Tuesday, April 1,1997

Howard Benowitz, (202) 483-8491

On Earth Day, April 22, the PBS program Frontline will air a one-hour segment entitled "Nuclear Reaction." Generally, Frontline has a reputation for producing cutting-edge, thoroughly-documented investigative programming.

However, based on a review of the press release for "Nuclear Reaction," it appears that this particular Frontline production utterly fails to live up to those professional journalistic standards and values. If the final production of "Nuclear Reaction" is as unbalanced, retrogressive, inaccurate and misleading as it is currently portrayed in the news release, then Frontline will do a major disservice to its PBS viewers and damage its own integrity.

Among other outrageous, outdated claims, Frontline suggests that opposition to nuclear power in the U.S. is generated by fears while in France and Japan nuclear power is trusted by almost all and performs as promised. In fact, most Wall Street analysts have found that many of the 109 licensed U.S. reactors may be simply too costly to compete in the new era of utility deregulation and the real question, avoided by Frontline, is: who will pay for these so-called "stranded assets." "Nuclear Reaction" further claims that the breeder reactor (twice rejected by Congress) can help solve the nuclear waste problem when, in fact, it would create more waste.

"Frontline's 'Nuclear Reaction' appears to simply rehash the industry's discredited theories about why nuclear power failed in this country," said Scott Denman, Executive Director of the national energy watchdog coalition, the Safe Energy Communication Council. "If the final program is anything like its promotional literature, viewers of 'Nuclear Reaction' will be deluded and dumbed- down rather than educated and enlightened.'

Most of the national organizations listed above and other energy and media experts provided Frontline with extensive critiques of the apparent content of "Nuclear Reaction," urging that for the sake of Frontline's reputation and its viewers, the program should be revamped, providing balanced, accurate and timely information. The response to our detailed critiques and questions amounted to a cursory two-sentence non-response from Frontline. Nothing leads us to believe that the program will be substantively different from how it was portrayed in the press release. Therefore, we believe it is essential that the public know beforehand the serious problems with the inaccuracies and biases in the show.

"Ralph Nader and I were interviewed for this show. The press release confirms our belief that 'Nuclear Reaction' will be biased, elitist and obsolete," commented Bill Magavern, Director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project. "Based on the release and our interaction with them, the producers went into the project with closed minds, having already decided that Americans have an irrational fear of nuclear power and that we need to stop worrying and learn to love atomic energy. The truth is that nuclear power has failed the tests of economics, safety, waste disposal and weapons proliferation, and it deserves the death in store for it."

"Frontline's choice of author Richard Rhodes as correspondent for this program is highly questionable," said Paul Leventhal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute. "Rhodes is a longtime favorite of the nuclear industry. As keynoter at Japan's nuclear industry 1994 annual meeting, he extolled the virtues of using plutonium as reactor fuel and wrote off weapons proliferation as a political rather than technical problem. Rhodes is hardly an objective correspondent."

The organizations listed above have not had an opportunity to screen the actual program, our responses are based on Frontline's three-page press release. We strongly encourage you and your editors to consider these issues and address them with Frontline if you prepare a review of this segment. Their press release suggests that the program simply perpetuates the nuclear industry's own self-serving myths.

"Frontline's pro-nuclear arguments might have been interesting in 1977," said Michael Mariotte, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, "but they have been completely discredited in 1997. By bringing back bogus pop psychology such as the suggestion that fear of radiation is irrational (tell that to the people near Chernobyl!), to endorsing the Integral Fast Reactor that Congress rejected on economic and environmental grounds, Prontline does the nuclear industry, environmentalists and the public-at-large a tremendous disservice."

For complete texts of the responses from our organizations and other experts, and other documents referred to in this NEWS ALERT, please contact: Safe Energy Communication Council, 1717 Mass. Ave., NW, Suite 805, Washington} D.C. 20036, (202) 483-8491.

[What's New] What's New Page[Press Releases] Press Release Page[Home Page]Home Page