Fission Fast! – New Slogan Idea For Effective Energy Revolution

Fission,
FAST!

My creative juices were inspired this morning by an article titled Climate is not a mass movement. The piece comes from Randy Olson, the filmmaker turned scientist who is most famous among my pro-nuclear communication friends as the author of Don’t Be Such a Scientist.

Aside: I wonder how many of the people in my pronuclear social media circles who have strongly advocated for Olson’s work as a science communicator know that he fondly remembers his participation in the “No Nukes” movement and thinks of it as a model for societal change? End Aside.

I found the post from the following tweet from Andy Revkin:

 

After reading Olson’s thought piece, I fired back the following tweets in rapid succession:

 

And

 

Olson is a good communicator and hit on some important concepts in his post, but his science interest is biology, not energy production. There is no doubt that the No Nukes movement contributed to a successful (so far) effort to push the world away from the use of nuclear energy, but there is also no doubt that the success of that movement – along with a whole series of poor decisions made by the people who were building nuclear power plants at the time – have put the world into a dangerous position.

The very danger that Olson wrote about – a changing climate that is being made ever more unstable by the forcing functions associated with an increasing atmospheric concentration of CO2 – could have been avoided by focusing first on science and technology and then on creating slogans aimed at encouraging positive action.

Mankind has access to a tremendous gift (from God or nature, whichever you prefer) in the form of a densely concentrated source of heat that can be turned into all of the power that we will ever need. We discovered that heat source at a fortuitous point in our development. Just as our industrial development was finding more and more ways to use energy to improve human health and prosperity, we found an fuel that contained two million times as much energy per unit mass as the hydrocarbons that had been powering that development.

Perhaps unfortunately, we discovered the mechanism to unlock the energy that uranium and thorium have contained for billions of years at a time when our industrial society was in the midst of a world wide conflict. We were choosing to use our god-given creative ability to develop ever more effective ways to kill each other. It was perhaps inevitable that some people in The Establishment determined that the most important use of uranium’s incredible energy density was not producing reliable electricity or motive force that could be used to relieve suffering and empower the powerless.

Instead, they decided to put together a Manhattan Project style program aimed at producing explosive power to demonstrate – once and for all – that we had become like gods on earth.

Aside: In fact, it was archetype of such singularly-focused, short-term, demonstration programs with no planned follow through, just like the Apollo program that is often mentioned as another model of how to get things done. I hope that it’s clear that I am no fan of such a program design; I am much more interested in following the model of Rickover’s naval reactors program, one that has lasted for more than half a century and has been strengthened over the years by adhering to a number of well understood principles. End Aside.

Many people remain firmly convinced that building bombs was the first motive for developing atomic energy capabilities. To overcome that misconception, I recommend spending some time reading old newspapers and magazines from the period prior to 1940, when the “powers that be” determined it was time to force atomic energy into secrecy. They decided to invest most of the world’s nuclear expertise into fashioning a destructive capability instead of taking the easier and far more productive path of building a coal and oil-replacing constructive capacity.

For the price of a few electronic subscriptions to publications like The New York Times, we can now sit in the comfort of our own homes and go back in time to find out what people were thinking and writing. With properly selected search terms we can hone in on a particular topic and a particular time. I spent several hours a few days ago learning more about what (slightly above) average people knew about atomic energy (as it was then known) and what they thought about its potential in the period between 1920 and 1940. It was an illuminating experience.

At the risk of a takedown notice, I thought it would be worthwhile to share at least one of the articles I found to whet your appetite for a similar search endeavor. The article is the March 5, 1939 edition of This Week In Science by Waldemar Kaempffert. Another excellent way to understand that many atomic pioneers were more interested in useful power than in explosive power is to read Ted Rockwell’s Creating the New World: Stories and Images from the Dawn of the Atomic Age.

Getting back to the main thought for this post. Like Olson and Revkin, I am worried about the long term effects on the ability of the earth’s systems to sustain life as we know it. I am not worried about “the planet” but about mankind and the vast infrastructure that we have developed to make life more comfortable and more enjoyable. I am worried about the marvelous city where Revkin writes and about the extreme vulnerability that it has always had to strong weather events.

I am worried about all of the coastal areas I have called home over the years, including the Florida east and west coasts plus the panhandle where Mom now lives; the South Carolina Low Country; Groton, Connecticut; the Big Sur coast in California; the Washington DC metro area; and Annapolis, Maryland. I am not alarmed, but I know that it is going to take a lot of effort to change our present course and speed.

The longer we wait, the more difficult it will become.

Thought process leading to the pronuclear call to action

I worry about the climate-destabilizing effect of continued fossil fuel combustion and the associated CO2 waste disposal effort. Unlike the climate change alarmists, however, I do not advocate actions that depower society and force humans to violate our very natural desire to improve our life style. Instead, I advocate turning to an option that will empower most of humanity with ultra low emission electricity and motive force.

We need action. As Olson points out in his piece aliteration and brevity have value in building inspiration and huge movements. As long time readers know, I have been toying with the phrase “fission fan” for quite some time. I also thought about contrasting something with the fundamentally negative, but effective slogan that Olson mentions – “No Nukes”.

I thought about the talk I heard Patrick Moore give to the American Nuclear Society student conference at Texas A&M several years ago when he described how he left Greenpeace because he had tired of spending his life fighting against things and wanted use his science training to find things worth fighting for. I thought about some of the technologies that have been developed to make better use of atomic energy potential.

Finally I remembered my recent conversation with my pronuclear friends, including Gwyneth Cravens, a woman who is a star of Pandora’s Promise, a Sundance film festival sensation that describes how some former antinuclear activists have determined that the hope at the bottom of the chest needs to be released.

After all of that thinking, which took less time to coalesce in my mind than it did to write those few paragraphs above, I hit on the slogan that I think will resonate as a call to pronuclear activism. We need fission and we need it now – actually we needed it yesterday, so now is the best available time.

About Rod Adams

29 Responses to “Fission Fast! – New Slogan Idea For Effective Energy Revolution”

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  1. Daniel says:

    A quote from above:

    …. remembers his participation in the “No Nukes” movement and thinks of it as a model for societal change…

    If only Sen Kerry would be here. He did vote for it before he voted against it … Or was it the other way around ?

  2. Brian Mays says:

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one who finds calls for a new “Manhattan Project” or “Apollo Program” for energy to be naively absurd to the extreme. “Short-term, demonstration programs with no planned follow through” is an excellent description of these projects. In fact, it’s important to note that they produced more value to mankind through side effects — that is, from the scientific knowledge and technology developed as part of the program — than they did by achieving their primary objective.

    • Joel Riddle says:

      Brian, there are people that would try to argue that the posititive side effects would be reason enough to pursue such programs (likely The Breakthrough Institute).

      On the topic, I recommend Sherrell Greene’s recent post about his experience and observations regarding government research (he worked at ORNL from about 1980-2010).

      http://sustainableenergytoday.blogspot.com/2013/02/post-77-societal-contract-federally.html

      • Brian Mays says:

        Joel – Yes, I’m familiar with The Breakthrough Institute and I’m aware of their arguments.

        Certainly, benefitting from side effects is always a nice perk that is difficult to discount, but the counter argument hinges on cost effectiveness.

        How much bang are you getting for your buck?

        I have nothing against funding basic research, which often produces the most surprising dividends. I’ve joked for almost 20 years now that the largest contribution to society for the next half century that will be provided by CERN (the high-energy-physics laboratory near Geneva) was the invention of the data formats and client-server protocols that resulted in the World Wide Web. (And no, Al Gore did not create the Internet.) We’re currently using this “side effect” to carry on this conversation.

        Small amounts of money spread over wide areas tends to generate the best results. The experience at Bell Labs demonstrates what can be accomplished by funding highly creative researchers without imposing too many artificial barriers on what they are working on. The best thing that you can do to inspire innovation is to get the hell out of the way.

        The problem with the “Manhattan Project” or “Apollo Program” approach is that a large amount of resources are focused on a relatively tiny objective. What’s worse is that the objective will almost certainly be selected by political concerns, not technical, and the Manhattan/Apollo experience demonstrate this.

        Unfortunately, the people who advocate this approach are naive enough to believe that if you just throw enough money at a problem, it will be solved. I’m sorry, but the second law of thermodynamics will not bend to any amount of funding. These people need to wake up and join the real world.

        To summarize, it is my opinion that the top-down approach does more harm than good. The best results come from accurately recognizing promising technology as it develops (ahem … nuclear power anyone?) and allowing it to grow without strangling it with Renewable Portfolio Standards, Feed-In Tariffs, obscene tax incentives, etc., that favor its competitors.

    • Marje Hecht says:

      You are wrong about the Apollo Program, which had a long-term view of space colonization, including nuclear rockets and colonizing the Moon. But the funding was not allocated, by those in Congress with short-term views. There was a paradigm shift in the United States that shut down the idea of progress that was predominant in the post-war period. It was the same with the nuclear program, whose U.S. pioneers had far-reaching plans for building 1,000 plants by the year 2000. The Apollo program put (conservatively speaking) $10 back into the U.S. economy for every dollar spent. In other words, it paid for itself.

      You have a strange view of side-effects. How else is progress made except by the advancement of science and technology, and pushing the frontiers forward?

  3. Brian Mays says:

    Thermal-neutron reactors = Fission, no so fast? ;-)

  4. Marcel F. Williams says:

    I think pro nuclear advocates have to be– in your face environmentalist. Nuclear energy is the safest and most the environmentally benign energy technology ever invented. Wind and even solar have a much larger negative environmental footprint than nuclear energy. And small underground nuclear power plants will have an even smaller impact on the environment.

    So the slogan, “Environmentalist for Nuclear Energy” is the boldest statement that any nuclear advocate can make, IMO.

    The reason that I’m a strong advocate for nuclear energy is because I believe in a clean environment!

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Andrea Jennetta says:

      I like how you think, Mr Williams! I wonder who holds the rights/patent/whatever for the “Another Environmentalist for Nuclear Energy” slogan. Does anyone know? We need more T-shirts, bumper stickers and coffee mugs. Can’t have a movement without the right paraphernalia. :D

      • John Tucker says:

        The website seems defunct (of course – just as its needed most). The WNO has this PDF ( http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/2001/pdfs/comby.pdf ) from 2001. They were a bit ahead of the curve I guess.

        It doesn’t look like the phrase was registered. I think it defaults to the first group/organization that actually used it in such cases.

        If you believe in something you need to make it free and accessible. No questions or expectations. Its easy with creative commons.

    • James Greenidge says:

      Re: “Wind and even solar have a much larger negative environmental footprint than nuclear energy.”

      If this is permissible, a relevant piece from the NY Times. This issue is unsung how many times around America?

      http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/26/cape-cod-community-considers-taking-down-wind-turbines-after-illness-noise/?test=latestnews

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

      • Jeff Walther says:

        I just read the article. I find it hard to believe that they actually had all the public meetings and votes that they claim they did. Did they put any effort into publicizing it?

        The reports of ill health effects from proximity to wind turbines have been around for years for folks to see. Did no one in that town point out that this was a possible result?

        My guess is that they got this bright idea, quietly held a bunch of votes on it to make it look like the public had a say, and then built what they wanted to anyway.

        Most folks are busy with their jobs, kids and lives. If the government didn’t put some effort into publicizing the discussion, most folks will never have noticed.

        Heck, our city council here in Austin, TX is bat-guano crazy, but when I go to vote against them, I find that only 5 – 10% of the city bothered to vote. In two days stores here will no longer be allowed to give out disposable bags of any kind, paper or plastic. What happens when I’m taking a walk and decide to stop at a convenience store for more than one item. Am I supposed to lug a grocery bag with me everywhere I go? Grrr. Idiotic municipal governments.

        Yet, I don’t have time to be at the city council meetings to tell them they’re idiots. I usually have a LL baseball game to coach.

  5. John Tucker says:

    Good one! Lets have a logo contest throw-down here? Creative commons unrestricted use on submissions and ideas.

  6. Daniel says:

    WOW !

    That was fast. Unit 1 at China’s Hongyanhe nuclear station is new and now operational ….

  7. John Tucker says:

    Some good links in there, I seen the method in Revkin’s approach better – although I don’t agree with it completely.

    I think the other side of every story that the Internet provides access to limits and tempers movements to some extent and also the kind of people that have traditionally founded protest movements are too marginal for technically themed modern issues. The experts and professional credentialed leaders in these types of movements just sit around asking “what happed to all the protesters?” when in fact they would be the first ones out there if it was to take root.

    The long haul thing too, that is climate change, acidification and real pollution mitigation is outside of general attention spans.

    Of note, The Anti Nuclear movement is one of the most successful world misinformation campings Ive ever seen, look at this poll result [and think about it for a minute, its truly astounding considering the reality of the situation]:

    The surveys also asked questions about worries concerning particular kinds of environmental problems, including global climate change. One asked which problem among nine was most important for their country as a whole as opposed to the individual.

    Air pollution ranked first in 13 countries, followed by climate change, which was the top concern in 10 countries. In another question, the surveys asked people which environmental problem they considered most personally dangerous and found that in only three countries was climate change listed as the most dangerous environmental problem, trailing nuclear power plants and industrial air pollution.
    ( http://www.norc.org/NewsEventsPublications/PressReleases/Pages/international-surveys-show-environmental-issues-rank-low-among-most-peoples-concerns.aspx )

    • James Greenidge says:

      Important and insightful survey! Hope the roundtable on a Atomic Show debates this.

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

  8. Derek says:

    Here’s a new slogan to fight against dirty energy:

    Combine the company name Gazprom with Greenpeace except mirror the text for Gazprom in the opposite direction (morpzaGreenpeace). Follow up with a clever clarifying statement such as “hidden agenda” or “Gazprom’s favorite lobbyist” or “Both are dirty but one has the appearance of being clean” or “A parasitic relationship. Hint: Gazprom benefits from Greenpeace activism.”

  9. Joris van Dorp says:

    Rod, I like how you shifted the definition of “climate alarmist” to mean: someone who wants us to reduce our consumption of energy (and therefore arguably our quality of life) in order to reduce CO2 emissions. First time I’ve seen it put this way. I think that approach could go a long way in the energy discussion.

    Whenever “Climate alarmists” and “Climate denialists” are locking horns over what should or shouldn’t be done about co2 emissions, the “Fission – Fast” party can suggest *neither* of them is right: it is a false dilemma. Nuclear power *can* enable a continuation of economic growth and consumption *as well as* a sustained reduction in global co2 emissions.

  10. John says:

    Instead of being sheepish of the strong force connection between energy and nuclear weapons, I’d like to see more use of the thread between the two in a positive vein. Nuclear weapons shows the strong force to be extremely dynamic and an effective instrument of change. We can use words like “nuke” and “thump” as a call for dynamic action. We can apply this sense of dynamism to show that this important call to action requires real dynamic action.

    I like “Atomic Action on Climate Change” as a talisman. It implies that a dynamic technology is required to act upon climate change. The Idea that “Nukes” really do give us the dynamic power to “thump” climate change, can reach a lot of people. I find people may be moved by the concept that a conical reentry vehicle 22 inches in diameter at the base and 5 feet tall can contain a standard device that is the energy equivalent of 300,000 tons of TNT, carbon free energy. We need to embrace the power of the strong force as we convince people that the more power at our beck and call, the more work we can do toward mitigating climate change.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @John – I like the way you think.

      Would you like to join an Atomic Action committee to address climate change and fossil fuel supply challenges?

      People attacking problems that thinkers like Andy Revkin describe as “super wicked” need tools that are equal to the challenge.

      • Daniel says:

        @ Rod and John,

        The following sentences :
        Nuclear weapons shows the strong force to be extremely dynamic and an effective instrument of change
        and
        We need to embrace the power of the strong force as we convince

        May have a bug here Atomic bombs and civilian nuclear plants use fission. If I am not mistaken, nuclear fission has nothing to do with the strong force… Nuclear fusion, yes.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Daniel

          I’m not a physicist or even a scientist. As I understand it, fission gets its power because adding a neutron to certain unstable nuclei makes them wobble enough to break the very short range strong force, allowing the natural repulsion between positively charged protons to make two halves of the nuclei fly apart to collide with other atoms and discharge their momentum in the form of heat. Enough neutrons are released in the breakup to enter other nuclei and cause a continuing reaction if those nuclei are also certain unstable isotopes.

          In fusion, a huge amount of energy has to be put into the system to force small atoms past the repulsive electrostatic force so that the nuclei get close enough so that the strong force joins them together.

          Nature makes it a lot easier to produce energy by breaking the strong force than to use it to join nuclei together.

          Asided:Truth be known, I am only an engineer because the Navy trained me in engineering after I graduated from college. In most states, the practical Navy Nuclear officer training pipeline is not recognized as engineering education. Admiral Rickover was pretty possessive of his people; he did not want to award any recognized degrees because he considered the knowledge his program imparted to be his property, not that of the people who learned it.

          With an MS NE, US Navy in hand, nuclear trained officers would have been in even more demand from the commercial industry. Therefore, despite numerous suggestions in the early days, Rickover adamantly refused to allow any external accreditation of his schools. Add in the practical experience of operating responsive plants; performing time constrained, but high quality level maintenance; performing complex and often creative maintenance at sea; and personally designing and running a safe, live reactor based drill program; many navy nuclear officers – even those with a BS in BS – would have been able to pass almost any PE exam with a little independent study.

          Rickover abhorred simulators so much that even a couple of decades after he died, the program calls its simulators by an acronym – FIDE – Fleet Interactive Display Equipment – that carefully avoided using any words that provide any hints that the machines are some of the most high fidelity “simulators” in the country. End Aside.

          • Daniel says:

            @Rod,

            From an autoritharian source. Atomic Insights on Sun, 30 Sep 2012 01:27:43

            Fission is electro magnetic force. Not strong force:

            @John Cantelle Just a minor correction: Nuclear fission doesn’t actually release “strong force” potential energy. It releases mass-equivalent electromagnetic energy and kinetic energy from the repulsive Coulomb force of the positively charged nuclear fragments. Potential energy of the strong force is actually stored in the smaller nuclear fragments. Nuclear fusion is the process that releases the “strong force” potential.

            I wasn’t aware of this until I read Wade Allison’s “Radiation and Reason: The Impact of Science on a Culture of Fear” (2009). The explanation is on pp. 41-42. I highly recommend this book as well as Ed Hiserodt’s “Underexposed: What if Radiation is Actually Good for You?” (2005). Have your anti-nuke environmentalist friends take a look at these and see what they think. Not that many people are aware of the radiation hormesis concept. It needs to be more widely known.

            Sorry for wandering off the topic of the current blog post.

  11. Daniel says:

    @Rod,

    I take my nuclear info from Atomic Insights. I suggest you do the same !!!

    Fission generates electro magnetic force. Sorry ….

    Here is a post from a smarter man in September:

    Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2012 01:27:43 +0000

    @John Cantelle Just a minor correction: Nuclear fission doesn’t actually release “strong force” potential energy. It releases mass-equivalent electromagnetic energy and kinetic energy from the repulsive Coulomb force of the positively charged nuclear fragments. Potential energy of the strong force is actually stored in the smaller nuclear fragments. Nuclear fusion is the process that releases the “strong force” potential.

    I wasn’t aware of this until I read Wade Allison’s “Radiation and Reason: The Impact of Science on a Culture of Fear” (2009). The explanation is on pp. 41-42. I highly recommend this book as well as Ed Hiserodt’s “Underexposed: What if Radiation is Actually Good for You?” (2005). Have your anti-nuke environmentalist friends take a look at these and see what they think. Not that many people are aware of the radiation hormesis concept. It needs to be more widely known.

    Sorry for wandering off the topic of the current blog post.

  12. Gallagher says:

    Hi – I’m just getting ready to do my ceramic exhibit – I am using a bunch of coffee cups in nuclear tower shapes with 100% carbon free on them and on the other side pro nuclear slogans like – Split – Don’t emit! Nuclear power or climate change? and I plan to use Fission, Fast! as well. Any others out there that you have heard?.There is also “power to save the world”, “it’s not the problem it’s the solution” (this regarding nuclear waste)

    Yes regarding the radiation hormesis concept – life evolved in a sea of radiation that was much higher millions of years ago – so our DNA repair systems are adapted to low levels of radiation.

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