back to article Fukushima fearmongers are stealing our Jetsons future

As the situation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant slowly winds down, the salient facts remain the same as they have been throughout: nobody has suffered or will suffer any radiological health consequences. Economic damage and inconvenience resulting from the quake's effects on nuclear power have been significant, …

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Testing testing

One, Two, Three

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It's up

Flypaper works.

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Joke

@ Fork 'andles

Ah - a pair of testees?

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Dead Vulture

One, Two, Three, ... Seven

Is a 10% emission *rate* relative to Chornobyl insignificant?

"Japan has raised the severity rating for its tsunami-stricken nuclear reactor from Level 5 to Level 7, the highest grade, ... the radiation emission rate at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is about 10 per cent of that at Chornobyl, the crippled Japanese facility has emitted a huge amount of radioactive substances that pose a risk over a large area."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/04/11/japan-quake-anniversary.html

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Don't agree?

This man doesn't http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110330/full/471549a.html

Neither does this guy:

"If there are significant areas of caesium-137 soil concentration of the order of 100,000 Bq kg−1, evacuation of these areas could be effectively permanent," says Smith.

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110329/full/471555a.html

In event of a nuclear disaster in the UK just stand next to Mr.Page. He has a reality shield that will protect you.

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But has a nice map

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110329/full/471555a/box/1.html

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Did you actually read those articles?

They didn't sound like they were written by an engineer or anyone with any knowledge, they just regurgitated some numbers and drew their own conclusions.

It's laughable that one of the biggest concerns was that there were more than 1 reactor at a power generation site.

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Boffin

But he's right: "If SHTF, make sure that you don't need 4 arms"

He has a 100% well-founded engineering concern:

If one of the machines blows plumes, that will seriously hamper you pampering the others.

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Coat

@OP

""If there are significant areas of caesium-137 soil concentration of the order of 100,000 Bq kg−1, evacuation of these areas could be effectively permanent," says Smith."

If you actually read the article, they did not find 100,000 Bq/kg of caesium-137. This statement would be similar to "if Chernobyl had contaminated the area with 100,000 Bq/kg of caesium-137" or if we found that amount under your front porch. It's not saying they are likely to find such, nor had found such. It's giving you a rough figure to know where the "permanent evac" level is.

"In short, irrational fear of nuclear technology is what has stolen away the brilliant Jetsons-style future that was envisioned for us 50 years ago – and may yet steal it from our children."

I remember hearing about a period of time where irrational thought prevented technological improvement....oh yeah, it's called the Dark Ages. Perhaps some of these fearmongers (such as the OP) should come out of their quasi-religious delirium and actually learn something about the situation.

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Coat

Hindsight is great... statistically

Hindsight... that's all we have to prove the effects of any given nuclear anything. While I understand in most instances, no known long term effects of radiation exposure due to contamination (due to reactor failures) exist (in the power generating, non-military, sector), and the dangers of the past statistics are lower than other "power sources," it is still true that it is impossible to predict with 100% certainty the results of a "disaster" that has never happened before. What is likely to be true, does not automatically make it true, until it becomes part of the past and can be looked at or studied. And just because an individual's speculation turns out to be right, because it was only speculation, it does not provide the justification to be able to honestly (honestly) say I told you so.

Not to mention, the long time usage of what "radiation exposure" means, lumps in the statistics of all sources of radiation. My theory is that no 2 sources of radiation are equal. Some sources should be avoided at all cost (like particles of plutonium in the body at one extreme, which we keep learning something new about that changes our knowledge of its nature), and some actually have health benefits (like UV at appropriate doses to help create vitamin D). The statistics I hear used all the time to prove the safety of radiation lump data from both extremes, which seems to sound very 19th to mid 20th century thinking (my biggest pet peeve of modern science is much of it is not modern, and takes a long time to update). Not to mention most common meters used to measure radiation levels cover a very broad range of radiation sources without being able to differentiate them. Separate tests are used to find radioactive isotopes, and the majority seem to just detect higher than normal levels of radio energy (which is the cheaper test, and usually the first test).

An antenna is technically "radio-active", and at high enough energy can be deadly. A chunk of plutonium a few atoms in size, while theoretically less fatal, will cause constant damage in the body, even though the damage is (statistically) low, most human bodies are (statistically) malnourished, so therefore cannot regenerate at optimal rates. The rate at which one can regenerate (statistically) drops with age.

