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George Monbiot vs. Dr. Helen Caldicott: A Debate on the Future of Nuclear Energy. Part 1 of 2

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Published on Mar 30, 2011

DemocracyNow.org -
The crisis in Japan has refueled the global debate about the viability of nuclear power. Democracy Now! hosts a debate today about the future of nuclear energy between British journalist George Monbiot and Dr. Helen Caldicott. Nuclear energy remains a controversial topic in climate change discourse, as environmental activists argue how to best reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere—often the debate pits one non-renewable energy against another as renewable energy technology and research remains underfunded.

Watch Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pb5HIt...

Monbiot has written extensively about the environmental and health dangers caused by burning coal for energy, and despite the Fukushima catastrophe, stands behind nuclear power. Caldicott is a world-renowned anti-nuclear advocate who has spent decades warning of the medical hazards posed by nuclear technologies, and while agreeing about the dangers of burning coal, insists the best option is to ban nuclear power.

For the video/audio podcast, transcript, to sign up for the daily news digest, and for Democracy Now!'s vast news archive on reporting on climate change, visit http://www.DemocracyNow.org.

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Comments • 86

Joseph Lee
A fork-tongued news reporter vs.a renown nuclear energy expert. george monbiot don't know his ass from his elbow is arguing it's okay to have nuclear plants so long is closely monitored is absolutely ridiclous. Just one simple question: where and what do we do with the nuclear waste?   
View all 4 replies
Harrzack
OMG! You call that crone Caldicott a "nuclear expert"? YIKES - no wonder our technology awareness has been set back 40 years with such "experts" at the helm. She is a freekin Pediatrician - as in BABIES - not Physics!!
chris
+Daniel Van Dusen "nuclear power is beat solution possible right now." - "right now" means "for as long as capitalism exists". As an anticapitaist opponent of atomic power I actually agree with that. But you have to realize what you're writing is not an argument in favor of atomic energy, but an argument against capitalism.
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ginganz13
Large areas of Tokyo now have soil so contaminated that in the US it would be considered nuclear waste and need to be contained in a secure facility. AS this has developed George Monbiot has been proved to be a massive aching cock.
View all 22 replies
Robert Bernal
+chris I don't remember and don't want to re-read the whole thread but All I know is IF we do nuclear right, it'll give unlimited energy, to the tune of fossil fuels to get it started and then it keeps itself going. Closed cycle is like 100 to one EROEI. Not much storage required, either. Whereas, solar needs a lot more storage, which obviously eats into its EROEI. However, I believe batteries will be made to last longer with less energy input, and that solar will be made with less energy input as well. Just need to mass manufacture both without so much "environmental" litigation interruptions (responsible for the downfall of Cape wind). So, my point is that in order to power a growing planetary civilization without fossil fueled backup, we'll need a source that can make itself, grow itself AND power the whole growing world all the way to arts, education... and rock and roll. And, no, I don't really like today's conventional nuclear, the light water reactor, because not only is it meltdown prone, it's woefully inefficient (to the tune of only getting an EROEI of between 5 and 80 (depending on who says what). NUCLEAR energy should at least get 100, to make it worthwhile, to "energy pay" for all the decommissioning, to build itself, power China, India and disneyland, etc. The closed cycle molten salt reactors would be that good and NOT melt down (no high pressures to worry about, either!). Their wastes would not be the actinides that the LWR's of today produce, thus they (fission products) decay into non radioactive in between months and 300 years - no problem (not 300,000 years as with actinides, which are created by neutrons being absorbed by the heavy metal to make even heavier and unstable elements. Fission products are the split, which are lighter, but still unstable elements). The closed cycle just "burns the actinides (making it so much more efficient. The molten salt reactor just makes it so much safer. Excess CO2 is actually heating up the biosphere, all I have to say about that! All research should go to laser initiated FUSION, though, as we shouldn't have to waste valuable resources on "re-learning" what Alvin Weinberg already invented!
chris
+Robert Bernal nuclear is more dangerous than fossil fuels - The production of nuclear energy requires copious amounts of fossil fuel, so what's your point?
