Nuclear Policy

Anti- to Pro-Nuclear, Pro- to Anti-, who’s changed their mind?

Today I was speaking to a colleague about Fukushima and its implications on public attitudes to nuclear as a way to mitigate climate change. After I mentioned George Monbiot’s recent investigative journalism on anti-nuclear claims, he responded by asking: Okay, sure, that’s one person, but conversely, how many pro-nuclear environmentalists have turned anti-nuclear as a result of Fukushima?

George Monbiot - anti- to pro-nuclear

Well, that’s actually a good question, and I don’t really know the answer. So perhaps you can help? (see below for my preliminary sketch). What I’d like to do is compile a list of the following:

— Prominent pro-nuclear advocates who have subsequently become anti-nuclear in their sentiments

— Prominent anti-nuclear people who have changed their mind and switched to support of nuclear energy

The above two are binary choices, but there are other possible (more middle-of-the-road) attitudinal changes that would also be worth considering:

— Anti-nuclear to neutral (or neutral to anti-)

— Pro-nuclear  to neutral (or neutral to pro-), and finally…

— Folks who formerly said “we can displace fossil fuels with 100 % renewable energy” but subsequently changed their mind after assessing the hard numbers

The largest group of people are almost certainly those that haven’t changed their mind on this matter (or at least not for a long while), and there is probably not a lot of point listing these. Some obvious examples include Bruno Comby (always a pro-nuclear environmentalist?) and Helen Caldicott (perpetually anti-nuclear). Further, as far as I’m aware, no prominent environmental group (Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy, etc.) seems to have changed their position either, but if you know some that have, then they ought to be listed too.

Okay, to make this exercise tractable, we need some boundaries, so this is what I suggest:

1. The people involved should be prominent and (relatively) independent (e.g., public intellectuals and scientists, well-known environmentalists, politicians, celebrities? etc.). By ‘independent’ I mean those who have no clear vested financial interest in taking any particular position (difficult to be sure of, I acknowledge, given that everyone has some hook to hang their hat on).

2. The change in position must be in some way verifiable (e.g., by a little internet research, with links to evidence provided). This is why I’ve chosen to focus on public figures — really the only ‘statistical cohort’ against which such an exercise is feasible. My intent here is not to downplay the importance of the decisions of the general public, or those who have been working ‘behind the scenes’ on environmental issues for many years — I’m simply being practical about what can/cannot be demonstrated.

Angela Merkel - neutral to anti-nuclear

3. The timing of this change in attitude should be established. Was the decision to change tack influenced by a particular event (such as the Fukushima crisis), or did it perhaps occur gradually? It would also be interesting to note any who has ‘flip-flopped’ on the issue (e.g., anti- to pro- to anti- again, in response to events).

If you think I’ve missed any important criteria, let me know.

Okay, to kick of this exercise, I’ll list a few people who fit into some of these categories (Edit: List now starting to be updated thanks to comments):

Pro- to anti-: Ian Lowe (Australian environmentalist, claims he made this change in 1970s), Ted Taylor (nuclear weapons designer, 1966)

— Neutral to anti-Angela Merkel (German politician, 2011); John Quiggin (economist, 2011)

Anti- to pro-: George Monbiot (environmental journalist, went anti- to neutral in 2009, pro- in 2011); Mark Lynas (author of “Six Degrees”, 2008); Stewart Brand (author of “Whole Earth Catalog”, 2005); Dick Smith (Australian entrepreneur, 2011); Ben Heard (eco-consultant, 2010); Patrick Moore (co-founder of Greenpeace, 2003); Stephen Tindale (former director of Greenpeace, 2009); Chris Smith (chairman of the Environment Agency, 2009); Chris Goodall (Green Party activist and prospective parliamentary candidate, 2009); Gwyneth Cravens (author, 2007); Hugh Montefiore (a founder of Friends of the Earth, 2004); Chicco Testa (Italian politician, 2008); Ian McEwan (author, 2010); Steve Kirsch (US entrepreneur, 2008); Tony Blair (former UK PM, 2006); Al Franken (Democrat Senator and media host, 2011)

Neutral to pro-: James Lovelock (Gaia theory, 2004); Bob Hawke (former Australian Prime Minister, 2008); Bob Carr (former NSW Premier, 2008);  Jared Diamond (scientist and author, 2005); Jesse Jenkins, Michael Shellenberger & Ted Nordhaus (Breakthrough Institute, 2008-2010 [was anti-, pre-2000, then neutral from 2004-2008])

“Can do with 100% renewables” to “nuclear required”: ; Jim Hansen (climatologist, 2008); Barry Brook (biologist and risk modeller, 2009), David Mackay (physicist, ?maybe, 2008); Jeffrey Sachs (economist, 2009)

Anti- to neutral: Chris Huhne (UK Lib Dem Energy Minister, 2010); Paul Ehrlich (conservation biologist, 2010)

Flip-Flopper: Tim Flannery (environmentalist and author, 2006-2011)

Right, over to you. Please provide your examples in the comments below that add to (or correct) my list, and also try to fill out the other categories. As these come in, and are verified, I’ll update this top post to reflect the new information.

I’ll also add more examples myself below, as I have time to research them. Note that the short initial list I’ve provided above is not meant (at this stage) to ‘prove’ that more have gone from anti- to pro- than the reverse — these are just people I’m (currently) more familiar with.

With a bit of effort, we should be able to come up with quite a comprehensive and representative sample. (Perhaps sufficient to do some interesting analyses on?) I look forward to what we can, collectively, come up with. To me, it’s a very interesting question to try to answer, because it will provide an insight into what is affecting people’s attitudes on this very important energy-climate issue.


By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

93 replies on “Anti- to Pro-Nuclear, Pro- to Anti-, who’s changed their mind?”