I believe the reason most people have become anxious about nuclear power, is that industry tends to play down all dangers in their respective industries, unless forced to do otherwise. And since most people don't realize that they are resistant to harms potentially caused by industry, many of those people tend to try to err on the side of caution, and often feel sympathy towards those who are easily harmed by the actions of industry, because (statistically) it could be they who are harmed. While not likely to be harmed over one's life span (statistically), most people try not to say, "screw the minority who could be harmed, I want my cheap toys!"

So, yeah, there are going to be differing opinions on things that are still (statistically) unknown due to their lack of having happened. And these days people are sensitive to anxiety because so many things that used to be certain, are now back in theory-town. So when the same people who used to say ducking and covering can save you, are now saying everything is fine, people start to lose trust in anything said by experts. And i feel the need to remind people, the fear mongering media are NOT experts in anything other than looking good, and sounding good, for their fans. And many of them are people (GASP!), and most people who have been misinformed by industry experts do not find it easy to know the difference between real experts, and the ones used by industry. Not very many individuals are science nerds who have the ability to differentiate between what is true and what is just an assumption, and therefore have the ability to calm their own nerves. And the people they try to rely on to help them know the difference seem to be very bitter and do not do well at educating them. So that leaves them with the pretty media, and their fear mongering.

Congratulations, condescending nerds, you failed.

Showing some true empathy to your audience, that isn't obviously forced or condescending, is the only way to help people feel comfortable in the things that are out of their control, and that they know little to nothing about. People are already anxious about the the unpredictability of the; moving poles, changing weather (on every planet in the solar system), actions of the sun, natural disasters, diseases, war, politics, life, love, and other people (I'm sure I've left something out :P). How they are reacting to nuclear based "disasters" seems perfectly normal. Just because we don't like how people react, does not mean they won't react that way, and using a condescending tone will not help them to stop reacting the way they do. Without the right approach, you actually need the generations of anxious and misinformed people to die off for people as a whole to change. But as long as those people are still the ones teaching the next generation, they will teach their fears and misinformation to the next generation, even though it isn't part of the curriculum.

I believe there is a bigger picture here than just the debate over the safety of radiation in all of its forms. Of course, this is just my opinion of my observations, which may or may not be related at all to reality. Correlation does not equal causation. Statistics show what is possible using past experience, they do not prove the facts, or predict the future with any definable accuracy, unless you use more statistics to create a percentage of accuracy, which then has its own statistical error. Observation, and recording of what is observed, is the closest thing to reliable science. Statistics, while a useful tool, can often keep scientists from allowing the odd things observed from making their way into the published information, especially when it is finally filtered down to the laypeople. GOD forbid they let their own experiments prove their hypothesis wrong. These days people are generally resistant to conceding. I was taught in primary school to stand by my opinion, even if I was unsure of it, which to me is not being honest. And this, I believe, is the reason the laypeople have a hard time trusting anyone trying to push their truth on others. Because so many informers are taught to insult others intelligence through condescension, or at the very least, are never taught not to.

I'll grab my coat...

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"IF"

"If there are significant areas of caesium-137 soil concentration of the order of 100,000 Bq kg−1, evacuation of these areas could be effectively permanent,"

IF that amount is founf anywhere

I could equley say "IF we contamnate the soil with mircury or oil it will be usless and evacuation of these areas could be effectively permanent"

dose not mean it has or is going to happen

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Happy

Brilliant post !

The best bit about all this though is the very same tactic used by climate deniers to discredit expert scientists can now be used as a response to the nuke fans, who mainly seem to be in the sceptic camp.

Hosted by their own petards methinks!

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No consequences?

TEPCO press release:

http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/11032609-e.html

"On March 24th, it was confirmed that 3 workers from cooperative companies who were in charge of cable laying work in the 1st floor and the underground floor of turbine building were exposed to the radiation dose of more than 170 mSv.

2 of them were confirmed that their skins on legs were contaminated. Although they were decontaminated, since there was a possibility of beta ray burn injury, they were transferred to Fukushima Medical University Hospital. The third worker was also transferred to Fukushima Medical University Hospital on March 25th.

After that, the 3 workers were transferred to National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba Prefecture."

I suppose in the world Lewis Page lives in possible beta burns and a transfer to a specialised hospital for monitoring don't count as "radiological consequences."

