Wednesday, July 23, 2008

California opinion poll on nuclear power

To: Field Research Corp., San Francisco, CA ( )
From: Ace Hoffman, Carlsbad, CA
Date: July 23rd, 2008

To Whom It May Concern,

In light of the claims made by the media and the nuclear industry as a result of your poll asking Californians about nuclear power, I am interested in the exact wording of the questions.

Specifically, was any attempt made to ascertain how much understanding poll respondents had about the complex issues involved? I am asking for this information as a first step towards reviewing the poll for balance and determining if it provides truly useful information.

Public opinion polls are one of the ways the public ought to be able to influence their own future. That is why you expect "us" to participate in them, is it not?

But perhaps all they show is that the public has been grotesquely misled, and is confused on the issues. If questions which would reveal such ignorance are not included, what good is the poll?

I am also interested in the wording of questions in the previous polls you have taken, since the change from one poll to another is considered (by the nuclear industry) to be significant.

The citizen has very few methods of influencing government action. Underlings often block citizens' attempts to contact their elected officials directly. California's governor, in his public statements, does not show any significant understanding of the dangers we face because of the use of nuclear power. Nor does he seem to understand the comparative financial value of other energy choices for California. Citizens' complaints are not addressed. Worse, vital security issues are ignored.

Due to the complexities of the issues, the media generally has little or even no grasp of the technicalities. It takes a nuclear scientist, or so they say. And if you educate yourself about the issues outside the hollowed schools and military academies, you'll be called an "activist." No longer a citizen; they'll say you have an agenda -- merely for educating yourself!

For these reasons, it is imperative that poll designers should, themselves, keep up with any highly technical issues they wish to study, such as nuclear power. Otherwise, how can they be sure they have not designed questions which are misleading?

For example, many pro-nuclear activists call tritium's beta decay particle "harmless" because they claim it is "low-energy." It is not harmless, and as to being low energy, it is only low energy for a beta particle. However, since beta particles do most of their damage near the end of their track when their energy (and speed) is (are) comparatively low (they give up some energy to every charged particle they pass close to), the "fact" that tritium's beta particles are "low-energy" -- for beta particles -- doesn't make them "harmless" -- or even necessarily less harmful than other beta particles.

If I'm being too technical, perhaps that underscores my point about your poll. Did it ask the respondents if they know that tritium can be absorbed directly through the skin? And did your poll ask if they know that nuclear power plants, generically, leak about 1000 Curies a year of tritium? (California's nukes are no exceptions.) 1000 Curies is about a teaspoon of tritium -- enough to pollute about 13 billion gallons right up to the EPA "safe" limit for drinking water (20,000 picoCuries per liter).

Did your poll ask if the respondents are aware of any of this? Because it's all true, but the nuclear industry does not want the general public to know that tritium is dangerous or that so much tritium is released, on average, by every operating nuclear power plant.

Did the pollsters ask the respondents, for example, if they happened to have a solution to the nuclear waste problem? Because nobody else has a solution. Yucca Mountain is a technological flop, and in any case, just tries to isolate the waste a few dozen miles from Las Vegas, Nevada. If anyone has a better idea, they are encouraged to submit it to the Yucca Mountain team, which considered everything from deep sea disposal (environmentally disastrous within the 10,000-year legal time-limit), to reprocessing (not cost-effective, and very polluting), to rocketing the waste into outer space (too many launch accidents, and way, way way too expensive, although pronukers still believe it's possible).

All these ideas -- and many more -- were rejected on technological grounds before Yucca Mountain was accepted as a last resort, meaning, the Yucca Mountain team was charged with coming up with something, even if it wasn't a great idea. Yucca Mountain is certainly NOT a great idea (or even a good idea).

Did your poll look for any great ideas, or did it happen to mention to people, in the course of finding out what they think, that in sixty years, the nuclear industry hasn't come up with one?

America was founded on honesty and the ability of the people to help make informed decisions by having the facts. The nuclear industry is the most misleading, confusing, complex, secretive, and dishonest undertaking in history. Did your poll reveal the decades of lies by nuclear power's proponents? Or did it just reveal that those lies have worked? Do you know which of these things your poll revealed? Was it designed to reveal the public's knowledge about the issues, or just the "gut feelings" of the masses?

