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Because he believes in our mission
a 60 year veteran of nuclear technology going back to the Manhattan Project


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by Ted Rockwell, engineer

TRUTH be known . . . “Nuclear Energy Facts”
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12-29-11               Ted, I’m responding to your dialogue with BLUE type. Gary

Gary:  Of course I know Alan.  Everybody does.  He’s an important ally to any advancement in the nuclear field.  I’ve been urging him to get more circulation of his “Day with the Atom” piece, that shows what a tremendous spread and depth of devices and products and processes depend on “The Atom.”

And I’m happy you got my two atom books.  There’s a little overlap up front, but just skim over that. Hope you enjoy them.  Now let’s talk about YM.

I’ve said this before, but I don’t seem to get much resonance on it.  I’ll try again.  YM now comes with a huge amount of baggage that we must not just pick up as part of the deal.  The million-year guarantee, the 15mr/yr and 4 mr/year in the water and the huge “safety factors” in each variable. It is my understanding that the million-YR requirement has already been reduced to 10-15 thousand years and I also think they were “negotiating” the MR per year. Our proposal is to INCLUDE “eventual” plans for reprocessing and the 6% remaining material AFTER reprocessing only has about a 300 year life. Once the “public” understands this, they will trump the Nevada politics. Those are not reasonable requirements and if we promise to buy in on them, we’ll be in another multi-decade charade that has nothing to do with reality, and will be an unbearable burden on the nuclear renaissance.  A USNEF proposal concerning Yucca MT on our website is suggesting that a PPP entity establish “reasonable” safety requirements through the NRC based on the DOE study build and implement on that basis. For many, many years our federal government has maintained top secret testing and military bases on FEDERAL land in Nevada. These events and activities were put in place for the protection of the “United States of America” and continue to function. Our spent nuclear fuel has become a national security issue. The NWPA of 1982 “passed” by congress constitutionally usurps Nevada’s claim of “States Rights” of the Yucca site selection. Yucca Mountain is located on “federal land”. The truck and rail transportation “could” be designed with routes on federal land and whatever minor sections need federal ownership simply acquire via eminent domain. (Yes, everybody hates that term, but it exists for good reason) National security needs trump ALL states rights in our Constitution. Many Nevadan’s believe that the federal government should have educated that grassroots public rather than taking the “Yucca issue” to Nevada bureaucracy where politics has wasted the taxpayer science study. Some of us question that there was never a need to talk with the State of Nevada.

Let’s go back to basics.  One of the biggest advantages of nuclear power is that the waste problem is trivial.  Even our most dedicated adversaries – such as Sheldon Novick, author of “The Careless Atom” and “The Electric Wars” has said publicly, in books, that “nuclear waste” is no worse than many other industrial wastes, once its decay heat is died down  - a few decades.  Its volume, measured in either cubic yards or lethal doses, as also trivial compared too many other non-nuclear wastes.  I’ve documented this in detail, with numbers and references.  I don’t need to do it again here. (Page 231 of “Creating the New World” tabulates some of the numbers.)

So we’ve got to agree on some reasonable requirements for handling this material until we’re ready to burn it in fast reactors. We agree here, we know that today’s theoretical “fast reactor” designs WILL burn and eliminate all spent fuel inventories, with a high probability within the next 50-100 years, negates ANY discussion of future safety.  There are various groups whose agendas benefit by making the “nuclear waste” a problem.  It simply isn’t.  We just have to keep people from eating it.  Just like we should be doing with mercury and the materials that go into solar panels and windmill generators.  It’s easier for us than for them.    Why pretend it’s harder?   I think facing this problem should be a lot simpler than predicting the condition of the earth and its water-levels and geological slip planes a million years from now. We see the Yucca issue SIMPLY as a grassroots educational failure by the industry, associations and the nuclear lobby. “They” may not like this implication but hopefully they would accept the TRUTH. A knowledgeable public will change the direction of their political representatives. Washington and industry doesn’t see this yet, but they will. New communication technology is moving faster than the “political strategists” can keep up.

Unless we can do that – and who can stop us – I’m not interested in carrying on the whole phony debate about a million years.

You understand my point, Gary?  Let’s put our effort into the right battles.  If we do that, then we’re all on the same page, and I’ll help any way I can. This is what we are trying to do Ted. USNEF is an “out of the box” proposal to the “resolution” of this illogical political verses science debate called Yucca Mountain.  PPPs are a way for the government to allow its grassroots citizens to work directly on major issues side-by-side with the science and engineering community “politically free but scientifically accountable”. We have to move in this direction with our national laboratories, agencies and other departments in order to separate science from politics. Gary Duarte

Ted Rockwell



To: US Nuclear Energy Foundation

Friends and Colleagues:

The question is not WHERE to put “nuclear waste.”  The type of radioactive material produced by commercial nuclear power plants is not a public health hazard.  YM is probably the best place, since it’s already there.  We’ll soon be wanting the material back, to recycle the fuel in fast reactors, and recover the rare earths, etc.  

But defending the current YM specs is a real booby trap: a million years, 4 mrem/ year, etc.  No mortal can claim to have any basis for describing the geology a million years from now.  So we should stop trying to restore the pre-Obama status quo.  The current status is that a panel has been formed, to define what is needed.  We should let them do their job.  “It stays toxic for thousands of years” is not a scientific specification.  The fact is that the material is no worse than many industrial wastes we handle safely in millions of times greater quantities.  The fact that it is radioactive just means that it gets LESS toxic every day.  That is not an unprecedented hazard.  Just the opposite.  Many utilities store their used fuel containers outdoors, and invite scout troops, church groups, etc. to touch the containers, measure the radiation levels, etc.  They are not scary in the sunshine, with birds and squirrels playing on them.

People are not stupid.  I find when I explain these facts to friends, to people sitting next to me on airplanes, etc., their response is, “Why haven’t you guys told us this, a long time ago?

Let’s do that.

Ted Rockwell
Member, National Academy of Engineering
Active in nuclear technology since 1943



If you want to fight for jobs in NV, don’t be a “pyramid builder.”  The pyramids provided jobs, but not much of value for the people.  Build nuclear facilities.  The only jobs that YM will continue to provide is for lawyers and theoretickers, arguing about the world a million years from now.  Build something of value.  Build for the future.

If we really get the nuclear enterprise going in America, as is happening all over the world, companies will be fighting to get the “nuclear waste” back to use the uranium, recover the rare earths, and dispose cheaply the tiny amount of actual “waste.”

It reminds me of all the coal miner songs: the first verses bemoan the life of a miner, the last verse cries that the company may be shutting down the mine.  As the revered union leader John L. Lewis said:  “I don’t want to protect your jobs.  I want your kids to go to college.”  

The Wicked Witch of the West is dead.  Rejoice!  Don’t spend your time trying to revive her.

Ted Rockwell



So long as nuclear advocates insist that public safety depends on the ridiculous requirements of a million years of guaranteed infallible storage in a multi-billion dollar hole in the ground, American nuclear power will have trouble competing in the real world.  There is no valid scientific basis for such a requirement.  As President Obama has proclaimed, the used nuclear fuel is perfectly safe where it is. After processing, it can be handled like any other industrial waste of comparable toxicity, of which there are many, in much greater quantities.  The only difference is that the nuclear material gets less toxic every day, and becomes quite harmless in a few hundred years.  Other, non-nuclear, toxic wastes maintain full toxicity, undiminished, forever.

I recognize that the Yucca Mtn project has represented nearly a billion dollars a year, employing a whole generation of people.  But let’s put that money into something productive—like new nuclear plants.

Theodore Rockwell
Member, National Academy of Engineering


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