Sunday, August 29, 2010

Monday Blue Ribbon: People Making a Difference to Nuclear

Two prestigious nuclear blogs are choosing to post good news on Mondays to start the week off well. Nuclear TownHall often posts Good News Mondays, while Dan Yurman posts Nuclear Energy Videos for Monday at Idaho Samizdat.

People in the nuclear industry are doing things I greatly admire, but I sometimes don't think these things are "worth posting about." Now, I am going to honor these people and their accomplishments on Mondays. It's my contribution to a good week!

My two honorees this Monday are (drum roll, please)
Robert Hargraves and Margaret Harding.

Robert Hargraves, the LFTR, and the Blue Ribbon Commission

Robert Hargraves has been a active proponent of nuclear energy. He teaches the Rethinking Nuclear Power class at ILEAD (life-long learning at Dartmouth College), has written the book Aim High about the promise of thorium fuel cycles, and has presented talks on thorium to local meetings of the American Nuclear Society, the Mechanical Engineering Department at Columbia, as well as in many other venues. I can also recommend his Google Talk on thorium reactors.

Bob has also been a steady supporter of Vermont Yankee relicensing. He wrote the popular letter suggesting that Vernon move to New Hampshire. When I posted it on my blog, it received amazing numbers of hits. Bob also did an excellent short slideshow on Vermont Yankee at the local Rotary Club. The slideshow is a fine introduction to Vermont Yankee. Bob and I are members of the Coalition for Energy Solutions, a local group of energy professionals. Most recently, the Coalition wrote a report countering the VPIRG ideas about replacing Vermont Yankee power with a mixture of wind turbines and solar. Bob is also the creator of the prosperity and birthrate chart that clarified so much in my post: It's the Energy. Why I Love Nuclear.

Today, perhaps even as you read this, Bob is testifying before the Blue Ribbon Commission on alternative fuel cycles for nuclear. I find it very heartening that his tireless, fact-based work will be part of the Commission's deliberations.

Margaret Harding, Boiling Water Reactors, and David Lochbaum

Margaret Harding is an experienced nuclear engineer who blogs at her web site, 4Factor Consulting. David Lochbaum, nuclear specialist and foe of the nuclear industry, has started a new series of blog postings at his employer's site, the Union of Concerned Scientists. His posts are called "Fission Stories." They describe mistakes and problems at reactors, mostly from the seventies and eighties, along with dire warnings that the same thing is likely to happen again tomorrow.

For a long time, nobody challenged Mr. Lochbaum on these event descriptions. Most of us pro-nuclear advocates are busy with current events, not events from thirty years ago. Many of us don't have the expertise to truly go head to head with Lochbaum, who is a master of the half-truth. It takes time to dig up the old records in NRC and interpret them correctly. So Lochbaum's "Fission Stories" went unchallenged. His latest post is about power oscillations in boiling water reactors.

However, Margaret Harding knows "Fission Fiction" when she sees it. Ms. Harding has a B S in nuclear engineering, and 28 years of experience in the industry. More specifically, she was a technical professional in the GE BWROG (Boiling Water Reactor Owners Group) when it solved the power oscillation problem that Lochbaum claims was not solved. The cure was the Option III system using in-core sensors to automatically determine when the reactor was in an oscillation mode and needed to shut itself down. Harding explains this all in her post Fission Fiction--Or How David Lochbaum Got It Wrong,

Mr. Lochbaum posted a story on the Union of Concerned Scientists website about an event in 1988, then proceeded to link it to a 2005 event at a different plant and makes the case that the nuclear industry is filled with screw-ups and near misses......(However, in the 2005 incident) Perry's Option III system WORKED AS DESIGNED.

On the Union of Concerned Scientist's site, Lochbaum is described as "widely quoted in the media and a frequent guest on network news programs." Maybe Lochbaum's half-truths have met the challenger they need. Hopefully, mainstream media will learn that they can get a great "he said she said" story if they quote Lochbaum and Harding. When they quote Harding, the things "she said" will be accurate. This will be a refreshing change from the current situation.

Harding's post has been been picked up by NEI Nuclear Notes, as well as Idaho Samizdat. Can the mainstream press be far behind? (Answer, alas, is probably "yes".)

One Person Can Make a Difference

Nuclear advocates get tired of the constant, repetitive lies of the opponents. It is important to acknowledge the people who stand up for nuclear: testifying before committees or answering the half-truth assertions of well-known opponents. People like Bob Hargraves and Margaret Harding are making a difference for all of us.

A Short Monday Mop-Up

Peter Shumlin won the Democratic nomination for governor with 197 votes. Douglas Racine, the runner-up, knows that the last time Vermont recounted, the count changed by 239 votes. Racine has called for a recount.

At Vermont Yankee last night, some alarm circuits failed due to an internal power supply failure. The "unusual event" (lowest-level emergency classification for the NRC) was declared at 7 p.m. and was lifted by 8:30. We can expect much handwringing from the opponents, who will explain that such an event means the plant is unsafe and everybody is going to die unless the plant is shut immediately. However, I want to point out Susan Smallheer at the Rutland Herald wrote a clear and accurate article about this blown-fuse "emergency".

Thanks to Robert Hargraves and Margaret Harding for the use of their pictures on this blog.


Anonymous said...

Lochbaum seems totally unconcerned about huge factual blunders in his articles.

Link to:


Margaret said...

Thanks, Meredith.

I hope that my small voice will start a roar!

Unknown said...

I first ran into Lockbaum in San Luis Obispo. He was speaking at a gallery to a crowd of local anti-nuke fanatics who came to get their fix of nuclear fear. Lockbaum pandered to the crowd who swooned at his every utterance. He also brought two cases of books to sell at $25 bucks each and his adoring anti nuke fanatics caused him to sell out. I take it he travels the country peddling fear and books to anti nuke fans.

We asked him if he was anti nuclear power, "Oh, no. I just point out the dangers so they can be addressed." He is a slick character with an agenda we don't fully know yet. That he convinces UCS he is a unbiased nuclear expert is something that out to be undone ASAP. A joint letter to UCS by enough people with actual credentials in the field might get UCS at least looking at their Lochbaum with a critical eye. He is not making UCS look good with his slanted agenda, book business and other shenanigans under their banner.

William Gloege
Santa Maria, Ca