Asking Powerful Public Scientists Hard Questions

On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists hosted a symposium titled Speaking Knowledge to Power in Princeton University’s Robertson Hall. The speakers included John Holdren, Allison Macfarlane, Frank von Hippel and Christopher Chyba.

Three out of the four (Holdren, von Hippel, and Macfarlane) have long been influential skeptics about the use of nuclear energy, even though they are well-educated scientists with solid reputations in their particular fields of study. Two of the four currently wield considerable power from their politically appointed positions, with Macfarlane serving as the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Holdren serving as the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Von Hippel is proud of his chosen role of being an outsider. He described his conscious realization that he is more effective at influencing policy from his academic perch than from being in a responsible position inside the government.

As a independent citizen armed with personal knowledge about the value and capabilities of nuclear energy in addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing human society, I thought it would be a good idea to make the trip to Princeton so I could ask the powerful public scientists some hard questions.

My first opportunity to engage came after Holdren gave the keynote talk in which he identified addressing climate change as one of our most important current challenges. He described actions that the Administration has taken so far and mentioned the achievements enabled by spending $80 billion on energy investments as part of the Recovery Act.

His speech contained little information about nuclear energy, and did not note that this one “mature low‐GHG emission source of baseload power” (to use words from the recently released IPCC Summary for Policy Makers) received essentially zero dollars from the Recovery Act.

Adams: Dr. Holdren, my name is Rod Adams. I publish Atomic Insights. I’m curious about the Administration’s verbal support for nuclear energy, but presentations like yours basically do not say a word about it. It is a very large and reliable clean energy source.

Holdren: Well actually, I give a lot of presentations that are more focused on energy and climate and in those I do talk about nuclear energy. The Obama Administration would like to see nuclear energy play a larger role. We’d like to see benefits of zero carbon electricity generation from that sector expanded.

There’re some challenges that have to be faced. One of those challenges is competition from very inexpensive natural gas. It’s hard to get a lot of nuclear power funding when natural gas is $3.00 a million BTU or so. Over time — if we ever succeed in getting a price on carbon emissions — obviously the economics of nuclear and a variety of renewables will improve.

We also need to deal with waste management challenges. There are some utilities who won’t build a nuclear reactor unless and until the government starts accepting its responsibility to take spent fuel off of the hands of the utilities. That’s a problem that the Blue Ribbon Commission addressed with a set of recommendations. We’d like to see those recommendations move forward so that we can improve the environment for nuclear energy in that respect.

Adams: Yes. Something like two thirds of the states have a law that says they cannot build a new nuclear plant unless the federal government has a licensed waste repository. And we were really close to one.

Moderator: (Kennette Benedict, Executive Director, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists) Thank you very much. Let’s move on.

Both Holdren and I used some incorrect numbers in our exchange. He was off by about 50% on his guess for current natural gas prices – they are now $4.50 per million BTU on most days and sometimes skyrocket out of control during peak use periods. My statement about the number of states with laws restricting new nuclear was way off; the real number is 13 states, not the “two thirds of the states” in my question.

When I made my statement about the almost-achieved waste repository, I was careful to make eye contact with Dr. Macfarlane, the current Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That is one of the organizations involved in the politically-orchestrated effort by Senator Harry Reid to follow through on a campaign promise to ensure that Yucca Mountain was “unworkable.” There is little doubt that she understood my point. Ms. Benedict, the moderator, skillfully changed the subject.

After Holdren spoke, the other three panelists each gave a short talk with no break in between for questions. Macfarlane identified both Holdren and von Hippel as being her mentors and thanked them for their intellectual influence. She also acknowledged the influence of Rod Ewing, who was in the audience. She talked about the way that science influences policy decisions.

