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Wednesday
Jun012011

Does NPR stand for Nuclear Powered Radio?

In its coverage yesterday of the German government's major decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022, National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Eric Westervelt made a couple very questionable statements skeptical of the fourth largest economy in the world's replacement of its atomic electricity with renewables and efficiency. It marks but the latest in a long series of questionable reports post-Fukushima. Westervelt stated that fossil fuels are "more polluting" than nuclear power, which seems to consider only greenhouse gas emissions, but disregards not only the potential for catastrophic accidents like Fukushima and Chernobyl, as well as the "routine" releases of radioactivity (and toxic chemicals) from atomic reactors and almost every step of the uranium fuel chain, from mining through final radioactive waste "disposal." Even more indefensibly, he asserted that Germany's decision is anomalous, that "the rest of Europe" is sticking with nuclear power. Of course, that ignores Austria's and Italy's decisions post-Chernobyl to phase out their own nuclear power programs, and to urge other neighboring countries to do the same. It ignores Ireland's campaign nearly a decade ago to send millions of postcards to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the head of the Sellafield reprocessing facility to stop poisoning the Irish Sea with radioactivity. It also ignores Switzerland's steps just last week to disavow new reactors. Compare NPR's skeptical coverage of Germany's nuclear power phase out with the much more in depth coverage by Canadian broadcaster CTV (watch all four news clips), which examines with great interest the efficiency and renewable options not only in Germany, but also North America. Much of NPR's coverage of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe -- as by downplaying the severity of the disaster in the first days, and continuing to downplay the radioactivity risks to human health and the environment -- has raised many an alarm bell in the safe energy movement. When you hear slanted, pro-nuclear coverage on NPR, please consider contacting it, or your local NPR affiliate, to complain, and call for "fair and balanced" coverage as well as "fairness and accuracy in reporting," to borrow phrases (Beyond Nuclear's board member Karl Grossman, an investigative journalist, also serves on FAIR's board). However, a story by Louisa Lim on NPR's Morning Edition today asked many probing questions about the hazards of Fukushima's fallout for schoolchildren, a welcome change from much of NPR's coverage thus far. The story ironically pointed out the skepticism of one Fukushima mother, who has questioned not only the government's false assurances, but even the veracity of the Japanese media's coverage -- as the nuclear industry pays for a lot of advertizing on television and in the newspapers. The same, of course, can be said of NPR itself -- not only the Nuclear Energy Institute, but individual nuclear power utilities, have long been "underwriters" for NPR and its affiliates across the U.S.