Invited Speakers

September 17th, 2011 by nes2011

The views and opinions expressed in the invited talks are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring organizations.
The official position of the APS on climate change can be found at this link

Edward J. Calabrese
Public Health, University of Massachusetts Amherst
When Sciences Fails Society: Toxicology’s 20th Century Legacy

Abstract: This presentation provides an assessment of hormesis, a dose-response concept that is characterized by a low-dose stimulation and a high-dose inhibition. It will trace the historical foundations of hormesis, its quantitative features and mechanistic foundations, and its risk assessment implications. It will be argued that the hormetic dose response is the most fundamental dose response, significantly outcompeting other leading dose-response models in large-scale, head-to-head evaluations used by regulatory agencies such as the EPA and FDA. The hormetic dose response is highly generalizable, being independent of biological model, endpoint measured, chemical class, physical agent (e.g., radiation) and inter-individual variability. Hormesis also provides a framework for the study and assessment of chemical mixtures, incorporating the concept of additivity and synergism. Because the hormetic biphasic dose response represents a general pattern of biological responsiveness, it is expected that it will become progressively more significant within toxicological evaluation and chemical and radiation risk assessment practices as well as having numerous biomedical applications. Particular application will be directed towards how hormesis may affect the risk assessment process for chemicals and ionizing radiation.

Robert M. Deconto
GeoSciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Climate Change and Sea Level Rise, Lessons from the Past and Models of the Future

Abstract: Recent observations of the polar ice sheets show an accelerating rate of fresh water input to the global ocean, yet the dynamic behavior of the ice sheets and the potential rate and magnitude of future sea level rise remain difficult to predict. New geological discoveries from the Arctic and Antarctic indicate a highly sensitive polar climate system, and far greater variability of the ice sheets than previously suspected. Here, we’ll review some of these recent findings in the context of new climate and ice sheet modeling studies, providing a geological perspective on climate sensitivity and the potential response of the ice sheets to a warming world.

Tyler Ellis
Project Manager, TerraPower, Bellevue, Washington
TerraPower’s Traveling Wave Reactor

Abstract: TerraPower is moving forward with detailed plans for a sustainable, economic, and safe nuclear reactor. The Travelling Wave Reactor (TWR) – a reactor in the 500-megawatt electric range – uses unique core physics to initiate a breed and burn wave which can be completely sustained in fertile material. This process allows the TWR to convert depleted uranium waste into usable fuel as the reactor operates, providing a sustainable base-load power source. TerraPower is the first company to create a practical engineering embodiment of this previously studied concept thanks to a powerful advanced reactor modeling interface, developed in-house, which enables the analysis of traveling wave reactor technology in a way that has not been possible before. This presentation will provide more detail about the origins of the TWR, the project’s current status as well as some of the safety differences between TWRs and currently operating light water reactors.

Michael W. Golay
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Fukushima Nuclear Event and its Implications for Nuclear Power

Abstract: The combined strong earthquake and super tsunami of 12 March 2011 at the Fukushima nuclear power plant imposed the most severe challenges ever experienced at such a facility.  Information regarding the plant response and status remains uncertain, but it is clear that severe damage has been sustained, that the plant staff have responded creatively and that the offsite implications are unlikely to be seriously threatening to the health, if not the prosperity, of the surrounding population.  Reexamination of the regulatory constraints of nuclear power will occur worldwide, and some changes are likely; particularly concerning reliance upon active systems for achieving critical safety functions and concerning treatments of used reactor fuel.  Whether worldwide expansion of the nuclear power economy will be slowed in the long run is perhaps unlikely and worth discussion.