Her primary example of a recent “regulatory science” effort was the NRC’s direction to nuclear licensees to update their seismic and flooding hazard analysis based on new seismic source models for the eastern and central parts of the US. She indicated that the NRC will reviewing the results which were recently submitted and asking some of the companies who just submitted their preliminary results to do more research and provide a more detailed analysis. I really wanted to ask Dr. Macfarlane how much this effort will be costing and what the benefits will be in terms of increased safety.

What do you want to bet that no one has ever pointed out to her that the nuclear industry spent a great deal of time and money developing a solid understanding of the seismic hazards associated with nuclear power plants in an industry-wide effort known as the Seismic Qualification Utility Group (SQUG)? Here is an important quote from one of the hundreds of documents that the group produced.

The evaluation, concurred with by the independent expert judgement of the Senior Seismic Review and Advisory Panel (SSRAP), showed that adequately anchored equipment in these classes are inherently rugged under seismic ground motions less than “bounding spectra” having peak ground accelerations of up to about 0.3g. It also demonstrated the feasibility of applying earthquake experience data to verify the seismic ruggedness of certain classes of equipment used in both conventional and nuclear power plants.

In other words, the issue is one of proper engineering, it is not a matter that needs more science.

Before accepting another effort by the NRC to add costs without associated benefit to currently operating nuclear power plants, the industry should push back hard and encourage the NRC to review the documents that the SQUG has already produced. There is no indication that there is a pressing need to perform additional seismic analysis. There has never been a case in which the safety functions of a nuclear power plant have been damaged by an earthquake, even if the earthquake significantly exceeded the official design basis for the plant. The engineers who design nuclear plants are conservative people who have included considerable margins in their designs.

However, I did not take the opportunity to press this issue while at the symposium because Frank von Hippel made a statement that needed to be questioned even more immediately.

He talked about the ways that policy-oriented scientists influence policy from outside of government by setting the agenda. He said the people working inside the government really don’t have time to do any original thinking; they are too busy responding to what comes in each day.

Von Hippel mentioned his involvement in several successful efforts associated with nuclear arms control to get the public engaged in issues and used that public attention push policy makers to make a change. His first example was the effort that started in 1954 to stoke public concerns about “fallout” from nuclear weapons testing. That fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) campaign — led by the geneticists who asserted that every dose of radiation, no matter how small, was hazardous to human health — eventually led to the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban.

Aside: The genetics committee for the 1956 National Academy of Sciences Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) study was chaired by Warren Weaver of the Rockefeller Foundation. That is one more instance of oily fingerprints related to actions against nuclear energy. End Aside.

During the question and answer session that followed the three talks in a row, I chose to encourage critical thinking about von Hippel’s talk instead of Macfarlane’s.

Adams: I’m Rod Adams. Dr. von Hippel you mentioned the success of the fallout program. One of the reasons that was successful was it was based on the assumption that every single dose of radiation, no matter how tiny, was dangerous. The research being done on DNA these days is showing that assumption is actually quite false. What do you think about that?

Von Hippel: This is continuously very controversial but the Academy of Sciences does a review on this periodically. The last one was in 2006 and they concluded once again that the best information that we have, both scientifically and epidemiologically, was that, in fact, the risk never goes to zero that it is proportional to dose.

Adams: Yes, the assumption works great as long as you throw out everything that goes below zero. That’s a great way to slant statistics.

After the event, a very nice lady came to me and said “They didn’t really answer your questions, did they. We have to move towards more nuclear energy.”

With that response, I called it a day. I had a three hour drive to make and some East coast megalopolis traffic to avoid.


If you like the idea of having a representative at symposiums like “Speaking Knowledge to Power”, please consider a donation to Atomic Insights LLC. Your support makes it easier to make the investment to travel to distant events where questions that challenge the existing groupthink about nuclear energy can slowly chip away at closely guarded belief systems.

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Correction: The original version of this post misspelled Dr. von Hippel’s name.

About Rod Adams

47 Responses to “Asking Powerful Public Scientists Hard Questions”

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  1. wayne moss says:

    Done. Easy, and well worth it.
    Keep holding them accountable, Mr. Adams!

