I’ve been getting reports from members of local chapters of North American Young Generation in Nuclear on the Caldicott book tour events they’ve attended.
I was surprised to learn that at the Vanderbilt University event last night Dr. Caldicott did not take any questions after she spoke. I sincerely hope that Dr. Caldicott is not ill, but if there wasn’t such a reason for omitting a question and answer session, then I’m very disturbed. We trust our universities, especially one as respected as Vanderbilt, to foster critical thinking and the exchange of ideas among students and in society. Were legitimate questions intentionally squelched because they may have cast doubt on the claims of the speaker? I hope not.
I received these words from DeLisa Pournaras that attended:
I have heard that many anti-nuke activists consider lying an acceptable means to an end, but I honestly didn't expect to see it. We were shocked. Example: She called NEI a bunch of liars, and then with a straight face told everyone there that the nuclear industry had not bothered to improve it's security since 9/11. She talked about everything we have to do for TSA at the airports (i.e.. metal detector lines, taking off shoes, etc) and then implied that no such measures are taken at nuclear plants.Zack Rad also had problems with much of what she said last night (Zack was writing quickly because I've been begging for a report--blame me for any typos!):
There was a world of difference in her demeanor for the lecture last night vs. her interview[s] with you and Steve Kerekes...I'd swear it was a different person. Last night she was wild and irrational, doing her best to scare everyone there with skewed facts and half-truths. She's either done NO real research on nuclear power and she's just completely ignorant, or she's made the decision to lie and/or cloud the truth to benefit her cause. I honestly don't think she had much credibility during the meeting. She alluded to witchcraft and/or hell with almost every reference to nuclear power, but never backed up a word of it. How could a university student find that credible? Still, she had a following.
It was a good learning experience for us. It was extremely frustrating, but we were glad we got the chance to witness Dr. Caldicott's talent for story-telling. I don't have much respect for Dr. Caldicott after hearing her message. I expected much more from her, but at least we've got a better idea now for what we're up against.
Except that I've found that most people aren't skeptical and really don't know about the vast differences between weapons and commercial power. It is something that we as an industry really need to address. After a Caldicott lecture last week I spoke to two women from Ohio whose town hosted a nuclear weapons processing facility. Much of the town is now contaminated and uninhabitable and some people became very, very ill. I don't doubt their claims because I know that there are places where, in the past, the government really made a mess while building weapons. I deeply empathize with people that have been affected by such mistakes. But I do try to explain to them that commercial nuclear power is completely different than weapons production. I couldn't convince them to save my life. When I insisted that nuclear power plants are not releasing plutonium to the ground or the air they looked at me like I was crazy. And I could not change their staunch belief that I must have been asked to sign something that requires me to stay silent on "anything bad" that happens at a power plant. And on and on.
Overall, I thought that the lecture was somewhat incoherent and rambling. It was a long string of provocative and frightening words with few salient points made. The lack of delineation between nuclear power and nuclear bombs should make even the least informed onlooker skeptical.
- There was a barrage of shameless attempts to provoke the audience through any means. I was surprised when she opened by saying that nuclear power was sexist (referencing the trinity test: “it’s a boy”). A couple of other statements stood out, like repeatedly describing nuclear power as a threat to the testicles of men and the babies of women. I think she said the word testicles six times and I couldn’t even guess how many times she talked about babies. She’s definitely been trained on key words to get an audience concerned.
- No delineation between nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Describing the effects of radiation from an atomic bomb in the same sentence as radiation released from a commercial plant.
- After explaining that the nuclear reactor was born from the Manhattan project the conclusion was somehow reached that nuclear power leads to the nuclear bomb...never admitting that the production of a nuclear bomb is not in any way dependant on a nuclear reactor.
- An odd commentary on not “blowing her nose on trees” (when offered a tissue). An obvious appeal to the green community from a woman with a mountain of books to sell in the lobby.
To believe her point would also require the belief in a massive conspiracy to cover up these “truths.” It reminds me of when people think they’ve learned a great secret which was revealed to them in an email forward.Yep, as I've mentioned before, it boggles my mind to think of all the organizations (state, national, and international) and experts that must be in cahoots with the nuclear industry for Caldicott to be believed, not to mention the tens of thousands of workers.
