Sunday, September 11, 2016

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

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

Affirmative Position

This advocacy of the Aff position will be supported by several obvious evidence cards focusing mainly on the potential harms arising from the use of nuclear power. Granted, there may be better contentions which can be made for those who research more deeply but I thought it may be worthwhile to look more closely at the value/criterion framework since this is our first resolution of the new season. My approach for this "first" LD topic of the season is to examine an approach to building a case which may be of some value to novices and other Lincoln Douglas debaters who struggle with creating LD cases.  Granted, this may not be best approach.  Your coach can be a much better source of help. This is simply one of many approaches.

Affirmative Analysis

The resolution requires Affirmative to support the idea that unspecified governments, and we can assume ALL governments which have authority over countries, ought to outlaw production of nuclear power.  Specifically, we interpret nuclear power to be electric energy generated by means of human-controlled nuclear reactions. In short, the many styles and designs of nuclear power plants in operation or planned to be put into operation should be shutdown or converted to other use.  Of course clever and tricky word-play can be adopted since the resolution is not very specific.  For example, one may choose to argue against nuclear weapons as a form of nuclear power but we can assume the framers of the resolution would have chosen different language if that were the intent. For sure, by interpreting this resolution as we are, I believe we would be topical by any reasonable definition of terms and believe most Lincoln Douglas judges will agree. Certainly, in the status quo, nuclear power stations are in operation in many places around the world. Therefore, the resolution in order to justify change, forces Affirmative to prove there is sufficient reason or need to shut them down.  Now granted, anyone who who would actually make such a proposal would already know there are problems or harms arising from the production of nuclear power. After all, that is why you would call for a resolution to prohibit nuclear power.  But the nature of competitive high-school debate is such that we generally are forced to research and discover why some person, or group is advocating change to the status quo. Okay, no problem. We are not given the opportunity to interview the framers so we jump to the conclusion we must discover harms and use them as justification for change. But consider the fact the nuclear power plants are currently in operation and so there must be a corresponding benefit to continuing to operate them. Otherwise, why have governments not shut them down already?  Therefore we can assume Neg will say the benefits of nuclear power justify opposition to the resolution.  In order to effectively argue Aff we need to anticipate the kinds of arguments Neg will be making against us.  So keep that in mind as you research. How can I answer, Neg's rebuttals?

Basically it will come down to a clash of justifications.  You will claim the harms are sufficient justification to affirm and your opponents will say either the benefits outweigh the harms, or they will say affirming creates other very serious harms with outweigh the Aff justifications, hence, they must negate. The beauty of Lincoln Douglas debate rests in the fact one can take two principle paths to affirmation. The first and most obvious is a sort of pragmatic cost-benefit analysis.  Under this approach you will simply enumerate the various harms and in a very straight forward way make a case these harms are serious enough, despite Neg claims of benefits, to prohibit nuke power.  These "costs" will be presented in terms of a real-world measurable such as potential material costs in dollars and cents, numbers of deaths, rates of environmental decay, percentages of risks as determined by expert analysis. These will be contrasted by the corresponding claims by Neg of material savings in dollars and cents, or deaths avoided or reduction of risks as determined by expert analysis.  This kind of head-to-head approach to debating is natural and common in other forms of debate and often used in LD.  But Lincoln Douglas debate allows another, much preferred way to debate by showing that affirming has the benefit of preserving or preventing harms to one of the great principles of life which all humans hold dear. In other words, only by affirming do we preserve a fundamental human value.  Wrap your head around this as you begin your research. Look for the preservation of great human values as you research because it is often much easier to base your research on value-oriented contentions than it is to simply find pertinent facts and then later try to force those facts to fit into a particular value framework.

