Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cum Res Malae Populo Bono Accidunt

http://image.slidesharecdn.com/20140720jttbjob-140724013528-phpapp02/95/journey-through-the-bible-the-book-of-job-11-638.jpg?cb=1406165797Amici, Americani, Compatriotae,

This last Sunday (January 15, 2017) my wife’s niece was sufficiently recovered from the burns which she got on her thighs from a hot water accident two weeks previous that we were able to bring her to attend her own ecclesial community, the Weddington United Methodist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Terry Moore gave the sermon. The Scripture passage which he chose was Job 1:1-12 and the topic was “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” hence the title of this blog post, “Cum Res Malae Populo Bono Accidunt.”

Please left click your mouse cursor on the hyperlinked title in the above paragraph to listen to an audio recording of the sermon. Please note that this audio recording was likely made at a time different than when I attended the service. The reason why I say that is two-fold: (1) Weddington UMC has more than one Sunday morning service at which the Rev. Dr. Moore speaks, and (2) the order of my notes in certain places differs from the order of what I hear in the audio file, and there are details that I did not record in my notes. I did my best to take accurate notes, but nothing beats the audio file for correctness!

Now first it was quite a coincidence that on her first day back to church in a little while my wife’s niece hears this topic given the fact that something bad did happen to her a couple of weeks ago: a glass vessel filled with boiling water brittle fractured, spilling the hot liquid on her thighs and causing third degree burns. I am sure this sermon was not planned specifically for her, but the happenstance of that being the topic of the sermon on her return is noteworthy.

Second, the word for “happen” in title of the topic when translated into Latin gives away the end conclusion made by the Rev. Dr. Moore near the end of his sermon: accidunt. Bad things happen to good people because sometimes they are simply accidents, not caused by God but allowed by Him because of either man’s free will or the intrinsic nature of the physical universe. Excessive thermal stress in a glass vessel causes brittle fracture and spillage of liquid. God did not cause that; it is simply an accident.

But let us go through the sermon on which I took 10 pages of notes on 4 ⅞ by 8 ¼ inch paper. It seems to make sense that bad things would happen to bad people, but not when bad things happen to good people. Often well meaning people not knowing what to say would say something – anything – anyways without conscious regard for how that might affect the victim, and thereby they end up hurting the other. It is almost as though sometimes some people posit that bad things may happen now as God’s vengeance for sins committed in years past that have been forgiven.

Other times people may say: “God needed your Mom more than you needed her,” to which the person responds out of pain, “I no longer believe in God!” What does that kind of mentality say about God? Indeed, even pastors have done this, for which reason Rev. Dr. Moore exclaimed, “People who have Reverend in front of their names sometimes scare me the most.”

Nevertheless, let us consider: was the terrorist attack on NYC on 9/11 God’s punishment for that “den of iniquity?” Do we really believe this is how God works?

Other times we look on victims of cancer or similar illnesses and proclaim in arrogance, “I can’t get cancer because I am a man of God.” We may even tell God, “I bet that you cannot give me that!” We will a special privilege. We ignore or fail to recall what Jesus said in John 9:2-3:

And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him?"

Still we ask, “How is there a God when his children suffer? Where is God?” The simplistic answer that “we’re not meant to understand” is simply too trite. Such an answer implies that some questions we are supposed to ask. Well, why not? Are we to accept that only by living right and keeping the law God will bless? That was the ancient Hebrew thought, and for that reason some scholars have posited that the Book of Job was written during the Babylonian Exile when Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple had bene destroyed. The people knew that by their apostasy they had erred, hence their “punishment.”

