Fukushima Philosophical Discussion Open Thread

It was suggested in a comment — and I agree — that the previous open threads on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident were becoming difficult to read, because they are such a mixture of technical details and philosophical discourse. That is, it’s generally a bad idea to cater to two different audiences in one comment thread. So, I will split them up.

Please keep all dialogue here to general and philosophical discussions on nuclear power, its benefits and limitations, its alternatives, history, media treatment of the FD accident, your views on how the world should work and why people should listen to you, etc., etc. Nothing technical please — leave that for the other FD open thread.

Besides the above guidelines, the other rules of the Open Threads on BNC apply. Read here for details.

To kick this discussion off, here is a recent interview I did (late last week) with Mike Worsman of “Our World Today“. The cover story is entitled:

Japan’s near meltdown – not all bad for future of nuclear

The interview goes on for 10 minutes, and there is a cover story at this link that is also worth reading.

You can also listen to me on ABC National Radio’s “Rear Vision” programme, broadcast today, talking (with along with 3 other folks) on The history of nuclear power.

Okay, let’s hear your views on what it all means…


  1. There’s a striking asymmetry between those who say renewables should dominate the energy mix and those who advocate nuclear. The latter are not hostile towards renewables merely unconvinced it can do the job. However it seems most in the renewables camp are actively hostile towards nuclear.

    Thus the recurring question is who are the bigger dreamers? Sometimes I think people are clutching at straws when they say some minor renewable technology is ready for primetime. For example enthusiasts for dry rock geothermal seem to deny the mounting evidence that it will disappoint. But mass produced IFR and LFTR also seem equally nebulous at this stage. Maybe an each way bet is in order. Make that a three way bet with the possibility the human race will never return to late 20th century levels of consumption.


  2. I am an American living in Japan (roughly a safe 300 KM south from the Fukushima plants) and have thus, of course, been following the news closely. I have family in the U.S. who are extremely worried and encouraging me to leave the country, at least in part I believe due to the type of coverage the Fukushima plants are receiving. As Barry states in his interview, this event has motivated me to do a lot of reading and learning about radiation, nuclear power, and climate change. I know way more about nuclear power and radiation than I did a short two weeks ago. Much of that new knowledge is thanks to this site. Thank you Barry for this site and the information that can be obtained from it.

    I have a couple of questions that I think belong here in the philosophical thread. If they are more appropriate in the technical thread maybe they can be posted there?

    In making a concerted effort to invest more energy into nuclear technologies in order to move away from the use of coal, how realistic is it to consider technologies such as sodium cooled fast reactors and/or thorium power? It seems, from what I’ve read so far, that both of these technologies and their reactor designs are a big jump forward from the current slow reactor technology. Or, maybe this is the direction the industry is already headed in?

    Is the hope that spent fuel from slow reactors can someday in the future be utilized in fast reactors? Reading about fast reactors on the Scientific American website makes it sound like they are much more efficient in terms of utilizing the energy contained in the fuel as well as being much safer.

    And, does anyone have links to reliable studies about the effects of radiation on health? I’ve scoured the web (Google scholar etc.) and found studies ranging from those that attempt to establish a direct link to background levels of radiation and cancer to those that suggest that low levels of background radiation may even be good for you…?

    Thanks again to Barry for all of the level headed fact based information.


  3. The recent Fukushima incident is certainly a big set back for the potential uptake of Nuclear in Australia. What I have noticed in the ‘opinion piece’ over news era is a lot of former opponents have quickly claimed: ‘I was considering it, but now I definitely know it’s bad!’ Ironically these statements are not made with knowledge of the full diagnosis of the situation, but rather a few days after the media scrum (including the ABC who happily called it a ‘Nuke Plant’ in many cases) who were initially barracking for a meltdown in some cases, lost all interest.

    I think the repressed opposition from most Green groups against nuclear power resonates from antipathy towards the industrialised society it would continue to back. With the status quo maintained, then natural forest degradation, big corporations pushing the ecological limits and threats to biodiversity will not necessarily be solved by replacing Coal/Gas with statistically safer baseload technology. Were it possible to re-frame the debate and bring this to the forefront, it would be good.

    If a cap is put in place, and we cannot meet our energy needs from renewables, then I doubt some would actually care, but rather see it as a victory in their own frame of common sense. More likely of course, as has been argued ad nauseam, is that we will continue to burn fossil fuels having a detrimental effect on the environment. The issue then would be a mechanism whereby penalties are placed on technologies that fall well behind nameplate value or certain reliability constraints, thus favouring nuclear.


  4. John Newlands towards the top. To be fair one would only be anti-nuclear if you were concerned about weapons and accidents. If you take the FoE line then indeed it is nasty stuff, and therefore you’d be pretty hostile.

    Even if you are a fan of nuclear there is not much about renewables to get worked up about (other than them being pretty much a waste of money). Certainly some do get worked up about this, but essentially there is nothing about being pro-nuclear that would want you to have renewables banned from having a chance to compete… wheras again if you are anti-nuclear it HAS to be because it is a nightmare waiting to happen.


  5. Barry – good idea on the split, however there is a lot of media at present about this radioactive water etc, and personally I’d appreciate another update/summary on the situation rather than sift through comments – quite time consuming if you are not involved or reading regularly.


  6. Sean De Boo, on 30 March 2011 at 2:12 PM said:

    … including the ABC who happily called it a ‘Nuke Plant’ in many cases

    Newsradio headline this morning Radioactivity from Japan discovered in Europe. The subsequent detail referred to the Philippines, South Korea and China. We should take up a collection to buy Auntie an Atlas ;)

    WRT to Climate Change it doesn’t matter much what Australia does, what matters is what the Large Developing Economies (LDE’s eg India, China, Indonesia) do

    Australia would reduce CO2, CH4 etc to a greater extent if it focused on developing skills, services & technologies that have relevance in the LDE’s. Rather than wasting its financial, political, intellectual and emotional energies arguing over this tax or that tax and the merits of flaky ETS’s. The only people who’ll benefit from those things are bankers, hedgers &lawyers.


  7. A weird situation is emerging with some nuclear supporters out-greening FoE heavyweights. We have Geoff Russell here a vegan and Podargus a net PV exporter. In my own case I’ve kept my electricity bills down to about $60 total over 3 years and I make my most of my car fuel from used veg oil. It’s clear to me that these forms of energy are small niches that won’t drive the wider economy. I wonder why it is that some have such visceral opposition to nuclear they distort the evidence.


  8. One reason that we need to build lots of identical small reactors in a very repeatable fashion in factories, is so that we can crash test a random sample in various ways (on an uninhabited Antarctic Ocean island).


  9. Jason Hollowell, on 30 March 2011 at 2:10 PM said:
    “I have family in the U.S. who are extremely worried and encouraging me to leave the country, at least in part I believe due to the type of coverage the Fukushima plants are receiving.”

    If you are feeling homesick get on the next plane but don’t think for a moment that you are in any kind of danger owing to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

    This may be a disaster for TEPCO but not for people.


  10. I really hate to say this….at 47 years old, no kids, and happy.

    This hearkens back to a cool early-1980s road-trip conversation I had with a now-Emeritus Professor of ecology/evolutionary biology.

    It was about 3 years after the 3 Mile Island situation. I was aware no one had been hurt, much less killed. One of my older-than-average parents had been a secretary at the U of Chicago chem. dept. in the 1950s……

    My prof was basically anti-nuclear —– but at least he had solidly taught population theory and he had taught that humans are the ONLY species that is not following classical population dynamics.

    I understood his position but believed nuclear had relatively few risks overall. I kind-a supported nuclear energy and I still do….

    I am an only child who has chosen to have NO children as of 47, through entirely natural and CHURCH-supported means. (yes, this means YOU if you’re reading this!!!!!!)

    That is my right and let me also say that it is the PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY that I have taken toward Earth’s finite resources. (credits????? NE1???? Gimme gimme…………… haha lulz…)

    I favor nuclear energy…..but only as a means for a sort of planned-prosperity where human population growth is managed rationally.

    I’m gonna come out here and say that I DO NOT favor nuclear energy if it’s a mechanism to degrade natural resources like forest land, timberland etc.

    The radiation releases @Fukushima are basically at a hazard level that concerns workers rather than the public. I am not worried about the Fukushima isotopes except as fun projects for far-flung physics departments to do……

    By the way….radioactive minerals are really fun to collect using low-level counting equipment.


  11. I have stayed away from many debates, but surely the pro-nuclear excessive extremism “civilisation-will-collapse-without-nuclear” expressed on the earlier thread, and the notion of “sufficient safety” seem to underlay exactly the same sort of mentality used by the tobacco lobby and BP oil-rig engineers.

    On top of this it is now becoming clear that sufficient and serious warnings about Fukushima’s exposure to risk were raised but – because of a mentality – were not acted on.

    Similarly, the terrorism is not taken seriously, because we get a blockage based on the same mentality.

    I feel that a AP1000 nuclear reactor with a shell thickness of 0.9 metre over a span of 43 metres is probably strong enough to drive a car over but not resist a terrorist attack. As any military historian will tell you, concrete defences against even basic WWI ordnance needed to be (and were) thicker than 0.9 metres.

    In essense, the mentality is to exaggerate the positive and downplay the negative, and not look at all alternatives in a balanced manner (because of this). This leads to a self-perpetuating mentality that drives wedges thoughout society.
    Nonuke – you are skating on thin ice here with some of your excessive adjectives and accusatory comments and assumptions about motives and mentality.BNC likes to avoid this and keep the discussion civil even on the Open Threads. You are also expressing opinion as fact without any back-up references.Even philosophers can cite sources to back up opinion.Please check the BNC Commenting Rules before posting again.


  12. I feel that a AP1000 nuclear reactor with a shell thickness of 0.9 metre over a span of 43 metres is probably strong enough to drive a car over but not resist a terrorist attack.

    In matters of engineering, calculation with accurate numbers is usually a better guide than feeling.


  13. Finrod, on 30 March 2011 at 5:19 PM:

    Demonstrates the mentality I am concerned about. Is it appropriate to understand the nature of a terrorist attack by such unsubstatiated comments as:

    “calculation with accurate numbers is usually a better guide than feeling”

    when NO such “calcuation with accurate numbers” was referenced.

    In fact when you chop wood with an axe, or open a milk carton, based on previous experience one knows what the relative amount of force is, based on the nature of the problem.

    Based on the experience of WWI and the damage done by even small bombs in London streets during the blitz, plus the damage by the Oklahoma bomber, and the relatively small charges used to break huge concrete girders when buildings are demolished, – it appears that without “calculation with accurate numbers”, a thin reinforced shell, 0.9metres thick – spanning 43 metres, with no flying buttresses, would be easily dealt with by deliberate terrorist attack.

    However within the concrete dome, there is a steel containment vessel, which at 4.44 cm, which may not be breeched by falling concrete. But surely it will be buckled,.

    In a war zone, AP1000’s will be easily blown apart by any common artillery, or shoulder-launched missiles.

    Terrorism is a negative that must be kept in mind.


  14. Thanks for your continued great work Barry. Heard you this am on the history of nuclear power. Couldn’t come at the bloke [final speaker] who was quite sure that the number of operating reactors world wide would stay around the 440 mark in coming years. I guess that means the 67 under construction will never make it to production. Why do apparently sane people make such stupid statements? I posted on Annabelle Quince’s blog to that effect. Just heard two wave power enthusiasts on P Adams LNL singing the praises of that technology and claiming it could deliver base load power. Can’t see that myself and told Phillip in an email 20 minutes ago. Perhaps someone here can correct me if I’m wrong on that score. Any ideas Barry?


  15. Not surprised that the German environmentalists are upset. they’ve gone from a nuclear phase out position late last year to a keep nuclear going again and now following Fukushima have gone back to a phase out [of sorts ]position. Talk about confused. I’d like to know what technology they’ll adopt if they turn off their 23.8% nuclear contribution.


  16. Translation of the german Wikipedia front page citation of Barry Brook:

    “The Australian environment scientist Barry Brook calls for further development of nuclear power also in Germany, even after the reactor accidents in Japan.”


  17. Terry Krieg, on 30 March 2011 at 5:53 PM said

    Why do apparently sane people make such stupid statements?

    Because of their fixed mindset or restricted view.

    Similar problems arose when vaccination was proposed,it was proposed to ban nicotine, and asbestos.

    Commercial pressures are part of the problem.

    But a willingness to run-the-risk, is also pertinent.

    Japanese regulators, knew there was a risk of tsunami, but presumably decided it was not worth moving Fukushima.

    Similarly American reactors near faultlines, have a risk, but this can be minimised by selective assumptions. A 1 in a thousand year event – is one such phrase I have heard.

    But people are like this. People still build houses on known floodplains in full knowledge that death may result. People should be allowed to accept risk if it does not impact on others.

    But with nuclear – the consequences of risk-taking by some, creates damage on many innocent others.


  18. @ nonukepower, on 30 March 2011 at 5:52 PM:

    I am a civil and structural engineer. Clearly, NoNukes is not. When calculating the capacity of a structure to absorb impact, the unit used is NOT “axe blows” . As for the observation that there are no flying buttresses in his version of a notional nuclear reactor, well, mate… flying buttresses are usually seen in masonry construction, say cathedrals and the like. Certainly not steel structures, or reinforced concrete structures, whether domed or not. At almost a metre thick and only 43 metres wide, the dome is quite possible massively strong.. I hold back only because I don’t know how much reinforcement is in it and other salient structural details.

    Clearly, for some, hunches are valued much higher than actual real world knowledge.

    It’s clear that NoNukes is trusting his hunch and the observation that the hypothetical power station is not constructed like a medieval cathedral.

    This is precisely what Finrod pulled him up for.

    Finrod, you are on safe ground. Trust numbers, not hunches.


  19. nonukepower:

    You are concerned about risk, but I would suggest that your averse attitude to nuclear plants could be based upon an greatly exaggerated opinion of the consequences of a nuclear accident. These have to be considered as well as the probability of the accident occurring in the first place.

    You state that “with nuclear – the consequences of risk taking by some, creates damage on many innocent others.” Do you consider that this damage is significantly greater than that consequential upon accidents or harm associated with other types of energy technology?

    Might I invite you to read the following link and then return here and explain exactly what you’re frightened of?



  20. @ nonukepower:

    Here is an article detailing the NRC’s approval of the AP 1000 with regard to impacts by large aircraft.


    As I have said previously, if someone has the right equipment and manpower, and is absolutely determined to breach the core of a nuclear reactor, they can certainly do so, but you have to make some rather unrealistic assumptions to create such a hypothetical situation.


  21. nonukepower

    Finrod is right; if someone has the right equipment and manpower, and is determined, they can breach a core of a commercial nuclear reactor.

    However I do not see any realistic basis for having to make some “unrealistic assumptions” (?!) to create such a hypothetical situation.

    Real world politics gives you enough examples. If armies blow-up oil wells damage is done. If armies blow up dams, damage is done.

    But if armies blow up nukes – huge damage goes on and on and on.

    Finrod’s link about aircraft inmpact just goes to a third party report that someone else has made this judgement with no details at all.

    This is not sufficient.


  22. Barry,
    Your statement that it will not be possible for Australia to reduce present GHG by 60% by 2050 is clearly wrong. You may have meant that the lowest cost option would be to generate a substantial proportion of electricity by nuclear power, Fukushima has certainly increased the costs of building new nuclear and will probably exclude future sites close to large urban populations, Australia cannot wait until a time that nuclear is politically acceptable to start reducing GHG emissions, and it seems that renewables can make a significant contribution


  23. @ Neil Howes:

    Fukushima has certainly increased the costs of building new nuclear and will probably exclude future sites close to large urban populations

    That will only occur if the wrong lessons are drawn from this incident. There is a growing cadre of voices not willing to be the passive victims of history. Not this time around.


  24. Barry,
    …….continuing from above; The low risk option would be to plan for a mix of low carbon electricity from nuclear, wind solar and geothermal with natural gas providing the balance. If newer generation III reactors prove to have a much better reliability than those built 30-40 years ago, and solar costs remain very high I would expect that nuclear may account for up to half of the low carbon component.
    The danger from nuclear reactor meltdowns is not the small increase in radiation its the economic cost and investment risk. Too many reactor accidents have been caused or made much worse by stupid human errors that have the potential to cause catastrophic economic losses.


  25. Neil, ‘can’ does not mean ‘will’, or even ‘might’. In theory, yes, renewables might allow Australia to reach a 60% reduction in GHG by 2050. In practice, my judgement is that they won’t even get us 20% of the way there, for a range of technical and economic reasons. But I’ll be happy to be proven wrong. I just don’t want to be proven right, for climate change’s sake.

    As to whether Fukushima will increase the cost of new nuclear power, that is a topic for another day. I don’t think it will, but to justify that statement, I’ll need to lay out my arguments carefully — in some future BNC post.


  26. >”IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said, “It is vitally important that we learn the right lessons from what happened on 11 March, and afterwards, in order to strengthen nuclear safety throughout the world” (WNN)

    I would hope that by “strengthen … safety” he does not mean “more stringent
    limits”. It strikes me that the exceptional rigidity of the legal limits,
    installed to assuage past fears, is partly to blame for inflaming the current
    public fear.

    For example, it was a legal requirement that the nukes shut down automatically
    during the quake. Seconds later, with all status checked, the nukes could have
    restarted, even if only internal to the power station. Not only would they
    have been providing basic power to the site, they would also have been burning
    the xenon (Xe-135) backlog, averting the accumulation of the long-lived Cs-135.
    A similar off-on would have made the visit of the tsunami a non-event.

    It would seem that the Fukushima nukes were damaged by previous overreaction to
    anti-nuke fears. Perhaps IAEA’s Amano can persuade world leaders to lead
    instead of react.


  27. @ Chris Warren:

    However I do not see any realistic basis for having to make some “unrealistic assumptions” (?!) to create such a hypothetical situation.

    Then you have already forgotten the exchange you and I have already had on this very subject where I conceded that even very well designed nuclear power plants (or any other kind of facility for that matter) cannot be expected to withstand an uninterrupted, unchallenged deliberate attack by well-equiped experts. So what? Nuclear plants cannot be made demolotion-proof. It’s not much of a point, and you will get no more out of its being conceded this time than you did last time.

    Finrod’s link about aircraft inmpact just goes to a third party report that someone else has made this judgement with no details at all.

    This is not sufficient.

    Do you doubt that the NRC actually made the determination reported therein?


  28. Finrod,
    Why would any government choose to build a new nuclear plant within 100 km of a major city? Transmission costs are a lot lower than possible costs of excluding one million residents from their homes.
    Are we not going to have sufficient battery back-up power to allow a safe shut-down(ie several weeks not several hours back-up)?
    Are we going to continue to have multiple reactors close together so that if one fails it will endanger all reactor operations?
    Are any countries going to continue to extend licensing of 40 year old reactors built a few meters above the Pacific ocean? or continue to operate any 40 year old reactors?


  29. With regards to risk, in a much more globalised world where news events are shared, if you conduct enough ventures with probabilities of 1/1000, then you will observe more incidents than 1 every 1000 years, whilst the underlying probability remains the same, it’s hard not to judge all ventures independently.

    Rather than just assess likelihood, in a risk assessment the ‘Severity’ is rated also, thus even a very unlikely severe event will still end up with a medium to high rating. Then obliging a look at risk mitigation; either by a design or operational change that can lower the risk further. This is evidenced in the design of the BWR, however the ECCS was taken out by the Tsunami. I would say it’s quite unfair to label Engineers as over confident about risks, we generally sit around all day when designing wondering ‘what happens if this valve A fails to close when tank B is’…. etc. etc. but ultimately there has to be a way to confirm a design and that involves accepting some inherent risks to achieve a desired outcome.
    This brings us to the concept ‘sufficiently safe’ and what it means to each individual… maybe it is time to quote a philosopher in this thread. Schopenhauer remarked:
    ‘Now we always find that the sphere of one concept has something in common with the sphere of other concepts. That is to say, part of what is thought under one concept is the same as what
    is thought under other concepts; and conversely, part of what is thought under these concepts is the same as what is thought under the first; although, if they are really different concepts, each of them, or at least one of them, contains something which the other does not contain; this is the relation in which every subject stands to its predicate. The recognition of this relation is called judgement.’

    Mathematical analysis makes decisions easier as concepts can logically be traced back to their predicates, we are hardly going to argue about whether a triangle has 3 sides as this is something given by the definition itself ‘a priori’, as such numerical methods are useful in a risk assessment. From the results we can compare two technologies more objectively. Now consider a concept like ‘sufficiently safety’, this clearly means different things to different people, and as we trace back any decision through the concepts to the final conception of what we consider sufficiently safe, it is highly likely we will each differ in how we do this, and the reasoning by which we find our final result.


  30. Rodger Clifton
    It would seem that the Fukushima nukes were damaged by previous overreaction to
    anti-nuke fears.

    All nuclear reactors have to be able to be safely shut down quickly for a variety of reasons. Dont try to blame anti-nuke fears on inadequate power back-up, failure to act on warnings of potential tsunami threats, multiple human errors and stuff-ups.


  31. @ Jason : the big difference between Sodium-Cooled Reactors and Molten Salt is that the former have been exploited successfully in industrial size, with real-life experience is materials behavior and even decommissionning due to premature closure of Super-Phenix. MSR are very promising but the industrial proof of concept needs to be done and regulatoy approval will be longer.

    I remain pro-nuclear, but I share nonukepower’s concern on “war proofing” the reactors. The problems is that it destroy every solid-fuel land based plant concept ! Every time fuel is solid and retain fission products for a long amount of time between refuels (up to 3 years currently or up to 60 years for Terrapower’s design), every plant is an invitation to war vulnerability. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GBU-28 for instance)
    The concepts that survive the test are :
    a) Molten Salt, because FP removal can be performed quasi continuously and fuel dissolved in salt is quite inert : blowing it will just spread some heavy metal around : messy, but not catastrophic on a large perimeter.
    b) submarine nuclear power plants because we already have some of them that have been shatttered to pieces in the ocean ( see for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Scorpion_%28SSN-589%29) with no notable environmental impact !


  32. Why would any government choose to build a new nuclear plant within 100 km of a major city? Transmission costs are a lot lower than possible costs of excluding one million residents from their homes.

    Transmission losses over distance are enough that it’s better to build as close as you can, subject to safety concerns.

    Are we not going to have sufficient battery back-up power to allow a safe shut-down(ie several weeks not several hours back-up)?

    The problem with Fukushima Dai-ichi appears to have been inafequate protection of the backup diesel generators. It would be much more economical and effective to ensure that those generators are better protected than to demand weeks of battery power storage, which suggestion frankly reeks of opportunistic over-reaction intended to shackle the industry.

    Are we going to continue to have multiple reactors close together so that if one fails it will endanger all reactor operations?

    I suggest that we wait for a proper post-accident assessment before jumping to the conclusion that reactor failure was caused by failure in neighboring reactors, rather than the multiple failures having a common root cause.

    Are any countries going to continue to extend licensing of 40 year old reactors built a few meters above the Pacific ocean? or continue to operate any 40 year old reactors?

    It seems likely, although there may be some safety upgrades performed in light of the Fukushima experience.


  33. Barry
    In practice, my judgement is that they won’t even get us 20% of the way there, for a range of technical and economic reasons.
    There are not any valid technical reasons why we cannot build a national grid connecting wind and solar power generation to replace all existing coal fired generation using OCGT as back-up and for extreme peak demand.
    You may be correct that we dont build it for economic reasons, ie burning coal is a lot cheaper than replacing with renewables and NG back-up. But doesnt this argument also apply to replacing coal fired power with nuclear and NG back-up for extreme peak demand?


  34. There are not any valid technical reasons why we cannot build a national grid connecting wind and solar power generation to replace all existing coal fired generation using OCGT as back-up and for extreme peak demand.

    Translation: “Instead of coal, we’ll burn natgas. And we’ll build a few wind turbines and put up some solar panels for decoration. Oh, and we’ll still burn some coal.”

    Of course, it wouldn’t take much to prove I’m wrong in my interpretation. All Neil has to do is point to a miffle/major modern nation with a reasonable amount of heavy industry and not abundantly blessed with hydro (like Norway) or traditional geothermal (like Iceland) which has managed to achieve the same kind of transition from coal with technosolar renewable power that France has managed with nuclear power.


  35. Neil, I’m not going to debate that point here, just as I’m not going to try and argue the hypothetical point that there are not any valid technical reasons why we can’t already have a flourishing network of colonies on the Moon. I have said it’s my judgement, and if you want to understand the reasons for it, then feel free to browse the TCASE series and other material on this blog, such as the ZCA2020 critiques, and then feel free to disagree with me.

    In the end it matters little — I will not be joining any anti-renewable picket line or arguing that investors shouldn’t be putting money on renewables. I will simply learn the lessons of history, understand the technology options available for replacing fossil fuels as best as I can, and continue arguing for a rapid and widespread uptake of nuclear energy, most especially the IFR and LFTR.


  36. I think the German situation is very interesting/sad

    Nuclear power in Germany is extremly unpopular and the Greens have done a brilliant PR job of bestowing all the usual lines of nuclear being too expensive, too dirty, too slow etc. And all that is needed is energy efficiency + renewables, yet whenever the Germans limit their nuclear contribution you see a dash to Coal. All the talk about the virtues of Nuclear Vs Renewables seems to create a situation similar to two stags with their antlers locked. I think all camps can see that coal is the enemy, lets get behind that aim. shut down coal or atleast make it binding in international law that non CCS coal plants are illegal period. Once that is inplace countries that have a Nuclear blind spot have a few hundred years before they exhaust their coal supplies or run out of CO2 storage sites and have to go nuke regardless.

    But taking a step back shouldn’t energy matters be outside of politics anyway? Why not leave it to the scientists and engineers we all can see that having religion at the core of government is a bad idea and I belive the same with energy policy.

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing if all politians got behind the same plan as this is what the science says rather than appealing to the most votes to stay in power.

    So lets take on Coal and then take on Gas.

    Which direction would Germany take without the Coal saftey net?


  37. All the talk about the virtues of Nuclear Vs Renewables seems to create a situation similar to two stags with their antlers locked.

    There is a school of thought (to which I adhere) which postulates that the political battle for the future of energy policy is not between nuclear and renewables, but between nuclear and fossil fuels, and that the renewables lobby is in fact a front for the fossil fuel lobby.

    The foremost advocate of this school of thought is Rod Adams, publisher of Atomic Insights:



  38. Unlike Finrod, I do not say “so what”.

    Nuclear plants present a risk to the extent they spread into the world’s economies.

    After all – every nation has the same right to modern technology and Westinghouse will jump at any opportunity to build a nuke at any tin-pot third world country receiving IMF, UN, or other foreign aid.

    American shareholders will jump for joy, as Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe etc all build their nukes.

    But even though there is a low probability of a successful terrorist or government attack on a nuke, even America will bomb a nuke if a opponent places their military command centre underneath.

    Rogue states have already bombed nuclear facilities and have not disavowed doing so again in the future – eg Osirak reactor in Iraq.

    So why is this “unrealistic” or “hypothetical”.

    Why is an actual bombing act, and threats of a repeat on Iran, now being placed as; “hypothetical” and unrealistic.

    I can see nonukepowers point here.

    If there is some determination that airliners will not destroy nukes, then there would be evidence. So far Finrod has not provided evidence. A NRC statement has no more relevance than a Japanese regulatory statement.

    Saying “so what” is an example of Terry Krieg’s “stupid things”.

    Reality always rings true.


  39. @ Roger Clifton, on 30 March 2011 at 8:45 PM:

    Roger is not the first person to express a thought bubble along the lines of… “If only one NPP was still generating, then that power would have been able to drive the pumps that keep the other 5 reactors safe.” He will not be the last.

    If only it was so simple.

    FIRST. Each NPP generates at 300 to 1200 MW.

    The auxiliary pumps, fans, lighting and ventilation amounts to, say, 15MW per unit.

    What would the remainder of the generated power do? Where would it go? Even a small 300MW unit would generate a couple of hundred MW too many. Gen 1 NPP’s cannot simply vent 2/3rds of their steam to atmosphere, because it is slightly raqdioactive. The unit must shut down. I have assumed that the high voltage switchyards and the transmission lines to external loads have been trashed, as appears to have been the case in Japan. 300 to 1000 MW of power would have to be simply waved away. This is impossible, of course – the unit would have to be shut down.

    SECOND. The power plant generates at perhaps 20kV. This power is passed to one or two Generator Transformers for step-up to, say, 330 kV or higher. Unfortunately, these transformers have quite probably been shaken off their foundations. If not, then at the very least, they would have tripped due to the operation of buccholtz relays and other protection devices which are designed to ensure that the transformers shut down during emergencies, rather than explode. Buccholtz relays monitor the oil surface within HV transformers. Even the smallest wave could indicate that the transformer is about to explode due to heat buildup which are forming gas pockets, so earthquakes invariably lead to transformer shutdown. There would be no way for the power plant to transmit its power to the grid, or even to the next unit or to supply its own auxiliaries. So the unit will always shut down.

    There is no reasonable alternative to shutting down every generating unit affected by a 9.0 earthquake and then restoring the capacity of the system progressively, after the quake and after careful restoration of the electrical grid.

    There is hope that future NPP’s will be better served by open circuit gas turbines or diesel generators that can come on line before the battery banks fail.

    There is hope that the power stations themselves will survive the quake, healthy enough to be re-started once connection to the grid is restored.

    There is absolutely no hope that a single nuclear power plant can remain in service after a 9.0 earthquake, or that, having miraculously having done so, that it can stay on line with its only load being the cooling water pumps, electric feed pumps and so forth related to the adjacent units in the same power station.

    I am a power station engineer with more than 30 years’ experience in the industry. While not an electrical engineer, I am absolutely sure that the above is correct.
    John – wouldn’ this comment be better in the technical thread? You will have to copy and paste to move it as we don’t have the facility to move comments.


  40. Just to make the point clearer;

    In addition to Osirak, Israel also bombed the al-Kiber nuclear reactor in 2007. I understand that Israel is chaffing-at-the-bit to repeat this exercise for the benefit of Iran.

    So exactly why do nuclear proponents call this “unrealistic” and “hypothetical” ?????

    This must be the impact of a particular mindset – surely ????


  41. If there is some determination that airliners will not destroy nukes, then there would be evidence. So far Finrod has not provided evidence. A NRC statement has no more relevance than a Japanese regulatory statement.

    So you think the NRC is pro-nuclear?


  42. Noticed this excellent letter to the editor by Geoff Russell in today’s Advertiser (Adelaide newspaper).

    Get some perspective

    PEOPLE worried by nuclear power and the Fukushima reactors need to remember that nobody has died.

    The earthquake killed people, the tsunami killed people, fires killed people, infections killed people, falling masonry killed people, but nobody has died from reactor radiation and probably nobody will.

    Likewise, nobody died at Three Mile Island and nobody got cancer despite a meltdown.

    In the last 50 years, only a single nuclear power accident has killed more than 10 people – Chernobyl. Cancers from the accident killed about 4000 people, which is rather less than the 48,000 people who die every single year in Japan from lung cancer.

    A total of three more nuclear power accidents in the past 50 years killed a total of 10 people. In the same 50 years, about 140 plane crashes each killed more than 100 people and 64 coal mining accidents killed 7887 people.

    In the 18 days since the quake, about 4230 people would been diagnosed with lung cancer in Japan, mainly from smoking.

    Also in the 18 days since the earthquake, about 28,000 Indian children under the age of five will have died because of respiratory diseases due to cooking with wood and cattle dung. Hence the Indian Government’s urgent plans for cheap nuclear power.

    It’s a safe bet that more people suffer death and serious injury each year falling off roofs while installing solar panels than will be hurt by Fukushima. Certainly pink batts in Australia are far more dangerous.

    Nuclear power is the cleanest source of power with the capacity to meet the world’s needs while giving us a fighting chance of keeping the climate relatively benign.

    GEOFF RUSSELL, St Morris.

    Well said, Geoff.


  43. @ Chris Warren:

    In addition to Osirak, Israel also bombed the al-Kiber nuclear reactor in 2007. I understand that Israel is chaffing-at-the-bit to repeat this exercise for the benefit of Iran.

    So exactly why do nuclear proponents call this “unrealistic” and “hypothetical” ?????

    Deary me. Who am I to deny such an impassioned need for an answer, as revealed by such reckless expenditure of erotemes?

    Just what would Israel get out of bombing Bushehr? It’s a light water reactor unsuited to producing weapons grade plutonium. If the Iranians want bomb material, they are far more likely to use weapons grade uranium produced in their U enrichment facilities.

    Of course, if the Israelis really want to make a point about opposition to nuclear facilities in Iran, they may try to strike soon after Bushehr is started. That would minimise any radioactive release as there would be minimal highly radioactive fission products in the core shortly after startup. They would doubtless be widely condemned by the international community if they struck after enough time had passed to ensure uncontrolled release of large quantities of highly radioactive materials. In both cases where Israel has struck reactors previously, it was prior to startup.


  44. “I think the German situation is very interesting/sad”

    The German situation is simple. we are moving out of nuclear energy. 8 German nuclear power plants have been switched of. (Neckarwestheim I, Philippsburg I , Biblis A und B (Hessen), Isar I (Bayern), Unterweser (Niedersachsen) und Brunsbüttel (Schleswig-Holstein) Krümmel bei Hamburg)

    i seriously doubt that several of them will go back online.


  45. Barry,

    Its been good of both you and George Monbiot to stick your heads above the parapet over nuclear power in the context of Fukushima. Your early responsiveness was far better than some ‘official’ nuclear information sources (I had some email interaction with them over this and some just seem to have gone MIA) coupled with your response to the mistaken statements you made. And my congratulations must be extended to the various spokespeople who have also worked to make themselves available to the media finding themselves in a situation they are perhaps not used to.

    This philosphical thread is a great idea. There are some areas I disagree with you on philosphically but they don’t worry me as I don’t take an attitude of worship to either nuclear power or renewables and there are times when I have been wrong in my thinking on both (pro and anti nuc proponents in their arguing tend to remind me of the Colliseum scene in Life of Brian).

    So what do we do now about nuclear power? By asking that what I mean is: what is the gap between fear/rejection and acceptance/getting-on-with-it in the general population and amongst policy makers and how is it to be bridged? If this has already been worked through forgive me and point me to it. It seems to me that active anti nuclear people understand this very well and is it that, on the whole, pro nuclear people dismiss people’s rejection with very few e.g. Barry, seeking to deal with it by actively going out and talking to people. Again if I’m speaking ignorantly forgive me and point me in the right direction.

    Another thing, will Fukushima prove to be an opportunity to bury old nuclear and build new nuclear (Gen IV etc) on top of it? (Plese don’t think me callous or that I’m ignoring the workers in the Fukushima plant as I type this). What do people think? If you think yes, what might be the ways we can use this terrible situation to get society at large to take a good look at new nuc and the separate issue of risk? How do we get people at large to internalise the differences between old and new nuc?