Darwin, that’s an interesting poll. My answer would have been that older reactors are less safe than I’d previously thought (e.g. vulnerability of spent fuel ponds, inadequate protection of defense-in-depth backups, poor facility to vent hydrogen, etc.), but my attitudes on the security of designs that emphasise passive safety (e.g., AP1000) and inherent safety (e.g., IFR, LFTR) is unchanged.


Speaking for myself, I needed years to start understanding some nuclear basics, really question the pros and cons as well as the pros and cons of renewables, and I got more supportive as I got the basics better and learned about the dismal performance of renewables.

My point being, this all will take time.


Okay, I’ve got some more for the anti to pro list, because some obvious bigshots are missing:

– Patrick Moore, cofounder of… Greenpeace!!
– Christie Whitman, former director of the Environmental Protection Agency
– James Lovelock. We all know him!

No small names I’d say!

These people didn’t chance their mind due to Fukushima, probably more due to climate change, air pollution, deaths and energy security, etc.


i disagree with your assessment of German chancellor Merkel.

looking at her actions, she turned from massive pro nuclear (extending running times by 12 years)

to massive anti nuclear. switching off the older half of German plants, with many in her coalition speaking about them not going back online.

in the real world, i think both moves were polical stunts. the first was done, to pretend to be more conservative, the second was an attempt to swing an important election in one of the southern states.

i would judge that Merkel has turned from

neutral (slightly pro nuclear)


neutral (very slightly pro nuclear)

i think we will have to wait some time, to see which German politician(s?) really changed sides.

one who did, but before Fukushima, was former conservative environment minister Klaus Töpfer.

he is now heading an ethic commission installed by Merkel, thinking about the future of nuclear power in Germany.


Closely related to Barry’s question, I’d like to also ask:

Who are some people with a good scientific and engineering understanding of nuclear energy who are anti-nuclear? In other words, they aren’t convinced that nuclear energy is good for the world (people and/or environment) and their position isn’t based on invalid science or hearsay.



We can’t yet add the ALP to the list. If they are keen to differentiate with the Greens this would be a good issue on which to do it.


And a few more from longer ago:
“Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing — the Mark 1 — was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident….”


Professor Brook, I do not know who the Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith is, or why his opinion matters,. I tried to find out by clicking your link, but it seems to be all about Angela Merkel. Can you please clarify?


@Cyril R at 1:47 AM., You did not provide a citation for Christie Todd Whitman’s nuclear power position. I went looking and found one story, where the first sentence begins “As a leading advocate for nuclear energy”…

This source does not indicate that she ever switched positions, only that she is still pro-nuclear power post Fukishima. At the bottom of the story I have cited, I also found this quote, which might speak to her motivation:

“Christine Todd Whitman is the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and former New Jersey governor. She is now co-chairwoman of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, funded by the nuclear industry.”

Can someone find a citation that Governor Whitman used to be anti nuclear power?


I would suggest that George Monbiot has not shifted to a pro nuclear position but rather to one of not unconditionally opposing new reactors. The conditions he sets for the industry seem unlikely to be met any time soon.

“Before I go any further, and I’m misinterpreted for the thousandth time, let me spell out once again what my position is. I have not gone nuclear. But, as long as the following four conditions are met, I will no longer oppose atomic energy.

1. Its total emissions – from mine to dump – are taken into account, and demonstrate that it is a genuinely low-carbon option

2. We know exactly how and where the waste is to be buried

3. We know how much this will cost and who will pay

4. There is a legal guarantee that no civil nuclear materials will be diverted for military purposes”


I don’t think it’s valid to dismiss Patrick Moore. By his own admissions and track record he was strongly against nuclear power. Simply because he is now sufficiently convinced of its usefulness that he is willing to promote it does not change the fact that he changed his view. As a top official in Greenpeace for many years, this certainly has force.

Here’s a 1997 interview, not concerning nuclear power, of his disagreements with Greenpeace on forestry and other topics:
Not sure when he decided nuclear power was one of the topics where he now disagreed with former colleagues; here’s a presentation from 2006:

Click to access PatrickMooreCNA_2006.pdf


Mike, thanks for the link. I was able to find out a bit about Mr. Dick Smith from Wikipedia after I commented, but the Wiki piece and your link don’t convince me that I should give his opinions on nuclear power any special weight. Not being familiar with Australian society, I interpret what I have read so far as evidence.[ad hom deleted]Perhaps when Professor Brook corrects his link I will be enlightened.
Your personal opinion on a person’s motives and personality is not acceptable according
to BNC commenting rules.


Dividing people into anti and pro nuclear, misses an important distinction between pro-nuclear but strongly opposed to any investment in renewable energy, and pro-nuclear but also strongly supportive of developing as much renewable energy as fast as possible.
There are clearly constrains on how quickly new reactors can be built, not an argument to not start building but we need to be realistic about the time to build, capacity of local skilled workforce, what can be off-shored. Meanwhile we have a >20 year gap where the only prospect of replacing significant coal-fired power in Australia is either NG or renewables or conservation.


There are some influential fence sitters who I suspect are biding their time. I think Merkel will come out in favour of nuclear if things go badly in Germany. In Australia Tim Flannery for example seems to change sides every year. Martin Ferguson sometimes says pro-nuclear things but then I suspect the gas lobby gives him a visit to set him straight.

On the State scene recall that WA’s deposed Alan Carpenter told the electorate ‘it’s me or uranium mining’ and the people chose accordingly. SA’s Mike Rann is an interesting case because he knows his constituency demands green symbolism. On the other hands he wants the revenue and jobs from uranium, notably the Olympic Dam expansion. Rann has pushed aside some anti nuclear colleagues and allowed a junior minister to raise topics like an enrichment industry. However little can happen unless the State gets a major new power source so maybe all options are open.


rpl,Dick Smith is certainly wealthy (self made millionaire)[previous ad homs from rpl’s comment were deleted]He has a record of being very strong on environmental issues and has come out forcefully for a sustainable population for Australia.