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dyno tuner
Yep , a newspaper journalist knows all. Monbiot is a joke! 
View all 4 replies
David Davison
+JustRootsAndLeaves Right on the money Root.  I don't know if Caldicott believes her own propaganda or if she simply feels she has invested too much time and effort and that she just can't back down now.  Regardless, she comes off like an idiot and she is harming the environment she claims to champion by spewing falsehoods.
JustRootsAndLeaves
+Joseph Lee  You do realise that Monbiot and Caldicott used to be colleagues. In fact, you could have  called Monbiot an acolyte of hers. That's why they were brought together.. Also, read http://www.monbiot.com/?s=caldicott to see why everything she claims in this interview is utter crap. 
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Splen borg
At 6:38: "George Monbiot, do you agree with Helen Caldicotts assessment?". He could have said "well it doesn't relate to what I said, or to the debate at hand, so ham sandwich milkshake". Instead, he gives a very balanced response I think. 
GMBCATASTROPHE
One day I will find Monbiot and I will kick his cunt in.  I will kick his cunt in.  I will kick and kick and kick and kick until I am fucking exhausted. 
chris
+GMBCATASTROPHE And then I'll take over for you.
Robert Bernal
The only thing this nutjob is right about is that stupid people mismanaged a NON advanced nuclear power plant, causing radiation leaks. There are MANY better nuclear options and they MUST be deployed in order to provide the energy to supply 10 billion people at high standards (and to save the planet). This power could also be used to build all the renewable we ever could need (covering up a good portion of the planet???). Here's more... Helen wants us to fall back into another dark age! She has NOT done the energy math (for 10 billion at high standards). She must know by now that there are meltdown proof reactor designs available for humanity to use to clean up our act. But she won't budge... (and has the audacity to say that we don't need power!). Proves that she could care less about ocean acidification and disappearing ice caps (because a humanity without enough power will destroy the planet even faster by burning all the trees aka "clean" biofuels). The only thing she is right about is the fact that the Fukushima reactors are bad (obviously) and are contributing to excess radiation. The facts (over at whatsthebackupplan) lead to an obvious conclusion: that we re-develop the meltdown proof reactors, deploy globally and build PHS (pumped hydro storage) as the backup necessary to smooth the grid from the (eventually, extreme) variability of renewable energy input and the constant changing amounts of power consumption. Only the ill-informed would assume that the LWR is the only nuclear option available. The far more efficient molten salt reactor (or now, better design) creates a waste that is not radioactive in just 300-400 years (which is realistically isolatable in the context of human timescales). Today's LWR spent fuel could be converted into enough electricity to power the world for CENTURIES! I could just hear that dumbo say "Oh, no, we can't have that, oh no, we MUST support the fossil fuels industry by mandating only a trivial amount of renewables"! You do know that as the awesomeness of renewables enter the "max grid" phase, there will be hardly any baseload (because solar will power like "everything" for just a few hours in the day) and then there will be this drastic need to burn LOTS of fossil fuels at night to make up for both the loss of (nuclear powered) baseload and, solar. At least there is one thing we all can agree on which is LOTS of pumped hydro storage!
View all 5 replies
GMBCATASTROPHE
Sweetheart.  Lets just go to Thorium.  Then we don't have to worry about Jews or earthquakes or pole shifts.  Now what is your problem with THAT. 
Robert Bernal
+Joseph Lee Recycle it (dickhead!) You don't even know what nuclear waste IS. http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/nuclear-waste-is-it.html
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Benedict Brunker
He's not a politician, he's a journalist and environmental activist.
Splen borg
Also, Helen Caldicott, you are a douche.
Splen borg
Bravo Mr Monbiot.
Douglas Blackington
As soon as we learn how to recycle ALL of the incredibly radioactive waste, THEN it MIGHT be a good idea. Until then, we are giving our childrenʻs children horrifically radioactive waste that has tenʻs of thousands of years half-lives to deal with! It is morally and ethically wrong to do this to future generations as yet to be born, just so we can use the energy today.
Tom Simon
I'm no scientist, but isn't it the stuff with a short half life the stuff we should be worried about? I think it's a common misconception that stuff with a long half life is dangerous, when it's actually the opposite.

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