Monday, June 6, 2011

Always Question Motives of What People Say: Arnie Gunderson

There is a video that might be set to go viral on the Internet from a guy named Arnie Gundersen. It is about Fukushima. There are some glaring mistakes in his testimony. The media hasn't picked up on Gundersen heavily yet, but they might. I think now is a good time to show you why we should be very skeptical of yet another media creation and what s/he says. 

The video in question, as far as I am aware of, was first put up on a site named Chris Martenson. Martenson sells information to investors and recommends stocks and equities. He also has a plethora of online information and seminars that he sells to visitors. There's also a book or two. He is definitely selling an agenda. His site's sub title is: "Information on the global economy, environment, and our energy challenges." 

I went to that site and began to read the article in question interviewing Gundersen that links to the video. I stopped reading half way through the first paragraph. It's obvious that Gundersen doesn't know what he is talking about. The first paragraph reads: 

"I have said it's worse than Chernobyl and I’ll stand by that. There was an enormous amount of radiation given out in the first two to three weeks of the event. And add the wind blowing in-land. It could very well have brought the nation of Japan to its knees. I mean, there is so much contamination that luckily wound up in the Pacific Ocean as compared to across the nation of Japan - it could have cut Japan in half. But now the winds have turned, so they are heading to the south toward Tokyo..."

Right there, I can't stand to read anymore. Besides the sensationalist nonsense that, "It could have very well brought the nation of Japan to its knees." (Sure, and I could win the lottery tomorrow). It is absolutely and definitively false that the winds have turned, " they are heading to the south toward Tokyo." That's either an out-and-out lie or Gundersen hasn't a clue as to Japan's weather and wind patterns.

Either way, he's out. If he's a liar, then I don't need to read anymore. If he is clueless then ditto.

From March to December, Japan's prevailing winds blow from the south or east. That means, no matter how you slice it, Tokyo is upwind from Fukushima. It's been that way for millions of years, I can't imagine it changing anytime soon. And, no, it's not a question of today's weather versus yesterday's. Spring and summer bring rainy season and monsoons from the south pacific. These weather systems bring massive rains to the Japanese archipelago. They always begin in the Philippines and move north to Okinawa upwards to Kansai, then Tokyo and then northward where they peter out over the Pacific. 

We just had a typhoon last week. It came from the south. Can someone alert Gundersen that, under normal conditions, and in the real world, typhoons move in the direction the wind takes them and not against the wind .. I don't know about the books Gundersen reads. Maybe he's been hanging out with Michio Kaku and reading his books, I suppose?

There was another thing that bothered me... The above and then when I looked at reader's comments, all of them were angry that Martenson was charging money for people to watch the second part of the video. Martenson loses all credibility right there. 

I severely criticized him on his blog comments section for that too.   

But this is not about Martenson's questionable "recommendations" it is about Gundersen.

If we, the public, are to believe these pundits that we see on TV, etc. Then proper and fair disclosure is necessary. That Gundersen doesn't disclose his financial interests and motivations of commenting on Fukushima makes his remarks to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism from thinking people. 

Just like, for example, before the Iraq War, when US media put many retired US generals on TV (who were on the payroll of US weapons manufacturers) to promote support for that war, we need to question what possible monetary motivations people have for what they say. Gundersen is no exception. 

As my friend Andrew Woolner of "Wall of Shame", the online Wiki that lists and documents gross and negligent sensationalist reporting concerning the Fukushima disaster wrote: 

Gundersen is much harder to pin down than some of the other fake experts. Unlike Caldicott and Busby, I haven't seen anyone directly challenge him yet, and he's reasonably careful about what he says (although, as Mike pointed out in the comments on this video, he doesn't know jack shit about Japanese weather patterns).

My impression is that his science is reasonable, but he's working from data that he's extrapolated from odd sources  and he makes assumptions that challenge the info coming out of Japan based on flyover videos and his own interpretation of data (like calculating the power of a blast based on plutonium found in Fukushima pref. which is probably left over from the cold war bomb tests). Anyone want to start a google doc where we start listing the claims he makes and debunking them one by one?