That said, I was not aware that he had spoken in favour of nuclear power but it wouldn’t surprise me as he is a practical man and a realist.


Barry Brooks wrote

1. The people involved should be prominent and (relatively) independent (e.g., public intellectuals and scientists, well-known environmentalists, politicians, celebrities? etc.).

Most politicians will say & do what their focus group coordinators tell them they have to say & do.

I’d suggest you tabulate your results according the basis of a persons inclusion – e.g. politicians separated from public intellectuals etc.


I find the question rather irrelevant, just look at Monbiot’s picture, he does not look like a scientist but a shock jock looking for an Internet fight.

More relevant is the public’s perception of nuclear power.

In the US

Click to access AP-GfK%20Poll%20March%20Topline%20032911_NUCLEAR.pdf

While the top number went from dead even to 60-40 against, the passion is probably what mostly matters going forward

Strongly for went from 26->16
Strongly against went from 25->39

~40% is strongly opposed to nuclear, these are the people that will hold officials accountable, and the NIMBY’s etc.

Do I support reason and science over public opinion? yes, I held the same views against nuclear even before Fukushima but they were grounded in fact and reason, but it is not really people like me that matter but admittedly irrational public opinion.


Here in Italy, we have Chicco Testa, formerly anti-nuclear and leader of the environmentalist group that was instrumental in the landslide victory in the 1987 referendum that effectively killed nuclear in Italy, who later turned into a strong pro-nuclear position, probably given his experience as head honcho at ENEL, the partly State-owned energy incumbent who ran the nuclear plants.,_1987


Podargus at 6:39, I described Dick Smith, I did not fault him. I think there is a societal disjunction between the U.S. and Australia that makes communication and consensus difficult. For example, I would disagree with Professor Brook’s contention that we should pay particular attention to opinions of celebrities regarding scientific matters. The reasoning behind that idea simply escapes me. That doesn’t mean I would attack anyone about a disagreement though. Is it not OK to disagree about some things? However,
I agree with Dr. Brooks that Patrick Moore is unconvincing because he is directlyin the pay of the Nuclear power industry. I have also noticed that Governor Whitman is in the same boat.

.”Whitman is also co-chair of the CASEnergy Coalition, and in 2007, voiced support for a stronger future role of nuclear power in the United States”.


@rpl, Dick Smith is definitely more than just a ‘celebrity’, with its Paris Hilton-esque connotations. His founding of Australian Geographic magazine alone would establish his environmentalist credentials, amongst the other things mentioned above. His advocacy on population issues has proceeded to the extent of producing TV documentaries on the subject. It’s not a stretch to call him one of Australia’s most important opinion leaders, so what he says definitely counts.


@Enviromentalist, I wouldn’t trust polls done in the heat of an incident. The public needs time to digest the situation and see how it plays out.

@rpl As long as we live in a culture that has a significant number of people making major health decisions for their children on the advice of a bimbo who’s only qualifications were how good she looked with her clothing off, the opinions of celebrities regarding scientific matters counts. Or at least it counts in terms of public perceptions, which is the battleground in the nuclear debate.


Tony Blair

From The Guardian, July 2006:

I’ve changed my mind on nuclear power, admits Blair

Tony Blair all but confirmed the government would commission a new series of nuclear power stations today, as he admitted to MPs he had “changed his mind” on the controversial issue.

Three years ago an energy review put nuclear on the back burner while pushing for more renewables, but Mr Blair put that position in doubt when he commissioned another review last year.

Today he told the panel of senior MPs: “Whereas we left the question open and we were very sceptical at that point [of the first review], certainly, I’ll be totally honest with you, I’ve changed my mind.”


Ian Lowe is perhaps the most obvious person to change from pro- to anti- with knowledge of the subject. The question I would ask about him is whether his knowledge is now out of date since changing in the 1970s.

Chris Uhlik’s question at 2:35 pm is very relevant. It seems that being anti-nuclear is clearly linked to a lack of understanding.


Also Chris Huhne, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and a member of the Liberal Democratic Party.

The Guardian, September 2010:

But what Huhne had to say on nuclear power may have been too pragmatic even for his own party, which has grave doubts about the technology. Huhne himself has previously argued that “outdated” nuclear power is not needed to meet the UK’s climate targets. “Nuclear is a tried, tested and failed technology,” he said in November 2007.

The coalition document itself included the phrase, “Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction.”

Today’s message was rather different. “There is an important place for new nuclear stations in our energy mix as long as there is no public subsidy … I’m fed up with the stand-off between renewable and nuclear which means we have neither – we will have both. We will have low-carbon energy, and security of supply.”

Many Lib Dem supporters will feel misled by this significant softening of his stance on nuclear.


There was Hugh Montefiore, a prominent reverend and chairman of Friends of the Earth from 1992-1998. He was forced to resign from FoE after coming out in favour of nuclear energy. I don’t know whether he was ever specifically “anti-nuclear” though.–planet-from-looming-catastrophe-544571.html


Top Post updated

Thanks folks, this is very useful. I’ve updated the above list based on these comments (so far), and a few more additions of my own. Please take another look and see if it jogs your memory further. Also, make the case for moving people between categories if you think I’ve got something wrong.

Various commenters have pointed out subtleties with people’s positions that are not perfectly reflected in the above list. They are generally right — the above categories cannot capture these nuances. However, I’ve looked over these, and asked myself the question: “Okay, but would this change the [discrete] category they are in?” and used this a basis for either leaving them put or moving them.

Please keep the names (and links and dates) coming!


