A friend who often gets involved in discussions about nuclear energy stories with frightened people in his social media network contacted me to find out what I thought of an article titled Nuclear plant could be a ‘Chernobyl on steroids,’ says expert. Then the same story showed up on one of my daily news feeds.
As part of my service to the public, I read the story. My first impression was that the publication hosting the story was a marginal one — I could tell by the large banner “belly fat” ad that greeted me and by the dozens of margin ads on both side of the ugly page. My second impression was to realize that once again, Arnie Gundersen has decided to sell his fear mongering to an international audience that might not know much about him.
Like Professor Harry Hill in The Music Man Gundersen often arrives in a new venue actively promoting his self-assigned title of “nuclear expert” and proceeds to do what he can to win the confidence of the inhabitants of that new area. He may sound credible and he speaks well after many years of practice as a private school math teacher, but he stopped working in the nuclear energy industry more than 25 years ago. His departure was not voluntary.
Since his 1990 forced departure from the industry, with its accompanying 75% pay cut, he has been a professional opponent to nuclear energy, an “expert witness” for hire to any government body or antinuclear group with the means to pay his fees.
His latest whopper is to attempt to portray the Westinghouse AP1000, a nuclear reactor design that has passed through the stringent licensing review process of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as being vulnerable to an accident that would be worse than the 1986 accident that occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power station Unit #4.
A nuclear expert has warned that the design of proposed new nuclear reactors in Cumbria could turn the region into “Chernobyl on steroids” in the event of an accident.
Expert Arnie Gundersen said a leak from one of the proposed reactors would be devastating.
The American nuclear expert, who was CNN’s resident expert during the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, said the proposed AP1000 reactors were susceptible to leaks.
There are four AP1000 reactors under construction in the U. S., two in Georgia and two in South Carolina. Mr. Gundersen’s statements are technically unsupportable for a number of reasons. He is actively questioning the integrity and technical competence of hundreds of real experts and responsible safety regulators. If he was actually a professional engineer, he would be violating several sections of the ethical code of his profession by spreading inaccurate information, not serving the public interest, and by making public comments about engineering topics in areas well outside his expertise.
It may not be apparent to people outside the profession, but a Masters Degree in Nuclear Engineering does not indicate expertise in all areas of nuclear power plant design. A certification to operate a 100 watt research reactor on a college campus is not the same as a reactor operator license for a commercial nuclear power plant.
The AP1000 reactor design is safe. It is not subject to dangerous leaks. Unlike the Chernobyl reactor, it does not have a positive void coefficient and does not have a graphite moderator that has the potential to smolder for days. It has a full containment and can keep itself cool for several days even without any source of electricity or off site source of cooling water. There is no need for anyone in Ireland to worry about the safety aspects of building and operating three AP1000 units in Cumbria.
Additional Reading About Gundersen
June 18, 2011 – Arnie Gundersen going international
December 13, 2011 – Crowd sourced debunking of Gundersen lies about AP1000 & Fukushima
In a situation where a flimflam man misrepresents his credentials and expertise for both monetary compensation and for nefarious purposes — like getting personal revenge on an industry that stopped employing him 25 years ago — a detailed expose of his statements and real credentials is not a logical fallacy. It is the right action to take to correct the public record and enable knowledge-based decision making.