On March 26, 2015, Cleveland.com published a story titled Perry refuels its nuclear reactor, critics concerned about storage (photos).
The story described how a group of activists had tried to generate concerns and actions in response to First Energy’s decision to improve the Perry plant by adopting fuel designed to provide more energy per fuel rod before needing replacement. The activists were worried because the “high burn-up” fuel would be more radioactive when it was removed after use.
The article included a quote that motivated me to issue an invitation for the Atomic Show.
David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nuclear watchdog group that is not opposed to nuclear power, dismissed the fears of the anti-nuclear critics.
He too traced the opposition to the fuel to the report made by the Argonne National Laboratory in 2012.
“Imagine that, a researcher at a national lab concluding that further research was needed to more fully understand something. I cannot imagine a researcher depending on future funding ever concluding that all that needed to be known was already known and that money could henceforth be spent researching something else,” Lochbaum said in an email.
“In this case, the self-serving conclusion by the researcher has spawned an army of activists around the country who contend that high burn-up fuel in dry storage is the greatest risk to humanity yet created. That’s so far from the truth that the truth could not be seen using the Hubble telescope (with a good lens).”
Hat tip to Dan Yurman, publisher of Neutron Bytes for sharing the link to that story.
Over the years, I’ve been critical of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and their actions. Though the group has often stated that it is not antinuclear and only works to improve nuclear safety, it’s often been difficult to tell its positions from groups that have nothing good to say about nuclear technology.
Dave Lochbaum has occasionally violated my general perception of the organization by focusing on issues that are actually a problem and my defending the technology and the industry against misdirected accusations.
I’ve often considered inviting him to be a guest on the Atomic Show, but never issued the invitation. The above quote gave the “round tuit” I needed.
During our discussion, Dave and I spoke about perception versus reality, the strength of the programs that the nuclear industry has implemented to learn and improve, the weakness of the nuclear industry’s ability to communicate its routine good news, and the impact of actions taken by individuals and organizations who have chosen to consistently oppose the use of nuclear energy.
Dave admitted that antinuclear activists have an impact, but he generally concludes that the industry shouldn’t have made the initial “poor management” decision that gave the activists a loose thread to yank on in the first place. My position was that if the standard required is perfection, we’ll never get there.
We also talked about the fact that nuclear systems have been designed so that even a series of significant errors don’t result in catastrophic consequences, even when they result in hype and efforts to portray accidents as disasters.
We talked about San Onofre, early closures of other plants, and the impact that “locked up” decommissioning funds have on nuclear plant owners decisions about continued plant operations.
I hope you enjoy the discussion as much as I did. Dave and I didn’t always agree, but that’s ok.