    Finally to the guy who Finrod has been arguing about on breaching an AP1000, if I was attacking a country it would depend if I was a terrorist organisation or invading army. What would I be trying to achieve: terror, a propaganda victory or a takeover or substantial damage to my enemy? Then wouldn’t it depend on how limited or extended my resources are? If I have limited resources and expend them on unsuccessfully trying to breach an AP1000 plant then I will have failed perhaps panicing the population by other means would be better, if I’m a terrorist that is. If my intention is to win a military victory might I want the power supply intact and bringing down power lines might be a smarter tactic. I could go and on but I can only see limited reasons for trying to breach an AP1000 and yes, those limited reasons awere perhaps expressed by a handfull of young men who flew planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon but I think we are now more organised to spot that ahead.


  46. “Indeed. That comment does not contradict the text you quoted.”

    we have switched of 8 (eight) nuclear power plants. we have been told for years, that it was impossible to switch them of. (in reality, Germany is exporting energy)

    when the green/SPD government was planning the phasing out of nuclear power, they were conservative about their estimate of renewables. (they expected 12% when we got something close to 17%)

    it also was not the green party that pulled the plug on those 8 plants. it was Chancellor Merkel and her conservative party. (her Minister of environment also was one of the first people who confirmed the core melt in Japan)

    there were two reasons why german decided to extent the running time of nuclear power plants last autumn: support for the big energy industry. (especially in the economic liberal FDP party). but the extension was also done, to strengthen conservative values for the many elections that happen this year. nuclear energy was perceived by the conservative parties as a way to demonstrate a difference to other parties. (especially the SPD, with which they formed a coalition government before)

    the CDU was planning to win the elections this year, by mobilisation of their conservative voters (who support nuclear energy). this plan failed.


  47. @gallopingcamel

    Thanks. Yes, no plans to head home. I did go down to Hiroshima with my family to visit a friend for a few days when the news was the loudest. Felt strange fleeing the possibility (even if it was a false possibility) of radiation in Hiroshima.

    @charles monneron

    I share your concerns about nuclear power plants being “war proof” but I thought the main concern was plutonium getting into the ‘wrong hands’ and possibly being enriched to the extent that it could be used in weapons. Hitting a bunker full of spent fuel would certainly cause a mess but it really can’t be compared to the detonation of a nuclear weapon can it? One reason for my interest in the fast reactor was/is the statement about current slow reactors (BWR) using only about 9% of the energy available in the fuel. (Ignoring MOX recycling) Seems crazy to be dealing with all the headaches associated with storing spent fuel when it still has so much potential. And using the fast reactor technology would also greatly reduce, if not completely diminish, the possibility of ending up with an after product (waste) that can be used for weapon production…or at least that was how I read the article. Additionally, the amount of time the fuel needs to be stored is far far less according to what I read.
    I’m just an observer trying to learn more though. Just hope the reason we aren’t moving more rapidly toward technologies such as fast reactors isn’t solely because of politics and differing ideologies.


  48. It is indeed a very interesting issue to discuss.
    Providing energy to our planet, eliminating pollution, stopping the contamination of our fresh waters and seas are indeed key issues to address in order to save our planet from irreversible damage but unfortunately, we live in a society ruled by an economic system that will put money ahead of anything and everything therefore, we will keep facing extra challenges to fix problems that are already complex on their own. What happened to Japan has been indeed a natural disaster however, many of my Japanese friends have very harsh words towards TEPCO and the Politicians, citing corruption, covering up issues even before the tsunami, wrong doing, dereliction of duty, etc., in other words, nothing new; quite common scenario around the planet.

    Maybe some day the humanity will change the mentality and the senseless accumulation of wealth my be replaced for a mentality of sharing and preserving but, I feel that we will need many 14 ft tsunamis and 9.5 earthquakes to change such mentality.


  49. To Barry Brook …

    I’d like to recommend you use threaded comments to try and keep discussion on focus. This would allow people to build a discussion around a single comment, rather than an endless list of disjointed comments, each trying to communicate with each other, trailing off after each post.
    It is one or the other – Chronological or threaded. Both have been tried on BNC both have their problems.


  50. EL, threaded comments have their uses, but also limitations. A big problem is, it is VERY difficult to find which posts are new, and which are old. The posts also get narrowed with each embedding layer, to the point where they are also unreadable. I tried this about a year ago on BNC, and abandoned it. Ideally, I could allow users to switch between chronological and threaded at their leisure. Unfortunately, WordPress.com only lets me hard code one or the other. My choice — a trade off — is therefore for chronological.


  51. The meme of civilian plutonium falling into the wrong hand to make a bomb is highly doubtful. Even more so it is has to be an artisanal bomb. It is extremely hard to build a bomb with civilian plutonium because it has not the right isotopic composition : you get a fizzle.
    The US pretends it has managed this technologic feat, but there is strong suspicion that the plutonium came from a UK Magnox plant which is dual use (to get military plutonium, you need a short irradiation time so a design where swapping fuel “on line” (magnox, RBMK) is needed).
    Same thing with thorium fuel cycle: you can build a bomb with U233 but it so much easier to make it from U235 that it is really a curiosity, not a risk.

    Also don’t believe that the IFR has no waste, or at least exclusively fission products waste. At some point highest Transuranics (Americium, Curium) prevent safe running of the reactor. You have therefore to imagine a new type of reactor (for instance a sub-crtici configuration with missing neutrons generated by palliation of accelerated particles.
    This is where Thorium is really attractive as its doesn’t have this transuranics generation problem.


  52. At some point highest Transuranics (Americium, Curium) prevent safe running of the reactor.

    That is not correct. The equilibrium concentration of Am and Cm in pyroprocessed metal fuel (after multiple recycles) is in the order of a few percent, with more than sufficient delayed neutrons to keep the reactor stable. This is not theory, it is proven engineering based on extensive fuel testing at Argonne West in the late 1980s.


  53. This is the scariest story yet. I read a Guardian story about a meltdown thru the pressure vessel, but the author suggested nothing remotely like this.

    Someone knowledgeable please comment

    When the Fukushima Meltdown Hits Groundwater

    by Dr Tom Burnett

    Hawaii News (March 27 2011)

    Fukushima is going to dwarf Chenobyl {1}. The Japanese government has had
    a Level Seven nuclear disaster going for almost a week but won’t admit it.

    The disaster is occurring the opposite way than Chernobyl, which exploded
    and stopped the reaction. At Fukushima, the reactions are getting worse. I
    suspect three nuclear piles are in meltdown {2} and we will probably get
    some of it.

    If Reactor Three is in meltdown, the concrete under the containment looks
    like lava. But Fukushima is not far off the water table. When that molten
    mass of self-sustaining nuclear material gets to the water table it won’t
    simply cool down. It will explode {3} – not a nuclear explosion, but
    probably enough to involve the rest of the reactors and fuel rods at the

    Pouring concrete {4} on a critical reactor makes no sense – it will simply
    explode and release more radioactive particulate matter. The concrete will
    melt and the problem will get worse. Chernobyl was different – a critical
    reactor exploded and stopped the reaction. At Fukushima, the reactor cores
    are still melting down. The ONLY way to stop that is to detonate a
    approximately ten kiloton fission device inside each reactor containment
    vessel and hope to vaporize the cores. That’s probably a bad solution.

    A nuclear meltdown is a self-sustaining reaction. Nothing can stop it
    except stopping the reaction. And that would require a nuclear weapon. In
    fact, it would require one in each containment vessel to merely stop what
    is going on now. But it will be messy.

    Fukushima was waiting to happen because of the placement of the emergency
    generators. If they had not all failed at once by being inundated by a
    tsunami, Fukushima would not have happened as it did – although it WOULD
    still have been a nuclear disaster. Every containment in the world is
    built to withstand a Magnitude 6.9 earthquake; the Japanese chose to
    ignore the fact {5} that a similar earthquake {6} had hit that same
    general area in 1896.

    Anyway, here is the information that the US doesn’t seem to want released
    {7}. And here is a chart that might help with perspective {8}.

    Making matters worse is the MOX in Reactor Three. MOX is the street name
    for ‘mixed oxide fuel’ {9} which uses about nine percent plutonium along
    with a uranium compound to fuel reactors. This is why it can be used {10}.

    The problem is that you don’t want to play with this stuff. A nuclear
    reactor means bring fissile material to a point at which it is hot enough
    to boil water (in a light-water reactor) and not enough to melt and go
    supercritical (China syndrome or a Chernobyl incident). You simply cannot
    let it get away from you because if it does, you can’t stop it.

    The Japanese are still talking about days or weeks to clean this up.
    That’s not true. They cannot clean it up. And no one will live in that
    area again for dozens or maybe hundreds of years.


    Tom Burnett has a PhD in Earth Sciences and Physics.

    Department of Economics
    McGill University
    855 Sherbrooke Street West
    Montreal H3A2T7
    tel 514 3984828
    This comment would be more relevant on the technical Open Thread. It may get lost here on the philosophical thread. Cut and paste to move it to the correct thread. This version of WordPress does not have the facility to move comments.


  54. It would seem that Tom Burnett, the author the item from Hawaii News that Gregory Meyerson posted is not on staff, or a student, at McGill University, (my alma mater) and his telephone number listed is that of Prof. Thomas Naylor, which I confirmed by calling it.

    I will be looking into this further.


  55. Beyond the ever elusive radiation/radioactivity conundrum, here are a few issues that nuclear advocates should address to advance their argument (In the eyes of a non technical, nuclear newbie who is firmly on the fence.)

    1. Cost and funding, particularly the relationship between private and state actors. Is risk socialized and profit privatized? What are the mechanisms for ensuring long-term responsibilities and obligations are met?

    2. Local vs. Centralized. Why can’t we implement many smaller, local solutions feeding the grid rather than large, heavy footprint projects?

    For example: I live on the coast of Connecticut, why couldn’t my city become an independent power hub? Starting with an intense energy efficiency program, solar on the rooftops of homes and businesses, tidal generators in the harbor, wind where appropriate, etc.? Perhaps a small modular reactor? The idea is I start with my home and generate what I can, with excess or deficit coming from or going to the next level of user/generator.

    3. Waste. Is it recyclable? What are the associated risks with and without processing? (minus the discounting that seems to be so prevalent in these discussions. What CAN happen as opposed to what is likely to happen?) What are the benefits?

    4. Storage, with or without recycling waste. How do we address the politics of waste storage? Do Nevadans have a right to say “We don’t want waste stored here’?Assuming Yucca is dead, how can trust and buy-in be achieved to site a new location?

    5. What about making nuclear plants non-profit or some quasi for profit/non-profit entity? (Assuming profit would be made in the form of interest on construction loans) Would that expand the base of support for nuclear by removing a motivation that some see as adding risk?

    6. Communication. No questions, but an observation. A complete brand overhaul industry-wide is needed. The onus is on the advocates to teach, not the public to learn if that makes sense.

    All this is entirely subjective and not nearly complete. It is, however, what is rattling around in my head as I have tried to come to a conclusion about the way forward for nuclear power.


  56. I LOVED the George Monbiot/Helen Calldicot debate. I’ve been praying for one for so long. GM somehow has this ability to cause an eruption of anger and outrage in his opponents, and hence exposing their true motivations.


  57. “Chernobyl was different – a critical
    reactor exploded and stopped the reaction. At Fukushima, the reactor cores
    are still melting down. ”

    This shows that Tom Burnett hasn’t a clue how reactors work. Of course Chernobyl had decay heat just like Fukushima!!!! and an exploded cooling system due to 10000% power output – imposible with BWRs due to negative void coefficients ie physics.

    If there is still water inside the reactor pressure vessel, and clearly there is, the bottom cannot melt through. If there is water in the drywell, as in seawater injection into the drywell containment, then the reactor bottom cannot melt through either – its a pan in a pan of water. The former pan doesn’t fail because it is cooled by the inner water in the second pan. If there was corium going through the vessel there would be much higher drywell temperatures measured. That’s simply not the case.

    This discussion belongs in the technical thread. Let us continue there…
    Thank you. I agree re the wrong thread and have advised that the comments be moved.


  58. While I wished a better result for the Fukushima Daiichi plant, nuclear power has caused fewer deaths even with this event in its entire history than coal does in one year in the USA alone.

    We have three choices to power our earth Coal or Nuclear or Poverty.

    Well we sure aren’t going to choose Poverty and perfectly operating coal plant is a daily mass murderer even before mentioning Climate Change. So I choose the energy source which has the lowest down side; Nuclear.

    Yes the three worst accidents in of all nuclear history do not even approach mass death cause by one month of coal power. This is the time to win this battle for the nuclear power.

    Another Thought

    Coal has a spent fuel problem too; it is called coal ash. I wonder how many square miles would have been poisoned if Fukushima was a coal plant. instead of a nuclear plant.

    A life time of coal ash washed in land for six miles seems more damaging than the nuclear plant damage so far. Oh yeah, the daily emission over forty years from a coal is just mass murder.

    We have two choices to power our planet; coal or nuclear. It seems to me that the nuclear option is the safer option, but I could be wrong.


  59. @ greg:

    Beyond the ever elusive radiation/radioactivity conundrum, here are a few issues that nuclear advocates should address to advance their argument (In the eyes of a non technical, nuclear newbie who is firmly on the fence.)

    Oh, and I wasn’t necessarily looking for a line-by-line response. Just giving you the perspective from one point on the “other” side.

    Nice try.


  60. @Gregory Meyerson the Department of Economics department at McGill University has an active interest in natural resource economics. This clown might have attended some conference on the subject there in the past.

    I’m not getting through to Prof. Naylor, who I am sure would like to know his number is listed in this piece, but I’ll keep trying.


  61. Up thread, a poster pointed out a story about a rare-earths tailing pond in China. This is a by-product of the manufacturing process for magnets used in electrical turbines in windmills. (I wonder if those rare earths are also used in the magnets for the turbines generating power in nuclear plants as well).

    It’s good that people are looking into more of the manufacturing and production costs of energy, including renewables and nuclear power. The total cost of any energy generation source should be considered before investing in it, including construction, fueling, operations and maintenance and eventual decommissioning. That’s one reason nuclear power doesn’t compare well with other energy sources. [deleted personal opinion presented as fact. Please re-submit with refs to support your claim]
    Mining of uranium for nuclear plants has left numerous superfund sites in the US that have to be cleaned up at the expense of taxpayers. Here’s a link explaining what it takes to clean up just one of those sites:


    [deleted comment not upheld by reference given. No numbers of affected people on the table referred to.]
    Please check the BNC Commenting Rules before your next comment and apply these to avoid editing.


  62. @ Ken F:

    That’s one reason nuclear power doesn’t compare well with other energy sources. The danger from radiation in nuclear plants isn’t from the once a decade accidents that receive so much publicity, but it’s also present from the moment the earth is turned to mine the uranium and lasts long after a plant is decommissioned.

    A classic example of the lowest form of scaremongering. Comparing the extremely mild radiation levels from a U tailings pond with the highly radioactive products of fission reactions is just a cheap play to people who are not sufficiently informed to parse the claim.
    The comment mentioned has been edited for a number of violations to the Commenting Rules.


  63. It is unfortunate that some people try to “shine” posting wrongful information.

    I am not a Nuclear Physicist, I am just a – former – Nuclear Medicine Technologist who used to work with radioisotopes in the medical field as they have provided an excellent tool for early detection of cancer, cardiac conditions and so on.

    Yes, radioactivity could be dangerous but at the same time, I am a firm believer that it can provide an enormous range of benefits when all the bolts on how to handle it are finally discovered.

    As many other people already wrote, the news just pick on catastrophes rather than in the positive which contribute to mislead and misinform those who don’t understand the mechanics of the atom.


  64. As many people, I’ve been digging into nuclear energy following the Fukushima incident (for whcih this blog has proven to be the best source, btw), so I’m not much knowledgeable on the subject, and I didn’t know how to reply a criticism from an acquaintance today. This colleague suggested that any increase in radiation poses a great risk to our health because of possible internal radiation (the chance that you inhale or swallow radioisotopes), which has a lot bigger health impact than external radiation, and that statements about radiation safety around Fukushima are therefore meaningless, because they are based on external radiation, instead of internal (which is what evel scientists want to hide from us [sigh]). He backed up his argument (so to speak) with this text. I know the text sounds like crap, but I didn’t know how to reply or how to give a proper context. I speculated that we are we constantly swallowing and inhaling radioisotopes from natural background radiation and nothing happens, but I don’t know if it is so and I didn’t sound quite convincing. If someone could give me any hint or context, it would be most welcome. Thanks.

    *Ng Ai Soo, thanks for your answer about peer reviewed criticism to LNT in Open Trhead 2 ;-)


  65. If I learned that there had been a spill of mined uranium tailings into the local water supply I would be concerned, just as I’d be concerned about the same news relating to a lead mine or tin mine or copper mine tailings spill. The chemical toxicity would need to be assessed and acted on. That would be a genuine concern. But the radioactivity of natural uranium is just too low to be an issue.


  66. @ Finrod:

    I assumed “on the fence” would be interpreted as “the other side”, as in not pro-nuclear at this point.

    And nice try at what? How would that contradiction, even if unintentional, devalue or negate the topics or questions?

    You may want to dial back the defensiveness if outreach is your goal.


  67. @ greg:

    I assumed “on the fence” would be interpreted as “the other side”, as in not pro-nuclear at this point.

    Really? How exotic.

    You may want to dial back the defensiveness if outreach is your goal.

    I’m more offensive than defensive.

    I have no great interest in reaching out to the anti-nuclear side. I consider the contention of some in the pseudo-environmental anti-nuclear community that they represent a key demographic group which must be converted before pro-nuclear advocates can be considered to have achieved success to be a clever delaying strategy. They’ve clearly read up on their Sun Tzu.

    Catering to their whims is not Nixon going to China, it’s Chamberlain going to Hitler.


  68. Those of you posting about the uranium mine tailings may want to read up about them, otherwise you’re just showing your ignorance. Here’s a good starting point:


    From that website:

    “The amount of sludge produced is nearly the same as that of the ore milled. At a grade of 0.1% uranium, 99.9% of the material is left over.
    Apart from the portion of the uranium removed, the sludge contains all the constituents of the ore. As long lived decay products such as thorium-230 and radium-226 are not removed, the sludge contains 85% of the initial radioactivity of the ore. Due to technical limitations, all of the uranium present in the ore can not be extracted. Therefore, the sludge also contains 5% to 10% of the uranium initially present in the ore.
    In addition, the sludge contains heavy metals and other contaminants such as arsenic, as well as chemical reagents used during the milling process.

    Mining and milling removes hazardous constituents in the ore from their relatively safe underground location and converts them to a fine sand, then sludge, whereby the hazardous materials become more susceptible to dispersion in the environment. Moreover, the constituents inside the tailings pile are in a geochemical disequilibrium that results in various reactions causing additional hazards to the environment. For example, in dry areas, salts containing contaminants can migrate to the surface of the pile, where they are subject to erosion. If the ore contains the mineral pyrite (FeS2), then sulfuric acid forms inside the deposit when accessed by precipitation and oxygen. This acid causes a continuous automatic leaching of contaminants.

    Radon-222 gas emanates from tailings piles and has a half life of 3.8 days. This may seem short, but due to the continuous production of radon from the decay of radium-226, which has a half life of 1600 years, radon presents a longterm hazard. Further, because the parent product of radium-226, thorium-230 (with a half life of 80,000 years) is also present, there is continuous production of radium-226. (view Uranium decay series)

    After about 1 million years, the radioactivity of the tailings and thus its radon emanation will have decreased so that it is only limited by the residual uranium contents, which continuously produces new thorium-230. ”
    These comments belong on the technical thread. I have advised others following this conversation to do the same. The intent of the content may be lost on the philosophical thread.


  69. @ Ken F:

    WISE is a dedicated harf core anti-nuclear group.

    As long lived decay products such as thorium-230 and radium-226 are not removed, the sludge contains 85% of the initial radioactivity of the ore.

    Indeed. The uranium and its previously produced daughter nuclides left over from mining will continue to decay away, just as they would have if they’d been left in the ground.


  70. “I have no great interest in reaching out to the anti-nuclear side. I consider the contention of some in the pseudo-environmental anti-nuclear community that they represent a key demographic group which must be converted before pro-nuclear advocates can be considered to have achieved success to be a clever delaying strategy. They’ve clearly read up on their Sun Tzu.”

    My way or the highway huh? OK, best of luck with that strategy. Maybe it’ll work better in the next 30 years.


  71. My way or the highway huh? OK, best of luck with that strategy. Maybe it’ll work better in the next 30 years.

    You imply that this strategy has already been tried. It has not. The traditional public response of the nuclear industry to the critics prior to the middle of last decade was silence. The few voices in the wilderness speaking in support of nuclear power were generally not heard over the cacaphony of anti-nuclear propaganda trumpeted by a sympathetic media.

    The current situation is something new. There are a growing number of voices which recognise the great promise of nuclear power, and which, thanks to the internet revolution, cannot and will not be silenced. The anti-nuclear movement has lost its traditional monopoly on the public debate. It is no longer free to frame the public discourse as it sees fit.


  72. re post by: Finrod, on 30 March 2011 at 5:19 PM said:

    “I feel that a AP1000 nuclear reactor with a shell thickness of 0.9 metre over a span of 43 metres is probably strong enough to drive a car over but not resist a terrorist attack.

    In matters of engineering, calculation with accurate numbers is usually a better guide than feeling.

    Oh so right! Calculations, along with a bit of real world testing. {VBG}

    I wish I could find a version that shows the face of the wall after the crash – I’ve seen various videos of tests along these lines, with shoulder launched missiles too (can’t recall now if those were of containment wall or high level waste (e.g., spent fuel etc) shipping casks or both) – and was always amazed at how minimal the actual damage to the face of the wall wound up being. Especially considering the utter obliteration of whatever was slammed into it.


  73. @ Ms. Perps – whenever you need a page or text translated, go to google, then on the menu at the top of the page where it says “more” click on that, go down to translate. Put the URL/address of the page you want translated into it. Either select the language if you know it, or use ‘detect language’ if you don’t. Hit translate. Then a page comes up with “translating” the main things that shows up – if you wait, nothing happens – click on it, and presto, you get the page translated. Often it will even handle small pdfs. Nowhere near perfect translation, but usually quite serviceable.


  74. “Fukushima has certainly increased the costs of building new nuclear”

    Certainly? Hardly. For BWR’s, the Fukushima accident means there should be portable generators on trucks nearby (in a safe place), and water pump trucks on permanent standby as well. According to a recent report on NHK, this is exactly what they are looking at in Japan. Let’s hope for sensible solutions in other countries as well. An effective plan to supply emergency power and temporary pumps to nuclear plants doesn’t seem like it would have to be excessively costly or complicated.


  75. re post by: nonukepower, on 30 March 2011 at 5:52 PM said:

    Demonstrates the mentality I am concerned about. Is it appropriate to understand the nature of a terrorist attack by such unsubstatiated comments as:

    “calculation with accurate numbers is usually a better guide than feeling”

    when NO such “calcuation with accurate numbers” was referenced.

    Actually, nonuke, such calculation was directly referenced, because the comment was about the advanced reactor designed containment – which had massive amounts of such calculations along with real world experimental data used and drawn from.

    Finrod’s statement was highly substantiated. This goes for terrorist attack also – terrorists have to be able to get close enough to attack a power plant. There are only certain weapons they would be able to do that with. It’s not like terrorists are going to drive up to a nuclear power plant in a tank, or be able to shoot a cruise missile. There have been quite a few tests done that address shoulder launched missiles and the like.

    As to all out war – well, in that case, one side or the other could drop a nuclear bomb too. Do we plan, design, and build for that also? Or direct meteor strike? Or how about supervolcano eruption?

    Frankly, under war conditions it’s the chemical plants and other facilities like that (how about virulent virus testing labs?) which I’d be far more worried about. Just look up the Bhopal chemical accident – and that wasn’t even war or terrorism.


  76. re post by: Ms. Perps, on 30 March 2011 at 6:17 PM said:

    One Japanese town is happy to have its nuclear power plant and regards it as a haven:
    “ONAGAWA, Japan — As a massive tsunami ravaged this Japanese fishing town, hundreds of residents fled for the safest place they knew: the local nuclear power plant.”

    Ms. Perps, that article is an absolute gem. Thank you for posting it!


  77. Finrod didn’t like the source of my previous post on uranium tailings, calling them “a dedicated harf [sic] core anti-nuclear group”. Here are a some other sources to peruse for information about uranium tailings:

    US Energy Information Administration
    “The hazardous chemicals and radionuclides contained in uranium tailings, if not properly stored, can negatively affect the natural environment, including the air, soil, and groundwater. In the United States beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a appreciation was developed for the potential health hazards and the severity of environmental disturbances that had accumulated over the long history of domestic uranium ore mining and processing. These problems were primarily the results of ineffective regulatory oversight in governing mine discharges, hazardous waste disposal, and unreclaimed mining sites. This led to the passage, of several U.S. Federal and State laws designed to protect air, water, and land resources.” http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/umtra/background.html

    Elements, Mineralogical Society of America

    “Worldwide, the mining of uranium has generated 938 x 106 m3 of mill tailings. The radioactivity of these tailings depends on the grade of ore mined and varies from less than 1 Bq/g to more than 100 Bq/g. The most common mode of disposal is near-surface impoundment in the vicinity of the mine or mill. The principal radiation risks from uranium tailings are gamma radiation, essentially from radium decay; windblown radioactive dust dispersal; and radon gas and its radioactive progeny, which are known to cause lung cancer. Uranium mill tailings are also often associated with elevated concentrations of highly toxic heavy metals, which are a major source of surface and groundwater contamination. Due to their high sulfide content (a few to tens of wt%), tailings may acidify groundwater, accelerating the release of radioactive and hazardous elements.”

    Ken – this conversation is technical in scope and should be moved from the philosophical thread. The threads become difficult to follow if topics get mixed. WE do not have the facility to move comments between threads. I have let off-topic comments stand overnight but the policty is to delete them and ask for a re-post to the correct thread. Everyone please note that this will happen during the day.


  78. I can certainly agree with Ken F that mining in general is an environmentally harmful activity. The country town I grew up in was nestled between two large open cut tin mines, so I have some passing familiarity with this. So what we would ideally like to do is reduce the mining footprint required for our power generation as far as practically possible.

    As it happens, I’ve put an article together on that very subject:



  79. To those who don’t already realize it, you can find the AP1000 Final Safety Analysis Report and relevant other documentation about the design online wihtout too much trouble.

    This stuff isn’t kept secret. The licensing process is extremely in depth and detailed. There are multiple steps, and every bit of the design and all associated assumptions and calculations, materials, etc., are submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission multiple times during that process. At each step NRC then goes over the information with a fine tooth comb, using experts for each area, system, or accident scenario – plus of course a more integrated ‘big picture’ evaluation by experts also. Just go to NRC.gov and you can read up about just what licensing a design entails, and find many of the AP1000 documents too (or links to where you can find them). Any time the NRC has any problem with any aspect, they demand and get either proof from the designer that the design does meet requirements and exactly how it does so, or the designer revises the design until it does meet requirements.

    That’s just for the United States – every nation does their own licensing – so to whatever depth each nation goes in licensing a design, the AP1000 has been scrutinized yet again by an entirely new set of experts. As best I know, most use a similar in depth iterative process to design licensing. So anywhere the AP1000 is licensed, it has satisfied large teams of experts that it meets very stringent requirements for function, safety, and so on.

    With regard to just how robust the containment design is… here’s a snippet from the AP1000 Probabilistic Risk Assessment Design Control document: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CBQQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fadamswebsearch2.nrc.gov%2Fidmws%2FViewDocByAccession.asp%




    The design of AP1000 takes into account the potential effects of the impact of a large commercial
    aircraft. The impacting aircraft analyzed is based upon the impulse time curve provided by the
    NRC in July 2007. The impact of a large commercial aircraft is beyond design basis.


    The evaluation of plant damage caused by the impact of a commercial aircraft is a complex
    analysis problem involving phenomena associated with structural impact, shock-induced
    vibration, and fire effects. The analysis of the aircraft impact considers structural damage, such as
    that caused by the penetration of hardened components (e.g., engine rotors, landing gear).

    An assessment of the effects of aircraft fuselage and wing structure is performed.

    An assessment of the effects of shock-induced vibration on systems, structures, and components is

    An assessment of the penetration of hardened aircraft components, such as engine rotors and
    landing gear is performed.

    Perforation of analyzed structural components is not predicted; therefore, realistic assessments of
    the damage to internal systems, structures, and components caused by 1) burning aviation fuel and
    2) secondary impacts are not required.

    {snipped for brevity}



    The AP1000 Aircraft Impact Assessment is detailed in Technical Report APP-GW-GLR-126
    (Reference 1). The assessment concludes that AP1000 can continue to provide adequate
    protection of the public health and safety with respect to aircraft impact as defined by the NRC.
    The aircraft impact would not inhibit AP1000’s core cooling capability, containment integrity,
    spent fuel pool integrity, or adequate spent fuel cooling based on best estimate calculations.

    The assessment resulted in the identification of the following design features and functional
    capabilities; changes to which are evaluated and reported in accordance with 10 CFR 50.150(d).


    Shield Building

    The shield building as described in Section 3H and Figure 3.7.2-12 (Sheets 7, 8, and 9) is a key
    design feature for the protection of the safety systems located inside containment from the impact
    of a large commercial aircraft. The assessment detailed in Reference 1 concludes that a strike upon
    the shield building would not result in the penetration of the containment vessel such as to cause
    direct damage or exposure to jet fuel of the systems or equipment within the containment vessel.

    The location of key safety-related components inside containment, including the reactor pressure
    vessel, steam generators, and reactor coolant loop, was analyzed to show that structural integrity
    was maintained as a result of shock-induced vibrations resulting from the impact of a large
    commercial aircraft. The assessment detailed in Reference 1 concluded that the loads induced by
    the impact of a large commercial aircraft are enveloped in all situations by the forces for the safe
    shutdown earthquake.
    RD – please move this to the technical thread. I realise you have been following the comments and posting in answer. Unfortunately when this starts it was night in Australia so could not be corrected immediately.I have suggested moving to the technical post to others further down the comments. The information will not get to the interested parties if in the wrong thread and will make the philosophical thread difficult to follow.


  80. Rational Debate, on 31 March 2011 at 7:42 AM said:

    Oh so right! Calculations, along with a bit of real world testing.

    Why would you post a video of an aircraft crashing into a concrete wall around 2.5 metres thick, and at around 3metres high, when a AP1000 has concrete 0.9metres thick and spans 43 metres?

    So if the video wall was 0.9 metres thick, and the aircraft struck 20metres high, the results would have been more relevant, and more realistic.

    Do you have data showing that the dome of the AP1000 is as thick as around 2.5 metres?

    I am sure that most aircraft will scarcely damage a bunker constructed as per the video, (10metres span, 2.5 metres concrete), but only pro-nuclear lobbyists would ever claim this applies to AP1000.

    Please no more irrelevant publicity material. Where are the promised calculations?.


  81. re post by: nonukepower, on 30 March 2011 at 6:23 PM said:

    Japanese regulators, knew there was a risk of tsunami, but presumably decided it was not worth moving Fukushima.

    Read Barry’s comment: https://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/30/fukushima-technical-discussion-open-thread/#comment-121969

    Similarly American reactors near faultlines, have a risk, but this can be minimised by selective assumptions. A 1 in a thousand year event – is one such phrase I have heard.

    I’m not clear what your implication is here. That a 1 in 1000 year event is a reasonable risk level? That it’s still too risky? That it isn’t a reasonable way of determining risk? ??

    I see people make statements like this – but here’s the thing Chris – 1000 years years is a VERY VERY long time. You would be hard put to not find almost any major natural disaster happening somewhere in that time frame. That is roughly 20,000 human generations!

    So – if determining how likely something is to occur using the very best science we currently have isn’t an acceptable way of deciding just how robust to design something or if it is or isn’t safe enough for society, just how DO we decide these things in any better fashion? People who make these sorts of statements never seem to propose any BETTER way of going about it… nor do those same standards seem to be applied to much of anything else, including things with massive potential to harm large numbers of people.

    …People should be allowed to accept risk if it does not impact on others. But with nuclear – the consequences of risk-taking by some, creates damage on many innocent others.

    When a person, you for example, gets into a car and drives it, they are not only risking themselves, but everyone in the car with them, on the same road (and even adjacent roads), in buildings along side the road, every bicyclist or pedestrian they pass. You might run into me or run me over. Or hit a bus full of school children. Or plow into a bus stop that is full of people or into any crowd – killing and injuring many many people.

    Every dam that is built risks killing anyone who lives downstream in the path of a catastrophic failure. Many many people’s lives have been lost this way already.

    Do we outlaw all of these things? None of them comes anywhere near the safety of something designed to a 1 in 1000 year event. Each of them (and a zillion other examples) kills people regularly. Not ‘may slightly increase their risk of cancer many years from now’ but outright kills them.

    Meanwhile, we all choose to use electricity. In the lifetime of these plants, how many hundreds of thousands has their electricity saved? What about the immeasurable benefits of having the electricity available? So far, out of all of the methods we have to generate electricity, including alternatives, nuclear has killed or injured LESS than any other method we’ve got.

    So. What do we do, ban electricity? If you or anyone else want to live without it, it can easily be done. It is also fairly easy to move more than far enough away from any nuclear plant (including downwind areas) should someone so desire.

    Personally I have no desire to return to the dark ages.


  82. 1000 years years is a VERY VERY long time. You would be hard put to not find almost any major natural disaster happening somewhere in that time frame. That is roughly 20,000 human generations!

    Um… I think Rational has made a wee order of magnitude error here…


  83. Rational Debate, on 31 March 2011 at 8:01 AM said:

    Actually, nonuke, such calculation was directly referenced, because the comment was about the advanced reactor designed containment – which had massive amounts of such calculations along with real world experimental data used and drawn from.

    I would like to see some evidence of these:

    “massive amounts of calculations”

    “quite a few tests”

    Vague references to American publicity material is not sufficient.

    Please, do not try the trick, of interspersing data on your “advanced reactor designed containment” for data on surviving aircraft impact.

    The Trent 900 engine found in the Airbus A380 weighs 13,842 lb: see


    So will a shell of reinforced concrete 0.9metres thick spanning 43 metres [using unreferenced data posted above] survive a hit of a 5,000 kg engine at 500 km/sec?

    I guess that such a concrete shell is less robust than the amount of Pentagon blasted away during the September 11 “unrealistic” event.

    In any case – civilian airliners are not the real threat.

    Acts by rogue states such as Hussein and Israel, to destroy infrastructure either in retreat or as a pre-emptive measure, are more realistic. The probability of this increases as more nukes are built.

    Rational Debate, on 31 March 2011 at 9:03 AM posted some information on civilian aircraft crashes that indicates that “hardened aircraft components, such as engine rotors and
    landing gear” penetrate. It also notes that: “The impact of a large commercial aircraft is beyond design basis.” whatever this means.

    Personally I believe it may be possible for a nuke-plant to survive an aircraft impact, as the shell will crumple, absorbing impact, which possibly will lead to denting of the steel containment.

    But this is not how Israel attacks nuclear plants is it? and it is not realistic for future similar attacks by other states?
    This comment is better suited to the technical thread. I have asked others in this converstaion to move to the correct thread. The philosphical thread becomes un-readable if technical issues are discussed here.


