GR Impacts Nuclear Policy

An open letter to the ABC about Catalyst’s latest Fukushima piece

Mark Horstman travels to Fukushima Prefecture in Japan to investigate where the radioactive fallout has travelled since the Daichi nuclear power plant accident over three years ago.

This was the profile of a recent ABC Catalyst documentary investigation on the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear event. You can watch the 17 min report here.

Below is a critical reply by Geoff Russell, framed as an Open Letter. Comments welcome below — and write to ABC if this motivates you!

An open letter to the ABC about Catalyst’s latest Fukushima piece

Geoff Russell, August 2014

Dear ABC,

Can anybody imagine ABC’s Alan Kohler without his graphs?

Can anybody imagine him leaving the units of measurements off his axes? Instead of ‘$’s, ‘percent’s or something similarly meaningful, what if he started labelling his X or Y axis as ‘wiggles’ or ‘puds’. I’d reckon the ABC would get more than a few complaints.

So why can Catalyst’s Mark Horstman cite radiation units, which are about as meaningful as ‘wiggles’ to most of the population, without explaining what they mean? Isn’t explaining stuff what science communication is all about?

Horstman recently presented a Radiation fallout Catalyst story about the long term radiation impacts of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. He opens with a statment about forest areas having a radiation count of 7 micro Sieverts per hour (uSv/hr).

Horstman could have explained what 7 uSv/hr means. I’m sure he knows. But the closest we got to any kind of information about this level was his claim that 5 uSv/hr was “50 times the maximum dose rate considered safe for the general public”. Without information about how risk changes as the dose changes, this is vacuous at best and misleading at worst. Taking a teaspoon of wine a day may be safe, but what about half a glass a day? That’s 50 times more than a teaspoon, but does it matter? Does raising a safe dose by 50 times make it low risk, high risk, deadly, or perhaps even make it beneficial? Maybe 50 times safe is still just safe.

And Horstman didn’t even get the numbers right. Let’s go through it slowly. Horstman could have got the Catalyst graphics team to do a nice little image. I’ll rely on words.

First, let’s convert the hourly rate to an annual rate so we can compare it to normal background radiation, which averages about 2.4 milli Sieverts per year (mSv/year). Background radiation varies from place to place but usually ranges from 1 mSv/year to around 7 mSv/year. If you were to lay on one of Brazil’s black monazite beaches 24×7, you could get a hefty 800 mSv/year. So 5 micro Sieverts per hour (uSv/hour) is 5 x 24 x 365 = 43800 uSv/year and since there are 1000 micro Sieverts per milli Sievert, this is 43.8 mSv/year. Divide this by the global average background level of 2.4 mSv/year and you get 18.25. So 5 uSv/hour is 18 times the global average background radiation level. Is Horstman telling us that the global average background level is dangerous? If he is, he’s simply wrong. How wrong? The background level of radiation in Finland is 7 mSv/year, much higher than in the UK where it’s below 2 mSv/year, but the cancer rate in Finland is actually a little lower than the cancer rate in the UK. So it seems reasonable to regard the Finnish background radiation rate as safe. Then since 5 uSv/hour is about 6 times higher than the Finnish background rate, I’d say it’s only 6 times higher than a safe rate.

But Horstman’s arithmetic mistakes are a minor matter. Whether it’s 6 times or 50 times greater than something that’s safe doesn’t tell us anything at all about how safe it is.

Is there any evidence that a level of radiation 18 times the global average is dangerous? Not that I know of. But there is certainly quite good evidence that it is harmless.

After the Fukushima meltdowns, researchers at MIT subjected mice to levels of radiation 400 times higher than the global average of 2.4 mSv/year for 6 months and found no effects. They estimated that this level of radiation caused about 12 extra pieces of DNA damage per cell per day in the DNA of the mice but pointed out that this is on top of the 10,000 pieces of normal damage which have nothing to do with radiation. Pedants will point out that background radiation will cause the occasional piece of damage. As far as the MIT researchers could tell, all the additional damage was repaired. We are talking about 1/10th of one percent extra damage here and that’s at a much, much higher radiation exposure rate than anything mentioned in Horstman’s story.

But mice aren’t people. Indeed. They get about twice as much cancer in their brief lifespan as we get in three score and ten. Which makes mice very poor predictors of what might cause cancer in people but pretty good predictors of what won’t.

But Horstman didn’t just muck up the math and not explain its significance, he also glossed over some significant details in inferring that people or animals could actually be subjected to the full force of this mildly elevated exposures.

One of Horstman’s interviewees tells us that “almost all” of the radiation in the streams is bound to clay and unavailable to the food chain. Furthermore, people living in an area generally spend considerable periods in buildings and vehicles and have little contact with the areas having the highest levels. So nobody will actually get the full 5 or 7 uSv/hr for all that many hours per year. The fact that Horstman didn’t take this into account when he was misleading people with talk about the dose being “50 times” a safe dose made it doubly misleading.

