10

I was recently told by a right-wing Japanese person that in Japan, right-wingers are more likely to support nuclear energy than left-wingers.

It's previously appeared to me that in the USA and Australia, support for nuclear energy is stronger in right-wingers than in left-wingers.

However, I don't know if this correlation is true elsewhere in the world, and if so, what is behind the correlation.

Is support for nuclear energy correlated with views on nuclear weapons? (Related question: Is it common for anti-war groups to oppose nuclear power? ) If so, why did Germany have nuclear power?

Is support for nuclear energy correlated to antipathy against environmentalism? Conversely, are there any countries where people who see themselves as supporters of environmentalism are more likely to support nuclear energy than fossil fuels?

Is support for nuclear energy correlated with support of "unnatural" technology, such as vaccination or genetically modified food?

1
  • I wonder if it is to do climate change denial. A lot of conservatives seem to object to alternatives to nuclear on the grounds that they are proposed as a solution for a problem they think isn't real.
    – user
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 16:29

4 Answers 4

7

The nuclear energy question is complicated by other considerations. The only nuclear power plant being built in the US (Vogtle in Georgia) is costing $7 per watt, and eventually perhaps more. Wind turbines cost around $2 per watt, solar including installation around $2 per watt, some combined cycle natural gas plants around $1 per watt. Fiscal conservatives aren't much into an energy source that costs more than any of the other options.

Nationalists tend to view nuclear as a source of 'independence'. Therefore, regardless of cost, nuclear is worthwhile if it avoids energy imports from 'enemies', 'competitors', 'fair weather friends', etc. Countries that have long supply lines (oil and gas for Japan make a good example) would rather have some energy sources that aren't subject to hijacking and exposure to international conflicts.

Iran, with huge amounts of oil, seems to 'need' nuclear plants for energy, and just incidentally spends a lot of money building missiles and supporting political movements that are hostile to Western interests. Brazil has been developing civilian nuclear plants for some time, follows international inspection protocols, and has shown no overt interest in weapons. At the time Brazil began investing in nuclear, they were unaware of their petroleum resources, so this looked like economically rational investment. Iran's general posture is provocative, Brazil in comparison tends to minimize conflict and work with it's neighbors to reach consensus.

At one time nuclear was a sign of national prestige. Few people view it that way any more, most would rather not have nukes in their backyard. Germany as well as most of the rest of Europe was on the edge of the fallout from Chernobyl, this soured interest in something that was already unpopular. Many right wingers would rather not have any nukes anywhere - whether for power or weapons. This view could originate from nuclear blackmail or terrorism in it's various guises.

Therefore the people that tend to support nuclear are making a living at it - either as engineering firms, researchers, defense contractors, or mines. This is not a lot of people. Therefore the constituencies favoring nuclear are thinning out over time.

7
  • 3
    What about environmental considerations? Some people in the U.S. support nuclear because they consider it more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels. (Of course, plenty of people believe the opposite...)
    – Taymon
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 18:52
  • 1
    English is not my first language, so I may be missing something: is the phrase “would rather not have any nukes anywhere - whether for power or weapons” meaningful? I assumed – and dictionaries appear to confirm – that “nuke” means “nuclear weapon”.
    – DaG
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 21:02
  • 4
    I suspect that $ / Watt is a bit of a mis-simplification... how many years will the plant last? What are the annual ongoing costs? Are all of the watts available 24/7? Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 18:14
  • 2
    The industry has provided a better metric: Levelized Cost Of Energy, which is measured in dollars per Watt-hour (or Megawatt-hour) rather than dollars per Watt. Dollars per Watt is how big of an engine you can buy, not how far you can drive. Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 18:20
  • @DaG: The word "Nuke" does usually refer to the nuclear weaponry that can be launched, but the main reason I think it's referred to as not wanting "Nukes" in their backyard is that nuclear power plants could be weaponized, and when they fail, effectively have become that. (See Chernobyl for example, but also Fukishima,for another). They're rarely used as such intentionally, but they could create a blast that's reminiscent of a "Nuclear explosion from a nuclear weapon", especially in public consciousness. Commented Feb 25 at 22:32
2

Is support for nuclear energy correlated with views on nuclear weapons?

Yes. The anti-nuclear-energy movement comes from a subset (or "breakaway group", if you like) of the anti-nuclear-weapons movement.

