Resnikoff & Audin: The Camel's Nose

Marvin Resnikoff and Lindsay Audin are two technical consultants who demonstrate the subtle links between the Washington based anti-nuclear groups and Nevada's Nuclear Waste Project Office. Resnikoff and Audin first joined forces in 1983 in writing The Next Nuclear Gamble, an analysis of the dangers of nuclear waste transportation produced by the progressive New York Council on Economic Priorities. Later, the two were brought into NWPO's studies by the socioeconomic researchers under Mountain West.

It is a curious anomaly of the way NWPO has conducted its business that transportation impact studies were originally under the umbrella of Mountain West and its political geographers and psychologists rather than attached to an engineering department skilled at analyzing transportation issues. It was only after considerable effort that a Nuclear Waste Transportation section was set up at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, although its funding is now under some pressure. The reluctance of the state to fund these studies may well stem from UNLV's academic independence from the State's political posturing.

Transportation studies are generally a subset of the Civil Engineering discipline; those who make roads tend to study what travels over them and how to design the appropriate traffic flow patterns. Marvin Resnikoff was brought in to critique a modeling software package called RADTRANS and Audin was hired to give an analysis of transportation cask design. Unsurprisingly, their conclusions were a rehash of the 1983 The Next Nuclear Gamble findings.

The bibliographic sketches of Marvin Resnikoff from The Next Nuclear Gamble give us some insights:

MARVIN RESNIKOFF: the project director of the Nuclear Waste Transport and Storage Project, received a PhD in high energy theoretical physics from the University of Michigan in 1965. He has been a technical consultant on nuclear waste matters to the New York and Illinois Attorneys General, the State of Lower Saxony, West Germany, and numerous environmental organizations. Since 1974 he has testified on numerous occasions before the U.S. Congress and State Legislatures on nuclear fuel reprocessing, waste management and transportation. Previous to his work at the Council, he taught at Rachel Carson College and the Deparment of Physics at the State University of New York at Buffalo. [Resnikoff, Marvin; Audin, Lindsay; The Next Nuclear Gamble, New York Council On Economic Priorities, 1983]

Despite his credentials as a theoretical physicist, Resnikoff is not known to publish academic papers outside those for environmental groups. Instead, Resnikoff appears to be a one-man anti-nuclear consulting firm whose credentials are used to bolster anti-nuclear groups around the nation who need expert opinion. Resnikoff has appeared in this anti-nuclear consulting capacity since at least 1972 and appears to be the anti-nuclear expert of last resort.

For example, in the Casper Wyoming Star Tribune of April 17, 1992 in an article titled "MRS Conference Criticized As One-Sided By Nuclear Scientist" we see a confluence of anti-nuclear activists:

"A May 12 conference sponsored by the Wyoming Heritage Foundation will provide "full debate and discussion" on the proposal to store radioactive nuclear waste in Fremont County. . . .

Both a panelist scheduled to participate in the conference and a nuclear scientist formerly with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission - now with the Union of Concerned Scientists - say the conference's schedule is weighted in favor of the nuclear industry.

Schilling (Heritage Foundation executive director) said he searched for scientific experts who might have views differing from those within the industry and DOE, but could not find them.

"There clearly are scientifically trained people who could provide a different point of view" from those perspectives likely to predominate at the Heritage conference, said Dan Reicher, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council who has opposed nuclear waste disposal elsewhere in the country.

"But they (the Heritage Foundation) simply haven't made that attempt" to find such credentialed scientists, Reicher said. Although interviewed separately, both Reicher and Pollard (Union of Concerned Scientists) cited the same scientific expert who is known to differ with the industry -- a Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, who operates a waste management consulting firm in New York." ["MRS Conference Criticized As One-Sided By Nuclear Scientist", Casper Wyoming Star Tribune, April 7, 1992]

Reicher, Pollard and Resnikoff are professional anti-nuclear activists all well known to each other. Pollard especially, as a former scientist for the Nuclear Regulatory Council until 1977, should have been able to cite a dozen scientists with opposition views of nuclear waste management if such opposition was wide-spread. Marvin Resnikoff was instead cited, the trusted expert who could be expected to toe the anti-nuclear party line.

This points to the limited state of technical opposition to Yucca Mountain since most scientists are not excessively concerned about the nuclear waste safety issue. While there is heated scientific debate about how to optimize nuclear safety and technology, there is little debate that eventual solutions to problems are feasible. This allows Resnikoff a near monopoly on anti-nuclear consulting. It is therefore unsurprising that NWPO found a way to include Resnikoff in its transportation and risk studies at Yucca Mountain.

