Are Anti-Nuclear Activists Mysogynists?

Are Anti-Nuclear Activists Misogynists? I fully realize that question is a loaded one. Before I attempt to answer, please watch the following TED talk by Has Rosling.

Here are some points he makes in the video:

1. Two billion people in the world currently live on less than $2 per day

2. Five billion people in the world today do not have access to a washing machine.  The burden for washing the families clothes falls almost exclusively to women.

Woman washing clothes by hand in Favella in Rio

Women washing clothes by hand in Favella in Rio

3. Hans’ grandmother, two generations ago, was one of those women doing laundry almost incessantly for her family of 7 children.

Hans Rosling Grandmother

Hans Rosling’s Grandmother washing clothes by hand

4. Hans credits the washing machine that his family bought, with the beginning of his education, because his mother and grandmother had time to go to the library and read to him after they were able to purchase the washer.

5. Where women have access to electricity, they have been liberated from a great burden because of washing machines.

6. Hans makes the assertion that those 5 billion people want washing machines to reduce their toil. (I fully agree)

7. We need more green energy because those 5 billion people desperately want a washing machine and the freedom it brings.  (Nuclear is green!)

Thus, I conclude that to the extent that anti-nuclear activists prevent the adoption of cheap, safe, clean, abundant nuclear energy, they are engaging in msyogynistic behavior.


Blistering Bureaucratic Incompetence

By now, we all know that Nurse Vinson, who treated Ebola “patient zero”, Thomas Duncan, who later died of the virus, had asked the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) if she could travel to Cleveland and then return to home to Dallas. In fact, she called the CDC several times to report her temperature and to ask if it was safe to travel commercially. The CDC said that since her temperature was only 99.5°F instead of 100.4°F, it was OK to travel by commercial airline!

However, when it was first reported in the national news that Nurse Vinson had traveled to Cleveland and then returned to Dallas, CDC Director Tom Frieden stated in a press conference that she should not have traveled, since she was one of the health care workers known to have exposure to Duncan.

Director Frieden basically threw Nurse Vinson under the bus. The next day the national news reported that Nurse Vinson had, in fact, contacted the CDC multiple times to ask if it was OK to travel with the low grade fever she had at the time.

Why Director Frieden did not know (or did not care to reveal) that his organization had been contacted by Nurse Vinson to ask for permission to travel escapes me and probably most other people in this country.

The CDC has received billions of dollars over the last 68 years to prepare for just this type of event, which in my opinion, they have failed at. (The CDC budget for 2014 alone was $6.9 billion.)

This is what I call Blistering Bureaucratic Incompetence. What does this have to do with thorium energy? Plenty.

There are a couple of other three letter agencies that are at least as bureaucratically incompetent as the CDC in regards to nuclear energy. Let me name them for you:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and The Department of Energy (DOE).

The NRC is legally charged with:

  1. Increasing the productivity of the national economy
  1. Strengthening its position in regard to international trade
  1. Making the Nation self-sufficient in energy
  1. Improving the general welfare
  1. Increasing the standard of living
  1. Strengthening free competition in private enterprise
  1. Restoring, protecting, and advancing environmental quality

Since the NRC was created by Congress forty years ago in 1974, I don’t think they have performed to their charter, as outlined, in part, in these seven items.

Additionally, the DOE spends billions of dollars on all sorts of projects, including billions of dollars on nuclear bombs, but it can’t seem to find a dime for molten salt reactors. The DOE has never spent less than $2 billion per year on nuclear bombs since 1948.

Like a stock prospectus says, past performance is no guarantee of future results. But in this case it is. The NRC and the DOE are business as usual. If you like the performance of the last 50 years by the folks legally charted to develop commercial nuclear power, then keep the NRC and the DOE.

I don’t want the future to be the same as the past has been where fossil fuels continue their dominance as nuclear shrinks and withers away. I want to see nuclear power flourish. I want to see breathtaking innovation in all things nuclear because I believe that it will benefit myself, my family, neighbors, and ultimately all humanity.

