Fukushima, IFRs and an MIT debate

Back in May, I published a critique of an MIT report on the future of the nuclear fuel cycle (MIT FNFC), on behalf of Yoon Chang and the Science Council for Global Initiatives.

Since that time, SCGI member Steve Kirsch (a MIT alumnus and benefactor) has been trying to get MIT to engage with their critics, to little avail. Some recent details were posted on Rod Adam’s blog ‘Atomic Insights‘, here: Fast reactor advocates throw down gauntlet to MIT authors.

As you’ll note from Rod’s post, the reaction from MIT has been to (i) ignore us, then (ii) try to divert the debate to other matters (“Fukushima is now the only thing that is worth discussing” — or words to that effect), or (iii) to change the debate topic to make it so broad that no one will end up concluding anything. So Steve, like the bulldog he is, has sent another letter to the MIT nuclear guys, outlining our case for having an open and public discussion on this, will all the facts on the table and experts in the chairs. I reproduce an edited version of the letter below. Steve also gives an interesting take on the implications of Fukushima Daiichi, which I’m sure you’ll find interesting — and probably want to discuss in the comments below.

Steve Kirsch, SCGI

———————————–

Steve Kirsch’s letter to Head of MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering

I’m confident that MIT is capable of telling the Fukushima story without our help.

Personally, here are some of the lessons I learned:

1) The world is in serious trouble with carbon emissions. We need to be deploying every form of clean power we can as fast as we can. Fukushima doesn’t change that goal or strategy one bit.

2) We now can update our statistics on public deaths due to nuclear power over the last 50 years by adding 0 deaths affecting the public. As we expected, nuclear is still by far the safest way to generate power (fewest deaths per MWh generated). It is important that we tell the world that they should be shutting down the most dangerous forms of power generation first. It makes no sense whatsoever to be shutting down the safest form of power generation first.

3) We learned it is a bad idea to put generators in the basement of a plant near a large body of water subject to tsunamis. But their design spec was a smaller tsunami. So we learned that sometimes, accidents happen that are beyond our design center and people will get killed. Does that mean we should spend huge additional sums to over-design everything we build to account for the worst possible disaster? Probably not. I think Haiti is a good example of setting your standards too low. But I don’t think that is the case here. I think the lesson of Fukushima is that natural disasters cause deaths that we can’t always avoid.

4) We learned that 40 years ago, people didn’t design reactors as safely as we do today.

5) We learned that if the reactor closest to the epicenter sustains no damage, the press and public will completely ignore it when they should be telling people that this proves that the technology itself is inherently safe even in disasters beyond the design specification.

6) We’ve always known that having a reactor shutdown process that is dependent upon electricity is a bad idea. Having waste lying around is a bad idea. Not being able to reprocess that waste is a bad idea. Cancelling the IFR project that could have reprocessed the waste was a bad idea.

7) It shows that 40 year old designs are not perfect, yet nuclear is still the safest form of power. But we should be still aggressively even safer designs by building these designs and learning from our mistakes. In particular, the IFR design avoid such problems since it doesn’t require any operator intervention or electrical power to shut down safely. Is it perfect? No, but it is statistically better than non-nuclear alternatives.

8) We’ve learned, once again, that people are irrational. When 8 members of the public died in a natural gas explosion in a town near where I live (San Bruno), there was not a single editorial or protest calling for the end of natural gas. When any single plane crash kills more people than nuclear has in its entire 50 year history, do we hear about anyone calling for banning air travel and shutting down the travel by air? Absolutely not! When 115 people die in car crashes every day, do we hear cries for banning automobiles? Nope. Yet when no member of the public dies due to the disaster in Japan, instead of people talking about how, even in the roughest cases, nobody in the public was killed, we talk about the end of nuclear power in countries around the world. If a 40 year old car exploded, killing its occupant, do you think there would calls to end the manufacture of cars worldwide? Or do we learn what we did wrong and not repeat that mistake next time?

[ED: Add the Chinese fast rail accident to the list -- do we give up on high-speed rail now, a favoured tech of BZE?]

9) No member of the public died from nuclear radiation in the Japan quake. Unsafe buildings caused untold thousands of deaths in the same disaster. Why isn’t the priority on making safer buildings that can withstand tsunamis? Why aren’t countries closing down all buildings because building technology has proven time and time again to kill people when an accident occurs? Buildings are an unsafe technology.

Do we give up on high-speed rail because of the Chinese accident?

10) We learned that politicians don’t think clearly during and after disasters. The head (or former head) of the radiation protection division of U.S.-NRC once stated (jokingly) at an IAEA reception in Vienna:

There are three types of photons, namely ‘green’ ones, ‘yellow’ ones and ‘red’ ones. The ‘green’ ones are plentiful and of natural origin. We are not concerned about them and we don’t regulate them. The ‘yellow’ ones come from medical applications. They are usually less plentiful, but we are a bit concerned about them and thus we regulate them somewhat. The ‘red’ ones are very rare, they find their origin in nuclear energy applications. We are very concerned about them and consequently we regulate the hell out of them.

In Fukushima, the evacuation zone criteria is >=20 mSv/yr. The problem with that choice is that large areas of France have natural radiation more than three times higher than that. Therefore, people were forced to leave their homes without a credible justification. In fact, there are many people (me included) who have concluded that there is a good scientific basis to believe that radiation levels of around 100 mSv/yr are beneficial to health and actually save lives. The one thing we know for sure: forcing people out of their homes cost lives due to suicides. Without a doubt, more people died from a bad political decisions in the Fukushima disaster than died from nuclear radiation. Maybe it is time to ban politicians worldwide first before we ban nuclear power?

11) As far as I know, the death toll at Fukushima was 4 people. Two were drowned when the tsunami hit, one man fell from a crane and there was one heart attack death.

But the big point is that people need to be reminded of the notion of “acceptable risk.” 115 people die in car accidents in the US alone every single day, but we like cars, so killing 42,000 people a year from this unsafe technology is an acceptable risk. No problem. No protests. Non-issue. If we look at the public death toll from nuclear power worldwide, it’s about 1 member of the public per year over the entire 50 years of nuclear operation. If you remove Chernobyl, it is 0.02 people per year. If I just gave you the statistics on deaths per year in the US between these two technologies (42,000 vs. 0.02), but didn’t mention the technology by name and asked you which technology should be eliminated, everyone would say cars, no question. But once I use the “n” word, it’s completely the reverse. Cars are totally safe, nuclear is super dangerous. Go figure. And we will spend arbitrarily large sums of money in order to reduce the nuclear death count per year; 0.02 per year is simply not good enough. That is “unsafe.”

It’s really important to communicate the points above, but I’m not sure that debate is best carried out by my experts in fast nuclear reactors and climate change.

Equally important to the Fukushima aftermath is that the MIT Fuel Cycle Report is wrong and it sends the wrong message to the world.

If there is any lesson to be learned from Fukushima on a technical side, once we start thinking clearly again, is that we need to be pursuing even safer nuclear designs and we need to do something about all that stored waste. That means investing aggressively now in safer reactor designs that do not require electricity or active safety systems to safely shut down (like the IFR) and in reactor designs that safely get rid of the waste (the IFR again). The MIT Report says it is just fine to not to build anything for decades. That is stupid and wrong. It is critically important that that advice not go unchallenged.

Prof Ernest J. Moniz, MIT Physics and MIT Energy Initiative

One of our country’s best and brightest nuclear scientists is Chuck Till. I asked him how to best advance nuclear science and safety. His answer was unequivocal: you build them (demo plants) and you learn from your mistakes. You can only get so far with computer simulations. The MIT Report tells not to do this…that we have plenty of time to decide what to do. That’s just so incredibly wrong. We needed a safe way to dispose of the nuclear waste years ago. Fukushima confirmed that in spades. Well, we had a way to get rid of that waste. But we cancelled the project and the MIT FNFC report says we shouldn’t build an IFR for decades. Lead author Professor Moniz says “it is low priority.” That’s terrible advice. This just opens the door to the next Fukushima which will lead to even more countries choosing to abandon nuclear for irrational reasons.

If we had a working new reactor design that shuts down safely in disasters with no power requirement, no operator intervention, and no safety systems, and a reactor design that consumes the dangerous waste product, the reaction to Fukushima should be a call to switch the existing reactors to the new safer reactors.

Godot never shows up...

Following Professor Moniz advice will deny the world of that choice. Even though we have a bird in the hand with the IFR which time and time again has proven itself up to the task, Moniz says “don’t build it… keep waiting for something better; this is a low priority.” It reminds me of the book “Waiting for Godot.” Godot never shows up. We have a bird in the hand solution now. We ought to build it now. If a better design comes along later, that’s fine, we can switch horses at that time. But to hold off doing anything right now is just stupid, bad advice that should not be allowed to go unchallenged. We need a contingency plan and we need to aggressively start pursuing that contingency plan now with a passion. That is completely opposite what the MIT report says.

Do you know why Professor Moniz does not respond to our challenge to defend his report? If he’s right and his conclusions are on solid factual and scientific grounds, he has nothing to fear from us. We welcome learning the truth.

Today, the challenge to debate from Congressman Garamendi, James Hansen, Yoon Chang, Barry Brook, Chuck Till, and Ray Hunter remains unanswered. I can probably add the President of the American Nuclear Society to the mix too if you’d like. They all think the report is wrong.

To be honest, all of my nuclear friends told me that the MIT authors would never agree to a debate because Moniz knows he’d lose badly.

Is that true? Who is right on this? MIT? Or my nuclear expert friends? It’s an important question to resolve. Yet Professor Moniz is ducking our attempts to learn the truth.

Let’s do this debate on the MIT report and let the students decide who is right. OK?

If MIT is afraid to defend their own report against a such a qualified set of challengers, then they should not have issued it in the first place.

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135 Comments

  1. Barry – I am glad that you published Steve’s excellent letter. I must say that it brought back some deep memories – as an undergrad, I wrote a lengthy paper on the implications of a philosophy of passive waiting and used Beckett’s classic play “Waiting for Godot” as a major input to the paper.

    It will be interesting to see if the slow summer months at a university like MIT can be enlivened by a spirited discussion about one of the many ways that nuclear fission development and deployment can make the world a safer, cleaner, and more secure place with abundant energy for a growing number of people.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  2. “His answer was unequivocal: you build them (demo plants) and you learn from your mistakes.”

    I see a couple of difficulties with this approach:

    1) The community has painted itself into a corner with regard to “mistakes” with a consistently overly-optimistic outlook and underestimation of risk. “Mistakes” aren’t supposed to happen–the technology is perfectly safe, right? Well, there are only so many times one can take a Mulligan on the pronouncement of total safety before public trust starts to erode.

    2) The likelihood, scope, and consequences of “mistakes” are poorly understood. Yes, people are irrational. Yes, perceptions are often more important than reality. But at the same time, it seems perfectly rational to choose to accept a risk I can at least understand (e.g., death by automobile) than an unknown and very nebulously-defined risk that even the experts have a hard time quantifying (e.g., stochastic effects from above-normal exposure to radioactive materials after a release). Difficult to quantify, but not zero. Non-zero, but…What?

    The comparison of 1 member of the public per year killed by nuclear power to 42,000 per year killed by cars actually hurts, in my mind, rather than helps Kirsch’s case. This is because the headline number for nuclear reeks of unstated (and obviously favorable) assumptions (“What does one define as ‘general public’?”, “Does this estimate account for stochastic effects of exposure, or only direct deaths?”, etc.) Killed by cars is easy to understand because acute trauma has immediate consequences that are easy to understand (like death and maiming). Chronic, stochastic effects that are poorly characterized just aren’t as easy to understand. People aren’t rational, but they aren’t stupid either–it’s easy to see that this is an apples-to-oranges comparison. That doesn’t help the public perception problem.

    Given the history and politics surrounding nuclear technology in general, I’m not sure it’s possible, and it sounds obvious, but the tactic I think would meet with the greatest success is honesty. It would be a refreshing change of pace to hear, “You know what? We’re not perfect. We don’t know everything. The technology’s not perfect either. It’s not perfectly safe, and there are dangers involved. Exposure does carry a risk, and the risk of exposure is not zero. Let’s lay all of the information and assumptions out in the open and have an honest discussion.”

    That’s probably wishful thinking, I’m afraid. The issue has become too politicized, positions too entrenched.

