Saturday, February 23, 2008

Those German Rocketeers

From The Huntsville Times

Von Braun 'insisted we were all a team'
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Times Staff Writer

Ceremony is tribute to cooperation between German, U.S. scientists

The first of them arrived holding top coats and walking canes, some stoop-shouldered as they filed past the Saturn V, their greatest achievement. They were giants of their time, the scientists credited with building a town and America's space program. In the beginning, they were the most famous team in Huntsville, 118 Germans who spoke boldly about satellites and rockets.

The last of their ranks received the star treatment again Tuesday morning at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, the new $22 million building hosting its inaugural event.
As part of the city's 50th Anniversary of America in Space, the members of Wernher von Braun's rocket team were honored with a plaque from Marshall Space Flight Center's Retiree Association. The surviving members of the team sat side-by-side in chairs with their last names across the backs. One was in a wheelchair. Another wore dark glasses on an overcast day because he's legally blind. "I drove my own car," said Oscar Holderer, the youngest of the team at 88. "There are so few of us left. I felt an urge to come."

For years, they were inseparable, linked by their quest to put the first men on the moon, among other things. But now, they see each other infrequently, mostly at funerals and other special occasions, such as Wernher von Braun's 95th birthday party last spring at an Italian restaurant on Airport Road. "Some we haven't seen in 20 years," said Astra von Tiesenhausen, the wife of George von Tiesenhausen, another of the German scientists.

Konrad Dannenberg, believed to be the eldest member of the team at 95, was there. So were Walter Jacobi, Walter Haeussermann, Rudolf Schlidt and Hans Fichtner.
Ernst Stuhlinger, one of von Braun's chief aides, did not attend because of illness. Another member of the team, Werner Dahm, died Jan. 17 at an assisted-living facility in Huntsville.
By Dannenberg's count, nine members of von Braun's team are still alive. Six of them are original members of the team. The other three, he said, moved from Germany after the rest of the team arrived in Fort Bliss, Texas. "I think of history today," Dannenberg said, "even back to Peenemunde." During World War II, von Braun's team worked at Peenemunde, a rocket-missile laboratory on the Baltic Sea. After the war, the team moved from Germany to the Fort Bliss, Texas.

In the spring of 1950, most of them relocated to Huntsville. "I never saw any animosity here, even as a kid," said Rolf Sieber, whose father, Werner, was an original member of the team.
As an example of the city's attitude toward the Germans, Sieber cited an incident when he was a teenager. "I was walking downtown one day, and three or four teenagers were acting tough," he said. "I said, 'Oh, they figured out I was German.' They said, 'Are you one of these damn Yankees?' They didn't care I was German."

Much of Tuesday's ceremony, about one hour, was a tribute to the cooperation between the German and American scientists at Marshall Space Flight Center. Near the end, Jim Splawn, president of the Marshall Retirees Association, asked the spouses of the German rocket team members to stand. Then he recognized the American engineers, then the families of the American and German scientists. If von Braun were here today, he'd be most pleased," said Brooks Moore, a former NASA executive and past president of the Marshall Retirees Association. "He insisted that we were all a team. He didn't want the Germans and the Americans to be two different groups."

Then, just before it was over, Dannenberg spoke on behalf of the German scientists. "I selected myself to be the spokesman," he said later. At first, his wife, Jackie, began to push his wheelchair toward the podium. "Let me stand up," he said. Standing, Dannenberg spoke for a few minutes, talking mostly about the plaque and the Saturn V that dominated the Davidson Center. "For those who are not with us today," he said, "I think this will be a memorial for many years to come." When he finished, he sat down in his wheelchair, returned to his seat in the front row, and smiled at the other German scientists. Only Holderer appeared to look back at him. He nodded at Dannenberg, then began to gesture. "I did this,'' said Holderer, applauding. "I clapped my hands, so he could see me. I couldn't catch all his words, but it was all right."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Feature Story from today's INL website, go to

EPRI, INL Announce Release of R&D Plan Focused on Near-Term Increase in Nuclear Energy Production

The Electric Power Research Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory today announced the public release of a joint INL/Nuclear Power Industry Strategic Plan for Light Water Reactor Research and Development. The plan was developed by an industry-lab team and reviewed and approved by the leadership of the INL's Utility Advisory Board and EPRI's Nuclear Power Council.

The plan sets forth two strategies that must be employed for nuclear energy to play a substantial role in meeting future U.S. energy needs. The first strategy is to efficiently construct and operate dozens of new nuclear power plants, starting in the next several years. The second is to maximize the contribution from our existing nuclear power fleet by extending the operating licenses. Implementing both of these strategies will require significant investment in research and development.

"Recent analysis by EPRI shows that all low-emission electricity technologies will be required to satisfy anticipated goals for reduced CO2 emissions - energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear energy, and clean coal with CO2 capture and sequestration" said Chris Larsen, vice president and chief nuclear officer for the Electric Power Research Institute. "Industry recognizes that LWR technology is mature and that industry should carry a large portion of the responsibility in maintaining this technology. However, this plan demonstrates that the magnitude of the challenges facing this nation require the active engagement and leadership of the Federal Government in achieving the stretch goals identified in the report."

