Sunday, February 27, 2011

Janus Forum Debate

An Expected Debate and Unexpected Debater

On Thursday of last week, I debated Arnie Gundersen about the future of Vermont Yankee. The debate took place at the Janus Forum at University of Vermont. Here's a link to the Vermont Public Radio segment about the debate, and another link to the audio version of the debate itself, also courtesy of VPR.

Monday Afternoon

I didn't expect to debate Arnie Gundersen. I expected Howard Shaffer to debate Arnie. That was the plan.

On Monday of last week, a couple of us got together in Burlington to hear Howard Shaffer run through his initial presentation for the Janus Forum debate on Thursday. We met in Burlington because Howard and I were due to be on a TV show on WCAX that evening. Also, Burlington was more convenient for some of the people.

We critiqued Howard's viewgraphs and then we asked him hostile questions. I learned a lot as we critiqued Howard. I was also very glad that Howard was going to be in the hot seat Thursday, not me.

I was wrong.

Thursday Morning

I was scheduled to give a talk at a Rotary in Burlington Thursday morning. While I was at the Rotary, my cell phone rang. Howard's wife told me that Howard was on his way to the emergency room in an ambulance, and they weren't sure what was wrong but he was in a lot of pain. Howard had asked her to call me and say that he couldn't do the debate in the afternoon, but he was sure I could take over and do a fine job.

(This is not a place for keeping my readers in suspense. Howard had emergency surgery for a life-threatening condition, and the surgery was successful. He is recovering at home at this point.)

When I heard this, I did what any self-respecting wife would do. I called my husband. George reminded and reassured me that Howard was being taken care of by great people at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Everything that could be done would be done for him. George also said that I couldn't help Howard, but I had my own decision to make. Was I going to take Howard's part in the debate?

Okay. A couple of deep breaths here.

I decided to take part in the debate. I had my laptop with the Rotary presentation on it, and the laptop also had an early draft of Howard's slides on it (from the Monday meeting). I could spend an hour or so merging the presentations before I had to show up at the University of Vermont (UVM). Otherwise, the debate would be cancelled, and UVM people had spent a lot of time on preparation and publicity. Heck, I had done a lot of preparation, if you count half-a-day on Monday reviewing slides with Howard. So I decided to take part in the debate.

Thank You All Around

There's a lot to discuss about the debate, and I will do some of this in the days ahead. Meanwhile, I want to thank the people at the Janus Forum. They managed to hand out programs including my name and background--with only a few hours notice. I have images of those programs on this post. (As usual, double-clicking on the images will bring you to a bigger image.) I also want to thank the moderator, Emerson Lynn, for doing a fine job, and Arnie Gundersen for his well-organized presentation.

Some Links About the Debate

Once again, a link to the audio of the debate.

On Monday, Howard and I appeared on WCAX TV to talk about the debate. You can also see the video on my most recent post.

On Wednesday, Arnie Gundersen appeared on WCAX to talk about the debate.

Rod Adams of Atomic Insights blog noted that Arnie Gundersen was introduced as a person with "almost four decades of experience in the nuclear industry." (I noticed this also, and was puzzled because I knew Arnie had taught school for quite a few years. "How old is Arnie?" I wondered.) Rod did some investigation into Gundersen's resume, and discovered resume-inflation. Rod describes Gundersen's background in his blog post: Arnie Gundersen has inflated his resume, yet frequently claims that Entergy cannot be trusted.

More about the debate itself, in future posts.


Anonymous said...


Is there a video version of the debate available? I started to listen to the audio, and you refer to some graphics you were apparently displaying. It would be nice to be able to see the graphics which go along with the audio.

I didn't get very far into the audio, but I presume that Arnie probably had some graphics too.

Meredith Angwin said...


Yes, both Arnie and I had graphics. As a matter of fact, as you can see in this picture, the graphics were displayed on a very large screen at the debate.


Shay Totten, a local journalist, took this picture.

The debate was also videotaped, but I don't know where the videotape is or how to access it. I will find out in the next few days. It will definitely be more informative to see the graphics than to just listen.

On Sunday, I hadn't posted in a week. First because I was busy with a trip to Burlington Monday, Bradford Tuesday, and up to Burlington again to spend the night on Wednesday because I had that 7 a.m. Rotary in Burlington Thursday. Then Howard was hospitalized. This pushed me into a blur of activity, getting ready for the debate and debating.

I drove back from Burlington in a heavy snowstorm Friday morning. At that point, Friday, I was exhausted and Howard was still in the hospital in Intensive Care and I was worried about him and so forth and so on.

It took me a day (Saturday) to get my act together to think about blogging again. By Sunday, I was feeling better. I also felt I needed to get something up about the debate before people thought I had disappeared.

I will attempt to get a link to a video of the debate. They said they would send me a DVD of it, but that might take quite a while.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's quite a week. Sorry, I wasn't intending to push you or hassle you. Was just curious was all. Take your time, give yourself a chance to relax a bit. =)

Meredith Angwin said...

Jeff. You didn't push me or hassle me! I was just trying to explain my week of blog silence and why I don't have a video yet.

I saw Howard yesterday. George and I went over to his house, and he is doing well. That's the important thing....

Anonymous said...


I just got some time this evening, and I'm reviewing the WCAX interview. I have some questions, if it's alright. . .

1) You mentioned that there were only 2 curies of Tritium in hundreds of thousands of gallons of leaked water, by which you were pointing out the dilution level, but it raises a troubling question:

How does an industrial facility get a leak that is so large it's losing hundreds of thousands of gallons of working fluid, and nobody notices until *hundreds of thousands of gallons* have leaked? In this case it was only water, with a small amount of tritium in it, but it's a bit troubling that such a huge leak could go undetected? Didn't anyone notice they were having to refill the water way more often than they should (or perhaps they're drawing new water all the time for this particular use, but didn't anyone notice that less was going out the outlet of the system than being drawn in the intake?

Meredith Angwin said...

Jeff. That is an excellent question, and shows me something I should clarify! VY didn't leak hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. Once the leaking water (and I don't know how much it was) got into the shallow groundwater, a fair amount of water got contaminated with tritium. The tritium-contaminated water spread out into a plume, shaped like a piece of pie, with the narrow part of the pie wedge at the leak.

To remediate the problem, Entergy pumped water in great quantity from the middle of the plume. They reported on the tritium levels at various points along the plume, also, from their test wells.

In general, lots of contaminants get into shallow groundwater, which is why people prefer deep wells. Only one deep drinking water well (on the plant property) has ever shown tritium. This well was a couple of yards from the source of the leak, and it had occasional readings of about 1000 pCi/l. By the time such a very low level of contamination in a drinking-water aquifer spread off the property (if it did spread off the property) the levels would be WAY below detectable in any off-site drinking water wells.

Thank you for a great question, which will help me explain things better in the future!

Anonymous said...

Meredith, Oh, I see, the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water was the groundwater already in the aquifer. My mistake - I misunderstood the comment.

Thanks for clarifying!