Defending nuclear energy professionals

Barbara Billing is the author of a novel titled The Nuclear Catastrophe. Here is how she has chosen to begin her description of the book on the blog of the same name.


Nuclear accidents are recognized as part of the nuclear package. They are a threat to our health, well-being and even our survival as a world. Many people would like to see nuclear power plants dismantled, shut down, phased out. Especially since the spent fuel has no place to be safely stored.

Several days ago, I posted a comment on that blog post to explain that nuclear professionals are not ogres.

The entities that stand to benefit the most from efforts to hamstring nuclear energy by slowing development or shutting down existing reactors are the corporations that extract, transport, refine, market, finance and distribute coal, oil and natural gas.

Last week, ExxonMobil, one of the most profitable corporation of all time, reported a quarterly profit from selling hydrocarbon fuels of $16 BILLION. That company has just a 2% share of the oil and gas market.

What did the gas companies do to compensate the people in San Bruno when their neighborhood exploded as a result of a gas pipeline leak? What did the gas industry do for the people who live around the Gulf of Mexico when a gas explosion on the Deepwater Horizon resulted in an oil eruption that lasted for six months and dumped millions of barrels of oil into that body of publicly owned water? Have you even heard about the 7 workers who were killed at the Kleen Energy Plant in Middletown CT when a natural gas explosion occurred?

Give me a break. Do your research before publishing FUD and expecting educated readers to believe it.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast

Barbara reacted to that comment in a surprising way. She took offense and called it a personal attack. She has decided not to publish another comment that I neglected to save, but that comment simply attempted to explain that nuclear professionals are dedicated to a mission of providing safe, clean energy. It also described how we often choose to live quite close to the facilities that we operate.

I am pretty sure I repeated my refrain that, as a former submarine engineer, I have spent months at a time within 200 feet of a nuclear reactor and I located my family in a city where the harbor often had a half dozen or more reactors moored to the piers. Barbara has refused to publish that comment, and recently challenged me on Twitter with a series of posts @Atomicrod, including the following:

@Atomicrod I published your first comment on my blog with its personal attack on me. Use your own blog…

Even people who attack nuclear energy often have good ideas, so here is a copy of the comment that I just attempted to submit to Barbara’s most recent post titled Trashed by the Trashy, in which she clearly implies that anyone who is in favor of the effective use of nuclear energy qualifies for the sobriquet of “trashy.”

I am a nuclear energy professional and a atomic energy advocate. I have weighed all of the arguments and balanced them with my personal experience as the man in charge of a submarine propulsion reactor for several years.

In a society whose viability is threatened by atmospheric chemistry changes, limitations on fuel availability for the 2/3 of the world’s population whose income puts most reliable energy out of reach, and whose political stability is threatened with great regularity by battles over limited fossil fuels, I cannot understand why people refuse to learn some basic facts about nuclear energy and radiation.

No one will die from the Fukushima accident, which was arguably about as bad as it can get, with three reactors experiencing substantial core melting. Virtually none of the radioactive material in those reactor cores entered the biosphere – the only isotopes that were measured were noble gases, iodine and cesium. All of those left the core because they were either gases or water soluble. The solid materials could not escape through what are most likely just cracks in the pressure vessel in the areas where the vessel has welded penetrations for control rod mechanisms.

Please consider that the primary beneficiaries of excessive fear, uncertainty and doubt about nuclear energy are the people that continue selling expensive fossil fuels.

In the 9 months after Fukushima, Japan spent $55 billion more on fossil fuel imports to replace the energy that was not produced in their reactors as they shut down 50 operable reactors because 4 of their reactors had been damaged by a massive tsunami caused by the 4th worst earthquake in recorded history.

A part of my aggressive response is motivated by the fact that I just spent a wonderful evening surround by nuclear professionals. I live in Lynchburg, VA a little city with one of the most nuclear centric economies in the United States. B&W and Areva each employ several thousand local residents. Last night, a random group of us gathered in the picnic area on the first base side of the Hillcats baseball stadium to watch a minor league ballgame, socialize with friends, and enjoy a summer evening watching the sun set over the Blue Ridge mountains.

