Tom Friedman's Idiocy Atomique

France's atomic power industry is a failed radioactive flame. Its 58
reactors are unpopular, unsafe, uneconomical, dirty, direct agents of
global warming, weapons proliferators and major generators of atomic
waste for which there is no management solution.

But self-proclaimed "green advocate" Thomas Friedman seems to think
otherwise. In his just published New York Times op ed "Real Men Tax
Gas" Friedman applies the term "wimp" to those who fail to fight global
warming. But in true corporate style, he can't face the hard truths
about France's industrie atomique. To wit:

1) In denial verging on psychosis, Friedman says France has "managed to
deal with all the radioactive waste issues without any problems or
panic." In fact, France's unsolved waste problem has thousands of
ultra-hot fuel rods building up at reactor sites, just like here. Its
hugely expensive attempts to reprocess spent fuel cause devastating
radiation releases into the English Channel and elsewhere, prompting
continual demands from around Europe that they stop.

2) Friedman says "France today generates nearly 80 percent of its
electricity from nuclear power plants." But he ignores "wimpy" French
public opinion that has turned decisively against building new reactors
while strongly approving new wind production. The big "Non" to new
nukes stems in part from massively inefficient, unreliable reactors,
some of which have recently been forced shut because they are
overheating the rivers meant to cool them. Is this Friedman's "macho"
solution to global warming?

3) Friedman complains that the US has "not been able or willing to
build one new nuclear plant since the Three Mile Island accident in
1979, even though that accident led to no deaths or injuries to plant
workers or neighbors." Friedman misses those 2400 "wimpy" central
Pennsylvania families who sued for widespread death and disease they
suffered after TMI's radiation releases showered their homes and
fields. The utility responsible quietly paid out more than $15 million
in secret settlements.

Friedman has also missed important new findings by nuclear engineer
Arnie Gundersen and epidemiologist Stephen Wing indicating far more
extensive TMI radiation releases and far more widespread health impacts
than previously believed.

4) Friedman complains that "we're too afraid to store nuclear waste
deep in Nevada's Yucca Mountain -- totally safe -- at a time when French
mayors clamor to have reactors in their towns to create jobs." But
Yucca's ability to store anything except rusting rail lines is as yet
untested. The earthquake fault that runs through it is tangible and
visible. So is perched water that threatens to rain down on any
radioactive waste stored there. Yucca is surrounded by dormant
volcanoes---and by 80% opposition from "wimpy" Nevadans angry for a
wide variety of economic, health, safety and geological reasons. Nobody
in France is planning on storing high level radioactive waste in their
town squares and nobody else---here or there---wants it.

5) Friedman says "the French stayed the course on clean nuclear power,
despite Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and we ran for cover."
France's first shot at a "new generation" reactor---in Finland---is an
engineering, economic and ecological catastrophe. French taxpayers are
enraged about funding an Olkiluoto project that's years behind budget
and billions of Euros over budget. Anne Lauvergeon, the chief of
AREVA---France's nuclear front group---told me (
she blames Finland's regulatory framework for her woes. But a parallel
project at Flamanville, France, isn't faring much better. AREVA's
fortunes have plummeted, throwing the government-controlled agency into
deep financial crisis.

6) Friedman goes on to laud "Little Denmark" for imposing "a carbon
tax, a roughly $5-a-gallon gasoline tax." He fails to credit its
"wimpy" but fiercely effective No Nukes movement, which has kept
Denmark totally free of atomic reactors, while moving it further into
wind power percentage-wise than any other nation on Earth. Angry Danish
opposition has helped force neighboring Sweden to shut its Barsebaeck
reactors, upwind from Copenhagen.

Friedman's bizarre reactor advocacy reflects a corporate mindset too
wimpy to embrace the true Solartopian solution to our energy crisis.
Mycle Schneider, Paris-based author of WHAT FRANCE GOT WRONG (
in NUCLEAR ENGINEERING INTERNATIONAL, gets it right: "For least cost
and greatest security, the energy future lies in affordable,
distributed, superefficient technologies, smart grids and sustainable
urbanism. France's centralised, autocratic nuclear policy symbolizes
the opposite."

The true green technologies of a Solartopian Revolution are proven,
ecologically sound and economically essential. They are also ready for
rapid installation.

But they are decentralized and subject to community control rather than
corporate domination. While Friedman and his moneyed elite continue to
grasp at the failed, centralized straw of atomic energy, technology and
history have passed them by.

"Real men"---and women---know we will never get to a green-powered
Earth by trying to ride a dead radioactive horse---even if it's French.

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