30 Facts That Demystify Nuclear Energy

To say that nuclear energy has an image problem would be putting it nicely. Despite owning one of the safest track records of all sources of energy, nuclear power has failed to persuade public opinion with the ease of a fictional storyline from Hollywood. The dangerous misconceptions not only hinder the clean and powerful fuel's advancement but also run the risk of increasing the world's dependence on fossil fuels as governments rethink their nuclear programs.

Although next month marks two years since the Fukushima nuclear crisis, many wounds have yet to heal. Why can't the world have an intellectual discussion on the future of nuclear energy without fearing radioactive zombies? Therefore, I have joined forces with Argonne National Laboratory in an effort to demystify the controversial energy source. Here are some of the most amazing facts and statistics that show we have nothing to fear, but much to gain. 

1. One kilogram of uranium has the same energy content as 16,700 kilograms of the highest-grade coal or 13,200 cubic meters of natural gas.  

2. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nuclear power plants avoided 613 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2011. That is the same total produced by 118 million cars, which is nearly the same number of cars in the United States.  

3. Bill Gates believes that the United States holds enough spent nuclear fuel -- currently defined as waste -- to power the country for more than 100 years. He has backed TerraPower, which is developing the technology to make it happen.   

4. At last count in 2002, the United States had 46,268 metric tons of spent fuel stored within its borders.   

5. TerraPower's traveling wave reactor, or TWR, can run for 40 years before it needs to be refueled. The average traditional nuclear facility needs to be refueled every 18 months.  

6. Last one for TerraPower: The company estimates that its TWR can save more than $2 billion in fuel costs over the life of a plant when compared with a traditional facility.

7. Uranium is 40 times as abundant as silver.  

8. Despite its apparent abundance, it takes 100 metric tons of uranium ore to produce 1 metric ton of natural uranium for enrichment.   

9. Exelon (NYSE: EXC  ) generates 19,000 MW of nuclear energy each year, which represents 54% of its total annual capacity. Natural gas makes up just 28%.  

10. To put that number in perspective, the entire country of India is targeting only 14,600 MW of nuclear energy by 2020.   

11. At 30,350 MW, the total nuclear capacity of American energy providers Exelon and Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK  ) is greater than the total output of every country except France, which owns more than 63,000 MW.   

12. France generates 78% of its electricity from nuclear energy. The United States, which produces more than 101,409 MW of nuclear energy each year from just 104 reactors, generates only 19% of its total electricity from nuclear power.

13. Technological upgrades alone have added 3,500 MW of nuclear capacity to the domestic grid since 2000.  

14. A total of 14 countries generate at least one-fifth of their total electricity from nuclear energy.   

15. Roughly 437 nuclear reactors scattered around the globe generated 392,000 MW of electricity in 2012, or 12.3% of the world's total consumption.  

16. Cameco (NYSE: CCJ  ) , the world's leading uranium mining company, estimates that total annual world nuclear capacity will reach 510,000 MW by 2022. Of that total, 64,000 MW are under construction today.   

17. How much uranium does Cameco produce? In 2012 the company produced 23.3 million pounds of triuranium octoxide. Its mines make up 16% of world production and hold 435 million pounds of proven and probable reserves.   

18. It can take the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, 30 to 60 months to review an application for a new reactor in the United States. There are currently applications pending for 28 new reactors.  

19. One year ago this week, the NRC approved the construction of two new reactors by Southern (NYSE: SO  ) -- the first in more than 30 years. The last new construction permit was granted in 1978 to Progress Energy, now part of Duke Energy.

20. The average age of a nuclear reactor in the United States is 32 years. Accounting for initial licenses and extension licenses, a nuclear reactor can operate for up to 60 years.  

21. Southern's two new reactors will produce 2,200 MW of electricity and cost a total of $14 billion.   

22. The two new reactors will add capacity to Plant Vogtle, which has been certified as a conservation center by The Wildlife Habitat Council since 1993.  

23. Uranium prices have fallen 70% since reaching an all-time high in 2007.  

24. Even with that precipitous drop, uranium has had a difficult time keeping up with natural gas. In 2008, the average uranium-to-natural gas price ratio was just 0.21, but it more than doubled to 0.51 in 2012. Looks like coal isn't the only energy source hurt by cheap natural gas.  

25. Entrepreneur Seth Goldin recently compiled historical World Health Organization, or WHO, data to determine the global death rates for various energy sources. For every terawatt hour of electricity generation, there were 161 coal-related deaths, four natural gas-related deaths, 0.15 wind-related deaths, and 0.04 nuclear-related deaths.

26. A 2011 study (link opens PDF) conducted by the WHO determined that environmental noise causes enough stress each year to shorten European lifetimes 3.376 million years. In other words, as Europeans worry about doomsday nuclear scenarios, they lose, on average, three days of life each year from the noise of their car engines.   

27. In 15,000 cumulative reactor years of global operation, only three major accidents have occurred (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima).  

28. Radiation exposure from abandoned medical equipment, which kills two to four people each year, is more deadly than living or working at a nuclear plant.  

29. The newest nuclear reactors are designed to such strict safety controls that a degraded core or meltdown will occur at a 1-in-10 million-year frequency. As I stated, nuclear plants active today will operate for a maximum of 60 years.

30. The International Atomic Energy Agency has never confirmed the creation of a single radioactive zombie.

The WHO study on environmental noise (No. 26) demonstrates that the visibility of a threat, factual or not, can override the facts behind the threat. It's much easier to fear nuclear energy after watching a fictional movie than to fear a silent killer such as noise or air pollution, which kill exponentially more people each year than nuclear power ever has. The potential for disaster exists with any large-scale energy project, but don't forget that each is constructed to strict safety guidelines. Nevertheless, while no country should become overly dependent on any one energy source, it's clear that nuclear power is a very important part of the global energy picture.

Hungry for more facts? As the nation moves increasingly toward clean energy, Exelon is perfectly positioned to capitalize on having the largest nuclear fleet in North America. Combine this strength with an increased focus on renewable energy, and Exelon's recent merger with Constellation places Exelon and its best-in-class dividend on a short list of top utilities. To determine whether Exelon is a good long-term fit for your portfolio, you're invited to check out The Motley Fool's premium research report on the company. Simply click here now for instant access.


Read/Post Comments (52) | Recommend This Article (28)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2013, at 2:46 PM, sciencedave wrote:

    The tangible ( cost of building overruns) and intangible costs of nuclear power (real and unrecognized costs of waste disposal etc.) far outweigh the seemingly low cost that some advocate. Regardless of low accident rates....one accident is enough to cause local and potential worldwide significant disruption of society as happened two years ago. Energy policies need to be "antifragile" which means no extreme events ( meltdowns) are possible and multiple avenues of generation are available. Investing in nuclear strategies will be very poor investments in the long-term.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2013, at 6:25 PM, gasblogger wrote:

    Nuclear economics just do not work out, if you figure in all the long term expenses like maintenance, radioactive waste storage, and the fact that it is not insured except by the unwilling public. I have some information for you. You should know that Hanford has more leaking barrels of radioactive waste right now.

    Here are my links on the dangers of nuclear plants:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xhPQIIW9xpOwn92z5hCGshSF...

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2013, at 11:12 PM, jhlines wrote:

    Your second paragraph implies the nuclear crisis at Fukashima is over since two years. The truth is we're approaching a two year anniversary of a crisis that continues and will continue for generations.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2013, at 11:15 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    1. Energy per gram/m3 - Huh? Processing, transportation and storage costs are easily four or five orders of magnitude higher for uranium fuel. That's ignoring the $100M+ per reactor load for reprocessing or disposal. Exelon can't tell you that figure because most spent fuel is still sitting in cooling ponds at the reactors. They will eventually have to pay for that.

    2. DOE say CO2 averted? I wasn't aware that they found a CO2-less way to produce fuel rods. How does that relate to Exelon stock?

    3. Bill Gates and TerraPower? Yeah - liquid sodium cooled designs might actually work by their 2022 prototype, or might just continue as colossal failures. Even a psychopath like Gates is going to have a hard time finding anybody to insure that fantasy.

    4. TerraPower: 46K Mt of spent fuel? Heh - 10x by now. So what? Spent fuel IS NOT DU, it has to be reprocessed first ($$$). It will require additional processing to be used in a fast breeder. No 'free fuel' to be had for TWRs (but Gates is sure to bargain-shop India when the time comes).

    5. 40-year refueling cycle does not mean they won't have to crack the lid open every few years. Ask a reactor guy what they think about running a sodium-cooled fast-breeder reactor for 40 years without maintenance. It's not a giant battery.

    6. Save $2B in fuel costs? Uh... sure. $33M a year according to the MARKETING guys. They're usually accurate about future operating costs.

    7. 'Abundant' uranium vs. silver. So, you're saying to invest in PMs? Or are you pointing out an abundant supply of uranium? There's a much more abundant supply of sun, coal, natural gas and wind - I'm not sure how this helps your argument.

    8. Ore refining - I don't think 100x concentration is right, but who cares? You just said it's more abundant than silver. There has never been a shortage. That's never been a problem.

    9. EXC is over half nuke, 30% NG. Again, so what? It's government welfare nuke, not 'profitable business' nuke. They would dump it all for NG if the DOE wasn't giving them taxpayer handouts. And they're not recognizing the billions in decomissioning they (ratepayers) will eventually have to pay. Oh, and they are only insured for property damage caused by a meltdown. They are exempt from being insured for people damage.

    10. EXC's 19GW vs. India's projected 14GW. Er...so? EXC buys used, unprofitable plants, cuts staff and runs them on the cheap with counterfeit Chinese parts until they are profitable. India is way more stingy than that - I can't wait to see the fireworks.

    11. Duke/EXC 30GW vs. France 61GW. Duke does what EXC does, but also fantasizes that they can *also* somehow profitably build new reactors. See what a failure they've been lately? They should move to France and beg for some French nuclear welfare cheese. It's very good.

    12. France 78% nuke vs. US 19%. Wholesale power is $63MWh in France and $30MWh in the US - guess nuke isn't such a bargain. Reactors are like a Roach Motel - ratepayer dollars go in and they never come out. That *IS* something to fear.

    13. Technological upgrades? Nonsense - those cost money. EXC and Duke bribe... er, lobby the right people to rubber-stamp their crumbling plants' license another 20 years beyond their design life. Bribes are much more economical than counterfeit Chinese parts or staff.

    14. 14 Countries nuke generation. Small countries are more interested in nuclear arsenals than subsidized power generation. You need taxpayers to subsidize - that's why it will be history in the US.

    15. Global reactors, 15% nuke power - Now you're just tossing out random, meaningless figures. What's 'not to fear, much to gain' about that?

    16. CCJ uranium mining outlook: So these tax cheats haven't gone out of business? Who is going to buy all their uranium? France just 'secured' it's Mali mining colony for another decade. Of course CCJ is going to say the EU\HEU outlook is great.

    17. CCJ produces a lot of pitchblende, not uranium. 16% of global production. Gosh - fascinating.

    18. NRC approval process: They're trying out their faster rubber stamp process. Their real main job (along with the DOE) is censoring anything negative about nuclear energy, covering up accidents or tracking down whistleblowers and killing them. The approval process is an annoying side-job that interferes with their own self-preservation.