  3. Ah, just one other note, which is the issue of “scale”. In the fifty year history of nuclear energy, there have been a small number of serious incidents…But there are also a relatively small number of reactors. How do the risks change with more reactors in more places? If the United States had 525 nuclear power facilities (that’s the number David Mackay gives in his presentation slides for 40 kWh/person/day of nuclear power in the US), up from 104 today, how do different risks scale? That has to be a part of the conversation as well.

    “Don’t worry about it, it’s perfectly safe” is not a particularly satisfying answer, nor should it be.

  4. Fukushima and the LFTR guys have persuaded me that high pressure water, which can flash to steam and form hydrogen (which can subsequently explode), whilst generally manageable, is not the best choice of reactor coolant. I think the molten salt thorium reactor is looking better on paper than the IFR. Maybe cheaper also.

  5. Pingback: Fukushima, IFRs and an MIT debate « BraveNewClimate

  6. TerjeP, the IFR does not use high pressure water as a coolant. Steam is generated in the secondary heat exchanger. A hydrogen explosion cannot occur. If you don’t understand the technology, that is fine – it should certainly not be an expectation for people to support the concept, or indeed multiple concepts like Gen IV in general – but please don’t make technical judgements about which is better on that basis of erroneous comparisons.

  7. Mike, your satisfying answer was already given by Steve. He talked about deaths per MWh – this is the fairest way to compare relative risk of different energy generating technologies, and on that basis, nuclear fission comes out well ahead of any fossil fuel, and indeed as low or lower than wind or solar – before any additional backup is considered (which, if gas or hydro or hot salt tanks, would weight it even further in favor of fission energy). I agree that nothing need be hidden here. Facts are what should matter.

  8. I agree with the sentiments of the article, however I think it’s very difficult to gloss over the fact that real people suffer from various phobia’s.

    Lot’s of people fear flying, or elevators or driving in cars. The way we solve the problem politically is to allow them to ‘opt out’.

    Even tall buildings have stairs. Nobody is forced to fly. There are plenty of people who have never driven a car and never will.

    With the Fukushima accident there was a run on potassium iodine pills in Los Angeles. My mother called me on the phone to ask what my evacuation plans were…I live in Seattle.

    For me what’s missing from the nuclear discussion is ‘what does life look like’ after the inevitable accident. Sooner or later another nuclear plant will cook off. People will have to be evacuated. There will be some health impact. Some land will end up being condemned, some will have to be mitigated. How does that stack up against the impacts of the alternatives?

  9. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2061368,00.html

    … China has 13 reactors in operation now and is currently building another 27 — nearly half of the total under construction worldwide. Fifty more are planned and another 110 are in the proposal stage….
    … the former head of the China National Nuclear Corporation, the country’s largest atomic-plant operator, was sentenced to life in prison for abuse of power and accepting nearly $1 million in bribes — a case that raises obvious questions about safety and the effectiveness of the nuclear regulatory body …
    … with so many plants on the way now, more monitoring needs to be done to ensure that the equipment being used in construction is not counterfeit. “The Chinese have to get this issue under control,” he says. “They need to make sure there aren’t any loopholes in their quality-assurance system.” …
    … The country also just announced that in April it will start building a next-generation reactor in Shandong province that uses helium gas in the cooling system instead of water and can withstand temperatures near 3,000°F (1,600°C) for several hundred hours.

    —————–

    July 3:

    http://singularityhub.com/2011/07/03/after-a-bumpy-ride-chinas-new-high-speed-rail-takes-off-at-almost-200mph/

    … Quoted in The Financial Times, Mr. Zhou … went on further to question the rail system’s safety, saying that China … made their trains faster by “eating into the safety tolerances” of previous trains…. rail authorities routinely covered up technical failures, citing emergency train stops …. “and some problems that look small but actually are not–but all of them are being kept secret.” A spokesman from the Railways Ministry dismissed the comments, saying Mr. Zhou retired too early to know what the situation is now….
    ———-

    July 25:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/china-fires-top-aides-high-speed-trains-collide/story?id=14152096

    … Three top railroad officials have been fired following the deadly collision involving two of China’s high speed trains whose accelerated construction had raised fears that safety had been sacrificed in the rush to complete rail projects….

  10. Mike wrote: [it would be nice to hear nuclear proponents admit] “You know what? We’re not perfect. We don’t know everything. The technology’s not perfect either. It’s not perfectly safe, and there are dangers involved.”

    Then Barry wrote: “the IFR does not use high pressure water as a coolant. Steam is generated in the secondary heat exchanger. A hydrogen explosion cannot occur.”

    I think this is exactly what Mike (and many others) are bothered about. They aren’t stupid, and they are bothered by optimistic unequivocal statements. The IFR uses liquid sodium as a coolant. When it contacts water (like in a secondary heat exchanger failure) the sodium rips OH from water releasing hydrogen. To say “a hydrogen explosion cannot occur” is more of a failure of imagination than a safety argument. A similar failure of imagination was at work in the Fukushima explosions. I doubt the designers of those plants imagined zirconium cladding stripping oxygen from water and then venting the resulting hydrogen into the upper parts of the reactor building.

    I’m not saying the risks are large or good reasons to stop building nuclear power plants, quite the contrary. However I too am tired of unequivocal statements about what “cannot” happen, about what materials “cannot” be fabricated into weapons, about reactor failures per million years when the record clearly and pretty consistently shows higher failure rates than predicted for all highly-complex systems.

    I like how Steve Kirsch compares systems at a gross level of deaths per day. Cars, nuclear power plants, coal mining, natural gas distribution, etc. They should all be compared on their records with a common metric. We should teach this in elementary school if we want to be governed by an effective democracy that makes rational decisions.

    Chris

  11. Using sadistics (statistics) to explain risk doesn’t work for most people. Even technically trained and educated people have trouble getting their arms around the numbers. A better, more understandable at the sixth grade level, way is needed to explain safety. My experience with billion dollars systems is that the problems almost always occur where you least expect them. If we asked 6th graders how they would discuss safety, we might get some insight into how to approach this problem. Art Linkletter was pretty good at getting those kids to talk. Perhaps, we should tap this source again.

  12. Chris and Mike, these are good points. Absolute statements can be more damaging than people think. ‘Proliferation-resistant’ and ‘perfectly safe’ should be taken out of the nuclear engineering vocabulary. Advanced reactor options such as MSR or IFR technology have the potential to perform better in these areas but are far from proven.

    It could be useful to revisit how regulatory authorities establish an acceptable limit of risk for nuclear power operations. In the US, the NRC adopted two key safety goals in 1986 which better articulates these risks in terms of qualitative goals. It is important to note that these safety goals do not promise “zero risk” (as if that is achievable). In both cases, the NRC expressed the qualitative goals for the safety of nuclear power plants in terms of individual and societal “quantitative health objectives”. These were established at one one-thousandth of the risk arising from other causes presenting the same type of risk.

  13. @Hank: Yes, China is building zillions of nukes. Without arguing for ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ on this, let’s parse this out. Over the next 5 years about 60 of these plants will be coming on line, connected the grid, and producing zero/low carbon energy.

    What is you is a possible, I would say “so what?”. They are building them, they catch crooks when it occurs (it wasn’t the regulatory association I think but the group that builds the plants where the guy was arrested). When caught over there, they often shoot them to end any discussion. That helps keep corruption under control, I think. Anyway…

    Yes! these next 5 years will “tell all” in terms of a lot of questions:
    1. How well they run.
    2. Did they train their people well?
    3. Did they implement international protocols for safety?
    4. Did they build them on schedule?
    5. Did they build them at budget?

    While I am an enthusiast for what they are doing…obejctively…we can be objective and watch. If they pull it off, does this change the game for mass-deployment of nuclear energy? I would argue, again, objectively, yes it does and countries will then consider, or re-consider what their long term energy plans are.

    China is building Fast Reactors. Not sure if these are “IFR” plants but they generally have taken bits and pieces from the GEN IV Forum and run with a few. They are building 2 FRs right now with I think 2 more scheduled and plan to deploy massively various forms of FRs. In February, they also adopted LFTR to pursue development of. The Chinese are not putting all their nuclear eggs in one reactor shell.

    BTW…the HTR they have been running for the last 2 years (10MWs I think) is helium cooled to water heat exchanger to a Rankine cycle steam turbine.

    Their newer and bigger 160MW commercial reactors are based on the same hot-gas-to-steam paradigm. Hopefully they will put money into R&D for close cycle Brayton gas turbines.

  14. Harrywr2 quote:

    “Sooner or later another nuclear plant will cook off.”

    Before I make the next statement I would like to say I am definitely pro nuclear. but I would like someone to address a failure mode that has not happened yet. This failure would be one similer to the Fukushima accident ie large earthquake followed by power interupt for days.

    The failure mode is one where the control rods fail to insert. I saw in some of my reading that there is a “poison” that can be put into the reactor via one of the backup systems to stop the reaction in the case of control rod failure but, lets face it ,even w/ the Fukushima reactors having successfully inserted the rods there was still a heck of a big mess.

    What happens when we add: failure to insert control rods into the Fukushima accident? What would be the outcome in that case?

    Thx,
    GSB

  15. Chris U, quite right to pick me up about the hydrogen statement – I was so caught up in correcting the misperception that IFRs were not cooled by a pressurized water circuit, that I didn’t take time to look at the bigger picture. You are correct that we should never say never – it is simply not possible to come up with a worst-case scenario. I thought that point was well explained by Cohen, here:

    The Worst Possible Accident

    One subject we have not discussed here is the “worst possible nuclear accident,” because there is no such thing. In any field of endeavor, it is easy to concoct a possible accident scenario that is worse than anything that has been previously proposed, although it will be of lower probability. One can imagine a gasoline spill causing a fire that would wipe out a whole city, killing most of its inhabitants. It might require a lot of improbable circumstances combining together, like water lines being frozen to prevent effective fire fighting, a traffic jam aggravated by street construction or traffic accidents limiting access to fire fighters, some substandard gas lines which the heat from the fire caused to leak, a high wind frequently shifting to spread the fire in all directions, a strong atmospheric temperature inversion after the whole city has become engulfed in flame to keep the smoke close to the ground, a lot of bridges and tunnels closed for various reasons, eliminating escape routes, some errors in advising the public, and so forth. Each of these situations is improbable, so a combination of many of them occurring in sequence is highly improbable, but it is certainly not impossible.

    If anyone thinks that is the worst possible consequence of a gasoline spill, consider the possibility of the fire being spread by glowing embers to other cities which were left without protection because their firefighters were off assisting the first city; or of a disease epidemic spawned by unsanitary conditions left by the conflagration spreading over the country; or of communications foul-ups and misunderstandings caused by the fire leading to an exchange of nuclear weapon strikes. There is virtually no limit to the damage that is possible from a gasoline spill. But as the damage envisioned increases, the number of improbable circumstances required increases, so the probability for the eventuality becomes smaller and smaller. There is no such thing as the “worst possible accident,” and any consideration of what terrible accidents are possible without simultaneously considering their low probability is a ridiculous exercise that can lead to completely deceptive conclusions.

    The same reasoning applies to nuclear reactor accidents. Situations causing any number of deaths are possible, but the greater the consequences, the lower is the probability. The worst accident the RSS considered would cause about 50,000 deaths, with a probability of one occurrence in a billion years of reactor operation. A person’s risk of being a victim of such an accident is 20,000 times less than the risk of being killed by lightning, and 1,000 times less than the risk of death from an airplane crashing into his or her house.7

    But this once-in-a-billion-year accident is practically the only nuclear reactor accident ever discussed in the media. When it is discussed, its probability is hardly ever mentioned, and many people, including Helen Caldicott, who wrote a book on the subject, imply that it’s the consequence of an average meltdown rather than of 1 out of 100,000 meltdowns. I have frequently been told that the probability doesn’t matter — the very fact that such an accident is possible makes nuclear power unacceptable. According to that way of thinking, we have shown that the use of gasoline is not acceptable, and almost any human activity can similarly be shown to be unacceptable. If probability didn’t matter, we would all die tomorrow from any one of thousands of dangers we live with constantly.

    The problem, of course, is that nuclear is special. Any accident is amplified in the public arena, and its consequences are considered hideously dire, even when no one gets killed. Yes, it should be admitted that nothing is, or can ever be, fail safe, and engineers will simply do their best, and get better at doing this over time (much as with aviation). Unfortunately, this once again means that we must talk in terms of statistics, relative risk, and so on – the language of science. The public is not interested in this, as Steve pointed out. So being equivocal about any statement is an open invitation to be torn down by anti-whatever (anti-science, I guess) zealots. But, as you point out, we must still follow this rule anyway, lest hubris consume us (I am not being sarcastic here, I really do agree).