Hank Roberts, I would not classify those whistleblowers you list as changing their position on nuclear energy — simply on the adequacy of some designs. As you note in another thread, it is probably worth some research by someone looking at ‘Cassandras’ like these.


I’m a neutral-pro. Fukashima (which is near where I used to work in a Canon Inc. Plant) forced me to research more about nuclear and as result I’ve ended up staunchly pro. Although that’s pro Gen III


Paul Ehrlich once (in?)famously wrote “giving society cheap, abundant energy…..would be the moral equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.” in relation to nuclear energy.

Click to access May-June1975.pdf

When I saw him speak at the Adelaide Town Hall last year, however, someone from the audience asked him where we were going to get all our carbon-free energy from. In his response he said he was in favour of keeping nuclear in the mix.

Not sure this really counts (flimsy evidence), but interesting anyway.


Barry, I’m not sure about your categorization of Blair and Huhne.

From my link above, on Blair:

When Tony Blair and the Labour Party were elected in 1997, the party committed itself to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power but said in its manifesto that ‘we see no economic case for the building of any new nuclear power stations.’

and in 2001:

It was a line that Blair reiterated in the run up to the 2001 election. ‘We have absolutely no plans to expand nuclear power,’ Blair said during the election campaign.

I would have placed him in the “anti” category on that basis. Maybe UK readers closer to the action could interpret Blairs position better.

And Huuhne stated (again linked above):

“There is an important place for new nuclear stations in our energy mix as long as there is no public subsidy … I’m fed up with the stand-off between renewable and nuclear which means we have neither – we will have both.

I interpreted this as pro, rather than just neutral. Again, comments from UK readers might clarify this.


“@Enviromentalist, I wouldn’t trust polls done in the heat of an incident. The public needs time to digest the situation and see how it plays out. ”

Its not really over either its not like the problem has been resolved.

It could be cyclical, but it would take more than a decade to return to 50-50 until the next accident. Its all speculation though.


John Morgan:

At the time of its defeat at the last election, the Labour Party had moved to a pro-nuclear position. It had probably reached this position before Brown replaced Blair as party leader. However, I believe you are correct in stating that the party’s stance was originally anti.

At the time of the last election, the Liberal Democrats’ position was anti and Chris Huhne was noted for being particularly hostile. (He was not leader of his party at the time of the election – that was Clegg, despite the attribution given in Barry’s post).

The Conservatives, led by Cameron, were pro nuclear at the time of the election, but seemed to oppose Labour’s plans to streamline major infrastructure planning decisions, which would have expedited nuclear roll out.

The outcome of the election was a coalition government between the Conservatives with Libdems as junior partner. Cameron astonishingly appointed Huhne as energy minister and the latter has subsequently given wishy washy support for nuclear. It is hard to know wether he has genuinely changed hs views, having been briefed on the parlous nature of the UK’s energy position, or whether he is being obliged to submit to Cabinet Responsibility and mouth the government’s line.


Hi, Professor Brook,

I’m one of your fans now, after I saw you talking on ABC about the Fukushima power plant accident!

Reading your first paragraph, I would like to let you know that not only George Monbiot, but also myself have become a pro! And I do think that many more Australian people will change their mind if you and George Monbiot would have more exposure on TV in programs like the ABC Lateline, ABC 7:30 report, catalyst….

Like most people I was always anti-nuclear, but when I read in a Hong Kong press that 600 000 people were buried under the concrete in the Chernobyl disaster, and then listened to you and Professor John Carlson on TV, I started to get suspicious and searched in further recourses for the truth.

Consequently I did learn a lot and my mind opened up on subjects, nuclear power, renewable energy, radiation, decommissioning costs of nuclear power plants, fusion power.. etc. Whilst in counties like Germany, the Fukushima accident is much used by the anti nuclear lobby as a scare tactic, it did have the opposite effect on me, it gave me reason to search for the truth. And with the current dilemma to come up quickly with a non carbon emitting energy source, I hope the world will start listening to your arguments.

Finally, I want to mentioned that my English is not very good (I’m a Chinese), meaning I need to work harder to find the truth. If modern nuclear fission reactors would really be so dangerous, I don’t think that advanced countries like Japan and France would invest so heavily into nuclear power generation! I don’t think that any educated people will be converted from pro to anti nuclear as a result of this accident!

I think you do a very good job in presenting some facts about nuclear power! Thanks!



It is interesting to map the changing views on the perils of nuclear power and accidents through the historic archives of Popular Science magazine. Try a search such as “atomic civil defence” or “atomic power plants safety”. The articles provide a timeline of changing views on radiation and safety measures.

This 1956 article contains early thinking about safety in atomic power plants, and how a new design called the boiling-water reactor might solve them:

This article describes a mock fire drill at the Oak Ridge reactor in 1950, The monitors are casually walking around planted materials emitting a reported 9000 milliroentgens.


I’ve searched and I can’t find any evidence that Dick Smith was anti, all I can see is his pro-nuclear, anti-renewable stance.


@ unclepete of course they won’t delete it here, its anti-renewable and we all know how biased this site is against renewables


Hawkmon, you’re right, I can’t seem to find anything indicating that Dick Smith was ever anti-nuclear. Does anyone know of any source for this? If not, I’ll scrub him from the list.

This website is not biased against renewables, just realistic. I’m certainly not ‘anti-renewables’ and am not trying to block their deployment. I just don’t think that non-hydro renewables will turn out to be a particularly effective way to mitigate climate change or displace fossil fuels, especially if pursued on condition of the exclusion of nuclear power, as some stridently advocate.


Hey Barry, as a colleague at uni of Adelaide and in the spirit of the question being asked, be great to see you present in a ‘research tuesdays’ seminar sometime soon. I’m a nuclear sceptic but open to be convinced otherwise.


