First hand report from trained US Navy radiation worker about experience associated with Fukushima

The below first appeared in the comment thread of an article by Dr. Kelvin Kemm titled Physicist: There was no Fukushima nuclear disaster. I highly recommend going and reading the full article. However, I believe that this comment thread extract deserves more attention that it would normally receive by being buried within a lengthy thread posted in response to Dr. Kemm’s article.

It is a dialog that includes two first-hand reports from nuclear-trained US Navy sailors stationed on the USS George Washington in March 2011, when the Fukushima nuclear power station made its dramatic entry into the world’s lexicon of nuclear energy.

(I hope no one is offended by my effort to reproduce and publicize an important discussion full of useful information.)

Matt Cash: No one is immune from the hysteria.

I was stationed in Japan onboard the USS George Washington (in the reactor department) when the tsunami hit Fukushima. Our sensors are extremely sensitive, and the dust was able to set them off. Naturally, almost everyone not-nuclear trained started to panic about the potential contamination, which lead to the option of a mass evac from base. Of course, all of the nuclear trained workers just rolled their eyes and expected a massive influx of work to quell fears and start cleanup.

It was NOT fun.

Marushka France: ‘Hysteria’? The exposure and health problems are very real and have been recorded on film as well.

Admiral in Japan called in to NRC about exposure and concerns because exposure was profoundly high – on deck and at the base in Tokyo.

Try reading the NRC FOIA docs yourself

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/foia/japan-foia-info.html

Brian: I was on the ground at Tokyo for the entire “disaster.” I received less exposure in the 50 days I was there than I did on the flight to Japan

RB: Tokyo is 180 miles from Fukushima! What was your exposure for your 50 day stay, and who issued you dosimetry?

David McFarland: The base is not at Tokyo.

It’s at Yokosuka, Japan, south of Tokyo. It is on the Tokyo bay, but there is more than a full city (Yokohama and it’s surrounding suburbs and towns) between the two. I should know. I’m a Nuclear Operator (trained specifically in Reactor Safety) stationed at Yokosuka. I’m on the base, at my home, as we speak.

I received my dosimeter from the Navy. I was a co-worker of Matt Cash, also aboard the USS George Washington (I am still attached to it to this day and live in Japan). I had the pleasure of being one of the lucky few who got to stand in a big giant metal box and look at the readouts of how much I’d received – which amounted to “if you’d eaten a banana and it was still in your digestive tract, it’d light up like a spotlight.” (Bananas contain ~15 bequerels of K-40, or 15 disintegrations a second – virtually nothing)

Essentially, being “in the plume,” meant “DON’T LICK THE GROUND,” and you’d be fine. Even if you did, you’d pretty much have to eat the dust on a regular basis to have an effect – that effect being you might set off a radiac. To get blood or blood effects, the first signs of radiation sickness, you’d have to have gone to extreme measures and it’d have to be quite intentional. It was actually to the point that it couldn’t be guaranteed it wasn’t coming from the Chinese Coal Plants, who regularly spew out trace amounts of uranium and other harmful elements and contaminate far more than Fukushima ever has.

I then had the pleasure of doing dose measurements on hundreds of my coworkers, likely Matt Cash, the above commenter, as well. I don’t remember who all I surveyed. It was a large number. Most people’s bodies, even the areas of concern of Cesium concentration acted as a shield to background radiation.

I also had the pleasure of using much of my training in radiation work. I was able to go up with our Engineering Laboratory Technicians and survey our flight-deck, which is coated in non-skid – as in, very porous and probably the best thing to trap contamination around, and hold it in to keep it from getting washed away by rain. Our sensors are so sensitive and use measurements so miniscule (more miniscule than a millisievert, as denoted in the article) that it LOOKED like we were reading a lot. Naturally, when we saw large numbers, some of us new guys, knowing a lot about radiation and not a lot about it’s application at the time (still far more than the general public), freaked out a LITTLE bit (we still knew it wasn’t enough to harm us).

Naturally, we decided to put our educations to good use – those “high” levels of radiation amounted to virtually nothing at all. Enough that laying down on that flight-deck would net you about twice as much as sun did above you. And that’s on something that trapped that stuff in – and getting direct exposure to it – and again, for a very limited time.

I’ll say this again: I’ve been educated on nuclear power by the Navy (it is frankly not probably as good as the Author’s education, but is years worth of education most commentors on this article do not have). I was there. I held the radiacs. I punched the numbers on a calculator. I work with people who have their living made off of this matter and consulted with them. The math added up to a grand whopping “don’t worry about it.” Yes, there was radiation. There was contamination. There still is contaminated water at Fukushima. There is even a bit of contaminated water in the ocean.

There’s water in the air. Are you worried about drowning? No? Why not? Oh, it’s because there is so little?

Tokyo’s background levels are so low right now, you’d actually be getting a break if you traveled there by boat (as opposed to getting a whopping 7mrem by flying – again, nothing, but more than any of us got by staying in Japan instead of flying out) from, say, a place with high background levels, like California.

Navy Nuclear-power Admirals and Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory historically “freak out” more than anyone else. Nuclear Power Plants have a lot of public hysteria to deal with. You say you detected radiation outside of a nuclear power plant, it doesn’t matter if it was from the sun, people will freak out. The military has a lot of the same problems. Combine the two, and you have people who have to walk on eggshells for a living – and in doing so, the worst they can do is expose anyone to anything considerable, whether or not it is their fault.

The Admiral you are talking about is not nuclear trained, and so has no idea what to do. He (my former boss, before he rotated to another location) was concerned on the matter because he did not wish us, or our families, harmed, and needed to know what to do.

Before you start saying “you got all your information from the military!” No, I got it first-hand. I saw it. I did it. I lived it. You don’t fake radiation levels or harmful effects – or in my case, lack thereof.

Luca Bertagnolio: Thank you for your great first-hand contribution, Sir.

This is the kind of information that should be circulated by those who understand science and technology.

We need to have more people who are well aware of the fact that we can measure radioactivity down to the individual atom decay, but that does not mean that it’s dangerous.

We need to have more people spread the good news about how clean and reliable power generation using nuclear is, plain and simple. And you’ve just done it, right there, by telling us about your first-hand experience. Thank you.

(Emphasis added.)

David McFarland – thank you for your Navy service and for your service to humanity by providing this first hand report. If you read this, please contact me through the contact link available in the footer of each page on Atomic Insights. We have a lot to talk about.

Note from David McFarland

I would also like to add that my comments, however they may be construed, in no way reflect the opinions of the US Navy, merely my own. I am in no way a spokesperson for the Navy.

Additionally, I was quite wrong about our Admiral; he was actually quite nuclear trained and served aboard several submarines where such training is required. However, that being said, radiological accidents are not exactly everyday occurances, and most really did not have a good idea about how to go about such things.

We operate with such low tolerances, radiologically, that his concern was likely about us exceeding those extremely low dose limits — which we did not.

About Rod Adams

57 Responses to “First hand report from trained US Navy radiation worker about experience associated with Fukushima”

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  1. Daniel says:

    Has the NRC rescinded the 50 miles evacuation zone ?

    If not, it would be nice to ask.

    Is anyone pursuing the fight against the NYAS and their bogus study on Chernobyl since the loss of our friend ?

  2. Luca Bertagnolio says:

    Thanks for picking up this snippet of an otherwise interesting article and comment thread, Rod.

    I’ve been fairly active on it in the last day or so, and when this morning I saw the message from David McFarland, I added my thanks for his comment, and tweeted the link to his comment, as I really liked it.

    As I said, we need many more purveyors of good information to spread the great news about nuclear, like you’ve been doing for such a long time. Proud to have you as a mentor, though you might not have been aware about it! :-)

  3. David McFarland says:

    I would also like to add that my comments, however they may be construed, in no way reflect the opinions of the US Navy, merely my own. I am in no way a spokesperson for the Navy.

    Additionally,I was quite wrong about our Admiral; he was actually quite nuclear trained and served aboard several submarines where such training is required. However, that being said, radiological accidents are not exactly everyday occurances, and most really did not have a good idea about how to go about such things.
    We operate with such low tolerances, radiologically, that his concern was likely about us meeting those extremely low tolerances – which we did not.

    • Daniel says:

      I wish your admiral would have given a call to Obama telling him to have Dr J, NRC Chairman, to take his 50 miles evacuation order radius and … eat it …

      • David McFarland says:

        Really, he was likely still worried even so. We didn’t have all of the proper graphs or figures, and the Navy generally likes to play with assuming everything is go as bad as can be expected – or worse. If I had to guess, he was toying with having to upset the lives of everyone on the base and possibly cause them and the military to lose an extremely extensive amount of money, or having to deal with political backlash for the military “allowing” people to reach radiation limits.

        • John Chatelle says:

          If there is any “good” from Fukushima perhaps one element is that it is justified that measurement should come before reaction. Much of the personal hardship of Fukushima seems to be overreaction, forcing people from their homes without measurement and justification. In the future lets measure and monitor situations and understand the threat possibilities before reacting.

  4. Reese says:

    Thanks, Mr. McFarland. A swell comment.

    I was an ELT on CGN-36 at NAS Alameda in 1986 during the Chernobyl screw up. We took air samples on the fantail with positive results due to the mess a half world away. (Had to prove it wasn’t coming from our plants, was the reason.) Truly miniscule amounts. In April 2011, I collected rainwater at home in Edgewood, NM and detected I-131 from half a world away– truly miniscule amounts, about half the activity of cosmogenic Be-7. Our instruments where I work (scheduled to shut down this Monday) are VERY sensitive, orders of magnitude more sensitive than I used in ’86.

    BTW, I know “McFarland” is a common name, but any relation to a MMCM/SW (ret) Lester McFarland? He was L-Div LCPO on the California, later her CMC at the ripe old age of 30 or so.

  5. David McFarland says:

    Not to my knowledge, no.

    I was a nub at the time (I’m an ET.)
    Naturally, as a nub, I was getting ‘stabbed’ with whatever the department needed me to do. Naturally, in a situation like this – the ELTs were swamped and needed whatever help they could get.

    We definitely had some hot-spots early on, but even those weren’t so bad, in retrospect. Had some of these been inside an RC, it might have given some people the jitters. After doing the math, most of us realized that while our limits were within sight (hard not to be, with how low they are, anything is “within sight” of limits) the scale to which the radiation would be harmful is astronomically low.

  6. James Greenidge says:

    Great article and recollections, David McFarland! I wonder if it’s too dangerous for a NYT Letters to the Editor! We sure need more hands like you on-board now! We can do with a cadre core for a real pro-nuke media advocate/educational org like yesterday!

    Thanks for your service and forwardness in many ways!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  7. Cory Stansbury says:

    Thank you David for your story. Hard to compete against “on-the-ground” accounts.

  8. Derek says:

    What a piece of crap. This isn’t a first hand report, because he wasn’t at the disaster site. Petty Officer McFarland, shame on you for using your military training to spread bull—-.

    Edited by moderator to remove profanity.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Derek

      I approved your comment, but warn you – aggressive commentary that attacks others is not welcome here.

      Petty Officer McFarland was completely honest about his location and provide an accurate account of his personal experience. He is to be commended for sharing valuable info.

      I would bet that your reaction to his information would have been very different if he had reinforced your preexisting beliefs about the event.

    • David McFarland says:

      I never said I was at the disaster site.

  9. Joris van Dorp says:

    This article reminds me of an issue that has been lurking in the back of my mind for some time. It is the issue of the so-called ‘risk aversion’ factor that is – apparently – used extensively in the calculation of the external cost of power generation.

    The concept of “risk aversion” has to do with the fact that people – psychologically – prefer a deal that yields a low reward but which has a low risk of damage, than a deal providing a higher reward but with a higher risk of damage. There is no linear relationship governing such choices. Instead, people base their decisions on the principle that it is worth a lot more to them to avoid damage than the value of the damage itself. So they will more often choose a deal with small rewards and a small amount of damage risk, then a deal with a much higher reward which has a slightly increased damage risk.

    For power generation risk aversion, the figures I have to deal with at my end (in The Netherlands) were formulated by a consultancy firm (CE Delft) that has a very good reputation as a provider of unbiased information on energy and power generation issues. They have calculated/assumed the following risk aversion factors for coal, natural gas, and nuclear:

    Coal: 10
    Natural gas: 20
    Nuclear: 708

    (source: http://www.cedelft.eu/?go=home.downloadPub&id=1086&file=VME_Energy_Transition_Strategy%5B1%5D.pdf)

    In that same document, they have calculated the cost of the Chernobyl disaster as $436 billion, and have divided this by the total nuclear electricity produced to date at the time, to obtain a per kWh cost of the Chernobyl disaster of 0,033 €/MWh. (About 0,05 $/MWh).

    This is a negligeable cost of course, and it indicates that nuclear power is incredibly cost-effective, even when including the financial cost of nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl, so one might make the mistake of thinking that CE Delft is a cheerleader for nuclear energy (if only they were!).

    What CE Delft then does is multiply the cost of Chernobyl by the Risk Aversion factor of 708 (they use 708, not 707 or 709, but 708!) to obtain an ‘actual’ cost of Chernobyl of 23 €/MWh! (about $30/MWh!)

    Now, this CE Delft external cost study is very respected in the Netherlands, and this large ‘cost’ of Chernobyl is therefore cited by most if not all of the anti-nuke propaganda literature. It’s a real headache!

    So what I’d love to see is an article which deals with the pro’s and con’s of applying this huge ‘Risk Aversion’ factor in order to magnify the external effects of nuclear power. Can this risk aversion factor be reduced? Why is the risk aversion to coal and gas power disasters so much smaller than the risk aversion to nuclear power? Is it wise to consider the high nuclear risk aversion factor as an immutable given, rather than as a reflection of cultural issues (FUD?).

    I guess my comment here is a suggestion or a request for a good pro-nuke blogger (hint) to provide some helpful commentary on how pro-nukes should/could deal with the (unreasonably?) high risk aversion factor attached to nuclear power generation versus coal and natural gas? Or perhaps I have missed existing blog-post or literature on this?

  10. mjd says:

    @Joris. You asked: “Why is the risk aversion to coal and gas power disasters so much smaller than the risk aversion to nuclear power?” It may not be, see page 38 of your referenced report:
    “Unfortunately, the extent of risk aversion of individuals as well as other
    economic players is unknown, so we have had to estimate risk aversion based
    on our best knowledge27; see Table 10.
    Table 10 Aversion factors (assumed) for different energy sources and regions”.
    Note the words “estimate” and “assumed”; in simple English this means “We just made them up”. I’m curious, do you know if someone actually got paid to do this work?
    I further checked the list of references later in the report for number 27; unfortunately the authors chose to not number the references, so I looked by report title for something like “Why it is OK for anti-nukes to just make up their own numbers”… couldn’t find it.
    You asked: ” Is it wise to consider the high nuclear risk aversion factor as an immutable given, rather than as a reflection of cultural issues (FUD?).” Answer: No.
    You asked: “Can this risk aversion factor be reduced?” Answer: Yup, just make up your own number that you like better, it’s apparently an approved methodology. I’m not a blogger, but I hope this helps.

    • Joris van Dorp says:

      FWIW, this is the ExternE position on quantifying risk aversion of nuclear accidents. (emphasis mine)

      Evaluating external costs for the risk of a nuclear accident is a topic of long debate (ExternE 1995, 1998; Krewitt 2002). Currently, ExternE evaluates costs of a nuclear accident by multiplying the assumed probability of an accident by its assumed costs, derived from modeling studies. This calculation does not account for risk aversion, which is pronounced in the case of nuclear accidents, radioactivity, and large disasters in general. There is no agreed procedure on how to deal with risk aversion within a quantitative framework. It would be possible to develop an assessment scheme, e.g. by using participatory approaches to explore the preferences of the population with respect to different risk types, but ExternE has not been funded to do so. In any case, nuclear energy is a technology where opinions tend to be very strong. It is conceptually important to include an estimate of the costs of a nuclear accident in calculating the external costs of nuclear power. However, such an average value, or perhaps any monetary valuation, is unlikely to be persuasive. In this case, the value of the ExternE methodology may be more a means for steering the discourse into specifics and demonstrating which assumptions have to be used to support different opinions.

      http://www.externe.info/externe_d7/?q=node/55

      • mjd says:

        Thanks for the link. The whole situation seems quite bizarre to me. i certainly know next to nothing about this methodology, but I can read. They clearly state they “just made the numbers up”. The statement above about not getting paid to do the work needed to justify better numbers is a cop-out. In my humble opinion it indicates an ethical problem within the company that published the work. They think it lets them off-the-hook for publishing crap; like a “buyer beware” statement. It’s not my work ethic, nor the work ethic of 99.99% of nukes. If this type of report trickles down to work you do, and affects your work, you really have my sympathies. It also indicates a “hidden motive” of anyone who would actually use this report.

  11. Michelle Love says:

    1)Purposely misleading headline, this is NOT a first-hand account. 2)Purposely misleading factual error about your superior’s experience, knowledge, while belittling his very real FIRST HAND concerns. 3) Purposely misleading scientific information never mentioning until your reply that multiple hot spots were measured. SHAME ON YOU SIR!

    • John Chatelle says:

      @ Michelle Love
      Are you talking about Mr. David McFarland?
      1) Of Course this was his first hand account. You call this hear-say?
      2) David McFarland had the tools of the trade, and the experience as to how to use ‘em.
      3) The “hot spots turned out to be non-hot spots. Doesn’t your point # 3 conflict with your point # 1? He says (full sentence): “We definitely had some hot-spots early on, but even those weren’t so bad, in retrospect. ”

      Question for you Michelle: How the heck can you come here, read, and study further an not be swayed from your throwback Lysenkian stance?

    • Daniel says:

      @Michelle,

      David is competent and speaks with his heart.

      What are we to make of Dr J, who from Washington DC did not hesitate to make a mockery of his peers at the NRC when setting (or drawing) a 50 mile evacuation radius when the IAEA is very clear that in case of civil nuclear incident, the radius should be set at 5 KM (3 miles or so)?

      What Dr J did was to prevent US Navy ships from getting closer to the action so that maybe they could land a helping hand.

      But Dr J’s malice prevented such help from flowing adequately.

      Your shame should be redirected. Your kowledge of all things nuclear could be improved. Stick around and learn. This is the most generous board around.

    • David McFarland says:

      1) I didn’t make the head-line. Had it said “involving Fukushima,” instead of “at Fukushima,” it would have been accurate.
      2) The factual error about my superior, whom I fully understand I cannot speak for, was not intentional.
      3) Please elaborate on how I mislead anyone by not including hotspots in my original comment (that’s all the majority of this article was?) I didn’t include it because stating there were hotspots is actually far more misleading, because people like you who don’t understand what a hotspot is will take it much too far the wrong way – as you have just now.
      The hotspots were actually what I was referring to when I mentioned “it LOOKED like we were reading a lot…”

      • turnages says:

        David, a question whose answer could bring some perspective to this.

        There is a beach resort on the Brazilian coast, called Guarapari, which happens to be rich in monazite sand. The sunbathing tourists look happy and contented. According to http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/natural.htm , this sand has an external radiation level of up to 50 micrograys an hour. Streets of nearby towns have a level of 1 microgray per hour. If a shovelful of sand from this beach, or dust from these roadsides, was spread over the deck of USS Gearge Washington, what sort of “hotspots” would that create for your measurements? Would it be higher or lower than what you measured in March 2011 on the deck? What sort of radiation emergency, if any, would it cause?

        Thank you
        Simon

        • David McFarland says:

          A single shovelful over such a massive area would be harder to detect (a “hotspot” would be an area of concentration considerable higher than background), that being said it would be detectable.

          That also being said, comparison between the two is a bit harder, as that depends on the type of radiation. If the isotopes in the sand at Brazil were alpha-emitters, all you need to stay protected is ensure you don’t breath the sand or consume any of it and you’re perfectly fine.

          If it’s a neutron or gamma emitter, that’s another story entirely.
          If that were 5mrad of cesium, that’d probably be about as much as we were seeing in the hotspots – but spread that shovelful out over the entire flight deck, and that means you’re seeing very little at all.

    • Brian Mays says:

      Shame on you, Michelle, for posting a “drive-by” comment and a rather stupid one at that.

  12. keiththeengineer says:

    just reading the article and what comes over to me is the perception of risk and “harm” from nuclear power

    a few years back our instruments would not have registered any measurable level from a particular location fallout now they do due only to the increased sensitivity of the instruments

    incidentally I live in windscale direct plume area and chernobyl plume came this way as well ….

    the agent remains the same the risk remains the same

    ( didn’t we once have radium in watches and telephone dials )

    what differs is the information that something exists where before it could not be resolved

    we need to inform and spread the word

    although some suspect the current fossil fuel binge is holding off the next ( overdue ) ice age there was a kilometer of ice on where I live now

    in my opinion nuclear power is the only current credible solution

    and why a cargo ship cannot run on a nuclear power plant instead of burning tons of oil a day is beyond me steady load duty no weight constraints cheap to run overall powerful …

    obvious to me but I’m just an engineer …

    keith

    • Daniel says:

      Let’s say I have a nuclear powered commercial ship. Can I just enter any country or must I be certified by an NRC like organisation ?

      That I think is a abrrier to entry that is major. Yo uwould have to be certified in all countries !!!

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Daniel

        There are precedents for commercial nuclear ships to enter ports in about 65 countries from the voyages of the few that have already been built and operated.

        Besides, most high value shipping routes are between a limited number of locations. “Tramp steamers” are pretty obsolete.

      • jmdesp says:

        Daniel when talking about nuclear powered commercial ship, we tend to think there was only rare examples of that, long before, but actually does it look like this is major hurdle for the use of the currently operating nuclear icebreakers ?

        By the way, the Russians do have one nuclear powered cargo ship (with icebreaking abilities), the Sevmorput.

        • jmdesp says:

          But it’s correct the Sevmorput has had it’s commercial carrier seriously abridged by the difficulties the defiance against it’s nuclear reactor generated.

  13. Sean McKinnon says:

    Man the anti’s just HATE it when someone has an experience that does not fit into their nuclear is bad wind mills and sunshine will save humanity world view.

    • SteveFost says:

      And what do you have against windmills?

      How can ANYONE oppose the PRINCIPLES that wind and sunshine are righteous and good for they are OF nature; and, that nuclear, the stuff of BOMBS and the work of evil that spews RADIATION itself an invisible menace and the very breath of the devil himself, can only serve as an instrument of DEATH and large corporations.

      These are obvious and self-evident truths – how can you not understand? You must be an industry shill.

      (BTW, that was snark – doing my best impersonation of a well-meaning but scientifically ignorant and wholly self-righteous idealogue: a.k.a. the doctrinaire anti-nuke. I don’t call them liberals because Liberals believe in science, freedom of thought and ideas, and the principle that education and intelligence are essential tools for societal progress, of which access to key resources such as energy is a necessary condition. These freedoms and the very idea that social progress is something to be achieved by collective action informed by reason and based on FACTS, are what separate us from the misery and servitude of Middle-Age feudal society. These freedoms and the liberal ideals of the enlightenment are the very foundations of America).

      • Daniel says:

        I call all the RFK Jr and Lovins of the world green aristocrats.

        They can afford the lunatic energy and impose the costs to the masses.

        • Joris van Dorp says:

          Rod, sorry this is off-topic, but in reply to Daniel:

          Daniel, I agree, and things are getting worse!

          I now personally know at least two top-level energy and sustainability consultants who have told me independently – to my face – that they believe the future of energy will be intermittent distributed generation without backup, whereby the problem of windless, sunless days are ‘solved’ by letting the spot price of energy rise as high as necessary to shed the required amount of load. When I then asked these guys (well-healed, well-paid, white-collar males) if they understood that such an energy system paradigm would force the poor to go without energy regularly, almost every day for a few hours in fact, even while the rich would be able to pay such prices, they replied that this was no problem. One of them actually told me (something which I already know) that in Germany hundreds of thousands of households are cut off from electricity each year, which shows that getting rid of load by pricing the poor out of the market works fine!.

          They both also suggested that if people (or businesses) wanted reliable energy they should just get themselves a diesel generator. They cited the fact that datacenters and hospitals already have there own backup generators, which “shows that its possible for every business to readily solve the problem of future unreliable grid electricity”.

          Both of them also agreed that not only would energy become less reliable in future, but that it also would become far more expensive. Both of them were adamant that the public was ready to accept this development without protest.

          When I told them that this would probably not solve climate disruption, because few if any other nations would choose such a grotesque energy strategy, but rather choose to continue burning fossils, they both replied that this was also no problem, since the problem of co2 was exaggerated anyway! (note that these guys have businesscards saying they are senior-consultants on sustainability)!

          Finally, I asked each of them if they explained these things during their presentations and consultancy practice. Neither did. One of them actually told me: “No I don’t tell them of course! What we are going to do is bring about the new energy paradigm (based on unreliable and expensive grid electricity) slowly, so the people have time to adjust, because people are flexible and creative and will find ways to deal with it in time, and because they will forget that there was a time when energy was cheap and available 24/7! In 30 years time, no-one will remember the energy system of past and everybody will organize their lives around the availability of energy, shifting their energy dependent activities to coincide with sunny and/or windy periods.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Joris van Dorp

            May I have your permission to elevate this comment to a post? Can I provide attribution? If so, will you give me a brief “blurb” about your background and perhaps set the stage for the conversations that you have had on this topic?

          • Smiling Joe Fission says:

            In 30 years time, no-one will remember the energy system of past and everybody will organize their lives around the availability of energy, shifting their energy dependent activities to coincide with sunny and/or windy periods.

            This just sounds so idiotic I have to laugh. Really? Nobody will remember the energy system of past? Does this guy think that the entire West is going to become totalitarian? There is still some form of free market in the West, industry will not sit around and watch this happen, they will move where this isn’t the case (different state, province, country). Watch how quickly the tune changes for wind/solar when jobs dry up, electricity prices sore, and reliability plummets in areas employing this moronic scheme.

            These guys apparently don’t have a clue about human nature, that humans will leave places that have no opportunity for prosperity.

          • David Walters says:

            Joris, PLEASE write this up as a blog post! It’s grotesque, but quite real what this anti-working class paradigm (sorry, but I’m a staunch trade unionist!) the hipster renewable advocates have planned for us.

            David Walters
            IBEW 1245 (Ret)

          • Joris van Dorp says:

            @Rod, sure you may. I should note that neither of these consultants are colleagues of mine.

            My function is HVAC and energy systems mechanical engineer at a building installations consultancy. I mostly work on projects intended to improve energy efficiency/sustainability within the field. Clients include medical centers, airports, datacenters, laboratories, office builidngs and some industrial clients.

            @SJS, I talked about the impact on industry as well, when talking with one of these guys. His view was that industry was not as sensitive to power outtages as I made them out to be, and that such industries “get compensated for power outtages” (As if that means outtages aren’t a problem?). He also said that in any case, industries that are sensitive to energy costs “were not the kind of industry you want to have in an advanced economy anyway.”. I’ve heard that argument before. It’s part of the meme that says that energy intensive industries are ‘dinosaurs’ and ‘low added-value’ industries. Ridiculous, IMO.

            Another thing by the way – and this really surprised me – when we got to the subject of Europe and the concept for the European SuperGrid (perhaps including North Africa for concentrated solar power) he said that that plan was nonsense. He said that countries ‘will never make themselves dependent on other countries for their power supply’. I was really surprised, because this seemed to contradict his expectation that we could run our society on intermittent power! After all: one of the main arguments for intermittent power is that the EU Supergrid will take care of the intermittency!

            Anyway, it was clear to me that I am not going to understand the viewpoint of such people any time soon. To hold such a collection of seemingly internally inconsistent views on energy and the future would drive me nuts, I think!

          • Joris van Dorp says:

            @David, I may do, although if you google, you will find a few similar articles on this theme. A good one was this one:

            http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/high-costs-and-errors-of-german-transition-to-renewable-energy-a-920288.html

            I should also expand a bit on the general mood that is prevalent among those lucky enough (I consider my self lucky in that regard) to have work in the fascinating arena of energy and sustainability. I attend conferences and working groups in various settings and have gained experience in getting people to speak frankly about sustainability. What I have noticed is that many of these people are deeply pessimistic about the prospect of actually succeeding at solving the various sustainability issues on the agenda. (I know one person – an engineer – who actually left the field for less complicated engineering work, citing: “becoming depressed by the sheer size and hopelessness of the challenge”.) When I specifically ask people whether they think we will achieve success in the end (i.e. solve the environmental problems) almost everyone says they think we will not solve them. So why are they working in this field? Some simply admit that they do it because it pays the bills and because they like at least doing something for the environment. Others say that they still hope we will succeed and that their contribution will make a difference. Only a few say that we will actually succeed, but these are invariably the rather naive and/or young ones. Some of the (usualy older) professionals declare outright that there is no hope and that they merely provide whatever sustainability consultancy services they can sell, never mind any actual – rather than percieved – sustainability benefit to the client. It’s just business as usual for them.

            Finally, I should note that close to 100% of these people have no valid information about nuclear energy. Almost invariably, they assume that nuclear energy is:

            - more dangerous than all other options
            - more expensive than all other options
            - that it causes greenhouse gas emissions in its own right
            - and crucially: that nuclear fuel is as limited as fossil fuels!

            So I believe that this lack of knowledge of nuclear energy is really a big reason for their whole perspective on solving environmental issues. This is strengthened by the fact that many people do show a genuine interest in nuclear power if I manage to them of the possibilities and about how it helps me to remain optimistic about actually solving environmental (and economic) problems.

          • James Greenidge says:

            Good work, Joris!

            One extremely enlightening post that I doubt we’ll see in the New York Times or Kos. Then we kind of saw this peeking under “renewables”‘s dirty laundry a long time ago, just no way to really confirm it. I hope every pro-nuke blog quotes your more biting segements in their side columns because this is dynamite to the greens main eco cry of us all living with nature in the most rudimentary way!

            James Greenidge
            Queens NY

          • David says:

            Joris,

            These are the types of arrogant thinking, elitist who care nothing except for their own wealth that are so strongly rebuked in the Book of James. What an anti-human attitude!

            Long ago I recognized the close connection between energy and wealth. I have just returned from a trip to a country considered one of the poorest in the world. I found that even in the rural areas high tension wires were run and people were using electric refrigeration. This poor country was buying steady electricity from it’s neighbor.

            These folks are coming OUT of the night mare of rotating blackouts and energy poverty.

            Adam Smith thought that the basic input to an economy was labor. In his time (1776) this stood in well for energy. Today the basic inputs are Energy and Creativity.

          • Wayne SW says:

            Organizing one’s life around the availability of intermittent energy sources is exactly what people did from about the mid-1800s back to the neolithic era. When the sun didn’t shine, people did no work, no farming, no leisure activities, just crawl back into your cave and sleep and hope to wake up alive the next morning. When you ran out of wood to heat your grass or mud hut in the middle of winter, well, tough cookies for you, you just freeze to death. I am wondering how many people today would agree that this is a preferable future for their progeny? One thing is for sure, there will be a heck of a lot fewer people in the world answering that question.

          • Bill Rodgers says:

            @Joris

            The fact that there are people out there like the two you describe is just scary.

            No mention of commerce, no mention of GDP, no consideration of the poor that are being excluded from power markets already.

            Just scary to think there are people out there preaching this type of stuff to decision makers.

          • Jeff Walther says:

            This really shouldn’t surprise anybody. It is the logical outcome of the greens’ policies. The fact that some powerful entities managed to get enabling legislation passed in a majority of the states in the USA (RE mandates) shows that the fix is in, somewhere in the power structure.

            I wouldn’t be surprised to find that some of the sponsors of the NEI favor these policies. There must be some reason Mark Flanagan keeps writing articles for NEI Notes that I can only categorize as Renewables Apologies rather than blasting them (unreliables) for their failures.

            Expensive energy and a public which considers it normal would be a huge short-term profit boon for the energy companies with already existing generators.

            And this transition is working so far. Here in Austin, our electrical rates went up 20%. But the voters reelected the same old city council. Of course, most of them have no idea that the expensive electricity was caused by the policy of subscribing to unreliables. The city sold it as a “long overdue rate hike”; during a period with historically low natural gas prices. Right. Plus, the city delayed implementation of the rate hikes until after the election. But the populace knew the rate hikes were coming, and did nothing.

            The fact is that the public can be lied to about what is driving up energy costs and most of them will swallow it, because it is the only message they hear. We just don’t have a loud enough voice to get the real situation out to them, and the real situation is complex, the explanation of which exceeds the average attention span.

            As to industry and people moving elsewhere. Well, 29 (?) states already have RE mandates and it keeps getting pushed at the national level. Elsewhere could easily become outside the USA.

            Toronto is nice in the summer. I’ve never been there in the winter. I wonder how the market is for electrical engineers up there…

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            Toronto is nice in the summer. I’ve never been there in the winter.

            Cold, but not so much as Winterpeg, Manifroza.  And there are whole networks of skyways and underground walkways to allow you to get around the downtown without braving the icy winds.

            I wonder how the market is for electrical engineers up there…

            You’re making me wonder that myself.

          • SteveK9 says:

            This might sound scary, but it is such a grotesque misreading of human nature, I’m not concerned. There are a lot of people living in cocoons these days (finance being the prime example), who seem very disconnected from reality.

            On another note, Kudankulam 1 in Tamil Nadu was finally connected to the grid this morning, and should be at full power (1000 MWe) in a couple months. Unit 2 to follow in June. It won’t be long before the benefits for millions of Indians will be evident. In the face of that kind of reality, the nonsense above is going to have a short lifetime.

      • Sean McKinnon says:

        Jesus Steve! You almost got me! I was beginning to formulate a reply in my head about the dangers of sun cancer and deaths from wind storms etc… And how radiation is just as natural and then I read further and saw that it was sarcastic reply, lol.

        • SteveFost says:

          Sorry about that… I have spent too much time on community blogs like DailyKos. I think I accurately summed up the attitudes of the scientifically illiterate that self-identify there as lefty. It drove me so nuts that I had to quit participating on that site out of concern for my mental health – such ignorance that is totally impervious to arguments based on scientific evidence drove me bonkers. It is extreme ideology bordering on religious devotion or the delusional.

          Wind and Solar are next to Godliness, nuclear power is wrong as any radiation is poison without peer and no exception – if you don’t agree, you are WRONG (and likely compromised by Corporate influences, hence impure)… END OF ARGUMENT… [place fingers in ears and go LALALALALALA can't hear uuuu!].

