Open Thread

Open Thread 17

The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the general content of this blog.

The sort of things that belong on this thread include general enquiries, soapbox philosophy, meandering trains of argument that move dynamically from one point of contention to another, and so on — as long as the comments adhere to the broad BNC themes of sustainable energy, climate change mitigation and policy, energy security, climate impacts, etc.

You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the cascading menu under the “Home” tab.


Note 1: For reference, the last general open thread (from 7 June 2011) was here. Why another one so soon, I hear you ask? Well, blame yourselves, you worked the last one over too quickly (almost 600 comments accumulated), and this payload slows down the thread loading too much. Hence, a fresh canvas for you.

Note 2: I have now added the BNC animated video as a permanent widget, located at the top right hand column of the blog — so it will always be easy to find (and, I hope, will act as an introduction to the site for those who are visiting for the first time).

Note 3: Some interesting reading… Joe Shuster (a member of SCGI and author of ‘Beyond Fossil Fools’) has written a 24-page pamphlet called “Energy Independence Day: July 4th 2040” (PDF download). This US-focused plan includes 15% wind, 15% solar, 5% hydro, 6% biomass, geothermal, tides and waves, 5% plasma remediation (waste), 12% natural gas, and 42% nuclear (an initial build out of advanced LWR and a transition to predominantly IFRs). Click the link to read the document, which is well argued (even if you disagree with some details), colourfully illustrated, and thought provoking. Tom Blees said the following:

Joe Shuster has distilled the confusing energy picture and presented in this brief report a rational, logical, and quantified solution to some of the most intractable problems of our day. Unlike most visions of humanity’s future, Joe foresees an energy-rich world that would enable a dramatic improvement in the lives of everyone on the planet. This is not just about energy. It’s about social justice on a planetary scale.

—Tom Blees, President of the Science Council for Global Initiatives


By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

557 replies on “Open Thread 17”

Well there are several differences:-

Firstly these coal waste sites are quite small in relative to the spread of waste in a major nuclear accident. Even after an accident like the one you refer to, the affected area is comparatively small.

Secondly the operator is responsible for this material, just as the nuclear operator is – contrary to assertions made in both the OP of the insurance thread and repeated several times by commentators.

Thirdly, the problem with these waste sites is the toxic chemicals not the coal ash. Coal ash is inert (you can eat it if you wish, completely without harm) the chemicals in those piles isn’t. But those chemicals are reactive and will degrade over time.

Fourthly if it is desired to clean those chemicals faster then that is possible by using more sophisticated, albeit more expensive, processes. There is no such option with radioactive material, all you can do is wait.


And what about the area of climate change? This affects the entire world. Even Chernobyl, the worst nuclear accident in history, was not a global event.

The chemicals in coal ash cannot be recovered economically. What we do is we ship it to a landfill or underground repositories that few know of (I do because I work in the environmental field). These toxins then stay toxic forever, and no one cares or even knows about it.

Radioactive materials are much easier to seperate due to the low volumes; splitting an atom of uranium liberates 50 million times more heat than combusting an atom of carbon. It is rediculous regulatory requirements and political banning of nuclear technologies (eg fluorination and vacuum distillation reprocessing) and the simple fact that storing nuclear materials isn’t a big engineering problem at all, that we don’t do it.

Almost all of the fission products is valuable. Noble metals for catalysts, noble gasses for ion engine fuels etc. Indeed, all you have to do is wait! This is great, the waste cleans itself up unlike deadly heavy metal mercury and cadmium in the coal ash. The radionuclides are 1000x less radioactive in 100 years compared to the moment they were formed. This is a good thing! All you have to do is put the material in stainless steel casks and put these casks in concrete for gamma and neutron shielding. It then cools itself e.g. by drawing in air through zig-zag holes in the bottom of the concrete. It just sits there losing heat passively.

Some nuclides are even valuable because they are radioactive (for RTGs for space fuel satelites, medical applications, food sterilization etc.)

By the way, coal ash also contains uranium and thorium, the daughter products of which (eg polonium) can accumulate and cause nuclear contamination. The problem here is that these actually build up over time, as the uranium and thorium decay. And even when it has decayed it will become lead which is also toxic. When we fission uranium and thorium, we get a lot of energy and valuable fission products for future generations that will be less radiophobic. And if they decide to do nothing, they can – just let it sit in concrete for as long as you want. All the time getting less radioactive.


> Even Chernobyl, the worst nuclear accident in history, was not a global event.

Rubbish. Sheep in Cumbria are still being tested 25 years later.

The chemicals in coal ash cannot be recovered economically. What we do is we ship it to a landfill or underground repositories that few know of (I do because I work in the environmental field). These toxins then stay toxic forever, and no one cares or even knows about it.

Please specify which toxins you’re talking about and explain “forever”. This stuff can be processed, radioactive products cannot.

You’re also raising a red herring as the stuff chucked in landfill is not the coal ash you originally raised. Additionally, can you nominate an “underground repository” that no-one knows about where coal ash sludge ends up?

splitting an atom of uranium liberates 50 million times more heat than combusting an atom of carbon.

Non sequitar – what has this got to do with waste management?

simple fact that storing nuclear materials isn’t a big engineering problem at all,

Then why don’t we do it? The fact is we don’t have a solution.

And the waste toxins can be recovered if we wish. Economically? Don’t know. But consider the cost and risk of fast breeders (not least because they don’t exist commercially).

The radionuclides are 1000x less radioactive in 100 years compared to the moment they were formed

Umm, which ones are you talking about? Cesium, Plutonium? I don’t think so.

By the way, coal ash also contains uranium and thorium,

In vanishingly small quantities. Can you quantify this? You ought to be ashamed of yourself for raising a fear argument.


> If we believe the linear no threshold model, and we are not evacuating London,

If you don’t believe it then you are taking a radical opinion in defiance of all conventional medical and scientific opinion.

You are also making a false equivalence:

> 20 mSv gives you a 0.2 percent increase in cancer (any type).

This I believe is a reference to radiative exposure (correct me if I’ve misread you), not ingestion or inhalation which applies in the case of radioactive particles entering the atmosphere or food chain.

(I’m also surprised you cite a press release on a woo-woo website promoting alternative medicines as an authoritative source. And the article cited by that website is published by BioMed who appear to be a online vanity publisher rather than one of any repute.)

And then you take it a bit further by cherry picking. Let me quote from a later part of the press release:

Approximately 16,000 people are estimated to have been killed by the radioactive plume released from the Chernobyl explosion. [it is] estimated that air pollution causes 24,000 deaths in Britain each year

The exposure groups are very different in size. There are 55M people in the UK, nothing like that in the Chernobyl area.

So basically the 0.2% doesn’t gell with the 2.8%. At all.

By the way, I couldn’t find the original paper because it’s not referenced or linked to .


BJ, first off, your source of Cumbrian sheep does not give any reference to the Bq/kg of sheep. It is therefore complete scaremongering nonsense and is a good example of the radiophobia nuclear-exceptionalism I mentioned earlier. Come up with a source that quantifies the risk of eating Cumbrian sheep or don’t mention it at all. You accuse others of fear mongering yet provide no Bq/kg figures for the sheep. 2 million people a year are dying due to pollution from fossil and biomass. How many are dying due to radiation from nuclear plants?

Your suggestion that toxic coal ash ‘can’ be processed and radionuclides ‘cannot’ is complete nonsense. Fluorination and vacuum distillation were developed in the 60s and 70s. It works well. Most coal ash isn’t processed, it is dumped in underground mines and repositories where it stays forever. Mercury is mercury. It is not going to get less toxic and if it does you should worry; because it is leaching out into the groundwater and soils. This is a serious problem for many ponds in the US and Europe, who are not held to the high standards that spent nuclear fuel storage is.

50 million times the energy density per atom of uranium means you have 50 million times fewer atoms (compared to fossil) for the same amount of thermal energy production. Are you seriously not seeing why this matters for waste disposal? Have 50 million times less waste? Simple connection really.

And, we *are* storing spent nuclear fuels and resins etc. responsibly in the OECD. That’s my point. No one is seriously disadvantaged by some casks that stand around on a few acres next to a nuclear plant. It is a good solution, all the while the problem gets smaller. The problem with ash ponds is getting bigger as the dikes degrade and heavy metals leach into the ground.

The 100x less refers to the total activity of fission products plus actinides. Almost all activity is in the fission products and they decay rapidly (very low ingestive toxicity, similar to uranium ore, after 300 years). Of course you shouldn’t eat fission products, just like you shouldn’t eat soil or cleaning fluid. Soil and cleaning fluid however are ubiquitous whereas fission products are guarded by professionals in facilities with the lowest death rate per TWh.


BJ, re the linear no threshold: the scientific and medical community is increasingly sceptical of linear no threshold. It is the policymaking and the decision-makers that are reluctant to use it. For political reasons. Once you have made standards strict the public expects them to get ever stricter. If the standard is wrong and needs to be adjusted a large factor upwards, you have yourself a serious political problem.

Re the 2.8 percent figure. What you say makes it worse! MORE people live in London, therefore there is even MORE reason to evacuate London (Fukushima is mostly rural). More children life in London than around Fukushima. So how come we’re not evacuating London?

You can raise ad hominems to my sources but you can’t come up with your own quantifications. 16,000 from Chernobyl? 2,000,000 kills for fossil and ‘renewable’ biomass burning – every year. Even in the UK, a rich country, it is 24,000 people a year. Of course the Chernobyl deaths are based on the absurd notion that you can quantify the death toll by adding up total exposure without knowing dose rate or total dose for each individual. This is so unscientific even a child can see it’s silly.

Nuclear is clearly the safest energy source. Solar and wind aren’t safe when you consider the backup and/or massive storage impacts. Plus they use 10x more materials and mining is dangerous.


Okay, CO2, about

20,000,000,000 tons per year (from coal alone). That’s 20 billion tons. And growing rapidly (in fact there is growth in the growth rate – China alone is building 2 medium sized coal fired powerplants a week…).

I hesitate to call CO2 a pollutant. Greenhouse gas it is, and bad it is when we emit too much. I guess it depends on your definitions of what a pollutant is.


That threshhold was passed many years back.Cyril,

Hesitate no more.

Any substance which is present in quantities above that which is (a) natural and (b) beneficial is a pollutant.

Thus, CO2 above a certain threshhold is a pollutant. That threshhold was passed many years back.


You bet CO2 is a pollutant. It is waste, dumped into the Commons. We could do our own cause a benefit by pronouncing it “Waste!”, that is, with an exclamation mark. Then prepare to debate the antinukes which of our bogeys of the same name do the most damage to our environment.

Stop the waste! Go nuclear.


Good one, dave.

I’m going to read it at any rate, instead of sticking with the infinite ingenuity of the market b.s. and the usual keynesian modifications.


Re several oil shale comments upthread gasoline made from it has 73% greater ‘carbon intensity’ than its equivalent made from US crude oil, generally considered a ‘light’ type of crude. See second paragraph in

Click to access ene_10110501a.pdf

Note that’s kerogen shale, not bitumen. It seems Obama has approved a 2,700 km pipeline from Alberta to Texas carrying diluted bitumen. Not that the world is getting desperate or anything. If we are going to smash, steam and boil up solid rocks to make liquid fuels we’d better stop using coal in power stations.


Maybe it would be better for the environment if we were to smash, steam and boil up coal to make liquid fuels. At least we know how to rehabilitate coal mines. The ratio of hydrogen to carbon in either case could be improved by entraining a nuclear reactor in the fuel refinery.



Firstly I’m talking about economic loss here. The fact is that the cost of storage for coal tailings is much less than that for nuclear waste.

Secondly the impact of leaching in both cases is less for coal tailings. That is simply a fact.

Thirdly, the impact of accidents that spread the stored waste, or worse the active materials as at Fukishima, across the landscape is less for coal than for nuclear. Nuclear affects larger areas, is more dangerous and is harder to contain and control.

Fourthly, both governments and companies recognize these facts. The breach of a tailings dam will not break a company, nor require large input of public funds. That is a fact.

Lastly, your equivalence “but coal’s got Uranium in it you know” is scaremongering nonsense. The link Ng gave us is to a company that is exploring recycling of coal ash to recover Uranium … at the concentration of 65ppm. That is a very low concentration of very impure material, it’s not much to worry about. It’s also only very marginally economic.

But it does prove my original point. Coal tailings can be cleaned. Nuclear waste cannot, it can only be stored.


BJ, fossil fuels kill 1-2 million per year. Not by accidents, in fact almost all is due to the *normal* operation of these plants. The normal operation of these plants burning fossil fuels kill more every week than nuclear has ever killed including all accidents.

