Monday, October 14, 2013

Self-embellished Prophecies from Amory Lovins, By Alex DeVolpi

Dr. Alex DeVolpi is a retired Argonne National Laboratory scientist.  During the Cold War, Dr. DeVolpi participated  in talks with Soviet scientists about nuclear weapons control issues.  These talks were in support of nuclear arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Dr DeVolpi has written about numerous topics since his retirement.

The March/April/ issue of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists contained an anti-nuclear essay 
“The economics of a US civilian nuclear phase-out,” by the notorious Harvard Physics drop out, Amory Lovins.  Dr. DeVolpi wrote a critical Letter and submitted it to the editor of the Bulletin for publication.  The Bulletin did not responded to Dr. DeVolpi's letter.  He commented:

"Although this letter was submitted in May 2013 to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, it has been utterly ignored by its Editors. The letter was in partial response to the article they had highlighted."
“Years ago, two of us who were subscribers and contributors since the late 1950s/early 1960s discontinued our association with the Bulletin. Both George Stanford — a highly respected colleague who passed away in early October — and I had found the Bulletin no longer presented balanced nor objective treatment of nuclear power and proliferation.”

Dr. DeVolpi then contacted me, and I offered to publish his letter:

Self-embellished Prophecies from Amory Lovins 

Amory B. Lovins’ recent article, “The economics of a US civilian nuclear phase-out,” (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March/April 2013 vol. 69 no. 2 44-65), continues his decades of predicting nuclear power’s demise and proliferation dangers. However, his forecasting has been exceedingly inaccurate and self-promotional.

In a widely distributed 1980 article,1 Lovins advised that “In fact, the global nuclear power enterprise is rapidly disappearing... [N]uclear power is not commercially viable, and questions of how to regulate an inexorably expanding world nuclear regime are moot. 

This is far from the actual record of nuclear-power growth and regulation. Moreover, he declared without reservation in that article 33 years ago that “The nuclear proliferation problem, as posed, is insoluble.”

That same year, in a prestigious scientific journal,2 Lovins asserted that “Power reactors are not implausible but rather attractive as military production reactors,” amplifying the claim with the allegation that “Power reactors are ... rather potentially a peculiarly convenient type of large-scale military Pu production reactor.” None of these predictions have come true. 

These were not passing aberrations; nor were they since corrected with updates or revisions based on evolving realistic experience. Instead, the allegations stand as deliberate and unfounded efforts to influence national and international nuclear policy, irrespective of factual circumstances and
evolving data.

Posted on the Internet since 20083 has been a declaration by Lovins that “nuclear power is continuing its decades-long collapse in the global marketplace because it's grossly uncompetitive, unneeded, and obsolete — so hopelessly uneconomic that one needn’t debate whether it's clean and safe; it weakens electric reliability and national security; and it worsens climate change compared with devoting the same money and time to more effective options.”

While prolific repetition -- with distractive writing, citations, discourse, and lectures – might be financially rewarding to Lovins and his Institute, it should not be tolerated by conscientious publications and institutions.

In-depth refutation can be found on a critical-analysis blog4 that examines his edifice of seemingly authoritative papers, including the aforementioned 52-pp manifesto posted by Lovins.

1. Amory B. Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins and Leonard Ross, “Nuclear Power and Nuclear Bombs,”
Foreign Affairs (Summer 1980).
2. Amory B. Lovins, “Nuclear weapons and power-reactor plutonium,”
Nature 283, 817-823 (1980). 3. Amory B. Lovins and Imran Sheikh, “The Nuclear Illusion,” preprint “dr 18, 27 May 2008, DRAFT subject to further peer review/editing” Ambio (Nov. 2008; unpublished as of mid-May

4. A. DeVolpi, “NUCLEAR EXPERTISE: The Amory Lovins Charade: Applying Smell and Ripeness Tests to (30-year-old) Predictions,”

Dr. DeVolpi also noted a change of address for his Internet writings on Nuclear Disarmament.  Google Knol (has been shut down), DeVolpi's Internet postings have migrated to WordPress;

I also wish to express my regret at the passing og Dr. George S. Sandford, who I knew mainly from LFTR/IFR debates on BraveNewClimate and elsewhere.  George was rational, and willing to acknowledgev when a debate opponent used documented evidence to make strong points against him.  I liked George and admired him.


Unknown said...

I find it interesting that among the governing board of the Bull-shittin of Atomic Scientists there are NO atomic scientists. Seems a bit of false advertising.

Anonymous said...

The DeVolpi link does not work. Is there another one?

Anonymous said...

Lovins has made quite a career for himself. He understands politics well enough to make a nice comfortable niche. Fact is though, nuclear power is not doing well at all. After the latest debacle at Fukushima things do not bode very well for nuclear in the immediate future. Lovins must be pleased on that score.

Understand that in his politics energy is precious and must be made to be expensive, there are too many people and so there will need to be less of them, expensive energy can help things along in that regard. Beware, he is more successful than is Nader in getting respect and having his ideas taken seriously at senior academic and at senior political levels.

Anyway, all these types of guys are getting old. Soon they will be no more. They will become irrelevant as younger generation of people move into positions of influence and responsibility and take over. THis will be especiall so in the developing world where the old stale Western ideas are not going to be worth a whit. It becomes very interesting to see what happnes when these developing outfits cast aside the yoke of conventional Western political thought and boldly direct their own futures.



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