Sounds like an interesting place to live, LewisWorld does. But I'm not sure I'd want to visit.

Does it need to be said that if even if someone is irradiated with a fatal dose, they don't drop dead immediately unless the dose is extreme?

It can up to a month to die. And there's a fake "recovery" period during which it looks like there are no lasting consequences.

Never mind the other lasting consequences that only show up over the years in increased cancer clusters, and the like.

Tell you what, Lewis - let's see how this looks a month from now, shall we?

Then we can be sure what "no consequences" actually means to the people on the ground there.

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OFFS! Do some research!

All the workers affected by contaminated water have been released from hospital - as reported in the daily update on events by the IAEA.

Before you blast Lewis with your pointless diatribe, perhaps you could bother your arse to research the matter first?

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Have you ever had a sunburn?

So if you've had a sunburn you've had the same type of suffering they've had. From what I've read they have been released home unharmed. Go back to watching Fox News and stay off news sites for intelligent people.

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title

Actually he did mention exactly that - do you even know what a beta burn is?

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Feh

I suffer worse radiation burns every summer, but I've never had to be hospitalised for them.

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LewisWorld

Is that anywhere near PC World?

Decide for yourself which of the two has more credibility.

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According to the New York Times...

the exposure to their feet was 2000 to 6000 mSv, a much higher dose than initially reported by their upper body monitors. This level is high enough to cause skin to slough off after a few weeks. Meanwhile, they may not have any symptoms. Perhaps you are the one who needs to read up on things.

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Anonymous Coward

No damage done

If you receive routine radiotherapy for cancer, you may well experience burning and reddening of the skin similar to sunburn. It is caused by the radiation. It has no important health consequences (except, of course that the treatment may cure your cancer).

These nuclear workers *didn't* receive any burns, it seems, so they're even safer than a cancer patient who hasn't got cancer. The only "radiological consequences" they received were the unnecessary inconvenience of being checked out in hospital to confirm they were unharmed.

Just how safe does one need to be?

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Sunburn -> Skin cancer

In places like Australia and New Zealand with a lot of sun (compared to the UK) the skin cancer rates are very high. To to equate the exposure as harmless sunburn is being extremely stupid!

In Australia the school uniforms are especially desigined to limit sun exposure for children and after an incident with a women in her mid 20s dying from skin cancer all sun beds are regulated. The government has public service adverts warning people about sun exposure and skin cancer and how it can appear years / decades after the initial exposure. To quote one of the ads "There is never a safe level of sun exposure!"

Ok, these workers may have have some discomfort for a few days because of the burn, but what is there chance of skin cancer in the future.

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Statistics

"If you receive routine radiotherapy for cancer, you may well experience burning and reddening of the skin similar to sunburn. It is caused by the radiation. It has no important health consequences (except, of course that the treatment may cure your cancer)."

Or, on the other hand, it might kill you. In fact, in many cases it does kill the patient. But if the chance of the treatment killing you is less than the chance of the disease killing you then you're ahead of the game and even if, for example, CAT scans kill 14,000 people per year they probably save many more than that. So the treatment is "effective" but not "safe" and certainly not "harmless".

The problem here is that these guys' alternative to risking death was not some higher risk but to stay at home and not be irradiated at all.

To start a story with "As the situation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant slowly winds down" while at the same time radiation levels are rising is flying in the face of reality even if the risks are being massively exaggerated by the mainstream media. They have at least now found the (probable) cause in the form of an 8" gap in a containment wall, so it may be possible tomorrow to say that things are winding down. It was not reasonable to say that on the 31st of March.

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Lumping all types of radiation together is MISLEADING - and is comparing apples to oranges!

Naturally-Occurring Radiation- http://bit.ly/gvoPEK

There are, of course, naturally occurring radioactive materials.

But lumping all types of radiation together is misleading ... and is comparing apples to oranges.

As the National Research Council's Committee to Assess the Scientific Information for the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program explains:

Radioactivity generates radiation by emitting particles. Radioactive materials outside the the body are called external emitters, and radioactive materials located within the body are called internal emitters.

Internal emitters are much more dangerous than external emitters. Specifically, one is only exposed to radiation as long as he or she is near the external emitter.

For example, when you get an x-ray, an external emitter is turned on for an instant, and then switched back off.