The proposed industry/government cost-shared R&D effort set forth in the plan is focused on 10 objectives, six of which are considered to be of the highest priority. These high-priority objectives include:

Sustaining the high performance of nuclear plant materials

Transitioning to state-of-the-art digital instrumentation and controls

Making further advances in nuclear fuel reliability and lifetime

Implementing broad-spectrum workforce development

Implementing broad-spectrum infrastructure improvements and design for sustainability; and

Addressing electricity infrastructure-wide problems

INL's Deputy Director for Science & Technology, Dr. David Hill, said "Both the public and private sectors have much to gain from this research effort. Consumers across the country will benefit from avoided emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, reliable baseload electricity, and the creation of thousands of high-wage jobs. Benefits to the private sector include improved plant performance and reduced business risk during new plant development."

Because both the public and private sectors stand to benefit from these strategies, the plan recommends that the research and development program necessary to implement them be pursued through a public-private partnership. The research effort would be managed by a team comprised of DOE, EPRI and Nuclear Energy Institute representatives.
View the plan. ( 1.1MB PDF)

If you view the plan, here is a highlight that the experts are pushing in order to get around some regulations that they are lobbying for change. They really are irked by loss-of-coolant analyses and have been ridiculing those approaches for decades.

8. Extend the application of risk management technologies and understanding of safety
This research area would expand the use of probabilistic risk assessment, risk insights,
configuration risk management, and other risk-based tools to improve safety; optimize
programs, processes, and regulations; and optimize designs for future plants. It would
also develop an improved understanding of safety margins through state-of-the-art
Strategic Plan for Light Water Reactor Research and Development 15
simulation and modeling, reactor safety and design analysis, and risk based technology.
For example, redefining the break size for licensing purposes from the current largebreak
loss-of-coolant-accident basis to a more risk-informed basis may become an
essential prerequisite to life extension beyond 60 years. There is a need to develop pinby-
pin safety margin analysis, which is estimated to take 5 years to achieve.
Further, the
recent Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant earthquake in Japan highlights the need to address
safety margins in seismic design. For plants going to 80 years, this research area would
address how to incorporate the potential changes in failure rates of equipment into risk
calculations. Methodology needs to be developed for representing the impact of aging on
failure statistics. Finally, safety analyses and emergency response guidelines will benefit
from research being performed by the DOE Office of Science into more accurate epidemiological data regarding the health effects of low doses of radiation

We need Mencken today!

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor,and critic (1880-1956)

Shaking up the troops, blowing the taxpayers' bucks

A nuclear reactor operator, the worker, was disciplined when management at INL (Idaho National Laboratory) and the Department of Energy put on a great show for the public by showing that Washington is in charge. The whole story is too long to copy here. Go to GOOGLE and enter "Grossenbacher Guevera Argonne" and then click on the following:

Department of Energy
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTMLMr. Grossenbacher remarked that when BEA. assumed responsibility for the site, formally called the Argonne-West Site, the workforce was - Similar pages

To make this long story short, I grabbed the following bits from the lengthy documents and mailed them to Grossenbacher and Guevera along with my cogent observations:

Department of Energy
Washington, DC 20585
Arnold Guevara, Director, HS-40

Mr. Grossenbacher remarked that when BEA assumed responsibility for the site, formally called the Argonne-West Site, the workforce was found to have an expert-based culture and did not exhibit sound nuclear safety work practices.

The above is a rather weird statement.
expert-based culture and (therefore) did not exhibit sound nuclear safety work practices.
Also, formally should likely be formerly.

This action was followed by the suspension of the reactor operators’ qualifications, conduct of a root cause analysis, and performance of two management assessments.
That suspension is uncalled for. Also, I do not believe that all of the operators were thus victimized and the apostrophe is likely in the wrong place.

Of course, all of the above has cost a lot of the taxpayers' money. There is no tangible benefit. If I were a potential user, I would try very hard to find some other way to get the job done.

Bob Leyse

Now, regarding the taxpayers' dollars, look at the following list of participants in the above exhibition!

List of Attendees

Office of Enforcement
Arnold Guevara, Director, HS-40
Martha Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, HS-40
Kathy McCarty, Acting Director, HS-41
Richard Day, Acting Director, HS-42
Steven Zobel, Enforcement Officer, HS-42

Idaho Operations Office
Ray Furstenau, Deputy Director
Robert Stallman, Operations and Safety Officer
Jacquelyn Carrozza, PAAA Coordinator
Bill Hamel, Assistant Manager for Infrastructure Support
Dary Newbry, Operations and Safety Officer
Richard Dickson, Lead Health Physicist
Christian Natoni, Facilities and Infrastructure Support
Mark Gardner, Supervisor, Quality and Safety Division

Battelle Energy Alliance
John Grossenbacher, Laboratory Director
Arthur Clark, Deputy Laboratory Directory for Operations
Dave Richardson, Director for Nuclear Operations
Alan Wagner, PAAA Program Manager
Sherry Kontes, Nuclear Operations Compliance Officer

Battelle Memorial Institute
James Tarpinian, Environment, Safety, Health and Quality Officer

And, there was also a lot of travel and per deim money floating around!

It took me back to my school days in Kwaunee, Wisconsin. Our school, K-12, was in one building on the main drag, Milwaukee Street. The playground was on the main street and very often a ball would be hit into the street, so we would go after it. No kid ever got hit by traffic, but Roosevelt's New Deal sent dough for a fence. That lengthened the recovery time when the ball cleared the fence. But we had experts in scaling that fence to the chagrin of the Superintendent. The best scaler was Bobby Conard, "Termite." So, the Super laid for him, and grabbed him when he did his trick, and beat the hell out of him within the viewing of all. Of course, the Super was usually not around, and the incorrigible Termite stayed on the job! However, Termite never became a nuclear plant operator.