  2. Ed Leaver says:

    Talk is cheap, Dr. Holdren: show me the bills.

    Just got off the phone with Ron Wyden’s office. Senator Wyden is sponsor of S1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013, which implements key recommendations of the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Or would implement them if the bill were ever moved out of committee, passed, and signed into law. The senator’s staffer said the bill is still viable and before the 113th Congress. Nothing more than what’s on the bill’s web site, but nothing less, either.

    Co-sponsors are Lamar Alexander (R, TN), Lisa Murkowski (R, AK), Dianne Feinstein (D, CA), and Angus King (I, ME).

    • PissedOffAmerican says:

      Isn’t Wyden the guy that claimed the sky was falling, due to the Fukushima event?

      • northcoast says:

        The senator visited the plant in 2012 and seemed to get caught up in the panic over the state of the Unit 4 spent fuel pool. I think he stepped back from the abyss after expressing fear about the pool in at least one interview. OregonLive.com posted an alarmist article with this gem, “The reactor now warehouses Fukushima’s hottest inventory of radioactive fuel rods in a seismically jittery part of the world.” The Unit 4 reactor core had been moved to the spent fuel pool prior to the accident.

  3. Rick Armknecht says:

    “In other words, the issue is one of proper engineering, it is not a matter that needs more science.”
    Yes, indeed: More “paralysis by analysis.”

  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Thats it? It really bothers me seeing exchanges such as Rod’s attempt at engagement cut short in these kinds of forums. I can’t watch C-Span for the same reason. If a caller strays off script, poof, the guest invariably offers a short bit of nothingness followed by the hosts immediate disconnection of the caller.

    One time they had on a Senator, talking government expenditures. A caller raised the issue of the 2 TRILLION dollars that was discovered missing during Dov Zakiem’s reign as comptroller of the DOD. (Yes, you read that right, TRILLION with a T). In response, the Senator told the caller that that number was incorrect, and that it “must have been 2 billion”. When the caller persisted, she was cut off, and the Senator once again insisted on his revised number.

    So, one of two things took place. Either this jacklass Senator was a typical DC scumbag, lying through his teeth, or, he was completely ignorant of a fact that ALL Senators should have been not only aware off, but up in arms about. But in either case, the end result was an audience that recieved invalid information from a source reputed to supply the exact opposite.

    (This missing two trillion, to my knowledge, was never investigated, because 9/11 occurred right on the heels of the report, and took center stage while Cheney and the monkeyman lied us into the GWOT.)

    Point being, though, that the way Rod was cut short implies a fear on the part of this panel and its moderator that points may be raised by Rod that are not flattering to thier own narrative. A strong argument doesn’t fear challenge.

    • Jeff Walther says:

      Well, the moderator was with the so-called “Bulletin of Atomic Scientists” whose title bears about as much resemblance to reality as “The Union of Concerned Scientists” does. There was never any doubt that the moderator would cheat.

      That’s what the anti-nuke forces do and have been doing for 40 years.

      The mystery is not that anti-nuclear activists lie and cheat. The mystery is that they still have a shred of credibility with the public.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Jeff Walther

        In all fairness to the moderator, there was a limited amount of time, I had already asked my question, and my last uttering was a statement, not really a question. I was not surprised or disappointed that she deftly moved on to the next questioner.

        • PissedOffAmerican says:

          But in truth, don’t you wish for a more complete engagement with forums such as this??? It just seems so worthlessly insubstantial when issues just recieve mention, but no debate or analysis. Did you get the impression at all that they were threatened by your presence? Were there other nuke advocates in the audience?

          • Rod Adams says:

            @POA – Yes, I do wish for a more complete engagement, but I will not get it from a symposium scheduled for just 2.5 hours.