A different explanation is provided in the Bible’s apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation. Satan attacks us, and that attack wreaks havoc and destruction everywhere. Indeed, we see that in Job 1:12:

And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only upon himself do not put forth your hand.” So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

ASIDE: Sadly Protestants in the 16th century rejected the Deuterocanonical Books from the Bible that the Church had accepted at the Councils of Rome in AD 382 and Carthage in AD 397. Two of these books – 1st and 2nd Maccabees – deal a lot with suffering caused by the pagan Greek Seleucid overlords on the Jewish people who had returned to the Promised Land after the end of their exile in Babylon. Of particular note is the Martyrdom of Eleazar in 2nd Maccabees 6:18-31 and the Martyrdom of the Seven Brothers in 2nd Maccabees 7. In both instances a wicked leader – Antiochus IV Epiphanes – causes the suffering, NOT God. END ASIDE

Now Job was a good and upright man who lived in the land of Uz, yet in spite of his goodness and uprightness he goes through hard times. Job’s name – אִיּוֹב in Hebrew – means “hated” and the land of Uz – or עוּץ in Hebrew – in which he lived means “wooded” in an unknown place. Therefore, some scholars have thought that the Book of Job is like a parable similar to what Jesus used in teaching.

But other scholars have maintained that Job is an actual account of what happened to a very rich man who lived somewhere in the Arabian desert to the east and southeast of Judah and Israel. One day the heavenly hosts present themselves to God and Satan – the Tempter or Accuser (שָׂטָן in Hebrew) – comes along with them. God asks him what he was doing and Satan responds by saying, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” God asks him, “Do you see my man Job?” And Satan responds, “You protect him.” Satan’s accusation is that Job is faithful because God prospers him. Then Satan dares God by saying, “Take it away and he’ll curse you to your face.” God says, “Go ahead, but do not touch him.”

Satan then afflicts Job. His wife declares, “Curse God and die.” Job’s three friends say, “Job, you messed up.” (Be careful, amici, whom you select for your friends given the support you are likely to get in your hour of need.) So who is this God and why are these things happening to his servant Job?

Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book entitled, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” Rabbi Kuschner’s son Aaron had the premature aging disease progeria. This illness is one of rapid aging where the body remains at small stature (3 feet tall), the afflicted loses his hair and likely does not survive past his teenage years. That happened with Aaron who died at 14 years old. So why did God throw a curve ball like that? Degrees and education don’t mean anything when it comes to something like this. The question foremost in one’s mind is, “Why does God punish my child for me?”

Well, the fact of the matter is that God does not cause such bad things to happen. Rather, sometimes bad things happen simply because they are accidents, and in the case of progeria, it is a genetic condition that occurs as a new mutation which by definition is accidental. In some cases, however, accidents can be caused by other people hurting the innocent. For example, a drunk driver hits another vehicle and kills a baby. God did not do that. Rather, man’s free will did that. Therefore instead of asking God “why,” we should ask for “help.” Peter did that in Matthew 14:22-33 when he left the boat to join Jesus in walking on the water. As he began to see the wind and the sea, he became afraid and started to sink, whereupon he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

We need to remember John 3:16-17 as the touchstone of who and what God is:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

And we need to remember Jesus’ promise in John 14:18 and the angels’ promise at Jesus’ Ascension in Acts 1:11:

I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.
Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

In addition to the book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” Rabbi Kushner also wrote, “The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-third Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Let us then praise God that when bad things happen to us, he will ever walk with us, never leaving nor forsaking us.

ASIDE: I hope that when I go through the pain of loss I will remain cognizant enough to recall what St. Paul wrote:

Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39


ANOTHER ASIDE: There are indeed cases where accidents happen and good things ironically happen to bad people while bad things sadly happen to good people. Thus St. Paul writes in Romans 8:18-25 the following:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Nevertheless, sometimes I do think that God punishes us or lets us be punished as the case may be for our own wrongdoings. Genesis 7 records how except for Noah and his family God destroyed mankind in the Great Flood because of his wickedness. Genesis 11 records the fall of the Tower of Babel because of man’s pride. Genesis 19 records how God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for its sexual deviancy. 2nd Kings 2:23-25 records how God sent two she-bears to maul 42 young boys who ridiculed the prophet Elijah for being bald. Even in the New Testament God meted out punishment. Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead in Acts 5:1-11 for lying to the Holy Spirit. And Revelation 2:20-23 records that Jesus promised Jezebel at the Church in Thyatira that she would be placed on her sick bed and her children killed for teaching people to practice sexual immorality and to eat food from animals sacrificed to idols. But sometimes as the Rev. Dr. Moore pointed out, accidents do happen. Thus, we need to remember James 1:2-4:

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Baptismam Nostram Vivamus

Amici, Americani, Compatriotae,

Because I had to work from home today in order to continue to care for my wife's niece who has third degree burns on her thighs due to a hot water accident a week ago last Saturday, I got the opportunity to attend daily Mass at lunchtime at Our Lady of Grace. Today's Scripture readings include:

Father Kirby as usual gave an excellent homily. He spoke mainly from the first reading in Hebrews, explaining that we who are in the laity are called to be in a sense priest, prophet and king. Now 1st Peter 2:9 does state:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

So I understood the concept of the priesthood of believers on the part of the laity versus the priesthood in Holy Orders on the part of ordained πρεσβύτερος in Greek or Sacerdos in Latin. But I had not heard of these roles (i.e., priest, prophet and king) being ascribed to the laity in this fashion. So I did some research and discovered that tt the Our Catholic Faith web site there is an excellent explanation of this entitled, Mission Of The Catholic Laity: Priest, Prophet, And King. I encourage the reader to review this short essay.

Then in his homily Father Kirby focused mainly on the ending verses in today's epistle reading, continuing with his Sunday Mass theme of living out our Baptism in our daily lives:

In the days when he was in the Flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

As part of the priesthood of believers, we in the laity have an obligation to imitate Christ before the world. We must pray without ceasing, and persevere even in suffering, living out our Baptism as an example before the world of what Christ did for us. We must offer up to God what happens to us as a thanksgiving of praise to Him and service to our neighbor, hence the old nuns' phrase, "Offer it up!"

But beyond this there is a seriousness with which Catholics - lay person, religious and clerical - engaged in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Now as the reader may already know, I am a believer in Human Rights bestowed by God, not Civil Rights bestowed by Caesar. But that distinction is not the point here. What is the point is this. In the depths of racial strife during the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, Catholics joined with their Protestant brethren in marching for racial equality across the land. Father Kirby explained that along with black marchers, Catholic priests, nuns and lay persons would be subjected to tear gas and water hoses and all manner of maltreatment. But they marched onward regardless of the consequences that Caesar could bring to bear because that is what our Baptism requires: defending the defenseless, giving voice to the voiceless and advocating for those without an advocate (e.g., the unborn, the elderly, the terminally ill, those on death row, etc.)

There is one other noteworthy thing of which Father Kirby made mention, and which I discussed in a previous post. The term Reverend prefaced the title and name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is more properly called:

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This man was a Christian minister. Society today tries to secularize and "de-Christianitize" him to fit an atheist, humanist agenda. But it is Christianity alone which first recognized (in the face of Rome's libertine paganism and Athens' secularist philosophy) universal human equality in dignity some 2000 years ago when St. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:11:

Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scyth′ian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all.

To be Christian is to be like Christ who is God's only begotten Son. He is the very God in whose image and likeness we all - black, white, red, yellow, and brown - are created. Without God having created us as Genesis 1 and 2 describe, without Christianity - perhaps even without us living out our Baptism - there is no equality in dignity, no human rights.

De Martin Luther King ab Amico in VultuLibro

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Amici, Americani, Compatriotae,

A very devout and perceptive friend on Facebook  - James P. [the last name is designated with an initial so as to protect his anonymity] - posted the following text today regarding the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Please note before we begin that the term Reverend prefaced the title and name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This man was a Christian minister - NOT a secularist, NOT an agnostic, NOT an atheist, NOT a humanist, BUT a Christian. And it is Christianity which first recognized (in the face of Rome's libertine paganism and Athens' secularist philosophy) universal equality in dignity some 2000 years ago when St. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:11:

Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scyth′ian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all.

