Skip to main content

Obituary: Herbert J.C. Kouts, Nuclear Power Safety Expert

Herbert J.C. Kouts, an important figure in the early years of the development of the American nuclear energy industry, has died at the age of 88 at his home on Long Island. In an obituary in today's edition of the New York Times, Matthew Wald quotes a passage from Kouts that was included in an appendix to a New York State-sponsored report issued in 1983 about the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant on Long Island. As many of you might recall, the plant was shut down by local opposition even as it was just about to being commercial operation:
In an appendix to the commission’s report, Dr. Kouts said: “All careful analysis confirms that the risk of nuclear power is small. The chance of a large accident is very low, and consequences of such an accident would be substantially less than most people think.”

“In the United States, the near-term risk of doing without nuclear power is the risk attached to using oil or coal instead,” he wrote. “The problems that these cause include acid rain; enormous balance-of-payment problems in the case of oil; the risk of war to ensure oil supplies; carcinogens in the air as oil and coal are burned; heavy metals such as mercury, lead and uranium emitted to the atmosphere as coal burns; black lung disease as coal is mined; vast areas of the country ruined as coal is strip-mined, etc.”
Wise words, indeed. Here's hoping that New Yorkers considering the fate of Indian Point take heed of them.

UPDATE: More from Steven J. Dubner of Freakonomics fame and Nick Loris of the Heritage Foundation.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…