Affirmative Values

At this point we have done some preliminary research to better understand the stakes and to understand the pragmatic arguments for and against the production of nuclear power. We have copied sources and cut evidence. Let's start to hash out some value structures.  Note the resolution specifies the primary "actor" (the one who must do something) as counties.  We have already said in our analysis we interpret this to mean governments which have authority over nation-states. This should immediately get you thinking about the purpose of national governments and their duties to their citizens. In my article on Values in Lincoln Douglas debate I list some typical values for governments, including government legitimacy, security, autonomy, etc. We think about the duty of government to preserve itself and its citizens.  Think about how, in relation to this resolution, does a government uphold or lose its legitimacy? How does it uphold autonomy, or security (self-preservation)?  Consider what it means to say a government has a duty to preserve its citizens. What do the individuals value? Again, look at the values article as we find ideas like, life, quality of life, safety, well-being, and health. So I would think, if a government fails to preserve the values of its citizens is the government illegitimate?

The Value Framework

Looking at the evidence and considering the possible values which may apply it is now possible to begin structure a framework. By framework, I mean a structure by which the Affirmative can defend a value in a traditional structured way.  The framework should consist of a specific value which needs protected or upheld, a means to protect the value (the criterion) and a series of contentions which support the fact the value is truly at jeopardy, and only by affirming can the value be preserved. For example, we can select the value of "national security" which we preserve through "reducing the risk of terrorist attacks" and then focus on contentions which show how nuclear powers can be attacked by terrorists or nuclear materials may be stolen and/or converted to weapons of mass destruction.  We could choose a value "life" or "quality of life" upheld by "reducing environmental contamination" and then focus on evidence showing the risks of dangerous leaks, or catastrophes releasing nuclear materials into the environment.  Because the link between the value, the criterion, and the evidence needs to be strong, it is difficult for me to answer when someone asks, what value/criterion should I use?  I personally think it is a good approach to brainstorm possible values and a group of criterion and then look for evidence to support your choices. Another possible choice is the value of "societal well-being" upheld by "protection from existential harms".  This framework will allow you to present a collection of harms such as threats of terrorism or environmental contamination. For this example, I will choose a value of upholding "government legitimacy" through "preserving societal safety". since it is obvious how nuclear power potentially threatens the safety of citizens, all that is needed is the link between government legitimacy and safety and this is how we prove our criterion preserves government legitimacy.  For that, we can look to the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. [Declaration of Independence, par. 2]

Thus we see that any government which fails to preserve citizens' safety and happiness it is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government and organize it in a way which is "most likely to effect their safety and happiness". Thus the preservation of safety is vital to maintaining government legitimacy.

The Case, Warrants & Evidence

To begin let us acknowledge nuclear power has a few characteristics which make it appear to a be a good alternative to conventional, fossil-fuel based power generation systems. Fossil fuels are non-renewable and are known contributors to the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions leading to global warming. However, when we look more deeply we discover the apparent benefits have serious hidden costs.

Cochran, et al (2005):
Commercial nuclear reactors do not emit any significant global warming pollution, and during normal operations, their limited radioactive emissions cause far fewer health problems than pollution from coal-fired power plants. Nonetheless, nuclear power has unique problems, including weapons proliferation, reactor safety, mining impacts, and waste disposal. These problems pose global risks of their own.[9]

Empirical evidence proves, that nuclear reactors are vulnerable to accidents and natural disasters, the consequences of which are devastating.

Mraz & Wallner (2014):
The consequences of a major accident are huge. The accident in Chernobyl led to high levels of contamination across large areas in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. A large part of the radioactive materials released by the accident also contaminated other European countries. A variety of health effects are discernible in exposed populations, not only thyroid cancer and leukemia but also a wide range of other cancers, heart diseases, cataracts, diseases of the endocrine system and the digestive system, genetic and teratogenic effects, etc. All in all several million people were, and still are, affected by the catastrophe. They have been evacuated and relocated, lost their homes, communities and places of work, become sick and have had to live on contaminated soil. The 2011 accident in Fukushima had similar consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. [4 -5]

The Chernobyl and Fuskushima disasters illustrate the vulnerability of nuclear power plants to failures of safety systems and natural disasters. These so-called accidents resulted in a high number of deaths and massive contamination of lands requiring the forced relocation of thousands of people.  It is impossible for governments to assure that any proposed nuclear power design is safe from such catastrophes.