Thanks Andrew. Yes, it is time to start debunking this guy. Just like we've blasted Michio Kaku out of the water

As far as Gundersen is concerned, here's just some of the story that he probably doesn't want too many people to know. He possibly may have a conflict of interest problem. It's sort of like Fox News. You know, "Fair and Balanced" reporting only goes as far as it doesn't affect their pocketbook. In this case, Gundersen is selling a product and a service. 

Gunderson owns a patent for some sort of protocol that he wants to sell that is used for measuring radiation along with a system for dealing with it and decommissioning those nuclear power plants. He performs these duties with the Fairewinds Association of consultants of which he is co-owner and founder with his wife. It is his company's product and service that he is pushing.

Arnie is an energy advisor with 39-years of nuclear power engineering experience. A former nuclear industry senior vice president, he earned his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in nuclear engineering, holds a nuclear safety patent, and was a licensed reactor operator. During his nuclear industry career, Arnie managed and coordinated projects at 70-nuclear power plants around the country. He currently speaks on television, radio, and at public meetings on the need for a new paradigm in energy production. An independent nuclear engineering and safety expert, Arnie provides testimony on nuclear operations, reliability, safety, and radiation issues to the NRC, Congressional and State Legislatures, and Government Agencies and Officials throughout the US, Canada, and internationally.


As the former vice president in an engineering organization, Arnie led the team of engineers who developed the plans for decommissioning Shippingport, the first major nuclear power plant in the US to be fully dismantled. He was also an invited author on the first DOE Decommissioning Handbook. Source term reconstruction is a method of forensic engineering used to calculate radiation releases from various nuclear facilities after nuclear incidents or accidents.  (emphasis mine)

So, while it may be hard to see on the surface, Arnie Gundersen definitely has a monetary motivation for what he is saying. His company wants to contract for the decommission of Fukushima and other nuclear power plants. There are many old ones who do need discussions on decommissioning. Fair enough.

The above information is easily found on a Wiki search on Gundersen and then a search of Fairewinds Associates... (I also noticed on a Google search that there was one return that said, "Solar Energy: Fairewinds Associates"... Hmmm/ Another possible conflict of interest?) 

There, on the Fairewinds Associates web site, you can find the name of the product/service that he is selling. Another Wiki check can put anyone on the right track about other possible conflicts of interest concerning Gundersen.... I found this out in 4 minutes of checking.

Perhaps I am wrong to say, "Conflicts of interest". Heck, who am I to  complain when a guy wants to make a buck? No problem. But when that guy uses the mass media to sell sensationalism and to try to capitalize of the public's mood and feelings of insecurity or fear, to garner public support so that he can profit from it, then we have a problem.

That person becomes guilty of dishonesty and loses credibility and respect when they fail to give full and complete prior disclosure of their background to us before giving us important information. In this case, Gundersen doesn't do it... He has repeatedly failed to do so excepting in very small print.

We can't trust what these media pundits or politicians tell us and, now, because we know a bit more about who Arnie Gundersen, is and what he is selling, we most likely cannot trust him completely either.

What Arnold Gundersen, like 99.99% of everything else we see or are told on TV or the mass media is not to be trusted nor taken at face value.


Marc Sheffner said...

You may be right. Gundersen may be distorting information. Still 39-years of nuclear power engineering experience is not to be sneezed at. He may have something valuable to say, and more usefully, do, if he can help decommission Fukushima. On the other hand, Japan does have experience in that area, too. Also, just because Gundersen is selling a producct/service does not per se make him dishonest, or what he is saying incorrect. He's wrong on Japan's weather patterns, tho, which severely dints his credibiility, and he should get trounced for that.

Murasaki Shikibu said...

Marc: 39 years in an industry does not make you an honest man either.

Anonymous said...

sadly, Arnie is right. he is the real deal. has even testified before congress after TMI. He knows GE mark I bwr well and has so far predicted most of the damage at dai ichi before tepco informs the public.

richardw said...

Maybe you should check the actual weather reports before claiming someone is lying?

Maybe you should also take into account that Arnie Gunderson is working from the NRC reports that are not public?

Maybe you should realise that day by day more info comes out as to the understatements of the radiation releases?

Quite frankly you are just defending an industry by shooting the messenger.

And quite frankly you attack an expert before realising he knows more than you seem to.

mikeintokyorogers said...

