Robert F. Kennedy Jr. disavows need for individuals to change behavior

During the march held in New York City on September 21, PJTV reporter Michelle Fields spoke with Robert F. Kennedy about his plans to change his personal consumption habits. The good news is that RFK Jr. has absolved all of us of having to make any changes in our personal choices; the bad news is that he believes that the only necessary changes to make it possible to prosper without CO2 is to pass a few laws.

I am a proud liberal in the classic sense of the word; I don’t believe that ordering people or businesses to take action that is detrimental to their health and prosperity is an effective or acceptable means of achieving progressive goals. Far too many people in political fringe groups have seized on a genuine problem of rising CO2 production and atmospheric concentration as a political tool to further already existing agendas that have little to do with addressing the underlying technical challenge.

They also have little to do with advancing human development and enabling better living for more people.

Unfortunately, far too many people on the right have been entranced by the “don’t worry, be happy” messages sponsored by fossil fuel interests. They ridicule people who are concerned about the rate of CO2 emissions. They dispute our concerns because the models developed so far do not predict future effects with sufficient precision. They assert that taking action would be too costly compared to simply adapting to whatever changes come about from continuing business as usual while seeking economic growth through burning ever greater quantities of hydrocarbon fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

I tend to agree with Kennedy in pointing to the problems caused by excessive oil interest money and power. I also agree that fighting wars to control oil resources is both immoral and economically wasteful.

I tend to agree with Fields in pointing out that many climate change activists are hypocritical because their actions do not match their words.

However, if I were to confront Kennedy, I wouldn’t ask him about his cell phone or his automobile; neither of those has any significant impact on CO2 emissions.

Instead, my litmus test would include pointed questions about nuclear energy. That technology is the best way to take effective action to slow both CO2 emissions and to reduce the economic disparity caused by excessive profits in oil and gas extraction. Anyone who is serious about climate change should also be serious about using nuclear energy as a tool in the battle; it is the only available power source that can function reliably despite the weather and despite geographic location without producing any CO2.

If I had the chance to confront Leonardo DiCaprio, I would not beat him up about his use of private airplanes, I would ask if he is interested in learning the useful example that could be set by building yachts powered by atomic engines.

It is both understandable and admirable to be concerned about the current state of nuclear technology and the high cost of building and maintaining nuclear power plants. The solution, however, is to continue improving the technology, find and eliminate the bottlenecks in regulation, skilled labor and industrial capacity, and work to lower the existing political barriers that add many years to the development timeline for most projects.

Unfortunately, Kennedy and many of his cohorts dismissed nuclear energy long ago and have so far refused to take a hard look at why they made that decision and to question if it is now time to revise that position in light of new information. They loudly berate people who deny the science of climate change while frequently denying the more settled science that tells us that atomic fission works safely and reliably while producing abundant quantities of affordable energy.

National Academy of Sciences moving towards BEIR VIII

As has been reported in numerous articles here, there has been a large body of scientific research on the health effects of low level radiation published in the period since the last time the National Academy of Sciences produced a report on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation. The BEIR VII Phase 2 report was issued in 2006; the inevitable delays associated with publication of both that report and any studies that might be considered by the committee writing the report means that it is based on science from a bare minimum of ten years ago.

Sensing technology has experienced a revolution in that time, especially in the area of being able to detect changes in the molecular structures of biological organisms.

During the time since BEIR VII, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and other funding agencies around the world, have sponsored significant research programs aimed at using modern techniques to gain a better understanding of the ways that living organisms and tissue respond to various levels of radiation exposure. There is a large volume of material from these studies that deserves careful synthesis, especially in light of the negative effects on individuals and society that arise from concerns about even the tiniest amount of ionizing radiation.

The US National Academy of Sciences, the organization that has been periodically tasked to evaluate the overall state of our knowledge about radiation risk since the first BEAR (Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation) committee, which issued its report in July of 1956, has taken notice of the developments in the field of low level dose response. Though it has not yet been tasked to form a new BEIR by a sponsoring agency, the NAS has announced that it is preparing its membership to be tasked.