I submit to you that the federal agencies and regulations are established to protect incumbent companies and industries from competition from newcomers and particularly have empowered the anti-nuclear folks (funded by the incumbents) to delay/stop the licensing and permitting of nuclear plants through the federal judiciary. This is the key one must see if they are to understand what happened to nuclear power in the US.

Let me reiterate my point. If things don’t ever change, they won’t be different.

Let’s change the legal and regulatory structure that has specifically hampered nuclear energy. I call for a devolution in the regulation of nuclear power from the Federal Government back to the states. Let the states decide how and what kind of nuclear power (if any) they want in their states. California can continue to hate nuclear power, but I hope my home state of Utah will eventually embrace it.

Besides, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Baja California Norte, and maybe even Oregon can sell nuclear power to California to charge their Tesla cars and power the air conditioning of those unfortunate souls who don’t live on the beach.


The Way Back Machine – Todd and Erin

Todd and Erin are a husband and wife team of radio show hosts here in Utah.  They were on one of the three radio stations that I preset into my car radio to pass the time during my morning commute to a remote part of Box Elder County.

Todd and Erin Radio Show Hosts

Todd and Erin
Utah Radio Show Hosts

Way back in 2006, Private Fuel Storage (PFS) was a going concern to store once through nuclear fuel on the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation out yonder past Toole, Utah.  You can imagine the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that the PFS proposal spawned.  Todd and Erin contributed to that wailing on their morning show.

I recall a particular morning where most of the show was their plea for their listeners to send letters and call the director of the BLM for the Mountain Region. Somehow, the BLM was involved in the PFS proposal, but I can’t recall why.  (Utah is a vast Federal Land nightmare were Uncle Sam owns 70% of the State.)

I remember Erin being the most insistent that listeners do something or else the arch evil nukler waste was going to come to Utah.  Notice that the Native American Reservation where it was proposed is called “Skull Valley”.  For those of you not familiar with Utah, the west desert of Utah is very desolate, ugly, forsaken, and pretty much worthless. The USAF uses a very large chunk of it for live fire target practice.

Utah Governor at the time, Michael “Hairspray” Leavitt was also rabidly opposed to PFS and even went so far as to “nationalize” the county road that would have been used to truck the once through nuclear fuel from the railhead to the Skull Valley Reservation and then made it illegal (with the help of the Utah State Legislature) to transport once through nuclear fuel over state roads. (I nicknamed Gov. Leavitt, “Hairspray” because it was reported on the local news during his first gubernatorial campaign that he kept a can of hairspray in his glove compartment to insure he was well coiffed.)

Anyway, back to Todd and Erin.  Just a few days after their radiothon against radioactivity, they were talking about their twin sons and how they took them to preschool at ….. wait for it……. the University of Utah, the home of the TRIGA reactor!

Of course, they had no idea about any nuclear reactor, but I was gobsmacked (as my English friend Lorraine likes to say) at the irony.  According to Todd and Erin, once through nuclear fuel in dry storage casks located 100 miles from Salt Lake City posed a significant risk to their safety, but taking their kids to the U, which operates a nuclear research reactor (which they apparently knew nothing about) was safe. I think both PFS and the TRIGA are so safe and the risks so small, that they shouldn’t be given another thought.

I wrote Todd and Erin a letter at the time and commended them for their concern for their children, but asked them why they so feared the nuclear waste.  I didn’t get an answer. I also wrote that my wife and I have 5 children and we also care about them and their safety, but I think storing once through nuclear fuel would be completely safe if it were in my back yard.

The way back machine has returned me to the present.  The whole PFS thing is long dead.  Todd and Erin are on a new radio station, but the irony still runs strong. Governor Leavitt was promoted to the Fedgov and moved to Washington. (The only way to get rid of some politicians).  The Delta Center, where the Utah Jazz play is now the Energy Solutions Arena and the steam generators from San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station are stored at the Energy Solutions site by Toole after a long road trip(s) on a 192 wheeled truck.