    So we can’t win. And we’ll probably keep burning coal.

  16. goliff quote:

    “Using sadistics (statistics) to explain risk doesn’t work for most people. Even technically trained and educated people have trouble getting their arms around the numbers. A better, more understandable at the sixth grade level, way is needed to explain safety.”

    Totally agree.
    People’s faces go blank when you start quoting probabilities. What you need is a nice cartoon that shows people living under a clear blue sky harvesting green vegtables next to a nuclear power plant.

    I have a conservative friend in Phx and asked him if he would like to live near a coal plant or a nuclear and he said hands down—nuclear. . He lives next to the Palo Verde Nuclear plant in west Phx.—3000 mwh if I have it right. Very nice plant!!

  17. Some of the publications I get on line are prefaced with editor’s comments which appear nowhere in the article(s) being sent. This column is worth reading, but the editor’s comment (unfortunately, unsigned) is just as valuable. Therefore, I am copying some of it for you here:

    “Today we have a somewhat unusual article for you, about a scientific topic, namely radioactivity. It is an article written by a Dutch mathematician and science writer, Jan Willem Nienhuys, about the risks of radiation. It was first published in a Dutch magazine, but we thought it was so important that we asked the author to prepare an English version of it, especially for European Energy Review. It is no news of course that the public in western countries has increasingly become risk averse, particularly in Europe. In France, the so-called “precautionary principle”, under which activities may be banned if they merely threaten to damage the environment, has even been enshrined in the Constitution a few years ago. A kind of zero tolerance policy on environmental hazards. Yet it should be clear that avoiding risks will not lead to a better life. On the contrary, risk aversion runs the risk of killing off progress. Would antibiotics have been allowed if they had been invented today? Or coal mining? Or aeroplanes? When it comes to nuclear power, public fears tend to become even more irrational than they usually are. The Fukushima disaster is a case in point. A disaster it was, no doubt, but there can be no doubt either that in terms of environmental damage and loss of life, the effects of nuclear power production pale in comparison to coal mining and other forms of energy production – or to car driving for that matter. (…) If hormesis is true, and there is a lot of reason to think it is, this has enormous implications for how nuclear radiation should – in a rational world – be regulated. (…) Surely the theory of hormesis is not an easy message to convey to the general public, but at EER we wanted to give the battered, beleaguered nuclear power sector at least a chance to pick up some good news before the summer holidays.”

    Few things can kill us as quickly as electricity, but where would civilization be without it? The fire, soot, and safety issues from oil lamps actually kills more people than electricity. Rational balancing of risks is something adults do every day. Ron P.

    THE RISKS OF RADIATION

    http://www.europeanenergyreview.eu/site/pagina.php?id=3158

  18. Barry Brook wrote,
    “Mike, your satisfying answer was already given by Steve. He talked about deaths per MWh – this is the fairest way to compare relative risk of different energy generating technologies…”

    Right, but that doesn’t answer my question. My question was, “How do the risks scale?” I find it fairly hard to believe that risks would scale linearly in this case, just as I don’t imagine the risks for fossil fuel consumption scale linearly (though both are pure conjecture). It seems plausible that the low numbers are at least partly a result of a relatively small sample size (“small” compared to what an all-nuclear future would look like, at least).

    Is there any reason to expect that future risks of greatly expanded nuclear power generation will behave like the past or present? (Which, I might add, have proven rather difficult to estimate reliably.) Is the past a reliable predictor of the future in this case? I don’t know, but it’s an interesting question that has not really been part of the discussion. And it has to be part of the discussion, if you ever hope to “win”.

  19. George, I like your comment. I live a few miles from the San Onofre plant in So Cal. I don’t hear anyone complaining about its existence though there has been some safety issues.

  20. There’s also the issue (touched on on the Radiation Hormesis comment thread) of how one includes the possibility of increased future deaths in today’s risk estimates (and headline numbers). Even if we use the “deaths per MWh” metric, what counts as a “death”? And how does some consensus metric that takes all relevant factors into account scale with wider and wider application of nuclear technology?

    With all of the unstated assumptions that go into risk comparisons, it really is no wonder to me that nuclear energy has a (self-inflicted) public perception problem. One that, sadly, continues to be perpetuated and encouraged even by those who lament it.

  21. Mike,

    I don’t see what would satisfy you by way of an answer.

    Of course future risks associated with implementing any technology can reasonably be expected to decrease, due to incremental improvements in both the technology and with learning from actual operation of that technology, including nuclear power generation.

    If you are suggesting that there is a special case to be made for nuclear power, that somehow this technology is different from all others and that risks per plant will increase as the number of plants increases, then I suggest that you indicate what might be the cause of such an unprecedented situation.

  22. @ Mike

    Probabilistic risk assessment is a methodology to evaluate risk(s) of any engineered technology. I don’t see why you think “unstated assumptions” (without getting into whether this is an accurate description) is something unique to PRAs in a nuclear context? Or how this is a “self inflicted” image problem?

    Additionally, I struggle to come up with a single example of a technology whose safety record has gotten worse over time. Why would you suggest the nuclear safety record is due to a “small sample size”? 15 % of world electricity supply, with > 50 years of experience is not really a small sample…

  23. IMHO – nuclear advocates underestimate the general population. The vast majority of people who are involved in decision making in business and politics have a keen understanding of scale. They know the difference between a penny, a billion dollars, and several trillion dollars. They also understand probabilities and recognize that regularly saving $1000 per month in a well managed mutual fund is a much more certain way to a prosperous retirement than buying $1000 per month worth of lottery tickets.

    We need to aim our messages at the people who decide things, not at the people who are passive participants in life.

    Someone up thread brought up the often repeated saw that some folks fear nuclear because they cannot opt out like they can with flying. That is nonsense – can anyone opt out of being in a building hit by an airplane?

    The most important way to increase the use of nuclear energy is to make the benefits obvious and to tell people about them over and over again. Repetition works – just watch how our competitors use it and emulate that successful approach.

    Nuclear fission is clean enough to operate inside sealed buildings. It is safe enough to put in your basement. It is reliable enough that there are often a dozen or more plants in the US that finish any given year with a capacity factor of 100% or more.

    Many people are afraid of nuclear because they have been taught to be afraid by people who are professional fear mongers. Who pays their salaries? Find out and expose the truth.

    Some people do not support nuclear because they believe it is just a more expensive way to provide something that they already take for granted – reliable, clean (in their neighborhood, at least) electricity. That perception was caused by the industry – here in the US, every single time a new nuclear plant entered service throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the first thing that the utility company owner did was to file a rate case and ask for higher prices on electricity. It was really easy for the opposition to instill the linkage that nuclear was too costly to keep building.

    As the plants came close to being paid off, the owners started buying and selling and turning the plants into merchants so that the people who paid back th construction loans never saw their rates start to fall as a result of their investment. That was a move based on greed, not based on building a sustainable business model.

    Enough for now. Work hard to spread the word, enourage nuclear companies to advertise, and strive to wring costs out of the building process.

  24. The real problem is that in the publics perception, natural gas, automobiles, gas, trains and aircraft can’t be used to create an explosion the size of Hiroshima. The public automatically equate nuclear with explosion. Unfortunately, Chernobyl reinforced this perception.
    The nuclear industry managed by scientists. Not marketeers. The industries efforts in the media are to reinforce Nuclear as ‘accident proof’ or ‘accident limited’ which of course is bound sooner or later to be disproved and this makes the news. The industry should be marketing itself as ‘nuclear explosion proof’. That would be a much more realistic line to take with the public.
    For such an approach to be successful, the entire marketing and media management approach for the industry will need to be coordinated. A strategy will be required.
    For all that the information provided and the comments made by people such as yourself Barry are excellent, I feel the nuclear marketing effort to the population is laughably amateur. It is not facts that are going to change public perception.

  25. Sadly, Moniz is right. The IFR will do nothing to lower coal consumption. In the 20th century efficiency increased 4-fold, and oil and gas use increased 10-fold. Coal consumption increased 4-fold. The IFR will do nothing to lower fossil fuel consumption, it will just boost economic and population growth. Decades from now, after peak oil and peak coal have forced us to switch to a steady-state economy rather than a debt and usury based economy, and we have a gold standard rather than a fiat currency with Quantitative Easing 2 and 3 and to infinity and beyond, the IFR may indeed prove useful to some degree. According to the IEA world oil production peaked in 2006, demand will outstrip supply by 10 million barrels a day by 2015, and peak coal will occur between 2012 and 2020 then drop off rapidly afterwards. Australia’s coal peak may be after 2050, but the global peak in coal is imminent. China now accounts for nearly half the world’s extraction & consumption rate, is importing coal at accelerating rates, and will likely peak within the next 5 years. Already, power shortages are a major problem in China, and oil is increasingly being used for power. Yes, oil. Those two BN-800s they’re building take a lot of time, money, and energy to build and won’t provide much for the foreseeable future. 100 years from now, however, nuclear will shine.

  26. Steve Kirsch asked me to add an additional point, after “…..Buildings are an unsafe technology”:

    We learned that politicians don’t think clearly during and after disasters. The head (or former head) of the radiation protection division of U.S.-NRC once stated (jokingly) at an IAEA reception in Vienna:

    There are three types of photons, namely ‘green’ ones, ‘yellow’ ones and ‘red’ ones. The ‘green’ ones are plentiful and of natural origin. We are not concerned about them and we don’t regulate them. The ‘yellow’ ones come from medical applications. They are usually less plentiful, but we are a bit concerned about them and thus we regulate them somewhat. The ‘red’ ones are very rare, they find their origin in nuclear energy applications. We are very concerned about them and consequently we regulate the hell out of them.

    In Fukushima, the evacuation zone criteria is >=20 mSv/yr. The problem with that choice is that large areas of France have natural radiation more than three times higher than that. Therefore, people were forced to leave their homes without a credible justification. In fact, there are many people (me included) who have concluded that there is a good scientific basis to believe that radiation levels of around 100 mSv/yr are beneficial to health and actually save lives. The one thing we know for sure: forcing people out of their homes cost lives due to suicides. Without a doubt, more people died from a bad political decisions in the Fukushima disaster than died from nuclear radiation. Maybe it is time to ban politicians worldwide first before we ban nuclear power?

  27. @ unclepete

    Politicians tend to go with what will get them the most votes at the next election, don’t they? I assume then that we need to get more of the electorate on side – at least to the point that when the question does seriously pop up (and it almost certainly will at some point in the future) there will be no serious opposition to it.

  28. “In Fukushima, the evacuation zone criteria is >=20 mSv/yr. The problem with that choice is that large areas of France have natural radiation more than three times higher than that.”

    Wich areas of France have natural radiation of more than 60mSv per year? That’s quite a lot, 20mSv/yr is the limit deemed safe for workers in the nuclear industry.

  29. Mike, on 26 July 2011 at 12:49 PM said:

    It seems plausible that the low numbers are at least partly a result of a relatively small sample size (“small” compared to what an all-nuclear future would look like, at least).

    Actually, if you understood how nuclear safety works you would come to an opposite conclusion.

    In the US every licensed nuclear plant has to post a $100 million bond to cover an accident at any other nuclear plant.

    This provides an incentive for the industry to review every accident, no matter how minor and apply ‘lessons learned’ and develop ‘best practices’. The small number of plants and even smaller number of accidents makes for a slow learning curve.

    In hindsight at Fukushima the fact that a concrete pumping truck wasn’t immediately raced to the scene at the first sign of trouble seems almost criminal. Nuclear operators aren’t construction contractors.

    The idea of a concrete pumping truck came from a concrete contractor that owned two trucks watching events unfold on TV.

    Wheeled, motorized emergency water pumping vehicles are now required as part of on site safety equipment at all Japanese nuclear power plants.

    Every nuclear operator in the world will review it’s procedures for preventing station blackouts and their procedures and equipment for dealing with an extended station blackout in the unlikely event that it were to occur. The odds of an accident will decrease and the response in the event of an accident will get better.

    That’s how humanity learns. Lots of airplanes fell out of the sky before air travel became relatively safe and lots of houses burned down before natural gas became relatively safe.