  84. re post by:chris warren, on 30 March 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Chris, no rogue state has ever bombed a nuclear reactor that I’m aware of – not in the sense that you are implying. Osirak wasn’t fueled, and therefore there was absolutely no greater risk bombing it than bombing any other facility. There was ZERO nuclear risk involved.

    Furthermore, I can’t imagine the USA bombing a nuclear facility that actually has nuclear materials even if a military command post is built underneath it.

    That said, the idea of building nuclear power plants in unstable nations worries me also – unless they are self enclosed requiring no maintenance as some of the new designs are. Not from the standpoint of whether disaster there could somehow harm me, but from the standpoint of possible harm to those in the immediate vicinity if something went badly wrong. Even then I don’t think it terribly likely, but clearly it could be more possible than in 1st world nations and politically stable areas of the world.

    I don’t know exactly what limits there are internationally in this regard, but clearly some nations such as China and Russia disagree with us about where it is or isn’t suitable to build some of these sorts of facilities (not to mention North Korea) and are providing reactors to some of these places.

    Consider this – if nuclear power stations are going to be built in some of these areas, which designs would you prefer to be used? Older less safe designs, or newer ones like the AP1000?

    Meanwhile, I would LOVE to see some of the new smaller self enclosed designs go into third world nations that are desperately in need of energy. I would much prefer that our financial aid were used to put some of those in place providing desperately needed energy, than cash go into the pockets of despots or corrupt officials.


  85. re post by: Finrod, on 31 March 2011 at 9:36 AM said:

    “That is roughly 20,000 human generations!”

    Um… I think Rational has made a wee order of magnitude error here…

    I’ll say. Yikes, my bad!! Darned that multiplication button, it jumped right in place of the divide button!!! Thanks for the correction Finrod.

    50 generations.


  86. http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2011/03/inconceivable_why_failure_shou.php?

    “… we should ask ourselves “what strategies are most effective and least risky in failure situations … given that systems failures happen all the time.” In this model, distributed systems are less dangerous than centralized ones, and those that give partial return even if projects aren’t completed or if models break down are more valuable than those that give more but only if we front-load a huge investment to them. It creates, in the end a different way of looking at our world, and one, I would argue, we desperately need.

    Why don’t we do that? The very idea of contingency planning, at least in the US comes with a taint of superstition – that ill luck will strike those of us who actually spend time thinking about what might go wrong….”


  87. Rational, what’s the last time you were in Africa? You can’t place a peace tree there without having zo bribe someone. It’s part of the culture in some of those countries. It might not be so wise to place NPPs in some countries. During the fall of the soviet union some soviet states had problems keeping safety standards up. I saw a ARD documentary on that once. You don’t want to be anyehere near when that happens. Ruins your sleep it does.


  88. Rational Debate, on 31 March 2011 at 9:03 AM posted some information on civilian aircraft crashes that indicates that “hardened aircraft components, such as engine rotors and
    landing gear” penetrate. It also notes that: “The impact of a large commercial aircraft is beyond design basis.” whatever this means.

    Personally I believe it may be possible for a nuke-plant to survive an aircraft impact, as the shell will crumple, absorbing impact, which possibly will lead to denting of the steel containment.

    But this is not how Israel attacks nuclear plants is it? and it is not realistic for future similar attacks by other states?
    Please move this conversation to the technical thread.


  89. I could not tell that much from Burnett’s website save that he is “off the wall.” I’d still like a critique of his scare piece. He did suggest that new generation nuclear would not be safe either and sent people to this link:


    It’s an interesting article and does not back what he says. The article largely defends generation three, while noting that most new builds are still gen two.

    the lead question is “would new builds fare better?”

    “not necessarily.” But that “not necessarily” refers to the gen twos more than the gen threes. Of course, there are the references to the usual Union of Concerned Scientist guys. How did they get such a profile?


  90. At 8:45 pm I argued that the nukes were damaged by unreasonable regulations arising from a previous failure of leadership to handle public fears. A cycle of fear and over-steering that we need replaced with intelligent driving. See how these excessively demanding legal limits have disempowered those who should have been making the decisions:
    It was a legal limit that required the nuke owner to declare a breach to the authorities. Well and good, except that it exposed the public to an evacuation order that made the Prime Minister look good. By the time history finds out whether his action was justified, the political cycle will have moved on and the nukes will be blamed instead of the criterion.
    For that matter, just how much fission products would have been released if the designers had been allowed to automatically vent the hydrogen-containing vapour? Sure, an emergency-level of fission products might have been released – perhaps through a filter, but the plant would not have been threatened by accumulating hydrogen.
    Similarly, what stopped the diesel mechanics from shutting down their precious diesels in the temporary threat of a flood of seawater? I suspect it was rules, regulations and rigidity that stopped them from taking intelligent action. Half an hour of battery power may well have been enough down-time for the diesels to be dried and their connections to be checked.


  91. So will a shell of reinforced concrete 0.9metres thick spanning 43 metres [using unreferenced data posted above] survive a hit of a 5,000 kg engine at 500 km/sec?

    500 km/sec? That’s around 45 times Earth’s escape velocity. No, I don’t imagine the reactor containment would survive that impact. I do, however, have confidence that it could survive an impact at 500 km/hour.

    By the way, a large jet airliner is nowhere near as concentrated a mass as a modern fighter jet. The containment would survive easily. Refer to the NRC website to access the documentation.
    Please move this conversation to the technical OT post.


  92. Huw, I think that Monbiot debate will really come back to haunt Caldicott and her ‘movement’. The whole WHO, UNSCEAR, IAEA ‘conspiracy’ she kept hammering about really raised Monbiot’s hackles, and there is nothing he loves better than debunking crackpot theories like this via a mix of investigative journalism and rapier-like editorial dissections. A space to watch, to be sure.


  93. re post by: Parrot, on 31 March 2011 at 10:03 AM

    Rational, what’s the last time you were in Africa? You can’t place a peace tree there without having zo bribe someone. It’s part of the culture in some of those countries.

    I know Parrot, I know – same problem in Afghanistan I gather and probably many other places. But it is still a question of whether we give aid money as straight funds directly to the government, or if we provide it in other more tangible ways – even if that still involves some $$ transfers. It isn’t an easy answer, because it’s a very complex problem, I know that too.

    It might not be so wise to place NPPs in some countries. During the fall of the soviet union some soviet states had problems keeping safety standards up. I saw a ARD documentary on that once. You don’t want to be anyehere near when that happens. Ruins your sleep it does.

    That’s why I said the small self-contained, requiring no operation/maintenance ones. They’re generation IV designs, and I think for the most part not yet actually being sold and built commercially, although some designs have orders and have begun. They may be beyond that now too, I just can’t recall for sure off hand.

    I think they’re talked about here: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf33.html

    If not, on that site you can find the designs of various advanced reactors, and also try searching for “small nuclear reactors” or “mini nuclear reactors”


  94. @Chris Warren

    You need to re-read that document. In the SCOPE it said that they analyzed the possibility of penetration of hardened parts.

    In the RESULTS, they said there would be no penetration even by those parts.

    I’ve told you where you can easily start looking for the documentation and calculations you want.


  95. Speaking as someone that knows modern jet engines professorially, I can tell you that they are incredibly flimsy things when loaded out of their design parameters. A good sized bird will cause the insides to self destruct, striking a concrete wall while running would cause the engine to fly apart with most of the mass moving outward on the plane of rotation. Only a small fraction of the mass would be converted to kinetic energy in the direction of flight.


  96. Thanks Barry for the wave [ocean] links. Very helpful. Read the “debate” between Monbiot and Caldicott. ad hom deleted] World renowned?? I’ll tell you what she is. She’s a competent pediatrician but she’s not a radiation scientist who has spent couintless hours on the effects of radiation on man. She’s made a name for herself by making unsubstantiated, exaggerated claims regarding nuclear power. She has never published a paper in any scientific journal on the health effects of radiation and she’s not a member of any scientific societies that deal with that subject. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Nov 1997 she stated that “one pound of plutonium delivered to the lungs of the world’s people was sufficient to wipe out the entire world population.” Prof Otto Rabbe, then president of the Health Physics Society [6500 members] reputed her claim and said it was “fictional nonsense”. Apparently, during weapons testing somewhere between three and eight tonnes of plutonium were blasted into the atmosphere. By Caldicott’s reasoning we should all be dead. [ad homs deleted]


    This thread is becoming clogged by comments which refer to technical aspects. It is making it hard to follow the philosophical arguments and in fact such comments have dropped off here. As this started overnight in Australia I have let the comments stand and advised people to switch to the technical threads. Now I have caught up with moderation , any future comments posted in the wrong thread will be deleted and you will be asked to re-post in the correct thread as per BNC commenting rules. We do not have the facility to swap comments between threads.
    Please keep a copy of your comment, especially those which have taken a while to compile, in case you are asked to re-post.


  98. Rational Debate wrote:

    “So – if determining how likely something is to occur using the very best science we currently have isn’t an acceptable way of deciding just how robust to design something or if it is or isn’t safe enough for society, just how DO we decide these things in any better fashion? People who make these sorts of statements never seem to propose any BETTER way of going about it… nor do those same standards seem to be applied to much of anything else, including things with massive potential to harm large numbers of people.”

    Um, not to resurrect the issue big-time or make it my hobby horse, but at least some anti-nuke power people at least say that we should decide “these things” the same way we decide with other things based on whether they are (privately) insurable or not.”

    And as regards having consistent standards, it seems to me it’s the pro-nuke people here who were saying no no no, nukes are different from everything else (or most everything else) in this regard….


  99. Terry Krieg, on 31 March 2011 at 11:25 AM said:

    If someone says that “one pound of plutonium delivered to the lungs of the world’s people was sufficient to wipe out the entire world population”, this does NOT mean that:

    between three and eight tonnes of plutonium were blasted into the atmosphere

    will do the same.

    Consequently your attack on Caldicott is misplaced.

    Also, please note that, if something is sufficient to do X does not mean that it must always do X.


  100. @ Huw Jones

    Cheers for the link to that hilarious debate.

    @ Professor Brook

    I certainly hope that this debate does haunt Caldicott and other spreaders of FUD. Any agnostic or moderately opposed-to-nuclear individual watching this debate must immediately begin to question other (mis)information they have heard about nuclear energy.

    George, you legend!


  101. BHP Billiton prudently chose not to talk about the Olympic Dam expansion immediately after Fukushima but now it’s back on track.
    The expansion should lead to 19,000 tonnes a year of U308 production though some of that will be done in China after separation from copper concentrate. As far as I am aware the expansion will still require 690 MW of new power and a 187 megalitre a day desalination plant on the coast some 300km from the mine.

    To cap it off the SA deputy premier is pushing a local uranium enrichment industry. So where is this power going to come from? SA’s developed coal and gas reserves are mature and in decline.


  102. Listening to Helen Caldicott in the 90’s and reading James Lovelock in the 00’s turned me pro-nuclear. Listening to TEPCO this month has turned me anti-nuclear. Running a reactor for decades has to be one of the most boring jobs possible, yet after forty years whatever staff is on hand might have just an hour or two to make live-and-death decisions that can affect millions. Can’t be done.



  103. I believe this belongs on this thread.

    Future of [Fukushima] reactors new and old
    David – a borderline case I think. However, on reading the link there are a lot of technicalities which may interest readers of the technical OT. Also I worry that responding to you on the Philosophical OT will set up another cascade of technical comments in the wrong thread.Please could you re-post in the Technical OT and I will delete this one when you have done so.


  104. Point taken Chris Warren. Ultimately, I guess it comes back to the toxicity of plutonium. Ask the average Joe what the most toxic substance known to man is and you’ll almost always get the answer, plutonium. In the Handbook of Toxicology of metals, it gets only a passing reference under uranium. It’s not even in the top ten most dangerous substances. Dr. Eric Voice, “plutonium man” who died a few years ago, demonstrated that plutonium wasn’t harmful to man by first ingesting it into his system and then having it injected directly into his bloodstream. An acquaintance of mine handled plutonium on a daily basis for three years with gloved hands and with absolutely no ill effects. It’s not as dangerous as we have been led to believe.


  105. @ bks:

    Listening to Helen Caldicott in the 90′s and reading James Lovelock in the 00′s turned me pro-nuclear. Listening to TEPCO this month has turned me anti-nuclear.

    Just listen to some more Caldicott in that case, you’ll be OK presently.

    But seriously, are you saying that Fukushima was a human factors failure? This contradicts my understanding of the evolution of the accident.


  106. Finrod, on 31 March 2011 at 1:56 PM — My understanding is that before 2011 Mar 11 the world’s seismologists thought that a moment magnitude 9.0 earthquake in the vicinity of Japan was not possible. So the reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi were, in the event, far beyond design basis accidents.

    I do recommend that everyone read “To EnginEER is Human” by Henry Petroski.


  107. Interesting….

    Terry Krieg, on 31 March 2011 at 1:34 PM said:

    An acquaintance of mine handled plutonium on a daily basis for three years with gloved hands and with absolutely no ill effects. It’s not as dangerous as we have been led to believe.

    Not being a medical person, I can only suggest that the toxicity is determined on a statistical basis.

    ie – not what one man does in 3 years but what is the incidence if a large number follow suit.

    Possibly, Plutonium particles from manual handling, being so heavy, are very unlikely to be wafted in the air and ingested into the lungs.

    There is an element of guesswork in all this.


  108. re post by: Gregory Meyerson, on 31 March 2011 at 10:35 AM:

    Of course, there are the references to the usual Union of Concerned Scientist guys. How did they get such a profile?

    They’re hard core activists who’ve been around for some time. They’re pretty well known for portraying everything in the worst possible light, and jumping on anything that does happen with sensationalist scare stories and tactics.


  109. An economist from Credit Suisse interviewed on NHK yesterday estimated that Japan has suffered an ongoing 25% loss of industrial production due to the damage caused by the earthquake, shortage of electricity and ongoing problems at Fukushima. And that the power shortages are very damaging to industrial recovery due to issues such as gaps in the supply chain for many industries, even those that can operate without continuous power.

    It seems to me that we are witnessing an acid test of just how much energy, and in particular electricity can be saved by discretionary means even under very trying circumstances without severe economic damage. I doubt that this will come as any comfort to those who think that a significant contribution to climate change mitigation can be had if “we all just used less energy”.

    On a related issue, does anybody know when any of the other NPPs in cold shutdown may be brought back into operation? The pundits are talking about electricity shortages for a year or more.


  110. Finrod, to the contrary, I think the people on site probably made good decisions. They chose to sacrifice containment to prevent a larger problem. But if this calamity happened with arguably correct decisions, I don’t want to know what happens with incorrect ones.



  111. to Moderators: re my post Rational Debate, on 31 March 2011 at 9:03 AM

    I’ve copied it to the other thread, so if you want to delete it here feel free, or leave for continuity with the other related comments, as you see fit. :0)

    Lordy, we keep this up and we’ll have to get you guys to make us a thread for Non-Fukushima Tech vs. Fukushima Tech issues! Oh, the joys of running & moderating a blog, hum? {VBG}
    I’m looking into options to move comments to the correct thread. If I can come up with an easy way to do that I will move them all – otherwise I will leave what has already been posted where it is. Thanks again RD for you help and understanding.


  112. quokka, on 31 March 2011 at 2:25 PM — (1) Over the past 20 months Kansasians have cut electricity demand by 5%; I don’t know how. In the affected area of Japan, electricity production is 10–15% short of desired damand and abruptly so. The situation will worsen in the summer to about 20% with the desire for AC. [From WNN]
    (2) Fukushima Dai-ichi units 5 & 6 will be off-line for a long time, possibly forever. The other tripped off units need a minimum of one month followed by repairs, etc. Whatever ones were in cold shutdown at the time of the earthquake need time to assess and repair damage. Then I suppose regulatory approval will be required for startup. In the nonce Tepco has ordered a passel of gas turbines from GE, but I don’t know how fast GE can deliver. SO I suppose that electricity shortages might still continue into next autumn, but I doubt serious ones will last much longer than that. [Just inexpert opinion, although I’ve visted Japan].


  113. re post by: David B. Benson, on 31 March 2011 at 2:17 PM said:

    Rational Debate, on 31 March 2011 at 2:11 PM — Yes, but the UCS position statement on matters nuclear does state that the Areva EPR is safe enough.

    Ok, I’m amazed! Actually, someone linked to one or two of their nuclear related pages, and I took a look and thought that for them, it actually looked halfway reasonable. Maybe they’re turning over a new leaf here recently or in the not too distant past. I’d still look at anything from them with a VERY skeptical eye. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that they’re wrong or offbase on everything – just that I’d do some serious verifying with multiple known unbiased sources before believing something from UCS.


  114. re post by: quokka, on 31 March 2011 at 2:25 PM

    Keep in mind also that a lot of other power facilities were either shut down and/or damaged too. I’ve seen little about that, perhaps because I’m focusing on the nuclear plants – but suspect that those issues get little play relatively speaking. It would be quite interesting to see a full listing of all energy related plants, including their status just before the quake, status immediately after, and how they stand now.


  115. Re Areva

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Areva ended up as one of the winners out of all of this. They have already been chirping that EPRs would not have suffered the same problems (quite possibly true). The CEO of Areva is now in Japan offering assistance with the contaminated water through technical expertise developed by Areva in NPP de-commissioning. They have been pushing the safety of the EPR in their marketing for some time. It does add up to a nice story for governments anxious about nuclear safety.


  116. For any who haven’t seen this already – Nat’l Geo has a series of 3 photos taken of almost the same spot, first before the tsunami, then two as the tsunami is first coming in. Be sure to note the car in the water in the bottom right hand side of the second photo for some idea of scale. They’ve also got a series of 20 photos (linked at the bottom of the page) that includes a few doozies – like the huge ferry (multiple decks!) sitting pretty as you please on top of a multiple story building, like it just sailed right up there or was gently put there by the hand of… well, no, I won’t go there because obviously there was nothing gentle about any of this.

    There is a video of F. Dai-ichi site from helicopter, and one thing amazing to me about it is noticing that the steep (ish) embankment/hillside next to the plant (landscaped) has debris strewn all up and down it… I don’t think I even consciously noticed that the first time I watched the video, because I was focusing on the buildings and accessways.

    I still can’t help but wonder just how far PAST the plant the wave run up actually went… and if video won’t eventually show up of the wave actually coming on site.


  117. AREVA were behind for a long while in the marketing of their EPR, but recently had a win by signing on the Saudis to an in-principle agreement to start building some EPRs to replace their natural gas power/desal plants. As you say quokka, this could be a big boost for getting their Gen III+ design, and others, moved up the priority list (as opposed to life extensions for Gen II Mk1 plants). China is also building 2 x EPR right now, so the result of that (build time, cost etc.) will certainly be something to watch. Yes, the EPR is expensive in terms of capex, but it also generates a LARGE amount of electricity (1.6 GWe), so the LCOE actually looks pretty good, especially for the nth-of-a-kind plant (remembering that Olkiluoto 3 was EPR unit #1). It’s all about how financing is worked out.


  118. chris warren, on 31 March 2011 at 2:04 PM

    This may be considered a techncial post but I think the point made is worth elaborating on.

    Toxicity, is a complex term, and allows for us to differentiate for the fact that external and internal exposures for given isotopes aren’t all created equal. Externally for Plutonium, as it’s an alpha emitter with almost no beta or gamma radiation, gloves/skin can provide adequate protection. Internally is the issue as alpha particles can cause biological damage, quantity of internal exposure via food or dust causes the risk and it has the potential to stay in the body for a long time.

    To account for this with workers, limits of Derived Air Concentrations are given (Bq/m^3), Bq being the SI unit for activity of the material, and limits for surfaces in (Bq/cm^2) to take into account the toxicity as well as the type of radiation emitted. Pu-239 for example, has a much lower allowance than Cs-137 (25,000 times) Sr-90 (750 times) when all factors are considered.


  119. @John Newlands: “SA’s developed coal and gas reserves are mature and in decline”

    Alas, the world (and SA) are not running out of coal , or even gas . Our elected leaders can tell one gathering that we have hundreds of years of coal (or gas) left, and the next gathering that we are making steady reductions in GHG emissions. They could even say there is no need for fast reactors because there is plenty of fuel for slow ones.

    What we are running out of is places to put our wastes. Opting for small volumes of easily buried, concentrated wastes will delay our days of reckoning – if they are not already upon us.


    Just a reminder ofthe topics/subjects you should be discussing on this post:

    “Please keep all dialogue here to general and philosophical discussions on nuclear power, its benefits and limitations, its alternatives, history, media treatment of the FD accident, your views on how the world should work and why people should listen to you, etc., etc. Nothing technical please.”

    When a comment is posted on to the wrong thread it causes a cascade of answering comments also on the wrong thread – which means that your message will be lost to those reading the Technical OT t and the Philosophical OT gets clogged up and results in comments on this thread drying up as it seems “philosophers” get bored by technical comment. Hard to believe I know;)
    I am looking in to a way to move these comments to the right thread but in the meantime I will have to start deleting off-topic comments (as per BNC rules)and asking you to re-post. Please try harder to post your comment on the appropriate thread.


  121. Are we going to continue to have multiple reactors close together so that if one fails it will endanger all reactor operations?

    The worst civilian nuclear accident was at Chernobyl, there were 4 reactors there and the #4 was the one that failed so miserably. Yet the other 3 units continued operation providing electricity up till 1991 (five extra years). Currently they are in the decommissioning phase, with workers still present to execute this.

    I’m not saying that Chernobyl must be a followed here, merely that a reactor to reactor failure propagation did not occur in the worst civilian accident ever with reactors of inferior quality. This can give you a good idea on just how probable is to see propagating failures in real life.


  122. RC it would be distinctly weird if new FF deposits had to be developed before the uranium industry could be expanded. Perhaps they want a carbon credit. Critics who point to indirect emissions would say they were right all along.

    If there’s a glitch with the FFs then uranium stays in the ground a lot longer or foreigners get to process it and value add. While that sounds strange it is consistent with the PM’s view that uranium is OK to export not to use domestically.


  123. Pingback: AREVA EPR update « SeekerBlog

  124. Sean De Boo, on 31 March 2011 at 3:42 PM said:

    Toxicity, is a complex term, and allows for us to differentiate for the fact that external and internal exposures for given isotopes aren’t all created equal.

    yes I agree, and this was covered on another blog.
    [deleted personal appraisal of a person’s motives]
    The key concern, as always, is the general problem of increasing background radiation as well as particular and sensatoinal incidental releases when yet another nuke goes haywire.
    [deleted ad hom/personal appraisal of motives]
    It is all being played out again in Japan and being beamed into each and every lounge-room.


  125. @ American, re insurance

    I’m not going to get dragged into more on this issue – I’ll just make one comment for you to chew on however much or little you like.

    If we decide what we will or won’t do as a society based on nothing more than insurance, then we have entirely deposited all of our choices in this regard to the politicians, fear-mongers, and lawyers.

    All it would take to kill something is a very vocal activist group that scared the insurance underwriters enough that they’d refuse to insure – everyone would know that they could just threaten a boatload of lawsuits, and presto, it’s over and done with. In other words, this would generate a very gossip, propaganda, litigious political decision making process that has little to do with the actual science or risks involved.

    That already occurs far too much as far as I’m concerned, and frankly it is the last way I want decisions made on how and if I am able to get cheap reliable energy. Decisions about such crucial things need to be put on an even objective footing, not a more precarious tilting mill with every fanatic out trying to spin it their way.


  126. Hey Chris Warren, how many nukes have gone ‘Haywire?’ Three really serious ones ,TMI, Chernobyl and now Fukushima and that’s over 60 years. And only Chernobyl caused fatalities [41 dead-28 clean up workers, 3 industrial accidents and 10 children from thyroid cancer] I reckon the safety record of nuclear is about as good as it gets. Have you on the effects of Atomic Radiation report of 2000, handed down 14 years after Chernobyl [26/4/86] and undertaken by scientists from 21 independent countries? If you haven’t, then let me know and I’ll post it on this blog for you.


  127. Does anyone know of the potential cumulative effect on radiation contamination world-wide if we continue to have serious accidents at the rate we are having them (3 in 60 years)? I know safety standards will be improved hopefully reducing the probability of an accident, but also the number of power stations will increase which may have an increasing effect on the probability of an accident.


  128. When two parties use the get-your-facts-straight argument against each other, the difference is not in the facts, but in the attitude that collected them. The difference is never in the facts themselves.


  129. From Monbiot’s latest article in the “Guardian”


    “The accusations have been so lurid that I had to read my article again to reassure myself that I hadn’t written the things that so many of my correspondents say I wrote. So, before I begin the counter-attack, here’s what I didn’t say about nuclear power.

    I did not claim that there is no alternative to atomic energy, or any such thing. Nor did I suggest that nuclear should replace renewables, or produce any higher proportion of our electricity than it does already. But I did point out that most of the countries that might abandon nuclear power are likely to replace it not with renewables but with fossil fuel, and that this is a major change for the worse. Environmentalist Mark Lynas has shown how phasing out planned nuclear programmes in a number of countries as a result of the Fukushima disaster could add another degree to global warming. Author and blogger Chris Goodall estimates that if the planned construction of new nuclear power stations in the UK stalls in response to the crisis, the result will be an increase of 9m tonnes of carbon dioxide for every year we delay”.
    He sounds like Barry :) and is being treated the same way by the anti-nuclear Greens.


  130. Monbiot refers to this excellent analysis from Mark Lynas (again – sounds like Barry)


    “For all its problems, nuclear power is the most reliable form of low carbon electricity. It remains the only viable source of low-carbon baseload power available to industrialised economies, and is therefore responsible for avoiding more than a billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. In addition to these unarguable climate benefits, we believe that nuclear power is much safer than its opponents claim. Despite the hyperbolic nature of some of the media coverage, even substantial radiation leaks such as at Fukushima are likely to cause very little or no illness or death. No power source is completely safe, but compared to coal, still the major fuel for electricity generation around the world, nuclear is relatively benign. About 3,000 people lost their lives mining coal in China alone last year. Many times that number died as a result of the atmospheric pollution arising from the burning of coal in power stations.”


  131. “Another salient quote from the Lynas article I linked to above:
    Although much journalism of the last few weeks has provided careful assessment of the true dangers of nuclear accidents, we thought it would be helpful to pull together the results of scientific studies on the damage caused by nuclear radiation to human health. Our aim is allow readers to put some perspective on the radiation risks of nuclear power, particularly after accidents, and to appreciate the context of the oft-quoted units of ‘millisieverts’, ‘bequerels’ and other measurements. This is a complicated story, because not all radiation is the same – a crucial factor is the timescale of exposure. There is a big difference between the expected impacts of exposure to huge amounts in a very short period, large doses over several weeks, and long-running or chronic exposure.”

    I encourage you all to read both the Monbiot and Lynas pieces in full.


  132. The crazy truth is, that the biggest disaster this planet could currently face, both nuclear and environmental, is by shutting down all nuclear power plants.
    I wonder if anti-nukes are aware of that.


  133. Sorry – I clipped this bit of the quote off before posting the comment – and it is very important:

    “We examine these three scenarios in turn. The results seem to be quite clear to us: accidents and leaks from nuclear power stations are not likely to cause substantial numbers of illness or deaths, even under exceptional circumstances such as are currently being experienced after the combined earthquake and tsunami disaster at Fukushima. This is an important conclusion given the potential for nuclear power to continue to mitigate global warming, which presents vastly greater risks on a global scale. We are not advocating slackness or complacency, just suggesting that a rational and balanced assessment of the risks of radiation is a good idea. To hastily abandon or delay nuclear power because of radiation risks from accidents such as that at Fukushima is poor policy-making.”

    People reading BNC for an understanding of the effects of various radiation types and exposures, really need to read the article. It is an excellent re-buttal of the comments we have been hearing fron Chris Warren and others.


  134. A couple of years ago I was present during the recording of a TV program with an audience discussing nuclear power. Helen Caldicott was one of the contributors and I can’t remember anything about the program except for Caldicott’s outrageous behaviour: not speaking over but shouting over other people that she disagreed with, droning on at length and responding with verbal aggressiveness and bullying to people trying to interrupt her hogging of airtime or who were just asking her questions. I had only ever heard of her up to this point and expected a rational and fact led contribution from her. Her behaviour wasn’t boorish behaviour like you might find on a silly program like Dancing with the Stars or Andrew Bolt on ABC’s Insider’s on a Sunday morning, this was breathtaking, off-the-scale behaviour from someone who had no regard for anyone else present no matter why they were there or who they were. I was surprised the producers kept the recording going, perhaps they assumed they could fix it later in the edit suite. I reckon her behaviour persuaded a number of people present to revise their opposition to nuclear power.


  135. A thought provoking conclusion from the Lynas article:

    “No technology is completely safe, and we don’t wish to argue that nuclear power is any different. But its dangers must be weighed against the costs of continuing to operate fossil fuel plants. Just down the road from us is Didcot A power station, a large coal-burning plant with poor pollution control and therefore with substantial effects on local air quality, as well as more substantial emissions of radiation than from any UK nuclear power station and a Co2 output of about 8 million tonnes a year. We offer a view that Didcot has caused far more deaths from respiratory diseases than all the deaths ever associated with nuclear energy in the UK, and that coal power is a far more legitimate target of environmental protest than nuclear.”



  136. There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding about the relevance of immidiate or long term health threat of nuclear energy.

    There is no sound conclusive scientific data on the subject. What is available is either blowb out of proportion guess work or downtalking confirmation of prejudice.

    It is therefore in its present form irrelevant in the discussion on the future of nuclear energy.


  137. It is my experience that if i see myself facing arguments on a subject i must somehow agree on, that do not at all correspond with my own, it pays off to take the whole discussion down one level to find the things we agree on and build up from there.
    Or as Confusius put it:

    …start with what is absolutely clear…


  138. Some great links in these comments- thanks all. The Monbiot-Caldicott debate was revelatory.

    What I thought was particularly good about Monbiot’s approach was his attitude to the evolving situation at Fukushima: he only disagreed with the most extreme/implausible of Caldicott’s assertions- Japan ‘never recovering’ from a nuclear explosion etc. He fully accepted that this is a major and worrying incident, that could conceivably get worse. I think this is the right approach.

    BNC has been a fantastic resource on the technical aspects of nuclear power both during and before the current situation in Japan, but Barry’s clear (and well justified) enthusiasm for nuclear power has led him to make comments in the last few days that in retrospect, have made him hostage to fortune (though was admirably quick to acknowledge when previously overtaken by events).

    For all their advantages, nuclear power plants remain dependent on elaborate sociotechnical systems, and like any complex systems they can respond unpredictably to unanticipated disturbances and be vulnerable to cascading failures (arguably more so due to their high level of complexity).

    Add to this the fact that nuclear power/radiation pushes all the wrong buttons in terms of risk perception (‘artificial’, involuntary, invisible etc)

    What if the Fukushima incident escalates- further plutonium releases, more contamination of surrounding land, increased relative risk of health impacts in emergency workers/surrounding population?

    In my opinion, this changes very little- in terms of the overall, long term nuclear risk/benefit analysis (for the reasons frequently discussed on this blog and effectively summarised by Monbiot in the clip). The absolute risks will remain low and the overall impact on health will remain negligible in comparison with the fossil fuel option.

    I agree with Barry in the ABC clip- this incident may actually improve public perception of NPPs in the longer term, as people confronted by the media stories improve their knowledge of nuclear technology and start to make their own objective risk evaluations. In the meantime, I hope he doesn’t regret the ‘quiet optimism’ comment!

    (A final point- I’d direct anyone swayed by Caldicott’s toe-curling ‘doctors know best’ misrepresentation of medical consensus to take a look at the Lancet’s 2007 Energy and Health series, particularly table 2 in Markandya and Wilkinson’s paper, as a good summary:


    …officially paywalled but try a google scholar search!)


  139. Good heavens, no wonder nuke proponents are still holding onto their views.

    Terry Krieg, on 31 March 2011 at 8:52 PM said:

    Hey Chris Warren, how many nukes have gone ‘Haywire?’ Three really serious ones ,TMI, Chernobyl and now Fukushima and that’s over 60 years. And only Chernobyl caused fatalities [41 dead-28 clean up workers, 3 industrial accidents and 10 children from thyroid cancer] I reckon the safety record of nuclear is about as good as it gets.

    This is just fantasy.

    The record of accidents since 1952 to 2011 (59yr) is:

    1952 December 12, Chalk River, Ontario, Canada

    1957 October 10, Windscale, Cumbria, Great Britain

    1958 May 24, Chalk River, Ontario, Canada

    1958 October 25, Vinča, Yugoslavia

    1959 July 26, Santa Susana Field Laboratory, California, United States

    1961-01-03 January 3, Idaho Falls, Idaho,

    1964 July 24, Charlestown, Rhode Island, United States

    1966 October 5, Monroe, Michigan, United States

    1966-1967 Winter, Soviet icebreaker “Lenin”.

    1967 May Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, United Kingdom

    1969 January 21, Lucens, Canton of Vaud, Switzerland

    1966 October 5, Frenchtown Charter Township, Michigan, US

    1975 December 7, Greifswald, East Germany

    1977 February 22, Jaslovské Bohunice, Czechoslovakia

    1979 March 28, Middletown, Pennsylvania, US

    1980 March 13, Orléans, France

    1981 March, Tsuruga, Japan

    1982 January 25, Ontario, New York

    1983 September 23, Buenos Aires, Argentina

    1984 September 15, Athens, Alabama, US

    1985 March 9, Athens, Alabama, US

    1986 April 11, Plymouth, Massachusetts, US

    1986 April 26, Pripyat, Ukraine

    1986 May 4, Hamm-Uentrop, Germany

    1987 March 31, Delta, Pennsylvania, US

    1987 December 19, Lycoming, New York, US

    1989 March 17, Lusby, Maryland, US

    1993 April 6, Tomsk, Russia

    1996 February 20, Waterford, Connecticut, US

    1996 September 2, Crystal River, Florida, US

    1999 June, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan

    1999 September 30, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan

    2002 February 16, Oak Harbor, Ohio, US

    2003 April 10, Paks, Hungary

    2004 August 9, Fukui Prefecture, Japan

    2005 April 19, Sellafield, England, United Kingdom

    2005 November Braidwood, Illinois, United States

    2006 March 6, Erwin, Tennessee, United States

    2011 March 11, Ōkuma, Fukushima, Japan


    Where does Terry Krieg get his “over 60 years”.


  140. i am still shocked by many responses here. basically you folks completely ignore all negative news from Japan.

    sea contamination is the highest that was measured so far:

    “His announcement comes as Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), operator and owner of the ageing plant reported radioactive iodine levels in the sea near the plant at 4,385 times the legal limit – its highest reading yet.”


    so obviously there is still contaminated water released to the sea.


    the Japanese authorities confirm very high measurements outside the evacuation zone, but deny to do further evacuations:

    The IAEA is reporting that measured soil concentrations of Cs-137 as far away as Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima-Dai-Ichi, correspond to deposition levels of up to 3.7 megabecquerels per square meter (MBq/sq. m). This is far higher than previous IAEA reports of values of Cs-137 deposition, and comparable to the total beta-gamma measurements reported previously by IAEA and mentioned on this blog.

