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On Atomic Balm: Some Prominent Environmental Veterans are Talking up Nuclear Power as a Climate Change Solution


In the section about James Hansen, you wrote:

He said environmental leaders won’t reconsider nukes because “they are concerned that they would lose some of their financial support.”

That statement is worthy of more background than you provide. I engaged for several months in a discussion with a liasion from a major environmental group to try to set up a meeting between that group and some top-flight, mostly retired nuclear engineering and science professionals. The group we were talking to has a rather conflicted position on the related issues of climate change and nuclear energy. They believe that climate change holds dire, existential risks for human society. At the same time they are strong opponents of nuclear energy, saying it is:

1. Too expensive

2. There's no solution for "the waste issue"

3. Plutonium recycle to address the waste issue raises concerns about the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation

4. There's not enough regulation to make the nuclear fuel cycle safe and environmentally sound

5. Cooling systems use too much water

6. Climate change will put coastal nuclear plants at risk

7. Uranium has to be imported, making nuclear energy just as dependent on international relationships as oil

After several months of give and take with more than 50 hours worth of specific conversations and written exchanges, we could not come to any agreement that would allow a meeting. Though the liasion was very intererested and worked hard to sway the group's leadership, he ended up telling me that the leaders were worried about losing their funding.

Larry Rockefeller (Laurence Jr.) is a board member and major funder of the group. So is Bobby Kennedy.

Some believe those players are opposed to both nuclear energy and enhanced production of natural gas because they like exclusive real estate. I believe they simply like high priced energy because it is more profitable to sell than cheap energy. Both have extensive energy industry holdings; so do most of their friends and associates in the environmental donor community.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

February 18, 2015    View Comment    

On Should NRC Spend Time and Money Simplifying Transition to Decommissioning?


It is not my intent to add expense. What I was trying to point out was that it does not make sense to add additional costs for the operators that continue to run their plants in order to fund a lengthy, potentially resource intensive process to revise existing rules to streamline the transition to decommissioning.

I also suggested that putting such an effort high on the NRC's priority list would not be the best use of available resources. It would be better for the country, I believe, if the NRC would prioritize efforts to smooth the transition from a great idea on digital documents to a complete and certified design.

January 29, 2015    View Comment    

On Energy Quote of the Day: "Baloney and Rubbish"


Are you suggesting that we should believe what Alwaleed bin Talal says about Saudi motivations and goals? It is difficult for me to tell, since you quoted him without additional commentary.

Can you clarify your position?

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

January 20, 2015    View Comment    

On Shaping Public Perceptions of Radiation Risk


Many things are "difficult to verify." That does not mean that it is not worth the effort to dig through the historical record to find as much evidence as possible.

The Rockefeller Foundation has an admirable, long history. However, it is an organization made up of human beings with a clear desire to maintain their influence.

There is illogical or libelous with revealing circumstantial evidence that the organization worked to instill the belief that there is "no safe dose of radiation" and that it was well-motivated to do that to enable the slow, expensive development of a formidable competitor. Even today, the foundation has substantial holdings in oil and gas, though members of the family have indicated that they want to move to divest some of those holdings in the indetermintate future.

I'm not sure what your point is with regard to the reluctance of utilities to get involved in nuclear power. Utilities have always been -- and remain -- risk averse companies that have a desire to manufacture and distribute electricity as cost effectively as possible while meeting customer and regulatory demands for reliability and universal service.

In the 1950s, nuclear energy was unproven, expensive technology that could not be insured because it had no track record on which to build actuarial tables. OF COURSE the utilities wanted proof from their suppliers that the technology would work and they wanted some assurance that they would not be the responsible party if there was a problem.

By an accident of history, the only available technology supplier at the time that the nuclear industry was born in the US was the US government's Atomic Energy Commission. They owned all of the patents, owned all of the fuel, and employed most of the trained personnel.

If Fermi and friends had discovered fission when there was not "a war on," the technology development would have taken a completely different path, but the fossil fuel industry would have always had a motive for doing what it could to raise the barriers to entry to their lucrative and powerful industry.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

December 12, 2014    View Comment    

On Shaping Public Perceptions of Radiation Risk


Your comment presupposes that the EPA rule makers are experts in the health effects of low level radiation.

That is not true. They are merely writing rules based on their acceptance of the assertions of the 1956 BEAR 1 Genetics Committee, which was the first group to state that any radiation, down to a single gamma ray, has harmful effects on human beings.

They had not basis for making that assertion; all laboratory studies done up until that point used acute doses in excess of 1 Gy per dose.

I ascribe the "unanimous" report to the efforts of the committee chairman, a long time employee of the Rockefeller Foundation, which had provided research grants to more than half of the committee members. That employee, Warren Weaver, was the man in charge of the natural sciences program and was the specific individual responsible for approving all grants in the area of genetic research. 

I'm sure that any thoughtful, reader who understands the history of the Rockefeller Foundation and the source of its wealth can think of at least one or two reasons why it was so interested in asserting that there is a hazard associated with all levels of radiation and that it was impossible to use nuclear energy without accepting some level of risk.

Ever since its establishment in 1974, the EPA has ascribed to the LNT. There is a GS-14 named Nelson in the obscure office that funds all of the atomic bomb survivor Life Span Studies who has asserted in hearing range of a former colleague of mine that the LNT is his career meal ticket and it will not be questioned by any funded researcher while he is still in the approval loop for LSS funds.

