No one at the Environmental Impact hearing for the Duke Energy proposed nuclear reactors near Gaffney, SC, seemed aware that the world has changed dramatically since nuclear power last made sense. And those changes have not made nuclear power more inviting.
Nuclear power has been debated ever since President Eisenhower’s 1953 “Atoms for Peace” speech before the U.N. Countless arguments have been entered into the public records. If a citizen at this hearing were to document specific errors in Duke’s material—a river-volume flow miscalculation here, or an arithmetic error there—her remarks would be dismissed because she is not the designated expert—they are—so she will be deemed uninformed or biased.
If a citizen were to make an emotional appeal on behalf of safer, more energy-efficient approaches to balancing energy supply and demand, he would be considered unrealistic. If he proposed picketing with signs, he would be considered a dangerous radical, out of step with the need for local employment and future electricity needs.
If she ran as a candidate opposed to nuclear power, Duke Energy, as a “person” newly empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, would outspend any conceivable campaign and would buy a pro-nuclear candidate of their choosing. Corporations now own the political system.
Issues such as nuclear power are so complicated, perhaps intentionally so, that the public feels confused and excluded from the decision process in any meaningful way. So what could be said here that might make a difference? Perhaps, addressing just a few clearly understandable, simple concepts may create a reasoned perspective on the issue that may serve to advance the public understanding. These issues are employment, need for power, safety, nuclear wastes, cost, and alternatives.
We will start on that next time.