    19. Vogtle approval for two new reactors: let the lawsuits begin! The only plus I see here is that they're close to CNN in Atlanta. And they're planning on using an AP1000. China should be able to blow up at least one of their four AP1000 test models in the next few years. Hmm.. delay maybe?

    20. U.S. Reactors licensed for 60 years - great, except they were only designed for 40 years. Regulators can't defy the laws of physics just because they've been bribed otherwise. The engineers say the metal and concrete on them are falling apart NOW. Who you gonna trust?

    21. Vogtle 2.2GW for the low price of $14B. Heh heh - well, for NOW anyway. You know those nuke construction firms. They're good for another $10B in unexpected, additional costs. How do you think they make their money?

    22. Vogtle plant certified as a conservation center for wildlife? Who wants to hunt radioactive deer (unless you have access to depleted uranium ammo)? This 'green energy' nonsense has gone over the top.

    23. Uranium prices fall 70% from 2007 peak - well, there ya go. Writing is on the wall. Plentiful supply, low prices = nobody wants more.

    24. Uranium prices hurt by low natural gas price - that's because NG plants are profitable and nuke is not (without taxpayer-funded welfare).

    25. 'Entrepeneur' compiled WHO deathrates: WHO is not allowed to publish anything about nuclear energy unless approved by the IAEA censors. I don't think they acknowledge *any* deaths from Chernobyl. The NRC brain-trust still thinks there were a couple of hundred at most. And WHO is not the boss of the world. Do you think the old Soviet Union filed accident reports with WHO? Even people *in* WHO say the figures are bogus.

    26. WHO study on environmental noise: Gosh - that makes me feel better about DNA damage from radiation.

    27. 15K reactor years, only THREE major reactor accidents. Did you get this from CNN? A simple Google search will show otherwise. Even stating three partial meltdowns isn't accurate. Nobody cares about accident numbers, they care about radiation releases. And the industry does not report those - ever.

    28. Deaths from discarded radioactive medical instruments vs. nuclear plant workers. I'm not sure what's so comforting about 'less than 2 - 4' nuclear plant worker deaths per year. So nuclear power generation is safer than discarded radioactive medical equipment? Uh... OK, I guess.

    29. Chance of a meltdown on new reactors 1:10M year. Is that with or without counterfeit parts? And your 60-year reactor life statement isn't based on any rational qualified engineer - it's based on the administrative actions of regulators paid off by otherwise cheapskate, money-grubbing utilities.

    30. IAEA never confirmed radioactive zombie. Funny, except that they're pretty much an extension of the industry paid by the industry to say good things about the industry. They never confirmed stillborn or deformed babies in Belarus and haven't said a peep about Gomel grade-school kids with thyroid cancer or heart attacks caused by Chernobyl radiation. A Russian pathologist did based on victim autopsies, but they threw him in prison before he could publish anything. Maybe the IAEA didn't know about him.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2013, at 11:38 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    @PavewayIII

    Thank you for thoroughly busting all 30 facts. I'll remember to contact you the next time I consider writing about nuclear energy.

    Thanks for reading and your comment.

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On February 18, 2013, at 8:05 AM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    Good write-up on nuclear waste (and the problems we face) this morning:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729040.100-nuclear-w...

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On February 18, 2013, at 1:19 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    @TMFBlacknGold

    Thanks for taking time to write your article.

    I didn't 'bust' any facts and don't think Argonne is lying about anything. Like most academics and researchers, they're just terribly naive about how profit-motivated public utilities, the nuclear industry and crony-infused governments will end up deploying their technology.

    No matter what clever discoveries they come up with at Argonne, the technology will eventually be handed over to an industry and regulators rife with corruption, a history of cronyism and reliance on secrecy. They have and will always need billions in corporate welfare to deploy those technologies. When those technologies are deployed, they will still rely on marketing and censorship to give the illusion of safety. And when those businesses go bankrupt, the U.S. taxpayers where I live get to pay for cleaning up contaminated land and hiding the waste somewhere else.

    Argonne's time is better spent studying the psychopaths that corrupt their technology. You can't market your way out of a bad end product. Detroit tried that in the 80's, but at the end of the day, people still observed 'Gee... Your cars suck'.

  • Report this Comment On February 18, 2013, at 2:37 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    ^^ Mostly sounds like geniuses that have never operated, designed or maintained any type of reactor. It will take at least another generation before the less factual hype abates and our children (or grandchildren) determine we were largely idiots. Everything has emissions of one kind or another, risks of one kind or another, economic favoritism of one kind or another. The single most interesting thing to watch will be how far Japan goes in removing nuclear for LNG, and how it fares on this front. Long term numbers won't be as easily manipulated as short term. N. Gas is cheap in N. America right now and stationary Combustion Turbine Technology has been through stunning improvements in efficiency over the last two decades...doubt it can get that much better in the next decade. LNG landed in Japan is much more costly than pipeline gas in NA, with static CT technology it will be the experiment to watch.

  • Report this Comment On February 18, 2013, at 7:28 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    @PaveWayIII

    I do appreciate your thoughtful and reasonable comments. It really helps in having a meaningful conversation on the subject.

    You are right that the potential of a horrible disaster that would be far worse than that from other energy sources indeed exists. But there are just three examples of major accidents in such a long history. I think that is noteworthy.

    Thanks again,

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On February 18, 2013, at 8:40 PM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    But three major accidents that have long-term consequences beyond accident itself. When radioactive cesium ends up in baby formula months later (causing the recall of 400,000 cans of baby milk in Japan), that's also noteworthy.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 5:12 PM, Schneidku40 wrote:

    I'm just patiently waiting for fusion.

    I don't understand why Japan built that reactor right on the edge of the ocean and the "ring of fire," which is rife with volcanoes and earthquakes which have shown repeatedly in history to produce tsunamis. It was inevitable, and somebody should have known that.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 6:03 PM, Chontichajim wrote:

    Nuclear power has been viewed both positively and negatively throughout my life, but two concerns has limited its use at least along the West Coast.

    1) It requires an abundant supply of cooling water not available anywhere in California except along the coast.

    2) People are not anxious to locate Nuclear plants on major earthquake faults which just happen to be in the same location as the available cooling water.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 6:08 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    @schneidku40

    "I'm just patiently waiting for fusion."

    One day...

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 6:35 PM, xetn wrote:

    The US government prevented recycling of spent fuel rods so they could hid how much was going into nuclear weapons.

    Thorium is a much better/safer fuel and is much cheaper due to huge supplies of it.

    The Thorium Energy Alliance (TEA), an educational advocacy organization, emphasizes that "there is enough thorium in the United States alone to power the country at its current energy level for over 10,000 years.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 7:19 PM, MartinNic wrote:

    @PavewayIII

    I fear you may not have understood any of Maxx Chatsko’s points. For example, the first fact is about energy density. It has nothing to do with processing, transportation or storage costs. If it did, uranium would win hands down on transportation. The average 1 GW coal plant uses the equivalent of 30,000 rail trucks per year to get the coal to the plant. The equivalent sized nuclear plant would use just 2 trucks to get the natural uranium to the enrichment plant.

    I suspect that similar comparisons can be made for all the other 29 points but perhaps I will leave that to Maxxwell.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 7:30 PM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    Maxx, here's a "31st fact" for your next article-

    Deaths per Tera Watt hour (TWh):

    Coal (US)- 15

    Coal (Worldwide Avg)- 60

    Oil- 36

    Natural Gas - 4

    Solar (rooftop) - 0.44

    Wind- 0.15

    Nuclear- 0.04

    (source: Next Big Future: http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-so...

    Note that a TWh is what you get from running a large power plant (1,000 Megawatts) for a thousand hours i.e. somewhat more than a month.

    In addition, there is a little-discussed form of nuclear reactor that offers the advantages of conventional nuclear, while having fewer of the downsides, a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor(LFTR), that you should know about. Here is a link to a website that talks about the this technology at length: http://energyfromthorium.com/ and here is a link to a company founded by the website's author, which is looking to produce and market LFTR technology: http://flibe-energy.com/ (note here- I'm not in any way affiliated with Filbe, nor am I an investor, the company is not publicly traded)

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 8:08 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    @xetn and @GreggTrocchia

    LFTRs and other forms of molten salt reactors are definitely intriguing. Unfortunately, to my knowledge (and as Gregg eluded to) there are few commercial application being pursued. I never heard of Filbe, so thanks for the link.

    I'm no expert on these different reactors, but I do remember reading how research into the technology stalled decades ago out of political fears of a Plutonium Economy. You can find out more by searching the term, which is tied to molten salt reactors.

    Thanks for reading,

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 10:51 PM, Shawnerz wrote:

    The problem (or fear) is when they fail, they fail in a big way, with far reaching effects that affect people for many generations.

    For most, including myself, it's not worth the risk.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 1:25 AM, dgmennie wrote:

    The trouble with nuclear energy generation (from fission, anyway) is that nobody has any idea about what to do with the radioactive waste products (isotopes) that will remain dangerous for thousands of years. In fact, man has no collective experience of successfully managing anything involved with such timelines. To talk about a power-generation plant using uranium that can last 60 years is meaningless unless what is left over to be disposed of is just a pile of crumbling steel and concrete. Unfortunately, this will not be the case.

    Others here have soundly trounced the safety record of nuclear power facilities because (1) it takes only one significant reactor failure to cause problems that will extend hundreds to thousands of years into the future, and (2) no reliable public data exists on routine emergencies and small radiation releases that never grab headlines.

    A similar problem exits with all the hoopla about climate change. Everyone demading that something be done is basing their fears on weather data that is a few dozen to (at best) a few hundred years old, yet the Earth's planetary climate is something with a history measured in millions of years. Climate woldwide has swung between hot and cold extremes many times (per icecore samples and other evidence) due to natural forces no one yet fully understands (let alone controls).

    Unless a sense of the HUGE amount of time involved is properly accounted for, public ranting about these topics will not lead to anything beyond knee-jerk politically-correct nonsense that will be completely innefective in both defining the issues and then taking action to mitigate any unwanted consequences (assuming human intervention can actually have any positive effect).

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 8:33 AM, watson14 wrote:

    Interesting reading, but Fukushima is an ongoing nightmare. The small amount of info available shows they're running out of storage for the radioactive water, the groundwater is badly contaminated, the surrounding ocean has high radiation levels, and they may expand the isolation zone. One solution which was discussed was concrete encasement of the reactors. This problem will remain for many years as Japan tries to get the damage under control with international assistance. I don't see the economic upside to nuclear power, it's already loaded with government subsidies.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 9:34 AM, onwardupward wrote:

    It seems some responders missed the point that next generation nuclear is not just another round of bandaids on the decades old nuclear power technology currently in use. Many informative opinions can be found in blog postings like http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2013/01/truth-speculation-a...

    Googling "ifr energy" and "ifr nuclear" leads to a lot of info.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 10:17 AM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    @onwardupward

    Exactly. All major accidents occurred at facilities with much older technology. While most of America's facilities were built decades ago, they have been steadily upgraded over the years. They still remain much riskier than newer reactors, but we shouldn't base our opinions about the industry on 1970's technology.