I’ve made a few further edits – moved Blair (left Huhne where he was but fixed his title), added Paul Ehrlich (Tom Keen, you are right, and Corey Bradshaw and I actually spoke to him about this when he was visiting).


Mei, thank you for detailing your experience — I wonder (but can never know) how many others like you there are out there. Such a survey as the above cannot of course ever reveal this as the sample sizes are just too small.

But here is a challenge to all. Has there been any public figures you can identify who have switched from PRO- (or even neutral) to ANTI- as a stated result of Fukushima (other than the reactionary German goverment, who apparently did so for [failed] short-term political leverage)?


Another for the neutral to pro or maybe 100% renewables to nuclear required category is Jeffrey Sachs, economist

His gradual shift of opinion from ‘nuclear is too dangerous’ to ‘nuclear is one of the first things we should do’ was recorded in his monthly column for ‘Scientific American’. The pro-nuclear endpoint can be seen in the September 2009 column

The column archive only seems to go back to 2008, but this from the Pakistan Daily Times is illustrative


Dear Barry,
Thanks for putting this list together and prompting others to add to it. Quite an interesting question actually.

You can add our team at the Breakthrough Institute (Michael Shellenberger, Ted Nordhaus and myself) to the shift from neutral/skeptical of nuclear to pro-nuclear after looking closely for years at the numbers/scale of the energy challenge and learning more and more about the real risks of nuclear power.

The real transition point occurred gradually from 2008 to 2010, and Fukushima has spurred us to speak out more publicly. You can find Michael on Bay Area public radio/NPR affiliate KQED here:

And myself discussing my change of heart and views on nuclear power on Sea Change Radio here:

Jesse Jenkins
Director of Energy and Climate Change
Breakthrough Institute


Myself. No big wig. I was *actively* anti-nuclear in the late 1970s into the 1980s organizing labor anti-nuclear conferences, protesting at Indian Point and Shoram in Long Island, NY.

My conversion came about as a power plant control room operator during the California Energy Crisis in 2000/2001 brought on by deregulation. It’ when I started studying it, taking classes on grid operations that I realized nuclear was the way to go.


It should not be the moderators job to crack jokes.

unclepete, on 15 April 2011 at 3:59 PM said:
“Yes – it could be construed as being in the wrong thread – but it could turn one pro-nuclear ;-)”
which despite the smiley wink and allowing the movie is a clear violation of your own posting rules!

Having let that post in, lets just solemnly reflect that no one needed evacuation from the area.

Also Barry breaks his own rules:
Barry Brook, on 16 April 2011 at 12:56 AM said:
“(other than the reactionary German government, who apparently did so for [failed] short-term political leverage)?”

If others can not speculate on motive and character as stated by,
Your personal opinion on a person’s motives and personality is not acceptable according
to BNC commenting rules.

And this?
DV82XL, on 15 April 2011 at 9:53 AM said:
“a bimbo who’s only qualifications were how good she looked with her clothing off”

Use of loaded value words like,
hard, realist, flip flopper should be avoided.

Anyway the poll is rather pointless for some simple reasons. Pro nuclear supporters generally just are not that high profile in the media (Barry excepted).

But perhaps more obviously, going form Anti to Pro is news.

What does this celebrity catwalk exercise demonstrate?

Surely its just ‘appeal to authority’.

First point – you are right – I have deleted the offending post and asked for a re-post in the correct thread.

Second point – note that the comment refers to a “person’s” motives – opinion on public groups does not qualify. Barry and DV8 were not commenting on a specific individual (which would have been deleted).

Third point – it would be ridiculous to cut out all adjectives you class as “loaded value” -that would result in practically all comments being edited so far as to not make sense.

Fourth point – Are you suggesting that people like James Hansen, George Monbiot, Dick Smith etc are not high profile?


I’m sorry if this is going off topic a bit, but I’m starting to find the whole concept of ‘anti-nuclear’ absurd. In fact, being opposed to any technology is absurd. I don’t consider myself particularly in favour of burning coal to generate energy, but I can conceive of a technological change to the technology which would bring me to a state of support for it, e.g. in situ gasification, CSS.

Rather than be 100% opposed to nuclear power, and campaigning against its use, why not campaign to make it safer/cheaper/more sustainable? If a nuclear power opponent can not admit that there is some technological change which could be make it acceptable, then they must also admit that they are believing in nothing more than a religious faith.

Next time you speak to someone ‘against’ nuclear power, ask them this.


In light of Huw Jones comment, could I ask Barry and other nuclear supporters what it would take for them to switch from pro-nuclear to neutral or anti? A massive breakthrough in renewables technology that would change the cost balance? An accident in a more modern nuclear reactor? Evidence that Japanese corporations had been siphoning off plutnium for Osama’s bomb program??…

Are there any scenarios that would persuade you that the massive insurance guarantees and subsidies for construction of new generation reactors by government would be better switched to R and D in other technologies?.

To paraphrase Huw ” If a nuclear power supporter can not admit that there is some technological change which could be make other technologies more effective and cost-balanced, then they must also admit that they are believing in nothing more than a religious faith”

Next time you speak to someone ‘for’ nuclear power, ask them this


Have you contacted George Monbiot and asked him about the way you characterize his position as being pro nuclear when he clearly states that that is not his position in both the article you linked and the one I linked? I think you need to change the caption under his picture to – From anti to neutral.


Peter Burnett, by the tone of your comment I get the feeling that you might be a bit on the ‘anti-nuclear’ side of the debate. Would you be so kind as to answer my question then? Assuming you oppose nuclear power, what technological chance would bring you around to

To answer your question, to bring me to a ‘renewables over nuclear’ stance, I would like to see evidence that they can be scaled up to a national level, with a same or better level of success than the French nuclear programme, and with comparative or better economics.

