Recently, John Dudley Miller published a book review in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists titled A false fix for climate change. The review is sharply critical of a terrific little e-book written by Mark Lynas titled Nuclear 2.0: Why A Green Future Needs Nuclear Power.
Mr. Miller makes a number of erroneous statements in his review; they are too numerous to identify and explain in an acceptably brief post. Instead of wasting my time proving that this specific Miller-authored piece is wrong on a number of individual topics, I’ll explain why you should discount anything you read about nuclear energy that includes John Dudley Miller’s by-line.
The author blurb associated with Miller’s review states:
Miller is a former nuclear engineering officer on US Navy submarines. A Kentucky native and Harvard graduate, he holds a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Michigan. He is a career science journalist, having worked for newspapers, TV stations, magazines, and websites since 1973.
That is a misleading blurb that attempts to add credibility to a hit piece by claiming membership in a respected profession. Miller puts his nuclear submarine service right at the front of his brief bio. As a member of that tight, proud, often too quiet community, I feel compelled to clarify the record.
John Dudley Miller served as a junior officer on the USS Seawolf from 1970-1972. Miller was never assigned to an engineering division officer job; according to his own web site, he supervised “sonarmen, radiomen, electronics technicians, cooks and storekeepers”. I determined through correspondence with Miller that the electronics technicians that he supervised were navigation specialists, not nuclear-trained reactor controls ETs.
Aside: I have saved a copy of his web site, just in case he decides to make any changes. For those of us who know the lingo of the US submarine service, it is quite an illuminating document. End Aside.
There is a grain of truth in Miller’s author blurb. On the earliest nuclear submarines like the USS Nautilus and the USS Seawolf, there were not enough racks (bunks) on board for officers who were not able to stand watch in the engineering spaces. Therefore, even supply officers were sent through the nuclear power training pipeline so they could qualify to stand watch at the entry level position (for commissioned officers) of Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW).
Miller attended the six month classroom phase of the nuclear power training pipeline — Nuclear Power School (NPS) — in Vallejo, CA. He completed the six month practical reactor phase at the S5G prototype at the National Reactor Testing Station near Idaho Falls, ID, where he achieved qualification as Engineering Officer of the Watch. That qualification, by the way, is a graduation requirement; people who fail to complete the task get transferred to another field in the Navy. Miller finished his prototype training in late 1969 and then attended Submarine Officer’s Basic Course in Groton, CT. In February 1970, he reported to the USS Seawolf.
The USS Seawolf entered the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in January 1971 to be converted to a special project submarine. Miller left active duty in June 1972 after the completion of what was, at the time, the minimum service requirement of 4 years. He entered the inactive reserves. In 1974, when he read an article in a newspaper indicating that the situation in the Middle East might result in the Navy deciding to recall submariners to active duty, he immediately resigned his commission and left the reserves. (Note: the preceding paragraph was modified on September 14 as a result of a comment to this post provided by Dr. Miller.)
Aside: Miller graduated from Harvard in June 1968 with a BA in Social Relations. He volunteered to serve in the US Navy. Would anyone like to bet on the number of digits in his Vietnam-era draft number? End Aside.
Update: (Posted Sep 16, 2013 0625) Dr. Miller has informed me that my guess was incorrect. In a rather aggressively worded comment he stated:
I did not join the Navy because I got a low draft number. When I signed on to Navy ROTC in 1964, there was no draft lottery. The draft lottery began in 1970, after I’d been in the Navy 1 1/2 years.
Here is a quote from a comment explaining his decision:
I’m a first-year Baby Boomer, and our motivation as adults has always been to find out the truth, no matter whom it helps or hurts. I joined the Navy neither pro-nuclear or anti-. For me, it was a way to avoid the war in Vietnam, which to me was a civil war that Vietnamese ought to decide for themselves.
Since Miller was never assigned a job in the engineering department, he did not meet the minimum criteria for taking the Engineer Exam, a required rite of passage for any nuclear-trained officer in order to continue serving in the submarine force. Before taking that exam, an officer must serve for at least one year as one of the engineering division officers (Electrical Officer, Main Propulsion Assistant, Reactor Controls Officer, or Damage Control Assistant). The Engineer Exam includes an eight hour written test followed the next day by at least three intensive oral interviews. The final hurdle for completion of qualification as an Engineer Officer is a personal interview with the head of Naval Reactors; in Miller’s era, that would have been Admiral Rickover. (For me, it was Admiral Kinnard McKee.)
Update: (Posted Sep 16, 2013 at 0642) To better understand the importance of qualifying as an Engineer Officer, both to the officer and to their command, please read the comment provided by Cal Abel, another former submarine Engineer Officer. End Update
The book review in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was not the first time in the recent past that John Dudley Miller attempted to use his exceedingly “light” experience on nuclear powered submarines to buff up his credibility for a misleading hit piece about nuclear energy. On August 16, 2013, Andrew Revkin published a blog titled A Nuclear Submariner Challenges a Pro-Nuclear Film that generated a firestorm of comments (683 as of the time this blog was written).
This is also not the first time that I have taken aim at John Dudley Miller’s resume. However, the last time I did it at the tail end of an article tiled Was Arnie Gundersen a Licensed Reactor Operator and Senior VP Nuclear Licensee?. There are a number of excellent and enlightening comments associated with that article, but I decided that Dr. Miller had earned his own headline by virtue of buffing up his recent antinuclear energy activity with repeated statements about his having been a “nuclear engineering officer on US Navy submarines”.
I want to make sure my point here is clear. This is not about credentials; everyone is free to write what they want to write about nuclear energy or any other topic, even if they do not have a string of academic degrees or professional titles. This is about integrity and properly citing experience so that people have a better idea about the background that supports the written words.
Commentators like Mark Lynas, who freely admits that he is a writer, not a nuclear engineer, rely on credible citations and references to explain to their readers why their words are worth believing. John Dudley Miller would be well advised to stop trying to rely on his brief, long ago stint on a nuclear submarine as a means of enhancing his credibility.
People who inflate their resumes and falsely claim membership in proud fraternities need to be called out and exposed in order to protect the reputations and credibility of the people who actually earned their “stripes”.
At times like this, I wish I could claim that I was inculcated with West Point’s Honor Code instead of the honor concept at the US Naval Academy. The concept I learned and abided by starting in 1977 was simple and admirable “Midshipmen do not lie, cheat or steal”, but more words have been added since I was a plebe. West Point’s Cadet Honor Code is close to the simple one I learned, but it includes a key clause that better explains actions like this blog: “Cadets do not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.”
I think we would all be better off if we stop tolerating people who do not tell the full truth or who cheat in their efforts to promote their own agendas.