Another huge concern arises from the possibility that nuclear power plants themselves could be used as weapons of mass-destruction.  While it is unlikely the plant could explode like a nuclear weapon, terrorists could attack and damage a nuclear plant in such a way to create a large-scale, man-made environmental disaster on.

Cochran, et al (2005):
Other safety issues have emerged since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. For example, a recent National Academy of Sciences study warned that if terrorists mounted a successful attack on the spent nuclear fuel pool at some nuclear power reactors, they could drain the water out of the pool, which in turn could result in a zirconium fire—the spent fuel’s zirconium cladding would overheat and ignite—resulting in the potential release of a significant amount of radioactivity. Some reactors are more vulnerable than others, and therefore the risk is dependent on a number of factors, including the type of reactor and its location, the location and design of the spent fuel pool, and the level of physical security at the reactor.[13]

This threat has recently been proven to be more than mere speculation from alarmists. Engineers are aware of the vulnerabilities and so are terrorists, as realized by recent evidence discovered in Belgium.

Grossman (2016):
Pre-deployed weapons of mass destruction. That’s what nuclear power plants are. And that’s another very big reason—demonstrated again in recent days with the disclosure that two of the Brussels terrorists were planning attacks on Belgian nuclear plants—why they must be eliminated. Nuclear power plants are sitting ducks for terrorists. With most positioned along bays and rivers because of their need for massive amounts of coolant water, they provide a clear shot. They are fully exposed for aerial strikes. The consequences of such an attack could far outweigh the impacts of 9/11 and, according to the U.S. 9/11 Commission, also originally considered in that attack was the use of hijacked planes to attack “unidentified nuclear power plants.”  The Indian Point nuclear plants 26 miles north of New York City were believed to be candidates. As the Belgian newspaper Dernier Heure reported last week, regarding the plan to strike a Belgian nuclear plant, “investigators concluded that the target of terrorists was to ‘jeopardize national security like never before.’”

And once again, there is evidence that terrorists have already tried to exploit the vulnerabilities of nuclear plants.

Mendick (2016):
Terrorists were also suspected of sabotaging Doel 4 in 2014 that led to it being shut down for more than four months. The federal prosecutor at the time refused to rule out terrorism. It has also been claimed the Brussels suicide bombers had been planning an attack on a nuclear power plant but switched to an airport and train station at the last minute. The target was changed after one of the terror cell’s ringleaders was captured in a police shootout a week before Tuesday’s bombings.

The prospect that jihadists may already be employed at some nuclear plants, or the possibility of cyber attacks, sabotage or air attack on nuclear plants are the kinds of events which keep national security experts awake at night. Governments know these plants are being targeted by terrorists. Failure to protect the safety of people would threaten the legitimacy of the government.

Another major threat to the safety of citizens is the fact that the nuclear material itself is prized as a potential weapon of mass destruction.  The prospect of theft of the nuclear material is difficult to control considering that only a few pounds of the material is needed to created a weapon. Certainly, security experts in the U.S. are aware.

Cochran, et al (2005):
The potential theft and terrorist use of plutonium associated with the Soviet, now Russian, civilian nuclear fuel cycle represents one of the highest U.S. national security risks today. These Russian plutonium stocks are a consequence of a failed effort to commercially recycle plutonium in Russian nuclear reactors. Controlling nuclear weapons proliferation will simply become impossible—further exacerbating the national security risks to the United States—if the nuclear industry continues to pursue nuclear fuel reprocessing for plutonium recycle and wide-scale global deployment of plutonium breeder reactors. As a consequence, the shortest route to acquiring nuclear weapons would be through the civilian nuclear power program, as occurred in India, rather than through the construction of facilities dedicated to weapons production, as occurred in Israel.[12]

Along with the threat of material theft by terrorists is the possibility of converting materials intended for peaceful use into weapons by governments intent on obtaining nuclear weapons for political purposes.  The proliferation of nuclear weapons is a threat to the safety and well-being of all people around the world.