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 7:58 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    Where on earth are you coming up with your .04 deaths /TW/h @GregTrocchia? That doesn't even make sense.

    Do you have any idea how many people died from radiation in Belarus since Chernobyl melted down? Conservative estimates of just the liquidators top 60,000. Easily half that many in Gomel. 20+ workers died right at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in the last year and a half, or don't you count mentally ill contractors supplied by the Yakuza?

    There's about 42,000 Fukushima children (about half tested) that have thyroid nodules. Did you ever know *anyone* as a kid that had thyroid nodules? About 5% of those children will die of cancer in the next ten years. And that information was reluctantly provided by Japanese medical stooges that also helped survey and suppress the number of kids that acquired thyroid cancer at Chernobyl. If anything, they under-reported the extent of the problem at Fukushima.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 9:08 PM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    Pavewaylll, First off, unlike you, when I use someone's figures in making an argument, I list the source so that you can, if you so desire go to that source to determine the reliability of the numbers. And, yes, I do have a good idea how many people might end up casualties of Chernobyl: 50 deaths from acute radiation poisoning and an estimated 4,000 excess cancer deaths at some time or other. My source (as promised) is the World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/in...

    As far as Fukushima goes, one set of estimates suggests 130 extra deaths, my source: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/17/researchers-estimat... However, contrary to what you are saying, this article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2013/01/11/like-weve-... asserts that UNSCEAR found *no* observable health effects from Fukushima, casting doubt on the LNT (Linear No Threshold) model that, I presume, was used to produce that number.

    Given that worldwide nuclear power production is about 2,500 Terawatts hours per year (source: http://www.worldnuclearreport.org/The-World-Nuclear-Industry... ), dividing the UN casualty totals by all those years of 2,500 TWh per year and reaching .04 deaths per TWh seems quite reasonable

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 1:36 AM, The1MAGE wrote:

    Yup, the politics always comes out when anyone tries to talk about Nuclear Power.

    Anyway I obviously have to weigh in. I really don't care about the politics as much as the facts, and the way people like to twist them.

    First and foremost is the danger from Nuclear power plants, as shown by Fukushima. It really needs to be pointed out that this was a 40 year old power plant at the end of it's life. I am not saying the problem was it's age, but that it is an outdated technology. A new reactor is orders of magnitude safer then this plant was.

    Then we have to take into account the tsunami, which was a once in a more then a century disaster. If this happened earlier in the plants life, it may have survived without the problems. Anyway this should be thought of as a byproduct of the tsunami, not nuclear power. We are talking about an estimate of shortened lives, while how many were killed in the tsunami?

    The fear of building new plants have resulted in the old outdated plants staying in business longer then they probably would have.

    Next is the waste produced, Spent fuel should be reprocessed. i.e. recycled. We are talking about something that is over 90% recycleable, and if we do that, similar to France, then the waste for a family of 4 for a year is the size of an aspirin, while a coal plant will produce a boxcar worth of ash.

    Chernobyl, which was about the worst disaster possible, still is barely a blip compared to either of the 2 recent tsunamis. But it should be pointed out that this was not an energy plant, but built to produce fuel for nuclear weapons. They did not build it with safety in mind, and in fact it didn't have many of the features that would have protected it.

    Many people unfortunately do not know that the safety built into the 3 mile island nuclear plant actually worked, and stopped a meltdown like it was built to do.

    The big problem with nuclear is the high cost of building new plants. These things are not cheap.

    The other big problem is psychology. Some people have this metal block to nuclear power, regardless of the facts or reality. They will argue against it no matter what.

    They see the big nuclear meltdown that may or may not ever occur, and assume one event makes it not worth it, but without a frame of reference, this is a poor argument. We need to look at the odds of an event happening, and how bad one would actually be. Most of the risk is really overblown. Just like the start of this article, there won't be zombies roaming around, and we are not going to produce a Godzilla creature.

    If I thought nuclear power was a real danger, then I would be opposed to it. But I know how the real world works, where the real danger is, and would not have a problem living next to a nuclear plant. Regardless of what I saw on the Simpsons cartoon, or what I hear from fear mongers.

    It is not perfect, but it makes logical sense.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 1:50 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    @GreggTrochia - Your original link for the figures was dead ever since you posted it. There are a few regularly used sources for Chernobyl deaths:

    Official Soviet Union numbers 1986: 28 acute radiation deaths; it prohibited any doctor in the Soviet Union from reporting 'radiation' as a cause of death in the years after, thus zero radiation deaths on medical records used for subsequent 'studies' by naive researchers.

    UNSCEAR 1998 - Relied on Soviet figures; also concluded no additional (as in zero) deaths resulted from Chernobyl. Standing joke in the scientific community. They are also reporting no radiation-caused death in Fukushima besides what they read on the TEPCO report.

    IAEA 2002 - Basically an arm of the nuclear industry. Formed 'Chernobyl Forum' to undo damage of laughable UNSCEAR. WHO was included but outnumbered by IAEA and nuclear industry. WHO's much higher numbers lost to IAEAs in the voting process. Yes, they 'voted' on the numbers. WHO doctors quit over this.

    IAEA/WHO 2005 report - Winning numbers of 4000 - 6000 additional deaths from Chernobyl presented. Russian and Ukaranian scientists own research up till then was ignored because it wasn't peer-reviewed through the West's existing system - few Western peers could even read the language and fewer had any desire to review. The winning numbers primarily came from an IAEA sponsored study by foreign researchers.

    The report is like having the Tabacco Council sponsor a study on smoking-induced lung cancer, then creating a forum with the Surgeon General and voting on which set of numbers to report. Guess who's going to win?

    One doesn't need to be pro or anti anything to understand when they're being chumped. Russian, Belorussian and Ukaranian scientists are basing their current research on reality and are ignored. The nuclear industry gets a few other insiders to peer-review their own fake studies and you're using them as legit?

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 3:12 PM, NUKEWHALES wrote:

    There's a fair share of erroneoous information in both the article and the posts. Here's my two cents:

    1) The unit of output from a power plant is the megawatt hour (MWh), not megawatt electric (MWe). MWe measures capacity to produce power. The power thus produced is the MWh.

    2) A 1000-megawatt (capacity) nuclear power plant, running well (about 92% of the time in the US, on average) should produce about 8 million megawatt hours in a year. A typical household might consume 18 MWh in a year, so that one 1000-MWe plant could power around 444,000 households.

    (Estimates of the consumption of a "typical" household vary widely.)

    3) It's somewhat difficult to say who the largest global producer of uranium is. As a country, Kazakhstan produced by far the largest quantiy last year: Around 50 million pounds, virtually all via the in-situ leach process. About half is attributed to Kazatomprom, the state-owned producer, with the balance attributed to Kazatomprom's various JV partners. Those partners, for certain mines, include AREVA, which claims to be the world's largest producer, as well as Cameco, which is either number one, two or three, depending on how you count partnership interests. Add Rio Tinto and BHP to the aforementioned companies, and you have perhaps three quarters of all the uranium that's produced each year.

    4) Uranium is about as common as tin in the earth's crust. There's enough known in-ground resources to take care of every reactor in the world for at least 100 years, and lots more waiting to be discovered. It all depends on what you want to pay for it.

    5) Fuel is a relatively small part of the cost of nuclear generation. A ball park figure for annual costs (operations, maintenance and fuel for a currently-operating US nuclear plant) is on the order of $22 per megewatt hour, of which fuel will be around $6-$7 and $1 for the nuclear waste fund that was supposed to build a repository. Repayment of capital investment is extra, and varies very widely from plant to plant and operator to operator. http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/nuclear_statistics/cost...

    6) Comparisons to other fuels and uranium's energy content can be misleading. Are you talking about raw natural uranium or the enriched product that goes into light water reactors? Do you assume spent fuel is recycled, or not?

    So assume you're talking about the enriched product that goes into the dominant type of reactor, the pressurized water reactor (PWR), and you don't recycle. It takes about ten kg of natural uranium to make one kg of "enriched" fuel: I.e. fuel where the fissile isotope U-235 has been concentrated from the natural state of 0.711% to fuel-grade of 4.9%.

    The PWR will run through about 18 tonnes of fresh fuel per year, so you can conclude that each kg of fuel produces the energy that makes around 444 MWh per year, enough to power about 25 good-size households. Each household therefore consumes on the order of 2.3 ounces of nuclear fuel per year in this scenario. Not a huge amount of waste, all told.

    7) It is simply untrue to say that "no one knows how to deal with a waste that remains dangerous for thousands of years." There is vitually unversal consensus in the scientific and technical community that deep burial in a geological repository would be safe and effective. We're talking here about solid rock at a depth of around 500 meters. These strata do not interact with the biosphere, and they've been there for hundreds of millions if not billions of years.

    This is the strategy selected by the Swedes and the Finns. You can read more here: http://www.skb.se/Templates/Standard____24058.aspx

    I would also point out that while radiation decays away, the toxicity of heavy metal poisons like lead and arsenic lasts substantially forever. Yet the presence of these toxins in our environment do not paralyze our every discussion, or dissovle into endless debates rife with dogmatic roadblocks.

    8) Recycling spent fuel is more costly than the once-through system. It also generates difficult waste streams of its own. Nor can you recycle the used uranium more than about once, since it picks up unwanted isotopes like U-234 each time it passes through a reactor. At best, recycling reduces, to some degree, the required volume of an eventual repository, but it does not eliminate it by any means. Even if we stopped all our nuclear plants tomorrow, which we won't, we would still have to deal with the spent fuel we're storing already. So we need to be grown ups about it.

    9) New nuclear plants are less economic than new gas-fired plants in the US if you assume current gas prices will remain low. The trouble is that even the pros can't predict future gas prices reliably. Gas price history has been one of extreme volatility, and it is sensible to assume that this volatility will continue.

    TVA, SCANA and Southern Co. all started building new nukes when gas prices were much higher. Still, they are in a positon to take the long view, and have opted for a diversified generating portfolio. They don't want to put all their eggs in the "gas basket" no matter how attractive it looks today. Personally, I laud them for their prudence.

    Consider this: In 2011 there were 900 gas rigs turning to the right. The average is 500. Now the figure is 400. So where do you think gas prices will be in a year or two?

    10) Finally, forget the Traveling Wave Reactor. Bill Gates may know a lot about operating systems, but in the nuclear energy area he's a clueless newbie. See here, for instance: http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=301397

    Even in theory, I don't think this concept works, at least as presented so far. And fast-neutron reactors have been tried many times, and failed in Japan, France, the UK and the US. The Russians had some success (BN300 and BN600), but the engineering challenges of liquid metal coolant (sodium, lead, bismuth, e.g.) have been deal killers since day one. You'd thinhk that if this were a useful design, the Russians would build more. Well, they are politely keeping it in the talk stage indefintiely, and that ought to tell you something.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 11:00 PM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    Pavewaylll, The problem with the link in my original post is that the right parenthesis was, incorrectly picked-up as being part of the URL. You can either click on the link and then manually delete the parenthesis on in the URL and hit ENTER or copy from the link, paste, remove the parenthesis and then go directly to the article.

    I'm not sure I buy your doubts about the casualty figures I cited. For one thing, it seems to me that there are just as many with an agenda that is served by inflating death tolls as there are those whose agenda is served by minimizing those death tolls. This brings me to point out that you still have yet to provide any sourcing whatsoever for the (implied) much higher casualty numbers that you were talking about.

    A separate issue is the extent to which Chernobyl is a lousy indicator for nuclear safety elsewhere. This is because of Soviet design decisions such as use of a graphite moderated, positive void coefficient design which, in addition, lacked the massive reinforced concrete containment building that are an essential part of all western commercial power plants. Such factors make Chernobyl an outlier.

    In anticipation of a response pointing to Fukushima as a counter, I would point out that it required the "the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan" (itself responsible for over 15,000 deaths) resulting in a correspondingly massive tsunami to cause Fukushima. Even with that, Chernobyl was still a worse disaster, by a good measure.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2013, at 12:39 AM, PavewayIII wrote:

    Thanks - it's a well-written report.

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-so...

    I can't provide real data by Ukaranian, Belorussian or Russian researchers because I can't read the language. I have no idea what the 'true' number of deaths was. I'm pointing out the source you're relying on for your numbers has been trashed by other scientists on very basic research flaws.

    Here's a more coherent critique:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=H8wwRGrD6V4C&pg=PT128&a...

    I'm not oblivious to the manipulation of casualty figures either way, but nobody in the West has published the other extreme with 'inflated' numbers - nobody would fund it. So any evidence I can offer is anecdotal - un-peer reviewed reports of local pathologists, endocrinologists and the like.

    On a side note, I'm kind of curious (if your interest is research) how easily you repeat misleading facts. A basic Google search will give you plenty of references that show:

    -This was NOT the largest earthquake to hit Japan. The epicenter was several miles out to sea and the magnitude was calculated for that point. They didn't have that localization capability for more than the last decade, so there's no references for any other off-shore earthquakes earlier than that. It is the highest magnitude off-shore centered quake they have accurately placed and measured, but probably not the most powerful one 'ever experienced'.

    -It wasn't 'the largest quake' by a long shot in terms of ground-motion acceleration (intensity) when it hit nearby population centers. I think a Sendai television station has footage from they're own newsroom showing everyone sheltering and lights swinging, but no people or buildings falling down. More like lcd computer monitors falling over. Kobe was much more destructive in terms of the ground acceleration.

    -The quake itself is not responsible for any deaths that I know of. No buildings collapsed, no major structural damage. All the deaths were attributable to the tsunami.

    - No nuclear plant in Japan 'felt' the ground acceleration of an 8.7 earthquake. For the most part, ground acceleration at Dai-ini and Dai-ichi were much lower and well within design. The shaking described by plant workers roughly parallels the intensity witnessed at the Sendai TV station.

    My entire argument here though is that nuclear technology itself does not have some predefined measure of risk. By time that technology is implemented by contractors (who cut corners and overcharge) and operated by a utility (which cuts more corners, understaffs and runs the plans past design life) and is overseen by a regulators (who came from management in the industry and return to management in the industry)... well, that just never ends well. To top it all off, I can't even judge the risk of nuclear power because information about accidents is actively censored and distorted. Look no further than TEPCO.

    So exactly how are the Chinese and Indian governments assessing risk as they build out? They can't - it will just be their turn to cover up accidents, hide casualties and censor news. They're pretty good at that.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2013, at 9:03 PM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    Pavewaylll, First off, knowing the "true" death rate from an accident like Chernobyl is something that is highly problematic. The reason is that about 20% of us are likely to die from cancer absent any exposure to radiation above background level (source: Physics for Future Presidents, p.100). Teasing *excess* cancer deaths from exposure to an accident like Chernobyl from other confounding factors (e.g. higher smoking prevalence among that same population) is a task of great difficulty and room for error. I will say that I would sooner trust a peer reviewed study by the IAEA, even given the possibility of industry capture that you raised than anecdotal evidence which, as you are probably aware, is considered least credible to scientists.

    As to the Tohoku earthquake, the quoted section was taken directly from the Wikipedia article about the event: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_T%C5%8Dhoku_earthquake_an... Now, since this quote was from Wikipedia, and you are saying it is wrong, I did some additional research. Here is a link to the USGS's list (sufficiently authoritative, I trust) of the Largest Earthquakes since 1900: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/10_largest_worl... Note that the first entry for Japan is the 2011 earthquake. The Wikipedia article already cited gives a figure of 92.5% due to drowning (presumably, the other 7.5% come more directly from the quake).

    My understanding of the Fukushima disaster is that the reactors successfully SCRAMed (as indicated in the Wikipedia article). Had the wall to protect against the tsunami been higher (or had they located the back-up generators significantly higher that the basement). Those back-up generators would likely have been sufficient to keep the piles cool enough until the residual decay heat had abated to the point where damage to the cores was no longer a danger. That is, after all, what they were designed to do. Instead, the tsunami flooded out the back-up generators and cooling was not restored soon enough to prevent the release of radiation.

    Furthermore, I would like to point out that both Chernobyl and Fukushima were plants of ancient design (in addition to which, the Chernobyl design embodied Stalin-era lack of concern for safety precautions). Newer designs, which reflect the lessons we have learned from Chernobyl, Fukushima, and TMI have considerably greater safety margins.

    Finally, in a place like China where the air in a place like Beijing approaches opaque due to air pollution (source: google image search "Beijing air pollution") we are talking about substantial numbers of deaths certain to occur from that pollution. I think this outweighs the possibility that Chinese builders might mess up building a reactor somewhere which might have a disaster which disaster might kill people. If building more reactors can help in getting some of that sh*t out of the air, I would argue that seems a risk worth taking. And that is at the heart of those deaths per TWh calculations.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2013, at 1:56 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    Glad to known the Chinese people potentially affected by an unproven PWR design have been fully informed of the risk and have given their assent to have reactors built upwind from them.

    I'm downstream from China (Eastwards in the jetstream flow) in North America. I have not been informed of the potential risk and do not assent to the risk of a reactor spewing anything into the jet stream.

    China can do whatever it thinks best for it's people. Releasing radioactivity - intentionally or accidentally - into my air will be considered a grave violation of my human rights. Covering up the nature or amount of radioactivity in the case of an accident will be tantamount to a declaration of war. War will never be necessary though. The first Chinese nuclear accident of any size will bring down the Chinese government just like it brought down the Soviet Union and just like it will bring down the U.S.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2013, at 12:00 AM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    >>Glad to known the Chinese people potentially affected by an unproven PWR design have been fully informed of the risk and have given their assent to have reactors built upwind from them.

    I would point out that the folks in Henan Province gave no more informed consent to the Banqiao Dam, which let loose in 1975, killing 171,000 of them source: http://engineeringfailures.org/?p=723 . The death toll from Banqiao is so large that I left hydro power out of my original posting (including Banqiao moves the deaths per TWh from 0.1 to 1.4). source: http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-so... . That is a function of China's political system which, I would argue, is outside the scope of the current discussion, than it is to nuclear power specifically.

    >>I'm downstream from China (Eastwards in the jetstream flow) in North America. I have not been informed of the potential risk and do not assent to the risk of a reactor spewing anything into the jet stream.

    >>China can do whatever it thinks best for it's people. Releasing radioactivity - intentionally or accidentally - into my air will be considered a grave violation of my human rights.

    Are you worried about the America Syndrome (If it is the "China Syndrome" if a reactor melts down and breaks containment here, then surely if it happens in China, that must be the "America Syndrome")? I find it difficult not to be facetious here because getting one's shorts in a knot over the (necessarily) massively diluted dosages of radiation from any hypothetical Chinese reactor accident is so disproportionate that it amounts to an irrational phobia. I located the estimated radiation dosages from Chernobyl which, for reasons discussed in my previous posts, was a worse accident than is plausible for any of the reactors being built in China. In North America, the dose amounts to less than 1/10th the amount received in an abdominal X-ray (and that is for infants, who absorb more radiation than adults) Source(s): http://www.oecd-nea.org/rp/chernobyl/c04.html (Populations outside the Soviet Union) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_%28unit%29

    >>Covering up the nature or amount of radioactivity in the case of an accident will be tantamount to a declaration of war. War will never be necessary though. The first Chinese nuclear accident of any size will bring down the Chinese government just like it brought down the Soviet Union and just like it will bring down the U.S.

    Gee, I think I missed the memo where there was a revolution after TMI (I was, coincidentally, taking a class in environmental chemistry when we first heard about TMI). And don't you dare try to assert that the failure to re-elect Carter was due to TMI. Had Carter managed to either free the hostages or make significant progress against stagflation prior to the election, he would likely have been re-elected and if he had done both, he would almost certainly have been a two-termer. In similar fashion, the Russian war in Afghanistan (it is not called "The Graveyard of Empires" for nothing) and economic collapse of Soviet Communism were more direct contributors to the end of the Soviet Union than Chernobyl (though I will say that Chernobyl didn't make life any easier for those in the Kremlin).


  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2013, at 9:06 AM, fgcouvares wrote:

    Mr. Chatsko's mash note for nuclear energy ignores two uncomfortable facts: First, no one has figured out what to do with almost eternally radioactive nuclear waste. Second, no private insurance company will insure a nuclear plant - all are underwritten by governments. I trust the insurance industry to measure risk, not Mr. Chatsko, not Exelon, not the military, and not governments with all sorts of reasons to boost nuclear power.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2013, at 4:53 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    re: dam casualties - oh, you left that out too? That's a strange way to do research or produce numbers. But A++ for the confirmation bias.

    "...That is a function of China's political system which, I would argue, is outside the scope of the current discussion, than it is to nuclear power specifically..."

    So you're oblivious to the reality of deployment and operation if it interferes with your poor scientific calculations of risk? Even an ostrich with it's head in the sand is still going to get an irradiated butt. Model *that*.

    "...Are you worried about the America Syndrome..."

    Please Wiki your pop culture references and - if you must - use them appropriately. I can't begin to explain why this makes no sense.

    "...I located the estimated radiation dosages from Chernobyl..."

    Considering your incredulous indifference to bad numbers, I'm assuming they're either Soviet-Approved or IAEA-Rehashed numbers. Useless.

    "...which, for reasons discussed in my previous posts, was a worse accident than is plausible for any of the reactors being built in China..."

    So you're going to pre-qualify some specious statement using your own previously-unconvincing argument... well, I guess I can't argue with that logic.

    "...In North America, the dose amounts to less than 1/10th the amount received in an abdominal X-ray..."

    Did you just make up that baffeling interpretation of 'dose' or are you using someone else's erroneous interpretation? It sounds suspiciously like CNN's understanding of the word.

    And aside from being in the same electromagnetic spectrum and both being ionizing radiation, you do realize the biological effects of x-rays and radionuclide emissions are completely unrelated, right? They don't even cook tissue through the same mechanism. Do some Googling before offering factoids based on unrelated types of effective dose. Seriously. It makes you seem rather dim.

    "..Gee, I think I missed the memo where there was a revolution after TMI..."

    No proper measurements of the released fuel inventory and good spin control by the government back then. Easy to hide what the public can't measure and easy to censor information in a willing main-stream media.

    That's no longer true. Grandpappy's censorship and deception from the TMI-era are history. And what Chinese would trust anything their government tells them regarding their health - especially when it comes to their one permitted child? Chinese citizens have more critical thinking ability than the U.S. anyway.

    "...though I will say that Chernobyl didn't make life any easier for those in the Kremlin..."

    Because it contributed significantly to the economic collapse of member states which only hastened the ongoing train-wreck of the Soviet economy at the time.

    And irradiating a quarter-million USSR army conscripts by making them throw blocks of graphite back into an open reactor? Stalin was certainly capable of that kind of psychopathy, but was never that stupid. I'm grateful that the liquidators did what they were ordered to do, but the political ramifications were lethal to the Soviets.

    The Japanese government will fall as a result of Fukushima. It's not a matter of *if* but *when*. Give them a few more years. The recent elections were meaningless - their entire system has suffered a fatal blow.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2013, at 6:56 PM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    >>re: dam casualties - oh, you left that out too? That's a strange way to do research or produce numbers. But A++ for the confirmation bias.

    I am at a loss to understand what you were trying to say here, but let me guess. If you are accusing me of leaving out the figures on hydropower to make my point look better, that doesn't work. The 0.1 deaths per TWh that you get by leaving out Banqiao is still worse than the figure for nuclear power. If you include Banqiao (and it is hard to come up with a reason not to) the numbers are FAR worse. This is a sensitivity analysis thing, not confirmation bias thing. If you meant something else please tell me.

    >>So you're oblivious to the reality of deployment and operation if it interferes with your poor scientific calculations of risk? Even an ostrich with it's head in the sand is still going to get an irradiated butt. Model *that*.

    For reasons that I will discuss below, China is not going to be doing a whole lot to irradiate me (unless they use nuclear weapons against us, which I think is unlikely). Would I like it if China were more democratic, yes, but that, as I said is beyond the scope of the discussion.

    >>Please Wiki your pop culture references and - if you must - use them appropriately. I can't begin to explain why this makes no sense.

    I explained this in the initial reference, but I will go through it nice and slow, for your benefit: The China Syndrome https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Syndrome is called that because if a meltdown breaks through the containment, it can melt and sink, notionally all the way to China through the center of the Earth. Of course that is not what would really happen, but the name originates from a bit of black humor. My "America Syndrome" riff on this is a way of pointing out that the assumption in the term "China Syndrome" is that the reactor in question is located in the US. If you start out with a reactor in China, going through the center of the Earth doesn't leave you in China.

    This also embodies why the radiation doses from any accident in China have to be low in the US. China is HALF A WORLD AWAY. It is a matter of simple geometry that the area in which radio isotopes, in this case, are diluted increases with distance squared. Thousands and thousands of kilometers from any point in China, the dose from any kind of reactor accident in China will be negligible. There is just no getting around that.

    >>No proper measurements of the released fuel inventory and good spin control by the government back then. Easy to hide what the public can't measure and easy to censor information in a willing main-stream media.

    I *remember* the news coverage back then. Far from censorship, every night you had TMI stories accompanied by images of the cooling towers which, by virtue of being so visually impressive, dominated the landscape and looked far more menacing than they really were (it would not surprise me if the majority of viewers thought the cooling towers were the reactors). I would argue that the coverage was totally disproportionate to the actual impact of the event.

    >>The Japanese government will fall as a result of Fukushima. It's not a matter of *if* but *when*. Give them a few more years. The recent elections were meaningless - their entire system has suffered a fatal blow.

    Um, you do realize that the government *just* elected is _far_ more pro-nuclear than the one booted out. See, for example, this: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ20121227... If Fukushima has so enraged the Japanese public, they have a really funny way of showing it.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2013, at 11:00 PM, jlclayton wrote:

    GregTrocchia,

    Your posts are informative, well written, and I appreciate them very much! I live within 20 miles of an Exelon nuclear power plant and was also employed at a polyethylene plant for 10 years, which uses many hazardous gases and chemicals in it's processes, so I have a fairly decent understanding of many risks at these types of facilities. It is very good to see someone talk about the subject in a common sense way and to take the time to present the facts to those who only hear the negatives. There will never be a company in an energy sector that can guarantee their energy production will be 100% without any risk, just is not possible.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2013, at 1:34 AM, PavewayIII wrote:

    "..If you are accusing me of leaving out the figures on hydropower to make my point look better, that doesn't work..."

    I'm observing that you're pretty loose with the numbers *in general* regardless of what point you're trying to make. That speaks to credibility.

    Why treat Banqiao separately *at all* in your report? Engineers ignored hydrologists, built rickety dams that failed, then blamed a one in 2000-year typhoon for the deaths. The state-counted casualties were a secret from the Chinese people until 2005. Why do you assume the figure is accurate now? And why would anyone exclude these casualties from the toll by hydroelectric generation?

    Your confirmation bias shows through in your numbers. I get that you're trying to sell nuclear power generation on it's apparent safety, but you miss details like the laughable 'official' Soviet reported number. Then dismiss Chernobyl as an un-representative, older design. Then ignore any but the TEPCO-reported casualty figures that even the Japanese don't believe. Your point could still be made (and with much more credibility) by acknowledging the possibility of official under- or non-reporting rather than simply ignoring it.

    "...This also embodies why the radiation doses from any accident in China have to be low in the US. China is HALF A WORLD AWAY..."

    First of all, *I* will decide what constitutes a high or low dose since I'm being involuntarily exposed. The dose is obviously less than an acute lethal dose, but it's still additional undesired radiation as far as I'm concerned. Stating that it's a low dose makes about as much sense as telling me you only want to put a little arsenic in my water.

    Second of all, the fission products released by Fukushima went into the same jet stream that Chinese radioactivity will be sucked into if there is a major release there. The particulates and gas do not dissipate much in the jet stream despite assurances to the contrary. Those radionuclides are washed back out of the jet stream by precipitation, which effectively re-concentrates them to levels far higher than their air-dispersed concentrations. That rainwater is concentrated yet again by pooling or watersheds, where it enters my water and food-chain. Evaporation concentrates particulates even further, which become dust that I inhale.

    I'm not that worried about direct atmospheric exposure because - you're right - little of it ends up in my air. I *am* worried about the cumulative deposition from precipitation because that continues to happen every time the Fukushima (or Chinese) radionuclide cloud passes over me in the jet stream. I can and do measure the increasing radioactivity of that cumulative deposition from HALF A WORLD AWAY.

    The China Syndrome is about the unknown effects of a corium burning endlessly downwards into the earth, not about the radiation released and not about the people on the other end. The unspoken concern is that it would make the world blow up when it gets to the center of the earth.

    Your average reader isn't going to assume it will go all the way through the planet and exit in China. It's an oblique reference to what (in America, at any rate) parents jokingly tell their children at the beach: if you keep digging that hole in the sand, you'll end up in China. In other words, they're exaggerating the child's accomplishment of digging a deep hole with their little 2" play shovel. It's confusing in context with a discussion about airborne dispersion and radioactivity.

    "...Far from censorship, every night you had TMI stories accompanied by images of the cooling towers which, by virtue of being so visually impressive, dominated the landscape and looked far more menacing than they really were..."

    And every one of those images was accompanied by news anchors parroting the NRC's lie that there was nothing to worry about - everything was under control. People generally believed him at the time. People were concerned, but I don't recall any hysterics about the tower visuals.

    "...Cronkite went on to say that "experts" had [wrongly] ruled out the possibility of an explosion. In the ensuing weeks and years, he did not report what remains one of the most heavily censored secrets of the nuclear age---that significant radioactive fallout did escape from TMI, that it scattered randomly throughout the region, that it landed heavily on certain parts of the downwind population, and that human beings (as well as wild and farm animals) were killed and maimed in great numbers..."

    http://freepress.org/columns/display/7/2009/1756

    You win your own argument because I'll just assume you don't understand or acknowledge any of the effects of TMI. Nearly a half-core load of volatilised fission products (several tons) was magically captured by a few filters and some containment water. For magic skeptics, here's one report which trashes the bogus 'official' Kearney Commission study:

    http://www.southernstudies.org/images/sitepieces/ThompsonTMI...

    "...Um, you do realize that the government *just* elected is _far_ more pro-nuclear than the one booted out..."

    Yes. In fact, they re-elected the originators of their nuclear program, the LDP, which they had thrown out a few years back. But not because the Japanese wanted pro-nuke people back. They were voting against the trial-run of the DJP that produced few promised benefits. The LDP vote was to throw the replacements out - they're worse. Since most voters are against nuclear energy, I'm assuming there were other qualities that made the LDP the lesser of two evils. The LDP is returning to a far more skeptical populace that expects to do some kicking back of its own. The LDP's free-ride off the backs of Japanese taxpayers is over.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2013, at 5:33 AM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    >>I'm observing that you're pretty loose with the numbers *in general* regardless of what point you're trying to make. That speaks to credibility.

    That is truly laughable coming from someone who has consistently failed to provide a source for any of the numbers that he has used. The most that you have done is to assert that the source for some of the numbers I used is a source with an incentive to minimize the impact of the events in question. What you *haven't* done is to show that those numbers are incorrect or to provide any alternatives that are any more credible.

    >>Why treat Banqiao separately *at all* in your report?

    Because my source broke it out separately and it moved the overall number so much. If I were really as cavalier about numbers as you are implying, I simply would have said:

    Oil- 36

    Natural Gas - 4

    Hydro - 1.4

    Solar (rooftop) - 0.44

    in my original post, which would have made nuclear power look much safer than hydro. The fact that most of the deaths in question came from one incident led me to leave out the hydro power comparison precisely because I don't want to mislead.

    >>First of all, *I* will decide what constitutes a high or low dose since I'm being involuntarily exposed. The dose is obviously less than an acute lethal dose, but it's still additional undesired radiation as far as I'm concerned. Stating that it's a low dose makes about as much sense as telling me you only want to put a little arsenic in my water.

    Then what are YOUR criteria for deciding what constitutes a low dose? My criterion is that the dosage is less than (perhaps much less than) or equal to the dosages of radiation e.g: 2 to 5 mrem cosmic ray exposure that you get from a typical cross country flight (source: http://www.epa.gov/radtown/cosmic.html). Using the deliberately conservative LNT (Linear No Threshold) model this gives an increased risk of cancer death as 1 in a half million to one in a million (source: Physics for Future Presidents example calculation on p. 116).

    As to arsenic, there IS some arsenic in your water, the chance that a liter of water contains not a single molecule of arsenic, a naturally occurring element, is negligible enough to be discounted. The real question is how much arsenic is there in your water and does that concentration put your health at risk (and how much extra risk). Toxicologists tend strongly to judge such questions via a "the poison is in the dosage" viewpoint (source: Myth of the Rational Voter p. 161).

    >>Second of all, the fission products released by Fukushima went into the same jet stream that Chinese radioactivity will be sucked into if there is a major release there. The particulates and gas do not dissipate much in the jet stream despite assurances to the contrary. Those radionuclides are washed back out of the jet stream by precipitation, which effectively re-concentrates them to levels far higher than their air-dispersed concentrations. That rainwater is concentrated yet again by pooling or watersheds, where it enters my water and food-chain. Evaporation concentrates particulates even further, which become dust that I inhale.

    First off, I question how much, if any of the Fukushima radioisotopes even reached the stratosphere. Unlike Chernobyl, there aren't radioactive soot particles and a massive fire to loft them. Then too, there is the nature of the jetstream, which seems better suited to dispersal than concentration to me. Unless you come up with some alternative numbers to the ones I gave AND source them, I see no reason to believe will be significantly more than the 0.1 milliGray I was using in my previous post (and that number, I remind you, was from Chernobyl which did have a plausible transport mechanism to get radionuclides to the stratosphere)

    >>The China Syndrome is about the unknown effects of a corium burning endlessly downwards into the earth, not about the radiation released and not about the people on the other end. The unspoken concern is that it would make the world blow up when it gets to the center of the earth.

    Now we are getting into Hollywood territory. First off, regarding the China Syndrome taken literally. I quote Physics for Future Presidents (p. 165) "No obviously it won't reach China (Besides, China isn't [directly- gt] on the other side of the Earth from any of our reactors). The fuel is unlikely to get very far, because it spreads out and that allows it to cool".

    Now, regarding the core, you DO realize that the Earth's core is already chock full of incredibly hot (in both senses of the word) radioactive elements, don't you (source: http://phys.org/news62952904.html ). Talking about a nuclear accident which would "make the world blow up" just makes you sound like a scientific illiterate, specifically one who doesn't understand just how much energy it would take to make the "world blow up".

    >>And every one of those images was accompanied by news anchors parroting the NRC's lie that there was nothing to worry about - everything was under control. People generally believed him at the time. People were concerned, but I don't recall any hysterics about the tower visuals.

    Take a look at the opening of this story and you will see what I mean about the visuals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g1Fn7KBwfg Here is an example of the reporting of the time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VRdkTvv878 Yes, they did report official reassurances, but, far from accepting such reassurances at face value, they reported quite a bit of skepticism concerning those reassurances.

    >>Yes. In fact, they re-elected the originators of their nuclear program, the LDP, which they had thrown out a few years back. But not because the Japanese wanted pro-nuke people back. They were voting against the trial-run of the DJP that produced few promised benefits. The LDP vote was to throw the replacements out - they're worse.

    Not in terms of their likely nuclear policy (from an anti-nuclear perspective that is). If the Japanese public was closer to the DPJ on the subject of nuclear policy than the LDP, that obviously implies that this did not outweigh other considerations.

    My own take on it is that the average Japanese voter probably *is* more anti-nuclear than the LDP, but that this simply wasn't as important to them as other issues such as the economy, China policy, North Korea, and so on.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2013, at 2:31 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    "...That is truly laughable coming from someone who has consistently failed to provide a source for any of the numbers that he has used..."

    True. But then, I don't need any numbers of my own to point out your sources - at least with respect to Chernobyl - are absolute garbage. I also note you probably did not read past the first paragraph in the link provided (if at all) giving specific issues with those numbers. Instead, your defense is, "Then give me some better numbers".

    "...The fact that most of the deaths in question came from one incident led me to leave out the hydro power comparison precisely because I don't want to mislead..."

    Oh, I see. The 'incident' and the deaths resulting could have been a statistical fluke. Better to wait for a few hundred thousand more deaths to establish a solid representative number. The first 171,000 don't count.

    "...My criterion is that the dosage is less than (perhaps much less than) or equal to the dosages of radiation e.g: 2 to 5 mrem cosmic ray exposure that you get from a typical cross country flight..."

    Please stop using 'dosage' if you don't understand what it means. External, high-energy cosmic gamma poses far less of a biological threat than inhaled/ingested radionuclides.

    "...The real question is how much arsenic is there in your water and does that concentration put your health at risk (and how much extra risk)..."

    Thanks for rewording to change the question. I know there are minute amounts of arsenic in my drinking water. The question posed was how would I quantify an additional dose if you wanted to add a little more arsenic to it. I'm saying I don't want any additional dose period. You're insisting - in some Mengele-type reasoning - that I have no right to object if you can prove that the additional amount is harmless. Likewise, you're using Mengele Logic to say the risk of nuclear accidents are astronomical (almost a statistical fluke) and when they do happen, I can't object to the additional environmental load of radionuclides because they're essentially harmless.

    "...Talking about a nuclear accident which would "make the world blow up" just makes you sound like a scientific illiterate..."

    The inference in *the film* was that something like that would happen; it wasn't my personal opinion. But thanks for pointing out the obvious *and* providing an authoritative link! Say, what do you think about those talking apes taking over the earth in the future?

    "...Yes, they did report official reassurances, but, far from accepting such reassurances at face value, they reported quite a bit of skepticism concerning those reassurances..."

    You forgot to add rightfully employed skepticism. Commonwealth Edison and the IAEA would have you believe there was never any danger from TMI:

    http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Magazines/Bulletin/Bull215/...

    Years later, they discovered CommEd lied about or misunderstood critical events of the meltdown:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/01/31/296865/-TMI-29-year...

    I believed they measured a few hundred pounds of the 20 tons of radionuclides 'missing' from the core. ComEd (now Exelon) has never explained where they think the other 19 tons might be hiding - just that they were not released.

    I think we basically agree that the election of the LDP can't be construed as a vote on the single issue of nuclear power. I'll stand by my opinion that it will take down the Japanese government. Once people are done burying their children in the next few years, their outrage will be directed at the politicians and industry that seems to be responsible. I don't think they'll wait around for peer-reviewed epidemiological studies first.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2013, at 4:46 PM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    >>But then, I don't need any numbers of my own to point out your sources - at least with respect to Chernobyl - are absolute garbage.

    Yes you do. Here is how it is going to work from now on: Put up or shut up. If you don't like the numbers that I provide, then post your own and be provide to justify why they are better. That is going to be my default response from now on. Put Up. Or Shut Up.

    >>Instead, your defense is, "Then give me some better numbers".

    Which reasonable request, I will point out, has been met with deafening silence.

    >>Please stop using 'dosage' if you don't understand what it means. External, high-energy cosmic gamma poses far less of a biological threat than inhaled/ingested radionuclides.

    Here's a hint: If you are going to call people on their science, best to know what the **** you are talking about first. Cosmic Rays, despite their name, are high energy PARTICLES (usually protons), not gamma rays (source: http://www.auger.org/cosmic_rays/faq.html ).

    >>You're insisting - in some Mengele-type reasoning

    You have heard of Godwin's Law, have you not? As an internet debate continues, the probability of a comparison to the Nazis approaches 1. The party making such a comparison loses the debate. (source: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GodwinsLaw )

    >>Likewise, you're using Mengele Logic to say the risk of nuclear accidents are astronomical (almost a statistical fluke) and when they do happen, I can't object to the additional environmental load of radionuclides because they're essentially harmless.

    Actually, I'm saying that you get 0.2 rem per year in background radiation and that doing something ordinary, like moving to Denver, will add another 0.1 rem per year (source: Physics for Future Presidents, pp. 116-117). Getting your panties in a bunch about a millirem dose (0.001 rem), for example, doesn't seem proportionate. IF you are talking about substantially greater radiation exposure, then more concern is proportionately more appropriate, but the first question is "how much radiation are we talking about".

    >>The inference in *the film* was that something like that would happen; it wasn't my personal opinion. But thanks for pointing out the obvious *and* providing an authoritative link!

    When talking real world risk analysis, best to avoid Hollywood portrayals, e.g. get your climate change info from the IPCC rather than "The Day After Tomorrow"

    >>Say, what do you think about those talking apes taking over the earth in the future?

    I wouldn't hold my breath waiting. Plus, Dave Brin (in his Uplift War novels) and Vernor Vinge (in the story Bookworm Run) did much better SF stories on the same subject, but then the best of written SF tends to be far better than SF movies.

    >>I believed they measured a few hundred pounds of the 20 tons of radionuclides 'missing' from the core. ComEd (now Exelon) has never explained where they think the other 19 tons might be hiding - just that they were not released.

    First off, "a few hundred pounds" is not a very useful measure when talking about radioactive material. Curies or bequerels do a much better job in conveying how much radiation you are talking about. Another thing that occurs is that perhaps the fact that the core of TMI 2 has been not terribly accessible for nearly 34 years, making an exact accounting of the material in the core kind of difficult, could be the cause of the discrepancy.

  • Report this Comment On February 26, 2013, at 12:03 AM, PavewayIII wrote:

    "...Here is how it is going to work from now on: Put up or shut up..."

    You don't collect automatic weapons, do you? You sound a little... unhinged.

    "...Here's a hint: If you are going to call people on their science, best to know what the **** you are talking about first..."

    My mistake typing 'gamma'. The point is that I would be much more worried about a low-energy alpha decay inside my body than the same number of high-energy alpha particles zipping through.

    And from your earlier post:

    "...My criterion is that the dosage is less than (perhaps much less than) or equal to the dosages of radiation e.g: 2 to 5 mrem cosmic ray exposure that you get from a typical cross country flight..."

    Great. Except that's an external dose over 10 hours. Would you be so eager to inhale or ingest 5 mRem of an alpha-emitter like plutonium-238? Hey - same amount of radiation, right? Of course it's not the same - although the NRC prefers an ignorant public that can't distinguish between the two.

    Now take something a little more realistic, say like the I-131 and Cs-137 that spewed from Fukushima and has been raining down on the Imperial Valley and bio-accumulating for the last year. Would you feed your kid lettuce with .5 uRem of I-131? That's only 1/1000th of your flight. Would you snack on pistachios with .005 uRem of Cs-137? That's almost too low to measure so it must be OK.

    Yes, I know you don't measure food contamination that way. I'm just pointing out that comparison to airplane flights and chest x-rays are preposterous.

    "...Curies or bequerels do a much better job in conveying how much radiation you are talking about..."

    Of course, but ConEd never said at TMI. Instead, they said something idiotic like five curies total released from containment. Twenty years later, they find 20 tons of the core missing and evidence that the core reached 2500 - 3000 C.

    How many curies in 20 tons of missing vaporized core? I don't know, but it's darn sure not three to five curies. The 'few hundred pounds' was what they scraped off the walls and floor in containment or found in the vent filters. They were venting that pressure-cooker like frantic little monkeys to keep it from going into orbit. Venting doesn't mean puffs of steam when the core is melting - it means blasts of volatile radionuclides and some steam.

    So 19+ tons of something inside containment went outside of containment through venting, up the stacks and left in a plume that continued for hours. To this day, Exelon maintains nothing more than five curies.

  • Report this Comment On February 26, 2013, at 8:46 AM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    >>My mistake typing 'gamma'. The point is that I would be much more worried about a low-energy alpha decay inside my body than the same number of high-energy alpha particles zipping through.

    The reason that ingesting, breathing, etc. alpha emitters is so bad is: 1) The alpha particles would otherwise lack the ability to penetrate into your body (definitely not something which helps at all in the case of cosmic rays) and 2) that while the alpha emitter remains in your body, it continues to decay increasing the dose of radioactivity to which you are subjected. Since cosmic rays are charged particles, like alphas, the damage mechanisms are the same so far as I know, breaking bonds causing the formation of free radicals and the like. While the notion of having a radioactive emitter inside might feel more psychologically uncomfortable to you, millirem for millirem it's a wash.

    >>Would you snack on pistachios with .005 uRem of Cs-137? That's almost too low to measure so it must be OK.

    If that is the total dose of radiation I would receive, I wouldn't think twice about it. Let me go into the Linear No Threshold (LNT) calculation, that I referenced in an earlier post. First, let me point out that LNT was adopted not because there is good evidence for it, but to be safe rather than sorry. If it is wrong, and there are those who think it is then the calculations I am about to do are too pessimistic. There is even an alternative hypothesis, hormesis, that suggests that really low doses like the one we are talking about stimulate natural defenses and are a net _benefit_ (source: Physics for Future Presidents pp. 107-109). But let's stick with LNT for the same reason policy makers do, in the absence of definitive evidence about which alternative is correct it is better to be safe than sorry.

    Now the dose of radiation that is considered certain to give you cancer is 2500 rem (source as above, p. 100). Note that the LD-50 for large doses of radiation is 300 rem (source: as above, p. 96) so that long before you would have to worry about being certain to develop cancer, you would have far more immediate problems- like dying of acute radiation poisoning. But for lower doses, the increased likelihood of cancer is proportional to the dose, that's where the "L" in LNT comes from. So the increased cancer chance is proportional to the dose, expressed in rems, divided by 2500. So that is 0.000000005 rems/2500 = 2 * 10^ -12 expressed longhand as a percent, that is a whopping 0.0000000002% increase in the chance of getting cancer from eating those nuts. So, if those are my odds, in answer to Dirty Harry's question (source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066999/quotes?ref_=tt_trv_qu ) : "Yes, I do feel lucky".

    To leave the realm of the hypothetical, as part of my studies, I worked in a lab where we used alpha emitters, along with some other nasty stuff (e.g. we used benzene as a solvent). Unlike my lab partner, I assiduously avoided bringing my lunch into the lab, as per the advise of the professor running the lab. The reason I did so is that there was no guarantee that if my lunch got contaminated, the exposure I would get would be something as small as 0.005uRem total. So it gets back to this, if you are going to do rational risk assessment, you need to begin by asking how much radiation we are talking about. There are amounts worth worrying about and, yes, there are amounts that it makes no sense to worry about.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2013, at 1:15 AM, PavewayIII wrote:

    I'm sure Dr. Muller's book is a good read GreggT and appreciate your references, but 99% of the people reading this thread don't have it and never will.

    "...While the notion of having a radioactive emitter inside might feel more psychologically uncomfortable to you, millirem for millirem it's a wash..."

    Generally not true, so let me give you the long answer to what dose is acceptable to me.

    The mechanism for chronic low-level and acute radiation syndromes starts with ionizing radiation (IR) striking a strand of DNA and damaging it. The first biological response to damaged DNA in a cell is either to repair that damage or for the cell to delay splitting and initiate programmed cell death.

    Single strand DNA repairs are fairly successful if there's only one damaged section. Multiple damaged sections - especially if close to each other on the strand, are less so. Double strand repairs are unlikely.

    I'm not concerned about external radiation because it is either blocked or diffuse enough that I'm probably not going to get multiple damage sites on any one piece of DNA in any one cell.

    Internal radiation is another matter. 160 MBq of I-131 is administered to hyperthyroid children to destroy thyroid tissue. The 10g of their thyroid will uptake and be exposed to around 80 mSv of that I-131. You can measure much of that with a meter on the child's throat - the gamma penetration is about 1 cm.

    It destroys the thyroid tissue because enough thyroid cells' DNA has multiple damage sites and cannot be repaired through normal cellular mechanisms. The thyroid cells initiate their own death.

    A side effect is that the self-destruct signal pathways (enzymes, etc.) may be so damaged that they no longer work. Cancer is basically a cell with damaged DNA that couldn't kill itself and continues to reproduce (split, actually).

    Strontium 90 from spewing reactors look like calcium to your body, so it accumulates in bones and teeth. Accumulate enough over a period of time and your bone marrow cells starts getting multiple sites on their chromosomes damaged that cannot be repaired. Leukemia.

    Cesium looks like potassium and concentrates in smooth muscles - like your heart. Get enough in there and it will damage the nerves that tell your heart to contract and relax. That's not DNA damage, it's free radical production or whatever else Cesium's gamma affects. They couldn't figure out why 10-year-olds were dropping dead of heart attacks in Gomel (Chernobyl). None of those was reported as having any relation to the fallout or Sr-90 contamination.

    Two-thirds of the quarter-million liquidators that did clean-up work at Chernobyl are dead. They had an extraordinary number of heart attacks. Nobody did any follow-up because they're spread out over many former USSR member states. Instead, you have NRC transcripts from Fukushima with officials joking about how most of the liquidators must have died from drinking or suicide.

    Acute radiation syndrome doesn't concern me in the least. I'll be dead withing a month. What concerns me is that people that run and regulate the reactors try to extrapolate that to lower external doses over a long period of time. Chronic low-level exposure for most of us will be internal, and it will come from aerosols/particulates washed out of the atmosphere by precipitation and bioaccumulated throughout the food chain.

    Chronic low-level exposure is not simply 'a little bit' of acute radiation syndrome.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2013, at 6:20 PM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    Let me start out by pointing out that the LNT model I used in my previous post was empirically, as opposed to theoretically, derived. I would be very surprised if the data points going into this did not include significant internal exposure as well as irradiation from without and folks with both types like the A-bomb survivors who endured both the gamma exposure and ingested fallout. If this is so and the mechanisms you describe made that much difference, I would expect this to stick out like an epidemiological sore thumb and also to interfere with, if not prevent, the observed linearity. Since excess risk of cancer did appear to proportional to the amount of radiation to which one was subjected, this suggests that calculating cancer risk based on amount of radiation exposure is a valid way to go.

    I do agree that, ideally, you wouldn't want to project back from higher exposures to determine the risk of lower dose exposures if you can observe it directly. The problem is that the base rate of cancers in the unexposed is high enough to make this a huge signal to noise problem. It is hard to tell whether you are actually seeing excess cancers from low dose exposure or observing some confounding factor until the excess is clear enough to stand out.

    Furthermore, risk assessment methodologies are still needed. Can you cite an alternative method that has been published anywhere that is better to your liking (by separately assessing external irradiation as opposed to radioactives consumed in one way or another, say)? What I said before still holds, the first question you have to ask is "How much radiation are we talking about?" even if we were to end up modifying that to "How much radiation of what type" we still have to ask the questions and do calculations based on the answers to understand how big a deal we are talking about.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2013, at 11:20 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    "...I would be very surprised if the data points going into this did not include significant internal exposure as well as irradiation from without and folks with both types like the A-bomb survivors who endured both the gamma exposure and ingested fallout..."

    Nope. Every single public radiation exposure incident has been treated primarily as a one-time whole-body external gamma exposure event by medical authorities. Either an instantaneous multi-Gray exposure, or a hours-long exposure to fractional-Gray/hr amounts. They always discount inhalation and ingestion as unlikely or insignificant because it will always average away during later estimation. So you're basically looking at all existing studies based either on acute radiation syndrome (ARS) fatalities, or the incidence of cancer in ARS survivors.

    This pretty much limits the studies (and derivation of LNT models) to estimates of whole-body doses based on the small subset of effects specific to ARS:

    Bone marrow (hematopoietic) syndrome -- white blood cell and platelet die-off starting at .25 Gy or 25 rad.

    Gastrointestinal syndrome -- epithelial and mucus membrane destruction starting at 5 By or 500 rad, and

    Cardiovascular / CNS syndromes -- 20+ Gy or 2000 rad.

    Which makes sense from a military or mass-casualty standpoint only. That's the way they taught us teen-age Army medics to triage nuke victims during the cold war. GI or CV/CNS syndrome symptoms meant probable death. Last priority for transport to rear. Hematopoietic - toss-up, but let the docs in the rear worry about it. Anything else - bandages, water and 'get back to your foxhole'.

    Civilian response models today are still based on that. Evacuation rings around reactors are not plume-based, but determined mostly by massive gamma/neutron-exposure risk from criticality events outside of containment.

    They (government, public health, regulators) don't know what to do with tritium, noble gas or iodine plume risk because they don't usually lead to ARS. They don't know how to react to plutonium fallout in Japan because that doesn't fit the ARS response model. They just don't mention it.

    When you get to chronic low-level exposure by inhalation or ingestion, there really are no studies. You can't experiment on humans, and nobody seems willing to measure this at the time of a disaster like Fukushima or whatever the next one will be. The people with the capability to measure and record that information are the ones least likely to want that measured or recorded.

    I would normally expect epidemiology to give some insight here, but it doesn't work with bad numbers (Chernobyl) and will not work for Fukushima (missing, incomplete or fabricated TEPCO numbers, no tracking and recording from day 1, no coordinated public health effort).

    Which brings us all the way back to the first line of the author's article:

    "To say that nuclear energy has an image problem would be putting it nicely..."

    The image problem is one of trust, not one of understanding the risks. I was looking back on the old TMI articles and hadn't noticed before how many people packed up and left despite assurances that there was "...no immediate danger..."

    When the government or a reactor operator says that, a good percentage of the people are immediately going to think they're lying or hiding the real danger. Fukushima only reinforces that notion: The regulators and industry don't care about the people, they only care about damage control and negative PR that might result in more public opposition to nuclear power. They will lie until forced to tell the truth, not a second before.

    If they say there is no immediate danger, then pack up the minivan and get as far away as possible. If they say not to panic and do NOT evacuate, then don't even bother packing. Throw the kids and dog in the back seat and leave now. If they say you will not be allowed to evacuate, then start walking because things are *really* bad.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2013, at 10:21 AM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    Pavewaylll, Well I am surprised, as I said I would be (not to mention disappointed), that internal exposure to radiation was not assessed in the development of LNT. However, after thinking on this a couple of things occur. First, this suggests to me that, at least in those cases where there was substantial internal exposure, this would mean LNT *overestimates* the effects of radiation since the exposure in question was systematically underestimated in the assessment. Second, it is more important that there were people with substantial internal exposure to radiation in the studies than that such exposure was assessed. The degree of linearity of the observed relationship places a limit on just how important the influence of that internal exposure is, since such exposure represents a confounding factor that was not controlled for.

    As far as the TMI articles go, as someone who remembers the that time, I can state that what you read very much reflects the zeitgeist of the time (which, BTW, was generic rather than confined to the topic of nuclear power). Trust in government was about as common in the 1970's as good taste in clothes and hair (Google image search "1970s fashion" and see what I mean). This lack of faith cut the other way too. When they tried to evacuate Mount Saint Helens before it blew, some people refused to leave, distrusting the warning of the authorities.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2013, at 8:05 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    '...this would mean LNT *overestimates* the effects of radiation since the exposure in question was systematically underestimated in the assessment..."

    LNT was based on long-term Hiroshima and Nagasaki numbers. No internal exposure considered - there wasn't much contamination beyond a few miles from the center. Uncontaminated food and water were available outside the city if a survivor could get there.

    "...Second, it is more important that there were people with substantial internal exposure to radiation in the studies than that such exposure was assessed..."

    Not in old Japan - estimated whole-body dose only. Not in TMI because 'less than 3 - 5 Ci total released' - nobody got irradiated. Not in Chernobyl - the government told people not to eat the food or drink the water in the contaminated areas and assumed nobody did otherwise. Not in Fukushima - nobody is doing any studies except for thyroid, and those are all based on guesstimates of exposure because nobody measured. TEPCO and the Japanese government will incur liability for any 'proven' exposure, so they didn't measure anything internal.

    Yury Bandazhevsky had the most credible empirical evidence of internal damage from low-level Cs-137. He didn't use LNT models, he autopsied children and directly measured radiation in their organs. The Soviets made up some fake charges and had him thrown in prison for five years - radiation was not allowed to be the cause of death.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yury_Bandazhevsky

    The U.S. government and DOE knows that a good portion of the U.S. population will evacuate at the hint of a nuclear accident. Their answer is censorship - nobody could find out how bad the situation was at Ft. Calhoun two years ago because of a media blackout. Nobody knows how much radiation leaked. Everyone involved was told not to talk to anyone in the interests of Homeland Security. The FAA imposed a no-fly zone so no news helicopters could get close.

    The Department of Homeland Security was not established to protect U.S. citizens, it was established to protect the interests of the U.S. government. It has one purpose: to impose the will of the federal government on an otherwise unwilling populace.

    I question the numbers you used not because I'm for or against nuclear power, but because any person or organization hiding information from me for my own benefit, i.e., the government and nuclear industry, is not to be trusted. In the end, I'm responsible for every last thing they ever did or ever will do. They just need to be on a much shorter leash.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2013, at 8:09 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    Oh, forgot to add this: WHO's latest Fukushima health report

    http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/pub_meet/fukushima_rep...

    This basically supports all the conclusions they previously reached.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2013, at 7:37 PM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    Pavewaylll, I doubt that the availability of uncontaminated food in the area of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been that significant a factor. The reason is that nuclear weaponry was so novel. The understanding of the hazards of radiation was nowhere near as widespread then as it is now and the understanding that nuclear weapons produced radioactive fallout was not something that even the US side had a good grasp of. The Japanese unlucky enough to be in the cities attacked had no reason to look for uncontaminated food and water. Again, the important thing is that as long as some of the folks in the study had significant internal exposure and that the follow-up studies do not indicate a massive increase in cancer rates (and they haven't). This limits just how much of an effect this internal exposure could have had, even if it were not explicitly assessed.

    As to information about releases of radiation, I will readily agree that the more transparency, the better. WRT Homeland Security specifically, I was not thrilled with the Idea of creating such a Department in the first place and I do think that there is certainly potential for misuse there, more than I am happy with. Having said that, I think that the assertion that the Dept of Homeland Security has as its sole purpose "to impose the will of the federal government on an otherwise unwilling populace" gets way too close to the tinfoil hat brigade for my comfort. A good rule of thumb is that if you can imagine your exact words coming out of the mouth of Alex Jones, you have probably veered too far into conspiracy theory thinking.

    As far as the report on Fukushima goes, I was interested with these comments from Richard Wakeford, one of the authors of the report "The additional risk is quite small and will probably be hidden by the noise of other (cancer) risks like people's lifestyle choices and statistical fluctuations," And that as far as people outside of the Fukushima area itself "The risks to everyone else were just infinitesimal." (source: http://news.yahoo.com/slight-cancer-risk-japan-nuke-accident... ) Sounds rather familiar to me.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 4:24 PM, PavewayIII wrote:

    Both bombs were air-burst - 1,800 and 1,600 ft. respectively for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The fireball never reached the ground, so there wasn't any direct deposition near the hypocenters.

    The bomb's neutron activation and gamma flash were considered as the primary source of dose for both cities. Short-lived radionuclides from neutron activation were high near the hypocenters, but the 1 km radius area was leveled and incinerated - there would have been little reason to go or stay there for any length of time, and much of that had decayed after a month.

    The army had known about fallout from the Trinity test, but had no idea about convection-induced rain - it was too dry in New Mexico to produce the effect and the blast was too small. They expected similar relatively low levels of dry deposition in Japan in line with what they measured at Trinity.

    Japan was totally different. The combinations of detonations and subsequent firestorms produced black rain within a half-hour of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts that lasted on-and-off for hours. The army attached no special significance to the radioactive concentration of the rain when they heard reports about it. The black color was easily explainable by the charcoal and soot carried into the atmosphere by the firestorm's convection.

    Radiation studies looked at gamma almost exclusively until the 1980's. Japanese researchers began looking into the black rain phenomena and only began to produce accurate maps of it in the last two decades. Black-rain contaminated areas had large amounts of unconsumed uranium and (in Nagasaki) plutonium deposition, in addition to all the other fission products.

    The horseshoe-shaped precipitation pattern near ground zero wrapped around the hypocenter in both cases, but took on more complex geometries after a few kilometers. Precipitation deposits 10km away were far more active than those near the hypocenter.

    All of this should have had a significant impact on any radiation studies of the victims. It wasn't even considered until the 70's because of aggressive U.S. censorship of anything that might cast doubt on that (or subsequent) use of nuclear weapons. U.S. occupation forces were even ordered to confiscate or destroy any Japanese photographic or film documentation of the destruction. Declassification and release of archived footage prompted Japanese researchers to re-examine the black rain phenomena.

    The high amounts of black rain fallout are found to be *so* significant that it casts doubt on all previous estimates of gamma dose and health effects. It's too late to reconsider earlier studies because you can't differentiate populations that were in the black rain areas from those that were not.

    The total external radiation dose from chronic exposure to black-rain produced fallout is estimated to be in the single-digit Gray range. The internal dose is lower, but much more lethal or mutagenic.

    Re: DHS. I'll go with the founding father's tin-foil hat notion that no good will *ever* come from federal troops on U.S. soil. History always has and will continue to back up their rightful suspicions. But since the U.S. constitution can be ignored by presidential decree today, I don't imagine anyone cares much what those nutty old founding fathers had to say.

    Fukushima: A first-trimester fetus is the most sensitive to radiation-induced carcinogenic mutations, especially certain rare forms of leukemia and thyroid cancers. Those first-trimester exposures are not known to manifest themselves before the child is two years old.

    There is a pronounced spike in cases that should emerge after June of this year. I'll wait until I see a proper epidemiological studies for children born from June - August of 2011 to a mother that was exposed to Fukushima fallout during the meltdowns. I'll also anxiously await to see how the CDC will try to explain away the spike in U.S. children born to mothers living under the known jet-stream-fed precipitation deposits in the U.S.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2013, at 9:46 PM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    Pavewaylll, I reiterate my previous point: to the extent that a particular type of exposure has been left out of the assessment that would tend to systematically overestimate the cancer hazard from radiation. It is approaching 70 years since the bombings we know what most of the folks who were adults, and many who weren't, at the time of the bombings died of in the intervening decades. Systematically underestimating the radiation exposure necessary to produce any observed excess cancer rates makes a given exposure to radiation seem more dangerous than it actually is.

    As to DHS, the concerns that the Founders had with standing armies are the same concerns that I have with not only DHS but other security measures of the same era (the Patriot Act comes to mind)- not that they are intended as instruments of oppression, but that they could _potentially_ become tools for oppression given an administration of sufficiently autocratic nature. I think a good rule of thumb here is "Hanlon's Razor": Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity. Pair that with the following syllogism:

    Premise A) Something must be done about (terrorism, in this case)

    Premise B) This (Patriot Act, DHS, what have you) is something

    Conclusion) We must do this

    and that adequately explains why such things were instituted with no malevolent intentions required.

    So far as thyroid cancers and leukemia in children, I do not expect any kind of big spike and, hence, nothing to be explained away.

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2013, at 12:58 AM, PavewayIII wrote:

    The study usually cited for 'no leukemia from Hiroshima atomic bomb parents' is a 1966 Yale study sponsored by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC). The ABCC's job for years was to white-wash the bomb-caused human suffering in Japan. The resulting study:

    17,000 children born to parents who were within 2000m of the hypocenter were the subjects. The control group consisted of children whose parents were in the outlying Hiroshima suburbs 3.5 - 10 km the hypocenter. They were too far away to have received any blast radiation, i.e., they were the unexposed, healthy controls.

    That study concluded that the subject children did not have higher rates of leukemia than the suburban control group of children born to unexposed parents.

    What they completely missed in choosing their control group was that the intense fallout from black rains occurred somewhat downwind and mostly in those suburbs, not directly above the blast site. Hiroshima is a harbor city and certain suburbs were mostly factories, not residences. Unexposed parents working in the dense factory areas to the east and south-west were not part of the control group - only people that were at or near their suburban residences were used.

    The control group ended up EXCLUDING many unexposed residents and necessarily INCLUDED a disproportionate number of residents most heavily exposed to the fallout for years. Of course, Yale didn't mention it and nobody bothered asking.

    The study and it's many derivatives compared the children of prompt radiation-exposed parents to the children of 'unexposed' parents that had prolonged exposure to the fallout.

    There were no differences found between incidence of leukemias in the subjects and controls.

    A few different twists in the Nagasaki control group, but the same flawed results.

    A lot of that had to do with the U.S. Army's total ban on reporting *any* human effects of either blast by anyone - U.S. or Japanese. The army censorship was so bad that the Japanese press was not even allowed to print their words for 'atomic bomb' in any article. Why? Because it might hurt the image of the U.S. government and the army in the eyes of the public. They had just become stars, after all.

    So Hiroshima and Nagasaki *fallout* victims had little idea what was making them so sick or why. The army via the ABCC was regularly rounding up survivors for 'examinations', but had no intention of ever providing medical treatment or explaining the dangers of fallout. It was all a big numbers-collection exercise to them. No reason to put any effort into identifying fallout-exposed groups. That would be horrible PR if it ever got out.

    The ignore and censor ABCC crew let out the numbers *they* wanted future studies to use. Japanese researchers had been frustrated for years because they had no access to the details of the blast or how those victim numbers were collected - it was still classified. They got enough of the details in the 70's (accidentally through a reporter's FOIA) to realize U.S. numbers were bogus and earlier studies based on them were worthless. It's taken them years to reconstruct their own data since then.

    Their studies using real numbers and increased leukemia rates are routinely discounted by our current 'experts' in Los Alamos, Livermore, Berkely, etc. because that's not what the U.S. concluded.

    Besides, that would just upset the American sheeple and we're trying to get the nuclear renaissance going here for cryin' out loud.

Add your comment.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2260453, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 8/27/2014 11:37:30 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement