UCS is guilty of harming humans by reinforcing fear mongering

Correction: (Posted at 6:43 on 6/16/2013) I made a boneheaded error in the below computation and dropped an important prefix in my units. That error resulted in my final number being off by a factor of 1000; I wrote 0.001 mrem when it should have been 0.001 rem. I apologize for the math error. I have made corrections in the below that should appear with a single line out so you can still see the original words. I stand by my overall conclusion that the amount of tritium that leaked from Vermont Yankee was never a human health risk. End Correction.

In his review of Pandora’s Promise (which is opening this weekend in about 20 cities in the United States), Ed Lyman, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, picked a nit by extracting a single line and attempting to show how wrong it was.

My hand got tired trying to jot down all the less-than-half truths put forth by the talking heads in the film, which could have benefited from some fact-checking. Here’s just one example. Gwyneth Cravens, when prompted by the interviewer about the leak of tritium from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, stated that someone would get more radiation from eating one banana than from drinking all the water coming out of the plant. Well, I thought I would double-check this one. The dose from eating a single banana is about 0.01 millirem. Entergy, Vermont Yankee’s owner, estimated in a 2011 report to the NRC that the leak detected in early 2010 released 2.79 curies of tritium into groundwater. Assuming someone consumed all of this tritium in the form of tritiated water, that person would receive a dose of 185,000 millirem. Ms. Cravens was only off by a factor of twenty million. Perhaps she was referring to the actual amount of tritium that would end up in the wells of the plant’s neighbors, given dilution effects—but that isn’t what she said. These sloppy soundbites greatly diminish the film’s credibility.

In making that statement, Lyman questioned the credibility of the film and insulted one of my frequent Atomic Show guests, who happens to be one of the most concerned human beings I know. According to a correction posted on his blog entry, Gwyneth Cravens has responded.

Gwyneth Cravens pointed out that I missed part of the quote that I attributed to her. She writes that her actual quote was “If you ate one banana which has a potassium isotope that’s a little hot, you would get more radiation exposure than you would if you drank all the water that comes out of the plant in one day.” I had missed the phrase “in one day.” However, her statement is still wrong by a large factor.

Lyman goes on to modify his assumptions a little to claim that Gwyneth was off by a factor of 25,000. She is standing her ground and added the following comment on his blog:

In regard to Mr. Lyman’s mistaken quote of my remark in the film about the tritium leak, thanks for posting my correction.
In regard to Mr. Lyman’s second attempt, I stand by what I said in the film. This information was fact-checked by one Nobel-prizewinning particle physicist, a health physicist, and by four radiation-protection experts. Apart from my own wish only to say what I knew to be the case, Robert Stone wanted to make sure everything in the film was accurate.

Lyman’s response at that point was to demand that Gwyneth and her checkers show their work so that it can be compared to the work done by the UCS. I’m an old school commissioned officer and gentleman (CDR, USN (Ret.)) so I jumped in to help a fine lady being wrongly accused of misleading people. Here is the comment that I added to the UCS blog post. (Note, I have made some editorial changes; continual proof reading is one of the annoying habits I picked up as the son of a high school English teacher.)

Dr. Lyman

The method I am using can be found in many basic texts. One that is available online is LLNL Environmental Report 1998 Appendix A Methods of Dose Calculations.

In that document, you can find the following conversion factor for a whole body dose from consuming tritiated water. The document has a fully referenced method for producing the final number, so I will not reproduce it on your blog.

6.4 × 10–8 mrem/pCi

Therefore dose from consuming 2.79 curies = 6.4 x 10-8 mrem/pCi x 2.79 x 10+12 pCi = 178,000 mrem

So, it looks like your number is close enough – on the surface.

I will admit that Ms. Cravens’s comparison is a little off, but the key element remains true. Even in the entirely impossible instance of a single person consuming every single drop of a leak of tritiated water that had a concentration of 2.5 million picocuries per liter, the total dose to that one individual would be about 178 Rem. That dose is in the range that might result in mild radiation sickness, but is unlikely to lead to any immediate consequences worse than a mild flu.

The recipient MIGHT contract cancer that they otherwise would not have gotten, but the average American has a 30-40% lifetime risk of cancer anyways.

In order to get that dose, however, the person would need some rather special capabilities that are not normally found in human beings. They would have to be able to consume, in a single sitting, roughly one MILLION liters of water.

If, instead, the person was closer to an average human and consumed their normal intake of 8 liters per day, their dose rate would be 0.001 mrem rem per day.

Perhaps the comparison that Ms. Cravens was attempting to make in the film and the one that was checked by her eminent sources was to note that human beings could obtain ALL of their daily water intake DIRECTLY from the water that Vermont Yankee was leaking into the ground underneath the plant and they would STILL receive a daily dose that is less than the one received from eating a single banana well below the level at which there is any measurable increase in lifetime cancer risk.

Even that situation is absurd, since water that leaks into the ground underneath a power plant cannot be consumed by any human without going through a rather effective filter consisting of thousands of feet of soil with a delay measured in years, since there is little driving head pushing that water towards wells used for drinking water.

Ms. Cravens and Robert Stone are perhaps guilty of making a statement that is attempting to illustrate risk in terms that people can more readily understand and goofing up the wording of the comparison a little bit. What they are NOT guilty of is harming people and the planet by making people tremble in fear about a minuscule risk.

Living in continuous fear can cause debilitating health effects all its own. Focused efforts aimed at shutting down emission free electrical generating plants because of “tritium leaks” can cause an elevation in real risks like climate change, fires and explosions, and economic consequences from rising power prices caused by having to replace an adequately safe nuclear plant that is already built and paid for.

I am accusing you and your organization of failing to help the public make reasonable evaluations about one of the most important energy decisions they can make – whether or not to allow the safe, reliable, cost effective operation of nuclear power plants INSTEAD of having to produce the power they would otherwise have produced by burning hydrocarbons or damming up rivers.

Here is the statement that I think Gwyneth was trying to make in Pandora’s Promise:

“If you ate one banana which has a potassium isotope that’s a little hot, you would get more radiation exposure than you would if you drank all of your water directly from the place where Vermont Yankee was leaking tritium.”

That is an accurate statement that. The extremely low level of radiation risk, even if people drink water directly from a the leak source, should make people ask Arnie Gundersen and his friends at the UCS the following questions:

“What was all of the fuss about? Why have you worked so hard to discredit a fine company and spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the best available energy alternative? Why are we supposed to be more afraid of tritiated water coming from nuclear power plants than of the possibility of contaminated ground water from natural gas fracking, carbon and other nasty waste products from coal plants, continued dependence on oil imported from abusive regimes, or the potential of massive forced relocations for hydro electricity (along with occasional risk of dam failures.)?”

The shared motivation caused all of Robert Stone’s stars to change their mind about nuclear energy was not an unrealistic belief that nuclear energy is a perfect solution. It was a recognition that a world that needs energy needs to make reasonable choices among available energy alternatives. There is no perfect power source that is fueled by “unobtainium”. Nuclear power plants do not have to be perfect in order to be acceptable. They just have to be better than other available choices.

Stone’s protagonists have decided that we must chose to accept pretty darned good power sources fueled by small quantities of uranium and plutonium, even if they have a few complexities, costs and imperfections. The alternative to accepting nuclear energy is to burn more coal, natural gas and oil and to dam up more rivers. Wind and solar are expensive distractions that are only available at the whim of the weather; they are never going to be players in the vital enterprise of supplying reliable power.

Note: I brought Arnie Gundersen into this post because he was one of the main protagonists in the saga about Vermont Yankee and its highly publicized tritium leaks.

About Rod Adams

99 Responses to “UCS is guilty of harming humans by reinforcing fear mongering”

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  1. Meredith Angwin says:

    Rod

    Thank you!

    Wow. Lyman and Gundersen are full of false statements about death and destruction, and they dare to complain about Gwyneth’s phrasing!

    Ah, Gundersen. He of the “Sixteen fish” in the Connecticut River. He really said that. I have it on my blog. Nobody seems to notice the completely false numbers these guys throw around.

  2. Robert Margolis says:

    Nice response to Mr. Lyman.

    Using your 0.001 mrem/day value, that would make 0.365 mrem/yr if ALL of your drinking water was RCS coolant from the plant. As comparison, living in a brick house instead of a wood house results in an annual dose of 7 mrem (about 19x higher).

    http://www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/calculate.html

    And of course, one can see on the same website that one gets (on average) 3x the radiation dose living near a coal plant vs a nuclear station. We need to be both accurate and give perspective.

  3. Howard Shaffer says:

    For comparison, I carry around to talks an EXIT sign, illuminated by Tritium – 7 curies- much more than all that leaked from Vermont Yankee. Remember also that the river contains Tritium naturally.

    Then after 9-11 there was the knee-jerk suggestion by nuclear opponents to put anti-aircraft guns around nuclear power plants. The press dutifully printed it, then found out there are no more anti-aircraft guns!!

  4. KitemanSA says:

    I think that no-one notices the glaringly false numbers these folks throw around because their target audiences are typically in-numerate.

  5. Steve Darden says:

    Rod, thanks heaps for the great rebuttal. Today I discovered that several very heavy hitters are financial backers of Pandora’s Promise. We all need to do everything we can to keep this conversation alive.

  6. DeSegnac says:

    “Living in continuous fear can cause debilitating health effects all its own.”

    Stating this is not enough. Someone should provide, and soon, some well supported data from reputable medical journals.

    Otherwise good work Rod!

  7. Jason C says:

    There would be, of course, more danger in drinking 8 liters of water quickly in a single moment as well. Overconsumption of water has been known to cause a few deaths now and then, which follows the general rule of any chemical or type of radiation introduced or exposed to the body – the dose makes the poison. As far as radiation goes, far more people have died from over exposure to sunlight – infrared and ultraviolet radiation – than any type of ionizing radiation. If tritium is such a concern, then how come there isn’t a movement to ban tritium exit signs or any other useful application of tritium?

    • Bas says:

      The low level of ‘background’ type of radiation also hits the unborn and baby’s that are xxx times more vulnerable because of their high rate of cell division.

      Chernobyl showed these create significant numbers of stillborn, Down syndrome, affected intelligence, congenital malformations, etc.
      Check the graphs in this thorough study report:
      http://www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/ibb/homepage/hagen.scherb/CongenMalfStillb_0.pdf
      This is resulting in ~ a million extra tragedies in Europe (still going on).

      • Jason C says:

        First of all, that’s totally irrelevant to my comment so why did you even reply to my comment? If you are going to put the word background in quotes, then it ought to have meaning. In your context, ‘background’ means nothing more than what is already regarded as background. So you have an issue with background radiation. Fine, that’s irrelevant in this context.