Nuclear waste storage costs less than 0.1 cent per kWh. You put that money in a fund with the interest paying for the storage indefinately. This is sustainable and affordable. Coal waste dumping in the air, water and soils is not sustainable. It kills massively in normal operation. Plus there are accidents, eg coal mines in China killing several thousand every year. Not to mention greenhouse gasses dumping, 31 billion tonnes of CO2 alone.

Re Cumbria, I asked for a Bq/kg figure. You did not give it. You just posted more radiophobia by people who do not know any of the science. Your references have no detail, there is only vague scaremongering and other unquantified jibberish.

Like I said, try to quantify your assertions and try to find references that do this. the BBC references you gave are pathetic. They talk about ‘hot spots’ but give no dose rates or contamination per kg agriproduct figures. Just more people who prefer sensationalism over relevant numbers.


I was in a discussion elsewhere on the net and was given this link of the German Goverment’s review of renewable generation.

Click to access ee_in_deutschland_graf_tab_en.pdf

If I’m reading them right, pages 39 and 40 of the German government presentati­on, taken together, represent one of the most striking arguments I have ever seen against the indiscrimi­nate deployment of solar photovolta­ics. 5.9% of renewable CO2 avoidance for 70% of the investment – a serious misjudgeme­nt.

So my questions is: am I reading this right, or is there some additional factor I’ve missed that explains this huge discrepancy?



In case you haven’t noticed I’m running an economic argument, not a health based one. I don’t think either you or I are qualified to do that.

Re. Your second paragraph. I want reputable citations for nearly every sentence in this paragraph.

> Nuclear waste storage costs less than 0.1 cent per kWh

Please specify the type and cost of storage you’re talking about. Why has the US been arguing about Yucca Mountain for circa 30 years? Why is Finland spending the odd billion or two for a facility with millions of years of storage? People don’t do this unless they think it’s justified.

> You put that money in a fund with the interest paying for the storage indefinately.

Calculations please. And no primary school arithmetic with a basic calculator. I want the real deal here.

> This is sustainable and affordable

Under what circumstances? Millions of years?

> Coal waste dumping in the air, water and soils is not sustainable.

Ok, I agree with this one.

> It kills massively in normal operation.

You’re making an epidemiological argument which is not valid. Let me explain. In normal operation a nuclear plant, like a coal plant benefits many people. However during accidents things are much different. With a coal plant accident very few people are affected – apart from interruption to electricity services – and the risk is insurable against the benefits. With a nuclear accident very large numbers of people are affected and the risk is not insurable.

You are comparing concentrated risk which can be readily pooled against widespread risk which cannot be pooled. Not the same thing at all.

> Plus there are accidents, eg coal mines in China killing several thousand every year

References please. I’ve heard of very bad coal mining accidents in China, but “several thousand every year” strikes me as somewhat exaggerated.

> Not to mention greenhouse gasses dumping, 31 billion tonnes of CO2 alone.

Ok, agree with this one, but I’m not going to quibble about the number.

Regarding your following paragraphs:

> Re Cumbria, I asked for a Bq/kg figure.

Who cares? The UK government believes there is a continuing danger and is compensating those farmers. Neither you nor I can judge nor argue whether this many Bq/kg would be too much, too little or just right to justify that compensation.

What are you saying? That we shouldn’t trust their judgment? Or the opinions of their advisors?

Those people are accountable, you and I are not.

However, if you wish to run an argument that requires disputation with every engineer, physicist, doctor, epidemiologist, economist, financier, banker, etc, etc, etc, that has anything to do with this and has their jobs on the line over what they say.


Come on now BJ. Governments do a lot of things this does not mean it makes sense they do it just because its them that’s doing it! The US govt decided to bomb Iraq. There was no justified reason for this it is politics. The UK government pays for lots of nonsense, just like any other government does.

Nuclear and coal plants benefit many just as much. This is clear to all. The alternative of not having electrcitiy is deadly. However, the damage for nuclear and coal isn’t the same – see earlier references I provided. Fossil fuels and biomass combustion kill 1-2 million per year.

“Who cares” about Bq/kg? I do. Everyone who is reasonable should be. Soil contains around 500 Bq/kg of radionuclides. I asked you the numbers, you can’t deliver, but you ask me to quantify my figures that are already figures in themselves and you want me to look for a source for you? Ironic, but I’ll bite neverthereless.

USA has a Nuclear Waste Fund paid for by 0.1 cent per kWh surcharge on nuclear electricity. Currently pool and dry storage and some R&D are being paid fully and the waste is stored perfectly good, but the fund is increasing. 0.1 cent per kWh is clearly too generous already.

The website is also great for learning about nuclear power issues:

Dry casks are pretty cheap. They just stand somewhere. I don’t understand why I ever worried about this issue (I used to be anti-nuclear, until I ran the numbers).

You may be losing sight of the big picture here. The choice before us is fossil or nuclear. Between the two, nuclear is safest, about as cheap, much cheaper when we calculate healthcare and other external costs of fossil, and nuclear is of course the most environmentally friendly with the lowest footprint in area and materials.

I hope you will do more numbers based research rather than relying on your gut feelings because when it comes to energy matters, numbers are the way to go.



Nuclear waste is being “mined” for Uranium… see France for one example… so currently it is not impossible to “clean” nuclear waste, as you claim.


It takes one eco-villain to recognise another. CSG is not all bad. If mined black coal via conventional boilers creates about 1000 kg of CO2 (less for hard coals) per Mwhe and CSG via CCGT creates about 400 kg then the carbon intensity is half or less. CSG wells can go down hundreds of metres too deep for cheap open cut so you’d think EROEI or net energy would be greater. No railways or fly ash disposal needed but then there are the brine ponds.

All we need is
1) a national CO2 cap that shrinks year by year
2) ironclad compensation for farmers re water supply
and CSG is better than coal. If anything it’s a shame that CSG seems to be confined to Queensland and New South Wales. Some other States would love CSG to get them out of strife.



Governments don’t spend very large amounts of money over long periods of time on fantasies. These people and their public servants are accountable. The Cumbrian payments are real. I’m not in the business of overruling them or second guessing them, that’s why I don’t care about what the actual exposures are. Those people know better than you or I do.

Equally shareholders don’t allow their companies to be destroyed by nonsense, nor do bondholders allow it either. The destruction of TEPCO is real and it is real because the costs of Fukushima are real. People have been moved and will be compensated (somehow) because they have suffered real harm. Again I’m not in the business of second guessing.

And you shouldn’t be either.

Assertions that all of this is fantasy that can just be ignored are wrong.


Settle down, BJ. Take a deep breath.

You are very close to crossing a line re appropriate communication on this site.

However strongly you hold your opinions, and however certain you may be that governments cannot make mistakes, you have failed to provide firm references regarding the condition of the Cumbrian farms or to support your opinion that coal is safer than nuclear.

One strong point of a science-based site such as this is a willingness to dig into issues to expose facts. These facts are used to either justify or to refute opinions. That is why you have been asked several times to provide factual bases for your opinions.

If this was not the case, then this site would degenerate into a mindless slanging match between those who hold opposing opinions.

So, citing sources, relying on facts and being prepared to argue the facts are the bread and butter of this site. It really would interest me and a high percentage of other readers here if the situation faced by the Cumbrian farmers was clarified, because at present it appears that the govenment’s actions may have been based on a desire to avoid electoral disadvantage, rather than to follow a least-cost risk based scientifically sound option in response to a demonstrated need.

Your assertion that governments do not spend lvery arge amounts of money over long periods of time on fantasies is obviously falsifiable. I would suggest that the Iraq war was and is an example of such behaviour on the part of several governments… the Coalition of the Willing. Indeed. I would assert, if space and relevance permitted, that much of the business of government involves spending of huge sums of money over long periods of time due to fantasies, but to do so would require justification in the form of numbers, places and dates.

Cyril’s request for you to support your opinion with numbers is quite reasonable.

A question for you: If the Cumbrian radiation test results and/or contamination assessments are located by me or others and a reference is provided here, are you willing to re-assess your opinion in the light of the data? If not, then why should others accept your opinion on in the absense of supporting data?

My guess is that you have no intention of reviewing your opinion, regardless of the facts and that any effort to dig out and to present facts would thus be wasted.


JB – I agree with what you are saying to BJ but as he is postulating on the Open Thread the reference rule is relaxed. Naturally his argument would be a more likely to convince if he provided references to back up his assertions.


Ng fair enough, but the original issue wasn’t whether waste could be “mined” or not.

This started out on another thread as a discussion about “insurance” ie. the costs of the nuclear industry. During that discussion a number of people made a number of IMO indefensible claims including such things as “radiation causes little or no harm”, “people at Chernobyl would have been better off staying in their homes and more harm was done by evacuating them” and so on.

The specific claim that I’m trying to refute in relation to radioactive materials is one that said that “chemicals are forever, radioactive materials are not because they have a half life”.

I think this is grossly ignorant and betrays a lack of understanding of the difference between “chemicals” ie. molecules and compounds, and atomic nuclei. Nuclei cannot be changed other than through nuclear processes, mostly natural decay. Molecules can be, and often quite quickly, through chemical processes, ie reactions.

But I’m starting to suspect that a lot of people here don’t know the difference.

That’s what I’m talking about.


BJ, some chemical elements are intrinsically toxic – lead, mercury, cadmium being obvious examples. These are indeed forever toxic, and were the subject of the earlier discussion, which betrayed no evidence of misunderstanding on this point.


Right, here we go re Cumbrian sheep.
From Cumbrian News, July:
“High Nook is the only remaining farm in north and west Cumbria to still be monitored – the other remaining farms are in the Barrow area.

“Mr Allen is paid £1.50 for every sheep that has to be tested, which sometimes reaches 350. There have been no fails for almost 20 years and the lambs can be sold in the normal way.”

That indicates to me that, at least in this instance, that payments amounting to about 10 thousand pounds over almost 20 years, with not a single fail have been registered in the 7,000 or so tests. This does not demonstrate that there is a radiation risk, it demonstrates that whatever risk may have been has long since subsided.

Elsewhere in the article it is indicated that other farms are similarly monitored and that the test hurdle is 1000 Bq per kg live weight.

In total, there are 11,000 sheep being monitored in Cumbria. Unfortunately, the article does not state whether any sheep have recorded more than 1000 Bq per kg at any time in the almost 20 years under consideration.

See also
“The FSA is preparing to open a consultation period this autumn to assess whether these measures should be abandoned once and for all.”

It appears to me that the crisis is well and truly over, the amount of money involved is trivial (from a government perspective) and that action is in hand to terminate the testing.

This hardly represents a killer argument and certainly does not support BJ’s contention that the government’s actions are sufficient justification to believe that Cumbrian farms are still unsafe due to radiation.

So, it’s time for BJ to post a retraction. The situation is nowhere near as bad as stated. In fact, it may very well be that the major danger still present in the Cumbrian hills is a danger to the famers’ property values and income streams due to fear mongering in the press and elsewhere by those who exaggerate the risks from exposure to very low level radiation exposure.


John I see no need to post a retraction. I made the reference to Cumbria in response to a claim that there were no widespread effects from Chernobyl and the purely local effects were shortlived. I was using Cumbria as a counterexample.

SInce it is a valid counterexample, I don’t see where there is any inaccuracy in what I said.

Now you can obfuscate this as much as you like, but the fact remains that major nuclear accidents are very serious when they happen and have major costs associated with them.


Can I also make the point that 11,000 sheep being monitored in Cumbria is also a refutation of the claims sometimes made on this site that children suffering medical problems in the Ukraine cannot have been hurt by Chernobyl because they were born years after the accident, ie. that the effects were short lived and therefore those leukemias etc must be “natural”.

Sheep don’t live 25 years. All of those sheep were born years after the accident and yet they are still affected. This is an example of how once radioactive waste gets in the environment, and particularly the food chain, it stays there. At least until it decays.


Oh dear, where do I go for a logic transplant.

My point is that the Cumbrian sheep have, for decades, shown NO ill effects. Thus, the Cumbrian example is of health, not of illness. How this can be construed as evidence of a problem is beyond reason.

Assertions regarding cancers in the Chernobyl region are linked only romantically with assertions regarding healthy sheep in England.

What are those cancers, I wonder? How many? Which population? Has a statistically significant rise in morbidity or fatality been observed as a result of these cancers, or were they non-existent and/or treatable? Elsewhere on this site, these issues have been discussed in the light of actual medical statistics , whith the outcome being that, apart from treatable non-fatal cancers and a cohort of dozens, but not over 100 acute radiation victims, Chernobyl had statistically mild outcomes.

This is especially so when, as pointed out carefully and unemotionally by Cyril above, comparisons are made with the millions (yes, millions) of deaths each year due to coal burning alone, and that does not include any estimate of future fatalities due to climate change and the effects thereof.

BJ has come here with an unsupported emotional platform and could only have got this far on an open thread, because unsupported nonsense is moderated on the other threads.

