Radiation – facts, fallacies and phobias

I note a recent article in Opinion Online by Dr Helen Caldicott was linked to in the Is Our Future Nuclear? comments thread, and this subsequently generated a fair amount of heated discussion. The focal claim from Caldicott in this piece is that it is dangerous to live near to nuclear power plants (NPP), because they supposedly increase rates of leukemia.

My basic response to such a claim is quite simple, and I think useful, because it cuts through the somewhat arcane and context-laden epidemiological arguments. It’s this: The additional radiation exposure of those living in the vicinity of NPP is ~0.0002 millisieverts (mSv), versus a background level of 2 to 4 mSv (depending on where you live) — the latter due to everything from cosmic rays, to ground-derived radon emissions, to eating bananas (this last one gives you more radiation than the NPP). So that’s 1/15,000 of your total yearly dosage coming from the ambient levels produced by nuclear power (in the US). Living near a coal-fired power station would give you 100 to 300 times more radiation exposure, and even that is trivial and not the reason coal burning is damaging to your health.

So, here is an apparently straightforward intellectual challenge. Can proponents of such an argument as Caldicott’s explain how something which adds 0.007% to an existing effect (background radiation) is somehow critically important, when adding 100 to 300% (or more) to an effect by simply moving from a house built on sedimentary rocks to one built atop granite, or moving from the state of New York to Colorado, is irrelevant? More here. Remember, radiation is radiation (principally alpha particles [helium nuclei], beta particles [high-speed electrons], x-raysgamma rays [high-energy electromagnetic radiation] and neutrons), whether it comes from exploding stars, naturally decaying heavy metal atoms, CAT scanners, fission reactors, bananas, granite boulders, whatever. There is no unique ‘signature’ to the radiation from NPP.

Indeed, the Caldicott argument reminds me of the one used by proponents of the theory that it’s the sun causing recent global warming. As I’ve pointed out here, for a solar explanation to work, you not only have to explain why a climate forcing agent would be exerting a directional effect on the climate system when it itself is NOT changing — you also have to explain how that stationary agent is also able to negate another climate forcing agent that IS changing. It’s basically the same deal with the claimed link between NPP and radiation — what’s ‘special’ about its radiation from the background, and how is its effect amplified when that of other sources is not? I’ve never yet seen an answer (even an unsatisfactory one!) — to either of the above critiques, grounded in Socratic logic as they are.

But getting back to some of the statistical detail, if you want to understand more about the epidemiology of radiation exposure, I find it hard to go past recommending the huge body of work on this subject compiled by Prof Bernard Cohen, who summarised it extremely well here: “How dangerous is radiation?”, “Risks of nuclear energy in perspective” and “Plutonium toxicity“. The other recent review you should definitely read is “Radiation: Facts, fallacies and phobias” by Prof David Wigg, a clinical radiobiologist at the University of Adelaide. This is a 5-page review article published in 2007 in the peer-reviewed journal Australasian Radiology, but it is available free online (see link) and was written quite deliberately for a general audience. Here is the abstract:

There is frequent debate in the media and the scientific published reports about the use of radiation for diagnosis and treatment, the benefits and risks of the nuclear industry, uranium mining and the storage of radioactive wastes. Driving this debate is increasing concern about reliance on fossil fuels for power generation for which alternatives are required. Unfortunately, there is generally a poor understanding of the relevant basic sciences compounded by widespread irrational fear of irradiation (radiation phobia). Radioactivity, with special reference to uranium and plutonium is simply described. How radiation affects tissues and the potential hazards to individuals and populations are explained. The origins of radiation phobia and its harmful consequences are examined. Whether we like it or not, Australia is heavily involved in the uranium industry by virtue of having one-third of the world’s known reserves, exports of which are worth approximately $470m annually. As this paper has been written as simply as possible, it may also be of interest to readers who may have had little scientific training. It may be downloaded from the web using references provided in this article. It is concluded that ignorance and fear are major impediments to rational debate on radiation issues.

And his conclusion:

Over the last 100 years or so, the growth in understanding of radiobiology, radiation physics and many scientific disciplines associated with the nature and effects of radiation have been profound and continues to proceed rapidly. One example is the demonstration of the relatively harmless effects at low doses, doses that are most likely to be of interest to the general population and radiation workers. Failure to adapt to this knowledge by institutions, including the media, has led to many unfortunate consequences, one of which is widespread radiation phobia and its effects.

Yet Helen Caldicott continues to perpetuate long-discredited myths, despite knowing full well that her extreme views are contrary to all relevant evidence. A good summary of her recalcitrance on the matters of science and evidence is provided here, in a series of exchanges — again, this is well worth reading. The conclusion from Dr Michael Baker was particularly apt:

Her book, Nuclear Madness, is so full of half truths and blatant lies that it is hard for a scientist to read. You will note that her references include very few peer reviewed scientific papers and when they do they frequently do not support her conclusions. I believe that she hopes the reader will not take the time or have the resources to look up the scientific papers. I would conclude by encouraging the people that read her book and papers to do just that.

Gee, now, what does that remind me of?

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  1. The meltdown at the reactor in Chernobyl in 1986 reminded the world of the dangers of the atom. The incident was referred to as “nuclear genocide,” and the press wrote of “forests stained red” and of deformed insects. The public was bombarded with images of Soviet cleanup crews wearing protective suits, bald-headed children with cancer and the members of cement crews who lost their lives in an attempt to seal off the cracked reactor with a concrete plug. Fifteen years after the reactor accident, it has been roundly stated in the press that Chernobyl was responsible for “500,000” deaths.

    All this is just doomsday folklore. The six-figure death counts that opponents of nuclear power once cited are simply nonsense. In most cases, they were derived from vague “extrapolations” based on the hearsay reported by Russian dissidents. But such horror stories have remained part of the nuclear narrative to this day.

    In fact, contemporaries who reported on the Chernobyl incident should have known better. Even in the 1980s, radio-biologists and radiation physicists considered the media’s doomsday reports to be exaggerated.

    And their suspicions have become a virtual certainty today. Groups of researchers have set up shop at all of the sites of nuclear accidents or major nuclear contamination. They work at Hanford (where the United States began producing plutonium in 1944), they conduct studies in the English town of Sellafield (where a contaminated cloud escaped from the chimney in 1957), and they study the fates of former East German uranium mineworkers in the states of Saxony and Thuringia. New mortality rates have now been compiled for all of these groups of individuals at risk. Surprisingly, the mortality rates were found to be a fraction of what was predicted by the linear model.

    In Hiroshima, radioactivity claimed surprisingly few human lives. Experts now know exactly what happened in the first hours, days and weeks after the devastating atomic explosion. Almost all of Hiroshima’s 140,000 victims died quickly. Either they were crushed immediately by the shock wave, or they died within the next few days of acute burns.

    But the notorious radiation sickness, the gradual ailment that leads to certain death for anyone exposed to radiation levels of 6 Gray or higher was rare. The reason is that Little Boy simply did not produce enough radioactivity. But what about the long-term consequences? Didn’t the radiation work like a time bomb in the body?

    To answer these questions, the Japanese and the Americans launched a giant epidemiological study after the war. The study included all residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who had survived the atomic explosion within a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius. Investigators questioned the residents to obtain their precise locations when the bomb exploded, and used this information to calculate a personal radiation dose for each resident. Data was collected for 86,572 people.

    Today, 60 years later, the study’s results are clear. Only 700 people eventually died as a result of radiation received from the atomic attack:

    -87 died of leukemia;

    -440 died of tumors;

    -250 died of radiation-induced heart attacks.

    Such statistics have attracted little notice so far. The numbers cited in schoolbooks are much higher. According to Wikipedia, 105,000 people died of the “long-term consequences of radiation.”

    I find it disingenuous to continue to invoke latency every time actual results fail to meet the dire predictions made previously. We were told shortly after the Chernobyl event, when the immediate death toll was found to be minimal, that the full impact would not be felt for twenty years. Twenty years later, the Cassandras are now saying it could be as much as sixty years before the damage appears, or maybe several generations in the future. At what point do we accept the fact that the impact of this accident has not been anywhere as serious as it was assumed it would be, and radiation not as dangerous?


  2. Yet another inconsistency (on top of transplutonium elements in smoke alarms) is that fact that dry rock geothermal gets the green tick of approval. However the steam/froth from the drill holes contains radon from uranium decay, albeit minor.

    For years I’ve owned a vial of yellowcake from the old Pt Pirie plant. Without weighing it I’d guess it contains a milligram or two of U235. In World War II aviators wore wristwatches with luminescent dials painted with radium based enamel. A lot of that was mined near one of the current geothermal trial sites in the Flinders Ranges.


  3. Of course we now that radium causes cancer…the women who painted the radiation on their watch faces wold like their brushes to straighten them out…many dies of various forms of lip, mouth and throat cancers. The conclusion is that one shouldn’t eat radium



  4. Radium-222 is a lot worse, tens of times worse, than plutonium-239, in terms of alpha emissions per gram per second, plus some of its emissions actually come from radon, plus it emits gamma rays too.

    However, David, your assertion about the incompatibility of thorium-derived uranium-233 with direct handling in the other thread was not true. The salt it is in is unapproachable because of fission fragments such as 106-Ru, but if it is fluorinated and lifted out, it’s a pussycat — 232-U or no 232-U.

    You say one cannot go near it for years; but really it takes years, after it has been separated from thorium, for the supposed gamma-ray hazard to appear, because it depends on the ingrowth of 228-Th.

    See figure 5a, Kang and von Hippel.

    Some nuclear power stations appear to reduce nearby cancer rates:

    [NB96.20-17] Korea: A survey conducted by the Seoul National University Hospital has found that people living near nuclear power stations suffer a slightly lower rate of cancer than those living elsewhere. The research team has recommended that a more extensive survey be carried out. (NucNet News, 250/96, 15 May)

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  5. Barry: “Can proponents of such an argument as Caldicott’s explain how something which adds 0.007% to an existing effect (background radiation) is somehow critically important,”

    Where have I read something like that before? Sounds like people saying the
    extra anthropogenic CO2 can’t hurt.

    Caldicot needs a few things to argue a causal relation between cancer and living
    near nuke plants. First is epidemiology … do people living near nuke plants get
    more cancer than people who don’t. Second is good epidemiology. Does the first
    effect still exist after other KNOWN causally relevant factors have been
    accounted for (the usual statistical method is called
    survival analysis
    with Cox proportional hazards model being a common
    method). The “KNOWN” qualification is pretty important and frequently neglected. People correct for all kinds of factors in such studies, often for no good
    reason other than that they have the data. Often they try a bunch of corrections and
    just keep what makes a difference … I judge this to be sloppy but pragmatic.

    Thirdly, she needs a biologically plausible causal mechanism.

    If she has the epidemiology (I tried to check, but the meta-analysis she
    isn’t available on-line and the abstract gives little detail except to
    say that they found consistent effects >1 … which is about
    as vague as it gets) (ie., more people
    get cancer after correcting for known confounders), then it may be that the
    plants are causing cancer by some as yet unknown mechanism, or there may
    be some unknown confounder at work.

    My favourite “example” here is chicken. Abundant mechanisms exist by which chicken
    could cause cancer, given the number of known carcinogens in cooked chicken
    meat, it absolutely should cause cancer. But the epidemiology just isn’t there. Where
    as with red meat, all the boxes are ticked. Known mechanisms, abundant epidemiology, good corrections for confounders.

    Penultimately, because of the confounding issue. One or 2 studies won’t cut it. You need
    quite a few. There are studies which show that passive smokers get LESS lung cancer
    than non-passive-smokers … but they are rather outnumbered by the ones which
    find that they get more lung cancer.

    Lastly, its always good to compare any causal impacts that you do find
    with impacts of alternatives, like living near a coal fired power station.

    P.S. People seeking to white wash Chernobyl impacts should read
    Laurie Garrett’s “Betrayal of Trust”.


  6. Barry: “Can proponents of such an argument as Caldicott’s explain how something which adds 0.007% to an existing effect (background radiation) is somehow critically important,”

    Where have I read something like that before? Sounds like people saying the
    extra anthropogenic CO2 can’t hurt.

    This is utter nonsense. There’s no comparison at all between those cases. Variations in natural background levels of radiation completely swamp any effects from nuclear plants.


  7. Finrod: It may well be that variations in natural background radiation swamp effects
    from nuclear plants, but that doesn’t imply that the plants can’t cause cancer.

    I’ve sent requests to the authors of 2 of the papers Caldicott cites and
    will look more closely. The German study is particularly interesting because
    the abstract finds a dose response effect with distance from the plant … I should
    have mentioned this in my previous post. If you don’t find a dose response, it
    doesn’t rule out causality, but finding one definitely strengthens the

    I haven’t read enough to make a decision, but if this cancer effect is
    real, then it’s no big deal but it should inform the placement of the
    plants. Just like we shouldn’t have lead smelters and children in close
    proximity, or have lead in petrol … etc. etc.


  8. Geoff Russell wrote: “Where have I read something like that before? Sounds like people saying the extra anthropogenic CO2 can’t hurt.”

    Finrod is right, this is nonsense Geoff — it’s nothing of the sort and I’m disappointed that you implicitly accuse me of such deception.

    Humans have caused CO2 to increase by 38% from pre-industrial times. Nuclear power plants cause background radiation to increase by 0.007%. So our effect on CO2, in rough terms, is 5,400 times greater than is the effect on background radiation of NPP.


    Geoff Sherrington, no I’ve never worked in the nuclear industry. My comments are the result of lots of reading, lots of talking to people who do work in the nuclear industry (both in power generation and research), and an application of the scientific method to evaluate data and claims.


  9. Geofff Russel #8,

    I haven’t read enough to make a decision, but if this cancer effect is
    real, then it’s no big deal but it should inform the placement of the

    I believe what should inform the placement of the NPPs is the cost of electricity (more on that below). Regarding the locating of NPPs and cancer risk, I believe the citing on health grounds and all other externalities should be handled in exactly the same way for all industrial plants. I also believe that if that was done, citing of NPP’s would be a relatively insignificant issue, from a health perspective, compared with the siting of many of our other, orders of magnitude more hazardous, chemical factories that we quite happily accept – ‘because we’re used to them’. Chemical releases are far worse than radiation or radioactive contamination. Unlike releases of radioactive materials, chemical releases kill instantly (who remembers Bopal? 6000 people killed immediately when a chemical factory released its toxic chemicals. Compare 6000 instantaneous deaths with Chernobyl – 2 people killed in the initial steam explosion and 29 died from radiation effects over the next 30 days). What chemicals are contained in the many factories and process plants all around Sydney and Melbourne? No one cares overly about this much greater level of risk. Let’s get some balance.

    Citing is important for the cost of electricity. Why electrcity cost important? Because it will greatly affect how quickly the low emissions technologies will be adopted. Therfore, it will greatly affect the rate at which we can cut GHG emissions.

    The cost of electricity is not just an issue for Australia. It is world issue. If we are going to impose rediculous levels of safety on NPP’s the cost of electrcity will be far higher than it needs to be. So the rate of cutting emissions will be slower.

    If the west continues to require that NPPs are at least twice the cost they need to be, China, India, Indonesia and the African nations are going to build NPPs more slowly than they could if they were lower cost. And what we do in the west, does have an effect on them too.

    Furthermore, if we (the world) has low-cost, clean electricity, then electricity will substitute more quicly for oil in land transport. Electricity may be used in batteries or make synthetic fuels for land transport. Either way, the lower the cost of electricity the more rapidly will CO2 emissions be reduced in land transport.

    So its all a matter of balance. Please, let’s get the balance right. If we build our first NPPs in the desert or Ceduna, we begin a terrible precedent that will take decades to undo. The general state of Australian’s ignorance about nuclear power will be perpetuated for a very long time. We need the first plants as close as possible to a major city. Like this: http://www.world-nuclear.org//assets/0/16/660/676/8d0ef05a-4f8d-40ee-ab10-0250b3e53183.jpg
    Pickering, Toronto, Canada


  10. For Barry Brook

    Then perhaps you can explain which expert you consulted to publish the probably erroneous graph at the start of this thread. Ihere is no immediatetly obvious reason why Australia should be highest in the world for gamma outdoors and by far the lowest in radon (apart from some deep soil weathering). Never before have I seen a reference to Australia being radon bliss. And yes, I have done thousands of measurements of radon and millions of measurements of airborne gamma in more than one country.

    What aspect of the Scientific Method was most helpful to you in passing this graph as acceptable?


  11. Geoff Sherrington (#12),

    Does life style and home design have something to do wiht the amount of radiation we receive. In Canada we had relatively high radiation level in the houses I lived in. The reason was because we had a basement that was mostly below ground level and the heating system drew air from the basement and pumped it all round the house. The windows were tripple glazed and closed for the winter. The side door was opend for about 5 seconds about 10 times a day. That was the extent of the fresh air that eneterd the house to dilute the radon entering the basement from the soil. I understand that the radiation from radon in well insulated houses in Scandinavia and UK (if UK has any :)) is about 6 to 10 times higher than recieved in the most contaminated areas around Chernobyl.

    I commend Barry Brook for posting all these posts to help to educate the Australian public.


  12. “What aspect of the Scientific Method was most helpful to you in passing this graph as acceptable?’

    Do you have data contradicting the graph in question, which originated from the World Nuclear Association? Can you link to that data?


  13. Geoff@#8:
    “Finrod: It may well be that variations in natural background radiation swamp effects
    from nuclear plants, but that doesn’t imply that the plants can’t cause cancer.’

    This is true, but trivial. The clear implication is that radiation from nuclear power plants cannot be the cause of the cancer custers in question.

    Apparently there is a new federal study underway in the US which will be somewhat more tightly controlled than the previous ones:


    We shall see.


  14. Geoff Sherrington, that would be these experts: http://sybil.world-nuclear.org/members/membercompanies.asp#0 — the figure in questions comes from the World Nuclear Association “Representing the people and organizations of the global nuclear profession”.

    The figure refers to annual doses — which, as Peter Lang has pointed out, will be related to the design of the dwellings, the location of population centres (whether they are close to natural radiation sources) etc.

    As to your concluding sentence, it is snide and not worthy of a response.


  15. Apparently the background radiation in the Maralinga SA area is around 5 mSv/a
    with the worse spot being the site of a balloon launched plutonium dirty bomb. I believe when the ‘human guinea pigs’ launched their compensation claims 40 years later it was near impossible to distinguish the effects of radiation exposure from lifestyle factors such as smoking.

    In a perverse way the Maralinga episode may enhance public acceptance of a NPP in the area at Ceduna. The region has already lost its nuclear virginity. In contrast the public may feel that near-city location for a NPP will in some sense be compromised.


  16. Barry(#10), of course I’m not accusing you of deception, implicitly or otherwise. I’m merely
    saying, perhaps clumsily, that the tiny amount that nuclear plants have raised
    background radiation levels by does nothing to negate the epidemiological findings. The
    abstract for the first of Caldicott’s studies “Leukemia in young children living in the vicinity of German nuclear power plants” is clear … they found a dose response, i.e., the
    closer you lived to the plant, the more the risk increased and said: “Considering that there is no evidence of relevant accidents and that possible confounders could not be identified, the observed positive distance trend remains unexplained.” It’s unexplained because they know,
    just like you and Finrod, that the radiation levels are tiny and can’t
    explain the cancers. But something is causing them and when you find a radially distributed risk, betting on the thing at the centre isn’t silly … and

    no Finrod#15, I don’t quite think the tiny radiation levels lets
    radiation off the hook as a cancer cause for the following reason. Cancer is
    a stochastic beast which starts with damage to a single cell and mostly the damage is
    repaired. But it isn’t just the damage that matters, its precisely which type of
    damage … E.g., soy, beef, casein (milk protein) and
    chicken all damage the colon DNA in everybody who eats them every single time they swallow a
    mouth full … you can measure it in cells sloughed off into the feces. But the kinds
    of damage are subtly different and the soy and chicken damage appears harmless,
    but not the beef. People who study this stuff have a pretty good handle on why
    this is the case, but that doesn’t matter here. The point is that there may be
    subtleties that distinguish that radiation mix from a nuclear plant and that
    of background radiation. Simple gross levels may not tell the full story.

    Peter Lang #11 is absolutely right to compare the tiny risks of radiation with
    the huge risks from other things … which I also said in my response to Caldicott
    on OLO.


  17. “no Finrod#15, I don’t quite think the tiny radiation levels lets
    radiation off the hook as a cancer cause for the following reason. Cancer is
    a stochastic beast which starts with damage to a single cell and mostly the damage is
    repaired. But it isn’t just the damage that matters, its precisely which type of
    damage … E.g., soy, beef, casein (milk protein) and
    chicken all damage the colon DNA in everybody who eats them every single time they swallow a
    mouth full … you can measure it in cells sloughed off into the feces. But the kinds
    of damage are subtly different and the soy and chicken damage appears harmless,
    but not the beef. People who study this stuff have a pretty good handle on why
    this is the case, but that doesn’t matter here. The point is that there may be
    subtleties that distinguish that radiation mix from a nuclear plant and that
    of background radiation. Simple gross levels may not tell the full story.”

    The LNT model of radiation exposure risk is on rather shaky ground, and the suggestion that the radiation from a nuclear power plant is somehow weirdly different and more dangerous than standard background radiation is veering off into lala land. The comparison with the difference between the effects of chicken and beef on the colon are misleading (there are obvious chemical differences between the two meats, but no obvious significant difference in the radiation mix of someone who hangs around the perimeter of a nuclear plant compered with someone who never goes within a thousand miles of one).

    Which of the German studies are you referring to?


  18. Geoff, the issue is, if the radiation from NPP was causing a precise sort of damage that background radiation, which is 15,000 times stronger, was not, then it would have to be DIFFERENT. But it’s not. That’s based on fundamental physics, as I tried (obviously unsuccessfully) to explain in my post — you simply cannot distinguish background radiation from radiation produced by NPP. Why? Because there is no difference – radiation is radiation is radiation (alpha, beta, gamma, x-rays, neutrons).

    You’re right, you didn’t accuse me of deception. But you did imply that my statements could be construed as being equivalent to the disingenuous claims made by the AGW skeptics that human-caused CO2 cannot possibly be relevant because CO2 is a trace gas. As I pointed out in my response comment, the radiation and NPP statement is nothing of the sort. That’s what I was disappointed in.


  19. Having read the comments above, I think there is a need for a reality check in this subject. Firstly, the surface radiation across 80% of Australia has been mapped by aerial gamma-ray survey and a ternary K-U-Th map is available from Geoscience Aust at their website (http://www.ga.gov.au/resources/maps/mapsofaustralia.jsp look for Radiometric Map of Australia). This display is not quantitative so one needs the digital data (~30Gb) and appropriate software but then one can determine the dose rate at any point (well 100×100 pixel) over the 80% of Aus so mapped from the K-U-Th surface concentrations. Note that surface radiation varies enormously. Interestingly, at Maraliga there are only a few hot spots which are probably the disposal pits of the last “clean-up”. And since coal is mentioned, the tailings behind the Port Augusta power station show a very nice enrichment in U&Th relative to the local area but compared to other rocks in the area, they’re quite unusual. (SA of course has some very radioactive rocks, not surprising in a state with so much Uranium.)
    Secondly, I’m with Geoff Sherrington in that the figure shown in your article Barry appears to be pretty wacky. No way is Aus the “high outdoor / low radon background” country and other countries have near zero outdoor / high radon background. I don’t know where the author compiled that data from or what assumptions were made but it is weird. Countries in Europe such as Sweden and Switzerland have their share of “hotter” granites or shales so how they get near-zero outdoor background puzzles me.
    In Aus, as elsewhere, radon is the curse of the aerial gamma-ray surveyor. Aus in fact leads the world in methods to remove radon effects from the surveys. (It helps Aus has low 137Cs in its soils.) Radon varies enormously in the air, depending on weather, moisture, sol type, etc, etc but one thing in our favour is our climate which leads to open windows and above ground construction. So our houses don’t get the build-up of radon that is found in many northern countries and our personal Rn doeses are lower. That may be what the graph is showing.
    But what really gets to me is you trying to match the wacky claims of Helen Caldicott with equally wacky claims that coal emits more radiation than a nuclear power station. The claim that “living near a coal-fired power station would give you 100 to 300 times more radiation exposure ” is pure BS. I never seen a coal-burning power station show in an aerial survey but nukes sure show up. To be technical what is seen is radiation is caused by activation in the primary circuit (reaction 16O(n,p)16N) and is typical for operating boiling water reactors (BWR). The scattered radiation of the high energy quanta (6.13 MeV and 7.11 MeV) emitted by the activation product 16N can be observed in the whole gamma spectrum. A typical Aus coal has around 1 ppm U (and yes there are dirtier ones around the world and we haven’t burnt the NSW coal that goes 400 ppm). But no way can one say that “Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste” as claimed in that Sci American article.
    The best article I can find to give some reality is an English publication (http://www.ioppublishing.com/activity/education/News/Newsletter/file_31284.pdf)
    which shows how to calculate your dose for England. Note for a nuke power station they add 0.005 mSv/yr and for a coal station add 0.0004 mSv, both if you are with in 1 mile. Hardly 300 times! But note, anyone who consumes an excessive amount of shellfsh or Brazil nuts will increase their radiation dose by approximately 0.1 mSv/year. Now that’s living dangerously. And don’t mention the 40K in bananas.


  20. Bruced, as I said, I don’t think the WNA figure is referring to radon emissions in Australia, it’s talking about annual dose of the inhabitants of those countries. Considering where everyone lives in Australia (type of rocks underlying our capital cities) and the design of the dwellings, our dose from radon is smaller.

    As I indicated in my above post, radiation from coal plants is NOT the problem — whether it be locally 10 times higher (as your figure indicates) or 300 times higher. Both are utterly trivial compared to background levels, as you point out when talking about shellfish, Brazil nuts and bananas (which I also mentioned in my post).


  21. In 16 to Barry Brook, my comments were not at all snide or negative.

    The way in which scientists conduct and report science has long been considered to approach the best if the so-called Scientific Method is followed. Barry Brook, in his c.v., makes reference to this method.

    I won’t repeat the steps that others have expressed as forming the framework of the scientific method. They are well-documented. However, I did read the posts above my first on this blog to see what the scorecard was. Answer was, it was hard to tell. So, being straightforward, I asked where the basis for following the scientific method lay, in the selection of the above graph. I did this because there is a possibility that the graph was plucked out of a convenient reference and included to underscore a preconception.

    If this latter course was indeed followed, then that is the antithesis of the scientific method. I am not saying it was, I am asking if it was.

    Many climate science articles & papers follow such a cherry picking course to underscore preconceptions. Indeed, such practices are now widely documented and have led to much unfavourable comment from others wiser than I am. Poor methodology is downgrading the public face of science and encouraging the public to resist informed scientific views.

    If I choose to visit this blog, it will because it does not follow the lamentable path shown by blogs such as RealClimate, which by now have lost a great deal of credibility.

    Now, as to figures. There are many inherent reasons why both radon (presuming Rn222) and total gamma radiation intersected by a person will vary from place to place. Unfortunately, these places need not coincide with the borders of countries and it is silly in the first place to try a country comparison. Factors such as time spent at high altitude, as in frequent flight; or in high-altitude domicile; or above geology naturally higher in emitters such as Kerala, India; or indoors versus outdoors are but a few. The amount of radon that emerges from the ground can be affected by the abundance of precursors in the radioactive decay chain, by frozen or waterlogged ground, by a variety of geomorphologies – as noted above, people have been flying aircraft over the ground detecting not only gamma radiation but also (to a degree) radon, since the 1950-60s. There is a lot known about the natural distribution of radon and gamma radiation and what is known is unlikely to agree with the graph that is shown.

    Yes, there are many reports on radon accumulation in homes with basements, but in general virtually all radon comes from emission from the ground (leaving mining and nuclear power aside). Thus, the ground flux is among the first determinants of dose. Whether radon gas ends up in a habitated basement or under the carpack cement of a mutilevel tower is a complexity that is fairly pointless to model because the scope for remediation is as limited as the movement of people.

    As to the graph that started this discussion, I am not about to comment further on it after saying (a) it is unlikely to be correct and (b) it is not wise to express it by country. As to whether it is indeed a correct representation, again I am not about to comment because I have not read the paper behind it, with its references, with its caveats (if any) and explanations of variance (not shown). I have mounted a minor hypothesis that is is not a helpful diagram and the scientific method would take me along an investigative path before I would be prepared to use or endorse it in any away.

    That’s the way conventional science works.

    That’s the way that Peter Lang works, insofar as he has more of an engineering background. I respect his work because of his deep experience with it and his heavy back-up of assertions with figures. Measured figures, not wishful figures.


  22. Geoff, would you agree that whether or not the WNA graph is correct, in its expression of Australian’s average radiation dose from radon, that this point is completely immaterial to the argument I’m making in this post? Indeed, even if the actual value is 5 times as much as this figure indicates, it would be immaterial — no, actually, it would make my point (with respect to Australia) even stronger, since it would then imply that that our natural radiation was even higher.

    The point I am making is that background radiation is many, many orders of magnitude higher than that produced by NPP. You have suggested that Australian’s exposure to radon may be substantially higher than the WNA figure. If it is, my argument remains unaltered and unaffected.


  23. Finrod/Barry #19/#20: Both of you are arguing that the finding can’t be due to radiation
    but the fact that a finding is inconsisent with current models of
    radiation and how it damages cells doesn’t make the finding go away. To do that you need
    to find a statistical blunder or explain the finding with an alternative mechanism.

    Which study? “Leukemia in young children living in the vicinity of German nuclear power plants”,
    I haven’t read the full study (no access), but have emailed the authors for a copy.


  24. I have read that study and it is a crock. I hope you have a sufficient background to evaluate it properly, but I suspect you don’t.

    Lets get something straight here. The study did not conclude that the nuclear power plants were the reason for the apparent increase in leukemia rates, and in fact the researchers went out of their way to stress that they could find any causal relationship with the nuclear power plants. But most importantly the study compared those living within five kilometers of nuclear plants to the general population. What it did not do was compare them to a demographically similar control group.

    These power plants were built in highly industrialized areas,the populated living areas around them are not the richest parts of Germany. These zone have many potential carcinogens for other activities, and soil contamination that goes back to the Industrial Revolution. Drawing any conclusion without controlling for these confounding variables, is scientifically suspect.


  25. #26: Excellent … like I said in #25, statistical blunders can make findings vanish.
    Those you describe shouldn’t have passed peer review, even at the funding
    stage. If you can send me the pdf (geoffrey.russell@gmail.com) I’d like
    to see it (I have majors in both pure and applied maths and spent
    a couple of decades evaluating research protocols on Animal Experimentation Ethics committees). If you haven’t already done so, then you might like to copy your
    criticisms of that study to On-Line Opinion.


  26. Barry Brook,

    Elsewhere I am reading the detail of a climate science paper that attempts to make an omnibus conclusion by stitching together a number of proxy studies by other authors. The paper is Darrell S. Kaufman, et al, et al, (Science 9/4/2009) and the discussion is at http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7005

    This paper deals marginally with radioactivity (use of isotope dating) but I mention it here because of its methodology. Several publications are borrowed, one in a form decidedly unintended by the original author (notably, the climate data were later flipped upside down before use). From what I have read, the methodology is incomplete and probably unacceptable to mainstream scientists.

    The point of my observations is that public statements, by blog or press release or publication, are stronger and more credible when the sources have been checked and verified. I posted here because that graph looked wrong in my experience. My posts here are not about the graph so much as procedural exactitude.

    Back to the thread, Helen Caldicott’s work is perhaps less extreme in conclusions than http://www.nonukes.org/w15cancr.htm where the author concludes that even the children of nuclear workers at Sellafield are affected by the radioactivity that their worker parents bring home. That is a measure of the height of hurdles that people favoring nuclear power face.

    For those with persistence, the 589 page book “The Apocalyptics” by Edith Efron 1984, ISBN 0-671-41743-6, is a model for the offering of science to the public. Not one of the several hundreds of references is from an industry source. All quotations are referenced, where possible verbatim to the authors. The book is credible because of the avoidance of hearsay.

    These comments are made not to criticise you, but to note that when people embark on a public profile exercise, there are precedents for acceptance that older people are wiser for and seek assurances about.

    Bruced at 21 seems to be on the same wavelength.


  27. I have ripped into this study on several occasions and in several forums. Here’s an example:

    “These results are not significant. Studies of an association between childhood leukemia and the proximity of reactors have been inconclusive.

    One 1991 study of 107 counties near 62 nuclear facilities by the American National Cancer Institute found that the childhood leukemia rate for the reported areas dropped slightly after the reactors started operating. Another report of the same study indicated that one childhood Leukemia cluster was associated with the Millstone Power Plant located in New London, Connecticut. Three of the studied facilities had significantly fewer leukemia cases than were expected. Windham County, Vermont, where the Vermont Yankee reactor is located was reported to have only 9% of expected childhood leukemia cases.

    Repeated studies failed to uncover an association between The Three Mile Island accident and childhood leukemia. Even more remarkable, studies have failed to uncover a relationship between exposure to radiation from Chernobyl and childhood leukemia.

    Two previous German studies showing the same thing were shown to be invalid, so of course they are going to try again. Nothing coming out of that coal controlled government can be trusted, they are out to destroy the nuclear sector in that country and they will stoop at nothing to get the job done.


  28. Geoff, I’m familiar enough with correlative statistical models from my own work to assert this:

    I’m orders of magnitude more secure with the notion that our understanding of the physics of radiation is correct, than with the notion that a ‘statistically significant’ finding based on a linear model with small sample size and only some control variables included is correct (which, if this was the case, would overturn the aforementioned physics). In short, to me, it fails the ‘smell’ test.


  29. DV82XL,

    But most importantly the study compared those living within five kilometers of nuclear plants to the general population. What it did not do was compare them to a demographically similar control group.

    Might I put it this way –
    while they checked for known carcinogens, they didn’t check for known risk factors.
    Which must be done since not all risk factors are fully reducible to known carcinogens.

    –would that be a correct re-statement, or perhaps a valid generalization, of what you said?

    And with methodology that much lacking, should that study even have been published?
    They effectively evaluated “proximity to a nuclear power plant” as a “risk factor”, while not correcting for other risk factors!


  30. Alexei – not really a good way to restate what I said. Basically they did not have good controls, and no they did not do the sort of work that would have identified all known carcinogens in the areas in question.

    Look, this is not science it is politics. Someone is funded to do a very poorly designed study that shows some result even if it is below the error bars, and cover their asses by stating that they have actually come to no conclusion. The press picks up on it and blows it out of proportion.

    Note that almost all the studies done that attempt to establish a health-link with nuclear facilities, have been done in countries that depend on coal and gas for most of their electrical generation. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has been running an on going study of the health of population around Canada’s power reactors that has been on going for thirty-five years. It has found absolutely nothing despite having the power of Stats Canada (the census) to collect data at their disposal and an antinuclear bias in the commission’s make up.

    The depressing thing is that this sort of thing is becoming endemic in any situation where politics and science meet. There is a huge body of similar bits of nonsense out there on several other subjects, most notably concerning CAM and similar fields.


  31. Thanks DV82XL.

    OK, so they didn’t even properly cover known carcinogens. But had they done so, would there still be a problem?
    Was I wrong to think that
    not all [known] risk factors are fully reducible to known carcinogens.
    — ?

    At least there’s an example of the opposite: fried chicken, that should have been a risk factor because of all the carcinogens, isn’t a risk factor. (Geoff Russell in #6)


  32. Alexei – It is not that simple. Experimental design has to try and take into account as much as possible to avoid confounding variables. Human populations unlike dice, for example, have very complex behavior, so in fact any study is going to have internal error and uncontrolled variables – the trick is to design such that these effects are minimized.

    Cohort and case-control methodologies are the main tools for analytical epidemiological research. Other important types of epidemiological studies (mainly for generating hypotheses) include cross-sectional and ecological, and correlation studies. The conclusions that can be drawn from findings of these latter types are, however, much weaker compared to those of cohort and case-control studies.

    All of these studies that purport to show a relation to nuclear facilities have been simple correlation studies, and they have not been very well done. The reason they can get away with this is that as stated above, correlation studies utility is in forming hypotheses, not drawing conclusions. The fact remains that when these hypotheses are revisited with properly controlled, long-baseline longitudinal studies, most of the time these initial correlations vanish. This has been the case with all of the so called clusters of health issues associated with nuclear plants. When they are looked at with the proper tools there is nothing to see.

    The problem is, as I implied before, the popular media takes simple correlation studies reports the hypothesis as a firm conclusion, once that happens the anti(whatevers) treat it like it was a Law of Nature carved in stone.

    Like I said it’s politics not science.


  33. DV82XL at 34.

    That is very well stated. Even the shape of the low radiation dose response for humans is argued, between hormesis at one extreme and zero dose linear effect at the other, so correlations can have only so much value because they need a subjective input. Climate science is rather overflowing with subjective inputs, which has lead to this very sad statement in Melbourne’s “Age” last week:

    “There is not, now, much value in arguing about the science of climate change. Even if it’s wrong, enough people now believe it that it may as well be right.”

    Maybe this quote will help explain my earlier blog themes here.


  34. Thanks DV82XL,

    they can get away with this… correlation studies utility is in forming hypotheses, not drawing conclusions.

    So it isn’t even supposed to have to be properly done… Great! I can look for a correlation between eating at McDonalds and, say, bulimia. I might find one, ESPECIALLY if I do not correct for the “junk food” risk factor, or as you’d call it, confounding variable.

    My results therefore appear to apply McDonalds but not necessarily to other fast food chains.
    My study is published. McDonalds commissions me to do another of the same kind, on Burger King and others.
    Science blossoms.

    A pity though you can’t answer me about risk factors versus cancerogens.


  35. Alexei – 36.

    An experimental scientist friend tells me that a lot of studies done by other scientists are poorly done. Not everyone is great at experimental design and the stuff will get published somewhere.


  36. Oops. That should read (without blockquote):

    “… and this subsequently generated a fair amount of heated discussion.”

    Ha ha!. A ‘heated discussion’ as part of a debate about nuclear energy. Clever.


  37. Alexei – you asked if all [known] risk factors [I assume for cancer] are fully reducible to known carcinogens.I cannot answer that because I am not an oncologist or an epidemiologist and thus cannot comment on this subject. I was not trying to evade you or the question.

    Also please don’t think that correlation studies should not be properly done: simple doesn’t imply sloppy. However they are easy to misuse as your excellent example demonstrates.

    Geoff – Unfortunately more often than anyone would like pay packets depend on the results your patron expects, science be damned. You can look in the conclusions of the papers that are written under that sort of pressuer for the signal-words that indicate that the researchers are just paying the bills.

    “…results seem to suggest that further study is warranted…” “…while results are inconclusive a possible mechanism for a link was uncovered that should be explored…” All attempts to make soup from stones to keep the funding alive.


  38. DV82XL#26: The author of “Leukemia in young children living in the vicinity of German nuclear power plants” has sent me a copy of the study, and while I wouldn’t describe its controls
    as perfect, it definitely isn’t the crock you describe. It didn’t compare leukemia
    rates with the general population but with a control group from within the area
    around the plant (about a 40k radius) and which matched the cases in age and sex.
    I would have preferred socioeconomic matching also, but your crique was
    overly harsh.


  39. Re 43 Perps

    And you conclude precisely what?

    For the record, I have never met Jennifer Marohasy. I have occasionally posted on her blog. Correct me if I am wrong, but nothing I have written there has been shown to be significantly wrong. The first entry you find on your Google search goes back to March 2006 and it was one of the first local pieces to start to lift the skirt on the bad science that now troubles the climate science sector. At first people did not believe the accusations I made, but many certainly do now. I repeat last week’s “Age” statement, with which I have disagreed since the mid 70s.

    “There is not, now, much value in arguing about the science of climate change. Even if it’s wrong, enough people now believe it that it may as well be right.”

    Think of the implications for scientific integrity. Don’t waste time shooting this messenger.

    Past messengers include Edith Efron and “The Apocalyptics”, as mentioned. She wrote about the false accusation that man-made chemicals were producing a cancer epidemic – it has not happened; and Petr Beckmann “The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear” of Jan 1976 (whose fundamental physics and economics is still pretty relevant). I’d regard these as required reading unless you are into re-inventing the wheel. The methodology of good science has been said before. It does not change much with time.


  40. In order to address your challenge in the third paragraph of your latest posting, it would help to know some more how the radiation exposure figure given in the second paragraph was derived? Was it an average taken over a period of time under normal operating conditions? Or was it done some other way? Thanks


  41. Barry:
    (to Geoff — presumably Russell)
    I’m orders of magnitude more secure with the notion that our understanding of the physics of radiation is correct, than with the notion that a ’statistically significant’ finding based on a linear model with small sample size and only some control variables included is correct

    Certainly so.
    But, the study’s being correct doesn’t AT ALL mean that our understanding of radiation is wrong.

    Radiation is merely one of zillions of possible causal chains (where plants cause cancers) on top of zillion-zillions non-causal chains (cancers correlate with plant sites without being created by plants.)

    You will agree, I expect, that whatever it is that is happening, if new cancers are being created and the construction or operation of nuclear plants is the cause, then
    ***those cancers must be charged to those plants’ bottom line.***

    Geoff Russell,
    That was your point to score, hopefully you don’t mind my interference.


  42. Geoff Russell – The study is garbage. As I said it is a correlation study without proper controls and it draws no conclusions of scientific value, nor does it pretend to. If you cannot see that it has no value, and that it is poorly designed, nothing I am going to say will convince you, because you have decided to take a political stand on the issue.

    As I said these studies are not science, they are just propaganda tools to manipulate the ignorant. I am not numbered among those, and nether I suspect are you. If you want to claim to see this as a legitimate study, you are doing so because it fits some preconception, or it supports some other contentions you are making elsewhere. But we both know the study isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.


  43. Alexei — of course, but if it is not radiation (this is ALWAYS what is implied by Caldicott et al), then what mysterious miasma is it, something that is connected to NPP and nothing else?

    Allan McKay — the time frame is irrelevant because the amount is so tiny. Let’s say, in the extreme, the whole dose of radiation got released once every 50 years, and then there was nothing for the other 49 years. That would still be a mere 0.01 mSv in that pulse, which is about 1/300 of yearly background radiation (and then 1/infinity for the other 49 years).


  44. Critically though it has never been established that there is a linear dose-response for cancer to begin with.

    LNT asserts that there is no threshold of exposure below which there is no adverse impact. In practice this means that if a particular dose of radiation is found to produce one extra case of cancer in every thousand people exposed, the LNT predicts that one thousandth of this dose will produce one extra case in every million people so exposed, and that one millionth of this dose will produce one extra case in every billion people exposed, and so on with no safe limit except zero. Thus it is claimed that radiation’s carcinogenic effects should be considered to be proportional to the dose an individual receives, regardless of how small that dose is.

    The evidence against the linear model and for radiation hormesis has been solid as a rock for 40 years. Yet the LNT model prevails. Why? Follow the money and the politics. The health-physics community is divided, roughly along the lines of who puts money before principles. There have been some amazingly bitter fights within the Health Physics Society.

    The LNT model was first considered in the 1940s purely on the theoretical grounds that a single hit by ionizing radiation on a single cell could cause chromosome damage that could cause a mutation or cancer without any hard evidence to support that contention. The justification for using the LNT model was that too many test animals or too much time would be needed to evaluate chronic dose rates. If the LNT model is correct, there is no “no observed adverse effect level” (NOAEL) for regulators to observe, thus officials responsible for public health can claim justification in calling for minimization of exposures to ionizing radiation. Note that this is tantamount to saying that avoiding sunlight is justified on the grounds that nobody will get sunburns in the dark. Added to this, during the Cold War a number of people promoted the LNT model in an attempt to discourage nearly all uses of nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and used it as leverage in their campaigns.

    As a result the radiophobes and the politicians took a handy but false rule of thumb and enshrined it in law and regulation. The second problem, related, is that this results in a lot of stupid but expensive procedures where people and vendors can make a lot of money thus entrenching this false standard through special interests.

    But even sunlight, (also in fact a form of radiation,) can kill with too much exposure, conversely not enough will harm a human as well. Surprisingly a number of scientist believe, that what is true of sunlight, may be true of other forms of radiation. They claim that low-dose radiation has been shown to enhance biological responses for immune systems, enzymatic repair, physiological functions and help prevent the onset of cancer. This effect known as radiation hormesis: a moderate overcompensation to a disruption in homeostasis caused by the radiation; it is a stimulus to the repair mechanisms that cope with non-radiation damage as well, so that the overall effect is a health benefit. Many studies have been done that support this view.

    There are studies that show populations living in areas of high natural radiation show a marked decrease in the cancers reported, and occupational studies on nuclear industry workers, where they had good radiation dosimetry and records, found that cancer mortality was statistically significantly lower among nuclear workers than among non-nuclear workers.

    Frankly the bulk of these studies are as useless as those that show slight correlation in the other direction, and for the many of the same reasons that I have outlined above. The point being here that in the absence of properly controlled, long-baseline longitudinal studies, these are all conjecture at best. The on going long term studies that have been done by various national regulators of nuclear matters have found absolutely nothing, although these too are roundly discounted as being contaminated by political bias.

    However, again those with proper training can evaluate those too, and in my opinion they are some of the best – and they show nothing for low dose situations.


  45. DV82XL#48: The reason you gave for the study being garbage was factually incorrect. I assure
    you I’ve seen plenty of junk studies, but this isn’t one of them. It’s definitely not
    perfect, but I don’t buy your conspiracy theories about it either.

    I also got a copy from its author of the meta-analysis mentioned by Caldicott: “Meta-analysis of standardized incidence and mortality rates of childhood leukemia in proximity to nuclear facilities.”. The forest plots are all over the shop, even if the formal result shows a slight
    increase in cancers. Altogether unconvincing given the difficulty of controlling for
    confounding in the component studies … ie., plenty of studies on either side of
    the “no effect” line.

    Barry+Alexei: I have no idea what causes childhood leukemia but wikipedia has references
    to an IARC study
    which considered that magnetic fields might be a cause and are associated with electric
    power plants in general. So again, it would be necessary to compare any findings around
    nuclear plants with findings around a coal plant. But the IARC report is, apparently,
    far from conclusive.


  46. Re DV82XL at 50

    This is again very much in line with my understanding, with a hint at my #35.

    The way in which the science was “adjusted” is covered in the early references I gave.

    Even earlier, though I cannot find the primary reference now because my library is much slimmer, there was a conference at Texas A&M about mid 1970 where the history of the radon-rich health spas at Bad Gastein, Austria was summarised. Medical staff had kept records of patrons and resident staff since before 1900, before Mme Curie discovered radium – the baths had already been used for centuries. The radon levels can be measured again today if you doubt them. Typically, a patron received a radiation dosage of 230 mrem (2.3 mSv) per year, about double the average human natural body exposure in mSv. Some staff went many times higher. One principal finding was that no significant heath detriment was discovered over many decades of exposure far higher than most countries allow now. There is no need to speculate if there were “cures”.

    An answer to the Caldicott speculation should need to answer the lack of adverse health affects at Bad Gastein.

    Now to the graph in the header:
    See http://www.solarstorms.org/WorldNuclear.html

    which is the secondary source of the graph in the header dated March 2004, which seems to have been lifted from another source since the text is incompatible with the graph to a fair degree.

    The Main Sources are given as the Uranium Information Centre (2002) Radiation and Life (Searches give Error 404); and
    NRPB Radiation Protection Bulletin # 167, July 1995, pp 13-16 .
    I have been unable to find the author of the graph nor any explanation of its construction. It appears to predate the massive collection of airborne gamma data that now covers much of many countries.

    In passing, in the U-238 decay chain (and there are others), most gamma instruments mainly measure isotopes later than Rn-222; so, roughly speaking, a location low in Rn-222 is more likely to give a low gamma signal. That is one source of disquiet in the said graph.


  47. Geoff Russell – I am convinced that you want to find a link and are giving more weight to a very poor study, than to major ones that find no effect. If you think that any German study involving nuclear energy is not full of political bias, you are obviously unaware of the situation there.

    I stand by my contention that the paper in question is garbage. True memory did not serve me well in pointing out the particulars of its flaws accurately, but its controls are pitifully inadequate for the conclusions they are drawing.

    Here is a partial list of studies that have found nothing. You will note that in size and time frame they are much more complete than the small studies that have found links to cancer and the nuclear industry.

    Canadian Study. A study released in 1991 by the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, commissioned by Canada’s Atomic Energy Control Board, found no statistically significant increase in leukemia among children born to mothers living near five nuclear sites in the Province of Ontario.

