Monday, September 12, 2016

LD Sep/Oct 2016 - Prohibition of Nuclear Power - Negative Position

Resolved: Countries ought to prohibit the production of nuclear power.

Neg Position

Like the Aff position I published previously, this post will focus on the steps I would take to create a case. Every year I am asked for values and criterion and every year I have problems suggesting any without knowing what kind of evidence and warrants the requester can support. I do not write cases for my students. I teach them to write cases and they write their own cases. But if I were to write a case, my research would occur in two stages.  First, I would do initial research to gather generic Aff and Neg cards based upon the wording of the resolution. For example, for this resolution I would find Aff and Neg cards claiming nuke plants should be shutdown and cards claiming they should be continued or increased.  This helps one to understand what kind of literature is available, and what are the scholars saying?  Then I would do an analysis of possible value/criterion frameworks. Having done the preliminary research I can now focus on perhaps one or two potentially good frameworks and so a second phase of research is undertaken to find evidence to support the framework.  Only then, would I write the case. A good resolution should have plenty of literature so the research burden is not always excruciating. Sometimes there is so much literature it is challenging to decide what to keep and what to ignore. This resolution is somewhere in between very little literature and excessive literature. Like I said previously, your coach is the best resource you have for how to write a case. LD styles vary greatly and the kinds of arguments accepted in your region may be different than my region, which is conservative and traditional.  So having said that, off we go.

Neg Analysis

Debate genres such as policy debate and Lincoln-Douglas debate often speak of an Aff World and a Neg World. The Neg world is usually just the present, or the status quo whereas the Aff world is the world which exists after the affirmative plan or resolution is enacted. In this case, the Aff world is a world where nuclear power plants are not only shutdown, they are banned.  Even newer and safer designs which may be proposed are prohibited. The Aff world as specified by the resolution does not give us any alternative. For example, there could have been a statement like, on balance, renewable energy power production should be preferred over nuclear power production. But no, the Aff world is one in which we will never again have nuclear power and what we use in its place is totally up for grabs. So to oppose the affirmative resolution, Neg can show that nuclear power is relatively safe (after all every kind of power generation facility, even conventional ones are vulnerable to some types of disasters), and they solve several problems (harms) such as providing an alternative to the problems of diminishing sources of coal, oil and gas and they reduce the emission of greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. One position for Neg would be the benefits of nuclear power outweigh the harms so the judge should negate. In addition, Neg can claim the Aff world will actually create new harms or worsen existing ones such as more rapid depletion of fossil fuels, increased emission of greenhouse gases to meet rising demands for power, and so the judge should negate.

As with the Affirmative Position posted previously, Neg can structure her case around two primary modes of persuasion. Neg could do a straight-forward cost-benefit analysis, in which the benefits and the costs (claimed harms) are compared in terms of real-world dollars, lives saved or lost, tons of carbon released in the atmosphere, etc. Many cases can be won on this kind of framework.  However, Lincoln Douglas prefers another mode of persuasion structured around the idea that affirming will harm some great value that humans desire to preserve and only in the Neg world is that value preserved.

Neg Framework

Having done a first round of research to collect cards for supporting Neg arguments, I can begin to look at possible Neg value/criterion frameworks. I know my Aff case looks to the duties of governments and I may be able to directly oppose such a framework by showing how Aff harms societal values.  As individuals, we value "safety" and a world with rapidly depleting fossile fuels will become an increasingly dangerous place as nations struggle to keep them. We value "well-being" but global warming threatens the future with crop-losses, massive migrations, and other threats. We value "quality of life" which is harmed by an insufficient source of power. Societies value "societal well-being" and "social progress", the idea that human society is advancing enabling self-actualization for its members (see Maslow's hierarchy of needs). Nations value "government legitimacy" and "security" both of which are potentially threatened if a nuclear power option is taken away and dependence on fossil fuels increases.  For the purposes of this example, I will look to the duties of government since the resolution specifies 'countries ought to...' and I want to make the point governments should provide for the value of "social well-being". Additionally, I will protect social well-being by "supporting basic human needs". I begin cutting cards to link social well-being to government duty to provide for the necessities of social well-being. (note: I chose the criterion of supporting basic human needs after finding the following evidence.)

