Monthly Archives: January 2012

Photo Time!

The Curiosity rover (Click to enlarge/Photo: NASA)

This summer should see the first use of a nuclear-powered land vehicle—on Mars! On November 26, NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), which includes a rover named Curiosity, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The MSL/Curiosity package is by far the largest object ever intended to land on Mars and remain functional afterward. That is why Curiosity, in its operations on the Martian surface, will be powered by a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator fueled with plutonium-238. Curiosity is described as being the size of an automobile.
Read more about Curiosity and the Mars mission in the January 2012 issue of Nuclear News magazine, available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center).

Covert bombing kills another Iranian nuclear scientist

It is the latest in a series of deadly attacks

By Dan Yurman

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, inspects uranium enrichment centrifuges

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, inspects uranium enrichment centrifuges

An Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in Tehran on January 11 by a bomb that was magnetically attached to his car. A driver, who doubles as a body guard, was also killed in the blast.

The scientist was identified as Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, age 32, who was a departmental manager at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

According to media reports, a motorcycle rider and a passenger attached the bomb to the car in heavy morning commuter traffic. The attack occurred at 8:20 AM Tehran time. It is the fifth such attack in the past two years.

The attack came one day after it was reported that that Iran had launched uranium enrichment production at its underground facility at Fordow near the city of Qum. It is reported to be enriching the uranium to 20-percent U235, which is the boundary between commercial use and weapons use. Iran has been making 20-percent enriched uranium at Natanz, about 400 km south of Tehran (250 miles), since February 2010.

In a related development, the Wall Street Journal reported that two days later on January 13 that Iran agreed to allow a high-level team of International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear inspectors enter the country on January 28. The delegation will be headed by the agency’s chief weapons inspector, Herman Nackaerts.

It is not clear whether the Iranian government will let the inspectors visit is nuclear sites, underground uranium enrichment facilities, and interview officials that the United Nations agency believes may head a nuclear-weapons program.

The combination of three events occurring within a few days of each other indicates the intensity of the issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear programs.

U.S. denies involvement in blast

In Iran, government officials repeated their accusations that the United States and Israel are responsible for this and prior bombings. Top-level Iranian officials called for revenge.

The Obama administration rejected the accusation and also condemned the murder. In Israel, government officials were said to have hinted at covert campaigns against Iran, but did not say that the nation was directly involved in the most recent attack.

Pattern of prior attacks

Model of uranium hexafluoride (UF6)

The explosion in Tehran this week resembles four others, including two in 2010. It comes on the third anniversary to the day of the killing of another Iranian nuclear scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammandi, who also worked on uranium enrichment.

Several of those targeted have been high ranking officials. In a November 2010 attack, two separate car bombs killed Majid Shahriari and wounded Fereydoun Abbasi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Shahriari was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shah Behesti University and did work for the Atomic Energy Organization.

Roshan, who died in the explosion this week, was described as a mid-rank manager in charge of procurement of materials and services for Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

In July 2011, Dariush Rezaeinejad was shot dead by persons unknown.  He worked at K. N. Toosi University of Technology in electrical engineering as well as the Atomic Energy Organization. These are conflicting reports about his connections to Iran’s nuclear energy programs.

The sophistication of these attacks indicates that whomever is carrying them out has an organization chart of key personnel in Iran’s nuclear programs and has tracked specific individuals in terms of where they will be on particular dates.

For instance, Roshan worked on procurement at Natanz, but was killed on his way to an office in Tehran. The attack suggests a long period of undetected intelligence gathering and surveillance of potential targets. It suggests that future bomb attacks may take place.

Other covert attacks on Iran that have delayed its nuclear programs include the Stuxnet worm, which resulted extensive mechanical failures of uranium centrifuges in 2009 and 2010. There are significant clues that point to the likelihood that Israel had involvement in the development of the Stuxnet computer worm.

A devastating explosion on November 12 at the Bid Kaneh missile R&D center killed a high ranking military official in charge of rocket development. Some analysts  have suggested that the explosion at the missile site resulted from an attack by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).  Iran has since displayed what it says is a U.S. surveillance UAV that it claims it captured after it crashed inside Iran’s borders.

Damaged Iranian missile site. Image: ISIS 11/12/2011

More information from ISIS about this image is available at its home page.

The explosion occurred shortly after Iran reported success with a test of the missile technology. It is seen as a big setback for Iran in terms of its ability to put a nuclear weapon payload on a medium range missile. A rocket with a range of 800 miles would be able to target many major cities in the Middle East.

What’s really going on?

Patrick Clawson, a national security expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the New York Times on January 11 that the covert attacks on Iran’s nuclear scientists appear to have two objectives.

First, they have a chilling effect on the nuclear workforce and they don’t provoke a nationalist reaction in Iran. A military attack from the United States or Israel would surely create one.

Second, Clawson said, “it allows Iran to climb down if it decides the cost of pursuing a nuclear weapon is too high.”

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)

Gary Sick, a specialist on Iran at Columbia University, told the newspaper, however, that he does not believe the covert campaign will be effective in stopping Iran from its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Sick said that he thinks “Iran will double down” in its efforts because it enhances their feelings of being under attack by the West.

Charles D. Ferguson of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) told Reuters on January 17 that “such acts of terrorism” are unlikely to significantly delay or deter Tehran’s nuclear work.

“The resulting climate of insecurity feeds ammunition to hardliners in Tehran demanding reprisals,” he said.

U.S. government officials declined to discuss what security measures they will be taking to detect and deter possible retaliatory attacks by Iran on U.S. nuclear scientists. The U.S. Department of Energy is the largest employer of nuclear scientists in the United States, located at dozens of facilities across the country.

In Houston, Tex., this week, Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30, a medical student who has a long history of speaking out on human rights issues in Iran, was shot dead under mysterious circumstances. Her purse and cell phone were still in her car, which had crashed into a building near her home.

Iran is continuing its threats to block the Straights of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, adding a security premium to the price of oil. This move increases revenue for Iran and imposes costs on the U.S. economy. It is unclear whether or not Iran will actually take any military action, but even a single attack on an oil tanker could send oil prices skyrocketing.

Can Iran make a bomb?