    Researchers examined data for 1,894 children, aged 14 years or younger, who died from leukemia between 1950 and 1987 and who lived within 15 miles of five Canadian nuclear facilities. The facilities were Ontario Power Generation’s Pickering and Bruce Power’s Bruce nuclear power plants, the Elliot Lake uranium mines and mills, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s Chalk River nuclear laboratories, and a former 20-megawatt nuclear station at Rolphton. Near the Chalk River laboratories, childhood leukemia was one-third of the expected rate. Near the Pickering power station, there were 33 childhood leukemia deaths between 1971 and 1987, more than the 25 statistically expected. However, the rate also was elevated during the 20 years before the station entered service.

    American Studies. In September 1990, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health announced that a large-scale study found no increased incidence of cancer mortality for people living near 62 nuclear installations in the United States. The research, which evaluated mortality from 16 types of cancer, showed no increase in the incidence of childhood leukemia mortality in the study of surrounding counties after start-up of the nuclear facilities. The NCI surveyed 900,000 cancer deaths in counties near nuclear facilities that had operated for at least five years prior to the start of the study—the minimum time considered sufficient for related health effects to appear.

    West Valley Study. A study by doctors at the University of Buffalo Medical School found no increase in cancer incidence among people living in seven towns near a former nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at West Valley in western New York. In fact, the doctors observed a slight reduction in cancer incidence. The study covered 1973 to 1983.

    Pennsylvania Department of Health Studies. Two studies issued in 1991 by the Pennsylvania State Department of Health show no rise in cancer incidence among people living near the Three Mile Island nuclear plant. One study involved 31,000 people living within a five-mile radius of the plant. While 943 cases of cancer had been expected to have occurred among the group from 1982 to 1989, only 813 were recorded, the study showed.

    The second study involved 5,292 women of childbearing age living within a 10-mile radius of the plant. Among this group, 36 cases of cancer had been expected; 35 were recorded. The state study found no association between radiation and cancer and no association between psychological stress and cancer.

    TMI Health Fund Study. A study by researchers at Columbia University, released in 1990, found no association between the release of radiation during the 1979 Three Mile Island accident and leukemia, or childhood cancer in general. The study requested by public stakeholder groups near the plant and funded by the Three Mile Island Public Health Fund examined cancer incidence among 159,684 people living within 10 miles of the plant.

    British Studies. A study by the U.K. Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) showed no rise in cancer near nuclear installations in England and Wales—either for young persons or adults—even when focusing on types of cancer particularly associated with exposure to ionizing radiation, such as leukemia, bone cancer and multiple myeloma.

    Investigators analyzed 8 million separate occurrences of cancer from 1959 to 1980, taking into account the distances from nuclear facilities. A follow-up analysis of the OPCS data by Sir Richard Doll of Oxford University confirmed all of the initial findings,

    French Study. A study by two French researchers—reported in the Oct. 25, 1990, issue of Nature—found no increase in childhood leukemia near six nuclear installations in France between 1968 and 1987. The facilities included four nuclear power plants and the nuclear fuel reprocessing plants at La Hague and Marcoule.

    Numerous other studies done since these have failed to support a radiation-cancer link.

    On the general issue of risks from low-level exposure, there have been over a dozen studies of nuclear workers done by several entities, including the trade unions that represent these workers and in all of them the results were found not to be significantly different from zero. Most importantly, these studies were able to correlate actual exposures of the subjects and incorporate data from known incidents in the various plants.

    While it is true that workers involved with underground mining in higher radon concentrated areas did show some increase, it was only from populations that had worked under the less stringent health and safety regimes of the past that showed some links, but again the number of other possible sources from mining practices in those times makes drawing any real conclusion impossible.

    The fact remains that due to the power of radiophobia, the reports that can be misinterpreted to show a possible link get wide and uncritical coverage in the press. And to suggest that the antinuclear movement does not misappropriate. misrepresent and misconstrue these studies for their own political ends is naïve to the extreme.


  48. Pingback: Photomaniacal » Blog Archive » Barry Brooks (and Co.) on Dr. Caldicott’s Latest Claims on Radiation From Nuclear Plants

  49. DV82XL: I don’t believe ad-hominem attacks on researchers and citing political bias are the way to
    deal with Caldicott’s scare mongering. Your list of studies supports my statement about
    the forest plots in the meta analysis. The data is indeed all over the place, which is
    a good argument against attributing causality to any particular finding … like the German
    one. That’s not the same as calling those researchers incompetent or coal industry lackeys.
    I’m happy to call Caldicott a scare mongerer because she used the meta-analysis to mislead
    when the study makes a pretty clear case that causality by radiation is unlikely … a conclusion
    also supported by the lack of plausible mechanism.


  50. Geoff Russell – I would be kidding myself if I refused to see the decline in the quality and indeed the ethics of certain fields in the research community in the forty years I have been following these things.

    Work that no one in my generation would have tried to float as a term project in high school, papers that hardly have 2500 words but eight authors on the results of a survey asking patients to self-report on how they feel living near power lines, and similar abuses finding publication, make me very wary of motivations. The shear volumes of garbage on the subjects of depleted uranium, and non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation that I have had to wade through on two separate occasions professionally was staggering, and the implications could not be ignored.

    The Green Party in Europe, and in particular Germany, have funded more than their share of this sort of drivel, and all of it not surprisingly supporting various elements of the Green platform. Science has become terribly politicized as anyone aware of the climate debate can attest to. It is unfortunate but it is part of what we must deal with when evaluating science reportage. To think otherwise is to accept too large a source of potential error.

    If I have gotten too cynical in my old age, it is because I have seen too much by now to give anyone the benefit of doubt when it come to matters like this.


  51. There is a lot of controversy about the link between radiation and cancer. One is about the evidence that there is a linear relationship between radiation and cancer. There is quite possibly a threshold above which there is a relationship. People living in areas exposed to higher than average radiation often have LOWER rates of cancer. There is something called the “hormesis effect” which postulates that low doses of radiation actually protect you from cancer.



  52. By in large Helen Caldicott is a spent force. She is now only milking the last few drops of value out of her ‘installed base’ of followers and sycophants – she is not gathering more support or growing her brand anymore.

    Many in the antinuclear movement will say privately that she has become less of an asset to the cause, and a bit of an embarrassment because younger audiences in particular are not that receptive to her stridently doctrinaire style. They are looking for a discussion, not being harangued by their grandmother. In fact invitations to her for speaking engagement have fallen off a good deal, and she has been getting lukewarm receptions when she is presenting.

    Soon we can start to sing ‘Ding, dong the witch is dead’ over Dr.Caldicott’s public persona.


  53. With respect to hormesis, here is an interesting excerpt from William Tucker’s 2008 book “Terrestrial Energy” (p315 — first page of Chapter 22, “Radiation”):

    In the early 1980s, a Taiwan steel company accidentally mixed a quantity of highly radioactive cobalt-60 into a commercial batch. The steel was then used in the construction of 1,700 apartments. As a result, people living in these buildings were subject to background radiation some 7,000 times the amount that would come from living next door to a nuclear reactor. When dismayed officials discovered this enormous error 15 years later, they surveyed past and present apartment dwellers, expecting to find an epidemic of cancer. Normal incidence would have predicted 160 cancers among the 10,000 residents. To their astonishment, the researchers discovered only five cases of cancer — a 97 percent reduction from the anticipated amount. The findings were published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons in 2004. As one researcher phrased it, exposure to high levels of background radiation had apparently bestowed upon residents “an effective immunity from cancer”.

    The journal reference is here (with link to free full text PDF):
    W.L. Chen et al (2004) Is chronic radiation an effective prophylaxis against cancer? Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 9: 6-10.


  54. Barry Brook – Thanks for your response, but unfortunately you haven’t really answered my question. It would be useful to know (to many other readers as well)how the figure of 0.0002 milliSieverts was arrived at. If you have to supply a reference to support your view, that’s fine, but what you have included suggests even that low amount may not be released as an average figure. Surely in this age of considerable refinement in measurements a better picture can be obtainable in understanding such a basic concept. Would that amount be a minimum, maximum or an average? The time element involved in the dose certainly seemed to be important in the New York Times article about the TMI release (28 March 1979 – still online). Thanks


  55. Allan, the 0.0002 mSv figure comes from pg 76 of the 2006 Switkowski review, which is sourced from a United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) review paper (read it here). These figures are verified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and are the product of systematic monitoring of ambient emissions. Using a linear no-threshold model, this would result in 0.018 fatalities per million person years (pg 83, Switkowski report).


    Here is a brief summary from a physicians FAQ:

    “Q: How is radiation measured around nuclear plants? What do the results tell us?
    A: Radiation in the environment of nuclear power plants is generally measured by examining the pathways of human exposure to effluent releases. Effluent releases are possible by both the air and water pathways. Gamma-emitting fission products in air can be measured directly using pressurized ion chambers and thermoluminescent dosimeters. Airborne fission products can also be detected using high-volume particulate samplers. Airborne fission product releases which may accumulate on the ground can be of concern if there is a pathway to the human food chain. Therefore, samples are taken of food products such as garden vegetables. Airborne radioactive iodine could also accumulate on pasture grasses, so milk sampling is also conducted.

    Nuclear power plants which are on bodies of water are required to check for radioactivity in all nearby lakes, ponds, and streams. Water samples are also taken from the effluent stream of the plant. Other water samples are taken from public water supplies close by. Since bioaccumulation can occur in fish, samples of representative species are caught and analyzed as well. Although not a human pathway, bottom sediments can be a sensitive indicator of releases into water. The vast majority of the measurements taken serve to document natural background radiation. Background radiation, which is never zero, should be measured and documented carefully so that if there is ever a significant release from a nuclear power plant, its effects can be distinguished from background. Unfortunately, this kind of information was not readily available during the event at Three Mile Island in 1979.

    The amount of radioactivity that power plants are allowed to release is strictly controlled by the utility and heavily regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); therefore it is quite rare to measure anything above background in the environment. Additional information and general guidance on setting up an environmental monitoring program can be found in NRC’s Regulatory Guide 4.1 “Programs for Monitoring Radioactivity in the Environs of Nuclear Power Plants.”


  56. Barry Brook @ #62

    Excellent response, thank you.

    There is probably no aggregated figure counting the number of people and man-years spent in nuclear radiation safety measurement, monitoring, and improvement; but the effort is enormous, as it should be for prudence and for the concerns of one person for another.


  57. Geoff Sherrington – strange you should say that.

    In a 1978 paper for Science, J. P. McBride and a few others at Oak Ridge looked at the uranium and thorium content of fly ash from coal-fired power plants in Tennessee and Alabama. To answer the question of just how harmful leaching could be, the scientists estimated radiation exposure around the coal plants and compared it with exposure levels around boiling-water reactor and pressurized-water nuclear power plants.

    The result: estimated radiation doses ingested by people living near the coal plants were equal to or higher than doses for people living around the nuclear facilities. At one extreme, the scientists estimated fly ash radiation in individuals’ bones at around 18 millirems a year. Doses for the two nuclear plants, by contrast, ranged from between three and six millirems for the same period. And when all food was grown in the area, radiation doses were 50 to 200 percent higher around the coal plants.

    The paper estimated that individuals living near coal-fired installations are exposed to a maximum of 1.9 millirems of fly ash radiation yearly. To put these numbers in perspective, the average person encounters 360 millirems a year from background radiation.

    For sure the health risks from radiation in coal by-products are low. Other risks, like being hit by lightning, are three or four times greater than radiation-induced health effects from coal plants. Certainly too other products of coal power, like emissions of acid rain–producing sulfur dioxide and smog-forming nitrous oxide, pose greater health risks than radiation. Nevertheless while the nuclear industry is expected to be anal about even small losses of containment, coal gets a free ride.


  58. Barry,
    I was wondering if you could tell me approximately what the additional exposure to radiation (in millisieverts) would be for people living near uranium tailings from a mine site (at Olympic Dam for example). I don’t think many people actually live significantly close to uranium tailings (in Australia anyway), but hypothetically speaking. Or perhaps even increased radiation exposure for people living as far away as Roxby Downs. I’ve tried searching for these figures, but have been unsuccessful.
    Uranium tailings are obviously not a problem with Gen IV, but is certainly still seen as an issue for many when considering Gen III, as the mining must continue…


  59. Geoff Sherrington @ 45
    I conclude you are a troll.
    As the majority of us prefer to obtain our information from credible scientists and scientific organisations, the debate regarding the science of CC/AGW is over. Time to move on to more pressing problems.
    This blog, sensibly, attempts to find workable solutions to the situation.
    Therefore I suggest you return to your favoured blogs (I see you visit Andrew Bolt frequently too)where you will find like-minded pseudo-sceptics.


  60. DV82XL at 64

    Since my company at times owned coal mines and power stations and uranium mines, we did not spend much time comparing and contrasting. The properties of coal are variable, with U contents ranging over an order of magnitude or more. So a comparison needs to be put into context for the parameters studied. Rather, our emphasis was on ensuring high safety standards with whatever we worked with.

    Re TeeKay at 65

    If I could assist Barry in answering the question about the safety of tailings, it is one of containment. Tailings are a bit like sharks. If you never want to bitten, you do not go in the sea. If you keep a few hundred m away, you will not have your background natural dose raised appreciably.

    The alpha and beta radiation from solid tails is harmless if you keep more than a few meters away. If you wish to do mathematics of different scenarios for gamma radiation, you might try
    If this is too mathematical, hopefully Barry will provide more general information.

    It would make it easier to answer your question if you stated why you asked it. It’s a large topic to cover and you interest might be in a few smaller parts.


  61. Geoff Sherrington – My question was why is it a violation of a nuclear power plant’s license to have a coal fire inside the fence because of the level of released radioisotopes. In other words a coal fueled power station releases more radiation into the environment than a nuclear fueled on, yet the radiophobes are worried about the latter and not the former.


  62. Geoff @ 69

    I ask about the radioactivity of tailings because the mining aspect of the nuclear cycle is being used increasingly as an argument against nuclear energy by many anti-nuclear campaigners.

    Jim Green from Friends of the Earth is a good example – run out of (debunked) arguments against the electricity generating part of the cycle, turn to the mining aspect. The Greens have been doing more or less the same.

    I’ve heard everything from “the tailings are as radioactive as coffee” to “strong enough to be considered medium-level waste”. None of these claims referenced.

    I had a look at web site you recommended, but without the data I have no numbers to plug in. Thanks though, I’ve bookmarked the page and might play around with it when I find some more info on the matter.


  63. It would appear people can only worry about one issue at a time.

    Promoting a plutonium-based economy – based on the most toxic element known – is no answer to the growing menace of global warming.

    A few kilograms of plutonium scattered over densely populated areas, or even large regions, would ensue in a widespread epidemic of cancer. History tells the extreme fallibility of humans virtually guarantees destructive agents of this type will end up being used in conflicts.

    Time and again “peaceful” nuclear programs have been translated to N-weapon programs around the world.

    An expanded plutonium economy, involving uranium mining and transport networks, greatly increases the risks of accident or theft.

    Differences between the climate impasse and the nuclear menace:

    (1) At >1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels (accounting for the masking effects of sulphur aerosols and for albedo loss of melting cryosphere), global warming being a reality likely beyond human control.

    (2) The proliferation of nuclear facilities, peaceful or otherwise, exponentially increases the probability of nuclear accidents and nuclear terror, the worst effects of which could evenprecede the worst effects of global warming.

    (3) In terms of the scale and duration of effects, global warming above 2 degrees and nuclear proliferation lead to almost equally unaceptable consequences for durations ranging from milleania (greenhouse effects) to tens of thousands of years (plutonium – Pu-239, has a half life of 24,360 years).

    (4) No reason has been given why truly safe technologies, such as solar/thermal, geothermal/dry rocks, wind. tide etc. should not be preferred to plutonium-based economies. Arguments based on the unsatiable economic growth overlook the fact that such open ended ‘Growth Fetish’ in itself guarantees the demise of civilization.

    (4) That the same powers which promote the use of the atmosphere as an open sewer for carbon gases equally promote the proliferation of plutonium, cauncels caution.

    A ‘Nuclear Winter’ is in no way preferable to a ‘Greenhouse Summer’


  64. Andrew, the above is so wrong, on just about every single point, that I just haven’t got the energy to argue it all. The misrepresentation of this matter is simply breathtaking. Perhaps someone else will muster the willpower.

    Briefly, point 1 = wrong (we can solve multiple problems simultaneously), 2 = wrong (toxic compared to what?), 3 = wrong (how, and what do you mean by ‘epidemic’?), 4 = wrong (when has it ever happened?), 5 = wrong (IFRs and LFTRs will nearly halt movement of Pu), 6 = unrelated to nuclear, 7 = wrong (and do you know what the word exponential even means?), 8 = I can’t even parse this nonsense, 9 = wrong (read this damned blog), 10 = wrong (or do you think I’m promoting the same?), 11 = how is this relevant?

    Well, what a bitterly disappointing tirade, especially given that it comes from someone whom I formerly had a lot of respect for (including hosting many of your guest posts on this very blog).


  65. Further note

    From point of view of natural history, whereas episodes of global warming (arising from solar forcing, volcanic or asteroid events, or from methane emission) are known to have resulted in mass extinction of species, global dissemination of Plutonium may lead to unprecedented consequences on a yet higher order of magnitude …


  66. I’m guessing/hoping that Andrew has been too busy to follow all the
    energy based postings on this blog and hasn’t read Tom Blees. I would
    desperately love to believe that renewables were enough, but remain
    utterly unconvinced. But I’m happy to maintain respect for
    Andrew, despite thinking he’s wrong. Hell, I disagree with everybody
    on something or other, so I’d end up not respecting anybody if agreement
    were a precondition :)


  67. Andrew, that interjection is simply gauche in its ignorance of the discussion that has occurred here and developed over the last 12 months or so, indeed in the period in which you have contributed articles, so one would have presumed you were paying attention.

    The way you use scare words like ‘Plutonium economy’, and the capitalization, and the poor spelling, just reads like so much semi literate late night denialist rant.

    It is indeed the contention by many here that a ‘plutonium economy’, as you call it, is the answer to the problem of global warming. Unlike your embarrassing spray, it has been substantially argued and developed through literally thousands of comments on this blog. It is indeed the inconvenient solution.

    No reason has been given why truly safe technologies, such as solar/thermal, geothermal/dry rocks, wind. tide etc. should not be preferred to plutonium-based economies.

    Where have you been? There has just been the most intense debate on a series of articles by Peter Lang that comprehensively argue precisely that point. We have the posts

    “Does wind power reduce carbon emissions?” (166 comments)
    “Solar power realities – supply-demand, storage and costs” (438 comments)
    “Solar thermal questions” (101 comments)
    “Solar realities and transmission costs – addendum” (276 comments)

    Thats just the recent material. Track back to find many other articles on this topic, with equally well subscribed discussions.

    You appear to be saying nuclear power poses an equal threat to global warming because the duration of climate effects is, according to you, similar to the decay half life of plutonium. This is such a wrongheaded argument its breathtaking.

    That the same powers which promote the use of the atmosphere as an open sewer for carbon gases equally promote the proliferation of plutonium, cauncels caution.

    What on earth are you talking about? You appear to have conflated two different bogeymen. The fossil fuel interests (those promoting the open sewer approach) are economically directly opposed to the nuclear lobby. These two are direct competitors, they do not equally promote plutonium proliferation scare words. On the other hand, it is those who are directly opposed to the atmosphere-as-an-open-sewer are promoting nuclear power, as, arguably, the only feasible solution.

    Your comments are breathtakingly ignorant, of both the actual issues and of the discussion here. You’ve basically just walked into an intelligent conversation and dropped your pants. No doubt others will start to point out your shortcomings.


  68. Response to David Walter and Finrod (comments #78, #79):

    Expressions such as “assertions” and “disingenious nonsense” hardly constitute technical or logical arguments.

    In my comment #77, I wrote I will be happy to elaborate on technical points regarding the dangers posed by a global plutonium-based economy, a principal point being the consequences of dissemination of the toxic plutonium (Pu-239 half life 24,360 years) in the environment, in particular when inhaled.


  69. Apparently this thread has been hijacked by a demagogue who is just playing to the cheap seats, no doubt becase he has learned that this post has been linked to by other sites and thinks he has an audience.

    I have better things to do with my time than engage in a troll-abatement exercise. It was a good discussion while it lasted – see you all next time.



  70. I wonder if fly ash from coal burning gets two bites at the cherry for increasing background radiation
    In the US about 43% is recycled in uses such as cement production. It contains 10-30 ppm uranium and coals may contain up to 10% of inert materials. At times we will all be centimetres away from structures partly made from fly ash.

    I gather it is not currently economic to mine fly ash dumps for valuable elements. However tailings dumps at places like Olympic Dam contain rare earth elements and thorium which could one day be extracted.


  71. Time and again “peaceful” nuclear programs have been translated to N-weapon programs around the world.

    That’s really not true. Sweden, France are two examples.

    In fact what really happens is that people use the pretext of nuclear energy and lie about the real reasons which is to obtain weapons.


  72. I’d like to think the person posting here as “Andrew Glikson” is some mischief-making spoofer and not the one who signed that document from Hansen alongside Barry and others declaring that nuclear power was a matter for individual states to determine.

    He has made a very positive contribution to the discussion on AGW and in a tone sharply at odds with what has been presented here in his name.


  73. For Barry Brook

    While I admire the way in which you have approached this blog and given good access to contributors, I’ll thank you for hearing me, bid you cheerio and wish you well with the future. Thank you.

    It is not a hobby choice to read the words of dogma-driven young smarties surfing Wiki, more intent on protesting than on listening to those with experience to contribute. Better things avail.

    My preference is for sites where people like DV82XL and Peter Lang and the like are in the majority, each hoping to be able to gain new references and new angles from each other to improve their knowledge bases.

    Like them, I have an innate responsibility to help educate genuine learners with open minds, but it is no longer fun to confront the closed mind. This applies from the Prime Minister down.


  74. @ TeeKay, #65:

    The thing about tailings from a uranium mine is that they do not contain anything that isn’t naturally present in the Earth at that site.

    Sure, tailings can contain, say, radium-226, and the other daughter products in the uranium decay series, but it’s exactly the same radium-226 which is naturally present in the uranium-bearing rock, in exactly the same quantity.

    The amount of radium-226 or airborne radon-222 in the environment surrounding uranium-rich geology is likely to be higher than the background in an environment without significant uranium mineralization. The radon naturally diffuses up out of the ground where uranium is present. However, I remain to be convinced that simply digging up the uranium-bearing ore increases human exposure to radioactivity from those daughter products above the natural background.

    Over a very long period of time, mining uranium will decrease the natural background dose of ionising radiation to which people are potentially exposed due to things like radon in the environment, since you’re removing the uranium which will ultimately decay into radon. However, this effect takes a very long time to show up, since the ingrowth of daughter products in the very long lived U-238 takes a long time.

    In fact, based on the above argument, some of Bernard Cohen’s work features his calculation of the large number of lives saved due to uranium mining, if we just assume that the linear non-threshold model is valid and assume that it’s true that environmental radon is responsible for many lung cancers.


  75. Promoting a plutonium-based economy – based on the most toxic element known – is no answer to the growing menace of global warming.

    I hate to be blunt about this, but your entire post is nothing more than the kind of disingenuous BS that would make Caldicott proud.

    Does the notion that plutonium is “the most toxic element known” have any real basis in any kind of science at all? It doesn’t – it was made up by people like Ralph Nader.

    If you’re so certain that it’s true, get in touch with Bernard Cohen regarding his challenge to eat plutonium before the cameras. Nobody has ever taken him up on it.

    Of course, if you’re talking about radiotoxicity, you need to specify which nuclide – Pu-237 has a half-life of only 45 days, but Pu-244 has a half-life of 80 million years, so there’s a huge possible variation in radiotoxicity if you only specify that it’s Pu and don’t specify which nuclide.

    Let’s assume that we’re talking about Pu-239 specifically, as plutonium dioxide, since this is the form in which it’s usually used in nuclear fuels. The usual claim by people like Caldicott is that inhaling one microgram of plutonium will give you a fatal lung cancer – but that’s demonstrably nonsense.

    The committed effective dose equivalent (CEDE) for inhaled PuO2 is 3.1 Sv/µCi. The specific activity of Pu-239 dioxide is 55.6 mCi/g.

    Assuming the Linear-no-threshold hypothesis to be a workable, conservative estimate of the dangers of ionising radiation exposure, we can consider the figure, taken from ICRP 60, of 5×10−2 excess fatal cancers per sievert of ionising radiation dose due to internal α-particle irradiation in the lungs. Thusly, the inhalation of one microgram of 239PuO2 is determined to be associated with 0.0086 excess fatal cancers per person.

    Of course, if you assume that the LNT model is valid, there are countless other radionuclides – Ra-226 and Rn-222 in nature for example – which are far, far more dangerous than Pu-239 in terms of sheer radiotoxicity, since their specific activities are far greater.

    A few kilograms of plutonium scattered over densely populated areas, or even large regions, would ensue in a widespread epidemic of cancer. History tells the extreme fallibility of humans virtually guarantees destructive agents of this type will end up being used in conflicts.

    Long ago, during WW2 and the Manhattan Project, the military studied the idea of using the newly available radioactive fission product materials coming from the Hanford piles to make a radiological weapon. Of course, they knew immediately, using the crude knowledge of nuclear and radiological science of the time, that fission products exhibited much higher radioactivity and radiotoxicity than Pu, and that the expensive, hard to manufacture, valuable resource of their plutonium was far too valuable to be squandered for negligible gain in such a purpose.
    (Soon after, they abandoned the idea of radiological weapons all together).

    Of course, there are countless weaponisable chemical and biological agents that can be used for the kind of attack you describe – particularly biological agents, which could deliver far more casualties per gram of material weaponised than any chemical or radiological attack.

    Even poorly manufactured impure defoliant herbicides can generate cancer and teratogenesis in populations over a wide area when sprayed from the air, as we know. A hijacked truck full of chlorine can generate many, many casualties in a populated area, and all of these things will be far, far easier for terrorists or warmakers to acquire, and will be more dangerous, than a plutonium radiological weapon. Even if you wanted to build a radiological weapon, you certainly wouldn’t choose Pu to do it, when there are far more radioactive alternatives.

    Over the last 60 years or so that access to nuclear technology has been widespread, nobody has ever used a radiological weapon, either in war or in terrorism. Doesn’t that tell you something?

    Time and again “peaceful” nuclear programs have been translated to N-weapon programs around the world.

    Care to provide examples?

    An expanded plutonium economy, involving uranium mining and transport networks, greatly increases the risks of accident or theft.

    Accident or theft involving what? Uranium mining and transport?

    Given the essentially negligible radioactivity associated with natural uranium, the fact that it is not useful for any kind of nuclear weapon, and the fact that it is widespread throughout the world, neither accidents or theft are arguments that make any real sense at all in the context of uranium mining.

    The proliferation of nuclear facilities, peaceful or otherwise, exponentially increases the probability of nuclear accidents and nuclear terror, the worst effects of which could evenprecede the worst effects of global warming.

    Nuclear accidents? Like what? Care to provide examples of any relevant nuclear accidents, and what their consequences actually were?
    Nuclear terror? So, there is nuclear power, and there are terrorists. OK. So, what are the terrorists actually going to do, and what are the consequences actually going to be?

    A ‘Nuclear Winter’ is in no way preferable to a ‘Greenhouse Summer’

    Whilst a “nuclear winter” may well be a very concerning possibility, you fail to show any relationship at all between nuclear power and a large scale nuclear war.


  76. Regarding radon, Dr. Philippe Duport, Director of the International Center for Low Dose Radiation Research at the University of Ottawa, says

    … Radon escapes continuously to the air from the surface of the earth. In average, every square meter of land releases about 10 thousand atoms of radon every second, that is, a source of 10,000 Becquerels. Radon, which is also radioactive, decays into a series of radioactive atoms, one of them being polonium 210. Rain, fog, snow, and dust bring polonium 210 back to the ground, where it accumulates. Since the source of radon never stops, the quantity, and the activity (quantity) of polonium on the ground remains constant at about 10,000 Becquerels per square meter …

    as quoted here.

    Each atom of radon exists because one atom of uranium decayed some time earlier. So how deep do you have to go to find 10,000 Bq/m^2 of uranium? 16 cm.

    In other words, as much radon exits the ground, enters the air, as would be doing so if all the radon atoms born 16 cm deep or less, and no others, were escaping. Because their mean lifetime is ~5.5 days, if they don’t escape within days, they never do.

    There’s an interesting consequence: ploughing makes the radon release peaky and troughy (but does not alter the long-term average rate of release). By being turned, soil that was about 16 cm deep, and therefore relatively radon-rich, becomes 0 cm deep, and its radon atoms can escape immediately. That’s the peak.

    Days later, some of the radon atoms exiting the top surface are ones that took those days to diffuse up from the soil that was formerly, before the ploughing, on top. It is still radon-depleted because of having been so. Therefore the rate of radon exit is now lower than the long-term average, so that’s the trough.

    Now, is anyone near the turned soil shortly after it has been turned, and not near it at other times? That person gets a little extra dose. This is the another of the large-by-nuclear-engineers’-standards little doses that are ignored by radiation alarmists whose alarms apply only to doses that are side effects of activities that deprive government of fossil fuel income. (The classic example is the cosmic ray exposure of airline workers.)

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  77. Andrew Glikson @ 73
    What a disappointment to read this kind of ideological, obviously sloppily researched, drivel from you.
    Where have you been over the last couple of months? Certainly you can’t have been reading this blog. I suggest you go and do that right now and relieve yourself of your left over (from the “No Nuclear Power” 60’s) outdated prejudices. There have been several converts to nuclear power, myself included, because of the excellent information on this blog and as a result of reading Tom Blees “Prescription for the planet” where your blatantly wrong assertions are demolished.Shame on you Andrew!


  78. Fran@#89:
    “I’d like to think the person posting here as “Andrew Glikson” is some mischief-making spoofer and not the one who signed that document from Hansen alongside Barry and others declaring that nuclear power was a matter for individual states to determine.

    He has made a very positive contribution to the discussion on AGW and in a tone sharply at odds with what has been presented here in his name.”

    That’s a very good point, Fran. Perhaps Barry could check that the commenter ‘Andrew Glikson’ on this thread is in fact who he purports to be.

    Response to David Walter and Finrod (comments #78, #79):

    Expressions such as “assertions” and “disingenious nonsense” hardly constitute technical or logical arguments.

    You’re clearly hard of comprehension if you couldn’t pick up that I didn’t have time to give you a detailed response when I posted that comment. I was so rushed that I even misspelled ‘disingenuous’.


  79. “Alas, it is he, as he sent me the same comment via email. I’m glad others share my frustration — I was thinking that maybe I was just getting too jaded.”

    Well that’s a damn shame. Has he offered any clue as to why he’s abandoned the path of reason?


  80. # by Glikson, says,
    “…. global dissemination of plutonium may lead to unprecedented consequences on a yet higher order of magnitude…..”
    It seems he is reading from Nader and Caldicott. Annex C of the UNSCEAR 2000 Report tells us that between 1947 and 1962, 520 atmospheric bombs were exploded follwed by another 23 by the naughty French and Chinese. Most of these bombs used plutonium and it is estimated that between 5 and 7 tonnes was disseminated in the atmosphere. [The Nagasaki bomb contained 6kg of Pu, of which only 1 gram fissioned].
    Between 1960 and 2000 world population doubled. Was this an unintended consequence?

    Plutonium the most toxic element known? [#73] Why not natural polonium 210 which is far more radiotoxic than plutonium? Or radium. Both of these elements discovered by the Curies.

    By mentioning half-life as an indicator of potential harm he is perpetuating a myth all too readily accepted by some members of the teaching profession and the media. If long half-life is a menace, pity the dolphins and whales and all that lives in the oceans which contain more than 3 tonnes of uranium [half-life 4.5 billion years] in every cubic km. Add to that the knowledge that the average crustal uranium concentration is about 600 times that of the ocean.

    The natural potassium 40 [half-life 1.3 billion y ] in our bodies contributes much of the 0.3 mSv radiation dose we receive per year from natural radioactivity in our bodies. This takes me to a related topic, the radiation dose received from nuclear power operations which is estimated to be less than 0.2 microSv /y which is 12,000 times lower than the world-wide per capita exposure of 2.4 mSv. Look at UNSCEAR [United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation], Report, para 34. The same report tells us in para 37 that radiation doses received by those living near coal power plants and other industries may receive 1-10 microSv/y.


  81. Well Finrod, whatever one may think of his view, he’s unlikely to set about offering a reason for being unreasonable. That would be even less reasonable.

    The tone in which he approached the matter here struck me as highly emotional and invested. His repeated references to a plutonium-based economy – and the most toxic element known are meant to trigger visceral rather than rational responses, as they no doubt have in him. Similarly his contrasted pairing greenhouse summer/nuclear winter are purely rhetorical in this context and again appeal to the emotions rather than the mind. His apparently rhetorical query:

    No reason has been given why truly safe technologies, such as solar/thermal, geothermal/dry rocks, wind. tide etc. should not be preferred to plutonium-based economies […]

    also contains the emotive pairing truly safe versus plutonium economy summoning visions of people being irradiated as they plugged in their toasters rather than being able to marvel at the natural electricity coming from the powerpoint.

    He then continues …

    Arguments based on the unsatiable economic growth overlook the fact that such open ended ‘Growth Fetish’ in itself guarantees the demise of civilization.

    The use of the word fetish is an appeal both to those of moral bent and us Marxists but again, especially in concert with instatiableit’s neither a scientific concept nor even one that can be separated from essentially moral arguments over the cultural evaluation of modern consumption in the constitution of humans.

    Andrew stands on ground that is very common to left-liberal critics of contemporary society and does harken back to the days of the counter-culture: Man versus Machine, the artificial and contrived versus the authentic and natural, peace and war etc …

    It’s a shame that this is where he is, but perhaps he needs to be encouraged to explore the bases for his predisposition, to self-interrogate and specify those things that are woerthy and attainable and thew means that inform them. Perhaps then he will be able to set this discussion into context


  82. [Promoting a plutonium-based economy – based on the most toxic element known – is no answer to the growing menace of global warming.]

    That has to be one of the most ignorant, illogical things I’ve ever read on this blog. Botulinum toxin is much more toxic than plutonium in any form. It’s lethal at 1 nanogram per kilo. That means that 1 kg could kill every person on Earth if delivered correctly. Does that mean we stop the millions of doses of Botox given every day?

    Only if you are Glikson and looking for any straw to grab on to.


  83. In some fairness to Andrew… a plutonium-based economy is what it is. We have a fossil fuel based economy, it is common to refer to a low-carbon economy, or future hydrogen economy… I think it is a pretty valid term. In terms of PR you could do worse – eg nuclear economy.

    Also – people are fooling themselves if they don’t think there are a great many well educated people, including academics, who have come to the same conclusions as Andrew. Just because one pops up on here is not cause for a feverish witch hunt… it is the reality of the situation. People are not going to change their minds if when they state what is a commonly held opinion they get roasted. But in time with more facts and figures and science people like Andrew should turn… but you are challenging what is to many people, especially those who are particularly committed to a low-carbon future, a core and simple reality – nuclear power is dangerous and leads to weapons proliferation. And there are references and citations to prove it.

    As for myself, I continue to be impressed by the arguments that are presented on this blog and am a convert as I have stated before… just in case I was about to get roasted for sticking my neck out in partial defence of Andrew…


  84. Contrary to inferences in some of the comments above, I have been following the literature on nuclear energy and weapons since the 1980s, when with Scientists Against Nuclear Arms (SANA).

    While safety levels of nuclear facilities have improved since the 1980s, plutonium derived from light and heavy water reactors has proved the source of Nuclear weapons proliferation in several parts of the world. There is no guarantee the hundreds or thousands of tons of plutonium in IFRs around the world will not end up in a similar way, the critical mass of 239Pu being just above 300 grams (about 1/3 of 235U).

    Regarding the toxicity of fissile materials and their relations to cancer, look at the writings by John W. Goffman (Medical physicist, first Director of the Biomedical Research Division of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory) (“Nuclear Witness”).

    Animal experimentation showed a few milligrams of plutonium per kilogram of tissue is a lethal dose and when in the bones more toxic than is radium (Voelz, George L., 2000 “Plutonium and Health : How great is the risk?”. Los Alamos Science (Los Alamos (NM): Los Alamos National Laboratory) (26): 78–79). The use of 239Pu-rich “dirty bombs” with consequent ingestion and in particular inhalation of concentrated doses would be fatal in the affected areas.

    Bernard Cohen, author of “The Nuclear Energy Option” betrays a blind faith in future plutonium security arrangements, hardly justified by the history of missing fissile materials to date (google “missing fissile materials”).

    In a world already stressed by advanced climate change, the prospect that further dissemination of weapons-grade fissile material will not be used in conflict situations are not too good.

    Even if IFR facilities were safe, which they are not, their application over the next 20-30 years will do little to mitigate climate change which (as CO2-e levels track toward 500 ppm – the upper limit of glacial-interglacial conditions), would by then exceed 2 degrees C.

    Increasingly US climate scientists are looking at fast-tracked attempts at lowering the dangerous levels of CO2-e to below 350 ppm.


  85. Has he offered any clue as to why he’s abandoned the path of reason?

    I believe the exact Ian McKellen/Gandalf quote is “When did you leave the path of reason for madness –“, followed by wizardly combat.

    His responsiveness to my and others’ comments in Towards Climate Geoengineering suggests it wasn’t so recent.

    Supplementary to my previous post: 10000 atoms per (square metre and second), times their 5.5-day mean lifetime, times the Earth’s land surface area, makes for 260 grams of radon in the whole Earth’s atmosphere. By next week it will be 260 grams of mostly new radon, this week’s having mostly decayed by emitting alpha rays.

    Two of the daughters, 218-Po and 214-Po if I recall, promptly emit one more alpha particle each, making this more-or-less permanent component of our atmosphere as alpha-active as 180 tonnes of segrium.

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  86. There is something very confining, even nullifying about being in a narrowly defined anti-anything organisation. Much better to work out what it is you stand for and then work on achieving it, than to choose something which merely represents what you stand against and then work on eradicating it.

    For example, one might be dismayed at the destruction of native habitat caused by the ever expanding suburbs. You read that one of the contributing factors is the encroachment of European weeds such as blackberry into the surrounding bush and so begin a campaign to eradicate them. Admirable. While your ripping them all out and making sure no one is harboring them in their gardens, you’re also re-planting with local natives and encouraging others to do the same in their gardens. However, because you’ve focused too narrowly on being anti-weed (so to speak) your missing the big picture. People didn’t just bring weeds they brought non-native predators. Now the shrub which, in the untouched eco-system, protected the wren from the snake, does nothing to protect it from the cat. What does protect the wren? The blackberry bush. Just down the road in a less diligent suburb there is a thriving community of wrens safely fortified within an unruly bramble bush. If you’ve become doggedly anti-weed you would rip it out, if your aim is to ensure the survival of the wren you might think twice.

    May I suggest Andrew, that you are not in fact anti-nuclear but are instead pro-environment and pro-humanity and that your anti-nuclear sentiment is but a misdirected representation of some pretty decent core beliefs.


  87. There is no guarantee the hundreds or thousands of tons of plutonium in IFRs around the world will not end up in a similar way, the critical mass of 239Pu being just above 300 grams (about 1/3 of 235U).


    There are plenty of people that have dealt with the proliferation issues and how to prevent it while using nuclear energy. I really think you’re not thinking this through well at all.

    The world potentially would be a far more dangerous place in terms of wars, human conflict and commensurate destruction in an energy starved world. Perhaps you don’t accept who or what we are but then that’s a different discussion. A modern industrial civilization requires enormous amounts of energy. We’re beginning to realize that with 50% of the world’s population joining the developed world the need for energy is going to be insatiable. We also realize that producing energy the way we are will end us up in the soup. Frankly renewables such as wind, solar and thermal can play a part, however it isn’t going to sustain our demands.

    Nuclear does carry some risk, however the risks aren’t as big as you make out and with an effective mechanism to prevent proliferation I really don’t think we need to worry all that much. 4th generation reactors have great promise in that they don’t use up a lot of dangerous stuff and leaves very little waste.

    If you really want to have a Hobbesian world then the best way to achieve that end is to starve the world of energy.


  88. Marion#108: “Ever expanding suburbs …” Sorry, you hit an off topic nerve here :)

    It isn’t suburbs which destroy the vast bulk
    of habitat. Work it out … In Australia 21 million people
    on 1/4 acre (=0.1 hectare) blocks comes
    to roughly 2 million hectares … the ABS gets much the same
    number using far more accurate
    means. So 2 out of 770 million hectares in Australia is suburbs.
    343 million is used to run sheep and cattle. Its what you choose to eat that
    destroys wildlife not the suburb you live in.

    Here’s another way to look at it. Think of all the food you can
    grow in a square metre during the course of a year (there is even a book called
    the “Square Metre Garden”), tomatos, beans, peas, etc etc. Or if you choose
    animal products you can have, at most, … an egg. Just one. The proof is
    left as an exercise to the reader :)


  89. Andrew

    All of your arguments pertain to botulinum toxin, but moreso as it is 1000x times more toxic than plutonium.

    There is no guarantee the Botox won’t end up being dispersed, it is dangerous blah blah blah.

    We are aware that plutonium can be dangerous. Lots of things can be dangerous.

    That is not an argument for never using them. I can only conclude that you are a fool.


  90. You make a reasonable point Geoff — one that I’d broadly accept — without showing that suburban sprawl isn’t pernicious to habitat.

    Self evidently, if you cover 1600km2 with a density of 30 persons per Ha, as we do in Sydney, you are going to destroy a lot more habitat than if you squeeze 60-70 people per ha into 800Km2.

    And let’s not even consider the energy implications of filling all that extra space with motor vehicles (which then sit in slowly moving queues for 20-30 hours per week) made necessary by the fact that the suburbs and services are so far apart that public transport becomes expensive, inefficient and often unfeasible.



    I appreciate the constructive comments by Geoff Russell (#80), Matt Buckels (#103), Marion Brook (#108) and will respond to them later.

    By contrast, as learnt over years of debating with climate change “sceptics”, I will not respond to the ad-hominem remarks as above, which were described by Buckles as a “feverish witch hunt” (#103).

    Those who resort to ad-hominem comments may not appreciate it that, whatever the merit of their particular points of view, they disqualify their remarks by resorting to abusive comments.

    Such expressions are not worthy of the otherwise excellent Blog Brook has originally created and should be discouraged.


  92. Andrew – I don’t doubt your sincerity, although it took Marion’s thoughtful comment to remind me :), for my position on nuclear had, for at least 50 years been the same as yours. Unfortunately I can’t see any other way, given the frailty of humankind, and being mindful, from reading this blog, of the impossibility of renewable energy replacing FF as baseload power, that we are going to be able to avoid the catastrophic results of AGW/CC. Life is always risky and I have come to see that any inherent risks with nuclear power are less than a continuation of BAU which is, I fear, what will happen, if a viable power source can’t be implemented. I think I can confidently say that most, if not all of us on this blog would prefer to see a world run by replacing coal/gas/oil with renewable power not nuclear. Sadly, it is a pipe dream.


  93. Andrew

    It is not a “feverish witch hunt” to expect that you justify your arguments when evidence is presented that they are irrational. And of course the hypocrisy of you using the term “feverish witch hunt” which is also an “ad hominem” attack will be apparent to all.


  94. Marion#117: No Marion, you never quantified your concern. I just made an
    inference based on your mention of the small habitat destruction cause
    and your omission to mention the biggest cause. Its like when Tim
    Flannery in “Now or Never” bemoans the deforestation of the Amazon
    and mentions logging (3%) but doesn’t mention beef
    production (>70%) … shades of Basil Fawlty “For god’s sake don’t
    mention meat”. I could go on, … its like listing the causes of climate
    change and forgetting coal (or methane).


  95. Barry Brook

    Radioactive Emissions from Reactors
    I certainly agree that the figure given (0.0002mSv) is very low. Unfortunately, there is still persistent evidence that there are greater amounts being released into the environment for whatever reason.
    See http://www.ieer.org/sdafiles Science for Democratic Action Select Vol 16 # 1
    Also http://www.nirs.org/radiation/radhealth/kikkcommentary0709ijoeh.pdf
    The figures admitted to by authorities in the Three Mile Island 1979 accident are given by the New York Times : http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0328.html#article
    Greater radiation releases are more likely however as shown in:
    http://www.energyscience.org.au See briefing paper # 20 by Sue Wareham

    Can we really have confidence in the licensees themselves doing the testing of the immediate environment around their plant? Based on the already significant number of failures by many industry staff & regulators over the last 40 – 50 years, I doubt it. How many decades do they need to develop the required skills to protect the public?

    So can you please again indicate how can such a small emission value be expected to be believable in view of the above sources (there are more available)? Thanks


  96. Allan Mackay, give me a break. Those links read like 9/11 conspiracy theorists, ‘birthers’, and ‘IPCC is all a leftist collusion and scam’ proponents. The ‘energyscience’ paper is staggering, being liberally laced with equivalent notions of cover up and conspiracy (I assume by NRC and UNSCEAR — the national and international bodies who regulate and review this monitoring and associated analysis).

    And what is there was some huge cover up, and routine emissions from NPP were 100 times greater than those reported by the United Nations committee? Well, that would still be 0.02 mSv, which is far less than 1% of background levels. But of course it isn’t, unless you also hold that the moon landings were faked, that Prince Charles is head of an illuminati seeking a new world order, and that aliens interfere sexually with Mid Western Americans. Pathetic.

    Further to: Promoting a plutonium-based economy – based on the most toxic element known, I suggest you, Andrew G, read Point 13 of this:



  97. Animal experimentation showed a few milligrams of plutonium per kilogram of tissue is a lethal dose and when in the bones more toxic than is radium (Voelz, George L., 2000 “Plutonium and Health : How great is the risk?”. Los Alamos Science (Los Alamos (NM): Los Alamos National Laboratory) (26): 78–79).

    The cited document can be found here, for anyone who is interested:

    (That FAS archive of all that LANL stuff that was pulled off the web is a brilliant resource!)

    Here is some of the things it actually says:

    In fact, their care was so extreme that many believe it was the scientists themselves who promoted an overstated idea that became well known at the end of the 1940s: “Plutonium is the most toxic substance known to man.”

    No humans have ever died from acute toxicity due to plutonium uptake. Nevertheless, lethal doses have been estimated from research on dogs, rats, and mice. Animal studies indicate that a few milligrams of plutonium per kilogram of tissue is a lethal dose. For example, the LD50(30) for dogs after intravenous injection of plutonium is about 0.32 milligram per kilogram of tissue. Assuming this animal dose also applies to humans, an LD50(30) by intravenous injection for an average human of 70 kilograms would be about 22 milligrams. By inhalation, the uptake would have to be about 4 times higher.

    So, a lethal dose for an adult of inhaled Pu might be approximately 88 mg. (Note that they don’t specify the nuclear composition of the plutonium!) That means that the 1 ug figure quoted by Nader, Caldicott and the like is off by a factor of 88,000.

    There are many, many chemical substances that exhibit a comparable degree of toxicity. Take for example, chlorine gas, a very common chemical material in industry. 88 mg of chlorine in one cubic meter of air would equate to about 73 ppm, and it wouldn’t take very long for inhalation of that to cause very severe and almost certainly lethal effects.


  98. Luke

    In addition, there are many compounds that are thousands or even millions of times more toxic. I mentioned botulinum toxin before. There is also tetanus toxin, shigella toxin, tetrodotoxin, cholera toxin. All of those are widely available and used in most cell biology. There is also the question of the compounds utility. Plutonium or other compounds used in nuclear plants can ameliorate global warming and save millions of lives, potentially. These other compounds have much lower utility, esp Botox (although it is used for non-cosmetic medical purposes like sweating and spasticity).

    For some reason, intelligent people apply completely different standards when it comes to radioactive compounds and their safety. The number of deaths related to nuclear energy is trivial when compared to coal mining and coal lung. A hydroelectric plant blew up in Russia a few months back causing 50 deaths (similar to Chernobyl). Are the nuclear denialists arguing for a moratorium on hydro power? Of course not (correctly of course). But if it was a nuclear plant, they would be asking for the whole industry to be shut down.


  99. Barry@121

    The paper you cite above


    underscores my post in the other topic on separating ourselves from the anti-environmental elements of the nuclear lobby.

    All but the last paragraph made sense, was accessible and was persuasive. Yet that last paragraph taints the rest.

