Comments by William Tucker Subscribe

On Nuclear power: An inconvenient solution?

Dear Energy Collective Members,

 As some of you know, I was writing pretty regularly here before I was offered a job writing speeches for Senator Lamar Alexander.  Senate ethics rules and the limitations place on me by his office have kept me off the blogs and I've been pretty much out of the loop.  It's been a tough.  Sales of my book, Terrestrial Energy (, plummeted. But from Marc Gunther's fine post here and the resulting discussion, I think it's been worth it.

 Hope to be back soon.

 Bill Tucker











October 9, 2009    View Comment    

On Message to the Nuclear Industry: Get Over Yourselves

"I know that the Heritage Foundation likes to have you over because you drive hippies insane, but let’s face it, those guys are “so over.”  Ditto on getting those articles into The American Spectator.  Don’t align with the losers."

Since this comment seems to be directed against me (I'm the only one around here who writes for The American Spectator) I guess I should respond.  Let me tell you, there are very few chances to cross any lines lines when it comes to writing about nuclear power.  I've had a dozen people tell me I should get out of my "conservative ghetto" and argue the case in the "mainstream" liberal press, but in my experience it can't be done.  My recent post here, "There's Plenty of Energy at the Bottom" was conceived almost a year ago.  I gave that story to Harper's, The Atlantic, The New Republic,Foreign Affairs, The Nation, The American Interest and just about every other publication I could think of, but it was no go.  Most of them just rejected it without comment.  The editor at The American Interest told me it was "just high school physics" and not worthy of publication anywhere. 

 Two years ago, after the big revivial of Earth Day, I conceived of an article, "Is Nuclear Green?"  I wanted to pose the question of whether nuclear should be part of the discussion and look at both sides.  Once again, I thought of cracking into the liberal press, since they had all just run big Earth Day issues without ever mentioning nuclear.  

I called up The New Republic and asked to speak to an editor about the story.  The person I ended up talking to said, "Sure, go ahead and submit something.  We'll see if we like it."  So I started calling environmental groups for comment, telling them I was freelance but "writing this for The New Republic."  When someone at Natural Resources Defense Council heard this, they apparently called TNR moments later to ask what the hell was going on.  Within two hours I had a personal call from the senior editor at TNR telling me "Don't you dare ever tell anyone you write for The New Republic and don't ever submit anything to us again."  (I had written for them a couple of times before.  The person I had talked to, it turned out, was an intern.)

 When I went back to calling other environmental groups the story had already whipped around Washington that I was "impersonating a New Republic reporter" and trying to convince people they were interested in a story about nuclear power.  The woman who answered the phone at the Sierra Club wouldn't tell me anything except that she had specific instructions not to speak to me and not to allow me to speak to anyone else either.  This all happened in the space of one afternoon.  So somehow I don't feel much enthusiasm for discussion on the other side.

 I am proud to write for The American Spectator.  They have a broad stable of very talented writers and I read their website almost every day.  They have always been willing to put things in print when I send them a decent story, even when they always don't always agree with them.  I have been able to build up a body of work at that magazine that served as the basis for much of my book, so that it bothers me only a little anymore that they usually take about four months to send the check.  Writing against the grain isn't easy for any of us.










May 1, 2009    View Comment    

On New flavors of chutzpah

Lou:  You say "The people who most strongly push nuclear power tend, on average, to be the same people who scream the loudest about letting the free market do its thing without the evil, corrupting hand of Government."  But EDF is making a legitimate point here.  If the government says 35 percent of electricity must come from wind or solar, regardless of the cost, then that cuts the market by one-third and probably means that everything that is built for the next decade will have to be wind and solar in order to meet the quotas.  That just about obliterates the market for anyone selling anything other than wind or solar.  Portfolio mandates are the worst kind of market interference because they tell people exactly what they have to buy, regardless of the price.  If wind and solar were to go up against nuclear without the mandate, or if nuclear were counted as "renewable" (which a lot of people argue it is), then you might have a case.
March 23, 2009    View Comment    

On Outsmarting the Smart Grid

Watthead:  Now that I think about it, here's what's going to happen if the utility can cut off 1/6th of its air conditioning load on a rotating basis.  If people know this - which they will - they're just going to run their air conditioning a little higher while it's on in order to compensate for the 1/6th of the time it's off.  It's like the low-flush toilets that you have to flush twice to do the job.

 David:  Read my book, Terrestrial Energy, about the 8GW gorilla in the room.  It's on Amazon.  You'll like it.

February 22, 2009    View Comment    

On Outsmarting the Smart Grid


Thanks for your reply.  Just one question.  If we're going to have a grid where the power company cuts off 1/5th of the population from their air conditioning in the middle of a hot summer afternoon because they're trying to coordinate with windmills, is anybody going to find this objectionable?

February 20, 2009    View Comment    

On Outsmarting the Smart Grid

Mark.  I believe both that global warming is a serious concern and that nuclear power is the only thing that's ever going to make a difference.  That's why it took me three years to get my book published - you have to believe in one or the other but not both.  I think we should do everything.  Solar energy and conservation will make crucial contributions.  I am skeptical about the current craze for windmills.  They produce very little useful energy and are an ungodly abomination on the landscape.  How can groups that used to gag at clearing a path for a transmission line now accept adorning mountaintops all over the east coast with 45-story structures?  As the Nature Conservancy says, it's "Energy Sprawl."  Most of all, I don't think we get anywhere without nuclear.  The energy density in the nucleus is almost beyond our comprehension - 2 million times the energy release of a carbon bond.  After five years of operation, six ounces of a fuel assembly have turned into energy.  That's it.  It's enough to power San Francisco for five years and it would fit in your living room.  Sure the rods are intensely radioactive but we can't deal with this?  It's an industrial process, not terribly different from handling hydrochloric acid.  Much better than throwing 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.  So I'm concerned about global warming and in favor of nuclear power.  Where does that put me?
February 19, 2009    View Comment