But internal emitters steadily and continuously emit radiation for as long as the particle remains radioactive, or until the person dies - whichever occurs first. As such, they are much more dangerous.

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Stop

Radiation == Hitler in a box, with a side order of delayed death.

"Sounds like an interesting place to live, LewisWorld does. But I'm not sure I'd want to visit. Does it need to be said that if even if someone is irradiated with a fatal dose, they don't drop dead immediately unless the dose is extreme?"

I hate to tell you this, but you have a good chance of not immediately dying of cancer due to accumulated chemical crap and various food-borne toxins in _your_ world. Looks like these diesel particulates in your lung might give you a nasty problem, too. What about the heavy metal on your dinnerplate? Or how about those inflamed arteries lightly coated in fat and calcium? One does not drop dead immediately, but eventually...

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@OFFS! Do some research!

That coming from someone who does not do any either. I think that word does not mean what you think it means.

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More of the same...

"nuclear power is far and away the safest form of energy generation.."

Is it..! is it REALLY!!

In what sense is it safer than solar, wind, wave, geothermal, coal and gas?

Because to be fair I have never heard of any of these plant failing and resulting in mass evacuation..

But hey, maybe the nuclear lobby know more about the evil *insert other energy production group here* cover ups more than we do.

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This way:

"Is it..! is it REALLY!!

In what sense is it safer than solar, wind, wave, geothermal, coal and gas?"

In what way is it safer than coal or gas? If you ignore the hundreds of miners killed every year, ignore the pollution caused by oil spills (e.g., Gulf of Mexico), and so on, it still contributes to pollution in the atmosphere leading to asthma and shortening people's lives.

As for solar, I'm pretty sure you have to mine metals to make these, and people die doing that. However, that happens a lot in poor places like Africa and South America, so people don't care.

Wind, wave and geothermal aren't reasonably going to produce significant quantities of energy. If you are going to include those, then the safest way of generating electricity is using an exercise bike, I guess.

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Stop

Yes, really.

Coal is a massive killer; directly, through the mining process which kills miners every day, and indirectly through the particulate pollution on a population. Gas extraction is not without hazards also; explosions and blowouts can and do occur. Geothermal I don't know about. If wind was scaled up to the power of a nuclear output, it would certainly kill more people (simply from maintenance workers falling off the turbines if nothing else). Wave is too small to have sensible fatality statistics. But I'll grant you that solar is possibly safer...

The point is... of all the major power sources, nuclear is, accidents (past and future) included, the safest...

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Yes. Yes it is

..when you consider the *full lifecycle* of the product, compared to coal or gas or oil. And don't forget - photovolt needs a lot of precious metal mining - well known for it's safety record.

You don't need to be a pro-nuker (which I'm not btw), to notice recent events in the Gulf of Mexico to for one. I suppose that's nice and safe? Which would you rather have - neglegible traces of shortish half-life in the water causing *zero* issues, or thousands of tons of oil, killing off an entire ecosystem for years to come?

The only one on your list that's ok is Geothermal, but you also forgot tidal. These are the closest things "green" can come up with which is low impact, and reliable enough to feed the baseline power requirements. The rest simply aren't practical or reliable enough.

Until then, you greenies need to suck it up, and accept that to supply our increasing baseline and reduce CO2 output at the same time, nuke is the solution for our future baseline needs.

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Happy

Hmm...

Fuel-rods just grow on trees do they?

No extraction or refining processes needed?

Nuclear is so good I think I have just come!

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Other risks....

Solar - panels are manufactured using many techniques borrowed from the rest of the semiconductor industry, there are a lot of relatively toxic and dangerous substances used, and workers are at risk at all times.

Wind - already documented deaths thanks to this benign technology.

Coal - miners die every week, the pollution produced by burning coal includes not only the usual green house gasses but also fine particulates, heavy metals and .....shock horror... radioactive materials. In fact if you dont have clean burn technology and filters/scrubbers cleaning the smoke, a coal fired power station can emit some extremely nasty substances and you dont want to live down wind. then we get to the whole coal ash waste disposal issue, this stuff is very nasty, and it doesn't have a half life. My personal favorite element of environmental damage done by coal mining is the 'capping' of mountains in the Appalachian chain in states like Kentucky, West Virgina, Tennessee and North/south Carolina. The recipe is simple, take a mountain, find a massive coal seam, blow up the mountain - literally cutting the top of the mountain off to reveal the coal, strip mine the coal, put the rubble back on the 'mountain' The result is a mountain that is no longer a mountain, but a large rock pile that looks like it was hit by a road grader

Oil - well apart from the deaths involved in drilling and production, there's the whole oil-spill catastrophe thing, then there's all the wars fought over oil - although to be fair I guess we can exclude those deaths since they are indirectly related to the oil extraction process. Then there's the processing of the oil - refineries burn readily and produce large quantities of extremely toxic waste.

