tonight on "crossfire" is nuclear power the path to energy independence or a deadly danger? >> you can't get much closer to the heart of the fukushima disaster than this. and there are 1500 spent fuel rods. >> are we more frightened of nuclear power than we ought to be? on the left, brian schweitze are, on the right newt gingrich. in the crossfire, ralph nader a consumer advocate who opposes nuclear power and michael shellenberger featured in the cnn film "pandora's promise." unlimited clean energy or toxic trouble tonight on "crossfire."
welcome to "crossfire." i'm brian schweitzer on the left. >> i'm newt gingrich on the right. in the crossfire tonight, ralph nader who opposes nuclear power and michael shellenberger who is for it. >> we're finally having an honest debate on nuclear power, one of the energy sources that can sustain civilization. tonight cnn is presenting a provocative new film called "pandora's promise." it argues that despite recent disasters like the one at japan's fukushima power plant, most of the fears expressed by anti-nuclear protesters are irrational. here's a quick preview. >> i came to realize they basically avoided looking at the whole picture. and only looked at the questions that seemed to prove to them that nuclear power was dangerous.
as i had, too. the only reason i changed my mind is that i talked to experts, physicists in particular, who were the pioneers of nuclear energy. and who carefully, one by one, explained to me again and again until it finally got through my head, why it wasn't what the anti-nuclear activists felt it was. >> ralph, let me ask you for a second. the whole process of dealing with nuclear energy, it seems to me, you have been always a consumer advocate. i mean, as long as i can remember you you've you've been a consumer advocate. now you are in a situation where what this debate is about, if we go purely to renewables, we're seeing already in europe a 17% increase in the cost of energy for the consumer in the last few years, 21% increase for
manufacturing and business. isn't it a fact that from a consumer standpoint, almost inevitably those kind of strategies lead to dramatically higher costs? >> not at all. because the alternative to nuclear power, which is uneconomic and can't be privately financed, has to be 100% -- almost 100% government loan guarantees, corporate socialism to you. the alternative is energy efficiency. that's the first platform for energy policy all over the world. we waste enormous amounts of energy, a megawatt of energy we don't waste is a megawatt of energy we don't have to produce. and that's the fastest, quickest, cheapest, most job intensive way. retrofitting buildings, homes, more efficient motors and motor vehicles, lighting, air conditioning systems. that's even before we get into biomass, wind power, solar thermal, photoboteic and others
that will eventually be the dominant form of energy in the world, wind power. >> isn't eventually, i just looked at a study the other day that said we have something like an amazing multiple of subsidy for solar power today. and the projections over the next ten years we're going to continue an amazing subsidy for solar power. it's always the energy of the future. >> we've been subsidizing nuclear energy for the last 50 years. i don't think there's anybody pure in this. michael, let me ask you, you coming from the environmental community and now being a supporter of nuclear energy? you telling us that's the way to go? aren't you concerned about radiation in our water our air our wildlife and our people? an if you can support nuclear energy, why not clean coal like we have in montana? why not wind power with abundant natural gas or stored pumped energy with our lake systems? why just nuclear energy? >> before i start i want to acknowledge that i really respect ralph nader and have
always admired him, especially his work in the 1960s for workplace safety, food safety, car safety. but the fact is, ralph's actually been saying this same thing about solar and wind and efficiency since the early 70s. i went and looked it up on the "new york times" this morning. last year, solar provided less than 1/10th of 1% of our electricity. the economy has become a lot more efficient over the last 40 years. we have more efficient buildings and cars and we use more energy. efficiency enables greater amounts of energy consumption. so i've always been an advocate of solar and wind. i actually lobbied for the subsidies for solar and wind. but when you look at what's happening in the world, this is not the early 70s anymore. back then no one was very worried about global warming. the world is going to triple or qaudruple the amount of of energy it consumes over the next century. if we want to do something serious about the climate, our emissions need to go to zero from the energy sector. but even if you don't care about global warming or you don't think it's much of a problem,
consider this. earlier this year, former nasa climate scientist james hansen did a study. he found that nuclear energy over the last 40 years that's been used worldwide has saved 1.8 million lives by producing zero air pollution energy. and he says that if we expand it we'll save another 7 million lives. those numbers have to be convincing for people that care about climate change. >> there's still radiation. >> tell that to the fukushima area, the chernobyl area. tell it to the areas where hundreds of square miles are now uninhabitable. the atomic energy commission in the 1950s, michael, said that a class nine accident in the u.s. would contaminate an area quote the size of pennsylvania. you don't want to have an energy source that has one bite of the apple. you have a disaster whether it's due to sabotage, earthquake, horrendous hurricane or human error or design defect. any of those. if you have one major disaster,
it will affect all other nuclear plants. you know that. >> this fear mongering that you've been doing for 40 years has been effective in halting the growth of nuclear energy. you've stopped ipt. you and the environmental movement have stopped it. 20% of our electricity. that 20% saved 1.7 million lives. millions of other lives would have been saved had we had zero pollution energy. instead, this kind of fear mongering -- look at the record. 40 years we've had three bad accidents. chernobyl, the world health organization says 70 people have died. outside of the soviet union and fukushima and three mile island, nobody has died. by contrast, coal kills over 300,000 people per year. so you can kind of paint these grand scare theories. but the reality, there's an empirical public health reality. >> you're not listening. start with energy efficiency. put aside everything else. >> yes. >> we are very wasteful in energy, correct? correct? >> you want me to answer the question? >> go ahead. >> we've become more energy
efficient over the last 200 years, ralph, if you look at the energy studies over 200 years, n intensity has declined, meaning we get more units of gdp per unit of energy lost, 200 years that's a long-term trend. over that same period of time our energy consumption increases. what are you going to do tell the 1.7 billion people in the world who burn dung to be more efficient? it will come from fossil fuels or nuclear. >> do you realize what the natural security aspects of the nuclear power? >> absolutely. >> do you have any idea how tempting a target the spent fuel rods are around all these nuclear plants? earthquake, why do you think israel has never built one? >> if there was an attack on a nuclear power plant by bazooka by greens in germany. >> now we've had 40 years history of these nukes and 100
some facility across america. there was some kind of grand plan a big hole in yucca mountain and deliver all this radiation of railroads through the biggest cities in america and deliver it to this big hole. but nobody wants this coming through their town. it's all storied in their backyard. >> that's right. >> how do we get rid of all of it? what's your plan? how can we solve the problem we already have? >> first of all, even if we find a depository underground that's good for a quarter of a million years you're going to have trucks and railroad cars loaded with this radioactive waste coursing through towns, villages, farm countries, cities, going to this repository. the existing 99 nuclear plants, you have about six now closed down in the last year. utility executives themselves think it's totally uneconomic. two of them in texas plain shut down uneconomic. natural gas is killing nuclear power. but if you look at the existing ones, they're aging, many of them are near earthquake faults like indian point, 30 miles
north of new york city? imagine. evacuating new york city? >> it's hysterical fear mongering. >> there's not one example of an evacuation plan. >> it's hysterical. >> let's all agree there's no plan. >> that's not true. >> a future generation will use it. >> governor, that's not true. let me start by just addressing one point. 33 countries in the world -- >> hang on. we're going to go to break. and so when they built fukushima and chernobyl and three mile island, they told us there was almost no chance of a meltdown. michael, you say the nukes are safe. but when we come back, i'll ask you, what makes you so sure. [ male announcer ] this is brad. his day of coaching begins with knee pain, when... [ man ] hey, brad, want to trade the all-day relief of two aleve for six tylenol? what's the catch? there's no catch. you want me to give up my two aleve for six tylenol? no. for my knee pain, nothing beats my aleve.
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ralph nader and michael shillenberger. tonight cnn is presenting "pandora's promise." you'll hear why long.term opponents of nuclear power have changed their mind. some say the answer to our going need for energy. here's another clip from the film. >> we think that somehow we're going to be reducing our energy consumption. actually we just find more and more uses for it. if you look at all the energy that is used by an iphone, not just to make it and to power it but also to power all the servers, all of the stuff that you don't see that the iphone is connected to, it uses as much energy as a refrigerator. >> okay. but look. the u.s. is poised to be the largest producer of gas and oil in the world. we have the largest deposits of coal. we have the best wind and solar
resources. france and japan don't have any of that and their backs are against the wall so they have to go to nuke. we don't. now michael, we in the united states are blessed with all of these resources. but nukes only represent 20% of our electrical supply. if we simply conserve like ralph said, we could decrease our electrical consumption by 20% and eliminate the need for our nukes that we have right now. why don't we just conserve? in montana i challenged the state of montana to decrease by 20%. we did it in two years. why can't america do the same? >> actually what's happened is that we've become more efficient over time and we use more energy. basically every developing country, every growing country uses more energy. so to go bet the planet strategy on conservation efficiency is a fool''s errand. there's science here to figure this stuff out. we know from the study i mentioned earlier nuclear saved 1.8 million lives. we now know what's happening in
germany, in japan where they have moved away from nuclear. germany's emissions are going up. they're burning more coal. japan has gone back to burning oil and natural gas. that's causing harm and deaths right now. so when ralph kind of constructs these very scary-sounding scenarios designed to scare people, you can evaluate that against 40 years of a track record here where we know that nuclear provides the safest base load power source there is. >> let me ask you just for a second. i can't resist. in terms of scary scenarios, literally from my grandmother's house you can see three mile island. and in the film "three mile island" the second reactor there has the longest continuous run of any reactor in the world. nobody, according to the center for disdisease control, there were zero casualties from three mile island. isn't there a certain amount of comfort even when there is a disaster. same thing with fukushima where
it's a very expensive project to fix but at the moment at least it's not a disaster. it's not a chernobyl-like event. and it may have taken the soviet union to have managed something badly enough to get a chernobyl event. so isn't it a certain amount of scare mongering to take three mile island and blow it up into we'll lose half of pennsylvania? >> i don't like to play russian roulette with the american people. you just need one bad accident and you'll have a huge area of america uninhabitable. in chernobyl hundreds of miles of empty towns. fukushima is still boiling around. that's an advanced technological society. in your area of pennsylvania you've got spent fuel rods all around those plants. all over the united states these aging plants, half of whom can't meet the fire prevention standards of the nuclear regulatory commission by the way today. they have all these spent fuel plants. those are dead ringers for sabotage, for any earthquake, for a major storm.