But I’m waiting for Catalyst to do a story about the health impacts of the Fukushima evacuation. When faced with a decision about whether to evacuate because of a chemical spill, radiation leak, flood or fire, it’s crucial to compare the risks due to an evacuation with the risks of staying in place.

Regular readers of BNC may recall the following details from previous posts of mine, but they are worth repeating for new readers and they are directly relevant to Horstman’s Catalyst piece.

After the meltdowns, people were evacuated from areas within a 20km radius of the reactors … and a few areas outside that. This is because of contamination … as Horstman states in his story. But does that make the evacuation justified? Or was it a supreme act of folly? Horstman doesn’t seem to care about this question. But it’s a real question. People have died and had their lives greatly disrupted. For what? Presumably to protect them from cancer due to radioactive contamination.

Suppose that instead of being evacuated to other parts of Japan, people were relocated to Australia. How would their cancer risk change and how does that change compare with the possible risks associated with no evacuation?

The cancer rate in Japan is about 200 per 100,000 per annum (age standardised to the world population). In Australia it’s 50 percent higher and the new arrivals would gradually adopt Australian lifestyle habits and their cancer rate would rise and approach that of Australians. So while there might be the occasional extra cancer in the next 30 years from radiation if people had not been evacuated, moving 100,000 people to Sydney and having them adopt an Aussie diet and lifestyle would have produced roughly 100 extra new cancers every year in that group.

Is there any evidence at all that residing in the Fukushima exclusion zone will raise cancer risk by that rate of about 50 percent? None at all. Is there any evidence that staying in the Fukushima exclusion zone was more dangerous than the hurried evacuation which killed people directly and shattered so many lives? None that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been looking!

The available evidence (see for example Lancet study) is clear that the Fukushima evacuation (and clean-up) was and continues to be one of the biggest screw-ups by any Government in recent times.


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.

64 replies on “An open letter to the ABC about Catalyst’s latest Fukushima piece”

While I broadly agree with what you say, the average background rate here (Finland) is not 7mSv. The average total dose is 3.23 mSv and about half comes from indoor radon ( Radon expose varies a lot depending on where and how you live ( As far as I remember we have about 100 000 people (out of about 5 million) who get more than 10mSv/year.



This is a very well expressed article. I also note that towards the end of the segment Horstmann and his American off-sider claimed that the value of 0.6 to 0.7 micro sieverts after decontamination was a failure. Note that they did not quote the normal background radiation level. 0.65 microsieverts converts to an annualised 5.7millisieverts which presumably includes the natural background which could be 2 or more. This looks like an excellent result for the clean up crew and there will be no health impact from this radiation level though the effects of media driven anxiety is another story.

Natural backgrounds elsewhere in the world can be very much larger than these values. Several places are known in Iran, India and Europe where natural background radiation results in an annual dose of more than 100 mSv to people and up to 260 mSv (at Ramsar in Iran, where some 200,000 people are exposed to more than 10 mSv/yr).

Lifetime doses from natural radiation range up to several thousand millisievert. However, there is no evidence of increased cancers or other health problems arising from these high natural levels.

Catalyst is unfortunately fast losing credibility as an objective science show. It tried rather dangerously to influence patients with its 2013 controversy over cholesterol drugs and so with this type of ill informed and unbalanced reporting does the program have any purpose?


Evacuation was needed because potential worst case scenario was much worse than risks posed by evacuation.

I don’t know how anyone can reasonably suggest that we shouldn’t take precautionary measures in such catastrophes as triple nuclear meltdown.


PPP251: Read the article again. This time, try to follow Geoff’s maths. If you indeed feel that he is wrong, then please say where the mistake is.

Otherwise, your comment amounts to simple trolling.


@Jani-Petri. Thanks, I relied on a chart in Wikipedia for the 7 mSv number … but the numerical point is the minor problem with the Catalyst story so I’m not too annoyed with myself for not double checking the source.


Yes, not doesn’t affect the main point. Generally speaking it would be good if people realized that there actually is a distribution of doses. It gets masked by the focus on average. If somebody wants to reduce their dose here, on average it would be a good idea to sell the house and move to high rise apartment.


@ppp251: what is your worst case scenario? There was a triple meltdown and some level of failure of primary containment but still the radiation release was trivial … with carcinogenic implications far, far, far, far smaller than emigration to Australia.


What Asteroid Miner said, again.

The “potential worst case scenario” is not a reason for your comment – it is an excuse.

We can both be silly if we wish. For instance, I could propose a worst case scenario for PV which posits that a freak wind results in all of the rooftop PV panels within a 50 km radius of a given point being torn from their mountings by freak winds, thus becoming lethal frisbees which behead half of the populace. Of course, I do not expect you to assess this scenario any more than I expect you to enunciate and allocate probabilities to your own fictitious “worst case”, whatever that may be. Indeed, you have not identified what that “worst case” entails, thus your comment has no logical foundation and does not require an answer.

Do you have any comment to make regarding this article that is (a) on topic and (b) rational?


