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Groundwater Study Co-Authors Lack Scientific Credentials

Here at NEI, my colleagues and I have been batting around a press release from Environment America and U.S. PIRG claiming that nuclear power plants represent a threat ground water from leaks of tritium. The report is titled, “Too Close to Home: Nuclear Power and the Threat to Drinking Water.”

From where we sit, the story seems a lot like one that the AP pushed out in June 2011 about the subject. The public needs to know that there has been no known adverse impact on public health or safety from a tritium release at commercial nuclear power plants.

While we'll have more on that later, it's also important to point out that the four co-authors of this study lack any scientific credentials.
  • Jennifer Kim of U.S. PIRG has a degree in history from the University of Michigan;
  • Sean Garren has a degree in Government from Dartmouth.
How this qualifies any of them to publish a study on groundwater is a puzzle to us. In any case, we'll keep an eye on reporting concerning the study, and provide updates if and when they're warranted.


gmax137 said…
While the academic degrees are interesting, I think your criticism of their report should be based on the report itself. Simply saying the authors are unqualified based on their college majors only weakens your argument, and makes you look desperate. I too, believe the report to be hokum, but that's not based upon the Latin on their sheepskins.
Anonymous said…
Please explain how you figure their work qualifies as a "study".
Bob Applebaum said…
I agree with gmax137. To craft your argument around their degrees is a form of logical fallacy called "appeal to authority". What matters are the facts. In this study the only real methodology was collecting historical and population data. The authors then conclude that nuke plants are too dangerous, which is probably what they had concluded prior to undertaking the "study".
Rick A.M. said…
I will respond to gmax137's comments by saying that this is likely to be only the first of NEI's responses to the PIRG report. Let us not forget that the report is being issued today, and that it will take NEI time to review it and to make valid comments. The NEI post today about the authors' credentials serves as a prologue, I think, about the quality that we can expect from the report.
DW said…
Rick, I'm sure we look forward to the NEI's full response. It's very important that this go out beyond the failure of credentials.

This happened with Marc Cooper(sp?) report on Vermont Yankee. He is a lawyer with no expertise in nuclear but his report, rather important parts of that report, were not always commented on by pronuclear advocates because they dismissed it because they dismissed Cooper. A big mistake, IMO.

David Walters
Brian Mays said…
PIRG is such an easy target (example), it's difficult not to make fun of them.

In any case, this is not a scientific report. Almost all of the references given are to either popular news articles, Op-Ed's, or web pages. A mediocre high-school senior could have written this junk; an above-average high-school senior would have done a better job.
Anonymous said…
You are all missing the point. The authors aren't writing to a scientific audience. It isn't meant to be a peer-reviewed scholarly article. It is written for the media and a layman audience. They would not mind if people mistook it for a scientific study, but as the previous posters have pointed out, it lacks those merits, and the authors lack scientific credentials. Taken together, it is easy to reach the conclusions noted above.
Brian Mays said…

I don't think that anyone is missing the point. This "report" is just more of the usual nonsense published by the various PIRG's.

Let's face it, PIRG really stands for Propaganda, Ignorance, and Recycled Garbage. Or at least, that accurately describes what they advocate.
Anonymous said…
"PIRG is such an easy target (example), it's difficult not to make fun of them."

Of course, nothing the NEI has ever put out has ever had a single typo, right?

But if NEI had ever issued a PowerPoint slide with a typo, would that prove they, too, are ignorant and recycling garbage?

Your standards for challengning your opponents have really gone downhill. Gonna make fun of their haircuts next?
Rick A.M. said…
Regarding the Jan 25 comment from Anonymous, that is one of the weakest retorts that I've ever read. I think that NEI's point is about junk science, not perfect editing.
The Realist said…
This report needs a thorough debunking. This kind of pseudo-science gives environmentalists a bad name. The jump from risk probability to policy prescription is so random as to defy analysis. This is a fundraising piece, pure and simple, feeding into the biases of an existing anti-nuclear public. We in the environmental movement owe it to the broader public to step up when this shoddy crap is published.
Anonymous said…
It doesn't take a scientist (I'm a senior in chemistry) to see that Fukushima is being covered up, to understand that the NRC has NEVER refused a license for a nuclear facility, and that a large amount of sickness and death has been caused by misinformation from nuclear commercial interests, and cost-cutting measures taken in the manufacture of plants. Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates ( IS a true professional: A Nuclear Engineer who served as an expert witness for the 3-mile island incident. Moreoever, with the introduction of detection devices that can interface with personal computers, independent radiation monitoring is growing each day, and providing objective data on the plumes over EVERY reactor of released radioactive gasses, as an escape vent was integrated as a "safety device" into all reactors, at least of the boiling water type, after 3-mile island. Visit fairewinds, find the independent monitoring sites (there are a few different ones via google), and use this to decide for yourself if the burden of proof should lie with the nuclear industry and it's proponents, or with citizens once they get cancers. "Atomic States of America" is a documentary premeired at sundance, to be released in 2012, and it should be watched by all. Research PWR and BWR, so you can reports on your own. In the meantime, ad-hominem circumstantial discrediting of studies is just that: they don't want you to read the studies. Get the study and send it to a university professor via the internet, ask them for their opinion.
Anonymous said…
Why must comments be approved? This blog is not open, and therefore pointless. One of the central tenets of the scientific theory is openness, how many interesting and poignant comments didn't make it on here?
Rick A.M. said…
Anonymous, with all due respect, you should base your beliefs on other things than junk science. I'm not trying to bully you. Go back and find a book by Dixie Lee Ray called "Trashing the Planet." (Read the "Issues Nuclear" section.) Then move on to Gwyneth Cravens' "Power to Save the World." Like you, I am not a scientist, and I was skeptical of nuclear initially. But I took time to learn about it. The world needs nuclear power. It's dangerous, but then nothing in life has zero risk. Nuclear is a very safe and controlled technology. Please open your mind to look past the snake oil salesmen out there. If you base your conclusions on science, then you will agree that anti-nuclear arguments are flimsy.
Anonymous said…
"I think that NEI's point is about junk science, not perfect editing."

I didn't choose the example of why one can "make fun" of PIRG; Brian Mays did. and the example he chose to prove his point was PIRG's release of a PowerPoint slide that contained a typo.
Brian Mays said…
They weren't part of a "Powerpoint slide." Those are real buttons that are available for sale on the Internet.

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