    Thus if all CO2 emissions from this country’s electricity generation were eliminated global emissions would be reduced by only 0.7% and since global warming is a world-wide phenomenon, there would be little physical difference for Australia aside from a possible collective feeling of self-righteousness

    It is hard to overstate how damaging this claim is to the credibility of nuclear power and its advocates as a factor in the environmental argument. The claim is almost word for word that put by the advocates of business-as-usual for coal[Australia is too small a player to make a difference so we should keep using cheap coal and leave it to others to trash their economies] and casts environmentalists as irrational adherents of empty and economy-destroying symbolism. It didn’t say if the machine aint broke don’t fix it but it might as well have. Ironically, the only people who would be moved on this basis to take up nuclear power would be those who rejected this claim, and since they are people who largely think nuclear advocates want to toxify the planet for all eternity to serve contemporary corporate interests and have just called them, in effect, morons, the paper amounts to practical advocacy for coal.


  100. The following, cited from Friends of the Earth (foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/nfc/power/ifr) is relevant to the issue of IFRs and N-weapons proliferation.


    “IFRs can be used to produce plutonium for weapons in the same ways that conventional reactors can:

    1. Production of weapon grade plutonium in the fuel, using a shorter-than-usual irradiation time. As George Stanford notes, proliferators “could do [with IFRs] what they could do with any other reactor – operate it on a special cycle to produce good quality weapons material.”

    Conventional PUREX reprocessing can be used to separate the plutonium from irradiated fuel/targets/blanket. Blees notes that: “IFRs are certainly not the panacea that removes all threat of proliferation, and extracting plutonium from it would require the same sort of techniques as extracting it from spent fuel from light water reactors. The bottom line is that fissile material has to be subject to oversight …”

    Another option is to separate reactor grade plutonium from IFR fuel and to use that in weapons instead of weapon grade plutonium.

    2. Production of weapon grade plutonium by irradiating a uranium or depleted uranium targets/blanket, and separation using PUREX reprocessing. Unlike research reactors, power reactors aren’t generally designed to facilitate the insertion and removal of targets/blankets, but where there’s a will there’s a way.

    As with conventional reactors, IFRs can be used to produce large quantities of fissile material for nuclear weapons, which must weigh very heavily against them in any rational comparative assessment of energy options. Whether IFRs are somewhat more or less proliferation resistant than conventional reactors is a marginal debate.

    IFR advocates propose using IFRs to draw down global stockpiles of fissile material, whether derived from nuclear research, power or WMD programs. Well and good, but reprocessing/MOX/breeders promised the same thing but have demonstrably increased rather than decreased proliferation risks (discussed later). Some specific problems:

    * WMD proliferators won’t use IFR to draw down stockpiles of their own fissile material let alone anyone else’s. They will use them to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

    * The proposal confronts the familiar problem that the countries with the greatest interest in WMD production will be the least likely to forfeit fissile material stockpiles and vice versa.

    * The proposal may (or may not) also face practical limitations. Numerous states/utilities etc would gladly get rid of their stockpiles of spent fuel (and perhaps other nuclear materials), but what is the incentive for the operators of IFR plants to irradiate/transmute/destroy nuclear materials produced elsewhere and what are the costs/risks of so doing? Presumably the incentive is financial, in which case what’s the cost and who’s paying?”


  101. Andrew, we’ve been there, done that. I’ve written a specific response to this.


    For sanity’s sake, quit trawling the anti-nuclear sites for tasty rebuttals UNTIL you’ve at least had the basic courtesy to read the material on this blog — as I already suggested to you. Given that I’ve hosted your postings multiple times, I hardly think this is an overly onerous or unreasonable request.


  102. Not pointless Barry, but downright stupid, for it also contradicted the whole of the foregoing argument, which established the environmental, health and economic benefits (amongst them the certainty of a cost on CO2 emissions) of phasing out coal-fired power in favour of nuclear power … unless of course this last paragraph was the point.

    Too macchiavellean? Maybe, but it’s hard to explain how anyone who genuinely wanted to see nuclear power accepted would have put matters this way.


  103. Barry, I do want to say a general point about the issue of Pu burning reactors like the IFR and other Gen IV reactors. Despite Andrew’s actual trolling, the issue of “proliferation” remains.

    There is virtually nothing stopping any country with a good surplus of money from acquiring bad nukes. But one thing, one glaring slight-of-hand is notable:

    “could do [with IFRs] what they could do with any other reactor – operate it on a special cycle to produce good quality weapons material.”

    This always steers the discussion into the “could of, would of, doom, doom, die” discussions. In fact, no one uses just ‘any other reactor’ create WMD quality Pu. It’s not done. Why? Because it’s CHEAPER not to. It’s CHEAPER to build dedicated Pu producers at a fairly cheap cost. That’s why commercial plants, outside the original MAGNOX and RMBK reactors are not used for WMD.

    So what IS the issue? The issue is the FAKE argument over proliferation. It’s fake for two reasons:

    1. If Australia by dint of divine intervention decided to forge ahead and built an IFR…there is no organic relationship between building said reactor that runs on, and breeds it’s Pu, and making a nuclear WMD. Why? Because it’s distinct. It’s 100% a *policy* decision and it should, like all decisions like this, be a function of politics.

    2. The Andrew-repeated argument about proliferation…does it effect my country, the USA? Nope. We already produce enough WMD to kill everyone around the world several times over. See “On the Beach”. Don’t need nor would want an IFR for this reason.

    So, HOW is an IFR a “threat”. That a few so-called “rogue” nations build one? Oohhh….I’m soooooo afraid. But because the government of…Lower Soleisiastan want’s a nuclear weapon and could, conceivably if they had the money, refrain from building a cheaper research reactor that can be easily hidden and instead use a IFR, therefore…THEREFORE ANDREW the other 6.6 billion people in the world are NOT allowed to get clean safe (sodium issue notwithstanding :) %100 sustainable form of energy? REALLY????

    Andrew…this argument is without a *shred* of risk assessment versus what we actually face now in terms of climate change, in terms of particulate health destruction from coal, from wars of over fossil is simply fear mongering. I choose the forces of light against living in a hole afraid of every technology, of any technology, that on a really bad day, someone might conceive of, possibly, maybe, use for bad things. And Andrew…I’m not even a fan of the IFR as my favorite nuclear technology…but your choice is not one I hope humanity mistakenly makes. I would choose the IFR *any* day over any system that allows your world view to decide our energy, and therefore our human, future.

    David Walters



  104. David, this is an excellent recent review (July 2009, Physics & Society) of the topic of proliferation, including discussion of the role of fast reactors, the CTBT and NPT, and how things need to evolve. Concise, clearly argued — a must read for people honestly interested in this issue:

    Initiatives to Enhance Nuclear Stability and Non-Proliferation in the 21st Century


  105. IMHO it would seem that at the moment the value of plutonium is driven primarily by it’s utility as a bomb making substance. If you are not going to make bombs the stuff is a liability due to the cost of safe storage.

    If IFRs were prolific and plutonium was thus regarded as a ready energy source there would be a change in the dynamics such that plutonium was an asset irrespective of bomb making intentions. People tend to care more for things that are an asset. For instance the private sector goes to great lengths to store and secure gold, silver and platinum because they are valuable assets. Increasing the utility of plutonium by deploying IFRs would seem like a really good way to stack incentives such that it is less likely to end up in the wrong hands.


  106. Barry Brook

    The links I included in # 119 certainly may appear to contain unsettling details but are certainly not part of any fringe science & are presented by their authors as containing factual material. For any point that you feel is incorrect, you have the freedom to point out their errors & back that up with some evidence & references, rather than just ridicule. Now that you have publicly chosen to support nuclear power, surely others who have reservations are entitled to expect good science in your efforts to refute any contentious concepts. We all thought this was supposed to be a “rational, evidence-based communication tool” to discuss many points of concern, without using any forms of ridicule in the absence of such evidence. I most certainly do not subscribe in any way to the extraordinary ideas mentioned in your 2nd paragraph at # 120. Where have I ever mentioned such extreme topics? They have no place in this discussion. It is significantly more difficult to judge a personality from a few written paragraphs than by actually being present in a verbal discussion with them. The EnergyScience contributors are all sufficiently well qualified in their respective fields to author those papers, as are the other authors I’ve linked to. It wouldn’t surprise me at all that you may hear from one or more of them to object about the way you have portrayed them. At the EnergyScience site, I only pointed out one Briefing Paper # 20, where I assumed you would locate quickly enough the relevant details about many TMI residents reporting unusual symptoms (p6), clearly implying that they were experiencing much larger doses of radiation than the low 0.0002mSv figure you seem to be happy with. I never suggested you spend additional time in reading all their briefing papers on their site as interesting as they may be. Sure, there are many points in the # 20 paper that are of considerable concern, but I wasn’t inviting you to answer all of them. But if you chose to do that, then I’m sure many readers would appreciate that. If you were unable to address my points quickly, you were perfectly free to take more time to assimilate the included links & respond when you could. This issue of radiation exposure has been a significant problem for the nuclear industry right from the start. Even the Atomic Energy Commission resisted a recommended reduction in exposure standards for about 8 yrs (1963-72). See p27 at link (a).
    Indeed the complete pdf is very interesting.
    (a) http://etd.lib.ttu.edu/theses/available/etd-07242009-31295002141744/unrestricted/31295002141744.pdf.
    Can you then please have another go at offering a likely explanation why there is such a large difference between the mSv claim & the much larger curie readings found by other researchers? Significant curie readings are well outside the mSv range. The public are entitled to hear the best explanation possible using the best science. If this isn’t forthcoming they will very likely regard your efforts at nuclear education as more resembling the theme given long ago in the hard-sell procedure found in section IV at link (a) where the public resistance was being targeted rather than promptly fixing up the engineering faults of the industry. It seems additional evidence has been found recently regarding the work of prof Eric Wright, (originally pub in New Scientist & confirmed by others), for health concerns with low radiation levels. See http://www.anu.edu.au/~peterson/HCarticle106.html More evidence of high reactor emissions is available, see http://www.no-nukes.org/prairieisland/piemits.html
    Additional claims of high plant emissions at this link, http://www.ibiblio.org/prism/feb98/nuclear.html
    If these examples are anywhere near the truth, then it becomes easier to understand why there are claims of varying forms of illness near nuclear plants & why the nuclear industry downplays them.


  107. Allan, that’s a total misrepresentation of my point.

    The TMI incident, which was one of the two most serious accidents in nuclear power’s history, resulted in venting of radioactive gases, in part to relieve pressure on the containment dome. Of course more radiation than 0.0002 mSv was released during that event compared to ambient levels — around 0.01 mSv was the exposure of fencepost man (someone right outside the plant). This is, incidentally, about 1/250 of the yearly background exposure of the residents of Harrisburg. Yet this is an accident — one that is highly unlikely to ever again occur at a reactor due to huge changes to design and operation that resulted, and so is irrelevant to the topic of this post about routine radiation exposure from living near NPP. The conflation is a classic bait-and-switch technique, which is what you seem to be trying to do here. Well, it doesn’t wash, and I’m sure readers of this website will be bemused by the use of such tactics.

    The energyscience paper by Sue Wareham has a mixture of illogical reasoning (e.g. BEIR uses the LNT hypothesis, therefore hormesis is false, QED), and the other arguments are made in the absence of any discussion of relative risk, which ultimately is all that matters (e.g. two workers die in a criticality accident in Japan, therefore the nuclear power industry kills people — ummm, compared to?), since almost every part of life, especially energy generation, involves some risk. It also includes statements like this (with reference to TMI — again, nothing to do with routine operation:

    “Others disagree [with official reports] strongly however. Hundreds of local residents reported a metallic taste, red skin, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, deaths of pets and farm animals, and damage to plants. They were told that their symptoms were due to psychological stress. While such stress can cause some of the reported effects, some are far more consistent with exposure to high-level radiation. Cancer rates were reported to increase also, even in the early years following the accident.”

    The above is remarkable, because to experience such symptoms of severe radiation sickness as described above, the dose would have had to be in the range of 1,000 to 5,000 mSv — yet miraculously, this was not only undetected, but the vast majority of people living around the plant reported none of it, and no one died. The Columbia University investigation was, according to Wareham, “financed by the nuclear industry’s insurers, and reviewed and approved by their lawyers” — the tacit implication obviously being that these researchers had abandoned their scientific code of conduct and came to a solution that was convenient to the contractors. That’s pure conspiracy theory, and it goes on an on in this vein throughout this paper.

    Your other links include a website that my University blocks (it says “it may contain highly inappropriate material with offensive or illegal content”, make of that what you will), an unreferenced essay by a writer for a community newspaper, a broken link with ‘document not found’, and so on. And it is not”‘much larger curie readings found by other researchers”, as you claim because nothing like this was measured. It is pure, unfounded speculation. The measured data from systematic monitoring, which is what any good scientist should be concerned about, is provided in the UNSCEAR review and other official reports. That is what I concern myself with. It’s like you are comparing the veracity of the IPCC conclusions with the ‘alternative’ interpretation of Climate Audit and the like.

    So I’m closing this ‘debate’ with you, Allan, on this final point. If you, or the people you cite, can provide appropriate evidence to convince a neutral body like UNSCEAR or NRC that there is a systematic cover up about NPP emissions, a failure to undertake their legal monitoring responsibilities, etc. then I’ll take note and modify my view accordingly. Otherwise, it’s just ideological heresay. I will not be responding to you again on this matter.


  108. Thanks for your response. I have no idea why any particular link wasn’t accessible. I tried them all before posting, & they all worked fine. They were all directly related to the comments preceding them & certainly didn’t contain anything to warrant such a screen message as others will see when they open them.


  109. IMHO it would seem that at the moment the value of plutonium is driven primarily by it’s utility as a bomb making substance.

    Except for the plutonium that already burns in today’s nuclear fuel before it ever leaves today’s reactors.

    If you are not going to make bombs the stuff is a liability due to the cost of safe storage.

    If IFRs were prolific and plutonium was thus regarded as a ready energy source there would be a change in the dynamics such that plutonium was an asset irrespective of bomb making intentions. People tend to care more for things that are an asset. For instance the private sector goes to great lengths to store and secure gold, silver and platinum because they are valuable assets.

    But they get stolen. Spent fuel rods, even though they contain plutonium, even though some low-burnup ones, after ten years or so, can be handled briefly without harm, never get stolen.

    The idea of the IFR is that the spent fuel rods would have their plutonium extracted, and returned to the reactor, by high-temperature electrometallurgical processing after a much shorter time than ten years; a time so short that anyone trying to handle them would drop as if shot.

    Increasing the utility of plutonium by deploying IFRs would seem like a really good way to stack incentives such that it is less likely to end up in the wrong hands.

    To the extent that plutonium has ended up in hands you or I would consider wrong, it has done so through their making their own.

    IFRs can make it harder for them to misappropriate power reactor-derived plutonium, but that was already difficult enough, compared to making their own, and the quality was poor enough, compared to what they could make on their own, that they never did.

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  110. Another PR disaster for nuclear, radioactive dust storms could swipe Sydney.

    [audio src="http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/news/audio/pm/200909/20090925-PM4-more-dust.mp3" /]

    However, Associate Professor Barry Nola (spelling?) doubts dust from metal and uranium mine sites could spread that far as the dust is too large to be carried so far.


  111. RE: dust storms.

    For goodness’ sake, that is ridiculous.

    Sure, if you were air sampling and analysing the filters via alpha spectroscopy or something like that then, sure, you could probably detect increased radioactivity due to the dust.

    But it’s a part of nature. The presence of significant quantities of uranium and uranium daughters in the crust in this country is a fact of the natural world, it’s got nothing to do with uranium mining. Uranium mining involves a natural substance which comes out of the ground, a small degree of human contact with which is ubiquitous.


  112. An interesting thread until Andrew Glikson polluted it with nonsense about the dangers of plutonium. I can’t bring myself to waste time answering each point, but even a local Supermarket has enough poison to kill off the local county. Lead, commonly used for batteries is a stable element and doesn’t decay: it lasts forever. Some may be interested in reading how radiation can reduce cancer rates here: http://www.jpands.org/vol9no1/chen.pdf showing cancer rates for those living in these highly radioactive buildings are only 3.6% of the normal Taiwanese population.(!)

    Earlier in the thread someone asked the source of the original graph. If you click on it (and wait) you are linked to the paper here http://world-nuclear.org/info/inf05.html from which I paste some snips that caught my eye.

    “Radiation protection standards assume that any dose of radiation, no matter how small, involves a possible risk to human health. However, available scientific evidence does not indicate any cancer risk or immediate effects at doses below 100 mSv a year. At low levels of exposure, the body’s natural repair mechanisms seem to be adequate to repair radiation damage to cells soon after it occurs.
    Interestingly, due to the substantial amounts of granite in their construction, many public buildings including Australia’s Parliament House and New York Grand Central Station, would have some difficulty in getting a licence to operate if they were nuclear power stations.
    Studies of populations exposed to radiation doses in excess of natural background have yielded information on the risk of cancer. The risk associated with large radiation doses is relatively well established. However, the risks associated with doses under about 200 mSv are less obvious because of the large underlying incidence of cancer caused by other factors. Risks for exposures under about 100 mSv are assumed rather than demonstrated.
    In 1990 the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) found no evidence of any increase in cancer mortality among people living near to 62 major nuclear facilities. The NCI study was the broadest of its kind ever conducted and supported similar studies conducted elsewhere in the US as well as in Canada and Europe.

    In Britain there are significantly elevated childhood leukaemia levels near Sellafield as well as elsewhere in the country. The reasons for these increases, or clusters, are unclear, but a major study of those near Sellafield has ruled out any contribution from nuclear sources. Apart from anything else, the levels of radiation at these sites are orders of magnitude too low to account for the excess incidences reported. However, studies are continuing in order to provide more conclusive answers.
    Extensive research has not supported the linear hypothesis for low-level radiation exposure. Some evidence suggests that there may be a threshold below which no harmful effects of radiation occur. However, this is not yet accepted by national or international radiation protection bodies as sufficiently well proven to be taken into official standards.
    In addition, there is increasing evidence of beneficial effect from low-level radiation (up to about 10 mSv/yr). This “radiation hormesis” may be due to an adaptive response by the body’s cells, the same as that with other toxins at low doses. In the case of carcinogens such as ionizing radiation, the beneficial effect is seen both in lower incidence of cancer and in resistance to the effects of higher doses. However, until possible mechanisms are confirmed, uncertainty will remain. Further research is under way and the debate continues. Meanwhile standards for radiation exposure continue to be deliberately conservative.”

    [Cohen’s useful paper is linked http://world-nuclear.org/sym/1998/cohen.htm ]
    [Also this by Prof Jaworowski on the cost of LNT theory http://www.riskworld.com/Nreports/1999/jaworowski/NR99aa01.htm ]


  113. Those involved in debates with climate change so-called “sceptics” recognize a familiar pattern: The “official” view of the blog is interpreted by some of the contributors to the thread as if it was a license to use ad-hominem derogatory language toward anyone who dissents from that view, as exemplified by attacks on climate scientists who provide evidence for connections between atmospheric CO2 concentrations and climate change. It would appear the critics are oblivious to the fact derogatory language hardly strengthens their arguments.

    Criticisms by pro-nuclear advocates aimed at medical professionals and medical organizations which point out relations between radiations on a range of doses, including low doses, and increased risk of cancer, need to avoid this error.

    Numerous well qualified medical professionals conclude that low dose radiation cannot be regarded as safe with respect to cancer induction. Early examples are the comprehensive studies by J.W. Gofman (Gofman, J.W. Radiation-induced cancer from low-dose exposure: An independent analysis. Committee for Nuclear Responsibility Book Division, San Francisco, 1990). More recent examples include Wolfgang Kohnlein and Rudi Nussbaum (Medicine and Global Survival, January 1998: Vol 5 No 1).

    Medical organizations which have raised concern in this regard include the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW, Australia), Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR, US) and the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which include thousands of physicians, and as published in the Report on “Health Effects of Exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation, prepared by the National Research Council Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR).

    Thus the BEIR Report states: “Of the various types of biomedical effects that may result from irradiation at low doses and low dose rates, alterations of genes and chromosomes remain the best documented” and ”Inspite of evidence that the molecular lesions which give rise to somatic and genetic damage can be repaired to a considerable degree, the new data do not contradict the hypothesis, at least with respect to cancer induction and hereditary genetic effects, that the frequency of such effects increased with low-level radiation as a linear, non-threshold function of the dose”.

    I do not know whether any of the preceding contributors to this thread has qualifications in the fields of medicine or radiology, nor am I in the position of specifying the precise dangers arising from low radiation levels in the nuclear cycle, including regular operations and leaks such as are reported on the RADNET website.

    On the other hand:

    1. The time range (20–30 years) for development and construction of new generation nuclear reactors, such as IFR, render them irrelevant to the urgent need for mitigation of current runaway climate change, not least in view of accelerating ice melt rates and incipient methane release, threatening tipping points over much shorter term.

    2. The history of post-WII demonstrates that human adversity around the globe already has, and can only continue, to divert enriched uranium and plutonium from energy utilities to military purposes. As nuclear proliferation continues, the possibility of a nuclear accident or a nuclear war progresses into high probability.

    3. No reason has been given why solar-thermal power technology, already applied for grid-base power in California and planned for TREC (Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation), plus a range of other safe energy system (documented among other in Mark Dissendorf latest book “Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy”) should not be the way of the future.


  114. Nuclear power is the only technology which can concievebly serve us effectively as we face the vast challenges of providing for a population double or triple the current level, allowing for a decent life for all the citizens of the globe, and providing the muscle needed for large-scale geoengineering, should that necessity arise. The miniscule radiation emissions are not a serious factor in this consideration. Given the scale and somberness of the problems we must solve, nuclear power would still be the best option, even if it killed as many peopleeach year that coal is estimated to kill. The fact that it is statistically and undeniably the safest form of power generation ever devised is just a magnificent bonus on top of the other great virtues nuclear power posesses.

    Unless someone has something absolutely revolutionary up their sleeves regarding renewable power sources, they should be dropped from all further consideration as a fiture power source by all serious environmentalists. They are a useless distraction.


  115. Since the discussion has turned back to the issue of radiation I’ll jump back in.

    Andrew Glikson@144 first upbraids the commenters in this thread for ad-hominem rhetoric and then without pausing for breath states:”Numerous well qualified medical professionals conclude that low dose radiation cannot be regarded as safe with respect to cancer induction.” Ad-hominem cuts both ways Andrew. You cannot invoke it to support your argument ether.

    The only thing that can establish the potential health effects of low-dose exposure to ionizing radiation is properly controlled, long-baseline longitudinal studies, and when these have been done, no negative impact on the populations under examination have been found. In science that result trumps the opinion of anyone to the contrary irregardless of their qualifications.

    The hypothesis of linear non-threshold dose related impacts on human health is still after decades of research still just that: a hypothesis that has never made it to the scientific stage of being even a theory, is unsupported and rejected by every in-depth attempt to verify it. Such a hypothesis would have been rejected long ago in any other legitimate branch of science for lack of experimental support, yet this one continues because it has become politicized, and framed in regulation.

    The upshot of this reliance on a thoroughly debunked standard? At a minimum it has created astronomical expenses in the public and private sector attempting to protect the population from dangers that are not really there. It has severely limited the use of therapeutic radiation treatments and hobbled the development of new ones. It has severely limited the use of radiation to reduce spoilage in food, and to disinfest food shipments of vermin.

    Most importantly an unwarranted fear of radiation hazards has limited the development of nuclear energy by unnecessarily raising the cost of nuclear power plants and generating public opposition to their construction.


  116. Re Glikson #144.
    I’m curious to know how you explain the results published in Chen’s paper if you believe in the LNT hypothesis. Not a small sample either.

    I had a typo in my previous post. The percentage rate of the irradiated inhabitants dying from cancer was only 3% (not 3.6) compared to the general population in Taiwan.
    “The observation that the cancer mortality rate of the exposed population is only about 3 percent of the cancer mortality rate of the general public (2.7 percent if the students are excluded) is particularly striking and is consistent with the radiation hormesis model. This assessment suggests that chronic irradiation may be a very effective prophylaxis against cancer.”

    I could not see the references you gave on-line, for various reasons, so it is hard for me to judge them. Do you have links? They are rather dated apparently.

    You might also read the papers, whose links I did provide, at the end of my previous post.

    It seems to me that hormesis is rather like AGW, where the tide is turning and it is increasing difficult for the old guard to ignore the new evidence. I spoke to a scientist in EPA about radon levels when I found them above their recommended levels in our new house (20 years ago) and I knew about Cohen’s study. He told me he thought hormesis was proven but would not be accepted until the old timers in authority retired. I didn’t do anything to remediate the radon levels.


  117. RESPONSE TO DV82XL: Definitions of AD-HOMINEM in the literature are quite clear — Two examples:

    (1) “Argumentum ad Hominem (abusive and circumstantial): the fallacy of attacking the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or an argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument. Often the argument is characterized simply as a personal attack.”

    (2) “An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting).” (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ad-hominem.html)

    Nowhere in my comments above have I make any personal criticisms of other contributors to the thread. Sadly this is not the case the other way around. My statement: ”Numerous well qualified medical professionals conclude that low dose radiation cannot be regarded as safe with respect to cancer induction.” IS NOT A PERSONAL ATTACK ON ANYONE AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN AD-HOMINEM EXPRESSION.


  118. An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem is an argument which links the validity of a premise to a characteristic or belief of a person advocating the premise. The ad hominem argument is not necessarily a fallacy despite there being fallacious instances of the argument.

    I would strongly suggest that you examine the concept in more depth before making a fool of yourself. A few minutes with a good dictionary should suffice.


  119. Adrian: Let me see whether this response will upload:


    I list the references you request:

    Wolfgang Kohnlein and Rudi Nussbaum (Medicine and Global Survival, January 1998: Vol 5 No 1).
    BEIR Report: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=1224&page=1
    Radiation induced cancer from low-dose exposure: An independent analysis, 1990 . (http://www.ratical.org/radiation/CNR/RIC/).
    RADNET – Nuclear Information: http://www.davistownmuseum.org/cbm/

    If I understand it correctly from your comment, you doubt the reality AGW (anthropogenic global warming) ?. If so, I suggest you look at the most recent COPENHAGEN SYNTHESIS REPORT, based on the 10-12 March, 09, conference of climate scientists in Copenhagen (http://climatecongress.ku.dk/pdf/synthesisreport).

    For consideration of related questions by climate scientists an excellent resource is the REALCLIMATE website (http://www.realclimate.org/) and, of course, numerous earlier contributions on BraveNewClimate.

    For a review of AGW in the paleoclimate context you could look at my paper “Milestones in the evolution of the atmosphere with reference to climate change (AJES Volume 55 Issue No.2 2008)(an online draft is on http://www.zeroemissionnetwork.org/files/MILESTONES_19-6-07.pdf)


  120. Let’s all try and keep this thread free of insults to posters.

    Re Glikson #154

    It only takes one exception to falsify a theory. Unless you have an explanation, Chen’s paper does that to the LNT. There are plenty of others too, including Cohen at http://world-nuclear.org/sym/1998/cohen.htm referenced earlier.

    I looked at the references you linked. The first has no numbers at all. The second is a book that I don’t have the inclination to read. It states that the study is based on animal experiments, rather than humans, and I’ve read that relatively few of these were done at low levels of radiation, most were pointless repetition at high levels. The link to your paper reported “page not available.”

    This is not the thread for AGW debate and so I will just comment that it is easy to show problems with the data used in the IPCC models and lack of proof for the forcing factors. Looking at the latest revelation http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7168 one can see motive to withhold data from the plebs.


  121. Adrian

    Regarding the effects of low-dose radiation, not being a medical/radiologist myself (nor as far as I am aware are other contributors to the thread) I am happy to leave the question to medical authorities in this field, in whom I have greater confidence than those who question climate change have in authorities and research organizations who study climate science. I have closer acquaintance with the issue of nuclear proliferation from my work with SANA, on the basis of which I regard the dissemination of weapons-grade materials around the world as dangerous.

    As you write, this is not the thread to consider climate change, so I will just append a short summary based on my recent talk on the subject and will be happy to send you pdf reprints of the relevant papers, the most up-to-date of which being the 10-12 March, 09, Copenhagen Synthesis Report (for this to happen if you wish, send your E-mail address to me at andrew.glikson@anu.edu.au).

    The anthropogenic release of over 300 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere since 1750 has pushed maximum CO2 level by near-40 percent higher than its natural state of 280 parts per million (ppm). When combined with methane (CH4), the current CO2-equivalent level is near-450 ppm. Mean global temperature since the early 20th century rose by about 0.8 degrees Celsius, with a further 0.5 degrees C masked by emitted sulphur aerosols. The sensitivity of the Earth’s atmosphere to changes on this scale has been underestimated. Climate science defines the upper limit of the Antarctic ice sheet near 500 ppm CO2, about 3-4 degrees Celsius higher than present temperature, and of the west Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets at about 400 ppm CO2. The current CO2 level of 387 ppm, rising at about 2 ppm/year, threatens a shift in the earth’s climate state toward conditions of 3 million years ago (mid-Pliocene: 2-3 degrees C higher than pre-industrial levels; 25+/-12 meters sea level rise).

    Manifestations of this trend include rapid melting of Arctic Sea ice, near-30 percent increase in Greenland ice summer melt area during 1978-2008, collapse of West Antarctic ice
    shelves, polar-ward migration of climate zones on the scale of several hundred kilometers, with consequent increase in the intensity of droughts in southern Australia. Major climate change is already manifest around the world,including fires, hurricanes, floods, sea level rises, glaciers melt at river headwaters and ocean acidification. Due to the cumulative nature and the centuries-long residence time of CO2, reduction in carbon emissions needs to be accompanied by CO2 down-draw technologies, aimed at lowering atmospheric levels to below 350 ppm, as indicated by leading climate scientists. These methods need to include soil biochar enrichment, extensive planting of CO2-sequestering plants and chemical capture methods. Time is of the essence.


  122. Hi Andrew,
    I’m interested in your opinion of the potential for biochar. According to Eprida,

    ““…the idea is that farmers have one of these units on their farms, grow their crops, put the residues in the machine, get paid in carbon credits for doing so, make the charcoal which they add to their soils, and produce diesel for themselves and to sell. Lietaer said that a land mass the size of France using this system could lock up all the carbon the world needs to.”


    Also, instead of wasting 50% of the syngas to run the next biochar burn, biochar plants could EASILY be solar-thermal saving 100% of the syngas/synfuel for addressing rural needs for liquid fuels. (While cities might soon get around on “Better Place” style EV’s with battery swaps, coming to Canberra in 2012, I can’t see harvesters running on a battery. ;-)

    Anyone aware of major moves in Australian politics to subsidise the introduction of biochar? They subsidise oil enough, maybe they should move some of that across to oil independence via biochar.


  123. Andrew

    [Regarding the effects of low-dose radiation, not being a medical/radiologist myself (nor as far as I am aware are other contributors to the thread) I am happy to leave the question to medical authorities in this field]

    I am a doctor who works in cancer. Any effect of the presence of a nuclear reactor would be absolutely trivial compared to changes in background radiation. You cannot demonstrate it even in population studies over many years on millions of people. It’s far less than moving to the foothills, taking a plane trip, etc etc. The correlation between cancer and low-level radiation is basically zero.

    There are literally thousands of much more carcinogenic materials we come across daily. Everything is risk versus benefit. With incredibly minimal risks and huge potential benefits, cancer is not an argument against nuclear power.

    I should add that almost every cancer caused by Chernobyl was a thyroid cancer which could be cured 95% of the time.


  124. Diogenes # 159

    Thank you for that. The problem is that facts somehow fail to persuade believers.

    I would have thought that Chen’s paper was interesting enough to have prompted some follow up studies, but if there have been, I have not seen them reported.

    Have you seen evidence of hormesis or is it still too scientifically incorrect to mention it unless it is in a sentence about tin foil hats?


  125. Adrian

    There is plenty of evidence for hormesis on a cell biology and animal level, but very little on humans. Ethics committees might be a problem and the lack of volunteers as well! Follow-up of accidental exposure as in the radioactive steel mentioned in 60 is encouraging but hardly conclusive.

    The paradigm of linear no-threshold (LNT) is certainly being questioned but it hasn’t been overturned yet. I suppose that consensus statements, although very conservative, are what we should follow and they still support LNT, as it would overturn 100 years of usual thinking to say there was a safe dose of radiation (or even a protective dose).

    I find it bizarre that there are so many concerns about nuclear power when about 1000 people die every day in the US from smoking, about 30,000 die a year from lung disease related to pollution but the faint possibility of a couple of deaths a year from radiation spooks people.

    There is just no sense of perspective when it comes to radiation injury. The book “Terrestrial Energy” covers the topic very well on a popular level.


  126. Diogenes #161

    It is unreasonable to expect human volunteers for radiation hormesis studies, but surely using the natural variation found, as in Cohen’s paper, should be enough.

    Although it is the accepted principle to follow the consensus opinion on LNT, the incredible cost of doing so suggests the money could be much better spent elsewhere. That there might even be a possible health benefit is an added fringe benefit. There would certainly be no harm.

    Yes it is bizarre. As believers are impervious to logic perhaps a religious or marketing approach would be more fruitful?


  127. Adrian

    I think that the nuclear industry needs a better PR firm! The danger of having a campaign that shows that concerns about nuclear safety are overblown is that anti-nuke environmental movement would just shift the goalposts.

    They would say, Gee the 200,000 who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki seemed to have a few health problems. And what about Chernobyl.

    Emotion almost always triumphs over reason on a population level. That’s how the Republicans win elections in the US despite the public agreeing with the Democrats on almost every issue.



    DIOGENES: Seeing that you are a medical specialists, I suggest a discussion regarding the effects of low dose radiation and the danger from leaks on human health would be more meaningfully held between you and the numerous medical people of MAPW and others (for example Tilman Ruff, Sue Wareham, Fred Mendelsohn and others).

    My principal concern, with my background with Scientists Against Nuclear Arms, is the proliferation of weapons-grade materials. If and when fossil fuel untilities are replaced (or complemented with) IFRs or other N-reactors, the dissemination of enriched Uranium and Plutonium world-wide would inevitably result in weapons-grade materials ending in the wrong hands. The history of lateral proliferation of N-weapons from energy utilities over the last 30 years proves this point. As you are aware, from the studies of Toon, Sagan and others, the sooth released from a moderate-size nuclear explosion in a large metropolitan leads to serious climatic consequences, quite apart from the radiation effects.


    Biochar, burying and preservation of carbon in the subsoil, leading to enhanced plant growth, photosynthesis and CO2-capture, would be one way of preventing oxidation of carbon. Depending on (1) the source of carbon, whether by burial of organic matter (and carbon derived from industrial sources?); (2) long term soil moisture (which is one factor which would govern the longevity of buried biochar); (3) the extent to which the method is applied world-wide, and other factors, the method has a promise, but only as one of several biosequestration techniques aimed to lowering the current atmospheric levels of CO2 (388 ppm) and CO2-e (near-460 ppm), possibly including chemical geoenginnering (Sodium capture of CO2) supported by Hansen et al. 2008. I doubt any of these methods would work unless deep urgent cuts are made in CO2 emission levels, not least in view of looming methane leaks reported from the Arctic Sea and the Siberian permafrost.


  129. Andrew

    It’s not all that easy to make a decent nuclear bomb. Nutters have had 50 years so far and haven’t even come close. There is plenty of fissile material around the ex Soviet union and the amount added by expanding the nuclear industry seems highly unlikely to cross some threshold, esp given the much lower amount available from breeder reactors.

    It would take quite a few nuclear bombs to go off to really alter the climate very much.

    Again, it comes down to risk vs benefit. The benefits are enormous from minimising AGW with possibly milions, or even billions, dying depending on where we end up. The risk of slightly more fissile material being around making it slightly more likely that some nutter will make a bomb seems to be an acceptable risk to me.


  130. Diogenes,

    It is not just the amount of fissile material lying around, but the tens of thousands of actual working nuclear weapons held by various countries. Far easier to steal of buy one of those than make a bomb from scratch. Not to mention accidents. When an U.S. plane crashed in Spain it was carrying four nuclear weapons: the conventional explosive used to compress the fissile material apparently exploded on two of them.

    War is the real danger. Although Israel claimed it “would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East” (having 200 nuclear weapons doesn’t count?) it got very close to using one in one of the earlier wars. Some trigger happy Israeli may start World War 3 by bombing Iran.

    As you wrote earlier, there seems little sense of perspective. MAD works and war would be far worse than the risk of some fanatical group getting hold of a bomb. The risk from nuclear power stations is totally insignificant by comparison.



    the following citations from the book “Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy” by Arjun Makhijani (electrical and nuclear engineer; President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research), are relevant (pages 170-171):

    “Greater use of nuclear power would convert the problem of nuclear proliferation from one that is difficult today to one that is practically intractable.”

    “The use of nuclear power entails risks of nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and serious accidents. It exacerbates the problem of nuclear waste and perpetuates vulnerabilities and insecurities in the energy system that are avoidable.”

    “It is not hard to discern that the increasing interest in nuclear power is at least partly as a route to acquiring nuclear weapons capability.”

    “The problems of reprocessing are already daunting. For instance, North Korea used a commercial sector power plant and a reprocessing plant to get the plutonium for its nuclear arsenal. Besides the nuclear weapon states, about three dozen countries, including Iran, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Taiwan, South Korea, and Turkey, have the technological capacity to make nuclear weapons.”

    “Even the present number of nuclear power plants and infrastructure has created tensions between non-proliferation and the rights countries have under the NPT to acquire commercial nuclear technology. Increasing their number would require more uranium enrichment plants, when just one such plant in Iran has stoked global political-security tensions to a point that it is a major driver in spot market oil price fluctuations. In addition, there are terrorism risks, since power plants are announced terrorist targets. It hardly appears advisable to increase the number of targets.”

    “The nuclear waste problem has resisted solution. Increasing the number of power plants would only compound the problem. In the United States, it would likely create the need for a second repository, and possibly a third, even though the first, at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, is in deep trouble. No country has so far been able to address the significant long-term health, environmental and safety problems associated with spent fuel or high level waste disposal, even as official assessments of the risk of harm from exposure to radiation continue to increase. Finally, since the early 1980s, Wall Street has been, and remains, skeptical of
    nuclear power due to its expense and risk. That is why, more than half a century after then-Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis Strauss, proclaimed that nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter,” the industry is still turning to the government for loan guarantees and other subsidies. The insurance side is no better. The very limited insurance that does exist is far short of official estimates of damage that would result from the most serious accidents; it is almost all government-provided.”


  132. re #167

    Arjun Makhijani is quoted. “The nuclear waste problem has resisted solution. Increasing the number of power plants would only compound the problem. In the United States, it would likely create the need for a second repository, and possibly a third, even though the first, at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, is in deep trouble.”

    The LFTR uses thorium and produces <0.1% of the radwaste from a conventional fission plant. Not only that, it can burn the radwaste from those older plants.

    Markhijani is not just biased, he is wrong in his unsupported assertions.


  133. Arjun Makhijani has been a stalwart anti-nuclear campaigner for many years and has been consistently wrong. Developing technology, science, evidence — these are not relevant quantities in his world view. Ironically, this intellectual lock-out of reality leads him and others like him to become (presumably) unpaid shills for natural gas — and I’m sure the gas execs love him to bits for his services:




  134. @Andrew @ 167.

    My goodness. It’s as if Arjun Makhijani believes that nuclear weapons grow organically out of fission industries. This is the kind of malarky that permeates the anti-nuclear movement. Take S. Korea. Located south of N. Korea that wants to kill it as a country, further south from the largest population country in the world with hundreds of nuclear WMD (China) and yet for 30 years of their nuclear power program, no move toward their own nuclear weapons program. Why do you think that is, Andrew? It’s called *policy*. They decided not do this. The issue isn’t a nuclear program, it’s the issue of having a nuclear WMD program. A country that can decide to have nuclear energy can make a decision that says no to nuclear weapons: Spain, Sweden, Holland, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Poland, Japan, etc etc.

    Makhijani is so wrong he’s a-historical. The N. Koreans did NOT use a commercial nuclear plant, they used an R&D reactor. And, it has NO nuclear energy program. Neither did Pakistan. Or Libya in it’s project. S. Africa which did develop a nuke didn’t use the facilities at Koeberg plant. Iran today, if it is building an actual nuclear device, will use it’s small R&D reactor to build WMD

    The problem Makhijani is that he has no understanding of the politics of nuclear weapons, thus he doesn’t have a clue on how to prevent proliferation. In this way he’s dangerous because he assumes, factually incorrectly, that without a nuclear energy program one can’t have a nuclear arms program. How sad.


  135. Nuclear energy is in and of itself, not a proliferation risk. No more than a fertilizer production industry necessarily means that a nation also has artillery shell industry. The conceived need for the latter, does not depend on the existence of the former, which is in essence what is implied by linking nuclear energy with proliferation. So far none of the countries “illegally” producing their own nuclear weapons to date have leveraged their nuclear power sectors in any meaningful way; and all of them were driven by extreme geopolitical pressure in their perceived need for a N-weapon capability.

    No country has ever proceeded with a nuclear weapons program, just because it was able to. There has to be a really strong perceived need for this capability, that when present is enough to carry the task through as much international pressure as can be applied short of military.

    Look at those countries that have acquired the Bomb after the US did, even England and France were under a great deal of pressure not to arm, but did so despite both being very economically and politically in debt to the US at the time, and both were rebuilding after having been damned near burnt to the ground. Much of the friction between DeGaul and the Americans was rooted in the French pursuing nuclear weapons against American pressure not to.

    Israel and South Africa mounted programs because they recognized they were vulnerable to invasion, India needed a deterrent against Chinese incursions into Kashmir and to draw a line in the sand with Pakistan, who in turn looked at India to the East, Communists to the North, and Fundamentalists to the West and knew their armed forces could not successfully defend the country with conventional weapons alone. All of these States faced sanctions, that truly hurt domestically, India in particular was desperate for more nuclear energy, and found itself cut off from the world in this matter at a very critical time. Even North Korea’s program is motivated more by fear than by self aggrandizement, irregardless of propaganda to the contrary.

    Meanwhile countries like Canada, Japan, Germany, Brazil, South Korea could build a deliverable weapon inside a year should they want to, and Australia, and several European nations could mount programs which could do the same within five if pushed, yet they don’t. Even South Africa dismantled their weapons as soon as the threat diminished. The reason is because this is a cripplingly expensive capability to acquire and maintain and no nation will do so without its back to the wall. Even the Big Five are effected by this and most of the push for nuclear arms reduction is motivated by financial pressure more than ideological.

    This whole idea that proliferation is some sort of accident waiting to happen, and that unchecked will lead to a domino effect is pure fantasy based on the overactive imaginations of Cold War strategists like Herman Kahn who were working in a vacuum. Hand wringing inside and outside of the pronuclear power community on the issue of weapons proliferation seems to be locked in theories first put forward by him in the 1960’s; theories which events since that time have proven wrong. If you recall, it was assumed by those theories there would be more than a dozen new nuclear weapons States by the turn of the century – is is obviously just not so. Even if the question of suppling weapon-grade fissile material is removed, it still requires a sizable technological infrastructure and the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars to make a weapon. The costs of a more ambitious program aimed at producing a militarily significant number of weapons can easily run into the billions of dollars, and the idea that such a project could be carried out by surreptitiously stripping power reactors of their fuel belongs in pulp novels, not in any rational discussion of the issue.


  136. In fairness to the anti-nuclear activists, most of the geopolitical arguments of carrot-and-stick don’t apply if you have an wacko non-state terrorist organisation which wants to acquire a nuke (although I think any increase in risk would be very small, esp with breeder reactors).


  137. Diogenes @ 173 The technical and practical problems facing a ‘terrorist’ group wishing to acquire a working nuclear weapon are for all intents and purposes insurmountable.

    A careful review of the evidence suggests that there are technical obstacles to to constructing a weapon that are insuperable, and there is no evidence that any terrorist group currently possesses the technical expertise necessary for a nuclear effort.

    Claims that this is possible glosses over the difficulty of finding the kinds of highly qualified experts such a project would need and omits real consideration of at least a dozen other points in the process where something could, and very likely would, go wrong that would bring the whole project to an end

    The tiny size of the team that would be required to keep such an effort by an extra-national group clandestine — the Manhattan Project had a staff of three thousand — means that in every one of a dozen or more expertise categories you would have to find someone with the absolute optimal skills. How does that kind of organization find those kinds of people, in the real world?

    Countries that enrich uranium to weapons grade levels do in fact keep inventories, and is everywhere kept under guard if for no other reason than it is extremely expensive to produce, and to date there have been no credible reports of trafficking in this material. One would think that in the worst days of the fall of the Soviet Union these stockpiles would be the most vulnerable yet none of this material remains unaccounted for.

    In short, the whole terrorists with a nuclear weapon meme is a construct of irrational fears based almost entirely on a profound ignorance of the mechanics of a nuclear device, and unwarranted assumptions about the availability of material to make one.


  138. DV82XL

    That’s pretty much what I’ve been reading. The other anti-nuke argument is about a dirty bomb which is obviously a lot more low tech but it’s almost impossible to disperse it widely enough to do anything. The US Govt did some tests which were a huge flop.


  139. Diogenes – actually the Brits did, (although they were sharing results with the U.S. at the time) and in Australia at the Maralinga site during the Fifties. They did a series of shots called Operation Rats to test the ability of conventional explosives to distribute radioactive isotopes with a view to developing protection from such an attack, rather than weapon development per se. There were 125 trials in the series between 1956 and 1960.

    The results were such that it was determined that such a weapon was not a credible threat and the program was halted.

    The big problem is that anything radioactive enough to do real damage is very difficult to handle and would more likely kill the perpetrators by prompt radiation while they were preparing a device or even getting hold of the material. It is often overlooked by those that are wringing their hands over ‘dirty bombs’ that the really radioisotopes that would have to be used as an agent is self-protecting simply because it is too dangerous to handle directly.


  140. Matt Buckels – This has been the fall-back position in this debate, however this is based on the belief that such an attack would cause enough disruption to be worth the effort. Keep in mind that it is easer to build and deploy a conventional bomb and cause real deaths than it would be to go to the trouble of making and ineffective radiological dispersal device (RDD) and create a public nuisance.

    Any attack terrorist or otherwise comes with certain costs, and every attacker will do a cost-benefit analysis before proceeding a RDD of the sort that could be made by amateurs, just isn’t worth the effort.

    The argument that some disaffected nutbar might do it anyway, while valid, hardly is an argument to stop the development of nuclear technology. In the end ‘dirty bombs’ are not a credible risk.


