Seattle Monks Protest While Dalai Lama Supports Nuclear Energy
Dec03

Seattle Monks Protest While Dalai Lama Supports Nuclear Energy

Last week a group of Buddhist monks joined the protest against San Onofre Nuclear Plant.  The local press made a big show of the spectacle as if the presence of members of a Seattle monastery somehow added stature to the demonstration and validity to their claims. The monks said they also want to call attention to what they believe are the global dangers of nuclear power.  “We need to shut down the San Onofre,” Gyosen Sawada of Los Angeles, who said he was born in Fukushima, Japan, told the group before beginning a three-hour walk from Dana Point Harbor. “No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki. No more Three Mile Island. No more Fukushima. No more San Onofre.” As is so often the case with anti-nuclear activists, these monks toss all things nuclear into one evil pile; in their minds atomic bombs and nuclear energy facilities are equally vile.  Funny how they avoided mention of CT scans, diagnostic x-rays, and nuclear medicine which account for virtually all of the man-made radiation exposure we receive (even for members of the public around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant). I guess they missed the memo from the Dalai Lama who, after the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant went on the record in support of nuclear energy. The Tibetan Buddhist leader said he supports nuclear energy as a way to bridge the socioeconomic gap in developing nations and in the absence of more efficient alternative energy sources. That’s a pretty insightful view from a leader who understands the causes of human suffering and the connection between access to energy and poverty.  He also recognizes alternatives like wind and solar energy will be difficult to expand on the scale needed to alleviate global poverty. We might expect these monks to hold similarly informed views, after all they come from a Japanese Shingon monastery.  This set of Buddhist teachings falls under the Vajranaña school, which also includes Tibetan Buddhism.  On the other hand, one of the monks described himself as a “homey from the projects in New York City.”  Perhaps he’s been more influenced by the misguided energy policies of NY Governor Andy Cuomo than by the teachings of the renown Tibetan spiritual leader....

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Canadian Nuclear Regulator Speaks Out on Safety of Uranium Mining
Nov25

Canadian Nuclear Regulator Speaks Out on Safety of Uranium Mining

Activists, medical practitioners and politicians who have demanded moratoriums [on uranium mining] may have various reasons for doing so, but their claims that the public and environment are at risk are fundamentally wrong. That about sums up the facts on the safety of uranium mining and the validity of motives of those who oppose it.  What’s particularly noteworthy about this statement is its source: Michael Binder, the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.  It’s impressive to see this level of leadership from the Canadian equivalent of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It’s also in stark contrast with the actions of former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko who remained silent last year when the US Department of Interior banned uranium mining for 20 years across 4000 square km of Arizona.  Their excuse was “protecting the Grand Canyon,” but the area in question is outside both the Grand Canyon and the buffer zone that protects the park. It would be great to see new NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane following Mr. Binder’s lead to dispel the myths around uranium mining and take a first step in overturning the arbitrary...

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Anti-Nuclear Hysterics, not Melted Reactors to Blame for Fukushima Health Impacts
Mar11

Anti-Nuclear Hysterics, not Melted Reactors to Blame for Fukushima Health Impacts

As is often the case, the passage of time yields clarity about events, and the nuclear power plant accident at Fukushima is no different.  It has become clear that the misinformation and hysterics by anti-nuclear groups and individuals were mostly wrong.  Their doomsday prophesizing actually worsened human suffering and environmental impacts by contributing to unwise decisions by political leaders in Japan and elsewhere to shut down nuclear plants.  In contrast, bloggers and experts from within the nuclear community accurately predicted outcomes and human health impacts. As was predicted on this blog and elsewhere, the multi-barrier reactor containment design protected the public.  Contrary to claims by anti-nuclear groups, the melted cores did NOT burn through the reactor vessels.  The containment structures remained virtually intact. The damaged reactor fuel remained inside the reactor vessels and containment systems. Despite preposterous claims by Greenpeace and others, there were no chunks of plutonium scattered across the countryside.  Only radioactive gasses escaped over the land, and most of that gas was short lived Iodine that has long since decayed away. As reported on Bloomberg and other news sources, no one in the public was harmed by radiation from the damaged reactors.  A small number of plant workers received higher than normal radiation exposures, without lasting effects.  Any hypothetical future health effects will be immeasurably low and will be indistinguishable from normal disease rates within the general population. No one, not even the “Fukushima 50”, was exposed to life threatening amounts of radiation.  Journalists who flew across the Pacific to cover the story received more radiation exposure from cosmic rays in flight than they received from the reactors once on the ground. The visually spectacular hydrogen explosions of the plant buildings, while providing great fodder for anti-nuclear rhetoric had little impact on the safety of the reactors, and harmed no one. The unit 4 fuel storage pools did not empty of water and did not catch on fire.  The fuel there remained safely submerged and suffered no damage of any consequence. Finally, there was no need for the 50-mile evacuation zone ordered by NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko. His decision still has nuclear experts scratching their heads and wondering why.  Jaczko’s actions demonstrated he lacks the experience and knowledge to ask the right questions at crucial moments.  In addition, he lacked the wisdom to recognize other more credible information was available that contradicted his view.  He needlessly rushed forward with an ill-advised decision that was horribly wrong. This is not to imply there were no environmental or economic impacts from the reactor accident – of course there were!  The expensive cleanup in surrounding areas will take years...

