Saturday, April 13, 2013

Speaking on Nuclear Power:

 How Others See Us

Although I try hard not to focus on what other people think of me, every once in a while, I learn something about myself--or about what others think of me--that interests me.  This week, I came across two contrasting perspectives.  Since they relate to what I'm trying to do in this blog, I thought it might be worth looking at how people view things I have said and done.

The most recent piece was by fellow nuclear blogger Rod Adams who writes at Atomic Insights.  In his April 9, 2013 blog, he reacts to my last blog speculating whether natural gas is going to turn out to be a "flash in the pan."  Rod says the following about me:

I know Gail on a personal level and believe that she is wonderfully incapable of seeing purposefully destructive marketing behavior. Like many technically-trained nuclear professionals, she projects her natural integrity onto others who do not deserve it.  

Rod goes on to reproduce a comment he left on my blog indicating that "one of the factors behind the natural gas bubble is a purposeful effort to derail the nuclear revival."

While I appreciate Rod's compliment to my integrity, and I hope I do live up to a high standard of integrity, I really don't think integrity has anything to do with the views I expressed in my blog.  I find it more productive to focus on the facts, and not the motives, so whether the gas bubble is engineered or whether it is a case of market forces is generally not too important to me.

In fact, I was pointing out in that blog that two different articles predicted that the gas bubble was likely to be temporary and that we should not be putting all our eggs in one basket.  Both articles, to varying degrees, talked about nuclear power as one option to achieve diversity.  A third article took a more limited focus, and perhaps that is where I got myself in trouble.  That article suggested that power purchase agreements (PPAs) for wind farms could exert a downward pressure on rising gas prices.  While the article focused on wind farms, I noted that PPAs are, or can be, used for other sources of energy as well.  I didn't say so, but they can be used for nuclear power.

Unfortunately, I ended the article by saying that perhaps PPAs would allow us to "buy time" as the full dimensions of the gas bubble become clear.  I did not mean that we should do nothing and I apologize if this was not clear.  What I had in mind was that new build of any type takes time.  This article was describing a mechanism that was already in place for many wind farms.  Extending this concept might defer or dampen the gas bubble.  I admitted I was unable to predict what impact they would have in the long term, but felt that they might help us in the shorter term.

By contrast, this same week, I discovered a five-year-old blog on "nuclear lobbyists"--and was surprised to find that my name was prominently listed.  I really don't know much about this blog and had never seen it before, but it appears that they were trying to impugn the integrity of anyone and everyone who had expressed the view that nuclear power provided clean and safe energy.  Their narrative and their list of so-called "lobbyists" included people like former NRC Chairman Dick Meserve, former OECD Secretary General Don Johnson, and many others.

The main evidence against me:  "The woman appointed as deputy director of Bush's DOE, Gail H Marcus, was also president of the American Nuclear Society. The political fix was in from day one."  I found that particularly interesting.  I came to DOE in December 1999.  The US President at the time was Bill Clinton.  George Bush wasn't elected until almost a year later and didn't take office until January 2001.  And I didn't even run for president of ANS until the spring of 2000, and didn't begin my term as president until June 2001, well after I came to DOE.  Furthermore, the ANS adheres very carefully to the rules that prohibit non-profit professional societies from lobbying.  

They also reported that Dick Meserve and I spoke at a conference on the nuclear renaissance in 2002.  At that time, he was Chairman of the NRC and I worked in the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy.  In those post-9/11 days, Dick Meserve spoke on the existing resistance of US plants to a physical attack and the reexamination underway.  I spoke about DOE's programs and plans to support new nuclear power plants.  I didn't think that made either of us lobbyists.

As I read through this piece, I caught many other errors, and I'm sure there are some that I missed.  I won't try to list them all.

The point of this discussion is not to try to correct or change the perceptions of others about me.  Nor is it to suggest that my approach is better than the approach of others.  I expect to continue to write and speak about the role of nuclear power and its prospects for the future, and if that makes me a lobbyist in the eyes of some, so be it.  I also intend to focus on the issues and not the personalities or motives of people on various sides of the nuclear issue, and if that makes me a person who "projects her natural integrity onto others who do not deserve it," I'll take that as a compliment.


1 comment:

  1. There is not anything wrong with being a lobbyist.