Skip to comments.Nuclear power is fine - radiation is good for you
Posted on 08/07/2004 4:12:04 PM PDT by MadIvan
Oil prices are at their highest for almost 20 years amid ever-increasing concerns that the world faces an energy drought. At the same time, as a signatory to the Kyoto Treaty, our Government is giving financial incentives to those who want to cover the country with giant wind turbines.
Yet, why, with the notable exception of James Lovelock, the inventor of the Gaia hypothesis, do the world's environmentalists reject nuclear power, which emits almost no greenhouse gases? Because they are frightened of accidents and of radiation emanating from nuclear power stations and nuclear waste. Their fears of radiation are not only widely shared, but they are nourished by official sources and have even become official policy.
The present policies for radiation safety are based on the "linear no-threshold assumption", which is endorsed by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. This is the assumption that even the smallest amount of radiation is harmful and may cause cancer and genetic disorders, and that the risk of harm increases proportionately with the dose.
On this basis, we should aim to avoid any exposure at all. Accordingly, the standards for radiation protection set by the commission have become more exacting and the maximum exposure dose declared to be safe is continually lowered.
The standard measurement of radiation is set in terms of milliSieverts (mSv) per year. In the 1920s, the maximum dose regarded as safe was 700 mSv. By 1941, it was reduced to 70. By the 1990s, it became 20 for occupationally exposed people and 1 mSv for the general population. Some people believe that the maximum exposure dose should be lower still.
Unfortunately, far from safeguarding our health, current safety standards will almost certainly increase the incidence of cancer. The evidence shows that the effect of radiation on human health is not a linear one, but is a J-shaped curve. Exposure starts by being beneficial at low doses and only becomes harmful at higher doses. This effect is known as hormesis.
A low dose of ionising radiation seems to stimulate DNA repair and the immune system, so providing a measure of protection against cancer. The benefit of low doses of radiation in treating cancer have been known for some time and are confirmed by a mass of evidence, particularly from Japan where it has been studied in detail as a result of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Many other examples of the hormesis effect are well known. A bit of sunshine does you good; too much may cause skin cancer. Small doses of aspirin have many beneficial effects; too much will kill you. It also appears to apply to arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and residues of synthetic pesticides, but that is another story.
Epidemiological evidence confirms the hormesis effect of radiation. The prediction that there would be terrible after-effects from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the survivors and their children was proved wrong. Japanese studies of the life expectancy of survivors who suffered relatively low amounts of radiation show that their life expectancy turned out to be higher than those of the control group and no unusual genetic defects have been found in their children.
Again, a follow-up study of Japanese fishermen who were contaminated with plutonium after the nuclear tests at Bikini found 25 years later that none of them had died from cancer.
After the Chernobyl disaster it was also predicted that the incidence of cancer among those affected by fallout would greatly increase and there would be huge genetic damage to future generations. It was about as bad an accident to a nuclear power station (a badly constructed one) as is likely to happen. Its psychological effect was huge and changed people's perception of the risk of nuclear energy all over the world.
Indeed, it is constantly cited as an example of the unparalleled threat to health from nuclear disasters. Tragically, it led to 31 deaths, mainly among rescue workers who were exposed to very high doses of radiation. Yet in the areas around Chernobyl the extra radiation to which people were exposed in the nine years following the accident was slight - an increase of about 0.8- 1.4 mSv.
In May 2001, in the Ukrainian town of Pripyat, which is now a ghost town after its complete evacuation, the average amount of persistent radiation found was 0.9 mSv a year, five times lower than the level in New York's Grand Central Station. In parts of southwest France the levels of natural radiation are as high as 870 mSv a year.
There is strong evidence that people exposed to low doses of radiation - amounts 100 times more than the recommended range - actually benefit. The incidence of thyroid cancers among children under 15 exposed to fallout from Chernobyl was far lower than the normal incidence of thyroid cancer among Finnish children.
The death rate from leukemia of nuclear industry workers in Canada is 68 per cent lower than average. Workers in nuclear shipyards and other nuclear establishments in the US and many other countries have substantially lower death rates from all cancers and are much less likely to die from leukemia.
This might be explained by the fact that their health is regularly checked and that only healthy workers are employed. But it corresponds with a mass of other evidence that people who live in areas of unusually high natural radiation, in Japan, China, India and the US, are less likely to die from cancer than a control group.
These facts destroy what are perhaps the strongest objections to nuclear power. They show that the regulations seeking to enforce present, let alone proposed, minimum standards of safety not only cost billions of pounds and have undermined the prospects of our development of nuclear power, but do more harm than good.
It is time that we looked more closely at the phenomenon of hormesis and at the successful Japanese experience of using low-dose radiation to treat cancer. When the evidence is so clear, we should not allow it to be brushed aside by conventional wisdom and ignorance.
In actuallity, it is an engineering problem which has already been solved by recycling- a process efficiently & safely used for decades by other countries. Thanks to a muddle-headed Executive Order by Jimmy Carter which still stands, it is blocked here.
We have a nuclear power plant- Plant Hatch- about 60 miles west of here, and for 30 years, all it has produced is clean, cheap electricity. The local paper mill is far more dangerous in terms of pollution, worker injuries, and deaths. Far as I recall, Hatch has never had a fatality, but the pulp mill averages about one a year- falls, burns, crushing. Frankly, I would rather have Hatch nearby, and the paper mill farther away.
I was stationed on a nuclear sub as a reactor operator. When we were underway, I received less radiation than I would have if I was on shore, nowhere near a reactor. The sun and soil generate more radiation than the submarine did. People have been made so irrational about nuclear power, the industry is almost beyond hope. Sad.
Maybe my excelent health (haven't been sick in 58 years and have never had the flu) are due to my spending many hours playing under the flourascope at Buster Brown Shoes and painting our punt at age 7 with flourescent paint (radium) so we could buzz around Balboa Bay at night without being hit. Also wore a radium dial watch for probably 20 years.
Of course, in many countries the opposite would be true ;-)
Thanks for posting, btw. The pro-nuke message must be spread.
Environmental activists don't oppose nuclear power out of fear of radiation, they oppose it because they oppose technology, period, and for two reasons: first, because it is an artifact of man, who they hate, and second, because it is an artifact of capitalism, which they hate. There isn't actually a great deal of science behind the issue from their point of view.
Petroleum powered devices
Coal powered devices
Nuke powered devices
Hydro powered devices (let the river run free to the sea)
Wind powered devices (when the mills are in their backyard)
My prediction is that if solar power ever becomes practical they will oppose that.
That something will be nuclear, and every nation will have to have that internal debate within 30 years. Their decision will determine whether they can continue to develop or whether they will decline.
Bill, I think you have hit on it. Nuclear energy is feared because it could lead to more human growth. Environmentalists who liken mankind to a cancer on the planet cannot abide a source of convenient low cost energy. They use radiation fear as a weapon to further this aim.
The nuclear industry overhyped itself, too. But new reactors can be less expensive and fail-safe. Waste disposal is also over-engineered. Vitrification of waste is sufficient. We can proveably make it less dangerous than a natural deposit of radioactive minerals.
It was a Saudi oil minister who said "The stone age didn't end because they ran out of stones."
Bingo! We have a WINNER!
The key to the next stage of human progress is putting 10X and then 100X the power (energy) in every human's hands as we have today: Everyone travels everywhere at will, housing is completely changed, etc. Environmentalists FEAR this progress.
Radiation is a good friend of cancer.
1. The term "nuclear" drums up images of Nagasaki and nuclear tests in Nevada and elsewhere. So, they equate a nuclear power plant with nuclear explosions (thank you media!)
