NYT Explains German Nuclear Irrationality

The New York Times‘ Alan Cowell had a piece (6/2/11) about public opposition to nuclear power in Germany, and the fact that the country’s political leadership has decided to establish policies that conform to that sentiment. It apparently left the Times a bit perplexed:

But the German move also raised a question whose answer seemed elusive: What is there in this land of 82 million people that has, over decades, bred an aversion to nuclear energy that seems unrivaled among its economic peers, defying its reputation for reasoned debate?

Cowell reveals that Germans overwhelmingly oppose nuclear power, especially after the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima. Anti-nuclear feelings surfaced much earlier, though:

There is little doubt that Germany’s modern history has combined to produce a deep strain of risk aversion, of caution, and a dislike for surprises, all of which magnify the potential hazards of nuclear energy, producing a perception that is different from that of other major European economies like France or Britain.

Risk aversion and caution produces a “perception” that is different than in other places. I am not even sure what that means, but it doesn’t sound unreasonable.

The Times wasn’t the only outlet slamming Germany’s anti-nukes move. The Washington Post editorial page was unimpressed with Germany’s turn toward renewables–a bad idea, “since sometimes the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine.” Read Miranda Spencer’s recent Extra! article for a good corrective on that.

The Post added:

Instead of providing a model for greening a post-industrial economy, Germany’s overreaching greens are showing the rest of the world just how difficult it is to contemplate big cuts in carbon emissions without keeping nuclear power on the table. Panicked overreaction isn’t the right response to the partial meltdowns in Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex

The lesson of Fukushima, then, should be that the world really needs nuclear power. Apparently that kind of logic is what the Post means by a more “reasoned debate”?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.