            I thought that the 35th anniversary of TMI conference was better because it provided a full day for talks and some discussion, but even better would be a two day meeting with social events on one or two nights. It would be great to have a roughly equal mix of serious nuclear energy proponents, nuclear energy opponents and people who have not made up their mind on the issue.

            My experience in attending meetings is that few people feel threatened by reasonable questions asked with some modicum of professional courtesy and respect. There was not enough time to talk with many people in the audience; the man I sat next to was not a nuclear opponent, but more of a curious person who did not have strong opinions one way or the other.

  5. Keith F. Bullen PE says:

    Rod,
    I really like your stuff. A small correction. There is no Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) report. I believe it has always been BEIR, which I learned in the early 70′s. (BSNE’77 Madison). The “I” being ionizing, not “A” for atomic.(Everyone pretty much does say “bear” when talking about the report.)
    Keep the good work/fight up!

  6. Keith says:

    Rod,
    Am I bad. Sorry, there was BEAR. I stand corrected. I think you do more homework than me!
    No idea what Ed is talking about.

    • Ed Leaver says:

      Neither do I. But my link is the same as Rod’s. In other old news, I found testimony Secretary Moniz placed before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last July 30 relating to nuclear waste management. DoE does seem to be making some preparations, but at least at that time the Administration had not taken a position on S1240 (NWAA of 2013).

  7. mjd says:

    Whew! That was a bare, their was just to many names too keep strait, about everyone blue it, except the English Major (or Commander); I was about to bee homophonic.

  8. Hank Roberts says:

    > peak ground accelerations of up to about 0.3g.
    (quoted above as, I think, the standard used in the US?)

    That would be 1/3 of the acceleration of 1 gravity, which is _____ cm/sec2

    Help me do the math here —

    How does that criterion compare to the observations?

    (I found this, it’s a very old paper about how acceleration from an earthquake falls off with distance from the source, with numbers that were probably considered good at the time):
    http://www.bssaonline.org/content/80/4/757.short

    “The median estimate of peak horizontal acceleration at the source region is 620 cm/sec2, independent of earthquake magnitude.”

    • Ed Leaver says:

      g = 9.8 m/sec2 = 980 cm/sec2 = 980 Gal. From Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquakes:

      “In March 2008 Tepco upgraded its estimates of likely Design Basis Earthquake Ground Motion Ss for Fukushima to 600 Gal, and other operators have adopted the same figure. (The magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Taiheiyou-Oki earthquake in March 2011 did not exceed this at Fukushima.) In October 2008 Tepco accepted 1000 Gal (1.02g) DBGM as the new Ss design basis for Kashiwazaki Kariwa, following the July 2007 earthquake there, and Chubu accepted the same for Hamaoka. Tohoku has also accepted it for Onagawa, though the maximum recorded there in March 2011 was 568 Gal. The new Nuclear Regulation Authority is now responsible for determining DBGM levels required.”

      There is much more at the above link.

    • northcoast says:

      I think the .3g value is a little misleading here. I assume the design basis earthquake is defined by a spectrum for which .3g is the maximum input shaking at any single frequency. The actual ground motion could be modeled as the composite of the response to shaking at a finite number of frequencies and would exceed that value. The state of the art of evaluating equipment response involves the computer modeling of structural dynamics.

      • PissedOffAmerican says:

        Yadayadayada……..

        It always amazes me seeing mother nature discussed as if we can match muscles with her. You ever seen the films of a major volcanic eruption? A giant rift in the earth due to a massive quake?

        Obviously we cannot live in constant fear of nature’s power, nor should our realization of that power stifle the advancement of our technologies. But we kid ourselves if we think we can match that power with numbers and ego.

        We’re mites on a camel’s ass, and all that camel needs is an occassional bath to stop the itch.

        • northcoast says:

          OK, we can’t control nature, but we can design for survival. The Fukushima plants are built on bedrock, and the reactors safely survived the magnitude 9 earthquake. I read that the local coastline subsided a couple of feet in the earthquake, and of course the plants moved with it.