So, to BJ, I suggest: hang around this site for a while, observe, think critically and consider the merits of basing opinion on measurable, observed data. There are some very smart and well-informed contributors here who really do want to consider all sides of arguments and are prepared to go more than half way with you if you are prepared to adopt a rational methodology.

Emotional is the enemy of rational. There is a place for emotion, and that is after the facts are included in one’s world view.

Rational argument is not built from appeals to authority (eg the government) and is not the result of invalid comparisons (child cancer in Chernobyl Vs healthy sheep in England). It is and must be founded on facts, bucketloads of demonstrated, measured, peer reviewed, confirmed facts – preferably verified time and again in the real world.

Study the thoughts and risk outcomes presented in the BNC thread Nuclear power, even including all of the errors and failings of outdated designs over 50 years’ experience and including Chernobyl and Three MIle Island and Fukushima is much safer than whatever energy source comes second. That has been demonstrated time after time. Nuclear is not more dangerous, it is far less dangerous than even the renewables, and at much lower cost, both monetary and climatewise.

I’m now leaving this thread. Must move on.


JB don’t patronise me. The Cumbria thing is a small point, but valid in the context of the conversation. I only made it to refute a ludicrous statement that Chernobyl’s effects were purely local and not widespread.

And while you accuse me of emotion, I’m not being emotional. Rather I think that it is those who try to pass off very real medical and financial effects as “non-existant fantasies” promoted by “media scare-mongering” who are being irrational.

And the fact is I have provided references for my assertions. If I missed any, please point them out.

On the other hand, no-one on this or the original thread has been able to explain, even in the slightest way, how nuclear power is insurable or can be made insurable.

Because at the moment it is not adequately insured, and there appears to be no way to remedy that problem.


I only made it to refute a ludicrous statement that Chernobyl’s effects were purely local and not widespread.

I don’t see how the presence of infinitesimal quantities of radionuclides found in the UK, which (as John Bennetts pointed out) has not had any known negative impacts, constitutes an “effect” of any description.

It seems to defy logic that anyone can assert that the safest known way of generating electricity cannot be adequately insured, when other less benign technologies (i.e. fossil fuels and to a lesser extent renewables) apparently can be. And as pointed out in the original thread, the Price-Anderson Act IS nuclear industry insurance.

The 2005 WHO report on Chernobyl gives a very detailed account of a disaster in which up to 4000 people may eventually die. This, however, pales in significance to how many people die every day from not having access to electricity, and from continued use of fossil fuels.


@BJ, on 28 August 2011 at 6:55 PM, who said: “JB don’t patronise me.”

If demonstrating that an argument has not been supported by fact is patronising, I beg to differ.

If it is patronising to explain patiently that opinions which are not factually and rationally supported have emotional, rather than logical, origin, I again disagree.

BJ continues to claim that there are “very real medical and financial effects” to support his position, yet has completely failed on several occasions to demonstrate that there is a verifiable basis for these notions. The far more real medical issues include the damage being done to people and the whole biosphere due to fossil fuel burning – millions of people per annum, with much worse to come. That is factual. There is no factual basis to any claim that Cumbrian sheep are currently being injured or that people working with or even con suming Cumbrian sheep are suffering medically as a result of the Chernobly issue. B’s contribution has been one long, drawn out red herring.

Not content with that, BJ then attacks those who would help him to see more clearly, assusing all and sundry of being patronising, and more, when the truth is that he simply disagrees, and this disagreement is not rationally founded, is disproportionate and is just plain wrong-headed.

So, to BJ, I repeat what I said before. There are many contirbutors here who are keen to assist B to understand the actual costs, risks and benefits of all available power generating technologies. Likewise, there are many who would happily reason and debate with BJ and others about the causes, extent and risks associated with the changes to our planet’s climate due to the actions of mankind.

This cannot be fruitful in an environment where assertions, claims and counterclaims which are not factually supported and are even untrue are adopted as though they are holy writ.

BJ will not have convinced anybody that his arguments are worthwhile, so I don’t worry on that score. I have, however, suggested to BJ a means whereby he can, if he wishes, obtain deeper understanding through knowledge of the subject and thus review his own opinions/convictions. Sadly, BJ has indicated that he is not yet ready to follow this path.

The Cumbrian sheep are doing fine. I have explained why not a shred of evidence brought to this discussion has demonstrated otherwise. Let’s all move on.


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