Assuming the above conditions can be satisfied, I would oppose the current situation of nuclear power if you could convince me that it:

* Causes more deaths than the alternative on a per unit of generation basis
*Causes a greater level of environmental damage than the alternatives


Peter Burnett,

what would it take to switch from pro-nuclear to neutral or anti?

A better way to reduce carbon emissions. Its just that simple.

I switched from anti- to pro- nuclear when I looked closely at the various technologies and it became clear that nuclear power was an effective way to reduce carbon emissions, and the renewable technologies were not. If someone can show me a better way to decarbonize our energy supply than nuclear power, then I will prefer that.

Are there any scenarios that would persuade you that the massive insurance guarantees and subsidies for construction of new generation reactors by government would be better switched to R and D in other technologies?

Yes – a viable R&D programme that has an endpoint in a technology that offers a better way to decarbonize our energy supply (see above). And the R&D timeline should allow deployment on the same timescale as the currently available, developed, nuclear systems. Thats a high bar – you’d need to be able to go from lab bench to civil infrastructure in a couple of years. But if you can’t, then you really are better deploying those millions on loan guarantees etc. That will get us to faster decarbonization.

But you can’t talk about this in the abstract. You need to outline a specific R&D programme for a specific technology development, and then we can look at it in the context of what already exists. R&D isn’t magic, but your question suggests you are thinking of R&D as a deus ex machina. Show the the R&D programme thats a better investment than nuclear loan guarantees, and I will prefer it.

If a nuclear power supporter can not admit that there is some technological change which could be make other technologies more effective and cost-balanced, then they must also admit that they are believing in nothing more than a religious faith.

Not at all. Maybe there is. Doesn’t help us now, though. Unless we can programme a path for developing and deploying that technology, then we are talking about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Hoping for a new civil energy system from investment in undefined R&D really is magical thinking.


@ Ted Nation

On March 21st 2011George Monbiot wrote:

You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

(emphasis mine)

Could his stance be any clearer?


@ Peter Burnett

could I ask Barry and other nuclear supporters what it would take for them to switch from pro-nuclear to neutral or anti?

If there were any other technology which was as safe or safer than nuclear power.

And if that technology also had a lesser environmental impact through mining and land use than nuclear.

And if that technology could prove itself cost effective, with the capacity to replace fossil fuels as well as provide plentiful energy for a rapidly growing global population (nothing besides nuclear or hydro have done so, so far).

If those conditions were met, I would support that technology over nuclear. But I would still not be “anti nuclear”, in much the same way I am not “anti renewables” now.

And let’s face it, this question is philosophical. No such technology currently exists.


Al Franken, Democrat Senator from Minnesota, radio host and former Saturday Night Live writer and performer.

Anti to pro:

A discussion with former Vice President Al Gore caused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken to change his opinion on nuclear power.

During a meeting with the Post-Bulletin editorial board last week, Franken said that during the 2008 campaign his position was that there needed to be a solution to nuclear waste storage before nuclear power expanded. That’s changed.

Franken said he asked Gore about the issue. Gore told him he believes that advances in technology can keep up with increased use of nuclear power and lead to better ways to monitor and store the waste.

“Yes, (the nuclear waste) will be around for hundreds of thousands of years, but I am kind of hoping we will, too,” Franken said. “And I am kind of hoping that just as we’re going from a decade to map the human genome to a day or two days or whatever it is that we will be more and more sophisticated on storing the waste.”

Franken went on to say this “represents something of a change for me.” He said there are certainly pros and cons to the nuclear issue, but he believes expanding nuclear power will help solve global warming.

“Nuclear has to be a part of the solution to that,” he said.



John Quiggin wrote a post on his blog saying “I’ve been planning a Slate-style contrarian post, arguing that the US and maybe other countries should increase the subsidies for nuclear power associated with the attempt to launch a ‘nuclear renaissance’

But then more or less goes on to say that since the Fukushima crisis he won’t adopt this position. This is kind of going from neutral/pro to neutral/anti.


The first thing needed to convince me would be real evidence that nuclear can be both safe and cheap. The nuclear lobby is quick to point to France to say it is cheap, but that is old technology and we know there are potential safety issues, When this is pointed out the pro-nuclear lobby turns to the new gen 3 + and gen 4 designs, but has anyone actually built a full scale one of these at a reasonable cost yet?
Secondly, we hear lots about renewables and baseload as a problem, but what about nuclear and peak load? From what I know of nuclear generators they are quite inflexible and can’t ramp up to the high peak demands, how do the 100% nuclear lobby answer that?
Finally, where would it built? Here in Australia the only place with good cooling water supply is the coast, which is where most people live, lets see some proposed sites and see what the locals say!
You, and some previous commenters, are straying away from the thread here. It is not to ask you what would change your mind but rather to find out those, in the public eye, whose minds have changed one way or another. Off-topic comments clog the post.
Those arguing pros and cons of nuclear/renewables etc should switch now to the Fukushima Philosophical Thread or if you have more technical knowledge, the Fukushima Technical Open Thread.


