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Science is objective—but are all scientists objective? via Nation of Change

By Karl Grossman August 25, 2020

There is science—and then there is scientific vested interests.

With a denier of science in The White House—whether it has to do with the climate crisis or Covid-19 and so on—there is a major push, including by Democratic officials, for making science the basis for governmental decision-making.

That’s completely understandable.

But what about the push by some scientists to politically further areas of science and technology which they favor? Science might be objective—but that doesn’t mean all scientists are.

Take Congressman Bill Foster. 

An atomic physicist from Illinois, for 23 years he worked at Fermilab in Illinois, established in the 1960s and run by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. With the AEC disbanded in the 1970s, it fell under the U.S. Department of Energy, which still runs it.

Foster, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 on the Democratic line is—no surprise—a booster of atomic energy. “As a scientist, Bill Foster believes that nuclear power can be made safe, and has been made safe in the United States,” it is declared on his website. “Waste disposal remains a technically possible but politically unsolved problem.”

“What is missing in the nuclear debate,” it says, “is an accurate understanding of the costs of nuclear compared to other low-carbon sources, “In the short-term it appears that low natural gas prices from hydro-fracturing technology [fracking] may make the capital investment in new nuclear plants hard to justify—even at sites where the licensing and environmental permitting is already in place. In the longer term, we should press ahead with advanced technologies such as inherently safe High-Temperature Gas [atomic] Reactors with high Carnot efficiency and noncorrosive coolants, small modular reactor designs, inertial and magnetically confined fusion energy, and accelerator-driven Thorium cycle energy production.”


The claim that nuclear power is among “low-carbon sources” is also the current major nuclear industry PR claim. In fact, the “nuclear fuel cycle”—especially mining, milling, “enrichment” to produce nuclear plant fuel—is carbon-intensive. And nuclear plants themselves emit carbon—radioactive Carbon-14.


In his farewell address as president in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower warned of the rise of a “military-industrial complex” in the U.S. In fact, according to Douglas Brinkley, formerly director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, the original draft of the speech warned not only of a “military-industrial complex” but of a “military-industrial-scientific complex.” Because of the “urging” of Eisenhower’s science advisor, James Killian, said Brinkley, the word “scientific” was eliminated. (Brinkley is now Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanitiesand professor of history at Rice University.)

Remaining in Eisenhower’s address were other words on the issue. Eisenhower said, “in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposing danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.”


One need not be a scientist at a federal facility involved in atomic science to develop an affinity for nuclear technology. Involvement in the U.S. nuclear Navy can also be a springboard. 

Take Congresswoman Elaine Luria. 

Her online biography notes “Rep. Luria was one of the first women in the Navy’s nuclear power program.” She “served two decades in the Navy, retiring at the rank of Commander. Rep. Luria served at sea on six ships as a nuclear-trained Surface Warfare Officer, deployed to the Middle East and Western Pacific.”

In the online biography, Luria, of Virginia, states: “As a nuclear engineer in the Navy, I saw firsthand that nuclear power, when deployed safely and responsibly, can play a key role in our future as a zero-carbon energy source. That is why I introduced the bipartisan Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which will encourage innovation in the design and deployment of advanced nuclear reactor technologies.”

Her Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, introduced in 2019, declares its purpose is to “direct the Secretary of Energy to establish advanced nuclear goals, provide for a versatile, reactor-based fast neutron source, make available high-assay, low-enriched uranium for research, development, and demonstration of advanced nuclear reactor concepts, and for other purposes.”


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