    This should be compared with the deposition level that triggered compulsory relocation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident: the level set in 1990 by the Soviet Union was 1.48 MBq/sq. m.”


    just one of several things that are actually worse than in Chernobyl.


    and the workers trying to stabilize the situation are forced to work under completely inhuman conditions:

    “They sleep anywhere they can find open space — in conference rooms, corridors, even stairwells. They have one blanket, no pillows and a leaded mat intended to keep radiation at bay.

    They eat only two meals each day — a carefully rationed breakfast of 30 crackers and vegetable juice and for dinner, a ready-to-eat meal or something out of a can.They clean themselves with wet wipes, since the supply of fresh water is short.”


    you simply can NOT work in an environment like this without being able to shower to decontaminate. it is just unbelievable, that the workers sleep at the plant. not giving enough drinking water to a person working in such an environment is a plain out crime!


  141. @Matt
    …absolute risks… is an X factor.

    …their own objective risk evaluations…

    You mean “risk evaluations from their own objective”?
    It remains, thow progressivly positive, subjective.

    Its there it stumbles, can you see that? Its the coming to an agreement in how to approach dealing with an X factor in the knowledge of increasing need for action that makes all the noses point in different ways.

    Whatever choice is made is there for everyone. I’m willing to take the chance with you if this was just us, but its all the others as well. I think there is something missing still to make it acceptable for common sense. Not a substantial fact, but an argument.

    To not let this whole story evolve all by itself the same way fossil fuel consumption went, requires execution of agreement. Get the noses to point in one direction and then act on it. This is one for all and all for one, so you have to agree on what is fact and what is belief.


  142. “BHP Billiton prudently chose not to talk about the Olympic Dam expansion immediately after Fukushima but now it’s back on track.

    The expansion should lead to 19,000 tonnes a year of U308 production though some of that will be done in China after separation from copper concentrate. As far as I am aware the expansion will still require 690 MW of new power and a 187 megalitre a day desalination plant on the coast some 300km from the mine.

    To cap it off the SA deputy premier is pushing a local uranium enrichment industry. So where is this power going to come from? SA’s developed coal and gas reserves are mature and in decline.”

    John, I suspect we might be getting a little bit off-topic here (technical vs. philosophical discussion), but if Barry asks me to re-post then I will.

    Let’s remember that Olympic Dam is a very large copper mine, that produces a little gold and silver and uranium as byproducts from the copper mine tailings waste. That energy and water consumption has little to do with uranium mining – we’re talking about mining copper.

    We could shut down the uranium extraction circuit – and just leave all that uranium that we’re currently extracting from the tailings waste in the tailings waste. Given that the anti-nuclearists crap on ceaselessly about the millions of tonnes of deadly radioactive tailings waste, is that really what they want?

    These additional products – the U, Ag, Au etc, – are “free”, they don’t require any additional digging or environmental footprint in terms of the hole in the ground.

    If we’re going to build a distributed, interconnected, “smart” electricity grid, and build lots of wind turbines and electric cars and solar thermal power stations and all this sort of thing, then we’re going to need to get a bunch of copper out of a hole in the ground. So, yes, Olympic Dam is vital.

    Olympic Dam is actually a really good thing for the environment, since we get that enormous uranium energy resource for “free”, with no additional environmental intensity for its mining on top of what we’re already doing to mine the copper ore.

    It’s actually better, in terms of the environmental footprint, to take all that uranium from Olympic instead of any conventional uranium-only mine, since we get it with no additional mining.

    So, we need to spend a bit of energy at the mine in order to mine all that copper. Yes, that’s no surprise. But we need that copper, so it needs to be done.

    But, fortunately, we’ve got all that byproduct uranium as well, and its energy output pays back the energy input into Olympic Dam many, many times over!

    Try finding out how much electrical energy the expanded mine at Olympic Dam will consume.

    Now look at its uranium output, and consider the conversion of that uranium into electricity using a conventional LWR with no reprocessing or fast reactors or anything, just to be conservative and pessimistic about it. Try calculating electricity output from that supply of uranium. How much electricity output, quantitatively, do you get?


  143. How could Japan wait this long to call in experts from France and the US? I don’t mean just getting technical advise over the phone, I mean within a few days of the crisis tactical teams should have been deployed to the scene. It is astonishing how all of the authorities have allowed the hubris of Tepco to repeatedly downplay the situation, thereby postponing the deployment of backup tactical teams. This could go down as one of the worst managed nuclear accidents.


  144. @parrot

    not to mention the G-8 Chair standing in person at Japan. Big message. I do applaud France on this one. Was very needed.

    “and also to show the international community that the country is safe enough to visit”


  145. American,

    In addition to your thesis, the long term cleanup costs, coupled with the destruction of shareholder confidence and capital, could eventually put Tepco into some form of bankruptcy, this despite it being one of the largest Japanese corporations. That will strike new fears into power companies everywhere. They will not build new plants unless they are totally protected. Even then, they will ponder the risks for uninsured destruction of reputation and capital. We have to wait and see how Tepco capital emerges a few years from now.


  146. chris warren, on 31 March 2011 at 11:38 PM said:

    The record of accidents since 1952 to 2011 (59yr) is:

    You left off the list the inadvertent double exposures at Doctor’s offices, broken density gauges used in construction and all the other radiological hazards that we incur in daily life.

    The US NRC has a database of 46,713 ‘events’ since it started keeping track.


    The NRC database is a really useful tool for safety engineers.

    Here is another safety study.

    The number of children killed by falling into 5 gallon cleaning buckets.

    Click to access drwnstat.pdf


  147. An article from a week ago in the NYT has some pertinent quotes from the CEO of Exelon )the largest US Nuclear Power company. The near term future of NPP construction may be limited by economics. It seems to me that CEO’s of public companies are concerned with bottom-line profits for shareholders – not with ideal solutions to power needs. Note the quote in the 2nd paragraph.

    Exelon, the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States, sought to reassure investors and the public about the safety of its 17 reactors on Thursday. The company’s chief executive, John W. Rowe, declared that the company was well prepared to “respond to emergencies not contemplated in the original design.”

    Mr. Rowe, whose company has no new plants in the planning stages right now, is focusing on upgrading the output of Exelon’s existing plants. “I believe that there is little opening for new nuclear plants in the near future,” he said. “But that view has come from economics, not from safety.”

    The article is long and I have selectively quoted, so here is a link:



  148. Shelby wrote:

    “In addition to your thesis….”

    Well don’t get me wrong, Shelby. I don’t think this is a “thesis” so much as it is an argument for a gimlet-eyed view of the situation.

    Ultimately I’m still on the pro-nuke power side that Rational Debate is. But even ignoring this Fukushima business—a helluva “ignore” I think everyone would admit—I just think it’s wrong to say that the risks of nuke power are no greater than anything else that’s insured … because you must factor in not just the risk of the accident but the potential (and real) liability too.

    Look for instance at the … what? … tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands already displaced by this. And now the calls on the “experts” in Japan to greatly widen the evacuation zone. And who knows how long that displacement might be for?

    Clearly billions in damages I would think, already. *Hard* damages; lives, property, businesses lost, and not just imagined or feared damages.

    Not many other ventures suggest such great damage, which is why nuke power owner/operators in the U.S. say they won’t go forward without gov’t indemnity.

    So in short I say yeah, one ought to accept that nuke power is indeed more … risky than the vast majority of other ventures given it’s potential damage. I.e., that ought to be admitted. [deleted personal appraisal of motives/ad hom]But, I think, the benefits of nuke power do outweigh even the full risk and society ought to go ahead with same.

    Without any illusions, however, that what we would be doing is saying to potential victims … “Oh, sorry; yes if like other things we had left to those who would have to pay for their mistakes and risks these things would not get built and you wouldn’t be a victim. But we made a decision that the benefits to all outweighed the detriments to you, and that’s the bottom line.”

    Because that, I think, is exactly what we would (and indeed have, in the U.S. via indemnification) be doing.

    Thus it’s just the air of … unreality here that I’m kinda pointing out, and that going forward with such arguments isn’t going to advance your position much.

    [deleted personal appraisal/ad homs]


  149. This maybe off topic of the present conversation!
    As a layman looking for any resolution of this tragedy.
    What would happen if spent rods in-cased in concrete
    Were dropped into an active volcano!
    Stupid crazy idea I know!
    But being in-cased they would sink below the surface of molten lava and what would be the result?
    Like i said Crazy Idea!
    just wondering?
    You might get your answer on the Fukushima Technical Open Thread.


  150. Here’s a funny comment by someone in Berlin.

    It seems to make sense to consider the tsunami and the earthquake that caused it as one event.

    That being so..

    it seems to make equaly much sense to consider the Fukushima situation and the mass public response as one event too.


  151. > JD Noland
    Concrete has a lot of water in it. Get it hot and it explodes into powder.

    One issue we hear about from time to time is neglect of maintenance. I came across a spooky one here. A turbine-driven pump failure during operation of Unit-5 of the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on November 2, 2010 — due to lack of maintenance.

    The problem was discovered because the pump failed to respond when needed.

    Unit 5 (and 6) were shut down when the tsunami happened. I wonder if they checked all the reactor steam pumps for the same failure of maintenance?
    These are the “steam powered pumps” that did go on working on Units 1-4 after the tsunami.

    Failure report:

    —excerpt follows—-
    b) … the connection was operated using deteriorated grease that had poor lubricating properties. This caused the control unit for the turbine driven reactor feedwater pumps (A) and (B) to not respond to the feedwater flow control signal during the power decrease operation for the control rod pattern adjustment (*1).
    c) As a result, the reactor water level could not be controlled ….”
    —-end excerpt—

    Lots of interesting stuff on those pages generally.
    Hank – you are on the wrong thread. Your comment will be lost here. Please re-post on the Technical OT.


  152. Ok it explodes in to powder on impact of the intense heat of the magma and will have will have no effect on the rods when the concrete is dissolved? What then will be the ramifications of the rods in the magma?
    This belongs on the Technical OT. Your comment will be lost here.


  153. >JD Noland
    Fuel rods are stored in chemically pure cooled water
    Wrong thread Hank. Should be on the Technical thread. It will be lost here to those who will be interested and be boring to those reading the Philosophical Thread. As these comments have come up overnight in Australi I am leaving them but normally (during the day) they would be deleted (as per BNC policy) and you would be asked to re-post.


  154. Luke W you seem to be saying if it takes a new coal or gas fired power station to enable Olympic Dam to expand there is still a net CO2 benefit. That seems like giving in to ecological blackmail; we have to humour the hangups of the government in order to improve the big picture.

    I see there is a lot riding on fracking and horizonatal drilling to revive the Cooper Basin gas field. SA wants to build a 1000 MW gas fired plant at a place called Tepko (with a ‘k’). At one stage Santos was going to take captured CO2 from NSW coal stations 1000 km away and pump it down depleted gas wells. On the other hand Geodynamics is drilling straight through the Cooper sediments to get to the hot granite beneath.

    Changing topic; George Monbiot was lucid as usual on ABC Lateline. Coincidentally he seemed weakest on the gas option for Europe in that he omitted import dependence and likely price increases.
    This comment would be better suited to the Technical thread please move this conversation over.


  155. harrywr2, on 1 April 2011 at 2:25 AM said:

    You left off the list the inadvertent double exposures at Doctor’s offices, broken density gauges used in construction and all the other radiological hazards that we incur in daily life.

    Yes – of course.

    Why would you want to have these included?

    However I also left off pre- 1950’s nuclear explosions and deaths, as these were with very early nuclear research devices.

    But here they are for those interested.

    1942 June 23, Leipzig, German Third Reich –

    steam explosion and reactor fire.

    Scientists checking the Leipzig L-IV atomic pile for a possible heavy water leak caused air leaking in that ignited the uranium powder inside. The burning uranium boiled the water jacket, generating enough steam pressure to blow the reactor apart. Burning uranium powder scattered throughout the lab causing a larger fire at the facility.


    1945 August 21, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA

    Accidental criticality

    A tungsten carbide brick was dropped onto a plutonium core, inadvertently creating a critical mass at the Los Alamos Omega site. The worker involved was killed by the radiation.

    1946 May 21, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA

    Accidental criticality

    A scientist assembling a critical mass of plutonium and a momentary slip of a screwdriver caused a prompt critical reaction. The scientist was killed by the radiation. 2 Nearby workers died within a few years from cancers believed to be radiation-induced.


    Plus another meltdown in 1955


    1955 November 29, Idaho, USA

    Partial meltdown
    Operator error led to a partial core meltdown in the experimental EBR-I breeder reactor.



  156. Gee that’s some list of “nuclear disasters” you’ve outlined Chris Warren. Chernobyl still remains the only one that produced fatalities. By the way, I visited Chalk River Nuclear Research Station in 1981 with a large group of Ontario teachers. Walked across the top of an operating reactor as do workers there every day of their working lives. Had several other nuclear experiences while in Canada and that’s why by the time I was back in Australia I had converted from an anti nuclear position to a pro nuke position. That was way before James Lovelock and Patrick Moore saw the light and became pro-nuke. It’s difficult to maintain an anti position once confronted with the FACTS Chris. At about that time our champion host, Barry, was about 6 years old. As Paul Davies said in the Adelaide Advertiser, August 1998, “The dangers of radiation have ALWAYS been ludicrously exaggerated.” And John Newlands, I thought Tony Jones was a bit out in suggesting that Japan build nuclear power stations away from active seismic zones. The whole country is subject to earthquakes, has always been and will always be. 10,000 quakes a year occur in Japan [mostly small of course] Jones should also have known that all of the reactors shut down automatically as they were designed to do and as will all future reactors built there do.


  157. Terry Krieg, on 1 April 2011 at 9:38 AM said:

    Gee that’s some list of “nuclear disasters” you’ve outlined Chris Warren.

    [deleted personal appraisal of people’s motives/ad homs]
    Remember Kreig’s original query was about nukes going “haywire”.

    When this embarrasses him, he switches to “deaths” and “disasters”.

    Another poster; harrywr2, on 1 April 2011 at 2:25 AM was even worse. He tried to cover nukes going haywire with a blanket of very numerous other incidents. Again trying to avoid the issue by moving goal posts.

    You left off the list the inadvertent double exposures at Doctor’s offices, broken density gauges used in construction and all the other radiological hazards that we incur in daily life.

    Yea right – this is their ploy. The risk from Nukes is in the same ballpark as:

    – inadvertent double exposures at Doctor’s offices,

    – broken density gauges used in construction

    – all the other radiological hazards that we incur in daily life.

    [ad hom deleted]
    Chris – you are becoming a persistent offender in violating the BNC Commenting Rules particularly with regard to the ad hom/incivility/motive attribution. If this happens again I will delete the whole comment.


  158. We’ve recently learned from Helen Caldicott of the horrific dangers of a technology which has in the last forty years killed zero members of the OECD public. We will be working diligently towards at least doubling the regulatory burden of that uniquely scary and dangerous source of energy.

    While researching those dangers, it has come to our attention that there is an even more dangerous technology that is killing actual (non-zero) numbers of OECD children every year. For example, in the US alone, an average of 14.5 children were killed every year for the 1996-1999 period. By applying the widely-recognized Linear No Threshold principle to this data set we immediately see that on a global basis nearly 400 children will be killed every year and a staggering 35,195 children will be killed by the end of this century.

    Clearly more stringent regulations are not adequate. We will be campaigning for no less than a total ban on 5-Gallon buckets.


  159. re post by: Parrot, on 1 April 2011 at 2:16 AM said:

    Do you know what financial source covers the costs of maintaining safety and general maintenance on decommisioned plants?

    The owners.

    By the way, I’m curious what safety and general maintenance you think is needed at a decommissioned facility that is any different than at any other industrial property?


  160. I didn’t put the question right, sorry.
    What i mean is what source balances out the decommision costs.

    Like when you buy a car, some of the price you pay, pays for scrapping it. (it does here).

    From the moment a plant stops producing energy it no longer produces income either, so those cost must be covered by something else. Is that past or future income? Are nuclear operators obliged to deposit a security? And if so where and how much?


  161. Rational, isn’t it so that a plant has to be run fairly active for the time it takes the last cores to cool down to transportable decay level?
    That would be somewhat more than in some other industries.
    Parrot and RD. This conversation is straying away from the philosophical and into the technical. Please MOve this conversation to Fukushima Technical Open Thread. Thank you.


  162. @Rational Debat
    The reason i ask is because i get asked and i don’t know. I’m arguing that decommisioning all power plants now would increase the radioactive hazard. Not technically, but realisticly. After the same line of thinking of the challengers, so to speak. That takes the air out pretty seriously. But it has to be defendable, so… i need to know.
    PLease move over to Fukushima Technical Open Thread. This is not a philosophical question.


  163. Interesting and surprisingly balanced article repeated via Climate Spectator this morning. Climate Spectator normally shies away from consideration of nuclear options. In this post-Fukushima world, it seems that the nuclear option is neither as dead nor as buried as some thought.

    “The US Energy Information Administration says that in 2016, onshore wind, the least expensive renewable energy source, will be 80 per cent more expensive to run than a combined cycle, gas-fired electricity.

    But conventional nuclear power will still be the lowest price energy option in 2016, according to an EIA projection issued in December 2010.”

    For more, follow the link to “Renewables in the Spotlight” at http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=3965871af52170b27860e0c8a&id=ee9ce6ea23&e=c5c9b7b9c1 .


  164. re post by: Eric Moore, on 31 March 2011 at 9:03 PM said:

    Does anyone know of the potential cumulative effect on radiation contamination world-wide if we continue to have serious accidents at the rate we are having them (3 in 60 years)?

    Hi Eric,

    Sure, see: http://radiology.rsna.org/content/253/2/293.figures-only

    It’s a pie chart breaking down all the major contributor to background radiation doses.

    Do you see Chernobyl on there? Or even nuclear power? They aren’t because they don’t add to average background dose rates to any appreciable extent. You add to your own background dose rates far far more, WAY more, just by moving from a typical sea level residence to somewhere at a relatively high altitude. Or by flying much.

    Even the tiny fraction of occupational and industrial contributions shown (<0.1%) include medical & veterinary personnel (e.g., x-ray & CT techs, those handling isotopes for nuclear medicine scans, cancer treatments, etc.) and other industries (e.g., well logging sources are screaming hot & there are many other industrial uses of radiation)

    For nuclear power, as you note the three worst by far are Chernobyl, Fukushima, and TMI. Chernobyl was by far the worst release – Fukushima Dai-ichi so far is far less and will most likely stay that way. TMI was even far smaller.

    Meanwhile, just to put things into perspective, consider also that there have been something like 2050+ nuclear weapons tests (and 2 uses) since the 1940's. Roughly 500+ of those were above ground tests (underground tests would contribute nothing, or very little if there was any surface breakthru). The majority of above ground tests were in the early 60's, although the last above ground test wasn't until the 1980's.

    All the radioactivity and fallout from those no longer contribute a significant amount to average annual background — they don't even make the breakdown anymore.


  165. re post by: Shelby, on 1 April 2011 at 12:54 AM said:

    How could Japan wait this long to call in experts from France and the US? I don’t mean just getting technical advise over the phone, I mean within a few days of the crisis tactical teams should have been deployed to the scene. It is astonishing how all of the authorities have allowed the hubris of Tepco to repeatedly downplay the situation, thereby postponing the deployment of backup tactical teams. This could go down as one of the worst managed nuclear accidents.

    You REALLY need to check your facts before blowing off repeatedly Shelby, especially all the slander of TEPCO and other officials. There has been assistance there from multiple international sources for DAYS. The international Atomic Energy Agency, the US, France, and so on.


  166. Sorry Rational, but shelbys critic is right on. They were more than just not ready for the tsunami. They werent ready for anything beyond the book. They should have massively started generating international tech support the moment the water came over the barrier and they didnt. Management incompetence big style and its going to cost them dearly.


  167. Do the math.
    Take any remotely realistic estimate of how much damage this blunder is going to cost either Tepco or the rest of the world. Take say… five percent of that and than imagine what difference it would have made to be able to throw that at the problem the moment it becomes clear there is one.

    Dig this.
    A few days ago i saw over 100,000 people march through my street wearing little yellow sunshine badges that read “Atomkraft Nein !”.
    One day later the Green party made a landslide victory in general elections in Baden Wuertemberg, putting them behind the wheel in one of the most powerfull federal states in Germany for the next four years.

    They want to close all plants down asap. I may not have done my math right, but  i’m getting the feeling we are heading for a bigger health threat right here than they do in Fukushima.


  168. This whole panic hype belongs to Fukushima the way the tsunami belongs to the earthquake. It is global ignorence and thats exactly what the anti-nukes are so worried about. Its not the technology, its the way its used. It is utterly propostrous that a half way involved MIT guy is giving the best defense against that hype. There should be so much organised reasuring going on he wouldnt even be noticed. This is one thing, one act.


  169. if nuclear industry wants to be the big solution it will have to grow up. Like Sarkozy said, but then a bit further. All production of nuclear energy under one flag. No commercial interest, no political agenda. Safety first. And then build like mad.
    because we have a problem
    a real problem


  170. > there should be so much organised reassuring

    Most energy companies operate both coal and nuclear, and don’t want any comparisons made to the risks and costs involved between them. But without addressing the risks and costs — they sound like idiots or politicians, not the kind of people you _want_ operating these things.

    Maybe only nuclear navy veterans should be eligible to work on, and manage, these things?


  171. The only way to obtain any objective is by believing you can. Murphy turned around. The odds of running nuclear energy free of accidents is bigger than having accidents all the time. So skip the odds. Statistics are never absolute.Try think a bit captain Kirk like. Or would you rather watch your world go up in smoke and your species die in its own crap like yeast in a wine barrel?

    If its kindergarten teachers that can get the job done, we should hire them.
    There is only so many things that can go wrong in a nuclear plant. Zero tolerance is no a workable option, but limiting to zero is. I’ll bet ya green money if we try real hard nobody is ever gonna see the difference.


  172. We’re still gonna need the hydros and the millers and the panel boys and the kiters and the wave riders and what have you. Each in his own faith. We’re not going to last ten more generation if it goes on like this and its going faster all the time. Its like jumping chute without one. Its not the fall that kills ya. Its the sudden stop.


  173. I have no doubt what so ever, that the only technology immidietly available, capable of taking the force of the blow is nuclear energy. In order to deploy that technology the message of its potential to be truthfully sustainable must convince. It must obtain a level of safety that satisfies even global hysteria, because that global hysteria is a rightfull part of the way nuclear technology is used now. It wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t.


  174. re post by: Parrot, on 1 April 2011 at 12:44 PM said:

    Sorry Rational, but shelbys critic is right on. They were more than just not ready for the tsunami. They werent ready for anything beyond the book. They should have massively started generating international tech support the moment the water came over the barrier and they didnt. Management incompetence big style and its going to cost them dearly.

    Hi Parrot,

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with you. Don’t misunderstand me please – I am NOT saying that TEPCO and/or Japanese officials are perfect, or anything of that nature. I’m not saying that it may not turn out that they made errors – and they ought to be held accountable for anything that is found to be accurate in that regard.

    I am saying that Shelby’s specific accusation is factually untrue. That it’s not the first time either. She claimed that they just now asked for international help – and worse, that it was hubris that kept them from asking earlier.

    When the fact is that there has been international help there for quite some time now, from multiple sources.

    I have no problem with blame being laid where ever it is really due. I have a lot of problems with false accusations, and blame being made when there are no facts to support it, or worse, the facts actually contradict the claim. I don’t care which ‘side’ it comes from, pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear or any other ‘side.’ I just really dislike false accusations against anyone.


  175. This is not the right approach. It is much easier to find out what to do if you take the problem serious. There is no opponent. As long as the message does not convince the tool is useless. This is not a bunch of silly people that need to know better. Nuclear practice is responsible for the hysteria. Not by being technically inferior, but by puting money, political agenda or even pride before safety.

    It is not going to fade until nuclear industry gets its act together to the extend that situations like Fukushima can no longer occur. Sofar it doesn’t even have the objective to do that. It isn’t even trying. It is way too busy doing other things.


  176. re post by: Parrot, on 1 April 2011 at 11:14 AM said:

    …What i mean is what source balances out the decommision costs.

    From the moment a plant stops producing energy it no longer produces income either, so those cost must be covered by something else. Is that past or future income? Are nuclear operators obliged to deposit a security? And if so where and how much?

    Hi Parrot,

    We are talking pretty much about the same thing. I don’t know how Germany handles this issue (I’m assuming you’re from Germany from an earlier post). I’m not totally sure of details here in the US either, and would have to research it for anything beyond the basic concept.

    In the USA the owner/operator/company that builds the plant is responsible for covering all the costs of decommissioning the plant. It is all worked into the financing. I’m not sure if the funds have to be in escrow or a fund before being built, or if they are accumulated as the plant operates or if it is a bit of both. Basically, the decommissioning is all required to be financially covered before the funds are actually needed, however. I suspect you can find the details or at least a good overview with just a little searching on the web.

    In the US, decommissioning requires that the radiation levels on the site are brought down to very low levels before an area can be released. The levels are set so low that in some parts of the nation, it’s actually lower than normal soil levels for that area.

    I would imagine that Germany has something similar, especially if buying cars requires paying for their disposal too – but really have no idea. Here in the US, a car’s price doesn’t include disposal at all.


    Moderators, I’m assuming that the financing issues and general policy type things are ok to keep here (e.g., I won’t go further than the very basic bit on rad levels w/ decommissioning, only mentioned that because it has to do with general policy), but the tech issues involved with actually decommissioning or related details of rad issues involved and so on are what you’re wanting us to take to the tech thread….
    You are right in your assumption :-)


  177. re post by: Parrot, on 1 April 2011 at 1:05 PM said:

    … It is utterly propostrous that a half way involved MIT guy is giving the best defense against that hype. There should be so much organised reasuring going on he wouldnt even be noticed. This is one thing, one act.

    Parrot, the problem isn’t that there aren’t experts out there more than willing to do exactly as you suggest – but for them to be heard, the media has to be willing to interview them, put them on TV, quote them in articles, and so on.

    There are a few TV interviews and articles that way, but as you’ve noted, very few. The problem is that the media much prefers to get some activist who sensationalizes the whole thing and gets the journalist a lot of attention, hype, and big headlines. It’s utterly deplorable, and tells you the state of general information that we get from the media on any subject is almost certainly very bad on average.


  178. Nobody is only anti-nuke.[deleted ad hom]people have a whole list of points on their agenda. Population intoxicating nourishment industry, national economy undermining financial mismanagement, oppression and slavery, destruction of nature, drugs culture, human condemnation, racism, public violence, organised crime, sexual- and child abuse, save the flipping whales.

    [deleted ad hom]

    I can tell you from my own ecperience, watching a hundred thousand of them change the political direction of a whole state in a matter of days over one single subject is a seriously impressive sight. These are not stupid people.


  179. Rational, you are on tv. This post is being watched, but you have to have a plan. All this time people have been watching. Barry was interviewed by the Germans. They wanted to know. Why do you think i’ve been trying to warn for this yes-nuke, no-nuke blame show? Its not the greens or the technical experts that are doing this, its the objective behind the production of nuclear energy. Its not even the ones executing it, its the objective itself.


  180. It is technically quite possible to produce nuclear energy in a way so ridiculously safe it can even convince the greenest green. That is something fossil fuel can not do. Then we have a solution. But you gotta want it, more than anything else.


  181. re post by: Parrot, on 1 April 2011 at 3:47 PM said:

    … Not by being technically inferior, but by puting money, political agenda or even pride before safety.

    It is not going to fade until nuclear industry gets its act together to the extend that situations like Fukushima can no longer occur. Sofar it doesn’t even have the objective to do that. It isn’t even trying. It is way too busy doing other things.

    Parrot, I wish you could tour a nuclear power station here in the USA, and learn about what really is involved in terms of safety, reporting, and so on. Actually you CAN learn a lot about those issues online at the NRC.gov public reading room. But the point is that those working in the nuclear industry – I can only speak for here in the USA – take safety VERY VERY VERY seriously.

    Just think about what you are saying for a minute – everyone who works in the nuclear power industry at a plant stands to have to deal with the consequences should anything go wrong. Many of them live with their families quite close to the power station. Do you really think that they want to have their work place turn into something like Fukushima? For their families to have to be evacuated?

    Of course they are run by humans, and with anything we humans do, there will always be some bad apples. But the system works very hard to try to allow any bad apples to cause problems.

    Meanwhile, with regard to “gets its act together to the extend that situations like Fukushima can no longer occur” Think about what you are saying for a moment. The power plants were designed to withstand either 8.0 or 8.4 magnitude earthquake (depending on which report one reads).

    27,000 people are either dead or missing. Not from the power plants, so far I don’t think there are any deaths, although its possible that a few injured in the EQ or hydrogen explosions may have but not been reported, I don’t know for sure. Point is, so far, either no or at most a handful of deaths. None from radiation.

    Meanwhile, Tokyo, it’s skyscrapers, the NEWER ones that have the BEST earthquake design, are only designed to withstand a 7.0 earthquake. Most of the city is designed for much less than that, especially people’s houses. If Tokyo were hit with a massive EQ and many of those towers came down, there would be a huge death toll. Not just to those in the towers, but to everyone below who got hit.

    The death toll could be huge – thousands. It would be ‘over’ pretty quickly, initial deaths, then those who were injured and died. The cost to Japan’s people would be massive.

    Clearly they KNOW earthquakes larger than they’ve designed for are possible. Shut down all the skyscrapers and buildings until they are rebuilt & retrofitted?

    Does Japan need to ‘get its act together’ and rebuild all of Tokyo so if it is hit with a 9.0 earthquake no one would be injured and there wouldn’t be any property damage? If Tokyo were hit with a massive quake, and towers came down killing thousands, would you view all of the designers, builders, and owners – and for that matter the entire world of building designers, builders and owners – the same as you currently view the nuclear industry, TEPCO, GE, etc.?

    How about every other city in the world? Do we require no profit in building buildings, international laws, and so on? What of the cost to Japan’s society right now, from the thousands of buildings that were swept away by the tsunami, and the 27,000+ lives lost – is all of that, all of those people and the infrastructure and the buildings, is all of that somehow less valuable than the damage that Fukushima Dai-ichi will cost?

    The situation at the power plant will take a lot longer to resolve, that’s a given. It’s got one company that owns it, so it’s very easy to see a single entity to blame – and a single industry to blame. But the probability is that either no one, or at most a handful of people will be killed or seriously injured (and those not from radiation). So it is very easy to focus on them, on the ongoing drama there. But why is it that the 27,000 people killed and the thousands of buildings utterly demolished, vastly more expensive to Japans society, that gets ignored, it’s not in the comparison? Just because it was over and done quickly? Because there’s not one company to blame? Because we have to live in buildings, so we can’t blame all the builders because that’d be too scary as it would mean we ourselves are living and working in really dangerous buildings? Because we are more personally familiar with buildings, so we write them off?

    Because it is human nature, and the one is easy and still occurring even if far less harmful and destructive – while the other was over quickly and doesn’t have a single easy target to blame.


  182. I gotta take this one at a time, duty calls in between. I have not been in US plants, but i was in several in Germany and i can tell you one thing. If everyone in the world would love their work as much as those people do, this would be a better place. No question there. Most power plant workers i met burn a king size torch for their work.


  183. I have no doubt that those who work on nuclear power plants use the safety measures at their disposal to the best of their abilities. But it might be that they could do a better job with different means. Like i said earlier in one of the first posts: You don’t stop when your out of questions, you stop when you’re out of answers.

    When you build something to stop tsunamis, you make a choice how to prepare for what size tsunami. You do not gamble on a millenium chance wave not to hit. If the Lotto had those odds, everyone would play. There is options. You dont have to be a genius to build a generator that runs smoothly under 30 feet of water, or a tank that can survive the same. Or organise off site emergency support.

    And when your whole safety plan is done you publish it. See what the hairdresser has to say about it. If he lives nextdoor he’s got a right to know anyway. There is not much cross diciplinning going on. I mean, there is options.


  184. Next point, i’m not blaming anyone at Tepco. What i’m trying to say is that Tepco management serves Tepco objectives, otherwise they would have been replaced. And Tepco objective… correction, Tepco’s primary objective, … is the making of a financial profit. By legal obligation.

    This stuff works that way. We see it in every industry, every business. It goes all right untill it goes all wrong. The most mind boggling thing i have met in life so far is the ruling notion that a primary objective is not exactly that and/or will not eventually unavoidably be obtained at the expense of any other objective.

    Do you honestly for one second believe the recent global economic crisis was caused by anything other than a sick persuit of financial profit? What makes you think caused that? What makes you think it is any different in any other business? Not who, but what.


  185. Unlike all other decommissioning costs for retiring power generation, the costs of nuclear decommissioning are amortised which to me means that they are factored into the tariffs that the consumers pay. There is NO cost on the public purse. Correct me if I’m wrong somebody. Chris Warren, do you know the FACTS about the Chernobyl incident? I’ll post them for you if you like. Failing that, send me your postal address and I’ll send you a copy of the full UNSCEAR report on it.


  186. This is not about the casualties caused by Fukushima released radiation. As a death cause it doesn’t even make the top 10 in Fukushima itself. We both know that and have known that when it first happened.

    This is about getting a solution and a problem together on the planet of the apes. (pardon my french) And the solution just so happens to be on the front side of a medal that’s got ‘nuke-for-morbid’ written all over the back.

    If you don’t want that black sheep in the family to ruin all the chances, you better be very, very carefull. You better put a clearly visable, very outspoken, absolutely trustworthy distance between you and the slightest hint of the most destructive technology known to mankind.

    You better make real sure that if a pipe breaks or a valve blows, you can safely and truthfully say:
    “We got this… may it rain little purple aliens, we got this.”


  187. You should stop saying there is no damage to human health for various reasons.
    First reason, it meets disagreement. Its a conflict source.
    Second reason, its a result of the wrong kind of reasearch. If you know that you’re looking for the effect of a molecular or submolecular unfluence, there is little to find if all you can tell is how many people didn’t get hit by it like by a train. That means that there will always be a part that you simply don’t know. That is perfectly all right, as long as you present it as such.

    The moment you say “no health threat” someone else says “hundreds of casualties”, you say “no casualties at all” they say “a million” and you go on, before you know it, you’re facing a Helen Caldicott preaching armageddon. This is how it works. It has little if anything to do with being right. Unfortunately.

    This is the chemistry of our species. The moment you have enough of them together, their response is more predictable than an nuclear reaction.


  188. All this comparing with other hazards is no good for the same reason. There is no comparison. Haven’t you noticed that even the most outragous comparisons are not met with agreement?

    Its attitude, objective and attitude. There is no point in celebrating nuclear technology in this discussion. Plenty of time to do that after the smog over our cities has cleared up. The objective (you’re gonna hate me for this) is to get Helen Caldicott to embrace nuclear energy. If you succeed in that, you will have succeeded convincing the rest of the planet in the process.

    The only argument i can see is certainty. As absolute as possible. The audience does not buy Sweet cookie excuses. Not any more. There is way too much more going wrong all around us. The only other argument that has done me any good so far is the global-shutdow- means-increased-nuclear-hazard-fear-mirror-trick. That does not get us any new plants.


