A Second Thought on Kristin Shrader-Frechette

Posted by on Nov 14, 2011
A Second Thought on Kristin Shrader-Frechette

Dr. Kristin Shrader-Frechette’s lecture on nuclear energy was truly enlightening and, frankly, surprisingly inspiring.  Her talk focused on the economic aspect of nuclear power, in particular on how the cost data of nuclear energy is misrepresentative of its true price.

To show this, Shrader-Frechette dismantled various reports on nuclear power’s economic sensibility, in which she argues trim five key cost-cutting factors: insurance, interest, construction, load factor, and plant lifetime.  When these factors are included, the true cost of nuclear power is more 600 times what’s reported to be.  Do to favorable federal policies and legislation, Shrader-Frechette argues that the industry isn’t subjected to the same economic scrutiny as the rest of the energy industry.

Although last week I argued that Shrader-Frechette ignored many aspects of nuclear power that would make it an appealing form of energy, those concerns of mine were mostly answered at her lecture.  For example, Schrader-Frechette showed that the safety of nuclear plants is vastly overestimated.  Even at plants with no reported accidents, the number of immediate acute effects of radiation is lower than those over time.  Ionizing radiation too is inherent to the nuclear power production process and leads to genomic irregularities, cancer, and death in the populations nearest the plants.  This is completely unacceptable.

Considering there is a cheaper, safer, greener alternative to nuclear power — wind, Shrader-Frechette believes — the switch sounds like a no-brainer.  That it hasn’t taken place is due to a strong industry lobby, she argues.

I’m now torn between what was a truly compelling lecture and nearly every university study done on nuclear power.  However, Shrader-Frechette emphasized throughout her lecture that her methodology for dismantling the mainstream studies is not difficult to reproduce.  In fact, she went so far as to argue that her conclusions are supported by only an elementary understanding of the scientific and economic concepts involved.

Shrader-Frechette’s overarching goal in this respect was to empower humanists to act on problems that might seem shrouded in technical jargon like science.  She pointed out that her methodology was rooted in an analytic, humanistic approach to problem solving.  And so regardless of where you fall on her stance against nuclear power, you should now be able to prove it.

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