Meeting Minutes from inSPIRe Social on May 16, 2009

We had our third social event of 2009 at Candy Sullivan and Jule Sugarman s home.  We had a nice turnout with around 25 guests to hear our guest speakers Mark Radonich and Dr Dave Hall.  Thanks so much to Candy and Jule for opening up their home! 

Our next meeting Our next social will be June 13th and will address the issue of racism.  Details upcoming stay tuned!

We re always in search for volunteers to host!  If you are interested, please contact Dave Gamrath at or (206) 938-8460.


Our Standard Reminder !

inSPIRe s goal is to provide a lively, fun as well as informative discussion on current issues.  As mentioned in our rules of engagement for our social events, we are not trying to obtain total agreement on topics discussed in our meetings, but rather to educate members as to different viewpoints.  In building our local Progressive community through grassroots efforts like ours, we believe it is important to provide people with educational opportunities to understand different aspects of current issues as well as a fun, friendly environment in which to discuss these.  Our guest speakers are encouraged to share their insights and thus to lobby for the support of inSPIRe members towards their goals.  Building community, providing education, inspiring activism and having fun remain our four primary objectives!


The Standard Apology !

As always, the open and engaging nature of our social events leads to our note-taker/recorder/editor (me) to get caught up in the discussion and thus miss writing everything down.  My apologies if I missed any important points made or issues raised, or if I did not capture or misinterpreted our speakers messages in any way. 



IAN (Inspire Activist Network)

The following forum is being hosted by inSPIRe.  Please show your support through your attendance, as well as by forwarding this invitation to other groups and community members!

Candidate Forum: Meet the King County Executive Candidates!

Dow Constantine Ross Hunter Fred Jarrett Larry Phillips

When:  Monday, June 1st, 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Where:  Fauntleroy Community Church, 9140 California Ave SW, Seattle, 98136

(Approximately two blocks east of Fauntleroy Ferry)

Directions:  South on 35th Ave SW, right on Barton, 7 blocks down the hill

Hear the candidates for King County Executive express their views on budget and taxes, land use, public health, and transportation, as well as on other topics.  This is your chance to ask questions! All are welcome and attendance is free.  For more information, visit


inSPIRe Book Club! We are now reading The Nine by Jeffery Toobin for our next meeting, May 31st.  To join the book club and get on the list, just send an email to


Keynote Speakers:  Dr Dave Hall and Mark Radonich

Main discussion topic for this evening:  a discussion on the pros and cons of Nuclear Energy.

Nuclear energy fell from popularity in the United States over the past decades due multiple citizen concerns.  But circumstances have changed in the past thirty years.  We now face a rapidly warming planet, with dire consequences.  Last year s dramatic and destabilizing rise in oil prices provided a snapshot of what our world faces in the very near future due to peak oil.  Neither of these issues was on the table when the US went away from nuclear energy. 

Should US policy towards nuclear energy now be changed to reflect the realities of the 21st century?  Or do the dangers from nuclear energy still pose too great of a threat? 

Dave Hall MD was our first speaker.  Dave is a member of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.  PSR is the medical and public health voice working to prevent the use or spread of nuclear weapons and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and toxic degradation of the environment.  Dave is a Child and Family Psychiatrist, past president of local and national PSR, and a twenty-plus year activist campaigning for the abolition of all weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons represent the ultimate threat to human and environmental health.  Dave advocated against nuclear energy.

Dave started by stating the obvious:  we don t want to live in an environment where we need our military to continuously be going out to secure our energy resources.  This should be a key goal in energy policy NOT requiring military action. 

Dave discussed the true scientific brilliance behind the development of nuclear energy.  But even though amazing brain-power created this energy source, we still have not developed the capacity to handle the energy of the stars on our planet earth.  Also, what comes with nuclear power is a continuous leap to nuclear weapons.  Japan, post World War II, is bound by their constitution as prohibited from developing nuclear weapons.  But they do have a strong nuclear energy grid.  If Japan did choose to pursue nuclear weapons, they could get there within six months!  This is the typical Faustian bargain that was reached with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1975.  The nations with nuclear weapons, the haves , were allowed to keep their weapon supply.  Other nations were encourage to not develop nuclear weapons by allowing them access to important information to develop nuclear power , which left them a short leap from nuclear weapon generation.  North Korea was a signatory of the Treaty.  In 2005 they dropped out and went on to develop weapons.  Three dozen countries now have the capacity to build nuclear weapons, based on their level of expertise in production nuclear power. 

Twenty short miles from Alki Beach is the base for the Trident submarines.  At this base is the largest nuclear storage facility in the Western Hemisphere.  Each of the warheads there has the destructive capacity of 30 times that of the bombs dropped on Japan in WWII.  Also in Washington State is the Hanford nuclear site where plutonium was produced for years.  This site is now the largest Superfund environmental clean-up site in the Western Hemisphere. 

Russia was not nearly as careful with their nuclear production.  As a result, Dr Halls Russian medial associates have informed him that up to 15% of Russian land mass is uninhabitable due to contamination. 

An important point from Dr Hall was to contest the notion that nuclear energy is carbon free .  Dr Hall showed a PowerPoint presentation to capture this and many other important points.  You can view Dave s presentation here:  The production of nuclear power involves significant usage of fossil fuels.  This includes the use of trucks, the effort with mining and construction, the efforts to decommission the nuclear plants, etc.  Even the fuel processing involves carbon emissions.  And then we are left with the nuclear waste.

Q Is France re-using their spent nuclear waste?

Dave Hall Yes.  France goes through a reprocessing of nuclear waste that is not allowed in the US.

Key in Dr Hall s argument against nuclear energy is that it is too expensive.  Dr Hall addressed a long range of issues associated with the cost of producing nuclear energy.  Included in these is the cost associated with the clean-up.  At Hanford there exists basically two types of tanks those that leak, and those that will soon leak.  Both are enormously expensive propositions.

To meet our energy requirements in the US, we would need to install over 1500 new nuclear power plants.  This is a gigantic requirement.  And cost.  As an example of potential additional cost , Dr Hall indicated the cost of clean-up so far for the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster is at $350 billion.  That s $350,000,000,000.  So far

Due to the cost and risk of nuclear power, this energy sector has been unable to successfully attract private equity investment.  Potential investors just see too much risk.  They see a 90 second meltdown potentially equaling a $90 billion risk.  If the existing nuclear power plant near New York City were to meltdown, the cost would exceed $2.1 Trillion.  Even so, the US government spends a significant portion of our Research and Development dollars on nuclear power development. 

Dr Hall then addressed the issue of global warming.  Our earth has already warmed one degree Celsius.  We are on a path to a warming of 2.5 to 3.0 degrees Celsius.  This would be devastating for our planet.  If we don t change our energy consumption, as well as other behaviors, we could actually warm the planet by 5 degrees Celsius.  We need immediate action to change our ways.  Here in lies another problem with nuclear energy it takes a long time to develop new sources.  Once all of the permitting is approved, it takes five years to build a new plant.

Dr Hall then discussed what it will take to get us to a carbon free USA.  Here's the link to Arjun Makijani's latest summary calculations for a carbon-free and nuclear-free energy mix by 2050.


At this point our second speaker, Mark Radonich, addressed the audience. 

Mark is the founder of Cultural Effect Consulting, a firm providing cross-cultural and cross-discipline connective services in communications and organization development.  He is an expert in risk communication, the study and practice of making collective and widely effective understandings of risks.   He is on faculty with the Advanced Health Education Center (Houston, TX), and has lectured to an environmental program at UNLV and the engineering school at University of Michigan.  He is devoted to bridging the gap between expert knowledge and public opinion, thought, and policy, and works as a private trainer, facilitator, workshop clinician, consultant, and speaker on strategic, policy, leadership, and organizational science and technology issues.  Formerly, Mark was a physicist in radiation safety and nuclear technology programs as an emergency preparedness coordinator, planner, technical spokesperson, program inspector, writer, and professional development instructor.  He is currently writing a book tentatively called How Can Nuclear Power Be Green?

Mark indicated he is a Progressive and wasn t at inSPIRe as a let s go with nuclear energy advocator.  Rather, Mark s talk focused on the need, as he has learned from his professional experience, for a more open and engaged societal discussion around nuclear power.  Mark stressed the need for a vibrant discussion around the subject.  He stressed there is too much polarization.  Mark came to inSPIRe advocating for a dialog.