          Anti-nukism might just as well be a cult insomuch that it is impervious to questioning, no matter how well sourced, reasoned or argued. Now I understand how abhorrent things of history occurred: the Salem Witch Trials, the Inquisition, tyranny based on personality cults (e.g. NAZI-ism), Jonestown, etc. It seems to be a flaw in the O/S of the human brain: a NEED to believe and belong, even if of absurd things leading to extreme outcomes.

          The disciple of science is the only antidote to such magical thinking, IMHO.

          I know we all must be aware of falling into such traps of groupthink and the dominant narratives of one’s tribe, but jeeez, this is what we’re up against. I also believe that powerful vested interests stoke the fires of extremist tendencies in order to further their pecuniary interests.

          • George Carty says:

            Even Nazism had an economic basis, in that one of the most strongly Nazi socioeconomic constituencies in Germany was the rural peasantry. These people were victims of the first great wave of globalization, in which the steamship permitted Europeans to tap the vast agricultural output of the New World, providing cheap food to urban Europeans but at the same time reducing Europe’s farmers to grinding poverty.

            The Nazi economic policies were about helping German farmers, first by subsidizing them (at the expense of Germany’s urban working class) and then by providing them with cheap land to compete with the New World (by conquering and depopulating Eastern Europe).

  14. Daniel says:

    You can brace yourself for Monday Oct 21. All the paper work has been signed between the UK, China, Areva and EDF. The strike price is 92.5.

    This Hinckley power plant is going to get done. Then a truck load of sites are available for nukes. 8 in total. 4 for EDF exclusively.

    And the V4 countries (Visegrad) are telling the EU and they’ve had enough with nuclear discrimination. They want freedom of choice with regards to their future energy mix.

    • Daniel says:

      China is happy. They have the cash and the UK is the banker of the EU. The UK has granted China relaxed and flex rules to setup banks on UK soil.

      Money talks.

      Now the first country to have cicilian nuclear power is forging ahead with the most rapidly expanding nuclear country in the world.

      Yeah baby yeah.

      • Smiling Joe Fission says:

        And the Ontario Liberal leadership has decided (unofficially) to postpone building two new reactors at the Darlington site. Very disappointing news seeing as Pickering’s 6 CANDU’s are to be decommissioned in 2020. Two 1,200 MW AP1000′s could have gone a long way to fill that 3,100 MW hole. I don’t know what the Ontario Government proposes to make up for that loss of base-load power approaching.

        • Daniel says:

          And Quebec has officially imposed an Uranium ban.

          I would have loved to hear DV82XL on that.

        • Daniel says:

          Ontario has a strong disdain if wind And solar while nuclear accounts for 50% of électricité génération.

          This is not over.

          • Jeff Walther says:

            Powerful forces have started pushing natural gas… I mean unreliables… I mean wind power in Ontario. They’re squirming every which way to implement it despite public opinion.

            And (coincidentally?) and old and unreasonably persistent anti-nuclear troll who formerly infested the comments section at Ars Technica has started posting to Steve Aplin’s “Canadian Energy Issues”.

            You have to wonder. BAS. SOD. Maury Markowitz. fredlinn, freedomev. These guys seem to have infinite time to post their non-stop anti-nuclear drivel. Are the sad, lonely, delusional examples of humanity, so pathetic that they have nothing productive to do with their lives? Or are they paid trolls?

  15. Tim says:

    @Joris Van Dorp: you said:

    and crucially: that nuclear fuel is as limited as fossil fuels!

    This is a valid criticism. We have a projected 80-120 years of 235 left. Whether this is at current or projected rates of consumption I don’t know. But with the prospect of Thorium reactors this can be stretched out to 8,000 years

    • Randy W. says:

      I believe he is referring to seawater extraction technology where fertile material, particularly Uranium, can be extracted virtually endlessly. Uranium, as you may know, seeks equilibrium in solution. As long as the quantity removed does not exceed the replenishment via the dissolving of Uranium on the seafloor and in river discharges it could be viable to run the plutonium cycle for as long as humanity desires it… or we go extinct… whichever comes first.

      Failing that there is always the possibility of the extraction of Thorium and Uranium from granite or even just plain old rocks.

      Simply put, the energy density allows for the extraction of the fertile/fissile material from sources with absurdly low concentrations with a net positive energy return. What we have available now with conventionally mined Uranium ores, Monazite sands, etc is just the tip of an extremely large iceberg.

  16. i'm not here says:

    The good soldier’s firsthand account is misleading, the winds didn’t start blowing south until days later. Unit 3′s radioactive plume was carried due east during and immediately after its explosion and still radioactive particles were finding their way onto his base enough to send the USS G. Washington out to sea in a hasty skeleton crew like manner.

    Try drilling down to details, the good soldier will claim he knows nothing important unless he wants a sit down talk with his current commander.

    Relevant readings can be found here…
    http://fukuleaks.org/web/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/RGCHPSDARWG-Rademacher.pdf