        Chernobyl, again in relevance to this article, is off topic. You are trolling.

        The paper you cite is again off topic. If you have something to articulate, you’re going to have to do a little better.

        • Bas says:

          The article and your comment assume that low level radiation is harmless.
          The study proves that even low level radiation harms seriously.

          I put background between quotes as the word suggests it is natural, while it is a mix of natural and Chernobyl generated low level radiation in Bayern (~1000 miles from Chernobyl; caused by the accident).

          • Brian Mays says:

            Hey, SuperTroll is back! And he’s brought a link to the same crappy paper that he has been linking to for months now on this site. How utterly predictable!

            SuperTroll – I realize that your background in science is somewhat lacking, but you should know that just one ecological study of dubious quality — especially one that does not correct for confounders — does not constitute “proof” of anything, and an estimated relative risk 1.23 is not something that “harms seriously.”

            Now you know. Please try to remember this time.

            The results of this study defy common sense. If a relative risk coefficient of 1.60 Sv/a for stillbirths were accurate, then Ramsar, Iran, would be the stillbirth capital of the world! Pregnant women in this region would have a relative risk of over 300 for having a spontaneous abortion due to the “background” (I used SuperTroll’s quotes) radiation. To put this in perspective, the relative risk for heavy smokers developing lung cancer is below 100. There is no way that an ecological study could miss that effect.

            The only rational explanation is that this is yet another case of poorly done “science.”

          • Brian Mays says:

            Oops … typo: should read “1.60 mSv/a”

          • Jason C says:

            At least you acknowledge there is such a thing as natural radiation.

            Nonetheless, your comment is off topic. You’re throwing this paper link in here as challenge for refutation. So your implied challenge is “refute my referenced paper, otherwise the point made in this Atomic Insights article and your comment is invalid”. No, sorry, I’m not going to play your game.

            Either say something relevant or I’m requesting that your comment(s) be deleted. Trolls like you are tiring.

          • Bas says:

            @Jason
            Your statement suggest low level radiation to be harmless.
            I showed a careful study that proves that even very low level of radiation harms (thanks to the detailed population administrations in Germany).

            These study results are also the opposite of statements made in the PP movie.
            I do not see why this is off topic.
            May be you can explain?

          • Bas says:

            @Brian
            … especially one that does not correct for confounders…
            Sorry, but this study handles all those critics and corrects. It contributes to the quality of the study which is the reason I mentioned it twice.
            Furthermore:
            – it concerned total populations, so no selection;
            – most results are extremely significant p<0.00001;
            – it is easy to check the results (desktop job as those population administrations are now on-line).

            "…relative risk 1.23 is not something that “harms seriously…
            That implies 23% more stillbirth, Down, congenital malformation, etc. in areas with similar fall out (parts >1000mile off Chernobyl ). And worse if the fallout was worse (Belarus, Russia, etc). Not for one year, but for ~30years, gradually becoming less. Those areas contain >100 million people. So this implies >100,000 stillbirth tragedies due to Chernobyl.
            Worse, it also delivers enhanced levels of congenital malformation (such as heart defects), Down, perinatal mortality, etc. These can be estimated to be ~10times more => ~1million tragedies.
            I find that serious harm.

            … If RR 1.60 mSv/a for stillbirths … Ramsar, would have a relative risk of >300 on a spontaneous abortion. …
            The study does not concern spontaneous abortions. I assume you intent to state stillbirth, based on a radiation level of ~500mSv.

            El showed in his post (April 25) at Atomic Insight, referring to a thorough study: , that:
            In high radiation areas of Ramsar the radiation level is ~6mSv/year.
            In low radiation areas in Ramsar ~0.7mSv/year.

            Furthermore, due to the worse circumstances in Ramsar the non-radiation caused levels of stillbirth are significant higher than those in e.g. Germany.

            Based on the study of the German national research center (link in my previous post), a guess for the level of stillbirth due to radiation (in high radiation areas) in Ramsar, would be ~1% of all birth.
            Note that El showed in his post also studies that found elevated levels of DNA damage in Ramsar, etc.

            … just one ecological study …
            There are more studies that show similar results.
            Just google. If you can’t find, tell and I will help.
            Here a nice video that shows results of neglecting low level radiation in the USA:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLS6NCZPiSY

            Btw. IAEA/WHO do not consider anything below 100mSv seriously, so they come to ridiculous judgments.

          • Brian Mays says:

            “… especially one that does not correct for confounders… ”

            Sorry, but this study handles all those critics and corrects.

            No. This “study” merely apologizes for its inadequacies. Didn’t you even read the article, especially the end? It reads: “However, opponents of our methods and findings should bear in mind that the mere possibility of confounding is not a proof of confounding and, even more so, it is not a proof of no effect.”

            Geez!! How weak can you get?!! There is no correction for confounders, and the way that this paper “handles” it’s critics is totally pathetic.

            “… relative risk 1.23 is not something that “harms seriously …”

            That implies 23% more stillbirth, …

            Less than two standard drinks per day of alcohol leads to a relative risk of 1.89 for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx and a relative risk of 1.4 for the esophagus. That implies 89% and 40% more cancers.

            Let’s ban alcohol!!

            An honest relative risk of 1.23 is almost nothing. A relative risk of 1.23 that was estimated without considering any confounding factors at all is nothing.

            Sorry, SuperTroll, but you’ve drank too much kool-aid to realize this. Everyone else reading this understands what I mean.

          • Bas says:

            @Brian
            I didn’t code the link that El showed, well.
            So the second part of my last post was difficult to read. Sorry!

            … possibility of confounding is not a proof of confounding … no correction for confounders..
            With all studies, there is a possibility of confounding. And of course many nuclear engineers are looking for options to discredit these studies.
            But the prime study is so simple, that no one can find…

            It simply takes the numbers (birth, stillbirth, etc) from the population administration in the periods before and after Chernobyl in:
            – districts that got high radioactive fallout; ~ 0.5mSv/a
            – nearby districts that got low fallout; ~0.06mSv/a (~8 times less)
            And then these numbers show only a rise in stillbirth, etc. in the districts with high fallout ; even a very significant!

            I think nobody can find significant confounding here.
            Often the selection of subjects is somehow biased. But here that is not possible as they simply took all into the study.
            Furthermore:
            – the differences are very highly significant (often p<0.0001) that coincidence is practical impossible;
            – Other researchers did/found the same. E.g. check the publications of Schoetzau et al. A few are referred in the bibliography at the end of this publication (nr. 22 and 23).

            Note that in the medical world the high risk of low level extra radiation ( no X-Ray’s even while that implies <0.05mSv. So the figure of 60% extra risk per 1mSv/a is not strange.

          • Bas says:

            @Brian

            … two standard drinks per day of alcohol leads to a relative risk of 1.89 for cancers …. relative risk of 1.23 is almost nothing…

            You drink voluntary and get compensation (pleasure?) for that risk taking.
            These mothers/babies are forced into that extra risk because decision makers think that NPP’s are beneficial (earning money?).
            They do not get compensation.

            I consider ~100.000 extra stillbirth and ~900.000 other extra serious birth defects due to NPP’s not minor.

          • Brian Mays says:

            I think nobody can find significant confounding here.

            SuperTroll – By “nobody,” I presume you mean one scientifically illiterate person who goes around trolling websites like this.

            You have no idea how real epidemiology works. At the very least, the authors could have incorporated median household income into their model to try to correct for classic, well-known confounders. Yet, they chose not to. This is a hallmark of junk science.

            the differences are very highly significant (often p<0.0001) that coincidence is practical impossible

            Statistical significance means nothing in a data dredge. In other words, when you specifically pick the data and the analysis method to “prove” your preconceived notions, chance has no way to affect the outcome. Thus, claims that something is “practically impossible” are utterly meaningless.

            Other researchers did/found the same. E.g. check the publications of Schoetzau et al. A few are referred in the bibliography at the end of this publication (nr. 22 and 23).

            Do you mean “Bavarian Congenital Malformation Study, 1984–1991″? That was the source for some of the data analyzed in the paper, but it does not support these researchers’ conclusions.

            On the contrary, the authors of this paper have been severely criticized for their poor analysis, as has been pointed out in the comments here. Their conclusions have been described as a “likely artifact of data mining, misused statistics, and misreading of the evidence. In particular, the concept of statistical ‘significance’ and its limitations do not seem to be fully understood, and important confounding factors have not been accounted for.”

            This description accurately describes the paper that you so stubbornly keep linking to and your defense of it.

            You drink voluntary and get compensation (pleasure?) for that risk taking.

            I was trying to make a point about relative risk, but it seems to have gone over your head. (No surprise there.) Nevertheless, if you want to go down that road …

            I consider ~100.000 extra stillbirth and ~900.000 other extra serious birth defects due to NPP’s not minor.

            Ignoring the fact that your numbers are pure fantasy, I consider the > 1,000,000 deaths from automobiles (in the US alone) since the Chernobyl accident not to be minor. A substantial portion of these deaths were pedestrians or other people not getting any “compensation” for using a car at the time.

            Let’s ban automobiles.

          • Bas says:

            @Brian
            … authors could have incorporated median household income into their model to try to correct for classic, well-known confounders…
            Apparently you do not know the situation in Germany (I lived and worked there for many months).

            Germany in general:
            Income inequality is far less than in the USA.
            Non, low and high income mothers get equal medical etc. care (free) as well as generous (compared to USA) income assistance if needed.
            Pregnant woman have to show up for medical consultation (also regards food, etc) at regular intervals. If they do not, action is taken (continued soft insistence works).

            District differences
            Looking at the list, I estimate that all in all the most contaminated districts seem to be somewhat more rich… E.g:
            – the famous Garmisch-Partenkirchen is in the most contaminated list;
            – the least contaminated list contains more city centers (=often lower income)

            The study design
            If a low radiated district had already an high stillbirth proportion, that would continue (no jump). If a high radiated district had already an high stillbirth proportion, that would show a jump further upwards.
            So previous stillbirth rates makes no difference in the outcome.

            The only possible confounder:
            If something special happened in that period, only in the high radiation districts (and not in the low radiation districts) that may affect the pregnancy outcome. E.g. Carnival (alcohol consumption) in the high radiation districts only…
            But that seems impossible as high and low radiation districts are adjacent and there are no cultural differences. The population is rather homogeneous Nothing like the huge differences you see in the USA, partly due to minorites.

            Note that the huge differences in fall-out was because of lokal rain showers from the passing Chernobyl radio-active cloud. Districts with no rain, got hardly any. We in NL were also lucky.