  30. Barry – I know that the IFR uses sodium as a coolant but I agree that you would not know it given the wording of my comment earlier. I seem to have had a brain fart and skipped a few steps in my logic so your criticism is fair enough.

    Both the IFR and the LFTR are superior to a typical LWR in that they avoid water as a primary coolant. The LFTR looks better than the IFR in so far as it avoids a reactive coolant. I’m sure that liquid sodium can be made safe through design but if I had to take a punt I’m inclined to think doing so will add more in cost and complexity. Although I wouldn’t mind seeing both designs commercialised.

  31. Politicians can’t be made to act rationally. They are/ we all are a stochastic (read “sadistic”) process driven by Brownian Motion. We go the way the money drives us — money is the current in which we float.
    We need to get over the bomb to be able to move in the nuclear direction. I don’t see that we have any other choice.

    Believers and non-believers in climate upheaval (change) don’t have a choice. We all must move to reduce the potential impact of warming; right or wrong won’t make a difference if it really happens or is happening.

  32. A pro-nuclear PR campaign begs the question: who would do it? Perhaps grass-roots activism can be effective. I’ve written many letters to US Department of Energy Secretary Chu, both my Senators and Congressman, the President, etc. A number of years ago I wrote a slightly sarcastic pro-nuclear letter to C&E News (American Chemical Society), back when ‘hydrogen’ was still the rage, and it was published. Perhaps these do some good, but there don’t seem to be many natural corporate ‘lobbies’ for nuclear. Even Areva always seems to hedge (they never mention nuclear without also touting their largely inconsequential wind and solar efforts).

    The most important pro-nuclear actors now are the companies actually building reactors, Rosatom (Russia), Areva, EDF (France), CNNC, CGNPC (China) and NPCIL (India) — all ‘state’ companies. I don’t believe the nuclear revival depends on getting the IFR or LFTR designed or built (even though I am a big fan of the LFTR). That is the second stage. What needs to happen first is for China (and India) to get the ball rolling fast on Gen III+ designs. We should keep trying in the US, Europe, Canada, Australia, … but success in China is the most likely path to convince the world that nuclear is the way to go. Is there anything we can do to help them? — I can’t think of much.

  33. @TerjeP,

    There will undoubtedly be issues with the chemical reactivity of the coolant in an MSR, not the least because of the stuff, including fission products, dissolved in it. Developing the right material for the reactor vessel, piping etc to avoid corrosion will be one of the challenges. I certainly don’t have the expertise to assess how difficult this is going to be, but it is worth nothing that the MSR has been called the “chemist’s reactor”. In any case, these issues will take time to sort out. Construction of a full size demonstration PRISM could commence almost “immediately”. We could easily be ten years or more away from getting to that point for a LFTR. Currently PRISM vs LFTR is something of a false choice because to put it bluntly you can’t have a LFTR – yet. Hopefully that will change.

    One further point about the sodium coolant in a PRISM. The reactor vessel is surrounded by a space filled with inert argon gas, providing protection from sodium leaks from the vessel itself. Outside that space are the hot and cold risers for passive air cooling and outside those is the containment.

  34. John Bennetts wrote,
    “I don’t see what would satisfy you by way of an answer.

    Of course future risks associated with implementing any technology can reasonably be expected to decrease, due to incremental improvements in both the technology and with learning from actual operation of that technology, including nuclear power generation.”

    Well, I’m not sure what would satisfy me either, which is why I ask the question. This doesn’t really seem to be the “done” thing around here, but I will happily and freely admit that I don’t know everything, and that’s kind of the point.

    I do wonder about your assertion that “future risks can be reasonably expected to decrease”, though. Have risks (specifically to the general public) from coal-fired power plants gone up or down over time, as more coal-fired power plants have come online? Broadly-defined, it would not be outlandish to suggest that the risks have changed, and perhaps gone up in some ways and down in others, over time. For example, the risk of climate change from coal-fired power plants has probably gone up as more plants have been built. The risk of negatively impacting water quality has probably gone up as more plants have been built. It would not be unreasonable to propose that the risk of respiratory problems has increased.

    Now when I think of an all-nuclear future, I think of a lot more nuclear plants than there are today, which have to be put somewhere–presumably closer together than they are today. What of a two- or three-location emergency caused by a localized natural disaster? How do the risk models take situations like that into account? Is a simultaneous, multi-site event an nth-standard deviation issue, or is there a way to include spatial correlations in the estimates (making it an n-minus-something standard deviation issue)? Does anyone even bother to think about this, or do we all just put our “activist” hats on and shout, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

    I’m sorry, but I prefer to keep my wits about me. Which is why I would make a horrible activist.

    Barry Brook wrote,
    “Further to Mike’s question, this is the reality…”

    If only that answered my question. Really, I’m not sure there’s a way, right now, to answer it. But I think it would be a very, very interesting problem a la climate modeling–build spatially-resolved, mechanistic models and simulate possible future scenarios. Unfortunately, unlike climate, there are only limited historical datasets to use for training and testing of a model; ultimately the results would probably prove unsatisfactory. The error estimate would be huge–ironically, mirroring the present situation which can basically be summed up by, “That can never happen, until it does.”

    I’m not suggesting we stop pursuing nuclear power, I’m only suggesting that the pro-nuclear activist community would be well-served by a transparent and conservative estimate of the potential risks of an all-nuclear future. Bogus comparisons and favorable assumptions only serve to further public mistrust. People may not be rational, but they’re not (all) stupid.

  35. Mike, did you read the link to the Nnadir post on Daily Kos that I cited above? (11:02 am) It is REALLY worth you reading this. In short, it makes the point that it is essential that NP be put into its proper perspective. As long as it is the exception and everything else is the rule, nothing can or will be transparent, conservative or fair. It’ll all be bogus, which is just what you don’t want.

  36. There are other risks in an all-nuclear future that are related to those from coal, as well. Like coal, nuclear fuel has to come from somewhere. To be sure, there are toxic things in coal (arsenic, mercury, lead, etc.), some of which are released. Uranium and daughter products can be pretty nasty, too. Coal mining is pretty hard on the coal miners, but uranium mining is pretty hard on the uranium miners, as well.

    The consequences of coal mining are horrendous, and have scaled up with the scale of coal mining (cf. the hubbub regarding “mountaintop mining”). The consequences of uranium mining and milling aren’t so great either, though there are potential ways to mitigate some of those (in situ leach mining is one that seems to be generating some excitement, for example). But how do they scale? Perhaps the answer is “nobody knows”, perhaps the answer is “Hmm, never thought about that before”. Perhaps not. Any ideas?

    Again, for the record, I’m not anti-nuclear. I’m just pro-informed consent.

  37. Barry Brook wrote,
    “As long as it is the exception and everything else is the rule, nothing can or will be transparent, conservative or fair. It’ll all be bogus, which is just what you don’t want.”

    Well, I certainly think it’s worth the effort to make it as “less-bogus” as possible. As absolutely-iron-clad-defensible as possible. For example, it wouldn’t hurt to take into account estimates of indirect deaths (a la “deaths from air pollution”).

    Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say, “Even with these very unfavorable assumptions, here’s what we come up with, and it looks pretty decent”? Beat them at their own game, and maybe you’ll have a better chance at “winning”.

  38. Again, for the record, I’m not anti-nuclear. I’m just pro-informed consent.

    Of course you’re anti-nuclear, Mike. Your line of argument is classic anti-nuclear fear-mongering. It is well known that the risks related to uranium mining and the actual volume of mining needed to sustain nuclear power are far lower then those relating to coal and other fossil fuels. You are merely trying to obscure the plain truth.

  39. Oh boy, it looks like I’ve gotten under Finrod’s skin again for trying to complicate and obfuscate things by suggesting that there perhaps exist shades of gray in this world. Fine, if you don’t want me here, I’m gone.

  40. Could someone perhaps address this?

    “In Fukushima, the evacuation zone criteria is >=20 mSv/yr. The problem with that choice is that large areas of France have natural radiation more than three times higher than that.”

    That would imply over 60 mSv/a over “large areas of France”, which sounds hard to believe. As far as I know the highest background radiation can be found in Brittany and the Massif Central (because of its granite rock), reaching 5 mSv/a.

  41. Mike,

    There’s no need to get personal and huffy about Finrod. He is entitled to an opinion as are you.

    I think that you have not presented the two comparisons fairly. Coal, you represent as having more impact as the number of coal fired power plants increases. Fair enough, but my point was, at least in part, that increasing experience of a technology leads to lower relative harm. Trivially, I offer an example. Coal mining has, over the years, become a much safer endeavour hereabouts. Hence, the negative effects of coal fired electricity overall are trending downwards on average. I could keep listing trivial instances or industry statistics to support my belief, and that of other posters, that as technologies mature, safety outcomes tend to improve.

    There is no reason to believe that this is not also true for nuclear power generation, yet you have asserted that this might be so.

    You have introduced conjecture under the quaint term “scale”, as in How does nuclear scale? The inference is apparently that somehow nuclear each existing nuclear power plant becomes somehow less safe because another NPP has been constructed somewhere else in the world. Surely, if this is your claim, then you are prepared to offer justification?

    Without justification, you are without justification raising unreal fears regarding an hypothesis for which there is no supporting evidence.

    That is not rational. It reeks of anti-nuclear personal bias. Then you claim not to be anti-nuclear, but pro-informed consent, whatever that phrase means.

    The difference between seeking to be informed and spreading FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Delay is the absense of factual basis for following the second path.

  42. Max,
    I don’t know about France but this level of background radiation is not unheard of. According to Gwyneth Cravens in her book ‘The power to save the world’ (and sourced from UNSCEAR, Jovanovich, Sohrabi, 1993) the dose rate in parts of Sweden is 35 mSv/yr some beach areas in Brazil are almost 40 mSv/yr, Tamil Nadu in India is more than 50 mSv/yr and in Ramsar, Iran dose rates as high as 132 mSv/yr have been measured. See also (result of a quick google search for online material) : http://www.ecolo.org/documents/documents_in_english/ramsar-natural-radioactivity/ramsar.html

  43. I loved Steve’s letter. I’m sure I’ve said variants of all those things since Fukushima in one place or another.

    One minor issue that Barry Brook took up — relating morbidity to MWh. This is the correct standard, IMO, and not merely for morbidity but for every significant human impact. That said, Steve’s 42,000 deaths per year in cars has no comparable referent (passenger miles, vehicle miles, BTUs in ICEs …

    Ultimately, I’m not that bothered, because the most important point is that we continually trade in risk to human life chances in the pursuit of things we want, rather than adopt an absolute position that there must be no deaths or injuries. Once that is accepted, calculus is forced to consider what an acceptable risk for an acceptable benefit is.

    I rather suspect that deaths per BTU generated in road vehicles, would compare very poorly with deaths per BTU in nuclear power plants, were the data available.

  44. > incompetent?
    Not compared to coal mining, but that amounts to saying fission is “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick” — that line of argument isn’t reassuring to people.

    Coal produces far more damage — spread across a huge area thinly. Nuclear produces far less damage but the worst case scenario scares people much more for many reasons.

    How much do you worry about damage from coal? Plenty if you follow climate change or health; not at all if you’re the average citizen because you don’t see the damage happening to you or your family no matter how bad things get at the nearest coal-related site.

    Coal stays “out of sight out of mind” — fission comes to call on you, or so it’s presented.

    From a Japanese TV program, hat tip to Metafilter:

    “… candid comments confirm that [neither] TEPCO, nor the Japanese government where adequately prepared for a disaster of this magnitude. The Economy, Trade, and Industry Minister, Banri Kaieda even made a rather damning remark (around the 4m30s mark in clip 1-A) that he could not deny there was a myth of safety regarding the nuclear power plants ….”

    http://www.nippon-sekai.com/main/articles/fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-power-plant-crisis/nhk-special-japans-nuclear-crisis-part-1/

  45. I’ve studied MIT reports on nuclear since their 2003 The Future of Nuclear Power. I’ve also tuned into any interviews I’ve seen with Moniz. After a while you get some understanding of where they are coming from.

    It doesn’t seem to me that you understand what MIT is talking about in this latest report because you miss the context they see themselves fitting into. It also seemed your points could be edited. I tend to think MIT doesn’t take you seriously in part because of the way you present your argument.

  46. David Lewis, that reply was devoid of content.

    Some further thoughts on this from a colleague are worth sharing:
    The basic question is that we disagree with the Study’s conclusion that there is no need in the foreseeable future, to actively pursue recycling.