  189. From the NYT:


    “On Wednesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said a soil sample from Iitate, a village of 7,000 people about 25 miles northwest of the plant, showed very high concentrations of cesium 137 — an isotope that produces harmful gamma rays, accumulates in the food chain and persists in the environment for hundreds of years.”

    “The cesium levels were about double the minimums found in the area declared uninhabitable around the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine”

    [deleted ad hom] What about if the wind blows this stuff Tokyo’s way?
    This is on the wrong thread. It belongs on the Technical Open Thread. Kindly more your argument to the correct thread.Please note that personal attacks on people and your personal appraisal of a persons motives are violations of the BNC Commenting rules. BNC does not allow slanging matches to develop.Persistent violations will result in your comments being deleted and your being placed on permanent moderation.


  190. About the comparison to for instance building houses and bridges and such. Quite a lot of them collapsed over the years leading to the same kind of treatment nuclear practice gets: increased  government imposed restriction. 

    In the case of nuclear energy that doesn’t work. It is practicly on that level itself. It (to my idea) requires restriction imposed from higher up than that. that and/or liberation from the sanction not to be allowed to reduce the making of profit from an objective to a precondition. Safety as primary objective. That’s what people expect from a solution.


  191. @Nuclear Layman
    If you read the rest of the article you see its one single sample. A brief local shower and rain water flowing in one spot may cause abnormal concentrations. The term ‘high concentrations’ is a bit misleading too. It’s not like you can see it with the naked eye. The testing of samples is not the easiest job in the world and a percentage of it shows results that can not be reproduced for any odd reason. Should any area be so contaminated that it actually is uninhabitable, than this will also be the message. So far the measurement is called alarming, requiring more tests.


  192. @Nuclear Layman
    It is also usefull to read the papers right. News agencies can not afford to be caught on downright lies, so when making sensationalist claims, these are useually quotes.

    In this there is a fundamental difference between quotes from official authorities and quotes from ‘experts’. The latter being more often than not based on high general knowledge of the subject, rather than on the spot experience of the case at hand.

    These expertise opinions are therefore also often littered with ‘possible’ or ‘maybe’ or terms like that.

    In comparison: There is nothing ‘maybe’ about an evacuation order. The article clearly states such an order was neither given not considered at that moment.


  193. The objective (you’re gonna hate me for this) is to get Helen Caldicott to embrace nuclear energy.

    It’s precisely this nonsense that the anti-nuclear movement is desperate that pro-nukes should embrace. It is absolutely false, right down to its roots. Victory can be achieved by turning the passive support for nuclear power by a substantial minority or slight majority in most countries into active support. We don’t even need an outright majority to accomplish our objectives.


  194. [deleted personal opinion presented as fact. Please re-submit with refs/links.]
    In addition, what about planes crashing into the roofs of other Fukushima/GE model plants, where all the stored, spent fuel rods lie up near the ceiling? This would be worse than busting open the reactor containment vessel anyway.

    [deleted inflammatory comments]
    As before. Last warning.


  195. @ Nuclear Layman:

    In simulated or “test” attacks, small groups (4-6) of “terrorists” have gotten into nuclear plants, where they could cause severe damage

    Links? References?


  196. By the way, Finrod, i did not suggest to go to the lady and try convince her, that would be pointless, but as an objective it may serve well without ever being reached. The intend of suggesting this objective was to change the line of argumentation towards convincing in dialog, rather than the ongoing ping pong back and forth of deliberate misunderstanding. You seem to have not been following the news on anti-nuke developement lately.


  197. @ Nuclear Layman (9:13 and 9:34 pm, today):

    Your choice of screen name and your con tinual reference to some readers of this blog as a “nuclear gospel choir” or a “pro-nuclear penut gallery” clearly illustrate three things.

    First, your screen name indicates that you are some kind of warrior and that you are nowhere near expecting to listen to others’ opinions; let alone review your own.

    Second, that you are prepared, despite the rules of this blog, to use personal abuse and insult as the cornerstones of your contributions.

    Third, that comments such as yours really should be posted elsewhere; perhaps on a site, if one exists, where insult is acceptable, where aggression is a substitute for reason, and where bullying is accepted.

    Unless and until you display some manners, simple tools such as rational argument are wasted.

    DEAR ADMINISTRATOR: Yes, I know… this is a bit personal, but when in Rome… ?
    John – I step out for an hour and the dogs are loose:-) I edited his first two comments, warned him about his violations and as he continued I have deleted his comments and put him on permanent moderation.


  198. [deleted for persistent violations of the BNC commenting rules. You are now on permanent moderation. If you wish to re-join the conversation please behave in a civil manner.]

    Comments Policy — I welcome comments, posts, suggestions and informed debate, from a wide range of perspectives. However, personal attacks, insulting/vulgar posts, or repetitious/false tirades will not be tolerated and can result in moderation or banning. Trolls will be warned, and then disemvowelled.

    Civility – Clear-minded criticism is welcomed, but play the ball and not the person. Rudeness will not be tolerated. This includes speculation about motives or what ‘sort of person’ someone is. Civility, gentle humour and staying on topic are superior debating tools.

    Relevance – Please maintain focus on the topic at hand. Do not attempt to solve big problems in a single comment, or to offer as fact what are simply opinions about complex matters.


  199. @ Parrot

    (blockquote>If you don’t want that black sheep in the family to ruin all the chances, you better be very, very carefull. You better put a clearly visable, very outspoken, absolutely trustworthy distance between you and the slightest hint of the most destructive technology known to mankind.

    What exactly are you trying to say amongst this indecipherable jumble of words? What is the most “destructive technology known to mankind”?


  200. It is this abuse of expertise (or scientific opinions) in Oehmen’s text (for example) of which Karl Popper always warned about. In his lifetime he was pointing out the danger of a political dictatorship of the technocrats.

    Oehmen’s text is one of those attempts (if conscious or not) with the help of arguments, which have their origin in the engineering field, to disparage the fears of people in an ideological way

    in this case it does not even matter, if the technical argument is right or wrong. Important is the matter of fact that technical data and statements are used for the justification of an ideological point of view.
    Thank you Sophia for re-posting on this thread as suggested.


  201. During the 112 inspections, eight
    mock attacks resulted in the simulated destruction of complete target sets

    “Simulated destruction”?

    This article doesn’t discuss what the “target sets” were or the danger this poses to the public.

    I doubt a group of people “attacking” a nuclear power plant could penetrate the ‘defence in depth’ safety features to anywhere near the extent the magnitude 9 earthquake + 14 m tsunami in Japan did.


  202. @finrod

    I wrote one comprehensive post responding to your question for a citation regarding the 4-6 member mock attacks groups, which has been completely scrubbed — because, I guess, of some descriptions I used that were deemed “ad hominem.”

    Once more, the pertinent citations:

    Here is a CSM article that discusses the security requirements, i.e. being able to repel a 5-6 member intruder squad (so I assume the mock attacks were by this size of units):


    Here is a report by the Congressional Research Service that discusses NPP security and that in 8 of 112 “inspections”, i.e. mock attacks, the reactors have been damaged or destroyed:

    Click to access RL34331.pdf

    Here is an article in the Orange County, CA Register about NPP guards being caught sleeping on the job:


    Here is a CNN report about guards at the Oakridge, Tenn. being given previews of the planned mock attacks, thereby spoiling the tests — something that has been going on since the 1980’s:

    You were warned several times that, in future, your comments would be deleted in entirety, if you persisted in violating the BNC rules. Civil comments are expected on BNC.


  203. @Tom Keen
    There is nuclear weaponry too. The thing started as a war effort. This whole idea of ‘pose a threat’ in combination with peace loving nuclear power,… not good. Possible consequences of militant attacks… not good. Any kind of safety issue… not good.

    “Against stupidity, the Gods themselves contend invane. ” It was a German who wrote that, but it sounds better in english. 

    Besides caution, fear provokes a numbness of the intellect. You can’t reason against that, so you reason with it. Besides, they might have a point. 

    Remember, the hype wasn’t started by some anti-nuke, but by a nuclear defect. For the overreaction of a small group of extremists the response of concern was and is still, way too big. As long as i see most every ping from one side result in a pong from the other instead of a “What would you like for christmas and why?” question, reason remains on my wish list.


  204. @Tom Keen

    I’m not sure where you’re quoting, but the CRS report states that 8 of the 112 “inspections”, i.e. mock attacks, resulted in damage or destruction to the reactor. I am assuming this would be to the reactor containment vessel and/or core, but the report is not specific. Given that a lot of NPP security is veiled for security reasons since 9/11, I am not surprised that the report was not more explicit regarding this.


  205. sophia, if you think Oehman overstepped the mark, you must be completely outraged by most anti-nuclear speakers. It is standard for their unsupported opinions to be presented as fact and their wildest speculations as the inevitable course of events.


  206. Joffan

    What is wild speculation. Would it be if someone came up with the ridiculous, unimaginable idea that a Tsunami would cause huge problems at a reactor in Japan which for some reason several countries have joined in the fight to control (Why I don’t know as we always are being told that this incident is nothing to worry about). The records of such Tsunami events exist however I am 100% sure it would have been considered foolish wild speculation before it happened.


  207. Sophia, did you observe what the various press speculations did to those who are directly affected by the event? Oehman reduced a lot of despair into some fundamental understanding of the situation.

    He doesn’t sell nuclear energy, he advocated for the relativ safety of the actual situation by relying on the technology.

    Regardless of any possible hidden agenda, it did a lot of people a lot of good and it didn’t hurt anyone. Even if it’s a mistake, it’s a mistake that turned out for the better for many people. And he is hardly what i would call a technocrat. He started a post later questioning the first one.

    You gotta agree with me, it’s better than telling people in Japan, or those with loved ones there they are facing twelve meltdowns that are going to turn the country into a desert, right?


  208. Rational, thanks for all the comments, the safes and the info. I’m working a ypad here, being in motion most of the time myself, so it’s hard to scroll back and forth without losing it all together or making the browser app crash. First read your extensive comment now and i really think we are on one line in a lot of things. Thanks.


  209. @moderators
    It’s good to know you’re there. I’m not sure if i would have said the things i said if i wouldn’t have known there is at least someone filtering and covering me.
    Thank you.


  210. It is almost amazing to read the comments on site, the bunker mentality is unparalleled. Any time unpleasant information is posted, the *first* thing the local advocates do is look to impeach the source on whatever grounds available. “Oh they’re just anti-nuclear…..”

    As someone said above, if you’re looking to persuade anyone currently unconvinced by nuclear power, you should try to be more honest and balanced. [ad hom/personal appraisal of other’s motives deleted] Yes, ad-hominem, insulting, whatever.
    If you look back over the moderation comments on this site(moderation began at the beginning of the Fukushima crisis when traffic to the site increased dramatically along with incivility and insulting comments) you will find that many of the comments by regulars on BNC have also been deleted/edited for violating BNC commenting rules. The same applies to both sides of the argument. We try to keep the conversation civil. Personal attacks on individuals and slanging matches are not allowed. Perhaps you should have a good look at some of the anti-nuclear/green blogs. Few, if any, of them even allow any comment by pro-nuclear supporters to be posted and insults abound.


  211. I’m agnostic on nuclear power, that is to say that I’m neither for or against, until there is enough known evidence to make such a belief based on the total known reality of nuclear power.

    [Unsubstantiated personal opinion on the motives of others]

    I think your statements should all be recorded and weighed against known facts in the future, that way the public has some way to measure the accuracy of your reassurances, against the facts of what actually transpired. My guess is that some will live to regret their premature assurances.


  212. History of Nuclear Power

    Barry was featured on Australian Broadcasting Corps “Rear Vision” show, “The History of Nuclear Power’. The show is available as a podcast and a transcript http://www.abc.net.au/rn/rearvision/stories/2011/3176675.htm

    Barry, and for that matter, all guests in the debate on the show who commented on the role of Three Mile Island played as the new build nuclear industry ground to a halt in the US, downplayed the TMI effect.

    It so happens that Forbes magazine, a competitor in the American magazine market to Fortune and Business Week, published an assessment in 1985 that disagrees with this what appears to be revisionist view.

    They had a cover story, “Nuclear Follies”, which contains this quote:

    “Of all the woes that descended on the U.S. nuclear industry beginning in 1978–high inflation, high interest rates, slackening demand–none was to prove more traumatic than the accident at Three Mile Island….”

    And a companion article “The best. (Duke Power…..)” contained this quote:

    “”We would not have gone into the nuclear business if we had realized the instability of the licensing process,” says William Grigg, Duke’s treasurer. “A nuclear plant with all the regulatory uncertainties, all the investor concern, the environmental concerns, I just don’t think would be a viable option for us.”

    The licensing instability referred to was caused by Three Mile Island.

    I’ve posted the full text of these two articles on my blog Blow Hard Wind Bag.

    Nuclear Follies http://blowhardwindbag.blogspot.com/2011/04/forbes-article-reference-nuclear.html

    The best. (Duke Power…..)


  213. <wild anti-nuke speculation
    @ Eric Moore: For example, Arnie Gunderson was insistent that the Fukushima would be worse that Chernobyl; “Chernobyl on steroids” was his phrase. Caldicott says it will kill everyone in Japan.

    Never a hint of uncertainty with those guys.


  214. Parrot I don’t have to agree with you. :)
    I can, thought I do not. I expect from someone who loves me to tell me the truth. Or – if she or he – does not know it, say to me: “I don’t know”.

    And anyway:
    It is better to not play down a situation like this. And I tell you why: if you are right, and the situation turns out to be really, really bad, you probably saved some lives or at least prevented people from getting contaminated. If it turns out you are wrong, then there is no loss. People can just return to their homes and everything is good.

    This scenario doesn’t work the other way around. It is almost of mathematical…


  215. I realize that “Rear Vision” would be editing out a lot of what Barry said. However, at one point in the show, it appeared he was able to respond directly to a point made by one of the other guests, as if they were all recorded at the same time in an actual debate that we mere listeners were only allowed to listen to an edited version of.

    In addition to the point about Three Mile Island I posted as a separate comment, here are a few points I would have made:

    1. Chernobyl was accepted by all to be part of the nuclear industry record. The fact that it didn’t have a containment building and because power reactors were never built without containments in the OECD means, duh, obviously, we need to separate out Chernobyl stats in order to get a better idea of what the issues are here. It has to be emphasized when debating these people.

    2. Wild speculative statements were made by one panel member as to “Japanese will never be able to go back to their homes”, and she got away with inserting if you use nuclear power anywhere, you’ve got to accept the possibility that within a 50 mile radius, suddenly you may find your entire way of life ended as you have to permanently evacuate. All of this kind of thing depends on accepting that something that has never happened to a reactor with a containment can happen. All people making these statements assume this event must happen. The entire perception of Three Mile Island as a nuclear crisis depends on widespread acceptance that an event that has yet to happen decades later was only narrowly avoided. Fukushima is the same.

    3. One panel member brought up the spent fuel pools, saying the designers of Fukushima thought there never could be a situation where they would be “without cooling water”. At Fukushima, they never did run out of cooling water. The pools were never allowed to go dry. Its worth pointing out.


  216. sophia, it is a fallacy that pessimism is a risk-free option. Moving people from their established location and giving the impression that they are doomed healthwise was the major health issue for the people near Chernobyl. Not the radiation.


  217. Joffan

    I agree with you. Wild statements are made on all sides. What I am saying is that once people become entrenched in their campaigns they then put all people opposing in any way in the ‘wild speculation’ list of[ad hom deleted]anti nukes. This means that sometimes when people might have a valid point at least worth investigation, they are tossed out of the argument. That is all I am trying to say.


  218. I’ve been reading this blog for the past couple of days. I don’t know much about NP, so I will frame this in a very general manner. To give some context, I am not pro or anti, but in general I tend to lean to the side of undue caution rather than the side of undue optimism.

    1 – It is not convincing to use fatality data to evaluate the potential threat of NP. Death toll is not the only metric of the scope of a disaster.

    2 – It seems to me that NP advocates here are implicitly denying the possibility of an event that would force the long-term evacuation of a large area of land. Is such an event truly impossible with modern designs? How are the odds of such an event calculated? What are the odds?

    3 – Are historical data and statistical models used to calculate those odds? As we saw in Japan, historical records can be broken. As for statistical models, are there enough data?

    5 – I was hesitant to voice my opinions because of the attitude of many of the comments here. Massive amounts of energy are both SCARY and FASCINATING. It seems obvious that some people will react to such things with fear, while others will react with interest. It isn’t ignorance or conspiracy on either side. I find it very annoying when an otherwise intelligent post is tainted by an insulting attitude.


  219. The signs point towards next year’s carbon tax becoming a political shambles. A couple of excerpts from Google News
    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/green-tax-to-cost-868-a-year/story-fn7x8me2-1226032340602 Critics say the carbon tax will hurt household budgets without reducing emissions by much. If the nuclear power option is disallowed that’s probably true long run. Then to make sure of that we have
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/01/fukushima-chernobyl-risks-radiation arguing that nearly a million people will die from Chernobyl but Fukushima will be worse.

    The problem is that a non-trivial carbon tax rate, say $25/tCO2 will be neutralised by a raft of offsets, exemptions, free permits and compensation. Contrary to the government’s advice it is likely that renewables target ands subsidies will remain in place. After a couple of years of carbon tax all that can realistically happen are some efficiency gains but no major changes in energy sources.

    In my opinion the government must now implement a couple of major policy reversals
    1) freebies kept to an absolute minimum
    2) allow all technology including NP.
    By 2013 or 2014 all we will have to show for carbon tax are some minor efficiency gains with no really big emissions cuts in sight.


  220. Nuclear Corrosion of Standards
    Nuclear Toxicity

    Typically, commercial competition opposes regulation and has an inherent tendency to ‘cut costs’.

    As more and more nuclear concentrate, fuel, and waste are introduced into the environment, policy makers will be forced to derogate their own standards. We see this in recent commercial pressures to export uranium to a non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty nation (India). Unfortunately, allowing India to breakout of NPT structures has led to North Korea seeking the same treatment.

    In the United States, the Department of Energy awards contracts to manufacture plutonium-based (P-MOX) fuel for nuclear reactors, even though;

    …the increase in risk to the public … exceeds recently established Nuclear regulatory Commissoin (NRC) guidelines

    See: Edwin S. Lyman (2000), “Public Health Risks of Substituting Mixed-Oxide For Uranium Fuel in Pressurized-Water Reactors”, Science & Global Security, 2000, Volume 9, pp.1–47

    The key issue, for Lyman, is that spent P-MOX fuel contains large inventories of long-lived alpha-emitters with relatively high radiotoxicity.

    Lyman’s paper also provides a good illustration how bureaucrats corrode their own standards. Risk increase from nukes can be permitted in America given that:

    …when proposed changes result in an increase in … risk, the increases should be small …

    [see: Lyman p21]

    If the increase in (internal) risk in Large Release Frequency (LERF) is less than 10^-7 per reactor/year, an application is waved-on through.

    For higher increments of increased risk, only those that result in a gross risk of 10^-5 R/Y, are blocked.

    If continued, this is a recipe for disaster particularly if the number of reactor years increases as fossils are phased out.

    The world has between 400 – 500 reactors and is on a path to achieve 1000 in due course.

    If American-accepted risk of LERF is 10^5 R/Y this is 10^2 per year assuming 1,000 reactors. This is internal risk only.

    Of course this will multiply enormously if fossil fuels are not phased-out in favour of renewables.

    Of course earthquakes, military attacks (eg Israel), and sabotage are not included – these are external risks.


  221. Yes John, I agree with both of your points. I would have added that getting nuclear power into the mix is extremely urgent if we want to start making serious greenhouse reductions. The whole nuclear push has to be fast tracked. That means the government has to declare for it, if not now, then very soon, certainly this year. Check my latest piece coming up in the next Adelaide Review. Cheers


  222. David, note there’s some history here, the NRC moved to ‘probabilistic risk assessment’ as part of the wave of deregulation — enthusiasm for which has waned a bit since the financial meltdown.

    There’s stuff in the TEPCO papers from a decade ago in the archive at TEPCO’s site that mentions how the Japanese nuclear industry relaxed its inspection schedules in keeping with the US success in moving to probabilistic risk assessment and away from a mandated schedule of inspections and explicit standards.

    [deleted unsubstatiated personal appraisal]
    Plenty of reading on the history, it’s been studied academically for quite a while. Picking a couple at random:

    by RA Bari – 1989
    Probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) has had a profound effect on the discipline of nuclear reactor safety. While probabilistic notions, both …

    The Evolution of Probabilistic Risk Assessment in the Nuclear Industry
    by MR HAYNS – 1999 –
    The three types of probability which occur when estimating the risk posed by nuclear plant are:
    • those obtained directly from observations ….


  223. @ Chris Warren

    Does anyone know of a projection for number of reactors assuming the necessary number of fossil fuel generators have been replaced?

    This article here more or less answers your question:

    Bottom line: an average of 190 GW of non-fossil fuel electricity generators would need to be built each year, worldwide, throught to 2060, under an assumed 10,000 GW world generating capacity.

    Nuclear will have to be the major replacement technology, as nothing else matches nuclear for its scalability. Renewables will likely play a part too.


  224. re post by: Hank Roberts, on 2 April 2011 at 2:31 PM

    Are you kidding me?

    MODERATOR – I ask that you take a look at this post by Hank. I think it would be very very difficult to mis-characterize this paper any more than in his post.

    It is really a waste of my time and everyone else’s when people post misleading things like this. Do people really think that no one will bother to check?? Even the TITLE of the paper is positive with regard to PRA. Furthermore, the ‘drawbacks’ are basically ‘be sure you do thorough job and consider pertinent data.’ Ya, that’s true of ANYTHING, isn’t it?

    Hank, I ask that you provide any credible source showing overall ‘deregulation’ or any real overall reduction in regulation of United States nuclear power plants – or of inspection schedules. The move to PRA was very much because it provides far better overall safety and risk assessment. The very paper you link to is strongly in favor of using PRA in addition to other established methods.

    What has changed in terms of inspections is that things found both by PRA AND real world experience to be of low safety consequence and low failure rate aren’t inspected as often. With the converse every bit as true, things of higher safety consequence or higher failure rate are inspected more frequently. The result is a safer facility and less wasted time, which can then be spent on more productive things, including increasing plant safety.

    Overall, regulations and inspections of US nuclear power plants has significantly INCREASED over the years, not decreased.

    Just omitting the middle details (tho its not a long paper), here is the abstract, intro, and outlook (summary):



    Probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) has proven to be an important tool in
    the safety assessment of nuclear reactors throughout the world. Decision making
    with regard to many safety issues has been facilitated by both general insights
    from and direct application of this technology. Key uses of PRA are discussed
    and some examples of successful applications are cited. The benefits and
    limitations of PRA are also discussed as well as the broader outlook for
    applications of PRA.


    Probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) has had a profound effect on the
    discipline of nuclear reactor safety. While probabilistic notions, both
    qualitative and quantitative, were employed even in the earliest developments
    in nuclear reactor safety, it was the Reactor Safety Stu y’1′ (WASH-1400) which
    clearly demonstrated that a fully integrated probabilistic/deterministic
    evaluation of the risks at a nuclear power plant could be performed. The legacy
    *This work was performed under the auspices of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
    of WASH-1400 is well known and oft recounted in the many papers that have been
    written over the past fifteen years’2′. It is, however, worthwhile to briefly
    summarize the essential features of this study that have been used (and improved
    on) in the many PRAs that have been done worldwide. These are:
    1) an integrated, comprehensive model of the plant;
    2) computation of in-plant damage risk indices and offsite health and
    economic risk indices;
    3) incorporation of human errors and common-mode failures in the plant
    4) physical analysis of core meltdown phenomena and associated fission
    product behavior;
    5) determination of containment failure modes in relation to specific
    accident sequences;
    6) off-site consequence assessment.
    Methodology improvements have been made over the years to the WASH-1400
    model in several areas. These include: hardware and human failure data
    assessment; meltdovn progression analysis; containment response and event tree
    development; treatment of uncertainties; and analysis of external events.
    Perhaps the greatest change in PRA since its inception is in its use in
    decision making by both the people who own and operate nuclear power plants and
    the people who regulate them. In the years immediately following the publication
    of WASH-1400, PRA was viewed with distrust by many. It was viewed as an analysis
    tool with much arbitrariness in the inputs which addressed subjects not central
    to reactor safety. While the conventional approach to safety analysis tended
    to be prescriptive and conservative, PRA tended to be exploratory and realistic.
    In the aftermath of the accident at the Three Mile Island-2 plant, new safety
    programs and agendas were developed in several countries. PRA began to gain
    acceptance because it provided an enhanced perspective for safety issues that
    would have been difficult to resolve by the coiventional approach alone.

    {{{ommitted, read online if more details desired}}}

    PRA has grown in acceptance and use worldwide in the nuclear reactor safety
    arena over the last decade. It is now an essential ingredient in reactor safety
    programs in many countries. Based on the cumulative methodological developments
    and applications, it is now being extended for use in other disciplines, e.g.,
    nuclear waste management; chemical plant safety and operation; space applica-
    tions. In conclusion, we believe that PRA provides a logical, disciplined
    approach to complex technological facilities and their operation. And, with
    suitable adaptation, the successes that are enjoyed by PRA in nuclear reactor
    safety can be realized in other arenas of technology as well.
    RD – I have had a look at Hank’s comment as requested. Apart from editing out an unsubstantiated personal appraisal it is difficult for me to address your problem with his comment without reading the whole article and making my own assessment which is not really my job. I think you have made a pretty good fist of a re-buttal anyway. If you are still not happy I will ask Barry to have a look at both your comments and decide what needs to happen.


  225. Obviously building near 200 reactors a year to achieve
    10,000 GW [2010] will result in any probability for one (1GW) reactor/year blowing out.

    Probability is tricky. The probability of anyone else having your birthdate is 1/365.

    But the probability of any person having the same birthdate as someone else (given 20 people) is around 10 times greater.

    So a probabilistic risk analysis for a single specific plant is not relevant for “any-of-many” scenario.

    LERF of 10^-5 per Reactor Year [a 24 hrs measurement] is inadequate over 10,000 reactors over 100 years.

    [DELETED unsubstantiated extrapolations – Chris, if you want to make your remaining points, please justify them appropriately]


  226. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that if ~$25 carbon tax gets up and capital grants are handed out that new baseload will be combined cycle gas. Reading between the lines I’m not sure. There are various descriptions of the thinking behind the proposed NSW Bayswater B plant and the Morwell Vic dual gas project. The latter combines brown coal syngas and fairly pricey natgas to give a 40% CO2 reduction over straight brown coal.

    If they had their druthers and a guaranteed 20 year holiday from carbon pricing I think both new stations would opt for pulverised coal with maybe supercritical boilers. I don’t think either NSW or Vic really want gas for large baseload because of cost. Perhaps the Feds will indeed give them free permits to burn coal for a decade or two until it becomes someone else’s problem . Otherwise they are in a bind. It’s not just NSW and Vic since I interpret talk of a SA uranium enrichment industry as a coded call for NP.

    I think two clouds of dust have to settle first; Fukushima and carbon tax. After a couple of years the thinking may be the former wasn’t so bad after all while the latter is going nowhere.


  227. John NewlandsCritics say the carbon tax will hurt household budgets without reducing emissions by much.
    Assuming a $30/tonne CO2 tax and all of this is passed onto consumers, households below mean are fully compensated, households above mean would be paying less 2% of income mainly on higher electricity, vehicle fuel and gas heat. Vehicle fuel increased costs of $3.60 a week are small compared with the difference in driving a 10L/100km SUV or a 4L/100km Prius. Similar increases of $4 a week on electricity could be off-set by replacing lights and fridge with high efficiency alternatives.
    On the other hand wind farm operators get about $80/MWh, so an additional $30-35/MWh income would be a big competitive advantage for wind over coal-fired power.
    It may be that $30/tonne CO2 tax doesnt reduce emission by very much in the short term but the reason would be that its not really a very high tax(compared with say the GST). Longer term higher electricity, NG and vehicle fuel prices will drive improved efficiency and $25-$30/tonne is probably only the starting price.


  228. Rational, that looks like the same problem twice. First you have to explain the characteristics of the risks of submolcular event and then the essentials of statistics. Same realm basicly. Brings back visions of crying students saying “I am not a Wonnacott…snif..snif..”.

    I was thinking of posting an explanation of radioactivity on my own blog. Kind of a ‘read this first’ thing. See if i can put the right words to it.    


  229. Neil I think we are looking a short, medium and long term time frames in this order
    1) general belt tightening and efficiency
    2) increased penetration of renewables and gas
    3) replacement of coal baseload.
    If $20-$30 is for real then I think most efficiency gains will come in the first year. Large scale NP must be a decade or more away after regulatory approval. I’ve stated upthread there seems to be a reluctance to build very large new gas plants. Therefore the medium term CO2 displacement task must fall largely to existing mid sized gas and wind.

    The current RET guarantees that wind power is integrated to get to the 2020 renewables target. It’s not clear this will be so if the RET is dismantled as Garnaut proposes. Already there may be some confusion on this. Electricity sellers may simply work gas plant harder rather than integrate more wind in the absence of a renewables mandate.

    Assuming we do stumble into a 5% CO2 reduction by 2020 what happens then? We not only have to replace coal baseload to get the really big CO2 cuts but we also need to replace oil imports and power transport. My point remains that carbon tax is only a short term partial fix if nuclear baseload is disallowed. We should work on a pure CO2 target with all safe technologies permitted and let the mix sort itself out.


  230. BARRY BROOK The commenting rules are not meant to be confusing, they’re meant to be logical. This is not a forum for cut-and-pasting slabs of text, with no other comment other than a link. Tell people why you think they should be interesting in reading this, and what it means for this discussion. Otherwise, you’re not thinking and not contributing. Simple as that.

    I’ll add a new clause to the commenting rules:

    Citing literature and other sources: appropriate and interesting citations and links within comments are welcomed, but please DO NOT cite material that you have not yourself read, digested and understood. As a general rule, please introduce any and every link or reference with a short description of the material, your judgement on its quality, and the specific reason you are including it (i.e. how it is relevant to the discussion).

    Remember, we are moderating, but are not in the business of censoring criticism — we welcome well-presented critiques. The principal concern is working out how to conduct this debate in a civil and evidence-based manner, and do it well. We may reject some comments at our discretion, but will never misrepresent your comment. Comments that break “the rules” a little will generally be posted anyway, but probably with a note appended by the moderator and/or the offending part obviously expurgated. Those who have regularly broken the rules are on permanent moderation — most manage to live with this. Those who started their BNC commenting career by insulting me or others here, including threats, swearing etc. were instantly put on the ban list. They can find any number of swamps on the internet in which to lurk — I’m not interested in having them here.


  231. It’s more BB than AA, but it works the same way :

    “Hi, my name is Parrot and i’m on permanent moderation.”

    At first it was a bit annoying and it does slow down things, especially since i live in Berlin and tend to sleep when the moderators work and visa versa. Having been around a lot in the first days of the Fukushima disaster, i witnessed how the level of comments rapidly dropped as the moderators went to bed to enjoy their well deserved sleep.

    Today i am very happy being on permanent moderation. It allows me to release true brainfarts. Outrageous ideas that should really go through another brain before getting printed. This to make sure they don’t hurt anyone or break the limits in other ways.

    Moderators are humans and i’ve seen some moderating here too that raised my brow, but it is still a lot better than without moderation. You can’t get phylosophic safely without them.

    As far as the pro-nuke anti-nuke choices are concerned, it is clearly more interesting to have both present, so the moderators allow both equaly much. This is however a scientific blog and since many anti-nukes come from other diciplines, they may feel outruled at times. I have not yet seen anyone getting moderated out on anything other than the comment rules as stated.

    Thank you,


  232. You say in that interview that Japan doesn’t have much choice about developing nuclear power. But Reuters published an analysis recently saying that Japan could replace all its planned new nuclear reactors in the next 10 years with geothermal power. See http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/24/us-geothermal-idUSTRE72N11E20110324
    Japan is very geologically active and has a lot of geothermal resources.
    How much of Japan’s energy use could be generated by geothermal stations in Japan? How much land has to be dedicated to geothermal generation, to generate a given percentage of their energy use?
    From a quickie look online, the downside of geothermal energy is expense, environmental impact and maybe earthquakes.


  233. @ chris warren, on 2 April 2011 at 4:53 PM:

    Chris, thanks for the lesson probability, however I suspect that you have it wrong.

    My reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_problem, otherwise, just google “birthday paradox.

    You appear to say that the probability of any given two people having the same birthdate is 1/365 = 0.003 approx.
    The probability of any two in a group of 20 having the same birthdate is “ten times greater”, or 10/365 = 0.03.

    The correct probability is closer to 42%, depending in part on whether Feb 29 has been excluded from the data set.

    It appears to me that you are out by a factor of 14.

    In light of the above, why should anybody trust your probabilistic prognostications re NPP failure?


  234. This thread is the “Fukushima philosophical discussion open thread”. This has been interpreted by contributors and moderators alike pretty broadly and that’s OK.

    However, I can see a need emerging for a separate open thread for the climate tax debate, which will otherwise swamp this thread in like manner to the way that this morning’s Australian TV channels have been swamped.

    In particular, I would appreciate measured (ie actual numbers) feedback from international experience of carbon taxes, carbon markets and regulatory impact on carbon intensity of electricity generation. Not so much the politics, but to tease out others’ research into causes and effects of real world actions in this arena.

    Perhaps there is already a BNC thread on this topic.
    I will put this to Barry to decide and act upon.


  235. John NewlandsIf $20-$30 is for real then I think most efficiency gains will come in the first year
    There are good reasons why efficiency gains will take more than a decade. Replacing light bulbs could be rapid but replacing large appliances such as refrigerators, washers and air conditioners will tend to occur when as less efficient ones need repairs. Reducing transportation fuel by using more fuel efficient vehicles will occur as vehicles are replaced or by switching from private vehicle use to mass transit or car pooling, or moving closer to work or switching work locations. These changes will only occur are people are convinced fuel prices are going to stay high or continue to increase in price. Longer term would be a shift from oil based to electric vehicles.
    The driver for more wind replacing coal and gas fired electricity will be the profitability of building more wind capacity. Like nuclear once built all wind power generated will be used ahead of gas-fired because it will always be less expensive to operate than gas fired power. Coal fired power will only be replaced as old power stations are retired or coal becomes too expensive due to export demand. It seems unlikely that new coal-fired power stations will be built in an environment of increasing CO2 emissions “taxes”. It would be sensible to replace some of that coal-fired power with nuclear, with OCGT providing peak demand, but a mixture of CSP with thermal storage, wind and OCGT would also give similar large reductions in CO2 emissions.


  236. @ Neil Howes:

    You mention concentrating solar with thermal storage. The thermal storage is not necessarily required during the changeover period to a low carbon world. The concentrating solar steam generator provides steam during daylight hours, to partially substitute for coal at existing power stations. This gains the value of the sun’s rays but does not require storage, new switchyards or new turbines.

    It is thus an excellent candidate as a transition strategy, limited only by cost and availability of suitable land area within the existing power station’s grounds.

    There are several examples within Australia, with at least one under construction today. It is hoped that more and larger are yet to come.