          Somewhere else I read that the ground level at the site was planed off to get down to the rock. Bad move.

          Aren’t we on the back of a giant turtle?

  9. Mitch says:

    Can’t wait to see Prof. Micho Kaku get royally grilled!

  10. John Tucker says:

    Mercury in Fishes from 21 National Parks in the Western United States—Inter- and Intra-Park Variation in Concentrations and Ecological Risk

    Across all fish sampled, only 5 percent had THg concentrations exceeding a benchmark (200 ng/g ww) associated with toxic responses within the fish themselves. However, Hg concentrations in 35 percent of fish sampled were above a benchmark for risk to highly sensitive avian consumers (90 ng/g ww), and THg concentrations in 68 percent of fish sampled were above exposure levels recommended by the Great Lakes Advisory Group (50 ng/g ww) for unlimited consumption by humans. ( http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2014/1051/ )

    only 5 percent had THg concentrations exceeding a benchmark (200 ng/g ww) associated with toxic responses within the fish themselves.

    WHAT !!?? These fish were from our most remote rivers and waterways. Five percent having toxic responses to Mercury in these areas is phenomenal. Yet its not really even being covered all that well.

    • John T Tucker says:

      I still would ask where and what the perspective is. I couldn’t get past that going into this conference. I know this conference gets people talking about NP but jheez. Where have they been.

      Nearly 16 Percent Of China’s Soil Is Polluted


      A nationwide investigation has shown that as much as 16 percent of China’s soil contains higher-than-permitted levels of pollution

      The ministry found that 82.8 percent of the contaminated samples contained toxic inorganic pollutants, including cadmium, mercury, arsenic, chromium and lead. ( http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/17/us-china-pollution-soil-idUSBREA3G16I20140417 )

      I cant imagine what the levels are in wildlife.

      • John Tucker says:

        Still guys I dont see near the level of concern that we get for trace radiation or less, released as a result of a a horrific natural disaster and not as part of SOP (even with emission controls), that has no known effects and degrades over time.

        These Mercury levels are significant.

        I even looked at Germany because I know they have environmental concerns burning so much lignite. Seems aside from the hype of health concerns surrounding dental amalgams they really have no clue and don’t really even pay that much attention to it st all, even though their air and environment is probably significantly more polluted than much of the US.

    • EL says:

      Five percent having toxic responses to Mercury in these areas is phenomenal. Yet its not really even being covered all that well.

      @John Tucker

      DC Circuit Court is doing it’s job (and so is the EPA) …

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-16/court-upholds-key-epa-mercury-standards-for-power-plants.html

    • PissedOffAmerican says:

      “Yet its not really even being covered all that well”

      Just today, on NPR I heard a report on it.

      Mercury poisoning in our nation’s fresh water fisheries is not a new phenomena. When I moved to Coeur ‘d Alene Idaho in my early twenties, some forty years ago, (ouch), you weren’t supposed to eat the trout out of lake Coeur ‘d Alene because of the high mercury levels. In that case, it was due to the mining that was done in the Kellogg/Wallace area upstream from the lake. It was actually quite surreal, seeing this pristine north Idaho lake, surrounded by north Idaho mountain beauty, and realizing the trout were toxic.

      The incidence of lead poisoning in the children that lived in Kellogg and Wallace was reputedly the highest in the nation. At that time, they were hauling the topsoil out of nieghborhoods in Kellogg and taking it to toxic waste sites. You would see houses with five feet of soil removed from around them, with planks leading to the front doors. Bizarre, it was. I don’t know how it is now. Sometime shortly after Mt St. Helen’s blew, whatever year that was, they shut down the Bunker Hill mine, and allowed it to flood. I gotta believe the area is still highly toxic. That crap like lead and mercury doesn’t just go away, particularly after the long history of extensive mining in the area.