Gas - well like oil there are problems with production, every now and again there is rather a large bang somewhere and people die (gasometers, pipelines, etc). We have a new way to screw things up in the US called gas fracking. Basically we drill a well, pump water down into the gas bearing strata to intentionally fracture huge areas of rock, and then extract the gas forced out of the formation. The result is rather a huge increase in localized earthquakes - some relatively significant in scale.

No one is ignoring or forgetting the dangers of environmental damage of uranium mining, but considering the relatively small quantity of fuel required by Nuclear energy, that scale and damage is limited when compared to coal, oil and gas extraction.

The truth is that watt for watt, Nuclear energy is by far one of the cleaner and safer forms of energy generation. But let's not let truth get in the way of emotion and irrational fear.

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Unhappy

If you're really that young

"I have never heard of any of these plant failing and resulting in mass evacuation"

Google "Aberfan 1966" - but surely even a ten-year-old has heard of Buncefield.

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You underplay uranium mining issues

I agree with the balance of you post but if you research it only briefly you will find that the issues surrounding uranium mining are substantial. It results in a very large volume of toxic tailing and large areas of contamination. Early mines had poor safety... just as the early coal mines did.

This article gives some idea of some issues:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining_and_the_Navajo_people

Note that the problems aren't restricted to the US. There has been poor practise worldwide:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining

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I wasn't suggesting that unarnium mmining isn't dangerous

All mining is dangerous. What I was getting at is the difference in scale between total global coal mining vs uranium mining. I'd never suggest that any form of mining was not dangerous, but when you are totaling up the deaths per watt of the various forms of energy, including the deaths associated with obtaining the fuel, the impact of uranium mining is dwarfed by that of coal.

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Full Lifecycle?

Talking about full lifecycle, there is just no way to compare coal to nuclear yet. The life cycle of nuclear plants has barely begun, if you consider the waste will stay problematic for a few thousand years...

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Well, then, what the hell do you want?

No matter how we produce energy, no matter whether it's a filthy monstrous Satan-subsidized nuclear plant or a nice safe tree- and child-friendly array of solar panels or wind turbines -- we're going to have to rip *something* out of the ground, *somewhere*, in order to build the frigging thing.

So what do you prefer? Do we go back to a purely agrarian society which can't sustain one in ten thousand of the humans currently alive on the planet -- or do we look to the future and try to come up with a way of ripping necessary things out of the ground that's not quite so awful to the people who have to do the work?

Your call.

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Mining metals...

Thanks for pointing out that you need to mine metals to produce solar power. Here's a really tricky question for you: does building and operation of a nuclear plant involve mining any metals, do you think?

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Welcome to mining in general.

Accumulation of toxic tailings is a problem for the mining industry at large, and uranium tailings constitute only a small fraction of a widespread environmental problem that seems only to receive attention when uranium is involved--oh, but those other toxic tailings aren't radioactive*, so it's totally cool.

*Except that they are. Good luck digging something out of the ground that isn't. Mind you, that isn't what makes these tailings piles hazardous.

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sed

"As for solar, I'm pretty sure you have to mine metals to make these, and people die doing that. However, that happens a lot in poor places like Africa and South America, so people don't care."

"As for nuclear, I'm pretty sure you have to mine metals (like Uranium) to make these, and people die doing that. However, that happens a lot in poor places like the Indian reservations of New Mexico, so people don't care."

There, fixed.

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mainly insignificant power sources

solar, wind, wave and geothermal are supplementary energy solutions, not primary solutions, and they will not be for decades. Have you honestly seen any videos from coal mines in unindustrialized countries? did you know that living within 50 miles from a coal plant subjects you to three times more ionized radiation that living in the same distance from a nuclear power plant? Gas plants are very ineffective and releases huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. With the current way of life and the current energy needs, you can dislike nuclear powerplants as much as you like, but we need them.

