Ted Rockwell – thank you for a productive life and for your friendship

On Sunday, March 31, 2013, the world lost a nuclear energy pioneer. I lost a friend and mentor. Ted Rockwell passed away in his sleep during the wee hours of the morning on Easter Sunday. He was 90 years old; his death was the end result of a brief illness from which he was unable to recover.

Atomic Insights readers and Atomic Show listeners have frequently read Ted’s words and listened to his stories. He lived an admirably productive life, participated in the creation of some amazing technology and produced several fine works of history and creative writing. He was a tireless campaigner for facts, a warm and friendly individual and a witty conversationalist.

I will miss his ready willingness to give good advice and his valuable assistance on important technical information issues. Most importantly, I will miss our frequent conversations on the wide variety of pressing problems that can be alleviated by increasing use of nuclear fission energy. These short clips do a pretty good job of illustrating Ted’s personality and technical opinions:

Rockwell: Nothing compares to nuclear

Rockwell: Waste can be stored anywhere

Additional Reading

ANS Nuclear Cafe (April 2, 2013) Ted Rockwell, Atomic Pioneer and Tireless Campaigner for Facts

Nuclear Townhall Ted Rockwell, RIP: Nuclear’s Cockeyed Optimist

About Rod Adams

39 Responses to “Ted Rockwell – thank you for a productive life and for your friendship”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Bob Applebaum says:

    Comment deleted as inappropriate

    • DV82XL says:

      That was uncalled for Applebauum and has earned you my contempt and I’m sure the contempt of others.

    • john tucker says:

      And to think the Bob Applebaums of this world are the ones now dictating our energy future.

  2. SteveK9 says:

    Really enjoyed those clips again. I’ve worked in R&D my entire life, and you always want to have colleagues like that. Guys who really know their stuff and can cut to the chase.

  3. meredith Angwin says:

    Rod

    I hate to ask, but can you do us all a favor and ban this Applebaum guy from your blog?

    When you posted a eulogy at ANS Nuclear Cafe, this guy had to be the first comment in line, with a bunch of insults about Rockwell. Among other things, he compared Rockwell to a creationist. I wrote a rather rude response. The ANS folks deleted his post and all the responses as inappropriate. They were correct to do so.

    He’s a little better here, by starting with “sorry for your loss” but he just has to get his insults in at the top of the list.

    Please do us all a favor and banish this guy from your blog.

    Meredith

  4. meredith Angwin says:

    Actually, Rod. I was wrong. SteveK9 took the high road. It’s better to just ignore Applebaum. Thanks, SteveK9!

  5. Steve Foster says:

    You just post this and then, before you know it, he’s baaaaaack… I think you have gotten yourself a blog stalker. It must mean something for someone to spend this kind of effort determined to stir the sh!t everywhere you go…

    Congratulations?!?

  6. Bob Applebaum says:

    Comment deleted as inappropriate

    Note from host: Fair warning to commenter – one more strike and you have been voted off of the island. Only the government is prohibited from censorship.

  7. James Greenidge says:

    If Applebaum and Mulligan simply tersely listed their nuclear grievances for point by point factual and researched _constructive criticism_ I could tolerate their discussions, but hit and run slights and dumps treating contrary opinions like cold non-caring corporate hacks aptly get no respect and nowhere. It only makes one wonder whatever happened to or who did what to them to make them so rabid like this. I mean Greenpeace has more philosophical than health grievances against nuclear energy, but Applebaum and Mulligan don’t seem in that league, so I’m bemused. If they could just dispassionately cite their beefs and respect other logical opinions we’d be going places. I mean fact and logic should rule, IMHO.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    • Rod Adams says:

      @James

      It’s perhaps not fair for me to say this, since I just banned ol Bob and he cannot defend himself, but Bob is not opposed to nuclear energy. He does, however, have about $18-36 million dollars worth of motivation to continue the myth that all radiation, not matter how low the dose or dose rate, needs special handling. You can translate “special” to very expensive – or quite lucrative, depending of which side of the ledger you live.

      As I have pointed out before, Bob and a partner started a radioactive waste handling company named RACE that was headquartered in Memphis, TN. In 2006, they sold that company to Studsvik for $36 million.

      http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=12748

      If there was no LNT, there would have been no RACE and Bob would not have as much free time on his hands to continue to defend a 1950s era assumption against 21st century science like our better understanding of cellular response and DNA repair mechanisms.

      • DV82XL says:

        Rod- You gave Applebaum more than sufficient opportunity to defend his position and he failed. “I right because I am right, and therefore you are wrong , regardless,” is not discussing an issue and that was essentially the quality of the argument he was presenting.

        Beyond his financial interests, I suspect that his ego played a huge role in his attitude: he did not present himself as a person who could take being wrong well, and the fact that evidence is mounting against LNT likely galls him as it undermines what he has believed for so long.

        At any rate his remarks were contributing nothing to this debate and I will not miss them.

      • Brian Mays says:

        Don’t worry about Applebaum. I’m sure that he’ll just whine and moan on his own blog that nobody reads. Although, you’d think that he’d have learned after his comments were pulled from the ANS’s blog on Tuesday for being too creepy.

  8. Engineer-Poet says:

    I knew you’d eventually prove me right about what you do to the level of discourse in a forum, but you didn’t have to do it so soon.

  9. Jason C says:

    Ted was an amazing guy. I very much enjoyed his writing. I hope his memory will continue to inspire others.

  10. john tucker says:

    Sad to friends I understand, but, as described, and after such a long and technically illustrious run who could hope for more in life. Well done.

  11. David says:

    Rod,

    I always enjoyed listening to Ted. His stories were great and always helped me in practical ways with the work I am currently doing – even though it is far from the engineering he was working on. For example, he said in one place that as he formed a team to design the first commercial NPP, that he was looking for people who knew how to bring a product from inception to completion. He did not care if they knew anything at all about Nuclear Power – they could be taught that. But what he did know was that it was nearly impossible to teach the type of thinking that helps a person go from A-Z on a project. That was the type of person they needed.

    This observation has helped me as I work with various individuals in the work I do. I am looking for people who can go from A-Z. We can teach them the details.

    I will miss Bob. His comments always stirred up wonderful responses with great detail in the replies. I fear that with him off the island, that those types of really good resources will not be as available. Passion brings out good research. You were quite patient with him. I have enjoyed the conversations on your Blog mostly because they are so open with such a wide range of deeply informed opinion. It is refreshing to watch a real debate rather than an echo chamber. EL gives similar opportunities. I know that Bob was not willing to really answer anything, but everyone else DID. Their responses to his dumb remarks were remarkable.

    Ah well, perhaps there is someone else who will take up Bob’s annoying mantel.

    • Brian Mays says:

      There’s no doubt that Bob made a great foil, but personally, I won’t miss him.

  12. Rick Maltese says:

    Ted Rockwell could say a lot with few words. Great thinker and communicator.

  13. Todd in Japan says:

    Hi, I’m new to nuclear power (since 3/11) but have a physics background so quickly looked for blogs kept by people who know what they are talking about even if there are disagreements at times. Rod Adams has made a couple of errors, and I think he is way off with respect to the risks of global warming, but he has highlighted his errors in bold and lets those who disagree with him post.
    I’m also think I learned quite a bit from how engineers responded to Applebaum. I am sorry to hear that Ted Rockwell has passed away, and it is unfortunate that Applebaum chose to write his remarks now. Still, I think his ban should only last a week or at the very most through April. If he gloats about his ban being lifted, just ignore him. I’ve been reading this great blog for two years and have the impression Rod is a “take the high road” type of guy.

    Juat my two yen.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Todd

      Bob Applebaum can get in touch with me via the contact form on this site. If he apologizes for his ad hominem false accusations, and agrees to stop attacking scientists and engineers for their science and technical analysis, I will forgive and and allow him to respectfully disagree. He can present all of the information he wants, but his constant attacks on integrity were quite tiresome. When he showed his great disrespect for a true hero with a long, demonstrated record of technical and personal integrity – three times within 24 hours – he earned his ban.

  14. Daniel says:

    I am sorry to hear about Ted’s death. I hope he had a friend or two within the NYAS to pursue the just fight that he initiated regarding the stupidities posted by the Academy on the Chernobyl situation.

    I hope his fight will be taken on by others scientists within the NYAS.

    But it is a tragic loss and he looked like a sweet human being.

  15. Brian Mays says:

    I hope that this article of his (PDF) from five years ago is preserved.

  16. Todd in Japan says:

    Rod,

    I see your point…

  17. James Greenidge says:

    Greetings Todd in Japan!

    The man on the right spot! :)

    Are folks over there getting straight facts about the reasons for the Fukushima evacuations and why they aren’t being “allowed” to return? Are they aware of the actual injury score at the plant in the face of wild megadeath expectations? Does the media still have it in for nukes there or are they becoming more evenhanded in the reports and FUD-busting?

    Thanks for any insights!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  18. Robert Steinhaus says:

    So who is the finest nuclear engineer and best pro-nuclear technical writer since the dawn of the nuclear age?

    My answer would be Ted Rockwell.

    Very few nuclear engineers had his mastery in depth of his intensely technical field.
    Very few nuclear engineers combined great technical strength with an ability to very effectively and persuasively write.

    There is now an important voice in the American conversation that has now fallen silent.
    Ted, you will be missed.

  19. Todd in Japan says:

    The Asahi Shimbun, a paper on the left, has been strongly anti-nuclear from day one. Overall though, I don’t think the media here has been nearly as bad as in the U.S. A recent Asahi Shimbun survey showed 37% are in favor of nuclear power with 45%, leaving a pretty large middle.
    For the most part, it seems that people believe what they want to believe about the necessity of the continuing evacuation. My take is that most feel the government has been taking proper steps with a minority pointing out few if any homes have risky levels of radiation.

    Richard Samuels, a political scientist has just released “3.11″, where he unfortunately hasn’t learned from his previous mistakes I pointed out on a US-Japan forum (NBR) that he made at CNN and on NPR in 2011. From his book (first 2 chapters are free on Amazon.com):

    * “Few of the 110,000 residents of the neighboring towns and villages, who were evacuated can expect to ever return to homes that could sicken them on contact.” (p. 4, but quite a bit else is wrong as well)
    * ” [A private study] condluded that [Prime Minister Kan] may have prevented ‘massive radioactive fallout that could have contiminated the whole of Eastren Japan including Tokyo.’” (p.11 source: the ‘private study’ was written by an anti-nuclear committee headed up by the staunch anti-nuclear editor of the Asahi Shimbun)

    * “NRC officials felt they were ‘dying in a sea of silence’, and in the absence of reliable information, recommended an 80 km evacuation zone around the stricken plants.” (p. 12)

    * Plant manager Yosida Masao is widely credited with saving the lives of the workers in the plant by ignoring orders from TEPCO that he stop injecting sea water into the reactor.(p.45 source: Asahi Shimbun and the NY Times)

    (Samuels is the most widely quoted American US-Japan security expert, and I’m sure this will be the most popular book assigned to students on Fukushima for years.)

    • James Greenidge says:

      Todd:

      Todd, thanks! Your man on the spot points are invaluable, invaluable! One final :( thing so I don’t go off the tribute topic here; Googling does no good so maybe your observations can point the way, but what nuclear advocacy blogs are in Japan which are accessible in English? I’d like to at least send them some moral air support!

      Thanks — I mean really thanks for your input there! (wish I were!)

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

  20. Angela Rockwell Cescati says:

    As Ted’s granddaughter, I’m glad to have had any slandering of him removed from this page, thank you.

    No matter where you stand on the nuclear debate, there is a time and place for everything, and one would think that people would have the couth to remember this fact.

    I’m not sure exactly what Mr. Appelbaum wrote, but I pity him and his apparent need to use every available option to push his own agenda. I wouldn’t push for a permanent ban, however… this man is punished enough by his lack of character

    I thank the rest of you for your kind words… and yes, G-pa will indeed be greatly missed!

    • Engineer-Poet says:

      Who knew that his family might be watching this page?  Glad to have you here, and your good wishes.

  21. Susan Juarez says:

    Dear Rod and friends,
    Being Ted’s assistant for the past four and a half years as been an amazing experience for me. He had spoken of you often. Mr. Applebaum has been a thorn in Ted’s side for years, thank you all for your continued support.

  22. Robert Margolis says:

    I had known Ted since 1994. I always admired his energy and ability to travel at so advanced an age. He will be sorely missed. Looking forward to seeing Michael Pack’s Rickover documentary which Ted was Executive Producer.

    And of course, my sympathies to Ted’s family and colleagues.

  23. Pro-Nuclear Alaska says:

    Ted passed away on what many would consider the highest holiday of the year for Christians, Easter morning. After a lifetime of excellence in service to the nation as a nuclear engineer and a clear and informed voice on nuclear issues, and after patiently teaching, mentoring, and helping all of us to understand better the actual practical risks of radiation and the potential benefits of clean reliable nuclear power,
    I have one last request of Ted.

    If the high, noble, and supreme authority that compassionately directs all things in the place you now reside and the rightful regulatory authority there permits it,
    please let down a rope for your nuclear friends to climb up.

  24. James Greenidge says:

    I think the Nome Alaska area would be a perfect place to demo all kinds of SMRs, especially after that shameful oil-dependence fiasco with that Russian oil tanker a while ago, Not only to generate stable reliable local power, but if plans go through for that Bering Strait bullet train concept, such would be there to help support and energize the project all the way!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  25. Wayne SW says:

    I can only think of the quote from Pericles,

    The whole Earth is the Sepulchre of famous men; and their story is not graven only on Stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.

    Ted would disclaim the “famous” descriptor, but he was admired and respected by those who knew him, so I think it is appropriate to honor his memory in this manner.

  26. Dave Collins says:

    I knew Ted a little – great guy. We last corresponded a few months ago in January. Ted responded:

    “When one hollers into cyberspace, it’s nice to get evidence from time to time that someone heard. It looks as if you are doing useful work out there. Keep it up, and God bless you. If I can ever contribute something specific to your efforts, I’d welcome the opportunity.

    Thanks for contacting me. Best wishes to you and yours. Remember the advice of the old black pitcher, Satchel Paige: “Don’t ever look back. Somethin’ may be gaining on you.”

    +++++++

    Ted wrote the very excellent book on Rickover’s life “The Rickover Effect” which I reviewed on Amazon in 2010, here is my review:

    More that just a biography, a management primer

    The title could have been called: how a leader can successfully deal with bureaucracy while maintaining high standards and values. If you read the 2008 book “Influencer – the power to change anything” Rickover was an “influencer virtuoso”. Rickover understood the dynamics of motivation and ability at the three [personal, social and structural] levels. Rickover did some unusual things with the people who reported to him [many mostly harmless "social experiments" intentionally placing people in unusual and challenging situations, to see what people were made of] which I frequently found humorous. People that say Rickover was a “nut case” are only capable of seeing the outer layer of the onion. Inside is a brilliant intellect, leader and manager.

  27. Terry says:

    Just read ‘the Rickover effect’ and have to say these nuclear pioneers have to be revered and they make me feel proud to belong to the profession of engineer.
    Ted Rockwell will be greatly missed, I only hope young engineers will have been inspired by him and help to build on his great work and build a nuclear powered future for the greater good of mankind.