There is an October 7, 2007 article posted on Boston.com titled As Maine goes … Former Maine nuclear expert comes to Vt. that describes the recent change in venue for Uldis Vanags, a “nuclear expert” who does not seem to be much of a friend to the technology. In August, Mr. Vanags took a position with the Vermont Public Service Department that makes him “the point man on nuclear matters.” In other recent articles, he is referred to as the state’s nuclear engineer.
According to the article, however, he has an undergraduate degree in physics and a masters degree in health physics with a specialty in radiation protection. He has spent most of his career in government service as an advisor in nuclear safety to the state of Maine. There is little indication that he has any engineering experience at all – engineering is very different from science and public policy.
After Maine Yankee closed, Mr. Vanags held a series of energy related positions in Maine, but apparently kept his ears open for any opportunities more closely related to his experience in nuclear policy and radiation protection.
His resume reads like someone who makes a living by causing public concern and controversy by raising awareness of plant events that have no impact on public safety. As he admits in the article, without people dedicated to opposing nuclear power, he would be pretty much out of a job.
But he doesn’t mind critics like the New England Coalition and Citizens Action Network staying on the case.
“They bring up issues that you may not have looked at,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with people bringing up issues, even opposing the plant. If you had it the other way, if nobody opposed, that would not be good. You’ve got to have this check and balance.”
Later in the article, he claims Raymond Shadis, the technical advisor to the anti-nuclear group called the New England Coalition, as a friend. The picture I get in my mind is that old Loony Tunes cartoon of the rooster (Foghorn Leghorn) and the barnyard dog who have lunch together in between adversarial battles that the chicken always wins.
Without an adversary, like the New England Coalition, Mr. Vanags would be in a boring, invisible job instead of having appeared in the local paper at least 5 times since August. No one would have noticed the completely non-nuclear event of a damaged cooling tower and the maintenance error that caused a reactor trip would have been correctly assessed as a non-event where the protection system did its conservatively designed job.
If any of you know more about Mr. Vanags and believe that I have wronged him by the above description, please let me know. I have reached my conclusion based on scraps of information specifically about the man, plus about 30 years worth of dealing with other public servants with similar career patterns.