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WTF?

You're argument is flawed

What powers nuclear power plants? Thin air? Uranium has to be mined as well.

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Coking coal or thermal coal

>Coal is a massive killer; directly, through the mining process which kills miners every day

Which type of Coal mining are you talking about? Mining for thermal power production or mining for coking for steel production! It is the low quality lignite coal that is used for power and it is normally mined by open cut which is very safe. To use underground mining for lignite means it is expensive and not economic for power production.

Coking coal on the other hand is valuable and will be extracted using dangerous underground mining. The vast majority of the deaths in coal mining are from underground mining which means the large majority of deaths are for coking not thermal. A good example was the Pike river mining disaster in New Zealand, that coal was not for power production.

So moving completely away from coal fired generation to nuclear will NOT save many lives. A lot of the pro-nuclear comments all mention "getting your facts right", well check out the differences between the uses of coal and while you are at it look up the numbers of people killed mining and processing uranium.

One other thing to remember about exposure to radioactivity, it is like cancer, you are never cured you are just in remission.

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Hmm let me count the ways.

Solar = Huge quanties of extremely, and I mean Bhopal extremely, toxic solvents used in manufacture. Manageable when making Pentiums by the square metre. How manageable when manufacturing is to be measured in hundreds and thousands of square kilometres?

Also most solar implementations are roughly the equivalent of paving over a like area of ground in several ways. They are highly destructive to the ecosystem of the land they occupy, and they allow for virtually no other use of that land but power generation.

Wind = A very strong possibility that infrasound from turbines can have a measurable effect on the health of nearby inhabitants. The audible sounds of turbines isn't all that pleasant either. Aircraft warning lights are also very intrusive at night.

Wave = We have yet to successfully build something that the ocean can't smash economically. This problem may well manifest itself rather expensively when rogue waves start taking out offshore wind turbines too.

Geothermal = Fracking the ground. And moving the wells to different locations every decade or so.

None at this stage ubiquitous enough to determine a true cost.

Coal = An estimated 80,000 deaths per annum from respiratory illnessess. And a couple of thousand dead miners per year.

Gas = About the best all round "conventional" choice. Although I believe a more distributed delivery system is better than straight up replacing GW for GW. By delivering piped natural gas to all towns of a given size or above, the possibility of local power generation becomes more attractive. It is unfortunately still a greenhouse gas emmitter.

Nuke = Allowing Chernobyl (using figures from the pesimistic end of the casualty spectrum) and this incident, the civilian butcher's bill can be demonstrated to be approximately 1% of Coal's. Matched GW for GW that figure might climb as high as 5%. Now take Chernobyl out of the mix. Nothing about that event was typical and the number of such reactors remaining is small and will soon be zero.

WITH CHERNOBYL as a statistical data point. Nuclear power generation is far safer than air travel.

WITHOUT CHERNOBYL the civilan casualty rate that can be attributed to nuclear power generation is so small that it is litterally impossible to discern it from background noise. Nuclear workers on average are healthier, and suffer fewer cancers over their entire lifetimes than the general population. And the rate of non-nuclear industrial accidents is also well below that of any remotely comparable industry. It would not surprise me at all to learn that the reverse, the rate of radiological incidents in general industry far exceeds that of similar incidents in the nuclear industry.

IN THE WINGS: Thorium cycle liquid fuel reactors. Meltdown proof. Self regulating. No need for active control. Low waste and proliferation resistant. Can also "incinerate" existing waste and surplus bomb materials. Can't quite zero the waste, but can reduce it to something which only needs to remain canned for a couple of centuries or so.

AND Free Neutron beam sources. Can be used to build reactors with outputs as low as a few kilowatts, and physically small enough for like scale applications. Can burn any potential fuel, and what it can't burn it can "incinerate" with nothing more than an electrical input.

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I think my point wasn't clear enough

I suggest that you underplayed the problems associated with uranium mines, not that you suggested it was safe.

Coal mines are larger scale but do not leave a legacy of toxic tailings. Coal's most widespread consequence is mercury raised levels in the oceans. Other than that it leaves a hole in the ground (which has occasionally caused subsidence) and large tailings heaps (that once buried a Welsh school).

Uranium mining's legacy is no go areas: millions of tons of radioactive tailings because of the low grade of the ore compared to relatively pure coal. These crushed rocks have been left lying around on the surface, leaching contaminants into ground water.