  141. I hope readers will excuse the lateness & length of this response but the links should be interesting.
    My main reason for mentioning the TMI accident was to reinforce the theme, that not enough honesty is being demonstrated in the nuclear industry, particularly in dealing with radiation readings given to the public. In support of this, “Henry Myers, (chief scientific advisor to the House Committee on Interior & Insular Affairs 1980, with a Ph.D. in nuclear physics) in his role of highlighting nuclear safety issues, readily found people lied about what they had done to make plants safer, let problems fester until it was too late, & used psychological forms of avoidance to convince themselves & the public, that nuclear reactors were safe. The TMI accident revealed serious deficiencies in a system that was supposed to protect the public health & safety. There were shortcomings found in the design of the plant & the approach used by the NRC in licensing all US reactors. Myers encountered human weaknesses far beyond what he had thought likely, or what his education & experience had prepared him for. Based on the subcommittee’s investigations, Myers estimated that as many as 75% of all the reactors in operation or under construction (at least 100) had “serious problems” that should’ve required costly repairs or closure. Myers often found cracks, leaks, faulty welds, false records & human vice in his investigations. Prior to the accident, the TMI utility had provided false test results of leaking coolant pipes from the same pressuriser that was being monitored & misunderstood during the early stages of the accident. The utility pleaded guilty to one count & no contest to six other counts of criminal misconduct for wilfully misrepresenting the test results.” (‘In Mortal Hands’ Chap 16)
    Yes I can see that the TMI accident was unusual & therefore more likely that greater amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere, but it was included because it is still relevant. Additional claims have emerged that significant radiation was released – reference (a) below & (A Nuclear Nightmare – TMI). Media coverage on Voices from the Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident 1979 clearly shows officials played down the seriousness of the accident. One even claimed “we cannot refer to it as a nuclear accident because it was not that”. Another claim was that “all safety equipment functioned properly”. After 30 yrs of subsequent analysis from many researchers, we now know that those claims were false. If they mislead us on those simple issues, how can we possibly trust them on more serious radiation claims? What is the public to think when they hear about claims of 0.0002mSv, & then see other claims of larger releases? With additional examples from other countries having massaged radiation figures for the public, this becomes a significant breach of trust issue. The radioactivity measured by an overhead helicopter at TMI suggested that your fencepost man figure was too low, at least while the helicopter was in the air at that given time. If radiation was found about 16 miles from the plant, & plant operators in the control room had to later wear respirators (due to radiation increases), then larger amounts are implied. Due to the seriousness of the accident & multiple failures, it caught many experts by surprise, so rigorous, reliable & systematic radiation readings were less likely to be done despite the official claims of continuous monitoring. Even if regular readings were done, how can we be sure the officials didn’t play them down as well? When two technicians took core coolant radioactivity samples at TMI, they received significant doses themselves while they were getting evidence of a partial meltdown (‘In Mortal Hands’ Chap 16). So there certainly was a known source of high radioactivity available. But did significant amounts escape? The claimed symptoms of some close plant neighbours suggest that they did (A Nuclear Nightmare), reference (a) below & (The Nuclear Industry: A History of Misleading Claims – briefing paper # 20)
    Mr Brook’s line “highly unlikely to occur again” carries no weight at all. Yes, I accept that there have been some improvements in the industry, but human failures are still occurring (see the links below) despite the glowing spin from people like US Admiral Frank Bowman & that’s what people are concerned about. The public need to be reminded of the continuing presence of deliberate attempts of some to manipulate public views – Inside Spin, & here & reference (b) below. There are still too many accidents. The Davis-Besse plant came uncomfortably close to a major accident in 2002. The NRC were also found to have contributed to the problem, just as it had also with the TMI accident. Both the Japanese & French have had accidents too. Recently, a British nuclear inspector said “We Can’t Check Everything” . How can we have any confidence in that sort of industry attitude?
    Mr Brook’s other line “is irrelevant to the topic of this post about routine radiation exposure from living near NPP” isn’t acceptable either. The public are entitled to know fully how radiation releases are both categorized & actually occurring without being mislead with restricting semantics, so in one sense maybe I haven’t “missed the point”. The real point is the amounts of radiation being released under all circumstances. There is far too much denial on this matter. By restricting the discussion just to routine emissions, there is a danger of appearing evasive on the more sensitive topic of accidental releases. The public are not aware of the tighter meaning given to some normally used terms by the nuclear industry. How many people know the NRC have an additional category for radioactivity release called “unintentional release” as shown in – (Radioactive Rivers & Rain – Vol 16 # 1). The public either assumes all radioactive releases are classed as routine or they do not know about the more significant amounts being vented, but not classed as routine. My line about “much larger curie readings” was referring to the total dose over the normally used 12 mth period, such as shown in the graph at Prairie Island Routinely Emits Radioactivity into the Environment. Furthermore, in 1976, a Nuclear Energy Policy Study Group was formed (sponsored by the FORD foundation) to help clarify the main issues with nuclear power plants. It included many experts in related fields. Here is an extract taken from their published findings (1977) about radiation released during normal reactor operation: The nuclear fuel cycle inevitably releases some radioactive effluents into the environment. The atmospheric ionization caused could conceivably have some climatic effects in the future. Present reactors are reported to emit between zero & 100,000 curies of krypton-85 per 1,000 MWe per year depending on design; with reprocessing this amount could increase to 500,000 curies. During operation, radioactive gases & volatile radioisotopes migrate out of fuel, through small cladding defects, into the coolant. These effluent gases, which include iodine, xenon & krypton isotopes, are held up & treated. At present, about 500 curies of krypton-85 are ultimately released annually from each reactor. Krypton-85 is a chemically inert gas emitting beta & gamma rays with a ½ life of 10.7 yrs. A curie is a fairly significant amount of radioactivity, & routine mSv wouldn’t account for this..
    The energyscience # 20 briefing paper really needs to have its references followed up, rather than just criticising the author, especially regarding the claimed symptoms of some of the residents. I suspect your suggested upper range of 5,000mSv is possibly a bit high in order to produce some of the claimed symptoms. The real big issue is if such significant releases do occur, then it is the end of the nuclear honeymoon for sure. So obviously there will be a tendency to cover it up. We now have good evidence that even the early 1957 Windscale accident was worse than we were earlier led to believe. How many more examples of dishonesty are needed? Just check out the included links below for many examples of ineptness.
    With only a simple search, sufficient evidence of NRC failures are readily found. The real difficulty is finding a genuinely neutral complaints body. Even the IAEA & WHO cannot act independently of each other – Toxic link. Too many people have an axe to grind. There has been increasing evidence against the use of mercury amalgam dental fillings for many years, yet the profession has a vested interest in denying any harm, as they also do with the sodium fluoride in our water supplies despite the adequate evidence against that practice. Many years ago, environmental lead levels were also too high, yet the lead industry successfully lobbied for about 60 yrs to prevent any changes despite early medical evidence. Similar story with asbestos, etc. Prof Eric Wright has provided good evidence for low radiation levels possibly causing harm – reference (c) below. Since there is some biological differences & tolerances amongst the population, we really need to keep all levels as low as possible.
    Conclusion: The nuclear industry hasn’t done enough to render their plants truly safe because it is too difficult, so they resort to unacceptable public relations spin to cast it in the best possible light. The routine plant emissions is one such area of misleading the public. If any included links have faulty information, then it is up to dissenters to provide good evidence to refute them without using any vague personal ridicule.
    Closing Comments
    Only 4 months after the Chernobyl accident, Morris Rosen, the IAEA’s nuclear safety division director, stated “Even if there was a Chernobyl type accident every year, I would still consider nuclear power an interesting type of energy production.” Yet now the current IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei feels “We cannot afford another (major) accident”. How’s that for different viewpoints from the same organisation? (Quotes from ‘In Mortal Hands’) S. Cooke also claims from the same book, that: “A chief lobbyist from the Argonne National Laboratory has privately admitted their proposed new breeder (IFR) program may never succeed due to the complex chemistry required.”

    Barry Brook apparently could not open all my earlier links given in # 119, so let’s try again.

    These Ref hyperlinks had problems. Just copy & paste titles into a Google window to find them.
    Ref (a) Nuclear Scandals – Atom City (see TMI entry for October 1986)
    Ref (b) Marketing Concepts & Strategy can Reduce Resistance to Nuclear Power Plant Installation
    Ref (c) Radiation Roulette by Rob Edwards

    Just the few Links below show the unhealthy state of the nuclear industry at present.

    Radiation issues
    Childhood Cancers near German Nuclear Reactors
    Regulators Quietly Stop Monitoring Nuclear Plants
    Study Links TMI Radiation Releases to Higher Cancer Rates 1997

    Huge radioactive leak closes THORP nuclear plant 2005 – Hyperlink fault. Google it
    UK farmers still restricted by nuclear fallout 2009 – Hyperlink fault. Google it

    Criticality Accident in Japan 1999
    The Many Problems of Sellafield
    Nuclear disaster averted by dirty laundry 2009
    Further radioactive leaks from submarines 2009
    Atomic dustbin (Chernobyl) 2001
    UK accused over Sellafield pollution
    Accidents tarnish nuclear dream (France) 2008
    Japan’s worst ever nuclear accident 1999
    Fatal accidents damage Japan’s nuclear dream
    Nuclear Leak Worse than First Feared (Japan) (item located further down the list)
    New nuclear plants will produce far more radiation
    Revealed: huge Sellafield leak went undetected for 9 months

    Regulatory & Safety Failures
    Report of NRC failures – Boston Globe 2008 – Hyperlink fault. Google title
    Revealed: nuclear security rules broken 39 times in past year – Google title
    NCR Failure at early nuclear (FUSRAP) sites
    Sellafield safety lapses revealed 2007
    Now Sellafield admits to 22 faked nuclear safety checks
    Sellafield – A £1bn nuclear white elephant 2009
    Safety scares threaten nuclear ‘renaissance’ 2009
    Revealed: faulty nuclear reactor was allowed to operate without safety alarm 2007
    Defects found in nuclear reactor the French want to build in Britain 2008
    Fear and fury in shadow of Japan’s damaged nuclear giant
    Court blocks Japan’s nuclear plans (Monju fast-breeder)
    Tokyo nuclear firm hid reactor cracks
    Japan’s Nuclear Nightmare
    Three Mile Island at 30: Nuclear Power’s Pitfalls
    Worse than Chernobyl: A rusting Russian nuclear dump threatens Europe

    Behavioural Issues
    Civil Servants lived the high life courtesy of nuclear lobby 2008
    New crisis hits Sellafield as Germans say BNFL ‘lied’
    UK Officials plotted Sellafield cover-up 2009


  142. Allan McKay

    You’re really scraping through the bottom of the barrell if you need to use TMI as an argument against nuclear power. Not a single person died and fencepost man at TMI got more radiation from Chernobyl than TMI.

    The fact your need to bring it up highlights how incredibly safe nuclear power is.


  143. Regrettably, all my carefully chosen links were not activated in #179 due to some problem. I managed OK at # 119 & # 135 however. Those relevant links at # 179 adequately show the TMI accident was not a pushover, but a very close call. It’s not as easy to identify them in their present form. If just the three sources below are viewed attentively, it will become more obvious how serious it was. A very significant number of people stuffed up at several levels.
    “The situation was serious enough in the regulators’ view that they advised the Civil Defence Officials to begin evacuating. NRC chairman Joseph Hendrie informed Governor Thornburgh: “We really don’t know what is going on…The plant is not under control & isn’t performing they way it should.” (quoted from “In Mortal Hands” Chap 16) This hardly agrees well with the audio press statements from the YouTube video below (b).
    If the below hyperlinks don’t work, just put the bold-type title into Google to get the article. At least that works. I was having hyperlink problems with (c) anyway.
    a) A Nuclear Nightmare – TMI (Time Magazine lengthy article)
    b) Voices from the Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident 1979
    (YouTube video with images & voices)
    c) Nuclear Scandals – Atom City (see TMI report entry for Oct 1986)
    As it turns out, the IAEA ranks nuclear accidents on a scale of 1 – 7. Chernobyl was ranked at the maximum of 7. TMI was ranked at 5. That is still quite serious. Not just the unfortunate dead are counted in any type of accident (war zone, natural disaster etc), but the injured are as well. There is adequate circumstantial evidence that many people experienced some form of discomfort at least, judging by the symptom mentioned in the Time article above & are therefore classed as being injured if their symptoms are genuine. Prof Eric Wright is satisfied that small doses of radiation still pose a reasonable risk, depending on the health & genetics of those subjected to the released radioactivity. See the article Radiation Roulette by Rob Edwards (Google the title). Have a look at all four above sources & let us know what you think then.


  144. Number killed last year:
    a) Medical accidents & hospital infections ~ 200,000
    b) On the US highways ~ 40,000
    c) Nuclear power ~0

    Obviously we should concentrate on ( c ) as just thinking about radiation makes me ill.
    One of the first things to do would be ban most medical imaging like X-rays and CAT scans.

    Then move everyone from mountains and places with high background radiation to a safe camp deep in the middle of nowhere to reduce dangerous solar radiation. Resistors should be shot as everyone who counts know this is for their own good.



    As time tables of dangerous climate change are telescoped, from centuryies-long projections to decade-long and even few years-scale projections, as corroborated by the fast-melting Arctic Sea ice, collapse of west Anarctic ice shelves and, ominously, increased rate of methane release from permafrost and high latitude lakes, the discussion of medium to long-term application of technologies such as modern N-energy utilities or Carbon Capture and storage is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

    This is because, at current rates of 2 ppm/year, in 10 to 30 years atmospheric CO2-e (currently at 460 ppm – including the effects of methane and nitric oxide), will exceed the (approximate) 500 ppm level at which the Antarctic ice sheet has originally formed some 34 million years ago.

    As indicated by the US/NASA climate group lead by James Hansen, to prevent ongoing feedback effects, CO2 levels need to be urgently brought down to 350 ppm and below (Its a bit like a mountain climber suffering altitude sickness needing to urgently descend to the nearest valley).

    Since CO2 is cumulative, merely reducing emissions, even if by 40% by 2020, will still allow atmospheric levels to rise above levels which allowed mammals to flourish on land.

    How can such reduction be achieved is less clear, and may require a combination of deep emission cuts, reforrestation, biosequestration, biochar, chemical draw-down technologies (“sodium trees”) and other means, with the chances of success being no better than 50:50.

    The $trillions required, if they are ever diverted from other sources (the military?) will be required for CO2 draw-down.

    If this is done, the question arises regarding the nature of future energy sources.

    It is possible some climate scientists (cf. Hansen, Flannery), staring into the abyss of dangerous climate change, may feel the “powers to be” and in particular the big miners may be more amenable to substitute coal with uranium than they may be to other solutions.

    There is no guarantee that, should the nuclear industry be largely expanded, carbon emissions from energy utilities and transport will be reduced.

    Given human nature, proliferation of plutonium in a world already stressed by climate change, overpopulation and a myriad other problems, is not only a “too late” and thereby an irrelevant “answer” to runaway climate change, but also the most dangerous one.

    It is relevant to bear in mind the warning by some of the great physicists, for example:
    Lord Rees (president of the Royal Society) talks about the prospect of terrorists detonating a nuclear weapon in the heart of a city, killing tens of thousands along with themselves.
    Stephen Hawking: “Climate change and nuclear proliferation have moved the world closer to apocalypse”;
    Albert Einstein: “The splitting of the atom changed everything, save man’s way of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophies”.


  146. Re Glikson #186,

    I thought this particular thread was about radiation.

    However, if you want to consider the climate, contrary to what you wrote, Arctic sea ice is not decreasing. See http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

    Likewise, there is considerable doubt that the temperature is increasing anywhere near as fast as Mann or the IPCC make out. See http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/10/01/ross-mckitrick-defects-in-key-climate-data-are-uncovered.aspx


  147. Andrew Glikson@#186:

    If we are rapidly approaching a really dangerous atmospheric CO2 concentration, then the mitigation strategy which is being rendered irrelevant is the passive one of relying on emission cutbacks without active geoengineering. If things are as you indicate, then we need a reliable, robust high-energy power system to run our geoenginering efforts and ween the world of reliable, robust fossil fuels. We have to replace them with something as good as, or better than they are. That something is so obviously nuclear power tat it is a wonderment to me this debate is still going on.


  148. Adrian

    Your claims are unfortunate. Both in terms of Arctic sea ice, and temperature, long term averages are important — this latter ackonwledged even by McKitrick in his tax model.

    Arctic sea ice extent is in long term decline and there is no reason to think this trend will abate any time soon


  149. Dr Glikson

    Given human nature, proliferation of plutonium in a world already stressed by climate change, overpopulation and a myriad other problems, is not only a “too late” and thereby an irrelevant “answer” to runaway climate change, but also the most dangerous one.

    Your contribution to discussions on mitigation has been very significantly positive and you deserve continuing reespect for this but the above is specious.

    I can’t imagine how ‘human nature’ can influence proliferation (I’m not even sure what this is or that it exists but no matter).

    As has been pointed out many times, nuclear reactors designed to produce energy are a far poorer vehicle for weapons production than research reactors would be and these can be creested anywhere. In each of the nuclear power using states there exists ample Pu already to pose the hazard you express concern about, assuming one thought using this feedstock were viable so the marginal hazard is effectively zero.


  150. @Allan, #179.

    Ah, the old Three Mile Island conspiracy theory, the notion that there were enormous amounts of radioactivity released, and people who experienced acute radiation poisoning, that was somehow covered up.

    Let’s look, for a moment, at the Chernobyl disaster. When the Chernobyl disaster happened, we didn’t see the Soviet premier calling up Reagan to tell him all about this catastrophic accident and large release of radioactivity, did we? Of course, they tried to keep it a secret.
    So, how did we in the industrialised world find out about the Chernobyl accident and this large release of radioactivity? We found out about it when all the radiological sensors and alarms started going off at the Forsmark nuclear power plant in Sweden.

    As another example, we all know today that it is possible, if you live in an area of relatively uranium-rich geology, for significant amounts of radioactivity in the form of radon to leach into your basement naturally from the surrounding rock.
    But how was this radon issue first discovered? It was discovered when a person employed at a nuclear power station in the United States kept setting off the radiological sensors when he arrived at work every day.

    Those incidents show you just how sensitive the detectors and monitors used at facilities like nuclear power plants are.

    In the modern world, if there is some sort of massive release of radioactivity into the atmosphere it is impossible to hide it or to cover it up.

    If this massive release of radioactivity at TMI isn’t just a myth, then you would have recorded clear evidence of it on every bit of photographic film for miles around. After the accident, all such photographic film was collected and analysed by Kodak, and no such evidence was found.

    There are many other nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania and neighbouring states which aren’t too far away from TMI. They would have recorded real evidence of a large cloud of radioactivity in the environment, if it was really present to that extent.

    You’d record real evidence of it anywhere where photographic film is stored or used. You’d record it at every nuclear power plant, or anywhere else where radioactive materials are stored or used where health physics controls are implemented. You’d record real evidence of it anywhere where medical or industrial X-ray images are made. You’d record it anywhere where radioactivity is used for scientific or medical purposes. You’d record it everywhere where particle detectors are used for physics experiments. You’d maybe even detect it on every old duck-and-cover civil defence radiological detector that someone might have had laying around as an unpleasant relic of history.

    But no such real physical recorded evidence to support the theory was ever recorded, anywhere. People went looking for it, but it wasn’t there.

    There are people who claim they got sick as a result of the Three Mile Island accident, who claim that they exhibited symptoms consistent with acute radiation poisoning, and massive doses of ionising radiation.

    There are also people who claim that they have been made sick by witches who put a curse on them – once upon a time, upon hearing these stories, we’d have them tell us the identity of the witch so the witch could then be tortured and murdered, based on these stories.

    There are people who tell stories about how they’ve been beamed aboard the extraterrestrial flying saucer, and sexually molested by the aliens – but once again, as with the above examples, there are mere stories but there is no actual real evidence that stands up to scientific enquiry.

    Shortly after the TMI accident, people like Helen Caldicott went and gathered up local residents and described to them the scary sounding symptopms of acute radiation poisoning from acute exposure to massive doses of ionising radiation, and implied that that’s what would happen to them. With that kind of fear and stress, it’s no surprise that we can see mass hysteria, and we can see people who say that they think they might be starting to exhibit those symptoms that they’ve been told about.

    But instruments and detectors and photographic films and thermoluminescent dosimeter crystals aren’t subject to fear, panic and mass hysteria – and they recorded nothing.

    A common claim of TMI conspiracy theorists such as Caldicott is that longer lived radionuclides, such as Cs-137, Sr-90, Pu-239 (or pick your favourite moderate-to-long half-life well-known reactor-produced radionuclide) were released into the environment at TMI, not just short-lived gaseous fission products.

    But if such nuclides were released, you could go and take some soil from TMI, and physically show the evidence of such release, because those radionuclides would still, mostly, be there. They can show us real, undeniable, physical evidence today, if that hypothesis is true. But that evidence is never forthcoming.


  151. Luke, very well said, and it points out, in a different way, much of what I was saying in comment #121 and #136 above. Unfortunately, Allan was not interested in these statements, hence my lack of interest in engaging with him any further.


  152. Fran, re #189

    I find what Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu, (IARC Founding Director and Professor of Physics, Emeritus, was the director of the International Arctic Research) wrote fits the known facts better than most. A rather dated summary here: http://climatesci.org/2007/06/15/on-the-fundamental-defect-in-the-ipcc%E2%80%99s-approach-to-global-warming-research-by-syun-ichi-akasofu/

    Of course it is warming. But not as fast as the IPCC says.
    The North Pole wasn’t ice free this Summer, as some forecast, and has been warmer in the past.



    (1) Your comment: “I thought This particular thread is about radiation”. Yes, but as you have expressed doubts regarding observations of climate science, and as the renewed calls for implementation of N-energy utiities are closely related to the need for reduction in carbon emissions, these subjects are inter-related.

    (2) I could not be more delighted if, as you suggest, Arctic Sea ice is not decreasing. Unfortunately, the decade-scale trend indicates a mean ice cover decrease of 34% between 1979 – 2009 (NSIDC SeaIce Index 2009). To look at the recent annual trend (i.e. decrease in ice cover of 23% in 2007, followed by return of ice by about 14% in 2008-2009) is to look at annual to multi-annual variations on the scale of, and likely affected by, the ENSO cycle.

    To examine the relations between the decade-long warming trend and the superposed variations induced by the ENSO cycle, 11-year sunspot cycle and other factors (aerosols), I suggest you look at the recent paper “Is the Climate warming or cooling” by Easterling and Wehner 2009 (GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 36). Regarding IPCC projections, as shown by Rahmstorf et al. 2007 “Recent Climate Observations Compared to Projections” (sciencexpress February 2007), the Copenhagen Synthesis Report (11-12 March, 09) and, most recently, the Oxford meeting 28 September, 09 (eci.ox.ac.uk/4degrees/programme), unfortunately the 2007 IPCC projections (based on up to 2005 data) have been largely exceeded by post-2005 observations.

    Should you be interested in pdf reprints of the most recent climate reports, write me at andrew.glikson@anu.edu.au



    You write: “I can’t imagine how ‘human nature’ can influence proliferation (I’m not even sure what this is or that it exists but no matter).”

    MY RESPONSE: Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. To give a species which has repeatedly perpetrated the worst geoncidal atrocities (I hardly need to bring examples) nuclear power, is something which many of the original atomic scientists (driven by the suspicion the Nazis will develop the bomb first) themselves regreted, as documented among other in “Brighter than One Thousand Suns: A personal history of the atomic scientists” by Robert Jungk.

    Studies by Carl Sagan and others sugggest the longevity of technological civlisations is inherently limited by the power of their invented devices (the “sting in the tail”) and that if humanity wishes to take responsibility for future generations, it will need to avoid the dissemination of toxic elements in the environment.

    The myth has been perpetrated by vested interests as if solar-thermal, wind, dry-rocks, tide and other non-polluting sources of energy are “unreliable”. From the fast development of solar and solar-thermal energy grids, for example in California and Spain, and as most recently documented in Mark Dissendorf’s new book (University of NSW, Environmental Studies), available clean renewable energy options are more than viable.

    You write “As has been pointed out many times, nuclear reactors designed to produce energy are a far poorer vehicle for weapons production than research reactors would be and these can be creested anywhere. In each of the nuclear power using states there exists ample Pu already to pose the hazard you express concern about, assuming one thought using this feedstock were viable so the marginal hazard is effectively zero.”

    MY RESPONSE: In the future, near or far, there will always be those who will try and divert the use of N-energy from peaceful to hostile purposes. While currently the world’s is attempting to rid itself from N-weapons, this would hardly be successful if, as happened time and again over the last 30 years, enriched Uranium and plutonium from research or energy reactors will be used for the construction of nuclear weapons, with dire consequences for the human species and the biosphere.


  155. Glikson@#195:

    No single technological development in history has done more to curb full-scale industrial warfare than the development of nuclear weapons. No energy generating technology has greater potential for clean power generation on a scale sufficient to cover our current needs and be expanded to meet any foreseeable requirements as nuclear power. The experience with non-hydro ‘renewables’ thus far is that they are a complete failure when it comes to producing any significant power in useful form. Spain is currently learning this the hard way. There is no reason to expect that any advance in technology will render ‘renewables’ any less useless in the future… you cannot extract more power than is there, nor otherwise violate thermodynamics. Barry Brook and Peter Lang have done a fine job of demonstrating these points to any honest person not blinded by ideology.

    The technical barriers to a terrorist orgainisation attempting to manufacture nuclear weapons are insuperable. Producing weapons-grade material and fabricating it into a useable weapon requires the resources and support of a state. No state will permit the use of such weapons when the consequence of doing so is destruction. The most vicious dictators, the most venal kleptocracies, will not risk losing their power base for no good reason.

    I believe that the greatest risk of a nuclear exchange will come about if, through the abandonment of a high-energy economy in favour of a ‘renewables’-blighted future, the physical conditions of the world turn so dire that wars of conquest for national resources become attractive enough to risk the consequences of a nuclear exchange.


  156. Andrew Glikson said: “MY RESPONSE: In the future, near or far, there will always be those who will try and divert the use of N-energy from peaceful to hostile purposes. While currently the world’s is attempting to rid itself from N-weapons, this would hardly be successful if, as happened time and again over the last 30 years, enriched Uranium and plutonium from research or energy reactors will be used for the construction of nuclear weapons, with dire consequences for the human species and the biosphere.”

    This statement is first historically inaccurate and second demonstrates ignorance of nuclear weapon physics.

    There is no credible evidence that any fuel for a nuclear power plant was ever diverted to make a nuclear weapon. Nor would it be since level of enrichment for civil reactors is much lower than weapons-grade. Nor has fuel been diverted from research reactors to this end, although research reactors have been used to breed Pu for weapons progams.

    The plutonium produced in nuclear-power reactors operated for the most efficient generation of electricity, called reactor-grade plutonium, contains a higher proportion of the isotope plutonium-240 than that preferred by nuclear-weapon designers. Typical reactor-grade plutonium contains 1.3 per cent plutonium-238, 56.6 per cent of plutonium-239, 23.2 per cent of plutonium-240, 13.9 per cent plutonium-241, and 4.9 per cent plutonium-242. Nuclear-weapon designers prefer plutonium containing, typically, 0.012 per cent of plutonium-238, 93.8 per cent of plutonium-239, 5.8 per cent of plutonium-240, 0.35 per cent of plutonium-241, and 0.022 per cent of plutonium-242, called weapon-grade plutonium. The major difference is that weapon-grade plutonium is richer in plutonium-239 and poorer in plutonium-240 than weapon-grade plutonium.

    There are two major problems with using reactor-grade plutonium in a nuclear weapon

    The first problem is that plutonium-240 has a high rate of spontaneous fission so that the device will continually produce many neutrons. One of these background neutrons may set off the fission chain reaction prematurely, called pre-initiation, causing the device to have a relatively low explosive yield. The spontaneous emission rate of reactor-grade plutonium is about 360 neutrons/second/gram. The figure for weapon-grade plutonium is about 66 neutrons/second/gram. The probability of pre-initiation using reactor-grade plutonium is, therefore, much larger.

    The second problem is the heat produced by the alpha-particle decay of plutonium-238. The amount of plutonium-238 in reactor-grade plutonium is about one or two per cent. This contributes 10.5 watts of heat per kilogram of reactor-grade plutonium, compared with 2.3 watts per kilogram of weapons-grade plutonium. The design of a primitive nuclear explosive using reactor-grade plutonium would have to incorporate a method of dispersing the heat otherwise, the plutonium would get very hot and become distorted or even melt.

    In 1953, the British exploded a nuclear weapon at the nuclear test site in South Australia made from plutonium of a quality considerably below that of weapons-grade. In 1962, the United States conducted a similar nuclear-weapon test. The actual amount of Pu-239 in the plutonium used in these tests has not been made public but it was apparently about 19 per cent. The tests were made to prove that reactor-grade plutonium can be used in an effective nuclear weapon. They were failures.

    This being the case I would like you to show some proof or examples of your contention that “time and again over the last 30 years, enriched Uranium and plutonium from research or energy reactors [was] used for the construction of nuclear weapons”


  157. An open question:

    Has anybody read “In Mortal Hands” by Stephanie Cooke? I’ve seen it in the book stores, but to be honest it looks to me like it’s likely a bit of one-sided intellectually vapid Caldicott-style rubbish, so I’d like to suss it out before buying it.

    I’d like to know what anybody who has read it thinks. For a treatment of the history of nuclear technology, both military and peaceful, I have yet to find any other author who can compete with the brilliant literary and research ability of Richard Rhodes.


  158. Finrod#196: “No single technological development in history has done more to curb full-scale industrial warfare than the development of nuclear weapons.”

    I guess that’s why there was no major bombing or other signs of industrial warfare
    during the Vietnam war? Or during the Iran-Iraq war or during the last couple of US
    invasions of Iraq, etc etc. Are you suggesting that if the US hadn’t had nukes they would
    have dropped more bombs on Vietnam? I can buy that knowing the other side has nukes means
    you don’t use yours, but can’t see that they have any other impact.


  159. Geoff Russell@#199:
    “Are you suggesting that if the US hadn’t had nukes they would
    have dropped more bombs on Vietnam?”

    I am strongly suggesting that if neither the US or the USSR had nukes, they would most likely have fallen into an existentially primal full-scale direct Great Power vs. Great Power conventional war by that time. Their global competition didn’t cease because they had nukes, but when it flared into violence, it was through contained proxy wars such as Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan. Direct open conflict with each other, risking escalation to nuclear exchange was avoided at all costs. Both sides were strongly motivated to avoid that outcome.


  160. The book The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons by T.V. Paul may be instructive here.

    Paul is James McGill Professor of International Relations, McGill University and Director, University of Montreal-McGill Research Group in International Security.

    The book offers an in-depth analysis of the nuclear policies of the U.S., Russia, China, the UK, France, India, Israel, and Pakistan and assesses the contributions of these states to the rise and persistence of the tradition of nuclear non-use. It examines the influence of the tradition on the behavior of nuclear and non-nuclear states in crises and wars, and explores the tradition’s implications for nuclear non-proliferation regimes, deterrence theory, and policy.


  161. DV82XL,
    to your #197:

    Accepting all you say there, one might still ask: is it cheaper for a country to start production of nuclear weapons if that country already has
    (a) civil power, generation III reactors, no enrichment
    (b) as above, generation IV
    (c) as (a), but with enrichment plants operating.

    –compared to if that country only mined uranium so far, but made no further use of it?
    Could you provide an estimate, or failing that, a constraint from above/below, for any of these three situations?

    (What I have in mind: expertise, committed staff, contacts with foreign businesses/individuals, facilities, equipment, public acceptance of nuclear sites and activities… whatever is there in a peaceful program that can help a military program.)


  162. Alexei@203 -This belief that a peaceful program leads to a military program seems to revolve around the idea that the key aspect of nuclear weapon production is acquiring weapons-grade material and that once that is on hand the rest falls into place if you can draw on expertise from the civil sector. Nothing could be further from the truth. The undertaking is much more complex. The crux of my argument (stated in detail elsewhere) is that the decision to engage in a weapons program is not dependent on those factors and once that decision has been made the existence of a civil power program is not relevant.

    Pakistan is a case in point. They managed to mount a weapons program while leaving Pakistan’s three IAEA inspection-controlled power reactors clean. Keep in mind that Pakistan had signed the NPT, and activities in nuclear technologies there were under international scrutiny. A.Q.Khan developed a network of contacts and trade routes that circumvented international controls on a variety of material, and did so from scratch. The enrichment plant at Kahuta was not known to the public and was not producing fuel for civil reactors. Finally the specific skills and knowledge to build a weapon has nothing in common with building a reactor – Pakistan had to aquire those resources from expatriates that had been educated in other countries. In other words none of the factors you mentioned was leveraged in any meaningful way between civil and military nuclear activities. The same is true for every other clandestine weapons program to date, including Israel, South Africa, and North Korea.

    In a world where perhaps ten countries have already acquired the bomb, and another thirty have the capacity to build one relatively fast, rational reasons for choosing that path will now and then arise. This is the crux of the matter. No country embarks on a weapons program unless they have a compelling reason to do so simply because it can.

    Building a weapon is a horrendously expensive undertaking and the very fact that a civil nuclear power sector exists cannot help to any significant degree. In fact it is probably as much an impediment (competing for resources and personnel) than it is a help. Furthermore, just making a device is not in and of itself all that there is to building a nuclear weapon, one has to consider the cost of making a militarily significant number, and the required delivery systems. The point here that this is not an undertaking that any nation can afford to do just for fun.

    We have to drop the idea that a civil program is an incubus for a weapons program simply because the evidence and the facts just do not support the idea, it’s just that simple.


  163. DV82XL, thanks a lot.

    a civil nuclear power sector exists cannot help to any significant degree.

    Probably true, if we define “significant” as “above 10%”.

    1. Note that your examples were clandestine military programs in countries that had not been doing civilian enrichment. Those examples cover my case (a), subcase “clandestine”. Can we be sure that in my cases (b) and (c), especially with “doing it openly” subcases included, your assessment still applies?

    2. If we are scared of a nuclear war badly enough, even a 1% difference in the likelihood of its occurrence may be significant enough to cause us to avoid civilian use of nuclear power. Even a 0.001% difference, if we are really neurotic about it!
    And it is conceivable that a 1% reduction in the costs of producing nuclear weapons entails some 1% increase in the likelihood of the decision being taken to produce them.


  164. Alexei – The point I am trying to make here is that proliferation is not a technical issue; that is to say it does not depend on technical factors as much as it does political ones. It’s resolution therefore lies in the political domain.

    No country embarks on a nuclear weapons program lightly – the expense is just too great. The perceived need has to be huge. Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto famously promised in 1965 that if India built nuclear weapons Pakistan would too, “even if we have to eat grass,” and indeed they did, because they knew that the would be at the mercy of their biggest enemy if they did not. One need only look at every other program, everywhere in the world to see the same thing; development of nuclear weapons is never embarked on without real geopolitical pressure to do so.

    Once that decision has been made, the existence or non-existence of a civil program is just not relevant. It is simplistic to the extreme to believe that somehow that a nuclear energy sector creates a ‘temptation’ to engage in bomb-making, and the idea of so called ‘dual-use facilities’, while true on its face, contributes only a small portion of the infrastructure needed to create a deliverable weapon.

    Therefore your other two cases do not create a significant increase in the probability that a nation will decide to enter the nuclear club, or seriously facilitate the process if they do.

    As for your contention of reduced risk, it would be naïve to suggest that war would be less bloody if we did not manufacture explosives or their precursors. Yet the engineering applications of explosives and the benefits of fertilizers (which are often the same chemicals as high explosives) confer benefits and raise the standard of living such that they have probably contributed as much to the prevention of war as they have to its conduct.

    I submit that almost all wars (whatever the superficial reason stated) are essentially struggles for recourses. Given that is the case, access to virtually unlimited energy could bring us into a post-scarcity world where war is just not necessary, or even conceivable. In other words like the case of chemical explosives above, any marginal increase in the facility of making war is offset by the reduction of the need for war by several orders of magnitude.


  165. DV82XL,
    any marginal increase in the facility of making [nuclear] war is offset by the reduction of the need for war by several orders of magnitude [as a result of abundant cheap nuclear power]

    If you can put up the numbers, fine, let us do this sort of comparison, and see if indeed it works out your way.

    Or if you cannot, here is another option. Evaluate the importance of the “increase in the facility of making [nuclear] war” by comparing it to other costs of energy production.
    Here is how this could be done (tentative numbers):
    1. The threat of the use of nuclear armaments in war is worth not more than $2000 per person per year.
    2. The increase of the risk of use of nuclear armaments in war, as a result of widespread adoption of civilian nuclear power, is no more than 1%.
    3. Therefore, “nuclear war” externality of civilian nuclear power is no higher than $20 per person per year.

    Now if only you could help me with the numbers.


  166. Alexei – I’m afraid with our resources, analysis of this will have to remain largely empirical, and at any rate still requires accepting the premise that the adoption of civilian nuclear power increases the probability that a nation will also build nuclear weapons. I reject this premise outright, in fact the entire thrust of my argument is that there is no compelling technical reasons, or indeed any historical evidence that suggests this is so.

    Reject if you will my opinion that access to cheap, abundant energy will reduce the instances of war – admittedly I cannot supply proof of that contention. However proliferation scenarios developed out of thin air in the Fifties are just not supported by subsequent events, and that is a demonstrable fact. It is simply time to drop them as doctrine, and develop new policies based on actual conditions.


  167. DV82XL,
    Our resources are small indeed, but let us do what we can.

    We can contemplate two competing effects:
    1. Access to cheap, abundant energy will reduce international tensions.
    2. For a given level of international tensions, a nationa’s adoption of civilian nuclear power increases the probability that it will also build nuclear weapons.

    Concerning the first effect, I agree that it looks probable. You say you have no “proof”. But, maybe, some supporting evidence/reasoning? And, an estimate? To an order of magnitude will do.

    Concerning the second, you are ambiguous. Now you say “not significant”, implying that there’s some effect, albeit small. Then you say, “not relevant”, implying that the effect is zero. So where do you exactly stand?

    You offer arguments to support your (not exactly defined) position on (2), and I somewhat agree with them, but I also see a number of weaknesses:

    the decision to engage in a weapons program is not dependent on those factors
    No decision can be entirely independent of the price tag, or of the anticipated time to effect the decision.

    and once that decision has been made the existence of a civil power program is not relevant.
    If it allows implementation to proceed faster, or to produce more bombs for the same effort, then how is it not relevant?

    …there are no compelling technical reasons
    The same enrichment plant that enriches from 0.7 to 3% can also enrich further to 90%.

    none of the factors you mentioned was leveraged in any meaningful way between civil and military nuclear activities
    It is conceivable that existence of peaceful enrichment has increased the number of people involved with these technologies – hence made it easier for Pakistan to find the expertise and materials for their clandestine enrichment.

    [no] historical evidence
    proliferation scenarios… are just not supported by subsequent events
    The conditions weren’t right. The world has been relatively well policed. The countries embarking on nuclear weapons programs didn’t have enrichment. Note, however, my guess above concerning Pakistan’s enrichment.

    …the idea of so called ‘dual-use facilities’, while true on its face, contributes only a small portion of the infrastructure needed to create a deliverable weapon.
    Small, OK. But exactly, how small?

    In fact it is probably as much an impediment (competing for resources and personnel) than it is a help
    As to resources, their supply is not rigidly limited; moreover, economies of scale may apply.
    As to personnel, I would not expect a peaceful program to poach people from a military program, but rather the reverse.

    And so, with regards to the second effect, I tentatively stand by my guesstimate of 1%.
    As to the 1st effect, I don’t seem to have a clue… would you venture an estimate?


  168. Let me rephrase: quantitative risk-analysis is not something I know enough about to entertain this sort of discussion. But until I am shown some hard proof that a civil nuclear program encourages some nation to pursue a weapons program, or facilitates it in any meaningful way I reject the premise, thus I could not provide an estimate even if I was comfortable in the field.

    I look only to the historical record, and there I see that events are at odds with the predictions made by RAND in the Fifties, and believe that it is time to revisit the issue of proliferation in light of that fact.

    I also think that we have drifted far off topic in this thread, and we have probably lost everyone’s attention a dozen posts ago, so I will thank you for the exchange, but it is time to move on. We may pick this up somewhere else, some other time again.



  169. Luke (191)
    I’d be happy to answer your points, but it would help first if you could provide some checkable reference confirming your claim about ‘all such film being collected & analysed by Kodak’.
    Mr Brook (192)
    It wasn’t a matter of me not being interested at all as he claims. I don’t know how Mr Brook can arrive at that view. Anyone not having any bias, reading my earier related entries would readily see that Mr Brook still hasn’t answered my direct point about reconciling 0.0002mSv with the claimed annual releases shown in an included link about Prairie Island (135).
    Here then is a question for anyone who feels they can help: for the value of 0.0002mSv mentioned by Mr Brook 62, approximately how many curies of routinely released gases from a nuclear plant would that be due to over a 12 mth period? Can a reference supporting your answer be provided?
    The other issue of course is more ugly. There is adequate evidence of bumbling, understating estimates & false claims by government agencies to the American people during the TMI accident. All anyone has to do is look in the right places. I have already included some references (179) to illustrate how the nuclear industry still hasn’t got its act together yet in that regard. There have even been some more people come forward recently confirming this unfortunate aspect at the TMI accident. Denying it won’t make it go away. Maybe I can give some highlights about that after Luke has found a reference for us.


  170. Re, #211, Allan McKay is on again about the value of 0.0002 mSv. It comes from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the UNSCEAR 2000 Report, Vol 1, Sources, Report to the General Assembly, page 6, paras 34 to 38.

    Para 34 says
    ……..the maximum effective dose can be estimated from the cumulative doses that occur during the period of the practice
    ……..collective dose per year of practice is 1,500 man Sv to the world population, giving an estimated maximum per caput dose of less than 0.2 microSieverts per year. [0.0002mSv/y]

    McKay should read the report to the General Assembly and at least glance at 630 pages of the annexes which contain the numbers, analysis and references.
    http://www.unscear.org/en/publications/2000_1.html [and more!]

    Rereading his very lenghthy post at #179, it struck me that what this was a reiteration of the gospel of Caldicott. Indeed, in blog somewhere he quotes Caldicott as an “authoritative” source.


  171. Re my previous contribution at #212,
    My 13 years of experience as a tour guide at the “Nuclear Reactor” at Lucas Heights was that the public’s knowledge of radiation was that there is no safe dose of radiation. When asked if they knew that the world was naturally radioactive, about 98% said no. That is only a crude estimate.
    Marie Curie discovered natural radioactivity about 110 years ago. Lots of natural radioisotopes were discovered in our environment. Radioisotopes which have been there since life began.
    If there is no safe dose of radiation or radioactivity, how could life exist in this radioactive environment?
    I challenge Allan McKay to tell us why life exists on earth, when he claims all radiation is dangerous.

    With Barry Brook’s permission I can make available


  172. Many anti-nuclear posts refer to higher incidence of leukaemia around nuclear power plants or nuclear establishments.
    Without having looked the studies quoted as showing increased Leukaemia around NPPs, I suspect the authors did not bother to look at the results of extensive studies of the health of nuclear workers.

    “Occupational radiation exposure and mortality: second analysis of the National Registry for Radiation Workers” was published in
    J Rad. Prot. 1999 Vol. 19 No 1 3-26, and was performed by the National Radiation Protection Board.
    It tells us that a study of 124,743 workers at nuclear plants in the UK showed that they had lower mortality rates for all forms of cancer, including leukaemia. If the nuclear workers suffer less than people in the surrounding area, radiation from a NPP can’t be causing leukaemia.

    Leukaemia and radiation became a recurring theme after the first analyses of the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs which showed that there was a relationship between radiation dose and cancer in survivors.
    Since then we have had all sorts of worry about any source of radiation in a population which is not aware that the world is naturally radioactive and that people are radioactive too.

    As a tour guide at Lucas Heights I was often asked about leukaemia. My response was to ask the visitors which group of people were most affected by it. The answer most often was CHILDREN! The truth is that leukaemia mortality is low in childhood and increases exponentially after the age of 30.

    Revisiting 2 graphs from UNSCEAR 2000 and using ruler and pencil measurements to reconstruct radiation doses and leukaemia mortality for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this is what emerges [See next page].

    The next page could not be sent because the site did not allow the charts but I’ll be happy to send them to anyone who is interested.


  173. Did you see Geoff Russell’s review of leukemia studies? He included a “Forest plot” summarizing the results of multiple studies. It showed that leukemia rates are sometimes depressed in nuclear installations’ vicinities and sometimes elevated, quite as they would be in the neighbourhood of rocks engraved with the word “Sprodge”, if scores of such rocks were scattered over the land. (Not that I know they aren’t …)

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  174. Dammit GRL, you should know better than to post the word ‘Sprodge’ on the net. Now it’ll zip around the intertubes putting thousands of people’s lives at risk!

    Oh No! Now I’ve posted it too! See what you’ve started here??


  175. Luke (17 Oct) Can you please indicate in which section I may find the reference to the Kodak film issue in the archive.org document. I do not have the time to wade through the complete entry. In my own contributions, I have included either chapter or page numbers to assist readers. Thanks.

    Jim Brough (15 Oct) Yes the 0.0002mSv figure is of considerable interest. Unfortunately, your web link doesn’t produce anything, after trying on several public computers. All I was asking earlier from Mr Brook was how that value was obtained. He finally pointed out a source for the figure but still no indication how it was derived. Dr Ian Fairlie has recently indicated however that this low value was not an actual measurement at plant sites (see Uncertainties in Dose Effects at link (a) below), but an estimate based upon complex modelling with suspected understatement. This becomes more obvious when comparing actual environmental releases claimed in impact statements from US reactor sites to the NRC. Even a NRC deputy director conceded in 1980 that routine releases could reach 1,000 curies a month. This was not including their other category of accidental releases. There is additional evidence available implicating nuke plants & their effect on surrounding nearby residents being made more obvious when they shut down (see link (c) below). So the public are supposed to be grateful for nuclear’s large energy potential & to accept all the radiation releases as being negligible. Even existing issues with suspect chemicals isn’t being handled well or with honesty. Recently, DuPont was fined $16.5 million for failing to notify the EPA of the effects of PFOA on its workers. How can the industry be trusted? Even the Japanese Government failed to deal with the confirmed methyl mercury poisoning 50 yrs ago. We cannot afford to unleash additional dangerous technology when we have already demonstrated that we cannot handle it safely. At the very least the TMI accident readily shows they couldn’t cope with its demands. The best compromise is for all the nuclear advocates to live near the reactors while those who have no faith in pro-nuke claims can live well away from the plant. Geoff Russell’s attempt to explain the German reactor study isn’t convincing (see links (a, b & c) below). Statistics done over the long term show a meaningful correlation with observed health effects of susceptible people. The low fig of 0.0002mSv cannot explain such effects, therefore it looks unbelievable since the health effects are real enough. But of course, other people prefer to ridicule the researchers & their findings rather than actually explain clearly & fairly why they cannot in their view be correct. Please be reminded that in 1983-84, Metropolitan Edison was fined for falsifying documents related to the TMI accident and reactor safety. Recall the views of Henry Myers mentioned in my earlier comment (2 Oct above) of significant issues of honesty & competence. So efforts from some people to imply that nuclear critics are lying (such as Geoff Russell’s OnLine Opinion article canning Helen Caldicott) is not acceptable in view of the established poor behaviour of some nuclear proponents.

    a) (http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/section?content=a914006026&fulltext=713240928)

    b)http://www.hse.gov.uk/newreactors/presentations/ 250609/ian-fairlie.pdf)

    c) http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8785)

    d) (http://www.unplugsalem.org/radioactive.htm)


  176. Further to the discussions on this post I will quote from James Lovelock’s new book “The Vanishing Face of Gaia” 2008,
    giving an example of the hysteria promoted by the anti-nuclear brigade.

    In July 2007 an earthquake in Japan shook a nuclear power station enough to cause an automatic shutdown ; the quake was of sufficient severity-over six on the Richter scale-to cause significant structural damage in an average town. The only “nuclear” consequence was the fall of a barrell from a stack of low-level waste that allowed the leak of about 90,000 becquerels of radioactivity. This made front page news in Australia, where it was said that the leak posed a radiation threat to the Sea of Japan.The truth is that about 90,000 becquerels is just twice the amount of natural radioactivity, mostly in the form of potassium, which you and I carry in our bodies. In other words, if we accept this hysterical conclusion, TWO SWIMMERS IN THE SEA OF JAPAN WOULD MAKE A RADIATION THREAT

    Really – how can you believe what the anti-nuclear actvists say with this level of deceit being peddled.


  177. Another quote from the same book, this time illustrating the huge real and potential threat to life using coal as fuel.

    Coal is the truly dirty fuel. From the marital discord caused by a miner who leaves his carbon footprint on his wife’s new carpet to the London disaster of 1952 when more that FIVE THOUSAND died from coal-smoke poisoning IN ONE NIGHT. Countless numbers still die and are made ill by coal smoke worldwide especially in China and Mongolia

    I have personal knowledge of the devastation wrought on coal-mining communities. My grandfather died of “black lung” at 64 and to demonstrate the heartless attitude of mine owners, his widow did not receive any pension, as he died three weeks before the official retirement age of 65. How can you trust the fossil fuel lobby?


  178. Jim Brough (15 Oct)

    I will answer your small challenge about why life on Earth exists (with regards to radiation) if you can show me first where I have actually written the words you have used – when he claims “all radiation is dangerous”.


  179. To Allan Mckay, 0f 5 Nov
    I know a lot about radiation because I worked with it for its use in the diagnosis and the treatment of cancer.
    My very Scottish mother was diagnosed as having a rare bone cancer [details on application].
    She used to upset her grandchildren because she said it was time to take her rat poison. With a twinkle in her eye.
    The chemotherapy was not working, but simple radiotherapy took her to the age of 94 , after 9 doses of radioactive injections, over 34 years. My father died of a heart problem, 34 years before.

    Is there a safe dose of radiation?
    There must be for the simple reason that all life on earth started and evolved on Earth in a radioactive and radiation-bathed environment.

    Marine life, whales and dolphins thrive in oceans containing 3 tonnes of deadly uranium per cubic km



  180. I will also answer the very recent entries shortly. But for now I’ll have to assume for the moment the kodak film story is correct as Luke has not narrowed down the reference for us in his very large document yet. Some extracts have been provide below to illustrate there are alternative forms of evidence suggesting there were greater releases in 1979. My own brief comments are in (…).
    (From all the available written sources so far, there is a good enough case to support the view that the majority of gaseous radiation released was dependent upon the atmospherics present during that period. A map suggesting the likely paths of the plume (predominately Nth & Sth directions) can be seen at (http://www.southernstudies.org/assets_c/2009/04/wing_tmi_cancer_map.html). This being the case, then it is hardly likely any film fogging would occur with such low levels assigned to the large eastern & western areas, especially if the film was still inside the camera or in some sort of enclosure. We really need to known the areas the film was collected from for more accuracy & how they were being stored. Other references show examples of different tests either not being done, discontinued, results not being made available & even falsifying results. With this sort of behaviour how can we be sure film from the hotter Nth & Sth areas was honestly assessed anyway?)

