Tuesday, November 2, 2010

John Large, Greenpeace Hired Gun

A question has arrisen about John Large. who was cast as a foil to Kirk Sorensen, on a Russia Today video yesterday. Large claimed that
the thorium reactors do not really work, . . They are very challenging. It is a whole new fuel technology which has considerable and very insurmountable problems, in my opinion.
Large, who is a consulting nuclear engineer with Large and Associates, stated,
They would have problems in developing the processing cycle, the way in which you split the fuel from the waste from the reactor. They would have difficulties in actually storing the fuel.
Large also stated that Thorium reactors failed during the 1950's and disappeared from view only to reemerge about 2010.

Our first question is who is John Large? The answer is that John Large is a consulting nuclear engineer who appears to have acted on a number of occasions as a hired gun expert for Greenpeace. (For example, see here, here, and here.) Some expert hired guns are genuine experts who stick to facts and logic, while others employ logical fallacies, and misrepresentations of fact, to further the cases that they are attempting to make. Facts and logic, are not generally speaking Greenpeace strong points, and thus Mr. Large's statements cannot be automatically credited with adhering to the highest professional standards.

As far as I have been able to determine, the Russia today interview, represented John Large's first statement on the use of thorium as a nuclear fuel, and about thorium breeding nuclear technology. Since Large does not offer evidence to back up any of his statements, and in fact has made any public statements orally or in writing, about thorium or thorium breeding technology, it is impossible to know why he makes the claims he makes. Further more a number of the statements he made in the RT interview, were contrary to known facts. For example there were, contrary to Large, thorium based reactors operated after the 1950's. At least some thorium based reactors were not by any means failures. Finally, ORNL gave a great deal of attention to thorium fuel reprocessing in the 1960's and 70's. And while hey did find some difficulties, the difficulties were not overwhelming, and ORNL researchers made steady progress toward solving them. In the absence of greater specificity, we must conclude that a number of Large's claims were based on inaccurate information. of course, Large may offer us the information that he has so far withheld in support of his questionable statements.

Once again we note the hazard to media credibility that comes from automatically attributing expert status to the hired guns of partisan causes.


Alex877 said...

I think it is awful for someone to simply say things like that on TV when thousands are watching. If they are telling lies for the money from greenpeace or whoever that is shocking. Luckily there is a great bunch of folk on the internet that can help put to rest the doubters

Meredith Angwin said...

But can we get on TV? The people who read the internet are already usually ahead of the people watching these programs.


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