    In very broad terms, a GWh worth of steam injected into the steam mains replaces a GWh of coal firing and eventually becomes 35% to 40% of that figure as energy sent out. The primary energy loss is at the condenser, just for any steam turbine. From a controls perspective, it is simple and requires no additional staff to operate. Maintenance is limited to occasional cleaning of the mirrors and normal steam system and control system maintenance. With almost no moving parts, there’s almost nothing to wear out.


  237. David B. Benson, on 4 April 2011 at 12:58 PM said:

    Here is a sobering comment by an electrical engineer regarding the limitations of so-called renewables, world-wide:


    I like the way this guy thinks…

    SecularAnimist says:
    April 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Barry at #18 wrote: “Solar PV is going to be the first renewable to go viral in a big way.”

    Great post, my favorite on the thread so far.

    I think you are right. Ultra-cheap, high-efficiency PV is coming fast, and will likely hit grid parity within a few years, and then will quickly become cheaper than the grid. And it will get steadily cheaper over time. Not only that, but it will be implemented in many different forms. We won’t be talking about “PV panels” any more, but PV materials and PV surfaces — for example, the entire external surface of an electric car, or an office building, including the windows, will be a PV surface.

    The proliferation of cheap, high-efficiency PV will be a disruptive technology, like personal computers and cell phones, that will revolutionize the way we generate and use electricity. Not only can it facilitate the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and save us from global warming, but it can enable an electric grid that is much more distributed, resilient and reliable. And by distributing the “means of production” of modern civilization’s primary resource — energy — it may even help to create a more democratic and just society.



  238. @David B. Benson

    Some of the comments at CP are in response to this piece http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028063.300-wind-and-wave-energies-are-not-renewable-after-all.html at New Scientist.

    The New Scientist piece draws from two papers that look at the earth system from a thermodynamical point of view and discuss a budget for free energy (energy capable of doing work) and what demands humans make on that budget. Estimated to be in the range 5% -10%.

    The second paper dealing with limits on wind power will probably raise a few eyebrows with conclusions like this:

    “Furthermore, we show with the general circulation model simulations that some climatic effects at maximum wind power extraction are similar in magnitude to those associated with a doubling of
    atmospheric CO2.”

    The two papers are open access and I think worth reading. Joe Romm reckons he his going to debunk them. We’ll see.

    Sometimes I wish I hadn’t slept through thermal physics lectures.


  239. DB interesting link there to Spain’s realtime electricity output and emissions
    AFAIK nothing similar exists for Australia. Both countries have spring/autumn peak demand of around 37 GW however coal is only 25% of Spain’s energy mix pie chart. Australia’s coal slice would be about 80%.

    Currently Spain is emitting less than 6,000 tonnes per hour of stationary CO2 but that is probably more like 22,000 ( from 200 Mtpa/8,760h) for Australia.


  240. David Benson
    Alan Sangster saysPossibly with a concerted globally funded drive to engineer and build the infrastructure mankind could perhaps extract 14TW from renewable sources by the middle of this century. Unfortunately, on the business as usual path which mankind is currently following consumer demand will rise to 25-30TW.
    To replace all of the coal-fired electrical generation would require about 1TW, to replace nuclear and NG generation another 1TW. So renewables could possibly supply 7 times present electrical consumption. I dont see that as a limitation
    Not sure where Allan is getting the 25-30TW figure for business as usual,perhaps manufacturing synthetic oil and using it to power 2Billion low mpg SUV’s
    This seemingly unavoidable shortfall between supply and demand needs to be brought to the attention of the general public, because massive improvements in efficiency, eradication of trivial uses of electricity, and lifestyle changes, particularly in relation to transport seem inevitable. yes if replacing an oil burning SUV with an EV is considered a lifestyle change.

    The energy shortfall will be made much worse if the intermittency of renewables is not addressed. This means enlarged grid systems incorporating a wide range of renewables and massive energy storage (MES). Currently the only operational MES system is pumped hydro. Several other schemes are possible and all have been developed to prototype level. whats wrong with pumped hydo?

    Finally, large scale renewable power generation will not be possible without major developments in the electricity grid in order to incorporate ‘smart’ technology, and high voltage direct current (HVDC) methods. HVDC is needed to improve efficiency of transmission over long distances. Again the technology needs to be publicised and promoted.
    HVDC is already being used widely
    David – please supply a reference to Alan Sangster’s work – as per BNC comments policy.


  241. Just came across this interesting <a href=http://blip.tv/file/1662914 time lapse map of every nuclear bomb detonation from 1945-1998.

    While I do find this show of human behaviour somewhat disturbing, it really makes me think that if the wildest claims about radiation (as expressed typically by nuclear energy naysayers) were true – we’d all be well and truly dead!


  242. @Hank Roberts 4/4/11 7:48 PM and @David B. Benson

    Thanks for the Sanger link. I’ve not yet attempted to audit his estimates of feasible “at the consumer socket” power [the textbook is $103, no Kindle edition]. I have browsed the text very briefly. I was curious why Alan did not discuss nuclear power in his comment. From the book I think I see why — On Tony Blair he wrote “His solution is the extremely costly nuclear techno-fix…”. He evidently has fallen into the trap of “not enough uranium reserves”.

    Hopefully Alan’s text will prove useful for study of the power distribution systems.


  243. Steve Darden, on 5 April 2011 at 8:43 AM — Sanger was commenting on a thread related to so-called renewables and stayed on topic.

    Regarding costs, using current prices and estimates of near-term build costs, it looks to me that in the USA wind + pumped hydro is about 2.6 cents/kWh more espense than nuclear. External costs should be added for policy formation purposes. From
    one finds (approximately)
    wind: 0.242 cents/kWh
    hydro: 1.41 cents/kWh
    nuclear: 0.423 cents/kWh
    but see the FAQ.

    If those estimates for externalities are internalized, wind + pump hydro is about 3.6 cents/kWh mre expensive. That’s probably not enough to matter. What I have not included, however, is enough storage to make it through an estended period of no wind; adding that further ups the cost for wind + pumped hydro.

    Irrespective of the additional cost, that there is insufficent developable wind potential, if accurate, means that one is forced to nuclear, willy-nilly.


  244. @Gregory Meyerson 4/3/11 6:25 in Some other perspectives on Fukushima

    The G. Cravens three words are my view: baseload and footprint.

    Thanks for that. Gregory wrote that in ‘perspectives’ but I thought my reply belonged here in ‘philosophical’. Stewart Brand often says “baseload, footprint and portfolio”. Personally I prefer “baseload and footprint”. I wrote a short bit on Baseload, footprint and “cheaper than coal” trying to justify the cheaper-than because I’m convinced that is the only way we are going to reach a seriously low-carbon energy supply for China, India, Brazil, etc.


  245. @David B. Benson, on 5 April 2011 at 9:17

    Re Externe: are you satisfied that their method correctly attributes external costs to the sort of nuclear plants we are likely to build through 2060? I.e., mass-manufactured equipment, progressing through gen III to gen IV? I thought they were looking only at once-through fuel cycle for gen II plants.

    I also thought they didn’t account for direct costs correctly – that in most geographies wind/solar will require a similar size nameplate investment in backup power, mostly gas.

    If it were my $$ I would only be building wind/solar where it makes economic sense – e.g., right climate, right scale and close to consumers or close to suitable grid interconnect.


  246. Steve Darden, on 5 April 2011 at 11:01 AM — ExternE only looks at the external costs of existing equipments. So to account for the external costs of backup for wind, I used hydro as sufficently similar to pumped hydro. For backup of wind via natgas you’ll have to check the corresponding external costs.


  247. Backup costs are generally absent from LCOE tables. Figure 1 of this 2004 UK report from the Royal Academy of Engineering

    Click to access Cost_Generation_Commentary.pdf

    gives about 1 pence per kwh for backup of both onshore and offshore wind. The authors wanted the figures updated regularly but that seems not to have happened.

    It’s a grey area how to update old LCOE figures in foreign currency. You could use a combination of exchange rates and general inflation or a gas price index. That 1p could now be say 3-5c Australian.

    BTW I got that link via a comment on a BBC web page arguing why the world must go renewable.


  248. John Bennetts, on 3 April 2011 at 9:53 AM said:

    It appears to me that you are out by a factor of 14.

    I did not calculate this, and I was only making a general point (in line with this thread) about the reduction in probability.

    I never said:

    The probability of any two in a group of 20 having the same birthdate is “ten times greater”, or 10/365 = 0.03.

    You should have just quoted me as saying:

    “around ten times” without any further specification.

    In general when you quote someone but leave out a vital qualifier, you should indicate you have deleted material.

    Your quote should have been:

    either “around ten times” or at least,

    “… ten times”.

    Anyway the point about LERF frequency is now on the technical OT, and others are using 10^-5.

    So are there any other philosophical issues?


  249. John Newlands, on 5 April 2011 at 1:53 PM — One pence/kWh for wind backup implies to me thay expected cold thermal coal burners as the backup; Germany currently does that.

    I’ve been attempting to estimate LCOE for a power grid which has no fossil fueled compopnent whatsoever; discouragingly expensive.


  250. DB I agree we should assume by year 2050 or so natgas will be prohibitively expensive despite claims that we have centuries of supply. Suggested alternative combustion engine backup fuels include wood, straw, gasified garbage and biogas. However the proponents seem to generally overlook the fact that biomass harvesting is done with the likes of diesel powered tractors and trucks.

    So that’s one problem, biomass harvesting without fossil fuels. Perhaps the bigger problem is post-FFs where are we going to get the steel, aluminium, silicon, copper and concrete for the wind/solar industry to replenish itself?


  251. Here is one of the more amazing pieces of historical writing I’ve come across:
    —- excerpt —-

    “Nothing like this will be built again”

    I’ve just had a really amazing experience: a guided tour of the nuclear reactor complex at Torness on the Scottish coast. ….
    … Cameras were verboten — not because of security, but as an operational precaution. For starters, some embedded controllers in racks in the auxilliary deisel generator control rooms have EPROMs which have been known to be erased by camera flashes in the past, triggering a generator trip…
    … two Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors…. an unusual, British reactor design; only half a dozen have been built…. the core of an AGR is filled with carbon dioxide, circulating at a temperature of 700-800 degrees celsius.
    … They’re sensitive thoroughbreds, able to reach a peak conversion efficiency of 43% — that is, able to turn up to 43% of their energy output into electricity. By comparison, a PWR peaks at 31-32%. However, the PWRs have won the race for commercial success: they’re much, much, simpler…. … although it’s one of the safest and most energy-efficient civilian power reactors ever built it’s a a technological dead-end … collision between space age physics and victorian plumbing ….”


  252. Scotland is an interesting case since it seems to mirror the views of Germany. FOE want all Scottish reactors retired by 2030
    and I understand there is some sympathy for that move from the ruling political party. The link suggests that a protracted wind/solar lull can be overcome by yet-to-be-built pumped hydro storage and electricity imports. It hints that a reinvigorated renewables based economy will be able to afford this.

    I perceive other similarities between Scotland and Germany – NP tainted energy could be OK if it comes from over the border and oil replacement is not part of the immediate problem.


  253. @ Chris Warren, on 5 April 2011 at 5:09 PM.

    I find it offensive that Chris Warren has come to this thread and made an outrageous claim which which is not based on fact. It is even more offensive when this same CW returned to fire with another grossly wrong interpretation of a simple statistics.

    The fact remains, that CW provided a common example of statistics – the birthday dilemma – and demonstrated a failure to understand it. I called that for what it was. The probability of event B happening is about 140 times greater than that of event A. Chris had said “about ten times”.

    His response referenced at the head of this comment indicates not that a factor of 14 is close enough to a factor of ten for discussion purposes, but that there is a basic misunderstanding afoot re this most basic of statistics, and that this error is sufficiently significant as to throw doubt on the assertion which it purported to support.

    For this reason, if no other, I suggest that Chris Warren’s statistics should be checked before they are trusted.

    So, to recap, the second event is not about 10 times more likely (as stated), but closer to 140 times more likely. The difference is not a comparison between “approximately 10” and 14, but between “approximately 10” and 140.

    One of us had his statistics badly wrong and thus has failed to make his point.

    The other was me.


  254. John Newlands
    Perhaps the bigger problem is post-FFs where are we going to get the steel, aluminium, silicon, copper and concrete for the wind/solar industry to replenish itself?
    All of the metals are readily recyclable with a small amount of electrical energy. Not sure why concrete foundations or towers would need to be renewed for the next 100 years, but again electrical energy can be used to calcine limestone and clay. The energy required to rebuild a 3MW wind turbine(Vestas), assuming 90% recycling is equivalent to about 6 months production (assuming a site giving 25% capacity factor).


  255. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Dr. Peter Karamoskos, radiologist and anti-nuclear activist with the anti-nuke group Medical Association for the Prevention of War (and who has somehow managed to insinuate himself as the ‘Person to represent the interests of the general public’ with ARPANSA).


    I sense a deep-seated terror and disbelief that the anticipated public revulsion against nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima has simply not materialised to anything like the degree they’d hoped for.


  256. What happens if you’re running a wind-powered aluminium smelter and the wind suffenly frops while you’re in the process of rolling out some aluminium sheet? How long will it take to reheat the Al to molten temperature? Is the semi-rolled sheet salvageable without having to feed it back into the melt? What sort of efficiency penalty is exacted by the unreliability of the power source?


  257. @Finrod, on 8 April 2011 at 8:11 AM

    Fascinating article! Thanks for the link. At the top of the article I was wondering how a well educated anti-nuclear radiologist would spin the facts… well, my head is still spinning from his reasoning…

    1. He acknowledges nuclear is far, far safer than coal

    2. But then declares it is somehow immoral or unethical to choose the lesser evil.

    (He strangely does not suggest an alternative source of energy that will result in zero deaths. Probably because he read the oft quoted piece here about relative death rates from various energy sources).

    3. He totally misrepresents Monbiot’s referenced article in terms of what Monbiot said about the incidence of Thyroid cancer..

    4. He acknowledges that the expected occurrence of solid cancers arising from Chernobyl will result in less than a 1.5% increase in cancer death rate, and therefore may be undetectable…

    5. But then declares “every one of these excess cancers is a tragedy for each victim and their family”

    Yet he is apparently totally dispassionate about coal related deaths- dare I suggest disinterested? Hmmm….

    There was much discussion here earlier today about the double standards of the antinuclear rhetoric…

    He closes with “George Monbiot should read properly the BEIR VII report that Helen Caldicott gave him – all 423 pages.”

    I think he should go back and reread what Monbiot actually said. I guess he assumes his readers won’t bother.


  258. Finrod I believe aluminium smelters have tougher supply interrupt clauses in their electricity contracts compared to aqueous electrorefiners like zinc. An aluminium foundryman tells me they keep jackhammers handy to recover equipment clogged up in freezes.

    This could be why some coal stations are semi-dedicated to aluminium smelters, Gladstone Qld and Anglesea Vic being examples. Even the supposedly hydro powered Bell Bay Tas smelter is close to gas fired plants and the Basslink converter station.

    Giant battery banks would be suspect. If they added 10c per kwh aluminium smelters expect to pay no more than 3 or 4c. It is strange to assume the reaction is nearly reversible in batteries but nearly irreversible in aluminium pots.


  259. The current generation of power reactors is capable of burning weapons grade fissile material. Most of the ex-USSR’s stock of HEU has been downblended and sold as fuel for US power reactors. Pu can be burned as MOX, if there was a need. However weapons grade Pu represents a huge investment by the countries that produced it, and is stockpiled accordingly.


  260. DV82XL said
    And how many aluminium smelters do you know that run on wind?
    All aluminium smelters run on electricity, I dont think any run exclusively on electricity generated only from nuclear or wind, but one in Iceland runs exclusively on electricity generated by geothermal and many run exclusively on coal-fired generated electricity. Not sure what point you are trying to make? That we wont have aluminium once all FF is exhausted?


  261. Finrod
    What happens if you’re running a wind-powered aluminium smelter and the wind suffenly frops while you’re in the process of rolling out some aluminium sheet?
    This is as silly as asking what happens if your running a nuclear powered aluminium smelter and have an unplanned reactor shutdown.
    Both wind and nuclear provide electricity to the grid, presently hydro, pumped hydro and OCGT provide fast back-up in case of sudden demand spikes or wind or coal or nuclear dropping out.


  262. Real, productive industries need real, industrial-sized power. Wind and solar cannot provide this. Hydro is the only renewable capable of providing this sort of energy (except in the special case of Iceland, with its particular geology.) The amounts of energy that are required to recycle metals is not small, and in some cases, like that of mixed steels, greater than working with hematite ores.

    Blithely asserting that electric energy required for primary industrialized processes can be produced without a source of energy equivalent to coal, gas of hydro in density is simply wrong. Believing that non-hydro renewables can provide this is also wrong.


  263. @Neil Howes, Finrod and DV82XL:
    C’mon, kiddies, play nice. Of course aluminium smelter operate with capacity for short (up to 1 hour, I have heard) total blackouts, and perhaps capacity for indefinite 50% loss of power. That is similar to many other industries which use heaps of energy.

    The real issue is what steps are needed to accommodate the anticipated loss of supply fom any of the available sources.

    The hypothetical aluminium smelter I would like you to consider is fed by duplicated transmission lines, which themselves are connected to many generators, each with its own reliability factor.

    The loss of one transmission line is easily taken care of by the other. Problem solved, except for the unpleasant and very rare case of two going out together. Not nice. Cold pot lines and a huge bill.

    The loss of power generation plant is conceptually different. Initially, it comes down to the cost of replacement power… until the system limit is reached. Then load shedding, perhaps including that first 50% which is available to the generator as an option, for which a price has been agreed.This was certainly the case for the generation company I worked with for many years.

    It is only when spinning reserves and available load shedding options have been exhausted that the smelter becomes threatened.

    So, it is an exercise in probability functions. Nuclear and coal fired stations are m ore reliable than, say, solar PV and wind, so they statistically are less exposed to the risk of having to pay to reduce by 50% the supply to the smelter. That is bad enough.

    What is worse, is the similarly greater risk that the smelter may receive too little power, for too long, and may suffer real damage to its pot lines. That is something which will be covered in the contract between generator and the smelter.

    The unreliable power sources are exposed to hugely higher risk of having to pay the smelter for actual damage. That is the difference between the two.

    Reliability is king when continuity of supply is essential, as is the case with aluminium smelters.


  264. @John Bennetts – Many have a flawed idea of how modern foundries and refineries work. Mostly what they do not understand is the sheer amount of energy that is used by these processes, and that redundant lines or not, this cannot be supplied by variable sources like wing and solar.


  265. DV82XL
    Real, productive industries need real, industrial-sized power. Wind and solar cannot provide this. Hydro is the only renewable capable of providing this sort of energy (except in the special case of Iceland, with its particular geology.)
    In the US, installed wind capacity (43GW) is providing about 13GW average, about one third that provided by hydro but only a fraction of potential sites have been developed. Solar potential of the SW of US or any other desert region is many times greater than present world energy use. Good geothermal resources are located in many regions of the world, and are or could be connected to existing grids just as remote hydro is today.
    Blithely asserting that electric energy required for primary industrialized processes can be produced without a source of energy equivalent to coal, gas of hydro in density is simply wrong.
    In many locations wind and solar have higher densities than hydro, but energy density (kw/ sq meter) is not an issue for hydro because rivers and dams are used to concentrate that energy. Wind energy is concentrated with rotors and further concentrated by electricity transmission lines. Solar energy can be concentrated with mirrors(CSP) to where it can be used in a steam turbine.
    The real only valid issue for wind and solar is long term storage. The least expensive option is to use in conjunction with hydro or to build large capacity pumped hydro where suitable lakes or dams are available, or for the next 20-30 years to use OCTG.
    This should not be a strange concept as this is exactly how nuclear power is presently integrated into existing grids. China for example is building 15GW hydro capacity, 18GW wind and 2-4GW nuclear PER YEAR, but using hydro at a low capacity factor.


  266. @ Neil Howes, 4:57pm:
    “China for example is building 15GW hydro capacity, 18GW wind and 2-4GW nuclear PER YEAR, but using hydro at a low capacity factor.”

    Like you, I have no authoritative reference to cite, but isn’t China’s coal fired generation capacity increasing at a rate which is greater than all of the three you mention? Table 10 of the following suggests that current Chinese build rate is above 50MW/year.

    Click to access coal-firedpowerplants.pdf

    It appears to me that the elephant is Coal, at 3 times the size of third-running Wind, which itself is handicapped by a much lower capacity factor of another factor of 4 or so. Neil, after adjustment due to capacity factor, wind might even run fourth in China, behind New Nuclear.

    Assuming a CF of 90% for Coal and Nuclear, the additional capacities from these are of the order of 60GW continuous.

    The total of Wind (CF 25%) and Hydro (CF? 15%), is of the order of 8 or 9 GW continuous.

    If your point was that China is moving towards reliance on wind with hydro support for base load power then I disagree that this is so. China is still very strongly attached to coal, followed by nuclear. Hydro appears to me to be for peaking, with wind and solar in their customary roles as providing opportunistic power when conditions permit.

    I wish that this was not so, but the real world options for wind and solar PV and, to a lesser extent, for solar thermal are very much constrained due to their intermittency and unreliability. At the huge capacities required to turn around our carbon emissions, it is not possible to envision hydro at the scale required to back up tens or hundreds of GW (continuous) wind power.

    In the long run, those who support wind and hydro as a no-nuclear option end up condemning us to a coal future, with or without CCS.


  267. Neil very impressive new renewables figures for China. However you neglected to mention they already have 484 GW of coal generation capacity

    For high penetration renewables for Australia we need to know how much and where the new plant will be built, new transmission requirements, where and how much pumped hydro and how much gas backup for how long. Will it cover oil replacement and population growth? Also demand management strategies.

    Recent increases in wind and solar might be driven by decree in China and by generous subsidies in the West. Take those mechanisms away and I suspect the increases would not be so large.


  268. @Neil Howes – Any statements concerning potential solar energy are worthless as the issue is how much of this can be converted.

    Also the U.S, installed hydro capacity is some 95 GW (U.S. Department of Energy )
    and 13GW average out of 43GW is ludicrously inefficient .

    You cannot even begin to replace coal and gas with such a pathetic ratio


  269. DV82XL,
    Wind and hydro operate at very similar capacity factors(hydro 35GW av/95GW capacity) and wind (13GW av/43GW capacity). Neither are hopelessly inefficient, some OCGT operates at 10% capacity factor. Hydro is superior to wind because it can deliver on demand, but the US has much larger undeveloped wind resources(X10 to X100).

    Any statements concerning potential solar energy are worthless as the issue is how much of this can be converted.
    We know from existing PV and CSP that 5-15% of the energy can be converted to electrical power, thats still more electrical energy that can be captured on the roof of a suburban house than used by the household.

    I support nuclear power in preference to PV, because of costs not because solar is diffuse, or cannot meet our power needs. I also think wind has a significant advantage over nuclear, it can be built out faster for similar costs, providing hydro or OCGT back-up is available.


  270. John Newlands
    recent increases in wind and solar might be driven by decree in China and by generous subsidies in the West. Take those mechanisms away and I suspect the increases would not be so large.
    I totally agree, but it is also true that no nuclear would have been built without direct government financing or loan guarantees and or insurance coverage.
    The point about China is that its adding renewable(wind and hydro) at a much faster rate than nuclear, but ALL are needed to prevent even more coal fired power.
    I also agree that there are many issues with wind and solar in Australia, but they are not that wind and solar resources are too small, or too diffuse. Until we start building nuclear in Australia renewables are the only way we are likely to reduce burning coal, and will be significant contributors for the next 30 years even if we go all out to build nuclear power as fast as possible( for example as fast as Canada or Korea did over the last 30 years).


  271. Neil Howes:

    Given your support for wind energy, I wonder whether you would be prepared to debate a few thoughts I have been having.

    1) Not much more than 20% of the energy that a developed society uses is delivered as electricity via the grid.
    2) We must attempt to replace the remaining 80% (largely fossil fuelled) with clean energy which will probably also be electric. However, this does not necessarily mean that it all has to be grid connected.
    3) Currently, we require the grid to supply dependable/reliable energy at least cost.
    4) Wind is intermittent and represents a source of power that grid operators would rather not have.
    5) Onshore wind can probably provide electricity as cheaply as can nuclear if a use can be found for it as and when it is available and if it is used reasonably close to its point of production (i.e.as a stranded resource)
    6) I have read that such uses have been proposed and include the production of liquid transport fuels and ammonia fertilisers ( http://www.dotyenergy.com and http://www.ammoniafuelnetwork.org/ ). I think nuclear would still work better for such production, but we are well short of what we need even for baseload. Initially, therefore. no conflict of interest would arise
    6) My question, therefore, is can you not find a more efficient use for wind than forcing its output into a reluctant grid? If you could, you might win more supporters and deflect the valid criticism relating to grid connection costs and expensive back up.


  272. Douglas Wise,
    I dont see replacing the non-grid energy (oil and NG) with an equivalent amount of electrical energy because EV are about X5 more efficient in energy use.Replacing NG used for hot water and heat with heat pumps would use about one third the energy.
    Unless CSP becomes a lot cheaper I see most electricity generated by wind with possibly some nuclear and NG and hydro providing peak demand(as it does now). The difference would be that daytime peak would be lower because of EV charging overnight, some daytime PV and CSP and electric heat pumps for hot water and heating would be off-peak. Thus hydro, pumped hydro and NG generation would be used when nation wide wind and solar power generation is lower than demand, but used at a low capacity factor(10%). This would require additional OCGT(is being built now), and higher hydro capacity(more turbines at existing dams) and some additional longer term pumped hydro(able to operate 5-6 days rather than 5-6 hours).
    NG would seem to be the best feed-stock for ammonia, keep wind power electricity for re-charging EVs and heat pumps where it can replace a lot more oil, coal and NG. Building 5 GW of nuclear could displace 13 GW of wind capacity but would also require considerable back-up(2-3GW), for times when several reactors are off-line, in addition to providing for peak demand. 13GW less wind capacity would save about 3GW of back-up.


  273. Neil Howes,

    Thanks for your reply. Are you dismissive of the claims made in the two links I provided, namely that carbohydrate transport fuels and ammonia made from air/electricity and water could be competitive with fossil sources? Certainly, many such similar “green” claims turn out to be bogus, but these seem to be more soundly based than many.

    Heat pumps are fine in new buildings, but retrofitting in existing housing stocks is not without considerable problems. Equally, one wonders whether mass switching to EVs will really be that simple. Staying with our existing propulsion systems and using “green” liquid fuels in place of fossil fuels might not be as efficient in energy terms but could be the economic approach of choice.


  274. @Neil Howes If you look I was comparing wind to gas and coal. Hydro capacity factors worldwide are in the range of 30-80%. Granted, the US average toward the low end of that range, but the US buys a great deal of hydroelectricity from Canada which has facilities that average toward the high end. At any rate Hydro is predictable and thus dispatchable, something wind cannot manage, and this is a requirement for processing industries.


  275. The following was inspired by a comment from Ted Rockwell in the “Lessons on nuclear power from Fukushima… thread. Perhaps my response is more appropriate here, and I fear I might be annoying the Moderator (My apologies, if so). I fear it may be considered provocative since I repeated some of the Moderators words in a previous admonishment that their patience on the topic of LNT was exhausted on that thread, and incorporated those words into my comment… repetitively.

    So that I’m not misunderstood, I would point out that I consider it a fundamental truism that any serious attempt at nuclear advocacy must gird itself for the tedium of repetition… it goes with the territory.

    Anyway, I submit the following for your consideration.

    Hence the necessity of exposing the fatal weaknesses and logical fallacies of LNT… and begging the Moderators’ forgiveness… even at the risk of tedious circularity and repetition. After all, those are precisely the tools the anti-nukes have used so successfully to establish LNT as the Mt. Olympus of anti-nuke mythology… it is the safe harbor where all radiation fear-mongering finds unassailable credibility.

    To my mind, the most pungent comment in Mr. Rockwell’s excellent post is “We shouldn’t have to mention it at all.” Too true. The reason we must “mention it at all” is not because the raw information to explode rank popular misconception of these events was unavailable, but because the anti-nuclear voice was loud, repetitive, circular… and most of all, persistent.

    The genius of the anti-nuke approach (as much as it galls me to string those words together) was that they correctly perceived their task as one of mass psychology rather than sterile education… indeed, they recognized up front that an honest approach to the latter was counter-productive to their purposes.

    The individual contains genius, but the collective is a brute… subtlety is lost on the brute as the anti’s know well. They correctly guessed that repeated blows from a blunt object was the most effective way to make an impression on such an unruly beast.

    Their goal is fear, their method half-truth, outright lies, and speculation, and LNT was handed to them by their opponents as the inexhaustible sink where their unsupportable claims could linger eternally with maddening, poisonous legitimacy. And there they remain, to be trotted out with perfect complacency and convenience… repetitive, circular, persistent… and effective.

    Since our goal is reason, and our method honesty… we hold the high ground… we disdain a proven tactic at our risk.

    John Rogers


  276. For the ‘lessons that could be learned’ file — the worst case comparable to this tsunami/earthquake event for other sites is probably a once-in-a-century-or-two(?) solar flare, or a near-space nuclear explosion. Same result — all the electric grid goes down; all the electronics fail; diesel-electric equipment fails within a few hours afterward. Only purely mechanical/thermal passive systems continue.

    “The advent of modern solid-state circuitry (ICs) as compared to the vacuum-tube technology of 1962, has dramatically increased the susceptibility of electronic equipment to the E1 pulse. Modern ICs are about a million times more sensitive to prompt E1 pulses than the early-1960s era electronics.
    US tests

    A good source for information on American Cold War era high-altitude tests is the publicly available document, “US High Altitude Test Experiences” …”

    I’d recommend someone work up a true worst-case design proposal. It’s not an unimaginable scenario.

    Low-hanging-fruit aspect for surrounding nuclear plants with layered-in-depth power production equipment (solar? thermal storage? wind? geothermal? pumped hydro?)
    — available to produce power for sale to the grid in normal circumstances
    — available to switch to use by a disabled reactor
    — available to keep the people functioning while the infrastructure recovered

    This is for the case where a large part of the power grid and most of electronics and electric motor windings are shot and have to be rebuilt over a long period, after the equipment used to build those is rebuilt.

    Plus, oh, one tornado or earthquake or plague disrupting other services.


  277. Neil Howes, on 9 April 2011 at 6:54 PM said:

    The point about China is that its adding renewable(wind and hydro) at a much faster rate than nuclear, but ALL are needed to prevent even more coal fired power.

    Wind fits in with hydro in a 2 parts hydro, 1 part wind reasonably well.

    Comparing ‘nameplate’ generating capacity with actual output can be misleading.

    I.E. A 1 GW wind farm will produce about 2 TWh of electricity per year.
    While a 1 GW fossil or nuclear plant is capable of 8 GW per year.

    The best I can estimate of the Chinese 2020 electrical generation capacity I can come upwith given open source data is

    900 GW coal
    400 GW hydro
    200 GW wind
    70 GW nuclear
    30 GW solar

    1600 GW total.

    Let’s not forget that the Chinese have the Gobi Desert, so should be ‘reasonable’ cost effective in a desert environment where peak energy consumption and peak solar coincide.
    A reminder, to avoid having your comments deleted, don’t forget to add your refs.


  278. Douglas Wise,
    While NG is available it doesnt make sense to use valuable electricity to make hydrogen for ammonia synthesis or for operating motor vehicles.

    Heat pumps are fine in new buildings, but retrofitting in existing housing stocks is not without considerable problems.
    I do not agree with this statement, I just replaced on old wall A/C and old gas heater in a 50year old house with an LG split heat pump, very simple instillation total cost <$3,000. Similarly replacing NG or electric resistance hot water heaters with heat pumps is very simple providing ventilation is available.


  279. DV82XL
    At any rate Hydro is predictable and thus dispatchable, something wind cannot manage, and this is a requirement for processing industries.
    Most industry and other electricity consumers run on grid electricity, not directly on any one power station or type of generation. Its the overall grid that has to provide dispatchable power. Most problems are from exceptional demand spikes or one large power station dropping out, requiring high levels of fast response back-up.


  280. While BNC debates nuclear and renewables it seems the powers-that-be have quietly decided the future is natural gas. I was puzzled how SA could build a new gas fired power station expanding to 1000 MW
    since local gas supplies should be near peak.

    It seems there is great confidence in fracking and horizontal drilling to free up nearly four times as much shale gas as conventional gas. See Australia in Table 1 in this global assessment
    However critics point to groundwater damage and the fact most fracked wells peak after 18 months.

    A potted energy history of the 21st century might read
    2005 CCS will save us
    2010 geothermal will save us
    2015 shale gas will save us
    2020 ?


  281. @Neil Howes, – You keep trying to move the goal posts. Smelters and other very heavy users of electric power do indeed have direct contracts with individual power stations. This is particularly true for aluminum and steel works which were the initial point of contention here.

    Also the grid does not supply dispatchable power, I suggest that you look-up the meaning of the term. It is the property of generators to be scheduled to assume load at some fixed time, for some fixed interval and to do so reliably enough that forward contracts are possible. Wind and solar generation lack that ability.


  282. @John Rogers, You are so right. We have little choice but to keep hammering at LNT at every opportunity, and yes it is going to be tedious, but it is necessary.

    The first problem is in my opinion, that two parasitic cultures have grown around nuclear technology, both artifacts of Cold War paranoia: the radiation protection industry and professionals working in the field that depend on the continued acceptance of the the linear-non-threshold dose-response model, despite the fact that this model has been thoroughly discredited on multiple occasions; and the nonproliferation bureaucracy. The latter having no more of an evidentiary foundation than the former, but is similar in that a host of people depend on its assumptions for their jobs.

    The second problem, related, is that these have resulted in a lot of stupid but expensive procedures where people and vendors can make a lot of money thus entrenching these false ideas through the support of special interests.


  283. > keep hammering at LNT at every opportunity

    I suggest you model your approach after the climatologists who urgently want to update the IPCC consensus, as you want to update the National Academies consensus.

    You know the cutoff date for the National Academies work; do what the climate scientists are doing, in the interval before the next consensus statement will be put together.

    Look at the research cited by the current consensus statement.
    Follow up each of those papers, reading the subsequent papers that have cited it.
    Read the footnotes.
    Assess the research.
    Write your own suggestions for what should be added to the consensus when it is next released.

    The climatologists brought the entire issue of sea level rise up to date after the last IPCC statement explicitly failed to consider it because the then available science was inconclusive.

    You want to update the hormesis section of the National Academies book since its cutoff date, because they said the available science was inconclusive.

    Or, if your idea is to claim that the consensus statements are corrupt, or deceptive, or part of a conspiracy — well, good luck with that.

    Seriously — citing sources is the way to do this.

    Remember, the argument you are trying to defeat is not that radiation is always dangerous — it’s this:

    “very low doses of radiation have only marginal impacts on individual health outcomes. It is therefore difficult to detect the ‘signal’ of decreased or increased morbidity and mortality due to low-level radiation exposure in the ‘noise’ of other effects. … ‘The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial.'”

    There’s the key point — “harmless or beneficial” — neither can be demonstrated to have a threshhold.

