Cultural Psychology

Archive for March 2015

Open Letter to US Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA): Stop Inciting War in the Ukraine

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23 March 2015

Dear Representative Capps:

I am disappointed that you voted ‘yea’ last Friday on the House resolution calling on President Obama to provide military assistance to the Ukraine:

  1. It is widely reported, plausible, and probably true that the US, via the CIA, helped instigate the crisis in the first place, actively seeking to separate the Ukraine from the Russian orbit.
  1. It is further common knowledge that Germany, for its economic gain, is also responsible for instigating the crisis.
  1. The text of the resolution is fallacious. It implies that whereas a “prosperous Ukraine” is “in the national interest of the United States” that we have some right — if not indeed a moral obligation — to supply military assistance to the Ukraine. Such reasoning is worthy of Machiavelli: it assumes without question that we have a right to make war merely for the sake of promoting our national interest — rather than, as our Founders wished, only to protect our national *security* interests. It is also fallacious to assert that our unquestioned goal should be to help other countries be prosperous — as though material wealth were the purpose of human existence, and that higher values (like peace and friendship) are not our true goals.
  1. It overlooks the potentially reasonable position that the Ukraine itself is ethnically divided, with the eastern Ukraine being more culturally Russian, and therefore having a valid wish to remain within the Russian sphere.
  1. We have had enough war, and enough of shipping arms around the world!
  1. When will the Congress recognize that it is not only possible, but better to cultivate peace rather than to pursue war?

John Uebersax

San Luis Obispo


Written by John Uebersax

March 24, 2015 at 3:54 pm

NRC Statistician Comments on Nuclear Reactor Risk Assessment Models

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The Diablo nuclear power plant in Avila, CA.

I had a long chat with an NRC statistician to discuss their methods for estimating the probability of a reactor accident. He confirmed what I already knew: no existing statistical methods can accurately predict such events. Rather, their theoretical mathematical models only indicate which parameters, out of hundreds, have the most influence on net risk (sensitivity analysis); but the models do not supply accurate net estimates for the risk of a critical reactor incident.

Bottom line: nobody really knows the probability of a meltdown or major radiation release at Diablo Canyon.

Historical evidence (number of actual reactor failures) might suggest a probability somewhere between 1/100 and 1/500 during its term of operation.

Two revealing quotes:

Kaiser 2012, Empirical Risk Analysis of Severe Reactor Accidents.

time to the next accident among the world’s 441 reactors … is estimated to 11 years.

Raju 2014, Estimating the Risk of Nuclear Accidents

The existing record of accidents … [and] their probability distribution is sufficient to rule out the validity of the industry’s analyses at a very high confidence level.”

A database (Excel spreadsheet format) on all US reactors is here:

Written by John Uebersax

March 15, 2015 at 8:19 pm