It is ONLY because we are created in the image and likeness of God that we are equal in dignity. If we are mere animals as the secularist atheists assert, then it is strength of the fittest to survive which rules and no equality in dignity exists. Indeed, it is from a lack of God that we get racism and prejudice and stereotype and all the other social justice ills which plague mankind. Those are the things which secularism, atheism and humanism bring.

Nevertheless, before I get carried away again and without further ado, here is what my friend so wisely wrote:

"But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 8/28/63
It has taken me most of my life to appreciate what Rev. King said and did. Watching the events of the Presidency of Barack Obama has made me realize what was said back then is being unfortunately played out now. We have turned a real and rational struggle for equal rights and equal opportunity into the march of racism and vengeance. 53 years later we have had black Supreme Court Justices, Senators, Representatives, CEOs. A black man has run for and achieved the highest political office in the land. Yet we are called racist every day... Rev. King in almost a prophetic moment said:
"The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom."
Yet today we look around and see white people blamed for everything from global warming to micro aggressions. We have black activists calling for the death of all whites. We have black representatives claiming a white man cannot be president and it's racist to simply disagree with him.
Instead of all this Rev King challenged us with:
"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
"Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Now on this day I will honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King by doing my job, working, doing my best to remember to love my neighbor, and I will continue to have hope in our future.

Video de Applicatione Certificationi Deformationis a NuScale ad Commissionem Nuclearem Dominativam

Amici, Americani, Compatriotae,

The first Design Certification Application (DCA) submitted to the US NRC in a long time since I think GE-Hitachi submitted its DCA for ESBWR - gaudeatis! Bona fortuna NuScale Potentati!

NuScale Power Design Certification Application (DCA) Announcement Event from NuScale Power on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ecce Agnus Dei

John the Baptist
"Behold the Lamb of God"
Amici, Americani, Compatriotae,

Earlier this evening I went to the Saturday Vigil Mass at Our Lady of Grace for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture readings included the following:

Father Kirby as usual gave an excellent homily. He opened with a little story from one of his previous experiences. He had been in a small town with an assortment of Protestant ecclesial communities: Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, etc., as well as his Catholic Parish. This town was infested with a growing squirrel population about which something had to be done. One Protestant community decided to hire an exterminator and the result was dead squirrels everywhere, and that turned out to be not such a good public relations move. Another tried to understand what was causing the population outbreak and its efforts were equally fruitless. So finally it was up to the Catholic Parish to try something. The pastor thereof one day arrived back with super soaker water guns. Everyone there thought that a little strange. So someone asked the Pastor, "Why, Father, all these super soakers?" Father responded, "I thought we would baptized the little critters. In that way we would only have to worry about them showing up on Christmas and Easter as most of the rest of the Catholics normally do."  The point in all this is that sadly many of us Catholics do not bother to live out our Baptism but once or twice a year.

Now while I cannot recall all that Father Kirby said (I really need to start taking notes!), the gist of it was in the selected Scripture passages below. I think what may have prompted him to go along this line was today's Gospel from the first chapter of St. John where John the Baptist sees Jesus and declares:

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’

Concerning Baptism St. Paul says in Romans 6:3-4:

Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

And again in Colossians 2:11-13 St. Paul explains:

In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And even when you were dead [in] transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions...

1st Peter 3:18-22 goes on to explain:

For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

The point in all this is that Baptism is the Sacrament which opens up to us all the other graces that God has to bestow on us. But if we do not live out our Baptism in our lives, then we will be incapable of receiving those graces. Indeed, just as we look at our priests as being an example of piety and holiness, so does the unbaptized pagan look upon us who are but members of the Laity, and the reason why is because of that indelible mark which Baptism places on our souls. We are therefore called to be a witness in deed and in word, acting and speaking the truth with humility and kindness and mercy and grace. Our Catholicism is not to be relegated to just Christmas and Easter. It is to be a daily exercise of faith stemming from that first Sacrament, our Baptism.