Page 209 of the book Mobilizing for Peace states that "The merged files of Eurobarometers 17, 21, and 25 produce four hundred people who claim to be members of the peace movement. Of those, 29 percent had taken part in the movement against nuclear energy, compared to only 0.2 percent of the rest of the population." Note that the Preface states 'I will…refer to "the peace movement," since that is what the movement calls itself and because it is less cumbersome than "anti-nuclear weapons movement."'. Also, "Eurobarometer 17 [is] a survey of the member nations of the European Communities carried out during the peak of peace movement activity in April 1982" (page xvi) while Eurobarometers 21 and 25 were from 1984 and 1986.

It struck me that the world's arguably most outspoken campaigner against nuclear power, 85-year-old Helen Caldicott, was probably concerned originally with nuclear war, saying:

When I was about 16, I read a book called "On the Beach" by Nevil Shute.

["I remember it well," adds Bob Herbert, who also opposes nuclear energy.]

I lived in Melbourne, which is where the book was set. So there's a nuclear war in the northern hemisphere, which could occur tonight, and we all survived because Australia is so far south, but no one else did. And gradually the radiation came down. The government dispensed cyanide capsules―to kill the babies so they'd die suddenly, not with lingering effects of vomiting and bloody diarrhea. And then eventually everyone died. The beautiful streets of Melbourne were still. There was Saint George slaying the dragon outside the public library. And a blind was gently flapping in the breeze.

That was the end of life on Earth. I lost my virginity then. I never trusted anyone again.

I notice "On the beach" was published in 1957 when Helen was 19, not 16 years old. And that phrase "I never trusted anyone again"―well, somehow she transitioned from antinuclear bombs to antinuclear energy, so I figure someone she trusted must have said something to encourage that transition. Anyway, nuclear power did in part grow out of the weapons industry, and some old nuclear power stations were also designed to aid plutonium-239 production (although it's easier to make weapons-grade plutonium with reactors built for that purpose). I suppose that these factors permanently tarnished the reputation of the entire nuclear energy industry in the eyes of antinuclear campaigners.

Is support for nuclear energy correlated to antipathy against environmentalism?

I couldn't find info on that, but I would draw a distinction between a "environmentalism" and a "desire for a clean environment". In my mind, "envionmentalism" is associated with degrowth and policy proposals like "ban plastic straws and bags", "ban glyphosate" and "ban nuclear power before fossil fuels" (main example: Green Germany, where nuclear power was shut down while coal was not, even after Russia shut off about 36% of Germany's natural gas supply ― keeping in mind that natural gas is cleaner than coal, and nuclear is much cleaner than both in terms of deadliness and greenhouse gas emissions).

Due to this, an antipathy toward "environmentalism" wouldn't be that surprising, especially among conservatives, but I would be surprised if support for nuclear energy correlated with a lack of interest in a clean environment.

Is support for nuclear energy correlated with support of "unnatural" technology, such as vaccination or GM food?

That's a funny way of putting it, but I think so. People in communities I frequent (LW, EA, ACX, SB, ROP) tend to be pro-vaccination, pro-GMO, pro-nuclear, and in favor of other "unnatural" technologies like radios, computers, satellites, open-heart surgery and even gene therapy. Data-centric EAs, for instance, typically think that the modern world is awful, but much better than it was, and certainly improvable without degrowth.

3
  • 1
    The anti nuclear movement is more about the risks of nuclear accidents then weapons.
    – Joe W
    Commented Feb 25 at 19:54
  • @JoeW the term "anti-nuclear" can mean "anti-nuclear-weapons" or "anti-nuclear-power". If by "anti-nuclear" you mean "anti-nuclear-power" then this is a plausible statement, but opinions of individual activists vary. Regardless, the history is what it is.
    – Qwertie
    Commented Feb 26 at 17:27
  • The question is asking about nuclear power which not the same as anti nuclear weapon there are plenty of people who have different opinions on both subjects.
    – Joe W
    Commented Feb 26 at 17:50
0

There is correlation between opposition to nuclear power and ideology

Left-wing parties in general are opposed to nuclear power.

