done deals & public relations nightmares

arroyo pebble house

I am proud to announce that harman on earth has become a certified public relations nightmare.

No. That’s too grand.

Rephrase: I am pleased to announce that Uranium Enrichment Corpse is in a public relations clusterfuck, a fact reinforced by the inclusion of our post on the company (NRC, UEC: ICUP) being listed at Canadian Bob Rempel’s Public Relations Nightmares blogspot.

A far less glamorous event, but of inestimable pleasure, nonetheless.

In the last ten years or so, I’ve had some amazing interactions with the public relations community, both the homegrown, self-taught gossipy spinners as well as the hypergroomed, overpaid attack flacks. Without doubt, the very best of the lot work for the military and the petrochemical goliaths. I’ll let you work out the rationale behind that.

squid eggsThere are always those in less-than-desirable industries, such as uranium mining (or unusual custom animal parts), let’s say, that choose to go it alone and handle their own PR. Rural and low-income communities typically get short-shrift from ventures hoping to save a few coins from hiring a Smiling Bob, the assumption being that such locales are also populated by absolute morons. Such assumptions rarely prove to be the case. Gaining the attention of an interventionist media, however, tends to be the highest hurdle out-of-sight communities are faced with.

By this measure, Goliad residents opposing uranium mining in their drinking water aquifer have done so many things right (organizing quickly, collecting baseline water samples, hiring a competent attorney, networking with regional environmental groups) that the fight there will likely be significant.

I’m starting to think the same of that potential powder brewing between the San Antonio City Council and city-owned utility CPS over nuke plans. Shaky economics and lack of transparency on CPS’s part will play a large part in that confrontation.

However, it doesn’t help matters when reports come out suggesting that U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval of the South Texas Nuclear Project is already a done deal.

Posted at Scientific American yesterday:

One of the U.K.’s top nuclear officials said today that she was told the U.S. will okay plans to build the first nuclear power plants since the accident at Three Mile Island nearly three decades ago. Lady Barbara Thomas Judge, chair of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, said that the chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission informed her that the NRC will approve three applications for new nuclear reactors that it’s currently considering.

“Dale Klein told me that those three nuclear applications will be approved,” she told the State of the Planet conference at Columbia University today, the 29th anniversary of the accident at Three Mile Island in Middletown, Pa. (Subsequently, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the then Ukrainian Soviet Republic melted down in April 1986 in what would become the worst nuclear power accident in history, spreading radiation as far away as North America and leading to the evacuation and resettlement of more than 336,000 people).

What is one to think about such statements? That we’ve been sold out already?

Done deal or no, the looming question facing San Antonio’s finest is a financial one. I suspect if they take the advice of many in attendance at the recent public forum on a pending rate hike, and commission their own study by a qualified consultant, they will see the that now is no time to gamble on reinvesting in nuclear power.

Now is the time to kick-start a new green economy and push Texas to the front of the pack when it comes to solar and efficiency innovation and production. Quick, someone tell the PUC. Wait, thousands of you just did. Word is, you crashed their server too! Attaway.

Now if we just had a cadre of visionaries to to fill in soon-to-be-vacated top tiers within CPS itself… Ah, daydreams do wander.

hotter west

Nukes are promoted for their supposed environmental merit: chiefly, that they are a low emitter of global warming culprit CO2.

But they have a variety of disadvantages, including the fact that their power source and waste products include the deadliest and longest-lived substances, some naturally occurring, most engineered.

Also, they are heavily reliant on fresh water for cooling the reactors. With ongoing climactic warming, it is expected that almost a quarter of the United State’s current 104 nuclear reactors may have to shut down because of drought in the near future.

“Water is the nuclear industry’s Achilles’ heel,” said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. “You need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants.” He added: “This is becoming a crisis.”

An Associated Press analysis of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors found that 24 are in areas experiencing the most severe levels of drought. All but two are built on the shores of lakes and rivers and rely on submerged intake pipes to draw billions of gallons of water for use in cooling and condensing steam after it has turned the plants’ turbines.

While I still recommend all concerned about the future order and read The Changing Climate of South Texas, there is a new report out this week that shows global warming has been particularly unkind to the U.S. West. A project of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the group concluded that:

The American West has heated up even more than the world as a whole. For the last five years (2003 through 2007), the global climate has averaged 1.0 degree Fahrenheit warmer than its 20th century average. For this report, RMCO found that during the 2003 through 2007 period, the 11 western states averaged 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the region’s 20th century average.