It is also unclear whether Iran has the other capabilities to make a nuclear weapon including the metallurgy, trigger mechanisms, and delivery systems, e.g., missiles with a compact working warhead capable of hitting a specific target 800 miles away.

Diagram of a nuclear weapon using highly enriched uranium

To develop a conventional uranium-based atomic bomb, Iran would have to produce output of about 90-percent U235. Weapons experts say that if Iran wants to produce weapons grade at that level, there is little to stop them, technically speaking, from doing so.

Experts believe that Iran will eventually be able to produce enough weapons grade material to build four or five atomic bombs.  However, at this time, while Iran is enriching uranium to 20%, it isn’t clear that it has moved beyond that point to actually build a bomb.  On Jan 19 the Washington Post reported that the former head of the Israeli intelligence agency said Iran has “the resources and components” to build one.

“If the Iranians get together tonight and decide to secretly develop a bomb, then they have all the resources and components to do so,” Amos Yadlin was quoted Thursday as telling the Maariv daily.

The newspaper added that it was not clear whether Yadlin, who retired in November 2010, was referring to the mechanical elements of a bomb, or that the Iranians have weapons-grade uranium, that is, enriched to 90% U235.

Limited political options

Iran’s political objectives remain unshaken by the bombings of its nuclear scientists. Its clerical leadership is driven by a warped and paranoid world view that is bent on getting the West to recognize its role as a regional power. Unfortunately for Iran, its neighbors in the Middle East are as alarmed about Iran’s nuclear ambitions as the United States and western Europe.

There is no workable roadmap at this time to convince Iran to stop its drive to produce a weapon. Ray Takeyh, a senior analyst at the Council of Foreign Relations, wrote in the Washington Post on December 9 that one of the reasons is that Iran’s defiance of Western powers plays well in terms of domestic politics despite the activity of opposition parties. He wrote:

Ray Takeyh, CFR

“A clerical oligarchy trapped in a mind-set conditioned by conspiracies and violent xenophobia paradoxically views both American entreaties and sanctions as an affirmation of its perspective.

Offers of diplomatic dialogue made in respectful terms are seen as indications of Western weakness and embolden the regime to sustain its intransigence.

Conversely, coercive measures are viewed as American plots to not just disarm the Islamic Republic, but also to undermine its rule. Armed with the ultimate weapon, the Islamists think, they may yet compel the West to concede to Iran’s regional aggrandizement.”

While the U.N. Security Council has imposed four rounds of economic sanctions against Iran for enrichment work, its members are divided on next steps. There is general agreement that enrichment to 20 percent exceeds the country’s civilian needs, since Russia is providing the fuel for Iran’s Bushehr commercial nuclear reactor.

Finding a path to bring Iran back into predictable diplomatic relations and to stand down from its pursuit of a weapons program remains a major challenge.



Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Development: Taking Charge of Your Career

By Elizabeth McAndrews-Benavides and Jennifer Varnedoe

Every member of the nuclear industry has a responsibility to focus on his or her own career development as a component of continuous improvement. While this is good advice, young professionals often struggle with how to identify these development opportunities. The question of how to overcome this challenge spirited discussion at the 2011 Young Professionals Conference.

“Young professionals are told to ask for opportunities and additional responsibilities in order to develop ourselves, but we’re never given examples of what opportunities our employers think we should be looking for,” said Adam Nygaard, a member of the North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NA-YGN). “I believe that career development is the primary responsibility of the individual, but employers are stakeholders as well. It’s good that they have finally provided guidance and are working toward closing the knowledge and experience gap in our industry.”

The good news is that young professionals no longer have to guess at the answer to this question. The U.S. electric industry, through the Center for Energy Workforce Development, has created two new resources to help industry leaders, educators, and young professionals navigate development.

These resources are competency models that lay out the knowledge, skills, and abilities that every new employee should master to become a fully competent energy worker. The energy industry is using these models to develop new energy education programs and to improve industry training to ensure that there are qualified energy workers readily available to replace retirees.

“Competency models are a great resource for young professionals to reference before heading into their annual appraisals with their supervisors,” said Gale Hauck, co-chair of the ANS Young Members Group. “These models make it easy for employees to identify their own development gaps and to ask supervisors to include the appropriate opportunities to close these gaps in their personal development plans.”

The Energy Industry Competency Model: Generation, Transmission and Distribution is made up of stacked tiers divided by blocks representing competencies. Each block represents a focus area that needs to be developed in new energy workers. This resource was developed to help non-licensed operators, maintenance personnel, and technicians.

The Engineering Competency Model builds off of the previous model and replaces the top three tiers with engineering-specific competencies. Once an engineer meets all of the entry level competencies they can move on to the 3+-year-experienced engineer competencies.

Hauck said, “It’s nice to have a development road map. Young professionals no longer have to struggle to figure out what development opportunities they need, they can focus on being developed.”

Chris Hearn, U.S. Affairs chair of NA-YGN, added, “Now that these resources are available, conference planning committees and local chapters of NA-YGN can use this information to design professional development sessions. All you have to do is look at the competency model and identify which competency your members need the most help with.”

North American Young Generation in Nuclear is a professional society for those working in nuclear science and technology. It has 8,500 members and 97 local chapters. The ANS Young Members Group is a technical group of the American Nuclear Society with more 1,000 members.




Jennifer Varnedoe is chair of the ANS Young Members Group. She is a project engineer with Advanced Programs at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. She has been an ANS member since 2007 and is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.


Elizabeth is past president of NA-YGN. She is manager of Industry Infrastructure at the Nuclear Energy Institute. In this role she is focused on work force development and supply chain issues for the nuclear industry. Prior to this job, she worked for Constellation Energy in its new nuclear division, UniStar Nuclear.

Nuclear News and the new year

The January issue of Nuclear News magazine is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center). The issue contains the following stories:

  • The year ahead: This time for sure? by E. Michael Blake
  • 2012 Preview: Impact of Fukushima Daiichi on global prospects for nuclear, by Dick Kovan
  • 10-year D&D program under way at Zion plant, by Rick Michal
  • The index to 2011 Nuclear News content

There is also an in-depth report on the 2011 ANS Winter Meeting, along with side coverage of two topicals at the meeting: the first ANS Small Modular Reactor conference, and the Young Professionals Congress 2011 meeting.