Moderation Inmodica et Neclegentia Moderationis Eaedem Sunt

Amici, Americani, Compatriotae,

The last two days we discussed the constriction of excessive regulation and how that stifles innovation and growth in the nuclear power industry, preventing the replacement of fossil fuel energy with a clean, non-polluting and a far safer form of energy production. But there is a flip side to this. While excessive regulation never serves public health and safety, equally so nuclear companies playing fast and loose with current regulation doesn't either, hence the title of this blog post: "Excessive Regulation and Heedlessness of Regulation Are the Same." Three examples will be given:

  • The Areva Priorization Module for Digital Instrumentation and Controls in the Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR)
  • The Mitsubishi Software Engineering Plans for Digital Instrumentation and Controls in the Advanced Pressurized Power Reactor
  • The GE-Hitachi Vibration Calculations for the Steam Dryers in the Economically Simplified Boiling Water Reactor.


Areva, a French company, was planning to build its new EPR - an advanced pressurized water reactor with active safety systems - in the United States. It had planned to use an electronic module in its instrumentation and controls to prioritize signals form safety-related systems over those from non-safety-related systems. This module used Programmable Logic Device (PLD) technology which in turn employs Boolean logic programmed onto an integrated circuit chip using Hardware Description Language (HDL) coding. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regards such technology as software simply because of the HDL code component. The NRC dislikes the use of software to prioritize safety over non-safety signals. The reason why is because of the checkered history that exists in various industries, not just nuclear, for using software to block non-safety and make safety processing a priority. While the technology is completely different, and likewise the example, back in the late 1980s Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) produced a machine called Therac-25 for cancer radiation therapy. Certain hardware interlocks were replaced with software ones. These failed to operate as intended. Patients were overdosed with radiation and died. You can read more here: An Investigation of the Therac-25 Accidents. There are more examples in the medical, aircraft, rail road, petrochemical, and nuclear energy industries. But in all these the lesson is clear: don't rely on software to prioritize safety or provide safety interlocks. So over the protestations of Areva ("it works in France," "we're great because 80% of our electricity is nuclear," "trust us because we know what we're doing," "our regulations are better than yours," etc.) the NRC rejected the prioritization module with this: Summary of NRC Staff Review of AVR-42 Priority Module Topical Report. Areva subsequently withdrew the topical report and a little later suspended its plans for an EPR in the United States.


Mitsubishi, a Japanese company, was planning to build its new APWR - like Areva's EPR, an advanced pressurized water reactor with active safety systems - in the United States. It had planned to use a completely digital, software controlled safety system. It based its design on work that had been done under the governance of Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission (which was discredited by allegations of collusion with TEPCO and by the results of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, and it is now replaced by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority). The NRC issued a very damning assessment of Mitsubishi's software engineering plans for APWR digital instrumentation and controls. Like the French Areva, Mitsubishi gave the usual excuses: "It works in Japan," "Trust us because we are experts," etc. The bottom line, however, remains the same: Mitsubishi is indefinitely delaying its plans for an APWR in the US.

