In my recent article, Merchants of Fear for Profit, I predicted that John LaForge would once again use the 32nd anniversary of Chernobyl to spread fear of nuclear power, even though nuclear power is BY FAR the safest, most efficient, most environment-friendly way to produce electricity. 
By using cherry-picked and often outdated information from biased sources, John avoided mentioning inconvenient facts that disprove the “information” he regularly uses to make a living. As a consequence, his biased articles continue to damage our environment every day when we continue to burn carbon to generate electricity instead of using CO2-free nuclear power. Here are the facts.

The primary purpose and design of the Russian reactor at Chernobyl, unlike civilian reactors designed to create electricity, was to produce plutonium for bombs. However, because all reactors produce immense amount of heat, that heat was used to make steam to generate electricity, which allowed the USSR to claim that Chernobyl was a civilian reactor, which it was in name only. 

As Spencer Weart wrote in The Rise of Nuclear Fear, “In short, for Soviet reactor designers, safety was less important than building ‘civilian’ reactors that could produce military plutonium if desired - and building them cheaply.”
32 years ago, during a test ordered by Moscow that involved disabling the safety systems, a portion of the core of the reactor, which had design hazards not present in Western reactors, was inadvertently exposed. 
Because the reactor had a flammable core and no containment structure, this negligence led to a steam/hydrogen explosion that released radioactive gases into the atmosphere. In contrast, no U.S. reactor contains flammables. Each has a reinforced concrete containment structure that can survive an airliner hit, and every plant is strictly regulated by our NRC. 

For three days, the Russian authorities hid the disaster and delayed evacuating the area, coming clean only when radiation readings across Europe began to rise.
Chernobyl failed due to bad design, Moscow’s interference, poor training and a system that forbade operators from sharing essential information about reactor problems. It is the only “civilian” reactor accident where radiation directly killed anyone. Initially, approximately eighteen firefighters died from intense radiation. 

According to a study by 100 scientists from eight United Nations agencies, Chernobyl produced only 50 additional deaths over the following 20 years, with most of them dying within a few months of the accident. However, that’s just a tiny fraction of the deaths caused by burning coal, oil or natural gas.

Because of the erroneous and dangerously LOW radiation standards that were adopted in the fifties (when we were clueless about the non-effects of low-level radiation and our natural DNA repair mechanisms), people like Helen Caldicott predicted millions of deaths. Caldicott and other doomsayers like her frightened thousands of European women so badly that they endured needless abortions because they thought they were carrying monster babies.   It is a fact that fear mongering about radiation has killed far more people than Chernobyl, the only “civilian” nuclear plant to cause fatalities.   

In the same column, John also used outdated data to fearmonger about Fukushima, which failed because its emergency generators were flooded by a tsunami that overwhelmed an inadequate seawall that the plant’s owners had been told to raise by the Japanese government. Unfortunately, Tepco did nothing, and the government did not force them to comply.  

Greed and the lack of effective government oversight caused the failure of Fukushima where, by the way, no one was killed or damaged by radiation, but 1200 died as a result of an overzealous evacuation caused partly by anti-nuclear zealots who profit from misrepresenting the safest way to make electricity. (U K radiation expert Malcolm Grimston characterized the Fukushima evacuation as being “stark raving mad”.) 

As the accompanying chart reveals, the safety record of nuclear power is even better than originally reported, having been revised upward in 2008 after only a few of the multitudes of predicted deaths from Chernobyl actually occurred. 
 The updated chart, which was revised by UNSCEAR, the United Nation Scientific Committee on the Effects of Radiation, now reveals that nuclear power is 30 times safer than initially thought, that wind is actually 115 times worse than nuclear, not just 4, that solar is 340 x worse, not 10, and natural gas is 3,000 times more deadly.    

 Mr. LaForge, who also cherry-picks information about Fukushima, never mentions positive UNSCEAR reports that would ease people’s fears. For example, in 2012, UNSCEAR reported that “…no clinically observable effects have been reported and there is no evidence of acute radiation injury in any of the 20,115 workers who participated in Tepco’s efforts to mitigate the accident at the plant.”

 A year later, UNSCEAR added:  “Radiation exposure following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi did not cause any immediate health effects. It is unlikely [that there will be] any health effects among the general public and the vast majority of workers.”

And in an April, 2014 follow-up, UNSCEAR reported that, “Overall, people in Fukushima are expected on average to receive less than 10 mSv due to the accident over their whole lifetime, compared with the 170 mSv lifetime dose from natural background radiation that most people in Japan typically receive.”

Eighteen months later, UNSCEAR confirmed that no new information… “materially affected the main findings in, or challenged the major assumptions of, the 2013 report.” 
 Now, more than ever, we must stop burning carbon in every way possible, and that includes the frack-gas burned by power plants that generate the 70% of solar and wind farms’ rated power that they fail to produce. 
 Instead of building more of these make-believe, carbon-reliant, “green” solutions we should be generating steam at every power plant with new, proven, ultra-safe reactors that cannot melt down and can even consume our stored waste as fuel. 
  If Mr. LaForge would like to learn the science involved, it is available to everyone FOR FREE in Unintended Consequences: the Lie That Killed Millions and Accelerated Climate Change, which can be downloaded from and  or by emailing 

  For a free presentation on nuclear power and alternative energy, call 218-744-2003 or email

 George Erickson is a member of the National Center for Science Education and the Thorium Energy Alliance.