Emeritus Faculty Association news October 2011
Friday October 7th, usual time and place 10.30am Javits Room, 2nd floor library.
The speaker will be Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science. Evelyn Bromet to speak on the Psychological Consequences of Nuclear Disaster. Because so much of the psychological harm caused by previous disasters resulted from the uncertainty engendered by conflicting information about health risks, Dr. Bromet recommends that government officials and physicians communicate openly and honestly with those who may have been exposed to radiation. She also suggests that mental health and physical health problems be treated with equal respect.
Bio: Dr. Bromet, obtained her BA degree in history at Smith College in 1966 and her PHD at Yale University in epidemiology and public health in 1971. Her current research interests are Psychiatric epidemiology and in particular psychiatric sequelae of disasters in adults and children, and longitudinal studies of mental disorders. She is one of the world's leading experts on the long-term psychological damage caused by nuclear disasters. After the Three Mile Island disaster, the National Institute of Mental Health turned to Dr. Bromet, then at the University of Pittsburgh, to study the mental health effects among survivors. In 1990, the World Health Organization invited her to participate in a study of the aftermath of the incident at Chernobyl. In February of this year, the Journal of Clinical Oncology published a 25-year retrospective review by Dr. Bromet of the lasting psychological consequences of the Chernobyl accident. Thus after the tsunami disaster in Japan earlier thus year Dr. Bromet was in a unique position to address the question: - Will Japan face a mental health crisis? Her answer: "the psychological fallout of the radiation leaks will not just be widespread. It will also be long-lasting". Articles by her were published in CNN.com and in Newsday in March titled Japan must cope with psychological impact, in which she pointed out that pregnant women and mothers of young children suffer the deepest emotional scars of nuclear disasters. When she speaks to us in October she will be just back from another trip to Japan.
Staller center director Alan Inkles was on hand to give us an update on how things are going there. He is a very busy man these days, not made better by the fact that the scheduling of the Wang center has just been added to his duties. At the same time he has lost his executive assistant who cannot be replaced because of the budget cuts. In fact half of his activities at the moment are non income generating, such as building sets and administering the art gallery. And 70% of his budget comes from rentals, ticket sales, and fundraising, while he generates money for departments and does not charge them for the use of the facilities.
He likes to think that his sensitivity to the job comes from his experience as an actor and director over 30 years ago. One of his major concerns has been the decline of younger audiences for the classics in particular. His outreach to students has included personal visits to the dormitories, where, in asking for a show of hands found only 10 in 1000 students go to classics. He played a trick, showing them a video excerpt from the film "Braveheart" with the orchestral soundtrack turned off. When the students complained of the technical glitch he turned it back on and said: "but I thought you said you were not interested in classical music!" So he originated his program "First on us", in which freshman could get free tickets on the first of each month, while students generally could get half price tickets, or up to an hour before the performance for $7 (subject to availability). As a result, from 5 years ago when 5% of Staller audiences were students, 3 years ago he brought in 300 of the 1300 freshman, and now 1800 of 4000. So this year he is extending the program to new transfers and grads. His vindication came last season when he asked the MOMIX group to do two shows, one free for the students and one as a fundraising gala. Over 1000 students came and gave such spirited applause that the next night, with the more staid high-priced audience, the group wondered if they had done something wrong to get a comparatively timid reception!
The currently very popular "HD-live" series from the Met Opera was initiated only after some considerable debate with director Peter Gelb and only after an Emeritus member stepped in to fund the necessary satellite receiver equipment. Staller was in fact the first arts center to show this series. This winter it will supplemented with a similar series from the National Theatre, London.
Alan seems particularly proud of his film festivals. He selects nothing he has not reviewed himself, vetting over 800 CD's and DVD's in his basement per year. Generally 90% of these will never see the circuits, but from recent festivals many have been subsequently taken up by the studios and distributers, and he feels he is getting more respect. He is particularly proud that 20 years ago he brought Robert LePage to this country for the first time (now commissioned to do the Met's current Ring series). Now his most recent coup is flying in Sean Lennon to augment the current Yoko Ono exhibition in the art gallery with a concert.
In total, this was one of the more frenetic presentations we have had, which only seemed to get more breathless after the coffee break. In the discussion it was suggested that Alan might usefully add a sales pitch video to the Staller website, but not to drink too much coffee beforehand.
If you received your NYSHIP bulletin, you will note that it states "that as a result of collective bargaining" individual contributions to NYSIP will increase by 2%. UUP does not yet have a contract: we have just begun negotiations. Thus, there is no "collective bargaining agreement" for us. Although, as retirees, we are no longer in the UUP bargaining unit (we are covered by civil service law), nevertheless, our contract states that retirees get the SAME health benefits as do active members. Despite the lack of a collective bargaining agreement for us and some other state unions, Civil Service has unilaterally promulgated the 2% increase. Is it legal? Probably not. UUP is asking our state affiliate: New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to look into the situation, but probably no decision will be made until we have a contract which affects our health care coverage. The 2% increase will come out of our sick leave money which is supposed to cover NYSHIP costs until we are nearly 100 (We should live so long) So, this may drain some money from our sick leave fund, probably not enough to affect most of us. But we do have many members, mostly professionals, who retired before they were 65 and when only 160 sick leave days were counted. They may run out of funds and have to pay their premium themselves.
As these negotiations proceed, further updates will appear in this spot.(Judy Wishnia)
Nuclear power - a different view:
Four emeritus members were present Tuesday, September 13 at the Renaissance Technologies colloquium. The speaker (actually suggested by member Linwood Lee) Yoon Il Chang, Former Interim Laboratory Director, Argonne National laboratory, was talking on the
Integral Fast Reactor: A Next-Generation Reactor Concept.
Many energy experts doubt that the use of renewables can slow global warming in time unless nuclear power is part of the mix. The IFR is a new kind of reactor developed at Argonne fueled by an alloy of uranium and plutonium and cooled by liquid sodium. It has many advantages compared with the water cooled nuclear reactors currently in use:
(1) It is a breeder reactor generating more fuel from the wastes. So instead of deriving energy from less than 1% of the uranium found in nature, 99.5% of the uranium could undergo fission. This would minimize the amount of uranium mining.
(2) IFR-style reactors produce much less waste and can even consume other waste as fuel. If employed on existing large spent pools it could reduce their effective lifetime from ~300,000 years to ~300 years.
(3) The IFR operates close to ambient pressure, dramatically reducing the danger of a loss-of-coolant accident. Further and more importantly, the fuel and cladding expand due with increased temperatures, enabling more neutrons to escape the core and thus reducing the rate of the fission chain reaction. This effect is strong enough to stop the reactor from reaching core damage without external action from operators or safety systems even if all external power should fail.
On the other hand the flammability of sodium is a risk to operators. But the use of an intermediate coolant loop between the reactor and the turbines minimizes the risk of a sodium fire in the reactor core itself.
After several nuclear scares, congress defunded the IFR program in 1994, although a major DOE study in 2002 judged IFR to be the best nuclear design available. At present there are no Integral Fast Reactors in commercial operation anywhere in the world and the US has the most expertise in this technology. But as these experts retire, and unless the present public unrest about nuclear power can be mitigated, the odds are that in 20 years we may be forced to buy this technology from China, just as we are now having to import wind and solar equipment. Of course, if we should reinvent nuclear technology, we will certainly not want to put the mafia in charge of the thickness of the pipes in the installation, as was done here in Shoreham.
For those interested an excellent summary of this technology can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_Fast_Reactor