      The brothels took a hard hit when they shut down Bunker Hill too, but thats probably not a topic Rod would care for me to elaborate on……

  11. Paul W Primavera says:

    Good post. I am happy to say that I voted AGAINST the man who put Jackzo then MacFarlane in charge of the US NRC. My reasons were many, among them of course being what I knew would be his apathy towards if not antipathy against nuclear energy.

    I am reminded again of Aesop’s fable of the fox who wanted the grapes. Such is the mantra of hope and change. We had the Global Nuclear Energy Program under Bush. We had a renaissance. Then his successor stifled it.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Paul

      Score for Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 2. Lots of talk. Not a single new nuclear plant start in those 20 years. Of course, the other side has been little different. Antinuclear actions are bipartisan.

      • Engineer-Poet says:

        Bush II signed into law the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  That, IIUC, established the COL protocol and eliminated the possibility of a plant completed to spec being denied an operating license by “intervenors”.

        Without that, we would not have a single AP1000 under construction in the USA.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @E-P

          Without the exemptions from the Clear Water Act included in that same bill, we would also not have had a “shale gale.”

          It’s 2014, nearly nine years after the passage of the act that you tout as Bush’s big contribution to nuclear energy. What is the result so far? By my count, the number of operating reactors in the US is down by 4, with a 5th scheduled to be shut down by the end of the year. The first completion of a reactor supposedly enabled by the bill will not happen until 2017, unless there are some ITACC related delays.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            Would fracking technology not have come without the CWA exemption?

            Five nuclear plants under construction is five more than we had ten years ago.  The Vogtle COL applications were filed in 2008.  First concrete wasn’t poured on a brand-new plant until 2011.  Whatever else is happening, this is positive and offers proof that the nay-sayers are wrong.

            The 2017 completion date may even be a good thing.  If the gas glut has evaporated by then, the builders will look prescient.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @E-P

            According to the EIA, total US shale gas production was virtually constant at <2.5 Billion cubic feet per day. Since 2005, the rate has increased steadily to its current level of nearly 32 billion cubic feet per day.

            http://www.eia.gov/naturalgas/weekly/ – Scroll down to graphs of monthly dry shale gas production.

            The technology existed before 2005. It did not become economical until after 2005. Of course, the rapid increase in gas prices from 2004-2008 also played a role.

            By the way, first concrete for new nuclear was in 2013, not 2011. Also remember that Obama could only promote Jaczko to Chairman because he was already on the Commission when Obama was elected.

            http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/first-nuclear-concrete-placed-at-plant-vogtle-expansion-198193151.html

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            Rod….you’re facing a wall built with partisan bricks. You ain’t gonna budge it, unless you can recruit Rush Limbaugh to dismantle it. (And even then, you might need Coulter patting ‘ol Paul on the fanny, as well.)

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            Rod, I’d just like to see you admit that the key legal change enabling the infant renaissance in US nuclear power was signed by a Republican, and would certainly not have been signed by either IFR-killing Clinton or Keystone-XL-stalling Obama.

            It wasn’t an unalloyed blessing.  I never said it was.  Companies have been dumping toxic frac water on dirt roads just a couple counties away from me.  That doesn’t change what the COL is doing.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @E-P

            My point is that opposition to nuclear energy is bipartisan. R’s might talk more nicely and even pass legislation that seems to favor nuclear, but they are just as effective in slowing development.

            For example, who signed the legislation that estaished the EPA and also signed the act that disestablished the AEC?

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            Its inexplicable to me, Paul, that you seem to recognize the despicable nature of modern American politics, yet you still buy into this purposely divisive concept that one side is polar to the other side.

            The gears running both machines are attached to the same motor, Paul. Why can’t you see that?

            Do you really think that We The People can turn this thing around while bickering amongst ourselves about carefully scripted differences that are designed to render us impotent? They’ve got ahold of your strings Paul, and you’re moving just the way they want you to. Change channels, man.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “For example, who signed the legislation that estaished the EPA and also signed the act that disestablished the AEC?”