192 Wheeled TruckI couldn’t make up fiction like this.


Texas Thorium Energy

Recently, business took me to San Antonio, Texas for a week.  I really enjoyed the city and got to see some of its sights.  Here is a picture of the Alamo.

San Antonio 010

Of course, if you go to San Antonio, don’t miss the Riverwalk.San Antonio 012 Ben camera 1 035 Ben camera 1 041 Ben camera 1 043 Ben camera 1 044

I also visited Mission San JoseBen camera 1 086 Ben camera 1 088 More pictures of the Riverwalk: Ben camera 1 145 Ben camera 1 147

I liked this hotel, The Emily Morgan, with a triangular corner right next to the Alamo.Ben camera 1 185These photos are a good excuse for a post, but I also wanted to make the point that human urban civilization requires concentrated, abundant, and reliable energy, which I believe can only be fulfilled in the future with nuclear power and the flavor I like is molten salt.



Zirconium is a metallic element that has been used extensively in light water reactors for fuel cladding.  It is the first line of defense against radioactive fission products entering the environment. (BWT the second line of defense is the reactor vessel, usually about 4 inches of steel, and the third is the containment building of thick reinforced concrete and lined with around an inch of steel.)

Zirconium is virtually transparent to neutrons, so it doesn’t absorb them in the fission process and it has good heat conduction properties to allow the fission heat to leave the fuel rods and be transferred to the primary coolant.  The zirconium is made into long tubes that contain the uranium oxide fuel pellets.  The fuel rods are then assembled into groups called bundles, with dozens of bundles forming the core of the reactor.

The zirconium rods and bundles are a work of art, IMO.

Nuclear fuel rods and bundles

I also imagine that all this beautiful, precision metal work costs about the same as Rolex watch parts – a lot!

One of the advantages of molten salt reactor technology it that all this expensive zirconium is not needed.  The molten fuel is not contained in rods or tubes or bundles.  The level of safety will still be defense in depth, but should be considerable cheaper without all the Rolex parts.

My apologies to a local company, Western Zirconium, that is a subsidiary of Westinghouse Electric and produces zirconium from the minerals in the Great Salt Lake.  In the somewhat distant future we will not be needing so much zirconium when molten salt reactors come into their own.  In the meantime, they can make zirconium hydride control rods for WAMSR. (I owe my readers a post about WAMSR in the near future.)

I am not too worried about Western Zirconium in the near future, since Westinghouse sold all the zirconium metallurgical technology to the Chinese along with the AP-1000 reactors being built in China.  Providing fuel assemblies for those reactors should keep Western Zirconium plenty busy.

BTW, here are some cool pictures I took of the evaporation ponds that Western Zirconium uses in their process to extract zirconium from the mineral rich Great Salt Lake.

Western Zirc flying 068 Western Zirc flying 065 Western Zirc flying 061 Western Zirc flying 055Note: The Northern Arm of the Great Salt Lake is red from algae in the very salty water.


New Nuclear Blogger

Atomic Insights reported yesterday that the blogger, Dan Yurman, who ran Idaho Samizdat has returned after two years with a new blog called Neutron Bytes. I read the articles at his site and I recommend them.

Curiously enough, Dan has an article about the total quantity of once through nuclear fuel:

How much spent fuel is out there?

According to the Congressional Research Service (using NEI data), there were 62,683 metric tons of commercial spent fuel accumulated in the United States as of the end of 2009.

Of that total, 48,818 metric tons – or about 78 percent – were in pools.
13,856 metric tons – or about 22 percent – were stored in dry casks.

BTW, I prefer to call it once through nuclear fuel. It hasn’t been spent, since 90% plus is unused and since there is still so much of it that can produce electricity, like I talked about yesterday, why call it waste?

For those of you who think that 63,000 metric tons (2200 pounds per metric ton) is a lot, consider all the coal ash and byproducts generated in the US each year – 125 million tons!

The 63,000 metric tons of once through nuclear fuel was produced over decades while providing a substantial percentage of the electricity used in the US.



