January 16th, 2010 by Collin Canright | Filed under History, Political Economy.

This post is part of the Collin’s 50th! series, in which I look back as a way of moving forward.

In writing about my 1981 article, “The High Impact of Low Level Radiation,” in the post Political Economy, I recalled my time as an anti-nuclear protester, in marches for the Bailly Alliance, a group dedicated to stopping the Bailly Nuclear 1 plant, to be located on the shores of Lake Michican near Chesterton, Indiana. The promise and perils of nuclear energy have been in the news lately–the debates in Northwest Indiana in the late 1970s are again relevant today.

Needless to say, this was a topic of great interest in a highly populated and environmentally sensitive region of the country. My family, publishers of The Chesterton Tribune, spent a lot of time and effort covering the plant’s planning and approval process, including several trips to Washington, DC, for Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hearings on plant approval. My own reporting contribution included a report on an NRC headlined “NRC to require state Emergency Action plans.”

My father, John, the paper’s editor, initially supported the plant in editorials, and coverage was generally neutral. That led to some conflict within the paper because my cousin Dave, who completely opposed the plant, was a Bailly Alliance member, as were a number of other staff and me.

With the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, coverage took a turn. What seemed promising years earlier was now a potential nightmare. The journalistic turning point came in heading writing. My dad was careful to always use the formal name of the plant in articles: “Bailly Nuclear 1” or “Bailly N1.” As opposition mounted, and it became apparent that the plant construction would not be approved, we all decided just call it a “nuke.” For more, see the sidebar to the low-level radiation article, “Burn-Out at Bailly: NIPSCO’s Nuclear Fizzle.”

The questions surrounding nuclear power are far from resolved and are generating (heh, heh, heh) increasing interest. Current plants happen to be working quite well, and were it not for the continuing problems of nuclear waste disposal and nuclear proliferation, nuclear power may well provide a solution to future energy generation. “The nuclear option should be retained precisely because it is an important carbon-free source of power,” states MIT’s study on The Future of Nuclear Energy, updated in 2009.

Two leading magazines covered nuclear power in December 2009 issues, with The Economist reporting on “Nuclear’s next generation,” a readable report on the pros and cons of six new designs for nuclear power plants. Wired magazine weighed in with its preferred nuclear alternative in “Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke.”

Maybe. Wired made a great case for nukes in February 2005, in “Nuclear Now! How clean, green atomic energy can stop global warming,” and I believe it’s the best alternative for mass energy production in the future.

Yet a nuclear milestone last week gives pause, with stories about the death at 93 of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only survivor of the nuclear blasts at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I still have the No Nukes T-shirt I silk screened for the Bailly Alliance just in case.

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One Response to “Nukes”

  1. John Canright | 18/01/10

    I well remember what changed my mind. I was driving to a consulting appointment in Wisconsin when the news of Three Mile Island broke. After listening an hour to the evacuation efforts, I said, No one would stay behind to shut the (Bethlehem Steel) mill down safely, they would drop their tools and run. Besides, a two lane highway would not handle any evacuation plan.

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