@singletonengineer: PV frisbees … indeed! Who remembers the spent fuel worst case … some claimed there was enough radiation to kill everybody on the planet. That’s analogous to saying there’s enough fuel in any cities petrol stations to kill everybody in the city in a worst case scenario … which is obviously true but equally silly. A worst case requires a plausible mechanism. @ppp251. Please produce your mechanism, or change your mind. I changed mine when I realised I’d been wrong for decades about nuclear. It’s embarrassing to have been so silly, but hell, I’ve been wrong before. I even used to eat animals when I was very much younger :)


Am I the only one that saw ppp251’s first paragraph as something benign?

As information was lacking (earthquake+tsunami damage, stress) in those early days of the disaster it was prudent to assume worst case and evacuate. The soviets didn’t take a worst case assumption and evacuate prudently, and they subsequently ended up with 6000 cases of thyroid cancer.

What we all have deduced in light of more information (i.e. rad readings and decontamination) is that the response to move the residents back has been lacking and resulted in health problems. There is no questioning this part.

Australian state’s now issue evacuation alerts via SMS on red alert/catastrophic fire days when a bush fire has just begun.


(hit post before finishing!)

It’s prudent to evacuate when there are conditions that could have harmful effects, even if in hindsight it wasn’t necessary. I evacuated in one SMS alert as it was the highest risk level and a fire within 5km had just begun. Luckily the Fireys were on the ball and extinguished it promptly, and received an all clear message.


@singletonengineer: there were powerful storms with 160km/h wind gusts in northern EU this year and wind turbines and PV farms survived it without “lethal frisbees”.

You should stop making things up.

@Geoff Russell: worst case scenario would be another earthquake and winds blowing inland (or towards Tokio) instead of ocean, which happened to be the case.

That would result in large amounts of bioaccumulation of radioactive material in soils and water. The result would be thousands of cancers and large part of Japan completely destroyed.

Here in Europe certain mushrooms and wild boars are still dangerously radioactive due to Chernobyl and not to be eaten.

Bioaccumulation does not go away for decades and there’s no way to fix the problem. It does kill people but it’s nearly impossible to keep track of those who (unknowingly) eat food with high levels of radioactivity.

“I changed mine when I realised I’d been wrong for decades about nuclear. ”

I’ve also changed my mind. I’ve been supportive of nuclear power for many years because there was no other alternative to coal. It was clear to me that despite Chernobyl nuclear was still way better than coal. But now there is another alternative and I’ve changed my mind.

Renewables have better growth rate, cost reductions, public support and private investment. They’re also much better suited for dangerously unstable world that we’re heading to.


@ppp251: Did you read the article? The rate of cancer in Japan is 200 per 100,000. Can you explain how your worst case scenario would push cancer rates up to, say, the Australian level? Would you regard this as a disaster requiring the evacuation of any areas with such a rate? What dose would your worst case scenario deliver? The current contamination will according to WHO deliver NO measurable cancer increase. So if the wind had been blowing inland and the contamination was 10 times higher, then you’d get 10 times more contamination. Would that push rates up? Look at Chernobyl, it produced some heavy contamination … so why hasn’t the cancer rate risen in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus despite many people eating contaminated food for decades? Have you any evidence that any of this food is more carcinogenic than sausages? I’ve looked at the literature and I’ve not seen any evidence to support such a claim. If you have any evidence, please provide it.


The decision makers in Japan had to decide what to do based on the information (and misinformation) they had on hand at the time. Events and subsequent research shows that the decision to evacuate was not optimal.

Analysis of that decision diverts from the central point Geoff has made.


Thank you for a most interesting and enlightening article. I wish you well on this, but I fear that, for Australia, public opinion is set for at least one generation. The commentariat and opinionistas, with the state of politics will exclude any consideration of nuclear power from public discourse.


@DavidBenson: The Fukushima evacuation wasn’t examined in Horstman’s program, but it would be a good topic for an investigation. The iaea has evacuation guidelines and I’m reasonably sure that under those guidelines, only one area ever warranted even a small evacuation (and it is actually outside of the 20km semicircle).

Click to access Pub1467_web.pdf

See Table 3.

The crucial issue is that things didn’t happen quickly … outside of the immediate (~3k) vicinity of the plant, this wasn’t like a bush fire requiring snap judgements where hours matter.


@Geoff Russell: Cancer rates have risen. There were and still are thousands of additional cancers because of Chernobyl. WHO estimates 9000 eventual deaths, other estimates are much higher than that.

I don’t know how much inland winds in Fukushima would increase contamination and how that would translate into mortality. Some models suggest 130 eventual deaths due to contamination so presumably orders of magnitude increase in radiation would translate into orders of magnitude increase in deaths.

Evacuation of surrounding areas was a perfectly reasonable response.


ppp251: the WHO estimates of cancer deaths (over about 4 decades post Chernobyl) are estimates, not measured. There’s a world of difference. The cancer rate in Ukraine is 192 per 100,000 (Globocan), and the Australian rate is 323 per 100,000. Cancer rates change dynamically and Chernobyl hasn’t produced any blip in the graph … unlike the break up of the Soviet Union which smashed life expectancy in the region as the medical system collapsed.


The real issue is the need to reduce CO2 emissions to nil by 2070, as BAU will see 900ppm by 2100 (IPCC R5 Report). Two extreme political groups, climate change deniers and the anti nuclear movement have combined over the past 40 years to ensure that that the global community is misinformed about climate change and nuclear power. These campaigns have been so successful that fossil fuel generation has double in the last 40 years.

James Hansen discusses how these groups work with paid professionals and thousands of zealous unpaid supporters to ensure their views dominate public and media perception.

Click to access 20140221_DraftOpinion.pdf

David McKay clearly shows how physics, arithmetic and common sense tells us that renewable energy alone will never replace fossil fuel generation.

While public media like the ABC continues to take a political position, instead of a scientific position on such important issues such as nuclear power, these misinformation campaigns will continue to be successful and CO2 concentrations will continue to rise. Any competent scientific journalist would know that the United Nations UNSEAR report on Fukushima estimates the likely radiation death toll will be too small to measure.

Click to access 13-85418_Report_2013_Annex_A.pdf

The report says;
No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their descendants. The most important health effect is on mental and social well-being, related to the enormous impact of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, and the fear and stigma related to the perceived risk of exposure to ionizing radiation.

ABC political journalism is contributing to the anti nuclear misinformation campaign which contributed so much to the unnecessary psychological fear of radiation both at Chernobyl and Fukushima.


Having run out of discussion points for Fukushima, PPP has raised Chernoble, which is several decades and half a world away from the Japanese situation and the ABC program.

Thyroid cancer is not a death sentence, nor is it expected to be a substantial issue in Japan, due to the prompt use of simple and effective prophylactic iodine supplements. Even the estimated 9000 cases of post-Chernobyl cancer which BBB referred to is (a) only an estimate and (b) cannot conceivably result in 9000 or any other large number of deaths. This has been dealt with up-thread, elsewhere on this site and even in BBB’s favourite reference, Wikipedia ( states that up to 50% of autopsies reveal asymptomatic thyroid cancer, in those without abnormal exposure to risk factors. Finding BBB’s mythical 9000 excess instances within a total European population numbering in the hundreds of millions is impossible, as is making a convincing argument that the significance of this figure is substantial enough to warrant outlawing of low carbon nuclear power generation, as is currently the case in Australia.

Monitoring plus surgical and/or medical response will continue to provide excellent outcomes in both Europe and Japan. In Japan the outcome is now and can confidently be expected to continue to demonstrate the statistical irrelevance of thyroid cancer in the general population as an anti-nuclear argument.

As in previous instances when BBB has introduced simplistic, vague or alarmist off-topic and weakly linked issues, his search for an inflated hypothetical worst case on which to construct an anti-nuclear argument lacks substance and thus is fatally flawed.


This was a good feature.

The most dismaying part of all is that there’s no mass media voice correcting or challanging stories as ABC’s. All the excellent ones are held captive and unsung in nuclear blogs. Yet supposed pro-nukers as Gates have the pocket change to launch mass media anti-FUD nuclear ads/education programming to turn things around.

James Greenidge
Queens NY


@Irregular Commentator asked, why didn’t we take ppp’s first paragraph at face value. It said that, “evacuation was needed because potential worst-case scenario was much worse than risks posed by evacuation”.

I for one saw it as a blatantly false assertion masquerading as fact. These anti-nuclear guys need to continually assert that there is Something Worse than the science indicates, here called a “worst-case scenario”.

It resembles a religious tenet of faith in that their entire edifice of rationalisation collapses without it. By discussing it at all, we give it credence. To read all these technical people discussing a “worst-case scenario” is like watching a gathering of atheists argue about the God that they don’t believe in.

In the earlier thread, “Willacy’s Fukushima”, we learnt how the Japanese Prime Minister, under terrific political pressure, ordered evacuation against his expert’s advice. However that political pressure was more due to the increasing level of fear of Something Worse in Tokyo, to avert panic by being seen to act.

It must be a terrible thing, to give an order that you know will damage so many people’s lives and livelihoods. To do so as a capitulation to rampant religious bigotry must be worse.


@rogerClifton: I don’t think anybody accepted the “worst case scenario” assertion … I asked him/her a couple of times for a mechanism and didn’t get anything that would imply a radiation dose that would warrant an evacuation. I’d admit to being nervous at the time (2011) about the potential for something dangerous that I couldn’t imagine … but the IAEA document I referenced above shows pretty clearly that real experts have given such matters far more attention than me and have clear guidelines. If those guidelines had been followed, there would only have been a small and temporary evacuation.



The dilemma.

Do we respond to the quasi-religious sloganeers whose purpose is not to educate but to obstruct?

Or, do we stand idly by as discussion thread after discussion thread loses clarity under a barrage of FUD and sidetracks?

I favour the sin-bin for repeat offenders against the site’s comments policy about relevance. At least that would give others a breather. That said, I also appreciate the often gentle hand of the moderator(s). It is a fine line.


There is an US NRC post-Fukushima study that will put bounds on nuclear accident risk:

State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses (SOARCA)

I have not read it, but from the summary:

  • Existing techniques and procedures can significantly mitigate serious accidents.

  • Even in an uncontrolled situation, accident progression is substantially slower than was once believed allowing more time for response.

  • No deaths and a very, very small increase in long term fatal cancer incidence.


The documents which Quokka linked to relate to properly maintained and compliant BWR and PWR reactors. The Japanese incident is reported to have involved reactors which were not fully compliant with recommended upgrade actions. This has been said to have contributed to the severity of the consequences.

IMHO, the main findings are still very much relevant.

These include:
. Both mitigated (operator actions are successful) and unmitigated (operator actions are unsuccessful) cases of all modeled severe accident scenarios … cause essentially no risk of death during or shortly after the accident.
. SOARCA’s calculated longer term cancer fatality risks for the accident scenarios analyzed are millions of times lower than the general U.S. cancer fatality risk.

Millions of times less! That is worth repeating.

I’m still working my way through these studies. The combined volumes amount to a couple of hundred pages.

When will “our” Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) present a balancing view of the threats posed by nuclear power, one from the real world where conclusions are based on statistical and technical analysis and modelling?

Thanks for the heads-up, Quokka.


@Geoff, you’re right. Sorry guys. It’s me who gets sucked in every time. A troll asks a loaded question and puts his fingers in his ears, while I politely give his loony idea air time.

@quokka, in your link I notice that even the US NRC has fallen into the trap of philosophising about tenuous cause-and-effect in the statistical noise: “only a very, very small increase in the risk of long-term cancer deaths”. (The Chernobyl Forum made a similar impolitic speculation on the LNT, estimating 4000 possible ultimate fatalities (p16), thereby feeding the zealots with another nightmare to torment the fearful). It would have been more helpful to say words to the effect that “the risk is negligible compared to the much higher fatality rates from other energy sources” and then quote relevant facts such as a table of deaths per energy source.


Deaths per energy source on that blog is a deeply flawed comparison, since it doesn’t take into account deaths because of uranium mining, deaths during maintenance, deaths because of non-radiation causes (due to evacuation and similar) and it is highly dubious that 50% of all deaths from rooftop falls are due to solar installation.

In short: that’s nuclear propaganda, neglecting true extent of nuclear deaths and inflating deaths from renewable sources. It’s basically what nuclear propaganda machine always does and this includes this site. It’s devoted to spreading misinformation about nuclear, does not comment Abbott’s scraping of carbon price which is the single most important issue on global warming policy and it’s smashing renewables for no good reason.



I’m a silver-lining kind of guy. Some of the technology appearing as a result of March 2011 is remarkable:

“…Even with this low detection limit, radiocaesium was not detected in any of the first 100 Fukushima children, while, as expected, 40K was detected in all subjects.”

Radiation-literate contributors will not be in the least surprised. Nuclear opponents will simply not believe. I’m sad to conclude that what some of them want is for children to die and their bodies to be found to be riddled with radiocaesium. Nothing else would satisfy them.

We have a world-class nuclear technology body in Australia which the ABC pointedly ignores. Why doesn’t Catalyst, or maybe a different, more rigorous program approach one of these professionals and glean some wisdom for their viewers, for once?


PPP again tries to divert the discussion. This time toward uranium mining and falls from roofs and fairies in the bottom of gardens.

In particular, we need to be careful before we get dragged into “deaths… due to evacuation and similar”. Rational observers may conclude that the majority of such deaths are not due to nuclear power or the emergency, but due to inappropriate bureaucratic response.

PPP is consistent in his inconsistency – it seems to be impossible to keep him or her on topic and rational.

That is PPP’s problem, not attributable in any way to uranium. Or is it? Wait for the next twisted chapter.


[deleted] Deaths are not just because of radiation but also other causes. If you ignore other causes then you should ignore them at solar and wind energy also. Then solar and wind energy have exactly zero death toll.


Any rational observer would conclude that there are some deaths due to radiation (9000 according to WHO in the case of Chernobyl), there are some deaths due to evacuation (600 in the case of Fukushima) and some more because of uranium mining and other causes.

Japan, Tokaimura reprocessing facility, two deaths:

Japan, Mihama NPP, five deaths:

France, Cattenom NPP, two deaths:

France, Marcoule processing site, one death:

Navajo people who worked in uranium mining are 28 times more likely to get cancer:


Ed: You are now on moderation


@ppp251: Any set of accounts has two sides … debits and credits. It’s been estimated that nuclear power has saved about a couple of million lives over the past 40 years by displacing coal pollution.

The nuclear reactors on that stretch of coast at Japan (10 reactors at 4 sites) will have saved many lives, probably thousands. Why? Had there not been reactors there, all there would have been is the same set of flimsy sea walls that failed all along the coast and many, many people would have died. Had the thousand or so staff at those reactors been working at some solar plant or other business on the coast, they’d be dead. So the Fukushima reactors have a huge credit before you even consider who was responsible for the evacuation deaths. It’s quite clear that no evacuation was necessary had the IAEA guidelines been adhered to, so the blame for those deaths lies clearly on the shoulders of the fear mongers who kept telling anybody who would listen about the “impending” catastrophe.

Your attempt to find U mining deaths was astonishingly unsuccessful and you had to go back to the days when ALL mining was done with dangerous methods. You didn’t find even a single death in Australia where we produce enough U to produce all our electricity cleanly if it wasn’t for the anti-nuclear movement who’ve seen to it that we have pretty much the dirtiest electricity on the planet … great work that!


Dear MODERATOR, I object to PPP’s repeated personal attacks about my “problems” and “attention deficit”.

Off topic meanderings appear to be PPP’ standard response when challenged, followed by such as his latest effort.

There are plenty of places on the web where recycled, cherry-picked and incomplete antinuclear fearmongering is tolerated. Why here?

Maybe I am just demonstrating my own thin skin and lack of acceptance that on line discussions tend to be less courteous than face to face meetings.

Ed: He/she is now on moderation.


@singletonengineer: it was Roger Clifton who had started with deaths per TWh and maybe you should start whining about him going offtopic.


@Geoff Russell: i’m not disputing that nuclear has saved millions of lives by displacing coal. Hydro has also saved millions of lives by displacing coal. The same would hold for wind and solar, if they’d been deployed on large scale. Deaths per TWh are pretty much the same for nuclear and renewables (at least wind and solar).

I’d disagree giving Fukushima reactors a credit. There were 2 dead engineers in Fukushima power plant because of tsunami. Total number of employees was about 800, so that’s about 0.25% mortality. Total number of earthquake and tsunami victims in Fukushima prefecture was about 1600 and total number of inhabitants is about 870000, so that’s about 0.18% mortality. So being in Fukushima NPP was not more safe than being randomly somewhere else.

You’re again saying that anti-nuclear movement is responsible for coal plants. That’s like medieval tribalism. Your friend’s enemy is your enemy. [deleted] I am surprised that this medieval tribalism goes so deep, but apparently nuclear proponents can’t do without it.


My comments prior to response to Roger Clifton’s deaths per TWh were directly addressing flawed claim in the article about evacuation. [deleted]


@Geoff Russell: probably none, but the point is that reactors are situated on the coast where they are vulnerable to tsunamis. If these 800 people would work on solar or wind farms only a fraction would be situated on the coast.


ppp251: and that “fraction” would be dead and also dead would be the other people living in the area but no longer protected by the nuke sea wall. If the nukes weren’t there, it’s not like nothing would be there and what ever was there would have been destroyed. To protect even more people, the ideal place for the nukes would have been as close as possible to the population centers. The problem is that nobody built good sea walls except the nuclear industry and many other sea walls failed. It’s easy to justify a good sea wall when you have a few billion dollars invested behind it.


It seems that in Fukujima in the evacuated zone the number of wild boar and racoons has increased and certainly the macaque population has tripled, requiring more wild animal control officers.

On another note the Nuscale units
are estimated to be 10–100 times safer than the Westinghouse AP-1000, already very much safer than the old Gen II reactors. I am of the opinion that these units would be most appropriate for the Australian utilities as replacements for old thermal generators.

I also note that the UK is going to run a capacity market as a means to provide reserves against lack of generation from wind turbines. Again I suspect that the Nuscale 45 MWe units could readily fill such a role.


Hi all,
I’m wondering if anyone has a peer reviewed answer to Manfred Lenzen’s paper reviewing a many other papers and concluding that nuclear only has an ERoEI of 5? This seems to be an influential paper, discussed openly at Scientific American and other places like:

Carbon Brief

The Conversation

Did he review breeders? Did he review modern reactors with simpler passive safety systems? Were some of the papers ridiculously harsh, double-counting energy inputs like some peak oil doomer trying to inflate the energy inputs into systems? Is there even a peer-reviewed LCA benchmark we can trust yet? ERoEI / LCA discussions always seems to get so heated!

It seems that breeder reactors eliminate the mining and refining process so that’s got to be a HUGE energy saving. But what can I quote? How can a humanities-head like myself know that I’m trusting the right sources when I can’t do the math myself?

I tracked down the PDF from his 2008 paper
“Life cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions of nuclear energy: A review”


What an interesting paper! Although it is 6 years old, it succinctly covers a lot of ground and from an Australian perspective, to boot.

The introduction makes clear that only LWR and HWR reactors were considered, so Type IV was not considered. That answers EN’s first question.

Off the top of my head, that suggests that the majority of the upstream fuel emissions due to mining and processing will be eliminated by Type IV, but how much?

Perhaps this subject is worth a review, bringing this paper and those on similar topics together and introducing reliable extension to Type IV and SMR, because EROI will be one battleground where global energy futures are fought, won and lost.


Dear Moderator, this one might be easy for you. Which thread should I/we switch to?

BTW, I have asked the author of the primary paper to join us here/wherever.

As one with a science and engineering (electrical power generation) background, I very much look forward to contributions from physicists and engineers who have published work on nuclear power. This discussion is probably very fertile.


If you’re getting the author himself in here, maybe we can get him a guest post and we’ll comment on that? We might suggest he revisit his paper in the light of tomorrow’s nukes that will not have to mine and mill and enrich all those tons of uranium, because they’ll just bypass all that and breed the waste up. In other words, the ERoEI on the fuel cycle at least is way off: by a factor of 99 or something like that. Or ‘traditional’ nukes can kick start us with an ERoEI of 5 (if that’s true!) but the real burn begins when we pass the waste/fuel on to breeders that will extract the rest of the 99% of energy.


How can we compare back ground radiation to a melt down, a melt down has many more isotopes compared to back ground. There is next to no plutonium in back ground radiation compared to a melt down. The added radiation from a melt down is floating on the surface of areas or in rain and water. The back ground radiation is well blended no concentrated pieces the size of snow flakes or larger.


@richard… : You are wrong. Why? The detail is complex, but just think about Chernobyl. It released plenty of what you think must be dangerous … but most of the really dangerous stuff has a very short half life. The stuff that caused cancers was the radioactive iodine and it has long since decayed into insignificance. This iodine caused an extra ~6000 thyroid cancers over the past 28 years and about 15 deaths. There’s been no other spike in any kind of cancer in the region. As I note in another reply … if you look on you can see Ukraine’s age standardised cancer rate is 192 compared to 323 in Australia. The Fukushima meltdown did release radiation, but that wasn’t because it was a meltdown, but because of leaks in the concrete of the containment. You CAN have a meltdown with no release at all. Some modern reactor designs have structures to catch the slag so that the reactor isn’t totally trashed. There’s nothing intrinsically dangerous about a meltdown if the containment holds. But the reactor is totally trashed so it’s intrinsically expensive.


You are claiming Fukushima is not a melt down, then were is the fuel, also radiation reports from Japan is showing increased release in air and ocean and now is into ground water. As far as I know they are measuring cesium . Also why are wild life animals increasing in radiation levels in areas, back ground radiation does not seem to accumulate but man produced does, there has to be a reason to explain this if what you claim is true, types of Isotopes may react differently and are lose on surfaces. Most testing is one time exposure not living in an area eating food with radioactive material and breathing it in for years. Please site information that shows the safe levels for living in a radioactive area. They have some info on wolves that live a short time that have a large area to cover looking for food.
Richard, you ask for citations from Geoff, which he gives readily but do not provide any of your own to support your contentions. Please rectify this as without references your comments may, in future, be deleted. Thank you.


@richard…: Please read what I said and not what you think I said. Of course it was, as I clearly said, a meltdown … actually 3 meltdowns. But why do you think radiation is released in a meltdown? I can melt ice-cubes in a bucket, but that doesn’t mean the bucket has to leak. Ditto meltdowns. The fuel melts … that’s a meltdown. Then it starts to eat into the steel pressure vessel. At Three Mile Island it didn’t go through but at Fukushima it did and into the concrete of the containment vessel. That’s a big part of what it’s there for. If that vessel had held its integrity then the only radiation would have come from the venting carried out to try and avoid the meltdown. The precise nature of the leak in the containment is still (I think) uncertain, but in any event, as I said, Chernobyl was considerably worse but cancer in the region is demonstrably low. That’s a brute fact regardless of internet rumours and conspiracy theories to the contrary. Living in such a region is demonstrably much safer than eating bacon and sausages or smoking or being fat or being tall. If the last point surprises you then either read my book GreenJacked $3.99 or get the latest issue of Australasian Science $8.95 and read the article “Why don’t some Dwarves cause cancer” for far more detail. Or, for free, you can read my 2011 BNC post …

Then go and buy AS for a fuller story :)


Richard(etc), it may be helpful if you were to say more explicitly what people are afraid of, so that we can address it. But please rephrase the word “radiation” because our usage on the site is scientific. Here it does not make sense to say that radiation has isotopes, neither does it float or come in pieces the size of snowflakes. You make it sound as if gamma rays are blowing in the wind!

It could be useful to speak of a “hazard level”, because that is a poorly defined guideline needed by administrators and safety engineers. It was certainly needed for the ABC program to quote so that they could put the gamma measurements in context for reviewers. Geoff Russell’s article has already quite clearly demonstrated that a “safe level” is useless because it tells you almost nothing at all about hazard.


BNC Moderator, I do not know what statement needs referencing? The statements I made was there is many isotopes isotopes and type of radiation and some like plutonium are very low(anyone can search dictionary to find it out, surface radiation is only common since when 311 and Chernobyl washed surfaces and removed layers of soil, search Ronald Reagan ship and see photos of sailors washing down the ship deck and the reported illnesses support it. Any statement I have stated can be seen at ENENEWS by searching the statement and if Geoff wants it more significant then he should provide sites not just buy his book and read it. Thanks,
BNC requires peer reviewed scientific references to support what is otherwise hearsay, rumour and opinion. Searching Google, Wikipedia and news media does not qualify. ENENews is an unscientific anti nuclear website and not backed by peer-review science. Please read the BNC Comments Policy for further clarification.


@richard…: I gave you a free link to a BNC article with plenty of links to peer reviewed journals and there’s plenty more on BNC also with peer reviewed journals. You are talking about things and just assuming they must be dangerous like “isotopes” … “plutonium” but you don’t actually have any data. Where are the bodies? In contrast, the BNC post I linked had plenty of real data … 80,000 extra bowel cancers every single year in Japan because of the westernisation of the diet. That’s a huge whack of cancer. And since I wrote that piece, the globocan data has been updated and Japan is now up to 112,000 bowel cancers each year. That’s 92,000 more each year than in 1970. Why aren’t those cancers important to you? They are real, they aren’t a “risk”, they are happening daily.

And what has Chernobyl caused? Goto … that’s where the primary data is. Where is the evidence for a wave of cancers in Ukraine? There is none. There’s plenty of radioactive pollution … look at any of the UNSCEAR reports … fallout over vast regions. But it’s not doing anything. The fact that it might frighten you isn’t relevant.


P.S. I thought about making GreenJacked free, but figured people who pay for a book might be more likely to read it properly … I certainly am. I download lots of stuff I don’t read, but when I buy a book, its rare for me not to finish it. So I put a nominal fee on it … and considering I gave up well paid work time to write it, I figure that’s reasonable. But I’d bet you won’t read it regardless of price. You are just complaining about me wanting you to buy my book because you think that gives you a reason not to read anything I write … not even all the free BNC posts. So here’s the deal, the book is about 84 pages as an A4 pdf. If you undertake to read half … the first 8 Chapters, 44 pages, … read those 44 pages properly, then I’ll send you a free PDF. I’m happy to trust you, but you have to send me an email with a promise to read 44 pages (and not to repost the PDF on) … so either read the free stuff or email me geoffrey.russell at with your promise.


Geoff Russell’s article has demonstrated that a “safe level” is useless because it fails to predict hazard. However, civil administrators do need to know at what level any radiation spill would be hazardous. During crisis, decision-makers need to balance the expected number of people killed by their decision to react compared to the number of people killed by any decision not to act. Similarly, leadership needs to know the balance of probabilities before they can reassure the public before they can be terrorised.

In the past, radioactive spills have provided a field day for scaremongering, with people terrorised to their deaths while administrators were unable to reassure the public. At the time of Three Mile Island, the radioactive release (mainly due to inert gases) was insignificant, but frail people were pushed over the edge by populist fears conveyed by the local press. More recently, the entire city of Tokyo was terrorised by local and foreign media, including our own. The same near-panic destabilised the government, forcing them into an unnecessary evacuation that killed a thousand frail people.

The US DoE is setting up an investigation into the harmful effects of chronic low level radiation. It is possible that enough injuries can be found in historical records to provide a statistically significant casualty rate at this-or-that level of chronic radiation. So far, detractors have failed to point to credible patterns of illness coinciding with patterns of radiation. Instead, afficionados have pointed to patterns of hormesis, that is, improvements in health due to radiation.


The IAEA has guidelines and they look reasonable …

Click to access Pub1467_web.pdf

They are talking about evacuation if people are getting 100 mSv in 7 days … temporary translocation if it is projected people might get 100 mSv in a year. Keep in mind that the Pripyat population near Ukraine got about 3mSv with towns further away sometimes getting up to 50 mSv. I’ve asked IAEA what they told the Japanese and they say they don’t “tell” anybody what to do … just advise … and they won’t say what that advice was. I think we can assume from their published guidelines what they said, but the Japanese ignored them because of Kan’s particular personal fear … well described in Mark Willacy’s book.

It will be interesting to see what this new US investigation comes up with.


Nuclear hysteria is like McCarthism and the Salem Witch era. Plenty of fear, but little or no credible evidence. Forbes had an article examining deaths from power sources. Here’s just two: for 1 trillion Kwhrs electricity generated coal had 170,000 deaths. Nuclear had 90. See our website

We are ordinary citizens who figured out anti nuke fears are bogus. Organizations peddling them like Mothers for Peace and Friends of the Earth live on donations generated from these fears. Friends of the Earth takes millions from fossil fuel (nat gas, rationalizing it only causes have the global warming of coal). Global warming IS the enemy we should all focus on, not clean, safe nuclear that can save beautiful planet earth. (or might save)



Any word on why the “ice wall” on the ocean side of the plant has failed in several places, and whether the fallback “concrete injection” is working to stop the flow out to the ocean? They have to get that wall solid to hold the water level where it is, before cutting off the inflow from the land side.

A progress update would be welcome. It ain’t over til — when?


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