CO2 Smokescreen


Summary: The Fairewinds Crew created this special 2-minute animation to show you why building new nukes is a lost opportunity for humankind with precious time and money wasted on the wrong choice. At least $8.2 Trillion would be needed to build the 1,000 atomic reactors the nuclear industry wants – that’s 1 reactor every 12-days for 35-years. Watch the animation to see what it means and why!

If you want more information, we have issued a paper, and presented this topic at several major universities and forums, and we wanted to make it more accessible to people throughout the world. Truthout published Arnie Gundersen’s summation of this project in a news analysis entitled: Nuclear Power Is Not “Green Energy”: It Is a Fount of Atomic Waste.  

People often say: here’s what it boils down to, but at Fairewinds we have found that in the nuclear business, ‘boiling something down’ is not a good thing to do!  Here in Vermont, where we make maple syrup from the sap of the maple tree, we say: ‘here’s how it sugars off’.  Fairewinds has sugared off the data to give you this 2-minute CO2 Smokescreen Animation; we hope it clarifies a tough topic.

We have translated this Animation to German and French as well! 

You can find the links to these videos here:

Der Rauchschleier

L’Ecran de Fumée

Fairewinds special thanks for our French and German translations to: John Bertucci, Hervé Courtois, and Andreas Kohler. Fairewinds Energy Education Board Member Chiho Kaneko has translated the Japanese version of the Smokescreen animation, which is currently still in production.

A Lost Opportunity: $8.2 Trillion on New Nukes cuts CO2 only 9%?

In this podcast the Fairewinds Crew interviews University of Vermont graduates Sam Ghazey, Jon Liebherr, Greyson Webb, and Brandon Welch, about their internship with Fairewinds Energy Education and the project they completed, entitled Nuclear Energy: An Analysis of Total Carbon Emissions and Total Cost of Ownership versus Renewable Technologies. The concept for this project was developed following a presentation by Fairewinds chief engineer Arnie Gundersen at Northwestern University in April, 2015 that took an economic perspective in the comparison of nuclear energy to the escalation in renewable technological capacity.  Forbes Magazine featured the presentation in an article entitled: Has Tesla just Killed Nuclear Power?, which has had more than 528,000 views.


Demystifying Nuclear Power: 

By Maggie Gundersen, president and founder of Fairewinds Energy Education

Demystifying Nuclear Power is what the Fairewinds Crew focuses on every day. Whether we are working on analyzing scientific data, collaborating with colleagues, researching critical energy and technical issues, lecturing to organizations, or writing the articles you read – our mission is to educate the people around the world about nuclear power and other energy issues.

By now, I hope you have watched Smokescreen, Fairewinds special animation – and please listen to Fairewinds podcast A Lost Opportunity: $8.2 Trillion on New Nukes cuts CO2 only 9%? which is an interview with the Fairewinds interns who kicked this major project with the rest of the crew.

The Backstory: The Fairewinds Crew worked for more than a year with a team of four University of Vermont students [see their story and bios below], Johnson State Professor and geologist Dr. Leslie Kanat, and University of Vermont Fellow and energy economist Dr. Robert Herendeen to research the question and analyze the data regarding the future of energy production. The nuclear industry claims that building new atomic power reactors, and dramatically retrofitting and extending the life of the fleet of aging US nuclear power plants by 20 to 40 more years, will significantly reduce global warming.  

The Fairewinds Crew and the academics who joined us rigorously evaluated all the available data. Wanting to share this material in a meaningful way, we, and our filmmaker Finn Yarbrough, distilled the economic facts of this environmental issue down to this 2-minute animated video: Smokescreen. Please share this important information widely with your family and friends!

Whether we are writing columns like ‘Air Quotes’, creating videos, or sharing our voices via Fairewinds Podcasts, we will speak truth to power ­– Fairewinds will keep you informed!

Sam Ghazey is political organizer and a recent graduate of the University of Vermont (UVM). During his time at UVM, he entered the realm of environmental advocacy through the fossil fuel divestment movement at UVM and then joined the Vermont political scene. After organizing students for various campaigns, Sam was hired by the Bernie Sanders campaign where he worked as a National Digital Organizing Manager and co-built and managed the national texting program: Text for Bernie.