            Some districts in UK (farther off Chernobyl) got even significant more radio-activity than the high radiation districts in Chernobyl. Their farmers still cannot sell their products because of the radiation levels in it…

          • Bas says:

            Brian,
            Oohps, I see the last paragraph of my post meshed (to hasty)

            Please read it as below

            Some districts in UK (much farther off Chernobyl) even got significant more radio-activity than the high radiation districts in Bayern. Farmers in those UK districts still cannot sell their products because of the radiation levels in it.

          • Joris van dorp says:

            Bas writer: “If a high radiated district”

            There were no ‘high radiated’ districts, Bas. Only in your fantasy. You seek proof that minor variations of low dose radiation kill, while all evidence indicates they do not. Science demonstrates this, and there are known physiological mechanisms which largely explain it, as has been shown many times to you.

            No credible scientific body has found the death you say is plain to see. On the contrary, the science indicates there is NO detectable difference in effect from different low doses of radiation. The scientific support for this was shown to you many times.

            So for me, the question is: why do you continue your crusade? What is in it for you? Why must it be that tiny changes in low radiation dose cause the mayhem you claim it does, contrary to decades of scientific assessment? Will you explain your motivation please? Thank you.

          • Bas says:

            @Joris
            We discuss this scientific study report by researchers of the German national Research Center for Environment and Health.

            They show that even levels of 0.5mSv/a already have a very significant effect on the numbers of stillbirth, congenital malformations, Down, etc.

            So the possible threshold you think exists, is at least lower than 0.2mSv/a.
            Far lower than the PP movie seem to suggests.

            Advice you to read the study (and comments) before putting up new unfounded statements.

          • Brian Mays says:

            Supertroll – Thank you for the lecture in armchair epidemiology. Please excuse me while I laugh and call you an idiot. Sorry, but your personal experiences in Germany are not an adequate explanation for not controlling for confounding factors, even in an extremely weak ecological study like the one you cling to.

            I see that you’ve yet again posted the same stupid link on this blog, which just reinforces that you are simply here to spam the site with the same garbage over and over. Lather rinse repeat.

            I have no idea why Rod does not ban you for this, but in any case, I’m tired of arguing with an idiot.

      • Bill Rodgers says:

        Hagen Scherb and Eveline Weigelt are examples of “researchers” who attempt to fit the statistical data to their foregone conlusion.

        Herr Scherb decided long ago that atmospheric weapons testing and Chernobyl affected birth rates and the sex of the babies. Then has spent the past decade or so throwing every statistical tool at data he has accumulated to prove himself correct. The problem with his “analysis” is that he never allows other factors to enter into his equations. That is the sign of a agenda driven researcher.

        A true researcher would ask if there is a truly an increase in stillbirths then attempt to find the cause. Herr Scherb decided long ago there was in increase in stillbirths that is unnatural – something not every researcher agrees has happened. Then second that this increase in stillbirths that he himself has proven in his own mind as occurring is 100% directly due to either atmospherice weapons testing or Chernobyl (i.e. the manmade radiation is bad mindset).

        Herr Dr. Scherb’s narrative plays into anti-nuclear crusaders own narrative since it fits their own belief system that manmade radiation is bad and somehow affects the human body differently then natural – or otherwise know as background- radiation differently.

        That belief system is not based on science but on a political agenda to eliminate nuclear power from the discussion of power generation sources that we humans can build and use to power our industrial world.

        Quoting from Herr Kramer who published a response to one of Herr Scherb’s latest attempt at singling out Chernboyl for medical issues it seems only he can see:

        The recent claim made in this journal that nuclear bomb tests and the Chernobyl disaster caused distortions in the secondary sex ratio is shown to be a likely artifact of data mining, misused statistics, and misreading of the evidence. In particular, the concept of statistical “significance” and its limitations do not seem to be fully understood, and important confounding factors have not been accounted for.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22076251

        However as both Jason C and Brian have pointed out, this whole discussion of the Chernobyl issues is off topic from Jason C’s original comment. As such this comment will therefore be my first and last comment within this article concerning the profuse and very anti-nuclear articles from Herr Dr. Scherb.

        • Brian Mays says:

          Thanks, Bill. I was not yet aware of these two, but their “study” looked highly dubious. It had all of the signs of amateur, data-dredge “epidemiology.”

          Well, they’re now on my radar. So many crackpots, so little time. sigh If only I didn’t have a day job.

        • Bas says:

          @Bill
          Sorry, I have only time to react to your most important accusations.

          … Attempt to fit statistical data … Scherb decided long ago…
          In these studies all data was used, so no manipulation.
          Scherb published many studies regarding other subjects , especially before he worked at the institute in Muenchen.
          I think you do not know what Scherb decided “…in his own mind….

          … truly an increase … attempt to find the cause …
          May be you have another explanation for the increase in stillbirth, etc. that is also shown by other researchers (Scherb et al discuss similar results of Finish researchers at par. 3.3 in this publication)?

          Note that data mining etc. is not relevant here as:
          – all data is used;
          – the significance of results (p <0.0001) is to big for that.

          "… manmade radiation is bad mindset …
          There is little difference between the harmful effects of natural and manmade radiation. In (medical) radiation expert circles it is generally accepted that natural background radiation is responsible for ~1% of the death in the population (cancer, heart attacks, etc).

          Furthermore it is general accepted that any extra radiation enhances the risks. That is also the reason dentists here leave the room when they take an X-ray. Even while the volume of stray radiation they would get is ~0,0001mSv.

          … Quoting from Herr Kramer … distortions sex ratio…
          Changes in the sex ratio deliver little harm. So I find those not relevant.
          Notice that Scherb et al published a strong response to the accusations of Kramer.

          You refer to other publications of Scherb etal and the author himself.
          So can I conclude that you have no further critics regarding this publication?

          Note that this publication also implies that a Threshold, if it exists, is below ~0.2mSv for fetuses and babies.

          • Bill Rodgers says:

            Scherb is a mathematician and statistician by trade. He is not formally trained in epidemiology or any medical field for that matter. Therefore he does not have the formal medical training to dig deeper into his statistical results to see if his results are vaild. What is sad to see is that apparently he does not have the intellectual curiosity to question himself on his results.

            As one epidemiology researcher states in the linked classroom presentation on epidemiology :

            The sin comes in believing a causal hypothesis is true because your study came up with a positive result, or believing the opposite because your study was negative

            http://www.teachepi.org/documents/courses/fundamentals/Pai_Lecture1_Overview%20of%20epi_Part1.pdf

            So bottom line Bas, no matter how much you or anyone else attempts to defend Scherb’s studies, I will never consider him a serious academic researcher who is in search of the truth. Scherb will always be an agenda-driven, anti-nuclear activist in my opinion.

          • Brian Mays says:

            Bill – Good points. There’s a reason why biostatisticians do not write epidemiological papers.

          • Bas says:

            @Bill
            Thanks for the presentation. That quy really must be an inspiration.
            The irony in his first sheets alone…
            A pity I had such a dull teacher for methodology.
            Do you also have the next parts?

            I spend already some time looking for weak spots in the Scherb study.
            But this inspires me to spend more time and search really careful.
            Anybody with ideas?

          • Brian Mays says:

            Hint: Not correcting for confounders? Data mining? Have you even read the article?

            Never mind … it’s obvious that you have a faith-based attachment to this paper, and no evidence to the contrary will be able convince you of its severe flaws. Regardless of your religious zeal, however, please spare us from posting it in the comments on this blog again. Thanks.

          • Bas says:

            @Bill,

            …search really careful. Anybody with ideas?
            ….Confounders? Data mining?…

            The idea that data mining is applied here is rather ridiculous as:
            – all available data was included in the study in the same direct manner.
            – the level of significance regarding many hypothesis was so high that, that alone would exclude it (data mining typical delivers significance levels of 0.05).

            Regarding confounders I also asked the authors what research the did.
            Below the anser:
            ….we did not publish control for confounders, although we looked at physician density, unemployment rate, population density, and age of population. None of these demographic indicators showed abrupt changes from 1987 onward. Therefore, we decided that those possible confounders were not relevant in explaining the observed jumps(!) or trend changes after Chernobyl in stillbirth proportions, occurrence of birth defects …“.

            In an earlier post in ths thread, the possibiltiy that income and/or cultural differences could be a confounder was discussed.
            Conclusion: that would be practical impossible, also due to the study design.

          • Bill Rodgers says:

            @Bas,

            You can continue to try and put lipstick on this pig but it won’t change anything about the way Scherb set up his mathematical model.

            His report could be considered phase 1, at best, of a full blown epidemilogical study. What is missing is the medical research part. Just because he declares various things can be discounted does not mean they can be. All that means is he determined those issues did not fit neatly into his mathematical model from my viewpoint.

            As already pointed out the biggest sin of any statistical analysis is to believe a causal hypothesis is true because your study came up with a positive result, or believing the opposite because your study was negative.

            What is needed is a organized group with multiple disciplines to study the questions of health effects of Chernobyl. Hummm…. where in the world could that type of study be found…. Oh look what a simple google search turned up:

            http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/chernobyl/assessment_mitigation/en/index.html

            The UN did commission a study. Who would have guessed…..

            Finally, Scherb is connected to Caldicott through the Chernobyl Congress which is organized by IPPNW (also a group set up by Caldicott) which is a rabid anti-nuclear power organization.

            Caldicott has delcared the WHO and the UN Scientific Committee on Atomic Radiation are in conspiracy with the IAEA to hide a million+ deaths. So either Scherb believes as does Caldicott that there is a conspiracy all the way to the top of the UN (and if so then his work has no better purpose then to be a coffee placemat for my desk.) Or he is okay being associated with a known conspiracy theorist as long as his work is published which calls into question his ethical beliefs.

            However by continuing to discuss this you have allowed me to bring back one of my favorite takedowns of all time where Monbiot goes after Caldicott’s lack of integrity:

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/apr/13/anti-nuclear-lobby-interrogate-beliefs

            So repeating myself (again): I will never consider him a serious academic researcher who is in search of the truth. Scherb will always be an agenda-driven, anti-nuclear activist in my opinion.

      • Jim Hopf says:

        Even if one thinks that low-level radiation (within the natural range) can have a health impact (by assuming LNT, etc…..), how do you justify focusing only on the exposures from nuclear plant accidents like Chernobyl when those exposures are a tiny fraction of overall collective exposure of the population, even in the case of Europe following Chernobyl.

        According to LNT, health impacts scale directly with collective exposure (person-Rem). Nuclear accidents’ contributions to humanity’s overall collective exposure is completely negligible (less than 0.1%; closer to a millionth, I think). Collective exposures from natural background, including things like radon, not to mention medical exposures, are thousands to millions of times higher.

