Paul Wilson & Bret Bennington vs Arnie Gundersen & Heidi Hutner on Nuclear Sustainability

On Nov 20, 2014, Hofstra University hosted its annual Pride and Purpose Debate. This year’s proposition was the following – “Should nuclear energy be expanded to help create a more sustainable future?”

The debate included the following panelists:

For – J Bret Bennington, professor of geology, Department of Geology, Environment and Sustainability at Hofstra University.
Against – Arnie Gundersen, a member of the Board of Directors for Fairewinds Energy Education.
Against – Heidi Hutner, director of sustainability studies and associate professor of sustainability and english at Stony Brook University.
For – Paul Wilson, spokesperson for the American Nuclear Society and professor of nuclear engineering, Department of Engineering Physics and faculty director of the advanced computing initiative at University of Wisconsin-Madison

There are several Gundersen whoppers including a claim that solar power in New York City costs 4 cents per kilowatt hour and a statement that off-shore wind will meaningfully contribute to powering the entire state of New York. He also stated that Arjun Makhijani has doubled down on his claim that it is possible to have a carbon-free, nuclear-free power system by moving his transition completion target date back from 2050 to 2035.

At the very end, Gundersen explains why he soured on the nuclear industry in 1990, 19 years after he earned his MS in Nuclear Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

There’s nothing like carrying a personal grudge for nearly a quarter of a century against an industry made up of more than 100,000 people based on a conflict with an employer.

I’ve admired Paul Wilson (@gonuke) for many years. He is an extremely knowledgable teacher and an effective public speaker. Gundersen had no answers when Paul asked how he could consider off-shore wind to be a “distributed power source” or how many zeros were behind the number of wind turbines and solar panels that needed to be installed each week to match his sides claim that making a significant dent in CO2 emissions with nuclear would require completing one plant every week somewhere around the world from now until 2050.

There was no vote taken at the end of this debate, but there is little doubt who provided the most effective and thought provoking points for his side of the proposition.

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