ASIDE: what the reader may not realize is that Mitsubishi was involved in another debacle. It provided replacement steam generators for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS - a two unit site) in California back in the 2000s. Those steam generators developed tube leaks: primary water - reactor coolant - at 2235 psig leaked into the secondary side. The cause was vibration and subsequent tube rubbing at the upper quadrants of the steam u-tubes. Reactor coolant by definition is slightly radioactive. That made the steam side slightly radioactive. When the steam exhausted from the turbines into the condensers, air ejectors which maintain the condensers at a vacuum (for increased plant thermal efficiency) exhausted this radioactivity out the steam jet air ejector exhausts into the environment. Now the amount of radioactivity released was minuscule and non-injurious to either plant or animal life. But that fact of the matter is that it occurred, and did so on the eco-wacko left coast where liberals go nuts at the first mention of the word radioactive. All this which resulted from u-tube vibration could have been avoided had software QA been exercised with regard to the software-generated calculations which were done to analyze and predict u-tube vibration in high steam flow conditions at 100% power. But Mitsubishi screwed up [and so did Southern California Edison (SoCal), the plant owners]. Now SoCal had a plan to repair the tubes, add stiffeners to prevent vibration and rubbing, and restart one of the two units at 80% power. That plan was submitted to the NRC. But all the anti-nuke wackos for which California is so famous were in an uproar and the NRC dragged its feet to the point where SoCal without revenue from an operating plant could not keep staff employed on site for a promised restart that the NRC might never permit anyways. Thus, Democrat Governor Jerry Brown (that dropout from the latter 70s and early 80s - just remember Linda Ronstadt his concubine and the phrase Governor Moonbeam, and you got the picture) and the leftist progressives won. SONGS is now shutdown and to be decommissioned, and Mitsubishi is in large measure to blame for playing fast and loose. So of course when it came to Mitsubishi's digital I&C software engineering plans for APWR, the NRC was going to be wary. Do you, dear reader, get the point? Don't mess around with regulatory compliance. END ASIDE.


GE-Hitachi, a joint venture of the US General Electric Company and the Japanese Hitachi Company, have developed two different advanced reactors: the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) with internal reactor water recirculation pumps, and the Economically Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) which is all natural circulation and with completely passive safety systems. In the design of a typical boiling water reactor, control rods enter the core from the bottom, and steam separators and dryers are at the top above core internals. Since water boils in the core, steam ascends out the top. The separators remove moisture droplets which inn turn fall back into the downcomer region for subsequent recirculation into the core, and the dryers perform the last the drying out process before steam is routed out the main steam lines penetrating the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) to the high pressure turbine. "GE Hitachi allegedly made false statements to the NRC and Department of Energy about a component of the advanced nuclear Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor (ESBWR) known as the steam dryer." GE Hitachi subsequently agreed to pay a 2.7 million dollar fine because of this (without actually admitting any wrong doing). The US Department of Justice statement is here. Guess how many GEH ESBWRs are being built in the United States (or anywhere in the world for that matter)? NONE. ZERO. ZIP POINT SQUAT. Now that may change if Dominion's North Anna project starts up again some day. I certainly hope it does. The GEH ESBWR plant is really a great design, and its passive safety features for a large scale (1600 MWe) reactor are unparalleled. But the less here is clear: obey the regulation, PERIOD.


In each of these examples (and there are others, like KEPCO's APR1400) the companies involved played fast and loose, acting as though they get in interpret the regulation, and behaving as if their design is so safe that regulatory scrutiny is an afterthought. Well here is the truth of the matter: for better or for worse the US NRC makes the regulation. It is the arbiter and decider and interpreter of said regulation. It is the height of arrogance for a company to act as the interpreter, deciding what is right and what is wrong. Doing so is just like a Christian deciding he gets to personally and individually interpret Sacred Writ, contrary to what St. Peter says in verse 20 of chapter 1 in his first epistle: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." The Magisterium of the Church (the Pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Bishops with them) determined at the Council of Rome (A.D. 382) and Third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397) what Books would be in the Bible and what would NOT be. Books like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache while valuable and salutary to read were rejected, and Books like James, Jude and Revelation while argued about were accepted. The Magisterium determined that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Magisterium is the authentic interpreter, NOT the reader. In the same way no company (like Areva or Mitsubishi or GEH) gets to interpret the regulation. Rather, unflinching obedience and verbatim compliance is required and demanded. It's that way for the Christian for the safety immortal souls. And it's that way for the nuclear energy professional for the safety of mortal bodies.