    In 1983-84, Metropolitan Edison was busted for falsifying documents related to the TMI accident and reactor safety. They pleaded guilty to six, and no contest to one, of the 11-count indictment.
    The NRC relies upon self-reporting and computer modeling from reactor operators to track radioactive releases and their projected dispersion. A significant portion of the environmental monitoring data is extrapolated — it’s virtual, not real.”
    At several locations, the General Accounting Office complained that “facilities’ operators were reluctant to provide public information for fear of creating public alarm that could result in new or prolonged current protest activities.”
    In 1975, for example, excessive strontium 90 radiation was found in milk at a farm near the Shippingport plant. The following year, monitoring at that farm was discontinued.
    The NRC eliminated the requirement that utilities collect strontium 90 data after Dr Ernest Sternglass’s findings in October of 1977 at the Millstone Nuclear Power Station at Waterford, Connecticut.
    In 1981 the Reagan administration drastically cut the EPA’s radiation monitoring program well below the levels cited as inadequate by the General Accounting Office.

    (There is no cause to think that reported cases of medical effects on some residents are in any way false, despite efforts of some critics to ridicule their claims & regard their cause as psychological).

    A general practitioner in Middletown, said “We’ve had a real run on unusual rashes, allergic reactions, dermatitis, skin lesions, itch, and people complaining of a funny taste in their mouths,” Leaser told us in 1980.
    He also wondered about an uncommon aberration he had noticed among his patients. “We have found abnormal counts of eosinophils–that’s a type of white blood cell–in what I would say is a significant number of patients,” he told us. “It isn’t a scientifically controlled study. But I’d say that when I review blood smears, it seems to me I see more.” A high count of eosinophils, he added, was a “well-known symptom of excessive radiation exposure.”
    He added that during the fall 1980 venting of krypton gas from the TMI-2 core, “a number of patients who didn’t know it was happening came in independently complaining about the funny taste in their mouths. I hadn’t heard of that since the accident, and I haven’t heard any of it again since the venting.”
    Dr Stephen Wing and his colleagues subsequently documented among people living near TMI symptoms consistent with acutely high levels of radiation exposure–skin rashes, hair loss, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, even pet deaths. Those symptoms indicate exposures of 50 rems or higher, far more than the 100 millirems the NRC estimates was the maximum dose at the site’s edge. The researchers also found lung cancer and leukemia rates two to 10 times higher downwind of TMI.
    Inside the (containment) building readings showed a minimum of a million millirems per hour, a lethal dose. On site, the day of the accident, monitors 1000 feet from the vent stack showed levels of 365 millirems of beta and gamma rays per hour. A helicopter directly over the vent stack measured emissions three times as high.
    “They were getting 63 curies per second, which would put us in the 1200 millirems per hour.”
    These were truly enormous release rates of fresh fission gases, since in a single hour (consisting of 3600 seconds) there would be 3600 times 63 or some 226,000 curies being released in an uncontrolled manner without detailed analysis or significant hold-up to allow the most dangerous short-lived isotopes to decay.
    Under the NRC’s own rules an evacuation should have been ordered on the disaster’s first day, when calculated radiation exposures in the town of Goldsboro, Pa. were as high as 10 rems an hour compared to an average cumulative annual background dose of about 0.125 rems.
    The commission’s own Technical Assessment Task Force, in a separate volume, had concluded that iodine accounted for 8 to 12 percent of the total radioactive gases leaked from Three Mile Island. “The actual figure for Iodine release would be over 1 million curies” — a much more substantial public health threat.
    Metropolitan Edison’s own readings indicated a finding of 105 picocuries per litre in goats’ milk at the Louise Hardison farm, less than two miles from the plant. And The (Baltimore) News-American reported that an independent survey conducted by an associate professor of nuclear engineering at nearby Pennsylvania State University produced seven readings of twelve hundred picocuries or more per litre. The findings led Thomas Gerusky to tell The News American that “there might have been more iodine out there than we thought.”
    We know for certain that large amounts of radioactivity escaped from TMI, but the nuclear industry & the government didn’t collect release estimates for specific isotopes. An FDA report dated 6 April 1979, showed milk from 15 surrounding farms were found to contain elevated levels of iodine 131 & 12 samples had raised cesium 137 levels. If radioiodine & cesium 137 escaped it’s very likely various quantities of strontium 90, plutonium, americium & other isotopes did too. What were the ground measurements of these long-lived elements, & why haven’t they been released?
    Based on radioactive iodine measurements in nearby animals, some experts felt the nuclear industry’s estimates were grossly understated. Also the notes of Dr Karl Morgan for 24 March 1982, estimated 45 million curies of noble gases & 64,000 curies of radioactive iodine were released, resulting in a likely thyroid dose to the population of at least 100 times the NRC estimate.
    Dr Carl Johnson MD an expert in radiation illnesses, estimated that very likely other elements (plutonium, strontium, americium) escaped from the reactor core due to the molten fuel. When he asked the NRC & the DOE to do a survey looking for these elements in the respirable dust around the TMI plant, they refused.
    The greatest dose arose not from the external gamma radiation measured by a survey meter or a film badge, but from the internal beta radiation from the inhaled fission gases and particles in the lung, the thyroid, and the other critical organs that concentrate the different substances according to their various chemical properties. So when the external gamma-dose rate on the ground was of the order of 1 to 2 millirems per hour, the true dose rate to the lung (inhalation) and other critical organs could be as much as 50 to 100 times greater.
    The U.S. Bureau of Fish and Wildlife at Harrisburg also conducted a survey and reported levels of I-131 in rabbit thyroids considerably higher than what had been previously recorded.
    In fact, Takeshi added, based on an August 1979 study by the NRC, as much as sixty-four thousand curies of I-131 had been released, a figure four thousand times what the public had been told, and a dose capable of endangering the health of the local population.
    Meanwhile an article in Science indicated that extraordinary readings had been registered as far away as Albany-Troy (375km). Two independent techniques identified xenon-133 in ambient air at concentrations as high as 3900 picocuries per cubic meter. Another independent monitor noted high readings in Maine following the accident.
    A station 96 miles to the northwest of TMI had comparatively high readings. It seemed to indicate an abnormal radiation level in Harrisburg confirming that the radiation from the plant had not spread evenly over the area, but had in fact blown in a narrow path to the northwest, toward Harrisburg–ten miles away.
    Noble gas releases pouring out of TMI on Thursday, the night after the accident began, were so heavy that radiological experiments being conducted at a building in Harrisburg had to be discontinued because of radioactive interference.
    Meanwhile news continued to surface of abnormal radiation levels in test wells around the TMI plant site, and in area groundwater.
    The loss of coolant led to an estimated release of 43,000 curies of radioactivity, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission calculations acknowledge. But independent analysts have put that figure as high as 150 million curies.

    In April of 1979, the NRC’s Harold Denton said that at one point at least twenty stack filters had been removed without being replaced. In other words radiation escaped because the filters were not there to stop it.
    Research done by volunteer canvassers, working with Drs. Carl Johnson & Bruce Moholt, determined the cancer rate around TMI was 7 times that of similar rural areas. Mutations in plants were also found. A 1990 Columbia University study found no association between cancer & the proximity to releases from the 1979 TMI accident. Once again, faulty assumptions & legal constraints led to underestimation of effects. More recently, Dr Wing & his associates has found an increase in all cancers, particularly lung & leukemia.
    But the University of North Carolina’s Steven Wing in 1997 presented evidence in a peer-reviewed study showing that lung cancer and leukaemia rates down wind of Three Mile Island are 10 times higher than upwind, and that animals and plants suffered chromosomal damage.

    They also report that when readings from the dosimeters used to monitor radiation doses to workers and the public were logged, doses of beta radiation were simply not recorded. Beta radiation represented about 90 percent of the radiation to which TMI’s neighbours were exposed in April 1979, which means an enormous part of the disaster’s public health risk may have been wiped from the record.

    (Surely all these additional effects support the claim of significant concentrated releases from TMI. Why do we have to rely just on the lack of film fogging for evidence of radiation levels?)
    Main Sources: http://www.ratical.org/radiation/KillingOurOwn/KOO12.html
    Nuclear Power is not the Answer Chap 3 (H. Caldicott)


  181. Here are some extracts from indicated sources suggesting that even low radiation exposure should be kept ALARA. If we assume they are based upon true accounts, then surely we have to act promptly in finding a better form of energy generation. In view of the amazing achievements in the electronics industry, the electrical power industry improvements are pretty tame by comparison. Furthermore, the bar-chart shown in Al Gore’s new book (Our Choice p165) shows comparable carbon footprints for the main generating sources. Nuclear has a range of up to about 75% of the carbon footprint for Gas, using the once through method of fueling. It doesn’t seem practical or economical to pursue this nuclear route for only a small carbon gain, when there are several other significant disadvantages with nuclear generation. I personally feel there is a better way.
    My own brief comments are in (….)
    Extract from Radiation Roulette (Rob Edwards) (Suggest copy & paste full web link into firefox) (msowww.anu.edu.au/~peterson/HCarticle106.html) (Tricky weblink, but needs to be read in full)
    Alternative reference if Radiation Roulette cannot be opened: http://www.greenleft.org.au/1997/297/15526
    Radiation, they say, may cause a much wider range of diseases than epidemiological studies predict. Even levels of exposure below I millisievert a year could be harmful, and thousands of people could face early death as a result. Worst of all, the small doses of radiation that millions habitually receive could be poisoning the human gene pool, wreaking damage on future generations. “It is a horrifying concept,” says Eric Wright from the Medical Research Council at Harwell in Oxfordshire. “But we now have early indications that it may be happening.” Conventional wisdom says that when ionising radiation hits a living cell there I are three possible outcomes. Either the cell is unharmed, or it is killed, or it survives with its DNA damaged. If the DNA is not mended by the cell’s repair enzymes and the cell divides, the damage will be passed on to its daughter cells. Depending on the type of cell and which genes, if any, are damaged, the result could be uncontrolled growth and eventually cancer. But Dr Eric Wright, who is head of experimental haematology at the MRC’s Radiation and Genome Stability Unit, has found a fourth possibility. Radiation can also, he says, inflict damage on cells that at the moment can only be detected after they have divided several times. He calls this radiation-induced genomic instability. The eventual effects of the instability include broken or misshapen chromosomes and mutated genes, and early cell death. Research from around the world has shown that it can be produced by neutrons, X-rays, gamma rays and alpha radiation. In the laboratory, a dozen cell divisions over a couple of weeks are enough to generate chromosomal defects in up to 30 per cent of an irradiated cell’s progeny. “I regard the phenomenon as established,” says Dr Wright. “There is no doubt that genomic instability is a real consequence of radiation exposure.”
    Extract from Life’s Delicate Balance by Janette D. Sherman M.D. 2000 Chap 6 p 59-60
    Gamma radiation emitted by unshielded sources can be of great danger. In Taiwan, around 1983, more than 100 buildings were constructed with steel rods contaminated with gamma emitter cobalt 60. The source of the radiation was not discovered until 1992. By then, some 6,000 citizens had been exposed in residential & school buildings. Taiwanese researchers reported that persons chronically exposed to the low-level gamma radiation developed significantly more abnormalities in the nucleus of their white cells than did two control populations. What this means for their long-term health is unknown at this time. Fortunately, 95% were relocated.
    (Comment – This seems to be the same incident mention in ‘Terrestrial Energy’).
    Extract from Killing Our Own chap 14 (The Taste of Tragedy) A general practitioner in Middletown, said “We’ve had a real run on unusual rashes, allergic reactions, dermatitis, skin lesions, itch, and people complaining of a funny taste in their mouths,” Leaser told us in 1980. He also wondered about an uncommon aberration he had noticed among his patients. “We have found abnormal counts of eosinophils–that’s a type of white blood cell–in what I would say is a significant number of patients,” he told us. “It isn’t a scientifically controlled study. But I’d say that when I review blood smears, it seems to me I see more.” A high count of eosinophils, he added, was a “well-known symptom of excessive radiation exposure.”
    (Comment – Surely these blood readings support a genuine physical effect rather than a psychological one as suggested by Luke earlier).
    Extract from The People of Three Mile Island Chap 28 Virginia Southard
    Before the accident at TMI, from time to time they would have a number of unplanned releases, in addition to their regular, smaller planned releases. These plants always have unplanned accidental releases, they even work them into their dose assessment for the population living next to them. I moved to Harrisburg fifteen years before the accident, long before the plant went in. After the plant was built, I stayed because my job was here. Since I lived ten miles north of the plant, I assumed that the planned normal releases would not be great enough to cause me physical damage. But I really didn’t know. Nevertheless I would have a slight irritation of the skin on days that, as it turned out, there had been larger accidental releases. When I was working in Minneapolis in Oct 79, I came home from work one evening, as I got out of the car, I experienced a burning, prickly sensation on my skin. That evening on the news there had been an accident at the Prairie Island plant 25 miles south of Minneapolis where they had a release earlier that afternoon.
    (Comment – Virginia appears to be one of the susceptible people who are more readily affected by radiation exposure. She also related how she had to undergo an earlier mastectomy).
    (The main requirement is for the 10-16bn curie reactor inventory to be well contained & isolated from organic life. There is sufficient evidence over the whole 50 year nuclear age, that this still cannot be done adequately. In a 1980 interview(1) with NRC’s John Collins at TMI, he stated, “we’ve always said that there’s a probability of accidents. Nobody ever went around saying you’re never going to have an accident”. So after conceding the obvious, they still then minimize the effects. A US nuclear engineer has recently also added: ‘In the 1970’s BWR’s used to routinely emit one curie of noble gases every ten seconds from their 100 m stacks because of poor fuel design and poor operating cycles (PWR’s were also experiencing fuel failures. …. things have improved much since then and I have not seen a 1,000 curie plant recently unless you include solid waste too’. So approximately 360 curies every hour were being released into the environment. No wonder Dr Ernest Sternglass was able to find a correlation with some mortality rates in nearby residents back then. I hope no-one is going to try & claim that only 0.0002mSv of radiation was released from those earlier plants. Nuclear power isn’t really looking like a great saviour).
    (1) The People of Three Mile Island, chap 35
    Note – The claimed reference to the Kodak film issue in Luke’s weblink has been found (chap 5). It appears possible the released plume contained the bulk of the concentrated radiation as mentioned in the earlier 8 Nov posting.


  182. Allan,
    I can’t deal with the all distortions of reality you posit but I will deal with one:

    “Furthermore, the bar-chart shown in Al Gore’s new book (Our Choice p165) shows comparable carbon footprints for the main generating sources. Nuclear has a range of up to about 75% of the carbon footprint for Gas, using the once through method of fueling. It doesn’t seem practical or economical to pursue this nuclear route for only a small carbon gain, when there are several other significant disadvantages with nuclear generation. I personally feel there is a better way.”

    Goodness, quoting Al Gore. Now, Nuclear’s range is not “up to about 75%” of gas. This is absurd. There is no reliable statistic or analysis that shows it more than 10% of gas and often LESS than wind.

    The US EPA here:

    Shows the true carbon out put of various forms of generation. Nuclear isn’t even mentioned as it’s statistically irrelevant. The overwhelming majority of studies that are not attached to advocacy groups show nuclear and wind CO2 to be almost identical.

    THUS nuclear replacement for coal and natural gas…both…would be a huge aid in lowering GHG emissions. Just the opposite of what you allege.

    This makes me doubt the rest of your post but I’ll leave it to others parse this out.


  183. Parsing out the ramblings of Allan McKay in the above posts would be fool’s errand. There is nothing there in the way of hard evidence for anything he mentions. Anecdotes, hearsay and opinion from sources like Caldicott and the like, do not an argument make. Attempting to make an case by verbiage is an obvious attempt to bury opponents with volume when you are not that sure of the quality of information presented.

    In fact both comments are little more than a rehearsal of all the misinformation and outright dissemination that a Google search on radiation might turn up, without any effort to put it in context. If McKay want to carry on a conversation on this topic, I suggest he limit his remarks in each comment to two or three point at a time. Then, I am sure, he will receive considered replies.


  184. Yes, its a load of subthreshold tosh. Alan, take your aches and pains and rashes and funny tastes in the mouth away and come back with some epidemiology.

    Comment – Surely these blood readings support a genuine physical effect rather than a psychological one ..

    No, they surely don’t.


  185. Luckily the ramblimgs of Alan McKay are such that most, except the most devoted anti-nuclear proponent, would not bother to read all the way through! Don’t you know Alan ,that the best way to impress is to “stand up, speak up, shut up” As DV82XL said – we can all “Google” radiation – you don’t have to paste all the misinformation here!


  186. David Walters – 10 Nov 09
    All my included extracts are from genuine researchers & not ‘distortions of reality’. If there are any wild distortions present, they are not coming from me. Checking again, however, I have made a small typo error with the 75% figure. To promote nuclear plants as having a total carbon footprint less than wind power (which has been done for a while) is ridiculous when it is now better known that the mining & processing of uranium alone incurs significant amounts of CO2 release. Where on your EPA web link ref does it say the complete fuel cycle is considered? If it is important enough to factor in methane from animal belching for climate change data, then all sources of CO2 related to the nuclear cycle have to be accounted for as well. When the Olympic Dam project is up to full speed, about 25% of the state’s electricity output will be used there. I have used the bar-graph from Al’s book because it is a recent, fairer assessment from an expert source (given on the same page). If you do not have the time to follow up references, but rather engage in unsubstantiated ridicule, then your opinion will be regarded as worthless & not part of a rational debate. I have also indicated that Al Gore’s nuclear bar-graph is depicted as a range, due to the different variables affecting plant types, where the worst case is approximately equal to 65% of a gas plant footprint . No doubt you will still disagree with that figure. This allows for some plants to have a smaller footprint. If you read the associated text in Al’s book & his source material, you will see why it is that figure. Apparently, you have not seen the book yet before you launched an unjustified attack. The entire nuclear fuel cycle is included in the analysis as it should be. The EPA link you include doesn’t include the whole fuel cycle & therefore is a dishonest representation, just as the area of land required for nuclear power has also been misrepresented along with some other points. How about proving to us that low-grade uranium ore mining does not have a significant carbon footprint.
    Your quote: “THUS nuclear replacement for coal and natural gas…both…would be a huge aid in lowering GHG emissions”. Unfortunately others have pointed out as well that ‘huge’ isn’t correct. There is no doubt the nuclear lobby are continually misrepresenting their data but you can’t be looking at the evidence for it.
    Your Quote: “The overwhelming majority of studies that are not attached to advocacy groups show nuclear and wind CO2 to be almost identical”. Unfortunately you refuse to see that the nuclear lobby have already been caught out in some forms of dishonesty (falsifying documents) so they cannot be trusted with any in-house idealised figures. Advocacy groups are needed to check the nuke’s claims. There have already been new power generation ideas identified in recent years that will make nuclear power, coal & gas redundant very quickly. So why hang on to a flawed technology? We have a chance to benefit from the long experiences of other countries & avoid their unsatisfactory run with nuclear power.

    DV82XL – 10 Nov
    My included brief opinions are based upon the authentic sources included & are not ramblings. There were a lot of extracts that clearly many critics were unaware of, so they were included for their convenience in one place. When you do not agree with those extracts or my opinions, then you are required to show why those sources are flawed, rather than use ridicule. Just denouncing them without any evidence is hardly rational debate. I have provided sufficient references for you to follow up to check the context. The extracts were included for your benefit , & they can stand on their own merit. A considered reply involves useful counter evidence, not just ridicule. The research from Dr Wright is powerful enough on its own to limit nuclear expansion.

    John Morgan – 10 Nov
    If you took the trouble to check out the work of Dr Wing, it will be seen that it has been done satisfactorily, with his 1997 study being peer-reviewed. Again, ridicule cannot solve any difficult issues well enough. You need to provide useful counter evidence. Let’s see some to support your view about blood cell changes in some TMI residents.

    perps – 10 Nov
    I have limited my earlier entries, but the extracts were included all in one place for the convenience of others. Obviously, some people will not have the time to read the even longer web links in order to find the relevant sections, while others cannot fathom the importance of what is included, so use ridicule.


  187. Allan McKay you have not provided evidence, in fact I now doubt you understand the meaning of the term. It is not up to us to sort out these disjointed comments of yours, but it is your responsibility to present them in a form that is at the very least readable.

    I have looked through the links you posted, I have seen them all before, they were rubbish then as they are rubbish now, and it is you sir that obviously lacks the education and the background in these subjects to evaluate them critically.

    I have argued with people like you on line, and in the flesh for years now, and it has become painfully apparent that as a class, your ignorance coupled with an arrogant belief that you are not, make rational debate impossible. Fortunately like all cranks you are in the minority and are thus no more likely to effect the opinions of ordinary people than any other raving lunatic on a soapbox.

    Despite this I am willing to answer you in detail if you limit yourself to published materials (no antidotes) and they are presented in an orderly fashion, one topic at a time. If you not willing to extend that courtesy to us, than do not expect to be treated by anything better than contempt.


  188. Well, what an extraordinary response from DV82XL.

    1) The references I have provided can adequately stand as both testimonial & research evidence for those who are reasonably free of any major bias, unlike yourself apparently. As some of your posts show, you often rely on just your opinion to torpedo any alternative views regardless of what evidence they produce. Mr Brook accuses some people of giving “lazy recycled objections” to the UK nuclear plan, yet too many nuke supporters display even greater laziness by inadequately dealing with our genuine concerns of a significantly flawed industry. That’s why our objections are repeatedly put forward, only to be brushed off again. Without providing any references, they often resort to personal ridicule, exaggerated claims & evasion to distract attention away from their own weakness in providing any good counterevidence. Is that the scientific code of conduct these days? Even Mr Brook has opted out of answering some points in detail or at all, also appearing as laziness. When my original long (Oct 2) entry was written, it had the WORD doc’s usual features, so that quotations would stand out readily from other text & be neatly arranged. Unfortunately, I learnt the blog site has limitations & does not recognise or conserve the posted original & neater WORD doc. The resulting post (Oct 2) layout was not deliberate. I was unable to remove it from the site, adjust the text & resubmit it. The small blog window isn’t good enough to accurately allow a precise preview how a lengthy WORD doc will look once it is finally in place even after some modest editing.
    2) It looks like your definition of critical evaluation is to reject opposing views by any means. Just your opinion of my references being ‘rubbish’ doesn’t make them so. Let’s see your evidence showing that mine are faulty. Unfortunately, too many people are engaging in a ‘life & death’ battle to demolish our concerns under the sham pretence of a rational debate using the denial & ridicule approach. They are frauds. Is this what it takes to ‘sell’ nuclear energy? Mr Brook has even supported contributors who openly, either state or imply that Helen Caldicott has included lies in some of her written claims. Now that’s a bit rich in view of the industry’s 0.0002mSv misleading emission claim & Henry Myer’s account of dishonest behaviour I included earlier. Where are the examples expected from those critics to support their ‘lie’ claims? Where is the ethical approach? She may have made the rare error occasionally – we all do – including Mr Brook. Public trust would also improve if Mr Brook made all company names from private industry sources that are financially supporting his work. We should not have a repeat of the CSIRO ‘Total Well Being Diet’ conflict with vested interests. (http://perfidy.com.au/)
    3) Here you mention ignorance & arrogance & concede to have been often engaged in arguments with people having opposing views. Does this mean you cannot conduct a rational discussion, but prefer to argue? All I have done is to quietly present references from people with adequate qualifications for the matters they are reporting on wherever possible & some readers respond with obvious malicious intent. So I have to respond to their errors as well. When you continue giving us your unsupported criticism & expect us to accept your implied authority on it without including any references yourself, then that is considerably closer to a state of arrogance than anything I have ever engaged in, & the more likely cause of any failure of a rational debate between us. As for ignorance, you have displayed some (in the least), in the way you have failed the basic principles of conduct in countering our concerns in a civilised manner. Any raving is coming from a different direction.
    4) Anyone has the freedom to answer one or more of my points or included references at their convenience, without me having to rewrite them. They are readable enough despite the difficulties I’ve had with the blog limitations & my substandard eyesight if you don’t try to rush through them. The amount of material I presented was due to its relevance. No one was expected to answer all points. I am not discourteous – for example, I included all the Nov 8, extracts in one place for the readers’ benefit. It would take even more time to go through the included weblinks to find the relevant text. Is your current attitude of ridicule & insult, an example of how to be courteous then? You have readily misunderstood the situation at my end & certainly ‘forget’ about a “rational, evidence-based communication” approach as Mr Brook has recently put it. Even he has lapsed sometimes. If it is good enough for people to be upset about blatant misleading claims in the food industry (a), then it is even more important for the nuclear advocates to clean up their act as well.

    (a) http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,,26348551-911,00.html


  189. Allan McKay, true to form, you’ve given 4 responses in 1. Can’t you work out no one is going to take any notice of you if you continue to operate in this way. And he’s quite right, the anti-nukes are patently just as bad recyclers as the climate change deniers. That’s lazy and intellectually vapid. No wonder the author of this blog has opted out of engaging with you any further.

    Oh, and it’s “Dr Brook” or “Prof Brook”, not “Mr Brook”. Trying to downplay his authority or qualifications to suit your own purpose does you no credit whatsoever.


  190. @Allan McKay – You claiming that you are making a cognizant argument simply does not make it so. Lacing your tirade with accusations of payoffs to the site owner, is as I have said elsewhere on this site in another thread, generally an indication of intellectual bankruptcy by someone who has failed to establish any sort of credibility in one of these discussions.

    To constantly have to cover the same ground on why the ravings of Helen Caldicott are of no value, or show that Wasserman & Solomon’s purported ‘evidence’ from Three-Mile Island are nothing more than a collection of anecdotes handed them by people that were attempting win money in a civil case against the plant, or why the endless amount of rubbish that is found in the popular press on radiation is not admissible in this sort of forum, has become tiresome. It is also a fool’s errand, since those that lack the capacity to vet this material themselves can almost never be convinced that they are in error.

    Worse, once one is driven off or barred, a new crop show up, just as lii-informed and just as strident in their ignorance, and the cycle starts again.

    It’s becoming tiresome, and little is being gained.


  191. For David Walters (10 Nov) & DV82XL (11 Nov)

    Let us return to the debate then after all the mud-slinging. Dave was surprised at the nuclear carbon footprint claim I mentioned earlier (10 Nov). For those who haven’t seen Al Gore’s new book yet (p 165), he is relying on the work of Mr Ben Sovacool. See the introductory link at (a). In the Further Reading list below the main article at (a) is the main source data from ‘Energy Policy’ for the nuclear footprint shown in Al Gore’s book. He is including all the sources of CO2 emission throughout the nuclear cycle. This is partially illustrated by what is involved with the mining & milling of uranium (b). The Olympic Dam project might reach similar levels of emissions & environmental upheaval when fully operational. Further bad news for the nuclear waste management experts at (c). And yes, we are entitled to know from where the private industry funding is coming from to support Mr Brook’s work. Too many examples of ‘monetary persuasion’ have surfaced in areas such as high-profile drug trials in recent years. Do read CSIRO Perfidy though – Geoff has done a good job. The meat & dairy industry provided significant finance for the dietary research.

    a) (http://www.scitizen.com/stories/Future-Energies/2008/07/Nuclear-power-False-climate-change-prophet/)
    b) (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/08/nuclear-power-namibia-mining)
    c) (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/14/copper-nuclear-containment-vasa-sweden)


  192. Allan McKay, I currently receive precisely $0.0 income from private industry funding on any project, and my cumulative lifetime income from any energy generator (personal or research-based) has also been $0.0. All my research money comes from State and Federa competitivel grants agencies and leverage contributions for industry linkage grants from State Government departments. My salary is paid by the University of Adelaide and the State Government of South Australia. On this topic, you could actually, say I’m paying for this, as I meet all the costs of registering and running this website out of my own finances. So take your conspiracy theories and shove them up your ideologue.


  193. Allan,
    this would require me to read Gore’s book. I’m not about to do that but the the B. Sovacool report is interesting. MORE interesting is how Bill Hannahan utterly destroys his methodology, and therefor his conclusions.

    What Sovacool seems to agree wtih is that the *more* nuclear of Gen III variety we have, and the longer we can keep Gen II reactors on line, the lower their CO2 output becomes as a function of capacity. And that is where he is un does himself.

    He is typical of a lot of people on both sides of these discussions that look at the static flow of power, and it’s EROI, it’s inputs, etc as if *they never change*. The reason the CO2 output in France is lower for it’s nuclear vs the U.S. is because the entire front end from yellow-cake through decommissioning is 80% nuclear and about 7% hydro. Thus, if the US were to increase it’s % of nuclear, the CO2 at the front and backend of the fuel cycle would drop immensly.

    The emotionally driven Helen Caldicott used the converse of this argument to argue that the enrichment plant in Kentucky that has two coal fired plants to power it proves that nuclear is deadly from the CO2 output of those coal plants. How true. How sad. How utterly stangnet her thinking. I shot her a question which she didn’t reply to when I heard to argue this point: if we replaced those two coal plants with nuclear ones, how would she then feel about the drop to zero of the CO2?

    Sovacool does something similar in his paper. I have actually read the entire paper. It’s sort of a ‘study on studies’ more than original thinking and research, IMHO. Hannahan simply cites other studies that prove how low the CO2 really is, including below that of wind.

    It’s generally accepted that nuclear is way lower than gas and coal, and people who try to fake the opposite conclusion are simply going to loose the argument, as they have on this particular aspect of nuclear energy.

    Nuclear energy is really attacked, publically, around three issues:

    1. costs.
    2. waste
    3. proliferation

    This is where the serious the discussion among policy makers rages.



  194. Greenpeace used the slogan “Solar, not nuclear” for many years.
    Its 1993 study, Commissioned from the “Stockholm Environment Institute” [Boston Center] said that renewables would allow us to retire nuclear by 2010.
    Reality is that all renewables other than hydro made 2.3% of electricity in 2006 and solar thermal and PV made about 0.033% of world electricity.

    Australia has a high per capita CO2 footprint because it supplies materials to the world and needs electricity and CO2 to do it.
    Solar cells are not possible without lots of energy and the simple chemical reaction of Silicon dioxide plus carbon to make silicon and CO2.
    Carbon neutral? Impossible.

    To make steel and concrete without CO2 emissions is an impossible dream.
    When we can convince the populace, we might get somewhere.


  195. Allan McKay: Thanks for the kind words about Perfidy. Barry has
    provided specifics about his funding, but let me just add my 2cents. I’ve worked
    with Barry on a few things and had a fair amount of contact and while we
    disagree about many things, I’m 100% sure he’s not for sale … and
    in case anybody is wondering, I get $0.0 from Animal Liberation (or
    any other animal group … but I did do 15 years voluntary work 1 day
    a week writing software for the RSPCA after getting paid for about 6
    months at a nominal rate) … but I am really keen to break even on my
    book … I need my garage back, so tell all your friends to buy a copy!


  196. tialsedov (18 Nov)

    Are you able to provide a weblink to the Bill Hannahan counter arguements? Just a reminder of course, the nuclear footprint shown on p 165 in Our Chioce, indicates a worst case. There is a range mentioned there.

    Barry Brook, Geoff Russell

    You seem to have misunderstood. I was not referring to any personal additional income or even favours from other unidentified interests for either of you. If I had been, I would’ve included a reference to someone like Admiral Rickover at (www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,951382,00.html) rather than the drug testing example I used. Unfortunately however, even on a personal level, some doctors have also provided a poor image. The main newspapers still have many accounts available online about rorting, even with some hospitals & police fudging records. These were professions that people used to look up to. On 18 Nov, I was referring more to the simple statement given in the media (2007) about obvious unspecified input from unnamed industries which Mr Brook must’ve been aware of.

    “This joint initiative between the University of Adelaide and the State Government, and collaboration with industry and other research organisations”.
    (See p10, at http://www.adelaide.edu.au/adelaidean/binary3021/September.pdf)

    It’s in the public interest then to know the extent & nature of that industrial input for transparency, when obviously very large amounts of money are hanging in the balance over opinions expressed from a university professor who is expected to be impartial, quite apart from the fact whether the nuclear road is the best technical solution. All sources of endowment, (whether direct or indirect) for the current Sir Hubert Wilkins chair of Climate Change to be viewed by the interested public would be a good start.


  197. Allan McKay, the endowment for the Sir Hubert Wilkins chair of Climate Change comes 100% from the State Government of South Australia — a government who has expressed no interest in pursuing nuclear power. Now that I have answered you, multiple times on this matter, I request that you cease and desist from any further insinuations. Your crude attempts at a smear campaign against my professional integrity will no longer be tolerated. Pester my university if you wish to pursue this matter further, not me. This is your one and only warning on this matter. If you persist, then you are no longer welcome to comment on this blog.


  198. People like Mc Kay talk about the carbon footprint of nuclear energy without telling us of the carbon footprint of solar cells and all the other CO2 emitting enterprises that make civilisation possible.
    We have a society which lives with about 1.27 million deaths per year from automobile accidents but can’t cope with the thought that 60 years of stored nuclear waste has caused how many deaths?
    We have been encouraged to fear nuclear power because of the threat its waste presents to future generations. Radioisotopes lose their radioactivity over time, so how can the waste present a danger to “future generations” ?

    How things change, according to politics. Old nuclear hands will tell you that 50 years ago, SA was in the market for nuclear energy because it had no coal.

    Interesting to see the output of its solar and wind compared with installed cost and return on investment.


  199. Here’s something useful I was sent on radiation. It’s by Bill Sacks, a college physics teacher for 12 years:

    This is in answer to a question about why plutonium can be held in your hand without rendering your grandchildren grandparentless, aside from the continued existence of the other 3 grandparents.
    First, to remind you, the degree of radioactivity is inversely proportional to the half life, with one other important factor, namely the total amount of material. But equal numbers of atoms of Pu239, for example, and Cs137 will excite a Geiger counter at rates that are inverse to the ratios of their two half lives: namely 24,000 years and 30 years, respectively, i.e., 800 to 1 in favor of the Cs. However, if you had 800 times as many atoms of Pu239 they would register on the Geiger counter at equal rates. Then the next issue besides the rate of decay (a spontaneous event not requiring the influence of outside interactions, based on strictly internal contradictions) is the energetics of the decay particles, i.e., mainly alphas, betas, and gammas. Despite having 800 times as much Pu239 (in terms of the numbers of atoms, not in terms of their weights, which would have a much higher ratio than 800 to 1 and would be completely irrelevant), if Pu239 gave off less energetic decay particles than the Cs137, then the Cs137 would expose you to more damage, particularly if there are huge numbers of both. All of that makes all kinds of sense, right?

    So when we talk about how radioactive something is, we generally understand by that the rate at which atoms in the material decay, not the total energy of this decay, just the number of decays per second, say. Cs137 therefore is 800 more radioactive than Pu239.

    The reason you can hold small amounts of Pu239 in your hand is that it decays by emitting an alpha, which is so heavy that it can’t move very fast and can’t penetrate your skin easily or even a piece of paper. It also sometimes emits a beta (an electron), but not as often as an alpha. Remember that an alpha is a helium nucleus, i.e., 2 protons and 2 neutrons (each of which weighs approximately the same, with a neutron being minimally more massive). That, in fact, is why a lone neutron (i.e., one not bound in a nucleus) is very unstable, since it give off a beta (an electron) to become a proton, which is at a lower energy level (i.e., lower mass) and therefore more stable. Neutrons not in a nucleus, so-called free neutrons, have a very short lifetime, but they are not said to be radioactive, since you can’t collect a bunch in the first place, they decay to protons so quickly, a little less than 15 minutes to decay on average. However, note that this is a long enough life for free neutrons to travel from a U235 in a reactor to collide with either another U235 and cause fission, or hit a U238 and cause absorption and transmutation to Pu239, or hit a water or graphite molecule and simply lose some speed, or hit whatever is in the control rods and be absorbed.

    You ask under what conditions Pu239 is dangerous, and the answer is if there’s a lot of it. But it’s the betas that carry most of the danger. Betas (electrons) have a mass about 1/2000 that of a proton or neutron, and therefore about 1/8000 of the mass of an alpha. But they can therefore travel much faster given the same order of magnitude of energy, and can penetrate skin and other organs. The reason alphas emitted in the lungs are more dangerous is that they don’t have to travel very far to hit vital functioning lung tissue. Such tissue is usually not very close to skin, which mainly stops external alphas. So when you inhale a small amount of Pu239 (try to imagine inhaling a truckload of it – your lungs don’t have room for a truck), you can do a little damage, but not much. After all, with so little of it and with a half life of 24,000 years, you’ll be long dead from second hand smoke, coal dust, or imperialist war before it does much damage to your lung.

    And to answer your final question, it’s the fission products, not the actinides (of which transuranics make up a part), that are the most radioactive and dangerous in high level waste. Once the Pu239 is purified out of the fission products, it’s not so dangerous. Therefore since IFRs consume virtually all the actinides, i.e., heavy radioactive isotopes, before they are discarded, it is the continually created fission (i.e., light, not heavy) products that constitute the waste from IFRs. The once-through light water reactors discard not only the light fission products, but most of the actinides, which also includes uranium and plutonium.

    Just in case, to review what actinides are you only have to glance at the periodic table, and realize that from, say lead on up, you have in this order: lead, bismuth, polonium, astatine, radon (a noble gas), francium, radium, actinium (after which the actinides are named, and meaning those elements from actinium on up), thorium, protactinium, uranium, neptunium, plutonium, americium (in smoke alarms), curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendeleevium, nobelium, lawrencium, and that’s all she wrote for the time being. I’ve bolded the even number elements (i.e., even numbers of protons, not neutrons, which depends on which isotope) in order to highlight the line of alpha decay. Remember every alpha reduces the number of protons by 2, as well as the number of neutrons, but that doesn’t determine the element. Only the number of protons does. So when one of the higher actinides decays by emitting an alpha it moves down to the next bolded element.

    Also remember that uranium is the heaviest naturally occurring element on earth, not because transuranics (those higher than uranium) didn’t once exist on the earth when it formed from supernova dust, but rather because they all have half lives that are several orders of magnitude shorter than those of the common uranium isotopes (700,000,000 and 4,500,000,000 years, respectively for 235 and 238), e.g., consider Pu239’s 24,000 years, and much shorter than the age of the earth, so that by now they have all decayed away to undetectable levels. That’s also the reason that there is a helluva lot less U235 than U238, 0.7% versus 99.3%, since the half life of U235 is only about 1/6 that of U238, and therefore it has had 6 times as many half lives of decaying. [As a homework assignment you can figure out how long ago the amounts of U238 and U235 were about equal on earth.]

    Lead is always the end product of these decays, because it turns out it is the most stable nucleus of all. Not only do heavier elements decay toward lead, coming down by emitting alphas (which contain protons), but the lighter radioactive elements generally also decay toward lead, but have to do so by emitting betas, which turn a neutron into a proton thus moving the element up the scale by one atomic number (number of protons). Clearly some of the heavier elements can also emit betas, but much more infrequently than they emit alphas. After all, if they didn’t emit betas, you couldn’t ever get from U238 to Pu239, which occurs by U238 absorbing a passing neutron, becoming U239, which is so unstable that it immediately emits a beta, becoming Np239 (note that emitting a beta doesn’t change the 239, which represents the atomic weight rather than atomic number, since a beta doesn’t weigh enough to change the atomic weight by one unit), which then is so unstable that it emits another beta to become Pu239, which is much more stable, again with a half life of 24,000 years. Pu239 doesn’t decay spontaneously very fast, nor does U235 or U238, but it fissions easily when hit by a neutron, as does U235, and all the other odd number atomic weights (not odd atomic numbers).

    The one final thing worth mentioning is that the reason that midrange fission products are so unstable is that the ratio (there will be several simple steps of logic here, so be patient) of neutrons in heavier elements is higher than in lighter elements because neutrons are needed to lessen the repulsion among positively charged protons, and the more protons you have the more neutrons are needed. In fact, an excess of neutrons is needed such that the heavier the element the more the excess. So the ratio of Ns to Ps in heavy elements is on the order of 1.5 to 1, whereas in lighter elements it is closer to 1 to 1. So think about what happens when a heavy element with a ratio of 1.5 to 1 fissions: the two fission products, each close to half the atomic number and atomic weight of the heavy fissile element, also have a ratio of 1.5 to 1. To see that, just consider U235 which absorbs a neutron, becoming U236, and fissions, say, right in half, to form Pd118 (palladium, with an atomic number of 46, half of uranium’s 92, and with 46 protons and 72 neutrons, for a ratio of 1.6 to 1, much more than 1 to 1). Now Pd doesn’t need so many neutrons, so it fixes that imbalance by beta decaying to change a neutron to a proton several times, moving up the ladder each time. But the main point is that this kind of imbalance is corrected only in small steps, and each step still leaves that unstable ratio that is too high for that number of protons. Therefore the fission products are much more radioactive.


  200. DV82XL 19 Sept 09
    Additional evidence has emerged recently that Chernobyl was a very serious accident (a,b). The lack of details from the Russians in the early stages readily fuelled incorrect western speculation of the casualties. Dr John Goffman however estimated casualties from radiation induced illnesses would be at least 500,000 & likely reach 950,000. He had particular expertise in this area, yet many skeptics readily ignored him. It therefore looks more likely that Dr Goffman’s estimate was much better than he was ever given credit for.
    (a) http://www.counterpunch.org/grossman04232010.html
    (b) http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2010/2010-04-26-01.html

    The Hiroshima study has been adequately shown my many independent researchers to have had multiple errors (c,d,e,f) & has therefore been misleading.
    (c) http://www.du-deceptions.com/downloads/HiroshimaStudy.pdf
    (d) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2698250/pdf/12199_2008_Article_39.pdf
    (e) http://www.ccnr.org/radiation_standards.html
    (f) http://www.idealist.ws/atomicclock.php

    Extract from ‘History’s Worst Inventions’ 2009 Chap 40

    “The effects of the explosions continue to this day, affecting the health of the men & women exposed to radiation & of their children through genetic damage. The total number of people who have died directly or indirectly from the two bombs had reached 400,000 by 2007. The casualties from the initial blasts were startling: 70,000 in Hiroshima & 40,000 in Nagasaki. By the end of 1945, twice that number had died from burns, injuries or radiation sickness.”

    All of these casualties as well as the ones in 1946-49 were excluded since they occurred before the study began in1950, thereby significantly affecting the conclusions. The figures given by DV82XL of only 700 dying of radiation related illnesses are therefore not believable, & is a typical example of the US government playing down the effects of their bombing. General Doulas MacArthur commenced an information blackout on radiation effects & downplaying their role in the casualties, as soon as he assumed control in Japan (g).

    (g) http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0810-01.htm


  201. Machiavelli, the first thing you do is not to compare totally different radiation sceneros as they simply unrelated.

    The two sources areas you us should be enough to tell you this. The Chernobyl deaths are still highly disputed (and illnesses) as there are direct counter positions over the decades on teh effects. Not so on Hiroshima/Nag…no serious study would back up my friend DV82XL on this question but does with Chernobyl.

    In fact if you look at ‘Counterpunch’ it’s a poltiical rag who touts dillitantes like Harvey Wasserman as an ‘expert’ on nuclear energy. It’s not a ‘source’ and the articles in Counterpunch are *reveiws* or articles ON the Grossman report, and not very good ones at that.

    The studies on HIroshima however are far more serious and there are lots of peer-reviewed reports out there that shown what the direct high exposure to ionizing radiation from WMD has done.

    What is a major FAIL by nuclear energy opponents is their refusal to acknowledge that nuclear energy is the only way to really disarm the worlds nuclear WEAPONS by turning their uranium 235 and plutonium into energy. Oh well…perhaps your greatest contridiction, not ours.


  202. On Chernobyl.

    For a period of time the Ukraine gov’t attributed ALL cancer in Ukraine to Chernobyl. There are, unfortunatly, real financial incentives for this to occur, not to mention huge popular pressure to do so. Urkaine radiation and doctors chimed in on this and even teh maintaining of the ‘Exclusion Zone’ is there more for political satisfaction, than for a serious concern over health and safety.

    Thus the data used by Grossman, et al, are often, and again unfortunatly, often manipulated by the very gathters of that data and I’m afraid we’ll really never know the truth.

    I don’t think this is the case with Hiroshima and Nag because the Japanese gov’t seemed to of taken a quite serious attitude ABOUT data collection, especially in the 1950s when they really started studying the effects.

    The fact is that people now live at ground zero because the inonizating radiation from the bombs has disappeared completely. That’s the good news. The bad news is that survivors did continuelly get sick and it *often* contributed to premature deaths.


  203. Machiavelli – Every link that you have posted leads to absolute rubbish. Some of it, like pages from the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility are a joke. That ‘organization’ consists of high school teacher and a box of slides. He lives in Montreal (Snowdon) and picked up the rights to the name when the original coalition disbanded itself decades ago.

    The rest is not much better. CounterPunch? Are you kidding me? Rubbish from du deceptions. com titled “The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science” Really.

    When you table something with more weight than garbage from discredited sources, I’ll address it, but this isn’t close.


  204. Another fundamental point (and sorry I keep harping on this) is that 950,000 deaths utterly fails the ‘smell test’. Where are all the corpses? How are these distinguished from the ‘background’ cancer deaths, which kill over 1/4 of all people? What about the mounting evidence for hormesis? How is the Chernobyl radiation ‘different’ from natural radiation, such that it causes more deaths at low levels, which is totally contradictory to both common sense and all empirical measurements. The list can go on and on, but the bottom line is that such assertions are the absolute epitome of anti-science.


  205. The numbers I quoited above for late deaths from the nuclear bombing in Japan are from: The Life Span Study cohort of atomic-bomb survivors from 1950 through 1990, published in Radiation Research (146:1-27, 1996)

    At summery of their findings from that report can be found here:


    Please note the column, where the percentages of the victims attributed to radiation exposure are stated


  206. Machiavelli/DV8/Barry: I don’t claim to know my
    way around the Japanese radiation mortality studies, but
    I did have a look at (d) which is from a real journal and
    isn’t rubbish. It shows increases in SMR (standardised
    mortality rates) for people receiving 3 levels of doses of
    radiation from the bombs. The cancer rate increases
    range from a few percent to 20 percent for low exposure
    through to 70 percent (high radiation exposure … Okayama). SMR’s are a little tricky because they reflect
    medical treatment impacts as well as cancer. For
    example, more people get cancer but die of something
    else in countries with good medical systems.

    The kind of SMR differences present are generally
    less than that caused by lifestyle choices (smoking/alcohol/meat) which run at about 50

    The study authors present a number of problems that
    are tough to control for in such a study.
    One they didn’t list was the
    trauma of being bombed which may be expected to
    have long time health impacts … BUT most groups
    had an all cause mortality excess that was lower than
    their cancer excess … ie they were healthier except
    for the cancer!


  207. OK, the paper in question is not junk, however I would hardly say that its concussions are all that firm, a situation they themselves are quick to identify. The major one, in my view is the means they used to estimate dose, thus rendering all of the exposure data very questionable. Related, the dosage from fallout related sources was not considered in any depth.

    Single studies rarely can be used to draw any meaningful idea of what is going on, and that obviously applies to the one I linked to as well, however enough of these have been done to show that late mortality due to exposure to radiation is not a really significant factor, one way or the other. If it was, there would be no doubt, as it is for example with the link between tobacco consumption and cancer.