Just back from Flinders Ranges -again. Hope these comments are valid.
Joffan, I agree with you on Patrick Moore and I reckon his pro-nuke credentials are rock solid. It’s not surprising that he’s a spokesperson for the nuclear side in view of his experience since the mid 80’s. I quoted him in my pro-nuclear speech given to the Royal Geographical Society in Adelaide, April 2005.[6 years ago] He said,” At the beginning of the mid-eighties, Greenpeace and much of the environmental movement made a sharp turn to the political Left and began adopting extreme agendas that abandoned science and logic in favour of emotion and sensationalism. I became aware of the concept for sustainable development and the idea that environmental, social and economic priorities could be balanced and became a convert to the idea that win-win solutions could be found by bringing all interests together around the same table. I moved from confrontation to consensus” He further suggested that “activists had abandoned science in favour of sensationalism.” He continued,” Their zero tolerance, fear-mongering campaign would ultimately prevent a cure for VitaminA deficiency blindness, increase pesticide use, increase heart disease, deplete wild salmon stocks, raise costs and reduce safety of health care, raise construction costs, deprive developing nations of clean electricity, block a solution to global warming and contribute to deforestation.” How sick is that?” he asked.
Neil Howes: We could get nuclear going in under 10 years were we to
1. Accept it now
2.Fast track all of the regulatory requirements etc.
3 Get busy on nuclear science/engineering and infrastructure development in our universities.
4 Introduce quicker build reactors[some would probably be appropriate] like, gas-cooled PBMR’s, small modular units which have a build time of of two years OR the mid sized [400-600MW and up to 900MW] units which are being marketed by Hitachi-GE. Their build time is 34 months.
John Newlands: Could tell you of my personal experiences with Tim Flannery but will need too much space for this blog. Suffice to say, he’s all over the place with his attitude to nuclear. He runs with the hares and hunts with the hounds [leave that in moderator]. He’s not my favourite person and was downright rude in my first encounter with him.
Robert Lawrence: Ian Lowe is very definitely out of date on nuclear. He’s just echoing the proliferation concerns that most people use in objecting to nuclear. Would someone please tell me apart from Horoshima/Nagasaki, what other “bombs” have been used against people. None to my knowledge. I suspect that countries with a nuclear capability see them as a deterrent. It could be that Iran, if they do in fact want a weapon would also need it as a deterrent, bearing in mind that they are regarded as one of the three countries constituting GW Bush’s “Axis of Evil” and also that they are surrounded by countries with a nuclear capability.
Tom Keen: It’s a pity that Ralph Nader had not learnt the truth about nuclear power thirty years ago. If he had been ignored then, nuclear would by now be delivering about 35% of world electricity, and CO2 emissions would probably not be a problem which currently has the entire planet, including Australia in a future energy MESS.
Meiwechner: Well said Mei. Your english is very good and you have implied what I believe is the most important point in favour of nuclear power. Why would so many countries be adopting it if they thought it would endanger their peoples’ lives? Fifty three countries will have nuclear within the next 5 years. And they want nuclear in their energy mix for two reasons. They want a clean, safe, abundant,affordable energy supply and without greenhouse emissions. And it’s why we in Australia should learn from the experience of those countries [they’ve had all of the debates we are currently engaging in] and they’ve decided that nuclear is, as Gwyneth Cravens said, ” The energy of the future”. We need to get on with it NOW.


[Comment deleted. ]
I went through the whole link, not just the “cut and paste” you supplied, and nowhere could I find a statement from the speaker, to the effect that he had switched from being pro-nuclear to neutral. Your opinion that his testimony must mean he has switched does not count for this exercise.
Please re-submit with the appropriate passage that confirms his change of mind in his own words.
If you merely want to post the details of the interview, please submit it to the Fukushima Technical Open Thread.


On the question of what would it take to turn me ‘anti-nuclear’, the answer is nothing, just as I can’t think of anything that would stop me ‘believing’ that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and our massive release of greenhouse gases is having an effect on the planetary energy balance.

That aside, I agree with John Morgan, Huw Jones and Tom Keen, that should an alternative energy technology emerge that is deployable at scale, cost effective, does minimal environmental damage, and is zero-carbon, and does all this better than nuclear energy, then this would displace nuclear as my preferred option and I would put nuclear fission on the pile of ‘okay but unlikely to be a major solution’ that renewables currently sit on. So, to be clear, I am ‘pro-nuclear’, for now, because I consider it to be the best energy option available to us. I am renewables neutral because I consider these to be less viable — I am not ‘anti-renewables’ (e.g. petitioning for them to be blocked/banned), and I would similarly never be ‘anti-nuclear’.

Getting back to my other issue on ‘what would it take me to stop believing (sic) in climate change’, my answer here has always been that it would have to be demonstrated that natural negative feedbacks were able to balance or overwhelm the positive anthropogenic forcings we are currently exerting. See how similar this is to the nuclear-renewables issue?


Although not well-known outside of Japan, a number of the Japanese engineers (including Masashi Goto and Yoichi Kikuchi) involved in building Fukushima have come out and said that they changed their minds about the safety of nuclear power plants (particularly GE-desiged BWRs).

Their great worry now is Hamaoka, which is built on a major seismic fault and which is much closer to urban populations than Fukushima.

The only Australian source I could find on Dr. Masashi Goto is here (interestingly, his predictions of March 12/13 about how things would play out have been pretty accurate):

For a longer interview with another nuclear engineer (Yoichi Kikuchi) involved in Fukushima, see here in a press conference (in Japanese) after presenting a petition calling for the immediate closure of Hamaoka (interview starts at 0.55):

So two more to add to the list of people changing their minds.


GM, there is no evidence there that Goto and Kikuchi has switched from being pro- to anti- nuclear (e.g. against Japan operating nuclear power plants or building new ones). They have said that they object to the safety of the 1960s/1970s vintage BWRs and the way they are being operated in Japan. Few would disagree with them. They are like the people from the US mentioned by Hank Roberts upthread. Whistleblowers, but hardly anti-nuclear.


Moderator, in direct response to your statement at 4:08 AM, the commenter Thomas in his point four was apparently making a statement pertinent in elementary logic. Argument from authority can be and often is fallacious. This is most likely the case if the authority in question is not an authority on the subject matter at hand. It does not matter how high their general profile. The concept was known to the ancient philosophers as “argumentum ad verecundiam”.

Here is a short and clear description of the concept.

The comment I made on the fourth point, had nothing to do with his “argument to authority” (his fifth point) but was in answer to this statement by Thomas:

“Anyway the poll is rather pointless for some simple reasons. Pro nuclear supporters generally just are not that high profile in the media (Barry excepted.)”

