The pro-nuclear movement: an introduction

So far, when discussing the major players in this field, I have looked at the anti-nuclear movement, in an earlier post which charted their history, development and current status. This blog will be a bit different to that, as the pro-nuclear movement is much harder to define. Not only is there not a singular ‘pro-nuclear’ movement as there is with anti-s, there are also a lot more vested interests in nuclear technology, which confound the definition slightly.

One of the most blatant (but probably not demonstrative) differences between those that support and those that oppose nuclear is the fact that the former has a dedicated Wikipedia page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-nuclear_movement

while the latter has merely a list of environmentalists that support it:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pro-nuclear_environmentalists

I suppose, besides those with commercial interests, it’s hard to pin down the pro-nuclear movement because for a long time the anti-nuclear movement was the minority. There was no-need for the ‘establishment’ to directly interact with the protesters, because the majority of the public supported them. With rhetoric like Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ speech, most in the West were probably ambivalent or directly in support of nuclear power.

But then let’s go back to that Wikipedia page, “List of pro-nuclear environmentalists”. Now those with pro-nuclear leanings are in the opposite situation, they are the other, with the anti’s being the norm. Slate has a good article (here) that has a good discussion about the changing nature of the nuclear debate, and the problems faced by those environmentalists who take a pragmatic approach to fighting climate change [I may do a whole post on it in the future actually].

Brave New Climate has a really good blog about this very issue (here), and in it, the author talks about the fact that there is a ‘movement’ associated with the anti-nuclear position. This sense of a distinct identity and collective will is missing from the pro-nuclear side, and it seems that because of this, there will always be a louder anti-nuclear voice drowning them out. As the author notes, the pro-nuclear side is reduced to individuals talking on their soapbox and calls to reason and to ‘just run the numbers’.

The biggest difference seems to be the language used by the two groups. People who are pro-nuclear seem to be much more likely to use fact and reason-based arguments, whereas the anti-nuclear people seem to be more likely to engage in emotional arguments. I’ve put a video below of a debate hosted by TED around nuclear power. If you watch it you will see that both of the speakers start off talking calmly and attempting to use facts to persuade people. However, the anti-nuclear speaker starts to weave a bit of emotion into his presentation when talking about the threat of nuclear disaster, and when given the chance to speak again on the rebuttal of his opponent, he seems visibly emotional and he resorts to sarcastic comments and unfounded statements that don’t actually address his opponents arguments. This is not to say that pro-nuclear speakers never get emotional, it just seems that it is a much more common tactic in the anti-nuclear movement.

However, there are some similarities between these two opposing viewpoints. Like Greenpeace for the anti-nuclear movement, there are organisations like the World Nuclear Association and the Nuclear Energy Institute in the US. These bodies however, are much more corporatised than the anti-nuclear movement (probably a vestige of their activist past) and are much more involved with governmental lobbying activities rather than trying to influence public opinion. The other big similarity is that both sides have the planet’s best interests in mind, both camps are championed by environmentalists, mostly concerned with climate change.

The problem seems to be now that there is no action on either front. If either side were to “win”, at least something would change. Perhaps the best option for these two camps is for them to team up against those who would argue that nothing needs to be done.

Say something controversial.

Matt

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