In addition to the event at Vanderbilt, Sophie Gutner, Michael Stuart, and Charlene Cholatal of the Virginia chapter of NA-YGN went to Caldicott’s event at the University of Virginia last Saturday. They tell me that at this event Caldicott used a white board. Charlene sent me some notes:
She referred to uranium as "Un". This shows me how unfamiliar she is with nuclear terms.....I mean, who gets the symbol for uranium wrong?...[Later,] Caldicott said that the chemical reaction to create concrete releases more carbon dioxide into the environment, which leads to more global warming.Holy smokes, in addition to advising people not to eat food from Europe or from the Hershey company, now she’s against concrete?
[She said] 'the role of a power plant is to boil water. Its like cutting cheese with a chainsaw.'I’ve heard this from Caldicott so many times I have to assume it is one of her favorite phrases. Yes, nuclear is a fancy way to make steam to turn a turbine and generate electricity. So what? Over 90% of our electricity is generated using the steam cycle. And because it is a stable, reliable process it generates all of our baseload power.
This one is good:
[Caldicott said] ‘many [spent fuel] pools are on the roof of a reactor. All you need to do is take a missile to it to meltdown the plant.’ She then drew a containment dome with a little rectangle at the top - I was about to crack up laughing when I saw that one.Raise your hand if you store your used fuel on top of your containment dome! No one? Ok…anyone willing to arrange a tour of a nuclear power plant for Dr. Caldicott?
[Caldicott said] ‘Since 9/11, the government has not increased security at the nuclear power plants.’ She discussed the force on force drills that some plants went through: 'In these so called mock terrorist attacks, almost 50% of the time, these terrorists got into the control room.' Where was she getting this information from?I won’t speculate on her sources but I’m surprised she is still saying this since I gave her references on our radio interview on Monday and in a post below.
Charlene goes on:
One thing that struck a cord with me was the fact that she brought up an incident at a Sweden power plant where 2 out of the 4 diesels that were supposed to start after lightning struck "the tower". She said that two failed to fire, and minutes from disaster, they got the other two running…She also mentioned that "all power plants are the same." For the record, Forsmark (where this incident occurred) is a BWR, which is different from a PWR. We all know that. Apparently she does not. That instantly told me that she did not know her information at all.Yep, she mentioned the same thing at a lecture I attended and I wrote about it. I didn’t previously catch her saying that all power plants are the same, but it doesn’t surprise me.
And some more tidbits:
[Caldicott says] it's very easy to melt a reactor…[and] she often referred to the fuel as 'radioactive hot waste bubbling.'<For pete’s sake. The “melt a reactor” statement is preposterous enough given the security, natural and engineered barriers and the historical evidence. But the fuel statement…where to begin? Caldicott has spent 30 years speaking, writing and demonstrating against the nuclear industry, and she doesn’t know that a fuel assembly is solid metal and ceramic? Because if she does know that nuclear fuel is not hot and bubbly (or that security has increased since 9/11, or that fuel is not stored in the roof of containment, etc., etc.), then the only conclusion one could draw is…well, I’ll let you draw your own because I’m not supposed to get into character issues in a post.
I’ll just say that after being immersed in Caldicott’s books and lectures for the past week or so, I remembered an apropos phrase I read recently in someone’s tag line. It was “You cannot reason a [person] out of a position he [or she] did not reach through reason.” (The additions are mine to make it non-gender specific!)
I think Charlene has reached her own conclusion:
Now for some of my thoughts…Just because someone has an honorary degree in something , it does not mean that they know anything about it…To me, it seemed like her intentions were to sell her book, especially since that was one of the last things she said in her speech. It really disturbs me to know that there are people that spread this kind of misinformation, or more importantly, a one sided argument. With all of her scientific explanations that she gave at this speech, if someone did not have a working knowledge of nuclear theory, it would have seemed like the world was coming to an end. Combining the words "nuclear" , "cancer" , "global warming" and other nuclear-speak just proves to me that this woman just wants people to be swayed by what she has to say, as well as make them want to buy her book.