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Hemp Victory!

Director of Vote Hemp, Eric Steenstra, recounts how the finally won the battle to legalize industrial hemp farming. And former NRC commissioner, Peter Bradford, rebuts recent op-eds that promote nuclear power.

Eric Steenstra cofounded Vote Hemp of which he remains President.  Under his leadership, Vote Hemp has become the nation’s foremost hemp lobbying organization, working towards full re-commercialization of industrial hemp.

“One of the things that the 2018 Farm Bill did was move hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and now put it in the hands of the USDA. So, now the USDA treats us as an agricultural commodity.” Eric Steenstra executive director of Vote Hemp


Peter Bradford is a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the former chair of the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions. He has taught at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and is currently an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, where he teaches Nuclear Power and Public Policy. He is vice chair of the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists and is the author of Fragile Structures: A Story of Oil Refineries, National Securities and the Coast of Maine. His latest article is Utah May Be Doomed To Repeat Nuclear History.

“Far from saving the world, the US has not avoided a single molecule of carbon emissions with new nuclear power plants in the 21st Century. However, we’ve spent a great many billions of dollars that would have avoided a lot of carbon and created a lot of jobs, if it had been spent on energy efficiency or on renewable energy.” Peter Bradford, former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner


  1. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    You’ve had like three different nuclear experts on in the last several months now and still not once has the topic of molten salt reactors been broached. It’s a VERY different way of generating nuclear power than past commercial reactors that has a lot of merits over them. Seriously, why ignore it? There’s plenty of legitimate criticism to be levied at it too. One of which is that there may simply not be enough accessible thorium and uranium in the Earth’s crust to fully replace fossil fuel infrastructure for more than a few decades. All you do when you ignore the hot topic is you fuel the perception that you don’t discuss it because you can’t argue against it. Come on, Ralph!

  2. Andy Schmidt says:

    Great, another pessimistic and backwards-looking conversation about nuclear power. That NYT article is well-reasoned, despite the grandiose title.

    The International Energy Agency has a very sobering recent article that counters almost everything heard on this podcast episode:

    “Steep decline in nuclear power would threaten energy security and climate goals.”

    It also contests the claim that nuclear hasn’t displaced CO2 emissions:

    Not one word of discussion during the show about S.512, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, passed into law on 1/14/2019. (That’s right…something good coming out of this Congress. Amazing.) It points the way toward a future where advanced nuclear plays a major role in combating climate change.

    If advanced nuclear isn’t part of the Green New Deal, then we’re just not being serious about combating climate change.

    How about some criticism of the wind industry for once? It can’t survive without massive government subsidies. And what do we get for it? Local communities keep rejecting it because it blights the landscape, makes constant noise that causes health problems for local residents, and lowers property values. It also causes thousands of bird and bat kills every year. But most importantly, it won’t ever provide electricity at the scale needed to meet global demand, like natural gas and nuclear.

    • Skro35 says:

      From the podcast:

      Ralph Nader: Well, the argument also in this column is that we got new nuclear plants coming online. They’re standardized, they’re smaller, they’re more efficient. I’ve been hearing this for 30 years. Is there anything new coming compared to what is already on the ground in terms of nuclear reactor designs?

      Peter Bradford: Well, technology they are, to some extent, new. Well, I mean the idea of building small reactors of course isn’t new. It’s where the industry began. And for many years, their argument was always we have to get bigger, we have to get bigger so we can spread the high costs over more kilowatt hours. Now they’ve reversed themselves because the big plants just haven’t met expectations and they’ve gone back to arguing for smaller ones, granted the smaller ones have some design improvements to them. But what’s missing is any proof that the smaller ones will in fact be less expensive or operate more efficiently than the big ones.

      All we’re dealing with right now are vendor cost estimates, that is the promise is made by the people who are desperate to build the reactors to convince the Congress and others to subsidize them. And vendor cost estimates have a terrible history in the nuclear industry. They are never met and they’re usually under statements by a factor of two, three, even four times what the plants would actually cost in the end.

    • I guess the question is, with the current system we have that has led to such blatant corruption in the nuclear industry, how can we ever expect to have the ideal conditions for a new way of generating nuclear power like they may have in other countries? We’d have to solve the problem of money and influence on government before we could expect to see any difference in the outcomes, even if all the hype nuclear advocates shower us with ends up being true. At least with solar, if there is corruption caused by money influence in government, it’s less likely to lead to wiping out a huge swath of the planet and all the creatures that live there. I’ve seen so much misleading pro-nuclear propaganda around the climate change issue, even coupled with blatant lies about renewable energy to justify more investment in nuclear, I have trouble trusting anything advocates say.

