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Who Killed Nuclear Energy?

Emmet Penney

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Chris Keefer  0:00  

Welcome back to Decouple today it is my pleasure to bring back Emmet Penney keeping track of Emirates bio is it's getting a bit tough man, you're you're busy these days, hosting nuclear barbarians and the exhaust podcasts. That's right, editor of grid beat brief. I understand you're now on the editorial board of compact, which published a couple of your pieces the most recent one energy Atlas cinco ism, frequent contributor to a number of prestigious publications, including what we're talking about today, your most recent, I'm going to say I'm going to try and pan off at the exhaust podcast. It's exhaustive, but not exhausting. Thank you is this American Affairs peace? Who killed nuclear energy and how to revive it? I think just absolutely essential reading, particularly for our brothers and sisters in the United States of America. But Emmet, am I leaving anything off of the bio?

Emmet Penney  0:55  

I think that's good, man. I think we're good.

Chris Keefer  0:57  

All right. All right. Well, we'll definitely have some links in the show notes for where people can find you. And I hope you have like a website where you just kind of list your biography and have everything, you know, hyperlinked. I'm actually

Emmet Penney  1:08  

going to build one of those this year. So it dawned on me that like, I'm actually getting published now. So I should probably do.

Chris Keefer  1:15  

Yeah, definitely. Definitely. We need to we need a repository, a deep knowledge repository from me. Yeah. Yeah, man. I mean, any anything else? You know, the self intro, blah, blah, blah, whatever. But like how you've been doing recently? You moved? What's what's new and exciting for you?

Emmet Penney  1:29  

Yeah, I've returned to my homeland of the American Midwest. I'm in Chicago. That's why it's Bhumi. Sorry, everybody. We still haven't unpacked we got here on Saturday night. So yeah, I mean, grid reef is going great. Anybody who wants to keep up on energy news that goes straight to your inbox five times a week? It's free. Click on the link. Yep. You also get nuclear barbarians attached to that in your Friday newsletter. So you don't have to worry about looking for that if you subscribe to grid brief. But yeah, it's going great. I wrote this piece for American affairs. We're going to talk about that I wrote the energies Lysenko was a piece that did surprisingly well. I thought that was pretty niche. And I'm feeling pretty happy. It's pretty cool to see my name on an editorial board list with likes lovely Shishak Glenn Greenwald. And like people like Ashley Crowley who I really admire, fellow Canuck. And, yeah, it sounds like it feels like people are finally coming around to some of our ideas. And that is a good feeling. Indeed. Now, hopefully, that doesn't mean that will just be some sort of pronuclear Arts and Letters club, and then we'll get to see some reactors built out of it. But I think we're gonna have to be a little bit more patient for that. Well, at

Chris Keefer  2:48  

first, we need, you know, a excellent history and context, to understand the challenges ahead, how we got here, and how to get out of this, this mess, particularly in the US, you know, I've been on the podcast circuit, talking to braise talking to Kugelmass excetera. And sort of, maybe I've gotten to rose tinted glasses on, but I'm feeling pretty, pretty optimistic. Well, I was on barbarians to, for God's  sakes, talking about how sweet things are up here in Canada, and I don't want to it's not overly rosy, but God, I mean, particularly, we're always comparing ourselves to the US, you know, be it health care, guns, etc. And, you know, it makes us feel pretty good about our nuclear prospects. But yeah, let's let's talk about, about the US about about this amazing piece that you've written. You know, I talked to I was talking about the nuclear secret sauce, you know, how is this this phenomenon in a number of countries where over a decade, maybe two decades, countries got really fucking good at building nuclear quickly. You know, and obviously, we have, you know, the Mesmer plan in France is a key example. But I mean, in Ontario here in Canada, we build 20 reactors and 20 years, decarbonize Ontario laid the foundation for you know, some prosperity here. You know, but I mean, across the world, I mean,

Emmet Penney  4:06  

canonical example, because appreciated

Chris Keefer  4:08  

the Soto appreciated the setup, but you know, like Japan, South Korea, China ever, you know, it seems like it's almost like a baton being passed. And of course, you know, while the Russians will dispute this, the US is certainly kind of a birthplace of nuclear with the shipping port reactor. And, you know, I have this kind of statist bias often of saying, you know, that these are the ingredients and a lot of people push back and say, Hey, no, like early experience in the US we were kicking ass. It was largely sort of private Lee run companies, private utilities that got things moving. So I mean, can we start by and I know you didn't go into the into this in too much in the piece, but just kind of like was there a nice little heyday in the 60s? I've heard things like JFK is election platform was, you know, if the private utilities don't start building more nuclear, we're gonna, you know, force them to or we're gonna I mean, everyone talks about Nix and other people saying we're going to build 1000 reactors, etc. I haven't investigated those claims too closely. But like, Can we start with like a little bit of optimism that the US did do nuclear Well, for a little while, and

Emmet Penney  5:10  

a lot of that had to do with the unique structure of the American utility system. So unlike in Canada, or the UK, for a while, it was private here. And a lot of that has to do with commerce clauses in the Constitution at certain times, as the industry was, you know, gaining a head of steam in the late 19th century. And another part of it, I think, has to do with just like, frankly, American culture and our preference, it seems to be for private enterprise. But utilities are weird things in that, as you know, Meredith Angwin has educated us all, you need a certain level of centralization for it to work at all. And that took the form of a regulated monopoly in America. And so utilities didn't compete against each other. But what they could do is they could get manufacturers to compete to build bigger and better things. That's what made the American electricity system, like way more ambitious than other state run versions of it. And it's because you could pit Westinghouse against, you know, GE, or whatever, to build bigger and bigger turbines or whatever. So, in the 50s, you're looking back at, you know, the 40s, the 30s. And all you're seeing if you're an utility executive, is your own reflection, just not as pretty as you are now, you know, like, they'd gotten it down to a sweet, sweet science, you know, and it was called to grow and build, or grow and build model, you know, they could get a bigger turbine, and then just plow that into the rate base, but it would be so thermally efficient, that it would really lower the cost of electricity. And then, you know, GE and whomever and you can find old op eds, and reports from the US trade publication, electrical world, where they talk about, like, this is why you need every single customer in your area to have like a washer or dryer or a toaster or whatever, you know, to just keep ratcheting up that demand. They've been doing that forever. I mean, that's how we got amusement parks. Right, that was a load balancing strategy early on. So we're nuclear figures in is that it hits them right in the 60s, when there is no opportunity for them to think that anything could ever go wrong. And GE, and you know, the government is willing to, you know, help a little bit and subsidize a little bit. I mean, these are regulated monopolies. So they already have like, a quasi state relationships, so

Chris Keefer  8:03  

they can get cheap capital, right? Like, that's

Emmet Penney  8:05  

one thing. They also have a ton of capital, you know, at it, and the federal government's like, Yeah, we really need to build nuclear, like, we really need to do that. So we'll help you guys out. So, you know, eventually, after some people take some losses, I think like GE and one other country, take a company take about a billion in losses to come last leaders to make an affordable technology to build, everybody wants them.

Chris Keefer  8:30  

Okay, so just explain that for a second. They, they, as a company decided, hey, we're gonna like sell it, or we're gonna do this to get established,

Emmet Penney  8:36  

yeah, we're gonna get good at building it, you know, like, we're really gonna, like, they took the capital risk to get out there. And I mentioned that briefly in the piece, and it fit perfectly, like, people were like, okay, we can transition away from coal, if this is going to be better, because if you're an engineer, you're looking at the energy density, and you're like, Well, this is just superior. This is just the way to do it. You know, like, if we want, you know, there, there were some ideas that the US was going to run out of uranium, which ended up not being true. But, you know, people were like, it's abundant, it's dense, we can do it. So we should, why wouldn't we write like, that was part of the ambition of the utility system is that we can do bigger we can do better, we can do more complex. The problem is that certain things started to fall apart and the utility consensus at the time and what had been a very conservative strategy of, Okay, we're gonna build, you know, thing a thermal unit A, and then we get really good at building it. And then we kind of realized like, you know, what, I bet we could build a plus it's just a little bit bigger has bigger boilers, you know, the Boilermakers have figured out how to get some more efficiencies or whatever. So then we're going to do that. We're gonna slowly expand. But then demand started to take off to the point where they ran into diminishing returns when it came to building bigger and bigger turbines. So they would ask for these things from Allis Chalmers or GE or whoever. And they would have to do total first of a kind type stuff. And it became just like a computer extrapolation. This is when computers also hit the industry as well. So they're like, yeah, if you look at this model, we should be able to pull this off. And then they were like, You know what, we got all of these new allo alloys from the Air Force out of the World War Two experience, I bet you we could use them for turbine turbine blades. They're called Austin medic alloys. So they start deploying all of this new shit. But then it starts to run into problems, and they're suddenly costly re workings and other overruns. And they start to, they begin the process of no longer building upon pre established knowledge in a direct way, which creates an institutional human capital problem for them, as well. Especially because from about the mid 50s. And this might be true. Now, I don't know, to the mid 80s, you can find op ed after op ed by a utility executive who was like, we are no longer getting the best in the brightest, they're going to electronics, and they are going to aerospace, like they are not coming to the utility industry. And they aren't really coming to the manufacturers anymore. Because like do you want to be? Or if you're an ambitious young man and ambitious engineer, do you want to help put the first man on the moon? Or do you want to make like a super sick Thermal Generator that like no one's gonna pay attention to? Right. So this is sort of the the tragedy of what happens to utility system, which, by the way, creates, as far as I know, engineering departments in America. Well, I like that doesn't really exist as a formal thing. Except it maybe like West Point a little bit after the Civil War. And it's like, you know, military engineering. It's the utility industry that creates power engineering courses all over the country. And from, like, from the 20s to like, the 40s and 50s. Like, the amount of power engineering degrees drops by like two thirds or something like that. It is crazy. It's just like gone from the National Gosh, consciousness.

Chris Keefer  12:38  

It's so reminiscent now of I think, you know, seeing seeing a lot of the brightest minds, obviously, going into like it and into Silicon Valley, but also into into Fusion. Right, because fusion, so much cooler, advanced nuclear, like, I mean, a there's probably not that many jobs for people in traditional nuclear industry. But you definitely get that sense. And I think, you know, Mark talks about this a lot in terms of some of the reasons behind the decay. You know, I think he was comparing Rosa Tom and saying like, they are still getting the best and brightest minds. It's really hard to work there. It's really prestigious. And that shows right in terms of the performance. Yeah. So that that is that is fascinating, but let's just get a sense of numbers, then. Because, you know, we talk a lot about the Mesmer plan, I think, 54 reactors delivered in 20 years. I mean, what's the stat here? I mean, like, and we'll get into the the NRC, the Atomic Energy Commission turning into the NRC, and the fact that no plans that was not approved by the the Atomic Energy Commission has actually been brought online since. Yeah, since the establishment NRC, but but there were a bunch of plants brought on line, I guess, in the 60s and into the early 70s. So how, like, how many were built? Roughly? I mean, we get 20% of your juice from from nuclear. Right. So that's, that's a lot of plants. Right? I

Emmet Penney  13:49  

think it's, it's about the amount that we have now. I mean, we've lost some plants in the meantime. So we're looking at like, What 100 Something you know, like, enough that again, like you said, it's still accounts for 20% of our juice. I mean, this is an amazing build out at once. I should tell you that, like, you know, I love Bret Kugelmass. I love his argument that if you just get rid of the regulations, and we'll get into that, like you just want 1000 reactor types bloom. But when you start to run into some of the problems that I was talking about, with new things being deployed in the 60s and 70s, it's also really hard to build engineering institutional knowledge when you're fixing a bunch of different types of reactor everywhere, because then that means like, you have to learn how to do it every single time you go and fix it. After that, you know, and that created its own cost overruns. So just wanted to throw that in there. So yeah, I think that's about what we're looking at. I mean, I'd have to go back to my notes. I don't think I actually named the number in the article enough.

Chris Keefer  14:48  

Fair enough. Yeah. Sounds like an interesting quote here between 1974 and 1978 80 nuclear plants were canceled. Right and that's a year that's a year before Three Mile Island. I think it messes with people's narratives around like, well, three Marshall Islands what what really put the pause on things? And I think you've described the reasons why. But that's stunning. That's that's the

Emmet Penney  15:07  

that was just to give an overall picture. I think I also say that it right after that, that it was 60%, or something of the new capacity about to be added by American electrons

Chris Keefer  15:17  

like the renewable situation now, right, right.

Emmet Penney  15:20  

No, exactly, exactly. So that was about 60% of it. The rest of it was coal. A bunch of coal plants got cancelled as well. It was the the big, the big boys, the big baseload boys. That all got cut from the team, as America entered the energy crisis, and look, one of the things we talk about all the time in America is those of us who are sort of on Team nuclear. We like to shit talk the electricity spot market, the RTO, for good reason. I do it all the time. I've got another piece in compact coming out about this, you know, and we'd like to say that, hey, look at how reliable utilities were. Look in the second half of the 60s that just wasn't true,

Chris Keefer  16:02  

right biggest blackout in the world, right in the world

Emmet Penney  16:04  

and and brownouts every summer for like three summers in a row leading up to the OPEC energy crisis. Like people have to understand that that is a huge loss of confidence.

Chris Keefer  16:18  

And why did why did those blackouts and brownouts start? Hmm,

Emmet Penney  16:20  

so part of it was just like, I mean, they just couldn't catch up to demand it is the worst storm possible. So as the way that they would catch up to demand starts to fall apart under its own weight, they like demand is outpacing their ability to do it. So they're just doubling down on their way of doing things. And it's not paying off. That's why the Storm King Pumped Storage Facility was going to be built in New York. Because they were like, Okay, if we can pick a building these big boy plans, we can at least build a pump storage facility in New York, that will help us keep the New York grid on line. And of course, that is one of the early moments along with DDT that creates the environmental movement.

Chris Keefer  17:02  

This is the founding struggle of Ghana, DC I think right is the stopping that pump storage facility.

Emmet Penney  17:06  

Right? So Environmental Defense Fund is DDT and then NRDC is Storm King.

