Comments by Meredith Angwin Subscribe

On Biomass: The World's Biggest Provider Of Renewable Energy

The first time I heard this argument was when one of my relatives was concerned that Great Smoky Mountain National Park didn't harvest dying trees, but rather let them rot in place.  I tried to explain that the dying trees were an important part of the ecosystem: food for some birds, holes for animal and bird nests, etc. A snag (standing dead tree) is actually a pretty lively place, ecologically speaking. When the trees fell, they enriched the soil and were nurse-logs to other trees.  Etc. Etc.

My relative wasn't buying my explanation.  PEOPLE could use those trees, by golly, and people should!

There's an echo of my relative in this comment. This comment seems to imply: "The forest might be dying, so let's just kill it and get some use out of it!" 

To me, the argument that the forest is stressed and would take a long time to recover is an argument against heavy harvesting. "The forest is stressed" is not an argument for accelerated harvesting.  At least, that is my opinion.

April 25, 2014    View Comment    

On What a Waste – Vermont Yankee is in Beautiful Condition

There were many investigations of Entergy's statements, including three major investigations by the NRC, by the Public Oversight Panel, and by a legal firm.  All investigations ended up basically saying that Entergy made mistaken statements, but had no intention to mislead.  Maybe four investigations: the Attorney General also did an investigation and then announced that there just wasn't enough evidence to file charges.

I have several blog posts about this, and the posts have links to original documents.

March 31, 2014    View Comment    

On Radiation: The Facts


I looked at the most credible (to me) of those papers, which was the University of South Carolina study:

That paper concluded that even low levels of radiation are damaging.  Okay, right, but let's look at two quotes:

"When you're looking at such small effect sizes, the size of the population you need to study is huge," said co-author Timothy Mousseau,

(authors) combed the scientific literature, examining more than 5,000 papers involving natural background radiation that were narrowed to 46 for quantitative comparison

So, what we have here is that if there IS any effect, it takes LOTS of sophisticated study to determine it. "such small effect sizes...huge population (needed)". Plus, I would have to go to the literature and spend lots of time trying to determine whether they chose an appropriate 46 papers out of the 5000!  Choosing the "right" papers would be a very easy way to manipulate data, for sure.

I am not saying they did this, but I have built databases for people to do meta-analysis on water chemistry versus corrosion incidents in power plants. (I built databases to do this at my little company in the 90s.)  Choosing the data is pretty important and can easily lead to cherry-picking if these authors are throwing out 90% of the papers. 

On the other hand, the effects of coal smoke do NOT require such complex analysis. The effects are huge.  Lots of data and all over the place for every type of smoke, from cigarettes to wood smoke to coal, to coal with particles over 2.5 um  and under , etc.  That data shows that coal smoke is far more dangerous than radiation. No complex meta-analysis required on coal smoke, no "small effects" that need huge populations to see any effects.

Yet you celebrate that the German energy plan shuts down nuclear plants and keeps the coal plants running.  In your opinion, which you have stated often, the German plan is succeeding because its first goal was shutting down nuclear plants. Apparently, the fact that Germany is running lots of coal plants is secondary and does not diminish  the success of its energy plan.

Bas, sorry but a big effect is bigger than a small effect. Coal smoke is more dangerous than low-level radiation. Being hit by a truck is more likely to be fatal than being hit by a kid on a tricycle. 

We have been down this path before, and I know I will not convince you.  But meanwhile, since you are a good person, I urge you to spend most of your time UPWIND of Germany.  No matter how successful you think their energy plan may be—stay upwind!

Best always,




March 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Radiation: The Facts


Background varies so much that 0.2mSv/year above "background" makes no sense.  Can you show me that people in Finland or Denver (twice the background radiation of most places) have short lives and lots of cancer and birth defects? That hanging out in mountains and in Finland will kill you, so you had better stay on the flat in The Netherlands?  You don't live that way. You don't avoid mountains. So I suspect you aren't quite as certain about the effects of "higher background" as you claim to be.

In short, I don't have much credence in this "0.2mSv above background causes..." statement, and I don't think you do either.

Aging. I don't personally like it, because I am personally older than I used to be,but there is also  such a thing as aging. Older people have more arthritis, more auto-immune diseases (like Parkinson's), more heart disease, more cancer.  This has little or nothing to do with a 60-year cancer "latency," but rather with the fact we can't battle things off as well as we get older.   Also, more things go wrong as we get older.  

People get older, and as they get older, they tend to get sicker.  It is simply wrong to ascribe that to the existence of nuclear plants.


March 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Radiation: The Facts


Excellent brochure!