Other news in the January issue:  NRC commissioner Jaczko votes to publish AP1000 certification final rule; revised emergency plan rule published in final form; study sees potential for small modular reactors to compete with gas-fired generation; is yellow inspection finding at Oconee an old design issue? Davis-Besse restart allowed while concrete studies continue; special inspection at Brunswick; NRC takes no significant action on four petitions; a status report on license renewal and power uprates; Fukushima-related motions in licensing proceedings continue to be denied; Levy site tour, limited statements scheduled; power reactor stress tests in the European Union said to be on track; European Union proposes additional €500 million to close Soviet-era reactors; fuel loading begins at Canada’s long-idled Bruce-1; Vietnam’s pact with Japan upheld, and new pact made with South Korea; three sites on short list for Poland’s first nuclear plant; United Kingdom chooses reuse as MOX to manage plutonium stock; nuclear research center opens in West Cumbria; and much more.

Past issues of Nuclear News are available here.


ANS Special Committee on Fukushima Update – Dr. Dale Klein

87th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

This post is the collective voice of blogs with legendary names which emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

Past editions have been hosted at Next Big Future. Yes Vermont Yankee,  Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America that we will speak with a collective voice on the issue of the value of nuclear energy. While we each have our own point of view, we agree that the promise of peaceful uses of the atom remains viable in our own time and for the future.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog, and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brian Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

This week’s carnival

Cool Hand Nuke

Areva inks $500 million nuclear fuel deal with Xcel for Monticello – French state-owned nuclear giant Areva signed an integrated fuel and services contract with Xcel Energy to supply the utility’s Monticello nuclear generating plant in Minnesota. The contact is worth approximately $500 million for a ten year period of performance.

The deal, which starts in 2015, will cover six re-fuelings of the reactor. Products and services include uranium, conversion, enrichment, fuel design, and fabrication as well as related engineering services. It is the first integrated contract of its type in the U.S. in several decades.

ANS Nuclear Cafe

At the ANS Nuclear Cafe, Suzy Hobbs Baker writes about the new social media phenomenon, and explores how to better connect and communicate with women about energy issues.

NEI Nuclear Notes

NEI Nuclear Notes has two posts ~ Early in the week, Mark Flanagan, NEI and many others criticized the Department of Interior’s decision to ban uranium mining next to the Grand Canyon. The Interior’s own environmental impact statements explain that uranium mining is done safely and sustainably and that the Grand Canyon won’t be harmed.

The other post to mention is from Victoria Barq detailing the nuclear industry’s new FLEX strategy to increase safety based on the lessons learned from Fukushima. The industry presented its strategy to the NRC in a public meeting on Friday. From Victoria:

The FLEX concept is based on how the industry responded to the events of 9/11, in which additional security precautions—such as portable generators, water pumps, hoses and batteries—were put in place to mitigate against “beyond design-basis events,” or unlikely events that are considered outside the scope of what a plant should be designed or regulated to withstand.

Idaho Samizdat

New reactor deals for the new year – Dan Yurman writes that Jordan short lists three firms and selects six potential sites for a $5 billion project

Government energy officials completed a site selection study.  The JAEC, which had already selected two sites at Mafraq, 60 km east of Amman, and Aqaba, Red Sea port city, said the criteria for the first two and the other four are safety, seismic stability, and access to cooling water.

Next Big Future – Brian Wang

Toshiba has a device for removing 97% of radioactive material from soil and water at 1.7 tons of soil per day. The rate of treatment will be increased by 100 times to the range of 100-200 tons of soil per day

A team of LLNL researchers has developed the first plastic material capable of efficiently distinguishing neutrons from gamma rays, something not thought possible.  The new technology could assist in detecting nuclear substances such as plutonium and uranium that might be used in improvised nuclear devices by terrorists and could help in detecting neutrons in major scientific projects.

China cleared to buy world’s fourth largest uranium deposit which is in Namibia. Liu Tienan, head of NEA, said that China would approve nuclear safety regulations more quickly and speed up revisions of its medium- and long-term plans for nuclear power development.

Yes Vermont Yankee

Meredith Angwin writes ~ The Sixth Lawsuit About Vermont Yankee: Suing For the Cost of Replacement Power – Meredith Angwin follows her “five lawsuits” post with another about the newest lawsuit. Vermont distribution utilities are suing Vermont Yankee for the cost of their replacement power.

VY cut its power output to repair a cooling tower, and the utilities had to buy more expensive power during the repairs.  The utility contracts did NOT require VY to pay replacement power costs. However, in Vermont, mere facts never stand in the way of a lawsuit.

Atomic Insights

Rod Adams writes that David Owen’s book, “The Conundrum” comes to the conclusion that there is no way for people to sustain a high energy consumption life-style. He ignores the incredible store of energy inside of uranium and thorium.

Nuke Power Talk

Gail Marcus writes that we have long known about the radioactivity of emissions from coal-fired plants.  Now, Gail Marcus comments on radioactive emissions from yet another fossil fuel.  Among the other problems identified with the process of “fracking” to extract natural gas, they have now been identified with increased releases of radioactive emissions.

# # #

National Nuclear Science Week and Nuclear Science Day!

It’s time to welcome the next generation of nuclear scientists, engineers, artisans, technicians, health professionals, and the myriad other nuclear experts of the future—and celebrate our remarkable nuclear science and technology achievements to date—with National Nuclear Science Week, January 23-27, 2012!

From curing cancer, to powering humanity’s reach for the stars, to helping maintain a cool, clean, green planet here at home, the world’s most powerful science and promising technology is well worthy of celebration and further exploration. A great place to start is the official National Nuclear Science Week website, loaded with information and ideas on how to learn, teach, and celebrate nuclear science and technology.

As part of the festivities, the American Nuclear Society is proud to be a sponsor of Nuclear Science Day at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Wednesday January 25. This full-day event features world-class nuclear experts in many fields of nuclear science and technology, explaining what it’s all about in live internet webinars and question-and-answer sessions for grades 5-12 (and other interested parties). To register for the webcasts, just visit the National Science Teachers Association Learning Center (a great all-around resource for science learning). For details on the Nuclear Science Day agenda, presenters, and all the information, check the Nuclear Science Day Press Release. About 1,000 classrooms will view the webcast throughout the day, representing more than 20,000 students and teachers across the United States.

If you can attend Nuclear Science Day at IIT in person January 25, please come on out. For those individuals of refinement and artistic sophistication, peruse the latest in beautiful nuclear art that will be on display courtesy of PopAtomic Studios. And for those who live in the fast lane—stop by to say hello to Simona de Silvestro, champion Indycar racer and 2010 Indy Rookie of the Year, and ask if you can take a spin in her Nuclear Clean Energy car #78!


Nobel Prize-Winning Secretary of Energy Steven Chu commemorates National Nuclear Science Week.

The evening of January 25 will feature a National Nuclear Science Day webinar hosted by Excelsior College titled Women in Nuclear: Professional Organizations and Career Advancement. The event is part of Excelsior College’s School of Business & Technology’s “Women in Technology” campaign and will feature representatives from the Tennessee Valley Authority and North American Young Generation (NA-YGN), as well as Margaret Harding, one of the American Nuclear Society’s leading spokespersons during the Fukushima nuclear crisis this past March and a contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe. For all the details, including how to register, visit the Excelsior College Eventbrite page.

The Fable of the Scary Monster

By Margaret Harding

Once upon a time…

There lived a little girl named Polly. She lived in a big castle with lots of aunts and uncles. The aunts’ and uncles’ only job was to keep Polly safe. One night, after watching a scary Japanese movie, Polly said to them, “I’m scared. There is a monster in my closet. It’s going to come out and eat me all up!”

The aunts and uncles decided that from now on Polly would live in a different part of the castle, where there were no closets. More so, she was not allowed to leave the castle or watch movies unless one of them approved. Many years passed, and Polly grew into a young woman, but never stepped outside of the castle because she was afraid of the monster.

Polly lived in her castle, relying only on her aunts and uncles to tell her about the wide world outside. She could see out the windows, but that was all. One day, she came to them and said, “I want to go outside. I’m a young woman now and I want to see the rest of the world.”

They were horrified. They told Polly,  “Oh no!The world is full of monsters! You cannot leave.”

Polly was determined, but afraid of what her aunts and uncles told her, so she decided to find someone to help her escape.

The next day, as a stranger rode by, Polly called out, “Stranger, help me escape!”

The stranger replied, “Why?”

“I’ve been locked up in this castle to keep me safe from monsters. Will you protect me so that I can go out into the wide world?”

“You are a fool. There are no monsters, you should have run away years ago.”

Polly was crestfallen. “I’m not a fool. My aunts and uncles told me there are monsters and locked me in to keep me safe. Go away.”

The next day, another stranger rode by.

“Stranger, help me escape!”

The stranger replied, “Why?”

“I’ve been locked up in this castle to keep me safe from monsters. Will you protect me so that I can go out into the world?”

“Your aunts and uncles are stupid liars. They are just locking you up to be mean. You don’t need protection, just run away.”

Polly was hurt. “Don’t you call my aunts and uncles such names! They are protecting me and I’ve known them my whole life. Go away.”

Another stranger rode up.

“I hear you want to leave this place.”

Polly brightened. “Yes, I do, but I need someone to protect me from monsters.”

He replied,  “The probability of anyone actually being killed by a monster is really low. There are no monsters here anyway. You don’t really need any protection.”

Polly shivered. “Oh yes, I do need protection. My aunts and uncles have told me so.”

“Well, now. Don’t worry your little head. I’m really smart and I know that the likelihood of you getting hurt or killed by a monster is really, really low. You don’t need anyone to guide you.”

Polly decided to stay put.

So it went day after day. Some days no one came, other days many came by, but they each called her or her family names, or talked in complicated ways that Polly couldn’t understand.

Then one day, a man rode up. “I hear you want to leave this place.”

Polly sighed. “Not another one. Are you going to call me or my family names, or talk so complicated that I don’t understand?”

“I don’t think so. What are you afraid of?”

“Monsters. My aunts and uncles told me that they are hiding in closets everywhere. I want to leave, but I’m afraid.”

“Hmmmm. Why are you so afraid of monsters in the closet?”

Polly told her sad story.

“Well, I understand how you might be afraid. I studied about monsters and know a lot about them. I’ll keep you safe and teach you more while we go explore. My name is Dennis.”

“You will?! Let me go tell my aunts and uncles.”

The aunts and uncles were aghast. “Dennis came here? Oh, he’s a very bad man. You can’t trust Dennis.”

Polly sighed. “But he seemed so nice.”

“Oh, yes, he pretends to be. You can’t trust him—he’s in league with the monsters.”

Polly went back to Dennis. “My aunts and uncles tell me that I can’t trust you.”

Dennis thought for a minute. “Do you really want to leave this place?”

“Oh yes! But I’m afraid and I want to stay safe.”

“If I could prove that I’m speaking the truth, would that help?”

“Yes, it would.”

“Can you be a little brave?”

“Well, monsters really scare me.”

“I don’t want you to get hurt. Just go back to that very first closet and peek inside. Take a flashlight and take a really quick peek. If you see a monster, slam the door shut on his toes and run back to tell me. I believe that you will not see a monster. I think your aunts and uncles were mistaken.”

Polly took a deep breath and decided she would at least look. She got a flashlight and ran to the closet. Her aunts and uncles were all shouting that this was dangerous and bad. But Polly wanted the truth. She peeked into the closet with the flashlight and saw only dusty clothes from her childhood.

She threw the door open and turned to her aunts and uncles. “You LIED to me! There wasn’t a monster here.”

They all cried out, “But there could have been. We were protecting you! You should listen to us. Dennis was just lucky. There are monsters out there.”

Polly looked at them. “You might be right. But Dennis told me the truth about this closet. I want to talk to him some more and go see more of the wide world.”

With that, Polly left.

Polly and Dennis traveled the world and Polly learned all about monsters and closets and what could and couldn’t happen. And she lived happily ever after.

The moral of the story:  If you want to help someone understand, perhaps you should begin by understanding.