    Yet. Look to the research. Try to find papers that actually statistically or observationally do show what you want to find. Then figure out how to disprove them — that’s the scientific approach.


  284. Gwyneth Cravens, in her book “Power to Save the World”, described in some detail the “parasites” DV82XL describes whose incomes depend on the continued acceptance of the ‘thoroughly discredited” LNT model:

    “I found the scientists who spend their days considering the best way to understand excess radiation exposure and to protect people from it to be careful, compassionate, and dedicated; they have been relieved to discover that the outcomes of of radiological catastrophes have demonstrated much better survival rates than early calculations had predicted” – page 130

    Evan Douple, director of the BRER that oversaw BEIR VII, is quoted by Gwyneth on the subject of how he became one of these horrible parasites making their living issuing enforcement orders for an LNT model they all know is invalid:

    “I was trying to understand radiation damage and improve the use of medical radiation to treat cancer”.

    Note how he evaded even mentioning his criminal intent.

    Dr Fred Mettler is another of these evil people Gwyneth talked to. He is US representative to UNSCEAR. He is an Academician of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. He is on the CDC committee on guidelines for terrorist incidents involving radioactive materials. He has held positions on NCRP, and Homeland Security. He has won numerous awards and a listing in “The Best Doctors in America”.

    Gwyneth nailed him in his perfidity: She wrote: He “spends almost all of time saving lives”.

    It is unimaginable that types like this should be respected figures in American science today.

    What would Mettler say about radiation if he could appear on TV before millions? Gwyneth asked him.

    Mettler: “I would tell them that radiation has risks related to dose level, and that many of the things we use radiation for have undetectable risk. Some have higher levels. People have to make decisions about benefits versus risks. Is the benefit of nuclear medicine greater than its risks? Is the benefit of nuclear power greater than its risks?”

    Notice how this con man who wouldn’t have a tin cup to beg on the streets with if his cherished LNT model was ever recognized as the fraud that it is completely avoided the known fact that low levels of radiation are completely without risk, as they are good for you.

    Gwyneth wrote this about BEIR VII:

    “BEIR VII… was not asked to recommend whether there should be changes in the permissible dose levels for the general public, for those receiving medical radiation, or for nuclear workers.”

    Rather than insist that people like Douple or Mettler are motivated by nothing other than financial gain as they insist on enforcement of a discredited model they know has nothing to do with reality, i.e. that they are criminals, it seems obvious that what pro nuclear advocates ought to do is lobby to have Congress finally put the question to the NAS NRC BRER, so they can set up another BEIR, i.e. BEIR VIII, tasked with answering the question, what exposure limits should society impose on all its activities, i.e. in the power generation sector, what radiation limits should coal plants have to conform to, what about the gas that is being “fracked” out of what the Atomic Energy Commission identified as the largest uranium resource the US has, etc.

    But, why not, continue on attacking science. Everyone else is doing it.


  285. The experts gwyneth cites do appear to have disagreements about LNT. This is clearest with Douple and Leo Gomez.

    that said, this chapter of the book powerfully debunks radiophobia and rejects that version of LNT that leads Greenpeace to find tens of thousands of Chernobyl deaths.

    On p. 116, GC refers to a recent survey of 1737 scientists from Dept of Energy’s national labs and UCS. only 23 % of those polled subscribed to strict LNT.

    Gwyneth herself sent me the health physics position sharply critiquing the concept of collective dose that underlies LNT.


  286. I hate to break it to you Lewis but BEIR VII is one document only, and while you [deleted ad hom] may want everyone to believe it is the last word on the subject, those of us that actually have a background in science, can see it for what it is: the avoidance of a conclusion. They set an impossibly high bar by asserting: “”the presence of a true dose threshold demands totally error-free DNA damage response and repair.” which is idiotic, since such a result is impossible to isolate from background noise.

    This is a deeply flawed study that was designed not to rock the boat.

    Furthermore, endless appeals to authority of the sort you and others defending LNT are pointless: if you want to argue the science, then show the science – don’t just hold up a few selected workers in the field that happen to agree with your opinions, and claim that their qualifications alone prove they are correct.


  287. Re: showing the science.

    That’s what an independent expert panel review like BEIR is, and BEIR VII is their latest effort. .

    It is an assessment of all the science, not some part of what has been discovered, which is why I cite it rather than specific papers.

    Congress set up the NAS precisely for this purpose, to offer to Americans who are not experts a place where they can refer to and expect to find out what the generally accepted view among the relevant scientists of any particular scientific question Congress has asked the NAS to review.

    You dismiss this as an “endless appeal to authority”. So the papers you refer people to, what are they, nonendless appeals to nonauthorities? Do you do your own studies of radiation risk? [inflammatory response deleted]

    [ad hom by DV8 was deleted] Obviously you have no idea who I am or what position I take on nuclear power. I don’t “hold up a few selected quotes”, I use quotes to illustrate points, and then normally post a link to the entire report. Since I was addressing you, I assumed you’d know where BEIR VII was. I’ve posted the link on this website before. Try here http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=030909156X
    DV8 and David – offending remarks have been deleted. Please keep it civil as per BNC rules.


  288. A simple model of radiation damage and repair (probably too simple)

    After tissue recives a damaging radiation hit it undergoes repair for a time T set equal to one, T=1. If not hit during the repair time, it completely recovers. If hit at least once more while under repair, it becomes morbid. The probability then depends upon the radiation dose rate, r, as

    P(r) = 1 – exp(-r)(1+r)

    being the probability of at least two hits during time T=1.

    For r near zero, the exponential is approximately 1 – r + r^2/2 resulting in the approximation

    p(r) = r^2(1-r)/2

    which is almost a quadratic. Note that P(r) is never well approximated by a linear formula, so this doesn’t look like the quadratic-linear model discussed in the BEIR VII summary.

    I first worked this out in the 1980s and then noticed this Double Whammy hypothesis in a subsequent conference paper write-up. It is certainly straightforward and I suppose someone actually proposed it quite a long time ago. So I further suppose that the Double Whammy model does not agree well with controlled experimental evidence on lab rats?


  289. Neil Howes, on 10 April 2011 at 7:02 AM said, in defense of wind power and the fact that it is not dispatchable:
    “Its the overall grid that has to provide dispatchable power. Most problems are from exceptional demand spikes or one large power station dropping out, requiring high levels of fast response back-up.”

    DV82XL has addressed the definition of the term “dispatchable” and the fact that it has nothing at all to to with the grid.

    I am left wondering why the example offered, of one large power station tripping, is in any way more serious than the wind dropping, as is often the case over wide areas of SE Australia, with greater loss of avilability. Why was this not mentioned? Surely, it was a simple oversight and not something worse, such as bias?

    There is a very good reason why every aluminium smelter in mainland Australia has power contracts with coal fired generators and in Tasmania with hydro: Their power is reliable and despatchable, something which wind power is not and cannot become in the forseeable future.

    It has been said before and it is worth saying again. Wind power is a Trojan horse concealing within itself OCGT. It cannot become a major component of a modern grid without the additional expense and carbon footprint of OCGT, perhaps supported partially by hydro where topography, water and environment are fortuitous – ie; nowhere much in Australia. Take away REC’s in the Australian context and wind power is scuttled – it is a tender flower able to bloom only in a greenhouse of tax dollars, everywhere it has taken root. It is the primary reason for Denmark’s having the most expensive retail power prices in Europe. In short, it is an unaffordable expense in a rational world.

    European comparison prices:
    If Wikipedia isn’t sufficiently reliable, other sources tend to be dated. See, for example, Table 3 of:

    Click to access KS-SF-07-080-EN.PDF

    I truly believe that future judgement will be that the last decade of the 1990’s and the first two decades of this century were spent chasing expensive dreams including SPV and wind, when a much better alternative to fossil fuel was available, with French nuclear runs on the board. The next generation will not be happy to find that their inheritance has been squandered in this way and that the opportunity to concurrently take action to reduce climate change has been lost, in large part because of the emotionally driven decisions to follow the mistaken dreams of a noisy few.


  290. David Lewis, I don’t know who you are, and I don’t care. I judge everyone on what they write and on nothing else. The comment you posted above at 10:27 was a classic appeal to authority, and I called it for what it was. I also don’t take it for granted that any body set up by or in any way beholding to some part of the U.S. government is necessarily without bias.

    I also judge the conclusions of any study or scientific paper on the quality of the work, not the standing of the authors, and I clearly stated above what the flaw in BEIR VII is: they set an unmeasurable null hypothesis, which automatically renders a no threshold result by default.

    Perhaps you might address this rather than claiming that I appealing to authority as well.


  291. DV: I really appreciate your comment about appeals to authority, debate as dueling experts.

    But getting beyond “dueling experts” for the non expert requires so much work, work many don’t have the time or training to do: “appeals to authority” are not so easy to avoid.

    The BEIR Vii quote you cite strikes me (non expert) as awfully strange. It seems as if it says that anything but LNT requires error free DNA repair. I would have thought the inverse: that LNT only assumes no or little DNA repair, much less other mechanisms like apotoposis.

    At any rate, I understand the tendency to polarization here, nearly all in my opinion driven by anti nuclear rhetoric.

    This isn’t about LNT (rather it’s about Fukushima), but look at how crazy this is and it’s pretty typical:


    In a prior article (I looked at his blog), in a diatribe against Monbiot’s insufficiently anti nuclear stance, Hoffman (?) duels with repeated references to the mantra of gofman, sternglass and the tooth fairy guy.


  292. @ David B. Benson, on 10 April 2011 at 11:45 AM:

    I note that the 3GW of wind power is already backed up by no less than 31 hydro dams and 1 nuclear power plant. That this extension of wind will need more non-renewables for support indicates that the limit of wind power has been reached even in an area which has relatively reliable winds, the Pacific Northwest of USA.

    The current wind power is stated to be equivalent to 1/3rd of 30% of Seattle’s load, ie ten percent of one city in a multi-state region. The remaining 90% for Seattle and 100% of the rest must come from nuclear, coal and gas and it looks like it always will.

    I have nothing against wind power except its cost and its practical limitations, which pretty much damn it from the outset.

    At 7:56 you mentioned that wind works fine up to “the limit that BPA has imposed for balancing wind generation”. That limit is about ten percent of installed capacity, yielding probably less than 5% of total GWh energy sent out. Aren’t we all really more concerned about the other 95% of demand, for which wind, at any price, cannot be part of the solution?


  293. @Gregory Meyerson, Yes the wording is a bit obtuse in that quotation. This is an artifact of the convention is scientific literature wherein a hypothesis is not directly accepted as much as the alternatives are rejected, or not rejected.

    Thus they are rejecting the the hypothesis that a threshold exists below which no totally error-free DNA damage response can be seen. The the non-threshold hypothesis cannot be rejected.

    The problem is that such a determination (of error-free damage response) is impossible to make as an absolute, to start off with DNA damage can occur spontaneously, and indeed there are internal cellular mechanisms that deal with this. These events would represent experimental noise, making any attempt to isolate low-level radiation damage from the background impossible. On top of which such a determination can only be made by detailed examination of cells in vivo while the BEIR VII committee based their conclusions on epidemiologic data.

    Keep in mind I have stated that the issue is not linear response,per se – that has been well established for high-dose exposure. Nor is it linear response vs hormesis, rather it is linear response vs threshold response. It is on this question that BEIR VII loaded the deck in favor of LNT.


  294. DV82XL

    I wasn’t so much “appealing to authority” as taking your statement that financial gain motivated those who say the preponderance of scientific evidence available is best modelled by LNT for what it is, i.e. an attack on the integrity of an entire group of distinguished individuals you made without so much as bothering to name one name, and make it more real by naming a few of the persons involved who must be included in your attack.

    I took the director of the institution responsible for BEIR VII as one, and Mettler just because he seems so credible to me.

    You say you don’t care who I am, by way of answering the question I put to you, i.e. where did you get the idea I am an anti nuclear zealot – I see that it isn’t so much that you don’t care, it is the fact that you don’t know. You won’t find anti nuclear zealotry in any of my writing anywhere. You should post an example. You don’t have any idea who I am yet you have no problem attacking me as if you did know something about me.

    I wonder if you care who anyone is, whether anything matters to you as you slander individuals you do not know. Here I don’t refer to your comment about me, I am referring to your attack on the integrity of the scientists who have evaluated the literature and found that they agree that LNT is the best model.

    You want to say it isn’t a legitimate scientific disagreement with reputable people on all sides – you want to say the people you agree with are in the right, and those you do not agree with are basically criminals who are stealing billions of dollars from the industry and the taxpayer by supporting a model, LNT, that has no basis in reality.

    The list of references cited by BEIR VII starts on page 337 of their report and continues on to page 372. They say they reviewed them all.

    Their “primary task” was said by them to be: “To develop the best possible risk estimate for exposure to low-dose, low-LET [linear energy transfer] radiation in human subjects”.

    BEIR VII laid out a number of “research needs” where they feel more data would be very useful, starting on page 314.

    Eg: “The possibility that low doses of radiation may have beneficial effects (a phenomenon often referred to as hormesis) has been the subject of considerable debate. Evidence for hormetic effects was reviewed, with emphasis on material published since the 1990 BEIR V study on the health effects of exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation. Although examples of apparent stimulatory or protective effects can be found in cellular and animal biology, the preponderance of available experimental information does not support the contention that low levels of ionizing radiation have a beneficial effect. The mechanism of any such possible effect remains obscure. At this time, the assumption that any stimulatory hormetic effects from low doses of ionizing radiation will have a significant health benefit to humans that exceeds potential detrimental effects from radiation exposure at the same dose is unwarranted”.

    But they call for more research – specifically into mechanisms at the molecular level that could establish whether hormetic effects exist.

    A tiny part of their statement on LNT is this:

    “At doses less than 40 times the average yearly background exposure (100 mSv), statistical limitations make it difficult to evaluate cancer risk in humans. A comprehensive review of the biology data led the committee to conclude that the risk would continue in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans. “


  295. Today’s ABC Landline program contained some curious disconnects between emitting, capturing and pricing CO2. No transcript yet. The lead item was about making diesel via Fischer Tropsch processes from underground gasification of coal. A car powered by synthetic diesel (UCG-GTL) drove around Australia and was apparently welcomed by State resource ministers and in Canberra by Ferguson.

    The problem is this; the fuel creates three levels of emissions and will pay heavy carbon tax unless exempted or partially captured and sent down another well. The underground gasification creates wanted CO and H2 but then separates unwanted CO2. The FT process then creates some more CO2 to generate internal heat and pressure then more CO2 comes from the tailpipe of the vehicle using the fuel. If say the process created 5 kg of CO2 per litre of finished fuel (normally 2.5 kg from petro-diesel) a $30/t carbon tax if applicable would add 15c to the price.

    The program then showed the new CSIRO head calling for a carbon price then a farmer planting a crop alleged to be a net carbon sink. If we are going to prolong the days of happy motoring using coal derived liquid fuel then we must burn a lot lot less in power stations.


  296. @David Lewis, the financial gain aspect pertains to the radiation protection industry. The accusation was not leveled against the BEIR committees, and I stand by it.

    While I dislike anecdotal evidence, the following may illustrate the problem with government funded research into this question.

    Some twenty-five years ago, when we were expecting our first child, we were encouraged to take classes offered to about to be new parents offered by the community health services organization in our area. It was nothing but an opportunity to expose people to government propaganda, and we stopped going after a couple of sessions. While we were there, one of the topics was grave warnings about the consequences of drinking during pregnancy, complete with terrifying pictures of kids with fetal alcohol syndrome. One woman, that had immigrated from the south of France, pointed out that almost all women continued to drink wine with their meals while pregnant where she came from, and there was no evidence of large numbers of kids born with mental and physical defects because of it, herself included.

    The answer from the nurse holding the class was that the federal and province’s health departments had determined that any drinking during pregnancy would harm the fetus. And this was her answer regardless, despite several questions for clarification from the floor. Of course it was nonsense, and I am sure she knew it, but policy trumped commonsense, and the evidence, and she would not budge from the official line. The reason being that no safe limit could be established, thus policy dictated that zero would serve as the standard limit.

    There are many other examples. At one point Health Canada had ads on TV that claimed that each cigarette consumed reduced your lifespan by twenty minutes, thus am to take it as given that the dozen cigarettes I have smoked in the past fifty years has reduced my lifespan by three hours? And take it as a proven fact? Yes this number was extrapolated from statistics bases on the mortality rates of regular smokers, but it is not valid in very low does cases, and that should be obvious.

    Thus it is not a legitimate scientific disagreement but one where the conclusions are very much contaminated by bias. I indicated where I see this occurring in that they have set the standard so high that even if the rest of the process is done properly the conclusion is foregone. Frankly I consider this ethically suspect, even though it is procedurally correct on the surface. In effect it is a strawman argument dressed up as a review of the literature.

    I’ll say it again: I don’t care what you think you are,or what you claim to be or what you have written elsewhere. I am responding to what you have written here and now. If you do not consider yourself antinuclear, then I would suggest that you rethink your support for LNT.


  297. @John Bennetts on 10April 11.27am.
    The reference you cited shows that retail electricity prices excluding taxes in Denmark (11euro/100kWh) is very similar to France(9.5 euro/100kWh). Since 80% of Denmarks electricity comes from coal this doesnt really say much about wind wholesale prices.
    On the other hand in the US wind power receives an average price of 6cents/kWh, similar to the cost of CCGT. In Australia, the largest wind operator(Infigen) receives 8cents/kWh including income from RECs. I am in favor of replacing as much coal fired power with nuclear and wind, but both are going to need very large OCGT capacity to handle peak demand which is often 100% higher than off-peak demand.
    It is true that wind output across the present NEM grid in SE Australia can vary greatly over 12-24 h period, but not over 1-2 hours, unlike coal fired or nuclear plants that can drop out in less than one minute.The critical factor for OCGT backup is the operating capacity factor, NOT the total OCGT capacity.
    SE Australia has excellent potential to greatly expand hydro capacity beyond the 4GW reliable capacity and 2.2GW pumped hydro capacity, even though average output is only 12,000GWh/year. With 25GW coal-fired, and 8GW of mainly OCGT, there hasnt been a need for more hydro capacity.
    If CSP with thermal storage can compete on price with OCGT on supplying peak demand , this could reduce the need for as much new OCGT or new hydro capacity.


  298. Mark Lynas has an opinion piecs published in the LA Times which addresses the unreasoning fear of radiation and discusses how many people have been exposed to more radiation by fleeing because of fear, than if they had stayed put. It seems that it is impossible to breakthrough the standard media reporting of the dangers of radiation, but pieces like this might help.

    The science on radiation tells us that the effects of Fukushima are serious but so far much less so than some of the more hyperbolic media coverage might suggest. The power plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., has been releasing enormous quantities of radioactive water into the sea, for example. It sounds scary, but a member of the public would have to eat seaweed and seafood harvested just one mile from the discharge pipe for a year to receive an effective dose of 0.6 millisieverts. To put this in context, every American receives on average 3 millisieverts each year from natural background radiation, and a hundred times more than this in some naturally radioactive areas. As for the Tokyo tap water that was declared unsafe for babies, the highest measured levels of radioactivity were 210 becquerels per liter, less than a quarter of the European legal limit of 1,000 becquerels per liter. Those leaving Tokyo because of this threat will have received more radiation on the airplane flight out than if they had been more rational and stayed put.



  299. Neil I think expanding pumped hydro will be more of a case of keeping existing dams topped up not building new ones. I declined a bus trip today to the 442 MW Strathgordon dam as I’ve been there a few times but some day I’m hoping to get a look at the turbine hall normally off limits. That room has vacant slots for two more turbines. Of course the Gordon-below-Franklin of 180 MW never got built due to the efforts of Bob Brown, Bob Hawke and the High Court in 1983. That effectively put an end to large hydro in Australia. When I last looked the RET excluded anything built before 1997.

    Talk of a 2nd underwater HVDC cable under Bass Strait comes up from time to time. Apart from finding the cash (scrap the NBN?) I think that means the average residence time of water in existing Tas dams must be shortened ie quicker outlow and re-pumping.


  300. Of course the Gordon-below-Franklin of 180 MW never got built due to the efforts of Bob Brown, Bob Hawke and the High Court in 1983. That effectively put an end to large hydro in Australia.

    And a bloody good thing too, in my opinion. There’s very little that’s “clean” about hydroelectricity.

    I never realised the Franklin River fiasco was over just 180 MW.


  301. Anti nukes must laugh as they see pro nukes attack scientists, the National Academies, and anyone who would rather support the conclusions of independent expert panels repeatedly set up over several decades by the NAS rather than the ideas of individual scientists.

    The anti nukes will be laughing because this shows how well they’ve succeeded with their tactic of convincing the public that because LNT is accepted by authorities that it means that the nuclear industry and no other industry should be hamstrung by it.

    I’ve read the paper Rod Adams is recommending on hormesis, some of its references, and as usual, some other references, and posted a comment on his blog.


  302. > the nuclear industry and no other industry

    Look, there are wackos on all sides, and sure, there are some suckers who’ve fallen for the dirty-coal PR.

    There are many concerned about the health problems other industries cause; they’re the ones who will pay attention to you to the extent you acknowledge the science rather than dismiss it — and recognize that consensus statements are always a few years behind the current research, but the latest papers are usually a bit wrong in hindsight too. Going with just the news you like and ignoring the news you don’t like is PR, not science.

    Would you believe a hormesis benefit from small amounts of mercury? http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=hormesis+%22methyl+mercury%22

    Problem with _small_ amounts is they don’t start small, they start large and concentrated before they get diluted, and they bioaccumulate back to larger concentrations. That’s how the stuff gets into coal!

    If you lump everyone who expresses any concern into the wacko group and won’t talk to them about their concerns, your group gets smaller and the wacko group gets larger. That’s counterproductive.


  303. > fetal alcohol
    > wine with meals … French … no evidence

    Have you heard the phrase “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence?” It’s pertinent.

    Aside on fetal alcohol, a good reference is:

    The symptoms (facial shape, basically) are associated with binge drinking, but the mechanisms as understood so far have no lower limit.

    The pattern was first described “in the French
    medical literature in 1967 by a French physician
    ,,, Lemoine, P., Harousseau, H., Borteyru, J.-P., & Menuet, J.-C. (1968). Les enfants de parents
    alcooliques: Anomalies observees. A propos de 127 cas [Children of alcoholic parents:
    Abnormalities observed in 127 cases]. Ouest Medical, 21, 476-482.”


  304. John Newlands,
    Most people dont realise just how much energy is stored in existing hydro dams in Australia. Tasmania has 16,000GWh stored, and presently uses 25-30GWh/day. Existing pumped hydro stores only 20GWh, but just connecting existing lake Eucumbene with Blowering reservoir with a tunnel and reversible turbines could store up >1000GWh as pumped storage.
    Adding additional turbines to existing dams means that they would operate for shorter times but use the same amount of water averaged over a period of months.


  305. @David Lewis, your refusal to address the points I have made demonstrates clearly that you cannot. Falling back on an argument from authority, does not make the case for LNT.

    @Hank Roberts Yes I know the concept. The point I am making is that there is, in fact a threshold for alcohol consumption in pregnant women below which the risks of damaging the fetus approaches zero. Commonsense indicates this is so because there is lots of evidence of normal children born to mothers that did have a glass of wine or beer with meals, yet who were not chronic alcohol abusers. That there is damage at higher doses is not in question. The lower limit has not been determined, and likely never will be, thus the obstetrics nurse’s insistence in asserting no safe level as the governments policy.

    I am not arguing the policy, or how it is administered in this case, because when it comes to alcohol, abuse is always a risk and it is good social policy. But it is not science.

    As I have pointed out twice up thread the BEIR VII set a very high bar, in fact an impossibly high bar, to reject LNT. Given this, it is no wonder that none of the research that they reviewed met that standard. I believe that the reason LNT persists is that to accept a threshold will require that some regulator set an upper limit, and this is what they all desperately want to avoid. This is particularly true in the States where civil litigation has become a national sport, and everyone recognizes the can of worms that they would be opening there with such limits.

    The obvious problem here is that LNT as applied to radiation has created a situation where there is more harm being done, than harm being avoided, and that is wrong.


  306. John Bennetts, on 10 April 2011 at 12:57 PM — Yes, wind is a bit player at 1–2% of nameplate around here. And even at that level, because of the incentive plan for wind power combined with the operating restrictions on Columbia river system dams for fisheries reasons the wind operators are searching for other sources of backup; one company found some.

    With current incentives in the USA wind competes directly with CCGTs right now in terms of LCOE and has less risk of price increases which might happen for natgas. But wind, however backed, appears unlikely to displace coal burners. For exmple the AltaViata units will eventually be replaced by CCGT and I assume the same will happen at the Boardman plant as the certificate of public convenience for that coal burner will not be renewed.

    However, neither compnay is interested in building an NPP; there is zero interest in more nuclear here in the Pacific Northwest.


  307. > there is, in fact a threshold … Commonsense
    > indicates this

    Unfortunately, that’s the same argument we hear about CO2, that a tiny amount can’t make a detectable difference — but with CO2 there is a clear well understood physical mechanism for climate change and a clear understood mechanism for ocean pH, and a signal very slowly emerging from a very noisy background.

    A paper showing a threshold for alcohol in the placental bloodstream below which there is no effect on the fetus would be welcome.

    Same for a threshold showing no effect from methylmercury, which is also wanting.

    Point is — sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and it’s very hard to hold back and argue only from science that can be cited to journals.

    Which, of course, is why this topic got moved out of the science threads. So, I’m done in philosophy. Shouldn’t’a’bothered.


  308. I hope Barry will address Hank’s last point.

    The thing is, climate deniers may make this argument, but CO2 DOES make a detectable difference. The signal does emerge from the noise. The cases are not analogous.

    This is a terrible example and should be dealt with unequivocally.


  309. I hope this is the right place for this question for Finrod:

    Fin, when you did your comparative mining studies, did you factor in the mining of rare earth metals and other minerals like gallium and indium, in addition to your calculations concerning steel and concrete inputs for renewables?

    After I read this article on Chinese mining for neodymium, it occurred to me that this kind of mining at scale might figure significantly in any fair cost/benefit analysis of mining in nuclear and renewables mining scenarios.


  310. @Hank Roberts, Of course there is no study showing a threshold for alcohol in the placental bloodstream below which there is no effect on the fetus. Such an experiment wouldn’t make it past an ethics committee, and long baseline studies wouldn’t pull anything out of the noise given many FAS victims display very subtle changes even when the mother is a chronic alcoholic.

    Thus the authorities are forced to take a no safe limit position, but that is a policy decision based on factors other than the science of FAS.


  311. @ Neil Howes, on 10 April 2011 at 6:29 PM :

    You are correct: Only one of my references showed Denmark to be hugely above France. The other is much less impressive.

    By way of a reminder, the two are:
    Ref 1: Wikipedia comparison of domestic electricity prices
    FR 19 euros/100 kWh, 2009/ DK 43, 2006/07
    Ref 2: Eurostat Domestic/light industrial prices
    Table 3: Electricity price for households, excluding taxes, at 1 Jan 2007: FR 9/ DK 12, some others dearer ex taxes.

    This comparison, in part. shows how difficult it is to obtain reliable current power prices in European markets and the broad spread in the available “data”.

    So, I inadvertently overstated my case: Danish power is significantly dearer than French for domestic consumers and is not necessarily the most expensive in Europe. Perhaps other contributers can point to more reliable, more recent data.

    The remainder of your statement, however, included references to hydro and wind as though an installed GW capacity somehow is equivalent between sources. After mentioning that capacity factor is (correctly) relevant to comparisons, you then proceed on the basis of nameplate power ratings instead of annualised power production in TWh or time-averaged generating capacity after multiplication by the capacity factor. If the Snowy was to magically triple the number of generators at its hydro plants but add no more water to the catchment, the additional energy sent out would be close to zero. Generating capacity is not the question there, it is the power of the available water. Those who would construct, at significant environmental cost, more hydro plant, must factor in the cost to the commons of environmental degradation of our rivers.

    There is little prospect of additional major hydro on that basis alone, besides which there simply aren’t many large wild rivers left in Australia for my fellow civil engineers to consider damming.

    So, I return to my hypothesis stated at 11:27 yesterday, which is that future generations will not be happy to find that their inheritance has been squandered by the pursuit of expensive energy options, including wind and solar PV (or new hydro?) and that the global climate has suffered as a result when cheaper, scaleable, reliable options were ignored and that this was due, in large part, because of emotionally driven decisions to follow the fantasies of a noisy few, such as that Caldicot person.

    Neil, thank you for your politeness as you drew attention to my incorrect interpretation of the data from my own reference. Some would not be so kind.


  312. Just to correct the mathematics of the Double Whammy model of radiatin damage, the correct formula for the probability of morbidity from a dose rate of r is

    P(r) = r(1-exp(-r))

    which is asymtoptic to linear for large r and for small r, where exp(-r) is well approximated by 1-r, one has the approximation

    p(r) = r^2.

    So this model then is a form of the quadratic-linear model which appears in the BEIR VII summary.


  313. John Bennetts, on 11 April 2011 at 9:36 AM — Just guessing, but I would expect electric prices to be highest in Norway simply because everything there is dear.

    However, it slowly becoming clear to me that the retail cost of electricity is perhaps not that significant in the scheme of things.


  314. @ John Newlands, on 11 April 2011 at 8:03 AM:

    The paper cited by John is interesting in that it is the first I have seen which attempts to wrestly with the generation and storage capacity of clifftop hydro in conjunction with the heroic task of constructing HVDC links across the continent to link the power to the loads.

    Well done.

    I have heard that Eraring Power in NSW has already done something similar, with a double payback – the water pumped up hill at off peak rates at night can be recovered at daytime peak rates.

    The second string to the bow is the temperature attenuation effect of the additional water in the outfall canal, which acts to reduce the temperature of the water leaving the condensers. For environmental compliance purposes, the power station is bound by limits on discharge water temperatures. The additional flows via the CW system permit proportionately larger loads on Units 1 – 4 than would otherwise be achievable, thus increasing the availability figure for the station.

    Anybody out there with actual references? I have no drawings or performance figures with which to put flersh on the bones of this system. My guess is that the Eraring installation is approx 1/2 the size of a generating unit, ie 300MW, plus or minus.

    NB: it uses salt water, thus addressing several of the parameters listed in the Japanese study and the Great Australian Bight as being unknowns.

    Rather than rushing straight into the full sized scheme, costing tens of billions of dollars, there may be smaller, lower hanging fruit to savour as trials. A few sites close to existing transmission lines in SE Australia would be nice for, say, a 2GWH trial. How about somewhere along the Pacific Ocean escarpment between Broken Bay and Wollongong?


  315. DV8, I disagree that the authorities are “forced” to take a no-safe-limit position on alcohol intake during pregnancy. They choose to take that position. It would be perfectly reasonable for them to advocate a threshold value, calculated by taking the point at which evidence shows harm and reducing it by a safety factor of 2, say. Certainly they will not “do experiments”, but they can still do science with the information presented to them from the population behaving variously.

    If they do not have evidence of harm, they should not be suggesting that harm exists.


    And on that general topic…. Hasn’t anybody read and understood the UN report on Chernobyl, and its clear identification of explicit or implicit scaremongering as the principal agent of harm? Are we going to do it all again at Fukushima?


  316. @Joffan, Perhaps ‘forced’ is too strong a word, say rather it is the path of least resistance if you will.

    The problem with what you suggest is that this is a syndrome, and as such is the association of several clinically recognizable symptoms, many of which could have other causes. The diagnosis is generally made in all but the most overt cases, by examination of the mother. Thus symptomatic children of a chronic alcoholic mother are considered FAS ipso facto on that bases, and other causes are considered if she was not.

    For some reason it is becoming more and more difficult to have any functionary in any sort of official position give anything but stock answers, or consider anything excerpt black and white cases.

    Recently some school ejected a student who was taking a marijuana derived medication for glaucoma because he failed a urine test. Despite the fact that it was prescribed, and despite the fact that the preparation of the medicine eliminated all psychoactive effects, the school administration determined that he was in “internal possession” of an illegal substance, and will not let the student back in.

    More than 100 South Korean schools had classes, cancelled or shortened classes over fears that rain falling across the country may include radiation from Japan’s stricken nuclear plant. This we know is silly, but when the official government position is LNT, it is justified on that point alone.


  317. My guess is the Germans don’t leave too many light switches on at 23 eurocents or 33 aussie cents per kwh.

    JB there must be some money available for energy storage experiments. The carbon tax could raise $15 bn = 500 Mt X $30/t. Tonight’s ABC Four Corners will apparently ask if $36 bn is too much for the NBN. However I believe energy storage pilot projects must be Gwh scale or they will just be a feelgood exercise like residential PV.


  318. Perhaps we ought to change “LNT Hypothesis” to “LNT Assumption” because a hypothesis is created to explain data but there is no data on excess cancer mortality in the low dose range.

    The following article is an example of “willful blindness” on the part of the radiation protection organizations (and most nuclear professionals) when it comes to dealing with the evidence of beneficial effects in the low dose range.


  319. Barry Brook, on 11 April 2011 at 12:55 PM — That’s not quite what is involved in the BEIR VII summary. Therein, two hypothesis are considered (I’m leaving out hormesis for brevity).
    (1) LNT
    (2) quadratic-linear (QL)
    The summary states that for blood cancer, QL is the better fit of the two. It further states that this is true of the aggregate of the other cancer types (other-cancer), but is not “statistically signifcantly” better than LNT and therefore they choose LNT. Maybe all that is explained in depth in the body of BEIR VII, but here is what I have learned to do in situations where two hypothesies are to be compared: before looking at the data, on other grounds choose one of the information criteria. I use the
    This gives a measure, called AICc, for the two (or more) hypotheses given the data. If the difference of the AICc is sufficiently large, the hypothesis with the numerically smaller AICc is definitely preferred. If the difference is small, the two hypotheses (usually called models) are equivalent and there is no grounds, either in the data or the model complexity, for preferring one over the other.

    Regarding the other-cancer case, I would, it seems, have stated that there was insufficient evidence to prefer either QL or LNT as the more explanatory hypothesis. This means I have no understanding of just how the BEIR VII study group came to the definitive conclusion of LNT for the other-cancer case.


  320. Pingback: Wind power: squandering their inheritance « SeekerBlog

  321. > no data on excess
    Nor on less, sufficient to emerge from the statistical noise.

    Stuff like that ‘radscihealth’ page seems awfully weak — the writer claims that it’s been “known since” long ago that ‘Western states’ have lower cancer rates and higher background radiation — as though all else were equal and that comparison meant something. No cite. Blog science at best.


  322. Hank, there is plenty of peer-reviewed work on hormesis too, e.g.

    Evidence for beneficial low level radiation effects and radiation hormesis, British Journal of Radiology (2005) 78, 3-7, http://bjr.birjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/78/925/3

    Thus, the linear-no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis for cancer risk is scientifically unfounded and appears to be invalid in favour of a threshold or hormesis. This is consistent with data both from animal studies and human epidemiological observations on low-dose induced cancer. The LNT hypothesis should be abandoned and be replaced by a hypothesis that is scientifically justified and causes less unreasonable fear and unnecessary expenditure.