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Explore a Great Career in Nuclear Energy
Jan24

Explore a Great Career in Nuclear Energy

Note: this post also appears at the ANS Nuclear Cafe   What better way to celebrate National Nuclear Science Week than to acknowledge amazing career opportunities that exist for people interested in joiningthe nuclear renaissance. If you are a middle or high school student (or are the parent of one) considering college alternatives, you would be hard pressed to find a better investment than earning an associates or bachelors degree in nuclear-related science, engineering, or technology. Opportunities for entry level positions have not been this rich at any time during the past three decades, and the nuclear industry is partnering with many schools to ensure graduates have the knowledge and skill for success as power plant engineers, operators, and technicians. Because of a combination of national and international trends, there have never been more opportunities for young people to begin careers in the nuclear industry. About 120,000 people are currently employed in the U.S. nuclear industry. Over the next several years, many of these workers will retire. As a result, the industry will need to hire more than 25,000 new employees just to maintain the existing workforce. The economic slowdown  over the past few years has caused many workers to delay their retirement. Today retirements are once again on the rise because 401K balances have recovered and workers have earned additional credits in pension plans. For example, in 2011 about 2,000 workers retired from the 104 operating nuclear plants in the United States, prompting many utilities to increase hiring. Four new nuclear plants being built in Georgia and South Carolina will each add up to 2,400 workers during construction, plus 400 to 700 permanent jobs when each is operating. In addition, the nuclear industry is booming overseas with more than 60 plants under construction around the world and many more planned. All of this means ample opportunities for rewarding careers in many nuclear related fields. The industry hires almost every type of engineer, not just nuclear engineers. The most common are mechanical, electrical, civil, and power systems engineers. Since there are engineering colleges and universities in every state that offer one or more of these degree programs, opportunities are plentiful. Earning a bachelors degree in these engineering majors opens the door to an entry-level engineer position with a starting salary of approximately $60,000 to $65,000. Some of the positions in greatest demand at nuclear plants are power plant operators and technicians. These opportunities generally require an associate’s degree or equivalent training. Starting salaries range from around $45,000 per year to about $50,000. As workers gain experience, salaries can rise $20,000 or higher to an average of $65,000 to $70,000, and overtime...

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Lack of Intellectual Integrity Harms the Case for Global Warming

or “Why I’m Still A Climate Change Skeptic” It must be great to be a climate change believer.You get to boldly declare your alignment with the “A” team, the smartest minds and greatest strategic thinkers of our time, or so we’ve been told.You get praise from big government (at least under the current US administration) and get to hang out with old hippies who sail up and down the Hudson River playing folk music and singing songs about Mother Earth and fighting the good fight. Unfortunately, I can’t count myself in, but I’m not exactly out either.I’m on the fence and that’s a problem for me.My science and engineering education taught me enough about pv=nrt and the partial pressure law of gasses to know you can’t just keep dumping airborne crud and gasses into a fixed volume of anything without changing it’s composition.I’ve also been around long enough to see changes in the planet, but are those being caused by progressive man-made climate change or a normal natural cycle? I know a lot of very smart people I admire greatly who are staunch climate change believers, and almost an equal number of equally smart engineers and scientists who swear it’s the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on modern humanity.I’ve been reading a great deal on the topic lately because I really DO want to understand both sides of the argument with the hope that it will become clear and I’ll be able to join one crowd or another. I’ve come to realize a big reason I continue to be a climate change skeptic is I question the integrity and the motives of the most vocal climate change advocates.I simply do not trust they are telling the truth.This is why: If the real goal were to reduce greenhouse gasses, then it would be logical that environmental leaders would advocate policies to reward low carbon behavior and penalize high carbon endeavors, regardless of the technology involved.Instead, environmental and political leaders have already chosen “winning technologies” of conservation, wind and solar energy. Insistence on these creates the impression that social redesign are the real goal, not saving the environment.If leaders were really serious about reducing carbon emissions they would create a technology neutral playing field that punishes carbon emissions and rewards low-carbon and carbon-free energy sources. Many of the most vocal proponents of man-caused climate change insist on solutions that won’t work.Despite massive investment in solar, wind, and conservation, there remains not a glimmer of hope that these can provide sufficient energy to replace fossil fuels, much less accommodate the energy requirements of the world’s growing population.The math just does not work.This virtually...

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