Aside: If you live in Lynchburg, you can join in. There is a group that gathers for every Wednesday night game. End Aside.

We chatted about many topics, including the recent ribbon cutting at B&W’s new Fuel Technology Center. One member of the crowd overheard the conversation and introduced himself as an employee at B&W’s Mt Athos road facility. He asked me if I worked at mPower. When I told him yes, he shook my hand and mentioned how he had read several recent articles about us in the News and Advance. He told me that everyone at the plant is rooting for us to succeed and to make a difference for the US’s energy supply.

After that experience, I am even less interested in having people like Barbara call me and my colleagues “trashy.”

Game on.

About Rod Adams

8 Responses to “Defending nuclear energy professionals”

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  1. Joel Riddle says:

    She must not actually know any nuclear professionals.

    I would have used the Oxford comma in your list of “noble gases, iodine and cesium”. At a quick glance, one might think you were referring to iodine and cesium as noble gasses.

  2. Brian Mays says:

    So the former school teacher and pet shop owner, who wrote a book of fiction in 1977, called you names, eh?

    Since she lives in Southern California, it’s probably a good thing that she didn’t know at the time that you live in Lynchburg, or “trashy” would have been just the beginning. I’m sure that “trailer” or “white” would have appeared somewhere earlier in the insult. 😉 I’m also willing to bet that the name “Jerry Falwell” would have been used to demonstrate how backward and unsophisticated you are — you know, the bible-thumping hick stereotype. It’s amazingly popular in So Cal.

    I’m from the Lynchburg area. I’ve heard ’em all and I know her type. Her book and what she has written on her blog clearly indicate that she tends to generalize people into categories based on her personal biases, her predispositions, and her narrow world view.

    By the way, nice picture of Southpaw. Kids love our mascot.

    • Joel Riddle says:

      Being in Southern California, it is highly unlikely that she would know any actual nuclear professionals. I do not envy her apparent ignorance.

    • george says:

      You tend to do an awful lot of speculating about what you are sure people will do, think, etc. I find it funny you criticize her for generalizing people by generalizing about “her type”.

      • Brian Mays says:

        She’s the type who call people that she doesn’t know “trashy.” It’s not a generalization, and it’s not speculation. She’s already demonstrated that this is who she is.

  3. David Walters says:

    She also responded to you Rod. She feels personally insulted by your remarks. Seriously.

  4. Andrew Jaremko says:

    Rod – thanks for making a no-nonsense comment on Barbara Billings’s blog, and telling us about her reply. She apparently conflates criticism of her ideas with criticism of her, and seems to be subscribing to what blogger Ken at law blog Popehat calls The Right Not To Be Criticized. In that post he’s talking about John Rocker, but I think what he says is dead on target. Referring to Rocker:

    Put on your big-boy pants and go speak your mind and, if that’s what pleases you, promote and patronize the media outlets that tell you what you want to hear. But if you start whinging about how the marketplace isn’t fair because your views are not valued highly enough, don’t expect to be taken seriously. If you start talking about a “right to freely voice thought without the fear of public scorn,” expect nothing but contempt.

    (emphasis added.)

    Popehat is deeply concerned with freedom of speech, the US’s First Amendment, and the Internet. I’ve learned a lot by reading it.

  5. James Greenidge says:

    Re: “One member of the crowd overheard the conversation and introduced himself as an employee at B&W’s Mt Athos road facility. … he shook my hand and mentioned how he had read several recent articles about us in the News and Advance. He told me that everyone at the plant is rooting for us to succeed and to make a difference for the US’s energy supply.”

    Maybe I’m way out of line saying this, but it’d be even nicer knowing that B&W (and other nuke crafters) and/or its employees/unions also handed out a few bucks to the nuclear blogs who are the tip of the spear in educating a clueless and fearful public about the facts of nuclear power in the face of formidable opposition. Sure, root easy for nuke bloggers, but a little contribution would help too, guys. After all it’s your jobs they’re in part trying to save too.

    Off soapbox.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY