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.
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Smoking Gun – NCPC & John F. Kennedy

There is a folder in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum titled National Coal Policy Conference that documents an apparently successful effort to influence a rising political star to support national policies that favor coal over natural gas, residual oil and atomic energy. The NCPC, whose existence lasted from its founding in 1959 […]

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Designated law-breaker at DOE still wants budget approved

This interaction between Congressman Shimkus and Secretary Moniz took place during a the Energy and Commerce Committee FY2015 DOE budget hearing on April 3, 2014. It’s too bad that hearings like this have strict time limits imposed on the questioners. There is a good reason why I would be exceedingly reluctant to accept any kind […]

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Nuclear Energy: Past, Present, and Future

Peter Bradford and Rod Adams

On Friday, March 28, 2014, I had the privilege of attending a symposium at Dartmouth College titled Three Mile Island 35th Anniversary Symposium: The Past, Present, and Future of Nuclear Energy. If you are curious and have a free nine hours, you can watch an archived copy of the main event on YouTube. The thing […]

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What a waste – Vermont Yankee is in beautiful condition

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vermont is a relatively young steam plant that uses a low-cost, essentially emission-free fuel. It is strategically located in an area with few fossil fuel resources, extreme weather, and frequent spikes in electricity prices. It has a well-trained, experienced operating staff that has an excellent performance record. […]

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John Tjostem – GMOs & Atomic Fission Enable a Sustainable Future

During a discussion on Atomic Insights, I encountered a man whose recipes for a sustainable future need greater distribution. John Tjostem is an advocate of technologies that enable disruptive abundance and a more rewarding life for a growing portion of the world’s population. After growing up on South Dakota farm in the 1930s and 1940s, […]

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Correlation Between GMOs and Nuclear Fission

Have you ever noticed that many of the same organizations and people that fight nuclear energy also fight GMOs? Both technologies promise disruptive abundance that can improve the lives of billions of people. Here’s food for thought: Big Agriculture has as much to lose from technologies that solve world hunger as Big Oil, Big Coal, […]

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Healthy doses of radiation

Doses of radiation that are lower than about 700 mGy/yr (see note below) are more likely to reduce cancer incidence and increase life span than to decrease it. In other words, moderate radiation doses are good for you in the same way as moderate exercise is good for you. The basis for this economy-altering assertion […]

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Smoking gun: AEC told President Kennedy why coal industry was opposed to nuclear energy

It’s been quite a while since my last smoking gun post on Atomic Insights. It may be time to revive the series to remind nuclear energy advocates to follow the money and know their opponents. In the battle for hearts, minds and market share it is always useful to know why vocal opposition exists, but […]

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Alvin Weinberg’s liquid fuel reactors

Figure 6. Senators John Kennedy and Al Gore Sr flank Alvin Weinberg on a visit to ORNL

A nuclear pioneer’s work on safer, cheaper, inexhaustible nuclear power is still inspiring nuclear environmentalists. by Robert Hargraves Physicist Alvin Weinberg worked on the Manhattan Project and later co-invented the pressurized water nuclear reactor. As Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory he led development of liquid fuel reactors, including walk-away-safe liquid fluoride thorium reactors with […]

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Taking the bloom off of the nuclear rose

Yesterday I came across a New York Times front page article from July 7, 1971 titled Nation’s Energy Crisis: Nuclear Future Looms. It is the second article in a three part article on the energy crisis that was capturing America’s attention in 1971 – two years before the Arab Oil Embargo. The discovery knocked me […]

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Energy versus Power – Energy delivered rapidly equals power

A BusinessWeek article titled Putin $14 Billion Nuclear Deal Wins Over Russia Critic Orban recognizes the importance of recent Russian power deals to supply gas, oil, and nuclear energy facilities. There is widespread confusion about energy versus power. Conversations about the business of selling hydrocarbons or electricity are described as being about energy, but the […]

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