Illustrated by Susan Roberts



Margaret Harding has almost 30 years of experience in the nuclear industry in technical design, licensing, and quality issues.  She worked for GE-Hitachi for 27 years with positions of increasing responsibility, leading to vice president of Engineering Quality. Two years ago, she left GE-Hitachi to start her own consulting business to help companies with business ventures in the nuclear industry. She is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Pretty Energy

By Suzy Hobbs Baker

I recently joined the latest social media phenomenon—“Pinterest”—after some good old-fashioned peer pressure from my pals. Basically it is an online scrapbook, where you can collect images from all over the Internet and organize or “pin” them under categories like “recipes to try” or “ideas for the garden” on your personal page. There is very little text and not much user-to-user interaction. You just browse thousands of images of party dresses, wedding ideas, art, or whatever you or other users have uploaded to the site. Essentially it’s a whole lot of eye candy.

This new forum is largely dominated by women, and has an overwhelming number of users, to the extent that there is currently a waiting list to join. Upon recognizing that this website is basically the “visual-Google-for-women,” I decided to do a little experiment to find out what nuclear-related images were on the site. Since every image has to be “pinned” from the web, I figured that whatever images I found on this site would be a pretty good visual representation of how women feel about nuclear power at this exact moment in time.

Well, what I found wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright bad:  Earless bunnies of Fukushima, atomic bomb explosion after atomic bomb explosion, and not a single image of a nuclear power plant. Not one. The closest thing I found that was even remotely positive regarding nuclear energy was this image:

For those who can’t read Spanish it says, “Nuclear Today, Solar Tomorrow.”  But hey, at least they are smiling and shaking hands.

So my next step, which I thought was going to bring up thousands of results, was to search for wind power. Surprisingly, only two images of wind turbines resulted, and I thought to myself, “Okay, maybe this just isn’t a forum where energy is a topic that people are thinking about.” But before I could rest assured, I did a quick search for “solar power” and stumbled into the archetypal female brain for all things solar energy. Put simply, women like solar energy. A lot. In fact, “solar power” yellow is a very popular color right now. You might even say that solar is en vogue with the ladies.

The common thread among all of the “solar power” search results is that they are small consumer items that you can use in your everyday life. They are all relatively inexpensive, cute, and easy to use. I get the distinct feeling that women’s experiences with “solar” products inform their broader beliefs about solar power. But what else are women thinking about energy issues?

According to the 2009 “Woman’s Survey on Energy and the Environment” by Women in Public Policy, the single largest concern among women is moving toward clean energy sources, trumping cost, reliability, and jobs. Women are the primary decision makers about household energy use, which is good, but they collectively have a lot of misconceptions about energy, which is not so good. Fifty-four percent of women think that nuclear energy releases CO2 and is a primary cause of climate change. Only 12 percent of women surveyed know that coal is the largest source of electrical generation in the United States. Basically, a lot of the ladies making decisions about energy at home do not have all the facts.

So, what can we do to solve this problem? First of all, we need to focus our outreach efforts specifically toward women. When we present information, we should take the time to gear it toward the specific concerns of our audience that we know to be reducing environmental impact. And we must make it visually appealing. Basically, make it pretty. Make it fun. If we can learn anything from, it’s that ladies really like resources that are pretty, user friendly, and interactive. The best way to increase public support and overall use of nuclear energy is to appeal to women.


Hobbs Baker

Suzy Hobbs Baker is the executive director of PopAtomic Studios, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of visual and liberal arts to enrich the discussion on nuclear energy. Hobbs Baker is an ANS member and a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe

Vermont Outreach Continues as Opponents Reorganize

By Howard Shaffer

On March 21, 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a renewal of the operating license for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant for an additional 20 years. Vermont Yankee’s original license would have expired on March 21, 2012, and its state-issued Certificate of Public Good does expire on that date. Most commentators agree that March 21 will not be the last day the plant operates, but the date does give opponents a focal point, and they are planning some kind of civil disobedience on that day. The question remains: Who are “they”?

“They” are pretty much the same players who have been opposing the plant all along, but they are reorganizing themselves into new groups to make their movement look as if it has many new supporters. One “new” organization is the “Safe and Green Energy (SAGE) Alliance.” Its website urges non-violent civil disobedience, as was used by the Civil Rights movement of the past, and often holds meetings in local churches as well. This “new” group lists many of the same supporters as other opponent groups. In addition, they continue letter writing and press releases. They seize on every small event at the plant to try to “keep the pot boiling.” An example is a letter concerning tritium release, “A Big Deal,” which has been in all the local papers.

We have affinity groups too. The American Nuclear Society’s Public Information Committee has been supporting the Vermont Pilot Project, which works in tandem with the Energy Education Project of the Ethan Allen Institute, to support the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee plant. We have a letter-writing group, too.

A film and panel

Following a viewing of the film “Transparent Radiation” and participation on a panel, described in the December 7 blog article “Transparent Radiation–A Film,” Meredith Angwin conducted a back-and-forth e-mail discussion of several rounds with the film’s producer and an engineer from the Gund Institute. In our discussion in the hallway after the panel, the producer related that the film was made to express a certain point of view. In one of the last e-mails, she revealed that she was “freaked out” by the Fukushima accident, and then initiated the film project. The engineer was clear that he thinks we don’t need coal or nuclear power generation. As noted in the article, panel member Dr. Todd was frightened by the Three Mile Island accident, and he and his wife have been opposed to nuclear power since then. We have learned through this and other outreach contacts that some of the staunchest opponents of nuclear power were frightened by some event that they cannot forget. This continues to motivate them.

The Gund Institute is a professional group opposed to nuclear power that has university support. We reach out to groups like this. The e-mail exchange showed that Gund is repeating charges that opponents have been hurling around for years. It seems that the charges are made without reflection, which may be due to a lack of time and to Gund’s entry into a new field. For example, the issue of subsidies for nuclear power is raised, without, it seems, considering that other technologies are subsidized and supported by government enabling mechanisms, and why this continues to be government policy.

A “new” group 

On New Years Eve, a “new” group held a rally at the gates of the Vermont Yankee plant, to “ring in a nuclear free new year.” The group is Nuclear Free Monadnock, meant to be a New Hampshire voice in support of the opposition. Mount Monadnock is in the southwestern corner of New Hampshire, not far from the plant, and that area of the state is known locally as the Monadnock region.

