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Sunday, February 24, 2013

The human side of Nuclear Power Plants.

When people hear the words NUCLEAR ENERGY the first thing that jumps into most of their minds is RADIATION...CHERNOBYL...FUKUSHIMA...RUN... While this is understandable given the gigantic, never ending influx of media attention and the  "we almost lost ________(fill in the blanks)" horror stories that are everywhere now a days, I have seen another side. The human side.
Too often nuclear energy is viewed as some humongous, gigantor soul less conglomerate run by a collection of company drones that blindly march to the dark lords (I've actually been told this) money centric beating of drums. As I said ,I've seen another side.

I have asked other nuclear energy workers to give me some stories that hopefully will illustrate the HUMAN side of electricity generation. Every plant I have visited has its own unique "feel" or attraction that the workers there are proud of. These people are not the CORPORATE NUCLEAR ZOMBIES as they are way too often portrayed. They are a proud ,diverse cross section of your neighbors and friends. Here is a sampling of how they make a huge ,almost faceless nuclear site their home.

During my time at Grand Gulf NPP in Mississippi I was shown the unit 2 spent fuel pool. This is in the unfinished unit and is open to the elements. On my way up the stairs I asked why is this something they were excited to show me. A pool of water? They told me to just wait and see, almost giddy with pride. that this was their claim to fame,so to speak. We come to the giant  concrete pool and one guy tosses a hand full of bread pieces in. I stand there in wonderment as this HUGE fish gobbles them up. NEVER have I seen an entire eco system in a S.F. pool. The next day a family of skunks , yes,skunks is waiting for us at the back of the warehouse. Its feeding time. These people were the most polite,welcoming group I have ever had the pleasure to meet. This is what I see at nuclear plants.
Ginna nuclear in New York is unique. Story has it that the original property owner gave the land to the utility of the time with one stipulation. The plant can't look like the typical nuclear plant. No cooling tower and the reactor biodome is surrounded by a facade that makes the site look like a factory and not a nuclear plant. This is my hometown's reactor and my first time there the employees were dying to show me PIGEON ALLEY. We don protective clothing (I'm thinking reactor entry ) and start up the stairs to the top. The door opens and they usher me through it , I stand there staring in disbelief. We are inside the facade , its a giant maze of stairs and landings but that isn't what I see. There are literally thousands of pigeons everywhere. That's the reason for the protective gear. Pigeon poo.  My reaction obviously pleases my tour guides. They are grinning from ear to ear. There's more they tell me. We work our way down to the screen house where there is an entire wall full of black spiders with signs saying "Protected species DO NOT DISTURB ". I hate spiders so that's no problem, I give them a wide berth. This is what I see at nuclear plants.

Saint lucie nuclear was amazing. The manatees love the warm water outlet and flock there posing for pictures.  The people there couldn't wait to tell me about the loggerhead turtles. The plant sponsors twilight turtle walks during the mating season.  This is what I see.

This is what others see.

Justin Teal says there are fox at browns ferry.

Matt Petersen has seen stray cats and minks,deer,falcons,cranes and huge freaking catfish at peach bottom.

Jeremy Gordon and the vineyards of  Olkilouto.

Gabriel Esteva enjoys the sunsets over lake Michigan at DC Cook.

Joel Riddle says tons of deer at watts bar and croc's at turkey point.

What these people and many others including myself see IS the human side of nuclear energy. So do the approximately 800,000 nuclear workers world wide. All colors, religions, sexual preferences ,political leanings, married, single, short, tall, fat, skinny, beautiful and pug ugly make this industry what it is . All humans doing their best to safely supply the world with electricity while minimizing the impact on their slice of the environment.

Remember this the next time you are told about the evils of nuclear energy. The people who make sure your lights come on when you hit that switch are just people.

Not DRONES or PSYCHOPATHS or ZOMBIES.  Human beings.

Same as you and I .

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Damned if you do. Damned if you dont

For the last few years I have debated nuclear energy in person,on line through Facebook and Twitter and here on this Blog and what I have noticed has me scratching my head in wonderment. Everyday I interact with someone that has questions or concerns regarding nuclear energy and I spend a lot of time (too much according to my wife) researching their claims and supply them with the best answers I know or can find but here is where the head scratching comes into play.

I will cite a recent conversation on some of the cause of the fukushima "accident". The person said that having the diesel generator fuel tanks above ground was a failing of TEPCO and they should have known there was a risk of them being washed away. My reply doesn't matter (the point is coming) because in the strange way that conversations bounce around the next topic turned to Pilgrim NPP and the fact that they are running on backup diesel generators due to in house ?? and off site power being lost. I attempted to alleviate their concerns until this sentence was uttered. " Pilgrim has their fuel tanks buried and they are at risk of corrosion and sea water surge mixing with the fuel because of where they are located,underground." HEAD SCRATCH.

That is the moment I honestly realized the futility of debating something with people that are fully entrenched with their preconceived notions and beliefs. Looking back I am amazed at the amount of arguments I have entered into willingly with no chance of success,here is a smattering of examples.

Them, "Old nuclear plants are dinosaurs and should be shutdown."
Me, "I agree we should build new ones with the latest safety enhancements"
Them, "New plants are untested so they shouldn't be built"

Them, "Nuclear waste is sitting all over the place"
Me, "We should bury it or recycle it"
Them, "We cant bury it because it might leak and recycling is dangerous"
Me, "Then what is your solution?"
Them, "There is no solution.Nuclear should be banned."
Me, "???."

Them," Nuclear is evil because it's run for profit by faceless corporations."
Me, "So is solar, hydro and wind."
Them, That's not true."
Me, "???  Head scratch"


This contrarian  ( credit Rod Adams) form of debate is useless and I have decided that when I am faced with this tactic I will take a deep breath , count to ten , then state my opinion and move on. To continue with someone that stubborn is tantamount to two school kids yelling I'M RUBBER YOU'RE GLUE.


With the near relentless anti nuclear media attention and every armchair nuclear expert spouting their media based views as fact it's a huge miracle that the nuclear industry has survived this long. Especially with their lack of public affairs input. It is time for this amazing energy source to stand up to the contrarians , the doubters, the libelous news reports, the fanatical, the sea of  environmentalists and their followers. etc. Damned if you do or Damned if you don't . Futility aside I will always choose "DO".

Will you ?