1. I joined the webcast late but one item that is sticking with me is the claim by Gundersen regarding the bribes of NRC inspectors.

    First time I have heard that claim from Gundersen or anyone else.

    It occurs at the very end of the presentation at 1:34:00

    I admire Dr. Wilson for his calm, measured responses. Especially when trying to respond to the litany of anti-nuclear talking points.

    1. I tried to follow the claims by Gundersen against his former employer (I suspect the position he got there was a mix of Peter Principle and what Peter’s called lateral arabesque, with a high pay to keep him doing nothing), and I have seen it already.

      This claim of bribes against the NRC appears to consist of the company inviting the inspectors to some business lunches, and paying for it. But there’s no indication that the lunches were in any way lavish, or out of the norm spendings.

  2. What Arnie does that works well with the average person whose only interest in electricity generation is flicking a light switch and paying a bill is the personal anecdote.

    His personal anecdotes on decentralisation are quite clever. However, I’d argue, using his mainframe analogy, that could servers are large centralised stores of data versus the distributed hard drives at home. More people are moving to the cloud than storign it all at home on personal hard drives and servers.

    Nevertheless, the personal anecdote works well with people that do not interact directly with the industry on a daily basis. More Nuclear advocates should do it. Talking technical does not work.

    Aside, Australia having more than 2 million independent generators is a furphy. It only passed a million (individual PV installations on households) a couple of years ago. The generation in Australia is still 95% fossil fuel, hardly a renewable champion as Arnie states.

  3. Jacobson was referenced a few times with a conclusion that the US could be powered 100% from renewable energy by worst case 2050. While Paul Wilson touched on it, I just cannot see how that could happen even assuming it’s feasible to build a grid that could, for instance, power the eastern seaboard from wind and solar in the west. As I understand it Jacobson and Delucchi’s research is based on computer models of wind and solar patterns, as well as a generous helping of hydro and biomass. Have there been any peer reviews of their research?

    1. @ Ike,

      Jacobson’s plan has been reviewed by at many levels however those reviews are not making it out into the public realm from what I have seen. Utilities have been forced at some level to deal with it since it has come up at public utility commission meetings, internal meetings and his plan is receiving wide review within NY state since many people there are anti-nuclear and are working very hard to shut down Indian Point. So those discussions are definitely slanted towards believing the hype Jacobson is selling.

      The problem with any critique of his plan is that people who are willing to stand up and point to the weak areas of the plan are labeled as trying to maintain the “status quo”. People who are asking hard questions about the true costs of his plan are shouted down as “energy/utility insiders”. So right there meaningful debate is shut down, which of course is the goal of anti-nuke types: Yell louder to drown out real discussion.

      Just like the NREL reports that state nuclear will be required for their WWS plan to work, but bury that line item deep within their reports, Jacobson buries the true cost of implementing his plan. It is on the order of $100’s of trillions. So the headline of WWS saving the world is what is published but the true cost is never discussed.

      The other issue is that is routinely not discussed is that Jacobson’s plan relies on HVDC technology that has not been tested on a wide scale. So while nuclear advocates are routinely criticized for wanting to spend the public’s money on new nuclear technology, Jacobson and his crowd are free to discuss the creation of a whole new off-shore wind industry without having to answer about cost to the average ratepayer and taxpayer – who are one and the same.

      Here is the latest on Jacobson’s 50 state plan:


      So anyone can look at Jacobson’s solution for their state.

      Here is one of many DOE reports about off-shore wind and distribution to the lower contiguous 48 states:


      Note the costs that are discussed on page 21:

      Based on a literature review, interviews with active offshore wind developers, and global market analysis, the report found that the average cost for an offshore wind installation is $5,600/kW. The complete range was between $4,500/kW and $6,500/kW. These values do not account for issues such as transmission, environmental impacts, military constraints, public policy, consumer costs, energy prices, or public acceptance

      Bolded highlighted section was added by myself

      So breaking those numbers apart a little:

      Experts in the field of off-shore wind are saying that their overnight costs are $5,600/kw without the necessary T&D, right-of-ways, and environmental impacts factored into the equation.

      As a comparison Vogtle’s overnight costs are: (drumroll please) …..approximately $6,700/kw (based on some publicly available numbers I have seen)

      However and this is a big HOWEVER, Vogtle’s cost figure is an all inclusive one.

      So everything that is needed to put Vogtle Units 3 and 4 on line are included in that $6,700/kw figure.

      Unlike Dr. Jacobson’s and DOE cost figures. Both Jacobson and the DOE off-shore wind advocates are very selective in how they present the true cost of off-shore wind and the other technology, designs, new policies, etc that would be necessary to make their WWS plans viable.

      1. Are other state plans as questionable as that for New York? http://theenergycollective.com/ed-dodge/301031/critique-100-renewable-energy-new-york-plan

        I’m sure Hutner is a competent humanities academic. But she was merely a cardboard stand-in for Jacobson yesterday, obviously didn’t understand her source material and sadly was not challenged on the root of the attempted confusion-sowing regarding conventional nuclear life-cycle emissions – assertions that no peak body (IPCC, IEA etc) accept.

      2. For the offshore projects in Germany, transmission costs have indeed been extremely high and also led to very high delays. But long distance HVDC is a real technology, in China, the Yunnan–Guangdong HVDC line transports 5 GW over 1500 km (880 miles). However the currently commercially deployed lines are end to end solutions, the switch necessary to extract power in the middle of the line are still nearer from prototypes than from wide-scale deployed commercial solutions. The thing also is that long distance HVDC is very costly, and obtaining the right to cross all that territory is very expensive in a democratic country (not China).

        1. @jmdesp,

          Thanks for providing that clarification regarding the HVDC lines and the HVDC switches.

          In a previous job, I heard routinely about the idea of HVDC lines from Alaska to the West Coast since there are large hydro sites in Alaska still available for development. But the switching technology and laying the undersea lines in the unforgiving seas of the North Pacific were areas where serious money was needed to fully develop the approach.

          In my reading of the situation of the German offshore wind installations, it was the on-shore switching technology that was not fully ready for operational use. The BARD Offshore 1 facility has yet to reach full operational capabilities.

  4. Gundersen was introduced as having 40+ years of nuclear power engineering experience, but Rod I think you have previously left no doubts regarding the exaggeration involved in this curriculum vitae?

  5. No matter what the peace-makers tell us, nuclear power and renewables don’t make happy bedmates. Renewables (effectively wind, solar and biomass) don’t cut it at any meaningful level. When applied at grid scale, wind and solar:
    * cannibalize other energy sources by demanding priority grid access. Sources such as CCGT must run inefficiently to support them. Pure baseload such as nuclear power gains nothing from wind & solar, it’s harmed just like all other grid sources.
    * wind & solar will always need massive fossil fuel support; so won’t reduce global warming. The amount of fossil fuel support required is effectively equal to maximum grid demand we see on a cold, still, midweek, winter’s evening. That explains all those new German coal plants.
    * wind & solar + storage is just a myth. Wind proponents call the UK “the Saudi Arabia of wind”. Based on typical UK wind found in nature (rather than sales talk), I calculated that wind requires 150 times its nameplate capacity in storage. Not economically viable.
    * don’t ask me to list all their contras, lies and myths – there are too many.

    Wind & solar are a fraud perpetrated upon us by deep greens. Their agenda is reduce our energy use by any means possible. They believe the more energy we have the more we can destroy the environment. Amory Lovins in not wrong because he made mistakes gathering and interpreting evidence. Like the LNT scientists from 1956, he upholds a more ‘noble’ cause than mere truth or scientific fact. Please take the gloves off – they have. Plus: they’re using knuckle-dusters.

    1. @Mark Pawelek

      If you listen to Wilson carefully, you will note that he agrees that unreliables don’t play well with large nuclear unless there is affordable grid scale storage. Since most of us understand the limitations of storage, he is subtly not picking fights but telling the truth.

      Wilson also adroitly introduced the important concept that people who are concerned about climate change while fighting nuclear energy are helping their supposed enemies. Most readers know my theory that the people at the top echelons of Big Environmental organizations are aware of their financial support from fossil fuel interests, but many of the rank and file are potential converts once they hear the reasoning a few times.

  6. I’ve been following Gundersen’s blog since Fukashima. There is one point he makes over and over in it that seems, at least to me, to ring true. Nuclear power, at least as generated by the existing boiling water and pressurized water technologies, is not economically viable without government or rate payer subsidy.

    I know that when they decided to shut down Vermont Yankee it not because the people of the state wanted it closed. The feds had overridden the state legislature and granted the owners a 20 year license extension. The owners of the plant made the decision based on purely economics.

    1. @Stephen Galperin

      It’s funny how selective people are about believing official corporate communications.

      Many folks in Vermont convinced themselves that Entergy couldn’t be trusted, but have no trouble believing the “purely economics” cover story.

      Please learn more about supply and demand economics.

    2. @ Stephen,

      Wind and solar are not viable without subsidies.

      UCS and any report written by Doug Koplow are written from an anti-nuclear stance. I mention them specifically since Gundersen has used those Koplow’s reports as the basis for his statements of economic viability.

      Anti-nukes are always lumping in the Price Anderson Act as a direct subsidy to the nuclear industry. Koplow is one who has been trying to keep that discussion alive for years. I am not going to go down that road of debating Price Anderson Act other then to say that (1) is it not a direct subsidy to nuclear power and (2) other industries have similar insurance arrangements. And by providing the following link:


      Another point anti-nukes such as Gundersen claim is a subsidy is the final decommissioning costs of a nuclear power plant. What he purposefully does not discuss is how the decommissioning costs for the thousands of industrial wind and solar facilities would be paid.

      Nuclear power plants pay into a decom fund for that very purpose. Industrial wind and solar developers, nor any subsequent owners, are not legally required to pay for decommissioning of those facilities. North Dakota is looking to change that though so their citizens are not hit with a hidden tax 10-20 years down the road.


      Now understandably decommissioning an industrial wind site is less expensive then a nuclear power plant. But the topic isn’t the cost delta. The topic is if Gundersen is or is not accurately discussing how industrial wind and solar sites will be decommissioned in the near future. Many of the industrial wind and solar sites that were established in the 1988-2002 timeframe are reaching their end of life with no known source of decommissioning funds other then that state’s taxpayers or local landowners.

    3. Gundersen also advocates for renewable energy feed in tariffs. Without ratepayer subsidies, wind and solar development would be a small fraction of what it is now. The large current-generation nuclear facilities are a lot like hydropower. Their up-front costs are too high and their payback rates are too slow to be very attractive to private investors, so they generally need loan guarantees, special insurance arrangements, and sometimes direct government funding, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a long-term bargain. One of the newest nuclear facilities coming online is the 3.3 gigawatt Taishan phase 1 station ramping up to go critical in a few months. I think that wound up coming in about a half billion over the original budget, so roughly $8 billion for its build cost, or about $2.40 per watt capacity.

      Gundersen likes to point to Germany as a model to follow, and they have some of the lower solar installation costs running around $2.25 per watt badge capacity, last I heard. From an investor point of view, that’s a smaller initial outlay, with minimal insurance and finance cost, and it gets a generous feed-in tariff for a fairly quick return on investment, so the solar is the better investment deal. But in terms of energy production costs, after you adjust for capacity factor, that might raise the cost at Taishan to around $2.70 per average deliverable watt vs. more than $22 per deliverable watt for German Solar. But that solar outlay also has only about a third the life expectancy of the nuclear facility, so that effectively triples the amortized build cost of solar, and that’s without even getting into the qualitative differences in the electricity produced. So whether nuclear is economically viable comes down to a matter of definition. Does it mean attractive to private investors, or does it mean providing a good long-term low-cost energy return on investment? Sometimes governments simply have to do things for the public good that private enterprise neglects because of better returns elsewhere. Rural electrification, for example, would not have happened without government intervention until the power companies had exhausted all of their more profitable urban and suburban development opportunities.

    4. Stephen, as has been described here already, yes this plant may not be economic, but also the immediate result of it’s closure is a major rise in electricity prices, in new England just like happened also in south California after SONGS closure. The full explanation is a bit complex, but first what made those plants hard to sustain is the fact that they pay a *lot* of taxes, not that they are naturally expensive, read the recent article “Power In New England: Why are Prices Increasing so Rapidly?”, second that they are not properly rewarded for the stability they bring in the prices.
      And third they are many region in the US where the market is distorted by the subsidies paid to wind power. What make nuclear efficient is to generate power all the time. But where there is much wind power, they are some periods where too much electricity is generated and the prices can even become negative, since the PTC makes wind power still profitable at negative prices. Gas, and to some degree coal plant, can just shut down at those times, saving on the fuel even if they make less money. But for nuclear plant, the fixed costs are really by really far the dominant costs, shutting down during those period is technically not easy, and is basically only lost revenues and nothing else.

  7. Interesting debate. I watched it live. Just on wind:

    Wind is the most highly *centralized* form of energy precisely because it is made up of so many different generators (so-called ‘distributed generation’) but has to be tightly centralized by SCADA and other ISO and utility operated smart-grid tech (SCADA is actually 40 years old I think) because all those generators have to be *co-coordinated* with themselves to the point where they connect to the grid and then the various farms of generators have to be co-coordinated for load demand over vast regions. If one is into real distributed generation, then wind is on the opposite side of the equation (with SMRs being the best form of distributed generation ever developed).

    1. Yes, that is one of the great ironies in all this. Antis who embrace distributed generation as an argument against nuclear power fail to realize that nuclear power is the best form of DG.

  8. A bit off topic, so please forgive me. But before the comment period for the Clean Power Plan (CPP) ends, I want to make sure I’m clear on a few particular intricacies of the proposed rule. I’m well aware that existing nuclear plants only get 5.8% of their clean power included in the CPP emissions rate calculations, presumably because giving 100% credit would make it more important for states to keep their nuke plants running. I’m unclear about plants currently under construction (Vogtle, Summer, Watts Bar, ect.) and those yet to be built. Will the output of Vogtle and Summer be counted at 100% of their produced energy when they open in ’17 and ’18, or will they revert back to 5.8% or something in between? Also, will a plant not yet under construction get the 5.8% treatment when it begins operation, or will some other factor be applied? Thanks!

  9. Honestly, I hated that debate. While Wilson had some decent moments, I really wish the Pro’s would have been individuals who would have eaten the Anti’s for breakfast.

    1. Yeah, that was a massacre. It was a mercy that there was no vote at the end. It reminded me of some of the Creation / Evolution debates of old, where the creationist had a refined performance confidently spouting made-up “facts” with some real fire in the belly while the evolutionist was usually some hapless, dusty professorial wonk with no more speaking experience than lecturing to bored classrooms who naively thought it was going to be enough to argue on the side of settled science. For easily a decade, the Creationism live-debate roadshow ran roughshod over evolutionists until the scientists finally at least got smart enough to give up and withdraw from the stage, taking instead to the print word where they had time to develop a decent rebuttal. I don’t know that the evolution side ever did manage to put up a debater who could match a Gish or Morris live performance.

      That said, Gundersen is no Gish, and there are some pro-nukes that I actually would enjoy seeing in a debate with him. Michael Shellenberger knows how to handle nonsense, Kirk Sorensen brings passion and a very appealing vision for the future, and I can guarantee there would have been no shots of a bored audience with John Kutsch up there on one of his ballistic riffs–preferably going second so that he has some material to tear to teeny tiny shreds.

      But here, Gundersen didn’t even bring his A game, and he still killed. Wilson walked right into a number of pounce points that Gundersen had ready answers for (I’ve seen him use them before) and Gundersen let them slide. Wilson may be a nice guy, but somebody needs to tell him, please don’t ever do this again–at least not without spending some time with a public speaking coach, a debate coach, and preferably a whole debate team who can show him how to organize, prioritize, find the strongest elements of his position, and use them effectively. And above all, don’t even participate unless everyone on the pro-nuke side is actually pro-nuke.

      Losing the Creationism debates was an embarrassment and a setback for science that we still haven’t recovered from, but with each nuclear debate lost, the stakes are human poverty and misery, human lives cut short, species gone forever, and the rising risk of passing one of many possible catastrophic climate tipping points. We really need for the nuke side to be represented by people who get that.

      1. @Shuttlebug

        Perhaps your interpretation would be correct if the audience had been at a revival meeting or on a televangelist show.

        For a university audience, I think you are dead wrong – at least I certainly hope so. If anything, college students should be taught some critical thinking skills and the ability to recognize the difference between someone who knows his topic and a snake oil salesman.

        That young lady from Brooklyn certainly seemed to recognize that Gundersen was full of BS and politely demonstrated her disbelief. His solar power prescription for NYC indicates Gundersen’s severe lack of understanding and she knows it.

        Kutch’s passion and detailed rants play very well with some audiences, but would be a total turn off for many of the potential converts available at that particular venue.

        1. “…. If anything, college students should be taught some critical thinking skills and the ability to recognize the difference between someone who knows his topic and a snake oil salesman……”

          You can’t teach common sense or intuitive perception. Basically, the problem is trying to instill the ability to question, to look beyond the popular narrative. You can teach that skill , with an emphasis on research and healthy skepticism.

          Even here, one does not need to dig too deep to find intelligent and professional people harping political falsehoods by rote, choosing to accept rather than to investigate. People believe whats easy to believe.

          Regarding radioactivity, the “teacher’s” task is difficult, as one must immerse oneself in science to even come close to drawing an informed opinion as to where the “truth” actually lies. Really, John Q. is not interested in applying the effort, instead prefering to simply, and easily, err on the side of caution. Besides, Gundersen’s claims titillate, feeding the notion of a bad nasty radioactive Godzilla, just a step away from irreversably irradiating wide swaths of our environment. Without digging into the science, how does John Q. possibly reject this belief? Far easier to believe, in the hopes that the Godzilla monster will be slain by the “truth”.

          You pro-nukers have an almost impossible task. Gundersen has a cakewalk.

          But then again, so do our political pundits enjoy a cakewalk. This site perfectly demonstrates that fact when the discussion becomes political. The so called “truth”is often little more than an issue of convenience, becoming what is easy to believe, rather than what is actually real.

        2. (in response to Rod Adams)

          What I said about Kutsch was that the audience would not have been bored, and I think anyone who has seen him on a rant would have to agree with that. I’m not saying that he would be persuasive, and I would not try to emulate his style or tone, but on the other hand, the contest here isn’t really being fought out on the plain of reason. This is another science vs faith conflict, and the faith side is driven by emotion. And in such conflicts, I do think frothing attack dogs like John can serve a useful purpose. John can be loud, mocking, kind of obnoxious, snarky and entertaining, but underlying it all he is, for the most part, correct. He gives people incentive to do research to prove him wrong, and even if it is a negative incentive, the result of such motivation can still be beneficial. I know in my own case I have learned things I did not expect when I set out to prove someone wrong. I can also remember what it was like being an atheist before the “New Atheists” came along, and where theists previously thought me an agent of Satan, they came to see me as surprisingly reasonable by comparison to the pugnacious bad boys, without my changing my tone or message at all. I think Huxley served much the same purpose for Darwin.

          On the flipside, I think Wilson’s meek, cap-in-hand, almost apologetic tone here conveys the indelible sense that not even he really believes in his own position. In an ideal world the strength of the argument alone should be all that matters, but in our world, tone and presentation really are important–which is one of the first things an experienced debate coach would have told Wilson.

          And I agree college students should be taught critical thinking skills, but they aren’t going to pick those up from watching a debate like this. It was too brief, and the format basically only allowed for claim vs. counter-claim. I would be surprised if any anti-nukes or fence-sitters found anything Wilson said here rationally compelling.

          The lady from Brooklyn was of course correct that distributed renewables won’t work in New York city, but Gundersen lost no ground there. He can still characterize the overall system as distributed, without requiring that all energy be generated right at the point of consumption, and more to the point, focusing on a picky exception like that does nothing at all to address the underlying radiophobia which is the very foundation of opposition to nuclear power. Neither did Wilson’s bland assurances that nuclear power is safe and clean without backing that up or putting that into context–an unforced error that people who do have critical thinking skills would surely have picked up on. And thank you to all the audience members who tried to help, but I give zero credit for their efforts to Wilson’s performance here.

          But one point where I do agree with Kutsch is that we have a right to be angry. We don’t have to express it the way he does, and we shouldn’t let the anger consume us or burn us out, but if we don’t go into this fight with a fighting attitude, the other side will not hesitate to exploit that to their advantage.

      2. I’m very much in agreement what you are saying here, and I think the comparison with the evolution/creation debate is very apt.

        I also have the impression that creationism has been on the retreat since the 80’s. It’s generally considered risible on the internet, in a way that the anti-nuke theme is not. So it is very possible (or likely) that the facts win out eventually. Reality bats last, as they say.

        Also Bill Nye did a very good job vs Ken Ham.

    2. My thoughts exactly. On the positive side, the next person to meet these two jokers in a debate will know what to expect. The 2nd positive aspect is that the anti-nukes were quite dogmatic and intolerant; that should put skeptics in the audience off them. The anti-nuke presentations were Gish Gallop. It’s hard to counter because one doesn’t have time to present all the evidence needed to rebuke myriads of so-called ‘points’. I guess the best approach to dealing with Gish is to take on a few of your opponents strongest points, but remember to refute most of what they say with a catch all line such as : I counted 32 points in your arguments there Arnie but, sadly, only 2 made sense, etc.

      1. @ Pawelek & Shuttlebug

        I see a lot of references to Gish, Morris, and science vs faith. I guess I take away a different lesson than perhaps most of you. Can you imagine Gunderson & Hutner, or any combination of anti-nukes, doing to the pro-nuclear side what Gish & Morris did to the evolutionist side? There were many debates sometimes with the same people who came back and got clobbered each time. Vincent Sarich (spelling?) debated them at least three times, maybe four, so to appeal to the argument that ALL these folks were just not good debaters is a little thin. Smugness in one’s position and over confidence may be attributed to the first few disasters but c’mon, time after time? These weren’t Jr. High School science teachers they were debating. Gish & Morris exposed some pretty substantial weaknesses in the theory of evolution and their success in these debates is some measure of that. Many who hold to the theory of evolution do so just as religiously as those who oppose them.

        1. (In response to david davison)

          I would say the anti-nukes were more successful than the Creationists in their respective agendas. The Creationists mostly failed in their bid to inject Creationism into the science classroom, whereas the anti-nukes shaped mainstream perception, obstructed, delayed, and drove up nuclear build and operational costs, thwarted solutions to problems, and ultimately derailed a large and very active research and development program. That said, the anti-nukes clearly had the easier task. They hooked into Cold War nuclear fears, and general scientific ignorance of an arcane and technical field to whip up fears of an invisible dread phenomenon which was linked in public perception with horrible death and monstrous mutations. The Creationists, on the other hand, were taking on one of the most successful theories in science, linked by multiple lines of support into adjacent fields, and they were doing so with an unsupported, unscientific notion which was nearly as absurd as the Flat Earth worldview. That they managed to get themselves taken seriously and even conduct a remarkably successful debate roadshow for a while is a testament to their ingenuity and showmanship.

          I’ve seen a lot of creationist materials, and I don’t know what substantial weaknesses in evolutionary theory you are talking about, but what I think they did expose is that scientists had let their engagement with the public fall into neglect. Scientists saw it as a thankless, distasteful, and unproductive chore, and it was just easier to retreat into their disciplines, and leave it to others to shape public perception and opinion. My impression is that the nuclear community made much the same mistake.

          1. @ Shuttlebug

            I agree that Kutsch’s presentation can be useful. Thanks go to Ike Bottema for posting the link, I’ve already used it several times. Here is how I’ve used it and others can decide for themselves whether they think my ideas might be effective: Before the link, I apologize up front for the language and anger in it. I do this for two reasons: First, it distances me from some of the hostility displayed while still being able to present the material. Second, with such an introduction, there may be those who will view it just to see what I’m talking about.

            On the topic of evolution(E)/creation science (CS), I’d say I agree with some of the reasons you state regarding the success of anti-nukes and non-success of CS. You leave out some other, perhaps more important reasons. The anti-nukes have generally enjoyed an accommodating media giving a microphone to any crackpot with an alarmist story to tell (my local anti-nukes, who no NOTHING, are an example) while creationists with advance degrees in science meet only hostility in the media (see the travesty of the coverage over the Vista School District). ALL public documentaries on TV support E and E is all students receive in public schools, and in the colleges, many professors take time out to ridicule the CS position. As far as E professors retreating (Stephen Jay Gould was offered 10K to debate, he declined in favor of verbal attacks), yes, it is a cowardly tactic but effective because then the only voice students hear regarding CS is through the prism of hostile professors.
            CS has NOT set science back, even if it proves to be dead wrong. Indeed, it is truly only when one has to defend his or her position do they begin to discover the weaknesses in their position. I myself have learned a great deal about the pro-nuke-anti-nuke debate that I wouldn’t have known had I not decided to take up the cudgel in defense of nuclear power. If it is true that a teacher learns more in the preparation of a lesson than the students he or she teaches, it is much more so when one has to defend a theory against a well prepared opponent.
            As this isn’t the venue for a debate on this topic, I’ll just give you a couple of examples of problems I see with evolution:

            Taken to its logical conclusion, evolution requires the believer to accept that life arose from non-life (something Louis Pasteur was supposed to have refuted), that at some point in time, something that was NOT living not only came to life, but did so with the full capability to take in products, give off byproducts, AND reproduce successfully. I also feel the theory is so elastic, it can incorporate virtually anything discovered, ie., it is NOT falsifiable.
            Back to nuclear power…

          2. (@ david davison — replying here since there was no reply tag for your post)

            I see anti-nukes as living in an insulated bubble-reality, where they have their own small retinue of “experts” denouncing mainstream science as the agenda-driven product of some vast evil conspiracy. To me, it looks like the same dynamic in operation for holocaust deniers, climate change deniers, moon landing deniers, 9/11 controlled demolition truthers, chemtrail believers, and Scientific Creationists. But while I think it can be useful to examine the particulars and operation of bubble-reality belief systems, I also recognize that comes with a high risk of straying off topic, so I’ll try to restrict my response regarding CS here.

            First, yes, what I should have said was the CS was a setback for science education, not science itself. Second, no, there is nothing about evolution which requires that life arose from non-life. That’s a different matter separate from evolution (as is solar system development, galaxy formation and Big Bang cosmology, even though some bad textbooks now try to stuff all those under the rubric of evolution). Evolution is about heritable descent with modification–period. And then there are falsifiable theories as to how that could happen. Darwin describes many things which, if observed, would tend to discredit his theory, and generating false implications is how we determined that Lamarckism, for example, was a failed evolutionary theory.

            I do agree that defending a position can be educational, and sometimes in surprising ways. I was a long-time anti-nuke until not very long ago, and it was while trying to come up with better rebuttals to use against advanced nuclear proponents that I started pulling on a thread which would ultimately collapse my entire anti-nuke worldview.

  10. I am pro-nuclear as I believe nuclear to be our best option for clean, cheap, base loaded power. That being said, I wasn’t as impressed with Wilson as perhaps others. First, the anti-nuke side stayed on their topic of attacking nuclear while Wilson and Bennington (W&B) devoted most of their collective energies against fossil fuels and GW. No where did W&B state the dirty nature of solar panel or wind turbine blade production other than a general statement. Had they done so, it would have demonstrated that the debate isn’t between a totally clean (renewables) and another dirty (nuclear) technology. B isn’t even a pro-nuke and wasted precious time on GW. In the Q&A, Wilson could have taken more time in taking Arni to task over his 4 cents a KW statement and a better answer to the radiation is dangerous claim (comparing dose rates in Ramsar Iran or Guarapari Beach Brazil to the exclusion zone at Fukushima) but most specifically, could have seriously damaged Arni’s credibility on his endorsement of the Yablokov baloney. Damaging one’s credibility leaves doubt in the listener’s mind as to one’s other facts or figures.
    Any discussion of risk with regard to power generation should include dam failures and in particular the Banquiao Dam, AND, Green Peace’s own figures for early coal deaths in China. Simply stating that burning coal is unhealthy tends to fall flat–figures for deaths or respiratory problems contain more gravitas.
    Pro-nukes need to take a more aggressive approach to the lies and falsehoods promoted by the anti-nuke activists. Simple analogies/comparisons are more helpful when you have a mixed audience. Remaining on the defensive all the time is not a recipe for success.

  11. Gunderson mentioned that the NRC has screwed up the Hanford Reservation. At what point does the NRC figure into most of Hanford. Most of Hanford was a wartime effort to get us nuclear weapons, along with the continuing effort to maintain weapons stockpiles. The Energy Northwest Columbia plant is the main focus that the NRC has anything directly to deal with.
    How is the NRC messing up Hanford?

    1. NRC has nothing to do with Hanford. Gunderson is either deliberately lying or misinformed. Hanford is DOE. This should be made clear at every turn. Hanford has no more to do with the nuclear power industry than Umatilla has to do with the pharmaceutical industry.

      1. NRC has nothing to do with Hanford. Gunderson is either deliberately lying or misinformed.

        What is the specific comment from Gunderson?

        NRC has a review role over Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford , particularly safety and environmental programs (here).

        NRC describes it this way on it’s website: “DOE has asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to provide technical advice and consultation on some of its analyses, including performance assessments for the site. In response, the NRC staff is currently reviewing DOE’s performance assessments related to the site, in accordance with an Interagency Agreement between the NRC and DOE” (here).

    2. The NRC wasn’t even around when Hanford was built and mostly operated. Hanford was never subjected to NRC oversight during its operational phase. DoE regulatory policy generally followed NRC guidance for the FFTF, but that was to provide a regulatory framework, not actual regulation. Whether or no there is NRC oversight/guidance during some of the closure activities, I don’t know. But whether there are or not, it should be emphasized that Hanford is DoEs ballgame.

      1. I was at Hanford off and on for nearly a decade. I never once heard the word NRC.

        it’s also key to remember that Hanford was built to win the Cold War. NRC ossifying regulation would have been completely tangential to this point. If in, say, 1960, we had to sacrifice 400 sq miles of Washington state to win the Cold War, we would have gladly done it. It’s senseless to think that this history is at all related to making electricity.

        1. It’s senseless to think that this history is at all related to making electricity.

          @Rick Biasca, perdajz, and Wayne SW

          Reactor N was the last reactor to be shut down at Hanford. It was grid connected and for many years had a major role supplying electricity for Washington Public Power Supply System. “By 1971 the AEC had closed eight of the nine reactors, and by 1972 the site had ceased shipments of plutonium. Only the N reactor continued to operate — generating primarily electricity rather than fuel for nuclear weapons.”


          Reactor N was finally shut down in 1987.

          1. @EL

            Are you aware of the history of the ‘N’ reactor, why it was modified to produce electricity, which president so strongly supported the modification that he visited the site to give a speech about the decision to make the modification, and why it was “finally shut down in 1987.”

            These are not rhetorical questions, I just don’t want to tell the story without knowing what your current level of knowledge might be.

          2. Are you aware of the history of the ‘N’ reactor …

            @Rod Adams

            The link I provided speaks clearly to this history. What “history” do you think has been left out of this summary (that N reactor somehow didn’t produce electricity for Washington Public Power Supply system, at significant levels, and wasn’t a showcase project for the multiple benefits of nuclear power … military and civilian applications)?

            Here is another source that speaks to this history (and the benefits of electricity and power generation that were highly touted for the project).


    1. @ Ike Bottema

      Thanks for the link. I’ve already posted it in response to some Youtube comments I’ve received. However, my effectiveness there has suffered from the law of diminishing returns as I’ve been blackballed from many of the Fukushima fear-mongering sites. Perhaps somebody else will take up the gauntlet.

  12. Rod,

    I don’t agree with you that because this was an academic audience, facts would play better. People listening to a debate are people listening to a debate, whoever the people are. Rhetoric and style are more important than facts in many debates.

    It’s hard to debate these guys because their whole life is about being advocates, and they have their patter down very well. If pro-nuclear people do make a good point, the opponents slide away from that point and get back to their own agenda. Pretty soon, it’s like the pro-nuclear point never happened.

    Also, the opponents make up numbers quite cheerfully–and then they present the numbers as facts. (At least, Gundersen did when I debated him…I still haven’t gotten over his assertion that there were “16 fish in the Connecticut River.” The rest have died due to Vermont Yankee, according to Gundersen.) Meanwhile, pro-nuclear people seem hesitant and unsure as we carefully format our responses. If we stuck to a pre-arranged talking point and kept coming back to it, we would do better.

    Also, Suzy Hobbs Baker is trying to get pro-nuclear people to be a little more emotionally engaging in public. She is right. I think a mixture of debate training (Stay on point!) and becoming more emotionally engaged (stories, warmth, anecdotes, personal tales) is the way to go in the future.

    We have the facts. We just don’t have the debate skills. Opponents make up their own facts, and they DO have the debate skills. It’s tough going.

    1. @ Meredith Angwin

      “If we stuck to a pre-arranged talking point and kept coming back to it, we would do better”

      This is an excellent observation and could have been employed in rebuttal as well. Imagine if Wilson had challenged Gunderson’s Yablokov endorsement, then challenged his 4 cents a KW claim by also reminding the audience of the first error, and then challenged the next error and again reminding the audience of the first errors. The cumulative effect is to damage his credibility because when Gunderson is caught using false figures, even the figures not challenged, also become suspect in the audience’s mind. This is absolutely essential and in Gunderson’s case, quite easy. Wilson, or others in the future, need not reserve themselves to only what Gunderson or other anti-nukes, claim in the current debate they are engaging in. Anything these folks have stated is fair game and Gunderson, Caldicott, Busby, et. al., have left a rich trail of horse manure statements to be exploited.

  13. What amazes me is that most here can accept and believe the premise that the prevailing narrative about radioactivity is a purposely generated fiction, yet swallow, hook, line, and sinker, other more obvious deceptions that do not require science to expose them as such.

    I guess a mind full of science doesn’t guarantee a head full of common sense.

  14. I think it would be really useful to use debates like this as educational tools. I don’t just mean by getting people to watch them, but by offering careful, well referenced, point by point rebuttals of each false statement made by the two anti-nuke activists. These errors are perhaps obvious to many of the people reading this blog, but they are not obvious to the general public who are the target audience of these kinds of debate.

    Most people can probably see that someone like Heidi “I’m a humanist, so I don’t have all the science” Hutner is a fool who is happy to blather about things that she herself admits she does not understand, but the many false claims made by Gundersen would perhaps not register as suspect to the average audience member. To stay on the radiation exposure example, at time 50:15 Hutner, who had just gone through a long litany of the supposed dangers posed by radiation from nuclear power plants, had this exchange with Wilson:

    Wilson: “So you mentioned radiation exposure. Can you describe
    the sources of radiation exposure for the average American
    and how much of it comes from nuclear energy?”

    Hunter: “In percentages? Ah, well I don’t have percentages.
    I’m a humanist, so I don’t have all the science.”

    At this point, Gundersen stepped in an said that on average across the country about 1% of the radiation exposure of an individual is from nuclear power. This is a claim that is easily checked. For example the NRC radiation calculator


    shows that living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant exposes one to .0009 millirem (.000009 ms) of radiation per year (the same calculator shows that living within 50 miles of a coal plant exposes one to .03 millirem per year, 30x more). The EPA says


    that the average American is exposed to around 600 millirem (6 ms) per year. So the radiation exposure from living next to a nuclear plant is .0009/600 = 1.5e-6. This is not 1% as claimed by Gundersen, it is .00015%. So Gundersen is off by about 4 orders of magnitude.

    Again, this kind of thing is known by nuclear supporters, but not by the general public, so I think it would be really useful to have a reliable “fact checkering” resource which goes through these kinds of debates and picks the claims apart point by point. Perhaps this would be a good project for a bright high school student who is interested in energy issues.


    1. @ Jeffrey Miller
      Excellent points. In any debate, the participant should have an idea of the points his or her opponent is going to raise. In this case, it is no secret as to what Gunderson is going to claim, and Wilson should have been prepared to answer those points with specific facts that demonstrate to a mixed audience that it is he, and not Gunderson, who is the more credible individual.
      I don’t mean to convey the impression that Wilson did a terrible job, I think he did a fair job, but it really should have been a massacre as it is quite easy to show where the anti-nukes are either lying or playing fast and loose with the truth.
      Once a side looses credibility, it is hard to make it up. Gunderson’s credibility could have been seriously damaged with his reference to the Yablokov non-sense.

      1. “Once a side looses credibility, it is hard to make it up.”

        Yep. And this is why the pro-nuke community has such a high hurdle to leap. In the minds of John Q., the accidents at TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima have robbed your industry of credibility. It matters not what the truth is in regards to exposures. What matters is what the public perceives as “truth”. In the opinion of most people I have talked to about Fukushima, they see that event as an occurrence that they were assured would not occur. And they feel the industry itself is responsible for offering that “false assurance”. After telling the public that such an event will not happen, do you really expect them to find your claim, of the resultant release of radiation posing little or no danger to them, as being as being a credible claim?

        Additionally, how many people feel fond of their utility providers? Honestly, I know of no one that has any love for SCE. Like myself, most feel they are being overcharged for mediocre service. Likely, that sentiment is felt about all major corporate service or utility providers. As a former exec of SCE, you are naturally a focus of that dislike and distrust. The shutdown of SONGS, by many, is viewed as a necessary step having to do as much with corporate accountability as it has to do with the perceived dangers of NE. Passing the costs of the failed technology, as well as possibly passing on the costs of the decommissioning, to he consumer, is hardly a wise manner of nurturing favor. To the outsider, deserved or not, the recent SONGS debacle looks like malfeasance, ineptitude, and corruption. Thats not exactly a recipe for trust.

        1. POA;

          “In the opinion of most people I have talked to about Fukushima, they see that event as an occurrence that they were assured would not occur.”

          You are right that this is an attitude people have, but I believe they have been TOLD to have it, by both anti’s and nuclear workers; I’ve been told by people working for naval nuclear propulsion and for commercial that, “We have many safety systems in place to prevent a disaster.” John Q. isn’t a simpleton; they know exactly what that means and they don’t hear that for other things (e.g. airplanes).

          Rod has done a lot to document the fear mongering that has been used against nuclear to create this inappropriate view of nuclear’s risks. I also speculate that naval reactors and Admiral Rickover were responsible through their policy of no accidents being acceptable, which, of course, came from the exaggeration of radiation’s health effects in the 50’s. All of those nuclear shipyard workers who were brought up under this mantra then got poached by the budding commercial industry, which created the foundation of nuclear power safety: no accident is acceptable.

        2. @POA:

          As usual, your points hit the nail on the head.

          A boss once told me – Perception Becomes Reality!

          I want to thank Mr. Adams. After viewing many of the articles he has presented on his site, I thought the debate was simplistic. Then I realized that it is the education I’ve received by reading the discussions on this site that enabled me to see it as a simplistic debate.

        3. POA, you are dead on correct, and have hit one of my pet peeves. You said:
          “After telling the public that such an event will not happen, do you really expect them to find your claim, of the resultant release of radiation posing little or no danger to them, as being as being a credible claim?”
          The answer to your question is “Yes we do”, because we don’t understand the psychology of the simple meaning of words on John Q. So our credibility takes a self inflicted damage hit every time an event occurs. I’ve written extensively about it, usually falling on deaf ears. It’s my opinion John Q interprets “safe” as meaning 100% safe (and we don’t discourage that view). Then when an event happens we all change our message to “but it won’t hurt you”. You’ve nailed it; we are now arguing from the position of a liar. Psychologically, first we said (in John Q’s mind) it won’t happen, now we change our tune.
          The simplest solution is to start using the words that are the actual case in the licensing process of the plants, virtually everyplace we use “safe”. Replace it with “Acceptable Risk” (to the NRC, which is also the reason the Public Comment process is part of the licensing process). John Q certainly understands on a gut level the difference between (100%) safe and acceptable risk; it is something they deal with on a daily basis.
          I’m usually told the “risk based” discussion is too complicated for John Q. I don’t believe that!

          1. The communication about this kind of subjects is very complex, specifically when opponent are very smart to transform it into a slippery road.
            I remember an excerpt of Dr Yamashita confronted with opponent who were asking him if he could absolutely guarantee nobody would get cancer from Fukushima. He didn’t want to say that, so he was finding himself saying that with statistics you can never be sure, that’s the way it is with science, you can never affirm anything is 100% certain.

            But it was just as well a losing position also, this time it was just making him sound like a liar who claimed people should not worry when actually he had no idea and no control at all on what would be happening.
            Here’s the video where this appears : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD9yGONdEUY#t=8
            Notice that the situation is made worse by a misleading translation into english. For example when they translate as “nothing is certain” he actually says : “Nobody can say such a thing as (there’s) absolutely (no risk)” (zettai to iu koto ha daremo ienai). When they translate as “Nobody can guarantee your safety” he actually says : “Nobody can say (it’s) absolutely safe” (zettai hanshin to iu daremo ienai). I didn’t check the exact word he uses for the rest, but here again clearly the choice of wording in English makes it sound quite different from what he’s actually trying to express.

        4. POA,

          I don’t know how people can think Fukushima was an accident that they were told could not occur: it was hit by an unprecidented tsunami from an earthquake which triggered in a unique way.

          1. “……it was hit by an unprecidented tsunami from an earthquake which triggered in a unique way”

            Oh BS. If you are going to try to be credible, you might consider a different approach.

            The tsunami was not unprecedented. That’s a lie. (Or myth?)

            There is historical evidence of a past tsunami of equal or greater magnitude hitting Japan. Also, the tsunami that previously hit Indonesia was a demonstration of what a devastating tsunami is capable of. Additionally, with Japan’s seismic history, the quake magnitude, as well as the resultant large tsunami were not only predictable, but were inevitable. Just because you cannot judge the “when” of an inevitable event, doesn’t mean the event won’t occur.

            The parameters set for seismic tolerance in the licensing of the Japanese NE plants were shown to be inadequate by the Fukushima event. The leads one to surmise that the regulations were set with economics in mind rather than plant protection in the event of a major quake and tsunami.

            1. @poa

              No safety-related portions of the plants at Fukushima (or any other Japanese plants) have been show to have been damaged enough by the seismic event to put them at risk of being unable to achieve a safe shutdown condition. That is the design criteria used.

              The tsunami that took out 15 backup diesel generators and their connections to the plants played a much bigger role in causing enough damage to release some radioactive material that might have affected public safety without measures to minimize exposures. The final hit that caused the damage to be as large as it was included the political decision to refuse to vent the containments before pressure built up so high as to cause some physical damage to safety boundaries.

              BWR operators in the US have a mantra – “Vent early and vent often.” That keeps containment pressure low enough to allow additional water to be added as needed.

          2. It seems I can’t reply lower than this level, so I can’t reply directly to POA.

            Here is my reply:

            The historical record on the Jogan Tsunami of 869 was a work-in-progress when Fukushima was hit. Even then, no indications of a large tsunami hitting the Daiichi area were found.

            One of the big researchers on the subject of the Jogon Tsunami is Daisuke Sugawara. His team recently reviewed the pre-Tohoku Tsunami research on the Jogon Tsunami, and concluded:

            “The differences between the postulated Jogan and Tohoku-oki events are large; the magnitude of energy released by the Tohoku-oki earthquake is nearly 8–10 times larger than that by the Jogan earthquake. The fault slip, which in part determines earthquake magnitude, of the Jogan event was too small to predict that an earthquake with the magnitude of the Tohoku-oki event would occur”.

            You can find that paper here

            So, if I am talking BS, so is one of the premier research teams in the field.

          3. @ POA et al

            “leads one to surmise that the regulations were set with economics in mind rather than plant protection in the event of a major quake and tsunami.”

            It is my understanding that two thirds of the tsunami barriers struck by the March 2011 Tsunami failed. This includes the Kamiashi Tsunami barrier, completed just a couple of years before this tsunami at a cost of over a billion dollars and the largest ever built. They had ONE purpose, and most of them failed! I would suggest that economics was not a factor here because why build these barriers if one feels there is a reasonable probability that they are inadequate? One would surmise that the people felt these barriers were indeed adequate.
            With the acknowledgement that whatever man can build nature can destroy, companies are left to make prudent engineering decisions based on the probabilities (obviously, no guarantee). Was it reasonable to expect TEPCO to build a 45+ foot seawall?
            However, given the seismic and tsunami history of Japan, and perhaps guilty of some Monday morning quarter backing, it does seem like the siting of the EDGs on higher ground should have been a prudent if not obvious decision.

      2. I think I agree that Wilson perhaps should have been a bit more forceful in his rebuttals.
        But I also appreciate Wilson’s difficulty in striking the right balance since in a live debate the audience can be as persuaded by their sense of a person’s character as by the force of his or her arguments; being too aggressive might turn some people off.

        1. @ Jeffrey Miller

          Being confident and passionate about the material one presents doesn’t necessarily translate into “too aggressive.” I’m not suggesting you are stating this but I want to be clear that one must be confident and passionate about presenting their side and simultaneously not refrain from high lighting the opponent’s false statements. Offense, offense, offense!

  15. Not to go off topic, but this weekend’s WNN front page is — the Flamanville delay notwithstanding — a rare moment of nearly universal positive news for the nuclear industry. China plans for nuclear growth is particularly illuminating:

    China currently has 19.1 GWe of installed nuclear generating capacity. According to the plan, this will reach 58 GWe of capacity by 2020, giving China the third largest nuclear generating capacity after the USA and France. In addition, by 2020, China should also have a further 30 GWe or more of new nuclear generating capacity under construction…

    …efforts should be focused on promoting the use of large pressurized water reactors (including the AP1000 and CAP1400 designs), high temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTRs) and fast reactors…

    Near term, of course, and pertinent to the debate, WWS dominate “clean” energy:

    Meanwhile, the share of non-fossil fuels in the total primary energy mix will increase from 9.8% in 2013 to 15%, according to the plan. Installed capacity of hydro, wind and solar power is expected to reach 350 GWe, 200 GWe and 100 GWe, respectively, by 2020.

    While further out:

    Fast reactors… are seen as the main technology for China’s long-term use of nuclear energy. Under previously announced plans, deployment of PWRs is expected to level off at 200 GWe by around 2040, with the use of fast reactors progressively increasing from 2020 to at least 200 GWe by 2050 and 1400 GWe by 2100.

    China is ramping fast and by the mid 2020’s will have roughly the nuclear capacity the U.S. enjoys today. By rough estimate, they are hoping to deploy 1200 GWe over the last half of the century, an average of 460 GWe each week.

    If the Rest of the World combined can match China alone, there’s the requisite one major plant per week — thirty-five years from now.

    I suspect the world will need do much better than that, much sooner than that. And while there appears major and welcome commitment from the world’s leading carbon emitter, we shouldn’t expect the Chinese to carry the world’s water all on their own.

    We probably will anyway. The good news is there will be a healthy market for lightly-used nuclear fuel well before the end of even our first 60-year dry cask evaluation period. The bad news is the consumers in that market will be Chinese and Russian designed nukes.

    There’s something wrong with this picture.

  16. So where do we store all the existing nuclear waste so it does not end up in our children?
    If we continue to build and operate these cancer reactors, where do we store all that new waste at?
    You nukers are so much smarter than us uneducated non-technical peons after all. One of you surely has some magical material to contain nuclear waste for 250,000 years right?
    WIPP worked out so brilliantly and that clusterf*%k was only storing “low level waste”. How about all you nukers take the spent fuel rods home and maintain them in your kiddie pools in your backyards and you can hand down your glorious achievement to your kids to stand guard over and get irradiated by? Then they can hand down the spent fuel death waste to your grandchildren, and so on and so on forever…

    1. @CR (I’m going to respond to this comment and not treat it as spam, but I will not accept any more comments from you unless you pick a different nom de plume.)

      We are storing reusable nuclear fuel safely today. As Paul Wilson stated, we have been doing that for more than 7 decades now. My criteria for “safe,” by the way, does not include the need for absolute perfection. It simply means that human health is protected. I’ve searched for about 25 years for any information about anyone being injured or killed by the uncontrolled release of the byproducts of commercial power reactors and still have not found a single instance of that anywhere in the world.

      The materials are dangerous if not properly isolated from people, but it is not all that hard to do so. There are numerous commercial products in my house that can harm or kill people if they are improperly handled. The key to safety is to follow the simple directions.

      It may be terribly vain of me to say so, but I am smarter than you are on the subject of nuclear energy and atomic radiation. I wouldn’t be much of a professional if that was not a true statement when comparing my level of knowledge to that of an outside observer who evidently starts research from a preexisting condition of fear.

      I’m a reasonably intelligent individual to begin with (National Merit Scholar, salutatorian at a large high school, Naval Academy and Naval Postgraduate school graduate “with distinction” etc). I have been studying the large, complex body of information associated with nuclear technology pretty intensely since 1981. There are certainly areas in the field where there thousands of people more knowledgable than I am, but not many in which I would concede that an amateur is “smarter” on the topic.

      We don’t need a magical material to contain our waste products into the future any more than other industries that use potentially hazardous materials that have similar or greater longevity do. What we need to do is to spread our knowledge widely and depend on the future existence of thinking human beings who are able to do the job at least as well as we have. Reusable nuclear materials are not a burden for our progeny, they are not so raw material resources.

      Like James Lovelock, I would be happy to devote a portion of my own backyard for storing a substantial quantity of reusable nuclear materials. While it is cooling off and becoming easier to process in the future, it would make a great heat source for a backyard pool for my family, including my growing group of grandchildren.

      I’m a native Floridian who spent a great deal of time in outdoor pools — year round — while growing up. It would be terrific to be able to swim in January and February in south central Virginia.

      One more thing — the proper nickname for people like me is “nuke,” not “nukers.”

    2. (in response to “Cancer Reactor”)

      Spent fuel is mostly uranium 238. That doesn’t need to be stored. We can burn it in fast reactors, or if we don’t like that option, we can disperse it–like dumping it in the oceans which are already a repository for 4.5 billion tons of uranium 238. Keeping uranium 238 out of our children is not an option. You have uranium 238 in your body right now–same as all of your ancestors did, all the way back.

      Spent fuel also contains some heavy transuranics, notably plutonium. Those too can can be burned in a reactor. Indeed, there are now some 20,000 fewer nuclear bomb pits in the world because we burned them up in exactly that fashion. Was there some other way of getting rid of those which you think would have been better? Or would you rather we hadn’t gotten rid of them at all?

      And then the part of spent fuel which can’t be burned, or the part that’s left over from burning the other stuff, is the fission products, which break down into three categories. The largest proportion (roughly 7/8ths) has short half-lives, so those isotopes decay to radiologically cold in about a decade. Not a problem. Around 1/8 would need intermediate storage up to about 400 years. And a very tiny proportion would have very long half-lives and very weak radioactive output. Vitrify them and drop them into a subduction zone and they’ll get sucked into the mantle eventually. Or just disperse them. They would be quickly lost in the natural radioactive soup of this planet. They would certainly be orders of magnitude less than the radiologic dispersals we currently get from coal and natural gas, and even for those, roughly 100% of their death rate has nothing to do their radioactivity.

      On the other hand, solar panel waste does contain known carcinogens. So do you have any plans to adopt a moniker which reflects that?

      1. I doubt there’s anything I can do to damp the enthusiasm of subduction-zone disposal proponents. But after fifty years of research the consensus among those who thoroughly study the alternatives is that deep-rock land repositories are better. Suitably selected Yucca Mtn -style welded tuffs, WIPP-style salt beds, Scandinavian and French – style granite batholiths, can all be workable.

        An advantage of land-based repositories is you know exactly their location and geology. And some are retrievable if we ever want the stuff back.

        After actinide fission in fast reactors, there is no need to disperse the remaining long-lived fission products: after 300 – 600 years the short-lived products (Cs-137, Sr-90) have decayed to the point where the LLFP activity dominates, but it still less than the radioactivity of natural uranium ore. If vitrified the LLFPs are no more dangerous.

        If still a concern, the most biologically hazardous of these may transmuted to stable isotopes in sub-critical fast reactors. Few consider transmutation worth the trouble, but it is possible, and sub-critical reactors have been included as part of some closed fuel-cycle proposals.

        Fuel-cycle technology is a fascinating field of ongoing research, and it is safe to say that improvements will be forthcoming for quite some time. That said, this is one case where not only is “better the enemy of good enough”, but better is the mortal enemy of us all. If fast reactors and closed fuel cycles did not exist and we had no choice but to sequester used light-water reactor fuel for a few hundred thousand (or a million) years, that is still but the (long) blink of a geologic eye compared to the several billion year age of the formations in which they would be buried.

        As perspective, the effective lifetime of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide is at least several thousand years, and will be that short only if mankind maintains its collective intellect to sequester it, either through direct atmospheric or ocean capture, or managed photosynthesis. Without active management, it will be at least several, and probably many, million years before tectonic and geological processes can again reduce CO2 levels to those compatible with life as we know it.

        That would be no more than 350 ppm CO2e, and possibly no more than 300. We are currently at 400 ppm and rapidly heading north. Active CO2 atmospheric CO2 management is a requisite part of mankind’s future and — distopians please take note — we must develop and maintain the means to do so if we are to have one. The problem of nuclear waste management pales in proportion.

        1. Subduction disposal of long lived fission products is surely overkill, and not the cheapest option, but the volume of LLFP production is pretty small, so the amortized cost spread over the amount of energy generated would be almost undetectable, so it also isn’t a big splurge. The appeal is that it ties off the only portion of the fission fuel cycle which does not wind up as stable elements in a reasonably short and manageable period of time in such a way that would satisfy all but the the most insane levels of radiophobia while bypassing any NIMBY objections. If this would put to rest the “what are you going to do with the waste” question, I’d consider that a bargain. My preference would be to dispel the underlying problem of radiophobia rather than placate it, but I don’t know how to do that. My experience has been that reason and evidence has no effect on it. But if anyone has found an effective way to overcome it, I’d be interested to hear all about it.

          The geologic time argument is logical, but it won’t fly. All they have to do is invoke WIPP, and any burial plan will have instant local opposition.

          I agree the carbon disposal problem is vastly larger and more urgent than the spent fuel disposal problem, but I’m kind of hoping we don’t get there until a large scale nuclear transition is underway. When I look at strategies such as this:


          My impression is that these rocks have a lot of capacity, but it’s a finite strategy, and if we start pumping carbon into the rocks while fossil fuels dominate, my suspicion is that will just enable more fossil fuel burning and then we won’t have that sequestration resource later, when we need it.

          1. If you think Greenpeace doesn’t consider the oceans to be their back yard, you need to get out more.

            No matter what disposal mechanism one comes up with, there will be well-intentioned fossil tools to oppose it. So I suggest we just continue to develop the safest sitings possible, and look to some of the other comments in this thread about how to most honestly sell them.

            Education about the seriousness of the CO2 problem can be part of that.

    3. @Cancer

      So what is your solution, Cancer? Think renewables is going to make up the difference? What if we had listened to that Ralph Nader non-sense back in the early 1970s and the world had shut down its nuke plants? What do you think the world’s consumption of coal would be today and how many lives would have been cut short because of the burning of this coal which also emits more radionuclides than a nuclear plant? Did you think of that? Would you be willing to fill your swimming pool with coal ash because the amount of byproduct from a coal plant vastly exceeds that of a nuclear plant?
      Think renewables are so clean? See here:


      or here:


      Think this only occurs in China?


      The nuclear industry has been employing safe solutions for dealing with spent fuel as Shuttlebug enumerated below, my favorite being reprocessing which is done safely in Europe and used to be done in America.
      So, what is YOUR solution for dealing with all the toxic materials and pollution that result from solar panel and wind turbine blade manufacturing or do you even care?
      It is easy to be against something, pointing out flaws or short comings; coming up with workable solutions takes a little more than zeal and passion gained from some anti-nuke pamphlet.
      Remember, to be anti-nuke is to be pro-coal and as the anti-nuke organization, Green Peace, has claimed 260,000 lives were lost in China in 2011 alone from burning coal, your opposition to nuclear power KILLs people and damages the environment.
      Please take that into consideration before printing the kind of comments you left here, or at least defend your comments.

  17. @Cancer Reactor
    @Rod Adams

    …but I will not accept any more comments from you unless you pick a different nom de plume.

    So, after claiming only the government can censor, now the host decides what names may go on name tags too.

    Like James Lovelock, I would be happy to devote a portion of my own backyard for storing a substantial quantity of reusable nuclear materials.

    Easy to say when you know even the cost for licensing would have to be paid by other people, because you know engineering and licensing such a system would be beyond 99%ers’ means. In this spirit of care free living, what percent of nukers’ families live within a few miles of operating plants?

    the proper nickname for people like me is “nuke,” not “nukers.”

    Those who call names (renewables / unreliables), should expect the same.

    It was not regulated by the NRC and should not be classified as part of the commercial nuclear power industry.

    You don’t get to choose which part of your history is yours. They were all made, run by, or authorized by the same government, of the people…, and are part of the same nukers’ industrial complex.

    I have been studying the large, complex body of information associated with nuclear technology pretty intensely since 1981.

    All the smart people in the world didn’t keep the availability of this sub high:

    “After five months tied up in Guam, the attack submarine Jefferson City departed Nov. 15, bound for repairs in Pearl Harbor, its new home port, Navy officials confirmed.”

    “The sub left April 9 on a scheduled six-month Western Pacific cruise that has been anything but routine.”

    “Fate and a reactor coolant valve leak that proved tough to locate kept them pierside in Guam, awaiting a decision on repairs.”


    1. @NCR

      It is not censorship when a private individual maintains his own standards at his own corner of the internet.

      I’m not advocating that the public or anyone else pay the artificially inflated cost of licensing a reusable fuel storage facility in my backyard. My proposal is much cheaper – eliminate the irrational fear of low dose radiation, establish a reasonable numerical standard and write a code that is as effective and as easy to follow as the one that governed the placement of the 120 gallon propane tank I have buried in my yard.

      The history of actions by people should not be used to condemn the future of any useful technology or natural physical phenomenon like the atomic chain reaction.

      The availability issue that you point to is not so terribly uncommon with a complex system of pipes, valves, pumps and electrical sensors/controls.

      Were there ever any people whose health was threatened by the tiny leak that caused the decision to put the submarine in port for troubleshooting and repairs in the first place?

      1. One of the things I hear fairly often is that there is sooooo much nuclear waste. What I don’t hear as a rebuttal is the answer that might put this a bit in perspective. After how many decades (5 at least) of commercial power, what I hear is that this waste can be stored in a space about the size of a football field to a depth of about 10 yards.
        That doesn’t sound like that much waste when you compare that to the huge amount of ash and other things that a single large coal plant puts out. Why is this not stated more often? Am I wrong in the volume?

        1. Your numbers are ballpark correct in terms of volume without waste partitioning. If you partition the waste then the numbers drop to about one tennis court covered to a depth of a few feet. If you throw in actinide recycle then you get down to about one commercial freezer unit of volume.

      2. Atomic Insights comment policy:
        No profanity.
        No spam.
        No personal attacks.
        Keep on topic

        None were violated by the choice of name.

        For a long time, doses are only low because of heavy shielding around the spent fuel. Modifying the storage systems to use the heat, as you suggested, is not a much cheaper proposal.

        The history of people demonstrates the ability, or lack of ability, of people to safely use a technology.

        The complex systems associated with nuker power plants is a weakness, not a strength.

        Details of vulnerabilities are usually classified, as you know. Generally, small, unexpected leaks are a bad sign indicating quality control and maintenance or construction failures. These are generally a serious threat to at least the health of people inside the can with the high pressure systems.

        1. @NCR

          I took it as a personal attack that you chose to link “cancer” to “reactor,” even though radiation is a weak carcinogen — and not a carcinogen at all at the doses associated with operating a well designed reactor — that cures more cancers than it causes.

          I also take it as a personal affront to assert that the following about people:

          The history of people demonstrates the ability, or lack of ability, of people to safely use a technology.

          My reading of history tells me that people continuously learn how to use technologies safely, to the point where certain activities that were once fraught with danger are now routinely part of our daily lives.

          1. @ Rod Adams re: “I took it as a personal attack that you chose to link “cancer” to “reactor,”

            This is your blog and I think you have every right to run it as you see fit. But I do hope you realize that how you choose to run it does reflect upon you and your educational mission here. When Not CR called him(/her)self Cancer Reactor, the informed person would look at that and conclude that person is putting their ignorance on display, and the reasonable person might say he is being kind of a jerk. But to bar that moniker on the grounds that you took it as a personal attack on yourself simply looks weak, lame, brittle, cowardly and small–and also very inconsistent with the qualities you normally display. You have allowed people to post disparaging and false claims about nuclear power in the comments here for the sake of addressing them, and that makes a lot of sense for a site dedicated to using education to dispel myths and misconceptions about nuclear power. If your posting guidelines had included “any comments which disparage, belittle, impugn, or blaspheme nuclear power are not allowed here” that would have been a terrible way to advance public education as it would have expunged the exact material that most needs addressing. It also would have made you a laughing stock.

            If Cancer Reactor wants to wear that ridiculous hat, the only one he makes look foolish by that is himself. I really think you’d be better-served by applying the same good standards to user names that you do to comments. Let them be seen and let your readers respond as they will.

            Just the opinion of one person… using another silly name.

            1. @Shuttlebug

              Good points. I often err; perhaps this was one of those times when I happened to be a little overly sensitive about a topic that is so much a part of my self identity.

        2. @Not CR,

          An industrial wind system the size of the one the BPA uses is not a simple system.

          It is 4.8GW of intermittent, unreliable generation from hundreds of point source generators spread over hundreds of miles that requires constant monitoring. Otherwise the entire BPA grid will be affected due to overvoltage,undervoltage, overcurrent or undercurrent issues.

          That BPA grid serves the entire Pacific NW and feeds into California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

          So if the complex grid control systems AND humans that are operating those control systems fail to do their job for a split second then the entire Pacific NW will endure temporary power supply issues.

          IOW other words, a grid system relying on thousands of industrial wind machines that stand approximately 500 tall whose output is uncontrollable is also a complex system. That complexity of wind and/or solar based system is their inherent weakness.

    2. the proper nickname for people like me is “nuke,” not “nukers.”

      Those who call names (renewables / unreliables), should expect the same.

      “Wind and solar are unreliable”. That is a true statement.

      “Nuclear power plant operators are nukers (drop atom bombs)” is a false statement.

      That’s the difference, you see, NCR.

      1. Unreliable is not the best term to use in connection with wind and solar.power. Intermittent is a better term. Intermittent can also be applied to nuclear when the reactor is shut down for refueling.

        1. When my car is on jack stands getting maintenance, or is resting at the gas station getting more fuel, it is still reliable. When I’m on the side of the road because it unexpectedly let me down, it’s unreliable. There’s a difference.

        2. @Susanne E. Vandenbosch

          I disagree. The wind and sun are unreliable partners, as anyone who has planned an outdoor event can testify. Another example is the disturbing tendency of the weather to be mighty fine on days when people are too busy working to even notice. As a sailor while I was in school, I used to hate looking out over the water and seeing the boats heeled over, really cranking out the knots, guessing that by the time I was finished with class, the wind velocity would be steadily falling as we approached sunset.

          Nuclear plant shutdowns for refueling are carefully planned for periods when demand is low, often a year or more in advance.

          1. The term “unreliable” fits in some situations, and does not in others. For instance, when used in conjunction with hydro, wind powered pumps filling an elevated holding pond, intermittent wind may be more than sufficient to accomplish the task. Some areas can be reasonably expected to supply a predictable amount of wind.

            Tell me Rod, considering the extreme degree of damage that Fukushima received, how “reliable” did that plant end up being in the long run? Yes, it ran for a long time fairly reliably. But now? How long to rebuild, and at what cost, assuming they allow the facility to go back online? This is another thing that kinda baffles me. Obviously, the worst case seismic scenario was not considered when this plant was built, undoubtedly as a cost factor. So look at the cost of rebuilding this facility, when considering the wisdom of placing the plant on a coastline in an actively seismic region.

            Put bluntly, TEPCO rolled the dice, and they came up snake eyes. Forget the issue of exposures, danger to the public, real or imagined. Did it make sense, from a business standpoint, to take such a risk with such a high dollar investment?? Kinda like parking a Ferrari under a carport that you know may collapse at any moment.

          2. poa:
            Its not just Fukushima: any one plant or collection of similar plants can be taken offline over unexpected safety concerns. A recent example occurred in U.K. where three units were taken offline for inspection and evaluation after one of them developed cracks in a boiler support spine. It should be noted the boilers are outside the primary reactor loop, a similar problem could have occurred at a coal plant or CCGT. And taken them offline as well.

            So in that sense no single plant is 100% reliable. A collection, however, can be. Suppose you have just one nuke operating at 90% cf. Now if that were a CANDU which may be refueled on-the-fly, then its reliable save for scheduled maintenance, and all thermal plants must schedule maintenance. So must hydro. Light-water reactors go offline for scheduled maintenance as well, though anymore the maintenance is scheduled while refueling. But refueling/maintenance accounts for the 90-93% upper limit for the cf of U.S. light-water nukes. Any one of them has to be taken offline for a month or six weeks every year and a half to two years.

            But not all of them at once. 11 reactors can pretty reliably produce 100% of the power as ten. But make it 12 to cover unplanned outages. But the number of “standby” plants scales sublinearly with grid size. Scale up the grid to 20 or 50 or 100 plants, and you still only need 4 or 5 standbys for reliability. Unlike wind and solar, which in case of U.K. can go out nationwide for days at a stretch. Wind and solar are inherently unreliable. They require essentially 100% fossil backup, or storage good for at least several days, depending on weather you’re feeling lucky.

            In some respects its easier just to consider wind and solar to be adjuncts to the hydro and fossil grid you needed anyway to keep the lights on: blend in the wind and solar as available and in amounts appropriate to minimize fossil combustion. Which isn’t necessarily the same as dumping all the wind and solar available onto an unsuspecting grid. Fossil plants have cycling inefficiencies as well, paid for in emissions.

            Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 is a (slightly) different case. It appears that Fukushima Dai-ichi was the only plant to suffer major damage. But that damage was major. Fukushima Dai-ini generated some excitement, but didn’t suffer quite the flooding problem as its neighbor to the north.

            As for the rest, 40 some-odd units, there doesn’t appear to have been any substantial damage. But several did withstand greater-then-design criteria ground motion, and all required thorough inspection by trusted regulators before restart. And therein lies the rub: it wasn’t just Tepco that mismanaged Fukushima Dai-ichi. Tepco mismanaged Fukushima Dai-ichi under the oversight and with knowledge of NISA, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Which left Japan without either trust in nuclear power, or the trusted regulators to inspect the other forty plants and get the sound ones back online in a timely fashion.

            Permission is only now being granted, none will power up until sometime next year. Meanwhile Japan has been importing over $30 billion in extra foreign coal and gas to keep their lights on. Each of the past three years. That’s five new advanced-passive AP1000 worth. Each year. In imported fossil fuel costs alone.

          3. @Rod & Susanne

            When a nuclear plant is running, the Grid Control folks are “relying” on that power remaining available. With very few exceptions, the NPs don’t disappoint. When the plant is down for maintenance, the Grid Control folks are NOT relying on its power because as Rod pointed out, this was planned in advance; hence, NPs still meet the definition of reliable.
            With wind & solar, Grid Control cannot rely on this power precisely because of its “intermittent” nature, thus, the moniker “unreliable” applies. It may be viewed as a pejorative by its champions, but it is none the less true.

          4. Rod….didn’t realize you were a sailor. I had a boat shop with a partner in Idaho, on lake Pend Oreille. My specialty was faring the hulls and keels on J-24s for the one design J-24 racers. Haven’t sailed since I moved back to Cal. Miss it alot. Maybe that’s why I have such a soft spot for wind.

            1. @poa

              I’ve been racing on a friend’s J-24 every spring and summer for the past 3 years at Smith Mountain Lake. There is a small, but competitive group of five of that design on the lake. The mixed fleet normally includes 16-25 competitors.

              I love the wind, but my sailing hobby is what has reinforced my understanding of its sheer unpredictability and downright orneriness.

        3. If intermittent can be applied to nuclear power, then it can be applied to virtually any form of power generation we have–at which point it ceases to serve as descriptor which conveys anything useful in this context. Intermittent does not really capture the distinction between controllably / predictably / regularly intermittent and capriciously intermittent. They are both simply intermittent.

          That said, I can see a case against using unreliable in the context of, for example, Nordic wind power. It is reliable in the context of slowing the hydropower drawdown, because in that application it is only averages over extended periods of time which matter. Unreliable in this sense captures too much, because it is more focused on our relationship to the power than the nature of the power.

          As an alternative, I would be fine with referring to wind and solar power as spasmodics, sporadics, or erratics.

          1. Not a lot of people know it, but TEPCO had originally planned three reactors at the Daiichi site, with others being based inland. The burgeoning anti-nuclear movement in Japan in the late 1970s and early 1980s prevented the company from acquiring land away from the coastline. Growth in electrical demand required expansion of generating capacity, and being prevented from building inland, they had to fall back on existing sites. That is why there are six reactors at Daiichi, and two others were planned but cancelled prior to the Tohoku earthquake. So it wasn’t so much a roll of the dice as having your options limited.

          2. @Wayne : Except that the most vulnerable ones were the first three ones. For once, I would say that with no opposition and no control, the TEPCO of the early 70’s was definitively willing to take risks to make things cheaper.

          3. My point was to counter the common criticism of siting six units at one location. It was not originally planned that way. If they had been allowed to site the latter three units inland as planned, those could have been saved. That they were not permitted to build inland was not TEPCO’s making, but was forced by anti-nuclear activism.

          4. @ Wayne SW

            “That they were not permitted to build inland was not TEPCO’s making, but was forced by anti-nuclear activism.”

            Wayne, can you provide info on this because this seems like bomb-shell information if true?

          5. jmdesp,

            “I would say that with no opposition and no control, the TEPCO of the early 70’s was definitively willing to take risks to make things cheaper.”

            Seeing that a threat of a repeat tsunami similar to the Jogan one of 869AD was only theorized in the early 2000s, I fail to see how TEPCO can be accused of taking risks in the 70s.

  18. @ anyone willing to comment:

    Gunderson made statistical statements I’ve heard repeated numerous times yet haven’t heard any challenge to them. Claiming that since we’ve had 5 reactors meltdown out of a total of 400 world wide (I thought he said 6 but I can’t think of a sixth) in the 60 year history of NP, building enough reactors to meet global energy needs will cause X amount of additional meltdowns, statistically. His statistical illustration seems absurd to me as Fukushima should be counted only once, as it is a single, common mode failure event. I would add that Chernobyl is not a good example of what we could expect in the future as this plant was a truly bad design and not just because of the lack of a containment dome; they also violated procedure and turned their safety systems off! In addition, as far as I am aware, no plants of this design exist today nor should we expect any in the future. I believe TMI no longer applies as this accident is well understood and the fact that we haven’t, as far as I’m aware, had any more TMI like events (obviously no accidents but events that could have led to a TMI) demonstrates that the measures taken to prevent such events have been successful.
    Thus, in my mind, the only accident (excepting public perception) that has occurred that is an indicator of what can happen in the future is Fukushima, and NPs are much better prepared for a similar event than they were prior to Fukushima. I would add that there is always the possibility of something occurring that either no one has thought of or perhaps had always considered “not credible.”

    I would appreciate comments; perhaps my philosophy needs calibrating.

    1. @david davison

      Small correction – there are still 11 RBMK (Chernobyl-style) reactors operating in Russia. Many of those reactors have recently been given life extensions and will remain in operation for another couple of decades.

      The design was not as bad as western marketers like to describe. It was only capable of the kind of performance experienced on April 28, 1986 by consciously putting the reactor into its most unstable operating region, disabling the installed safety systems, and then stubbornly continuing with a poorly (or cleverly) designed test despite warning signs from the reactor instruments that all was not well. The operators were not terribly experienced and were being directed by a party representative who did not like being questioned.

      1. @ Rod

        Thanks for the info on the 11 RBMK reactors–this is precisely why I enjoy coming here.
        It is my understanding that on this reactor design, when the rods were inserted, there was a point when this insertion provided positive reactivity due to the rod tips being made of carbon(?) That alone would make this design anathema in the west.

        While on the topic of exposing my ignorance, another item I frequently come across is statements that there was some sort of agreement between the IAEA and WHO on publication of information on radioactivity and its effects. What is the back ground of this claim?

        1. @david davison

          The positive reactivity from control rods in the RBMK was only possible at a rare and generally easily avoided condition associated with power history and fission product poison build-up. That unusual plant condition was established as part of the effort to set up Chernobyl to perform the turbine coastdown test that led to the accident on April 28, 1986.

          We have had a discussion about the actual agreement between the WHO and the IAEA here in the past. Let me try to find that and get back to you.

          Update: That did not take too long. The wonders of search engines continues to amaze me.

          Brian Mays did a good job of responding to someone who raised the concern in the past. https://atomicinsights.com/why-did-gullible-reporters-promote-student-paper-about-nuclear-facility-security/#comment-61702

    2. I think one thing to keep in mind is that a “meltdown” is not the end of the world – it is worth taking a look at the regulations (see 10CFR100, available at the NRC website

      The plant design has been evaluated against this rule:

      “A low population zone of such size that an individual located at any point on its outer boundary who is exposed to the radioactive cloud resulting from the postulated fission product release (during the entire period of its passage) would not receive a total radiation dose to the whole body in excess of 25 rem or a total radiation dose in excess of 300 rem to the thyroid from iodine exposure.”

      “The fission product release assumed for these calculations should be based upon a major accident, hypothesized for purposes of site analysis or postulated from considerations of possible accidental events, that would result in potential hazards not exceeded by those from any accident considered credible. Such accidents have generally been assumed to result in substantial meltdown of the core with subsequent release of appreciable quantities of fission products.”

      “The whole body dose of 25 rem referred to above corresponds numerically to the once in a lifetime accidental or emergency dose for radiation workers which, according to NCRP recommendations may be disregarded in the determination of their radiation exposure status (see NBS Handbook 69 dated June 5, 1959). ”

      So, “meltdown” is not a complete and total failure of all our thinking and efforts, where everyone dies. It is, as POA suggested above, a huge financial loss for the power company. But whether we’ve had five or six in 60 years doesn’t mean we dont know what we’re doing. Not that we can’t do better.

    3. David, you said “…we haven’t, as far as I’m aware, had any more TMI like events (obviously no accidents but events that could have led to a TMI) demonstrates that the measures taken to prevent such events have been successful.”
      Since the Root Cause of TMI2 was never officially stated, how can you be sure all Corrective Actions to Prevent Recurrence have been identified? Faith, luck, or what? Root Cause determination is so basically at the foundation of corrective action success that to omit it just leaves an open issue for challenge. I’m not implying the TMI2 fixes did not address the proper issues, I’m saying there is an open issue of Root Cause that needs to be addressed to close the door on the event.
      As for your comment about “TMI like events”, have you looked at every event report since TMI2? No event will proceed on exactly that same individual component failure sequence. You have to look at similar problematic system interrelationships. Would an operator error induced reduction in Main Feedwater flow that caused a Pressurizer to be inoperable at power bother you? I think it bothers me. Would it fit your definition of TMI like events, at least at the system challenge initiator level?

      1. @ mjd

        I didn’t define what a TMI-like event was but I didn’t feel it was necessary given the audience. I’ve sat through numerous industry events lectures and never heard a whisker of anything remotely resembling TMI but admittedly, my knowledge of the details of every nuke plant in the country is obviously not encyclopaedic.
        That said, it is not important whether a LOF resulting in an inoperable PZR bothers me, it is only important as to whether it has occurred. But more specifically, why feed flow was lost and why AFW was inadequate or non-existent coupled with a lack of understanding of the boiling that went on in the head that pushed the RCS into the PZR and out the safety and how turning SI off sealed the fate of the reactor. Since there are many issues or contributing causes with this accident, it would be hard to define a “TMI-like” event in other than general terms unless one knows of a subsequent, identical event, which I do not. Although I fully agree that discovering the root cause is the goal, unless there are aspects germane to this accident that I am unaware of, I would say that the event is well understood and the measures that have been taken to prevent a reoccurrence appear to be working. As always, I am open to learning if there is any more light to be shed on this issue.

  19. I am willing to refrain from referring to nuclear as being intermittent but feel that unreliable has a negative aspect to it and the term Intermittent is a more neutral term and therefore more appropriate to use when referring to solar and wind power. Neutral terms are more conducive to rational as opposed to adversarial discussions.

    1. A rational discussion may be adversarial or not, just as adversarial discussions may be rational or not. Those are orthogonal dimensions. My own view is that the most worthwhile discussions are the rational adversarial type, because those afford the greatest likelihood of coming away with an improved position (and they are often the most fun), but I realize not everyone feels that way. We all have our own sets of values.

      The fact that an adjective has negative connotations does not constitute an argument against the use of such an adjective. There are many things which can, and should, be described in terms which have negative aspects. The crux of the matter is whether the adjective is reasonably accurate.

      I also think it would be difficult to make the case that there is no such thing as an unreliable power source. ‘Unreliable’ is a word with a valid meaning. And I can’t think of anything about that meaning which would be inherently incompatible with power generation per se. And if it is possible for forms of power to be unreliable, then it is certainly reasonable to ask if there is any significant respect in which wind or solar power can be generally distinguished from unreliable power.

      All that said, to call something unreliable isn’t to say that it sometimes fails to deliver power in the manner people were counting on, but to say that it characteristically fails to do so. And that may be a supportable claim, but I don’t know that I have the facts needed to support that claim, and I’m not particularly keen to volunteer to take on the work of doing so. So I’m personally leaning away from describing any of the major forms of ‘renewable’ energy as unreliable.

      I do, however, think it would be neutral and fair to describe wind power as erratic. You can’t look at the definition of the word and a wind power generation graph without it being pretty obvious how the former constitutes a description of the latter. And while ‘erratic’ is not always a negative thing, it would certainly have negative connotations in connection with power generation–but that’s the point. Erratic power generation *is* a negative in many important respects, so the discussion is not advanced by eschewing words which accurately convey that fact, and that’s a discussion I don’t mind taking on.

      In a related vein, I also like to challenge people who describe some forms of power generation as ‘renewable’ or ‘sustainable’ to explain why those words would not be every bit as applicable to nuclear power as they are to the kinds of power they are talking about.

  20. Thanks to all for an informative and civil thread. Kinda nice to be able to question and offer opinion without some jackass jumping in to stereotype ya, and turn a fence sitter into the enemy.

  21. @NCR Your fear for harm caused to your children (I assume you have children) by nuclear reactors and once through nuclear fuel is palpable and real. If that fear was based on observable fact, I would join you in opposing nuclear power. I have five children, and as any parent, like you, am concerned for their welfare. However, the risks of harm caused by nuclear reactors and once through nuclear fuel are miniscule compared to any other energy sources.

    Thus, I promote nuclear power as a means to help everyone on the planet. We all need abundant, safe and clean energy to live meaningful, healthy, full lives.

    On another note:
    When money is spent on intermittent and unreliable wind and solar power installations, that money is not available for anything else, like nuclear power, health care, library books, clothes, shoes, food, etc. When society spends too much money on “alternative” energy, when we could have purchased long term, reliable base-load nuclear power for less, society is measurably poorer.

    PS. I would also welcome a swimming pool heated by once through nuclear fuel. I have said as much for some years to friends and colleagues.

    1. Some feel that we should spend money on nuclear, wind and solar as well as cleaning up other sources of energy. This will provide robustness in the energy sector.

      1. I disagree. How exactly does spending money on wind and solar improve the robustness of the energy supply?

        This is an oft stated thesis, that diversity of energy supply is a good. It sounds great. Just like wind and solar sound great. Analysis suggests that the reality is something else again.

        Diversity in some systems can be a good thing. It is not always a good thing. Having rotten eggs as well as fresh eggs in your kitchen basket is diverse, but it is not good.

        I fail to see how adding wind or solar generation to an electrical grid improves cost, reliability, or flexibility. Perhaps there’s some other quality they provide that I’m overlooking?

        1. @Jeff W and Susanne V

          I’d say put the money in whatever works; works being defined as the best energy source taking all of the following into account: costs, reliability, safety, and effects on the environment. I believe that nuclear power wins this combination hands down but I’d desert NP in a heart beat if some other energy source demonstrably proved better suited to the nation’s needs. As for wind & solar, I think we have enough in play to measure its suitability particularly against its touted claims…claims that appear to me to be an unmet fantasy. Building more W&S seems like throwing good money after bad. I would not be opposed to R&D for W&S for what is impractical today may indeed be possible in the future.

  22. I am embarrassed that Gundersen is an alumnus of RPI. I received my BS in Nuclear Engineering from RPI a few years after Gundersen. All I can say is that a great education does not confer or imply integrity.

  23. There are a lot of Fukushima/TEPCO comments here. About bad judgements, risk taking etc. I’m not making excuses for TEPCO or anyone else involved in that whole thing, but keep the historical perspective in mind. Japan was trying to bootstrap up from loosing a disastrous war One they had primarily entered over energy issues and the lack of natural resources. Risks were taken by everyone involved. But TEPCO is not the only guilty party and the financial stability of the whole country was involved, not just TEPCO. The lesson to be learned is if you want to be a first world industrial power, don’t leave your energy resources dependent on someone else. Desperate times will lead to desperate decision making.

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