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Continuing to Counter Caldicott

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.

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.
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 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.
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.
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.

Zack continues:
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.


Josh said…
Unbelievable! Can't someone sue her? Come on Duke, Dominion, Constellation? She is impuning your integrity by telling things are clearly false. That's slander!
Anonymous said…
Maybe these companies support the 1st amendment more than the previous poster, and don't fear a little controversy?
Anonymous said…
The appropriate response to someone you disagree with is not litigation, but counter-speech, as NEI and other posters are doing on this blog.
robert merkel said…
Just as importantly, large public corporations spending millions on high-paid legal teams for SLAPP lawsuits against individual opponents and not-for-profit community groups has not been shown to a very productive tactic. The spectacle of putting such groups through trials almost invariably gains the corporation concerned more bad press, and the individual or group far more attention, than they ever would have if the company had not resorted to the legal system to pursue their grievances.

So not is it morally objectionable, it doesn't work either.
Joffan said…
It seems that Caldicott feels she can say anything she wants, however outrageously false, because she knows that "nuclear=evil" so any way of turning people against "nuclear" is justified.

Short of shouting out "that's false!", I struggle to see how she can be countered under these speaker-only circumstances. Prepared counter-notes handed out in advance at the door (worked up from this blog)? How much longer is she touring?
Ruth Sponsler said…
This is an excellent post that gives a good picture of the anti-nuclear movement's "Wanna-buy-a-used-car?!" techniques (to put it nicely).

I saw these techniques on display last week, where the "salesmen" were aggressively selling fear to a local government. There was some deception involved about scheduling of a vote. It wasn't a pleasant experience to watch.

They are selling fear. They are aggressive and they make the "hard sell" because if they were straightforward, knowledgeable, and honest, and allowed time for a reply, the truth would come out.
Sinus said…
I could try to explain the futility of counter-speech against complete liars, but Peter Bowditch does it so much better:

"It is virtually impossible to have a debate of any kind when one side does not feel constrained to tell the truth and is prepared to lie at any time and change the rules whenever they feel like it."

When it comes to lawsuits, there is no reason the nuclear industry or the involved individuals should abdicate their legal rights. If someone calls you a liar, she better be prepared to prove it true if taken to court. If a group or individual runs a lie contest to hurt someones business, he/she/it can be sued.

IMO, Caldicott (Liar extraordinaire) should be sued by the corporations targeted and by all offended individuals. In a court of law it is much harder to get away with this kind of lying.

The motto of the nuclear industry (and everyone else for that matter) should be:

"Misconceptions with patience. Lies to court."
Brian Mays said…
Why argue over suing her? Didn't you read the post?

DeLisa Pournaras wrote:

"She alluded to witchcraft and/or hell with almost every reference to nuclear power, but never backed up a word of it."

Apparently, those in the nuclear industry can simply curse her or send demons after her. Think about it. Demons are not too bad, they're almost as scary as lawyers.
Josh said…
SLAPP is a straw man. I'm simply talking about holding her to account for her deception.

And anonymous, whoever you may be, the first amendment entitles her to say what she wants but guarantees her nothing in terms of immunity from accountability.

Caldicott is a liar and she is making loads of bunce of it. She should be held accountable for this.
GingerMary said…
Mostly people become victioms of their own personalities in the end. I am sure Dr Calicott will trip over her own traps some time.
Perhaps you guys from the nuclear industry should do what she deserves -ignore her? Go on and spread the positive things you can tell the world about nuclear and how it benefits the world. By replying to her negatives you are only giving it a voice. Why not write a lovely book with a cover picture of a perky little daisy in the foreground and a nuclear reactor in the background. Oh sorry it has to be a sunflower - being the flower of the peacelovers and all:-)

Unfortunately fear does sell. I have seen that many times in many industries. Sometimes you have to take a stand for what you believe in, no matter what the consequences. Litigation is perhaps an option - look at Oprah and her beefburger litigation. Or rather turn the consumers on her. Get them to realise she is taking away the electricity that heats the milk for their babies. As for answer there.
Perhaps nuclear is the answer to overpopulation after all...
Stephen said…
Vanderbelt, eh? Wait a second. Didn't they used to run the RADSAFE information site?

If I remember correctly, don't they have a Health Physics program?

UH OH! Mixing Caldicott with people who are knowledgeable about the subject and can see through what she says: That sounds like a formula for some major trouble. :-D
Stephen said…
Caldicott would love nothing more than a big mean corporation to come and sue her.

She fancies herself a defiant crusader and a victim of the rich white guys and George W Bush and all the other evil in the world.

Believe me, she would LOVE it. Even if she lost, that would just be her excuse to prove they bought off the justice system.

She promotes herself as some sort of bizzare combination of Gandhi, Erin Brokavich, Susan B Anthony and that dude who stood infront of the tank in Tienemen Square.

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