  208. D. Walters 10 June 2010
    I agree with your 1st point of what not to do, but no direct comparison between the Atom Bomb drops & Chernobyl was being made at all. Both topics were merely included in one entry like DV82XL did in his first entry due to the common theme he used. He was making a point that both incidents did not cause as many casualties through radiation effects as some people thought, while I presented references claiming the reverse. I don’t think either of us were comparing one tragedy with the other on a radiation basis.
    The two Chernobyl references were included simply because no book extracts appear to be available yet on the net, (the book was recently published). The reviews are from writers with experience on that subject, having included some basic points. Neither of them are passing themselves off as nuclear experts but simply as reporters. Obviously, we all need to look at the book itself before ‘shooting from the hip’.
    Yes, it is useful to be able to use ‘processed’ weapons-grade material in some reactors, but that isn’t really a sufficiently redeeming feature of nuclear power with all its other obvious disadvantages, being the more likely reason that alert people reject that form of energy. Virtually every aspect of that industry has an unusual, dangerous or expensive feature. Even modern engineering has not been able to cope with all the challenges to contain all of the radioactivity & build the plants economically, while heated disagreement about the effects of radiation releases continues unresolved due to huge amounts of money at stake. In any case, while nuclear power has cost so much being developed since the 1950’s, other lesser known forms of truly safer & much cheaper energy generation have been devised as well. This would be a far better way to dismantle most of the ‘insane’ nuclear industry. Yet the nuclear enthusiasts still don’t get it, having been totally mislead that the ultimate ‘Holy Grail’ in cheap, abundant energy has to be in some radioactive form, when it needn’t be. Even ‘the bomb’ wasn’t really needed to force Japan to surrender. The researcher Clay Blair found some US naval experts who felt their expanding submarine force (assisted by other services) could’ve blockaded Japan into surrender early enough without a large US invasion.
    Chernobyl: I wouldn’t have thought the New York Academy of Science would publish the material without some reasonable checks being done. The nuclear industry doesn’t have any financial interests in playing down the radiation effects either I suppose. Be reminded then, that even at the highest level of US government (Bush Whitehouse) has had data manipulation & alteration taken place (a). It even looks like the Obama team is doing the same (b). The ‘peer reviewed’ process is apparently not immune from abuse by others with a hidden agenda. Jay Gould in ‘Deadly Deceit’ (US), included examples of blatant alteration of graphs about radiation. Both the British & Japanese have been caught out in data alteration in their own nuclear industries (c, d).
    The Heidelberg Report in May, 1978, reveals the fraudulent methods used by the Atomic Energy Commission to alter their testing of radioactivity coming from a commercial nuclear power plant when those plants were first up for licensing. They routinely falsified their test samples by downgrading their radioactivity in order to establish that what a plant normally puts out into the environment is within ‘acceptable levels.’ (e)
    When criticising Karl Grossman for manipulation, some evidence should be provided.

    (a) http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/resources/globalwarming/documents/political-interference.pdf
    (b) http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/06/11/white-house-rejects-claim-skewed-expert-opinion-justify-drilling-ban/
    (c) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/now-sellafield-admits-to-22-faked-nuclear-safety-checks-1120931.html
    (d) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2004/aug/22/energy.japan
    (e) ‘The People of Three Mile Island’ 1980 Chap 26


  209. DV82XL 10 June 2010
    Even if what you say is correct about the CCNR, that doesn’t mean individuals cannot make useful contributions to a cause. My included CCNR link was from Dr Rosalie Bertell, who is certainly a well qualified researcher. Paul Zimmerman’s subtitle “The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science” is derived from readily available extraordinary revelations from the US government’s activities over many years. They reveal a stunning collection of very unsatisfactory behaviour in their supposed ‘duty of care’ for the US public during the hectic nuclear bomb-making program. Similar careless attitudes continued during the civilian power generation phase (e – n). There is a good collection of examples from a different source about the US weapons program (a). The general public were shocked when these revelations (a – d) were made, including the incredible secret cold-war plutonium experiments on unwitting US citizens (b, c, d). What credibility does the US government & nuclear industry have left after these revelations both from the bomb & power industries (a, n)? Are Australians going to support that type of behaviour from their governments? Follow Harvey Wasserman’s lead (h) & tell them No.

    (a) http://researchethics.org/articles.asp (11 chapters at the bottom of the page)
    (b) http://www.whale.to/a/cantwell9.html
    (c) http://www.commondreams.org/views/021100-104.htm
    (d) http://www.saunalahti.fi/~makako/mind/radiatio.htm
    (e) http://www.ieer.org/sdafiles/vol_6/6-2/workers.html
    (f) http://www.millennium-ark.net/NEWS/09_USA/090414.nuke.plant.safety.html
    In view of these examples, we can’t really accept that level of performance & allow the nuclear power industry into Australia. It does not inspire any confidence in their abilities at all (g – o) along with the way the TMI (f) & Chernobyl accidents have been downplayed & the uncertainty about normal reactor releases (o). We cannot even cope with our existing waste monitoring yet, even without any heavy nuclear industry established here (p). Even SA Government’s EPA appears weak in protecting the public from coal plant pollution (q) & accurately maintaining & calibrating X-Ray machines in SA hospitals (r).

    (g) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harvey-wasserman/nuclear-industry-to-vermo_b_501991.html
    (h) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harvey-wasserman/iyoui-are-now-paying-for_b_515692.html
    (i) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alec-baldwin/the-human-costs-of-nuclea_b_533516.html
    (j) http://www.radiation.org/spotlight/090804_Huffingtonpost.html
    (k) http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19826535.300-comment-lets-take-cancer-clusters-seriously-this-time.html (This article may now be restricted to subscribers)
    (l) http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/02/01/national/main6163433.shtml
    (m) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alec-baldwin/the-truth-about-nuclear-p_b_471652.html
    (n) http://www.llrc.org/wolflyer.pdf (He finds evidence of “science induced blindness”)
    (o) http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/news2001/nn11105.htm
    (p) http://www.theage.com.au/environment/conservation/watchdog-fails-on-waste-20100609-xwuc.html

    (q) http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/port-augusta-is-sas-cancer-hotspot/story-e6frea83-1225846333836
    (r) http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opposition-warns-of-x-ray-danger/story-e6freo8c-1111119159053

    Atom Bomb Study: Two more references acknowledging on the first page some limitations (s, t).
    (s) http://www.pnas.org/content/95/10/5424.full.pdf
    (t) http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340&page=141 (pages 141-154)


  210. Machiavelli – It is clearly apparent to me that you simply don’t have the background to evaluate the material you link to, what ever its source. Dr Rosalie Bertell, is not a well qualified researcher. She has written reams of utter rubbish on depleted uranium, that fails to have any connection with reality. Groups like The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, have no standing in the legitimate scientific community, nor can items in the popular press be trusted, as those that write this article never examine the topic in any depth.

    Arguing with people like you is a waste of both of our time, as you have made up you mind based on your own preconceived notions. There are many more that are open to reason out there that I can better explain these matters to, and with some possibility of having them see the truth.

    One thing is for sure: we are on the cusp of an energy crises, coupled with an environmental/climate crises, the magnitude of which could destroy civilization, or set it back so severely that human culture would revert to a new dark age.

    The only technology that we have available to maintain ourselves long enough that we might be able to ride this out, or take corrective action, is nuclear fission. Nothing else comes close that doesn’t involve burning something, the most likely reason we are in this mess in the first place. To discard nuclear as a option on the bases of unproven fears, is to condemn ourselves to an existence several orders of magnitude more deadly than the worse these objectors could possibly imagine if all of their unfounded accusations were true.

    If you don’t want to accept the inherent safety of nuclear energy as it has been explained here on several occasions, then at least think about the consequences of not deploying it.


  211. DV82XL (17 June)

    This venue is supposed to be for a civilised debate on the main issues at hand, not an opportunity for unjustified personal attacks & insults just because you don’t agree with someone’s evidence. For someone to claim I “don’t have the background to evaluate links” when he was himself recently reminded of a failure in interpreting links as “absolute rubbish”, is a bit rich. Dr Bertell is well enough qualified for her role in assessing the radiation issues of this era. She wouldn’t have been invited to testify before a US Govt Senate Committee if she wasn’t (a). What I have seen of her depleted uranium points are adequately supported by such researchers as Dr C. Busby (UK), who certainly is well qualified.

    (a) http://www.ccnr.org/rosalie_testimony.html
    I do not have “preconceived notions” in the sense you imply, but have formed an opinion after basing it upon a variety of sources having evidence usually not seen on this site, that needs to be considered. The pro-nuke side has failed to provide adequate counter evidence yet, & appears more intent on dis-information especially after they joined TASSC in 1993 (b). How can we trust them?
    (b) http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627606.200-living-in-denial-how-corporations-manufacture-doubt.html (may need to subscribe to view full article)
    Your third paragraph I completely agree with, but not so with your fourth one. I may have an advantage here, even though you don’t give me any credit for having “the background to evaluate the material I link to”. Being adequately trained all the same, I am satisfied that there has been many individual researchers over the last 80 years who have made obvious advances in some form of machine or process, with many being suppressed – a technique used by some nuclear interests. These individual researchers have adequately demonstrated that the boffins do not know everything about even classical physics yet. I am currently aware of two groups here in Australia that seem to have demonstrated motors using different principles of operation to get substantially improved performance as well as other people around the world. In Prof Brook’s hometown, I know of an individual who is certain he has identified another way to generate much larger amounts of renewable power (when scaled up) while not having any of the disadvantages of current power plants, but he needs financing to make a model. I do not have to think about “not deploying” nuclear power as if it was the only option remaining, because I am satisfied there are better ways to replace it even without using wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, etc.
    Especially after Chernobyl I am adequately justified in not thinking of nuclear power as “inherently safe” or of having “unproven fears”. In 1962, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee at the AEC admitted in Congressional testimony, that reactor fission products can be from a million to a billion times more toxic than any chemical, & that we can’t afford human weakness or equipment flaws. Even Dr Edward Teller had publically written in 1965, that “in principle, nuclear reactors are dangerous” & advocated building them well below ground level (c). Surely his opinion as a nuclear physicist is worth noting. Then in early 1979, the NRC repudiated the Rasmussen report on major nuclear accidents. In subsequent years, a trickle of industry professionals have recognised the dangers of nuclear power & have changed their opinion & had the courage to resign, often having to endure shabby treatment from their former industry associates. If Sidney Goodman is right, (“the true test of the health of a democracy is its attitude towards dissent”), then the nuclear industry’s public relations are totally unacceptable. The continuing attempt by some people to package nuclear power as ‘safe’ is therefore a blatant exercise in denial in view of several major identities in that industry agreeing that it is dangerous.
    (c) http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/71feb/jacobs.htm
    (Complete paragraph quote near the bottom of the page, beginning with the above quote).


  212. Mr. Machiavelli, your concerns about nuclear power must surely be dwarfed by the terrible truth Dr.Bertell has revealed about the horrific threat of chemtrails and the murderous conspiricy of world governments experimenting on helpless poulations. Please review Dr. Bertell’s work on this matter and provide us with a summary of her findings. I’m sure this would allow us all to put your concerns in their proper perspective.



  213. This venue is supposed to be for a civilized debate on the main issues at hand, not an opportunity for unjustified personal attacks & insults just because you don’t agree with someone’s evidence.

    Mr. Machiavelli – I will be glad to engage in debate with you on this topic when you have done the groundwork to inform yourself on the subject sufficiently that you can evaluate yourself some of the more idiotic claims that you have tabled here.

    It is apparent from the content of your posts that you do not have the faintest understanding of the science and engineering involved in in this subject, and as a consequence you are unable to weight opinions properly. Furthermore, like many others that show up on boards of this nature, you take an ascendant tone, demanding that we answer a collection of random objections, floated by those you have not taken the time to, or are incapable of, evaluating their standing. You have not checked to verify quotations you attribute, nor have you made any effort to determine if they were quoted in the correct context.

    You have failed to make any real effort beyond floating a series of links, that you haven’t even bothered to check for relevancy, yet you demand to be taken seriously by those here. It just doesn’t work like that. If you want some respect you must show some.

    Had you come here admitting you know little, and looking for guidance, everyone would have fallen over backwards to point you in the right direction. Instead you presumptuously assume that you can dump a list of undifferentiated nonsense on us, and demand we answer you like a peer.

    I have run into too many like you in the past, and frankly, it is not worth the effort to convince your type of anything. Even in the unlikely event that I can. There are just too many others now, with open-minded questions on nuclear energy that are willing to learn and willing to make a fair evaluation of the subject. I don’t have to go after those who have made up their minds, and who won’t make a serious effort to understand.


  214. B. Brook (10 June 2010)

    I would’ve thought “all the bodies” would have been ‘processed’ in a similar manner as other forms of fatal illnesses. For example, at least 5 million people die worldwide each year due to smoking related conditions (a). There doesn’t seem to be any difficulties in arranging the final resting places for all those ‘casualties’ without the public noticing – how many people check the death statistics at any time? They have better things to do. Unlike the tragedy at Bohpal which killed at least 15,000 people in a small amount of time in one area, leaving a very noticeable death toll, global smoking & Chernobyl radiation related fatalities are spread out over several countries & are more readily hidden in their normal ‘processing’ system. We don’t get any indicators of these fatalities until we specifically look for them.

    (a) http://www.inforesearchlab.com/smokingdeaths.chtml

    Being unable to see the book yet, I can only suggest at the moment that allowance is being made for ‘normal’ cancer rates using statistical expectancies, so that any excesses are indicative of Chernobyl effects. This technique has been used for decades. Be reminded that it is well known now that (speaking generally) radiation can cause (or act as a co-factor) in several other illnesses apart from cancers. Even without any nuclear industry in Australia, cancer figures are considered too high (b).
    (b) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/cancer-cases-on-the-rise-says-health-report/story-e6frg6nf-1225882964569
    If there is a hormesis effect, then it would appear to have a very narrow dose range & would likely have vary on different parts of the body. The effect would likely to be identified when strictly controlled & calibrated external radiation is used. Other factors which would be expected to influence hormesis might be:
    (1) type of radiation (alpha, beta, gamma, cosmic rays, X-Rays, etc)
    (2) mode of delivery (strontium 90, iodine 131, plutonium 239, caesium 137, X-rays, etc)
    (3) internal or external dose
    (4) which body area or organs were radiated
    (5) duration of dose
    (6) type of dose (intermittent or continuous)
    (7) general health status of recipient (infant, adult or fragile elder)
    Just these factors alone would be expected to make any hormesis effect difficult to consistently formulate general guidelines for practical application in the real world outside of a radiology clinic. The history of the nuclear industry clearly shows anyway, that they cannot safely operate within such tight guidelines due to the known 1,000’s of curies released annually from many nuclear plants in gaseous or liquid form, making the idealised 0.0002mSv value (averaged over the whole population) an unacceptably misleading claim by the nuclear industry. Recall the German govt has accepted the results of the KiKK reactor emission study (c). Furthermore, the BEIR VII report still supports the linear-no-threshold (LNT) risk model (d) with no really safe dose, implying there has not been good enough evidence for hormesis yet (e). Dr R. Wakeford (British Nuclear Fuels) felt the Taiwan Apartment study (that appeared to support hormesis) was not adequately done (f).

    (c) http://www.hse.gov.uk/newreactors/presentations/250609/ian-fairlie.pdf
    (d) http://dels-old.nas.edu/dels/rpt_briefs/beir_vii_final.pdf
    (e) http://health.dailynewscentral.com/content/view/0001165/48 (see ‘No Threshold Hypothesis’)
    (f) http://www.jpands.org/vol9no2/correspondence.pdf (Article starts at bottom of p33)

    The differences between reactor radiation products & background activity has been well covered by other researchers such as Dr Rosalie Bertell & Dr C. Busby (UK) many years ago. Chernobyl radiation was very different from normal background radiation in its content, its intensity, its distribution & its mode of delivery to organic life-forms. There were even minute ‘hot’ particles (radioactive particulates) that were likely inhaled. It is readily known from nuclear engineering (without waiting for one to blow up), that a Chernobyl style reactor contained about 10-20 billion curies of radioactive inventory in its core, especially since that unit #4 had not been refuelled for a while. Even Dr Edward Teller warned against this danger in 1965. The core therefore contained significantly more highly dangerous radiation from the accumulated fission products over that period. When the top was blown off, (accounts vary), but possibly at least 60 – 80 percent of the multiple fission product inventory was released into the environment over a 10 – 12 day period. This must have deposited significant amounts of radioactivity depending on distance travelled. Just by analysing the fallout over Sweden scientists were able to identify certain fission products (with high melting points) that proved they were from a reactor with a total meltdown. It is highly unlikely that normal background radiation subjects humans to these sorts of fission products & ‘hot’ particles because they only come from bomb fallout & reactor releases. They have different biochemical pathways (with likely stronger doses) to gain access to our bodies via inhalation & the food chain due to fallout & are therefore more dangerous. Many residents in the path of the radioactive fallout appear to have absorbed at least 80 percent of the radiation internally (g).Unsurprisingly, any unborn infants are more susceptible to radiochemical ingestion by their mothers. Prior to the US bomb program, there were no man-made fission product releases possible to affect humans. But the Radium Dial painter (1920’s) tragedy showed that the power of radium alone was also underestimated. Internal radiochemistry is regarded as being significantly more dangerous due to the proximity & exposure time periods involved. Alpha, beta & gamma radiation differences also impact upon the severity of exposure, so all-up, “common sense” need not be violated at all, nor does “anti-science” need to be invoked once the multiple characteristics of reactor radiochemistry are better understood. The generalisation of “radiation is radiation” can therefore considered to be a significant over-simplification (g – j).

    (g) http://www.ippnw.org/ResourceLibrary/Chernobyl20Rosen.pdf
    (h) http://www.pnas.org/content/98/25/14410.full.pdf
    (i) http://www.llrc.org/belarus.htm
    (j) http://www.euradcom.org/publications/chernobylebook.pdf


  215. Since this debate seems to be about posting links to papers, here is a list for you to chew on:

    The latest issue of the Dose-Response Journal, just released, has six important articles on health effects of ionizing radiation.

    Special Issue Introduction

    The Healthy Worker Effect and Nuclear Industry Workers

    Observations on the Chernobyl Disaster and LNT

    Radiation Hormesis: Historical Perspective and Implications for Low-Dose Cancer Risk Assessment

    The Dose Window for Radiation-Induced Protective Adaptive Responses

    Immunological Mechanism of the Low-Dose Radiation-Induced Suppression of Cancer Metastases in a Mouse Model

    Low-Dose Cancer Risk Modelling Must Recognize Up-Regulation Of Protection

    You will note all these come from a legitimate scientific journal, which carries as much weight, I would think, as the British and Irish Charity organisations on Mitigating the Consequences in Belarus of the Chernobyl Catastrophe, (one of the sources Machiavelli lists) and the output from the German Green Party’s propaganda mill, on these matters


  216. DV82XL (22 June)
    All you have managed is a repeat of the same unjustified ridicule, using insults & false claims as you have done with other anti-nuke contributors. Is this your way of ‘debating’ & “showing respect” by insulting others & accusing them of the very same flaws you have repeatedly displayed yourself? No disrespect has been posted by me. All of the insults are coming from others. If anyone is taking “an ascendant tone”, you are with the “come here admitting you know little” approach. No demands have ever been made by me for insisting others to “answer a collection of random objections” as you claim. Any included questions are a civilized invitation for anyone to fairly answer to show us why nuclear is supposed to be the great saviour. You’re still evading direct comment on key links like Scientific American & the New Scientist preferring to continue with false interpretations & insults deliberately designed to malign dissenters. My included links are definitely relevant to the points associated with them & any brief quotations used are adequately valid if you take the time to read the links. But that seems to be the problem – you cannot cope with all of the nuclear industry’s many exposed failings, so you ignore any counter evidence along with Dr Hugh MacKay’s book ‘Right & Wrong’ (or similar). So how about debating without the unjustified insults?


  217. DV82XL (27 June)
    “The hormetic zone is thought to depend on the type of radiation and how the radiation is delivered.”
    “The hormetic zone is more pronounced for sparsely ionizing forms of radiation (x rays and gamma rays) than for highly ionizing forms.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2889506/ (p123)

    Your included links are interesting, but for different reasons & are unlikely to help your case. The above extracts are similar to my earlier points (26 June). Recall the Chernobyl case has recent claims of many ill-effects being ignored (a), so any hormesis claims there are also in doubt. In any case, I have already allowed for a possible hormesis effect & covered the main points for why such an effect would unlikely benefit the public under normal nuclear-powered environmental conditions. There are too many subtle factors influencing the effect, while there doesn’t seem to be an adequate safety margin between hormesis radiation doses & more dangerous doses. Not everyone has a strong immune system. Therefore hormesis cannot be relied upon outside of a controlled clinical application. The above quotes imply less hormesis effect for alpha & beta particles which are also present in nuclear radiation releases. There are still many studies of residents & nuclear workers showing a trend of ill-effects with low levels of radiation covering many years. Dr Webb has included some comments about his radiation research along with views about poor reactor safety (b). Recall that there are wide variations amongst the public’s health status. A resident near TMI (about 10 miles) related how she could sense a facial skin prickling sensation (also when living near the Prairie Island reactor) when radiation was present due to an unplanned release – being later confirmed by the media. Under strict clinical conditions, maybe calibrated doses could be used for treatment, but I doubt it for other reasons. Radiology has shown often enough that people can get overdosed too readily & some nearby cells may be damaged (c). The Petkau effect & Genomic Instability adequately show how low levels can still cause harm. A more likely better method to assist cancer patients is an understanding of biochemistry in strengthening their immune system. Similarly, the fluoride in our water supply has a very narrow dose range with some overdosing also occurring (d). Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear possible that an impartial & rigorous investigation can be designed to solve this question when cases are being ignored (a). Authors in the ‘Dose Response’ links are claiming “inappropriate methods” have been used for LNT studies while Dr R. Wakeford of British Nuclear Fuels, feels the Taiwan study was also inappropriately done. Ignoring Chernobyl victims would also be inappropriate. So until some able, impartial researchers who really know what they are doing can resolve the issue, we are better off still using the LNT model, which may be part of the reasoning BEIR VII is using in still accepting it (e). It wouldn’t surprise me if a “threshold” value turned out to be as low as background levels. Out in the real world of nuclear reactors that are designed, built & maintained by very imperfect personnel, there is enough evidence from several countries showing nearby residents are experiencing ill-health effects. Many of the reactors used in the recent German KiKK study were the leakiest kind – boiling water types so some ill-effects would be expected.

    (a) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2006/mar/25/energy.ukraine
    (b) http://technidigm.org/c5001/RBMK.htm
    (c) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2889502/ pdf page 180
    (d) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=second-thoughts-on-fluoride
    (e) http://health.dailynewscentral.com/content/view/0001165/48 (see ‘No Threshold Hypothesis’)


  218. Finrod (22 June)
    I have only seen one brief YouTube video of Dr Bertell discussing chemtrails. There are however many other sources showing photos & home video’s of obvious spraying activity where the unusual lingering trails could not possibly be just condensation (a). Soil samples have been taken from many areas showing high levels of Barium & Aluminium compounds well above the EPA limits. Additional areas of plant & shrub die-off are being identified widely in the US, possibly due to the alkaline metal fallout & perhaps sulphur compounds being also used (acid rain) (b). Since their government isn’t officially confirming it we are left in limbo again. With all the information available about geo-engineering however, we can easily see that experiments are already going on using many unmarked planes, because the global warming threat is real & urgent (c, d). Sure, it sounds incredible, but less so after you see the video footage & comments from scientists like Ken Caldeira (e). Notice his comments about trusting the government & some weaknesses of the peer review process, then check his very last response. If the above is correct, then it looks like humans are again stuffing up the environment in new ways & impacting upon our health hoping the net result will be beneficial. If Ken Caldeira is concerned about it, then why not Dr Bertell?
    (a) See for example a DVD called ‘Sky Lines’ produced by Deborah J. Whitman 2008
    (b) http://news.theage.com.au/national/change-skys-colour-proposes-flannery-20080519-2fz1.html
    (c) http://www.theage.com.au/world/climate-to-warm-at-double-rate-20100706-zyyx.html
    (d) http://www.smh.com.au/environment/we-cant-wait-for-the-un-to-act-on-climate-change-says-report-20100707-100q6.html
    (e) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=geoengineering-and-climate-change


  219. John Morgan (12 July 2010)
    Since apparently it is accepted that errors occur when using the small text window (due to the small text), then why aren’t I allowed similar latitude when preferring to conserve space? In a venue such as this (where others are making their own errors), paragraphs are not as necessary when saving space. In longer entries, I have been using ‘blocks’. On other occasions, when submitting an entry, the gaps I was using earlier were not conserved on the final loading – so it is hard to adjust to for larger entries. If you are so particular about layout, why aren’t you biased nit-pickers commenting on the many grammatical mistakes & layout variations made by many other contributors? No – selective criticism is conveniently reserved for those who can provide spirited counter-evidence to the predominant pro-nuclear views on this imbalanced site. How about concentrating more on the important issues of the ‘debate’ instead.


  220. Very sensible article on radiation just published in New Scientist, by Wade Allison, a nuclear and medical physicist at the University of Oxford.

    Who’s afraid of radiation?

    A couple of passages to convey the flavour of it:

    THE word “radiation” frightens people, and little wonder. Ever since the cold war, the prevailing view has been that ionising radiation can do real harm to us without being seen or felt – and should be avoided at all costs. In fact radiation is much less harmful than we feared. Given the availability of carbon-free nuclear power, this makes a sea change in our view of radiation rather urgent.


    I suggest the upper limit might be reset at a lifetime total of 5 sieverts, at no more than 0.1 sievert per month. That would be a fraction of a radiotherapy dose, spread over a lifetime.

    Given what we now know from Hiroshima and Nagasaki it is clear the safety limits are too low
    Such a revision would relax current regulations by a factor of 1000. This may seem excessively radical to some, especially those in the safety industry who have spent 60 years trying to reassure the public by regulating against all avoidable sources of radiation – which, after all, is what society asked them to do.


    Changing the limits would bring practical benefits. Radiation safety is a major contributor to the cost of nuclear power, so any relaxation should lead to big cost reductions. Given that we urgently need to develop carbon-free energy sources, that is hugely beneficial.

    It should also lead to a more sensible attitude to nuclear waste. If treated properly, the quantities are small, it become harmless after a few centuries, and it may be buried at moderate cost. In any event, the effect of radioactive waste is a small matter compared with the global influence of carbon dioxide and leaked hydrocarbons. We should re-examine the environmental risks of radiation with the same radical attitude that is required for our own health.


  221. Radiation Releases from Nuclear Power Plants

    “…if the radiation from NPP was causing a precise sort of damage that background radiation, which is 15,000 times stronger, was not, then it would have to be DIFFERENT. But it’s not. That’s based on fundamental physics….” B. Brook (a)

    “…you simply cannot distinguish background radiation from radiation produced by NPP. Why? Because there is no difference – radiation is radiation is radiation (alpha, beta, gamma, x-rays, neutrons).” B. Brook (a)

    “There is also consensus that radiation levels up to five (or even more) times the average background rate are harmless & may even be beneficial.” B. Brook (b)

    Unfortunately, there are problems with the above points, despite Prof Brook’s reading on this (c).

    (1) Prof Brook effectively acknowledges above that ill-effects are more likely if NPP radiation was different in some way from background values, but then continues to deny any such difference, even though he is obviously aware of the presence of NPP fission products (d) & that they are only obtainable from NPP’s & atmospheric bomb testing. By discussing just radiation only, Prof Brook is not allowing for the effects of multiple fission products from NPP releases & artificially enhanced isotopes from nuclear processing plants, that are very capable of entering our bodies & carrying their radioactivity right into our cells. It has been known for a long time that internal radiation is more damaging, with alpha particles having an obviously greater ill-effect (20x) than beta & gamma radiation for a given intensity. Therefore it is the uniquely different NPP released radionuclides acting as carriers of radioactivity via the food-chain that have a biochemical affinity for specific internal organs. Therefore Prof Brook’s claim, “there is no unique ’signature’ to the radiation from NPP” cannot be considered accurate. Swedish technicians were able to identify specific elements with high melting points from the Chernobyl fallout, clearly acting as a signature from a NPP with a serious meltdown. Other identifiable radionuclides can be found in less serious NPP releases. Given enough time, even subsequent decay products will also appear from the initial internal particulates possibly worsening the damage. Genuine background radiation does not normally contain any fission products, so does not target certain vital areas of the body. In the Chernobyl accident however, there are now many areas that are polluted with fission product fallout, so are now part of their background radiation profile. The effects of radon appear to be the worst offender as normal background radiation carriers in areas not being serviced by nuclear power plants.
    (2) Prof Brook criticises Prof Lowe unnecessarily above for not providing more detail in a general comment (e), yet himself avoids detail in his own ‘consensus’ claim for safe levels of background radiation. We would like to know how many experts comprise his hormesis consensus? As mentioned earlier (f,) BEIR VII accepts the LNT model without any hormesis, basing it on a much larger consensus. Even back in 1954, Linus Pauling, felt there were about 1 ½ million US babies born annually with genetic birth defects attributable to background radiation, so how can 5x background radiation levels be harmless? An earlier discussion against the hormesis argument has been made on BNC (f, g). Any possible hormesis effect will unlikely apply in people with internal radiation from different elemental NPP fission product releases, but will more likely be seen with clinically controlled X-ray treatment over a narrow dose range.
    (3) In any case, the ICRP themselves agreed back in 1953 at Copenhagen, that “no radiation level higher than the natural background can be regarded as absolutely safe”. So all attempts by the nuclear industry to convince the public otherwise will not be believable, especially in view of studies adequately showing ill-effects from just background radiation (h).

    (a) https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/19/radiation-facts-fallacies-and-phobias/#comment-27670
    (b) ‘Yes’ case for nuclear Power (Why vs Why p29)
    (c) https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/19/radiation-facts-fallacies-and-phobias/#comment-27645
    (d) ‘Yes’ case for Nuclear Power (Why vs Why p21) Prof Brook
    (e) ‘No” case for nuclear power (Why vs Why p57) rebuttal by Prof Brook
    (f) https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/19/radiation-facts-fallacies-and-phobias/#comment-76703
    (g) https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/19/radiation-facts-fallacies-and-phobias/#comment-81280
    (h) http://www.alfred-koerblein.de/background/downloads/AEOH2006.pdf

    “The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) says the additional radiation exposure of living in the vicinity of nuclear plants is no more than 1/10,000 of normal background radiation most people live with day-to-day.” B. Brook (i)

    “Natural radiation is due to everything from cosmic rays, to radon gas emissions from the ground, to eating a single banana.” B. Brook (i)

    (“A banana gives you more radiation than a year’s worth of living near a nuclear power plant.”)

    “By comparison, living near a coal-fired power station would give you 10 – 300 times more radiation exposure from fly ash….. “ B. Brook (i)

    1) There is no cast-iron certainty that ‘routine’ NPP radioactive emissions are collectively as low as Prof Brook claims, for 24hrs of every day, since NRC sources alone adequately confirm gas releases can be as high as several hundred to 1,000 curies a month, even if we allow some improvements being made in recent years to the same old plants in the US. Any liquid releases are additional. Since gas releases are not readily visible like well known chimney smoke, then fraud & understating of figures can easily be done. There are already many examples of nuclear industry staff falsifying records, destroying public trust or failing to act in the public interest to the point where the residents have had enough (j). Any assurances from the NRC or EPA are hollow in view of such fraud examples. Any transient plant emissions implied from studies (k) indicate they are not really ‘benign’ in their population ill-effects.
    2) Averaged idealised NPP population doses of 0.0002 mSv (0.02 mrem) are definitely NOT an accurate representation of concentrated gaseous plumes that are weather dependant & cover specific areas only, without subjecting everyone to such conveniently equally low doses. This was well demonstrated at the TMI accident in 1979 but deliberately obscured by the industry.
    3) The only way the misleading ‘banana’ comparison can be valid, is when the nuclear plant isn’t releasing any radioactive gas or liquids, so that the shielded reactor is more ‘benign’. Furthermore, normal bananas do NOT have any fission products in them to target specific organs for internal radiation of say the bone marrow or the thyroid gland. Just eating a normally grown banana will not enable any (very low) radioactivity to reach these internal organs.
    4) In any case, the German KiKK reactor safety study results have been accepted by their government. Other studies supporting likely ill-health effects at other reactors are available (k).
    5) A similar point applies with the misleading coal fly-ash comparison. Not only does fly ash have NO (potentially more dangerous) radioactive fission products in it, but a ‘safe’ nuclear power plant is being used for comparison with the fly-ash that isn’t releasing any obvious gaseous or liquid radioactive discharges. When the nuke plant commences releasing a routine or unplanned amount of radiation, then it will be much higher than fly-ash radioactivity.

    (i) ‘Yes’ case for nuclear power (Why vs Why p29) Prof Brook
    (j) http://www.countercurrents.org/baker010310.htm
    (k) http://www.llrc.org/epidemiology/subtopic/infmort.pdf


  222. Geoff Russell, on September 20th, 2009 at 8.32

    “I haven’t read enough to make a decision, but if this cancer effect is real, then it’s no big deal but it should inform the placement of the plants. Just like we shouldn’t have lead smelters and children in close proximity, or have lead in petrol … etc. etc. G. Russell (a)

    At first glance, Geoff’s approach seems logical. But with a closer look, it may not work. Even though routine plant emissions were not under consideration in the early 1950’s, accidental releases were. In 1953, Dr Edward Teller told the US Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy:

    “The “public hazard” arising from reactor accidents is due to the fact that nuclear plants contain radioactive poisons. In a nuclear accident, these poisons may be liberated into the atmosphere or into the water supply. In fact, the radioactive poisons produced in a powerful nuclear reactor will retain a dangerous concentration even after they have been carried downwind to a distance of 10 miles. Some danger might possibly persist to distances as great as 100 miles…The various committees dealing with reactor safety have come to the conclusion that none of the powerful reactors built or suggested up to the present time are absolutely safe. Though the possibility of an accident seems small, a radioactive release in a city or densely populated area would lead to disastrous results.”

    “Dr Teller also mentioned past A.E.C. practices of requiring substantial “exclusion distances” around the experimental reactors it was building from which the public would be banned. The larger the reactor, the greater the required separation from the public. The Joint Committee did not pause to consider whether such practice should be required for the commercial reactor program it was considering. Nor did Dr Teller urge the congressmen to do so. To the contrary, he advised them that “rigid enforcement of such exclusion distances might hamper future development of reactors to a reasonable extent.” He also offered the general observation that “no legislation will be able to stop future accidents & avoid completely, occasional loss of life. It is my opinion that the unavoidable danger which will remain after all reasonable controls have been employed must not stand in the way of rapid development of nuclear power.” (b)

    We know today, that Dr Teller’s warning about radiation releases were spot on – radioactive plumes DO indeed tend to remain concentrated for a surprisingly long distances. Perhaps he had some direct experience with now-known deliberate releases during the WWII bomb program. Yet despite this obvious danger factor, Dr Teller still advocated an unbelievable continuation of civil nuclear power program regardless of any likely casualties while utility providers were more concerned about economics.

    “In reactor siting, for example, the companies pressed for permission to build nuclear plants close to the urban centres that would be consuming the power, rather than pay the cost of transmitting from more remote sites. This greatly increased the risk of exposing a large number of people to accidental nuclear radiation injuries. Abandoning their earlier siting practices, the A.E.C. were willing to accommodate the industry’s demand.” (b)

    In 1969, Dr Teller made another simple prediction that was later tragically fulfilled at Chernobyl, effectively acknowledging how dangerous the technology was.

    “So far we have been extremely lucky…..But with the spread of industrialisation, with the greater number of simians monkeying around with things they do not completely understand, sooner or later a fool will prove greater than the proof even in a foolproof system.” (c)

    Additionally, it appears Australian safety issues wouldn’t be handled any better than other countries if nuclear power were introduced there. Several State Governments in Australia have already shown very inadequate performance in safeguarding the public’s health, with simpler issues (d, e, f). Furthermore, nuclear reactors require large amounts of cooling water which are more readily available near the coastline, which will mean closer proximity to varying population densities. Yet, if rising ocean levels do occur, then NPP’s shouldn’t be near the coastline. So Geoff’s initial logically sounding suggestion may not be possible. The Chernobyl disaster has adequately shown how even areas remote from the plant were subjected to considerable fallout.

    “While gravity brought down a fine sprinkling of these radioactive particles over a broad territory, rainfall washed them out of the plume onto some places in much greater concentrations. The most contaminated patch of land recorded to date lies not inside the exclusion zone, but beyond it along the westward path taken by the plume in its early days. Last year (1990) scientists tested soil samples from this farmland between the evacuated village of Volodymyrivka and the still inhabited town of Poliske in northern Ukraine. They found radioactivity of 2667 curies (100 million million becquerels) per square kilometre. This level of radioactivity is more than 170 times the level that Soviet authorities regard as tolerable. They estimate that people exposed to radioactivity of 15 curies per square kilometre will absorb a tolerable lifetime dose of radiation of 350 millisieverts. Since 1987, Britain’s National Radiological Protection Board has recommended a maximum dose of 0.5 millisieverts a year for members of the public.” (g)

    Let’s learn from the Chernobyl experience & NOT pursue this insane technology. How many of you would like to be confronted with having to be permanently evacuated from your home along with your neighbours, with likely health failures as well? We do not have to conned into accepting Alvin Weinberg’s ‘Faustian’ bargain’ at all just because nuclear physicists cannot improve their technology.

    (a) https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/19/radiation-facts-fallacies-and-phobias/#comment-27636
    (b) ‘The Cult of the Atom’ by D. Ford 1982 Part 1
    (c) ‘Poisoned Power’ by John Gofman 1979 Chap 6
    (d) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/child-poisoned-every-9-days-in-mine-town-mount-isa/story-fn59niix-1225900248172
    (e) http://www.theage.com.au/environment/conservation/watchdog-fails-on-waste-20100609-xwuc.html
    (f) http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/port-augusta-is-sas-cancer-hotspot/story-e6frea83-1225846333836
    (g) http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg13017655.100 May need to subscribe to view this.


  223. @Macchiavelli:

    In regard of Chernobyl, it would seem incumbent on you to refute the statistical objections that have been raised to the methodology used by Greenpeace in its well-known study of the matter.

    You will recall that Greenpeace says in that study that the figure of ca. 50 deaths from Chernobyl as stated by IAEA and WHO in (I believe) a prior report in 2000, notwithstanding WHO’s founding charter obligation to assist IAEA , is greatly understated. It is this figure of ca 50, however, which is widely believed and stated on this blog.

    Late last year, NY Academy of Sciences published a book containing translations of Russian-language studies of Chernobyl. The line currently taken on her podcast by Dr Caldicott is that this shows how Western studies ie those not in Russian, greatly understated the effects of the explosion.

    I look forward to you showing me how the NY book refutes the objections to the Greenpeace study and/or if it reaches identical conclusions to that study. Please also address pro-nuclear statements made recently by the radiation biologist writing a few weeks ago in New Scientist, which promptly drew Caldicott’s ire: as I recall, she said on her podcast that he was in some way beholden to the nuclear industry (my paraphrase)

    I make these requests because I am getting tired of the Chernobyl controversy being wheeled out as settled fact by both sides to this debate. It is just treading water or running on the spot.


  224. ‘Let’s learn from the Chernobyl experience & NOT pursue this insane technology. How many of you would like to be confronted with having to be permanently evacuated from your home along with your neighbours, with likely health failures as well?’

    (Sorry I still haven’t figured out how you do the quotations).

    From this same logic, I could justify the following statement:

    ‘Let’s learn from the Hindenburg disaster, and not peruse this insane technology of jet aviation’.

    Chernobyl was a military facility with virtually no safety features, built and operated in a backward despotic state. It can not be compared to a modern commercial plant, with multiple back-up systems, modern design, skilled operators, and most importantly of all, a containment dome.

    Lets learn from Three Mile Island in that under worst case scenarios in the west, Nuclear Power is expected to kill no one, and damage no property.

    Oh and Machiavelli, should we perhaps learn from the Banqiao Dam that we should persue this insane technology of Hydro-Electric Energy?


    ‘….just because nuclear physicists cannot improve their technology.’

    Now this I take serious issue with. I was once against Nuclear Power as I was terrified that disasters would happen. I tried reading various people’s highly biased, and often highly emotional takes on this issue online (Nuke pros and antis), but it was only when I picked up a Nuclear Engineering textbook and started reading that I got anywhere near the truth.

    I strongly suggest you read about Modern plants such as the EPR and AP1000. Come back and tell me if ‘Nuclear Physicists cannot improve their technology’.


  225. Nuclear Plant Radiation Releases

    Confirmation of a deliberately designed capacity to allow gaseous radioactive emission releases from nuclear plants can be readily seen in the simplified schematic diagram included in the TMI Accident, Kemeny Report (a). On the left side, in the auxiliary building, can be seen accessory equipment to enable releases via a ‘vent stack’ to be made of the radioactive gases accumulated in the primary cooling water circuit. Due to the high temperature conditions in the core, the approximately 40,000 fuel rods develop small leaks in their fuel cladding allowing some fission product gases into the water even under normal running conditions. A small part of the 10bn curie core inventory, is still a great deal more than the weak radiation from a banana. Dr Ian Fairly had suggested another possible way nuclear plants can release extra emissions during refuelling operations (b).

    Under the far more serious meltdown failure, much more radioactivity will be released into the cooling water. At one early stage during the 1979 accident, a small water sample was obtained & found to have an activity of about 1,000 rads. Also at one point, the internal containment monitors recorded about 4,000 rads, while about 200 rads were found near the top of the vent stack by NRC staff. These figures are adequate to support Admiral Rickover’s later claim (along with other whistleblowers) of there being a much more serious emission release.

    “In 1969, limits on the amounts of radiation that could be routinely emitted from a power plant were established by the AEC with guidance from the (then) Federal Radiation Council. The FRC, in establishing allowable exposure guidelines, had concluded that the average person should receive a radiation dose of no more than 5 rem in 30 years – excluding background, medical & dental x-rays. This made the yearly average allowable exposure 170 mrem. To ensure this average dose would not be exceeded, the highest dose allowed any individual would be 500 mrem per year. Gofman & Tamplin questioned those specific standards, that had been adopted by the AEC in their October 1969 statement. According to their findings, “if the yearly average exposure of the US population were to reach the allowable 170 mrems, there would in time, be an excess of about 32,000 cases of fatal cancer plus leukaemia every year.” (c)

    “Gofman & Tamplin had concluded the safety standards were too high & should be reduced by at least a factor of 10. They also found in their own studies that absorption of 1 rem cumulative dose would cause a 2% increase in cancer in young adults (21-30 yrs). Thus if persons 30 years old had accumulated 170 mrem, exposure per year, the resultant would be 5 rem x 2% increase per rem, giving a 10% increase in expected cancer plus leukaemia cases. Radiation would thus cause about 32,000 extra deaths per year if the population received the allowable 170 mrem each year. Gofman & Tamplin’s conclusion was not that nuclear plants were killing 32,000 people a year, but (1) that the effects of low-level radiation had been seriously been underestimated; & (2) that if plants could be run at lower levels, they ought to be required to do so, particularly if the nuclear power was expanding.” (c)

    In 1972, the BEIR committee, responding to the criticism of Drs Gofman & Tamplin over existing AEC radiation standards, & concluded:

    “that exposure of the population to the 170 mrem limit could cause roughly 3,000 to 15,000 cancer deaths annually, with the most likely figure being 6,000. The BEIR Committee agreed that the hazards of radiation had in fact been seriously underestimated previously, & that the exposure standard of 170 mrem was “unnecessarily high”. (c)

    Presumably, 170 mrem was in addition to the normal background radiation. So why are some nuclear advocates still claiming that 5x background levels would be harmless?

    “Drs Gofman & Tamplin also estimated that each year in the US, natural radiation levels would cause about 19,000 cancer & leukaemia deaths & many thousands more deaths resulting from genetic defects which can cause problems like heart disease & diabetes.” (c)

    “In 1998, the BEIR VI Committee of the National Research Council estimated that between 10% and 14% of lung cancer deaths in the US could be attributed to radon.” (d)

    “According to the EPA, (just) Carbon 14 releases by the year 2000, will eventually cause 12,000 “health effects”. (c)

    “As part of its early proposal, the AEC announced its intention to keep emissions “as low as practicable” (ALAP). By June 1971, the AEC had essentially proposed a hundredfold reduction in routine emission standards, corresponding to an individual dose 5 mrem per person per year at the power plant boundary. But the ALAP standard created another controversy, since by definition, “as low as practicable” implies that the role of the AEC was to determine the lowest level of emissions that could be attained without causing excessive economic penalties for the power producers, rather than the ‘safest’ level for the public.” (c)

    “the EPA issued a draft environmental impact statement in May 1975 in which the agency proposed to limit “the annual dose equivalent to the whole body or any organ (except the thyroid) to 25 mrems.” Emissions from plants in the entire nuclear fuel cycle were not to cause those dose limits, for any individual to be exceeded.” (c)

    “But the EPA’s proposed limits were flawed by some major loopholes. First, in limiting whole-body exposures to 25 mrems, the EPA stated that the limit would apply only to “planned releases.” A variance from the regulations could be issued to permit temporary operation during “unusual” conditions so as to ensue “orderly delivery of electrical power.” No guidelines were offered however as to how releases would be classified as “planned” or “abnormal”. Any discharge which proved to be uncomfortably large could be justified by a plant operator as “accidental” or “unplanned.” Thus an effective licence is given to the nuclear industry to release any effluent it cannot otherwise economically or effectively control.” (c)

    (a) http://www.threemileisland.org/downloads/188.pdf p 86 – 87
    (b) http://www.ehjournal.net/content/8/1/43 see section (i) & fig 3
    (c) ‘The Atomic Menace’ by Ralph Nader & Nuclear engineer, John Abbott.
    (d) http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/Pollution/radon


  226. Tom Williams, on 1 September 2010 at 22.41 Said:

    From this same logic, I could justify the following statement:
    ‘Let’s learn from the Hindenburg disaster, and not peruse this insane technology of jet aviation’. T.W.

    No, I don’t think you could justify that comparison, even though Prof Brook has already used it. Unfortunately, it isn’t really valid when you think about it. The Germans were using a hydrogen-filled Hindenburg largely because they were forced to by the pre-war US embargo on Helium exports. So what happened after the tragic accident……the Germans ceased using that gas, forcing them to stop making dirigibles at that time. Whereas the conventional aeroplane manufactures all around the world weren’t affected so they continued production because the use of hydrogen gas wasn’t required in their industry (either then or now) in the large amounts being used in the Hindenburg.

    The use of that inappropriate comparison is just another attempt to play down the real dangers of nuclear power. Looked at another way, the Hindenburg completely ‘failed’, as a result of the gas it was using on board for lift being somehow ignited. It is hard to imagine how the Hindenburg could have been more seriously destroyed when it was using only what technology it was carrying. Fortunately, there were still many survivors.
    Now when a nuclear power plant completely ‘fails’, as tragically illustrated at Chernobyl (a), then the damage & casualties are far greater than the Hindenburg accident. Therefore, even though the Hindenburg had a much lower ‘uninhibited potential damage risk’, the design was still discontinued probably because they already had an adequate aircraft industry. Whereas even after several near-misses & the worst accident at Chernobyl, some nuclear supporters want to CONTINUE building MORE nuclear plants that contain even GREATER amounts of radiation inventory (f), while refusing to see anything wrong with their reasoning, & still use the flawed argument that there is ‘no other way’ other than going nuclear.
    To many people, this is an insane approach, especially so when the lesser known nuclear engineering flaws are noted, which are NOT included in many text books. To make matters worse, they want to start building hundreds of Fast Breeder reactors that each require even greater attention to engineering rigor to extreme operating conditions while using several tons of plutonium. The operating temperatures are closer to the plutonium melting point – humans are not that good at quality control. Have a look at the failed THORP project in the UK.

    “Let’s learn from Three Mile Island in that under worst case scenarios in the west, Nuclear Power is expected to kill no one, and damage no property.” T.W.

    This statement reveals an extraordinary lack of research. The 1964 AEC WASH-740 extracts below clearly show your “expected to kill no one, and damage no property” line cannot be correct. How can you justify that claim? Chernobyl has demonstrated ‘worst case conditions’ where there has been a shocking ill-health & death toll along with large areas rendered unsuitable for food crops (b) not to mention the huge financial losses.

    “Last year scientists tested soil samples from this farmland between the evacuated village of Volodymyrivka and the still inhabited town of Poliske in northern Ukraine. They found radioactivity of 2667 curies per square kilometre. This level of radioactivity is more than 170 times the level that Soviet authorities regard as tolerable.” New Scientist 1991

    The industry has already demonstrated during the last 45 years that it cannot adequately prevent serious accidents. The AEC has commissioned their own studies, confirming the significant dangers. Admiral Rickover & President Carter both knew the TMI accident was much more serious than officially acknowledged. Even the French & Japanese had significant problems with their breeder reactors. Man-made machinery will always break down in a variety of ways, so we need much safer technology that doesn’t kill, injure or impair one’s health when it does malfunction in a totally unacceptable way that ‘Chernobyl # 4’ did. The nuclear industry cannot provide any safer technology, as defined by the public. Even the Kemeny Commission acknowledged that serious accidents cannot be stopped, even if their recommendations were implemented (b). The AEC deliberately with-held publication of their own WASH-740 update (1964) having accident casualty figures greater than their earlier assessments, so as not to interfere with the ill-fated Fermi fast-breeder being constructed then & LW reactor expansion.

    If the insurance industry isn’t convinced by the nuclear assurances of ‘a remote chance of an accident’, then why should the public accept it?