    First, I agree that LWRs are an acceptable means of generating electricity, and that it is quite feasible to meet our energy needs for an extended time by fully deploying nuclear power based solely on LWRs. There is plenty of uranium. This approach is feasible, but is it wise?

    Is it responsible to use our nuclear resources in a system that has an efficiency of resource utilization of less than 1 %, and leave the remaining 99 % as a high-hazard waste for the next generation to deal with? There is a better way.

    IFR recycle technology was developed to achieve essentially total recycle, allowing full utilization of the energy content of mined uranium, and is so efficient that residual stocks of enrichment tailings (another troubling “hazard”) are sufficient to supply the energy needs of the U.S. for centuries. There is no other technology currently proposed that can accomplish this.

    We believe it is urgent to fully demonstrate the practicality of this technology, so as to clear the way for responsible deployment of nuclear power.

    The technology is not perfect, and the technology is not yet fully demonstrated. Pilot programs have operated successfully. The scale of the systems, and the simplicity of the processes involved suggest that the IFR system should be fully competitive with LWR technology. But until active, functioning systems are put in place, projected costs and reliability of any new technology, including the IFR, are speculative.

    Careful attention will need to be paid to safety, because the nuclear materials will contain the same type of radiological hazard as in LWRs, and sodium/steam reactions could disrupt operation, but the systems are far simpler than those appropriate for LWRs, and they exhibit far superior self regulating characteristics.

    There are still radioactive wastes to be disposed of, but the challenge is reduced from the philosophic (assuring containment for 100,000 years) to straightforward engineering (300 years).

    The systems will require safeguards, but only for material in active use, not stores of weapons usable materials, and vast stocks of worthless hazardous wastes. The technology offers an efficient way to convert excess weapons material to self-protecting reactor fuel, and even to consume the extensive inventories of scraps from weapons programs.

    We believe these challenges of the IFR technology are readily addressed, and an urgent, full demonstration of the IFR technology is appropriate. The cost of such a demonstration will be a modest fraction of the cost of a single LWR plant. This is a much more responsible approach than that proposed in the MIT study, of ignoring the nuclear waste challenges, of continuing the casual mining, milling and enrichment of hundreds of times as much uranium as is needed to meet our energy needs, leaving a highly hazardous residue for future generations to deal with.

    And as a follow-up:
    They have not accurately accounted for the cost of managing the spent fuel from LWRs. If the growth in nuclear is what it should be to reduce GHG the cost of transportation and storage or disposal of the spent fuel is not be nearly as easily as they postulate. Permanent geological waste disposal is prohibited with continued growth in of nuclear using only LWRs because it would require many sites with the capacity of Yucca Mountain. It is assumed that this road block can be removed in the future by economical reprocessing which they object to developing. Mining within the US will also be difficult and therefore U imports are going to increase. Enrichment capacity is already increasing and is the most proliferative part of the fuel cycle. Enrichment technology is likely to improve with the more extensive use and become more available. GE will soon complete demonstration of economical LASER enrichment and advances in this technology are also likely occur causing additional concern about proliferation.

    Their position does not make sense. They know they need a closed fuel cycle to be a responsible user of U but they don’t want it developed until there is a critical need for it. Postponing the inevitable has never proven to be cost effective.

  47. > dose rates

    New-to-me term: “external hazard index” — used in many studies of natural radioactivity around the world: if the number is less than 1, the area is considered safe for human activity. This is used to assess multiple sources in an area.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=external+hazard+index

    Reading some of those hits will add a great many locations to the few like Ramsar that are frequently mentioned, and will give specifics. It’s very easy to make overly broad statements when the specific measurements vary quite significantly when comparing different streets or even different buildings.

    Ramsar has a few high radiation areas, associated with hot springs that emit radon gas.

    A map showing the locations in this PDF:

    http://www.groenerekenkamer.nl/grkfiles/images/Karam.pdf

  48. Radiation in France

    http://www.jirvine.co.uk/Physics_GCSE/Physics_AQA/Physics_2B/p2bL11.htm

    Looks like there are a couple of high patches in France and Spain.
    I read somewhere (took notes of values but not the source, pretty sure it was a paper book in a library) that background radiation levels in France range from 6 to 88 mSv/year. If that is true, then there are places in France where the background radiation is 4 times the edges of the evacuated area in Fukushima.

    Chris

  49. @ Barry – this is great messaging … taking it straight to the pool room.

    Is it responsible to use our nuclear resources in a system that has an efficiency of resource utilization of less than 1 %, and leave the remaining 99 % as a high-hazard waste for the next generation to deal with? There is a better way.

    IFR recycle technology was developed to achieve essentially total recycle …and is so efficient that residual stocks of enrichment tailings (another troubling “hazard”) are sufficient to supply the energy needs of the U.S. for centuries. There is no other technology currently proposed that can accomplish this.

    Careful attention will need to be paid to safety, because the nuclear materials will contain the same type of radiological hazard as in LWRs, and sodium/steam reactions could disrupt operation, but the systems are far simpler than those appropriate for LWRs, and they exhibit far superior self regulating characteristics.

    There are still radioactive wastes to be disposed of, but the challenge is reduced from the philosophic (assuring containment for 100,000 years) to straightforward engineering (300 years).

    The systems will require safeguards, but only for material in active use, not stores of weapons usable materials, and vast stocks of worthless hazardous wastes. The technology offers an efficient way to convert excess weapons material to self-protecting reactor fuel, and even to consume the extensive inventories of scraps from weapons programs.

    these challenges of the IFR technology are readily addressed, and an urgent, full demonstration of the IFR technology is appropriate. The cost of such a demonstration will be a modest fraction of the cost of a single LWR plant.

  50. Barry Brook, on 28 July 2011 at 11:10 AM said:

    It is assumed that this road block can be removed in the future by economical reprocessing which they object to developing.

    As a nitpick

    At the current time the US nuclear fuel market is still flooded by the Megatons to Megawatts program.(Weapons grade Uranium recycling)

    http://www.usec.com/megatonstomegawatts.htm

    Coming soon will be swords to plowshares (Weapons grade plutonium recycling)

    http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/factsheets/mox

  51. quokka writes: “There will undoubtedly be issues with the chemical reactivity of the coolant in an MSR, not the least because of the stuff, including fission products, dissolved in it. Developing the right material for the reactor vessel, piping etc to avoid corrosion will be one of the challenges. I certainly don’t have the expertise to assess how difficult this is going to be, but it is worth nothing that the MSR has been called the “chemist’s reactor”. In any case, these issues will take time to sort out.”

    From page 133 of Prescription for the Planet: “Though sodium is highly reactive with air and water, it is completely nonreactive with stainless steel. When cameras were run into the double-walled sodium loops after thirty years of use in the EBR-II to check the extent of corrosion, the welders’ original markings were still visible on the joints that had been welded, as they were in the tank itself when the pool was drained.”

    As far as I know, there weren’t problems with fission products being dissolved in the sodium pool. The fuel rods are welded shut, so the only way that would happen would be a breach of the cladding. While that could and perhaps did happen at one time or another in the thirty years of running the EBR-II, I doubt it would have presented any issues in terms of consequential pollution of the sodium, and it certainly didn’t affect the corrosion factor.

  52. @ Professor Brook:

    ‘There are still radioactive wastes to be disposed of, but the challenge is reduced from the philosophic (assuring containment for 100,000 years) to straightforward engineering (300 years).’

    I agree with you on many of the advantages of the IFR approach. But is the above statement accurate? Is waste from a LWR really dangerous for 100,000 years? I thought it was primarily the highly-radioactive fission products that were dangerous for hundreds of years. These fission products need to be disposed, either from an IFR or LWR. The volume will certainly be reduced, but isn’t it really another anti-nuke canard that the waste from a LWR is dangerous for (fill in your own huge number) of years.

  53. Tom Blees, on 29 July 2011 at 3:33 AM said:
    quokka writes: “There will undoubtedly be issues with the chemical reactivity of the coolant in an MSR, not the least because of the stuff, including fission products, dissolved in it. Developing the right material for the reactor vessel, piping etc to avoid corrosion will be one of the challenges. I certainly don’t have the expertise to assess how difficult this is going to be, but it is worth nothing that the MSR has been called the “chemist’s reactor”. In any case, these issues will take time to sort out.”

    I think quokka is referring to ‘molten salt reactors’ not sodium-cooled fast reactors. MSR’s are usually associated with burning thorium, but can be used with uranium as well (see Prof. David LeBlanc). The experts on MSR’s would probably dispute how difficult it will be to develop materials to resist the salt compositions proposed.

  54. If I am reading correctly, the “Megatons to Megawatts program has produced/will produce enough LEU fuel to operate existing US reactors for more than a decade? The second program….weapons-grade plutonium is kinda BS, only a couple powers have the technology to produce these weapons and they can easily-enough generate their own supply.

    Incidentally, both programs individually claim to eliminate the equivalent of ~17K nuclear weapons. Must be some kinda non-proliferation pissing contest between them. Of course if you believe that battleship Caldicott, one Russian suitcase nuke contains enough plutonium to unerringly kill the entire population of NYC with nefarious “Internal Emitters”. (Ne’ermind the Fat Man bomb was not nearly so unerring or poisonous)

    Judging from recent politics, much of new energy research in the US is being funded by more rogue billionaires like Bill Gates (Traveling Wave) and T. Boone Pickens (Megascale Wind Farms).

    By the limited evidence throughout this thread, the biggest problem for nuclear is that uninvolved persons *want* to fear it. The sexy menace with a long memory, hard to chain and eager to punish. MIT sweetens the pot by providing negative guidance against potential new money for efficiency research, leaving us with horror stories about waste stockpiles without a permanent home.

  55. I stumbled upon the Blue Ribbion Comission’s (US) report on “America’s Nuclear Future”. On page 112 they discuss the need for RD&D into Fast Breeder reactors for waste management (along with some technical hurdles). I haven’t gone through this report in full, rather looking at sections that are pertinent to me, however it has some interesting recommendations that appear to be contrary to the MIT’s argument outlined and discussed above.

    Link: http://www.brc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/brc_draft_report_29jul2011_0.pdf

  56. Useful: MIT report (23 pages) on lessons learned from Fukushima.

    http://mitnse.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/fukushima-lessons-learned-mit-nsp-025.pdf

    Their final paragraph:

    All engineered structures (e.g. power plants, bridges, skyscrapers, dams, highways) will fail if subjected to loads far enough beyond what they were designed for. The catastrophic failure of an irrigation water dam in the Fukushima prefecture, which occurred when the earthquake hit, went virtually un-reported in the media. What does this failure say about the safety of hydro power? Are the design basis selections of energy industry structures posing high environmental hazard, such as oil drilling platforms offshore, coal mines and water dams, consistent with those of nuclear plants? If not, are we as a society irrationally accepting higher risks from certain technologies than others

  57. A comment on Ted Trainer’s remarks of 26.7.11:

    The “peak oil” concept as an incentive for alternative energy utilities is becoming unreal in view of the open ended volumes of tar sand and oil shale of vast geological formations, as described in Bill McKibbin’s article http://climateforce.net/2011/07/15/fossil-fuels-will-north-america-be-the-new-middle-east/

    “If you could burn all the oil in those tar sands, you’d run the atmosphere’s concentration of carbon dioxide from its current 390 parts per million (enough to cause the climate havoc we’re currently seeing) to nearly 600 parts per million, which would mean, if not hell, then at least a world with a similar temperature. It won’t happen overnight, thank God, but according to the planet’s most important climatologist, James Hansen, burning even a substantial portion of that oil would mean it was “essentially game over” [PDF] for the climate of this planet.”

    Exploitation of these resources, raising atmospheric CO2 levels above the treshold of the Antarctic ice sheet (~500 ppm) would ensue in conditions on Earth hardly allowing a survival of technological civilization.

    Prospects of further developments of the nuclear option have to face the evidence for rising radiation in North America, described in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBfvkCEr-Is&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    documenting an extreme rise in radiation around Toronto, Canada.

    Given inevitable leaks and accidents in the short to long term, not much discussion is in evidence regarding what are the upper safe levels of radiation the biosphere can sustain, i.e. the effects of accumulating alpha radiation in soils and water on a range of organisms, including humans.

    It is hard to see a way out except fast-track development of the already well advanced solar energy technology.