        So, I ask Bas (et al), how can you justify such concern over collective exposure from accidents like Chernobyl, but ignore contributions from other sources that are orders of magnitude larger (many of which could be significantly reduced w/o much effort)?

        And, as Brian was saying, if you do the math, if Chernobyl causes a million infant deaths/deformities, etc… then the collective exposure from all other (mainly natural) sources would have resulted in every single baby ever born having such problems. Have there even been a million such “affected” births in all of Europe in the last couple decades?

        • Bas says:

          @Jim
          Thanks for your smart questions & remarks!
          Sorry, it took me so much time to react.

          … how do you justify focusing only on … nuclear plant accidents … when those exposures are a tiny fraction …
          As posted elsewhere here, I consider other contaminations also very harmful. E.g.:

          – I do not understand that Canada still has asbestos mines operating while the WHO, here not restricted as with radiation through the 1959 agreement, stated asbestos kills 100,000/year.

          – cars & planes are far bigger polluters creating bigger damage then electric power plants.
          So I propose taxes that compensate for all that damage. Now people that do not use transportation (invisible) subsidize the others.
          One can calculate that those taxes should be roughly $40/gallon car fuel.
          Of course heating, and electric power plants (coal, gas, nuclear) should be taxed likewise.

          Btw, those taxes would allow to lower other taxes and to spend more on research for fusion reactors, big cheap wind turbines of 50MW (biggest here 8MW now), low cost high yield (>36% in stead of the present 18%) solar panels, conversion of electricity into clean gas & fuel, etc.

          As NPP’s:
          – get by ‘atomic’ law the biggest subsidies (paid for invisible by tax-payers and surrounding citizens) and deliver little in return, they seem to waste huge amounts of money;
          – have a very sophisticated lobby, many nuclear scientists, that lobby may get far more money wasted for NPP’s.

          Furthermore, I live not far off an unsafe NPP (Borssele) that may wreck my (finance) situation with an accident.

          … Have there even been a million such “affected” birth…
          Here the quick estimation:
          Looking at the diagrams in the publication, stillbirth was ~0,5% of all birth and the rise ~0,1. Europe has ~10million birth/year. Hence ~50K stillbirth/year from which 10K/yr due to Chernobyl.
          The raised radiation level is Cesium driven. Cs has a half-life of 30years, so the 10K will be reduced to 5K/year after 30years, etc.
          That delivers ~400K stillbirth’s in the first ~90years due to Chernobyl.

          I estimated that all other serious radiation induced defects together, happen roughly 10times more often than stillbirth (a medical told me).
          So this implies a total of 4million.
          Not all of Europe was affected, but Belarus, etc. far more.
          Still, as it is a rough estimation I rounded off to 1 million tragedies due to Chernobyl.

          Btw, it is a pity that the population & medical administrations of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia are not reliable and not detailed enough to deliver reliable figures.

          … if you do the math … then the collective exposure from all other … sources would have resulted in every single baby ever born having such problems …
          This certainly does not fit with my math.
          I do not know your math?

      • EZ says:

        What a joke. If anti nuclear people really cared about low level radiation exposure they would want to clean up and protect people from natural sources of radiation, but they don’t really care. Do you see people arguing that we should clean up places that have high concentration of “natural” uranium? Of course not, because their real agenda has nothing to do with protecting people, and I doubt most of them they really believe their own bull anyway.

        P.S. I would like to know exactly at what point uranium stops being natural. Is it after they mine it? Is it after it’s been through a reactor and become so called “waste”?

        • Bas says:

          @EZ
          … clean up and protect people from natural sources of radiation ..
          Clean up those sources (e.g. Ramsar) often costs huge amounts of money, clearly not available.

          But recently (2012) proposals came to change the Ramsar area in a national environmental radioactivity park: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S135044871200087X
          It is remarkable that the author (from university of Teheran) also states that no significant epidemiological studies have been conducted for the area.
          (El, thanks for the link!)
          Furthermore, I read that authorities in India now try to prevent that new people move into the high background radiation area in India.

          …exactly at what point uranium stops being natural …
          That depends on your definition of natural. After mining, the stuff is filtered in order to remove all other material. Still natural?
          Then the proportion of Uranium235 is raised (proportion of Uranium238 going down) in order to make it useable (e.g. from ~0.5% to ~3%) in NPP’s. Often using e.g. ultra-centrifuges (the famous ones that Iran now also runs). Still natural?

          In the NPP many new (not existing in nature) radio-active materials are created.
          So NPP’s waste is a rather complex radio-active mixture of materials. Few of these have a half-live of more than a million years. I do not call that mix natural.

          In La Haye (France) and other places, they can upgrade the stuff to MOZ and then it can be used another time.

          • EZ says:

            Ok, I concede that some people believe the bull, and apply it to things other then nuclear technology. Still from what I’ve seen so far as a whole anti nuclear people give a strong impression of hypocrisy. One thing that is repeatedly mentioned to anti nuclear people is that people are exposed to radiation during commercial flights. Of course the purpose of the statement is to question why antis don’t seem to care about flying while they attack any amount of radiation from nuclear power relentlessly.

            Lets consider this in more depth. According to the FAA Revenue Passenger Miles (An RPM represents one paying passenger traveling one mile) were 815 billion in 2011 and expected to be 1.57 trillion in 2032. I couldn’t find information on total hours passenger spent traveled so instead I used a reasonable aircraft speed(500 to 900 km/hr) along with the RPM to make an estimate of those numbers getting 1.46 to 2.62 billion total hours flown by paying customers in 2011 and a projected 2.81 to 5.05 billion total hours flown by paying customers in 2032.

            That is a lot of hours. Next lets look at what people are exposed to during those hours. The amount of radiation people are exposed to during flight depends on both altitude and latitude, so in order to get a a better idea of the rate of exposure people can reasonably expect during commercial flights lets look at some data taken from some airlines.


            http://www.hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/commercialflights.html

            You can see that there is a large amount of variation when the average of one airline is less then the lowest measured does of another, but one thing is certain. Many people are receiving doses of radiation that would be completely unacceptable to you if they had come from a nuclear power plant.

            Lets try and put things in context by comparing commercial flight to the evacuated zone around Fukushima. The government has divided the areas around Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant up into four zones. They are the “difficult-to-return zones”, “no-residence zones”, “zones preparing for the evacuation order to be lifted” and “planned evacuation zone”. According to the government’s nuclear watch dog, on average radiation levels have dropped by 40 percent in each of the four types of evacuation zones. So what we have is this.

            In the “difficult-to-return zones” the average radiation was 1.45 mrem per hour and now is .85 mrem per hour. In the “no-residence zones” the average radiation was .57 mrem per hour and now is .34 mrem per hour. In the “zones preparing for the evacuation order to be lifted” the average radiation was .20 mrem per hour and now is .11 mrem per hour. In the “planned evacuation zone” the average radiation was .27 mrem per hour and now is .15 mrem per hour.

            Looking at these number its apparent that many of the evacuated areas have radiation levels that are comparable to commercial flight. Yet I can get on an airplane and fly across the ocean, while thousands of people in japan are not allowed to return to their homes. Seems unfair.

            Risk is relative and often difficult to determine. Will the people who have been evacuated be at more risk from all the problems associated with their situation or would they be at more risk from the radiation where they used to live. I think the best people to make that judgment are the people themselves. The question is will they get that chance.

            The Japanese government probably isn’t going to let people go home any time soon because they know if they do so a swarm of anti nuclear activists (and the media) will descend on them accusing them of bloody murder. At the same time those activists are ignoring commercial flight. Oh, I’m sure you can hunt down some people campaigning against commercial flight because of radiation exposure, but that is only a drop in the bucket compared to the number who are going after Fukushima (or more truthfully who are using Fukushima because they hate nuclear power in general). Basically people are robbing them of their power of choice because their agenda against nuclear power is more important to them.

            So basically in conclusion I have difficulty trusting that anti nuclear people have good intentions. Maybe I’m wrong and you truly think the world would be a better place without nuclear, but in a world with 7 billion people, climate change and all kinds of other problems I don’t see how you could reach the conclusion the human beings would best be served by throwing away one of their most valuable tools.

            As for the part about natural uranium. I’ve hear people attach the world natural to uranium before, and wasn’t really sure how they differentiate natural uranium from uranium that has been gather up by human beings, but I just goggled it and found out the answer. I guess I should have just done that in the first place.

            As for the rest of what you said, have you heard about the Oklo Fossil Fission Reactors? Two billion years ago natural uranium gathered by natural processes forming natural fission reactors. This went on for a million years creating radio-active materials which one could argue was natural as well. Guess what, the world didn’t come to an end.

            Sources:

            http://oklo.curtin.edu.au/when.cfm

            http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=13394

            http://www.hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/commercialflights.html

            http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2002/JobyJosekutty.shtml

            http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201306060087

          • EZ says:

            Sigh, I don’t really know how to work the software on this site. I was trying to include this information in quote blocks.

            “Feng YJ et al. Estimated cosmic radiation doses for flight personnel. Space Med Med Eng 15(4):265-9; 2002.

            The average effective dose rate of all flights of Xinjiang Airlines from 1997 to 1999 was 0.238 mrem (millirem) per hour.

            The average annual cosmic radiation dose for flight personnel was 219 mrem.

            Annual individual doses of all monitored flight personnel are well below the limit of 2,000 mrem per year recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP).

            Bottollier-Depois JF et al. Assessing exposure to cosmic radiation during long-haul flights. Radiat Res 153(5 Pt. 1):526-32; 2000.

            The lowest dose rate measured was 0.3 mrem per hour during a Paris-Buenos Aires flight.

            The highest rates were 0.66 mrem per hour during a Paris-Tokyo flight and 0.97 mrem per hour on the Concorde in 1996-1997.

            The corresponding annual effective dose, based on 700 hours of flight for subsonic aircraft and 300 hours for the Concorde, can be estimated at between 200 mrem for the least exposed routes and 500 mrem for the more exposed routes.”

            http://www.hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/commercialflights.html

      • jmdesp says:

        @Bas : Here’s the answer from scientist who take care of not mixing up statistical artifact with real effects :
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9271801
        “Testing an a priori formulated hypothesis revealed no differences in the temporal development of perinatal mortality between the areas with different fallout levels and subsequent exposure”
        “the analysis revealed a significant increase during the first 3 months after the accident, which is due to an excess in May alone. Since no elevated radiation risks for the last days in utero are known, the additional Chernobyl radiation exposure is not plausible as a causative agent”

        Whilst high rate of cell division could plausibly be affected by a higher radiation level, this has no connexion at all with Down syndrome, which is a single event happening in the first or second cell division, or before fertilization, and then assume the following division occur normally or the fetus could not develop.