Sam maintained this (more than) full-time job throughout his senior year until he graduated from UVM in 2016 with a degree in Natural Resource/Ecological Economics and the Bernie for President campaign simultaneously ended. His academic researched focused on public policy issues in the domains of agriculture and energy. Sam is now working at NextGen Climate – Tom Steyer’s environmental organization, where he runs the national peer-to-peer texting program for the general election cycle and continues to combine his love for the environment and politics. He plans to dedicate his next four years to the resistance effort to Donald Trump’s presidency. 


Jon Liebherr was born and raised by two Cornell entomology professors in Ithaca, NY. They led Jon on many grandiose outdoor adventures with family and friends resulting in a very understandable interest in studying the environment. During his educational journey, he also was an integral part of both the UVM Crew and Cascadilla Boat Club communities. During his senior year Jon served the UVM Crew Team as Men's President, leading the team with a yearly budget of approximately $150,000, and he also facilitated fundraising and purchase of a new boat ($23,000) and rehabilitation of two others ($15,000).

Jon graduated from the University of Vermont (UVM) with an Environmental Science degree concentrating in Ecological Design and a minor in Geo-Spatial Technologies. He is now working in project management for Pictometry/Eagleview in Rochester, NY a pioneering provider of oblique aerial imaging. Other than learning the ropes at his new job, Jon enjoys rowing, skiing, and his ongoing quest for the best breakfast sandwich.


Grayson Webb was born and raised in Vermont and spent much of his childhood exploring the woods and hillsides of his hometown, Monkton. He studied Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Ecological Design and a minor in Forestry at the University of Vermont. After graduating in the spring of 2016 he and two friends grabbed their bikes and biked across the country from Boston, Massachusetts to Pacific City, Oregon to gain an understanding of the environmental and ecological challenges facing us as a country.

Grayson also plays guitar in a local band called Little Slugger, who will be releasing their newest album Perfect Days on December 8th. There will be an album release show at Radio Bean, Burlington, VT on December 8th from 11PM-12 AM. You can currently listen to Felt Alright, the single from the album on Spotify as well as Band Camp



Brandon Welch is a man striving to the find the hidden joys in life through exploration and perseverance. These are values that were not always instilled into his life, but were discovered through a long twisting path starting in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Here, Brandon was provided the tools to grow that carried him to the University of Vermont (UVM) where he started to awaken and tune into his true inner self. He was fortunate enough to meet the right people and take advantage of opportunities that have rewarded him in ways money could not possibly contend with. Brandon had a chance to discover his love for the great outdoors, people, mental and physical health, and most importantly himself. 

Brandon graduated from UVM with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science with a concentration in EcoDesign. He currently lives in Burlington, Vermont where he works in organic water quality testing with Test America.


Caroline (Phillips) Aronson – As we told you in October, it was with a heavy but encouraging heart that we announced that Caroline (Phillips) Aronson was leaving Fairewinds to pursue a career in Education at the end of October. Caroline played an integral role in this project, as she was the face of Fairewinds Energy Education at the University of Vermont (UVM), who presented on our behalf to recruit interns for our projects! We could not have organized this project or accomplished the work we did without Caroline’s organization skills, research, encouragement, humor, wit, and warmth to all the project participants!

When Caroline joined us as Fairewinds Program Administrator two years ago, she arrived with her degree in American Literature from UVM, fluent in two languages, time spent living in Europe, South America, and Nova Scotia, and experience teaching English as a second language. During her two years with Fairewinds, Caroline took over our Twitter feed, Facebook Page, recruited and organized work with eight interns from UVM, grasped the plight of the world’s energy future, and become skilled at speaking truth to power. The high schoolers who have her for their teacher are lucky indeed, and all of us at Fairewinds still miss her.


Toby Aronson, also Caroline’s husband, is the brains behind our website and the sound maestro for our interviews and podcasts. A talented classical guitarist and the founder of NNA Tapes, Toby keeps us on our toes and helps us put our best voice forward. 




Ben Shulman-Reed grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts where he developed an early voracious appetite for community, arts, outdoor activity, and bicycling as a form of transportation. These interests eventually helped bring Ben north to Burlington where he recently graduated from the University of Vermont (UVM) with a degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainability and Environmental Entrepreneurship. Ben was introduced to the Fairewinds Energy Education Crew during his UVM senior capstone project for which his advisor referred him to Fairewinds so he could study the role is legally allowed to play in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission controlled decommissioning process of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Ben completed a semester-long internship with Fairewinds working on his capstone project, and following his May 2016 graduation from UVM, Ben joined Fairewinds Energy Education full time as a program researcher. In late May Ben also began working on the Smokescreen project and helping to prepare materials for the final presentations, articles, and the ultimate release of this animation. Since Caroline Phillips Aronson’s departure from Fairewinds in late October, Ben has also added Newsletter Wizard to his repertoire. He can be found riding his bike around the Burlington area.


