above. It would not take 30 years. The development timelines are given in the tech talk. Perhaps you want to argue with the person giving it. By the way fussion has been “20 years away” for my entire adult life and it is still 20 years away and in 20 years it might still be 20 years away. We can do fussion but we can’t do a sustained reaction for long periods of time. We can, and have for 5 years in the 1960s, done LFTR fission in a sustained reaction.
“Ed Mertin says: April 2, 2012 at 11:36 am
Hey TRM, this entire article about molten salt economics is interesting reading.
– Thanks Ed. You saved me some searching. More interesting reading for me tonight. Cheers.

Doug Badgero

If someone is arguing that nuclear is not economic ask them what discount rate they are assuming on invested capital? This is usually the slight of hand that the anti-nuclear crowd use to argue that nuclear is too expensive.

shortie of Greenbank

People go on and on about safety of and future imperviousness off nuclear power plants. Most it seems is based on ‘future developements’, which fail to quell my environmental concerns of the usuage. Others go on about the conspiracy to not have Thorium reators since they are so efficient, I’m undecided on that but ultimately does the point of power production have to be the only discussion point for nuclear power yet deaths from mining coal be allowed in?
Looking up historical damage done by uranium mine tailings and the very long term requirement to manage those resources shows that mining of the resourses are more than a little problematic, then there is the future and continued work needed to be done to look after nuclear waste products. We know human nature can be pretty pathetic yet we are willing to believe that in unknown future situations our future generations will quite happily look after our nuclear waste and uranium mine tailings even in an example of a major economic downturn.
In Australia we know what happens with large companies that have a debt to repay the public, they move overseas limiting their exposure (James Hardie anyone?).
I don’t believe in the precautinary principle as such from all this but the more pessimistic murphy’s law… in particular the bit about “Your equipment is manufactured by the lowest bidder”… or in other words your nuclear reactor is only as safe as the cheapest parts used to maintain it.

A rebuttal so bad he mispells his own name- Martin Cohe. Who would expect any decent review from that trash magazine New Scientist. Is this book about Nuclear Economics or just some ramble about how bad nuclear is- what is AGW got to do with Economics? Where is a simple complete review of the The Doomesday Book?