Framing the Debate

What do you call 70,000 tons of ceramic oxides and metallic elements that can produce enough primary energy to meet the needs of the US for nearly a century?  That energy happens to be worth trillions and trillions of dollars! (A trillion is 1 followed by 12 zeros)

The NRC, Greenpeace, most environmentalists, most Americans and coal, oil and utility execs call it “nuclear WASTE“.

How interesting!  Stuff that can be converted into energy and profitably sold is called waste.

My fellow Americans, (all you that believe in nuclear WASTE), please send me all of your gold and silver and platinum jewelry and diamonds too.  It is waste and should be strictly regulated, lest it get into dangerous hands and be used for nefarious purposes! Send your waste to me now!  I will store the stuff for you (in my bank vault and charge you exorbitant fees)!


Radiation is Safe Within Limits

Radiation: The Facts

Radiation is safe within limits.

Nuclear power is a green environmental solution. It generates no CO2. The fuel is cheap and inexhaustible. Green nuclear power can solve the global crises of air pollution deaths and climate change. Cheap energy can help developing nations escape poverty and let industrialized nations improve economic growth.

Is it safe? The primary obstacle to nuclear power is misunderstanding of radiation safety

This is the beginning of a wonderful brochure put together by Robert Hargraves to educate the public regarding radiation and safety. Please take a few minutes to read it. Click here.

Triga Reactor

Recently, I had a tour of the only working fission reactor in Utah. I have been to some other commercial power reactors; Palo Verde in Arizona, San Onofre in California, and Browns Ferry in Alabama. Or course, visiting the other reactors was always from the outside. I wanted to see one up close.

I went to the University of Utah (with some family members) and received a tour of their Triga research reactor. I was hoping to see the Cherenkov radiation (the blue glow) seen in working reactors, but I was already pushing my luck. The reactor was not operating the day I went. The thermal output of the reactor is 100 kW, but the real point of the reactor is to produce a neutron flux inside the core that can be used for neutron activation analysis (NAA).

The NAA samples are delivered to the core of the reactor through a pneumatically operated tube called the “rabbit”. It is very similar to the pneumatic tube that is used in drive up banking. I thought it was quite novel.

The nuclear engineering program at the U has been reinvigorated in the last couple of years. They hired a reactor operator with experience from the US Navy nuclear program, who also has commercial nuclear operating experience.

We were able to stand over the reactor and look through the water and see the core at the bottom of the tank.  Ryan (the licensed operator and tour guide) also showed us the control room and explained the controls to us. We were not permitted to take photographs, but this is similar what the reactor looked like.  BTW, there are some 70 Triga reactors worldwide, so there are plenty of photographs of them on the web.  This one is of the Triga at Kansas State University.

Triga reactorAfter the tour, we were chatting with Ryan and he explained that an Ohio class submarine has a reactor about the size of a refrigerator that is able to push the submarine around the world (submerged) for 20 years without refueling. That is a great testament to the power contained in uranium and the characteristic of nuclear power that I keep harping about.

If you live in Utah, you might want to schedule your own tour.  You can contact Ryan here.


Eight Dunces

I saw this clip and simply must share it with you.  It is a clip of Jon Stewart making fun of 8 US presidents. (Warning: Jon Stewart is irreverent and some words have to be bleeped.)

Here is the video clip

Eight DuncesCount them, 8 presidents, going back more than 40 years and all of them saying the exact same thing! And it was all rubbish.  I assume they simply read the speeches prepared for them and did not understand what they were saying. That’s why I called them dunces.  (My other choice was liars, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.)

Also, as I recently wrote in the previous post, energy independence is a dangerous distraction, What we need is innovation in energy production, particularly nuclear energy production.  And it doesn’t matter where that innovation comes from. I will embrace it, because it will benefit everyone on earth.

BTW, the 8 dunces (and more going back to Eisenhower and beyond) also said similar things about fixing education, the environment, and lots of other things.  Are we starting to see a pattern here?