I have often wondered about how much of this debate is fueled by the idea that radiation is the one-and-only carcinogen in the world, or at least, the idea that it is by far the strongest carcinogen?  There are many carcinogens: smoke is a moderately strong carcinogen: exposure to smoke through smoking is a very clear cause of cancer.  Wood smoke contains the same carcinogenic elements as other types of smoke.

We cannot ban carcinogens from our world.  They exist.  In most cases, we deal with them through setting limits for exposure or release.  Only radiation bears this LNT burden, which is the equivalent of saying that "any bit of radiation could kill you! " Yes, and any particle of wood smoke in your lungs could lead to lung cancer, etc.  I mean, where will it end? No more woodstoves or fireplaces?

Since zero exposure to carcinogens is not possible, and since we have mechanisms to fight off low exposures (or we would never live to grow up), setting reasonable limits for various toxins is the reasonable approach.  Using a non-measurable "rule" (we have to attempt to get to zero exposure for this one) is not reasonable.

March 4, 2014    View Comment    

On Yucca Mountain and Vermont: Scofflaws in High Places

I live in Vermont and I am in favor of continued operation of Vermont Yankee.  Opinion polls (many of them, over the years) show Vermonters evenly divided between people who favor Yankee's continued operation, and people who oppose it.

However, the opposition has more vigils, press releases, and giant puppets than the supporters.  This does not prove that they are in the majority. 

August 24, 2013    View Comment    

On Yucca Mountain and Vermont: Scofflaws in High Places

It would have been nice if you had actually read my post instead of doing a one-size-fits-all anti-nuclear comment. 

All nuclear power plant operators have contributed one tenth of a cent per kilowatt hour to a fund for storage of nuclear waste.  The fund built Yucca Mountain (ten billion dollars) and still has 25 billion dollars in it.  The fund is growing at about $800 million per year.

Far from the "U.S. Government being saddled with" storage costs for spent fuel for power reactors, the U.S. Government has billions of dollars for this purpose---from the power plant operators.  Illegally, the government is not spending this money to store the fuel. 

This information is in my post, along with a link to Wikipedia on the amount of money in the fund.  

Please read my post before your next reply.  Thank you. 

August 24, 2013    View Comment    

On Wind Energy: Curtailment by Any Other Name Would Be Ordinary

Thank you for the comment.

I agree that all forms of energy have their drawbacks.  However, one criteria could  be whether the energy is useful to the grid.  If it isn't useful, then why tolerate the drawbacks?

On the other hand, in this case, upgrading the grid could take care of at least some of the problems with Lowell Mountain.


August 18, 2013    View Comment    

On Wind Energy: Curtailment by Any Other Name Would Be Ordinary


Thank you, as ALWAYS, for your fact-filled reply! Lowell has claimed twice as much power as they have produced. 

As they say: everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.  You supply the facts that we all need. Thank you.


August 18, 2013    View Comment    

On Wind Energy: Curtailment by Any Other Name Would Be Ordinary

Thank you for the link. I didn't know that song, and I found several cute versions on YouTube!

Yes, you are right. Many of the problems with wind are not exactly "breaking news."  

August 18, 2013    View Comment    

On Wind Energy: Curtailment by Any Other Name Would Be Ordinary

Thank you for the link and the comment.

Curtailment is a word used within the industry for one stage of the dispatching and un-dispatching (making up a word here) of power plants.  However, when it is used by a politicians as part of an attack on ISO for following the rules of dispatch, THEN it is a weasel-word, in my opinion.  

Governor Shumlin's whole point was that ISO should be nicer to wind energy, despite the problems on the grid.  He was grandstanding. HIs use of the word "curtailment" was part of his rhetoric. 


August 18, 2013    View Comment    

On The Prisoner's Dilemma and New Types of Nuclear Energy Reactors


Well, I live in Vermont, and I do not want Vermont Yankee to close.  

Many people in Vermont want the plant to stay open...polls show fairlly even division between prefer-to-close and prefer-to-stay open.  You are making some sweeping statements here about what people want.  

Even the VT entire legislature did not vote on VY...just the Senate did, not the Representatives. The state governor definitely wants VY closed. However.  VY has paid a lot of taxes into the Clean Energy Development Fund that supports wind turbines and solar. Without VY, the government will have to raise some kind of tax to get equivalent money for renewables.  This will not be a popular move.  I think the state government as a whole (not the governor) actually has some mixed motivations about VY. And, as I said above, the "populace" is divided on the issue.

You can always find people predicting the demise of nuclear energy. I've heard this tune forever. The same people often think that natural gas will be cheap and abundant for a very long time (I predict it will be cheap for about four more years, if that long.)  So opinions differ.

I think I understand your opinion, and I don't think I can change it.  But I felt I should at least answer it.

July 30, 2013    View Comment