Klaus S. Lackner
The Earth Institute, Columbia University
Carbon Cycling with Nuclear Power

Abstract: Liquid hydrocarbon fuels like gasoline, diesel or jet fuel are the most efficient ways of delivering energy to the transportation sector, in particular cars, ships and airplanes. Unfortunately, their use nearly unavoidably leads to the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Unless an equivalent amount is removed from the air, the carbon dioxide will accumulate and significantly contribute to the man-made greenhouse effect. If fuels are made from biomass, the capture of carbon dioxide is a natural part of the cycle. Here, we discuss technical options for capturing carbon dioxide at much faster rates. We outline the basic concepts, discuss how such capture technologies could be made affordable and show how they could be integrated into a larger system approach. In the short term, the likely source of the hydrocarbon fuels is oil or gas; in the longer term, technologies that can provide energy to remove oxygen from carbon dioxide and water molecules and combine the remaining components into liquid fuels make it possible to recycle carbon between fuels and carbon dioxide in an entirely abiotic process. Here we focus on renewable and nuclear energy options for producing liquid fuels and show how air capture combined with fuel synthesis could be more economic than a transition to electric cars or hydrogen-fueled cars.

Richard S. Lindzen
Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, M.I.T.
Climate v. Climate Alarm

Abstract: The underlying physics of climate contains important elements that are widely agreed on though frequently misunderstood. In this lecture, the basic physics of greenhouse warming are simply described. It will be shown that the dynamic mixing of the troposphere is essential to the mechanism. It will further be shown that there is nothing intrinsically alarming in the basic physics. Alarm depends critically on the assertion that the climate system is dominated by large positive feedbacks that greatly amplify such warming as may be due to increasing CO2 alone. The nature of possible feedbacks will be described, and the conditions for observationally determining such feedbacks will be explained. It will be seen that the feedback factors, themselves, can be subject to fluctuations, so that large positive feedbacks could occasionally lead to instability. A variety of attempts to evaluate such feedbacks will be described. Some will be shown to be clearly incorrect. The remaining approaches suggest that feedbacks are small and even negative, suggesting little basis for alarm.

Regis A. Matzie
Westinghouse Electric Company LLC
The Fundamentals and Status of Nuclear Power

Abstract: Nuclear power has enormous potential to provide clean, safe base-load electricity to the world’s growing population. Harnessing this potential in an economic and responsible manner is not without challenges. Safety remains the principal tenet of our operating fleet, which currently provides ~20% of U.S. electricity generated. The performance of this fleet from economic and safety standpoints has improved dramatically over the past several decades. This nuclear generation also represents greater than 70% of the emission free electricity with hydroelectric power providing the majority of the remainder. There have been many lessons learned from the more than 50 years of experience with nuclear power and these have been factored into the new designs now being constructed worldwide. These new designs, which have enhanced safety compared to the operating fleet, have been simplified by employing passive safety systems and modular construction. There are applications for licenses of more than 20 new reactors under review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the first of these licenses will be completed in early 2012, and the first new U.S. reactor will start operating in 2016. Yet there are still more improvements that can be made and these are being pursued to achieve an even greater deployment of nuclear power technology.

Robert L. Park
University of Maryland
The Only Way Of Knowing

Abstract: As of today there are 7 billion people on this planet; according to the wireless industry 5 billion of them have cell phones. It’s possible to call anyone on Earth with a 2-ounce pocket mobile. The knowledge behind this politically-powerful technology did not come from sacred texts or government offices. The only way of knowing is by scientific observation and testing. In theory, the public learns from the media. As I will show, the media is not a reliable source.

Cavan Stone
Physics, Dartmouth College
The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor: Energy Cheaper Than Coal

Abstract: This century, we face significant environmental challenges. Our demand for limited natural resources is rapidly increasing and much of humanity is concerned about the consequences. Our unsustainably growing population drives these challenges, and humanely stabilizing it would alleviate these pressures. Demographic data clearly shows that prosperity stabilizes population and it also shows that prosperity critically requires energy. In spite of the pressing and demonstrable nature of these challenges however, politically there is no international consensus on global energy policy. Developing nations simply will not accept a policy that will hamper their economic growth.
Yet, we do have a solution to these challenges, an idea conceived and experimentally tested by Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. Presently, various laboratories and start-up companies, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences have begun efforts to commercialize the technology. By delivering the promise of inexpensive energy it will be in the economic interest of the developing nations to use this carbon-free energy source. By delivering superior performance on longstanding public concerns about nuclear energy, it will be technologically and politically feasible for developing nations to stabilize their population with the bounty of energy cheaper than coal.

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