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Industry News

Environmentalists' Icon Says Nuclear Generation Essential

LCG, Sept. 26, 2000--James Lovelock, whose invention 40 years ago of the electron capture detector, led to Rachel Carson's best-selling "silent Spring" and ultimately to the modern environmental movement, hopes "that it is not too late for the world tomake nuclear power its principal source of energy."

A review of Lovelock's autobiography carried yesterday by the Environmental News Service notes that the electron capture detector was responsible more recently for the discovery of the global distribution of nitrous oxide and of chlorofluorocarbons, which the reviewer called significant ozone depleters.

Lovelock's work led to the scientific and environmental debate associated with so-called greenhouse gases and global warming, caused by burning fossil fuels. Now, in his autobiography, he argues that nuclear power is the only "safe, economic and practical" alternative.

Most anti-nuke arguments begin with the military use by the United States of atomic bombs to force Japanese capitulation in World War II, a use that has been estimated to have saved a million or more lives by making invasion of the Japanese home islands unnecessary.

Lovelock notes that it is hard to forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but says that fear of nuclear power is not justified. "Nuclear power plants are not bombs. What at first was a proper concern for safety has become a near pathological anxiety, and much of the blame for this goes to the news media, the television and film industries, and fiction writers," he wrote.

Nuclear power represents a "negligible danger," according to Lovelock, who says "There is at present no other safe, practical and economic substitute for the dangerous practice of burning carbon fuels."

Oxford University Press will publish Lovelock's autobiography, "Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist," on Thursday. It is his fourth book evoking the Greek goddess Gaia (or, more often, Gaea) who was the personification of the earth. Her Roman counterpart was Terra.

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