Chris Keefer  17:14  

Wow. Okay. Okay. Let's talk about a few other factors here. And I guess this is probably a good time to start talking about the transition from the Atomic Energy Commission to the NRC and, you know, LNT and ALARA as as the sort of regulatory pillows that are snuffing the child of nuclear terms, but yeah, Dan, Chris. Yeah, dark, dark. But

Emmet Penney  17:41  

yeah. So it's really one of the things that I talked about in the piece. I wrote this piece to make everyone uncomfortable. Like I wanted pro nuclear advocates to be uncomfortable. By the end of it. I wanted environmentalists to be uncomfortable by I wanted, like, free marketeers to be uncomfortable by it. And then I also wanted pro government people to be uncomfortable by the end of it. And I'd like to think that I pulled that off of everybody. Um, yeah, I gave enough of everyone's defects to understand like, how big the downfall of nuclear actually was. I did that, for some reasons. Maybe we can talk about it later. Right. Now, the thing that I want to touch on is that what LNT happens because of elite arrogance, like when we look at the post war world, in America, there are a few things that we should do to contextualize it. One, we have to understand it as a post war experience. And by that, I mean through the GI Bill, and just people coming home in general, you have all sorts of people who cut their teeth as young men, you know, and it's a man's world. flooding into every single industry, like the Senate in America was like 70%, World War Two vets until the 70s, or something like that, you know? And so that's every industry. Right? Like, I mean, not that metric, but you get what I'm saying, in other words, is very top down. I mean, just look at an American suburb, it's like a military base built around the barracks of the public school. Interesting. You know, like that I grew up in one of those places, it feels just like that, it looks like the photos of my dad's time growing up on army bases with his father. Right? It's like almost a one to one, it's eerie. So you just have a bunch of people who think that they should be able to say whatever the hell they want, and other people just have to eat it. And the utility industry also like really thinks that they're responsible for technic, radically improving everyone's lives. And, you know, consumers really don't have shit to say to them, because look how cheap electricity is. And so you should just fuck off and leave us alone. And it's the same thing in the military. It's the same thing and nuclear is both civilian and military. There is no way it will never happen. I don't think where you can successfully The Decouple military, nuclear and civilian nuclear in America. Like, that's just not going to happen. That's what Adams for peace was about, look how successful it was. You know, like, people still think of it that way. So that's just something that we have to live with and learn how to work around. So when the fucking Bravo incident happens in Bikini Atoll, Lewis Strauss, who's this like financier appointed by Eisenhower to the AC? is a totally arrogant piece of shit. And he's like, yeah, that's basically no big deal.

Chris Keefer  20:38  

Just explain explain what that incident was just for.

Emmet Penney  20:40  

Yeah. So it's just like missile testing. Right. And, you know,

Chris Keefer  20:46  

it was it was a nuclear explosion that was a little bigger than planned. And the lucky.

Emmet Penney  20:50  

Yeah, they were like, Oh, yeah. And he was just like, yeah, big deal. Go cry about it. Like, it's fine. You know, I should also mention that it's like, at this time, that the AC is doing some really weird, weird stuff. Like I think it's called the desert Bucky problem, where they're trying to frack natural gas by exploding missiles underground, in New Mexico and Colorado. So like, you can kind of see how people are like, this seems weird to me little count like this. Yeah, like, this seems kind of nuts like. And at the same time, you had people in the AEC, who kept telling the public, like, nuclear is never going to have accidents. It's like, it'll take a billion years for a plant to have a real problem, like reactors are completely safe. So this Bravo incident happens. And then a bunch of geneticists rightly are like, Dude, you can't tell me that that's not highly radioactive. But then the problem is, is once those geneticists win their way onto the AEC, they bring with them linear, no threshold, which becomes because the guy Herman Miller, who develops it, another eugenicist, which is a major theme of my piece, it is creepy. How many of eugenicists there are all over this stuff. Suppresses. Any attempt to critique linear, no threshold, willingly, like willingly does that. And his stuff becomes the standard, despite its sort of like BS quality, funnily enough, he fled the Lysenko purchase in the Soviet Union. So that's part of his background as well. Now, that becomes the standard. And it already creates some problems that aren't going to really hit until the 70s, especially around Three Mile Island, which is that on the one hand, the AC NRC has told the American people, they're basically never going to be accidents. On the other hand, they have adopted the second most sensitive way to measure radiation exposure that there ever could be. So of course, when something does happen, and it's Three Mile Island, you did the great piece with Jesse or Jesse did a couple studios put it out? Yeah, Decouple studios put it out. It's fantastic. People should go watch that. No one gets hurt. Right? But what do you say? If you have just told people that is never going to happen? And actually, almost any dose of radiation could be lethal?

Chris Keefer  23:33  

And so yeah, just to jump in here for a second. You know, obviously, the lucky dragon crew was in the Fallout zone. And I think several members of that ship got acute radiation syndrome. I'm not sure if there are any immediate deaths, I think there was like 10 or 15 people on the boat it like, you know, cruise back into a Japanese port, you know, obviously, huge symbolism there. With the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, it became a huge sensation. You know, I guess rightly so. I think there's definitely local health effects on, you know, islanders around the bikini atolls, but, but in terms of like the global public health impact of nuclear weapons testing, and here, I'm going to start sounding like a Lewis Strauss. Like, it's a nothing burger. Yes, you can find like strontium in children's baby teeth, and they're melt teeth, which sounds absolutely fucking terrifying. But again, we can, like we can detect the decay of a single atomic nucleus, like we, as you're saying, like we have the tools to detect the absolute lowest dose

Emmet Penney  24:29  

restrictions you want to be like, Look, the thing is, like,

Chris Keefer  24:33  

I mean, I sound like I sound like a monster because I'm like, you know, and I'm not saying that like, it was great that they were able to get no weapons testing, but you know,

Emmet Penney  24:42  

but this is the this is the problem with comms that we have all the way down. Right. And this is what I mean about how you it's in America especially. How did you divorce that civilian from that, especially when the ACS job? Yeah, like, you know, like that. Part of the problem. Okay, so there's generally a problem safety ism in America today, I think Alera, there's nothing fancy about what happens with ALARA ALARA is actually created by the AEC. Once the AC becomes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the 70s, they turn it into its regulatory paradigm. And that is just an elaboration on LNT

Chris Keefer  25:23  

as low as reasonably achievable for those new onboard.

Emmet Penney  25:26  

That means anybody who is familiar with like, the US Constitution, and especially regulatory frameworks in America knows that there is no more load bearing word word than

Chris Keefer  25:39  

reasonable. Yes, sir.

Emmet Penney  25:42  

You know, who knows what that means. Now, if you have very sensitive framework for figuring out what might be reasonable, then that's going to make certain things very difficult to clear the status of achievable. And therein lies the problem of Alera. And that creates, you know, all sorts of things in the latter half of the 70s. Like redesigns and you know, I have this statistic, it's crazy in 1978. Have, like 1.3, new regulations was added to nuclear per working day, it is impossible to make money in that climate, you're just not going to be able to do it building a plant. And that's sort of where we are with that in America, but look like Louis Strauss might be technically right about some of that. But here's this, you know, I had a sponsor who once said, asked me the one of the most important questions in my life, and it was, do you want to be right, or do you want to be effective. And he was highly arrogant. And, like, brutal to people. So like, I, you know, that's his screw up. Like, it is a game of comps, you know, because the public trusts you. This is one of the difficulties about things like nuclear, on the one hand, you have the claims of science, who just like facts or facts that don't care about your feelings. On the other hand, you have people's right to vote people into office and to see themselves and their interests represented by those people and the bureaucrats that they appoint. We can see just in laying out those two different frameworks that we're going to have a huge fight over what is and isn't true, what isn't, isn't safe, and how things are going to work. And everybody wants to pretend sorry, pronuclear is a lot of you are engineers, that it should just be technically science that is managed by people who know what to do. And everyone else should have minimal input. That is really hard to reconcile with the American Constitution as we know it. And I don't even know if the trade offs for that would be worthwhile in the long run, I tend to think that they wouldn't, especially given how the elites managed everything that we're talking about right now. You're just 1.0. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And hey, look, I'm not gonna say that they didn't do anything. When you look at like what farm life was before electrification in the 30s. When you look at the liberation of women, through appliances, in America, all of these things, it is very easy to think, to believe in technological determinism. And to believe that that is the engine of progress that will liberate all mankind from suffering. And look, there's no reason to doubt that at that time, there really isn't. And anybody who was involved in doing those things, should frankly, be proud of that. You know, it's not just like, Oh, these elite dummies, you know, didn't figure it out. Yeah, they made mistakes. And some of them were grievous, and some of them were still paying for today. But there were also incredible successes that we should be so grateful that they were implementing at that time. Right, we were still drafting off of those successes. I mean, now it seems like a bill is coming due for neglect, but kudos to that.

