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Sat Feb 20, 2021, 08:28 AM

I'm less and less alone, an article in the popular press on nuclear power.

The popular press is notorious for selective attention. On this website, we are aware of the attention paid to the racist views of Donald Trump and his racist MAGAT supporters, for example.

Another example is there willingness to carry on year after year about Fukushima and decade after decade about Chernobyl while exhibiting a spectacular disinterest in the 18,000 to 19,000 people who will die today - more than will die from Covid - from air pollution.

I bought my wife a subscription to the New Yorker for her birthday when she expressed interest in it; when I was a young man it was my favorite magazine. I don't find much time to read it now, but things pop up in my email about it, including this article, about activist women trying to save nuclear plants, the closure of which, before their time is up, is a crime against humanity.

The article comes with a beautiful painting of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant, which is set to close because of a paroxysm of stupidity and ignorance.

It is here: The Activists Who Embrace Nuclear Power

Some excerpts:


In 2004, Heather Hoff was working at a clothing store and living with her husband in San Luis Obispo, a small, laid-back city in the Central Coast region of California. A few years earlier, she had earned a B.S. in materials engineering from the nearby California Polytechnic State University. But she’d so far found work only in a series of eclectic entry-level positions—shovelling grapes at a winery, assembling rectal thermometers for cows. She was twenty-four years old and eager to start a career.

One of the county’s major employers was the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, situated on the coastline outside the city. Jobs there were stable and well-paying. But Diablo Canyon is a nuclear facility—it consists of two reactors, each contained inside a giant concrete dome—and Hoff, like many people, was suspicious of nuclear power. Her mother had been pregnant with her in March, 1979, when the meltdown at a nuclear plant on Three Mile Island, in Pennsylvania, transfixed the nation. Hoff grew up in Arizona, in an unconventional family that lived in a trailer with a composting toilet. She considered herself an environmentalist, and took it for granted that environmentalism and nuclear power were at odds.

Nonetheless, Hoff decided to give Diablo Canyon a try. She was hired as a plant operator. The work took her on daily rounds of the facility, checking equipment performance—oil flows, temperatures, vibrations—and hunting for signs of malfunction. Still skeptical, she asked constant questions about the safety of the technology. “When four-thirty on Friday came, my co-workers were, like, ‘Shut up, Heather, we want to go home,’ ” she recalled. “When I finally asked enough questions to understand the details, it wasn’t that scary.”

In the course of years, Hoff grew increasingly comfortable at the plant. She switched roles, working in the control room and then as a procedure writer, and got to know the workforce—mostly older, avuncular men. She began to believe that nuclear power was a safe, potent source of clean energy with numerous advantages over other sources. For instance, nuclear reactors generate huge amounts of energy on a small footprint: Diablo Canyon, which accounts for roughly nine per cent of the electricity produced in California, occupies fewer than six hundred acres. It can generate energy at all hours and, unlike solar and wind power, does not depend on particular weather conditions to operate. Hoff was especially struck by the fact that nuclear-power generation does not emit carbon dioxide or the other air pollutants associated with fossil fuels. Eventually, she began to think that fears of nuclear energy were not just misguided but dangerous. Her job no longer seemed to be in tension with her environmentalist views. Instead, it felt like an expression of her deepest values...

...By 1979, the U.S. had seventy-two commercial reactors. That year proved pivotal in the shaping of public opinion toward nuclear power in America. On March 16th, “The China Syndrome,” starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, and Michael Douglas, was released; the film portrayed corruption and a meltdown at a fictional nuclear plant. Twelve days later, one of the two reactors at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in southeastern Pennsylvania partially melted down. Most epidemiological studies would eventually determine that the accident had no detectable health consequences. But at the time there was no way the public could know this, and the incident added momentum to the anti-nuclear movement. By the time of the Chernobyl catastrophe, in Soviet Ukraine, in 1986—widely considered to be the worst nuclear disaster in history—opposition to nuclear power was widespread...

...Pro-nuclear environmentalists often tell a conversion story, describing the moment when they began to see nuclear power not as something that could destroy the world but as something that could save it. They argue that much of what we think we know about nuclear energy is wrong. Instead of being the most dangerous energy source, it is one of the safest, linked with far fewer deaths per terawatt-hour than all fossil fuels. We perceive nuclear waste as uniquely hazardous, but, while waste from oil, natural gas, and coal is spewed into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases and as other forms of pollution, spent nuclear-fuel rods, which are solid, are contained in concrete casks or cooling pools, where they are monitored and prevented from causing harm...


I certainly have a conversion story, although mine was a long time ago, interestingly when I began to study the Chernobyl accident in the year following the event in 1986.

12 replies, 1230 views

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 08:40 AM

1. The closer we come to the crisis point, the more it seems we'll have no choice but

to include nuclear as one of our solutions.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 08:43 AM

2. It is a mammoth challenge, after so much misinformation and...

outright lying and greed driven corruption to know who or what to trust anymore.

Thanks for posting this.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 08:56 AM

3. I would never live down wind from a nuclear plant.

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Response to gab13by13 (Reply #3)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:36 AM

5. Everywhere on this planet, if you breathe ,you breathe dangerous fossil fuel waste; it may kill you.

A recent scientific publication, not that people who hate nuclear power ever read scientific publications - it's clear they don't - indicates that 1 in 5 deaths on this planet are from air pollution and that's not counting climate change.

I resent, much as I resent anti-vaxxers, anti-nukes threatening my life by application of their ignorance.

I would welcome a nuclear power plant in my neighborhood, because it would mean that my neighborhood was engaged in saving human lives, and in fact, the lives and habitats of many other species.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #5)


Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:14 AM

4. When I started at Purdue in 1981 I was a Nuclear Engineering student

I switched during my Freshman year to Mechanical. I agree with you that fission power has to be in the mix for a solution.

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Response to exboyfil (Reply #4)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 10:30 AM

6. My son just finished his degree in Materials Science Engineering, and is asking lots of nuclear...

...related questions for his graduate program.

He got a free year of graduate school at his undergraduate school - plus a stipend - for his excellent undergraduate grades, but I'm hoping he'll consider MIT, where nuclear engineering and materials science engineering teams work closely, for his Ph.D.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #6)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 11:02 AM

7. Wish him the best

That is impressive. He could probably finish his MS before going to MIT. I would assume it might trim a year off at MIT. I hope he is a part of the energy solution. We definitely need it. Definitely fission is bleeding edge for material science. Temperatures, neutron embrittlement, and radiation containment. I had a fellow doctoral student who had left the nuclear industry in his early 40s.

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Response to exboyfil (Reply #7)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 11:13 AM

8. Yeah, that's the plan, an MS before the Ph.D.

He certainly knows all about neutrons. He interned at Oak Ridge after his sophomore year, and his research there involved neutrons. They let him work fairly independently.

I was definitely one proud Papa when he got that.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 01:05 PM

9. Kicked and recommended

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 03:51 PM

10. Ironically much of the town of Avila Beach, nearby the nuclear plant...

... had to be torn down and rebuilt to remove 6,750 truckloads of soil contaminated by toxic fossil fuel waste.

This toxic soil was dumped in a landfill near Bakersfield.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avila_Beach%2C_California

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

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