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by One Pissed-off Vietnam Vet

The Atomic Energy Commission was established in 1947 by President Harry S. Truman and abolished by Congress in 1974

(Nov. 21, 2011) — During America’s Great Depression, the people who lived on farms, even though they may not have had any money, always had food. And no, it wasn’t steak and lobster every evening, but they didn’t suffer the hunger pains as their city folk brethren did. During World War II, in the time of rationing, once again the best place to be was on a farm, where many a farmer traded coveted gas coupons for those of coffee, sugar and flour. If nothing else, a farm’s fruit cellar was packed with vegetables and preservatives, while the kitchen pantry in Cicero and Newark would remain bare.

The father of nuclear energy was perhaps the most irritating and caustic man ever to have walked on earth, but he was, without a doubt, one heck of a brilliant visionary, on par with the likes of Billy Mitchell and Curtis LeMay: Admiral Geroge Rickover. It was Rickover’s vision of energy independence that fueled his nuclear submarine dream. Just as a farm was independent of outside sources for long periods of time, Rickover’s boats could stay submerged and on patrol until food had to be replenished.

Rickover’s attention to detail and his totally uncompromising attitude towards safety never won him any friends in Congress or the Pentagon, but he sure was admired and respected by the sailors who manned his boats. It was Rickover’s taking of shielding to the “nth” degree which made him so many enemies. Over the years, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has continuously lowered the safety standards of reactor design and shielding. The accepted amount of radiation exposure has increased throughout the years, while the accompanying cost of less shielding has been expectantly lowered.

The United States Navy has had an impeccable nuclear safety record for over a half a century, and the stringent safety requirements of protecting the crew from radiation was carried over in the design of nuclear weapons. I can attest, first-hand, on the safety factors of nukes because I was qualified to test the firing mechanism of nuclear warheads, and did so.

But powering a Navy boat or ship is not in the same category as producing energy for Chicago. What we’re doing is comparing apples with oranges. A reactor on land has a whole different set of hoops to jump through, and the cost isn’t worth the expenditure for two main reasons and one secondary reason.

Main reason number one is that the AEC, instead of being an oversight commission, is, in reality, the Public Relation (PR), taxpayer-funded fund for nuclear power. Money under the table certainly wasn’t invented by the manufacturers of nuclear reactors, but because the product is basically an annuity, the pay-offs are enormous, to the detriment of us citizens.

Secondly, as previously stated, the safety requirements have continuously been lowered throughout the years, and I wouldn’t trust what the AEC stated: radiation hasn’t changed by one atom since I qualified to work on nukes, yet the shielding requirements by the AEC continue to be diminished.

Lastly, even though the disposal of the reactor control rods are the same for the Navy and private nuclear power plants, there certainly are fewer of them if just the Navy used them.

Now back at the farm, where we started, we come to the point where the word “freedom” is defined. Energy independence is multifaceted, encompassing our rail, bus, plane, bicycle transit system, designing energy efficient buildings that take into consideration location and materials, solar systems where applicable, victory gardens and so on. The point is to be as energy independent as possible, starting with the residential unit, and expanding to businesses, schools, and factories. Thusly, I define the word “freedom” as the absence of dependency.



Editor’s Note:  In 1974, Congress abolished the Atomic Energy Commission, whose responsibilities were then assigned to two new agencies:  the Energy Research and Development Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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  1. “I define the word “freedom” as the absence of dependency.” Good phrase.

    I define the word “freedom” as the absence of legislation. I think both views are compatible, especially when referencing government.