American University

Nuclear Ethics in the Twenty-first Century
PHYSics 336
for SPRING 2024
Professor of record: Dr. Harold A. Geller

@AstroBioProf on Twitter :: Original HomePage at GMU

Please be on alert for changes that may occur throughout the semester.
Last Updated: 8 April 2024

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 prevent 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
As AU returns to in-person activities this spring, 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 Spring 2023 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, or flu symptoms, please 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 Monday 4 March 2024

Term papers will be turned in by Monday 6 May 2024

There is NO IN-CLASS FINAL examination.
  • Instructor: Dr. Harold A. Geller
  • Office: A cubicle in DMTI 212A
  • Telephone: N/A
  • E-mail:
  • Office Hours: by appointment (on campus 2 days/week)
  • Lecture Meetings: Monday/Thursday 2:30 - 3:45 PM Myers Building Room 217

    Grading Policy and Textbook

    18 January 2024
    22 January 2024 25 January 2024
    29 January 2024 1 February 2024
    5 February 2024


    Ally F.
    Luke H.
    Nickie P.
    Question: What are the effects of nuclear energy? 
    Margaret D.
    Henry G.
    Claire M.
    Question: How feasible are nuclear breeding technologies? 
    Montague C.
    Emma I.
    Ido L.
    Clare R.
    Question: Why do countries build nuclear weapons post WW II?
    Xingyn C.
    Margaret N.
    Anna S.
    Question: Proper disposal and transportation of nuclear waste.
    Rebecca B.
    Ella H.
    David M.
    Question: How to properly and ethically repurpose nuclear waste?
              How to make sure waste is not used for the wrong reasons?
    Austin D.
    Lorenza I.
    Aaron R.
    Question: How is military assistance/arms sales changed when an adversary threatens to use nuclear weapons?
    Ryan A.
    Leandra D.
    Matthew K.
    Matthew W.
    Question: What are the risks associated with reusing/recycling nuclear waste?
    Abby F.
    Maxi H.
    Ihsan H.
    Question: How can we use the nuclear fusion process in stars to carry out fusion on Earth?
    Angela C.
    Zaki H.
    Isabella J.
    Question: What have the effects of nuclear energy been on technology throughout time (pros/cons)?
    8 February 2024
    12 February 2024 -------

    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 [is 1st or cover page]

    Abstract [inserted here]

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

    15 February 2024
    19 February 2024 - Term paper abstract and outline (group) DUE THIS DATE 22 February 2024
    26 February 2024 29 February 2024
    4 March 2024 7 March 2024 - Term paper references in APA format (group) DUE THIS DATE
    11 March 2024 - NO CLASS - SPRING BREAK
    14 March 2024 - NO CLASS - SPRING BREAK
    18 March 2024 Small Modular Reactor Slides

    21 March 2024

    Video (in lieu of guest speaker) Article (for reference)
    Recorded Webinar (alternative recording on environmental justice and nuclear energy)
    25 March 2024
      Nuclear Now
    • A Documentary Film Directed by Oliver Stone
    • Based upon "A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow"
    • by Joshua S. Goldstein and Staffan A. Qvist
    • Goldstein is retired professor from AU SIS
    28 March 2024
      Recording of Guest Lecturer
    • Dr. Don Howard, University of Notre Dame
    • Einstein and the Bomb
    • From the Manhattan Project to the Cold War

    1 April 2024 4 April 2024
      TEAM BRAVO Presentation

    8 April 2024 11 April 2024
      TEAM DELTA Presentation

    15 April 2024
      TEAM HOTEL Presentation
    18 April 2024
      TEAM CHARLIE Presentation

    22 April 2024
      TEAM ALPHA Presentation
    25 April 2024
      TEAM JULIET Presentation

    29 April 2024
      TEAM ECHO Presentation

    Monday 6 May 2024

    Have a great summer break !!!

    Guest Speaker Canceled - Dr. Robert Ehrlich
    Guest Lecturer Canceled