        A radiation level high enough to have a significant probability of generating this specific event, would also generate many other problem, at all stages of pregnancy and conception, and the probability of completing a pregnancy in such condition would be zero. We would see an explosion in the number of stillbirth, and foremost of spontaneous abortions in the first months of pregnancy. Actually the variation of still-birth numbers in the paper is at the noise variation level, not significantly higher than before Chernobyl.

        As well, if such ecological studies *must* be accepted without further skepticism, then you also have to accept the Cohen study finding apparent radon hormesis : http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935105801197
        If the criticism as found here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9645660 about the danger of such a method are correct, they are also against your study.

        • Bas says:

          @Jim
          You refer to an older (1997) study by different researchers.
          They use expected numbers of perinatal deaths derived from the remainder of the former communist East-Germany as reference? (strange). They simply assume without evidence, no elevated radiation risk in the uterus during the last period, etc. Their target (perinatal death) is also different.

          Also because you refer to a small abstract only, it has no value to compare this study with the Scherb et al study that I linked here.

          In your second and third paragraph you make statements for which I do not see supportive evidence/research. E.g.
          … radiation level high enough to have a significant probability of generating this specific event, would also generate many other problem … probability of completing a pregnancy in such condition would be zero …
          The chance on significance depend highly on the size of the group in the study. So without further support, it is an unfounded wild assumption only.

          … you also have to accept the Cohen study …
          That study is far to simple, analyzing only a spatial dataset.
          The Scherb study uses a spatial-temporal data set adjusted for region-specific trend functions.

          In addition, regarding spatial only:
          The Scherb study compares adjacent districts that have very similar culture, medical care, income, etc.
          The Cohen study does not.

          So you cannot compare those studies.
          I think that the critique regarding this simple Cohen study is correct.

      • Twominds says:

        FYI Bas, I scroll down any post you write here. I’ve seen enough repetition that I don’t want to waste my time on it. You’re a class below Applebaum, who did try to find useful and relevant studies to shore up his ideas. Your claims (not ideas) don’t even have that merit.

        Off to more worthful parts of this comment section.

  8. Brian Mays says:

    “In order to have an intelligent debate about nuclear power, it is important to differentiate between facts, conjectures, and personal opinions that may or may not be supported by evidence.” — Ed Lyman, “Scientist”

    I hope that I’m not the only one who appreciates the extreme irony of a statement like this coming from a so-called “physicist” who works for the UCS.

    • Daniel says:

      And I posted a juicy one regarding Lyman from Sam Harris a few days back :

      “It is also true that the less competent a person is in a given domain, the more he will tend to overestimate his abilities. This often produces an ugly marriage of confidence and ignorance that is very difficult to correct for.”
      ― Sam Harris

    • Bill Rodgers says:

      The irony in his statement is rich considering the number of times UCS has used conjecture and personal opinions to make their own anti-nuclear points.

      Example: Every time the UCS declares “NEAR-MISS” at a nuclear power plant.

      Near-miss is a catagory that is coming into vogue in other industries that do not have as high a degree of required self reporting that the nuclear world has or as highly developed a root cause analysis system.

      Every nuclear facility has a condition reporting system that is inspected routinely by the NRC. This condition reporting system is meant to function as a near-miss reporting system. Is it perfect..no. But then nothing ever is since ultimately chaos rules. It would appear though that the UCS wants yet another regulatory hurdle placed on nuclear energy by adding something that already exists.

      When something happens at a plant that the CR system will naturally catch, the UCS trumpets a near-miss but does not delve into the final root cause analysis and solutions. That is by definition creating conjecture and doubt by obscuring or elminating the entire time line of an event.

      It would also appear that some within the NRC believe the same thing due to several instances in the past where I have seen the “near-miss” mindset creep into NRC lingo.

  9. Andrea Jenneta says:

    Brian, if you think that’s hypocritical check out Linda Gunter’s 2,000 word defense of Lyman and attack on PP. She has the gall to trot out some BS about science and facts being on the antis’ side. Utterly shameless!

  10. John says:

    A great read. Thank you for posting and bringing reasonableness to the discussion. Very refreshing after reading all the negative responses to PP.

  11. Cheryl Twarog says:

    Thanks for bringing perspective (once again) to the Vermont Yankee tritium leak…unfortunately, those who need to hear it most will continue to walk around with their fingers in their ears and masks covering their faces while blindly following Gunderson, Caldicott, and friends. The science speaks for itself, and I believe it speaks loudly in favor of nuclear power.

  12. EL says:

    Gwyneth Cravens said: “If you ate one banana which has a potassium isotope that’s a little hot, you would get more radiation exposure than you would if you drank all the water that comes out of the plant in one day [emphasis added].

    So far as I can tell, the factual basis for these statements still substantiates the view that Cravens (and her various professional and esteemed fact checkers) are in error.

    “Entergy initially reported that on-site ground water in the vicinity of the Connecticut River was contaminated with tritium as high as 17,000 picocuries per liter of water” (here).

    You report a leak rate of 370 liters per day (and a total leak of 138,000 liters).

    Conversion factor for whole body dose: 6.4 × 10–8 mrem/pCi.

    Exposure from a single hot banana: 0.01 millirem.

    Exposure from single day release of 370 liters at 17,000 pCi/L: 0.40 millirem.

    I’m not sure what is in dispute here? None of these numbers come anywhere close to an exposure factor of a single relatively hot banana.

    Moreover, potassium is homeostatic in the body. Whatever is absorbed by the body, in a healthy individual, gets released in an equivalent amount. I’m not aware of any serious person (nobel prize winning particle physicists or otherwise) recommending bananas as a standard unit of equivalent dose (see EPA – pg. 16). The comment by Ms. Craven appears to be a kind of folk comparison (common among non-science enthusiasts of nuclear power). And passing it off as science isn’t particularly illuminating or instructive (especially so when the comparisons, using a variety of inputs, appears to be clearly incorrect).

    If she stands by her statement (and she has indicated as much), she appears to stand by what is incorrect in the film. It’s no big deal to issue a correction, and one’s personal reputation and credibility is usually bolstered by doing so (as Ed Lyman has done regarding his misstatement). Impugning another person’s character on the basis of an objective and factual claim that is incorrect, or worse suggesting that harm to the human race has resulted from efforts to correct the factual record, does nobody any good (and certainly doesn’t elevate the quality and substance of the debate, which I understand it is the original intention of the film to recommend).

    • Jim Hopf says:

      As for the banana “folk comparison”, it’s not used by “non-scientist” nuclear proponents so much as it is used by all nuclear proponents in their attempts to communicate with non-scientist members of the public.

      Such “real life” comparisons are necessary because it’s clear that the lay public does not grasp nuclear dose units (milliRem, etc..), or dose in general. They’re also not very good in general at comprehending numbers and quantitative scientific arguments. All people who do are pro-nuclear (hate to break it to ya).

      Nobody who is remotely objective and has any grasp of numbers, and science for that matter, would understand that tritium leakage is a negligible issue. The science is very clear that it will never cause a single death or have any measurable health impact. Scientific bodies also state, as discussed in the movie, that fossil generation causes ~14,000 deaths in the USA alone every single year, and is the leading single cause of global warming emissions. The science is also clear that US nuclear power plants have not caused a single death and have never had any measurable public health impact.

      There is universal scientific consensus that fossil fuels are vastly worse than nuclear (coal in particular). Thus, one has to wonder about the motives of anyone who claims to be a scientist (who can grasp scientific issues and data, etc..) but makes a significant issue/stink about “problems with nuclear”, suggesting that they are a reason to avoid nuclear, while fossil fuels continue to be used.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Jim Hopf:

        Nobody who is remotely objective and has any grasp of numbers, and science for that matter, would understand that tritium leakage is a negligible issue.

        Is there one too many or one too few negatives in that statement?

        Based on context, I think you meant to write:

        Nobody who is remotely objective and has any grasp of numbers, and science for that matter, should fail to understand that tritium leakage is a negligible issue.

      • EL says:

        Jim Hopf wrote: “Scientific bodies also state, as discussed in the movie, that fossil generation causes ~14,000 deaths in the USA alone every single year, and is the leading single cause of global warming emissions.”

        Indeed, it causes 14,000 premature deaths in US, billions in lost work days, is a wasteful use of public subsidies, contributes to geo-political instability, and a great deal more.

        You’ve made a good case for why environmentalists should be against fossil fuels (which they are). I suppose you think if banana eaters would just shed their fear of the atom and ideologically driven radiophobia, all would be well and good in the world of nuclear power (and fossil fuels would simply wither on the vine).

        When Helen Caldicott is your opponent, it makes a lot of sense to go after radiophobia. I’m not so sure the same is true of bond holders, shareholders, public utility planners (designing fully flexible, sustainable, competitive, and reliable power systems), governments (now in charge of pressing waste management obligations, technology development financing, and accident liability), and a whole lot more. Nuclear has a “heavy rock” to push up a “very steep mountain” to get to the “replace fossil fuels” goalpost. And truth be told, it’s can’t do it alone, and it’s not going to do it anytime soon (with current technology).

        Most environmentalists want something done now to lower carbon levels, replace coal, transform light duty vehicle fleet away from fossil fuels, and create competitive and job creating technology alternatives for sustainable energy solutions that are low risk, scalable, and high reward. And we need a serious and expansive global discussion to get there. Nuclear is likely to be a part of it, but misleading false choices are not. If Pandora’s Promise can help to change the conversation, I’m all for it. The premise of the film appears to be the following: “To be anti-nuclear is basically to be in favor of burning fossil fuels.” An important question to the environmentalist, indeed. The answer, however, a bit harder to discern, define, and put into practice.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @EL

      I do not know what Ms. Cravens is going to do, but if you read my full post, you will find that I agree with Dr. Lyman’s arithmetic. I am challenging his absurd ASSUMPTIONS and the way that he uses the results of a properly set up and executed equation that results in the wrong answer – because the entering arguments are wrong – to scare people.

      There is no possible way that an average human could drink 370 liters of water per day! (By the way, I am not letting my fell nukes off on this one – many have been just as guilty as the UCS of using completely unrealistic assumptions and calling them “conservative”.)

      Yes, Ms. Cravens did not properly phrase her statement. However, she provided a reasonably correct overall risk assessment. People who eat just one a banana per day would receive a substantially higher dose of radiation than people who drank water directly from the point at which Vermont Yankee was leaking tritium. (As you correctly point out about potassium, hydrogen concentration in human bodies is also relatively homeostatic. We consume it and discharge it at about the same rate.)