            Rod….I understand that the EPA has become an elephant in a hamster cage. But surely you cannot believe that industry can be self policing? I can only imagine our environment had we of not created the EPA some fifty years ago, particularly in regards to our air and the auto industry.

            Regulations are not the problem. The problem is a corrupt government, representing special interests, that manipulates the science that drives the regulations. We need regulatory agencies. But when you inject politics into the regulatory process, the regulations will only be as “clean” as the politics.

            I am not insinuating that you have advocated for the abolishment of regulatory agencies. But it seems that sometimes the actual problem becomes blurred, and the agencies are faulted, when it is the actual politics and the Washington sell-outs that should bear the brunt of the blame.

            Industry is damaging enough to our environment, even with regulatory constraints. Remove those constraints, even in thier current corrupted form, and industry will sacrifice people to the advantage of profits to a degree as yet unrealized.

            We need the EPA, and we need constraints on industry. The question is, how do we replace politics with science in the process of regulation? If you can’t clean up the politics, you can’t clean up the regulations. They will favor special interests over sound science.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @POA

            I agree that we need good regulation. Businessmen will often only do what they are required to do, especially if better performance — more than the minimum required — means a short-term cost and a longer term benefit.

            However, the EPA was born as an elephant that has never learned how to properly evaluate risks versus rewards and has always applied an LNT type model to all potential carcinogens except those that were already being released from facilities owned by powerful interest groups before the regulations came into effect. Those have normally been grandfathered in with very long, often repeatedly delayed compliance deadlines.

            I’m not advocating getting rid of the concept of environmental regulation, but pointing out that the EPA as currently structured based on its original legislation is not doing its official job very well.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            And Paul…..about your attempted partisan capitalization on the issue of fracking…..

            Living in an area where fracking has become a hot issue, and has been practiced for years before it came into the spotlight, I can assure you that the loudest endorsements for the process come soundly from your heroes on the right. If you truly want to somehow paint your favored party in a positive light, I think you’d be well advised to leave fracking out of your argument.

  12. Charles Barton says:

    Good for you, Rod.

  13. Andy English says:

    @Rod,

    Being Canadian, my knowledge of American politics is limited (probably to what I see on “House of Cards”), but I understand that in order to influence Washington, powerful lobbyists are needed. Does the US Nuclear industry have any?

    Canada also lacks the political will to promote Nuclear; it is easier for our politicians to garner so-called green votes in order to get re-elected than it is to promote what’s in the long-term best interest of the country.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Andy English

      There is a group in the US called the Nuclear Energy Institute that is ostensibly THE nuclear industry lobby group. It was formed in the 1990s out of three existing groups that each represented different parts of the nuclear industry.

      The NEI is dominated by companies that have numerous energy industry interests. It will never engage in comparison marketing or lobbying that criticizes other types of energy. It is a big supporter of the Administration’s “all of the above” rhetoric.

      The NEI is good at what it does, but I think there is room in our large, diverse country for another nuclear industry lobby group that focuses on the benefits of nuclear energy technology and is willing to engage in competitive marketing.

      The trick is finding the businesses and individuals whose economic interests are focused enough to pay for such a group.

      • Rick Maltese says:

        Hi Rod. I’m attending the Thorium Energy Alliance Conference in May. I hope to be making a plea to attract some people to take on a role as part of a newly forming non-profit organization called the Energy Reality Project. This kind of organization could become an effective way to influence change. I want to emphasize the need for fund raising to handle costs of materials, organized events, transportation costs of members, conference fees etc. If well managed such an organization could afford to pay a small staff. My vision is global but there is no place that needs such an organization more than in the US.

    • PissedOffAmerican says:

      “Being Canadian, my knowledge of American politics is limited……”

      Don’t feel bad, the same can be said about 90% of Americans…