That is 0.7 degrees, or 70 percent, more warming than for the world as a whole. And scientists have confirmed that most of the recent warming in the West has been caused by human emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Results of this warming also include:

warming west

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9 responses to “done deals & public relations nightmares

  1. I think nuclear energy is an essential part of the solution to global warming so I’d like to add a few comments to yours.

    The main point to be made is that renewable energy sources only work if they have backup, and the only backups available are fossil and nuclear. So whatever solution we finally settle on will have to include nuclear energy as a major component.

    Second, there are workarounds for the cooling issue. Plants can run on dry cooling towers and, if the plants are designed for it, the penalty for doing so is minimal.

    Third, I think the comment about deadly waste is off the mark. Nuclear energy wastes are produced in quantities small enough that they can be securely isolated from the environment. Coal wastes can’t be because of their much greater volume, so the heavy metals and toxic chemicals can and do leak into the environment. Consider that a typical 1000-MW coal plant generates 300,000 metric tons of solid waste per year, not counting what escapes into the atmosphere. A nuclear plant producing the same amount of energy generates only 23 metric tons. Can you see there’s a difference between 300,000 tons and 23 tons? That explains why nuclear energy wastes have never harmed any person or any thing. But it gets better. With recycling, the nuclear plant only generated 0.7 tons.

    Consider what nuclear gets us:

    (1) An electricity source that doesn’t depend on wind or sunlight or the limited amount of energy storage available, and emits virtually no greenhouse gases. It could reduce CO2 emissions by 40%.

    (2) An energy-efficient way to produce hydrogen, which could be used directly in automobiles and trucks or added to biofuels to make their production higher by a factor of three. Presently, transportation accounts for about 33% of CO2 emissions; all of that could be eliminated through conservation, electrification, and alternate fuels.

    (3) A huge reduction in air pollution, lowered trade deficits, and freedom from Middle-East involvements.

    The simple truth is that we won’t shut down all the homes and businesses when there isn’t enough wind and sunlight to power them. We won’t make people stay in their cold, dark houses. If nuclear energy isn’t developed in a major way, the world will keep burning fossil fuels. Within fifty years nearly all the world’s people will live in severe hardship and the natural environment will have been irreversibly altered.

  2. first of all, thanks for writing.

    if you think i have overstated dangers of nuke waste by calling it “deadly,” then we definitely have a problem. you dwell a lot on the amount of wastes, but we know already that a single stray radionuclide is enough to cause cancer (ie. there is no threshhold limit of exposure), unlike the carbon soot you compare nuke wastes with.

    from mining the highly toxic ore, to after the fuel rods are defunct, this stuff IS deadly. and remains so during the process of decay for hundreds of thousands of years. humanity has not even existed in an identifiable way for the amount of time we would be committing ourselves to for the stewardship of this waste.

    to date, virtually every waste site in the u.s. where nuclear waste has been stored has leaked. unlike coal soot, this stuff sticks around, as i’ve said. yucca mountains has a little problem with magma plumes.

    just what sort of signs do we make to warn away future societies? what language is it written in? i’ve seen some DOE proposals for the WIPP site in New Mexico, bones are popular illustrations. i wonder why?

    where are we “securely storing” this waste today? at plant sites all over the country – each one a potential target – for the very reason that disposal of such deadly and long-lived byproduct is an extremely difficult undertaking.

    and if you think dealing with iran and north korea is rough now, and we are to commit as a global community to nuclear, then just hold on to your seat: nuclear weapon and dirty bomb material will become as prolific as secondhand jeans

    i went to your website. by your limited comments there and those above, I think you grossly understate the potential of solar.

    i would suggest you check out the most recent research on solar:

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan

    read dr. makhijani’s book on a carbon-free/nuclear-free:
    http://www.ieer.org/carbonfree/summary.pdf

    you are right that global warming must be addressed and carbon sources phased out. i think we can do this without nuclear. the two sources above suppose the same. there is a lot more great research showing the way to a new green economy balancing efficiency, renewables, and biofuels (and/or natural gas).

    remember, even if we eliminated all carbon emissions today we are still be in trouble in the coming decades you mentioned. given the inertia in the global atmosphere, we can expect to reap the winds of our industrial excesses to for the next few hundred regardless of the course we set tomorrow.

    in our hurry to address global warming for future generations, we need not trade one poor choice for another potentially damning energy option.

  3. Hi admin,

    Thanks for the SciAm link. Here’s what they say: “A vast area of photovoltaic cells would have to be erected in the Southwest. Excess daytime energy would be stored as compressed air in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime hours.”

    They’re not kidding about vast area. According to http://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/us_pv_annual_may2004.jpg, an average insolation for the US would be about 5.5 KWH/m^2/day. Assuming an optimistic 20% efficiency, 1 sq m of solar panel yields 1.1 KWH/day. A nominal-sized nuclear plant would generate over 20,000,000 KWH/day, so 1 nuke = 18,000,000 sq m. or 18 square kilometers. Can you imagine what 18 square kilometers of solar panels would be like? But they’re wrong about the storage. For more information, please see http://gwperplexed.niof.org/pumped.htm.

    Makhijani is a genius. He’s pulling down a fat income by recycling outdated, discredited anti-nuclear propaganda. You gotta respect someone who can pull that off.

    No, you’re wrong about coal pollution. For a start, it includes radioactive effluents. For another, the chemical toxins in it can and do cause cancer. For still another, the zero-threshold claim is misinformation from political activists with more enthusiasm than scruples. For better information, please see http://globalnukes.blogspot.com/2008/02/linear-no-threshold-hypothesis.html.

    Also, you’re out of date on nuclear-waste storage. The US has gone back to its original plan of recycling spent fuel. Not only does recycling reduce the quantity to highly manageable size, the residual waste loses its radioactivity in much less time, nothing like the geologic terms you describe. Please see http://www.uic.com.au/ne5.PDF.

    Where is nuclear energy waste being securely stored? Everywhere it’s being stored. You can’t point to a single incident of harm resulting from nuclear energy waste. In contrast, coal waste is causing harm on a large scale. And the reason is because the huge quantities can’t be isolated from the environment. They will stay toxic forever and they’ll always be poisoning the environment.

    It’s interesting to go over this material, but the main point is inescapable. Renewable energy only works if there’s an energy backup and the only backups available are fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Deal with it.

  4. Wrong, wrong, out of date? Poor me!

    Yes, i can imagine 18 square kilometers… and then some… spread across rooftops, parking garages, and governmental buildings across the country.

    As added benefit in this new Terror age, when you hit a solar complex with a jetliner you aren’t potentially triggering a nuclear reaction and wiping out Houston, for instance. I call that a goodie and (still) dispute the wastes scattered at power plants across the country are ‘securely stored’… just check with the GAO on that. Heck, NRC is on a massive house-cleaning when it comes to sleeping security guards.

    No harm from nuke waste? Whether weapons- or power-generated, the landscape is littered with bodies broken by radiation poisoning from uranium mining. All our past waste trenches have leaked.

    You’ll probably call this more ‘discredited anti-nuclear propaganda,’ but here goes:

    On infant mortality and power plants:

    http://www.mindfully.org/Health/Nuclear-Reactor-Closing.htm

    [QUOTE]To date, the principal issues associated with reactor closings have been waste management and plant decommissioning. Little consideration is given to health status among local residents. After the Partial Test Ban Treaty ended atmospheric atomic bomb testing in Nevada, and dietary levels of long-lived radioactive chemicals from fallout declined after peaking across the U.S. in 1964 (U.S. Public Health Service, 1968), progress in several infant health indicators accelerated.

    Long-term declines in fetal and infant mortality abruptly slowed during the atmospheric test era, but fell sharply thereafter (Whyte, 1992) . The percentage of American babies born less than 2500 g, which rose 2% for whites and 35% for nonwhites from 1950 to 1966, plunged during the next decade (Mangano, 1998) .

    Cancer incidence ages 0-4 in Connecticut, the only state with an established tumor registry, rose 61 % from the early 1940s to the early 1960s before falling 24°/a in the first five years after the test ban (National Cancer Institute, 1986).

    The fetus and infant are most susceptible to effects of radiation and other toxic chemicals. The developing fetus undergoes rapid cell growth, self-programmed cell death (apoptosis), and cell re-arrangement. The developing infant is similarly susceptible to cellular and metabolic damage. Unrepaired damage becomes magnified with time, increasing the risk of cancer, congenital malformations, underweight births, and fetal/infant deaths (Sherman, 1994) .

    Five of the 12 closed reactors are in areas at least 70 miles from any other nuclear power plant. In the first two years after closing, infant mortality rates in the closest counties downwind from the reactors fell 15 to 20% at each site (Appendix 1). The average U.S. two-year decline in infant mortality from 1985 to 1996 was 6.4%. [ENDQUOTE]

    There are many such reports.

    There is a richness in the SciAm feature you are missing, and by not bothering to look at Dr. Makhijani’s report Post Carbon/Post Nuclear, you have missed the best of all: all this solar resource can be constructed onsite, point of use. We don’t need to cover Arizona with photovoltaics, just our homes and businesses and parking lots.