USIP (undated):
Social well-being is an end state in which basic human needs are met and people are able to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement. This end state is characterized by equal access to and delivery of basic needs services (water, food, shelter, and health services), the provision of primary and secondary education, the return or resettlement of those displaced by violent conflict, and the restoration of social fabric and community life.

To be sure, for more advanced debaters, I think this framework or a similar one can be supported with some of the philosophy of John Rawls and his advocacy for social justice but I don't want to go there since so often I think students have difficulty understanding and conveying Rawls properly in the context of a relatively short speech. We must also be aware that Aff will be strongly attacking my example framework by claiming that terrorism or environmental contamination will harm social well-being, so I will need to cover that.

Case, Warrants & Evidence

This resolution is out of date and the Affirmative justifications for shutdown of nuclear power plants ignores the realities of the present age.  Demand for power is increasing, alternative technologies are greatly lagging and proving more costly than anticipated; we are way past "peak oil" (debaters: look it up) and global warming is accelerating.  Even leading environmental protection groups are reconsidering their positions.

Harder (2016):
The Sierra Club, the country’s oldest and largest environmental group, is debating whether to halt its longtime position in support of shuttering all existing nuclear-power plants earlier than required by their federal operating licenses. The environmental group’s leaders see existing reactors as a bridge to renewable electricity and an alternative source of energy as the group campaigns to shut down coal and natural gas plants. The Environmental Defense Fund is similarly deciding to what extent it should adjust its policy, potentially lending its support to keeping open financially struggling reactors. In Illinois, the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with the Sierra Club and EDF, are among the advocacy groups working with Exelon and state lawmakers on a legislative deal that would reverse a decision the company made in early June to close two nuclear reactors in the next two years. The agreement would promote more energy efficiency and renewable energy while ensuring the reactors remain in operation by providing financial recognition for the zero-carbon electricity they produce.

If the affirmative has their way, the world's reliance on ever-depleting fossil-fuels will accelerate leading to higher costs and less availability of electrical power needed to sustain the social needs of modern society.

Bunn & Kuznetsov (2010):
This ever-growing reliance on burning fossil fuels simply cannot be sustained – the economic, security, and environmental costs will all prove to be unacceptably high. Indeed, it may simply not be possible to meet growing projected demands for oil and gas at acceptable cost. While there is debate over when “peak oil” will occur, there is little debate that at some point in the decades to come, oil production will stop growing and eventually decline, even as energy demand continues to grow. Price spikes, supply disruptions, and political tensions over scarce supplies are likely to become increasingly common. Some countries without oil supplies are becoming increasingly dependent on imports of these scarce resources. The need to develop alternatives that can be deployed at a massive scale – especially for transportation fuels – is real and urgent.[2]

In an ideal world we would simply increase power production with alternative sources but these technologies are not meeting the need and we have no timetable as to when alternative technologies will be ready to meet the needs at an acceptable cost. In the status quo, nuclear power is already widely in place to sustain and promote social well-being.

Bunn & Kuznetsov (2010):
But as a readily expandable source of low-carbon baseload electricity – and, in the future, hydrogen and heat for other purposes – nuclear energy could be an important part of the answer. Nuclear power is so far the only proven, non-intermittent, readily expandable energy source which is already deployed on a large scale.

The dangers of global warming threaten the core of social well-being. Many governments and environmental groups have been warning of increasing hardships arising from the release of greenhouse gases and urging that steps be taken immediately to curb warming trends. We cannot afford to wait for alternative technologies to catch-up.

Martin (2016):
Today, though, the world needs nuclear energy more than ever if we are to limit climate change. According to the International Energy Agency, the world’s nuclear capacity needs to more than double by midcentury if we are to stay within 2 °C of warming.

Nuclear power must be continued to in order to support social well being despite small potential risks of environmental harms, The immediately situation with global warming outweighs all other considerations.

Harder (2016):
Over the last couple of years, as climate change has climbed to the top of the agenda of nearly all major environmental groups, influential leaders in both the climate science and policy arenas have shifted positions. Many now back this carbon-free source of energy, especially the existing fleet of approximately 100 reactors at about 60 power plants, which provide a steady source of electricity compared with the intermittence of wind and solar.

Emerging technological developments of nuclear power reactors promise to provide lower-cost and safer alternatives to conventional nuclear technology but if Aff has its way, these new technologies will never see the light of day. For example so-called Molten Salt Reactors (MSR) are less costly, much safer and produce less waste than current reactors.

Martin (2016):
Like all nuclear plants, molten-salt reactors excite atoms in a radioactive material to create a controlled chain reaction. The reaction unleashes heat that boils water, creating steam that drives a turbine to generate electricity. Solid-fuel reactors cooled with molten salt can run at higher temperatures than conventional reactors, making them more efficient, and they operate at atmospheric pressures—meaning they do not require expensive vessels of the sort that ruptured at Chernobyl. Molten-salt reactors that use liquid fuel have an even more attractive advantage: when the temperature in the core reaches a certain threshold, the liquid expands, which slows the nuclear reactions and lets the core cool. To take advantage of this property, the reactor is built like a bathtub, with a drain plug in the bottom; if the temperature in the core gets too high, the plug melts and the fuel drains into a shielded tank, typically underground, where it is stored safely as it cools. These reactors should be able to tap more of the energy available in radioactive material than conventional ones do. That means they should dramatically reduce the amount of nuclear waste that must be handled and stored.

Fissile materials are the chief component of nuclear weapons and MSRs have less need for these dangerous materials and much of the storage and handling costs and constraints of current nuclear technology are reduced or eliminated.

WNA (2016):
Compared with solid-fuelled reactors, MSR systems with circulating fuel salt are claimed to have lower fissile inventories, no radiation damage constraint on fuel burn-up, no requirement to fabricate and handle solid fuel or solid used fuel, and a homogeneous isotopic composition of fuel in the reactor. Actinides are less-readily formed from U-233 than in fuel with atomic mass greater than 235. These and other characteristics may enable MSRs to have unique capabilities and competitive economics for actinide burning and extending fuel resources. Safety is high due to passive cooling up to any size. Also, several designs have freeze plugs so that if excessive temperatures are reached, the primary salt will be drained by gravity away from the moderator into dump tanks configured to prevent criticality.


In the Aff world, production of electricity by nuclear reactors would cease at a time when the world is seeking sustainable alternatives to combat global warming and dependence on depleting fossil fuel reserves.  This would have an enormous impact on social well being.  We must remember, not every nation has the kind of infrastructure enjoyed in the developed world and nuclear power is key to advancing development for these nations.

IAEA (2006):
The per capita consumption of electricity correlates well with a country’s social well-being as measured by the UN Human Development Index (HDI), a composite index based on measures of health, longevity, education, and economic standards of living (UNDP 2005). Figure 4 plots the HDIs of 43 countries against their per capita electricity use. An HDI of 0.8 or higher corresponds to almost 3000 kW·h per capita and an HDI greater than 0.9 to more than 6000 kW·h per capita. However, Fig. 4 shows only national averages, which hide the reality that an estimated one quarter of the world’s population today — 1.6 billion people — have no access to electricity (IEA 2004). Ensuring such access — ‘connecting the unconnected’ — has been highlighted by the CSD as an essential task for advancing sustainable development.[6]

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Bunn, M; Kuznetsov, VP (Project Directors); (2010), Promoting Safe, Secure and Peaceful Growth of Nuclear Energy: Next steps for Russia and the United States, Harvard Belfer Center, Project On Managing the Atom and Russian Research Center "Kurchatov Institute", Oct 2010. Accessed 9/5/2016 at:

Harder, A; (2016), Environmental Groups Change Tune on Nuclear Power, The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2016. Accessed 9/5/2016 at:

IAEA (2006), Nuclear Power and Sustainable Development, International Atomic Energy Agency, 2006. accessed 9/6/2016 at:

Martin, R; (2016), Fail-Safe Nuclear Power, MIT Technology Review, August 2, 2016. Accessed 9/5/2016 at:

USIP (undated), Social Well Being, United States Institute of Peace, accessed 9/6/2016 at:

WNA (2016), Molten Salt Reactors, World Nuclear Association, Updated 8 Sep 2016. Accessed 9/5/2016 at:

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