On its website, the SAGE Alliance encourages supporters to form “affinity groups.” This is obviously one of them, since a founder of Nuclear Free Monadnock is none other than last year’s petition coordinator for the Safe and Green Campaign. SAGE’s petition sought political support from all the towns and cities in the 20-mile area surrounding the plant for a tri-state decommissioning oversight panel. The stated purpose of the panel was to provide citizen participation and assure a safe decommissioning. Its real purpose is to give nuclear power a black eye in any way possible. For decommissioning, that means demanding unreasonably low radiation levels for decontamination, thereby increasing costs. A professor at the college who inspired the group has been an activist since being exposed years ago to violence against civil rights movement protesters. We have learned that a common tactic is to form many groups, giving the appearance of broad public support. Closer examination, however, reveals just “the usual suspects.” The idea is to have the various groups work in concert, using whichever group and name is most advantageous for a particular situation.

A charter school

Meredith described our visit to the Four Rivers Charter School’s high school class, in Greenfield, Mass., in the blog article “Young People and Nuclear Power.” The school is just south of the Vermont state line in the Connecticut River Valley, well within the hotbed of opposition to Vermont Yankee. We were told that an anti-nuclear activist had visited the school by invitation (as had we), and undoubtedly the students heard all the charges levied against nuclear power. The students, however, had also visited the simulator at Vermont Yankee and asked questions of plant staff who had volunteered to speak to them. The students had considered the opponent’s charges, and done some research. As Meredith noted in the blog post, they were far more positive toward nuclear energy than the Gund students were. This shows that outreach works, but it can’t be a one-time effort, particularly when the opponents keep up a drumbeat of negativism.

A positive outside voice

Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore, who left Greenpeace because its board was beginning to make decisions that were ridiculous from a scientific point of view, has been to Vermont several times recently. He comes to advise the Vermont Energy Partnership, and is in favor of nuclear power and Vermont Yankee. He was in Vermont again in October, and was interviewed by Vermont Business Magazine. A tape of the hour-long interview is linked in the article above and is a valuable resource. For example, Moore reports that Germany is building coal-fired plants to replace its nuclear plants.

Continuous learning

A great deal of useful information can be gathered by reaching out to nuclear opposition groups, and understanding where opponents are coming from, including their history, strategy, and upcoming plans, which can inform more effective outreach from pro-nuclear groups.

It will be an interesting spring in Vermont!



Howard Shaffer has been an ANS member for 35 years.  He has contributed to ASME and ANS Standards committees, ANS committees, national meeting staffs, and his local section, and was the 2001 ANS Congressional Fellow.  He is a current member of the ANS Public Information Committee and consults in nuclear public outreach.  He is coordinator for the Vermont Pilot Project.  Shaffer holds a BSEE from Duke University and an MSNE from MIT.  He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Greetings from a proud member of “the nuclear party”

By Rod Adams

Back in the playground—about half a century ago—I learned that it can be fun and frustrating to the bullies if you cheerfully accept the tags that they apply to you. Back then, I was called a four-eyed nerd; for some odd reason I had schoolmates who thought it was a bad thing to be the one who got straight A’s and seemed to enjoy learning. The teasing did not bother me; it motivated me to read more good books and to strive to do even better in class.

While reading a recent Matt Wald post on the New York Times Green Blog, I realized that a certain group of bullies who have been fighting nuclear energy development for decades were employing similar name-calling tactics as those playground bullies.

Here is a quote from Wald’s post:

Of the four other members, two are Republicans and two are Democrats, but Mr. Bradford said the letter was not in fact bipartisan. “In Washington, you’ve got a situation where the ‘nuclear party’ transcends the Republican and Democratic party,’’ he said. “You’ve got four members of the nuclear party writing a letter about the chairman, who’s never been a member of the nuclear party.’’

Those four members have backgrounds in nuclear engineering, the nuclear Navy and related fields; Dr. Jaczko has a Ph.D in particle physics and came to the commission after a career on Capitol Hill, including a stint as an aide to Harry Reid of Nevada, the leader of the Senate’s Democratic majority.

Matt might have also pointed out that Dr. Jaczko’s career on Capitol Hill included a 2.5 year stint with Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), who can lay claim to being the leading member of the antinuclear party.

I actually enjoyed the subtle way that Wald phrased that exchange and showed that by Bradford’s categorization, “the nuclear party” consists of people who have actually studied nuclear energy, worked with nuclear energy, and understand the technology. Quite frankly, I like being tagged with that appellation. Anybody who wants to can call me a member of the nuclear party, which makes its energy system choices based on knowledge and facts.

In the playground, I did not mind being called a nerd by people who were older and bigger, often because they had been held back a year or two in school. Even then, I was pretty certain that I would lead a more prosperous and interesting life than they would. In this case, I have no problem being teased by people who do not have a clue about the value of clean, energy dense, reliable, and affordable nuclear energy as a tool to address many of our most pressing problems.

Bradford, in his NRC days

Peter Bradford, for example, is a lawyer who once served as a Jimmy Carter appointee on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He was a part of the group that failed miserably to provide useful guidance to the American public during the Three Mile Island accident. One of his partners on the phone call press conference that was the basis for Wald’s blog post was Mark Cooper, a man with a PhD in sociology earned by writing a book about a political transformation in Egypt.

Cooper was also the author of a discredited 2009 economic analysis of the future cost of nuclear energy that formed the sole basis for the nuclear cost portion of the infamous NC Warn commissioned paper titled Solar and Nuclear Costs — The Historic Crossover: Solar Energy is Now the Better Buy.

I wrote about that paper—and the way that some mainstream media outlets published the lie that solar energy was somehow cheaper than nuclear energy—in an Atomic Insights post titled Gullible Reporting By New York Times On the Cost of Solar Electricity Versus Nuclear Electricity. That post was the most visited work I produced in 2010. I was joined in the effort to point out the flaws and to obtain an editorial correction by David Bradish at NEI Nuclear Notes and by Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat.

Remembering that skirmish brings up another good point about what I learned about responding to bullies back in the playground. Even though I did well in class and wore glasses, I had developed an extensive network of friends at school, in the scouts, at church, and on my swim team who also liked to learn, and enjoyed many activities together. Later in life, I taught my children that there were effective ways to respond to bullies and cliques; one of the best ways was to develop a strong network of supporting friends.