Cochran, et al (2005):
The weapon design and arms control communities agree that it is not the capability to design a nuclear device that determines the pace of a country’s acquisition of a first weapon, but, rather, the availability of nuclear weapons materials that can be turned to weapons purposes. For a nation-state, the material for weapons can come from uranium enrichment plants (highly enriched uranium), or reactors and nuclear fuel reprocessing plants (plutonium), or both.[9]

Legitimate governments have a duty to preserve the safety of their citizens. By affirming the resolution and prohibiting the production of nuclear power plants, a government can best protect its citizens. Don't let Neg tell you the continued operation of nuclear plants are required to meet energy needs or protect against environmental impacts.

Diesendorf (2016):
Computer simulation models and growing practical experience suggest that electricity supply in many regions, and possibly the whole world, could transition to 100% renewable energy. Most of the renewable energy technologies are commercially available, affordable and environmentally sound. There is no fundamental technical or economic reason for delaying the transition. The pro-nuclear and anti-renewable energy myths disseminated by nuclear proponents and supporters of other vested interests do not stand up to examination. Given the political will, renewable energy could be scaled up long before Generation 3 and 4 nuclear power stations could make a significant contribution to electricity supply.

The threats are real and empirically proven from Chernobyl to Fukushima to more recent evidence of increasing terrorist interest in nuclear power plants.  Grossman urges countries to shut these plants down now.

Grossman (2016):
Nations around the world, likewise, would be able to get along fine with solar, wind and differing mixes of other safe, clean, renewable energy—not susceptible to terrorist attack. All 438 nuclear power plants around the world today could—and should—close now. The insignificant amount of electricity they generate—but 10 percent of total electric use—can be provided by other sources. And green energy makes for a less costly power and a far safer world in comparison to catastrophic-danger prone and unnecessary nuclear power. We must welcome energy we can live with and reject power that presents a deadly threat in so many ways.


The affirmative case should wrap-up by linking back to the value/criterion framework.  The framework link discussed above, establishes how government legitimacy is preserved when safety is secured and we set up our case to prove how operation of nuclear plants threatens public safety.  And finally our case shows that we can get along fine without nuclear power.

And so, I have presented a way to create a case.  I hope it is useful to you.

For additional posts related to this topic or other topics and general information about Lincoln Douglas debate, click the Lincoln Douglas tab at the top of this page.


Cochran, TB; Paine, CE; Fettus, G; Norris, RS; McKinzie, MG; (2005), Position Paper: Commercial Nuclear Power, Natural Resources defense Council; Issue Paper: Oct. 2005. Accessed 9/5/2016 at:

Diesendorf, M (2016); Renewable energy versus nuclear: dispelling the myths; Energy Post; 31 May 2016. Accessed 9/5/2016 at:

Grossman, K. (2016), Terrorism and Nuclear Power; Enformable, Energy News and Archives; 31 Mar 2016. Accessed 9/5/2016 at:

Mendick, R (2016); Brussels attacks: 'Nuclear terrorism' is real threat, says UN watchdog; The Telegraph (UK); 25 Mar 2016. accessed 9/5/2016 at:

Mraz, G; Wallner, A; (2014), Renewable Energies versus Nuclear Power – Comparing Financial Support; Wiener Umweltanwaltschaft / Vienna Ombuds-Office for Environmental Protection; Nov. 2014. Accessed 9/5/2016 at:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for all of your hard work. This blog is thorough, both student and teacher accessible, and professional.


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