A new report from a University of Vermont researcher says the cost of the safety measures needed for nuclear energy will eventually make the power source economically unviable
By Jason Koebler
March 30, 2012
After the Fukushima power plant disaster in Japan last year, the rising costs of nuclear energy could deliver a knockout punch to its future use in the United States, according to a researcher at the Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and the Environment.
“From my point of view, the fundamental nature of [nuclear] technology suggests that the future will be as clouded as the past,” says Mark Cooper, the author of the report. New safety regulations enacted or being considered by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission would push the cost of nuclear energy too high to be economically competitive.
The disaster insurance for nuclear power plants in the United States is currently underwritten by the federal government, Cooper says. Without that safeguard, “nuclear power is neither affordable nor worth the risk. If the owners and operators of nuclear reactors had to face the full liability of a Fukushima-style nuclear accident or go head-to-head with alternatives in a truly competitive marketplace, unfettered by subsidies, no one would have built a nuclear reactor in the past, no one would build one today, and anyone who owns a reactor would exit the nuclear business as quickly as possible.”
[See Photos of Japan Before and After the Japanese Earthquake]
That government backing of nuclear energy is starting to change after the Fukushima meltdown. Even the staunchest nuclear advocates say that with new technologies, nuclear power can always be made safer, but nothing can offer a guarantee against a plant meltdown.
“In the wake of a severe nuclear accident like Fukushima, the attention of policymakers, regulators, and the public is riveted on the issue of nuclear safety,” the report says. “The scrutiny is so intense that it seems like the only thing that matters about nuclear reactors is their safety.”
Although several reports by nonpartisan groups have reinforced the perception that America’s nuclear reactors aren’t in danger of a meltdown, the public is wary. Earlier this month, an analysis of Fukushima by the American Nuclear Society blamed Japan’s regulatory oversight and reaction to the meltdown for magnitude of the disaster. According to Michael Corradini, a co-author of that report, “things are acceptable going forward in the States.”
“I don’t think anything coming out of Fukushima would imply we aren’t prepared,” Corradini says.
Steven Kerekes, a spokesperson for the Nuclear Energy Institute, says that new safety measures are being placed in a new reactor set to go online in Georgia in 2017.
“There’s some safety enhancements they’re undertaking, despite the fact they’re already safe,” Kerkes says. “These enhancements will increase the margin of safety by another order of magnitude.”
[Experts on Fukushima: It Can’t Happen Here]
But according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 80 percent of America’s nuclear reactors are vulnerable to at least one of the factors involved in the Fukushima disaster, including vulnerability to earthquakes, fire hazard and elevated spent fuel.
Retrofitting existing reactors with the latest safety equipment is extremely expensive, Cooper says.
“Regardless of what Congress does, the NRC has put on the table very serious and important changes in how we look at safety after Fukushima,” Cooper says. “There was one permit [for a new reactor] issued recently, and there’s a second one expected in the near future. Frankly, that’s about it. I don’t see any other reactors moving forward. The economics are so unfriendly that I don’t think the rest of the [proposals] are very active.”
That could be problematic for consumers, considering that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. People in the nuclear power industry point to the fact that coal pollution kills many more people than nuclear disasters, with some putting the ratio as high as 4,000 to 1.
Cooper says the very different natures of nuclear disaster versus coal pollution rightly makes people worried.
“Sometimes the industry says ‘If people understood it better, they wouldn’t be as concerned,'” he says. “It’s a different kind of disaster, and the industry has to start accepting it is different. There’s a very wide impact in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster—you’ve got large dead zones, large exclusion zones. These problems you create, they strike a chord in human beings that is very deep-seeded and real. It’s the nature of the technology.”

@William M. Connolley says:
Why is one bad review of a negligible book turned into a conspiracy?
I read the same posting as you and ‘conspiracy’ never entered my mind. Sounded to me like it was about ideology. What is it with Alarmists that they either see conspiracies everywhere or imagine everyone else is seeing them?

Michael Bentley

Here in the central part of Colorado front range, a local business man floated the idea of a nuclear power plant last year. His timing was poor, since he publicised the idea just before the Japan earthquake that gave the Fukushima plant a big bellyache. I was walking past the courthouse shortly after that and a large demonstration was taking place with lots of NO NUKES signs out.
The speaker was shouting that Pueblo didn’t want “WHAT HAPPENED IN JAPAN” to happen here.
Let’s see, we’re at about 4900 feat ASL, the biggest body of water is Lake Pueblo, a flood control lake and we’re some 1300 miles as the crow files from the ring of fire. In addition we have hundreds of square miles of sagebrush on which to construct such a facility. That’s even before we get to an argument about safety of new designs.
Last year, a local businessman floated the idea of building a nuclear power plant here in the central frontrange of Colorado. Poor man, his timing was awful, just weeks before the tsunami hit Japan. Needless to say the anti-nuke forces, already in a snit, really chewed on the events at the Fukushima power plant.
A couple of days after the earthquake I was walking past the county courthouse were there was a large anti-nuclear gathering. The speaker, backed up by a couple of hundred watts of electricity, shouted at the crowd “We don’t what what happened in Japan to happen here in Pueblo!” The crowd went wild!
Humm, While we do have a large man-made lake nearby for flood control, we are some 650 miles from the ring of fire, at about 4900 feet ASL and have plenty of sagebrush covered prairie away from floodplains to build such a facility. So, do you think the people at the rally knew this? No.
Apparently they are all worried about the next tidal wave coming down the Arkansas River.
We are a nation believing in magic. I think Larry Nivin said it “Any sufficiently advanced civilization’s technology will appear as magic to us.” Um, quoting Pogo – “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Michael Bentley

Sorry about the double post – got messed up with the web.