That is an area where the nuclear party needs some improvement and a corrective action program.

Along those lines, I will close with some good news areas and opportunities in 2012 where we can all start pulling for each other and work to overcome the completely incorrect perception that there is something wrong about being a strong supporter of nuclear technology development. We are LONG past the initial sin of developing and using a nuclear weapon; we have atoned by developing an amazing improvement over the useful but rapidly depleting fossil fuels that have powered our society for about 150 years.

  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued the final design certification for the Westinghouse AP1000.
  • The National Academy of Sciences has issued a study of the effects of uranium mining in Virginia that identifies a number of achievable actions that need to be completed.
  • The state of Virginia released a study of the potential economic impacts of mining the 119 million pound uranium deposit at Coles Hill near Chatham, Va. It indicated that the endeavor could bring 500 jobs and more than $100 million per year to an economically depressed area of southside Virginia with another 500 jobs spread around the state.
  • The Plant Vogtle project to build two Westinghouse AP1000 units about 20 miles south of Augusta, Ga., is within days of obtaining the first ever COL issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Southern Company has indicated that there will be another 1700 workers added to the payroll soon after that decision has been finalized.
  • As Dan Yurman pointed out in his recent post titled Nuclear energy R&D budgets spared major cuts, the omnibus appropriations bill that was signed by President Obama restored all of the cuts to nuclear energy programs that had been taken during the Senate mark up.
  • The Department of Energy’s nuclear energy budget included about $100 million in total for assisting with the development of small modular reactors.
  • The DOE nuclear energy budget also included more than the Administration requested for the NGNP program, which happens to be a nuclear program with strong partners who are not traditionally involved in nuclear energy.
  • Chuck Till and Yoon Chang have just published a book titled Plentiful Energy: The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor: The complex history of a simple reactor technology, with emphasis on its scientific bases for non-specialists. That subtitle is a mouthful, but the main title is the point—our technology enables a plentiful energy resource.

Happy Nuke Year, fellow nuclear party members. Let’s put some of those playground lessons to work, be proud of our knowledge, build friendships, and support each other against the antinuclear bullies who do not have a clue about the power that the industrialized world needs in order to keep improving human prosperity.



Rod Adams is a pro-nuclear advocate with extensive small nuclear plant operating experience. Adams is a former engineer officer, USS Von Steuben. He is the host and producer of The Atomic Show Podcast. Adams has been an ANS member since 2005. He writes about nuclear technology at his own blogAtomic Insights.

86th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 86th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is up
NEI Nuclear Notes

Nuclear abstractThis post is the collective voice of blogs with legendary names which emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

Past editions have been hosted at Next Big Future. Yes Vermont Yankee, NuclearGreen, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America that we will speak with a collective voice on the issue of the value of nuclear energy. While we each have our own point of view, we agree that the promise of peaceful uses of the atom remains viable in our own time and for the future.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog, and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brian Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

# # #

Nuclear energy R&D budgets spared major cuts

Congress trims funding while adding new priorities

By Dan Yurman

A Congress that has public approval ratings in the single digits because of deficit-related gridlock managed to get some of the federal budget out the door for 2012. The Energy & Water Appropriation Bill, which covers funding for the U.S. Department of Energy, contains $768 million for nuclear energy programs.

Nuclear energy at the DOE fared better than some other high profile DOE programs. The Obama administration’s poster child for a green economy—Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy—suffered a cut of $1.9 billion, reducing the funding request by the White House by more than half. The DOE’s Science programs also saw a significant reduction of $616 million from the President’s budget. And, nationwide environmental cleanup of DOE sites suffered a reduction of $469 million.

Emphasis on small modular reactors

Of the $768 million in the bill for the nuclear energy program at the DOE, $439 million is allocated to nuclear energy research and development. A key element of the appropriation is a $67 million line item for licensing technical support for light water reactors. It provides funds for first-of-a-kind engineering support for two reactor designs and sites.

Supporters of fast reactor SMR designs had hoped for appropriation language that would have advanced their cause, but it didn’t appear in the committee report related to licensing activities.

Within a line item of $136 million for reactor concepts, $29 million is provided for advanced R&D on SMR concepts that presumably would include some fast reactor work scope.

A big ticket item is $64 million for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) program, which is $14 million above the DOE’s request. The committee called for strong engagement with industry in development of the NGNP demonstration phase.

Congress also told the DOE to stick to the knitting and finish the job on the NGNP. The committee report complained that the DOE engages in a “constant shifting of priorities that starts many initiatives and finishes none.”

DOE Nuclear Energy Assistant Secretary Pete Lyons declined, through a spokesperson, to be interviewed or to comment on the funding numbers or the SMR projects.

Fuel Cycle Research received $132 million, with significant cuts from the 2011 funding level and the 2012 request.

Facilities management at the Idaho National Laboratory received $155 million, $5 million above the request. Separately, $14.6 million is allocated to the National Science User Facility at the Idaho National Laboratory, the same amount as the request.

Positive reactions to reactor funding

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R., Idaho

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R., Idaho) , whose district includes the Idaho lab, is a senior member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, serving there for the past nine years. Simpson said in a statement that he was pleased with the funding for the lab’s programs.

“I am very pleased that the Appropriations Committee and Congress have once again demonstrated strong support for the development of nuclear energy and provided the resources necessary to continue our nation’s progress on new and promising nuclear technologies,” said Simpson.

Simpson noted that total funding for DOE’s nuclear energy program was $31 million more than funding provide by Congress for FY2011.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group, also took notice. In a statement on its website, the organization said that it was relieved that the events in Fukushima, Japan, last March have not deterred Congress from continued support for nuclear energy.

“We particularly appreciate the inclusion of $67 million to initiate the Department of Energy’s small reactor licensing program. That technology will become a significant contributor to the nation’s energy portfolio and has tremendous potential for job creation to support deployment in the United States and internationally,” the NEI statement said.

Worries across the pond in the U.K.

While nuclear energy R&D fared well in the budget storm in Washington, D.C., across the Atlantic things are not going as well. The Science & Technology Committee of the House of Lords, the upper chamber of Parliament, issued a report on November 22 that said the government was “complacent” about nuclear energy R&D.