  58. Is this Professor Andrew Glikson the climate scientist from ANU?

    I have a few questions:

    1. How serious a problem is the radioactive contamination? What are the expected consequences (quantitatively)?

    2. How do those consequences compare with consequences of chemical contamination in our environment?

    3. What is the contamination of carcinogenic and other chemicals damaging to health on those same places where you measured the radioactivity? What are all the chemicals there and what are their concentrations? Do you know? How do you know what they are? How could you even detect them?

    4. What is the total health risk per MWh of electricity generated from nuclear compared with the other options that can provide our electricity needs?

    5. You mentioned solar power. What would be the cost to provide our electricity with solar power? Do you have any idea? What would be the effect on the economy of doing so? What would be the effect on human health and well being if we moved to solar power? Can you please answer quantitatively.
    (Ad hominem attacks deleted.)

  59. (Deleted remarks which no longer apply. BNC is not moderated 24/7 – comments which breach the rules, including ad hominem attacks, may not be immediately edited.)
    In his comment of 20.8.11 Peter Lang asks:

    A. Whether I can answer 5 quite detailed quesitons, a response to which would take 5 articles considering the pros and cons of each of the questions

    (The comment to which you refer has been deleted)

    In response I will ask only 2 questions:

    A. Do we have global radiation maps for June, July and August indicating the extra-levels of radioactivity related to the Fukushima event? (the one I am aware of dates back to 25 March: http://buffalohair.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/japan-fukushima-radiation-contamination-map-global/)

    B. Given elevated levels of radiation (to date reported from several areas in North America) – what would be the short term and longer term health effects of the extra-radiation, in particular on young children.

    The best authorities to evaluate such consequences are medical radioisotope specialists. For example, Dr Jim Green ( who received his Ph.D. at the University of Wollongong on the thesis “Reactors, Radioisotopes & the HIFAR Controversy”) writes in his article “Do We Know The Chernobyl Death Toll?
    (http://newmatilda.com/2011/04/07/do-we-know-chernobyl-death-toll):

    “The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates a total collective dose of 600,000 person-Sieverts over 50 years from Chernobyl fallout (see the IAEA Bulletin, Vol.38, No.1, 1996). A standard risk estimate from the International Commission on Radiological Protection is 0.05 fatal cancers per Sievert. Multiply those figures and we get an estimated 30,000 fatal cancers. Now let’s recall that, according to the BEIR report, the LNT model may overstate risks or understate them by a factor of two. Thus the estimated death toll ranges from something less than 30,000 — up to 60,000.”

  60. Andrew (and others reading his comment) – I refer you to the report from UNSCEAR which Jim Green also refers to in his New Matilda article.

    http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2008/11-80076_Report_2008_Annex_D.pdf

    In particular:
    IV General conclusions (on page 186) D280
    Please read at least this section as it is not possible to quote it in full, however the final sentence reads:

    Lives have been disrupted by the Chernobyl accident but from the radiological point of view, generally positive prospects for the health of most individuals should prevail

    I believe the UNSCEAR report is considered to be acceptably “scientific”.

  61. Andrew Glikson,

    You have dodged my questions by saying in effect, they are too hard.

    But the point of my questions was to demonstrate that your comment was not objective. You have not considered, in a balanced way, the consequences of what the video shows. You have not put what you have seen in perspective. If you had attempted to answer my question you may have recognised:

    1. we do not know how much chemical contamination is everywhere;

    2. we don’t know the chemical compounds in the contamination and we don’t know their concentrations;

    3. We do not have a “Toxic Chemical Detector” instrument, equivalent to a Geiger counter, where we can just walk around, poke it at a leaf or a banana and determine what toxins are present and what are there concentrations.

    4. So we just live in ignorance about the chemical toxins that are everywhere.

    5. But someone can get hold of a Geiger counter, demonstrate radiation, show counts per second on a scale, and scare the pants off the population.

    6. The video made no attempt to put the information into meaningful numbers such as the actual health effects.

    7. No attempt to put the projected health effects into context with what are the projected health effects of the chemical toxins that are everywhere (because, we can’t detect them).

    8. No attempt to put into perspective the health risks from nuclear compared with alternative technologies that can provide our electricity needs.

    9. No attempt to put into perspective the health risks to the population at large associated with having higher cost electricity, less electricity, poorer economy.

    The point of my questions was to help you to recognise that most of the anti-nuke material you will see is just scaremongering. I don’t know the validity of the video you showed. But it is irrelevant when presented without proper context as was done in the video.

  62. Come on now Glikson. You are suggesting we simply add up all the alcohol consumed globally and then divide by the deadly dose of alcohol to get the number of people that die from alcohol. That approach would easily get over a million deaths a year from alcohol, in fact tens of millions per year without exaggerating, but such a simple method is of course rediculous. Dose matters, and dose rate matters. If I drink 100 beers in one hour I will almost certainly die, if I drink 1 beer a week for two years the effect on my health is near zero. The dose is the same in both cases, the effect on health couldn’t be more different.

    I can’t believe the moderator lets stuff like this get posted after all the posts on ionizing radiation effects here on BNC.
    MODERATOR
    It is not my job to censor comments and BNC does not support such action when posts fall within the blog’s remit. I only apply the commenting rules.

  63. @ Ms.Perps

    Further to your UNSCEAR reference, to highlight the apparent blind-spot that many environmentalists have in insisting on “peer reviewed science” in relation to climate change, while ridiculing cherry picked science of climate skeptics, but completely ignoring the most authoritative “peer reviewed science” on radiation exposure when is doesn’t support their belief system:

    page 65

    Most of the workers and members of the public were exposed to low level radiation comparable to or, at most, a few times higher than the annual natural background levels, and exposures will continue to decrease as the deposited radionuclides decay or are further dispersed in the environment.

    page 66

    Therefore, any radiation risk projections in the low dose area should be considered as extremely uncertain, especially when the projection of numbers of cancer deaths is based on trivial individual exposures to large populations experienced over many years.

    page 66

    With regard to health effects, there have been dramatic improvements in the understanding of acute radiation effects and their treatment, and of the long-term sequelae of local radiation injuries due to irradiation of the skin and lens of the eye. With respect to the incidence of stochastic effects other than thyroid cancer, so far there have been few observations that have challenged pre-existing understanding derived from the studies of other exposed groups, such as the survivors of the atomic bombings in Japan and other studies of radiation exposed populations.

  64. The whole notion of a ‘collective dose’ is complete nonsense.

    Let’s calculate the total background exposure worldwide. Background levels of radiation, mostly from the sun/space and from natural isotopes in the soil, vary around the world, but average around 3 millisievert per year. With a global population of almost 7 billion this gives a total global background ‘collective dose’ of 20 million Sieverts. At 0.05 fatal cancers per Sievert, this gives us a death toll of 1 million people a year. With Chernobyl at 30,000 fatalities from the ‘collective dose’ this means natural radiation all around us is killing off people at a rate of 33 Chernobyls per year. Every year.

    Wow, 33 Chernobyls a year. Better not go to the beach people. Stay away from mountaintops as well.

    Does anyone seriously fall for this nonsense? Are we all that gullible?

    A child could see what’s wrong with the notion of a ‘collective dose’. Yet it is still used by a variety of organisations to make arguments about nuclear power. Bizarre.

  65. The scared of radiation people really need to familiarize themselves with the best arguments of the critics–of LNT and collective dose.

    Charles Sanders’ book on radiation hormesis, published by springer/verlag, is a very good start. As Hank (on the radiation hormesis entry) linked an essay treating LNT as sound and hormesis as politically motivated, I would especially recommend chapter seven of Sanders on flawed LNT methodology and his exhaustive survey of radon studies (chapter nine), including those mentioned by Samet.

    On cyril’s point: I just don’t understand how his argument fails to convince.

  66. btw, when I first dug this stuff up on Busby in the aftermath of Fukushima (I was motivated to respond to FUD on various green lists), I figured thoughtlessly: “well, that ought to take care of it.”

    but the B.S. just gets recycled a few months down the road because the people in anti nuclear bubblesville never bother to wonder whether the stuff they’re reading about 400,000 dead from Fukushima makes even the remotest sense.

    Let’s make something up:

    “Tragically, it would appear that dangerous radiation shows no signs of diminishing at Fukushima. Our children, those not hideously deformed and dying, will surely look at our tolerance of the nuclear beast and wonder how we could have been so blind (a metaphorical blindness–apt correlate to the blindness created by radiation spikes from long dormant iodine isotopes gone critical once again) to its nightmarish consequence.”

  67. Cyril R. states at 8.47 pm:

    “I can’t believe the moderator lets stuff like this get posted after all the posts on ionizing radiation effects here on BNC.”

    Does this comment assumes a-priory that reports of elevated radiation levels in North America are incorrect?

    If so, on what basis?

    Or does this comment mean such reports should not be referred to in Bravenewclimate, or that this Blog should be restricted to comments by advocates of nucelar utilities?
    MODERATOR
    Please refer back to the comment by Cyril R. I advised that it is not the job of the moderator to censor comments and BNC does support such action. Please be aware that I am not on the blog 24/7 and without holding back all comments for moderation, it is impossible to always be up to date on editing the violations of the comments policy.

  68. @Cyril: you didn’t normalize the 1 million death/year. But it is straight-forward: 7.8ish million total cancer deaths/year globally. I was going to try and count up other known cancer sources… but very brief googling didn’t split smoking deaths into cancer/non-cancer, so I got bored.

  69. Kray, I didn’t normalize it because my point is the figure is bogus. Its completely fictional. You start out with a figure that is so glaringly obviously wrong, its silly to continue with this figure. The best thing to do is to state explicitly that the notion of a collective risk is absurd nonsense at best. We miss both the dose rate and the individual dose. This is enough to make the notion of collective dose completely nonsensical. However it seems a common anti nuke tactic to use wrongly calculated figures and then continue with these figures to try to calculate the next thing as an act of deception. Phsychologically this means the wrong figure is more likely to be believed correct by the reader. Repeat the mantra enough and no one questions your initial assumptions anymore – it becomes carved in stone. Very clever, very dishonest, and IMHO a very sad state of affairs.

  70. Andrew Glikson, @ 21 August 2011 at 6:33 PM

    Tragically … including escape of radioactive steam from cracks at the base of the stricken plants and extreme radiation levels.

    Tragically,
    stricken,
    extreme radiation

    Wow. Scary adjectives.

    But what does it all mean? How bad is it? But no context given.

    Without context, I conclude this is simply scaremongering.

    You still have not stated, objectively and quantitatively, the consequences.

    In case you didn’t know it, nuclear is about the safest way to generate electricity, even with the occasional industrial accident.

    Want to know more? Here is a start: http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/07/04/what-is-risk/ .

  71. Peter Lang asks:

    But what does it all mean? How bad is it? But no context given.

    This is surely the most important question. Not that there is radiation release which nobody doubts but how much harm may be done?

    For example the only report I have seen of testing of urine from children in Fukishima for Cs came up with less than 2 becquerels per litre of both Cs-134 and Cs-137 maximum. It seems the human body typically contains about 5000 becquerels of Potassium-40. It is a real stretch to believe the those reported Cs levels are of any concern at all.

    If anybody has any reports of Cs uptake measurements that are genuine cause for concern, then out with them. I am always prepared to change my mind given sufficient evidence, but scare stories are not evidence.

  72. To put Peter’s and Quokka’s question another way, let’s first ask Andrew Glikson this (in his field):

    Which will leave a bigger crater and cause more destruction and threaten more people when it strikes the Earth – 1 bolide that is 100 m in diameter, or 10 million meteorites that are each 1 cm in diameter?

    The former is analogous to 1 person receiving 10000 mSv dose of radiation the other is analogous to 1 million people each receiving 0.001 mSv.

  73. To add to Barry’s point, not only need we know the total dose per person, we also must find out the dose rate.

    For example a single person taking 52 aspirins in one hour is almost certainly to die. However that same person taking one aspirin per week for 1 year has no health effect at all! In both cases the dose is 52 aspirins. So this shows the importance of dose rate as well as the dose.

  74. Fifty-two years ago, we were concerned with the neutron beam coming out of our reactor at UCLA. We didn’t want to get in front of it. Those guys are so heavy, they drill a hole through you (not exactly), but they could do a lot of damage, concentrated or otherwise.

    So, if this radiation is uniformly distributed over your body, it might have a different impact than if were all concentrated on your head, as in a dentist’s office. (I really don’t know the radiation environment in a dental office.)

  75. Response regarding damage caused by a small asteroid vs 10 million small meteorites 1 cm in diameter.

    (A) 100 meters-large asteroid:

    The best analogy we have for an impact on this scale if the Tunguska comet, estimated as ~60 meters-large exploded over the forest, flattening trees over an area many kilometres in diameter. Had a similar comet, or an asteroid, 100 meters-large, exploded over a city center, fatalities would reach tens to hundreds of thousands people.

    (B) 1 million small meterorites ~1 cm-large

    These would most likely burn on passage in the atmosphere (i.e. as observed falling stars occurring every night).

    An analogy with a nuclear accident would pertain to a comparison between (1) nuclear melt-down of a plant located near a major city, vis-a-vis (2) elevated but minor radiation in remote areas, excepting “hot spots” downwind from the location of the event.

  76. Glikson, no that’s not a good analogue. The aspirin analogue (or alcohol) is much better. Small meteorites can kill you, one aspirin won’t. However the analogue with asteroids is good in that we have a protective atmosphere (immune system) that protects us by burning up the smallest meteorites (blocking out/repairing radiation).

    Again, the notion of collective dose makes no sense at all. You can’t possibly claim to know a death toll of a group exposed to toxins, without knowing how fast and how much each individual in that group has been exposed. What is more, collective dose ignores any sort of hormetic effect which we see almost everywhere, whether it is radiation or chemicals.

  77. Goliffw: certainly, concentrated radiation is more dangerous than uniformly distributed radiation over the entire body. Sitting in the sun feels good, but put a magnifying glass over your skin will burn it (despite the total solar radiation hitting your skin remains about the same). The human body also won’t be able to repair concentrated damage, it overwhelms the capacity of the body protective systems.

    That’s exactly how radiation or chemical hazards work as well. The idea of a linear damage function is just silly. 100 people eat 1 aspirin, nothing happens. One person eats 100 aspirins, he/she dies. Yet this is the same ‘collective dose’.

  78. Andrew Glikson, thanks for your response, but you seem to have missed the point. You were worrying about radiation increases in North America. These are the 10 million small meteorites that you correctly asserted would burn up in the atmosphere. That is, they are of no concern to the people of North America at all. So why were you so worried about them? Your comparison of Fukushima with the large bolide is strange, since the large bolide kills tens of thousands of people, and Fukushima… didn’t. What do you mean by this? It didn’t even expose members of the public to any more than a rain of tiny metaphorical meteorites above their heads.

    But Cyril R’s analogy with aspirin is much better – I’ll use that henceforth.

  79. Barry,

    The differences between the effects of an asteroid impact and harmful radioactivity hot spots” (both near and away from the source) is the (much) longer time lag factor of the latter.

    As radiation does not spread uniformly but concentrates in hot spots, as documented in the wake of Chernobyl, the consequences are differential in terms of geographic location and time.

    The situation at Fukushima and related radiation is unfolding rendering advance conclusions unwarranted. One hopes for minimal effects in terms of radiation, in particular affecting young children.

    Dynamic global maps showing radiation spreading across the Pacific, North America and Europe are displayed on http://buffalohair.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/japan-fukushima-radiation-map/
    (it may not be a reliable source, still it does not look as if these maps are “invented” by some vested interest ?).

    The scale on the maps is too small to read

    I am interested in your comment/s regarding the global radiation maps and whether further information is a hand regarding radiation levels reached in different geographic areas.

    Andrew
    23 August, 2011

  80. Andrew Glikson,

    Why are you avoiding answering the questions about the consequences of the radioactive contamination that is scaring you so much? It makes no sense to be talking about radiation unless you put it in context. Is it serious (health consequences)? How serious? Why? Is it as bad as or worse than the millions of chemical contaminants that we release all the time, are everywhere, cannot be detected and last for ever?

    According to all the reputable studies, like ExternE, nuclear is about the safest of all electricity generation technologies. Refer to figures 1 and 2 and the accompanying text here: http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/07/04/what-is-risk/

  81. @Andrew Glikson,

    Ok, I’ll bite on the Gunnerson video. He mentions “press reports” of chunks of fuel found a mile from the reactors and then begins to construct some elaborate argument based on Pu dispersal. The problem with this is that I have never seen a credible report of significant Pu contamination. The only actual measurements I have read were absolutely tiny – from memory < 1 Becquerel per kg of soil.

    Once again I ask anybody who has reliable data to present it. Everybody has an axe to grid, and accepting this stuff at face value seems a wee bit naive.

  82. Sorry, that should be Gundersen. And he is wrong about Sulphur-35 being created from neutron bombardment of Sodium. It’s formed from neutron bombardment of Chlorine.

    Unfortunately the paper is paywalled, but maybe somebody could explain why Sulphur-35 could not have been produced in the reactor cores by neutron leakage from the severely damaged fuel rods? If so, what is newsworthy in this?

  83. Peter Lang reminds us that there is no way that there is no such thing as no dose of radiation because the world is naturally radioactive.

    Because of the fear of radiation governments went to great lengths and great expense to measure radiation doses from natural and background radiation and the UNSCEAR 2000 Report is a good example.

    Some years ago I obtained a copy of a radiation dose atlas for 17 European countries and went to the trouble of getting the cancer statistics for the countries to correlate with the measured radiation dose of natural background radiation.
    The natural background radiation dose ranged from 1.67mSv/y in UK, to 7.2 in Finland. When cancer rates are plotted against radiation dose they decrease within the extensively documented dose range, or show no effect.
    I will be happy to post my summary.

    Glikson has used a linear model which extrapolates high dose effects and ignores the reality of what happens at low doses.
    Glikson assumes that any increase in radiation dose will cause cancer. If that is correct, natural background radiation would make life on earth impossible in the first place.

    Why is it possible for dolphins and marine life to exist in an ocean which has about 3 tonnes of uranium in a cubic km, and lots of naturally radioactive potassium?

    Jim Brough

  84. @Andrew Glikson,

    PLAY THE BALL NOT THE MAN

    Agreed, but we need to identify exactly what the ball is. Where is the reliable evidence of significant Pu contamination at Fukushima?

  85. Andrew Glikson,

    You have not answered my questions. They were asked for a reason. The reason was to assist you to put the issue in perspective. The questions I asked (not yet answered) were:

    1. How serious a problem is the radioactive contamination? What are the expected consequences (quantitatively)?

    2. How do those consequences compare with consequences of chemical contamination in our environment?

    3. What is the contamination of carcinogenic and other chemicals damaging to health on those same places where you measured the radioactivity? What are all the chemicals there and what are their concentrations? Do you know? How do you know what they are? How could you even detect them?

    4. What is the total health risk per MWh of electricity generated from nuclear compared with the other options that can provide our electricity needs?

    5. You mentioned solar power. What would be the cost to provide our electricity with solar power? Do you have any idea? What would be the effect on the economy of doing so? What would be the effect on human health and well being if we moved to solar power? Can you please answer quantitatively.

    So there is the “ball”. Have a go at it and then we can kick it around, constructively and productively.

    While you are posting scaremongering videos from anti-nuclear web sites, quoting the well known nuclear-denier activist, Dr Jim Green, as an authority and repeatedly avoiding the questions I’ve asked it is a bit difficult to take your comments as from a serious “scientist”, sorry.

  86. Quokka

    I appreciate it there are environmentalists who, for the best motives, regard N-power as the best answer to the danger posed by fossil fuel emissions, and these include James Hansen, one the world’s leading climate scientists.

    This is a subject to technical and medical/radiological considerations, in particular by those best qualified in these fields.

    In connection with the unfolding Fukushima scenario, it would be just as unwise on the part of advocates of N-energy to try and deny the potentially severe consequences of this accident, including the effects of the spreading radiation plumes, as is (continues to be) unwise on the part of climate sceptics to deny the consequences of carbon emissions.

    In posting the websites above (I assumed only the URLs will display but it turned out the u-tube video appeared) it was not implied I think the reports are necessarily accurate.

    I hope they are not.

    However, in so far as Fukushima is, or will, result in distal radiation hot spots, I doubt it that the case for AFRs will be advanced by trying to negate or belittle the serious nature and consequences of this tragic accident.

  87. @Andrew Glikson,

    There is not much doubt about radiological hot spots from the Fukushima accident – they certainly exist, but not on the west coast of the US, not in Tokyo but mostly in a corridor NW of the plant. These will be a problem, though the extent of the problem and what remedial action will be taken and how effective it may or may not be is still uncertain. I think it would be a bit silly to contest this reality.

    Returning to the Gundersen video, Gundersen purports to present an accurate picture of the situation at Fukushima from a “nuclear expert”. He starts by reporting some gossip from Russian blogs which may or may not be true but then a broken clock is right twice a day. He conveniently then distances himself from it. So why report it in the first place?

    He then proceeds to examine the entrails of doom with some narrative about Sulphur-35 detection and most likely gets it quite wrong. Followed by another narrative based on hearsay about Pu dispersal.

    George Monbiot says quite rightly that environmentalists have a moral obligation to deal fairly and accurately with the issue of nuclear power, basing judgement on authoritative sources and on science. I really don’t think the Gundersen video satisfies that. It’s an anti-nuclear narrative. Fear is it’s business.

    I am not scientist, but have sufficient scientific education and my bs detectors have been sufficiently sharpened by trawling through far too much climate denialist nonsense to take at face value any such video. Unfortunately most of the population are not so equipped. This kind of “button pushing” stuff is not the way to conduct a proper debate on the future of clean energy.

  88. Watching the various arguments provides interesting reading.

    From the nuclear proponents point-of-view, the “we can do it cheaper” meme is breaking down with the ever decreasing cost of renewables, so the trusty standby of deaths per MW seems like a handy fall back. Except of course it’s an equally valid argument for more renewables.

    Let’s see what the creativity of the Japanese can provide now that they have passed a renewable energy bill http://www.ifandp.com/article/0013199.html.

  89. Some participants on the blog are slipping into old habits of attacking the person not the argument and assuming they know the motives of commenters. BNC Comments Policy does not allow this. Please desist from breaking these rules or your whole post, and not just the offending section may be deleted.

  90. MODERATOR
    Andrew – agreed and as soon as I returned to moderation the remark was deleted and Finrod was advised to desist.

    Was I? I don’t recall receiving any such communication. I didn’t even realise my comment had been censored until just now. At any rate, I wasn’t trying to make any point in the debate. It was merely an expression of my disgust with Andrew Glikson, and the objective was to make sure he knew it. Objective accomplished.
    MODERATOR
    Finrod – it is not just you – everyone has been asked to desist. Someone starts the personal attacks and it soon spirals into acrimony. Not permitted (as per BNC Commenting Rules) and definitely not conducive to reasoned discourse.

  91. Thank you Barry.

    As you know from numerous debates on blogs with those who do not accept climate science, once ad-hominem remarks and personal attacks commence against those of different points of view, its game over.

    On my part I can state that, in many hundereds of thread communications, not even once have I questioned an adversary’s sinncerity and integrity.

    I wish you the best in continuing to discourage such expressions on your otherwise highly effective Bravenewclimate.

  92. Quokka,

    You write:

    “There is not much doubt about radiological hot spots from the Fukushima accident – they certainly exist, but not on the west coast of the US, not in Tokyo but mostly in a corridor NW of the plant.”

    Wish you were correct. However, the Mainichi Daily News of 23 August of today in an article titled “Estimated yearly radiation dosage hits 508 mSv in town near nuke plant” http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/archive/news/2011/08/20/20110820p2a00m0na009000c.html reads:

    “High radiation levels of up to 508.1 millisieverts per year are estimated for areas within a 20-kilometer radius of the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power plant in figures released by the government on Aug. 19.

    The figures, released by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, are the first publicly released estimate of the yearly accumulated radiation dosage in 50 locations across eight municipalities in the 20-kilometer radius zone.

    The highest figure was for the Koirino district of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, where the estimated yearly dosage was 508.1 millisieverts — over 500 times the acceptable yearly level of 1 millisievert per year for artificial radiation dosage. The district is three kilometers west-southwest of the plant.”

    As you are aware the maximum doze allowed for the public is 1 millisievert per year and for nuclear workers 20 millisievert per year – tthe >500 millisievert per year is 25 times the latter.

