1. ‘..collected from a sun that is twice as far from Mars as it is from the Earth.’ Mars averages about 1.5 astronomical units from the sun, but the solar irradiance is about half of what we get.

  2. Without plutonium powered RTGs, there would also have been no Rover missions to Mars.

    The Spirit and Opportunity rovers are solar-powered.  It’s the latest Curiosity rover (far bigger and more capable) that runs on Pu-238.

      1. Thanks LP. I didn’t know it used any radioisotope. It’s also good to note that Opportunity is still exploring the surface of Mars, even now after its 10th anniversary on the red planet. Cool.

    1. The spirit and opportunity rovers used Pu-238 pellets to keep their joints warm and had a curium-based neutron source.

    1. The latest on everybody’s favorite anti-nuke pro-business website from everybody’s favorite allegedly anti-nuke whipping girl:


      From the NRC blog (http://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/):

      “Finally, let me address the occasional Internet-based concerns we’ve seen about Fukushima contamination in the Pacific Ocean. Contamination near Japan’s coast is well below U.S. and international drinking water limits. And the Pacific’s vast volume has greatly dispersed any contamination before it can reach our west coast. Here the concentrations are projected to be hundreds or a thousand or more times below already strict U.S. and international limits that protect public health and the environment. Scientists have not seen any Fukushima contamination that raises a concern about the U.S. food supply, water supply, or public health.”

      There is some emotionalizing at the beginning, but the message is clear: there’s no evidence nor reason to try to “spread the joy” via Internet FUD.

      The pro-nuclear avalanche is starting earlier than I suspected.

      1. … favorite allegedly anti-nuke whipping girl


        This is sexist and derogatory. In addition, it is technically incorrect. A “whipping boy” was a surrogate who stood in the place of a person of influence or power. Macfarlane is the Chair of a five member Commission. She is a person of influence and power (to the extent her position allows).

        If we treat her with such little respect and disdain, what do you propose we do with ill tempered blog commentators with foul mouths and poor taste? Laud them for their skilled acumen and first-rate sensibilities?

  3. You see this guy EVERYWHERE on the Science/Military/Green/History/Animal Planet/ channels!! So where’s the pro-nuke Kaku???

      1. @Eric_G

        Doesn’t hurt that he carries himself well on camera and has a pleasant voice.

        And his “look” is as distinctive as that of Moniz.

  4. Theoretical physicists are the media darlings of “big science.” They don’t have any practical answers, just interesting “facts.”

    Dr. Kaku spends his days working on interesting mathematics that can’t be proved in the real world. That doesn’t make him an expert on anything but math, yet the media loves him because he’s opinionated and available.

    I’d lump Bill Nye into the same camp, but his background is far less academic.

    1. It is credentials over experience. Having a degree in nuclear engineering tells me nothing about your knowledge of how a particular BWR/PWR/CANDU/etc. works or even if the person knows enough health physics to interpret rad readings being given out.

      Experience is worth a lot more than credentials and the public at large usually forgets this. Rod is a great example of this. He does not have a science or engineering degree from a college/university yet I would trust his judgement when it comes to reactor operations and health physics way before I would trust a person with zero real world experience and a fancy degree.

      1. @Smiling Joe Fission

        Rod is a great example of this. He does not have a science or engineering degree from a college/university…

        Slight clarification – I have a BS (English) and an MS (Systems Technology) from accredited institutions of higher learning.

        I made that statement because I often remind people about a certain NGO Chief Scientist who claimed for many years that he was “educated at Harvard and Oxford” but closer scrutiny revealed that he had dropped out of both long before earning a degree.

        There are plenty of famous achievers who never earned a degree, but most of them are far less obfuscating about their educational backgrounds.

        1. This I do not understand. If you were interested in a science field why major in English? At a place like Penn State the subjects you took and wrote on here would be enough for a major in a science. Why keep bragging it is English?

          1. @BobinPgh

            As I told Admiral Rickover when he asked me an almost identical question – I majored in English because I like to read and write.

            I went to a trade school with a technical core curriculum designed to prepare all grads to serve in any of the available career paths – aviator, surface warfare officer, nuclear submarines, Marine Corps. At the time I attended 80% of grads — by rule — majored in engineering or science.

            Of the 150 semester hours I took as an undergrad, 30 were in English literature. Thus I earned a BS in English.

            You call it bragging, I want to be clear that I did not earn an ABET accredited degree and was not eligible to obtain a PE. I therefor try to make sure that I never call myself an Engineer.

            (Engineer Officer – yes. engineer/analyst – yes. I’ve held jobs with those titles.)

          2. But Rod, if you went to a “less tough” school maybe you could have been an engineer. Still saying you have an “English degree” is a lot better than bragging that you majored in Phys Ed.

            1. @BobinPgH

              Why would I have wanted to go to a “less tough” school?

              I picked the best, most challenging, most balanced college I could find. It certainly did not hurt the family budget (I have several siblings and my parents were/are middle class Americans) that it happened to be a place where there was no tuition, no fees for room and board, and a small paycheck each month.

              One fact missing from my glib response of picking English as a major because I like to read and write is that I like to read and write about people and history. The engineering curricula at USNA, in order to make room for all of the “professional courses” like navigation, seamanship, psychology, leadership, etc., left very little room for language or humanities courses. I would have had time for just two or three electives outside of the major during my whole undergraduate career, and there was no “five year option” available.

              The sweet tuition, room, board and paycheck deal comes with an obligation to complete the program in four years and to serve for five more. (I always viewed the service obligation as a job guarantee and a terrific opportunity for both service and experience. It took me about 29 years to figure out if I would make it a career.)

              I also enjoyed the avocation I learned while there; I’ve had some great time on the water in large sail boats over the years.

        2. I forgot you have the MS, sorry for that. I was mainly pointing out that you have a degree in English yet have a very deep knowledge and understanding of nuclear systems and radiation health physics. You are a much more reputable source than a Bill Nye type when it comes to nuclear power discussion.

          However, your English degree may be one of your key assets as you write very well and are, in my opinion, great at communicating your ideas.

  5. Thanks for this additional information on Kaku – I have seen several shows with him in it and was confused on his post Fukushimu rant. I learned from the Energy from Thorium board that he was just a theoretical physicist with no real knowledge regarding nuclear reactors, so I chalked it up to ignorance. Now I see that he is anti-nuclear zeolot. Which seems weird since one of his shows has an interplanetary space ship powered by matter-antimatter reactions.

    1. @Jim L.

      Now I see that he [Kaku] is anti-nuclear zeolot. Which seems weird since one of his shows has an interplanetary space ship powered by matter-antimatter reactions.

      Support for imaginary means of futuristic space travel has nothing to do with producing power in the competitive energy market on earth. Protesting the use of plutonium to power spacecraft, even when packaged in a way that does not create any risk to human health, works to scare people about the omnipresent threat to the Hydrocarbon Age – Seaborg’s vision of a “plutonium economy.”

      Becoming a media darling is not automatic; most theoretical physicists — even the ones that are pretty good lecturers and writers — just keep teaching their esoteric subjects to wave after wave of new students.

      As I stated in the post, I suspect that Kaku’s open activism had something to do with getting his start in the entertainment world.

      1. “. . . . . I suspect that Kaku’s open activism had something to do with getting his start in the entertainment world.”

        This is where it gets difficult, Mr. Adams.

        Difficult for me, as an uneducated observer, to feel any kind of rational certainty about Dr. Kaku’s lack of qualifications regarding nuclear energy;
        ..and difficult for you, as a nuclear ambassador, to not only convince me of this lack, but to do it in a way that makes me have greater faith in you. . . . .

        12 weeks ago, I wouldn’t have bothered — I have 4 of his books on my shelf – and I’d
        never heard of you.
        You say he doesn’t know much about nuclear energy, but I know he received his PhD at Berkely, the same place Plutonium was discovered. So I assume he understands radiation.
        I know he’s definitely not anti-science and I have no evidence suggesting he’s a shill for any corporation. I must doubt that he’s the agent of a foreign government determined to hold back American progress.
        I can’t psychoanalyze his motives from a distance, and discover whether his nuclear concerns are an irrational prejudice, or empirically justified. . . . .

        But times they are a-changin’ — Now I have the internet, where sins are never forgotten, and it only takes a few minutes to find this :


        a rambling and hyperbolic manifesto that instantly reveals his lack of diplomatic neutrality and displays an ego that places itself above all of NASA and JPL. (Predicting the mutiny of National Guard troops is particularly cringe-worthy.)

        1. @wayne moss

          Thank you for that informative link and for taking the time to search it out.

          I’ve reread my post and realized that I was not as clear as I should have been about Dr. Kaku’s knowledge of nuclear energy. He probably understands the subject reasonably well and may even have a surer grasp of the science of nuclear physics than I do. As far as I can tell, he is a very bright and well-educated scientist who made a firm decision that he did not like nuclear energy.

          Berkeley is not only the place where plutonium was discovered, but it is also a place with a long history of involvement in the political movement against nuclear energy. Despite what many of my fellow nuclear professionals assume, that movement did not arise out of ignorance and has often included some extremely well-educated people.

          Some joined antinuclear groups because they hated the bomb and stayed for the brownies.

          My theory is that there were some manipulators that shrewdly took advantage of the bomb-related fear to create a political movement against what Ralph Nader and Ralph Lapp labeled a “technological Vietnam.” They were not just interested in creating a movement, they supported people fighting nuclear energy specifically because it improved their hydrocarbon economy-related bottom lines.

          Some activists (Carl Pope and Amory Lovins come to mind) have been bright enough to recognize their funders as having an interest in promoting certain fossil fuels, but they accepted that because they were honestly afraid of nuclear weapons.

          Other educated, well-meaning people do not quite understand how business works; they apparently believe their antinuclear funding sources are the generous foundations, renewable energy entrepreneurs, political leaders, or mass media-related sources they claim to be.

          1. I think I understand you pretty well – and I completely agree with you. Michio Kaku is delivering a biased agenda.

            I must admit, my recent mental evolution has been more rapid than prudence should allow. But I was never against nuclear – just never really motivated to even LOOK at it. Why would I ? I’m busy working out my own problems, and I knew that all that technical stuff was way over my head. So I relied on these (supposedly) scientifically-neutral spokes-people.. . .

            Still, beneath conscious awareness, i occasionally wondered (during the last 25 years) what was taking wind and solar so bloody long to replace fossil fuel ? A man can’t even light a cigarette these days without hearing about catastrophic global warming killing the planet. Why wasn’t anyone DOING anything? I remember commenting to a friend back in October, that the only windmills you see here in Pennsylvania, are on television advertisements for natural gas.
            I also wondered where were all the two-headed monsters and glowing zombies from Fukushima and Chernobyl ? Surely those cancers and DNA nightmares would be making the headlines alongside the BP oil spill and Solyndra failures.? And worse – How come no-one ever told me that France had the lowest CO2 and the cheapest electricity ??

            So after all, I didn’t need a degree in physics to understand politics and business. Or history and prejudice. And a little while ago, when I was blown away to discover that there were 100 nuclear reactors right here in the urban backyards of America, quietly churning out billions of watts without ever causing a single death in the last 30 odd years — I figured somebody was not telling the whole story. . . . . I assure you, the notion of corporate suppression and political malfeasance is NOT over my head.

            I don’t blame Dr. Kaku or the other science writers for this situation – I blame the media. It is their job to generate debate and to spread ideas. And I also accept some of the blame, for allowing myself to be kept in the dark this long

          2. Mr. Moss,

            I would just like to say, “welcome”. Have you by chance happened to catch Pandora’s Promise yet?

      2. @Rod

        I guess I’m trying to say that Dr. Kaku seems inconsistent in supporting the most energetic reaction known to man (matter-antimatter) yet being opposed to the safe, clean fission power plants. To me, that seems analogous to supporting use of dynamite while banning sparklers. Perhaps I am being unfair.

          1. @Rod,

            I completely agree, I would label antimatter as “unobtainium” which is a far cry from our favorites (uranium, thorium, plutonium).

            I just don’t get how the good doctor can envision harnessing the energy from the matter-antimatter reaction and at-the-same-time he cannot envision the harnessing of the energy from fission, which humans can & have done routinely for decades.

  6. I really like Kaku, hes a sharp guy who can explain fairly complex ideas to laymen very effectively. However as Rod has pointed out he goes completely off the rails when he talks about nuclear related issues and it damages his credibility.

  7. Let me take a wild guess. Michio Kaku is an atheist secularist humanist liberal progressive Democrat. Just a guess.

    1. Paul, atheist secularist humanist liberal progressive Democrat here.

      And I am pro-nuclear. 😀

      1. I’m a secular humanist liberal progressive as well. Not so sure about the first and last words in your self description at this point

  8. As I recall, the protests against the Cassini launch were not timed in a way that betokened sincerity.

    It had been in the works for many years. “Protests” began mere weeks before launch date.

    There was no obvious financial motivation for them. Cassini couldn’t be revised to carry hundreds of tonnes of (oil plus oxygen) in place of kilograms of 238-Pu.

    The only way they made sense was as a pro-forma effort, undertaken only while Cassini was in the news, not meant to be effective.

    1. @G.R.L Cowan

      People opposed to the use of nuclear energy are quite capable of multilayered thought. The protest was not about modifying the design, it was about taking one more opportunity to spread their message of fear about anything nuclear, especially plutonium.

      The “plutonium economy” is the dire threat that they want to avoid because it makes coal, oil and gas worth less. Not worthless, mind you, but far less profitable because the overall world energy supply would increase to a level well above the current demand.

      Energy demand is not terribly elastic; that makes the price very sensitive to tiny shifts in the overall balance. In oil, shifts in the balance of just 1-2% will cause price variations of 20-50%. Natural gas may be even more sensitive.

  9. Here’s something else to consider:
    Would you believe that, after Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover “Curiosity” had gone through the arduous NEPA process (National Environmental Policy Act), the second MSL rover, planned for launch in a few years, must go through the SAME stupid process again, to be able to use plutonium-238 RTG power like its older sibling ?

    “To comply with NEPA, NASA has to write an Environmental Impact Statement that (among other things) considers nuclear and solar power options for the mission and demonstrates that the impact of using solar power for the mission would be sufficiently harmful to the mission goals as to overcome the slightly greater launch disaster risk posed by the use of an RTG.
    Which means that, at least in public, NASA cannot officially state which type of power supply they plan to use until the Environmental Impact Statement has been drafted, commented on by the public, those comments replied to, and the statement formally approved.”

    If we must have such insanity, why not spread it around equitably – to every single airliner, every car, every butane bottle, etc., etc.

    You can get more insight into this by reading http://science.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2010/11/05/MSL-FEIS_Vol1.pdf

    On another note, here is another old article that quotes Kaku:

    Cassini swings by Earth on billion-mile trek

    By Robyn Suriano FLORIDA TODAY Aug. 18, 1999

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA’s Cassini probe flew within 800 miles of Earth late Tuesday, stealing speed from the planet’s gravity to help propel it toward Saturn.

    The spacecraft, which carries 72 pounds of radioactive plutonium fuel to make electricity, reached its closest point to Earth around 11:30 p.m. before heading for the outer solar system.

    When it reaches Saturn in 2004, Cassini is to spend four years studying the planet, its rings and some of its 18 moons.
    The spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral in late 1997.

    It will be a few days before NASA can say exactly how close Cassini came to Earth, but they expected it to reach about 725 miles above the southeastern Pacific Ocean.

    Everything went flawlessly, according to Cassini’s controllers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

    “On time, on target, as usual,” said NASA spokeswoman Mary Beth Murrill.

    NASA’s critics had feared the probe could stray off course, crash to Earth, burn up and release some of its cancer-causing plutonium. NASA put the odds of that happening at less than 1 in 1 million.

    Despite the successful flyby, the nuclear foes say they will continue protesting NASA’s use of the radioactive fuel that has been used to power 27 missions to date.

    “It’s a game of cosmic Russian roulette, and it appears that this time the gun has fired with a blank in it,” said Michio Kaku, a physics professor at the City University of New York and an opponent of nuclear power in space.

    “But NASA hasn’t learned its lesson yet. There are eight more plutonium (missions) being planned. There are eight more bullets in the chamber.”

    NASA officials say they use the fuel only on flights when solar power isn’t viable because the probes travel too far from the sun.

    Through its natural decay, the plutonium releases heat that is converted into electricity to power a spacecraft’s instruments.

    The other plutonium flights possible include missions to the Jupiter moon Europa, where an ocean may be entombed beneath an icy crust. Pluto, which has yet to be studied by NASA probes, also is a target.

    “It appears likely that we’ll use it again,” NASA spokesman Doug Isbell said from agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. “We’ve got a proven record, and we are quite confident that it can

  10. Here’s something else to consider:
    Would you believe that, after Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover “Curiosity” had gone through the arduous NEPA process (National Environmental Policy Act), the second MSL rover, planned for launch in a few years, must go through the SAME stupid process again, to be able to use plutonium-238 RTG power like its older sibling ?

    “To comply with NEPA, NASA has to write an Environmental Impact Statement that (among other things) considers nuclear and solar power options for the mission and demonstrates that the impact of using solar power for the mission would be sufficiently harmful to the mission goals as to overcome the slightly greater launch disaster risk posed by the use of an RTG.
    Which means that, at least in public, NASA cannot officially state which type of power supply they plan to use until the Environmental Impact Statement has been drafted, commented on by the public, those comments replied to, and the statement formally approved.”

    If we must have such insanity, why not spread it around equitably – to every single airliner, every car, every butane bottle, etc., etc.

    You can get more insight into this by reading http://science.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2010/11/05/MSL-FEIS_Vol1.pdf

  11. The same comment thread that originally mentioned Michio Kaku also mentioned Neil DeGrasse Tyson as maybe being anti-nuke. That shook me up as I really like the guy and never had heard him say anything remotely anti nuke. Did some homework via google and read three interviews where the subject came up. I saw nothing indicating he’s anti nuke. He says virtually all earth’s energy sources, which he calls calories, (oil, coal, nuke, even plant food) have a solar source, meaning from “a sun”. He’s right. He says how those get converted for use is an engineering problem with an engineering solution. He’s right. He says the best engineering solution will always be driven, in the long run, by economics. Well, he’s right in theory, maybe not in practice today. He gives a specific example using solar cars, saying they will never be economical but maybe have ecological benefit if you can accept the cost. He has some interesting theories on solarizing desserts and smart grids. But he adds it comes down to engineering solutions and cost. I see nothing anti nuke about him. Your mileage may vary.

    1. I mentioned Tyson. I claimed he was not really pro-nuclear. Sorry if I inadvertently divided the world into ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ tribes, but just as you saw nothing to convince you he is anti-nuke – I never heard him say anything pro-nuke. However, I do remember him hypothesizing about descending some piece of advanced technology down into a hurricane so it could tap the energy to power a futuristic city. . . . . or something like that. I guess we could say he is non-committal on nuclear.

      “It’s not the mileage, baby, it’s the wear and tear.” Indybanana Jones

  12. It’s hard to find a Physicist that is an idiot. Generally, they are the smartest people we’ve got. But in a large enough population you are bound to find some outliers.

    1. @SteveK9

      I would never say that Kaku is an idiot. He appears to be a brilliant man who has formed the wrong opinion about nuclear energy. I’m not sure why, but I suspect he made a well-motivated choice.

  13. Some more information on Michio Kaku from the ‘The Skeptics Guide to the Universe’ podcast http://www.theskepticsguide.org/
    The episodes are archived at http://www.theskepticsguide.org/podcast/sgu .

    In episode 451 Michio is interviewed on his new book on neuroscience. After a relatively short interview he says he has to hang up to get to another interview. In episode 452 (just after 37 minutes in) an email from a listener criticising Michio’s statements is read & the host of the podcast mentions that the previous interview ended just as they were about to get to the tough questions for Michio. It’s unclear to me whether Michio was deliberately avoiding tough questions.

    BTW it’s not just nuclear that gets egregious fearmongering. In episode 450 & 451 they discuss fearmongering over Azodicarbonamide in the bread used in Subway restaurants. See http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/eating-yoga-mats/ for a text version.

    1. The NRC needs to practice censorship in its forums much more forcefully considering the mass linked S……. um.. referenced ignorance of many of the anti types attracted to it. You can hardly claim allowing that type of discourse is constructive.

    2. @starvinglion

      I’ve been schooled a bit about blog etiquette. My blog and its comment section are like hosting a discussion in my living room. When people violate civility or unwritten rules that make others uncomfortable, it is not censorship for me to delete their comments or tell them to leave.

      Outside of blogs, do you think that editors publish all of the letters that they receive in response to articles they publish?

      I’ve warned you before. You tend to publish irrational and irritating comments. If you continue to do so, they are no longer going to remain visible.

  14. Rod, I must say that Kaku is one of the rare anti-nuclear who has real, undeniable track record as a high level scientist but is also able to say complete non-sense about nuclear.

    So it would be interesting to understand more about how he came to those views.
    There’s one interesting paragraph in his Wikipedia entry about that :
    – “Kaku credits his anti-nuclear war position to programs he heard on the Pacifica Radio network during his student years in California. It was during this period that he made the decision to turn away from a career developing the next generation of nuclear weapons in association with Edward Teller and focused on research, teaching, writing and media.[citation needed]”
    – “Kaku joined with others such as Helen Caldicott, Jonathan Schell and Peace Action, and was instrumental in building a global anti-nuclear weapons movement that arose in the 1980s during the administration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan.”

    His first visible foray in nuclear activism was apparently the edition of the book “Nuclear Power: Both Sides” in 1982. According to the amazon preview, however he actually wrote about nothing in that book where we find familiar names behind the various part like Lovins, or Weinberg.

    1. Whats so rare about it. There are lots of nobel winners in physics who are either anti or indifferent toward fission. Robert Laughlin said the *fusion* weapons research at the National Ignition facility would change the world. If thats the case, why spend trillions on obsolete fission reactors?

      1. Its almost like you may need to follow real energy experts, radiation health experts and climate experts to get the correct answer in their respective fields, as opposed to finding a one size fits all opinion of matters.

        Generally before I call something “obsolete” I like to find at least one single example of a working replacement for it, if not some kind of track record as well.

      2. The best reason to spend money on fission reactors is that they provide a return on the investment in the form of useful kilowatt-hours.

        My question is why would anyone bother to spend taxpayer dollars on fusion fantasies? Science for science’s sake is not worth that much of my money.

        1. I like fusion research, if nothing else it provides a platform for new discoveries. God knows the electricity they use pretty much necessitates nuclear power too.

        2. Rod said – “My question is why would anyone bother to spend taxpayer dollars on fusion fantasies? Science for science’s sake is not worth that much of my money.”

          Thirteen states have placed restrictions on the construction of new nuclear power facilities: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
          Nuclear power remains banned in many states. Just 6 states are able to generate more than 40% of their electricity from nuclear power.

          In the states that have effective legal moratoriums against nuclear, new fission reactors cannot be built. If you want to install reliable on demand nuclear energy in those states comprising something approaching 30% of US population, the only choice is nuclear fusion.

          The California Energy Commission is now considering two requests for EPIC 2015-2017 research funding into technology to provide reliable power to replace what was recently lost when the two San Onofre nuclear reactors were shuttered. Out of 103 proposals submitted to CEC, two are nuclear (one Gen-IV fission and one Inertial Confinement fusion). Of the two proposals, only the ICF fusion proposal could be operated in the State of California without changing California law (Cal.Pub.Res.Code § 25524.1) requiring that NRC designate an approved method for permanently handling high level nuclear waste.

          The specific application to CEC for the ICF Fusion reactor (proposal TN-72616) submitted for 2015 – 2917 CEC Triennial Investment Plan support can be found here – http://bit.ly/1fTRJWY

          The reason why anyone would bother to spend taxpayer dollars on fusion is that it is the only form of nuclear energy that can currently be legally built in 13 out of 51 States. In order to have reasonable responsible energy policy in California and 12 additional states with similar restrictions against building new fission nuclear – You can either –
          1) Eliminate the legal restrictions against fission nuclear in the 13 states
          2) Solve the remaining engineering problems holding up the commercialization of nuclear fusion
          whichever problem is easier.

          Fusion has a real advantage over fission today as regards the current level of regulatory obstruction from NRC.
          While this may not seem significant, it could make a real difference in how quickly fusion will emerge as a commercial technology in forms people will want to build and own to produce power.

          There is real reason to be optimistic about fusion today (not just hype and rah-rah). Several small fusion experiments are getting genuinely close to achieving “break-even” and fusion ignition.
          Here is a link to an article at The Next Big Future Blog that does a good job reviewing the current status of small alternative fusion.

      3. @starvinglion : lot are indifferent, maybe some are hostile, but actively I don’t really see other that are actively attacking it. What’s for sure is that except Kaku, none is taking part of anti-nuclear meetings that make crazy claims against nuclear without any concern for scientific accuracy.

        1. @jmdesp

          While I cannot think of any Nobel winning physicists who are actively fighting nuclear, I can list several people with PhDs in various areas of physics who are active members of the antinuclear community. In no particular order:

          Tom Cochran, NRDC
          Ed Lyman, UCS
          Greg Jaczko, former Chairman of NRC currently making the rounds, probably looking for a steady gig
          John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
          Frank Von Hipple, Princeton University Science and Global Security

    2. @jmdesp

      If I had ever had the experience of working with Edward Teller, I might have turned into an antinuclear activist myself.

      As near as I can tell, that man was a completely amoral example of why some people think of nuclear scientists as Dr. Strangelove types. In fact, I think he was the model for the movie character.

      1. I have to chuckle at this comment. I had the pleasure (?) of working with Dr Ralph Lapp at DBNPP early ’80s relative to our TMI precursor event. So I will never underestimate the possibility of very smart people going in strange directions late in their careers. Even you have pointed out “The Admiral” making strange comments about the Navy nuke program late in his life. What usually is not understood about that is sometimes it is as simple as a feeling of anger about a single narrow issue. Lots of discussion here about various smart people getting diverted because of a hatred of nuke weapons and nuke war. Their solution is to get rid of everything nuke forever and the problem goes away. In other words they think history can be reversed. I know Mr Peabody did it on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show with the Wayback Machine but that ’60s technology has apparently been lost.
        As far as your technical education goes, you are a Navy trained nuke. Unless a person goes through The Admirals training program they can never appreciate it. Nobody gets to “skate.” Your initial aptitude testing places you in a class environment where you are challenged to your absolute learning limits. I was in a section eleven class, and they pushed us, high school graduates, well into Masters level engineering areas in several engineering disciplines. But The Admiral didn’t see a need for any of us to be reading Chaucer in our spare time; he made sure we never had any.

  15. Rod, one you wrote here a list of the subjects you took at Annapolis and they were all science and engineering classes. I don’t know how Annapolis works but at a place like Penn State that would be enough to be a major in the subjects. Why do you keep bragging that you are an English major? I’m sure Michio doesn’t brag that he a home ec major because he took a cooking class. I think people would believe you more if you actually told about what subjects you actually know.

    1. I think that’s why Rod is trust worthy; he speaks truthfully and openly about his education, experience and biases.

    1. You would be correct. And its a disappointment as I have sen him speak and he is quite good. These people make their livings to some extent, selling the masses a mix of semi interesting scientific factoid and what they want to hear. Of course we all fancy ourselves as polymaths to some degree, with some level of insight that valuates us above a perceived “standard” in a world of billions.

      “Look at how much I agree and have in common with this brilliant expert, I was right, thats settled no need to worry (change my mind or think) Hes wonderful and more people should listen to him”

    2. Suzuki made a fool of himself after Fikushima. He apologized for his stupid remarks but remains an anti nuke.

        1. Just hope he follows that up with some apologies concerning his bizarre anti-GMO activism (another conspiracy theory-attracting technology). Even more bizarre considering that he used to be quite a prolific geneticist back in the 70s, you’d think he’d be able to understand the technology.

          1. @Tom

            The characteristic that GMOs share with nuclear energy is the potential for abundant production of a well established consumable commodity who’s price is very sensitive to the balance between supply and demand.

            Big Ag has as much to lose from technologies that “solve world hunger” as Big Oil has from nuclear fission technologies that can solve the “energy crisis” and address “global climate change” with superior, more abundant energy products that do not require customers to make a choice between “doing without” or accepting fossil fuel as a “backup” that must supply 60-80% of the time.

          2. GMO and radiation have in common …. DNA mutations.

            IOW, both lead to Godzilla (and Greenpeacezilla, an even more frightening monster).

    1. But natural gas kills quickly with no side effects.

      Radiation kills you over time along with your ancestors of 3 lineage and 5 future downstream generation.

      Love the stuff.

      1. And don’t forget anything even slightly radioactive completely atomizes in a accident and quickly flies to the nearest person, especially where there are children, where it is with 100 percent retention; either all eaten or breathed.

        its the Complete Radiation Absorption Principle.

        1. The way anti’s talk, you’d think Plutonium was magnetized to be attracted to lungs.

      2. Reading more this explosion was particularity bad. A rather large confined area of gas must have bee involved. The neighborhood was “known for gas leaks”?? 9 people are still missing. Two five story buildings collapsed. There is a huge amount of rubble.

  16. I was really disheartened when I found out Michio Kaku was such a staunch opponent of nuclear power. I really enjoy reading his books and watching programs he hosts. He’s a natural teacher. The last thing he is is an idiot.

    Pretty clearly, his opposition to nuclear power, which apparently extends to radionuclides in general, does not stem from a lack of understanding of nuclear physics or quantum mechanics. My guess is that it stems from a lack of understanding of how radioactivity interacts with biological chemistry. Not many people have a good command of both fields, after all. I think it’s also entirely possible that his opposition to nuclear power is just another illustration of the fact that even very intelligent people can have their reason clouded by powerful emotions from time to time. It’s when this sort of thing happens that you see smart people often come up with very clever sounding rationales for maintaining beliefs they’ve come to hold for reasons that weren’t all that smart.

    1. There are really only 3 possibilities that seem to be logical possibilities to me in regards to Kaku’s position.

      (1.) He either doesn’t recognize the actual magnitude of risk that low levels of radiation pose or fails to be able to balance risks and rewards. (This could indicate intellectual laziness in regards to his stance on radionuclides and fission.)

      (2.) His emotions don’t allow him to logically view the whole issue, due to him being so emotionally invested in his stance. (This may be combined with an inability to separate clean power and weapons within his mind.)

      (3.) He was/is a paid anti-nuclear shill. (This would indicate that he is ok with being intellectually dishonest.)

      1. @Joel Riddle

        (4.) He is honestly and deeply concerned about nuclear weapons and his experience in knowing Edward Teller convinced him that there was too blurry a boundary between weapons and energy.

        At the time he went to Berkeley, that was all too true. However, that is an addressable problem and I believe it has been partially addressed already. There is more to be done and more people to convince that it is way past time to move past the MAD era and much closer to the level of zero weapons.

        Of course, the only way to actually get rid of weapons material is to fission it in a reactor. Operating reactors are also the most secure storage location I can think of during the period that the material is being destroyed; it is not a overnight process.

        Heck, it will take many centuries — millennia, even — before it can be declared a completed task. 🙂

        1. And isn’t it ironic that that millenia timeframe is seen as a “problem” by some, when that simply indicates a nearly inexhaustible fuel supply.

          All a matter of perspective.

  17. IANAP ( I am not a physicist ) but some who are have been rather scathing about the value to science of the whole edifice of string theory. Maybe Dr Kaku decided his talents would be better used battling the nuclear menace 😉

  18. Joel Riddle
    March 12, 2014 at 7:21 PM
    Mr. Moss,

    I would just like to say, “welcome”. Have you by chance happened to catch Pandora’s Promise yet?

    Thanks, it’s a pleasure to be here; to be able to feel hopeful once again, and shake off the inevitable sad fate of a carbon-fried contingency. I watched Pandora’s Promise about six weeks ago, then watched it again with my daughter. Sorry if I sound melodramatic to you old-hands, but it was pretty unsettling, and I’m trying hard to regain my balance. I imagine this is how religious converts feel, (maybe how Michio Kaku feels) and I resist the urge to “spread the word”.
    I’ve read “Prescription For The Planet” by Tom Blees, and I’m most of the way through “Power to Save The World” by Gwyneth Cravens. And I just discovered this guy, today, when I searched “plutonium toxicity ” —


    1. You’re going to learn a lot from Bernie Cohen.

      BTW – I didn’t need to follow the link; I’ve been here so often over the past 15 years that I recognize the URL.

      1. I’ve directed people to Chapter 9 of that book many times to refute the claim that “nuclear is too expensive”.  Paranoid, punitive regulation is expensive.

        1. Its an expansion of his Before It’s Too Late: A Scientist’s Case for Nuclear Power, which I read in 1986 in freshman year High School, from 1983. That is an excellent book, though the expansion is very good, and updated data. The book basically set me on my path to this day of advocating for nuclear power as the safest alternative around.

      2. Bernard L Cohen is one of the author that wrote inside Kaku’s 1982 book “Nuclear Power: Both Sides”.
        Amazon UK has a preview of page 8 of that book that shows the coauthors were actually trying back then to offer a balanced presentation of both pro and anti views (even if Kaku was already identified as anti-nuclear).

        Could it be it was Chernobyl later that convinced Kaku there was nothing to save in nuclear, and that the technology was incredibly dangerous for health ?

        It’s very hard to think his attitude today can be honest, but maybe it is, if he’s convinced Caldicott he knows for a long time is honestly and faithfully presenting the health effect of radiations, and that the “establishment” is hiding the truth.

  19. “convinced him that there was too blurry a boundary between weapons and energy.”

    That applies equally to chemical explosives, which have killed and maimed far more people than nuclear weapons.

    Should they be banned from use in mining and demolition work because they can also be used in bombs and bullets ?

    Should isopronanol be banned because it is an ingredient of Sarin ?

    1. @Don Cox

      Those examples are gnats compared to Teller’s Super or, even worse, his “Backyard bomb”.

      BTW – I had never heard of the second one until yesterday. It’s very scary stuff. I can imagine the effect on psyche for someone who learns about it as an impressionable student.

  20. You know that film “Our Man Flint”? The question for the nuclear community is where “Our Man Nuke”? Why aren’t nuclear professional organizations knocking doors and dropping business cards at major media news and scholastic outlets as a rebuttal and reference source? Oil and gas and coal and even wind reps drop by Fox Economist Cavuto’s show at the drop of a dime, but in his own words (or his colleague Stewart Varney) the nuclear power rep is MIA. Why is this so? Why do anti-nukes steal the media show? Oil money isn’t that infectious into newsrooms and college journalism classes. There’s a lassie-fraize attitude in the nuclear community that “our good points” will eventually sink into the public conscientious by osmosis so their’s no need to sell our wares to them. Wonder the car and food industry took that route getting to the top!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    1. @James

      I feel your frustration. My only honest answer is that there is virtually no “nuclear industry” that is separate from the hydrocarbon industry. Essentially all of the available people have mixed loyalties. About the only exceptions I can think of with a majority of their future revenue being related to expanding the use of nuclear energy are Cameco, Westinghouse, Bruce Power and Areva.

      1. Even Areva finds it more convenient to massage people by doing also wind, biomass and CSP. In fact their hydrogen solution is little known but *actually* interesting :

        One should consider that investing itself in wind and solar is one part of what makes EDF the only utility in Europe that doesn’t have any financial problem at the moment. And maybe also the fact the deployment of gas plants they had planned was a bit late, GE’s salesmen very likely have in their desk a depressing list of CCGT’s orders EDF has canceled :

  21. @ James Greenidge March 13, 2014 at 12:40 PM
    Strange analogy there. Sometimes I think that’s the technology the antis want to use to boil water. But the last time I tried that, by the time I finished my Environmental Impact Statement, had everything Seismic designed, backed up with Redundant Fire Protection, all public comments incorporated, agreement from local Emergency Planning officials, was suited up fully in my OSHA approved protective gear, etc, etc; I forgot why I wanted to hit the rock with the flint in the first place.

  22. Well I know he’s been anti-nuclear for much longer than that. I happen to have read (and now own) back in High School a book he edited, with a Jennifer Trainer, titled “Nuclear Power; Both Sides” in which he made clear his anti-nuclear stance; though he did have good articles from the pro-nuclear side in it. It was truly “both sides.” The book is from, I think 1985 or so, maybe earlier.

    1. @Calixto

      Thank you for the reminder. Now that you mention it, I think I read that book sometime in the early 1990s. I had forgotten that he was a co-author and paid little attention to Kaku until 2011 when I saw him providing Fukushima-related misinformation.

      1. It is a very good book in many ways. While most of the anti-articles are typical scares, I did like Jan Beyea’s article. He did raise spent fuel pools for instance, which became a concern in 2011. He discussed also how a non-bandwagon approach would have allowed for designs able to deal with the threats without having emergency procedures bolted on as an afterthought…an admission that inherently safe designs could have been pursued.

        He also admitted that coal is as dangerous or likely more dangerous than nuclear which is interestingly honest given that most of the anti-articles pushed coal as a substitute.

        Weinberg’s article on the future of nuclear was also excellent. And as usual, so were Dr. Cohen’s.

  23. Quote from the CNN article:
    The Cassini rocket will be powered by 72 pounds of plutonium — the most ever rocketed into space. Protesters say that if the rocket explodes it could sprinkle deadly poison for hundreds of miles.

    “Winds can blow (plutonium) into Disney World, Universal City, into the citrus industry and destroy the economy of central Florida,” said Michio Kaku, a protesting physics professor from New York. He claimed that casualties could run as high as a million people if there were an accident.

    Only 72 pounds? Tons of plutonium were finely dispersed in the air during the era of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing. Somehow I managed to survive that time, even though I was a child.

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