  3. Larry Hanson says:

    As a listener to the Ralph Nader hour, I would like to respond to the comment by Andy Schmidt. The points made by Bradford and Nader include the long time frame and high cost for development, the high rates to consumers, more severe accidental consequences, and the problem with long term radioactivity for spent materials. If the NYT piece had reasoned arguments on any of these significant issues, Mr. Schmidt did not say. As for citing articles from the International Energy Agency, they have a clear bias toward development of nuclear. They were originally formed to deal disruptions in oil supply. This is a typical case of follow the big money to get to the truth behind the profiteering bias.

  4. Andy Schmidt says:

    Just for the record, I’ve been a long-time listener of the show. And I voted for Ralph twice. So I’m a confirmed supporter. I just find it frustrating that on the energy issue, there doesn’t seem to be any room for a serious discussion about the benefits of nuclear power. It’s all about how awful it is! The show has a clear bias against nuclear as an energy source and as a potential solution to the climate problem. More broadly, it seems that many progressives are willing to embrace something like the Green New Deal without being specific about which energy sources to invest in and why. Nuclear is green. It’s energy-dense and it puts out zero CO2 emissions.

    If the episode was meant to point out that U.S. nuclear is too expensive to build and takes too long to come online, then point taken. That discussion has its merits. But after that point is made, what are we left with? Do we just say “no nukes” and declare wind power to be our savior? Do we say “Chernobyl” to scare everyone out of the room and end the conversation? Or do we look at the positive developments that are going on? We’re talking about the future of the planet here. We’re also talking about advanced nuclear designs that are inherently safer than the legacy designs, and streamlining the entire process. Bring on a guest like Leslie Dewan, or some folks from the Nuclear Energy Institute. (Any group that can unite Bill Gates and Rick Perry must have something going for it. That’s as unlikely a partnership as I can imagine.)

    The reasoned arguments speak for themselves:

    If the IEA is biased, then just switch around the acronym. Maybe we can trust the EIA. Energy generation stats at the link, but plenty of other reports on the site.

    So again, I’d love to tune in to an episode that would bring us some good news about nuclear power.

    • Skro35 says:

      Andy, first of all, thank you for being a longtime listener and I understand your frustration, because we are all concerned about the climate crisis. But Ralph (who has been studying this since 1972) and our various experts have stated all along that conservation alone can make up what nuclear power does for us now. The nuclear industry has had 70 years to prove itself. It has had hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer loan guarantees to take over the world. as the primary energy supplier.The only thing that it has proved is that it is too expensive, too dangerous, (both in terms of accidents and as potential security threats), takes too long to come online, is not carbon neutral in terms of uranium mining and the energy it takes to build and maintain, and no one knows what to do with the waste that lasts for 250,000 years. I too would love to believe that high tech will save us as I’m sure Bill Gates does.

      But humans are fallible. With this technology, we need to be infallible.

      • Andy Schmidt says:

        I think there are two different discussions here. One is about the potential for nuclear to provide electricity to large numbers of people reliably, safely, cleanly, and quickly. The other is about the historical reality of its deployment here in the U.S., which has been sorely lacking for reasons that Mr. Bradford and other guests have talked about. It seems like based on the U.S. track record, many progressives have decided that there’s no reason to support it anymore. I see that as very defeatist and irresponsible. Pursuing that path will make climate change far worse. We’re supposed to have a “can-do” attitude here. Sweden and Ontario have almost eliminated fossil fuels by embracing nuclear power (some of the success stories from A Bright Future by Goldstein and Qvist). They don’t seem to be paralyzed with fear and worry about the safety or the waste. They’ve found a way forward, despite the challenges. Other countries have, too. All I would ask it that at some point you bring on a guest who makes a stronger case for the “pro” side—maybe someone involved in the advanced nuclear industry, a supporter of the S.512 legislation, or someone who has more of an international perspective and is aware of the latest breakthroughs in reactor types and their deployment. I think everyone would benefit from that. Thanks.

  5. James Clarke says:

    Is there any discernible difference, in terms of the potential impact in dealing with the climate crisis, between the nuclear fission examples being presented over the last several months and nuclear fusion? I’m worried that emboldening an argument in opposition of “nuclear energy” may jeopardize the latter if it were to prove a viable path in the coming years.

  6. Charolette says:

    I will right away take hold of your rss feed as I can’t to find
    your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service.

    Do you have any? Kindly let me realize so that I may just subscribe.

  7. Andy Schmidt says:

    It’s very educational to listen to some of the recent Senate hearings on energy:

    It’s easy to browse through the list and find ones about nuclear (and many other topics).

    This one is about NELA (Nuclear Energy Leadership Act):

    This one is about the waste storage issue: