1. Rod,
    I too saw the news story that Senator Franken had changed his view of nuclear after a discussion with Al Gore. If Al Gore has changed his view of the expansion of nuclear power, he certainly has kept it under wraps. Do you know if Franken now disagrees with Gore or whether Gore has gone low profile pronuclear?

    1. I hope you guys don’t find this inappropriate, but perhaps it might be just as well if Gore is low-profile, right now. I don’t claim to know the truth of the allegations, but after the scandal with that massage therapist, I think a lot of people might be a little less inclined to respect Gore and his messages.
      If the allegations are false, it’s truly a shame that his reputation was so besmirched, and I hope, if that’s the case, he’s able to be exhonerated. But, in the meantime, I’m not sure he’s a great person to have ‘on the team’ so to speak.
      However, if he can, in a low-profile role convince people like Franken to reconsider nuclear, that’s fantastic.

  2. Rod
    Kudos to you! First Horgan in New York, and now this. The power of truth. The power of advocacy.
    Thank you, and thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  3. “Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in that one because I am having technical issues with the validation step for my profile.”
    This is one reason I really appreciate that Atomic Insights (and most of the other nuclear blogs) allow you to login with FaceBook, Twitter, or other OpenID profiles. There’s too many sites, with too many interesting discussions, to be constantly creating new profiles, just to participate in one or two discussions at those sites, then perhaps never return to them again.
    I wish more sites started to implement OpenID (or Twitter, etc). It’s very nice to just login without going through that validation nonsense over and over and over, with the real possibility that registration technical difficulties prevent you from participating in a conversation you are interested in.

  4. You make a terrific case for keeping coal and natural gas in the spotlight, and arguing for the advantages of nuclear on that basis. As someone born and raised in Minnesota, this “nice” quality to the public debate is a very deep seated and almost genetic trait (they have a caucus system in Minnesota where you meet face to face and debate with your neighbors on primary day), and it’s just as much a topic of joking and satire in media (see movie “Fargo” or Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon Days”). But the political tone has become pretty abrasive of late in the State, beginning with the Jessie Ventura “outsider” campaign, peaking in Michele Bachman, and Norm Coleman and Pawlenty (and Al Franken too) trying to carve out a middle path. Certainly nice to see older and more gentle traditions making a comeback, and on such a difficult issue for many and in today’s on-line social media and blogs (where anonymity does sometimes lead to acrimony).

    1. As one also born and raised in Minnesota (and I have the angle worms to prove it!), I can attest to the statistic that Minnesocoldians are 1/3rd less serious than other Americans. And that “nice” attitude relates to the distinct possibility that you may be caught in a blizzard some time and need the assistance of your fellow travelers. Self-preservation helps you to monitor your P’s and Q’s.
      Given the harsh, lengthy winters it only makes sense that nuclear power plants would provide a larger percentage of electricity than currently and that wind and/or solar continue to be boutique. Weather dependent sources just don’t cut it when the weather can change as dramatically as it is known to do in MN.
      As to the political discourse, I don’t recall any outstanding or memorably uncivil public comments from Coleman (former mayor of St. Paul and notable UN Oil-for-Food scandal hawk while a MN senator) or Pawlenty. Bachmann is a foster mother of quite a number of children and, while strong in her convictions, I am not sure she descends into “uncivil” territory.

    2. Jaha. I too miss the old Minnesota – i.e. pre-Jesse Ventura – both the Independent Republicans and the Democrat Farmer Labor parties worked together to solve problems for the good of the state. I remember with fondness an uncle when not farming and milking cows would discuss politics as an IR and then always have a big laugh after he’s made his point.

  5. If I had to comment in any discussion under my real name, I would have to choose not to comment.
    Commenting under an online pseudo-identity – of which I have multiples of (though I only use one on this site at the present time) – like many people my age – allows me to try out new ideas without having them linked in public to my meatspace self – though my meatspace identity can be deduced from this online pseudo-identity with sufficient non-trivial investigation. Some of what I advocate is controversial, and I don’t want it to foreclose future employment possibilities for me or cause problems with IRL friends who might not share some of my values.
    Perception management is important in this era, and perception of reality is as important as reality itself.
    I try to be consistently civil, but using pseudoidentities makes it easier for others – and me – to be incivil. But that is the price that is paid for pseudonymity.

    1. Yes, and that is especially true if you want to work in countries other than the USA. But in the Nuclear discussion this is less true than in other areas of controversy.

    2. Well, some of us feel compelled to subject you to not only our names, but our ugly faces as well. Consider it my first step in being “uncivil.”

      1. @Brian – there is an advantage in sharing a reasonably accurate likeness – every once in a while people who happen to agree with either what you say or the way that you say it will recognize you in a bar or restaurant and come up to say hi. Those “meatspace” encounters can be quite pleasant. (Bill might be lurking here and recognize why I am mentioning this.)

  6. I deeply appreciated the statement that
    “This is a matter of common sense where party ideologies and entrenched anti-nuclear interests have no role, and at the same time, we need to keep a close eye on the nuclear industry that no doubt is salivating at the opportunities that the lifted moratorium would offer.”
    The fact of the case is that every energy company is eager to supply their product and the question for a state or city is what form supplies the best long term overall value. With new designs entering the market Nuclear can provide a flexible range of options with competing companies.

  7. Hi,
    I just got a chance to review the MinnPost article, by Dr. Abrahamson (I was in a bit of a hurry this morning, and didn’t get back to it till just a few minutes ago). I’m a little disappointed, simply because, I hold Dr.s (whether Ph.D’s or M.D.’s) to a higher standard – the public expects that when a Dr. says something, he’s made sure it’s true. But, I with no initials behind my name, spotted several pretty glaring outright errors in his article. I sometimes wonder if people who get their doctorate, later in life, perhaps get a bit, I dunno. . . lazy? Don’t do the rigorous research and fact checking that they should before saying things, don’t keep up with current developments in their fields or related fields, as well as they should, which leads to them making such errors? I mean, how else can you explain a doctor making statements that are counter-factual, unless they are engaging in outright deception, which I presume in this case, and most cases, is probably not true (although there will probably be some times when a few individual betray their station and engage in deception, because that just seems to be human nature)?
    I hope my post does not come off as un-civil. . . I’m just perplexed that a doctor would be so wrong on some of his statements.

    1. Jeff – Don’t let those little letters fool you. Those with the right to use the title “Dr.” in front of their last name are just like anyone else. I’ve known quite a few, both personally and professionally, and it has been my experience to note that the bell curve applies here as well. A few were truly brilliant, most were average, and a few were complete idiots. The last made it through the program somehow — there are ways — but that doesn’t mean anything. As someone who has been through the program myself, I can assure you that nowhere is there a test for “common sense,” so a doctorate does not guarantee wisdom. You have to evaluate the person, not his degrees.
      In the end, all that a PhD buys one in most fields is the right to obtain a “postdoc” — that is, a temporary position that is the lowest level of academic researcher. There are many PhD’s who leave the world of research forever at this stage. Some of them end up employed by the Union of Concerned “Scientists” (hence why I always include the quotes — they are not scientists).
      In the case considered here, this Abrahamson guy is apparently a lifelong environmental academic with a rather sketchy pedigree. He has made a career out of “energy and environmental policies,” which includes being adamantly anti-nuclear, so why should you be surprised that this joker makes mistakes that any informed person would consider basic?
      In other words, he has ridden the environmental policy gravy train all of his professional life. This source of livelihood does not require rigorous fact-checking — in fact, it only exists because they assume that nobody will double-check their “facts.” Unfortunately for public policy, most of the time they are right. That’s how these guys have gotten away with what they have for so long.
      Now that you are checking their facts and seeing for yourself that they come up short, what do you think?

      1. @Brian – You wrote:
        In the end, all that a PhD buys one in most fields is the right to obtain a “postdoc” — that is, a temporary position that is the lowest level of academic researcher. There are many PhD’s who leave the world of research forever at this stage. Some of them end up employed by the Union of Concerned “Scientists” (hence why I always include the quotes — they are not scientists).
        You were probably being a bit PC by not adding “and some of the end up being employed by Markey, Reid and then the USNRC.”

        1. Rod – Nope, I just forgot about that one. Thanks for reminding us of how bad the situation can become.

      2. @Brian, well, I’ve decided I should highlight what I think are the “errors” made by this fellow. Seems reasonable, if you are going to accuse someone of errors, to enumerate them. . .
        “No one suggests that Xcel is going to divert its nuclear materials for weapons, but it is difficult to argue that nuclear power should be legitimate for some countries but not for others.”
        1) How does the U.S. NOT building power reactors it needs to supply it with the energy it needs, prevent ‘rogue’ nations from building weapons reactors?
        2) From what I’ve read, you use a different type of reactor to create weapons plutonium, than you generally do to create commercial power. If this is the case, then there is no reason to not let every nation have ‘proliferation-resistant’ reactors.
        3) Every sovereign nation NEEDS energy security – even Iran and N. Korea. Long-term (and even relatively near-term), the only real way for every nation to have energy security is to have their own nuclear power plants, and reserves of fuel, along with the ability to purchase additional fuel to replenish their reserves at reasonable prices. Now, I don’t want Iran or North Korea to have nuclear weapons, but I’d glady give them a highly-proliferation-resistant reactor, like an IFR or a LFTR, in exchange for them giving up enrichment facilities (which they’d have no need of if they used an IFR or LFTR since those have no need of enriched fuel). Of, for more conventional reactors, getting their low-enriched fuel from the U.N. fuel ‘bank’. Let them stockpile as much fuel as they need to feel they have energy security for a few centuries, as long as they don’t seek to enrich it further.
        “Radioactive reactor wastes must be isolated from the biosphere for thousands of years. No country has an operating final repository for power reactor radioactive wastes.”
        4) We don’t have one now, and we don’t necessarily need to store it for thousands of years if we burn off the plutonium and other long lived stuff. But, I do agree we do need some sort of appropriate waste-disposal site – so let’s get it done. Do we need a repository? Yes? Does the fact we don’t have one yet mean nuclear is fundamentally flawed? I don’t see how that makes sense?
        “And, what of nuclear power economics? Nuclear power was expected to “be too cheap to meter” when the Monticello and Prairie Island reactors were purchased. It has proven to be otherwise.”
        5) Does it have to be ‘too cheap to meter’ to be a success? I would be happy at stabilizing electricity costs at or below today’s market rates for a long time. It could very well happen that in 10 or 20 years, we’ll be looking back longingly at the ‘good old days’ of 10 – 12 cent/kWh electricity. Also, nuclear power price would tend to not be very volatile, once we have enough of it – something that cannot, probably, be said for natural gas or coal – they will tend to have more volatility when things temporarily disrupt production/transportation of the fuel. Since you only fuel a reactor every, what, one to three years(?) there’s less potential for short-term volatility in the energy supply.
        “In spite of recent congressional authorization of large subsidies for new U.S. nuclear power, there has been no purchase.”
        6) I suppose one could argue the previous points weren’t outright ‘errors’, but simply points of differing opinion. Here however, we have a genuine factual error: Vogtle? Watt’s Bar 2? (I suppose one could argue that Watt’s Bar 2 isn’t a ‘new purchase’, since it was started in the 80’s then. . .’paused’, but Vogtle is definitely a new purchase funded with one of the Loan Guarantees”.

        1. . . . Continuation of previous post:
          “Most recently, in October 2010, Consolidated Energy canceled the proposed $10 billion Calvert Cliffs No. 3 plant in Maryland.”
          7) Constellation Energy (not Consolidated Energy, but I suppose anyone could have a ‘slip of the tongue’ so to speak, even a Dr.) pulled out of the project, but a few minutes of searching on the Internet shows news articles indicating that the project is continuing *without* Constellation, so I’m counting this another error (although, it could still happen that the project gets canceled, since that hasn’t happened yet, publishing that it has in the article is an error).
          “Some of these countries may be using civilian nuclear power as a cover for a nuclear weapons program. ”
          8) Again, the reactors being ordered by those countries are not, from what I’ve read, suitable types of reactors for weapons development. Another error. Anyhow, China and Russia already have nuclear weapons programs. I don’t think Taiwan wants one. Dr. Abrahamson seems to have forgotten India, who I is also notably planning to build a number of nuclear power plants.
          “Xcel is a well-managed utility; the likelihood that it would even consider a new nuclear power plant seems remote.”
          9) I don’t know whether this is an ‘error’ or not – the statement stands on it’s own with seemingly no evidence to support the assertion, other than the argument that “Xcel is a well-managed utility”, which seems to *assume* that no well-managed utility would be interested in more nuclear power? Really? Seems a bit like begging the question to me. Since they already have nuclear power plants, and seem to be happy to continue operating them, it strikes me that they are probably happy with nuclear power?
          So, that’s what I came up with. The most glaring error is number 6, but I think many of his assertions are poorly supported, and don’t seem to really reflect the *full* truth of the matter – only a partial, selective telling of the truth.

          1. Jeff – That’s a pretty good list, and it highlights that Dr. Abrahamson is not only irrationally biased, but he’s incredibly sloppy as well.
            It kind of makes you wonder what the requirements are to be a “professor of public affairs and planning,” doesn’t it? The bar must be pretty low, indeed.

          2. To add to your proliferation discussion, in order to reduce the threat of nuclear weapon proliferation, the US should become intimately involved in the reactor designs that are deployed world wide and with the organizations in those countries that will be running them. We [US] can’t do that if we continue to allow both our commercial nuclear power and nuclear weapon design expertise to atrophy and our nuclear manufactoring capability to decline.

        2. @Jeff – minor corrections:
          Vogtle is not funded by a loan guarantee – yet. The often mentioned awarding of that guarantee remains contingent upon a final approval of the COL application. All of the money that has been spent so far has come from the utility, its partners and its customers. They are investing real dollars.
          Light water reactors are quite proliferation resistant. No one operates them in a mode that would provide access to weapons useful materials. Doing so would be impossible without plenty of alerting evidence.
          I also disagree with most of the world. Enriching fuel and manufacturing commercial nuclear fuel is a legitimate commercial enterprise roughly analogous to refining petroleum. Iran is a country that has deep experience with the vulnerabilities and lost commercial opportunities associated with supplying a vital raw material without the capability to perform the value added processes that make it a commercially useful product. I am not sure why Australia and Canada have not figured out that a major portion of the steady money associated with supplying commercial nuclear fuel is in the refinement and fabrication, not just in the uranium mining.

          1. Well obviously, Rod, if Australia were to set up a uranium enrichment facility, then that would be one more facility in the world where uranium could be enriched, potentially to weapons grade. It’s much better to just export unenriched uranium and let everyone else set up their own enrichment facilities.
            Hmm. Wait a minute…

          2. @Rod: Ok, didn’t realize the Loan Guarantee wasn’t final yet, but I still think it’s an error to say that no new nukes have been bought yet, since Vogtle seems to be going full steam ahead at this point – the only thing holding them back is regulatory approval, not a lack of will to buy, which the article clearly implies.

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