My comment stands:

“Are you suggesting that people like James Hansen, George Monbiot, Dick Smith etc are not high profile?”

We are obliged to you for your explanation of “argumentum ad verecundiam” – it is possible that there may be some on the blog who may be ignorant of the meaning – although I doubt it.


Thanks Barry, John Morgan, Tom Keen, Huw Jones … to their criteria I’d simple add that the alternative to nuclear pwoer would need to be apparently capable of being maintained for at least the foreseeable future — i.e around about as long as we could anticiupate the nuclear plants delivering effectively and efficiently. It’s no use putting an alternative option that we’d have to junk in 25 years when nuclear plants can last for 60 years.

Really, what this highlights is that the terms Pro/anti-renewables/nuclear are at best misleading. Rational folks are technology-neutral and utility-focused. Will it work? How well? When? For how long? At what cost? Is it better in isolation or combination with any suite of options that we could deply in concert than any combination without it? are questions that those focused on human welfare should always ask.

Some of this is subjective of course, but the closer we get to being explicit and measurable and evidence-based about our preferences, the better system choices tend to work.

I would add that speaking as someone who is working in a political environment that is largely unsympathetic to nuclear power as a suite of technologies, for reasons that seem principally cultural-aesthetic even if they are garbed in arguments that resemble cost-benefit propositions — the political climate for nuclear power has seriously soured since Fukushima. The incident has greatly amplified the noise and animus around the topic, and the “parity with Chernobyl” rating has been manna from heaven for those wanting any excuse to shut down arguments about the efficacy of the technology.

Fukushima has been a disaster, not only for Japan but for those of us keen on early and robust CO2 mitigation, because it has massively strengthened the short term arguments for gas and also given heart to all those who argue for “powering down” who can now put arguments that are borderline metaphysical “Fukushima is a message that we have to change how we consume” without being laughed at.

It does little good to ask those who say this what they’d have had the Japanese build to supply northern Japan with power in 1964 if not nuclear plants, because you simply cop an earful of wailing about bad taste and indifference to the suffering of the Japanese.

This does underline though that politically, over the coming decade, those of us who want serious action on climate change and see nuclear power as an indispensible part of the solution will absolutely need to address the perceived safety issue. We are going to have to stress how absolutely disaster-proof they are with defence in depth measures that almost anyone can understand and accept.


[Comment deleted. Wrong thread]
This thread is to ascertain who had changed their view on nuclear power after Fukushima . Nowhere did the person mentioned claim he had changed his view since that crisis. If you wish to post links to testimony about the reactors please do so in the Open Thread.


@ Tom Kene

Thanks for the link to the George Monbiot article dated March 23rd. I guess this evidence of a pro nuclear position. However, I still fine it amazing that he would clearly state on March 16 that hasn’t gone pro nuclear and 8 days later say that he has.


Goes a bit beyond merely opposing nuclear power, but draws attention to Iranian nuclear program and economics of energy and sanctions in a post Arab Spring and post Fukushima world. Iranian Nobel Laureate, Shirin Ebadi, long time defender of sovereign right of Iran to pursue nuclear power and critic of international sanctions, has changed her mind about nuclear: “The people of Iran don’t want another Fukushima.”

We can also add some energy companies and investors who have changed their mind about nuclear after Fukushima, with NRG and Toshiba taking millions of dollars in write-offs as they put two reactor projects on ice in South Texas. “The public’s appetite for nuclear power projects resembles the situation right after the Three Mile Island accident of 1979, said Charles A. Zielinski, a lawyer in Washington who is a former chairman of the New York State Public Service Commission. Companies now factor in the prospect of higher construction costs, mixed with a slack demand. The South Texas Project ‘may have been on the fence already, and Fukushima pushed it over,’ Mr. Zielinski said. Tom Smith, an organizer in Austin with Public Citizen and a longtime campaigner against the project, cited higher construction costs and uncertainty after the Fukushima accident. ‘The wheels are starting to fall off the nuclear renaissance,’ he said.”


Aside to moderator — I think deleting El’s comment was an error. You told El
> This thread is to ascertain who had changed
> their view on nuclear power after Fukushima .
> Nowhere did the person mentioned claim he
> had changed his view since that crisis.

If you will please look back at the original posting, I think that’s overly restrictive. Yes, someone asked Barry whether Fukushima caused people to change their opinions.

Barry then extended the query, asking for this who changed their views — not just since Fukushima.

Above, Barry writes:
“to kick of this exercise, I’ll list a few …. Ian Lowe … claims he made this change in 1970s….”


Hello from France,

On the list of “Neutral to Anti”, we could add Nicolas Hulot, famous french environmentalist and candidate for French Presidential Elections in 2012 (

Before the event of Fukushima, he had no objections to nuclear but did not support it either (see

Today he is clearly against nuclear power, arguing this source is not the solution to our energy needs and Fukushima events showed NP to be unsafe technology (see

I’m thinking he’s probably surfing on the strong “anti” trend that is swelling up in Europe to make himself good publicity before the elections.

Nevertheless, interesting…


Hi viper, I noticed Hulot, but couldn’t see anything that indicated he has ever been anything other than anti-nuclear. Perhaps my standards for neutrality are stricter than yours :-) but certainly he was only ever making negative noises about nuclear power before reluctantly saying it was not as bad as climate change. I don’t know how he now reconciles that with a strong anti-nuclear position.

It seems to me there are people holding “stealth anti-nuke” positions that involve ambivalent general statements followed by strident opposition in response to any specific actions or events.


[…] given to them, cannot be convinced. As summarized nicely in this blog post on Brave New Climate:, it is interesting to see who’s been “converted” to pro-nuclear or neutral from […]


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