In a stinging comment, the committee wrote that the UK government’s plans for nuclear to play a part in meeting the country’s energy needs “simply lack credibility.”

The report went on to say that the absence of leadership and strategic thinking in government has created a perception that the UK is no longer a serious player in the field. The skills gap, which will be made worse by near-term retirements, will make the nation a “niche player,” the report said.

According to government budget numbers reviewed by the committee, the UK is spending less on nuclear energy R&D than Australia and Italy—and neither of these nations has a commercial nuclear power program.

The committee called for an increase in spending of £20-50 million (about U.S.$31-78 million) a year. The committee’s recommendations include the development of a long-term strategy for nuclear energy looking beyond 2025, outlining support for R&D through an R&D roadmap, and for the commercial exploitation of the UK’s current strengths in nuclear research.

It also called for the establishment of a nuclear R&D board, made up of industry, academic and government partners, to develop and implement the R&D roadmap and help to improve the coordination of R&D activities to protect vulnerable areas of research and close gaps in capabilities.

# # #

Dan Yurman, nuclear blogger

Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy, and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Nuclear engineering professor takes fellowship at State Department

By Lenka Kollar


Gilbert Brown, a professor of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and a long-time member of the American Nuclear Society, has started a year-long fellowship at the U.S. Department of State, in Washington, D.C. The William C. Foster Fellows Visiting Scholars Program was established by Congress in 1983 and gives specialists in the physical sciences an opportunity to use their expertise in support of the arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament activities of the State Department.

Brown’s position is in the Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security (NESS) in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN). NESS is responsible for negotiating agreements for peaceful nuclear cooperation that provide the legal underpinning for the export of U.S. nuclear reactors and fuel.  The office is also responsible for developing policy, negotiating and coordinating multi- and bilateral nuclear cooperation, establishing multilateral export controls, and providing for the diplomatic aspects of reactor safety as well as the physical security of nuclear materials and facilities. Brown said that he looks forward to an interesting and productive year at the State Department and that he is glad to be in a position to affect and support the diplomatic efforts of the United States toward peaceful nuclear cooperation throughout the world.

In his year-long position, Brown will collaborate with other government offices and with industry and universities to help compile an overview of U.S. education and training program options for countries that are developing nuclear energy. This effort should enhance the ability to market U.S. nuclear technology overseas. The principal goal is to build human resource development partnerships with other countries to help them develop an indigenous work force that has the same level of knowledge, skills, and safety culture that is the hallmark of the nuclear industry in the United States.

Brown’s entire career has prepared him for this position. As a nuclear engineering professor, he has worked in several areas, including fast and thermal reactor safety. He has also held assignments in safeguards training at the International Atomic Energy Agency and was involved with the formation of the World Nuclear University Summer Institute. In addition, he has served on the independent National Nuclear Accrediting Board, which accredits individual utility training programs, and has been a member of the board of directors of ABET, which accredits academic programs.

He has also worked with community colleges and utilities in developing and deploying a uniform nuclear curriculum program that addresses the need for well-qualified nuclear plant workers. Brown is past chair and current treasurer of the Nuclear Engineering Department Head Organization and he is a Fellow of ANS, where he has been a member since graduate school and has maintained involvement in ANS affairs for more than 40 years.

Brown understands the need for robust education and training programs to sustain the growing nuclear industry both in the United States and abroad. He has been at the State Department for just over a month, but he has already learned a great deal and has participated in collaborative meetings with other government offices and industry, he said. Brown hopes to contribute to the department through his expertise in nuclear education and training, and he also looks to gain real world and international experience to bring back to his university and students.

The nuclear community greatly benefits from placing professionals such as Brown in fellowship positions within the government. Not only do they offer valuable expertise, but they also bring visibility to the nuclear field. Brown encourages ANS members to become more involved in national and international nuclear issues by considering these types of opportunities, which are available to students and to young and experienced professionals. Capitol Hill would benefit from having more nuclear engineers around!



Lenka  Kollar is a master’s student in nuclear engineering at Purdue University. She has been involved in Purdue’s ANS student chapter since 2006, and has been a national ANS member since 2009. At Purdue, Lenka established an extensive local nuclear science outreach program, including visits to high schools and a teacher workshop. She is also a member of the ANS Student Sections Committee. Lenka plans to graduate in May 2012 and is looking to start a career in nuclear energy policy and communications, preferably in the Chicago area.

Little ado about nothing

A so-called scientific article issued on December 19 by Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman purports that an estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors in Japan. The article, published in the International Journal of Health Services, is available by clicking here.

Not much media attention has been paid to the article, which has been labeled as “flawed” by the Nuclear Energy Institute. NEI, on its blog site, subsequently posted columns about the article and about Mangano, who has a history as an anti-nuclear writer. In one of the posts, NEI points out that “Mike Moyer, the writer at Scientific American who so expertly debunked Joe Mangano’s ‘research’ in June, had a chance to read Mangano’s latest coauthored piece.”

Moyer wrote:

No attempt is made at providing systematic error estimates, or error estimates of any kind. No attempt is made to catalog any biases that may have crept into the analysis, though a cursory look finds biases a-plenty (the authors are anti-nuclear activists unaffiliated with any research institution). The analysis assumes that the plume arrived on U.S. shores, spread everywhere, instantly, and started killing people immediately. It assumes that the “excess” deaths after March 20 are a real signal, not just a statistical aberration, and that every one of them is due to Fukushima radiation.

Moyer went on to say:

The publication of such sloppy, agenda-driven work is a shame. Certainly radiation from Fukushima is dangerous, and could very well lead to negative health effects—even across the Pacific. The world needs to have a serious discussion about what role nuclear power should play in a power-hungry post-Fukushima world. But serious, informed, fact-based debate is a difficult enough goal to achieve without having to shout above noise like this.

Others have chimed in to debunk Mangano’s junk science. You can read about it by visiting NEI’s blog site here and scrolling down to the article titled “Dr. Robert Peter Gale’s Statement on the Mangano-Sherman Report on Fukushima Fallout.”

NEI’s blog site also has other posts on the Mangano-Sherman report, which you can find by scrolling down at the site.