A Nuclear Submariner Challenges a Pro-Nuclear Film via the New York Times

John Dudley Miller, a former nuclear engineering officer in the Navy with a doctorate in social psychology and a long career in journalism, sent this “Your Dot” critique of “Pandora’s Promise,” the new documentary defending nuclear power, and the more recent videotaped discussion of nuclear energy by the climate scientist and campaigner James E. Hansen [Updated, 12:27 p.m. | Hansen has responded below.]:

When I saw “Pandora’s Promise,” I didn’t believe a word of it. I served as a submarine nuclear engineering officer for my four-year stint in the Navy years ago. I qualified as an Engineering Officer of the Watch (a guy who’s in charge of the plant and its other technicians during four-hour shifts) on two different sub reactors. I know the truth about reactors, and the movie replaces it with the demonstrably false Nuclear Dream, a just-so mythical story claiming that nukes are safe, clean and cheap.

Then when I viewed the video interview of climate scientist Dr. James Hansen conducted by the movie’s producers, I got mad. Here is an esteemed academic telling us that the next generation of nuclear plants is passively safe, so we should build some. But how does he know? He’s not an expert on nuclear power; outside of climate science, he’s just another person with an opinion.

Let’s start with the movie.  It spews out a stream of untruths, for instance, telling us only that Chernobyl killed 56 people. It leaves out that a United Nations World Health Organizationagency predicts 16,000 more will die from Chernobyl cancers and that the European Environment Agency estimates 34,000 more. It omits that non-fatal thyroid cancer struck another 6,000, mostly children.


The breeder reactors EBR-1 in Idaho and Fermi-1 near Detroit partially melted. Several breeders have suffered sodium coolant fires, because sodium automatically burns in air and explodes in water.


In the film, activist Mark Lynas claims that because wind and solar power are intermittent, we must build 100 percent redundant natural gas backup plants for them. But the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says that if we build a more flexible electricity grid, renewables can provide 80 percent of the non-transportation electricity we will use in 2050, without backups.

Lynas also asserts that natural radiation is much more harmful than man-made radiation. That’s backwards. While we absorb background radiation every day, standing next to a newly removed reactor spent fuel rod for a few seconds will kill you, David Lochbaum, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) nuclear safety engineer, calculates.

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One Response to A Nuclear Submariner Challenges a Pro-Nuclear Film via the New York Times

  1. norma field says:

    Miller’s response to Hansen’s simplistic invocation of “experts” bears repeating:
    “When you accept the opinions of nuclear experts at face value, you neglect to read the evidence. Truth comes only from evidence, not expert opinions, because experts disagree.”

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