2. The movie The China Syndrome is still having an impact (thank you again media AND Hanoi Jane).
3. The enviro-whacko leaders telling us for decades how nuclear power is evil and will destroy us all.
Pure insanity. Nuclear power could start to wean us off of crude. Not a great deal, but enough to make a start.
For quite a while my personal belief has been that W would lose the election due to only two reasons:
1. Republicans doing something(s) really stupid, which they seem to have a knack for.
2. Crude prices. $50.00 a barrel is not far off and most of the major producers are maxed out at production. Plus the fact that here in the USA refining capacity is maxed out. Crude prices could have a catastrophic effect on the world economy except for the oil producing nations.
*shrug* No one's complained about the PV array on my roof. Yet.
1. Kerala, India. High background area because the soil is largely monazite sand (which contains significant amounts of uranium and thorium). The Kerala province has a lower incidence of cancer than other areas of India (areas which have lower background levels. The background levels are about 15 millisievert.
2. Guaparaj, Brazil. The beaches are also monazite sand. No excess incidence of cancer has been observed.
3. Ramsar, Iran. High background area, with background levels in some places as high as 100 millisievert. No excess cancer incidence has bee observed.
That's cuz they can't see it.
Actually, they can, and I'm on on a main drag into town.
I'm being a little facetious but you put something like that up in a certain kind of lib-filled neighborhood you are going to get a visit from the code enforcement guy & if it should turn out to be that you did everything right & your array is legal, a whole pile of limo-libs will be at the next commissioners' meeting demanding those eyesores be banned.
Been there, done that...
Up north in New Hampshire, there's a mill that periodically envelops its neighboring towns in a disgusting rotten-egg smell, I gather from the sulfuric compounds they use to process the wood pulp.
Energetic PING & BUMP.
Three words "Rocky Mountain High"
1. Make a list of the 6 US States with the highest levels of background radiation
2. Make a list of the 6 US States with the lowest cancer rates
3. Compare the lists
Adams Atomic Engines - a site discussing Rod Adams' design for a compact, nuclear-heated pebble-bed closed-cycle gas-turbine nuclear reactor, suitable for mass production for use in ship propulsion, remote areas, and the like.
Very simple. The World Wide Fund for Nature was started with funds from Prince Bernhard and the British Royals, both heavily invested in oil. The Pew Charitable Trusts are founded from Sunoco money. The Rockefellers founded the Environmental Grantmakers Association. Maurice Strong (of UN Rio Summit fame) was a biggie in Dome Petroleum.
See a pattern? They don't want the competition from nuclear so they fund environmental NGOs to do their dirty work. They don't want a plentiful supply of oil either because that would depress the price.
Not quite. It was ONE GreenPiece study funded by the Ford Foundation that deemed nuclear fuel reprocessing as a proliferation threat. Carter (a trained nuclear engineer and Rockefeller's stooge) wrote the EO that banned fuel reprocessing. That created the waste crisis that shut the industry down.
Needless to say, every president since, including Reagan, has had the option of rescinding that EO.
Actually, the reason America doesn't recycle nuclear wsaste is a matter of economics, not stupidity. Recycling is EXPENSIVE. since we have los of deset land that is safe to use for long-term storage, we figure that it's cheaper to store it in Tucca Mountain now, then wait another hundred years or more for recycling technology to get cheap. The US also produces uranium, so it's cheap here
France and Japan are the two countries that recycle now. They have no deserts, no place to store the stuff, so the path of least political resistance is to spend the yen to recycle. These countries also have no uranium of their own. France buys it from Arizona.
The dithering by the Energy Department in this case was scandalous, as was Bill Clinton's use of Nevadans as political pawns for his reelection campaign.
Isn't it odd that France gets 80% plus of its electricity from nuclear power and the greens don't let out a peep.
A fact that Al Qaeda and the Islamofascists have no doubt noticed themselves.
So this means you would be happy to be exposed to much higher levels of radiation?
Don't believe me. Get as much radiation as you like.
He's already exposed to much higher levels of radiation than he got on the sub, by virtue of presently living on land instead of under the significant radiation shielding of large quantities of water and steel.
If a nuclear plant's workers got as much radiation exposure as airline pilots and crew routinely do, the NERC would come down on the plant like a ton of lead bricks and shut it down for gross violations of government regulations.
Maybe when I start laying the foundation for the new house, I should substitute crushed pitchblende for the usual gravel in the concrete???
As mvpel stated, I am currently exposed to much higher levels of radiation here in Arizona than I was on the nuclear submarine. Does this answer your question?
It's worse than that. If the average nuke emitted as much radiation as the average coal-fired power plant, it would have to be shut down. There's just no established radiation standard foor coal plants.
Bingo! The coal fired electric plants in merry old England spew at least 800 pounds of uranium into the atmosphere every day, and no one says boo. Uranium is distributed all through the crust, a little of it nearly everywhere. If you work in a granite faced building, you are soaking up measurably more radiation than the man in the steel building.
Chernobyl be damned, it was nothing more than a jumped up version of the graphite pile Enrico Fermi set up under the stands of a Chicago stadium, with nothing resembling a real containment building, and even then it took a third shift tech with no adult supervision to ramp it up to test level to make it blow.
Three Mile Island, no one outside the perimeter fence was exposed to as much additional radiation than they would have received by flying to Denver. I helped build a plant in NC, Shearon Harris, and these babies are tough. NRC man told me the design was to withstand an impact from a 747, that being worst case scenario when it was only dreamed of as an accident, and having been there, I don't doubt it would. We have new designs that don't require constant coolant flow to keep from meltdown, so forget even TMI.
Want a hydrogen economy for transportation, clean up big city air? Takes electricity to crack water into hydrogen and oxy. If we burn hydrocarbons to make the juice to crack out the hydrogen, where the hell is our net gain? Same applies to electric cars, where does the electric come from, and by the way, what do we do with a ton or so of highly toxic battery material when it needs replacing every few years?
Storage, WHY? If the spent fuel is hot enough to be hazardous, and it is, it is a better source than any ore on Earth, recycle it. Too expensive, someone said? The French, not having been blessed with the peanut farmer, have done it for years. Hurts my soul to admit the French are brighter than we are on anything, but they got this right. Once again, we are being held back by an executive order issued to get a treaty with a country that NO LONGER EXISTS!
I pray my grandchildren will not have to bow towards Mecca five times a day to keep from freezing, but there are days I despair of just that.
If the aggregate in your concrete is principally granite, you'll be getting a higher dose. I should finally get around to writing a Linux driver for my geiger counter and get it plugged in to graphing software...
Uranium prices have fallen because of reduced demand and a political decision to buy enriched uranium from recycled Russian warheads. When the stockpiles of recycled warhead uranium dwindle, the price will likely bump up. Likewise, if the power industry revives in some fashion, the economics will change.
Reprocessing is not inexpensive. Capital investment in reprocessing plants can be significant. If the demand for the product you're producing is down, that will tend to discourage development. But NOTHING is going to happen here on that front until the EO that Carter put in is rescinded.
Actually, the very best option is a closed fuel cycle like the IFR that was being developed at Idaho. Raw materials go in the front door of the plant, electricity comes out on the lines, reprocessing occurs inside, and every few years an aspirin-sized tablet of non-reprocessable waste comes out the back end. Clinton canceled that one (of course).
Do you know offhand if they're doing Pu MOX in CANDU or other compatible reactors? I remember when it was proposed, but didn't catch news of whether they'd gone ahead with it.
With all the vilification of Bush's Texas oil connections, this makes you wonder who's actually in the pocket of the fossil energy industries, doesn't it?
You bet we will!!! It'll use up too much of the freakin' sunlight!!!!< /smirk>
I'm sure they will come up with something more irrational than that.
But since Geiger counters have only been around about 50 years, there probably hasn't been time to get a Linux driver written for them yet.