Thanks Anonymous and Richardw... Richard writes, "Maybe you should check the actual weather reports before claiming someone is lying?" Uh, hello? I only live here and have lived here for nearly 30 years. Trust that I do check the weather reports everyday! Old people are that way, you know...

Wall of Shame is now on this guy's case. He will be discredited, just like Michio Kaku was - just like guys like you who claimed he was the real thing too....

Wake up and see that the mass media is a tool for sales and you guys, without using critical thinking as a defense, are being used by it.

"And quite frankly you attack an expert before realising he knows more than you seem to." No. He is 2000% percent absolutely wrong on the weather. The above commenters and in the article, from writer and folks who LIVE IN JAPAN show it.

Sure, Fukushima might be bad, but he loses credibility when he makes outrageous and false claims about its effect on Tokyo which is, and always will be, upwind (unless, of course, the north pole becomes the south pole once again). Like, the excellent Japan Blogger Marc Sheffner points out, "He should be trounced for that."

Two kicks to the shins of Mr. Gundersen for pulling made up weather reports out of his ass.

Joel said...

I know crap about Japan's weather. I'm from California and most of the time, winds blow west to east. However, sometimes they DO blow east to west "Santa Anna Winds". Therefore, when he says MOST of the radiation was blowing out to Pacific was he lying then?! So could he be saying that maybe he read some report saying winds have shifted for a time? It don't sound like sensational to me. He just calls it like he sees it. He mentioned a possible meltdown way before Tepco admitted there was. Everything he has predicted has come true! And now Tepco is admitting they had all their numbers wrong and the radiation released is double what they said! This Fukushima incident is way worse than Chernobyl. Radiation poisoning the air and the Pacific Ocean! If that is not sensational but true news, what is?

mikeintokyorogers said...

Dear Joel, Sanata Ana wind events in So. Cal: "Depending on how you classify a "Santa Ana" wind event, annual frequency of occurrence has been documented. Without much attention on how strong a Santa Ana wind event might be, most studies indicate an annual average of about 20 Santa Ana wind events per year, some of those being weak and short lived."

There might be this sort of wind phenomenon in Japan. It is so rare we have no name for it. I remember it twice in 30 years and it lasted for a day or two at most.

No, the winds and the jet streams will not - and cannot - reverse direction. Calif has a Santa Ana phenomenon because of a mountains and desert effect. This is a sub tropical climate in Japan. The winds will always blow from south or east. It has always been that way and always will be. Read the other commenters who live in Japan. Millions of years of history do nt change and Gundersen is talking BS.... In spite of how much anti-nuke people wish him to be correct.

Anonymous said...

I was just looking at the Tokyo weather report at A couple of the wind balls are pointing southwest, from Fukushima to Tokyo. Whether 'prevailing' is an applicable word or not, it appears likely that sooner or later winds from Fukushima will pass over Tokyo.

As for me, I have no expertise at all and my motives are pure evil. That said, a couple of the wind balls are pointing southwest.

mikeintokyorogers said...

Anonymous! WRONG! In about 5 minutes I will post again showing why you are wrong. You are not evil, you just:

A) Haven't a clue as to what you are talking about.
B) Don't understand geography.

Anonymous said...

I know that 'Atomic Insights' is a pro-nuclear site, but it includes a post going through Mr. Gundersen's experience, raising a number of interesting questions:

For example, that "39 years of experience". And "licensed reactor operator".

Alan said...

1..If an remark about the weather turns out to be untrue, so what? the best meteorological estimates have only a 60% success rate.

2. Personal attacks on background etc are also irrelevant, you've uncovered no dirt except that "he is not to be trusted". Nuclear industry has lied over and over, from telling us the Uk programme was about producing electricity(it wasnt) to falsifying xray data (sellafield) ad nauseum.....are we not to trust them either?

3 out of 10 for credibility. 7 for effort, Must try harder.

mikeintokyorogers said...

Thanks Alan,
You bring up many points (some irrelevant) like the UK nuclear industry. Gundersen said,
"Worse than Chernobyl"? Really? Within 6 months of Chernobyl, "203 people were hospitalized immediately, of whom 31 died (28 of them died from acute radiation exposure)."
A year and a half after Fukushima? Hospitalized from radiation or deaths from radiation poisoning? ZERO. Case rests your honor.