Mark completely agrees that nuclear power is not tenable with weapons.

At the end of these minutes is a short essay capturing Mark s goal with his upcoming book on this subject.


Q In that global warming and peak oil are real, and that the Chinese are striving for an American-type of lifestyle of high consumption, how can we successfully resolve our demands for energy. 

Mark Radonich key in this answer is the fact that we didn t do a very good job in the development of our nuclear power infrastructure in the beginning in the US.  France and other countries have done it much better, which will allow them to much more efficiently ramp up energy needs.  In America, we need better governance and better community engagement.


Q How are France and Japan, countries that use a lot of nuclear power, dealing with the waste?

Mark they are reprocessing much of the waste.  Up to 97% of the energy in the pellets used in the power generation is not used with the first cycle.  This type of reprocessing is illegal in the US.


Q Is there a path towards sustainable energy production?

Dave yes, but not with nuclear.  We need new sustainable energy sources.  We need renewable s.  Also, key to the future is energy use reductions.  If we just used today s existing technology, we could reduce our energy usage by 75%.  Part of this may be achieved through a cap and trade system.  To survive the future and global warming, the US needs to become a zero emissions society.


Q Isn t the real issue overpopulation?

Dave it does really get to the numbers, and our consumption.  It isn t the masses in the 3rd world consuming and polluting.  We in America are at the heart of the problem, and we need to lead the change.


Q Will the Obama Administration push hard for this change?

Dave they seem fairly balanced.  They want solutions.  They seem eager to solve global warming.


Q Can t a lot of this change be legislated from Washington DC?

Mark yes, but given our culture, this could also lead to a revolt by the citizenry. 

Dave it s ironic, but with global warming melting the Arctic, there is now a race by Canada, Russia and others to get permits to drill for more oil under the Arctic!  A key concern is the warming of the tundra.  The northern tundra contains 8 years worth of greenhouse gases in the form of methane.  This is one of the key tipping points we are facing.


Short essay by Mark Radonich regarding his upcoming book

Many articles and books have been written and published in the past few years on the subject of electricity generation using the power of nuclear fission all, in my humble view, in response to this simple question:

Should the USA commit to nuclear technology to generate electricity?

Such a simple question certainly begs a simple answer which each article, book, and other written publication gives their position, without regard to the complexity of the system by which nuclear technology is developed, implemented, and consumed. 

Regardless how one addresses the question, defends their answer, or debates/ignores the attendant issues, I have not found articles or positions on these issues which encourage a systematic, comprehensive look at the so-called problems and supposed benefits of the technology and its uses that aren t in service to a pre-determined position.  Practically all of the writing and ideas around how and why this technology is worthy (or not) of social and cultural support oversimplifies a decidedly complex industry .  Ignoring, dismissing, or oversimplifying the other strongly held views is common (it s nice to find common ground, but not in this way).  A simple answer to a complex (or complicated) challenge is never wholly satisfying (or likely very effective in achieving lasting agreement), regardless of the correctness of the argument, and is exactly why we re not talking about this in a productive, sustainable way.

This book proposes we develop as-of-yet-undetermined socially accepted solutions or answers that are generated from the complex landscape within which they exist.  There may be simple aspects to the landscape (to which simple answers may apply), but we must acknowledge that nuclear technology for generating electricity is just downright complex for many good and reasonable causes.

In order to illustrate a systematic look at the technology in its complexity, I will explore  the title question as a way of envisioning a new, THIRD WAY approach of talking about nuclear power in this country (and wherever the question is asked) to elevate and promote and conversation which I hope will be:

  less polarized,

  more visionary,

  more open and sustainable, and

  more engaging all around. 

If I m suggesting a third way, you may wonder what I see as the first two? Simply, the first two approaches can be characterized as polarized MY WAY and the HIGHWAY renditions which guarantee the oversimplification which has robbed us of depth and possibilities in the conversation.  I am suggesting a specific roadmap to approaches; my desire is to see us disembark from the competitive, argumentative, and disengaged stalemate of the past thirty-year public discussion, and move into sustainable, collaborative, accommodating agreement-building.

