The nomination of Steven Chu as Energy Secretary became official today. It has been rumored, written about, etc. for weeks. There are several items worth noting.
To begin with, every scientist I know, including one who works in DOE, are elated with Chu’s nomination. It will be the first time that a scientist heads the department of government that has the most to do with science. It seems to many to be a final vindication for all that they suffered as they endured the Republican War on Science, as author Chris Mooney called it. Chu was one of the very active Nobel Laureate who supported and worked for a Science Debated 2008 as part of the presidential nomination process. It did not happen, though it should have. Mooney comments at DeSmogBlog.
There is another group of global warming activists, like Joseph Romm of Climate Progress, who are also laudatory, given the fact that Chu has always been very active in research for sollutions to global warming and energy. He gives us 5 reasons he thinks Chu is a great pick.
Yet I find the most vocal members of the EcoAction Committee of the Green Party to be adamantly against Chu for his being actively pro Nuke. Very few are looking at this objectively. Perhaps this post by Mark Flanagan is one. We have to consider that the previous name for the Department of Energy was the Atomic Energy Commission. So, it is worth watching.
It is my opinion that the story has yet to be written about Steven Chu. It would be nice to see a scientist work from the facts of the physical world rather than the political calculus of what is possible as they consider what needs to be done.
I look for Chu to do more work on nuclear storage. That is necessary in any case, especially if we move to decommission weapons. I would be very surprised to see even one new nuclear reactor break ground while he is Secretary. Then I have been wrong many, many times.
The reaction from safe-energy advocates is mixed to the proposed appointment of Steven Chu as U.S. energy secretary by President-Elect Barak Obama. Mixed is a charitable response to the prospects of Chu being in charge of the U.S. Department of Energy.Although he has a keen interest in energy efficiency and solar power and other clean forms of renewable energy, Chu is a staunch advocate of nuclear power.
“Nuclear has to be a necessary part of the portfolio,” declared Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, at an economic gathering last March in Palo Alto, California organized by Stanford University.”
“The fear of radiation shouldn’t even enter into this,” he said in comparing nuclear and coal. “Coal is very, very bad.” Chu, a physicist, repeated a claim of nuclear proponents that coal plants produce more radioactivity than nuclear plants—a contention based on coal containing trace amounts of uranium and thorium. But the claim—and Chu—ignore the huge amount of radioactive products created by fission or atom-splitting in nuclear plants, the gaseous ones routinely released, and the many tons that are left, classified as nuclear waste and needing to be isolated, some virtually forever. The claim—and Chu—also ignore the potential of a catastrophic nuclear plant accident discharging much or all of these lethal radioactive fission products into the environment as occurred in the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident, a potential for which there is no comparison with coal.