Nuclear power has several very distinct attributes:

Left-wing ideologies — especially greens, and reds that adhere to historical materialism — frown heavily upon on this. In the ideal green/left-wing red world, you are entirely self-sufficient and control your own means of production for utility and sustenance. Nuclear power — in its present form — flies in the face of this. Nuclear power requires extremely large and long-term investments. This requires large investors, not only utility companies but often conglomerates or industry groups, or backing on a national level. And once the plant is built, you as the consumer have no say about its operation. All you can do is use the power and pay your bill.

If you do not mind being the client of a power company, if you trust them to do their thing and not mess with the people dependent on their services... then nuclear power is quite all right. But if you are of the ideological persuasion that you should be in control over the production-means that sustain you, then nuclear power is not a good thing.

In short: if you are opposed to Big Corporate, you are generally also opposed to nuclear power, because nuclear power is Big Corporate personified

Finally, you ask...

Is support for nuclear energy correlated with support of "unnatural" technology, such as vaccination or genetically modified food?

Sort of...

Again it is a matter of your position towards big corporations. As I stated above, greens and left-wing reds are no fan of big corporations, because big corporations make you as the average citizen dependent on them and their whims.. and the greens/left-wings do not like that at all.

Now let us look at what you asked about:

  • Vaccination. this concerns your health and physical well-being
  • Genetic modification: concerns your food

Let us exemplify this by bringing out the most infamous of the bunch in the latter debate: Monsanto. Pragmatically speaking, Monsanto's GM products are safe and beneficial. Face it, they have been around for decades and if there had been any issues with them, we would have known by now. The upsides of their products blow the claimed (and unproven) downsides completely out of the water.

But Monsanto are right douches to work with. Because they require control over what you do with their products, even after you buy them! This is a pain in the rear end to be frank, and this is a genuine grievance against them.

But with Monsanto, and vaccinations, and nuclear power, you cannot get public support for your position and your struggle against big corporations with ideological arguments. You cannot say "Well their product is just fine... it is safe and efficient and fulfils my needs... but my ideology says I must hate them for being control-freaks about it". The reply to that is "Yeah yeah, whatever... you commie".

...and that is when the doomsday arguments are brought forth, because only with those arguments do you stand any chance to appeal to people that are not ideologically bothered by big corporations.

2
  • 7
    "In the ideal green/left-wing red world, you are entirely self-sufficient and control your own means of production for utility and sustenance." Whaaaaaat? This is the opposite of the conventional left-right divide in Europe and the United States. The left-wing wants more government spending, and generally opposes privatization of utilities and other essential services. The notion of total self-sufficiency is associated primarily with right-wing survivalist groups, and the notion of general self-sufficiency is still pretty right wing.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 3:04
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – MichaelK
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 8:24
-1

I was recently told by a right-wing Japanese person that in Japan, right-wingers are more likely to support nuclear energy than left-wingers.

It's surprising to read this.

I suspect what is really going on is that opponents of nuclear power tend, as a result of taking that oppositional position, to be described as a specific form of left-winger, rather than left-wingers being generally opposed to nuclear power.

For example, a variety of environmentalist positions oppose nuclear power because of the pollution and spoiling it causes and the special risk of accidents. Those with anti-modernity or anti-state mentalities also oppose nuclear because of the sheer scale and complexity of the technology, and because of the practical need for the state to operate and oversee it.

However, it would be wrong to characterise left-wing politics in general as being against pollution and spoiling, or against modernity and statism, or that (by implication) right-wing politics is tolerant of nuclear accidents or that it embraces wanton pollution.

I would say the vast majority of people, left or right, have no hardline position on energy policy or the mode of electricity production.

Rather, the polar positions are represented on the one hand by special interest groups who stand to make large profits specifically from nuclear power and don't care about the scale of environmental ruin they cause in the process (and to this extent, they represent a face of capitalism that is unacceptable even to the majority of capitalists), and on the other hand by environmentalist lobbies who are themselves usually quite politically undesirable and unpopular with the masses (and who other left-wingers are likely to shun or even violently oppose).

2
  • I hate to see people downvoted, but this isn't an answer to the question(s).
    – Qwertie
    Commented Feb 26 at 17:50
  • @Qwertie, well the OP asked "what explains the correlation", and my answer explains that potentially environmentalists are being labelled as left-wingers because they opposed a broad pro-nuclear consensus that existed in the near past, and not because they necessarily have politics associated with others who might also be labelled as left-wingers. I'm not sure why you think that "isn't an answer".
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 26 at 18:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .