Engineer-Poet, a frequent commenter here on Atomic Insights, made a suggestion that sucked me into an interesting, but frustrating discussion on TruthDig. EP and I have been exchanging thoughts long enough that he might have realized that I would get hooked. I think he felt lonely as a pronuclear poster in that particular forum and hoped for a little reinforcement.
The comment thread is attached to a fairly typical Harvey Wasserman screed titled News Flash: Fukushima Is Still a Disaster. As one might expect, considering the source, the initial article is full of inaccurate statements about current conditions at the power station, in the Pacific Ocean, in the Japanese government, and in the population of people who have been terribly affected by the earthquake, tsunami and irrational fear of radiation.
The comment thread is populated by numerous anonymous antinuclear commenters who are completely misinformed or spreading deliberate untruths. Over the past couple of days, I’ve had a number of exchanges, most of which are forgettable and repetitive, but some of which might be worth reading for those of you who like to have answers and links to decent rebuttal sources.
There is one particular exchange worth highlighting by repeating it here so we can discuss my response and the possibility of other tactics that might work better. Of course, there is always the option of staying out of the fray, but that has not been working too well if your goal is working to establish conditions that will enable nuclear energy to grow quickly enough to make a major difference in the world’s energy supply picture.
The two comments can be found here.
prisonersdilema -> Rod Adams
“Of the three major nuclear plant accidents that have occurred in more than 55 years of commercial nuclear plant operation around the world, Chernobyl is the only one that resulted in ANY early fatalities or long term health effects.”
This is an out right lie.
“I am not sure why people like you have a hard time believing that people who have studied all of the issues and accidents that you mention have made an honest, unforced evaluation that results in a decision to advocate for nuclear energy as the best available energy option.”
Of course your not sure, because you can’t believe that there are others, scientists, not engineers who understand this issue far better than you. If you are an engineer, that does not make you a scientist, a biologist, a geneticist, a psychologist….
And since engineers, like yourself routinely build and implement weapons of mass destruction, designed to exterminate whole populations with the nuclear weapons they care [sic], populations of billions of people, on nuclear submarines, that does not make you a man of high moral judgement when it comes to these matters.
But rather someone who will blindly follow the orders of his superiors without any qualms about the murdering innocent non combatants.
I hope you understand why I found that comment particularly insulting and troubling, not only to me, but to several honorable professions. Here is my response.
Rod Adams -> prisonersdilema
This is the internet, and people often believe that their anonymity gives them the right to say anything they want, but your comment runs dangerously close to libel.
Against my better judgement I will provide a bit of an answer.
Unlike you, I am a real person who uses my real name when engaging with others in discussions that I take very seriously. There are few topics more important than energy, it is closely related to nearly all human activity.
I am not a scientist, nor am I an engineer. I am a writer and an observer who has lived long enough to have had some real world experience. I am a father of two and grandfather of three. I earned an undergraduate degree in English, but I did that at a school where everyone was required to take a core curriculum filled with math, science, engineering, leadership, and practical seamanship skills.
Following graduation I was trained through the Navy nuclear power training pipeline and then served for ten years in a variety of operational engineering jobs on nuclear powered submarines with an increasing level of responsibility for leading and managing growing numbers of people.
I became fascinated with the beauty of a fuel source so clean it could operate safely inside a sealed submarine without affecting the precious and limited atmosphere.
The fuel source also had another important characteristic; it allowed us to do a lot more with a lot less material. In a mass small enough to fit under a decent sized office desk where the active material weighed only slightly more than my own body weight, engineers and scientists had figured out how to pack enough fuel to power a 9,000 ton submarine for 14 years. (Technical improvements made since that 1970s vintage core allow modern submarines to operate for their entire 33 year life span without ever getting new fuel.)
If you want to learn more about me, and learn just how wrong you are about the notion that I am someone who blindly follows orders to “murder” anyone, please visit Atomic Insights, follow my twitter feed, and listen to the Atomic Show.
None of those outlets will require anything in return; there are no ads, and no fees – though there are a few subtly placed “donate” buttons. You can also find a brief summary of my work experience at
Scientists like Marie Curie, Lise Meitner, Ida Noddack, Irene Curie-Joliot, Leo Szilard, and countless others provided humanity with miraculous insight into the inner workings of atomic nuclei. Many have found amazingly beneficial applications for the resulting materials and reactions.
Sure, there were others who built bombs and even used a couple of them. That fact should cause concern and modesty, but it should not result in denying billions of people access to the beneficial nature of the science.
The people who benefit the most from continuously reinforcing fear and spreading uncertainty and doubt about our collective knowledge of radiation, fission, and radioactive materials are very wealthy and powerful because they sell products that would have a great deal of difficulty competing against nuclear energy and isotopes.
If nuclear science and engineering was not unreasonably constrained by fear instead of being carefully used with appropriate understanding, oil would be worth a few dollars per barrel, not a hundred dollars per barrel. We probably would have quit using coal in power plants several decades ago, and natural gas would be mainly thought of as a valuable raw material for fertilizer, plastics, and hydrogen production.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Once again, the question for you all is “How did I do?” Was my response productive, not in terms of changing the mind of “prisonersdilema” but in terms of providing food for thought for any observers that might be still following the discussion?
PS – It might be nice of some of you visit the original thread and provide some reinforcement. Votes for comments that you find especially useful are always appreciated.