Rod Adams

December 10, 2014    View Comment    

On Shaping Public Perceptions of Radiation Risk


Agreed. My understanding of the effort, however, is that it has not led to improved health, but it has led to improved revenue for a diverse array of contractors offering solutions to the "radon problem."

December 7, 2014    View Comment    

On Shaping Public Perceptions of Radiation Risk

@wind smith

The primary reason why many people with strong questioning attitudes have worked hard for several decades to prove that the geneticists on the first National Academy of Sciences committee on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation were wrong when they made the statement that there is no safe dose of radiation and threw out the preexisting threshold model of radiation health effects is that the model harms people.

IMO, It was that model that is primarily responsible for the unfair way that the Japanese have treated the hibakusha - the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were treated like people with infectious disease and have been viewed for decades as people who should be sequestered from the rest of society. That prejudice was strongly reinforced by the pronoucements of the Genetics Committee which declared that exposure to radiation at any level increases the rate of mutation and puts future generations at dire risk. 

People are still kept from their ancestral land at Chernobyl and at Fukushima, being continuously harmed by the stress brought on by an irrational fear that has been carefully taught and reinforced.

People with medical conditions that can be diagnosed and treated with radiation shy away from allowing their doctors to use the most effective tools because they incorrectly think that the tool may contribute to a cancer development later in life.

The research would not result in an effort to redesign nuclear power plants to shave away a little material; but it should make the design, licensing, construction and operation substantially more economical by eliminating some of the fear induced resistance to nuclear energy. That ecessive fear is what drives people to file lawsuits, act out during public hearings, submit thousands of comments that must be addressed during the approval process, and makes siting a very useful, ultra-low emission power plant an onerous burden.

It is not a matter of "unbiased" science; it is a matter of basing rules on the best available, experimentally derived truth.

Explaining the need for the change gets easier as we gain more understanding about the very large financial reasons why our current model was so biased, so incorrect, and so carefully sold in the first place.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

December 1, 2014    View Comment    

On Shaping Public Perceptions of Radiation Risk


Thank you for your kind words. I have been writing about the health effects of low level radiation for quite some time, referencing numerous well conducted studies. You can find those articles on Atomic Insights by choosing the categories of "health effects" or "LNT" on our Archives page.

It was only after I realized the huge gap between the perceived risk and the real risk as demonstrated by good science that I began pulling the string to find out how that perception was established. Dr. Edward Calabrese has produced some excellent work tracing the history in the scientific journal publications. That work gave me some excellent search clues to help find the promotional (propaganda) part of the myth creation.

I'm not a scientist, but I have a pretty solid base of technical training combined with a good understanding of how ad campaigns like "four out of five dentists recommend..." or "a recent study by the National Academy of Geneticists has revealed..." are created and promoted.

I also have a long established hobby of studying the energy industry. The subtitle of Daniel Yergin's classic 1991 work titled The Prize helps to explain that fascination -- "The epic quest for oil, money and power."

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

December 1, 2014    View Comment    

On Power In New England: Why are Prices Increasing so Rapidly?

Note: The above article was actually written by Evan Twarog. Here is his author "blurb" as displayed on the original blog post at Atomic Insights. Apparently the automated feed process did not pick up the author field.

About Evan Twarog

Evan is a Vermont resident who will be graduating from high school in 2015 and plans to pursue a career in engineering. He became deeply interested in energy and politics as a result of actions associated with Vermont Yankee.
November 28, 2014    View Comment    

On Is it Really Necessary to Have a Deep Geologic Repository for Used Nuclear Fuel?


You have obviously not read much of my material. There are perhaps 3000 posts on Atomic Insights, no more than a handful talk about carbon pricing. It is a topic of interest, not a focus.

Most of my time during the past 25 years has been aimed at pointing out and getting rid of the artificial barriers that have been erected on purpose to slow nuclear energy development. That is my real focus.

I think you have vastly overestimated the difficulty of a simple fee and dividend approach to CO2. It is quite easy to administer and to calculate with good precision. It's also something that would gain public support the minute the checks began arriving.

September 12, 2014    View Comment    

On Is it Really Necessary to Have a Deep Geologic Repository for Used Nuclear Fuel?


I read your submission. While a carbon price in Australia may have no effect, if one could be established in just three places - the US, the EU and China - it would cover more than 60% of global emissions. Extend it to 6 places by adding Russia, India and Brazil and you have a 90% solution.

Good enough.

What do you have against cherries?

September 12, 2014    View Comment    

On Is it Really Necessary to Have a Deep Geologic Repository for Used Nuclear Fuel?


I am confused by your two comments. The carbon pricing that I advocate is one way to approach the fee on fossil fuels to pay for the cost that storing their waste in the atmosphere imposes on all of the rest of us. There may need to be additional fees that vary depending on the specific fossil fuel to pay for other components since each type of fuel has a different waste stream in addition to CO2.

The effort to price carbon has not reached the stage where I believe it is too hard. The specific program that I like - the fee and dividend approach - has the potential to be wildly popular with the people who use less than the average amount of hydrocarbons because they would be receiving a payment on a periodic basis for the use of their share of the atmosphere as a storage area.

As far as I can tell, there is some momentum building for this type of plan, but the promoters have not yet invested in the type of communications that would help the public become more aware of its potential benefits for leveling the fuels playing field and for providing some payment for an activity that intrudes on their property.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

PS - I don't think I have ever many any comments about you personally, though I certainly have engaged in discussions with you about your opposition to government policies. Challenging comments and ideas is not the same as challenging a person.

September 12, 2014    View Comment