Were voters selected by any additional criteria besides being on the voting roll?

If the poll's questions produced biased results, then your poll will not serve anyone -- except those who do not care if, as a country, we make logical, thoughtful decisions based on the facts, or illogical ones based on believed propaganda.

I have more than 35 years of experience studying nuclear issues. I would like to review your poll in detail, and see what it really reveals about Californians' opinions of nuclear power, or about the pollsters. Perhaps it is misleading the media. Perhaps it is misleading the public. Perhaps it is misleading the politicians. Perhaps it only shows half a truth. One way or the other, I wish to know.

Is this possible, and if not, why not?

Thank you in advance for your consideration,


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author is an award-wining educational software developer. URLs for four commercial products the author has programmed (and in some cases, authored) are shown below for affiliation purposes. He is the curator for a collection of nearly 500 nuke-related books and educational videos going back as far as the Smyth report (A GENERAL ACCOUNT OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF METHODS OF USING ATOMIC ENERGY FOR MILITARY PURPOSES UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT 1940-1945, by H. D. Smyth, Chairman of the Department of Physics of Princeton University, Consultant to the Manhattan District U. S. Corps of Engineers. Written at the request of Major General L. R. Groves, United States Army. U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.. Publication authorized as of August, 1945 (price: 40 cents)).


Animated Periodic Table of the Elements:

Selected Pump Animations with full frame control:

"All About Pumps" educational software tutorial:

"Statistics Explained" educational software tutorial (co-author):

"The Heart: The Engine of Life" educational tutorial about the human heart, originally written in 1984 and released for the first time in 1986 (co-author):

All four of the educational products require passwords to be entered once:

ZINC (for the Animated Periodic Table)
MR. PUMP (for All About Pumps)
ANOVA (for Statistics Explained)
AORTA (for The Engine of Life)

The above programs also ask for a "login ID," but that can be anything in the current releases.


Nuclear Policies
Support for nuclear energy rises in California
21 July 2008

Support for the construction of more nuclear power plants in the US state of California has grown over the past two decades, with half of Californians now in favour of new reactors, according to a recent poll conducted by Field Research Corp.

California's Diablo Canyon plant (Image: PG&E)
The latest poll, conducted 8-14 July, questioned 809 registered voters in the state about their reactions to rising oil prices. When asked whether "the building of more nuclear power plants should be allowed in California," 50% of respondents agreed that new plants should be built, while 41% disagreed and 9% had no opinion.

The poll showed that support for new nuclear plants was greatest among Republican voters (64%), while 41% of Democrats were in favour.

A similar Field poll conducted in 1990 found that 38% of Californians were in favour of more plants and 56% were against them. An earlier poll, in 1984, showed that 33% approved the construction of new nuclear plants and 61% were opposed. The earliest Field poll on nuclear energy, taken in 1976, put support for new plants at 69% while just 19% of Californians opposed them.

Support for new nuclear plants in California dropped to 37% in 1979, with 55% of residents opposed, following the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the state of Pennsylvania, according to a Field poll conducted that year.

The Field poll has operated continuously since 1947 as an independent, non-partisan, media-sponsored public opinion news service. Each year the poll covers a wide range of political and social topics examining Californian public opinion.

California, the most populous state in the USA with over 36 million inhabitants, has set targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The state has a moratorium on nuclear power plant construction. A 1975 law prohibits the use of land in California for the construction of new nuclear power plants until the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission confirms the existence of "an approved and demonstrated technology or means for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste." At the current rate of progress, the USA national radioactive waste repository planned for Yucca Mountain would not be ready before 2017 at the earliest.

In 2007, a bill was introduced in California's state legislature by Republican assembly member Chuck DeVore calling for the moratorium to be lifted. However, the bill failed to receive the necessary support to make it into law. Meanwhile, state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that he thinks nuclear power has a "great future" and that the state should seriously reconsider using the "beneficial" technology.

There are currently four nuclear power reactors in operation in California: Diablo Canyon 1 and 2 (owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co) and San Onofre 2 and 3 (owned by Southern California Edison Co and San Diego Gas & Electric Co). The plants provide some 16% of California's electricity needs.