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Sunday, February 27, 2011


      Jerry Pournelle answered a letter from a Penny McCracken who, saying that nuclear power was dreadful, claimed the authority of " I worked, mostly in aerospace and the Space Program, but also during the 34-year career, for two separate companies which built nuclear power plants.". I replied:

"Argument from Implied Authority

Penny McCracken saying she worked "for two separate companies which built nuclear power plants" implies but does not say she was in that part of the companies and thus implicitly has an informed opinion. I suspect almost any large company in the aerospace industry will have some link to some nuclear work.

I have found anti-nuclearists regularly claiming to have worked in the nuclear industry while being ignorant of the subject. Mrs McCracken is probably not inventing here but her argument would have been stronger if she had actually produced some argument against nuclear, apart from the Japaneseness of a producer, rather than making an argument from implied authority".

Jerry's reply  
I have no idea why she opposes nuclear power; but then I don't hear many rational arguments on the subject, As I relate in Step Farther Out, California's leading anti-nuclear "Small is Beautiful" leader used to boast that "The only physics I ever took was ExLax." I do not hear many rational discussions of the demerits of nuclear power, and except for Access to Energy there aren't many explications of the reasons why nuclear power is desirable. As I said before we invaded Iraq and continue to say, had we put the estimated war cost of $300 billion into US energy development we would not have to worry so much about the Middle East. As it happens the cost was -- surprise! -- a multiple of the $300 billion, with no real end in sight. I would prefer private energy development, but the TVA provides a model of a Federal energy agency that actually works. The important thing is that energy prices are a major factor in economic growth, and everyone knows it."

It is not my job to marshal the arguments against nuclear power. The anti-nuclear people are so successful in the wonderful American public school system that it is now simply assumed that educated and intelligent people are against nuclear power. This is a great accomplishment, for which the American people have paid a great deal of money, and will continue to pay it in pensions to those who achieved it. So it goes.

 I hereby invite anybody on the anti-nuclear side to say what rational arguments they have against nuclear power since, as he says, they are not readily available.

A point raised in a reply later on the site is that opponents aren't simply against nuclear power they are against any way, or at least any practical way, of producing power which can only be reconciled with the purest Luddism intent on reversing growth.

This is Profesor John McCarthy's site discussing nuclear power which you should read if you have any interest in the subject. Anybody saying why they are rationally anti-nuclear will have to say why he is wrong - not a task I envy.
     Rational as it gets?

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