Arnie Gundersen has inflated his resume, yet frequently claims that Entergy cannot be trusted
Update: (Posted 3/19/2013 at 02:53) As part of his testimony against SCE on the matter of steam generators and SCE’s restart plan, Mr. Gundersen posted an updated resume – aka CV – dated December 2012. He continues to prominently list “Licensed Reactor Operator, U. S. Atomic Energy Commission License # OP-3014” at the top of his resume under the heading of Education and Training. As discussed below, the only reactor he was ever licensed to operate was the 100 watt critical assembly at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. That “reactor” was a room temperature, pool type assembly that produced no steam and contained no steam generators. End Update.
I have just started listening to the Vermont Public Radio debate between Arnie Gundersen and Meredith Angwin on the subject of whether or not Vermont Yankee should remain running. After listening to the moderator’s introduction of Mr. Gundersen, I had to stop and share some thoughts.
Here is the transcript of that introduction.
Arnie Gundersen, who lives here in Burlington, is Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Associates is a well-known authority on the subject, someone who has figured prominently in recent accounts of Vermont Yankee circumstances.
Mr. Gundersen, who has almost four decades experience in the nuclear power industry, earned his Bachelors and Masters in Nuclear Engineering from RPI. He was a licensed reactor operator and put in twenty years in the industry. He’s led teams of engineers dealing with nuclear reactors at 70 nuclear plants around the nation. He was appointed by now Governor Peter Schumlin to the Vermont Yankee Oversight Panel in 2008 and it’s his expertise that qualifies him as an expert witness on various aspects of Vermont Yankee, including plant safety, its decommissioning fund, and the suitability of the plant being extended past 2012.
There are several exaggerations in that brief statement. Because he has been an expert witness, Mr. Gundersen has been required to provide an accurate resume to public bodies; you can find one such document at the end of the testimony that he provided in March 2006 to oppose the Public Service of Vermont’s decision to allow Entergy to increase the power output from Vermont Yankee.
A careful reading of that resume reveals only one mention of any kind of license to operate a reactor. In the section of his resume headed Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) 1971 to 1972, there is the following statement: “Critical Facility Reactor Operator, Instructor. Licensed AEC reactor operator instructing students and utility reactor operators in start-up through full power operation of a reactor.” Here is a quote about that critical facility from a contact who attended RPI at the same time as Gundersen did.
It operated at no pressure, room temperature, licensed to 100W, highly enriched U, open tank of water.
A second exaggeration comes in the statement that Gundersen has “almost four decades experience in the nuclear power industry.” His resume shows that he graduated from school in 1972 and that he stopped working for Nuclear Energy Services in 1990. From that point on, his full time employment was as a math and science teacher at a series of private schools. His resume lists several items under the heading of Nuclear Consulting 1990 – Present, but it would be interesting to hear the opinion of nuclear professionals about how those activities count as experience in the nuclear industry.
An Atomic Insights reader who is personally familiar with the work that Gundersen did at Northeast Utilities during the period from 1972-1976 read the posted resume and shared the following comment with me using the polite and understated language that is common among engineering professionals.
I think he exaggerated his responsibilities for projects at NU, 1972-6.
I spoke to that contact at length a few days ago, he told me that Gundersen was assigned to the licensing group and did not have any real design engineering responsibilities while at NU.
Though I cannot prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, I am quite certain that Mr. Gundersen or someone in his company provided the information to the moderator – I have both introduced people and been introduced enough times to know how that process works. It would be difficult for him to claim with any kind of credibility that he did not know what the moderator was going to say, so he needs to accept responsibility for the claims made.
My point in providing these details is to illustrate the inconsistency involved in having a man who is prone to inflate and exaggerate the facts about his own career experience repetitively speaking about the job performance and alleged lack of integrity of hundreds of qualified professionals whose production gets measured and evaluated every day by some very demanding inspectors.
Gundersen is a man who uses a pair of 39-year-old university degrees to claim the title of “nuclear engineer” so that he can get paid $300 per hour to seek to destroy valuable assets like Vermont Yankee. That plant produces about 4.8 billion kilowatt-hours of emission free electricity every year. Gundersen’s claim to expertise includes a number of questionable statements about the real world experience he gained after earning those entry level tickets. Gundersen has a legitimate claim to have earned a pair of respectable degrees, but the claim that he developed and maintained any reliable knowledge about topics like plant maintenance, operations, radiation health effects, and economics should be viewed with a bit more skepticism.
Update: (Posted on March 4, 2011 at 0810) The Brattleboro Reformer published an article yesterday accusing me of Shooting the messenger. There is an interesting comment thread associated with the article. My view is that messengers displaying evidence of having arrived after a questionable journey deserve to be scrutinized.
Since posting this, I have noticed a few more inconsistencies in the claims made by Mr. Gundersen about his career path. In 2008, he applied to become a member of the Diablo Canyon Safety Committee. On that application, he made the following statement about his experience:
Since 1970 Arnold Gundersen has been an expert witness in nuclear litigations at the Federal and State hearings such as Three Mile Island, US NRC ASLB, Vermont State Public Service Board, Western Atlas Nuclear Litigation, U.S. Senate Nuclear Safety Hearings, Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant Litigation, &c. He has also testified at the Czech Senate on nuclear matters.
I went back and checked the resume linked to above. According to that resume, Mr. Gundersen earned his BS in Nuclear Engineering from RPI in 1971, so he was still an undergraduate student in 1970. That leads me to the conclusion that either there was a judge somewhere who has rather low standards for expertise for his witnesses, or that Mr. Gundersen needs someone to give him a calendar for Christmas.
When noticing that, I also reread the first job listed on his resume. Here is how that job was described:
“Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) – 1970
Performed Shielding design of radwaste and auxiliary buildings for Newbold Island Units 1 & 2, including development of computer codes.”
The date listed for that job was before his graduation date. My guess is that it was a summer internship since Newbold Island, NJ is 218 miles from Troy, NY, the home of RPI. That would be a long commute if the job was done during the school year. End Update.
Let’s be careful. I have a 29 year old degree and an 18 year old PE license. Maybe I am getting too long in the tooth? 😉
Seriously, I think Mr. Gunderson needs to read up a little: he referred to LNT as a theory. Both the ICRP and the NAS refer to LNT as a hypothesis as there is no data showing cancer at doses below 10 rem as Mr. Gunderson implied.
My comment is not focused on the age of Mr. Gundersen’s initial degrees, but rather on the resume that follows that initial good start. (He apparently did pretty well in a well respected academic program.)
There are many facets of Gundersen’s various testimonies that he needs to read up on. My point is that he claims a lot more experience than his resume supports. I think it was you who once told me that I put you at risk of criticism at work when I said something about you being an operator. As you know, licensed nuclear power plant operators are rightly proud of their licenses and the work that it takes to earn one and maintain it.
How would they feel about a guy who claims expertise in nuclear power plant issues because he was “a licensed operator” if they found out that the only license he ever had was permission to operate a 100 watt open pool reactor at a university?
How would professional engineers feel about the fact that Gundersen has been hired to do the kind of work for his state government that requires a PE license in most states?
Yes I agree with you. Good thing Mr. Gundersen did not claim the SRO license as the operator corps is rightly proud of that special qualification.
Great one Rod, I worked breifly with Arnie at NES in the early 80’s and he wound up claiming all sorts of stuff.
Great expose, Rod.
I think it would be good if you reorganized your expose as follows. It would be clearer and more effective. I’ll be glad to help you distribute it.
Please read these two articles.
Yesterday David Albright, ?resident of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation? told the New York Times (and they happily repeated it), ?ou can have a Chernobyl-style accident with this kind of reactor [the Bushehr VVVR-1000].?
So now another ?uclear expert?says a PWR, with a negative moderator and voids coefficient, a western-style containment, modern safety-injection system, and containment spray can repeat a Chernobyl?
Since comments weren? enabled, I wrote to the author, begging him to do a little skeptical research before he puts the imprimatur of the NYT behind idiotic statements like that.
“Yesterday David Albright, … told the New York Times (and they happily repeated it), …”
It’s the New York Times. They parted ways with reality a long time ago.
Thanks Rod its unfortunate that the public in general and those in Vermont in particular are rarely skeptical of those who reinforce their preconceived notions. We at Vermont Yankee are well acquainted with Arnie and his exaggerations. He plays to a public and a legislature that has zero knowledge of nuclear power or engineering and is willing to accept any negative claim as truth. He claims to be the Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Associates but doesn’t mention he is the only engineer. A reputable engineer would not consider himself the Chief Engineer of anything if he had no direct reports. His latest claim is that VY has discharged fission products into ground water despite 100s of samples of ground water indicating the opposite.
What is really interesting is what he doesn’t mention: why he had to leave NES and why he lost his lawsuit and he doesn’t mention that while at NES he sold spent fuel racks to Vermont Yankee which could not be used due to dimensional issues. Any engineer who reads his resume would quickly note that he really has never designed anything himself. Claims like managed and contributed on a resume with nothing else substantive are clear giveaways that he has done nothing substantial in his career.
The one thing he does well is manipulate a small state legislature who are impressed with terms like Nuclear Engineer when they come from someone who is clearly against nuclear power. He also has done very well for himself lately, taking $300/hr and expenses for work on the Comprehensive Reliability Assessment and $185/hr for consulting with the legislature (all paid by Entergy). This also allows him to parley this consulting into other consulting roles providing “expert” testimony. Its well paying if dishonest work, not worthy of a Professional Engineer which, of course, he is not.
In the interest of disclosure I’ve been a PE since 1984, worked for 7 nuclear plants in over 30 years, have more design experience than managerial or contributory and hope that I can finish my career at VY after license renewal (Arnie claims that he has worked for 70 plants in ~20 years before leaving NES). Clearly inflated but he probably includes those he has provided “expert” testimony against.
Jim – thank you. With your permission, I would like to elevate this comment to an update on the original post.
I have a question about that Compehensive Reliability Assessment that he’s billing $300/hr to work on – is there any oversight at all to ensure he’s not billing Entergy endlessly without actually producing any work or ever finishing?
What does it take to be an expert witness anyway? I’m thinking I need a career change if a bad expert witness can make 150+/hr. I noticed in the video he mentioned how he testified as an expert on the river issues. He also noted that there were 16 fish in the river, and repeated that number several times (i assume he meant to say a number much larger but just forgot the zeros, or meant # of species of fish). His audience doesn’t know that though.
Did you catch that? I left some units off the 150 number. Did you catch it right away or did you mind automatically fill in the missing data? A common tactic used by such expert witnesses. Works best when they have time to condition a unit of measure with an audience first. I could have a study that show verifiable evidence that he makes 150 coconuts/hr. Depending on the $/coconuts ratio i can imply a larger or smaller number based on how I say it and what units i use or exclude.
I’m sure all you engineers on here notice how very inconsistent articles are with keeping units and switching back and forth. I know from practice the only reason to constantly switch units or leave them off numbers is to create confusion, problems, and cause probes to crash in to mars.
And now Gundersen is plastered on CNN as an expert, talking about how dangerous it would be to drop water on melting fuel rods because the water might push them closer together and create critical mass.
Hi Rod & AI ,
As a UK Civil Engineer & Structural Engineer ( absolutely no nuclear experience ) thanks to Rod Adams and all Postings for illuminating what to many is a mysterious & fearful area of expertise & nuclear risk . Especially the radiation superstition debates . The Gundersen matter shows just how much complete integrity is necessary , when dealing with this area , to my mind perhaps the most crucial yet overlooked area of global risk evaluation ?
Again , one more example of the questionable integrity of people being the real problem & real risk , rather than the technical problems themselves .
So often one has to waste irreplaceable time & energy arguing the ethics & conduct of a person , rather than the problem itself .
There are so many armchair experts , especially the Green Political Lobbyists , in the UK , who simply regurgitate “sound bite theories” and who are then wheeled out to educate the masses into the “real risks” of nuclear power , with a minimum of accurate facts , and more importantly , little or even zero quantative numerical ability .
Take the irrational growth of Wind Farms in the UK .
The level of rational economic engineering debate is stifled as much as possible by those with vested self interest .
Sadly corruption is everywhere , the target usually being Public Funds .
I was taught A level Physics in Todmorden Grammar School in 1960 , and in a glass case next to my desk were a number of school physics exercise books which had belonged to Sir John Cockroft , Old Boy & Nobel Prize winner , who , “split the atom” .
One wonders what he would have thought about the Nuclear Industry today , and the integrity of some of it’s self professed experts ?
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