I suggest that comparisons are rather difficult and simply saying that coal mining produces a greater volume of pollutants, or is responsible for bigger holes, doesn't really add up to a satisfactory assessment of the environmental impact of the two processes.

Incidentally, the quantity of tailings, size of holes, cost of mineral and clean-up operations are all growing fast for uranium as the industry has failed to find ore of the grade of the Canadian mines which are coming to the end of their life.

The most hopeful source I've read of is suggested by Japanese research using algal bioabsorption to extract it from seawater. A nice process that cleans our planet a little. I'm not anti-nuclear power.

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oh dear

If you really can't recall Buncefield or the environmental chaos of Deepwater Horizon, both fairly recent events, that says far more about your ignorance and inability to comment usefully on this subject than any amount of sarcastic flaming anyone else could possibly generate in reply to you.

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Even better - hunting & gathering

... or just gathering. Wouldn't want to kill critters just to feed ourselves! ;) And even subsistence farming does tremendous damage to the local ecology. Better just pick berries, and not too many!

The only problem with these plans is the need for 99.9995% of us to disappear, and the inclination of nearly all of us to say, "OK, you first!" :D

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Coal tailing ARE TOXIC. Virtually ALL mine tailings are toxic.

The toxicity of most mine tailings (uranium included) is in the heavy metals made mobile by the extraction processes. And even though coal might produce only a minimal amount of overburden per ton of coal extracted, the sheer volume of coal removed from the ground is so large that the total quantity of tailings is very significant. Furthermore, once burnt, the mineral ash which remains contains considerable quantities of heavy metals.

Nor are coal's effects limited to those of mining, and it's solid wastes. Atmospheric pollution remains the real killer at an estimated 80,000 lives per year worldwide.

Total cycle, including Chernobyl as a datapoint, coal kills at least 1000 times as many people per year as uranium. Excluding Chernobyl (since it's like is never likely to happen again) the "true nuclear casualty rate" lies comfortably below that of idiots killing themselve falling off swivel chairs whilst changing light bulbs.

No go zones? I believe that the US federal standards for the cleanup of any site disturbed by human activity for "radiological purposes", mandate that background readings be reduced below an arbitrary nationally defined figure before the site can be declared fit for human use. Local norm be damned. Natural background radiation condemns much of that land simply because it once fell within the bounds of a Uranium mine lease which was worked.

The amount of radioactivity present, even in uranium tailings, really is a complete non issue. Take a look at the Soviet waste dump near the Mayak reactor and places like Faluja and to a lesser extent the Balkans where significant quantities of depleted uranium munitions were deployed? The symptomology in these locations is quite consistent with heavy metal poisoning. It is not particularly consistent with radiation poisoning.

Some Navaho (I think) indians WERE badly affected by drinking water which had accumulated in uranium mine pits. In these cases it was absolutely determined that the culprit was heavy metals and had little or nothing to do with any elevated levels of radiation.

This suggests to me, that it's only circumstances like the current Fukushima crisis, where volatile (and potentially bioactive) radioactives such as iodine and caesium are concentrated by a process akin to fractional distilation in the overheated reactors, that they present an appreciable radiolgical threat.

At other times, chemical/heavy metal toxicity would appear to be the primary biological issue, long before radiotoxicity reaches a worrisome level.

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@ Black betty

Infrasound aqffecting health? Aircraft waring light intrusive? You are really reaching there...

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And wave power is lethal!

If one were to treat the substance necessary for wave power with the same respect as those necessary for nuclear power, a 20 mile evacuation zone would be set up at all coasts!

So many people have died over the years thanks to the sea, this horrendously dangerous substance should be banned forthwith!

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Coat

But.. but.. but.. it's DANGEROUS I tell you!

SEVERAL people have received minor injuries! There is a small area of land next to the plant that might not be suitable for farming for several years!

ALL of this is down to these "atoms" that these nuclear people are playing with! The consequences are much worse than from any other source of power! The pollution from this incident is unprecendented I tell you, unprecedented! There is now possibly an immensely small risk of cancer for some people! ITS SERIOUS DAMNIT!

We must abandon nuclear power NOW, and use coal/gas which emit no pollution whatsoever, or wind which can definitely supply all of our power needs!

SCARY RADIATION! Think about THAT.

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