John Holdren, President Obama’s Science Advisor, says we can do it
In a ground breaking speech [full text] [slides]to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on April 30, in Washington, DC, John Holdren, (left) President Obama’s Science Advisor, said If nuclear energy is to make a big dent globally, the links between nuclear energy technology and nuclear weapons technology need to be broken. He said the administration is up to the task.
For decades every mass media article about nuclear power inevitably shows either a giant cooling tower or an atomic explosion. Holdren clearly wants to end the association of nuclear energy with weapons. This position has remarkable long-term international implications, but for the moment, the speech at AAAS is a clear signal that the work to achieve that end has begun.
Goodbye to FERC chairman’s renewable energy fantasies
Of equal significant in the current political atmosphere, he also put to rest rampant speculation that a recent speech by FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff that called for no new construction of nuclear plants represents White House policy. Here are the money quotes from his AAAS remarks.
"We are still living in a world that's about 80% dependent on fossil fuels; [in] the United States, more than 85% dependent. That's not going to change overnight, so we can't just say [that] we're going to go immediately, all the way, to unconventional renewables.
We have no way to do that. We have to fix in various ways the conventional options that we're using, as well."
"I think we are going to see some more nuclear power plants in this country. They'll be of a new generation that will be characterized by better safety characteristics; we hope they will be characterized by shorter construction times.”
Holdren isn’t naive when it comes to the problems the industry faces in the long run, but he says the White House is up to the task.
“We still have a problem in this country that there's no agreed upon approach for managing the radioactive waste in the long run, . . . I think the administration will be attentive to how we can do that, as well."
Holdren’s job as a the President’s Science Advisor is a direct report to the oval office. Still, there are many voices competing for the President’s ear, and Obama has demonstrated he is a good listener. The speech is a good start. Let’s see how it translates into action.
See also AAAS ‘Science’ Editorial, May 1, 2009, by John Holdren, Science in the White House; access is free but registration is required.
Video – Holdren at AAAS
The introduction involves an inaudible question from the audience so wait a few seconds for Holdren to hear it and then start his answer
Backfield in motion
Holdren isn’t carrying the ball by himself. This week the White House announced the members of its Science & Technology Advisory Council. Three members of the Council have long experience with energy matters. Other members of the council have long and deep experience in a variety of science disciplines Here are the bios of the three with energy-related backgrounds.
Shirley Ann Jackson is the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and former Chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995-1999). She is the University Vice Chairman of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and past President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Jackson was the first African American woman to earn a doctorate from MIT and chairs the New York Stock Exchange Regulation Board.
Ernest J. Moniz is a Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, Director of the Energy Initiative, and Director of the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment at MIT. His research centers on energy technology and policy, including the future of nuclear power, coal, natural gas, and solar energy in a low-carbon world. He served as Under Secretary of the Department of Energy (1997-2001) and Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (1995-1997).
Maxine Savitz is retired general manager of Technology Partnerships at Honeywell, Inc and has more than 30 years of experience managing research, development and implementation programs for the public and private sectors, including in the aerospace, transportation, and industrial sectors. From 1979 to 1983 she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Conservation in the US Department of Energy. She currently serves as vice-president of the National Academy of Engineering.
John Holdren - brief official bio
Before joining the White House staff in 2009, John P. Holdren was Professor of Environmental Policy and Director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy at the Kennedy at Harvard University.
His work focuses on causes and consequences of global environmental change, analysis of energy technologies and policies, ways to reduce the dangers from nuclear weapons and materials, and the interaction of content and process in science and technology policy.
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