Dr. Robert (Bob) Herendeen is a Fellow with the Gund Institute at the University of Vermont (UVM) who served as Fairewinds Project Advisor during the fall term with this project.  Ecological Numeracy is a continuing theme for Bob, in “which relatively accessible mathematics yields useful quantitative insights on many environmental issues research interests include energy consumption, quantitative analysis of environmental issues, and environmental bookkeeping”.  Bob is a physicist who conducts economic input-output analyses to determine resource requirements and other impacts of consumption, following the parallels between economic and ecological systems and analysis of perturbed ecosystems. At the Gund, Bob writes about barriers to effective energy policy and how to surmount them. His projects cover details of energy accounting principles and net energy of energy-conserving retrofit construction. Past projects include studies on "Energy Cost Of Living", mitigating effects of energy taxes, and mathematics of trophic cascades in ecosystems.

Dr. Leslie (Les) Kanat is Fairewinds Science Advisor, who had a key role in fact checking and creating the scenario for the Smokescreen video. He has been a professor of geology at Johnson State College for 24 years. Les received his Ph.D. in the Earth sciences at the University of Cambridge, England, with the support of Fulbright Scholarships. In 2003, he received JSC’s Excellence in Advising award, and in 2004, the Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year award. In addition to serving as Fairewinds science advisor, Les is also on the board of the Vermont Geological Society, and is a member of the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel. As an environmental educator, Les is passionate about Fairewinds mission. In a recent Energy Education Podcast, Les and Arnie discuss the impacts of geology on nuclear plants– listen here!  

Finn Yarbrough – Last, but not least, Fairewinds research and discussions about building new nukes and CO2, could not have come to fruition in the way we envisioned without the creative energy and command of the subject matter that filmmaker Finn Yarbrough has brought to Fairewinds Energy Education. Finn Yarbrough is currently pursuing his Master Degree in Environmental Thought and Culture through the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont

He was raised on his family’s organic farm in Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico. He holds a Literary Arts degree from Brown University; his film experience comes from adjacent study at the Rhode Island School of Design and from subsequent work on production crews around the world. Despite his degree in Literary Arts, he has recorded more words than he has written.

Finn and his wife Katherine Yarbrough, who has worked with media in New England and internationally since 1998, founded Earth House Productions.  In between shoots, he and Katherine shepherd their flock of sheep in northern Vermont.


Special thanks 

Fairewinds In The News:



Truthout published: Nuclear Power Is Not "Green Energy": It Is a Fount of Atomic Waste, a news analysis by Arnie Gundersen on November 14, 2016. The article describes the rebranding of atomic energy in the age of climate change as a ‘carbon free’ source of energy when we know that the reality is quite the contrary – the cost of building and maintaining these nukes does not even include decommissioning and waste storage for the next 250,000 years! The news analysis in Truthout is written from Arnie’s point of view with his more than 45-years as a nuclear engineer and current role as the chief engineer for Fairewinds Energy Education. 

Green Power and Wellness Hour: 

Arnie Gundersen spoke with host Harvey Wasserman about the past, present and future of atomic power on Solortopia's Green Power and Wellness Hour. Also appearing on the show was Dennis Kucinich. 

Energy News: 

Miami Herald:

Does anyone need more proof that tens of thousands of rooftop solar installations are an existential threat to traditional utilities whose business model relies on a few large nuclear power plants? If so, look no further than utility efforts in Florida, the Sunshine State, to attempt to cripple the solar industry through a November 8, 2016 ballot initiative that cleverly attempted to stifle solar implementation. Thankfully the majority of Floridians saw through this utility smokescreen and voted against the utility sponsored ballot initiative, but not before those Florida utilities spent $20,000,000 (Oh My Gosh - yes: 20 MILLION DOLLARS!) on a statewide advertising campaign in an attempt to convince voters that low cost solar was somehow bad for them. Rooftop solar must really be a terrific and inexpensive proposition for consumers if the Florida utilities spent $20,000,000 to prevent Floridians from getting access to this sustainable and renewable economically feasible energy source! Our hat is off to the voters of Florida!