      The extremely expensive and highly publicized reaction to the leak was based on a falsification of the actual risks.

      The leaking fluid could never have harmed anyone, especially since there is no way that anyone would have been able to gain access to the point at which enclosed pipe was leaking in order to fill up water jugs for drinking.

      The harm that the UCS and its fellow travelers have done to humans is to baffle people with computed “facts” that have no context to the point where they have been unable to make reasonable judgements about a zero risk event at a nuclear power plant.

    • Brian Mays says:

      Moreover, potassium is homeostatic in the body. Whatever is absorbed by the body, in a healthy individual, gets released in an equivalent amount.

      So is water, or don’t you pee?

      • EL says:

        So is water, or don’t you pee?

        In terms of “bananas” as a standard unit of equivalent dose and adding to the quality of discussion, I thank you for helping make my point crystal clear.

        Any thoughts on Cravens, and her factual errors in the film (and those of “one Nobel-prizewinning particle physicist, a health physicist, and … four radiation-protection experts …”, who she suggests back up her unsupported claim).

        • Brian Mays says:

          In terms of “bananas” as a standard unit of equivalent dose and adding to the quality of discussion, I thank you for helping make my point crystal clear.

          In terms of tritiated water as a public health risk, I thank you for helping make my point crystal clear.

          Any thoughts on Cravens …

          Why should I? It wasn’t my statement, after all.

          • EL says:

            @Brian Mays. I don’t recall saying anything about the public health risk of tritiated water. And neither did Ed Lyman (for that matter).

            The point I intended to make by highlighting Ms. Cravens’ remark in my post was not that UCS considers the release of tritium from Vermont Yankee a major health threat, although such incidents are usually indicators of other safety problems that could have more serious implications. What I wanted to show is that her remark, on its face, is technically incorrect, and is therefore one example of “Pandora’s Promise” casual approach to the facts.

            If you don’t feel the facts in the film are worth defending, I appreciate once again making your own position abundantly clear.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @EL

            If you don’t feel the facts in the film are worth defending, I appreciate once again making your own position abundantly clear.

            There are many more significant “facts” about nuclear energy and radiation in Pandora’s Promise that are incorrect and not worth defending. It is, after all, a movie about people, most of whom are mere babes in the woods when it comes to deeply understanding nuclear energy technology and the health effects of radiation. If you want accurate factoids about nuclear energy and radiation, there are FAR better sources than an 87 minute documentary film directed by a guy who just recently began to learn that most of what he knew about nuclear energy had been told to him by others who have not studied the pertinent science and engineering associated with the phenomena.

            The movie’s real value is in telling an interesting story about five individuals who care enough about the fate of the world around them to confront purposely instilled fears and tribal taboos and begin to realize that there is a lot that they do not know about nuclear energy.

            They have taken the first steps towards really understanding a new topic – they have stopped being afraid and are working hard to introduce a new point of view to others in their tribe.

          • Brian Mays says:

            I don’t recall saying anything about the public health risk of tritiated water. …

            EL – Of course you didn’t. That would have meant sticking to the original topic in the film: Was the leak at Vermont Yankee a significant threat to public health? That would have meant actually engaging in a real, honest discussion, instead of trying desperately to avoid it. I know you better than that. ;-)

            Since you and the “physicist” Ed Lyman don’t have anything substantive to say on this topic that would forward your anti-nuclear point of view, you chose instead to focus on the captious and the trivial. While this behavior is pitiful, it is not unexpected.

            Now your tactic is to demand that I defend something that I neither said nor wrote — as though, if I refuse, I somehow lose credibility — which demonstrates just how intellectually bankrupt your arguments are. Again, why should I? This is your game, not mine. Go play with yourself, since you seem to enjoy it.

            If you don’t feel the facts in the film are worth defending, I appreciate once again making your own position abundantly clear.

            Is that clear enough for you?

          • EL says:

            Brian Mays wrote: “EL – Of course you didn’t. That would have meant sticking to the original topic in the film: Was the leak at Vermont Yankee a significant threat to public health?”

            Uh … what was that topic again?

            The topic we are discussing is the factual merits of the film, and a statement about drinking all the the water from Vermont Yankee in a single day and having this amount to no greater radiation exposure than eating a banana. If you would like to raise an additional concern about this statement, please be my guest.

            As someone who has worked on documentary films, these errors are not so difficult to identify, check, and correct. In fact, there are many people specifically employed in such films whose primary job is to check and double check these statements (in this case, “one Nobel-prizewinning particle physicist, a health physicist, and four radiation-protection experts”). Since no correction has been offered, one has to assume they did check this statement and wanted it included in the film regardless. They’ve even defended the statement, which rules out “misstatement” or “oversight” as a basis for this misleading and erroneous claim.

            … engaging in a real, honest discussion, instead of trying desperately to avoid it.

            Please do. You are free to engage in an intellectually honest and real discussion with me (or anybody else on the site) anytime you want. I take it your comment about pissing, and knee-jerk outbursts against liberals and environmentalists is not the bar you are recommending.

            Where do you wish to start?

          • Brian Mays says:

            Uh … what was that topic again?

            EL – I’m glad you asked. Here it the original text from Lyman’s review:

            Gwyneth Cravens, when prompted by the interviewer about the leak of tritium from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, stated that someone would get more radiation from eating one banana than from drinking all the water coming out of the plant.

            Of course, Lyman managed to get Cravens’s statement completely wrong — which, of course, is absolutely hilarious for its irony, since the whole purpose of the text above was to criticize Cravens for misstating something. But, humor and USC incompetence aside, the original topic was “the leak of tritium from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.”

            Capisce?

            So if you have something to say on this subject, then please … out with it. Your record so far has been rather pathetic.

            Pitifully, rather than stick to this subject, you and the “physicist” Lyman have instead wasted time debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or its modern equivalent: how much harm can come to someone who is able to drink over 100 gallons of tritiated water in a day? Who cares?

            When you’re ready to return to the real world, please let us know so that we can let you back in. Thanks.

          • EL says:

            Brian Mays wrote: “‘the original topic was “the leak of tritium from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.’

            Capisce?”

            @Brian Mays.

            So are you now in the habit of repeating all of my claims (and calling them different)? Your whole statement is in search of a distinction. I can find none.

            Pitiful appears to be in the eyes of the beholder.

            Need I remind you Lyman was sincere and intellectually credible enough to revise his recollection when new information was presented. And yet, despite all of your hyperbole, back-tracking, and evasion, Cravens is still wrong. Go figure, wrong is just plain wrong. You’ve gone from throwing her under the bus, to not defending her comment, to piling on other bases for evaluation and contention. What else do you have under your sleeve.

            We might just have to start calling you the grand illusionist (or master practitioner of escapology). You’re about as slippery as a catadromous anguilla anguilla. No matter what you say, numbers still matter, and Cravens (the filmmaker, one Nobel-prizewinning particle physicist, a health physicist, and four radiation-protection experts) all got them wrong. Can we move on now (or is there anything else of little significance you would like to add)?

          • Brian Mays says:

            Cravens is still wrong.

            EL – Then please take it up with Gwyneth. What am I, her mother? She’s an adult woman and can speak for herself. I don’t feel bound (nor should I) for anything she says. Why are you bothering me with this? Oh … that’s right, you don’t have any better argument to make against the movie than one slip of the tongue. Yes … that’s quite pitiful and childish.

            Getting back to the point, however, is the tritium leak at Vermont Yankee a public health concern?

            No? Is that what you said? Well, then we both agree!! Yay! This much ado about nothing is concluded. Have a nice day.

          • EL says:

            … one slip of the tongue …

            @Brian Mays. It’s no slip of the tongue, Brian. She defended her statement, several times, attempted to falsely discredit Lyman on the basis of it (as have you by the way), and put up one Nobel-prizewinning particle physicist, a health physicist, and four radiation-protection experts as independent experts of her entirely unsupported and erroneous claim.

            Nobody is arguing whether the tritium leak at Vermont Yankee is a major health threat (not me, not Lyman, not Cravens, not Rod, not anybody else who as been mentioned). In fact, I’m a little confused why you keep arguing a matter that is not a point of contention? Presumably, to change the topic, or do you just like lighting fires because it feels so good to you and you can’t look away from a burning flame?

            You suggested Lyman and UCS had some kind of deficit of facts (or have been less than intellectually honest) in this debate. Funny that there’s only one person here who no longer thinks the facts are relevant to this debate?

          • Brian Mays says:

            It’s no slip of the tongue, Brian.

            Of course it was. You don’t really think that Ms. Cravens and her experts actually believe that someone could drink over 100 gallons of water in a day (and survive) do you?!! That, by far, is the larger health risk than the tiny amount of a very weak carcinogen in the water. Why didn’t you and “scientist” Lyman focus on that, if you wanted to point out something to ridicule?

            Personally, I think that Rod’s explanation makes the most sense. He conjectured that Cravens thought that she had stated “that human beings could obtain ALL of their daily water intake DIRECTLY from the water that Vermont Yankee was leaking into the ground underneath the plant and they would STILL receive a daily dose that is less than the one received from eating a single banana.”

            As for what Ms. Cravens actually believed she meant … well … you’ll just have to ask her, because there is no way for me to know. Unlike you, I don’t claim to be omniscient.

            As for intellectual dishonesty … well … yes, I think that it is intellectually bankrupt to spend so much time on such a petty, pedantic, pathetic point that even you admit has no relevance whatsoever. What’s even more pathetic is the amount of effort that you have spent here browbeating me over this trivial matter. Oh well … if it gets you off, then you’re welcome, but at least you could have had the courtesy to say thank you.

            That’s OK. My compensation is that, with each comment, you have reconfirmed just how petty anti-nukes can be and just how low they can go. Thanks. What would I do without you, EL?

          • EL says:

            Brian Mays wrote: “As for what Ms. Cravens actually believed she meant … well … you’ll just have to ask her, because there is no way for me to know. Unlike you, I don’t claim to be omniscient.”

            Are you speaking a different language besides English? Why do you think we have to ask her about this. She asserted it, and made it crystal clear when the error was pointed out to her:

            “In regard to Mr. Lyman’s second attempt, I stand by what I said in the film. This information was fact-checked by one Nobel-prizewinning particle physicist, a health physicist, and by four radiation-protection experts. Apart from my own wish only to say what I knew to be the case, Robert Stone wanted to make sure everything in the film was accurate.”

            The only reason why we are going back and for on this is because you refuse to accept the obvious. Cravens got it wrong! If you want to accuse other people of not having the facts incorrect (I respectfully suggest you look in the mirror, and start with yourself). It will save the rest of us a heck of a lot of wasted time and effort.