    The world does not need a new nuke arms race that bush is pushing for. Nor do we need to export nukes across the globe, as britain and france are joining forces to accomplish. unfortunately, nuke power is unavoidablly linked to weapons and proliferation. would we be sweating north korea and iran if they were not doggedly working to get nuke plants online.

    There are another dozen countries, many equally “rogue” on their own ways, lined up to be the next nuke power recipients.

    Finally, it is not a choice between nukes and coal, as you keep insisting. I oppose the expansion of both. The opportunity now is taking what we know about the potential of renewables, micropower, and negawatts and forging a new truly pollution-free power economy. (That includes major battery power breakthroughs and algal biofuels… we have DEALT with it. Thank you very much.)

    Nukes need not apply.

  5. I agree with you, Greg. There’s no need for nuclear expansion. There’s no place to store the waste we’ve been generating the past few decades. There are no “waste solutions” on the horizon, no matter how badly populated states want to send their waste to places like New Mexico and Nevada (for storage or “reprocessing”). And nuclear energy is not a carbon friendly alternative to coal. Uranium enrichment, for instance, requires vast amounts of electricity. The uranium enrichment plant coming on-line here in NM later this year will require 32 megawatts of electricity to operate.

  6. Greg, I’ll start with your last comment.

    Anti-nukes practice the basest form of dishonesty. The easiest position to take is the one that never will be tested. The world will never rely on part-time energy sources. Faced with the reality that obstructing nuclear energy has poisoned the planet by forcing the world to use more coal, they say, “Oh, no, we’re against coal, too!” So when it all comes crashing down they can fold their arms and say, “It’s not our fault. If only the world had done what we said, none of this would have happened.”

    We’ve been hearing the same false promises for over thirty years. Anti-nukes told us magic new energy sources that were going to be clean and cheap and wouldn’t require storage would give us all the energy we could want. Those energy sources never have shown their usefulness and so the world has kept on using fossil fuels.

    Millions of people have died worldwide from the resulting pollution. Please look at http://gwperplexed.niof.org/abt_results.htm, which shows the annual mortality for adults just in the US. Coal pollution is the main source of lead in the oceans, along with cadmium and mercury. Now, the oceans are so poisoned that people are advised to limit their consumption of fish.

    There are people who will not take out a pocket calculator and see for themselves what the arithmetic of survival is. That’s why they’ll swallow any gimmick they hear: impossible batteries, imaginary fuel sources from pond scum, you name it. They search out documents written for the purpose of shoring up a failed ideology for nuggets that reinforce their favorite opinions. That’s where Makhijani gets his followers. He doesn’t have to be right, he just has to hand out the nuggets people want. Maybe one day one of these miracle nostrums will solve our energy dilemma. More likely, continuing to wait for it will have the same disastrous consequences it’s had already.

    I think I overestimated you. An educated person would see through Mangano’s technique. I’ll explain it here briefly for your benefit. In any situation, statistics show random noise, and medical statistics for a small locality will always show more noise than most situations. For, say, 100 medical conditions, the frequency of any of them will never equal the universal average. So an analyst with a goal will simply throw out all the statistics that show lower-than-average occurrences and concentrate on the small number, maybe seven or eight, that show the highest degree of upward noise. Then he’ll put out a press release and start applying for grants. Mangano adds to this by the habit of refusing to allow peer review of his work. Googling “mangano” and “peer review” yielded an example, in this case dealing with another subject: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/545111. This is scary from two directions. First, Mangano is attributing harm where the data don’t justify it. But, second, he could be right about the drug he’s analyzing, but his analysis can be rejected because of his unprofessional conduct.

    No, there aren’t many such stories. Aside from Mangano and Sternglas, the health professionals in the world show a lot of confidence in the health effectiveness of nuclear energy. You just keep hearing the same stories because you limit your sources of information. I think it’s this limitation of information sources that has led you to focus myopically on the possibility of a terrorist attack on a nuclear plant. There are many targets much more attractive to a terrorist. Why aren’t you demanding an end to sports events, since the crash of an airliner into a sports stadium would be many times more devastating?

    No, 18 square kilometers is only equal to one nuclear plant. As a point of perspective, to generate all the electricity the US uses now, the solar panels required would equal a strip of land one and a half miles wide running from San Diego to Boston. Sometimes I think anti-nukes don’t have a head for quantities. One wind-turbine or one solar panel equals one nuke, in their minds. And since it’s inconvenient to consider the pollution effects of solar panels or the political opposition to wind farms, they just ignore all that. I think this inability to think quantitatively explains their blindness on the problem of intermittence. They want storage to work, so it does.

