The New Atomic Age We Don't Need

Last week the New York Times ran an op-ed by venture capitalist Peter Thiel called "The New Atomic Age We Need." Taking Thiel at his word, you could conclude that nuclear power's only real shortcomings are its high cost and long-past technical challenges, exacerbated by "the bizarre coincidence of an accident at Three Mile Island and the 1979 release of the Hollywood horror movie 'The China Syndrome.'" If only we had just kept building more and more reactors, "our power grid could have been carbon-free years ago," he tells us.

Forget about Fukushima. "Nobody died from radiation," he scoffs, paying no attention to the 80,000 neighbors of the plant who still cannot return to their homes because of dangerous radiation levels. And Chernobyl? Fewer than 50 people were reported to have died there, he says, ignoring the National Academy of Sciences' estimate that excess cancer deaths caused by the Chernobyl meltdown may end up running into the thousands. He also fails to note that 350,000 people were driven from their homes in the aftermath of this disaster and a thousand-square-mile area surrounding the irradiated behemoth remains an officially declared Exclusion Zone nearly thirty years later.

Other convenient oversights run rampant through Thiel's article. I point to just a few of them in my Letter to the Editor, which appeared in yesterday's Times.