the whole point, newt, is we don't need nuclear power. let's take a market aspect here. it's not insurable. except by the u.s. government. it's not bankable except by u.s. government loan guarantees. the wall street financiers have done microanalysis. is it not an economic proposition. they take 10 to 15 years to build if they're lucky. they always come in 100, 200% cost overruns. we haven't built one a licensed one since the 1970s, right? what does that mean in a market sense? it means it's corporate socialism, it's government guaranteed and no one has skin in the game. >> what do you say to that, michael? >> yeah. you're blaming this on the market. you yourself led these efforts in the early 70s to shut down the expansion of nuclear, to keep it at 20% rather than growing it. solar today, half to two-thirds of the cost of a solar system is subsidized by taxpayers and rate pairs. when the wind tax credit, the main subsidy for wind is threatened in congress the
entire wind industry shuts down. so you're talking out of both sides of your mouth here, ralph. it's like you can't justify the subsidies for solar and wind on the one hand and then criticize what you call subsidies for nuclear on the other. the issue is the liability. the nuclear industry if you have a plant, they pay insurance for it. in terms of the liability, jet airliners which is subsidized by the federal government since 1956. >> because the private industry will not insure them. we have to. >> limited liability on jet accidents as well. so should we not have limited liability for jet airliners? this is not about -- for you and for much of the environmental movement that came of edge in the 60s this is about a near of nuclear powe nuclear weapons. 30 countries in the world have nuclear weapons capability, nine have decided to pursue them. in the countries that already have nuclear capacity it's really misleading, ralph. in other words, 33 countries can have nuclear weapons they decide
not to get them. we can expand nuclear energy in those countries that already have it. >> michael, i applaud you. you are an outlier in the environmental community by applauding nuclear energy. so many of them are against against against and then they don't have a legitimate solution to go forward. you have a legitimate solution to go forward. you can disagree with it. but there will be some in the environmental community will wonder whether maybe you are funded by folks who are supporting nuclear energy. >> absolutely not. >> to make the record straight, you're not funded by anybody in the nuclear energy. >> i've never been funded by any energy industry, any energy company at all, haven't taken any money from solar or wind or all of those folks. so let me just say one other thing about this. last week, late last week i believe it was over the weekend, four of the world's top climate scientists including former nasa climate scientist james hansen sent an open letter to the leaders of the environmental
movement. i think you should consider yourself a recipient of that letter as well. calling on them to embrace the push for advanced nuclear. the response that they've gotten is just rejection out of hands. so what you have started to see now is you've seen bill gates, president obama, jeffrey sax, richard branson, paul allen, nathan morville, leading climate scientists saying we need nuclear energy because we can't bet the planet on solar which provides 1/10th of one% and on wind totally dependent on federal subsidies. that is a very dangerous bet. >> let's talk about dangerous. >> this is ridiculous what he's saying. warren buffett by the way says nuclear power is uneconomical. okay. go ahead. >> so when they built fukushima, and chernobyl, when they built three mile, they said it was a one in 10,000 odds that there would be a meltdown. and now we've had three
meltdowns in 35 years in three countries. would you take those odds to las vegas today? one in 10,000? >> well, so first of all, i was eight years old when three mile island happened. i don't really feel like i should be responsible for whatever claims people were making when i was a baby. there's accidents in every energy industry. it's studied really carefully by the international energy aso, world health organization, articles in lancet. ralph can speculate all he wants. the science is clear about nuclear. three serious accidents, coal when you don't have accidents when it's functioning properly kills 13,000 people a year, over 300,000 people a year. so ralph, what do you say to that? florida, what about a so ralph what do you say about that? what about all the coal deaths? >> the solution is massive potential here now for energy efficiency. job intensive all over the country studied from a to z. test number one. >> i responded to that twice.
>> the second is, solar energy is going to be the future of the world. i can cite you a million studies. even the pentagon. >> you've been saying that since the early 70s. >> hold it, guys. stay here. next we ceasefire. and after this conversation, we're going to try to find out is there anything the two of you can agree on? we also want you at home to weigh in on today's fire back question. are you afraid to live near a nuclear power plant? tweet yes or no using #crossfire. we'll have the results after the break. ore knows how to handle a saturday crowd. ♪ [ male announcer ] the parking lot helps by letting us know who's coming. the carts keep everyone on the right track. the power tools introduce themselves. all the bits and bulbs keep themselves stocked. and the doors even handle the checkout so we can work on that thing that's stuck in the thing.
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choose the doctor that's right for you. find your perfect match at kp.org and thrive. . we're back with ralph nader and michael shullenburger. let's call a ceasefire. is there anything you two can agree on? >> yeah. energy conservation, solar energy, and the need to find for present nuclear plants a deadly waste deposit for the next 250,000 years. >> i would add there's good bipartisan legislation with senator murkowski and senator feinstein in the senate to finally resolve this waste issue. i hope you will join us in supporting that, ralph. >> let me say thanks to ralph and michael. go to facebook or twitter to weigh in on our fireback question. are you afraid to live near nuclear power plant?