    You need to get a grip. When you can write such gibberish as “. . .the landscape is littered with bodies broken by radiation poisoning from uranium mining,” you’ve gone around the bend. Mining is dangerous by nature, but with modern safety and ventilation equipment, uranium is as safe to mine as any other mineral. Certainly it’s many times safer than coalmining.

    I did read Makhijani’s paper. That’s how I know it’s nonsense. But it’s effective nonsense. He gives you and Laura an excuse not to question your false paradigms. You can keep on trying to drive the world in the wrong direction and, whatever happens, you’ll believe it wasn’t your fault.

  7. Does your deflated respect for my intellect mean you’ll quit lingering around my site?

    You decry the anti-nukes as corrupt propagandists and make many claims about the trail of evidence exposing nukes as an unfit alternative power solution.

    You claim I speak “gibberish” when I talk of the suffering brought on by uranium mining?

    Please visit the Navajo Nation, still fighting to keep the mines off their land — in spite of treaties that are supposed to protect them.

    The insult you direct at me has other unintended victims: those who died mining death ore on the Rez.

    http://www.sonic.net/~kerry/cove.html

    Of course, you would counter: ‘Yeah. But if they had the proper equipment…’ The point is they didn’t… and they don’t.

    You are unfamiliar with your audience. Here in South Texas we are still seeing water contaminated by uranium mining. We have wasted aquifers that will take more than $350 million to clean up. It’s not going to happen.

    Never have I denied the horrors of coal. However, I also can see the horrors of yellowcake.

    You flippantly deny my statement that there is “no safe dose” to ionizing radiation as “misinformation from political activists.”

    Well, Let’s see.

    July, 2005:

    A panel of the US National Academy of Sciences charged to investigate the dangers of low-energy, low-dose ionizing radiation has concluded “that it is unlikely that a threshold exists for the induction of cancers… Further, there are extensive data on radiation-induced transmissible mutations in mice and other organisms. There is therefore no reason to believe that humans would be immune to this sort of harm.”

    This is generally considered the “linear” or “no threshold” theory.

    It is supported by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR):

    “Experimental studies of the effects of ionizing radiation on cellular systems, including the induction of chromosome aberrations, cell transformation and somatic mutations are of value for providing information on damage to DNA. The data obtained have been generally consistent with a linear or linear-quadratic dose response at exposures below those at which cell killing becomes significant.”

    It is also supported by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements convened by the U.S. Congress.

    That’s quite a misstatement on your part.

    You say there are other studies suggestive of radiation poisoning of the young living around power plants?

    Here’s a few that come to mind:

    From NIRS:

    Childhood disease clusters have been found in many communities with nuclear facilities. This list includes increases in childhood leukemia near reprocessing facilities in La Hague, France

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/314/7074/101

    the Krummel nuclear reactor in Germany…

    http://www.ehponline.org/members/1997/Suppl-6/schmitz-feuerhake-full.html

    Increases in childhood leukemia also occurred Europe-wide after the passage of the Chernobyl radiation cloud.

    Increases in other childhood cancers have been found near nuclear operations in the Navaho Nation (uranium mining) as well as Brookhaven, New York

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9800E5DF143FF93BA15752C1A96F958260

    and nuclear power stations in Oyster Creek, NJ

    http://www.radiation.org/press/oystercreekmar06.html

    And on and on…

    http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-106471710.html

    False paradigms? We’ve been living under yours for 50 years…

    And those that oppose nukes have also been actively been fighting off new coal plants in Texas… In fact, we killed 10 just last year. And, imagine, the lights still turn on.

    When the nukes have closed down and a new and profitable green energy age is upon us we’ll still be reading at night and listening to the stereo… Just without the tritium and strontium illumination.

    But that’s enough of that…

  8. I thought the point of the comments section was to have the sort of dialog we’ve been having. But it’s your blog so if you want me to clear off, then I certainly shall oblige.

    It’s probably just as well. If anyone besides us is still following this, he’s grown inured to carefully-selected quotes that support pre-established positions. If you look closely at the comments you quoted, you’ll see they don’t actually affirm the zero-threshold formula. I’ve already linked you to some other viewpoints by the Health Physics Society and the National Institutes for Health.

    Nice touch, by the way. Blaming the nuclear industry for unsafe mining conditions forty years ago during the weapons program will always push white people’s guilt buttons.

    Thanks for the exchange.
    Red

  9. Of “carefully-selected quotes that support pre-established positions,” we are both guilty.

    But so-called “white guilt” is not the intention of my speaking up for the Navajo Nation. Awakening human feeling and compassion is.

    Sorry you misunderstood.

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