Another reason this book is mine to write is that I ve found myself relegated to the margins of competing interests as I listen to arguments on both sides of the question.   While both sides may presume that I m in one or the other, I have realized that I represent and hold a truly independent perspective one that I believe many people can (and perhaps already do) hold, and one that doesn t get consideration in the pro- or anti- simplified alignment.

Aside from my avowed independent/developmental perspective, my professional position is also somewhat unique. As I was finishing nuclear engineering school in 1988, I realized I had few peers of my age and education level I was the only undergraduate Nuclear Sciences major to graduate from Arizona State that year.  There were many good reasons why I lacked generational peers; the industry, in a decade long economic slump of cancelled projects punctuated by events at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, wasn t hiring fresh scrubbed graduates.  There have been recent articles written within the nuclear power industry detailing the concerns about whether the current workforce (some % set to retire/stop working) can support (fill all needed positions in) the current use of nuclear technology, much less a future investment or expansion.  And given this concern, university nuclear engineering programs are working hard to revitalize and attract the newest generation entering the workforce (tabbed as First Globals by the pollster John Zogby). Many are understandably attracted to high starting salaries, being involved in a relatively stable, growing, and carbon-emission-friendly energy generation sector, and I believe represent a fresh perspective as I m hoping to engender throughout the public discourse.  It s interesting to consider that the incoming generation s lives and cultural experiences have been formulated after the Chernobyl plant caught fire, or when Three Mile Island occurred, which have so vividly defined the risks of nuclear generation technology in the public sphere of influence for decades.

So I find myself in two nether-regions with something valuable to offer all parties between working generations in the nuclear power industry, and between the two entrenched pro- and anti-camps which would provide a quick, oversimplified and decisive answer to the title question.

I was attracted to Barack Obama s campaign trail answer/framing to the question of how to handle the impending healthcare insurance crisis he said that if he was starting from scratch, he d advocate a universal single payer system, but since a system already exists, he would elect to make improvements in short, more universal, but not single payer.  Lesson learned: We must acknowledge what exists before we can make appropriate changes; nuclear power (like employer-provided health insurance) has served us for fifty years, and isn t going away anytime soon.  The potential for how it could serve us more sustainably, accountably, and acceptably depends on a new approach.

Another purpose of this book is to elicit and advocate for a system for managing nuclear technology (specifically, nuclear power) better a continuous process improvement project.  As if we could start from scratch in this country, we can explore the IF/THEN issues which would make improvements to the existing system rather than the wholesale, static, rejection or acceptance of what is known now.

For example, IF the current management/practice/philosophy of high level radioactive waste could be changed, in what way would engender the widest agreement among all stakeholders?  THEN, we can proceed accordingly whether the agreement instructs new technical, cultural, philosophical, or management criteria or all of the above, we will have agreement and a direction, rather than the current state of thwarted, stalemated, highly contentious direction.

I m not attached to an outcome ultimately, perhaps years or decades from now, we will arrive at a simple and well-considered answer to the title question, YES or NO.  I m sure my opinions will be well known by the end of the book to kick start the process. Until then, my genuine wish is to help alleviate the stalemate that I ve seen in practice for more than twenty years so that new possibilities can be considered and risks can be collectively and effectively understood.  There is plenty of evidence that environmental, health, and social risks are not widely understood, which prohibits widespread agreement, and fans the flames of polarization.

Engaging and open dialogue around nuclear power acceptance is rare; as I ve stated, conversation (whether one- or two-way) and publication is practically always designed to be persuasive. I believe the approach I m advocating is a sustainable way for the US as a market democracy to attain agreement.  And if after engaging and open dialogue, agreement is not possible, then I would welcome that outcome for telling us more than we know now for effective governance and legitimate economic considerations.  I look forward to your input and participation in this fresh new dialogue.

The prior was a short essay by one of our keynote speakers, Mark Radonich

As always, many, many questions were asked but not recorded.  Sorry!

Many thanks to our host and our speakers!

See you at the next inSPIRe meeting!

Subscribe to inSPIRe by sending a note to



Previous meeting minutes


Previous IAN Events


First Speaker, Dr. Dave Hall


Second Speaker, Mark Radonich



Contact Us Copyright 2010 InspireSeattle ©