Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Felicity Barringer (New York Times) replies to the May 15th article

Felicity Barringer wishes to share her comments on the May 15th entry with the community. Thank you to Barringer for sharing and to Dallas who e-mailed the interview to her and passed on today (by phone and forwarded e-mail) that she'd given permission to be quoted and named. I will add one statement here before her comments because we have noted that others from the Times have e-mailed and that they've frequently shared things that may or may not be within the Times guidelines. Ms. Barringer has only e-mailed the site one time and her full comments appear below.

I have a small factual point on your blog of three weeks ago, on the nuclear power debate among environmentalists. (I just caught up with your piece.)

You say: "Is the issue so unimportant that there's no need for reaction among the community? It's "important" enough to front page, right? It goes on and on about "several" and John McCain and Joe Lieberman." Why does it all come off so one-sided? Why does the article read like the decision's been made for you, so shut up and go along? (To quote Eddie from his e-mail this morning.)"

The article includes the following paragraphs, which seem to me to be "reaction from among the community." So I'm a little unclear on the factual basis for your rhetorical questions.

"Now, groups like Greenpeace U.S.A., the Sierra Club, the World Wildlife Fund and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group argue with one voice that any more time or money spent on nuclear energy would unjustifiably divert resources from more promising solutions, like conservation and renewable energy."

It has been 32 years since the last nuclear reactor was ordered and built in the United States, and 1996 was the last year in which a civilian nuclear reactor -- the Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar reactor -- was commissioned. Nuclear reactors, almost all of them the first generation of this technology, now provide about 20 percent of electric power in the United States.

"Aside from the environmental issues, it is still far from clear when the fundamental economics of energy generation would favor the construction of new nuclear plants in the United States. Officials of electric company officials and those of companies that design and build reactors have said recently that without substantial government help, the costs of winning regulatory approval and building nuclear plants would be dauntingly high for investors.

"The proposals that Senator McCain is considering would provide a 50-50 cost-sharing arrangement, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, to gain federal certification for three new designs for nuclear plants. On Monday he met with Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chairman and chief executive of General Electric, which constructs nuclear plants.

"Such subsidies are still anathema to most environmental groups, which believe that the nuclear industry got far more than its fair share of government aid in the last generation, while their technologies of choice were left hungry."

''The notion out there from some of these deep thinkers is that we have to take our medicine and if only we could accept nukes, the global warming problem would be solved,'' said Anna Aurilio, the legislative director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. ''We have a whole bunch of solutions already that are not as risky.''

These include, Ms. Aurilio said, increasing national energy efficiency and investing in solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy, like ethanol.

"Thomas B. Cochran, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's nuclear program said: ''The issue isn't: Do you support nuclear? The issue should be: Do you support massive subsidies to the tune of billions of dollars for nuclear power?'' He said, ''The answer is no.''

"The most frequent objection to nuclear reactors is that they may lead to the spread of nuclear weapons. In an era when hostile or potentially hostile governments like those in North Korea and Iran are gaining proficiency in nuclear weapons technology, opponents ask, why support a technology that would generate more weapons-grade fuel? They also balk at the notion that nuclear waste can be safely and economically stored.

Aren't the sentiments that are paraphrased and directly quoted above a reaction from the environmental community? Why, then, pose a question that implies these points of view were left out?

Felicity Barringer