American University

Nuclear Ethics in the Twenty-first Century
PHYSics 336
for FALL 2023
Professor of record: Dr. Harold A. Geller

@AstroBioProf on Twitter (now "X") :: Original HomePage at GMU

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 12 October 2023

Term papers will be turned in by Monday 11 December 2023

There is NO IN-CLASS FINAL examination.

Grading Policy and Textbook

28 August 2023 31 August 2023
4 September 2023 7 September 2023
11 September 2023 14 September 2023
18 September 2023


Evan R.
Yata S.
Sarah W.

How to protect against radiological exposure in crisis and long term?

TEAM BRAVO Thomas Di M. Eli R. Caleb D-H Question: What is the feasibility of the commercialization of small modular reactors (SMR)?
TEAM CHARLIE Tim Eric Michael Question: How do we continue to safely manage nuclear waste if nuclear energy generation increases?
TEAM DELTA Lia D. Ian W. Question: How can nuclear energy be used for the future of space travel?
TEAM ECHO Paige C. Madeline B. Ben C. Question: Comparing nuclear power plant designs across different countries and other forms of energy and look into the sustainability of said structures. Additionally, looking into the incentives for sustainability and why some countries might choose nuclear power.
TEAM FOXTROT Stella T. Sydney H. Claire L. Question: What are the role of international treaties in shaping nuclear ethics in the 21st century?
TEAM GOLF Natalie M. Ally M. Louisa B. Mia G. Question: Nuclear power in war zones. - addressing how to avoid a nuclear meltdown - hand off of power - avoiding strikes - Zaparizhzhia, how they're addressing keeping it operational - "cold shutdown state" - Ukraine straining to maintain operations/safety - How can country supply power if they shutdown these plants due to safety concerns - Ukraine trying to maintain operation
TEAM HOTEL Leila Logan Daniel Question: What is the ethical dilemma of nuclear proliferation?
TEAM INDIA Eliza R. Carson C. Claire H. Question: To what extent does nuclear energy impact indigenous communities?
21 September 2023
25 September 2023 -------

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)

28 September 2023
2 October 2023 - Term paper abstract and outline (group) DUE THIS DATE 5 October 2023
9 October 2023 12 October 2023
16 October 2023 19 October 2023 - Term paper references in APA format (group) DUE THIS DATE
23 October 2023 26 October 2023
30 October 2023 2 November 2023
6 November 2023 9 November 2023
13 November 2023 16 November 2023
20 November 2023 23 November 2023
27 November 2023
30 November 2023
4 December 2023
7 December 2023

Monday 11 December 2023

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Have a great winter break !!!