Yesterday, April 9, my local newspaper ran a letter to the editor under the heading A Voice Against Nuclear Power. Sighing, I settled in to read. I discovered it wasn't an anti-nuclear letter at all! The letter was a strong critique of Helen Caldicott's recent presentation at Dartmouth.
I quickly looked up the author in the phone book and asked if I could print his letter in my blog. He agreed and thoughtfully sent me a digital copy, including the "note" which was not printed in the paper. Dr. Trebitz is a chemist, now retired. I had never heard of him until I read his letter.
This incident illustrates some things which we should all remember. Depending on the poll, 30-40% (in Vermont) to 60% (nationwide) support nuclear power. Nuclear supporters are not a fringe group. We may be a minority or a majority, but we are mainstream.
Enjoy the letter, and don't forget the Caldicott Satire Contest!
The Editor, Valley News:
NOTE: In its Thursday 4/01 issue, Valley News provided a lengthy coverage of anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott’s visit to the Upper Valley. Unfortunately, the article contains very little information regarding the contents of Caldicott’s presentations. In my comments, below, I’m discussing some of the speaker’s statements.
When I went to Caldicott’s speech at Dartmouth I thought I’d get a balanced presentation on nuclear energy and its problems. I was disappointed.
Caldicott’s strategy in fighting nuclear power is based on raising fear. At one time she stated: “I would not live within a fifty miles radius of VT Yankee”. In her presentation she painted a frightening picture of nuclear Armageddon, always presenting her “facts” in a worst case scenario. As a physician, no doubt, she has an understanding of health effects related to radiation exposure, including cancer and birth defects. Yet, when she linked these to nuclear power generation, she ignored other (natural and manmade) causes, often carrying significantly higher risks.
A scientist is trained to observe cause and effects and place these into a meaningful relationship with the surrounding natural environment. Caldicott seems to have abandoned that process of realistic assessment a long time ago. Not surprisingly, she denies the possibility of solving the problem of nuclear waste. She deplores the fact that spent fuel is stored in vulnerable water tanks at VT Yankee (and other nuclear power plants), but offers no concept of how to deal with the submerged fuel rods when decommissioning the plant at the end of its lifetime. For her, re-processing the waste into a second generation of nuclear fuel is not a solution. And she dismisses Nevada's Yucca Mountain for underground storage as an unstable depository site riddled with geological faults.
In the end, the evening was just another rally against nuclear power generation and specifically Vermont Yankee. And, as the Valley News Staff Writer in his report on the event observed: “The crowd sounded nearly uniformly in agreement with her stances…”.
There were almost no Dartmouth students in the audience, a fact also noted by the speaker. If they had been interested in a meaningful scientific discourse, they did not miss very much.
Don't forget. I'm still running the Helen Caldicott Satire Contest. Why cars, toothpaste and paper (so far) are terribly dangerous. Get your entry in soon. Contest ends April 15. Enter early and often!