    WASH-740 1964 AEC – Brookhaven Update Extract
    Theoretical Possibilities & Consequences of Major Accidents in Large Nuclear Power Plants
    “It must be clearly recognised, however, that major releases of fission products from a nuclear power reactor could conceivably occur & that a serious threat to the health & safety of people over large areas could ensure”.
    “The results of the study suggest that the Price-Anderson liability level should not be reduced. Rather an increase by a factor of 40 is suggested by the calculations (US$280bn).”
    “Anticipated deaths from a single nuclear plant accident were increased by the US government to 45,000, & injuries up to 100,000 with property damage ranging from $17bn to $280bn.”

    The nuclear industry has already spent huge amounts of money trying to make a viable fission-powered automobile, aircraft, surface ships, submarines, a rocket engine along with other expensive nuclear programs about x-ray lasers, fast breeder reactors & fusion reactors. Very poor value for money has been achieved for the low success rate. It still doesn’t dawn on some people that nuclear engineering has been the greatest modern-day technological failure in relation to the money spent & the shocking risk-benefit ratio.

    (a) http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2010/2010-04-26-01.html
    (b) http://www.threemileisland.org/downloads/188.pdf (see Overview)

    “Chernobyl was a military facility with virtually no safety features, built and operated in a backward despotic state. It cannot be compared to a modern commercial plant, with multiple back-up systems, modern design, skilled operators, and most importantly of all, a containment dome.” T.W.

    The Chernobyl complex was primarily for civilian power generation, just using their favourite carbon-pile design having descended from the military program. All your managing here is to support the proliferation argument that B. Brook doesn’t agree with. The safety systems, as they were then, were effectively rendered inoperable in order for their special tests to be done. Yes, no doubt modern designs do have greater safety features included – but there is still a problem. One engineering authority has pointed out that added complexity could even partially cancel out any added benefits (c), because there is still the fundamental reactor core that can readily melt down because there isn’t a convenient instantaneous ‘switch’ or ‘circuit breaker’ to turn off the nuclear fission process promptly or the ‘decay heat’. Huge amounts of radioactivity can be released from a melting core. The containment sealing integrity can be easily compromised by various doors or hatches being left open or blown open by a hydrogen explosion.
    (c) http://www.questia.com/library/book/the-accident-hazards-of-nuclear-power-plants-by-richard-e-webb.jsp
    (May need to subscribe to view it)

    “should we perhaps learn from the Banqiao Dam that we should pursue this insane technology of Hydro-Electric Energy?” T.W.

    Care to show me where I have supported hydro-electric generation?

    “I tried reading various people’s highly biased, and often highly emotional takes on this issue online (Nuke pros and antis), but it was only when I picked up a Nuclear Engineering textbook and started reading that I got anywhere near the truth.” T.W.

    Unfortunately, you have been mislead, as many nuclear textbooks do not generally cover radiation issues or reactor disadvantages, but concentrate on educating the new engineer with the required practical maths & physics. I have included several references from US govt sources confirming the dangers of nuclear power. You can’t get much more authoritive than that. The Kemeny Commission Overview is also a must read (b). This is a ‘life or death’ issue – engineering texts are not enough.

    “I strongly suggest you read about Modern plants such as the EPR and AP1000. Come back and tell me if ‘Nuclear Physicists cannot improve their technology’.” T.W.

    Apparently, we do not have the same interpretation of ‘nuclear technology improvement’. Even though I have mentioned this point more than once before – the nuclear industry has had about 60 years to develop their reactors, having the advantage of modern materials science, huge government provided research facilities & finance with large numbers of scientists & engineers being trained over this period. What has it achieved? I accept there has been some improvement, but it is nowhere enough. Yucca mountain repository has been cancelled. Even with all the human creativity available, all reactors are still potentially very dangerous for a variety of reasons (c). They cannot make them truly safe as defined by the public, so they employ public relations firms (like big tobacco) to use psychological methods to convince them that all their defects are nothing to worry about. Many US industry insiders have taken action to try & bring the engineering faults to the attention of their government. In the Union of Concerned Scientists, there are many MIT & industry staff as members. If all these experts from that industry consider nuclear power unsafe, then the public is entitled to be treated a bit better than be accused of suffering from irrational ‘radiationphobia’.

    I am aware of the EPR & AP1000 reactor designs. Apparently you are not aware of some of their identified faults (d -f). Another less well known fault is that the plutonium build-up in conventional reactors can pose a criticality risk under the right meltdown conditions, for a ‘low-order’ nuclear explosion (c). Would you really want to live near one of these reactors?

    Wash-740 Update (suppressed AEC- Brookhaven 1964 report)
    “In any machinery as complex as a reactor facility, it is inevitable that structural failures, instrument malfunctions, operators’ errors & other mishaps will occur, despite the most careful design & rigid schedules of maintenance. Such has been the experience with reactor installations.”
    “The emergency Core Cooling System cannot be made foolproof.”

    NRC ‘Special Inquiry Group’ on TMI Accident
    “The generation of nuclear power can never be risk-free. It will inevitably present certain risks to public health & safety no matter how “safe” plants are made.”

    If the US government agencies conceded safety issues in non-published reports, then why should we accept nuclear power? It is NOT the last choice.

    (d) http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/mar/07/edf-nuclear-reactor-chernobyl-risk
    (e) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/defects-found-in-nuclear-reactor-the-french-want-to-build-in-britain-808461.html
    (f) http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/new-nuclear-plants-will-produce-far-more-radiation-1604051.html


  227. Below is a passage from Machiavelli’s Independent link:

    “Data in one report, produced by EDF, suggests that they would produce four times as much radioactive bromine, rubidium, iodine and caesium as a present-day reactor. Information in another – by Posiva Oy, a nuclear waste company owned by two Finnish reactor builders – indicates that seven times as much iodine 129 is produced. And material in a third, by the Swiss National Co-operative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste, implies that they will give rise to 11 times as much caesium 135 and 137.

    This happens because the reactors are designed to burn their nuclear fuel almost twice as thoroughly as normal ones. Independent nuclear consultant, John Large, says that this “changes the physical characteristics of the fuel” and increases the immediate danger if the radiation should escape. After comparing the consequences of an accident at the new EPR being built at Flamanville, Normandy with one at an existing reactor nearby, he found that, in the worst case, it would increase the number of deaths from 16,000 to over 28,000.

    Areva, the French firm that designs the reactor, says that the total radioactivity of the waste is only slightly increased, but Mr Large points out that it is the very much greater part that can easily escape that is of most concern. Areva adds that the reactors are specially designed to stop radioactivity escaping, but Mr Large argues no system can be foolproof. And in an accident during the transport of waste such protection would be irrelevant.

    EDF said: “We are confident that new plants can be built and run safely.”

    what are the safeguards against this radiation release? what is the probabilistic risk assessment? how are we to evaluate this “possibility” of 28000 deaths? how many deaths are possible from using natural gas?

    how are we to evaluate these worst case accident scenarios rationally?

    Machiavelli, what would your worst case philosophy produce in total deaths if you evaluated other energy forms from this vantage point? are you not engaging in whopping if tacit double standards?

    also: these deaths mentioned from release of fission products. how are they calculated? extrapolations from collective dose?

    What, M, is your alternative to nuclear power, one that can withstand the criticism of renewables made here?


  228. Poor Occupational Safety in the Nuclear Industry

    Here is one of the worst examples of industrial radiation injury occurring to an employee (there are others). There are several points of interest in this tragic story, where each of the three sources has added some new details. Even though this 1973 example is from Sellafield, it still illustrates the unfortunate inability of humans to adequately foresee possible serious nuclear accidents, deal appropriately with them once they have occurred & honour any obvious liability after the event. Some employers still use any means to evade responsibility for their failings in providing a genuine ‘duty of care’ to their employees. The nuclear industry makes huge demands on many modern scientific, engineering, medical, human health & social knowledge bases. This example, along with others, still shows they have hopelessly failed to achieve any of their early engineering ‘vision’ statements & provide safe employment for trusting workers, while deserting them whenever possible. Needles to say, the public have been poorly protected as well.

    The 1957 accident may have been the most serious that ever occurred at Windscale, but it certainly was not the last. Despite persistent claims by BNFL that their safety record is good, it has had one of the longest lists of incidents of any nuclear establishment in the world. At the 1977 Windscale inquiry, BNFL were asked for a detailed list of incidents. They submitted one with 177 cases occurring between 1950 & 1976. These included numerous spillages of plutonium & other radioactive materials, several fires & contamination of many individual workers. Between 1952 & 1981, official accounts show there were more than 100 incidents involving plutonium.
    James Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    The first attempt to reprocess oxide fuel involved the use of a Head End plant built on to the old military reprocessing plant at Sellafield & completed in 1969. The spent oxide fuel was chopped up into pieces & dissolved in boiling nitric acid before passing on for chemical separation in the new Magnox reprocessing plant.
    The Head End plant operated for only 4 yrs, reprocessing only about 90 tonnes of spent oxide fuel. In Sept 1973 it had to be shut down when there was what was described as a small release of radioactivity into the operating area of the plant, contaminating 35 workers. As a result BNFL was left with about 350 tonnes of overseas fuel on site that it was contractually committed to reprocess. For several years, the company talked of refurbishing the Head End plant & reprocessing the remaining fuel, but finally the plant had to be written off. This leftover business from the Head End plant will cost BNFL a great deal of money, depending on how well THORP operates.
    H. Bolter 1996

    In September 1973 an unexpected chemical reaction in the Head End Plant led to a leakage of radioactivity which slightly contaminated thirty-five employees; the plant was shut down and eventually abandoned. The accident was caused by tiny granules of fission products, insoluble even in nitric acid and intensely radioactive, accumulating in a process vessel. The handling of these granules is one of several technical problems which arise in the reprocessing of high burn-up oxide fuel. The fierce radiation from fission products tends to tear apart the molecules of solvent, especially in the first stage of chemical separation; and the replacement and maintenance of key components, like the shear for chopping up the fuel, which operate in parts of the plant filled with searing radiation, continues to raise questions about the cost and feasibility of reprocessing oxide fuel. Several attempts to reprocess oxide fuel have proved unsuccessful. Walter Patterson 1983

    On 26 Sept 1973, workers in Windscale’s Head End reprocessing plant noticed an acrid smell. Alarms began sounding & radiation monitors moved off-scale. A senior health physicist ran through the multi-story building shouting to everyone to leave. Most did, but two painters & two electricians were still found inside. The plant was closed down, never to reopen. Overheating of a process vessel due to radioactive deposits had caused a steam explosion with the resulting radioactive cloud being blown back into the building. The 35 workers were later found to have skin & lung contamination mainly from ruthenium 106. Levels of contamination inside the building were found up to 100 times the permitted maximum. But the Official Inquiry Report stated that no radiation above background levels were detected outside the plant boundary.
    Stanley Higgins was on duty on 23 Sept 1973 when the ruthenium 106 release occurred. After assisting with the plant evacuation, he returned inside to try & determine the cause of the leak. From the account he left, he sniffed at the leaking ruthenium gas in an effort to pinpoint its source. It was later determined he had inhaled a massive dose of ruthenium 106. It contaminated his nasal passages, his throat & the upper lobes of his lungs. A swab from his nose gave about 100,000 counts per second, compared with the maximum permissible 5 cps or 20,000 times over the limit. Even then, the radiation was so intense that in order for the instruments to cope, they had to be held 12 inches away from the swab. Contamination on the outside of his body was giving about 2 rems per hour, or about 3,500 times the maximum whole-body annual dose for workers of 5 rems. After much ineffectual body scrubbing, the horrible truth dawned on the Windscale medical staff. What they first thought were persistent patches of external contamination on his chest & back were really radiation fields radiating out from inside his lungs. It was estimated that about 40 microcuries of ruthenium 106 (with smaller quantities of other isotopes) had become trapped in his upper lungs & lymph glands. This was estimated to give him a massive dose of about 800 rems over the following 12 mths. This was more than 50x the maximum permissible dose of 15 rems.
    From a fit & well built rugby player, his health deteriorated dramatically over the remaining 5 years. His thyroid was later found to have atrophied, causing blood circulation problems. He died of a heart attack playing golf on a course near Sellafield, at 50 yrs of age. Near the end of his life, his wife developed breast cancer, possibly due to Stanley’s radiation.
    The official inquiry into the accident accepted the company’s estimate of Stanley’s radiation dose would only result in a 1 or 2% increase of a cancer risk. Even in 1987, BNFL were still denying any responsibility. Even though BNFL has belatedly conceded a connection between radiation & cancer, they have only once admitted legal liability in one employee’s case despite all the (worker’s) contaminations & mounting toll of cancer victims at Windscale. All the other compensation cases have been settled out of court without any accompanying admission of legal liability. Although common sense suggests the substantial payments, implies guilt, the law suggests otherwise. It is this legal technicality that has enabled the nuclear industry to claim that no one has died as a result of radiation from the UK nuclear power program. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    For the industry workforce, there has been a reduction from 15 rems a year in the early 1950’s to 5 rems a year now, while BNFL voluntarily operates a stricter regime prompted by the Gardner report in 1990. Although the earlier 15 rem limit now looks far too high, it was exceeded fairly frequently in the early days of the industry, usually due to unplanned incidents rather than routine operations. Despite the best efforts of the regulators, unplanned incidents do & will occur. H. Bolter 1996

    At a press conference to explain the changes, the NRPB’s new director Dr Roger Clarke, admitted there were about 2,000 British nuclear workers in 1987 occupationally exposed to more than the new limits, while thousands more had been similarly overexposed in earlier years. What he was in effect saying was that for the last 40 years, ever since the dawn of the nuclear age, the Government’s advice had been wrong. Radiation was in fact far more dangerous at lower doses than had been thought earlier. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988


    a) The first two accounts describe the released radiation as small, while the 3rd account gives figures of 100x permissible limits inside the building. Stanley most certainly did NOT get a small dose.

    b) How were the boiling nitric acid vapours dealt with? Not just vented to the outside I hope.

    c) The company clearly did not know enough about the process in failing to allow for highly radioactive insoluble fission granules to accumulate as they did. Walt Patterson confirms it is a difficult process. Isn’t this example able to show how dangerous nuclear processing is?

    d) The building apparently had no emergency public address system or evacuation tone at that time. Someone had to run through the building to warn everyone. Gas masks may not have been available immediately. Similarly, in the TMI-79 accident, the authorities could not cope initially.

    e) The employer then refuses to acknowledge any legal liability, even though it was an obvious work-related injury. How can Stanley’s internal dose-rate be regarded as being harmless?

    f) The apparent uselessness of the official inquiry to learn the true facts of the radiation doses.

    g) In hindsight, H. Bolter acknowledges that 15 rems was too high, making Stanley’s dose even worse.

    h) Who would want to work in that industry once they know how dangerous it is & the employer abandons you in serious accidents using legal loopholes? Don’t think for one minute that industrial conditions have improved much since then.

    Don’t have anything to do with the nuclear industry. This & other examples adequately show it isn’t suitable for humans to work in as H. Bolter agrees that accidents will always occur. Workers cannot be totally protected at all times from radiation releases. Obviously employers & official inquiries cannot be relied upon to fair & honest. Any Hormesis effect will not save the industry.
    Shut the industry down, as there isn’t a truly safe dose of radiation from their processes & already other dissatisfied residents in nuclear power countries are actively opposed to nuclear power (a, b).

    Even the US EPA has stated:

    It should be pointed out that radiation effects, including carcinogenesis, have been reported at doses 2 to 100 times the annual background dose for both high & low LET radiation. Chromosome aberrations & other radiation effects which, if not health effects per se, are closely related, have also been reported at dose-rates slightly above background & in areas of high-level background for high & low LET radiations.

    ‘Most Germans Don’t Want Nuclear Power’
    (a) http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,718419,00.html
    (b) http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gSyrJ0gyVJ2Aylv5McUjM7EOEOZQ


  229. greg meyerson, on 14 September 2010 at 1.17 Said:

    EDF said: “We are confident that new plants can be built and run safely.” G. Meyerson

    Well firstly, I wouldn’t accept any statement of confidence from the nuclear industry at face value, since their track record so far is absolutely terrible. I have recently posted an example (above) of a shocking radiation release accident at Windscale in 1973. As already pointed out by another contributor last year, the author Stephanie Cooke interviewed a US industry expert on nuclear safety: http://stephaniescooke.com/in_mortal_hands.html

    “Henry Myers, (chief scientific advisor to the US House Committee on Interior & Insular Affairs 1980, with a Ph.D. in nuclear physics) in his role of highlighting nuclear safety issues, readily found people lied about what they had done to make plants safer, let problems fester until it was too late, & used psychological forms of avoidance to convince themselves & the public, that nuclear reactors were safe. The TMI accident revealed serious deficiencies in a system that was supposed to protect the public health & safety. Prior to the accident, the utility had provided false test results of leaking coolant pipes from the same pressuriser that was being monitored & misunderstood during the early stages of the accident. There were shortcomings found in the design of the plant & the approach used by the NRC in licensing all US reactors. Utilities in a hurry to build reactors & start profiting once they were running, pressured the regulators, potentially risking safety issues.” (S. Cooke 2009)

    “Myers encountered human weaknesses far beyond what he had thought likely, or what his education & experience had prepared him for. Based on the subcommittee’s investigations, Myers estimated that as many as 75% of all the reactors in operation or under construction (at least 100) had “serious problems” that should’ve required costly repairs or closure. Myers often found cracks, leaks, faulty welds, false records & human vice in his investigations.” (S. Cooke 2009)

    It seems to me these unfortunate human failings are still occurring today. We really need technology that isn’t so dependent on countless people doing the right thing, because humans ‘stuff-up’ all the time.

    “Many industry experts were likely to concede when pressed, that a nuclear plant had so many variables that just about anything could malfunction. In early 1976, three engineers from General Electric resigned because they were convinced nuclear power threatened humanity. A few days later an NCR staff member also resigned, being satisfied the NCR were failing in their duty to ensure reactor safety. Even skilled operators with engineering backgrounds & good training can be overwhelmed when confronted with so many panel lights, gauges, monitors & alarms when in an a stressful emergency situation especially for shift workers near the end of their shift such as at TMI.”
    (S. Cooke 2009)

    “One main concern early in the industry was the viability of the Emergency Core Cooling System. Experiments done in the early 1970’s didn’t justify much confidence in their expected role in an emergency. Uncertainty over such an important safety system should’ve alerted regulators, but yet they continued to license new reactors without having resolved the ECCS uncertainties. They were even discouraged from doing so, where the director of AEC’s Division of Reactor Development & Technology to even forbid ECCS researchers at Idaho to talk with regulatory officials. The same director was later forced to concede in an AEC hearing that there was little good evidence the ECCS would work as designed.” (S. Cooke 2009)

    “What are the safeguards against this radiation release? What is the probabilistic risk assessment? How are we to evaluate this “possibility” of 28,000 deaths? How many deaths are possible from using natural gas? How are we to evaluate these worst case accident scenarios rationally? G. Meyerson

    The short answer is to use genuine common sense & well qualified independent researchers that are not benefiting from the nuclear industry in any way or having their funding provided by them. There has already been many industry insiders who have openly voiced their concerns about nuclear accidents & safety, because they definitely know their subject well (a, b). Even the first chairman of the US, Atomic Energy Commission later said:

    “Once a bright hope, shared by all mankind, including myself, the rash proliferation of atomic power plants has become one of the ugliest clouds overhanging America.” David Lilienthal

    As already covered, the Emergency Core Cooling System could not be made totally reliable (c). Therefore in the LWR, there is no foolproof safeguard against meltdown & the resulting radiation releases. The TMI accident showed how the containment building wasn’t truly hermetically sealed (d). In 1957, the WASH-740 study was released by the AEC frightening the insurance industry. A later update was even worse & was with-held from the public (c). Work soon commence on a more industry-friendly study, later known as the Rasmussen report, after the nuclear engineering professor that conducted it. There were so many objections to that report, that the NRC publicly repudiated it in early 1979. Any major gas explosion & fire cannot possibly cause the radiation contamination of the countryside & related injuries (e). Chenobyl radiation fallout has been confirmed in areas widely covering the northern hemisphere.

    “After the Rasmussen report was issued (1974), an aerospace engineer, William Bryan, pointed out in a congressional hearing that the study was an exercise in futility, because it had used analytical methods that had been completely discarded by the aerospace industry as unreliable. Ralph Nader described it in part as “fiction.” Then an independent group of scientists headed by Dr H. Kendall at MIT, prepared a review of Rasmussen’s report. Based on the methodology used by Rasmussen, Kendall’s analysis indicated that a major nuclear plant accident could kill or injure at least 120,000 people, & Rasmussen was NOT using a breeder reactor for his analysis. Several other significant factors were being also ignored, allowing Rasmussen to arrive at a risk factor of about one in a million for the chance of 1,000 people to be killed by a reactor accident.” (J. Gofman & A. Tamplin 1979)

    “Machiavelli, what would your worst case philosophy produce in total deaths if you evaluated other energy forms from this vantage point? Are you not engaging in whopping if tacit double standards?” G. Meyerson

    I wouldn’t have thought so. Apparently you have not read my previous entries, where I make it clear enough that I do not support any coal fired plants. Even better if we can manage without hydro-power. Gas fired power is for short-term use only.

    “These deaths mentioned from release of fission products. How are they calculated? Extrapolations from collective dose?” G. Meyerson

    I think they are derived from known population dose relationships observed over many decades, being in turn formulated from WWII atomic bomb data & lengthy medical x-ray statistics covering decades. Chernobyl data also now being considered. Important assumptions have to be made for a nuclear plant accident risk assessment; reactor size, prevailing weather, population density, etc.

    Here is one radiation dose relationship used by a former AEC staff member, also a medical doctor:

    “Our best estimate is that there will be one death for every 300 man-rems received by a population whose average age at exposure is about 25 years.” (Dr John Goffman 1979)

    Keep in mind however, there will be disagreement over his low value by other experts. Some authorities use the figure of one death per 5,000 person-rems.

    “What, M, is your alternative to nuclear power, one that can withstand the criticism of renewables made here?” G. Meyerson

    I have also covered this point elsewhere (f). I am very confident of new ideas for genuine centralised baseload power appearing soon. Even though there is no demonstration model yet, it is considered better to announce it before billions of dollars are utterly wasted on the highly defective nuclear solution. I would still expect well designed solar power stations to be very useful in a country that has so much land in sunshine.
    (a) https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/06/18/21c-nuclear-renaissance/#comment-92269
    (b) https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/06/18/21c-nuclear-renaissance/#comment-98112
    (c) https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/19/radiation-facts-fallacies-and-phobias/#comment-97529
    (See the WASH-740 Update extract)
    (d) http://www.tmia.com/march26
    (e) http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2010/2010-04-26-01.html
    (f) https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/06/18/21c-nuclear-renaissance/#comment-92286


  230. Poor Occupational Safety in the Nuclear Industry II

    ‘Rigged’ Studies

    The first official study of the long-term health implications of low-level radiation for British nuclear workers was not published until December 1976 in the lead-up to the 1977 Windscale inquiry. Carried out by the Government’s radiation watchdog, NRPB, it only examined the incidence of leukaemias, lymphatic & bone cancers in Windscale workers between 1950 & 1974. This ‘interim report’ concluded, ….‘(it) shows that the number of cancer deaths in the working Windscale population is not significantly different from that expected.’
    However, at the inquiry, two charges were levelled against the NRPB report. Firstly, its own figures showed that bone-marrow cancer was 4 x greater than expected. This cancer is considered to be the most readily induced & explainable by radiation. Secondly, the report had consciously left out of its calculations all the workers that had either left, retired or were too ill to continue. The study was therefore obviously biased as it had excluded the very likely group of workers that had experienced radiation ill-effect. It appeared to be rigged in order to endure an acceptable conclusion. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    Stung by the attacks on NRPB report, BNFL decided to establish a comprehensive & continuing health survey of all its employees, including those that had left for whatever reason. The study was meant to be monitored by an independent advisor, Dr Peter Smith from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. By 1983, after 7 years of waiting he started receiving some data from BNFL. They claimed there was no greater incidence of cancer among Sellafield workers than in the general population. Dr Smith however concluded that there were unexpectedly high rates of bone-marrow cancer, leukaemia & bladder cancer in Sellafield workers, & that the risk seemed in direct proportion to the amount received. In particular, they were 65% more likely to die of bone-marrow cancer than people of the same age & sex in the general Cumbrian population. He also found 30 workers who died of ill-defined cancers, were about double the expected number.
    Dr Smith’s analysis was reinforced by another study conducted at Dounreay for the UK Atomic Energy Authority in 1986 by other epidemiologists from the same London school of medicine. They found that Dounreay workers were significantly more like to die from leukaemia & thyroid cancer than average. Further evidence came from an American study of nuclear weapons workers at Rocky Flats in Colorado, published in 1987. Conducted by a group from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, they found that workers who had ingested plutonium were 5-10 x more likely to contract cancer than those who had not. There were also noticeable incidences of lymphatic, oesophagus, stomach, colon & prostate cancers among the 5,400 workers. Once plutonium has entered the bloodstream, it migrates around the body, ending up being deposited in the bones & liver. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    Industrial Injury

    On 30 June, 1971, Bill Sherwin was transferred to another building & preparing for work, he inserted his hands into the gloves of a ‘glove-box’ but found instead something sharp inside one of them. An abandoned screwdriver corroded from nitric acid & coated with plutonium had cut his hand. In the works surgery, strips of flesh were removed from the wounded hand, & the area scrubbed & washed for each of 14 days, but with minimal effect. In hospital, larger sections of flesh were removed. The plutonium that had entered his blood stream formed lumps in his arm & were surgically removed. In 1974, his gall bladder ruptured. While it was being removed, his liver was found to be damaged. BNFL’s own records showed Bill had been contaminated by about 50 x the permitted level yet they still refused to accept liability & initially offered him only £400.
    Even more recent stringent precautions have not prevented human error that allows plutonium ingestion. An internal inquiry of a simple incident in April 1981, showed how plutonium was deposited in an operators nose by simply wiping his face inadvertently with his gloved hand.
    J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    The following two links are included only for general interest & do not appear to be directly referred to in the above extracts. Keep in the mind the real possibility of further bias as also illustrated in the above account. They are looking for a very subtle statistical trend, that can be easily missed with poor techniques.



  231. for G.R.L. Cowan 1 Oct 2010

    Well hello there. Are you the same G.R.L Cowan (from Canada) who posted a response to Senator Ludlum’s recent article in the Australian, defending nuclear power?

    If so, I’ve been waiting for you. Repost your comments on this site in the appropriate column so we can all see them. If you have already done so, point them out to me please.


  232. Nuclear Industry Radioactive Pollution

    Let’s see how good their record is in keeping the environment free from their garbage.

    “As the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed to us, Sellafield is the largest recorded source of radioactive discharge in the world making the Irish Sea the most radioactive one in the world.” – House of Commons Environment Select Committee, January 1986

    Today, Britain leads the world in only one aspect of civil nuclear power – pollution. For at least 30 years it has regularly & deliberately discharged more radioactivity into the environment than any other country via its notorious 2 mile long pipeline projecting into the Irish Sea. Even at Cap Le Hague in France, plutonium discharges have supposed to have been 400 – 2,000 times less than Windscale’s. Until 1986, the small reprocessing plant in Japan had a maximum plutonium discharge limit 10,000 times stricter than Windscale’s. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    About 1 million gallons of low-level waste are released every day, containing at least 30 different fission waste products, after most of the plutonium has been extracted. High-level wastes are stored in stainless steel tanks that require constant stirring & refrigeration, even after 30 years. The tanks have to be shielded with concrete about 9 ft thick (~3m) to protect passing workers from intense (gamma) radiation. Medium-level wastes are treated, so that most of the radioactive elements precipitate out into a sludge being then stored in silos. The liquid run-off from these is mixed with other low-level wastes (contaminated water from spent fuel cooling ponds) & eventually ending up in the Irish Sea. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    All forms of marine life in the area contain plutonium & other isotopes. Caesium 137 can be measured in every type of locally caught fish. The nearby Ravenglass estuary has mud with surprisingly high plutonium contamination. Windscale’s plutonium can be easily measured in sea spray, in the air & in house dust. It has been found in vegetables, grass, in animal livers & the bodies of local residents. After the 1977 Windscale inquiry, a Harwell research team discovered that sea spray blowing inland could contain plutonium concentrations of up to 300 x higher than the original seawater. As a result of this enriching effect, the Harwell team found it was possible for Cumbrian seaside residents to receive up to 70% of the plutonium limits (in air) used for Windscale workers. Despite it being known airborne plutonium dust was present, no attempt was made to see if it entered people’s homes. A visiting US professor Edward Radford took some local house dust samples back with him & was concerned at the analysed results. He tried to get the NRPB interested in monitoring house dust, but to no avail. Dr Phillip Day also analysed house dust from seven homes in Ravenglass & Seascale, confirming they all had plutonium, americium, caesium & ruthenium. The three more tested homes in Kippford (50 miles away) were also found with the same isotopes. Autopsies performed on a dozen Cumbrians in 1986 detected plutonium in their lungs, lymph nodes, ribs, vertebrae, femurs & livers. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    Windscale pollution can be identified all the way around to the coast of Scotland. In 1971, the permissible plutonium limits were increased to 6,000 curies a year to accommodate the industry. In 1986, the limits were tightened up again. In this period, there were estimated to be about several hundred kilograms of plutonium on the sea bed. Whereas today (1988) there would be at least ¾ of a tonne. It is now suspected the plutonium particles migrate towards the shore due to currents causing some patches of silt to contain high contamination – up to 500 x background levels. In 1984, Greenpeace members dumped a bin-full of Ravenglass mud in Whitehall as a protest against Windscale’s discharges. The Institute of Terrestrial Ecology had measured plutonium levels in the mud at about 26,500 x greater than nuclear bomb fallout in English woodland soil. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    Monitoring of Ravenglass mud has not been entirely accurate. In 1978, scientists from Lancaster University did a comprehensive survey in sediments at 40 locations along the estuary. When their results were compared with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fish & Food, it seemed MAFF used measurements from the single location with the lowest readings. They had also missed another point. Plutonium 241 was not given any waste discharge restrictions because it was not an alpha emitter & therefore considered less dangerous. But this totally ignored the fact that it decayed slowly into americium 241 which is an alpha emitter. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    The scientists from MAFF were charged with monitoring & controlling Windscale’s wastes. They initially failed to realise that plutonium would not remain trapped in the ocean bed silt. They then failed to control the toxic wastes being released from Windscale. Finally, they failed to properly monitor the pollution to provide a true picture of its widespread distribution. As a result of the 1983 Yorkshire Television Windscale documentary, tighter liquid discharge restrictions were commenced in July 1986. Later in January 1988, limits were also imposed on previously uncontrolled radioactive gaseous emissions from the many on site chimneys. Unfortunately, the plutonium on the seabed will be expected to continue coming ashore for at least the next 100,000 years. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards 1988

    Are these examples of the nuclear industry being environmentally friendly, & how government watchdog agencies are so ‘effective’ in protecting the public’s health?
    Yet they still claim no connection with ill-health effects near the processing plant.


  233. Peter Lalor, on 1 September 2010 at 21.39 Said:

    “In regard of Chernobyl, it would seem incumbent on you to refute the statistical objections that have been raised to the methodology used by Greenpeace in its well-known study of the matter.” P. Lalor

    “I look forward to you showing me how the NY book refutes the objections to the Greenpeace study and/or if it reaches identical conclusions to that study.” P. Lalor

    I would’ve thought a reading of the NY Academy book yourself would’ve been the best way for you to see the counter evidence. Any brief extracts I supplied here wouldn’t carry the same weight. In the meantime however, there are several interesting on-line sources for you to pursue. I have already supplied one of them earlier (a).
    Can you provide the Greenpeace study link you appear to be referring to? I am aware of many Greenpeace studies, so we need the right one.

    “Please also address pro-nuclear statements made recently by the radiation biologist writing a few weeks ago in New Scientist……” P. Lalor

    Can you clarify which “radiation biologist” you are referring to? I know of a British expert who has recently written in the New Scientist suggesting radiation limits should be raised, but he definitely is NOT a biologist of any kind.

    “….I am getting tired of the Chernobyl controversy being wheeled out as settled fact by both sides to this debate. It is just treading water or running on the spot.” P. Lalor

    The nuclear industry& the sympathetic radiation watchdogs are the only ones who are claiming that the accident casualties have been settled. ‘Both sides’ most certainly have never agreed to it being settled. I can understand how the subject can be daunting to newcomers, but if there wasn’t so much obvious evasion from groups with a clear interest in minimising the tragedy, then a clearer picture would’ve become available much earlier. Human attitudes are the main cause of the mess this planet is in.
    ECRR Chernobyl: 20 Years On
    (a) http://www.euradcom.org/publications/chernobylebook.pdf


  234. Machiavelli said:

    Here is one radiation dose relationship used by a former AEC staff member, also a medical doctor:

    “Our best estimate is that there will be one death for every 300 man-rems received by a population whose average age at exposure is about 25 years.” (Dr John Goffman 1979)

    M: first, “at exposure”? everyone is exposed to ionizing radiation all the time. does “exposure” here refer to ionizing radiation just from nuclear power plants? help me out.

    second, one death per 300,000 mrems would mean that one of every three people in northeastern washington state would die from radiotoxicity? (1700 mrem/person/year) before they were 70.

    did I do the math right? average resident in N.E. Wash (from Cravens) would receive 119,000 mrem in 70 years.

    The facts don’t bear this out. You simply don’t find any noticeable correlation between higher low dose radiation and higher cancer incidence.

    Look: the French get most of their electricity from nukes and live 4 years longer than people in U.S.

    so if it’s radiation that’s killing them, whatever.


  235. greg meyerson, on 5 October 2010 at 10.26 Said:

    “The facts don’t bear this out. You simply don’t find any noticeable correlation between higher low dose radiation and higher cancer incidence.” G. Meyerson

    Professionals do not form conclusions based upon incomplete understanding of the issues. There isn’t much I can do for you if you do not volunteer sources. Where is the Cravens reference – it needs to be verified.

    “Look: the French get most of their electricity from nukes and live 4 years longer than people in U.S.” G. Meyerson

    The above effort to interpret a correlation between reactor numbers & general population longevity is woefully inappropriate due to the many factors not being considered.


  236. For a scientific and hopefully unbiassed assessment of radiation accidents, see Nenot, 2009 (J. Radiol.Prot.): http://iopscience.iop.org/0952-4746/29/3/R01

    This also quotes heavily from a conprehensive study of Chernobyl by a WHO panel see Cardis Et Al 2006 (also in J. Radiol. Prot.):

    Both are publicly available as downloadable files. I won’t pretent to have the expertise to evaluate these but what I read is:
    1. It is still too early to be certain of the health effects of Chernobyl on the wider population, even after more than 20 years.
    2. There is a clear increase in Thyroid cancer especially amongst adolescents, but very few of these are fatal to date (15 at 2006 according to Cardis Et Al).
    3. The number of directly-attibutable deaths is somewhere between 28-50, which is far lower than most people intuitively assume it to be.


  237. So, the worst ever civil nuclear power accident, in a reactor type that will never be built again (it used a combustable graphite moderator and had no containment building) caused immediate fatalities which are routine in coal mining accidents and far less than the thousands and tens of thousands killed in hydro dam failures.

    Regarding latent fatalities, this worst ever accident, and only sever accident (killing more than 5 people) in 50 years has killed about 28 to 50 for sure and WHO projects there may be some 4000 early deaths from a population of about 200 million over a period of 70 years (life expectancy). This should be compared with the roughly 25,000 early fatalities in the general US population due to coal fired generation.

    When we put the anti-nuclear rhetoric and the “falacies and phobias” aside, and look unemotionally at the facts, it is clear the sooner we move to nuclear power the better. Who, amongst rational thinkers, could argue otherwise?

    I wonder if Machiavelli would like to calculate how many lives would be saved if the world could immediately replace all fossil fuel electricity generation with nuclear power.


  238. The Cravens reference is from Power to Save the World.

    Read the book and check the notes, and affiliated articles.

    the info about washington is from p. 71 of her book. Rip Anderson says this (the guy who designed the PRA for the Waste Isolation Pilot Project).

    Ms. Cravens is a very nice person. I have communicated with her often when I had questions about her book. She answered them or tracked down her source and the source answered.

    You should be able to find her email. if not, email me at gmeyerson@triad.rr.com.


  239. Peter Lang writes,

    it used a combustable graphite moderator

    That’s true, but carbon’s combustibility with air or steam is, by itself, forgiveable. For dense carbon it is a slow reaction.

    When, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Dr. Teller and the Reactor Safeguard Committee foresaw and cancelled Chernobyl in America, what they foresaw it could do was to suffer an explosive runaway, not of any chemical process, but of fission.

    This was because it combined large amounts both of liquid water (as coolant) and carbon (as moderator). More here.

    Either one, water or carbon, is OK by itself. Indeed helium/carbon reactors are one of the kinds that have demonstrated an inability to overheat themselves.

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  240. G.R.L Cowan,

    Thank you for that info. However, this gives the imprerssion that the Chernobyl accident was a fission runaway reaction. I understood this was not the case. I understand it was basically steam pressure which blew the cap off the moderator, then the graphite caught fire and carried radioactive contamination into the atmosphere. (also the core melted). So the problems were the lack of a containment building and graphite that could burn and cause upward convection to carry the contaminants into the atmosphere. That is my simple view. Would you or anyone else like to elaborate of correct this – but in a way that will not cause confusion for the general readership.


  241. greg meyerson, on 6 October 2010 at 22.37

    Yes I gathered it was that book, but the chapter & page number would be more useful, not just for myself, but for others too. I have provided similar assistance to readers in some of my many links.

    In reading the descriptions of the uranium fuel cycle in there, I did notice one very likely error (too many zero’s) in one figure. So we really need to check your quote as well. As for the book overall – it is a stunningly blatant exercise in propaganda presenting the many aspects in the most positive light possible, often at the expense of fairness & impartiality. It can be readily refuted on many points.


  242. As for the book overall – it is a stunningly blatant exercise in propaganda presenting the many aspects in the most positive light possible, often at the expense of fairness & impartiality. It can be readily refuted on many points.

    Interesting claim. Care to back it up? Try just one example.


  243. The party line on BNC is that ca 55 people died after Chernobyl, because WHO and IAEA say so.

    BNC bloggers also condemn the RBMK design, because it had no containment building.

    Note that Russia still operates 11 of the Chernoybl RBMK reactor type: St. Petersburg, Smolensk, Kursk.

    After Three Mile Island, ie before 1986, the USSR apparently did some safety retrofits and there were more after Chernobyl.

    However, my understanding – gained from a few seconds on the Internet – is that none of the 11 RBMKs in operation has a full containment building as of 2010. This fact will naturally lead to a technical discussion of whether the retrofits have raised safety enough.

    So as Tom Blees said here some while ago, keep hoping that nothing in the way of a nuclear accident happens.


  244. Machiavelli:

    i found one numerical mistake in the book. we may be talking about the same one. too many zeroes.

    I’ll check it.

    what are the other mistakes?

    stun me with your examples of its propaganda. perhaps she can respond.

    what led me to defend nuclear was my sense that I had been fed propaganda from anti nuclear people nearly all of my life: about radiation, about proliferation, about safety, about life cycle emissions, about the viability of hi penetration renewables, about peak uranium, etc. etc.


  245. greg meyerson, on 8 October 2010 at 3.47 Said:

    “I found one numerical mistake in the book. We may be talking about the same one. Too many zeroes. I’ll check it. What are the other mistakes?” G. Meyerson

    No I don’t think so – I was referring to a different example just in passing. First things first: You still haven’t provided the relevant chapter or page I have asked for above (6 Oct). Going back even further, I see also you ignored my earlier request as well (a). P. Lalor & GRL Cowan have also appeared to ignore my requests for simple material recently. Then I will have a surprise for GRL Cowan soon.
    (a) https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/07/28/nuclear-power-yes-please-for-cc/#comment-92361

    “Stun me with your examples of its propaganda. Perhaps she can respond.”

    G. Meyerson

    Without deliberately targeting the G. Craven’s book, I have already adequately countered many of the points mentioned in it with my other entries. If time permits later, maybe I can specifically counter some of her key points.

    “What led me to defend nuclear was my sense that I had been fed propaganda from anti-nuclear people nearly all of my life: about radiation, about proliferation, about safety, about life cycle emissions, about the viability of hi penetration renewables, about peak uranium, etc. etc.”

    G. Meyerson

    You have been totally mislead, while you are also certainly NOT helping your own case by refusing to provide links & references for viewing by others. It appears I will have to update my basic five-point response. They are all predominantly still valid & in our favour. Even though it is a very large subject, we are in the greatest information boom ever experienced, yet apparently you are not doing enough research to find answers or check the anti-nuke claims for yourself.

    “Yes greg. If there’s one thing that makes me really angry, it’s the sense that I have been lied to.” J. Morgan 8 Oct 2010

    Accusations of lying are coming from your side don’t carry enough weight & do you no credit. The nuclear industry has plenty of known examples of dishonesty & falsehoods, such as found by Henry Meyers (b). Then there were efforts to rig radiation health studies (c). Then read about falsified data in the US from ‘Deadly Deceit’. There are other examples. So guys, how about continuing with the debate & the supportive evidence?
    (b) https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/19/radiation-facts-fallacies-and-phobias/#comment-101138
    (c) https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/19/radiation-facts-fallacies-and-phobias/#comment-101696


  246. Finrod, on 8 October 2010 at 13.22 Said:

    “You’ve claimed that there are easily contestable examples of misleading propaganda in Gwyneth Craven’s book. What are they? Show us just one. Put up or shut up.”

    Get on the end of the queue, I have to respond to G. Meyerson first, (then P. Lalor) now that he has provided a page number (have to relocate the book too). Similar to my comment above, if you were not so one-eyed, you would’ve spotted the suspect passages yourself now that I have provided many links recently covering similar points.


  247. machiavelli:

    I gave you above the book and page number and who made the comment about n.e. washington (rip anderson) and offered to give you g. cravens email and you tell me I’m “refusing to provide links and references for viewing by others.” do you admit that this is a bogus accusation? if you don’t admit it, you’re dishonest and I won’t take you seriously.

    I was persuaded by the argument from natural variation that has made been by Cravens and many others, including barry in this original post: if ionizing radiation is a powerful carcinogen, then the signal should be clear and cancer incidence should show up as appreciably higher in areas with appreciably higher background radiation.

    if you can show that this argument is wrong, it would have some impact on my views, though not a decisive one due to the weakness of the overall argument for hi penetration wind and solar.

    after all, according to the EPA, and various national labs, in the u.s., if you live within 50 miles of a nuke plant, you are getting an average dose of .009 millirem.

    Now there are circumstances where major regulatory agencies distort the truth to favor corporations. but you’d really have to convince me that that’s what’s going on here.

    Frankly, a wing of the anti nuke side would like to get rid of the millirem altogether and focus on curies, but as I noted in a previous post, curies alone can’t give you “body burden.”


  248. machiavelli: there’s something you don’t seem to get.

    “My side” was anti nuclear (Cravens was herself somewhat of an anti nuclear activist). I published an article in the journal socialism and democracy where I confidently asserted the standard caldicottisms (the green readers of the article basically themselves took caldicott on faith–they no longer do this).

    I relied on her “peak uranium” argument and her “nuclear is not clean if you look at the whole fuel cycle” argument, not realizing that she was citing a single source (Smith/Van Leuwen) which was a true outlier among the life cycle studies and not at all well respected.

    when i learned more, I realized my anti nuclear arguments were unconvincing at best–not really arguments at all but a kind of dogma.

    so please cut out the know it all “you have been misled” b.s. I’ve published quite a few papers (a couple books worth) in the areas of marxism/critical theory/american literature. I know what a good argument looks like. I have been teaching argument for over 20 years. I know what cherry picking looks like. All sides cherry pick, but the anti nuke cherry picking is remarkable.

    eclipse once referred to the rhetorical tactic of “argument by hyperlink.” I am less interested in your links than in your summary of the argument made in the link. If you can summarize the argument with a view to its direct relevance, I will look at the link. too often, you have cited largely irrelevant material about past accidents. we know about these accidents. worst case scenarios are only convincing to people with no understanding of risk assessment. it’s a shameful manipulative tactic, usually relying on double standards (worst case argument for nuclear but not for other forms of energy)

    what fin and I want from you is a direct rebuttal of cravens. if it’s convincing, I’ll alter my views perhaps.

    It would be great (looking only at the technology question) if wind and solar could provide enough energy to provide a decent standard of living for the world’s people (leaving aside the huge social question). but it can’t. and no argument you make will convince me otherwise, in part because there are no relevant real life examples of hi penetration wind and solar.


  249. greg meyerson, on 8 October 2010 at 21.56 Said:

    “I gave you above the book and page number and who made the comment about n.e. washington (rip anderson) and offered to give you g. cravens email and you tell me I’m “refusing to provide links and references for viewing by others.” do you admit that this is a bogus accusation? if you don’t admit it, you’re dishonest and I won’t take you seriously.” G. Meyson

    Sorry about that, but I had a simple timing problem. Someone else offered to load my entry while I was busy, but it was either held up or they loaded it too late, after your page number entry. I did later acknowledge receipt of your reference.

    “one death per 300,000 mrems would mean that one of every three people in northeastern washington state would die from radiotoxicity? (1700 mrem/person/year) before they were 70.” G. Meyerson

    I’ll accept the 1,700mrem as being likely correct for now. What I was more interested in was, seeing if there was any mention of the use of 70 years. It appears then that your large 70 year result occurs because of a ‘magnified error’ effect, being possibly why it isn’t used in the book. This simple method of estimating risk (using a minimum of data), will likely tend to be most accurate in the short-term, but where the tolerance & inaccuracy increases with the time period used, then the error becomes more significant. Commonly, 12 month periods are used. No population size is mentioned, but if we use 100,000 people as an exercise, & still using 1 death / 300 rems, then we will end up with about 560 casualties over 12 months, being about 0.33% of that population. This is still well within the general limits given below. Death from malignant disease occurs in about 20% of the population.

    “only a small part of the total cancer mortality burden in the United States can be attributed to radiation effects—less than 3%.” (Seymour Jablon and John C. Bailar III 2004)

    I agree that 30% (or more) does appear large, even though a dose of 119 rems accumulated over 70 years is a significant level, it would be interesting to view cancer statistics for that area covering the long time.

    Regarding the TMI reference on the same page 71, (lower down), I have already entered several points & links to support greater radiation releases (earlier in this column), so rendering Dr Anderson’s figures invalid.

    Your mention of G. Craven’s offer of help is interesting, even more so if she could participate with comments on BNC soon, or, maybe Dr R. Anderson as well, since their book seems to be establishing itself as a ‘bible’ for your case.


  250. greg meyerson, on 5 October 2010 at 10.26 Said:

    “The facts don’t bear this out. You simply don’t find any noticeable correlation between higher low dose radiation and higher cancer incidence.” G. Meyerson

    German authorities seem satisfied that low background radiation still causes some ill-effects (a).
    Even as far back as the late 1950’s, Dr Linus Pauling also was satisfied background radiation caused or contributed to some cancers.

    “The natural radiation dose contributes between 5 and 10% to the number of the annual cancer cases (425,000 in the year 2002).” (a)

    I have provided this link before, but people seem to ignore it

    (a) http://www.currentconcerns.ch/index.php?id=706


  251. greg meyerson, on 9 October 2010 at 8.27 Said:

    “machiavelli: there’s something you don’t seem to get.” G.M

    Many of us would feel you are missing some important points.

    “I relied on her “peak uranium” argument and her “nuclear is not clean if you look at the whole fuel cycle” argument, not realizing that she was citing a single source (Smith/Van Leuwen) which was a true outlier among the life cycle studies and not at all well respected.” G.M

    I think you will find that one of the team (Smith) was a nuclear engineer himself, so he should know enough about it. That team was one of the earliest to present a CO2 analysis of the nuclear fuel cycle to the public. They felt the approximate value of CO2 releases resulting mainly from the front end of the fuel cycle was about 30-40% of a gas-fired plant when using ore grades like those from Roxby Downs in Australia & Nambia. Using a different analysis method, B. Sovacool has arrived at a roughly similar figure. Yes the industry has strongly disagreed with those results, but I have not yet seen any readily available reference clearly showing (with basic arithmetically worked examples) clarifying why Storm & Smith (& B. Sovacool) are wrong. If such a genuine, detailed rebuttal has been done, with included reasoning & worked examples, then by all means let’s hear about it. If on the other hand, it has not been done yet, then let B. Brook do a feature column on it or invite an expert to do so instead – but it must include genuine real-world data & detailed explanatory reasoning to show why the nuclear industry has a carbon footprint less than renewables even though nuclear has a significant mining & processing requirement when renewables do not.

