American University

Nuclear Ethics in the Twenty-first Century
PHYSics 336
for FALL 2022
Professor of record: Dr. Harold A. Geller

@AstroBioProf on Twitter :: Original HomePage at GMU :: GMU Observatory

Please be on alert for changes that may occur throughout the semester.

This course addresses the ethical issues associated with the use of nuclear energy including nuclear power for electrical energy generation and nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are among the most dangerous military threats facing humanity. Nuclear waste is considered one of the most fearsome long-term risks to life on Earth. Students will learn about nuclear energy using multiple modalities including case studies. Students will address several ethical challenges posed by nuclear energy including strategic military policy; nuclear power to mitigate climate change; and measures utilized to preventt nuclear terrorism including state-sponsored torture. Student groups will focus on a case study and produce a lengthy report and presentation.

AU Core Habits of Mind: Ethical Reasoning
Prerequisite: N/A
Restriction: N/A
As AU returns to in-person activities this fall, we must recognize the new challenges this return brings. Our success as a community relies on all of us committing to expectations outlined in the AU Forward Fall 2022 Health and Safety Plan as well as striving to maintain an inclusive learning environment.
Face coverings: In accordance with current AU policy. If you are experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms, do not come to class; instead, get a COVID test, contact the Dean of Students, and stay in your room.

MID-SEMESTER EXAMINATION will take place on Thursday 13 October 2022

Term papers will be turned in by Monday 12 December 2022

There is NO IN-CLASS FINAL examination.

Grading Policy and Textbook

29 August 2022 1 September 2022
5 September 2022 8 September 2022
12 September 2022 15 September 2022
19 September 2022



Jeremy Acaba
Matthew Burgaleta
Thomas Goldstein
Brian Carlson
Question: What lengths should the US go to manage nuclear management in other countries? (counter-terrorism) (policy)


Julia Belov
Molly Babitz
Fiona Dempsey
Question: What international laws surround protecting nuclear power plants in war zones? (ethical considerations) (policy recommendations for international organizations who are in charge of this)


Gargi Mansingh
Ethan Szerencsits
Sebastian Winter
Question: The Iran nuclear deal of 2015.


Isabelle Iguchi
Diana Gertsenshteyn
Tejal Patel
Question: How should the public be informed about nuclear weapons development and experimentation and what affects this?
Presentation Date: 10 November 2022


Payton Framer
Ishani Sood
Matt Marooney
Question: Ethics and technology of communication to the general public. Perceived problems of nuclear power plants.


Tommy Soodak
Quyuan Liu
Yanuen Wang
Question: Is abolishing nuclear weapons the path towards world peace?


Lucy Matthews
Lauren Humphreys
Nadine Leesong
Sameer Miglami
Question: Communications of nuclear disasters.

Emily Neuner
Ethan Puc
Jose Calvo
Question: Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and other nuclear sites in Ukraine and the potential nuclear consequences of the war.


Elise Buellesbach
Anna Doak
Haneul Song
Question: Nuclear waste from Japan. How it impacts ecosystem, people? How are they handling it?

22 September 2022
26 September 2022 -------

Abstract and Outline for

Abstract (Arthur,Bob,Claire,Dawn/250 words)

We address the feasibility of having a safe and reliable nuclear power plant generating approximately one gigawatt of electrical power. We present two case studies of successfully implemented nuclear power plants and two case studies of nuclear power plants that failed to provide sustained output. The first case study presents the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, Japan. We review its design and its subsequent failure following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Next, we present the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, USA. We review its design and its subsequent catastrophic failure in 1979. We next present the design and implementation of the Able nuclear power plant in Kahoolawe, Hawaii, USA. Its 30 years of successful operations is reviewed. The final case study is of the nuclear power plant at Cannes, France. It has been in operations for over 40 years without any significant incidents. We conclude our effort by comparing and contrasting the successful and failed nuclear power plants. We offer our conclusions as to how a nuclear power plant can be implemented successfully. As part of our concluding remarks we offer a guideline to insuring the safe operating and implementing of a one-gigawatt nuclear facility with emergency management procedures in place for natural and manmade disasters. We also offer contingency plans that must be in place for the retrieval and removal of nuclear waste. We recommend nuclear waste be collected and removed to a central location for long-term burial at a federally protected waste facility.

Outline and Assignments

Title Page


References (Arthur, Bob, Claire, Dawn/ at least 12 peer-reviewed papers + others)

29 September 2022
3 October 2022 - Term paper abstract and outline (group) DUE THIS DATE 6 October 2022
10 October 2022 13 October 2022
17 October 2022 20 October 2022 - Term paper references in APA format (group) DUE THIS DATE
24 October 2022 27 October 2022
31 October 2022 2 November 2022 3 November 2022
7 November 2022 10 November 2022
14 November 2022 17 November 2022
21 November 2022 24 November 2022
28 November 2022
1 December 2022
5 December 2022
8 December 2022

Monday 12 December 2022

Have a great winter break !!!