Last night, Howard Shaffer and Arnie Gundersen debated whether the Pilgrim plant relicensing process should continue or the process should be frozen. The idea was to freeze relicensing until all Fukushima fixes were known and made. The non-binding ballot initiative in Plymouth township reads:
“FREEZE PILGRIM”Ballot Question MAY 12 TOWN ELECTION-PLYMOUTH We The People of Plymouth, Massachusetts, direct the Plymouth Board of Selectmen to call upon the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to immediately suspend all further action on the application of the Entergy Corporation for renewal of its license to operate the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station pending the full implementation of all safety improvements recommended by the NRC as a result of lessons learned from the failures of similarly designed reactors in Fukushima, Japan.
I watched the debate last night, and it was a frustrating experience because I could not see the debaters or hear them or see their slides. What I saw was an interactive stream with comments from the moderator, tweets from many people (including myself) and a fair number of advertisements for fast-food muffins.
Japan: Many of the tweets were from Japan as shown in the screen shot above.
Cocktail Party: The NRC gave an informational "cocktail party" before the debate (no booze), but the NRC did not participate in the debate itself. Picture of the party here from the Wicked Local Facebook page.
However, the moderator said Entergy and the NRC were invited, Berger notes, but chose not to attend. I think that was an unfair statement. Of course, the NRC could not formally enter into a debate about an on-going license extension, but they were there on an informal basis, and I give them credit!
Gundersen view of the NRC. Gundersen did his usual comments about the NRC: NRC commissioners are vetted by trade organization of nuclear industry NRC and industry, Gundersen says, are too cozy
Note: All quotes are from the moderator's notes. I do not know if the quotes are verbatim.
Fishing boats: Gundersen: If Tim McVeigh had been in the Finnish boat that wandered close to the plant last year, we would have had a real problem.
Nuclear Matters Committee: The Town of Plymouth has a Nuclear Matters Committee (NMC), including educated people. Here's a quote from one of them:
Paul Smith (NMC): there are no lethal amounts of radiation leaking from Fukushima...
-The geology is in our favor
-We are not susceptible to dangerous tsunami
Gundersen's Samples: Gundersen said he took "samples" in Tokyo that were "troubling." Howard asked him to show the numbers. He didn't, of course. Here's are two Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) blog posts on the Gundersen claims. NEI asks questions of AP for reporting these claims. NEI find Gundersen's statement baffling.
Gundersen knows exact number of cancers that will be caused: Okay. I found this shocking, even though I have certainly seen Gundersen in action before.
Gundersen answers a question: When will start to see the cancers?
Gundersen: peer reviewed report of TMI lung cancers, within five year of three mile island, ten or 20% increase.
-In short term thyroiud and lung issues. Over next 25 years, other tissue damage
-new report says 30 years out, they are seeing other cancers from Three Mile Island
-In Fukushima, 1 in 20 young girls exposed to radiation in Fukushima will suffer from cancers related to the event.
Is there a bottom line?
As many have noted, it is hard to debate people who can just say anything that supports their position, whether it is true or not. On the other hand, I think the world-wide interest in this debate was completely legitimate, and I give credit to both men for taking part. There are very few forums in which both sides appear and are willing to answer questions. I congratulate the township of Plymouth for hosting this debate.
And of course, I congratulate Howard for his effective presentation, and his deep and abiding personal honesty.
To see the same thing I saw, but faster (you can scroll through it, instead of waiting in real time), go to this Wicked Local (newspaper) webpage.
Before the forum, Howard Shaffer asked me to put his slides on the web in pdf format. You can see his slides here.
Howard also asked me to put the ANS Fukushima report on the web in a way that is easily accessible. Here's the ANS Fukushima report, and here's the ANS talking point summary.
As I understand it, the debate was also on local community access TV. When I get the link to it as an on-demand show, I will update this post.