          • EL says:

            “not having the facts incorrect”

            minus the double negative please …

          • Brian Mays says:

            Let it be known far and wide that EL will not permit any dead horse go unflogged.

            EL – I bow in awe at your unwavering dedication to the trivial and the irrelevant.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @EL

          In terms of “bananas” as a standard unit of equivalent dose and adding to the quality of discussion, I thank you for helping make my point crystal clear.

          On this point we agree; introducing bananas or “banana equivalent doses” does not enlighten the conversation about radiation health effects. It turns into a distraction and one more source of potential human calculation errors in what is already a confusing array of measuring units to describe a complex relationship between the invisible energy emitted naturally from certain isotopes and the health of living tissue hit by that energy.

          If I want to understand more about the potential health impact of isotopes accidentally discharged into the environment, I would ask Dr. Jerry Cuttler or Dr. Ed Calabrese, not Ms. Gwyneth Cravens. However, if I want to learn more about how to communicate, care about my fellow humans, or put together an interesting, readable story, Gwyneth is my go-to person.

        • jmdesp says:

          @EL : The “slight” problem is that Cesium is a chemical analog to potassium and therefore just as homeostatic in the body as Potassium is, see http://www.srel.edu/outreach/factsheet/radionuclide.html ” Cesium mimics potassium in the environment, thus cesium tends to be taken up by plants and animals as if it were potassium” “Radionuclides that behave like stable elements are called chemical analogues”.

          The homeostasis doesn’t mean the Potassium level in your body will never vary, it means that if you constantly ingest the same amount of Potassium you will have a constant amount in your blood. And also the liver will regulate very large amount of ingested potassium, but you still can make yourself dangerously sick (Hyperkalemia) with a very large intake.

          As the Cesium yous absorb won’t stay in your body any longer that the Potassium, so long as the “contaminated” food actually doesn’t actually contain significantly more radioactive Cesium than radioactive Potassium (especially when taking into account that the radiation of Potassium is more energetic than the one of Cesium), it doesn’t change the equilibrium.

          You might just be in error, but the homeostatic claim obviously initially comes from someone who had learned enough about chemistry and body absorption to be deliberately deceiving when pretending the homeostasis meant you can’t compare potassium and cesium contamination.
          Honestly EL, it’s a bit annoying to see how you systematically contradict anything told by pro-nuclear, but on the other hand blindly trust the position held by anti without checking.

          The only way a radionuclides could be more dangerous than Potassium would be by having a longer biological half-life, therefore staying in the body a longer time before being eliminated. Only Strontium-90 is a significant hazard in this regard, it’s not the case with tritium which has a biological half-life of 30 days. So as far as biological mechanisms are concerned, the banana-dose of Potassium/Cesium is actually more dangerous than the equivalent in Tritum since it will stay longer in your body.

          To be totally clear : If you ingest a really large amount of Cesium, there can be a difference, since the saturation point where it’s immediately rejected will be reached at a higher radiation dose than with Potassium. But for the small amount that’s present in food where the basic regulatory measures have been taken, there’s simply no difference.

          A side effect is that if you are worried with absorbing Cesium (if your only available source food has a contamination level at several hundred thousand Becquerel), you can saturate you body with Potassium, and the added Cesium will go out immediately in your body fluids. This is a lot safer than pectins that have much undesirable side-effects since they filter many more minerals and vitamins than just cesium, and their long term use could generate deficiencies.

          • EL says:

            You might just be in error, but the homeostatic claim obviously initially comes from someone who had learned enough about chemistry and body absorption to be deliberately deceiving when pretending the homeostasis meant you can’t compare potassium and cesium contamination.

            Honestly EL, it’s a bit annoying to see how you systematically contradict anything told by pro-nuclear, but on the other hand blindly trust the position held by anti without checking.

            Ugh … I’m not. Biological half life of potassium is around 16 days (range of 10 to 28 days). Cesium 137 is 70 (range of one to four months). I don’t blindly trust these things. I check them. And you should too before you accuse someone else of error, blind adherence, dishonesty, systemic contradictions, etc.

          • Brian Mays says:

            EL – And what is the biological half-life of tritium?

          • EL says:

            EL – And what is the biological half-life of tritium?

            Didn’t you read jmdesp comment? You will find the answer there.

            My comment is a rebuttal to an error jmdesp made about cesium (and falsely attributing this to me): “Cesium yous absorb won’t stay in your body any longer that the Potassium” [sic.].

            He is incorrect about this. Is there a different set of facts you would like to introduce on this topic?

          • Rod Adams says:

            @EL

            You were correct in noting that jmdesp’s comment included an answer to the question of biological half-life of tritium.

            However, you were wrong to accept his answer of 30 days as correct.

            The only honest answer to the question is “it depends” since tritium is normally ingested in the form of tritiated water – HTO – and every human should understand from personal observation that the length of time that water stays in our bodies varies greatly depending on numerous factors like intake, exertion, and external temperatures.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20870665

            A pretty good answer is that HTO has a biological half life ranging from 1 – 18 days with an average of somewhere close to 8 days.

          • Brian Mays says:

            EL – Rod got it right (and beat me in responding to your comment, thanks Rod).

            The general rule-of-thumb is that tritium has a biological half-life of only 10 days, which might vary depending on how much water the body is processing.

          • EL says:

            The only honest answer to the question is “it depends” …

            Well stated. I actually did look it up (in case you were wondering).

            http://www.safetyoffice.uwaterloo.ca/hse/radiation/rad_laboratory/data_sheets/tritium.htm

            And yes, several sources make a distinction between effective and biological half-life, and tritiated water and organically bound tritium (specifically for Vermont Yankee here).

            Thank you for the additional clarification (and use of pertinent references too).

    • Joris van Dorp says:

      EL, the point is that UCS is deliberately magnifying this so-called ‘error’ by Cravens in order to disparage the value of the film. It is exactly the same tactic used by global warming denialists. For example, there is one guy who keeps harassing me about the fact that I once wrote that “all the worlds national academies of science support the broad conclusions of the IPCC”, which I substantiated at the time by linking to the following PDF.

      http://www.nationalacademies.org/includes/G8+5energy-climate09.pdf

      But this guy faulted me for saying “all national academies” because – clearly – the PDF statement on climate change is ‘only’ supported by the G8 + 5 nationala academies! So – clearly – I was LYING! I was spreading FALSE INFORMATION!

      When I asked him whether it really mattered whether it was ‘all academies’ or ‘only’ the G8 + 5 academies, he simply said that this didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that I was factually incorrect when I said that “All national academies” support the broad conclusions of the IPCC”. Like ‘all alarmists’ I was simply spreading misinformation about climate science!

      UCS is attacking Pandora’s Promise in a similar way. The UCS purpose is not to increase understanding about nuclear power, but rather to (try to) hinder it!

      • EL says:

        Joris van Dorp wrote: “EL, the point is that UCS is deliberately magnifying this so-called ‘error’ by Cravens in order to disparage the value of the film. It is exactly the same tactic used by global warming denialists … UCS is attacking Pandora’s Promise in a similar way. The UCS purpose is not to increase understanding about nuclear power, but rather to (try to) hinder it!”

        It seems we have a different view of sustained, rational, and critical debate about nuclear power (or any energy resources for that matter). I think it’s very useful to have a very robust public discussion from a variety of vantage points on the costs and benefits of energy alternatives, infrastructure development, social, economic, health, and global geopolitical alternatives, and more. I think this adds to the viability of such options, brings greater attention of choices to the public and expands constituencies for different options, and puts pressure on decision makers to look past pragmatic short term decision and give greater attention to strategic long term options.

        UCS appears to me to be doing a fine job in this respect. They do not engage in crass fear mongering (in the way it has been described to the site, or is reflected in the likes of Helen Caldicott or Greenpeace). And I would hazard to guess they are probably doing more to establish the long term viability of nuclear, maintain high standards for public safety and reliability (industry that has not always had a terrific track record), and generate sustained public interest dialogue and attention (useful to future development goals) than you seem willing to give them credit.

        If you can’t stand the heat, perhaps it’s time to move to another room (where the temperature isn’t so high and you will have an easier go of it). Every energy resource has it’s detractors (natural gas, fossil fuels, geothermal, wind, solar, etc.). There’s nothing special or unique about nuclear in this respect. They all have regulators too (and developers complain about them incessantly). This is nothing new. Dismissing your detractors as ignorant, irrational, uneducated, emotional, fraudulent, deceitful, and phony (when UCS appears to be nothing of the sort) seems a long ways off from getting the job done for me. In fact, I see it as accomplishing the opposite goal of taking yourself out of the debate and retreating to a safer space where everyone agrees (and self-reinforcing dogma is the topic of the day).

        • Joris van Dorp says:

          I’ve read many (but not all) UCS reports and essays on nuclear power and on the functioning of the NRC. UCS is always extremely critical of nuclear energy and of the functioning of the NRC, far exceeding what can be called ‘robust’. At least one of the people I have a running debate with concerning nuclear power is using UCS reports to ‘prove’ that the NRC is incompetent and lax on ensuring the safety of US nuclear power. This person actually called the NRC nothing more that a front for the nuclear industry in the same post in which he linked to a UCS report.

          It took a lot of reading on my part to find out that the NRC is anything but lax and incompetent. To the contrary. NRC takes safety so seriously that it is difficult to even keep nuclear facilities running like they should!

          UCS seems to be little more than a useful tool for anti-nuke die-hards. There is nothing on the UCS website that adds anything useful on nuclear safety which is not already available via the NRC website and other *truly* ‘robust’ nuclear information sources. UCS is – IMHO – simply trying to cause fear and doubt about nuclear energy and not adding anything to true understanding of this technology. They are practicing a flavour of crypto-science: researching non-existing or exaggerated issues in nuclear energy in order to *suggest* the existence of these issues to the general public, presumably in order to support die-hard anti-nukes to maintain their mistaken mindsets. “See, the UCS also says “

          • EL says:

            It took a lot of reading on my part to find out that the NRC is anything but lax and incompetent. To the contrary. NRC takes safety so seriously that it is difficult to even keep nuclear facilities running like they should!

            Japan is requiring filtered vent upgrades on their BWRs. NRC staff recommended the same. Many European countries too. NRC broke down and required only hardened vent upgrades (in the midst of extensive lobbying by the industry of the same).

            Exactly how does this represent the toughest of rule making and industry best practices for BWRs in the US (when most locations elsewhere mandate filtered vents on their BWRs). I don’t see it, and UCS is correct in reminding the general public of these lax procedures and inadequate oversight of industry best practices.

  13. Sean McKinnon says:

    One moment stands out in my mind recently regarding UCS. David Lochbaum wrote a “fission stories” blog on feb 19 2013 titled “Fission Stories #130: Fukushimas dividends or mea culpas” in which he reported on 3 instances of flood seals that were found to be missing or incorrectly installed. Using these 3 instances he went on to speculate that they had been ignored for decades and that this was evidence of a systematic break down in safety.

    I posted a comment asking how many flood related deficiencies were found and corrected in the 70’s 80’s 90’s and 2000’s as the information he presented lacked any context. I never got a response.

    Without knowing how many flood seals are installed at the average plant and how many improper flood seals have been found and corrected the fact that three were reported as missing or incorrectly installed is meaningless.

    I find all to often that Mr. Lochbaum in particular likes to present information without any context and then speculate on it’s meaning. When called out on it he has refused to answer questions asking for more detail. I have a big problem with an organization that purports to be a group of “scientists” and then use unscientific methods to further an agenda.

    The claim to be anto nuclear weapons which is great but what I don’t get is why then try to kill the one thing that has turned 16,000 war heads into safe clean energy?

  14. Jerry Cuttler says:

    I’m entering this discussion rather late. All these comments assume adverse health effects from low radiation; however, the real health effects are beneficial. Antinuclear folks use the invalid LNT theory to associate nuclear energy (and nuclear medicine) with a risk of cancer. Millions of fruit flies can’t be wrong. Smart fruit flies choose the low dose. They know that that LNT is wrong; hormesis is the correct dose-response model.

    My new “Commentary on Fukushima and Beneficial Effects of Low Radiation” available at: http://db.tt/ymHc0nZz explains in plain language that the emergency evacuation was not appropriate—a reaction to social fear of radiation. Restoring nuclear energy to prominence in our risk-adverse society will require informing everyone that low radiation up-regulates our protection systems—a beneficial effect. My June 12 presentation at the annual meeting of the Canadian Nuclear Society is available at: http://db.tt/iRg7XJM0 It’s quite controversial, but so is Pandora’s Promise.

    • John ONeill says:

      I read a biography of Dr Edward Teller recently, which recounts how he met President Kennedy, and started to hit him with the hormesis theory ( Teller was trying to keep atmospheric nuclear tests on the table ). Kennedy pulled him up short – ‘ Dr Teller, don’t bother trying to tell me that radiation is good for me! ‘. As Rod’s recent podcast on outrage put it, people get a lot more irate about something that other people choose to inflict on them than they do about things like tobacco or alcohol, that they inflict on themselves, or ‘natural’ background hazards, even when the latter are demonstrably far more serious. A city council in New Zealand has just decided to stop fluoridating water, even though doctors, dentists and public health authorities were loudly in favour, and even though a public referendum was 60% pro fluoride. The council members probably let the bastards grind them down. ( ‘ Illegitimi non carborundum ‘).
      Even if hormesis is true, I think it’s better to show that radiation releases are below any probable effective level than to try and convince people to take their medicine smiling. A well run plant should be far below the level where hormesis could be detected anyway; if people really want to try it they can go on holiday to Guarapari, or buy some radium elixir.

  15. Rod Adams says:

    I have added a correction to my original post. I made a dumb error that dropped a key prefix, which made my final result wrong by a factor of 1000.

    I apologize for the error.

  16. John Tucker says:

    You all should post these arguments at the UCS site.

    Oh wait the “Union of Concerned Scientists” makes no provision for logical and reasoned discussion in deciding its policy ? It doesn’t even consult a range of experts in a field before publishing a opinion? It provides no mechanism to address criticism?

    How utterly embarrassing.

  17. John Tucker says:

    On the Road to Clean Energy in Germany: Lessons for the United States – Part 1 ( http://blog.ucsusa.org/on-the-road-to-clean-energy-in-germany-lessons-for-the-united-states-part-1 )

    While the UCS sings the praises of Germany like most of the rest of the green press reality
    stands in stark contrast:

    “In 2012, the Member State with the highest level of CO2 emissions in absolute terms was Germany (728 million tons), followed by the United Kingdom (472 mn tons), Italy (366 mn tons), France (332 mn tons),

    Eurostat estimates that from 2011 to 2012 CO2 emissions decreased in nearly all Member States, except Malta (+6.3%), the United Kingdom (+3.9%), Lithuania (+1.7%) and
    Germany (+0.9%).” ( http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/8-29052013-AP/EN/8-29052013-AP-EN.PDF )

    Since when is being a region’s worst polluter AND increasing CO2 output a direction the US should follow? The high subsides to renewables and highly variable power gluts are also leading to huge problems in generation sectors ( http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/12/verbund-writedowns-idUSL5N0EO36120130612 )

    • John Tucker says:

      Ok this too while im at it. Its kinda funny unless you are German I guess:

      Germany subsidises cheap electricity for its neighbours

      “International Energy Agency data for 2012 put household electricity in Germany at $352 a megawatt hour, Dutch electricity at $238, Switzerland at $222 and France at $187.

      The equivalent French price has dropped around 27 percent, while Dutch prices are down less than 20 percent, according to Reuters data (see chart).

      German retail power customers have already seen their bills rise by over 12 percent since the beginning of the year, with the share of renewable subsidies and other state charges in their total bill now at 50 percent.” ( http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/15/germany-power-exports-idUSL5N0D22L720130415 )

  18. Robert Steinhaus says:

    New Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernie Moniz, selects the former President of the Union of Concerned Scientists and (ultra) environmentalist, Kevin Knobloch, to be his chief of staff.
    If people are wondering what the next four years may hold for nuclear energy in the United States, this appointment could give some indication.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/in-the-loop/post/moniz-taps-veteran-environmentalist-as-chief-of-staff/2013/06/19/106e0cde-d906-11e2-a016-92547bf094cc_blog.html

  19. Bill Rodgers says:

    Well that pretty much shows where Moniz stands on nuclear power. The reach of UCS continues. First Jaczko who had connections to the UCS reaches the leadership position of the NRC. Now a direct UCS employee is appointed to a high-ranking DOE position.

    There goes any expectation of loan guarantees for Voglte. Good thing Georgia Power and Southern were already planning to continue on without the gaurantees.

    The next question is if funding programs for SMR’s will take a hit.

    But hey we will see more wind and solar which will drive our electricity rates right through the roof just like Germany’s. Which means we can pat ourselves on the back about how much we are saving the world’s environment as we all head for the poor house.

    • Bas says:

      … Which means we can pat ourselves on the back about how much we are saving the world’s environment as we all head for the poor house.

      Nice comment Bill! But note that the German economy does better than any other economy within the EU.

      German economists think that their transition to renewable is an important factor to their growing wealth (compared to the other EU countries).
      Some reasons they state: generates a lot of work (putting PV-panels on roofs, adapting grids, etc), reduces the outflow of money to buy fuel, etc.

      German government (as well as other EU countries) is also against the 47% import tax that the EU started for Chinese PV-panels, making the EU richer.

      It seems that the EU (Brussels) gradually becomes a less democratic version of your government in Washington. Being mainly directed by the interest of big companies and not by those of the citizens.

      • Bas says:

        Bill,
        In addition. I think the these German economists are not quite right.

        The Germans spend ~$200million to study different transition scenario’s.
        The ones they follow predicted that the transition would generate about the same costs as continue with the old technologies (nuclear, coal, oil, gas).

        There are some aberrations from their predictions:
        – costs of coal, oil, gas did not rise;
        – costs of wind and especially solar went down much faster;
        – costs of nuclear went up.

        All in all I estimate that their scenario predicition regarding costs is stil more or less right (transition cost about the same as continue with the old technologies)

      • Bill Rodgers says:

        @Bas,

        We have been done this road before. Yes the German economy is running ahead of others in Europe but that delta would be much larger it weren’t for ther energy policy.

        Here is a Der Speigel article about how other countries in the EU have filed a compliant against Germany for hidden subsidies to their energy intensive companies.

        http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/european-commission-set-to-fight-german-energy-subsidies-a-902269.html

        There are many quotes that can be pulled out of the article to make my point about high cost of electricity in Germany but here is one example:

        The Energiewende has stalled, as it becomes clear that ambitious schedules for the construction of energy storage systems and offshore wind farms cannot be met. At the same time, the costs of green electricity are skyrocketing

        This statement is not a surprise to those of us who have actually spent time analyzing the true costs of operating a power grid and also have experience in project engineering and project management.

        Germany, a much smaller but equally industriallized nation when compared to the US, has to subsidize the wind and solar generation in addition to subsidizing the energy intensive users and is now pushing legislation to subsidize fossil fuel plants to maintain grid security to try and keep Energiewende policy alive. That is a recipe for bankruptcy or extremely poor citizens who will be taxed at higher rates and who are already paying some of the highest consumer power rates in the world.

        Just because the German citizens are paying high power rates right now doesn’t mean they will be able to in the future nor does it mean they should.

        • Bas says:

          @Bill
          If this info is not distorted (*), it is amazing.

          Then it seems these high paid bureaucrats at Brussels lost contact with the population, and only listen to the big companies and their own ambitions to make themselves more important.
          Digging their own grave, as this will greatly feed anti EU parties in many countries.

          This adds to their 47% import tax for Chinese solar panels which raged many consumers (serving big companies and their own purse; Brussels needs more money as it lost so many goodwill that the paying member states reduced its budget).

          Anyway, the article did not mention that after ~8 months these sanctions have to be approved by the member states.
          So, this probably is only a move in the political battle about who controls how much of the European grid, etc.

          … subsidize the wind … in addition to subsidizing the energy intensive users …
          That is not correct. Energy intensive users are excempted from the EEG tax that citizens pay, in order to create a more level playing field with their international competitiors. I do not call that subsidy.

          (*) Note; I often saw articles in the english version of Der Spiegel and at Bloomberg regarding the Energiewende that were total crap.
          E.g:
          – predicting black-outs: Never occured);
          – Transition would stop in 2012 due financial and grid problems: In 2012 the transition went faster then any year before, also much faster than the scenario scheduled so now they are speeding up the adaptation of the grid and have lowered the feed-in rates (~8 – 17cent/KWh now). As the rate of last year is not sustainable…

  20. Kyra Richter says:

    Even less dose if you consider that a normal human being’s average intake of water is not 8 liters, but 3.
    I drink a LOT of water a day, and I don’t even get close to 8 liters. That’s more than 2 gallons.

    Having said that, fear mongering about radiation in the face of all the actual crap that is out there poisoning us slowly every day, is silly. But, as my husband so eloquently put it, it is easier to vilify nuclear power because most people can disconnect and remove any accountability on their part from it. It is not the same when it comes to plastics, or oil or foods where we would inevitably have to assume some responsibility.