    “when I learned more, I realized my anti nuclear arguments were unconvincing at best–not really arguments at all but a kind of dogma.” G.M.

    For anyone new to understanding the many aspects of the nuclear cycle, it can be daunting. But there are certainly enough people with some form of science, engineering, medical or technician training, that more readily recognise the many defects. There have already been several key experts from within their own industry publicly confirm the dangers (a, b). Isn’t Dr Caldicott then in good company among those industry insiders?

    “so please cut out the know it all “you have been misled” b.s. I know what a good argument looks like. I have been teaching argument for over 20 years.” G.M.

    This very involved & complex subject is predominantly science & engineering based, requiring a lot of accurate, impartial & rigorous data assessment to recognise the difference between likely correct & false claims. Just argument alone cannot decide the outcome. We need accurate data. We cannot possibly afford to get this decision wrong, so the technicalities should not be trivialised. We are therefore entitled to look very closely at ALL the aspects of nuclear power.

    If hundreds (or thousands) of nuclear plants were to commence operation & it was later found after another 50 – 100 yrs to a certainty, that radiation releases really do impact upon people’s health & the ozone layer, or that plutonium was readily obtainable & used for terrorist activities, or that cooling tower plumes really did amplify the greenhouse effect, then the long delay in obtaining such conclusive evidence would be disastrous for humans, more so if Chernobyl-type or TMI accidents were still occurring. After having spent huge amounts of money & resources to build the plants, more money would then have to be found to decommission them & clean up the mess (assuming it was not too late), then to build different forms of power plants. Possibly even have to compensate the injured. More than at any other time in human history, we need to act responsibly, ethically & intelligently without any dysfunctional psychological persuasion techniques being used to truly implement the best solutions.

    “I know what cherry picking looks like. All sides cherry pick, but the anti-nuke cherry picking is remarkable.” G.M.

    For the benefit of keeping the peace momentarily, I’ll accept cherry picking occurs on both sides. But I do not agree that anti-nuke cherry picking is greater than pro-nuke efforts. I expect to have no problems in finding readily available examples from the pro-nuke literature, because hundreds of billions of dollars are riding on their technology.

    “I am less interested in your links than in your summary of the argument made in the link. If you can summarize the argument with a view to its direct relevance, I will look at the link.” G.M.

    The links are ‘primary’ sources & therefore carry more weight than any summary from me. The current method I have used was also done simply to minimise the length of the entry by avoiding duplication. I’d make a claim using usually one point at a time & wherever possible include the link reference for others to follow up, without any added summary taking up still more space. If a reader found the link daunting, they were free to ‘google’ for further explanations or ask directly on this site for anyone to assist. I would’ve thought any means to minimise my entry length (yet still cover the points) would be preferred by Prof Brook.

    “too often, you have cited largely irrelevant material about past accidents. we know about these accidents.” G.M.

    Judging from some previous comments by various contributors, I’m not convinced you do know about them or perhaps their relevance & seriousness. Their relevance is in showing more clearly how unsafe the industry has operated. Prof Brook has earlier agreed, that “the devil is in the detail.”

    “worst case scenarios are only convincing to people with no understanding of risk assessment.” G.M.

    There is really only one point about risk assessment the public appreciates the most. They want risks to be kept very simply, as low as absolutely possible & not to be mislead by deviously worded claims that slip past the public’s attention using carefully selected phrases. Nor will they appreciate blatant propaganda attempts to SELL us on the idea that we HAVE to go nuclear & to then put up with its many defects when there are other safer choices.

    “It’s a shameful manipulative tactic, usually relying on double standards (worst case argument for nuclear but not for other forms of energy)” G.M.

    I’m not manipulating anything, just providing accurate & relevant extracts from other researchers to allow you to read them from rare sources. Apparently you are STILL not convinced of significant statements of manipulation, double standards & even dishonesty from the nuclear industry, despite some of them already being posted here on BNC (c). Prof Ian Lowe has provided another one below.

    I have already pointed out earlier I do not support any other dangerous form of energy, so that is why it isn’t being used for comparison.

    Example of Pro-Nuclear Manipulation (from Prof Ian Lowe) QE # 27

    How to interpret the same data to serve either side.

    “Here is one example of such misrepresentation by the nuclear lobby. In 1980 Sweden held a referendum after a period of public debate to determine the country’s future involvement in nuclear power. Voters were given three choices:
    a) To close down the reactors immediately.
    b) To allow the existing ones to operate for their designed lifetime, then close them & not build any more.
    c) Or to allow the industry to expand.
    The voting was roughly 40% for immediate closure, 40% for phasing out the industry & 20% for its continuation. The Swedish government interpreted this as 80% of the people voting for the reactors to be shut down, either immediately or gradually, so they adopted that position.
    In Australia however, the nuclear advocate Leslie Kemeny told a forum that Swedish people had voted 60-40 in favour of keeping or expanding nuclear power in their country.”

    Which interpretation do you think is the most honest?

    (a) https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/06/18/21c-nuclear-renaissance/#comment-86216
    (b) https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/06/18/21c-nuclear-renaissance/#comment-98112
    (c) https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/19/radiation-facts-fallacies-and-phobias/#comment-101138


  252. Frankly i do not know why this troll is being fed. He endlessly recycles old and thoroughly discredited studies that have demonstrated absolutely nothing of value in this matter. His deep ignorance of this subject is apparent, as his desire to use this thread as a personal soapbox for his idiotic ideas.

    This is obviously someone that knows that if he started his own blog, no one would read it, so he parasitizes this one. He is not interested in a conversation or debate, he is only interested in vomiting antinuclear propaganda in front of the small group of people that follow this thread.

    He will probably never stop, but that is no reason why he should be encouraged by acknowledging his existence.


  253. greg meyerson, on 8 October 2010 at 21.56 Said:

    “I was persuaded by the argument from natural variation that has been made by G. Cravens and many others, including Barry in this original post: if ionizing radiation is a powerful carcinogen, then the signal should be clear and cancer incidence should show up as appreciably higher in areas with appreciably higher background radiation.” G.M.

    These effects ARE showing up in studies being done by independent & some industry researchers, but they are being ridiculed by hard-line nuclear interests. This has already been covered earlier (a), beginning with the quote below:

    “Even the pro-industry, 1959 ICRP publication (# 2) stated:”

    One leading independent UK researcher is certain of genuine ill-effects being present, along with accompanying official denial & cover-up occurring for years (b).

    “In the US, a local medical health officer, Dr Carl Johnson, found adult cancer rates in the suspected plutonium polluted areas around the American Rocky Flats nuclear facility, to be 15-20% higher than expected. At least twice, there had been major fires spreading contamination downwind. Dr Johnson’s results were savagely attacked by the nuclear industry, & he even lost his job. A later study that allowed for the criticisms, still confirmed his original results.” G.M.

    (a) https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/06/18/21c-nuclear-renaissance/#comment-86216
    (b) http://www.greenaudit.org/wolves.htm

    “It was the impact of the 1957 fire at Windscale which initially interested Yorkshire Television. In 1983, when the NRPB finally admitted that the released radiation could’ve caused about 33 deaths, researchers descended on the location to look for victims. Common sense suggested that the most likely victims would be the young children who lived nearby in the southerly direction which received the highest fallout. They would’ve consumed contaminated milk for the first two days before a ban was imposed & possibly locally grown vegetables that received no ban. Yet no follow-up studies were ever done of their health.” J. Cutler & Rob Edwards

    “Months of research had produced a list of 11 children & young people under 25 yrs who had developed cancer in Seascale between 1954 & 1983. John Urqhuart from the Newcastle University quickly grasped that their uniqueness was that they had been drawn from very small areas where the contamination was the greatest. Seascale’s 5 known leukaemia cases meant that its early-childhood rate was 10 x the national average. The under-15 yr rate was also too high. When the other known cases from nearby Bootle, Waberthwaite & Muncaster were included, the under-15 yr cancer rate for the whole coastal region south of Windscale was found to be 5 x the norm.”
    J. Cutler & Rob Edwards

    The 1983 Yorkshire Television data clearly showed a distance-dose relationship with the Windscale plant.

    While Dr Alan Craft & BNFL attempted to deny the existence of cancer clusters around Windscale, & the dose-distance relation, local doctors were submitting contrary evidence to the Black enquiry. Confidential minutes show that the two doctors that ran the group practice containing Seascale, confirmed the genuineness of the cases used by Yorkshire Television. They also pointed out that local children used Seascale beach & the Ravenglass estuary as their main playgrounds. The major fear of locals was the inhaling of beach-side air. The seaspray blowing in from the beaches can travel up to 1 ½ miles inland. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards

    The Black Report was released in 1984, effectively saying that Windscale radiation was unlikely to be the cause of the cancers. Since its publication, it has attracted much criticism, even though its internal minutes show Windscale radiation was the only real suspect. The NRPB worked out how many leukaemia deaths would be expected in Seascale resulting from the admitted level of radioactive discharges. Since the actual casualty figure was much higher than expected from this value, the NRPB concluded Windscale could not be to blame, without ever questioning the scientific model used for that calculation. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards

    A similar approach is being used to explain the German 2007 KiKK child leukaemia study.

    An examination of the secret evidence to the inquiry showed some massaging of figures had been done to give a reassuring picture. In analysing the small area statistics for the northern region Dr Alan Craft compared the childhood cancer rates of Seascale with 765 other electoral wards. He drew up tables of the top 10 wards having the highest cancer rates. These were included in the Black Report to show that Seascale came only 6th in the table for all cancers, & 3rd in the leukaemia table. Dr Craft also restricted the time span used to 14 yrs (1968-82) thus conveniently ignoring Seascale’s high cancer rate either side of that period. When the time span was stretched by just 1 year, the two cases in 1983 put Seascale at the top of the leukaemia list in the northern region. A 3rd case was also omitted even though it was diagnosed within the 14 yr period (1975). With all three cases included, it became 1st in the top 10 for all cancers, with its leukaemia rate 24 x the national average. A leaked document of Dr Craft’s evidence also showed he had omitted 2 other cases in another key area. Their inclusion gave Bootle over 6 x the regional average, placing it well within the top 10. This correction also further highlighted an obvious geographical relation with Windscale’s location. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards

    One of the Black Report’s recommendations was to set up a government advisory body. In 1985, COMARE was formed, delivering its first report in 1986. It concluded that substantial releases of radioactivity had occurred from Windscale in the early 1950’s that had not been revealed to Sir Douglas Black’s team. In particular there had been a release of about 20 kg of uranium oxide to the atmosphere beginning in 1954-55. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards

    Another cancer cluster was found near the Berkeley & Oldbury Magnox nuclear power stations. It was later learnt these stations had a radioactive discharge limit 3 x higher than any other British nuclear plant. Radioactive gas releases were unlimited. The Department of Environment had measured doses of 23 x background radiation, or about 40 x the annual public dose limit at their perimeter fence. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards

    By 1987, leukaemia clusters had been identified near 15 UK nuclear installations & was considered ‘overwhelming’ evidence. Sir Douglas Black even changed his mind, saying that there was a ‘high likelihood’ that in small areas near Windscale there was an increased risk of leukaemia in young children. He described the evidence around other installations handling radioactive materials as ‘disquieting’. There was now, ‘quite a likelihood that there is a genuine link’ between nuclear power plants & childhood leukaemias. J. Cutler & Rob Edwards

    How can anyone have confidence in an industry & government regulatory bodies like these?


  254. http://robedwards.typepad.com/about.html
    Rob Edwards, quoted, ad nauseam, by Machiavelli is an environmental journalist – see above link.
    Correct me if I’m wrong :) but isn’t unfounded sensationalism the “bread and butter” of the press?
    If you want to credibly support your views do so by quoting articles, written by research scientists, in peer-review scientific journals – not tabloid journalists.


  255. Ms Perps

    Still using unjustified ridicule? Is this the right way to “credibly support your views”? You’re only hurting your own case with such hypocrisy. Rob Edwards didn’t get his awards for any sensationalism, but rather his accurate reporting using witness accounts. How about providing actual alternative evidence to show why Sir Douglas Black shouldn’t have changed his mind & confirmed the cancer risk near UK nuclear plants?

    Scientific articles are not automatically free for human errors & common weaknesses. Even Sir Richard Doll was later found to have a conflict of interest on key issues.

    “We cannot deny that in science – more frequent than the scientists prefer – there are lies and deception, not only negligent sloppiness, but really intentional fraud.” (a)

    DV82XL himself has made earlier unbelievable claims about proliferation risks from CANDU reactors, even though many sources agree that India obtained plutonium for its first explosive device (1974) from a small reactor supplied by Canada. His credibility has taken a hit.
    (a) http://www.currentconcerns.ch/index.php?id=706


  256. What is interesting about http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uSHStmAO5s, which Perps,as recommended also by Brook in his Tweet, is attempting to impose on Macchiavelli is its cineastic post-1990 emotionalism. The film addresses only the LNT-hormesis topic, only one of many that Macchiavelli addresses :

    we have on film the poor middle-aged female Chernobyl ex-resident on a nostalgic visit home to decayed Chernobyl town infrastructure and her pretty adult daughter (film’s message: if only the mother had sensibly stayed in Chernobyl after the accident, she too could have benefited from hormesis – any incipient tumours of hers would have been beneficially radiated away – and we and her daughter would not have to witness her weeping about her exile from Chernobyl on camera)

    Secondly, we have the hormesis case presented in multiple interviews with 3 Anglo scientists and reverential voiceovers about the Chernobyl Forum’s findings.

    But the LNT opposition is portrayed solely by means of multiple repeats of gutter press photos and headlines. Not a single toxicologist or doctor is interviewed. Greenpeace is thanked in the credits for its footage but there is no “socratic questioning” of Greenpeace, no pro and contra.

    As I recall, the only mention of medical studies is by one by the 3 hormesis-type scientists, who says that if doctors want to find something, they will.

    There is an implicit allegation in this film that the great bulk of USSR-based illness post-1986 is a giant nocebo (opposite of placebo). But the word “nocebo” is never used. Why?

    No doubt the British film makers would say that given the dumbing-down of the UKL public since Thatcher, one has to fight gutter (press sales-enhancing) fire with emotional fire.

    However, as all interviewees on film were nationals of nuclear powers (US, UK), I would have to look at the status of the debate on Trident in the UK the year the film came out, 2006. (by Jan. 2007 there had been hundreds of arrests at Faslane Naval Base, which hosts submarines armed with Trident). And also at the relations between BBC and the external production company, Dox.

    The files of the IRD, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Research_Department, are under lock and key for decades. But to believe that the BBC and its external contractors make films in a way unrelated to and unpaid by UK foreign policy makers is to ignore the public record. That record is available to an extent under the 30-year release rule of Public Record Office.


  257. Lalor – You obviously didn’t watch the whole video or you would have understood that a scientific study on the animals, notably voles who live underground and were thus most affected by the radiation, by Prof Ron Chesser and his team from Texas Tech University , showed no adverse effects from this exposure when compared with a control group.
    So – Machiavelli (and now Lalor) – here is one example of the scientific studies you asked for.


  258. I thought the video was excellent. Thanks Barry. It will go well with the hysterical “chernobyl battle.”

    Peter Lalor, you are correct that it is not “fair and balanced” in the sense of giving equal time to LNT proponents. and it’s got its own rhetoric like any video. but you have to put this in the context of prior videos like “chernobyl battle” from PBS, which is largely a scare video (starring one of the physicists who put together the N.Y. academy of sciences report–Nesterenko), with a ralph nader view of plutonium: one microgram is lethal, it says.

    according to bernard cohen, one trillionth of a pound of plutonium (a bit less than one microgram), inhaled (where it is 5000 times more toxic than if swallowed), gives a dose of 1300 mrem over a two year period. Smoking two packs a day for one year will give you more than that. Just to put it into perspective.
    this would I assume lead to a slightly increased chance of lung cancer (not “lethal”).

    Shots of the Cheernobyl sarcophagus are accompanied by music from “plan nine from outer space.” we are told that “even now the sarcophagus is 100 times more radioactive than normal.” Well, so are the springs in Ramsar Iran discussed in “Nuclear Nightmares.”

    Look: the video has the all important map of cancer incidence in the United States superimposed on the map of variation in background radiation, and as has been shown in many other studies, there is no correlation or an inverse correlation.

    The video is decidedly not an argument for the strong hormetic effect. it’s primarily a powerful argument against LNT. as one of the researchers notes, if radiation is a carcinogen, it’s a “piss poor carcinogen.”

    For M’s arguments to be remotely persuasive, that map and all it implies has to be TOTALLY WRONG.

    as for the voles, it is interesting to compare that study with the “SHOCKING PICTURES OF MUTANT MICE” shown in the chernobyl battle video.

    while it’s good to put media in political context, it’s not clear how the truth or falsity of the video’s main assertions relates to U.K foreign policy.

    The character of the argument and evidence in the video is distinct from the varied political interests the video may or may not serve. If you COLLAPSE (as opposed to connect) the question of evidence into the question of “who benefits,” clear thinking goes out the window and is inevitably replaced by a toxic guilt by association.


  259. from texas tech website on Ron Chesser:

    Texas Tech Professors Chronicle Decade of Chernobyl Studies in American Scientist Journal
    Written by John W. Davis

    After 12 years of studying the Chernobyl disaster and the repercussions radioactive fallout has had in the area, two Texas Tech researchers say populations of plants and animals in the area are better off than in non-affected areas.

    The story, Growing Up with Chernobyl, was published in the October issue of American Scientist. It chronicles how the two scientists have learned that the answers to low-dose radiation exposure don’t come easily. Ronald Chesser, director for the Center for Environmental Radiation Studies, and Robert Baker, Horn professor of biological sciences, co-wrote the piece.

    Though many studies claim radiation is responsible for genetic differentiation in wildlife populations and blame it for causing cancers in people, Chesser says many of those genetic differences could be a result of natural genetic variations and not mutations caused from radiation exposure.

    “Chernobyl is a very emotional subject,” Chesser says. “People tend to choose sides, and I’m afraid we’re seeing a lot of that in the literature. The real work is trying to attach cause and effect. That’s a difficult piece of work for one to do. Most of these studies have put very little effort into trying to understand cause and effect.”

    During the past 12 years, Chesser says it’s been difficult to grasp exactly how low-dose radiation exposure can affect plants and animal life. While scientists know that too much radiation can and will kill a living being, the exposure to low-dose radiation isn’t fully understood.

    “We only know what happens when plants and animals are exposed to high doses of radiation,” he says. “At low doses, it seems to have very little effect. It takes very detailed, meticulous studies to find these answers. We haven’t had the money to do a study like that.”

    Putting Bias Aside

    Even Baker and Chesser admit they’ve had to rethink the way they conduct their experiments.

    In the beginning of their studies, they concluded that certain rodents suffered significant genetic rearrangements, but more recent assessments suggest that these animals have not experienced mutations that can be attributed to the nuclear accident.

    At the end, Chesser and Baker list suggestions for improving Chernobyl studies, such as having researchers archive tissues for others to replicate testing, reporting both positive and negative results from their experiments and using double-blind experimental standards to combat personal biases.

    “Sometimes, you see what you want to see,” he says. “But in science, our own biases aren’t supposed to influence what we’re seeing.”

    Visit the American Scientist Online to read the article abstract. Contact John Davis at (806) 742-2136 or e-mail john.w.davis@ttu.edu for a copy of the story in PDF format.


  260. @Meyerson: the preponderance of geeks and wannabes on this blog are domiciled left and right of the Pacific and not within immediate wind range of Chernobyl. This explains eg the intemperate rage directed at renewables policy in Germany (with possibly the extra US flavour of AIPAC-driven Stateside suspicion of that country, oy vey)

    Note however the following European NGOs at:


    You will see that (to take the WNA or IAEA line), these gullible people in W. Europe wanting to look after Chernobyl children will all have been conned by cunning post-Soviet Belarussian or Ukrainian scammers into providing gratis R and R for local cancer victims.

    Assuming, as BNC nukies must, that this scam exists and that the only health effects from Chernobyl are those flowing from nocebo, the BBC video praised by you and Brook fails utterly to address 24 years of “hysterical Green propaganda.”

    This is why I said that it was missing any interview with doctors/toxicologists. It need not have been the much-hated Caldicott, Gofman (deceased, I think) or similar would have sufficed. Or Prof. Wade Allison at Oxford, to show why all the medicos are wrong about Chernobyl.

    Either nukies want to make videos that refute “hysterical Green LNT nonsense” and get those naive west European NGOs closed down, or they want to make emotionalist blurbs. It is up to them.

    If the latter, then quit claiming the high ground of rational numeracy .


  261. Put Chernobyl aside for a moment and focus on the LNT. what do you think of the map?

    Rational numeracy is a high ground, btw. should we abandon this? what is your view of “rational numeracy?” Is it nothing but “technological or instrumental rationality” tied to business as usual?

    If we abandon it, in favor of what? contrarian insinuation, guilt by association and scare words?

    btw, I don’t think Germany is on AIPAC’s shit list (I might be though–joke, I hope).


  262. btw, peter, it occurs to me that you are perfectly content yourself to assume the “high ground of rational numeracy” in defense of climate scientists at Real Climate (I’m with you there).

    Yet with respect to the LNT business, you get all pop Marcuse (absent his rational hi ground).


  263. John Morgan

    If we abandon it, in favor of what? contrarian insinuation, guilt by association and scare words?

    Yes, that appears to be the consensus.

    Certainly over at quiggin.

    The comments at Quiggin’s web site are a reminder of just how sure people are that they are right. They are so sure that they do not need to consider facts. They just believe.

    Anti-nukes that come to this web site see many of us here in the same way (ie locked into our belkiefs, closed minded, won’t consider the evidence that has persuded them of their beliefs).

    Seeing the posts on the Quiggin site in response to yours, mine and other posts makes me feel that these people (and people with their ideological persuasion) are dishonest and will say and do anything because they believe the end (furthering their cause) justifies any means to achieve it.

    I expect they think the same about me.

    The problem is I cannot help but see the posts on the Quiggin site (and elsewhere and predominantly in the media) as a continuation of the greenie agendas of the past 40 years. I see them as mostly irrational, destructive, damaging to society and to human well being.

    I suspect many rational people (in fact the majority of voters) have a similar perception to me. This extends to other things these groups and those of similar ideological persuasion believe in. And because they seem to habitually exaggerate, and play the scare cards, they create scepticism and resistance to the causes they advocate.

    I think it is a real pity that John Quiggin doesn’t moderate his web site better thn he does. He actually seems to encourage the nonsense that is posted. For example he allows incessant nonsense posts from anti-nukes, yet shuts down Finrod. Hes cuts off comments on nuclear discussion threads. He makes comments occassionally that are clearly anti-nuclear which further encourages many nonsense posts.

    I wonder: Is the western world past the Enlightment Period and heading back into the next dark ages? Are China and India leading the next Enlightment Period?


  264. @Peter Lang – Would it be that it was so simple. Antinuclear stands are not in anyway that homogeneous, and many of those holding them and promoting them know full well that their position is not supported by fact. Oh there are a few think as you describe, but they are far from the majority.

    Here in Quebec Canada this summer there was a sudden flare up of antinuclear activity after years of relative silence. The reason was a lot of activity in uranium prospecting in the Provence. The instigators were a vocal group of physicians that had practices in the outlying regions. At one point they were threatening to resign en mass.

    However when the real motives of these people were examined, it became very clear that they were using this issue as a wedge in their negotiations with the government, and they had pick this issue because they knew they could use their positions to whip up a frenzy.

    Look closely at a lot of antinuclear activity, all over the world and you can find the same thing to a greater or lesser extent. Trying to hit these people with logic is ineffective, what one must do is look to the real reasons they object.


  265. DV82XL,

    I agree with all this. I don’t have the skills, patience or interest to try to work out what is the underlying agenda of most of these people. I believe many do it to further other causes as you suggest. I think many do it because it as a way to get the polical party they support elected into government and therefore to achieve the other policies they believe in. Who knows what else is driving these people. It needs litterate but innumerate people to understand what is driving them.


  266. Radiation Releases from Coal Plants Tom Blees & Alex Gabbard


    Annual releases of 5.2 tons of uranium would only be expected to have an activity of about 1.75 curies. Likewise with 12.8 tons of thorium; it would likely have a similar total amount due to its much lower decay rate (thorium 232 has a half life of 14 billion years). So in total, about 3-5 curies would be expected from the amounts given in statement (2) above.

    In comparison, a NRC official after the TMI accident, stated that about 1,000 curies a month (gases) are released from a LWR plant. Even if we allow for some recent improvement, there would be still at least 100 curies expected to be released due to all causes – normal, unplanned & accidental releases.

    Furthermore, there are the additional liquid releases from nuclear plants (c) that are also significant in view of tritium not being actively involved in human biology. In fact, by itself, tritium oxide water cannot support organic animal life & can then be regarded as another pollutant.

    Alex Gabbard is engaging in a simple exercise of distraction using basic multiplication of low levels of radiation to make it sound worse than nuclear power. We can arrive at similar multiplied figures for nuclear plants to reveal even larger radiation releases to the environment.

    “Radioactive elements in coal and fly ash should not be sources of alarm.” (d)

    Although coal plants certainly have enough waste products released (or captured), they do NOT have any fission products being released as do nuclear plants (gases). Of course, A. Gabbard hasn’t mentioned these. They are known to impact upon organic life-forms in different ways than just low-level background radiation has over the millennia due to their internal radiochemistry in humans.

    The nuclear industry gurus can keep their heads in the sand as long as they like, but this evasion tactic will return to bite them where it hurts, because it appears genuine, that radioactive fission products have no place in the environment in ANY amounts. Background radiation from the normal environment is NOT the same as fission product radiochemistry. How many more people need to suffer before they are forced to acknowledge that with even more evidence? We cannot therefore afford to continue the reckless & irresponsible experimentation on the public, when there is already enough data available about nuclear plant emissions & their effects upon humans. The evidence has now reached a point where anyone who blatantly ignores it while using irrational denial & abuse will appear as dysfunctional & definitely NOT scientific or concerned about public health. Even Tom Blees has suggested using the precautionary principle on one occasion – with hydrogen. Yet that principle for nuclear power is ignored. But the nuclear industry wants to enlarge their reactor base & subject many more people to the subtle radiation effects while denying any harm until the casualties become convincing enough. And they still wonder why people think their industry is insane. Already, the lead, mercury, beryllium, asbestos, DDT, Dioxin, PCB, CFC, silicon, smoking & pharmaceutical industries have used the same unacceptable approach, contributing to many needless deaths or injuries due to incredible human failures, before many products were finally acknowledged to be unsafe.. Why not learn from those mistakes instead of repeating them? Apparently, governments cannot even cope with more familiar health issues (e – h). In view of (g), it seems likely, all the nuclear industry has to do is to lobby the government to convince them that really low (or zero) radioactive releases are not achievable (or any other risk), for the gov’t to cave in & allow the industry to have its way – just like the desal & E.coli issue. So much for public health being a priority.

    (c) http://www.nirs.org/factsheets/tritiumbasicinfo.pdf
    (d) http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs163-97/FS-163-97.html
    (e) http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/womans-death-shows-ambo-system-is-not-perfect-andrews-20101112-17qhl.html
    (f) http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/state-election-2010/stats-reveal-dysfunctional-hospitals-20101109-17m55.html
    (g) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/watchdog-ditches-unrealistic-ecoli-zero-tolerance-target-on-water-quality/story-fn59niix-1225950426419
    (h) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/viruses-can-remin-in-drinking-water-after-desal-treatment/story-e6frg6nf-1225949639518


  267. Partly because multinational bureaucracies do not readily admit they have been talking out of their arses for generations & reverse course. Partly because the entire anti-nuclear case ultimately depends on low level radiation being dangerous & there are an awful lot of political careers, political capital & indeed bureaucrat’s careers tied up in that.

    Machiavelli that figure is obtained by calculating using the LNT theory & is therefore not proof of itself – in fact the long term life expectancy in Hiroshima & Nagasaki is better than average (as mentioned in the links) & this is a small part of the overwhelming evidence for hormesis. For someone with your name you should be less trusting of official sources.


  268. Neil Craig, on 24 November 2010 at 8:49 PM

    “Partly because multinational bureaucracies do not readily admit…….”

    Your just using unsupported abuse & denial. There have been enough examples of the nuclear industry themselves being caught out with important safety & design issues, being reckless in the workplace (a, b) with unnecessarily high radiation limits while continuing to resist reducing them & even falsifying some claims & records – especially during the insane atom bomb testing programs. By comparison, how often has any member of standards authorities been found acting inappropriately? The whole nuclear industry reeks of varying levels of evasion, dishonesty & carelessness, with some examples already included on BNC. Even the US govt with-held knowledge of radon’s ill-effects from many of their early uranium miners (c). We don’t want any part of such practices. The industry must be utter rubbish when such tactics are used to sell their product. They even use public relations companies to improve their image while still manipulating us with their half-truths & misleading propaganda with hundreds of billions of dollars a stake.

    “Partly because the entire anti-nuclear case ultimately depends on low level radiation being dangerous…..”

    This is definitely NOT so. There are several examples included on BNC of additional failures of nuclear power. It is a multiple failure of scientific & engineering that is easily capable of embarrassing the entire industry. It is even founded on flawed principles, where it has been known for a decades that the Rutherford – Bohr model of the atom is pure fiction. It is still being used ONLY as a convenient theoretical model for the public but has NO resemblance to reality.

    “that figure is obtained by calculating using the LNT theory & is therefore not proof of itself – in fact the long term life expectancy in Hiroshima & Nagasaki is better than average….”

    I have adequately covered in the given links recently, the likely reason why the LNT is still being used. It is a significant health issue, & more consistent & repeatable evidence has to be produced to convince the BEIR committee (d). But they are still prepared to consider more research into hormesis (e). Some ‘official sources’ cannot be ignored.

    “Until 1950, it was believed that there was a ‘threshold dose’ of radiation exposure, below which no harm would occur. Then the industry & its regulators decided to accept the safety-first concept of there being no really safe dose level. That is an extremely prudent assumption, that carries with it important considerations for the way in which society at large is ordered, as humans live within a naturally radioactive environment, not just how safety in the nuclear industry should be managed.”

    “As a result of the vast expenditure at Sellafield, routine discharges of radioactive materials to the environment, (land, sea & air) are now (1996) less than 1% of the levels reached at their peak during the 1970’s. Well over 300,000 curies a year were released at one stage, & was considered safe by the regulatory authorities at that time.”

    “But active & toxic materials like plutonium must be completely enclosed & prevented from reaching employees even in the smallest amounts. This has not always been possible to achieve.”
    “For the industry workforce, there has been a reduction from 15 rems a year in the early 1950’s to 5 rems a year now, while BNFL voluntarily operates a stricter regime prompted by the Gardner report in 1990. Although the earlier 15 rem limit now looks far too high, it was exceeded fairly frequently in the early days of the industry, usually due to unplanned incidents rather than routine operations.
    Despite the best efforts of the regulators, unplanned incidents do & will occur.” H. Bolter 1996

    Even the US EPA has stated:

    “ It should be pointed out that radiation effects, including carcinogenesis, have been reported at doses 2 to 100 times the annual background dose for both high & low LET radiation. Chromosome aberrations & other radiation effects which, if not health effects per se, are closely related, have also been reported at dose-rates slightly above background & in areas of high-level background for high & low LET radiations.”

    (a) https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/19/radiation-facts-fallacies-and-phobias/#comment-101696 (The case of Bill Sherwin & plutonium injury)
    (b) https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/06/18/21c-nuclear-renaissance/#comment-92269
    (Peter Bradford & Laurie Garret)
    (c) The Myths of August by S. Udall
    (d) http://health.dailynewscentral.com/content/view/0001165/48
    (e) http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/reports-in-brief/beir_vii_final.pdf (see ‘Research Needs’ on last page)


  269. Regular commenters here do not usually condescend to reply to the garbled nonsense you usually post here Macca, but the following strikes me as having sufficient comedic value for me to indulge myself this once:

    This is definitely NOT so. There are several examples included on BNC of additional failures of nuclear power. It is a multiple failure of scientific & engineering that is easily capable of embarrassing the entire industry. It is even founded on flawed principles, where it has been known for a decades that the Rutherford – Bohr model of the atom is pure fiction. It is still being used ONLY as a convenient theoretical model for the public but has NO resemblance to reality.

    So you’ve edified us with the revelation that the Rutherford and Bohr models of atomic structure are not the latest in thinking on nuclear physics. Thanks so much for that insight, Macca, We’re eternally indebted to you for that.

    If you’re in the mood for a really far out head trip, google quantuum chromodynamics. Should be a real eye-opener.


  270. Machiavelli my assertion that organisations do not litely admit to bebeing massively wrong for decades did not specify any organisations & was thus not abuse. I think it will be evident to anybody putting a few seconds thought into it that it is generally true. Though, since you deny it, you should certainly, if being honest, be able to give a couple of examples of byureaucracies erver, lightly, saying that. Or not as the case may be.

    Your reply to my remark is, obviously, nothing but the “abuse & denial” which, if you are in any way honest, we have your word you never engage in..

    The entire anto-nuclear case does indeed depend on low level radiation being dangerous (LNT hypothesis) since the minor measurement errors, far lower than measurement errors allowed in any other industry, being assumed dangerous depend on there being danger. I can only agree with Finrod about your astonishment in finding that physics have moved on in the last 60 years.

    Your assertion that LNT is true is simply to say because it is so, & those with political power say so, so there. I challenge you to produce some credible experimental evidence for it, something which nobody else in the world has been able to do. Through my links I have produced a vast amount for the Hormesis, which says it is beneficial. That is how science works.


  271. On the US based social-media list run by Dan Yurman, this was recently poisted as related to US standards on “Radon”.

    The radioactivity of a liquid is measured in picocuries per liter (a liter is a little more than a quart). The proposed US regulatory limit for the radium level in tap water, for example, is 5 picocuries/liter, and 300 picocuries/liter for radon in tap water. Nuclear plant discharge water is only about 10, in contrast. Whiskey (1,200 picocuries/liter), beer (1,300), milk (1,400), and salad oil (5,000) all have far greater radioactivity levels than one might expect. And the natural radioactivity levels of some health spa waters can be as high as 300,000!


  272. Finrod, on 27 November 2010 at 4:06 PM

    “So you’ve edified us with the revelation that the Rutherford and Bohr models of atomic structure are not the latest in thinking on nuclear physics.”

    I am referring to the general idea of atomic structure (having electrons, protons & neutrons) that is still being used today, even though that concept is false. Modern science has fallen into the same trap when epicycles were invented to explain planetary movement in Aristotle’s day. The theory was surprisingly good at predicting positions of the known planets & our moon, but it eventually was shown to be totally wrong. Likewise with some current theories. But I will leave it there, as you do not seem to be any frame of mind to consider alternatives, but prefer to ridicule with your “garbled nonsense” claim. Is that how to counter scientifically? Apparently, you are one of those who will need to learn the hard way.

    Neil Craig, on 27 November 2010 at 8:23 PM

    “my assertion that organizations do not lightly admit……”

    You were still making a very broad criticism against a large body of professionals, (while deliberately not naming any of them) suggesting they were boofheads or worse. That still isn’t acceptable.

    “The entire anti-nuclear case does indeed depend on low level radiation being dangerous….”

    There has been ample evidence provided on BNC of the basic 5 objections to nuclear power not being adequately rebutted. There is more out there. You are acting like an unmovable ‘flat-earther’.

    “Your assertion that LNT is true is simply to say because it is so….”

    That’s not correct. You obviously haven’t read my earlier reference links. I have used the BEIR VII report to justify my current stand, & if you noticed, I have even allowed for a possible hormesis effect & commented on it.

    For the time being, until better consistent evidence is produced to modify BEIR commissioners, the LNT model is the best one to use. To do otherwise is irresponsible.


  273. Broader than that Mac. I hereby assert that it is general condition of the human race that people do not readily admit to talking out of their arses for long periods. If you wish a specific example check the mirror. I note that despite denyong that this is true you have been unable to find significant evidence of counter examples.

    As regards your claim that the anti-nuclear case does not largely depend on small levels of radiation being dangerous & that I was wrong to accuse you of merely making assertions without being able to produce any specific evidence you merely assert I am wrong without giving any7 specific evidence.

    If you wish to produce actual evidence here I am perfectly willing to knock it down.


  274. David Walters, on 28 November 2010 at 2:31 AM said

    “The proposed US regulatory limit for the radium level in tap water, for example, is 5 picocuries/liter, and 300 picocuries/liter for radon in tap water. Nuclear plant discharge water is only about 10, in contrast.”

    10 pCi/L? …..Oh sure! Maybe under the best of conditions, but not while there are serious leaks. This highlights a feature many people have objected to about nuclear power. Equipment will always break down, while fallible humans have anything to do with it. It isn’t possible for everybody in the industry to be alert all the time & do the right thing. Therefore failures will continue to occur. Why do you think many residents wanted the Vermont Yankee plant to close?



  275. did the leak get into drinking water? what was the dose in millirem?

    you can’t explain the non correlation between variation in natural background radiation and cancer incidence. you just bombard people with unconvincing half arguments and multiple links that don’t answer the key questions.

    you cite harvey wasserman: “Vermont’s radioactive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    I’m totally convinced by that.


  276. Neil Craig – The Continuing Use of Unscientific Criticism

    “Your reply to my remark is, obviously, nothing but the “abuse & denial” which, if you are in any way honest, we have your word you never engage in.”

    You accuse me of failing to include examples when in fact they have been added in previous entries. Now you imply I have used abuse & denial without YOU giving the example where it was done. I do not go out of my way to use personal abuse or unsupported denial.

    “Your assertion that LNT is true is simply to say because it is so, & those with political power say so, so there. I challenge you to produce some credible experimental evidence for it, something which nobody else in the world has been able to do. “

    I accept the BEIR VII view on hormesis until it is proven false. I have already provided supportive evidence, using indirect examples. If you feel so strongly about it, why don’t you write to the BEIR Committee & submit your links to them, asking them for their best evidence on the hormesis rejection?

    “Through my links I have produced a vast amount for the Hormesis, which says it is beneficial. That is how science works.”

    I could also say I have submitted significant links to support the opposite view. As it happens however, the BEIR VII committee is currently NOT supporting hormesis. You really need to SHOW why their approach is incorrect. They have had access to previous hormesis evidence & have not found it convincing enough yet, but have still recommended further research in that area, so they can hardly be regarded as having a closed mind. You have already indicated your one-sided opinion about them. Let the readers decide how rational & scientific your attitude really is.

    You seem to have a misunderstanding of how good science is supposed to work. Bludgeoning people with insults, abuse or unreasonable denial isn’t going to work. There is a systematic vetting procedure involved (preferably by independent researchers having no financial connection to the nuclear industry) before evidence can be confirmed & accepted.

    “But what convinces scientists most of all is lab-to-lab reproducibility. Consistency between independent experimental results & consistency with theory, over time, usually carries the day in science.” P. Chambers Ph.D.


    “In science, if other scientists are to take conclusions seriously, it is essential to describe the methodology of what was done to reach them in detail.” P. Chambers Ph.D.

    Several key references have already been included earlier in this column as evidence for generalised potential harm to humans from low-level radiation. In order to minimise repetition, I have assumed you have read those previous entries before you have responded – but apparently you have not. Or perhaps you do not understand their significance.

    The LNT assumption is well supported above a certain dose rate. The questionable zone is the very low region. Adequate evidence of risk has been given for this zone, where the more vulnerable people will more likely be affected. It looks like you do not understand the subtleties of these effects.

    “I can only agree with Finrod about your astonishment in finding that physics has moved on in the last 60 years.”

    Another example of an incorrect interpretation designed to malign me. If you return to my statement, you will not find anything about being ‘astonished’ at physics having advanced, but I was instead just drawing attention to the inaccurate electron, proton nuclear atomic structure model which is STILL BEING USED. I suggest you cease adding additional false interpretations of people’s statements to suit your own unbalanced critical agenda & pay more attention to what is actually said.

    “I hereby assert that it is a general condition of the human race that people do not readily admit to talking out of their arses for long periods. If you wish a specific example check the mirror.”

    “ridicule is not a legitimate tool of honest skeptics” Joel M. Kauffman

    Yes, scientists have human failings, but your approach is still a completely incorrect attitude to take in any scientific discussion & is a certain recipe for failure. If you do not understand that, then you had better leave the subject alone. It is causing you to start insulting people which isn’t acceptable either. Just because pro-nukes submit results for hormesis that conveniently support their case, doesn’t mean they can be, or should be automatically accepted without independent verification, especially in view of the known previous examples of rigged studies & falsified figures.

    “I note that despite denying that this is true you have been unable to find significant evidence of counter examples.”

    Wrong again. Many examples of harm from low radiation have been given from a variety of sources, which collectively has adequate weight. Here is some more evidence (a, b). You are just ignoring them & using invalid criticism instead. If you guys are backing the wrong horse, than that is hardly my fault.

    “As regards your claim that the anti-nuclear case does not largely depend on small levels of radiation being dangerous & that I was wrong to accuse you of merely making assertions without being able to produce any specific evidence you merely assert I am wrong without giving any specific evidence.”

    As I have said earlier, adequate evidence has already been given in the Five Main objections to nuclear power, so that the combined weight of all the disadvantages becomes significant. The PM has recently used an economic argument to reject nuclear power & not radiation.

    “If you wish to produce actual evidence here I am perfectly willing to knock it down.”

    Here is the classic admission of unscientific denialism, where before even considering any new evidence, you are boasting you can destroy it. Is that your idea of good science?

    If it was good enough for a former Sellafield director to view occupational radiation exposure as important…….

    “Then the industry & its regulators decided to accept the safety-first concept of there being no really safe dose level. That is an extremely prudent assumption…..” H. Bolter

    …..then why would you object to his caution? Hasn’t he had far more experience working in the nuclear industry than yourself?

    “But even though he believes the data now strongly favours the “no-threshold” hypothesis, Monson said he expects that “some minds will be changed, while others will not.” (c)

    Having openly confirmed your unbalanced rigid views about radiation effects, then I suggest you go & live in a country that has nuclear power – you should be very happy. Let Australians try some new ideas.

    The ‘White Light, Black Rain’ casualties are more likely to be derived from just the known survivor data-base. Don’t forget however, the US performed some nuclear bomb tests in the 1980’s to learn more about the likely radiation strength from the WWII bombs, & found their 1950’s estimates were a bit too low. So the population was likely subjected to greater radiation levels than expected. Furthermore, the survivor data-gathering has been upset (d), & don’t forget the age difference for radiation tolerance (e).

    (a) http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg17723770.200-background-radiation-enough-to-trigger-cancer.html (May have to subscribe to view it or visit a public library for the magazine)
    (b) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19923647
    (c) http://health.dailynewscentral.com/content/view/0001165/48 (bottom of page)
    (d) http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/Radiation-Threshold-Gofman20jun94.htm
    (e) http://www.ippnw.org/Resources/MGS/V1N1Scholz.html


  277. greg meyerson, on 5 December 2010 at 2:16 PM said:

    “you can’t explain the non correlation between variation in natural background radiation and cancer incidence. you just bombard people with unconvincing half arguments and multiple links that don’t answer the key questions.” GM

    You couldn’t be looking too closely. Several included links have shown a link between low-level radiation & ill-effects in health. Even the KiKK study has been accepted by the German govt as being adequately done.

    “and by t
    he way, solartopia is close to the dumbest book ever written” GM

    I have never made any comment on that book. You’re confusing me with someone else.


  278. Mac asserts in his long, obfuscating but void of any new fact, post that he disapproves of “abuse & denial” having previously asserted tbhe nuclear industry “reeks of varying levels of evasion, dishonesty & carelessness” & still rests his entire denial of hormesis not on a criticism of the overwhelming evidence but on the grounds that people he supports rely on it so there.

    Once again I ask him to produce some actual scientific evidence for the official LNT theory rather than just saying it has been discussed elsewhere. Science is a matter of examining evidence. As with most frauds carried out in the name of “science” I do not expect Mac to produce real evidence but am open to being proven wrong.


  279. Neil Craig, on 6 December 2010 at 12:20 AM said:

    “……but void of any new fact……..& still rests his entire denial of hormesis……….”

    You still seem to be missing the details. There have been FOUR NEW relevant links included above (5 Dec) to support low-level radiation harm, while in an earlier entry (24 Nov – 2 sub-links), I openly allowed for a possible hormesis effect & added why it won’t likely help the nuclear industry. So I am NOT denying hormesis outright, but just saying if it is good enough for BEIR to reject it for the moment, then that is acceptable to me.

    “Once again I ask him to produce some actual scientific evidence for the official LNT theory rather than just saying it has been discussed elsewhere.”

    “…….I do not expect Mac to produce real evidence…….”

    In the interests of minimising repetition, it is better to refer back to previously added links – & they ARE there – from a variety of sources. Perhaps you had better get started on your letter to the BEIR Committee, as that seems to be the only way to provide the best evidence.


  280. Mac none of these links prove anything you say. They all simply assume LNT & thu8s “prove” it. One is deliberately dishonest in claiming the Hiroshima/Nagasaki long term results support LNT when in fact they show a lower cancer incidence than elsewhere in Japan. One of them is an interview in which the author says he predicted 475,000 liong term deaths from Chernobyl using LNT but doesn’t point out that zero have been detected statistically.

    Your claim that Hormesis & LNT could both be true is clearly disingenous since they are exact opposites. If there is even a tiny hormesis effect no damage could be LINEAR & thus not LNT.

    At the risk of repitition “Once again I ask him to produce some actual scientific evidence for the official LNT theory rather than just saying it has been discussed elsewhere. Science is a matter of examining evidence. As with most frauds carried out in the name of “science” I do not expect Mac to produce real evidence but am open to being proven wrong.”


  281. greg meyerson, on 5 December 2010 at 2:16 PM said:

    “did the leak get into drinking water? what was the dose in millirem?

    The concern is that the leaks have gone too far into groundwater, possibly threatening drinking water sources, not to mention the inadequate pipe repairs & denials of there being pipes below the plant anyway. What seems to be forgotten is that both deuterium & tritium in their water forms, do not support organic life like H2O does. Therefore it is a potential pollutant, when ingested, having both a chemical AND radioactive means of disrupting cellular processes.



  282. I just heard that canadian nuclear plants plan to release billions of picocuries of dangerous tritium poisons into our beloved atmosphere.

    how can anyone support this dangerous technology!

    because it spews millions of piconanos into the atmosphere (beloved).

    one drop of tritium is a lethal dose. don’t take my word for it. Here’s Theodore Rockwell, a nuclear pioneer:

    It may be physiologically impossible to kill someone with tritium. In the body, it generally takes the form of water, and the lethal dose calculates to be something like 100 gallons per day—not an easy diet!


  283. Finrod, on 7 December 2010 at 6:58 PM

    I HAVE provided a straight answer in a brief entry. The links speak for themselves. Any mrems are unknown at this stage. Just from first principles however, we wonder how you guys can justify releasing ANY amounts of foreign, radioactive molecules into the environment when no long-term experience has been gained in assessing their biological effects when ingested? Nuclear power will NOT be the last remaining base-load option. There have been too many known poisons been recklessly released over the decades. We don’t think it is very bright to continue with nuclear power when it has far too many suspect features. If there is concern about small amounts of chemicals in our food, why aren’t we allowed to object to un-natural tritium in the environment?



  284. @ Macca:

    There’s a concern about possible cancer risk from food colouring agents, therefore we shouldn’t use nuclear power.

    Nice one. Now why didn’t this eminently reasonable objection occur to me before?


  285. “Any mrems are unknown at this stage.”

    If your natural water in a particular part of the world contains tritium at a certain natural concentration (it varies a little from place to place), we know how much water an average person drinks, and assuming that all their water comes from that place, we know how much tritium they consume and what the corresponding committed effective dose is. (in millirems or microsieverts or whichever unit you would like to pick.)

    Tritium has one of the lowest radiotoxicities of any radionuclide.


    The Committed Effective Dose Equivalent for ingestion of tritiated water is 1.73 * 10^-11 Sv/Bq of ingested tritium.

    The limit set in the US for any tritium in water, according to the Safe Drinking Water Act, is 740 Bq/L.

    So, if you’ve got 740 Bq/L, and you drink, say, 1000 litres of water per year (that’s a nice round number made up on the spot, if you would like to figure out some more accurate number please do) you get a dose of 1.28 millirem per year.

    The total average background radiation dose for people from all sources is something like, roughly, 300 millirem per year – although this has quite a lot of variance associated with it from place to place, and in some place