Chris Keefer  29:18  

So I mean, getting back to this idea of reasonably achievable, you said, that's such a moving target. I mean, I think Jack Devanney makes the argument that was kind of pegged at, you know, the price of like the high price of coal, and then coal gets cheaper and nuclear has kind of stuck up there. But like, there's no sort of like mathematical analysis of like, where that set out in terms of the cost of nuclear versus other energy forms, like is a double what coal, you know what I mean? I'm just, is there any way to look at that in an empiric way and be like, Okay, this is kind of where they've arrived at in terms of reasonability or it's just a constant regulatory ratchet towards higher and higher costs. Because Because, I mean, there are there are there are nuclear plants that are, you know, display, you know, and I guess more than non regulated markets that are that are cost competitive. I mean, they've paid off All of their initial capital expenses, because they've been around for 3040 years. And if they're in the right regulatory environment, they're their economic, but I guess they could be more economic. Yeah, I mean, any more thoughts on the reasonability? thing? We don't need it. We don't need to go into it in more detail if there's not much.

Emmet Penney  30:16  

Yeah. So first of all, it's like the reasonability thing to the extent that is predicated on LNT is just going to Rach, it, especially if you look at the NRC is like mandate, which is to just like, regulate the shit out of nuclear. It's not to get plants approved.

Chris Keefer  30:34  

You know, so that was the conflict of interest with the AC was promote and regulate. And the NRC is just regulate. And it's been criticized, I think, for, you know, not looking at the risk benefits of like, okay, if we build coal instead of nuclear, here's, here's the cost benefit analysis. Like do you do, I guess, you critique the AEC, the Atomic Energy Commission for having that conflict of interest, but like, what do you what do you see? Is there a better paradigm for the NRC?

Emmet Penney  30:57  

Well, yeah, I think, you know, like, you know, you love bringing up the airline industry, you ought to like the fact that you have to get the design, like approved as a drawing. By the way, I found out a little bird told me that most people don't even turn in completed designs to the NRC. So like, that's a whole problem. They're just kind of like, trust us. But you know, the fact that you have to get the design approved, and then build is crazy, like you should be able to prototype did like, that would solve so many issues. Right? Because then you wouldn't be doing the design by extrapolation thing, where you build it, and then all of a sudden, it's done. And you're just like, oh, shit, look at all these things that, especially because we have all these unnecessary safety redundancies. Now, we have all these complexities that are actually creating us problems in the real world, that we couldn't model four and hey, that's nobody's fault, who's like designer modeling these things? They're policy takers, not policymakers, you know, they're doing the best they can with what they have. So yeah, like, I mean, look, it's crazy to me that the NRC is like harder on nuclear than the DOA DOD and the EPA are on like coal, oil and natural gas. Right. Like, I've talked to plenty of people who are fracking out in Colorado and the Permian now, and they're like, look like, do I love regulators? No, do I think that we need regulation? Yes. Do we have a relationship with them, where we can keep them up to date on what we're doing in the field so that their regulations make sense so that we can make money? Yeah. And I was like, why can't we get that for nuclear?

Chris Keefer  32:36  

Okay, um, so you said this piece as a little bit of everything, or a piece of piss off everybody who we pissed off so far. We first off like the kind of nuclear engineers and the regulatory side people, people working in the industry, who also be pissed off, what do we have left? Is their government

Emmet Penney  32:50  

people there. We also have the private industry people, though a lot of them will tell you that. Regulate monopolies are not private interests. But you know, hey, compare that to socialism or fascism at the time and its context. And I'm sorry, but it is.

Chris Keefer  33:07  

Time to get into the like the pick up some environmentalists talk about

Emmet Penney  33:12  

the major heartache in my piece, is that okay, so we've gotten into all of the like, material reasons for why nuclear has a downfall in the 70s. And why it never really recovers. Right. So it's been about a half century, believe it or not, right? Yeah. When you say that, you're like, Oh, this is a huge problem. Right? It's sort of like nuclear is a fighter right now in America that's like past his prime. And he keeps taking ELLs. And the problem is, is that that becomes a habit for old fighters that don't know when to retire. And I'm not saying nuclear should retire. I'm saying that there's sort of this like habit of like, taking ELLs and it's painful to watch. And it's really hard to pull yourself out of that when you've been in the game in a while. It's just path dependency, okay? The cultural reasons, the ones that people love, talk to talk about Three Mile Island and The China Syndrome. All of that. The major hot take that I rolled out is that the post war environmental movement was an outgrowth of the pre war eugenicist movement. Now when you look at the founders of like the Sierra Club, yeah, that's just true. You can't you can't argue against that. That's just true. Now, when people want to say, well, the hippies like all they want to do with smoke weed, have sex, and like frolic in a prairie. It's like yeah, they also wanted fewer people in that prairie. That's what it was about the logic went, if population increased, so would the industrial intensity to accommodate that population, and that will ruin the earth and make it uninhabitable. So not only do we need to reduce industrial intense intensity, we need to also curb global population because otherwise there won't be enough to go around.

Chris Keefer  34:53  

Yeah. And immigration as well. And immigration Yeah. Of you know, you're saying the non

Emmet Penney  34:58  

Abby was a huge fan of that. and was basically like, non white people are inferior to

Chris Keefer  35:04  

me. And they don't care about nature. And the same, they don't care about

Emmet Penney  35:07  

nature. And I was one of the guys from the Sierra Club. They didn't have the Teutonic blood that gave them the, the deep affiliation for nature. Yeah, according to nature. Yeah, right.

Chris Keefer  35:19  

We got some unsavory characters. I mean, the author of Hitler's Bible, the What's that one called, again, the passing of the great passing of The Great Race Madison grant. So he was one of the cofounders of the Sierra Club.

Emmet Penney  35:31  

Yep, yeah. And one of those guys, his son went on to write the book on, you know, population forcing the population out of the population scare, but they're really influences Paul Ehrlich, who writes The Population Bomb. And I mean, it's hard to discount that books. Effects. There's some stuff that I don't get into here, when you look at like the major global entities at the time, that are sort of like figuring out what to do with the developing world, in the Cold War context, which basically means like, how does America exert some sort of control over them because we're in a global conflict with communism, and we don't want them going there. There is all sorts of stuff about like curbing global population in these major international like NGOs and stuff, and that they're pulling from people like Paul Ehrlich, from Amory Levin's, from all of these people who are lauded today, as these forward thinking progressive, touchy feely, we care about the Earth type people. And that's probably all true. They probably love nature. They probably like hiking more than I do. I'm from the Midwest, you don't really hike, you just walk in a direction, you know, but there was a deep anti human quality to all of this. And I mean, I'm not the only one that's written about this, obviously, like I worked on apocalypse, never with Michael Shellenberger like there's, I cite some of that stuff here. There's Robert Zubrin, Richard Rhodes does it. There's all sorts of academic books that are about sort of the population Apocalypse there. The reason that I bring it up in this piece is that that is a neglected part of the story that helps us understand why they didn't like nuclear and they didn't like it for a few reasons. One of it is that it was really energy dense, which meant that you could do more industrial stuff with it, which was a problem,

Chris Keefer  37:28  

but on on on on less land. And that was I think, the reason why Ansel Adams and Williams theory love nuclear because they said, Hey, there's going to be more people. We're going to need more energy infrastructure. We hate hydraulic hydro is the enemy of the day. We don't want to flood these, these big pristine California scenic valleys. Sure, yeah.

Emmet Penney  37:47  

Look, I should say that not every single person in the environmental movement was like, I mean, an insane anti human person. But I would say that the people who are most thought of now as environmental movements, like look, love William Siri. Most people know who Ansel Anthropos is but only because in their art classroom, there were two photos of his if the desert you know, no one fucking knows who William Ceres. More people know who Emery Levin's is or like, know what the Sierra Club is than any of those guys, they know who Jane Fonda is before that, and she was a huge population reductionist.

Chris Keefer  38:28  

Okay, but let's talk about someone.

Emmet Penney  38:30  

Other people that we say like, oh, but he was good or like, you know, whatever. It's like, yeah, that's all true. They're minor figures. That's basically like saying, like, oh, but there are environmentalists that are pro nuclear today. And it's like, yeah, and they don't matter in the environmental movement in the federal manner. Yeah.

Chris Keefer  38:45  

For sure. But one one, sort of, I think, shocking, hard truth for me was your description of Rachel Carson, right. Who I think is is because of this uncomfortable history with you Genesis and population control people, the kind of revisionist historians of the environmental movement say, no, no, no, it's all about Rachel Carson. But you say there's a dark underbelly there. Let's let's

Emmet Penney  39:12  

Yeah, yeah. So let's talk about that. So first of all, Rachel Carson's book. She has some very extreme claims that aren't true. And they aren't true given the science of the day. I'm not going to go through a litany of them. I think the main one that I found the most compelling was she was talking about biocide of birds. That's what DDT was doing. That that's the idea of Silent Spring there going to be no birds. Yes. You know, I think she looks at like, Rob, she looks at Robins. And she's just like, you know, their egg layers are getting thinner like there are fewer of them. If you look at the Audubon Society's own Robin accounts, like over the period of time that she's looking at the account is going up. Right like she talks on got a whole bunch of other stuff in that book? I think there are some serious philosophical problems with it. Like, it's not clear. It's like she has some ideas about things that are like in harmony with nature and things that aren't. And she's like, you know, there should just be wildflowers by the highway. It's like, well, yeah, but like those are there because of the unsettled soil, the highway created, it's like, what, you know, what are we talking about here, and it's the typical, like, romanticism gets in the way, but it's a very potently written, very compelling book that people adopt, and they are really freaked out that DDT is eradicating populations and really hurting people. Now, when you misuse DDT, that can absolutely be

Chris Keefer  40:46  

true. And I've seen, I've seen some great footage of, you know, just huge trucks with enormous sprayers driving through like American suburbs. And just blasting this shit. Right, like, almost out of like a firehose, just. And yeah, I mean, the the current uses where it is permitted is indoor residual spraying, which is basically spraying spraying the indoor walls of living areas, so that when a mosquito lands on it, it dies basically. Totally, yeah. Yeah. And that's yeah, it's all about I think, within all things, toxicology, it's, you know, the dose the dose makes the poison. But anyway, Carry on, carry on.

Emmet Penney  41:22  

Yeah. So people like pointing to that, because they're like, you know, see, like, look, it was about saving these birds, like, first of all, that was based on bunk science. I'm not going to say that there are no impacts on birds, right. So we can look into the barrels of waste of DDT that were dumped off the coast of California, and those are having a negative impact. That's not what we're talking about here. That to me seems like irresponsible waste management. So if people want to go after those corporations for that, like you should, now we're talking about spraying and we're talking about the fact that DDT was a pesticide that, as you said, killed mosquitoes, right. So it alleviated malaria. Now to people like Aldous Huxley, or whatever, that is a big nono. Because if you do that, if you alleviate malaria, then the population will increase. So you should just let everyone who's going to die from malaria die, especially in third world. Now, let's complicate the story a little bit. By the 50s. People were already starting to realize that you can't just spray and pray that is not enough to really reduce malaria. So DDT was already kind of falling out of favor a little bit. You know, and it was clear that you had to do things like development, right, like dredging

River, drain the wetland, draining the

wetlands, like all of these things that everybody's done to alleviate that type of stuff. And the environmentalists were opposed to that as well.

Chris Keefer  42:46  

And and eliminate, eliminate malaria from from America and North America, because it used to be a scourge, right?

Emmet Penney  42:52  

It used to be a scourge. It was a big problem. It was a big problem. So

Chris Keefer  42:56  

that's why they built the slave masters plantation houses up on the big you know, breezy tops. Yeah, yeah. Yellow Fever. Malaria. Yeah,

Emmet Penney  43:03  

exactly. So you go so the EDF Environmental Defense Fund forums after Rachel Carson's book. They go to the they want some hearings on DDT. It seems like there's a little bit slime Enos, I did like, believe me the amount of times I would wake up in a cold sweat about this piece. And like, go do extra research research. I can't even tell you. It seems like there's a little bit slime Enos on both sides. productor there were some industry science guys who people like Naomi, arrestees will tell you we're not on the up and up. But then there were some anti people, some scientists who came out and were like, Yeah, I lied. And I don't regret it because I was saving the world. You know. And after tons of evidence, tons of exhibits, hours of hearings, the judge is looking at it says DDT is not harmful in the usage we're talking about here. It's just not William de Ruckelshaus, who is the head of the EPA at the time, and a donor to the Draper Fund, which is a eugenicist anti NGO, run by denazification opponent, former General William Draper, from whose work Paul Ehrlich took the name of his book, The Population Bomb, doesn't go to the hearings, doesn't read any of that testimony. It doesn't do any of that. And it's like, Fuck you, DDT is banned. And that's how that happened. They cite that as their major victory. That's what that victory actually looked like. Because once America was like, we're going to do this huge ban of DDT that created problems in the global market from it. You can find New York Times articles from the early 2000s where people are looking back and they're like, You know what, Africa really needs some DDT right now. And it needs it for exactly the use that you're talking about. Chris, you know, so I'm not going to say that like any and all DDT use is correct and good. No. Am I going to say that there seems to be some really good arc shit attached to this alleged victory that spawns one half of the environmental movement Storm King being the other. Yes. And I should mention that Paul Ehrlich rights Population Bomb at the request of William Brower of the Sierra Club, to capitalize on this DDT movement that has been started by Rachel Carson's book to give it a larger ideological element. And to them, that really means driving home the population reduction message. And it's really a bid to the American left, like in 1968, Paul Ehrlich writes in insane op ed or feature for ramparts magazine, that is the view from the future that is, like, incredibly apocalyptic. And some of it has to do with the idea that the oceans are just dead from DDT use, which is based off a Scientific American article written by an environmental scientist who used water that already like have like, chlorine or something into it that would kill life anyway. And it tainted his results. And like no one checked that. So as based on shoddy science, like the whole way down,

Chris Keefer  46:19  

I mean, if you think you've said here, I mean, ultimately, I mean, there's a few ironies, right, I mean, that that the modern environmental movement formed, obviously, over these population concerns, also over bird concerns. And there were big concerns to think with bald eagles, golden eagles, pelicans sharing the precise victims of wind turbines now. Also founded over a sort of safe

Emmet Penney  46:42  

talking point, I don't know what you mean, I

Chris Keefer  46:44  

know okay, the Save the Whales mantra. And then, you know, wanting to build North America's you know, offshore wind turbines in the migration and calving grounds of the endangered right whale, of which there's, I think, 450 surviving members of that species. But also, there's this quote, I remember from the Indian Point hearings, where the African American environmental Association said, you know, how many how many African American kids need to get asthma in order to spare, you know, a number of fish larvae like that are going into the intakes of this nuclear plant. Right. And there's this, you know, I think Alex Epstein talks about this a lot in terms of like, the anti human impact framework. And, you know, are we are we looking at this through a humanist lens and environmentalist lens, where's the balance? But I think quite clearly, we got the or the environmental movement got got things wrong in terms of a trade off over, you know, human life and malaria. And I mean, it is interesting, because I'm not sure if those arguments have been made for things like, you know, child vaccination campaigns, I'm sure on some fringes, those those have been made. But yeah, I mean, vaccines have contributed massively to children's surviving in the harsh and unfriendly world of, you know, the underdeveloped or an energized world. It's, it's interesting, that impulse, and it's a cultural impulse, that's, that's alive. Like, there's little parts of me that that, like how I can identify with that, you know, in terms of my upbringing, and in terms of, you know, that kind of, yeah, anyway, there's that impulse. It's a strong cultural meme.

Emmet Penney  48:06  

No, it really is. I mean, especially in America, like the secret national anthem is don't step on my blue suede shoes. So like anything that has to do with consolidated power, a lot of people start to get really, really bugged out about even if it's like, ultimately beneficial or has better trade offs, or whatever. You know, I would like to say that towards the end of the peace, I do point out that there are a lot of people who are within the environmental movement that have tried to distance themselves from the racist past of that, and I think that's great. Good for them. That's awesome to publicly reckon that stuff. Planned Parenthood had to do with Margaret Sanger, who was frankly fucking crazy. You know, and it's good that they had to do that reckoning. Now,

Chris Keefer  48:52  

now, just for context, she's an anti population, anti immigration, like I was her motivation for oh, she

Emmet Penney  48:57  

said, she said, when JFK Well, first of all, she was willing to work with like the KU Ku Klux Klan and stuff like that on some of her like, get abortion past stuff. But when, because you needed to really dampened down certain populations that you might not like. And, you know, when JFK was running for election, she was like, because he's Catholic and, you know, pro life or whatever. They didn't use those terms at the time. She's like, I will leave the country and I was like, ah, yeah. What a dire conspiracy of popery to be conserved with the lives of American blacks. Like, come on, Margaret. That was her whole shit. She was a eugenicist True, true of the late Victorian early 20th century racist. Cloth. Right. Okay. So people in the environmental movement has have also been distancing themselves from that. Like I said, I think that's good. What I think is interesting is that they're willing to say like, we're pro immigration now, so you don't have to worry about us and I'm like, it's that's fine. fascinating to me, because the thing that you won't touch is this all renewables dream that is forwarded as the more harmonious with nature version against nuclear energy, specifically to reduce the industrial intensity of society so that society does not have more people. The oral mobile dream was created by the same people that were coming out of the post war eugenicist scene. And they saw these things as a piece.

Chris Keefer  50:30  

And these environmental policies that make say California just unaffordable for you know, low income immigrants people. Yeah,

Emmet Penney  50:37  

there's a piece written by I forget her name. Hernandez. Yes, yes. Fantastic piece Green, Jim Crow. Everybody should read it. You know, I just fled California, because of stuff like for these reasons as well. Yeah, for these reasons. The very happy to be in Commonwealth Edison territory, where because our home is saved by Iran and Dresden, I will be one of the few Americans that is paying less on their utility bill this year. Thanks, guys. Well, thanks, nuclear. So look, that was my major critique is that there is this whole ideological path dependency that has nothing to do with environmental science that has nothing to do with engineering prowess. That is an ideological basically, like aristocratic resentment of there being too many people around and modernity moving just too damn fast. And that is the renewables dream. Now that has been papered over because the climate change has now superseded population catastrophe. Because also it turned out that the population growth scare was wrong. Did not pan out. Everybody can go look at Simon. Yeah, all the best Julian Simon made with Paul Ehrlich about how smart fucking Paul Ehrlich is the slob. And no one has any questions about the relationship between these two things. Now Ehrlich and Levin's still work at Stanford, Ralph Kavanaugh is still trying to shut down Diablo Canyon and is still being a ranked piece of shit. You know, like, oh, by the way, just just as a thing. Prof. Cavanaugh has been in favor of California electricity spot markets from like day one and run days. Yeah, like from day one. That guy was like, yeah, like we need those spot markets because we need to get all of those big baseload things off of here, like but all of my shit gets subsidies.

Chris Keefer  52:40  

Okay, so we've like gone deep into the eugenicist and Malthusian origins of the environmental movement. But again, why relevant to nuclear in particular? You've you've you've hinted at it a little bit, but I think we need to.

Emmet Penney  52:52  

Yeah, and again, it has to do with these fears around there being energy abundance, right. You know, Amory Lovins is really one of the main architects for the idea of the all renewable Dream, which comes from his 1976 think it's in foreign policy or foreign affairs, The Road Not Taken, which is based off a misreading of Robert Frost's poem. And it's basically the hard path. And people can do a deep dive with your episode with Mark on Levin's. But just to sort of recap here, so it's the hard path, which is the brittle path that America is on, which is what led to the energy crisis of the 70s. It's these big baseload things, it's these, you know, all of that extra capacity that had to be cut at the 70s. Right? So you could see that when he invokes that you're like, damn, Levin's a smart, that was a problem. And then he says, and then you have the soft path, which is decentralized, wind and solar at the time. By the way, this is crazy to say, because wind and solar are very not there yet. So it is in extreme position to take that is made possible only by the fact that former can call former coal consultant that he was he still thought that coal was a ok.

Chris Keefer  54:10  

Little furnace and everybody's happy. That's right. Yeah,

Emmet Penney  54:12  

return return with a V to developing world life. And that's what the vision was, and there there are certain like political elements of this too. Right? Like, avec centralization, bad decentralization? Good. There's sort of a libertarian string through there that sort of, you can see how the market reform guys and the environmentalists end up getting together and creating electricity spot markets, but the idea is, like I said that nuclear is bad because it has abundant energy, because it is unnatural, quote, unquote, you see a lot of that stuff in the literature. And because it will increase society's industrial intensity, bring more people into the world because Have that and lead to civilizational collapse. That that's the argument. And people were like, well, there has to be more there. Let me tell you, their fucking isn't like that's it, it goes that deep it is like that puddle deep. I'm scared of there being too many brown people on this earth, or too many poor people on this earth fears. That's what it is. Now a lot of them will not say that out loud, like Paul Ehrlich and his wife write a reflection 50 years later on the public publication of The Population Bomb. And they're like, yeah, it's a shame that our publisher won't with the population growth because of how racist Draper is, you know, like, we're not racist like him. And then you go read the population growth. And like, one of the opening lines is one stinking hot night in Delhi. It's like, Yeah, fuck you. You know, they're trying to slime their way out of that. They're like Bill Clinton. They're like, I never had the appetites. You know? Like, come on, we know exactly who you were.

Chris Keefer  55:59  

Okay, we have to piss off the new left now. Because there's this kind of fusion of environmentalism with a new left, I think you I've tried to articulate this on many occasions, kind of like, what the fuck happened to the left? You you again, what I really love about this article is it's exhaustive without being exhausting. You cover a ton of territory, but it's like a tight bit of writing some tight poetry. And so just give us give us that. That summation of kind of what happens to the left, you have this I'm gonna read the quote is a fucking great quote. Again, I'll get I'm going to find it and I'm going to get Dylan to cut out the little wasted moment here. You can probably recite it but the Vietnam buttons things right.

By the 1970s 1000s, of earnest and idealistic Americans of all ages, were swapping their end the killing in Vietnam buttons for more modish buttons bearing the words people pollute. So tell us a little bit about how we get there. Yeah,

Emmet Penney  56:52  

yeah. So by the way, that was written by a left wing journalist at the time, who is disgusted about this change in direction. So a few things happen. First of all, you cannot discount the impact that the FBI and the CIA in the Cold War had on the American left. It just, it was a lot of it was a Marxist or at least especially in the i WW, an anarchist labor movement, that was interested in seizing the means of production. And so they were very interested in everyday working class people getting together they saw the factories as things that they would eventually control. So they wanted to organize the people within the factories. But after all, after McCarthyism, after Hoover's boys after the revelation of Stalin's brutalities, you know, the Korean War is something I didn't talk about. That's a huge turning point. In American culture, that's like another Red Scare in and of itself, that really changes the intellectual character of the country. People talk about that enough. It's willing to talk about that war enough. You know, what happens is the left stops being a labor movement. And what it becomes is a collection of pet causes that are all helmed for the most part by college kids, many of whom are from hyper elite families, some of them like Bill Ayers, whose father helped build all the nuclear plants in Illinois.

Chris Keefer  58:23  

Yeah. And he was a member of the Weather Underground global watershed. Yeah,

Emmet Penney  58:26  

exactly. And, you know, also, you know, his sister in law ran the daycare, I went to where she's a butene, of San Francisco fame was a counselor, I remember she is a well, he was very nice to me as a kid.

Chris Keefer  58:42  

So, I mean, there's this idea of like, the labor aristocracy that workers are no longer the Vanguard that will deliver, you know, this revolution, they

Emmet Penney  58:50  

all have offices in the suburbs. Now they're bought off their ideological poison poisoned, or they're lazy, you know, or they're patriotic, even worse, they love America, how dare they, and we can't organize them anymore. So we're going to look for readymade revolutionaries that really worked well with some of the post colonial stuff that was happening in the 70s. And it also inspired inspired things like environmentalism, which would eventually go on to become all of the green NGOs. And that that was the handoff there. So these people had no desire to seize the means of production. Because a they were already distant from it, they came from wealthy family and families, a lot of them or and B, they didn't want the factories to exist in the first place. So they didn't care about labor. You know, I mean, everybody should read Fred Stafford's piece on Indian Point and Jacobson when it comes out this summer, because I think he's going to touch on some of those fights between the green movement and labor and I really hope it makes everyone uncomfortable because it should, you know, these people get a free pass now because everybody's like the world is going to end because climate change has happened. No one asked any questions, you know, and that's, that means that the emergency strategy that they're using is working. It's a crime. He says How dare you ask me anything? How dare you? You know,

Chris Keefer  1:00:03  

there's this. There's that great photo of scuffles between union members fighting with environmentalist at Indian Point as it's being built. That's right. That's right. And that tension exists like that was a huge part of the Biron excuse me, Brian interest in, you know, the competing bills, the the, the union Bill versus the environmentalist bill, prevailing wage, laborers pitted against environmentalism. Yeah, it's still very much. Still, it's in Ontario year, it's a phenomenon, we have an election right now. And most of the skilled trades unions have backed Doug Ford, the populist conservative, who had like, he really decimated a very good Labor Act that we had. But he's the most realist in terms of supply chains in terms of support for the petrochemical and nuclear industries here, person who's going to, like wants to bullshit all the other parties or like, do nothing, don't, you know, no new industrial development type parties? And yeah, it's, it's interesting to say, so to observe

Emmet Penney  1:00:58  

just just to put a cap on this to where we are now. So all of these big NGOs are born in these environmental struggles after the left goes from a labor movement to a social movement. Right, that's how we'll distinguish it. And those NGOs in America have a huge impact on the way energy policy gets framed, the way things get put into place. I mean, FERC right now, is basically a rubber stamping committee, for whatever the fuck the NRDC wants to happen to the American electricity system, you know, or whatever, their sub NGOs, you know, all these places are like, leveling college kids up through them that then become like, major actors in the movement, right? Big revolving door stuff happening there. So all of that's happening, you know, if we're wondering how, like ESG managed to cut out nuclear, like, look, it was never going to be part of the party. I'm sorry. You know, that's not what these people are about. Like, they don't care about the trade offs. Like historically, they don't like now they have a different cause that is more scientifically legitimate by a mile, which is climate change, which is very real. But they don't care if other people get poor, they don't because they're saving the world. Why would they? They're saving the world. As soon as somebody tells you, they're saving the world. That's when you should reach for your revolver. Because you are less important than the world, they will fuck you faster than you can blink. And that's what's going on with that. Okay,

Chris Keefer  1:02:33  

okay. Then again, there's a lot more to this piece. There's there's the whole Chernobyl aids thing. Like there's some pretty dirty shout out.

Emmet Penney  1:02:41  

Shout out to Rod Adams, by the way, thank you for archiving, that I had had that burning a hole in my back pocket looking for a piece to put that in since I read it a year ago. Thank you, buddy. That was awesome. So

Chris Keefer  1:02:54  

very briefly, just which is what was that what I guess? What are some of the dirty tricks? Yeah.

Emmet Penney  1:02:59  

So here's the dirty trick. So we all know, know that after Chernobyl happened, which was tragedy, the environmental movement, hey, off of it, you know, in the early 90s, there is a conference where Ralph Nader speaks, such as Emery Levin's, the head of the Greenpeace at the time serves as the plenary chair. And it's basically like, here's what we're going to do to make sure no nuclear exists in the 90s. And a lot of it's like, do what we're already doing, because they're, like, incredibly successful. But the new trick they roll out is like, we need to talk about this thing called Chernobyl aids, which is the idea that those in the surrounding area of Chernobyl were exposed to radiation to such a degree that it permanently crushed their immune system, just like AIDS does.

Chris Keefer  1:03:53  

Building off of like one of the most potent fears of the late 80s, early 90s.

Emmet Penney  1:03:57  

It's been Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I say like, at the time that this conference is happening, like deaths in AIDS, were in the six figures for Chernobyl. It's like, what Chris 52? Yeah, so far. Yeah. Okay. So that's how morally serious they are. You know, like, it's so slimy. You know, anybody who knows somebody that lived through or had friends that died during the AIDS crisis should be furious, as I was when I read this. Like, just it's so contemptible, but, you know, there are pieces in the Wall Street Journal, or not the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and The New York Times that are like Chernobyl aids, it's a thing. How are we going to solve it?

Chris Keefer  1:04:43  

Yeah, and for listeners who want to dive into this a bit more, I have a great episode with Geraldine Thomas called the children of Chernobyl which looks a lot at the phenomenon of the the charities that bring mostly children from Belarus to the west and had been a really, really, like, very interesting kind of charity phenomenon. The largest charity in Ireland, for instance, is involved in this kind of work. And we examine some of the science underlying these kinds of claims. But that

Emmet Penney  1:05:08  

was a big and it was a big piece of solidarity between the Soviet Union and Cuba, which also took a lot of these children. What's true is it continues to, right. Yeah. So that's interesting. Yeah, yeah. I mean, that's sort of that's sort of where we are like we are living in the paradigm created by the 70s.

Chris Keefer  1:05:30  

So let's Yeah, I mean, we don't have too much more time. But let's let's wrap this up with I guess you're you've kind of given us the context, the bit of a diagnosis. What's the treatment? What's the cure here? Emmet?

Emmet Penney  1:05:42  

Yeah. So basically, I think that we need to find a new Radiation Safety paradigm. I, as

Chris Keefer  1:05:54  

you call it, reregulate not deregulate I like, I mean, it's semantics. But I kind of like that framing, because directors need safety

Emmet Penney  1:06:00  

regs like they they need to happen. The question is, how good they are and how onerous they are. You know, and I'm sure a lot of patents will be like, Well, how would you decide? I'm like, well, we decided once before, and it sucked. So we should be able to decide better a second time, you know, and I think we really need to restructure the way the NRC works. Now, I need to do way more research before I can tell you exactly what that means. I'm gonna plead humility on that, because that's a huge problem.

Chris Keefer  1:06:25  

Yeah, you've done a speech.

Emmet Penney  1:06:28  

The other part is, I think we should be I talk about like, repowering, coal areas with nuclear as a way to do it. I also think that we need to do something with the building and trades to get them up to snuff. Part of that might be building abroad.

Chris Keefer  1:06:45  

You know, when you talk in your in, I think the piece that really first brought you to my attention, we need a new nuclear deal, not a not a green New Deal. You went into some of the sort of, again, the preconditions of, I believe the earlier us build out I did an episode with François. Shea about, you know, because it's we I think, like a lot of nuclear advocates, myself included in my early days, were just like, interesting to do it, for instance, just just roll out this technocratic policy, but it's like, we're talking about like a postwar you know, reindustrialize, heavy industry capable country with some of the best engineering discipline in the world. Well, we're not right now.

Emmet Penney  1:07:20  

Yeah. And everybody was terrified of slipping back into a post war depression. So everyone was highly motivated to solve this problem, because within their lifetimes, they had seen two world wars, and one global depression. And everybody was worried that we're going to slide back into that, especially in the US after world like they did after World War One. Okay, hard to replicate, hard to replicate.

Chris Keefer  1:07:48  

Yeah. So build overseas, repeal moratoria? reform the NRC? Alright, that's it.

Emmet Penney  1:07:56  

For now. That's it? Look, if we got that, I'd be happy. I'd be like, great, you know? And if no one steps up, that sucks.

Chris Keefer  1:08:06  

Yeah, I mean, it's it is just this moment, right. As an as an as an advocate and activist, it's, it does feel like one of them. I mean, it's most promising moment of my, my nuclear advocacy career, which is only about four years long. But, you know, there's a lot of a lot of things coming together with the energy crisis. You know, this is not all of a sudden the citizens of the UK and go Holy shit, we love nuclear, it was like, Holy shit, gas prices are through the roof, energy security is a major issue. We need to build eight reactors, not one. And we need to build a reactor every year, not every decade, I mean, that that gives me some hope. Obviously, the US has a radically different context, because of the relative energy abundance of fracking and you know, everything that you've just mentioned here. And it is it is, yeah, I think this piece, again, is an absolute must read for anyone in America, but also I think abroad, you know, just to understand how differently patterned the challenges are around the world. And, you know, I wish I wish my American brethren well in this in this challenge, but yeah, first, you need to understand the problem before moving forwards. And I think you've made an invaluable contribution here to understanding that, and you said, this is the piece that you wish had been available for you when you when you entered into.

Emmet Penney  1:09:13  

Yeah, I was like, you know, when I first start getting into nuclear, it was just like, okay, the greens are to blame. And I was like, okay, like, yeah, I can see that I've written pieces on that. Like, that's pretty, I can do that very easily. A lot of that's already in my wheelhouse. But that didn't really like make complete sense to me. I was like, there's all sorts of other shit. And the more research I did on sort of the post war era, I was like, it seems like way weirder than anything that I've read on this. Like there isn't a synthetic account. That gives me why we can't build nuclear. And through some of the research I did just for exhaust, because some of the stuff I quoted there I read in a totally different context like a couple years ago, about why nothing feels possible anymore. And then through Read the specific reading I did on the nuclear industry and the utility industry, it became clear to me that there is a very complex tapestry of problems that all kind of blow up at the same time. And that feels, I hope it is a more satisfying account. You know, I say some extreme things that I think are true about the postwar environmental movement in this. I also say at the end of the piece that like, yeah, we can repeal moratoria, we can reregulate we can, you know, build abroad, but we don't take on the greens in America, it's none of it's going to happen. So I say some things there. But I really hope that the first entire half of the piece, which is about the mismanagement by the Atomic Energy Commission, and the problem with the utility industry do a lot to show how serious I am about this not just being some partisan problem of environmentalists kind of sucking on this issue, as well as a couple others. You know, like, the problem goes way deeper than that. I think it's frankly, more fascinating than the like, maybe, you know, like, sexier, like dark thing that happens with the post eugenicist movement, you know. And this is what I wish that like you. I said on Twitter, and you quoted here, just now that somebody could have handed me so that I could use you sat down for 30 minutes. And I'd be like, I know everything. But like, I know how to talk about why this is an issue. If anybody were to ask me, I could recommend this to them as a place to start. And that's what I wanted to do.

Chris Keefer  1:11:38  

And I think yeah, when I when I read Jack Devanney is why nuclear has been a flop that was a like, it led to a whole lot more nuance and understanding it. And I'm interested if you guys have corresponded, because you're tackling similar material, and you do have some different takes, or at least you're emphasizing certain things in ways that he wasn't, but interested in like a synthesis there or Yeah.

Emmet Penney  1:11:59  

He's in the citation. Yes, you know, and I found some quotes that I otherwise wouldn't have found through his research, which was great, you know, and I liked that book.

Chris Keefer  1:12:12  

I think it's a bit of a live book like he keeps keeps modifying it. I'm not sure if it's been printed on paper, I think you like printed it off, because you need you need some paper in front of your old school that way, but I know he's like version 5.0. Yeah,

Emmet Penney  1:12:22  

he's ever written 5 million. But most of it that's adjusting like the stuff about right, but I

Chris Keefer  1:12:26  

want I wonder if your piece will maybe influence some, some further, maybe,

Emmet Penney  1:12:31  

you know, like, I love that book.

It was a watershed moment. For me. It really brought some clarity. I think, where Devanney And I might disagree is that I think that there is a historical record of the NRC being anti nuclear, and being more easily influenced by green NGOs. We're seeing that at Turkey point and Florida right now. Right, or Helen Keller cots group successfully prevailed upon the NRC to resend the renewal license for Turkey point,

Chris Keefer  1:12:59  

which they'd already given, maybe your state already given? Yeah,

Emmet Penney  1:13:03  

right. So, you know, then everybody's favorite Jesco you know, who was a real bonehead over there for a while. So he and I'm gonna disagree there. I think I am less of a free market fundamentalist than he is. And that's fine, because he and I are both talking about the same reality. So I can work with that. And I'm sure he feels the same way because that's how it is with nuclear. If we can agree on like the physics and the engineering, then you're kind of like alright, politics second,

Chris Keefer  1:13:30  

for sure. For sure. I think I think what what's new really new for me from your pieces, this analysis of the I guess the engineering and getting ahead of themselves and running behind an orders and that that was that's that's totally new to me. So, yeah. Okay, Emmet, we should we've gone over which is always a great sign of having a great guest. But we do try and keep things to under an hour and we violated that rule. I'm happy we have thank you for giving us here at Decouple the first shot at this interview. And yeah, I hope I hope I hope to see you around in a lot of other podcasts and catch different angles on this piece. It's it's really an essential piece of reading everybody follow Emmet Penney at nuke barbarian at grid brief, and we'll put some stuff in the show notes but anywhere else people can find you or if they want to DM you reach out to

Emmet Penney  1:14:20  

Yeah, DM me reach out. I can't promise I'll get to everything. I just don't. I used to have the time. So

Chris Keefer  1:14:26  

you say I read everything I respond when I can. That's the usual guy.

Emmet Penney  1:14:29  

Yeah, exactly.

Chris Keefer  1:14:31  

It's not to be true.

Emmet Penney  1:14:32  

Right. But it used to be I would read and respond to like everything. I can't I can't do that anymore. So yeah, you know, and if you liked the writing, you can get more up to date energy takes five days a week for free. Grid Check it out. And yeah, otherwise I'm just really happy to be here. And I would say like, the piece does a better job of arguing everything. I just settled loud so avail yourself you get one free article from American Affairs use it on mine baby

Chris Keefer  1:15:08  

alright thanks for coming on man it's been a pleasure as always

Emmet Penney  1:15:11  

yeah thanks for having me great to be here

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