Now unlike Sacred Writ - and here is where the analogy breaks down - regulation isn't perfect. That's why in a free Republic (NOT a Democracy - you do NOT get a vote) we have a process for changing regulation by petitioning the regulatory directly, by going to Congress which oversees the regulatory body, and by appealing to the President. Regulatory constriction should be addressed at that level and not by simply ignoring or reinterpreting it to one's personal profit and satisfaction. If the NRC is wrong in being strangulating - and it is - then equally so are the nuclear companies wrong for playing fast and loose. This is a two way street and both sides are equally responsible, and should be held accountable by both the voter and the consumer (who are often one and the same).

Friday, January 13, 2017

Confidentia Salutatis Publicae

NuScale SMR
Amici, Americani, Compatriotae,

The title of this blog post is "The Assurance of Public Safety." As discussed in yesterday's post, NuScale Hand Delivers 12,000-Page SMR Application To NRC:

Next generation nuclear power plant developer NuScale has requested a regulatory review of its small modular reactor (SMR) design for commercial application, submitting its nearly 12,000-pages of SMR plans to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the company announced Thursday.

It must have taken three to four years for NuScale to get to this point in its design for a small modular passively safe nuclear reactor. And now it will take a few months for the US NRC to decide on whether or not to even accept this application, let alone review it. Then once it decides to review the application, that process will take up to two years and involve thousands if not tens of thousands of requests for additional information. Then once NuScale answers all of those questions to the satisfaction of whoever in the US NRC is doing the asking, it will take the US NRC another two or so years to write its safety evaluation in order to conclude that this design is safe to build. Our civil servant has become our civil master.

In the meantime tens of thousands of people within the United States will die from the after effects of pollution off fossil fuel. While the US NRC acts in an obstructionist fashion regarding the construction and operation of a pollution-free source of electrical power, fossil fuel will kill tens of thousands. You don't believe me? Then behold the Number of Deaths per Terawatt Hour by Power Source:

Deaths per Terawatt Hour by Energy Source
Now tell me, cari amici, what is at the bottom of the list in number of fatalities per terawatt hour? Do you see nuclear at 0.04 deaths per terawatt hour, but natural gas (which is what will be used to replace 2000 MWe from Governor Andy Cuomo's shutdown of IPEC) is 20 deaths per terawatt hour? That's a 500 fold increase in fatalities! Why is that acceptable to the Federal Government but new nuclear generation must go through a mind-numbing amount of dissection and inspection before permission can be granted to even start building the first new plant? New gas fired generation doesn't go through nearly this amount of safety reviews and it is demonstrably UNSAFE.

Wind Turbine Fire
Yet eco-activists will then point out that solar and wind should be used instead. Let us momentarily disregard the fact that an abysmal capacity factor of less than 30% alone makes that proposal ludicrous - every new solar station, every new wind farm is a new gas turbine facility providing spinning reserve backup for 70% of the time that there is no sunlight, no wind. Let us instead consider just safety. From the chart above there are 0.1 deaths per terawatt hour for solar and 0.15 deaths per terawatt hour for wind. Those figures constitute an increase in the rate of fatalities by 2.5 and 3.75 respectively over nuclear energy's fatality rate of 0.04 deaths per terawatt hour. Thus well earned is the epithet of green power, black death.

Confidentia Salutatis Publicae - that is demonstrably what the US NRC does NOT do. It's time to change the Regulator. President -elect Donald Trump has stated that for every new regulation which a Federal agency enacts, two old ones must be removed. That policy alone would prove to be a boon for nuclear energy. It is time to level the regulatory playing field. All purveyors of energy must be held to the same standard as nuclear. If you can't get your fatality rate down to nuclear's level, then you get appropriately penalized. If you can't sequester your releases of pollution as nuclear has to sequester its releases of radioactivity, then you get appropriately penalized. And no government funding for any source of energy without distinction - let the free market work under a levelized regulatory playing field. And guess what, cari amici? Nuclear will win hands down every time. Every single time.