Here is the text of the announcement.

Dear Interested Parties:

On November 17, 2014, the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences will be hosting a meeting to assist with scoping the next Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) report—the BEIR VIII report—on health risks from exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation.

The meeting, which is open to the public in its entirety, will be held at the National Academy of Sciences, located at 2101 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC. Additional information about the meeting including the agenda and registration information will be distributed shortly.

Ourania (Rania) Kosti, Ph.D.
Senior Program Officer
Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board
The National Academies


Sources indicate that the NAS is particularly interested in having the committee review studies that indicate the presence of hormesis and also review studies that claim to indicate increased risk of childhood leukemia from CT scans.

The public meeting is already on my calendar.

Another blogger for nuclear energy – Nuclear Layperson

An Atomic Insights reader sent me a link to a blog started in July of 2014 titled Nuclear Layperson. The blogger, using the nom de plume of “millysievert” provides the following on her “About” page: Bio: Professional nuclear layperson, a.k.a. Executive Assistant to the World Nuclear Association Director General. Got a C in GCSE Physics. […]

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Fukushima is not contaminating Pacific

By Les Corrice It is widely reported that hundreds of tons of highly contaminated Fukushima Daiichi groundwater pours into the Pacific Ocean every day. But, an objective look at the evidence tells a completely different story. It’s long-past time for the Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) and the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to broadcast the truth […]

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What should we do with the waste?

It’s time to declare that the default argument against nuclear energy has been proven invalid. We know how to effectively store and protect used nuclear fuel. We do it routinely. It is not unusually costly or a burden on future generations. They should be free to make their own decisions about how to make the […]

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Continuing conversation with NRC Chairman Macfarlane

On September 11, 2014, the American Nuclear Society hosted a roundtable discussion for nuclear bloggers with Allison Macfarlane, the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The meeting was broadcast as a webinar, but there were also seats available in the conference room from which Dr. Macfarlane and Margaret Harding (the ANS moderator) were running the […]

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David MacKay asks his audience to use arithmetic to understand energy challenges

After posting a couple of videos with Amory Lovins providing his energy mirage, several commenters indicated they would like to hear and see a different point of view. Unlike Amory, David MacKay is a physicist who likes to use real numbers and simple arithmetic to illustrate the scale of the challenge of replacing the power […]

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Atomic Show #223 – Diablo Saudi UAE Ukraine S Korea

On September 7, 2014, I gathered a group of nuclear energy observers to discuss a variety of topics of interest to people who believe energy is important. We talked about Diablo Canyon’s earthquake resilience, Saudi Arabia’s interest in a rapid growth in nuclear energy production, the certification of the APR+ in South Korea, the progress […]

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Crowd sourced analysis of a Lovins sales pitch

I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing an Amory Lovins talk in person three times. Each time, I left the venue with the feeling that an agnostic must have had after attending an Elmer Gantry revival. The audience for two of the events should have been more skeptical — those talks were part of a series […]

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Is it really necessary to have a deep geologic repository for used nuclear fuel?

Though I have often received quizzical, almost uncomprehending looks from my type ‘A’ colleagues on submarines and in my other jobs, I’ve often been guided by a simple principal of decision-making – “If it’s too hard, quit.” Please don’t think that means I’m the type of person who can never get anything done or who […]

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Helping people understand the power grid

Yesterday, the Institute for Energy Research launched a project to help people gain a better understanding of the electric power grid, a marvel of modern society that most people take for granted — unless its product delivery is interrupted for more than a few minutes. This information project is timely, especially considering all of the […]

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Terrestrial Energy – Molten Salt Reactor Designed to Be Commercial Success

There is a growing roster of innovative organizations populated by people who recognize that nuclear technology is still in its infancy. Terrestrial Energy is one of the most promising of those organization because of its combination of problem solving technology, visionary leadership, and strong focus on meeting commercial needs. Nearly all of the commercial nuclear […]

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