James H. Carpenter, 75, judge and oceanographer

James Heiskell Carpenter, a retired oceanographer and administrative judge for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, died of progressive supranuclear palsy Tuesday at his home in Sunset Beach, N.C. The former longtime Ellicott City resident was 75.

Dr. Carpenter was born and raised in Salisbury, where he graduated from public schools. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry and biology in 1949 from the University of Virginia. He later earned his master's degree in 1951, and a doctorate in oceanography in 1957 from the Johns Hopkins University.


He was a research associate at the Chesapeake Bay Institute of the Johns Hopkins University from 1957 to 1960, and was an assistant and later associate professor of oceanography at Hopkins from 1958 to 1972.

He served for a year in the early 1970s as head of the oceanography section of the National Science Foundation in Washington. From 1973 to 1980, he headed the division of chemical oceanography at the University of Miami in Florida.


He had been a consultant to eight utility companies, including Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., where he evaluated the environmental effects of electricity-generating plants, both nuclear- and fossil-fueled.

It was Dr. Carpenter's conclusion in the 1970s that hot water discharge from the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant would have no adverse effect on aquatic life in the bay.

From 1981 until his retirement in 1998, he was an administrative judge for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington.

He was an avid golfer and gardener.

A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. today at Sea Trail Plantation Chapel in Sunset Beach.

Survivors include his wife of 13 years, the former Birgit Latshaw; a son, James B. Carpenter of Baltimore; a daughter, Cathie Carpenter Weber of Catonsville; a stepson, Claes Stefansson of Sweden; a half-brother, Charles N. Butler of Glen Mills, Pa.; and four grandchildren. His marriage to the former Catherine Bondurant, ended in divorce.

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