    Nuclear Energy and Health: And the Benefits of Low-Dose Radiation Hormesis, Dose-Response 7, 52 – 89: http://dose-response.metapress.com/link.asp?id=777u41h174507mu8

    Radiation Hormesis and the Linear No Threshold Assumption, Charles Sanders (2010, Springer-Verlag): http://goo.gl/a1znR



  323. I’ve commented before about anti-nuke tactics. The preceding back and forth is a study in several… but I’ll focus one just one for now.

    The good old “shill” game… step right up folks… try yer luck! The anti-nuke version of the “shell” game.

    It is a common tactic among the anti’s to cast doubt on the motivations of the nuclear advocate by accusing them of “shilling” for the (pause for thunder on the soundtrack… cue the sinister music… wait for it)…………. the INDUSTRY! Dah, dah, dah, dummmmmm!

    Like the “shell” game alluded to above, it is a distraction… a sleight of hand… ultimately, a crooked means of fleecing the unwary. Having been around the world (several times) behind the control panel of a Navy nuclear vessel, my shipmates and I have crawled through some of the most dubious snake-pits on the planet… adult carnivals… catering to, and laying in wait, for just such inebriated maritime revelers. You know… suckers! I reckoned I’d seen just about every variant on the basic shell game/three-card-monty theme out there… until now. I’m pleased to say that this old dog, while not interested in learning this particular new trick, is at least still able to recognize one when I see it. It is an interesting twist I would call “The Reverse Shill Game”.

    DV82XL made the claim that “nuclear technology” was the host organism of two “parasitic cultures”… “radiation protection”, and “nonproliferation bureaucracy”. He added the astute and accurate historical observation that both were “artifacts of Cold War paranoia”. He went on to say, as a secondary issue, (related to, but with appropriate distance from the first) that LNT was culpable in the proliferation of “stupid but expensive procedures” that opened rich revenue streams. This created a niche which industry was able to exploit quite lucratively over many years, which in turn created “special interests” that now have a survival imperative to protect.

    This is all quite true, and in this case, the word “parasitic” is eminently appropriate to the “cultures” thus created. When considering an entity whose existence relies on feeding off the living host, you have two choices of terms… parasitic or symbiotic. The symbiotic entity provides a vital service back to the host… a parasite has either a decidedly negative effect, or is at best simply neutral. As both of the cultures referred to can hardly be seen as a boon to nuclear technology (at least when driven by a theory that imposes unreasonable standards based on assumptions that defy all proof or evidence), “parasitic” is, by definition, the correct word to describe them. Now for the old “double-switch”… “The Reverse Shill Game”.

    He is almost immediately falsely accused of condemning all conscientious radiation health researchers and scientists as greedy criminals, hiding their malfeasance and getting fat as they milk a bloated LNT model they know to be false.

    Now normally accusations of shilling are reserved for the nuclear advocates themselves. The typical anti-nuke (il)logic is that any individual with direct, recent, relevant experience and/or ties with the nuclear industry cannot be trusted to speak to nuclear issues. I mean, they’re only in it for the money, and after all, what would they know? Naturally, this is nonsense… it is tantamount to seeking advice from a geologist for a brain tumor, because brain surgeons have a vested interest. However, this case is a startling innovation! Now, the nuclear advocate is accused of accusing the innocent nuclear insider of shilling! Remarkable! But has he actually done that?

    No. Nary a word about individual malfeasance. Not one. These are questions of multi-generational bureaucratic entrenchment and regulatory inertia, and he said as much. It’s a simple case of garbage in – garbage out… and the trash has been piling up for 50 years or more.

    One thing I was pleased to see was multiple references to the conscientious, dedicated work of a variety of nuclear professionals… those at least cast things in their correct light, but they are unusual admissions for an anti-nuke shill piece… just more “double-reverse” confused anti-illogic from the LNT champions, near as I can figure.

    I consider economics, done correctly, as distinctly organic in nature. I take it as a maxim that if a new niche appears with ample sustenance, it will be tenaciously filled. Laws and regulations define the economic environment. If a parasitic economic niche is created by LNT inspired law and regulation, it will thrive… assuming the host is adequately robust to survive its presence. In this case, it is the niche that is parasitic, the Frankenstein monster of bad, outdated policy. Like so many nuclear concerns, this is at its root a political issue, and reflects very little, if at all, on the individuals that work in the occupations bad policy created. On the other hand, to perhaps overstretch the metaphor, these are living, breathing economic entities, and they will not go quietly into that good night. Don’t expect them to volunteer for extinction.

    Happily, unlike the natural environment, economic/political environments are the arbitrary works of man, and there is no ethical dilemma in changing them to better suit our needs. LNT has spawned a thriving, poisonous eco(nomic)system that has weakened and stunted the growth of the nuclear industry host… it’s time to salt the leech. That’s what I took from DV8’s piece, and the effort to distort it, while dexterous, was nothing more than a new twist on an old con game.

    Nice try.

    John Rogers


  324. @John Bennetts 11April,9.36;

    I think you are not understanding what I was saying about hydro and pumped hydro storage. For the Snowy scheme its not about generating power( 4,000GWh/ year or 0.5GW average) but about providing peak capacity (3.8GW). With wind or nuclear replacing coal fired generation there would be a need for a lot more hydro capacity. This does not have to mean more dams, but more turbines at existing dams and a big expansion of capacity to use surplus wind or nuclear to pump water up to a higher dam reservoir.A result of this would be a much lower capacity factor especially at TAS hydro which is presently 0.45. With losses of pumped hydro it would be expected that hydro would deliver little no net power.
    Backing up a high proportion of electrical generation from wind power located across the continent requires(1) high capacity(12GWh) for relatively short periods(6-48h); at most 600GWh storage and (2)low capacity(2GW) but high storage for seasonal balancing ( up to 6,000GWh). We already have the season storage in existing dams. Many existing dams could be used to provide an additional 600GWh of pumped hydro, by interconnecting reservoirs with tunnels and reversible turbines.


  325. @ Neil Howes

    This does not have to mean more dams, but more turbines at existing dams and a big expansion of capacity to use surplus wind or nuclear to pump water up to a higher dam reservoir.

    I’m not an engineer and I have no way of understanding the feasibility of what you are saying. Do you have a reference (or even explanation) to explain the feasibility of doing this? Specifically, how economically and physically feasible is it to add new turbines to existing infrastructure? And how do you expand capacity without creating new dams or flooding larger areas?


  326. @ Neil Howes, on 11 April 2011 at 7:45 PM
    @ Tom Keen, on 11 April 2011 at 8:36 PM.

    I understand exactly what Neil is now saying about pumped storage within hydro schemes.

    Any proposal to work a system harder comes at a price. In this case, two hypothetical Snowy dams can work by letting the season’s water run progressively downhill, during which power stations derive the energy from the flow. The upper dam fills with the spring melt and any rainfall, then decreases once per year towards the position reached next spring, when inflow again exceeds outflow. One cycle per annum.

    In order to back up flimsy wind and even more flimsy SPV, the notion put forward is that a pump in the ,lower dam can pump water back uphill every single day and then win it back for the evening and morning peaks, when the sun isn’t shining.

    365 cycles per annum.

    Apart from the expense of this type of scheme, there is a huge environmental penalty. Haven’t our rivers been played with enough already?

    There is, undeniably, a logic about this proposal, but before starting the journey, for goodness’ sake, get a grip on the costs. Like the OCGT cost which usually is ignored by SPV and wind afficionardos, we now must consider the pumped hydro cost. This cost is a direct consequence of the 15% to 30% load factors which are achievable with these intermittent technologies, and only then when the wind is blowing and/or the sun is shining.

    Let’s hear no more about 365 day per year pumped hydro in natural rivers and streams without proper costings. By all means, consider artificial salt water pondages, subject to the issues raised upthread in relation to the Japanese trial, or marvel at the (non renewable) achievements of Eraring Energy, but please don’t try to hide behind unsubstantiated and wishful schemes which, if implemented, will have selected large dams in the Snowy rising and falling by enormous amounts daily.

    As a civil engineer, I wonder… what is the maximum rate of fall of the water level of the dams in question, before perched water tables result in landslips? My back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that this will be one of the limiting factors which don’t show up in simple mathematical guesstimates. Even half a metre per day (in 8 hours, = 60mm/hr) is worthy of careful site by site analysis.

    Any significant portion of, say, Blowering Dam, will certainly not be available. That is a monstrous thought, even before issues such as siltation, scour and turbidity are addressed.

    Don’t hold your breath waiting, Neil. There may well be something in your proposal, but certainly nothing large enough to make windpower on a national scale suddenly reliable.

    Regarding Neil’s affirmation on 11 April 2011 at 6:18 AM that >1000GWh could be cycled daily between Eucumbene and Blowering, something I read elsewhere indicates that this would take 60% of the available capacity of the upper dam. When I find the reference again, I’ll post it. That much water sloshing between the two pondages is certainly out of the question.


  327. It is now a month since the tsunami. Perhaps it is time to reflect upon the significance of this event, both in terms of perception and reality.

    Certainly, the nuclear side of things has resulted in a 30-fold increase in hits to this site and seems to have excited a lot of people. However, it might be sensible to consider the bigger picture.

    What are the main threats facing citizens of the developed democracies in the medium term? IMO, there are four:
    1) Our approach to “planetary boundaries” (www.nature.com/news/specials/planetaryboundaries/index.html ). Crossing any one of a series of boundaries is projected to cause a marked drop in global carrying capacity. AGW is one such boundary while ocean acidification, soil degradation, fresh water and phosphate shortages are among others.
    2) Global population growth. We are told to expect that the planet will be occupied by 9.5 billion people by 2050 (40% more than at present). Average non-Antarctic land area/capita is currently just over 2 hectares of which less than a third is suitable for cultivation ( provided we get rid of all forested and grassland in order to cultivate).
    3) The approach of peak fossil fuels – oil imminently to be followed by gas and coal. Currently, in the West, each MJ of food is bought with 10MJ of fossil fuel. Organic farming halves yields.
    4) The global financial crash. Many developed democracatic states are, to all intents and purposes, insolvent with their citizenry continuing to live beyond their means. A few sovereign defaults could result in a domino effect with crashing discretionary incomes across the developed world with consequent unrest.

    Let’s put the tsunami in context. 28000 odd deaths – tragic for the bereaved families. Not a problem for our species. An extra 190000 odd souls are added to the global population daily – every year it increases by more than 3 times the current Australian population. To keep the world at stable numbers, we’d require more than 7 Japanese- equivalent tsunamis every day. But what about the nuclear catastrophe? Well, certainly no extra deaths yet (of whatever relevance that is). What about the the land in the exclusion zone that has been abandoned and may be lost to human habitation for some years – an exclusion zone of 20 km radius? Pity about that, one could have covered it in wind turbines and got 25MW of average power from it. Come to think of it, might it not be better to build a bigger and better nuclear plant there and get 200 to 400 hundred times more energy from the same space?

    Given my own grave concerns for the future and my take on the anti-nuclear hysteria which the Fukushima incident has generated, I wonder whether it is I who have lost the plot or most of the rest!

    I can understand why certain greens (eg Lovins) doesn’t want nuclear. He suggests, I believe, that it could be the only technology that appears to allow a painless way of reducing emissions. Such a BAU-lite approach might allow the illusion that expanding population numbers and increasing material aspirations for developing and underdeveloped world citizens could continue to be met in the short term until other planetary boundaries are crossed and we are totally screwed. I have some sympathy for this point of view. However, here’s the same message put in a a less sympathetic way: Sooner or later, we’re going to need to get human global numbers down and we might as well do it sooner rather than later because, overall, less individuals will have to be culled. The inevitability of a cull, whatever its precise nature, would be the consequence of declining energy and hence food in the face of increasing demand – the application of the green solution.

    The only scientifically credible way to get to a population peak of 9.5 billion and then allow it to decline relatively benignly is to use a source of very concentrated energy to replace our declining reserves of fossil fuels. In effect, this means nuclear fission. It is only fossil fuels that have enabled global numbers to reach their current levels and allowed high levels of discretionary income to developed world citizens.

    If nuclear power is, in theory, our only way to get ourselves out of trouble, does it follow that such a solution can be implemented affordably and in time? Judging by Fukushima reactions. unfortunately not. IMO, unless the political leaders of democratic states decree that we have mass roll out of nuclear power, with an additional target of aiming to close the fuel cycle of new reactors built post 2030, we will enter a period of severe economic decline and democracy and free market capitalism in the West will be things of the past. Already, we’re seeing demonstrations and rioting in several European States whose populations have become used to living beyond their means and at the expense of future generations. These are in response to cuts that are trivial relative to what may be to come if we bang up against severe energy constraint. We ain’t seen nothing yet.


  328. > plenty of peer-reviewed work

    Yes, Barry, that’s the kind of thing I meant— published after a consensus statement; considered for the next round.

    I’m not arguing against the science, I’m cautioning that the enthusiasts sound like they’re making the same argument still currently being made for sidestream tobacco, and methylmercury, and CO2 emission from fossil fuel.

    It’s a hard sell to say a little more won’t hurt.


  329. A biologist and a philosopher on the subject:
    “… applying the hormesis model to public health policy is impeded by insufficient ability to identify the hormetic and toxic zones with precision….”

    Gamma from cobalt-60: “dose rate of 22.4 mGy/h” … “very low-dose radiation at a low dose rate” reduces mutations in fruit flies.

    Caution–head may explode:


  330. Hoffmann and Stempsey hit the nail on the head, when the write: “…heterogeneity among individuals in susceptibility to toxicants suggests that benefit and risk may be distributed unequally in the population.”

    However hypersensitivity of some individuals to some given insult has never been grounds for sweeping policy. At some point a toxic response is labeled an allergic response, and the onus is on the individual to avoid contact.


  331. @John Bennetts 11April 9.35pm
    Australia presently consumers about 350GWh/day so that would be the maximum amount of daily storage required but considerable less than that because present hydro can deliver 100GWh in 24hrs, and some wind and CSP would be available.
    Peter Lang had a stab at costing pumped hydro using Tantangara/Blowering an 9GW capacity(last year on BNC). The 1000GWh figure is for total storage capacity of Eucumbene/Blowering assuming 50% of Blowering is used(800,000ML).
    None of these would involve any changes to river flows all water would move through tunnels and changes in lake levels would be modest.
    Nuclear in France, US and China all use hydro to enable nuclear to operate at a high capacity factor, as does wind in Denmark.


  332. Ok, John, this is a climate-change science blog so I asked about the science behind climate change.

    Pick another example; how do you feel about second-hand tobacco smoke? Whooping cough? leaded gasoline? or any issue to which not everyone is equally susceptible, where avoidance isn’t practical, that the public health approach tries to manage — your choice.

    Point is, adding increasing exposure within the “no known effect” limit above zero makes no detectable difference — until it does. Once effects show up they need to be balanced.

    Nobody’s found a way for nuclear plants to produce only low-energy low-dose gamma radiation. That’s the source most similar to natural sources and not the main concern; the concerns are about internal emission and bioaccumulation and emitters that don’t exist in nature, like the cesium and iodine isotopes that dominate the news.

    Make the distinction.

    You’re trying to bring together a large enough group of people to make nuclear succeed to limit climate change, right?

    Educating people about relative risk in detail and acknowledging uncertainty is how this can be done.


  333. “Nobody’s found a way for nuclear plants to produce only low-energy low-dose gamma radiation”

    Nuclear plants do not produce any prompt radiation such that the public is exposed, except in an accident. Other industrial facilities can produce toxins as well, if they are involved in an incident.

    All of your examples are strawmen, because there is no moral requirement in any culture to create a zero risk environment for all. At some point personal responsibly cuts in and the individual must act accordingly.


  334. DV8, you’ve confused “prompt” neutrons with gamma rays in your reply above.

    The cobalt-60 source (that famous Taiwan apartment building) is a gamma emitter.

    Those aren’t the issue around Fukushima.

    While both report in ‘sievert’ terms for cumulative total, these are not the same kind of radiation

    In that Taiwan apartment building “The average excess cumulative exposure was approximately 47.8 mSv (range < 1 – 2,363 mSv)."

    And you know how that turned out, don't you? You can look up the health effects; click the link.

    The estimated _annual_ cumulative excess exposure is the only measure available to us bystanders. We aren't the experts. You're not. I'm not. All we can do is discuss what the public get told and how it affects prospects for managing climate change with the available tools.

    (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)
    updated at 21:46 UTC, Apr. 11

    "Radiation levels exceed permissible limit

    The science ministry says the amount of radiation accumulated over about half a month in some areas of Fukushima Prefecture has exceeded the permissible level for a whole year.
    Hiroshima University Professor Kiyoshi Shizuma says most of the radiation observed in Fukushima is believed to be radioactive cesium that has fallen to the ground.

    Shizuma advises residents to wear masks to avoid inhaling radioactive substances mixed with dust…."

    (And to reduce time spent outside; still, that's a 20-day total cumulative exposure; compare it to the annual total for the Taiwan study above).

    To work toward a majority to make the political decision in favor of nuclear power to reduce the rate of climate change, you need to be convincing.

    You can begin to do that by understanding the science and referring to sources that are credible and making the distinctions correctly between different sources and among different effects.

    That is what you want to do — isn't it?


  335. > DV8
    > prompt radiation is defined as …

    These words do not mean what you think they do.

    You paraphrased, omitting the words that complete the definition on the page you linked to. It says:

    “… appearing within a second or less after a nuclear explosion. The radiations from these sources are known either as prompt or instantaneous gamma rays.”

    See the difference? Read it again.

    Exposure around Fukushima is attributed to beta and gamma from cesium and iodine isotopes decaying. It is not “prompt” radiation. Until the plants stop leaking, they can’t set an exposure criterion for those sources — which they need to decide on ending the evacuation. That’s why they’re extending it.

    The neutron sources mentioned in the leaked March 26th report are described as likely from fuel fragments scattered by the explosions (likely probably because they don’t know of any other source for that material at this time)
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/world/asia/06nuclear.html Those are from single events, not from the ongoing releases.
    That’s all we know, opinions and beliefs aside.


  336. Fixing the Double Whammy model for radiation damage once again. The probability of morbidity at dose rate r is

    p[r] = r[1-exp(-r)]/(1+r)

    and has values from r = 0.1 to r = 1.0 in steps of tenths of
    from which we observe an approximately quadratic increase for small r followed by an approximately linear increase.


  337. @Hank Roberts – the phrase means exactly what I wrote it does. The term also applies to accelerators.

    This conversation is over.[ad hom deleted]
    The offending word still qualifies as an unnecessary insult.


  338. @John Bennetts ,11April,9.29pm.
    You have miss quoted what I said about pumped storage using Eucumbene and Blowering reservoirs, they can store up to 1000GWh using 50% of Blowerings capacity( 20% of Eucumbene). I DID NOT SAY DAILY, as this would imply 40GW capacity.
    If tomorrow we suddenly replaced 30GW of existing coal fired power((20GWav) with 60GW wind(20GWav) but retained the present 15GW NG and 8GW hydro(1,5GW av) how much additional pumped storage capacity and how large total storage would be required? From a nation-wide distributed wind model we would expect wind output to range from 18-66% of capacity or 11-40GW, with demand ranging from 20 to 35GW. If only 4GW of hydro is reliable plus 2.2 GW pumped this would imply a need for 3GW additional hydro capacity or pumped hydro capacity. More would be better because less OCGT would be used, and existing pumped hydro would only supply 20GWh total storage. Nation-wide low wind can persist for several days, say allow 100hrs for safety, so would need to store 500GWh if all NG capacity was being used or 2000GWh if no NG was to be used. To use the additional wind power generated in high wind periods (40GW-20GW off-peak demand) would need 20GW pumping capacity,however it would be acceptable to shed a small amount of output above 35GW, so 15GW pumping capacity or 13GW additional pumping capacity. If this was all built at Blowering would be pumping 5000ML/h during off-peak periods to< 1000ML/h during daytime peak periods. In one day could store 160GWh (80,000ML) or about 5% of the storage volume. , In reality several additional pumped storage sites would be used, at least one in Tasmania and one in Snowy. Talbingo has daily fluctuations of 5meters due to the existing Tumut3 pumped hydro(20,000ML/day but a smaller surface area).


  339. This comment is responding to comments posted in https://bravenewclimate.com/2011/04/09/fukushima-daiichi-2-to-9-april/ 
    Moderator has directed me to repost here.

    >In response to the person who suggested that solar power is the answer if only the government invested in that technology. I posted the math in an earlier blog – the amount of solar panels needed to supply just the US with energy would cover the earth three times
    OK, as my post was deleted, readers will have to guess at it. But for your fortification, with research and development, solar is getting better all the time. What I was suggesting was that nuclear power still isn’t economically viable even after the US government poured billions of dollars into it because they wanted fuel for bombs, that no reactors are built without huge government subsidies, and that the cost of storing nuclear waste is never honestly calculated, nor is it even able to be calculated (could Thomas Jefferson had predicted what it would cost to build Montecello in 2011?). Had the resources instead have been poured into solar enegy research, then solar would have benefitted immensely. Whatever calculations you are referring to are likely taking into account solar technology as it was a few years ago, and not what it would have been today had it had the magnitude of resources that has been poured into nuclear energy. Seems like every few months there’s some new break through in solar that increases the energy density of the panels. Nuclear energy is not going to get any cheaper. Solar (and just about every other energy alternative) is getting less expensive all the time. It doesn’t take an entire government to subsidize research in solar energy, nor even to build a massive solar installation. However, because of the complexities, nuclear energy will always have huge startup construction costs, and uncalculated waste storage costs.

    >Indeed, including Chernobyl, less deaths have been attributed to nuclear energy than any other energy technology.
    The above statement is false. Commenter is disregarding thousands of cancer deaths related to Chernobyl.
    You might like to move the first part of this comment to the Fukushima Technical Open Thread where solar and alternative technologies in general are discussed in detail.(Having said that I have just discovered that the comments are all over the shop – technical in Philosophical and vice versa – so whatever – but keep the discussions in the Open Threads please.)
    The questions of radiation/ deaths at Chernobyl/ future deaths etc are being discussed on this thread – so you are right with that. Thank you for your patience while we sorted this out.


  340. ——————–
    “The above statement is false. Commenter is disregarding thousands of cancer deaths related to Chernobyl.

    I believe ‘false’ is a too strong word to use here. ‘debatable’ would be more appropriate. See: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=11891

    “The peak body responsible for investigating Chernobyl is the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). Their 2008 report to the UN General Assembly, the work of 21 leading scientific representatives from 21 nations states that, to 2005, the death toll is 28 fatalities among emergency workers, plus 15 fatal cases of cancer. “


  341. Some of the usual suspects in the so-called “environmentalist” community… Jim Green, Helen Caldicott, etc – are going absolutely nuts about how George Monbiot is absolutely the worst person in the world ever….

    I knew this would happen, and I’m sure many of you predicted it as well. Can’t say I’m surprised.

    They really, really don’t like having their anti-science ideological belief system challenged or undermined or exposed.


  342. [comment deleted. Deliberate distortion of the facts]
    Your attempt to post a link to birth defects to support your claims is not acceptable.These photographs have been dealt with previously on BNC and shown to be a false representation.


  343. @ Gregory Meyerson:

    Fin, when you did your comparative mining studies, did you factor in the mining of rare earth metals and other minerals like gallium and indium, in addition to your calculations concerning steel and concrete inputs for renewables?

    Hello Gregory. Sorry to take so long to get back to you.

    No, I did not. I only used the figures for concrete and steel provided by Per Peterson. Incidentally, I note that the link in my essay to Prof. Peterson’s powerpoint presentation now leads to a page which does not allow non-members to go any further. Does anyone know of another location for that presentation?

    If anyone wants to check the figures, Brian Wang at NextBigFuture has a shot of the pertinent slide in an article which contains the info:



  344. The Seligman pumped seawater proposal
    points out there would be less problem with erosion and turbidity compared to the Snowy Mountains. A 7km diameter plastic lined tank 20m deep atop a 90m cliff could store 200 Gwh. That’s 25 GW for 8 hours. The tank might cost $1.1.bn to build without electrical equipment and transmission.

    Other parts of the proposal assume long HVDC lines and geothermal baseload. That aside I wonder if some of the carbon tax revenue could be diverted towards a pilot project close to existing transmission and unfortunately NIMBYs and high coastal real estate prices. I think it is better to spend money on a long lasting energy storage project rather than fritter it away on per-Mwh subsidies such as feed-in tariffs.


  345. Apart from fracking foibles I see that Energy Bulletin will release a report next month on general problems with the ‘gas bridge’

    It will include the impact of a major shift to CNG as an oil replacement. I’ve pointed out before that oil is twice as big as gas in tonnage terms in Australia and transport fuel prices are 5-10X per energy content as what power stations want to pay.


  346. On ABC Lateline yesterday climate change minister Greg Combet said flatly that Australia must move to gas fired baseload. Interviewer Tony Jones said that the gas industry itself says the carbon tax must be much higher at $90 to compete with brown coal for which there are centuries of reserves. Then in an item on the Latrobe Valley brown coal execs seemed to acknowledge the game is up without CCS. They don’t seem worried though.

    Combet released a Top 50 list of emitters
    several of which are apparently LNG train operators who want carbon tax exemption. Solve that problem by carbon taxing LNG exports as well.

    Meanwhile the PM flew her entourage to look at a solar boost for a coal fired station, link in sidebar. I roughly calculate in thermal terms the trip could have used half a year’s output. So we have greenwashing from the PM and fossil fuel promotion from the climate change minister.


  347. Barry Brook wrote,
    “Fascinating: Online debate: motion – The world be better off without nuclear power. Yes vs No: http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/681

    It is indeed somewhat interesting. For me, the proliferation and supply arguments do resonate. In an example scenario for the US developed by David MacKay (see http://www.tinyurl.com/googlehotair), it is noted that supplying 42 kWh/day per person in the US would require 525 nuclear power plants–more than five times the current number. People worry about what to do with the waste, but personally I wonder more about supply. Five times more plants requires five times more mining and five times more refining. And when it comes to uranium contamination from mines, mills, and such, it is at present rather difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.

    MacKay suggests harvesting U from the ocean, but I personally find that to be a rather glib “answer”. I also find his brief mention of (my paraphrase), “Oh by the way, these make plutonium, which is unpopular because it’s a proliferation risk” to be equally glib, if not more so.


  348. Mike, should uranium supply for a once-through fuel cycle become an issue then fuel recycling and fast spectrum reactors would surely be adopted. For example the Integral Fast Reactor discussed extensively on this site: https://bravenewclimate.com/category/ifr-fad/

    There are also other very good reasons to adopt Generation IV designs in addition to fuel economy.

    Then there is Thorium but a little further out on the time horizon.

    Of all the objections to nuclear power, I have found assertions about the shortage of fuel to be the least compelling.


  349. @ Mike

    quokka provided a good answer about future fuel supply, but more uranium mining will be required in the near to medium term while Generation II and III plants are still being built.

    I have to pick on this comment though:

    And when it comes to uranium contamination from mines, mills, and such, it is at present rather difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.

    How is uranium mining worse than any other type of mining? Or indeed the mining of materials for other electricity generation technologies? It’s an incredibly small amount of fuel for a lot of energy.

    Renewable technologies require some 10 to 20 times more mining to produce the same amount of energy as a nuclear power plant. Obviously this is not mining for fuel, but for the great amount of infrastructure needed to harness the energy from the wind, sun etc.

    And as for coal and oil…well…do we need to go there?


  350. A tangential thought — Barry, is there a ‘Cassandra file’ anywhere in blogspace? For early warnings unheeded? Here’s one on the lithium-ion batteries used everywhere nowadays:


    “August 21, 2007
    Japanese experts demand change to make phones and laptops safe
    Leo Lewis, Asia Business Correspondent

    The fundamental technology behind the present generation of lithium-ion cells – the batteries that power nearly every laptop computer and mobile phone in the world – is inherently dangerous and must be changed to ensure safety, according to experts.

    Masataka Wakihara, of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who advises the Japanese Government on battery safety, told The Times that there must be changes to the way in which batteries are made if they are to be robust enough for everyday use.

    His warnings were supported by comments from Kuniaki Tatsumi, head of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology’s battery research group, who said that “companies are less cautious about designing batteries with a focus on safety”. ….

    I wonder what kind of batteries are being used in the backup systems for power plants these days?


  351. > what kind of batteries
    Here’s an answer, for the US anyhow:

    “Nearly 75% of the nuclear power generating stations in the United States alone rely on AMTEK Solidstate Controls uninterruptible power supplies to provide power protection for their critical plant control systems. Each UPS system is designed and built to order….
    … All backup systems are engineered for a 40-year design life.”

    “All models are equally compatible with all lead acid type batteries including, lead calcium and antimony, nickel cadmium, or valve regulated for station DC systems.”


  352. This is a follow-up to this comment https://bravenewclimate.com/2011/04/12/fukushima-ines-7/#comment-124537
    moved to this thread at the request of the moderator.

    @NR99 and Hank Roberts

    I stand by my remark that arsenic poisoning is a consequence to man’s industrial activity, and therefore an industrial accident. There is no difference if this industry is high tech, concentrated and dangerous because of an act of god(such as a power plant in Fukushima) or low tech, diffuse and dangerous as per normal operation(such as thousands of groundwater pump (solar powered maybe ;-) ) in the Gange Delta). Actually, most of the worst pollution on earth belong to the second category.
    In both cases, something that “nobody expected” brought dreadful consequences from an human entreprise.
    Incidentally, it shatters the myth spread by some militant environmentalists that “small, low tech and decentralized” automatically ensures sustainability and inocuity. Entropy is a bitch : Complexity and “unintended consequences” always lurks in the background when one tries to put several billion humans on a small planet, and all we can do is solve problems as they occur along the way. As Popper says, “Life is Problem Solving” !

    Another interesting point that I noticed from that article http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/april1/fendorf-arsenic-water-poison-asia-040109.html is that , even with the consequences, nobody is considering giving up irrigation from Himalayan rivers, people are just trying to “make it right”. Why wouldn’t it be possible with nuclear energy ?
    Why on one side trust agronomists to find a safe way to use this water without another set of unintended consequences, and on the other side distrust nuclear engineer who could “never find a way to make nuclear power safe enough” ?
    Maybe it is an eighth “double standard” for George Monbiot http://www.monbiot.com/2011/03/31/seven-double-standards/ !


  353. quokka wrote,
    “Of all the objections to nuclear power, I have found assertions about the shortage of fuel to be the least compelling.”

    Well, I wouldn’t say it’s the _shortage_ of fuel that necessarily concerns me, it’s the issue of _how_ we supply fuel. And how we clean up the mess. And who pays for the cleanup, and when. Et cetera. Fuel shortage is one potential issue (MacKay spends a few paragraphs on it), but it’s not the _only_ supply issue.

    Tom Keen wrote,
    “How is uranium mining worse than any other type of mining? Or indeed the mining of materials for other electricity generation technologies? It’s an incredibly small amount of fuel for a lot of energy.”

    I completely agree with your implication that uranium mining is not particularly worse than many other types of mining (with the caveat being that uranium releases as a result of mining and refining, e.g. through leaching from tailings, spills, etc. can be substantially more dangerous than releases of more benign elements, simply because uranium is pretty toxic and in oxic environments can be quite mobile in water).

    Mining in general can cause some big problems (cf. acid mine drainage), but any issues with uranium (or other toxics) are in addition to that. And we kind of know how to deal with AMD, at least. Not so much, in the case of U contamination. I think it’s hard to get around the issues surrounding extraction, of anything (coal, hydrocarbons, actinides, metals, phosphorus for biofuels, etc.). That’s what makes this a hard problem, to me.

    It is also true, as you say, that you need some pretty crazy stuff at present for renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar power (the now-famous “rare earth elements”, a term which recently entered the public lexicon). And you need a lot of wire, potentially. All of that has to be mined, or recycled. But I do find the key difference to be that REEs are not “fuel” as such and are therefore not consumed to generate energy. So at least the _possibility_ exists that at some point society reaches a “steady state” where the recycled supply of an already-mined substance is adequate. This just doesn’t happen with “fuels”, which are used up eventually so you have to go mine more. It’s a bit of a “tortoise and hare” scenario.

    In any case, _even if_ we solve the issues of supply and, yes, disposal of waste, there are still sticky problems to be dealt with. But I have a feeling I’ll get jumped on by a rabid wolfpack if I even start down that path, so I won’t.

    But anyway, I think the all-or-nothing nature of the debate is ridiculous. I find it absurd when people say, “We can’t power the world on (wind/solar/nuclear/biofuels/Druidic magic/etc.)! Therefore we should look at (preferred technology) instead!”

    The question I personally ask is, “Can we do better?” and the answer is an obvious “Yes”. I certainly wouldn’t be complaining if we got to 40% or 60% “carbon neutral” energy in the global portfolio–that’s progress. If that includes nuclear, fine with me, as long as we’re progressing toward resolving the (very real) issues. If it includes wind and solar, fine with me, with the same caveat, etc. I figure, use technologies that are appropriate to both needs _and_ constraints.


  354. @Hank Roberts
    you quote : “In that Taiwan apartment building “The average excess cumulative exposure was approximately 47.8 mSv (range < 1 – 2,363 mSv).""

    2.363 Sv for the most irradiated !!! Even when spreaded across 10 years, it is by no means "low dose" ! I am more than surprised that the authors reach a conclusion about low dose toxicity with such data in their sample. Or perhaps I shouldn't be, this is a great way to score higher in quotation rankings…

    @Moderator : maybe we should add a requirement to link only to full papers in discussions. My experience is that most of the caveats of papers which support controversial thesis are not mentionned in abstracts. It is certainly the case for health physics but I trust that you have your fair share in climate science too…
    I think that would be too demanding of contributors, particularly non-academics. Many papers are not readily available to all outside academia.


  355. @ Mike

    I agree with you that we just need to do what it takes to cut the carbon output. We shouldn’t be limiting our options by opposing any technology with the capacity to produce carbon free energy at this point – too risky.

    I’ve heard a bit about limited “rare earth elements” needed for renewables, thrown around in conversation, but have never read anything to substantiate the claim that it really will have a significant impact on the viability of future renewables (but I’ve never gone searching either to be honest). Cement and steel are the big ones in renewable technologies though. Mining for iron ore has its fair share of troubles (all sorts of other heavy metals and toxic elements come up with it), and there are no viable options for cement recycling as far as I know (please correct me if I am wrong on this).


  356. How do you spell marine ecological catastrophe?
    Since you have spelt it correctly you don’t need an answer. However, we should remind you that BNC is a science blog and not an arena for snide throwaway remarks. If you don’t have anything constructive to add to the discussion, or have any serious, intelligent questions to ask the contributors, I suggest you go elsewhere. Future banalities from you will be deleted, to avoid causing you further embarrassment .


  357. Charles, you misread my comment in the other thread.

    I cited the MIT article to support you, pointing out to the other guy that “_natural_” arsenic began causing widespread poisoning after an extensive system of wells and ponds was created, 30 years ago.

    Banal guy: “spell marine ecological catastrophe?”

    Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH
    K Caldeira – Nature, 2003

    Click to access CaldeiraWickett2003.pdf