Alec Baldwin calls nuclear energy filthy

  • Published on September 2nd, 2011

simpsons nuclear reactor

I get a lot of people asking me why I’m so negative about nuclear power. Today I’ll let Alec Baldwin, star of 30 Rock, explain why nuclear reactors are a filthy form of energy.

But first, the pros and cons:

Pro: Compared to oil, gas and coal, it’s relatively low-carbon, and in a world where we need to be doing everything we can to cut the amount of carbon we belch into the atmosphere, shouldn’t nuclear be part of the mix?

Con:  This week we learned that the Fukushima Daichi plants that went beyond meltdown after the tsunami in March have contaminated a vast area which will probably not be habitable again for generations.

And we learned that here in the US, the North Anna nuclear plant DIDN’T melt down, but may nevertheless have exceeded its design limits in the Virginia earthquake. In other words: after all the reassurances that our reactors are so marvelously designed and fail-safed that nothing could go wrong  – we just got lucky. (I can almost hear them, “But what about the 500 nuclear power plants that DIDN’T melt down this year? Why do you always focus on the negative?”)

And of course, we still have NO plan for long-term storage of this stuff. Yucca Mountain will probably never be a viable storage option – and do we really want them transporting nuclear waste through our communities by truck or rail?

In the meantime, the Virginia plant stores its spent waste in pools. If anything goes wrong, there’s very little keeping that fuel from contaminating the groundwater relied upon by hundreds of thousands of people.

That’s enough from me right now. Listen to Alec tell the Huffington Post Green all about it:

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(Springfield nuclear reactor image © FOX Television)

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • There should not have been any evacuations in Fukushima. There was no radiation leak that exceeded the annual natural background radiation.

    If you live in Chernobyl the total radiation dose you get each year is 390 millirem. That’s natural plus residual from the accident and fire. In Denver, Colorado, the natural dose is over 1000 millirem/year. Denver gets more than 2.56 times as much radiation as Chernobyl! But Denver has a low cancer rate.

    Calculate your annual radiation dose:

    The Average American gets 361 millirems/year. Smokers add 280 millirems/year from lead210. Radon accounts for 200 mrem/year.

    Although radiation may cause cancers at high doses and high dose rates, currently there are no data to unequivocally establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates — below about 10,000 mrem (100 mSv). Those people living in areas having high levels of background radiation — above 1,000 mrem (10 mSv) per year– such as Denver, Colorado have shown no adverse biological effects.

    Calculations based on data from NCRP reports show that the average level of natural background radiation (NBR) in Rocky Mountain states is 3.2 times that in Gulf Coast states. However, data from the American Cancer Society show that age-adjusted overall cancer death in Gulf Coast states is actually 1.26 times higher than in Rocky Mountain states. The difference from proportionality is a factor of 4.0. This is a clear negative correlation of NBR with overall cancer death. It is also shown that, comparing 3 Rocky Mountain states and 3 Gulf Coast states, there is a strong negative correlation of estimated lung cancer mortality with natural radon levels (factors of 5.7 to 7.5).

    All natural rocks contain most natural elements. Coal is a rock. The average concentration of uranium in coal is 1 or 2 parts per million. Illinois coal contains up to 103 parts per million uranium. Coal also contains the radioactive decay products of uranium. A 1000 million watt coal fired power plant burns 4 million tons of coal each year. If you multiply 4 million tons by 1 part per million, you get 4 tons of uranium. Most of that is U238. About .7% is U235. 4 tons = 8000 pounds. 8000 pounds times .7% = 56 pounds of U235. An average 1 billion watt coal fired power plant puts out 56 to 112 pounds of U235 every year. There are only 2 places the uranium can go: Up the stack or into the cinders.
    Since a reactor full fuel load is around 11 tons of 2% U235 and 98% U238, and one load lasts about 10 years, what one coal fired power plant puts into the air and cinders could fully fuel a nuclear power plant.
    Compare 4 Million tons per year with 1.1 tons per year. 1.1 divided by 4 Million = 2.75 E -7 = .000000275 =.0000275%. Remember that only 2% of that is U235. The nuclear power plant needs ~44 pounds of U235 per year. The coal fired power plant burns coal by the trainload. The nuclear power plant consumes U235 in such small quantities yearly that you could carry that much weight in a briefcase.
    3. See the rest of Alex Gabbard’s article. U238 can be bred into Plutonium and Thorium can be bred into Uranium. We can fuel our nuclear power plants for CENTURIES just by extracting uranium and thorium from coal cinders and smoke.

    • Jeremy Bloom

      Nice obfuscation. Do you know what happens when you get your recommended maximum ANNUAL dose in 15 minutes? I don’t either, but I’m guessing if you too your entire annual does of vitamin see this morning for breakfast, you might feel a little sick. Or dead.
      And as for ” There was no radiation leak that exceeded the annual natural background radiation”, that’s JUST PLAIN WRONG.

      Reported estimates of radiation at the plant have fluctuated from 60 millirems to 1,000 millirems per hour and radiation of 75 millirem per hour was recorded at the site’s main gate on Wednesday morning. Radiation 100 feet above the plant has been detected as high as 25,000 millirems per hour (250 millisieverts/hr), the lifetime limit for American emergency workers.

      So yeah, nice try. But no, comparing 1,000 millirem per HOUR and 1,000 millirem per YEAR is kind of glaring error.

  • Pingback: Kids on treadmills « your passport to complaining()

  • Putting children on treadmills and generating power this way has a very low carbon footprint, should not this be included in the mix?

    For decades, as the economic, environmental and safety arguments for new reactors have fallen apart, the nuclear industry has turned more and more to the “we have to do everything, so lets keep nuclear in the mix” rationale for more reactors. The problem with this type of thinking is several fold.

    First, it ignores that this is not how utilities that build generating capacity make decisions. If you build a $10 billion reactor, you dont then go build a bunch of windmills as well. You have a bunch of generating capacity and you have spent all your available capital (new rectors are often a huge fraction of the market capitalization of the utilities ordering them).

    Second, like the kids on treadmills proposal, it does not deal with the impracticality and poor economics of the choice. New reactor construction has a long history of cost overruns and delays. This is not due to the diligent efforts of protestors (tho we are often given credit for this, incorrectly). Reactors are fantastically complicated and exacting devices, If we think there is an urgency to dealing with climate change or peak oil, these slow to complete devices are a poor choice. If you want to read about the stunningly poor economic performance of these investments read Amory Lovins piece at

    Third, despite the US insistence on building new reactors, the rest of the world is dumping this technology. The new PM of Japan has just reaffirmed no new reactors and no life extension for existing plants. German is out by 2022. Italy just agreed not to build any new reactors (and had already shut down its three existing plants after Chernobyl), Switzerland will not build new plants after a recent vote. Even France is building more wind power stations than new reactors. [China is the notable exception to this trend and India is having serious civil unrest over new reactor construction, with protesters being killed]

    Finally, there is a structural problem with the groups which are supposed to regulate nuclear power and the utilities which build and operate plants. We see this not just repeatedly in Japan, but here in the US also. The NRC will come to North Anna, but they will not inspect the plant – they will read papers created by the utility, they will talk with engineers and the job of inspecting the reactor will be left to the company which stands to loose hundreds of millions if anything significant is found wrong with it. This means ultimately the type of corruption this situation breeds will lead to meltdowns like at Fukushima.