Joining Resnikoff in writing The Next Nuclear Gamble was Lindsay Audin, whose bio stated:

LINDSAY AUDIN: consultant to the Nuclear Waste Transport and Storage Project, graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in the aeronautical engineering program in 1970. He is an engineer at Goldman, Sokolow and Copeland, specializing in energy studies. Mr. Audin served as a consultant for the New York Attorney General on the transportation of irradiated fuel through New York City and has researched nuclear transportation issues since 1975. [The Next Nuclear Gamblel, 1983]

A theoretical physicist and an aeronautical engineer thus became the main opposition witnesses for the state of Nevada on the transportation of nuclear waste. Brought out at news conferences and Sawyer Commission meetings by Bob Loux and NWPO, Audin and Resnikoff were used to contest the safety of waste transportation casks, based on a nearly decade old analysis. The media accepted Resnikoff and Audin as bonafide experts and independent consultants, although neither of the two had ever been involved in the actual testing or transport of nuclear waste canisters.

Marvin Resnikoff got his start in the anti-nuclear movement by providing the scientific testimony that helped shut down the West Valley nuclear reprocessing plant in New York. Resnikoff continued his involvement in the anti-nuclear movement, later becoming involved with Ralph Nader's efforts to shut down the industry. In the book The Atomic Menace, Nader quotes Resnikoff's studies:

A recent study by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) indicates that even these costs may be seriously underestimated. The study was conducted by Marvin Resnikoff, professor of physics at the State University of New York at Buffalo, with the aid of four engineering students. In contrast to industry statements that mothballing would take 120 to 200 years, Resnikoff's group found that at least 1.5 million years would elapse before the radiation in reactors had decayed to safe levels.

The difference between the estimates of the atomic industry and of Resnikoff's group comes from the industry's apparent oversight of the isotope nickel-59. [Nader, Ralph; The Menace of Atomic Energy, Norton, 1979, p141]

Public Interest Research Groups are Nader offshoots that at one point in the 1970s were being started at universities across the country. The PIRG essentially confiscated student funds because once the student body voted in a PIRG, individuals could not opt out of the system. This became a forced contribution to Nader's advocacy war machine.

Resnikoff's early connection with the Public Interest Research Group implies his opposition to nuclear technology is thus long developed. As a consultant to the State of Nevada, his findings were consequently preordained. His anti-nuclear work for the Public Research Interest Group in the 70s led to the starting of the Sierra Club Nuclear Waste Campaign, the authoring of The Next Nuclear Gamble in 1983, and later the creation of Waste Management, his own consulting firm.

In a 1988 publication, Deadly Defense, Military Radioactive Landfills, we find more about Resnikoff's evolution as a career antagonist to nuclear technology:

Marvin Resnikoff is research director for the (Sierra Club Radioactive Waste) Campaign. He received a Ph.D. in high energy theoretical physics from the University of Michigan in 1965. He was a founder of the Campaign in 1978. . . . . (Resnikoff, Marvin; et. al.; Deadly Defense, Military Radioactive Landfills, Radioactive Waste Campaign, 1989]

The list of those co-writing Deadly Defense with Resnikoff, as presented in the preface, includes:

Minard Hamilton . . . Formerly, she sat on the board of Greenpeace, USA and was the Northeast organizer for "Sun Day." . .

Ed Hedemann . . . . He is author and editor of the Guide To War Tax Resistance, and editor of the War Resisters League Organizer's Manual.

William McDonnell . . He was an activist in opposition to a proposed radioactive dump in Warwick, New York, and a coordinator of the First Global Radiation Victims Conference.

Jennifer Scarlott is assistant director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy. Previously, she was public affairs coordinator for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Jennifer Tichenor . . She is a registered nurse and is director of the Nurses Alliance for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

It would appear that the Sierra Club's Radioactive Waste Campaign was more of an anti-war group than a scientific entity interested in the safety of radioactive waste disposal. This once again points to the confusion of Yucca Mountain, a nuclear waste repository, with protest against the nuclear weapons complex. In their zeal to make a political statement against war, environmental activists have often set aside science at Yucca Mountain. This larger anti-war political goal may overshadow scientific truth for investigators like Resnikoff.

Resnikoff's authorship of research papers for the Sierra Club's Radioactive Waste Campaign in the mid 80s can thus not be viewed as part of normal academic debate and peer review, but as advocacy for a political agenda. Resnikoff started the Radioactive Waste Campaign, so it is not unusual that he would be also published by them. This doesn't mean his work isn't sincere, but that Resnikoff and many others in the Green movement who claim scientific respectability have not subjected their ideas to rigorous peer review by other qualified scientists.

Resnikoff and Audin are no friends of the nuclear industry. Consequently, their appearance in 1991 as consultants to the Transportation studies being conducted by NWPO and paid for by the Nuclear Waste Fund, was a significant coup by the Greens. The anti-nuclear movement was able to place two of their most rabidly opposed members at the very core of the studies being conducted and get them paid for being in this position. BATTLING ANEC

When the American Nuclear Energy Council (the nuclear trade organization) began to air commercials produced by OIZ Advertising of Las Vegas showing films of transportation casks being subjected to damage testing, Resnikoff and Audin were ready. The media were given information by NWPO based on an Audin paper titled "Nuclear Cask Testing Films Misleading and Misused" Lindsay Audin October, 1991. Audin's analysis created an uproar in the state by claiming the films used in the ANEC commercials were rigged.

The Nuclear Waste Project Office funded Audin under contract NWPO-TN-012-91 with money from DOE Grant number DE-FG08-85-NV10461. To quote from the article's title page: "As part of its oversight role, NWPO has contracted for studies designed to assess the socioeconomic implications of a repository and of repository related activities. Since Audin's article was a response to an advertisement run by the nuclear industry done outside the normal nuclear waste transportation studies at UNLV, this response was actually part of NWPO's media relations campaign. Audin has never worked in the nuclear industry, was never present at container tests, and has not been employed as a design engineer. In fact, in a statement to the Nevada press, Audin stated:

"I don't claim to be a PhD. What I do claim is that I have credentials of analysis of the documents and finding errors and as you can see from most of my reports, virtually all the references in there were straight from the DOE and NRC. I'm basically a librarian collecting information they don't want you to have. [Press conference, 10/4/91]

What was unknown to the local media was that Audin's associate, Marvin Resnikoff, had taken part in a similar scenario in 1984 in England. British environmental activists claimed tests of nuclear transportation casks were rigged and inadequate, implicating not only British designs but U.S. casks as well as well. Interestingly, Dr. Marvin Resnikoff had just attended a conference on nuclear transportation issues in Britain representing the Sierra Club Radioactive Waste Campaign.

British Greenpeace activist George Pritchard charged that a crash pitting a spent fuel cask against a train was stage managed to make the effects less severe than they might have been. It was asserted that engine mounting bolts had been removed from the locomotive to reduce the force of impact. It was also claimed that weights were put in the train's carriage to minimize secondary impact. CEGB, the utility which underwrote the demonstration demanded proof of the claims or an apology. They got the apology.

Pritchard conceded that he had acted "somewhat naively" in making the allegations. The apology went as well to British Rail and to the engineering firm which set up the demonstration. In closing, Pritchard added that he looked forward to "a more understanding relationship between Greenpeace and the CEGB."

This attack by Greenpeace likely was advised by Resnikoff and the Sierra Club Radioactive Waste Campaign. After all, Resnikoff was the only environmentalist on either side of the Atlantic claiming expertise in nuclear transportation through his work on the book, The Next Nuclear Gamble. Moreover, the British representative of Friends of The Earth, Amory Lovins, had worked with Resnikoff to halt plutonium shipments in 1979 and the anti-nuclear movement had long been internationalized. In Nevada, anti-nuclear hysteria was so rampant by 1991 that the campaign against the ANEC commercials run by Audin in NWPO's behalf was greeted with media acclaim. Later, Dan Burns, director of Channel 3 in Las Vegas also did an expose claiming the ANEC films were rigged. Little did the media understand how they were being manipulated by anti-nuclear professionals who had honed their tactics world wide.

Resnikoff has often consulted for the Safe Energy Communication Council. In the SECC Myth Busters #8, Resnikoff discusses low-level waste disposal and claims all present sites are contaminated or inadequate. This is consistent with other reports issued by his firm, Radioactive Waste Management, and comes as little surprise. Among the recommendations of the Myth Busters report authored by Resnikoff:

6) The production of "low-level" nuclear waste must be phased out in an orderly and economic manner by ending U.S. dependence on nuclear power as a source of energy.

7) The federal government, individual states, communities and utilities should significantly increase research, development and commercialization of safe, clean and affordable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and solar hydrogen. The government's highest funding priority for meeting our nation's energy needs should be these renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and conservation. Many of these resources are cost-competitive and available today. [Myth Busters #8, Safe Energy Communication Council, summer 1992]

Resnikoff appears to be an absolutist in regard to utilizing solar energy in place of nuclear energy technology. However, Marvin Resnikoff has been remarkably short in suggesting practical solutions to the nuclear waste problem beyond leaving the waste aboveground for future generations. Similarly, Lindsay Audin is in essence a technical librarian and has no hands-on experience with nuclear shipping casks, though claiming to be an expert in cask design deficiencies.

The glaring problem for the environmental movement is that they have not been part of real world demonstration projects that give evidence that their utopian solar theories produce practical solutions to disposal problems.