  93. Peter Lang

    It appears that nobody has the answers to your questions. However, we do have two point on the curve of impact on population of radiation. The first is, for natural radiation, if there is such a thing, our day to day data on radiation caused illnesses. The second or last or extreme case is from Hiroshima and Nagasaki where thousands of people were either destroyed or damaged and the data may exist on their exposure. There is a third source of data, the Chernobyl incident, where much data has been collected but may or may not be available.

    Does anyone on the blog have access to this data?

    Bill Goliff (not to be confused with Dr. W. Goliff)

  94. The article at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903327904576524122257910948.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

    Notes among other:

    “But the education ministry’s measurements of radiation levels at 50 locations within the 20-kilometer radius showed annual exposure could exceed 100 millisieverts in 15 locations, including one where it could reach 508 millisieverts, compared with the government 20 millisieverts per year standard for evacuation.”

    This is confirmed by detailed ground measurements and laboratory studies of [131]I (half life 8 days), [137]Cs (half life 30 years) and other radioisotopes at the Univesity of Hiroshima titled:

    “NHK Documentary: Collaborating to Create a Radioactive Fallout Contamination Map” (subtitle:What exactly was the extent of contamination caused by radiation in the Fukushima nuclear accident? What is happening in the contaminated areas? This is a record of a two-month survey conducted by scientists working close together)

    http://fukushima.greenaction-japan.org/2011/08/13/nhk-documentary-collaborating-to-create-a-radioactive-fallout-contamination-map/

    The New York Times August 8, 2011 reports:

    “Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril”

    “In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry. As the nuclear plant continues to release radiation, some of which has slipped into the nation’s food supply, public anger is growing at what many here see as an official campaign to play down the scope of the accident and the potential health risks.”

  95. Andrew Glikson, on 24 August 2011 at 8:41 AM — The New York Times article is intended to sell papers by playing upon people’s fears (based on ignoranace of matters radiological). It is in no sense a source of reliable information.

    On the other hand, here is a sober, completely factual report:
    Monitoring of newly released radiation in the air has been stepped up by about a factor of ten after levels fell below detection limits. The dose rate at the site boundary from newly released radiation now is just 0.4 millisieverts per year – within normal operating limits.

    With the site now substantially stabilised and radiation release all but stopped to both air and sea, the issue of disposition of caesium-137 in the wider area is becoming the main focus of attention. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is now beginning analysis to support the return of residents to the zone 20-30 kilometres from the plant. It will need to assess the extent of contamination in each individual area as well as potential remediation measures. from

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Progress_report_on_Fukushima_Daiichi_1708111.html

    and I previously posted (on one hred or another) a Japanese newspaper account indicating the primary radiological interest lies within 3 kilometers of the plant site.

  96. Given the 30 years half-life of 137Cs, the statement “With the site now substantially stabilised and radiation release all but stopped to both air and sea, the issue of disposition of caesium-137 in the wider area is becoming the main focus of attention.” (from

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Progress_report_on_Fukushima_Daiichi_1708111.html)

    is in clear conflict with the reference:

    “But the education ministry’s measurements of radiation levels at 50 locations within the 20-kilometer radius showed annual exposure could exceed 100 millisieverts in 15 locations, including one where it could reach 508 millisieverts” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903327904576524122257910948.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

    Consistent with measurements and studies by the University of Hiroshima, as below:

    http://www.earth-issues.com/tag/hiroshima-university/

    Reporting among other: “A study of soil samples has revealed that as much as 400 times the normal levels of radiation could remain in communities beyond a 30-kilometer radius from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, where explosions spewed radioactive materials into the atmosphere. The study was conducted by a team of experts from Kyoto University and Hiroshima University. According to the study, the accumulated amount of radiation in the soil at Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture – which is located outside of the 30-km radius – calculated over a three-month period would exceed the annual accumulated amount of 20 millisieverts that the central government is considering as a guideline for evacuating residents.”

  97. Andrew Glikson, on 24 August 2011 at 9:24 AM — I trust TWSJ even less than TNYT; I have no idea what “earth-issues” is about. Indeed, you might even find Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama (U.Tokyo) credible, although I do not. But probably best to wait until Saturday (Japan time) for
    Kan to spell out no-go zone reality
    Some areas to stay closed well past cold shutdown

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110823a1.html

    rather than further (rather pointless) speculation.

  98. Another issue that seems to have received little attention is how “permanent” is permanent evacuation. According to this post that draws upon data from Iitate village the relative contribution to external dose from Cs-134 and Cs-137 has a ratio of about 2.5. Cs-134 has a half life of about 2 years and the expected decay in external dose over time is plotted in the accompanying chart. Over ten years external dose is projected to decline to about 25% of current dose and the contribution from Cs-137 dominates.

    This is not to belittle the disruption to the lives of those who are evacuated, but to throw some light on claims of huge areas of land lost to productive use for many decades or centuries.

  99. Andrew Glikson – I am disappointed by the (personal comment deleted) way you have linked to sources which are dubious to put it mildly. You even admit that you can’t verify the content – so why post it?
    I trust you, and others concerned by the information you have posted on BNC, will take the time to read this from” Nature” News Blog, a respected scientific publication, regarding the exclusion zone around Fukushima.

    http://blogs.nature.com/news/2011/08/does_japans_new_fukushima_excl.html

  100. I should have included in my comment at 2:47PM this quote from the friend who sent me the link and is very experienced in the field of radiation

    Translation: 2.5 µSv/hr = 20 mSv/year is below the level (50 mSv) at which even a weak connection to cancer has been detected, but BEIR assumes is still a risk. Above 25 µSv/hr = 200 mSv/year, connection is clear. Denver is 10+ mSv/year, elsewhere around the world up to 260 mSv. Japan plans a 30+ year detailed study.

  101. Ms. Perps makes good sense.

    When you examine the incidence of leukaemia in the survivors of the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki there is incontrovertible evidence of cancer increasing with radiation dose. However, the threshold dose is about 200mSv and below that dose the rate decreases and then starts to rise again as the dose approaches natural background levels below 10 mSv.
    This is from peer-reviewed data published in UNSCEAR’s 2000 report.

    As I said in an earlier post, my analysis of cancer mortality and radiation doses in Europe showed no increase in mortality and in some cancers, a decrease. Would anybody care to look at the data which took me months to compile, before going into orbit about radiation doses from Fukushima?

    The problem about radiation is that for 2 generations the public has been told that “There is NO SAFE DOSE of RADIATION”!! Most people don’t know that there is such a thing as natural background radiation, or that they are radioactive.
    The earth of a billion or a million years ago was more radioactive than it is now. If there is no safe dose of radiation, how on earth did life survive and evolve in such a radioactive and radiation environment?

    That means there must be a range where radiation doses are safe to living organisms. Problem is that regulators said we will assume that there is no safe dose and we will calculate the effect from zero radiation according to a linear hypothesis. There is no such thing as zero radiation dose.
    Eat a banana or enjoy a steak and get a healthy dose of potassium 40 which is radioactive and has a half-life of 1.3 billion years.

  102. Ms Perps
    (The comment to which you refer has been edited.)
    The sources I referred to above include:

    1. The University of Hiroshima.
    2. World Nuclear News
    3. Wall Street Journals
    4. The New York Times
    5. Fukushima Update
    6. Official UN forcast
    and other

    No one on this blog has conducted independent radiation measurements so none is in the position to confirm or deny radiation levels reported in these media, except expressing an opinion as to which they considered more or less believable.

    C. The detailed on-the-ground measurements conducted by scientists of the University of Hiroshima must be considered as reliable as any. Detailed account of this study is at:

    http://fukushima.greenaction-japan.org/2011/08/13/nhk-documentary-collaborating-to-create-a-radioactive-fallout-contamination-map/

    D. While some environmentalists view IFR as a promising safe future energy source, as discussed in deail in numerous articles in Bravenewclimate, it is hard to see why the promotion of this particular technology requires some of the correspondents on this blog to underestimate the consequences of the Fukushima accident, in particular in view of the detailed studies by scientists of the Universities of Hiroshima and Kyoto.

  103. @ Andrew Glikson:

    B. The sources I referred to above include:

    1. The University of Hiroshima.
    2. World Nuclear News
    3. Wall Street Journals
    4. The New York Times
    5. Fukushima Update
    6. Official UN forcast
    and other

    Yes, and one example of the ‘other’ sources you referenced is the following:

    http://ascendingstarseed.wordpress.com/category/radioactivity-from-fukushima-nuclear-plant/

    Are you prepared to stake your reputation as a credible scientist on the veracity of the starseed website? Or was it thrown in to gain credence for it by association with more reputable sources? If not, why was it included?

  104. Jim Brough

    You state:

    “The earth of a billion or a million years ago was more radioactive than it is now. If there is no safe dose of radiation, how on earth did life survive and evolve in such a radioactive and radiation environment?”

    The short answer is that prior to 1 billion years ago life was restricted to the oceans, therefore to a large extent protected by water.

    Radiation levels depend on (A) radioactivity of underlying rocks and soil, for example highly radiogenic granite terrains; (B) state of the ozone layer and magnetic fields partly blocking cosmic radiation, x-rays and UV; (C) elevation of terrain, and other factors.

    The statement regarding radiation and early life is incorrect as no simple linear progression is known in this regard.

    For example:

    1. Many/most terrains where life evolved were located over basaltic and oceanic basic crust, of low radioactivity;

    2. Atmospheric conditions varied greatly, i.e. pre-700 million years ago low atmospheric oxygen and ozone levels allowed penetration of cosmic radiation,

    3. Life before 420 million years ago was mostly restricted to marine environments and to a large extent protected from radiation by water.

    4. During high-oxygen (>30 percent) periods (Carboniferous-Permian) high ozone levels minimized CR damage to the abundant land flora and fauna.

  105. External radiation dose is not the problem. The Taiwanese residents that lived in accidentally contaminated buildings (cobalt-60 in the steel) received dosages up to 500 mSv/year of external gamma radiation yet had much lower cancer incidence than the Taiwanese average. My interpretation is, that it is likely that external radiation dose is good for you in quite high doses, especially if the dose rate is modest.

    The problem is bio-accumulating radionuclides in high doses. However, cesium doesn’t bioaccumulate – it is taken up by the body but cycled out rapidly. Biological half life is just a few months compared to the radiological half life of 30 and 2 years for cesium-137 and cesium-134, respectively. In plain English, the radiation sources don’t get much chance to decay in your body. They will decay out of your body so they are essentially an external radiation source.

    Strontium and plutonium are much more dangerous in this respect since they stick to bones in your body, and tend to stay there a long time. Fortunately these elements are much less volatile so don’t blow up into the air like cesium does.

  106. andrew, you say:

    “With the site now substantially stabilised and radiation release all but stopped to both air and sea, the issue of disposition of caesium-137 in the wider area is becoming the main focus of attention.” (from

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Progress_report_on_Fukushima_Daiichi_1708111.html)

    is in clear conflict with the reference:
    “But the education ministry’s measurements of radiation levels at 50 locations within the 20-kilometer radius showed annual exposure could exceed 100 millisieverts in 15 locations, including one where it could reach 508 millisieverts”

    I don’t think there is any conflict between the two reports. The WNN report focuses on rates of newly released radiation (to air and sea) at edge of plant (site boundary); the other numbers refer to dose rate from accumulated deposits of radioactive material “in the wider area,” which are mostly cesium–what WNN says should be “the main focus of attention.”

    While the focus of pro nuclear people should be on generation three and four, it is important to counter FUD.

  107. On the health effects of the Fukushima accident, the chair of UNSCEAR, when announcing the commencement of a two year study had this to say

    “Everybody wants answers tomorrow or next week … but this is not possible. We need time,” UNSCEAR Chairman Wolfgang Weiss told a news conference, adding that preliminary findings were expected in May 2012.

    “So far what we have seen in the population, what we have seen in children with thyroid screening, what we have seen in workers … we wouldn’t expect to see health effects

    U.N. body to probe Fukushima radiation impact

    In contrast, in the UK, DEFRA (Department For Environment Food and Rural Affairs) states:

    Estimates indicate that air pollution reduces life expectancy in the UK by an average of six months.

    Sources and Impacts of Air Pollution

    One might conclude that living in the evacuation zone in Fukushima could well be safer than for example living on North Circular Rd in London. Very rare accident Vs business as usual.

    But then CoalCares

  108. cyril: I have read the taiwan study and talked to someone who helped design it.

    just curious: why do you think that study is reliable and have there been follow ups, criticisms, etc?

    if reliable, it is quite astounding in its implications for the effects of chronic radiation.

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