Bobby Kennedy Jr. has apparently decided he has an issue to raise his profile. It combines the fear tactics and stand-uppishness of the Bush administration’s war on terror with the righteous, almost reactionary, urgency of fringe environmentalism: nuclear reactors. In “Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable” RFK Jr. and Rory Kennedy spin a terrifying yarn about a terrorist crashing a plane into the spent fuel pools at Indian Point. They suggest it could render a Chernobyl-disaster sized area, including New York City, uninhabitable. (while they do point out that a Chernobyl style disaster is, by design, not possible in a US reactor, they do the Saddam Osama bin Hussein Laden Iraq 9/11 thing by cutting to a map of the same size of the Chernobyl disaster over the tri-state area…)
For me, one of the first litmus tests of anyone claiming to be an “environmentalist” is if there is even a tinge of NIMBY-ness about what they are saying. The first would actually be if they are funded by an industry group, but NIMBY has to be up there. Kennedy suggests that New York s a bad place for a nuclear generator because the incident would cripple the world’s financial ystem. That may be true, but I’m not sure that the residents of [other place] give a shit about that compared with their own safety. They, of course, never suggest where it should go (the subtext is that there should be none). They never suggest that all nuclear power plants should be replaced with the latest generation plants that are much, much safer. They never suggest that gas/oil/coal burning plants would have to pick up the slack. They also don’t quite make it
clear to the layman that merely turning these plants off won’t resolve the high-level waste situation there or anywhere, so, why turn them off?
The second severe limitation of many environmentalists on the far left is their inability to deal with priorities. Even if we max out on renewable energy sources, we will still require a baseline, consistent load generating supply at some level that is not contingent on natural events. While I can’t help but chuckle at the inefficacy of America’s nuclear power policy, and I can’t help but squirm at the possibility of a nuclear accident, it just reinforces the out of sight out of mind issue with global warming.
Nuclear accidents are spectacular and sudden. They irrationally evoke the horrors of nuclear war. But, on the slight bright side, they are relatively localized, and can often be mitigated.
Global warming is slow and only perceptible in certain places at first. But for the thousands killed by record heat in Europe a few summers back, and the thousands of species going extinct that are quite literally destroying our web of life, the melting of ice shelfs, and the increasing violence of tropical storms, it is no joke. Because of the vague and slow progression of global warming, the best response mustered by the world is the deeply flawed Kyoto Protocol.
Yes, it’s a utilitarian calculation, but if you take global warming seriously, you have to grin and bear the possibility of nuclear accidents, even Chernobyl level ones. Because they pale in comparison to what may be coming our way in a few short decades.
Every time I roll out this chestnut, I get a bunch of flames from the left-flank telling me about how I’m a shill for the nuclear industry, they’ve brainwashed me, and that I’m drinking their glowing Kool-Aid. Nonsense. At least, it’s no more sensical than the suggestion that those who oppose nuclear power on any level in any form are de facto shills for the fossil fuel industry.
 DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT 9/24/2004
NORVILLE: Another big concern is — and you open the film with this possibility. Instead of heading down the Hudson and aiming for the World Trade Center, the terrorists could have as easily aimed for the big sitting duck, Indian Point.
RORY KENNEDY: Yes. American Airlines flight 11 flew over Indian Point on its way down to New York City, and had that plane banked left, you know, it’s really scary to think what New York would now be if that had happened. And what I can tell you is what we know from Chernobyl,[fnord] is that a 100-square-mile radius became permanently uninhabitable around Chernobyl [fnord] after that accident. And New York City is 35 miles south of Indian Point. But the heart of New York City, 42nd Street…
NORVILLE: And 20 million people live within…
RORY KENNEDY: A 50-mile radius.
NORVILLE: … presumably, the affected area, if…
 Hardball MSNBC 7/8/2003
MATTHEWS: Have they gone too far in exploiting September 11? Joining us is Robert Kennedy Jr., River Keeper’s prosecuting attorney and also Angie Howard of the Nuclear Energy Institute. Bob, is this an accurate depiction of what would happen if that nuclear power plant were hit by a terrorist?
ROBERT KENNEDY JR., RIVER KEEPER: The…
MATTHEWS: Well, the…
KENNEDY: Absolutely. Every fact — the thing that’s scary is not the ad. The thing that’s scary, Chris, are the facts. Every single fact in there has been rigorously verified by government agencies, like the National Research Council, Brookhaven Laboratory, and the intelligence agencies. Here’s what we know. We know that there are 17 times the stored radiation at that plant that was released at Chernobyl. We know that a terrorist attack could cause a spent fuel pool fire at the plant, and according to the federal agency, the National Research Council, 100 percent of the radiation would be released. If that were true, around Chernobyl there was 1,000 miles uninhabitable. Brookhaven lab and Princeton University estimate about 3,000 miles around Indian Point would be uninhabitable.
MATTHEWS: So, when you blow up a nuclear power plant, you create a nuclear event. Is that right?
KENNEDY: There’s a release of radiation, Cesium 137, which is stored there, which would make it unsafe for human beings to live in that area. Now…
MATTHEWS: Would it be a nuclear explosion like we just saw in the ad?
KENNEDY: It would not be an explosion. There would be a release of radiation. I don’t think that’s an explosion. I think that that’s a release of radiation.
MATTHEWS: Well, look at this person just coming apart there. Looks like they’re coming apart, these people.
 CNN LIVE SATURDAY 12:00 6/28/2003
WHITFIELD: And Mr. Lyman, we showed in the piece the ad campaign that started. Some are criticizing it as really striking fear unnecessarily in Americans. Do you believe it is fair to provoke these kinds of emotions with that kind of graphic advertisement?
LYMAN: I don’t think the issue is provoking emotions. I think the issue is a comprehensive and accurate risk assessment to let the people of New York City know what the potential health consequences are to them. Entergy is not providing that, and Riverkeeper may be going in the other extreme. I think the truth is somewhere in between, but it’s certainly closer to Riverkeeper’s claim, because there are credible terrorist events which could cause a core melt- down, lead to a breach of the bypass of the containment and a Chernobyl-style radiological release that could have a significant impact on New York City. There are simulations to show that the FDA requirements for recommendations for potassium iodine could be exceeded by 100 times.
CNN Target Terrorism 3/2/2002
SNOW: What happens if a plane, God forbid, a terrorist, decides to go after a nuclear reactor. What happens if a plane heads towards a nuclear reactor?
LYMAN: Well, I firmly believe that the evidence shows that if a fully fueled jumbo jet, like we saw on September 11, crashed into the containment building at a nuclear plant or the spent-fuel building, where the highly radioactive discharge of the plant is stored, or auxiliary control rooms, that there is a very good chance that you could have a serious Chernobyl-type accident.