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14 Comments

  1. It’s about time to start going on the offensive with this. Between coal and gas we can certainly show that nuclear energy is the least source of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) of the three.

    I know there has been some reticence to go this path, as it seems to lend credence to the fears that low-level exposure is dangerous, but we have reached the point where that factor is already out of control. More importantly, nuclear power plants, can reduce discharges of radioisotopes to any arbitrary level, since it has been held to this standard for so long, whereas coal and gas would need to spend huge amounts on money to get their NORM discharges under control.

    If their lawyers are going to come out with the defense that there is no danger, we can leverage that in our own case, or at the very least we can push back hard on the issue, and keep it in the public eye. Ether way we have more to gain than lose ratcheting things up in this debate and taking the fight to them.

    1. DV82XL – Agreed. I guess the difference between me and many others in the “nuclear” industry is that I have no ties or divisions that want to protect coal or gas investments.

      As I tried to carefully state in the post – I am not trying to spread fear, but if you are afraid of radioactive material and do not understand where the real danger levels are, then you need to understand the levels associated with coal, oil and gas.

      There are other more dangerous by-products of those energy sources as well, but they are certainly not isolated from low-level radiation worries.

  2. Again Rod misses the big picture. We are building new nukes because all sectors of the energy industry are subject to silly lawsuits. The old fashioned way of getting rich in America is suing someone. Sure it used to be hard work.

    Environmental activist like circular firing squads, they shoot at nukes but end up hitting something else. Class law is very well settled for the nuclear industry so not it has lower risk to interruption by the courts. To win in court, the nuclear industry must do a good job. That takes hard work.

    Part of operating a nuke is educating the public around the power plant so they know it is a good neighbor.

    Rod thinks running around and pointing a finger at others who are not perfect either. However, the case against ExxonMobil may not be silly.

    1. @Kit P –

      What are you trying to say – that it is unseemly in a competitive industry to point out the flaws in your competition?

      Nuclear is not perfect, but there are rational ways to measure and compare its characteristics with those of other energy supply choices.

      I strongly disagree with your statement that “We are building new nukes because all sectors of the energy industry are subject to silly lawsuits.” The reality is that we are building new nuclear power plants because they are superior to other sources of power in measurable ways.

      They use 20 tons of fuel to run for 18 months (and that is with a highly inefficient fuel cycle that takes the rods out when they still contain 95% of their potential energy.)
      They use fuel that costs – with that same inefficient use of initial raw material – just 50 cents per million BTU (about 0.47 cents per kilowatt-hour)
      They do not produce any gaseous emission products at all.
      They do not pile up huge quantities of ash or require the use of slurry ponds.
      They do not need to be located near existing sources of coal, oil or gas or near infrastructures that can handle the routine delivery of tens of thousands of tons of material every single day.

      I am sure that others can add to that list of natural advantages of nuclear fission over all other competitors that supply reliable power.

      I think the real reason that there is a growing momentum for a second Atomic Age is that you can fool some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never fool all of the people all of the time. Our time of being fooled is over.

  3. Rod, Among my father’s other accomplishments was his pioneering research on radon in natural gas. I have called attention to this research in a number of posts on Nuclear Green. Among my father’s more interesting contentions was that if you assume the linear no-threshold hypothesis, then you must conclude that household natural gas use causes 10,000 radiation related deaths a year in the United States.

  4. According to the physics department at Idaho State University, household natural gas exposes people to 9 millirem a year. That’s about 900 times greater exposure than the estimated exposure you would get living next to a nuclear plant–an exposure so tiny it’s difficult to measure.

    But the anti-nuclear power crowd has embraced natural gas. I wonder if the Sierra Club and other gas-lovers know how dirty, how polluting the extraction process actually is.

  5. The nuclear power industry should go on offense concerning low level ionizing radiation. Let

  6. I don’t see the need to be particularly careful. The public needs frank discussion of the dangers of radioactivity.

    The public has accepted a dramatic increase in exposure to ionizing radiation from medical imaging, to the point where this exposure now exceeds the total average background, because they were told by people they trust that the benefits were greater than the risks. The voices warning women to risk death from breast cancer rather than submit to mammography, for instance, were marginalized. When it came to nuclear power, because the dangers of fossil fuel use have not been generally appreciated and even now have yet to dawn on enough people to allow Congressional action, voices that should have been marginalized were instead magnified.

    We will need nuclear power to allow civilization to have a chance to cope with the disaster that fossil fuel use has proven to be, and it is far past time to have it out with “leaders” who refuse to face facts. The confusion and fear about radiation will have to be thrashed out.

    So, if we find that the Sierra Club, the largest and most influential environmental organization in the world, is promoting “fracking” uranium ore deposits to enable industry to extract even more planet killing fossil fuels, I think we can point out that the levels of radiation they are blithely dumping into public waterways and the homes of gas users dwarf what the public is exposed to as a result of the entire activities of the nuclear power industry and ask them to explain themselves.

    The industry the Sierra Club is in bed with has defined the deposit as a natural gas deposit which all pretend gives the industry a free pass on radiation, because at senior levels they actually understand that the order of magnitude less radiation issue they’ve been flogging nuclear with all this time is bogus. This free pass exempts “fracked” gas from the preposterous radiation regulations the Sierra Club and many others have insisted on over the years in their effort to drive nuclear power out of existence by raising its cost of production.

    We should have no doubt that the senior Sierra Club leadership believes nuclear power must be phased out completely. Their written policy opposes new construction (as of 1974), phased closure of all existing reactors (as of 1979), zero experience in the nuclear industry as a pre-requisite to be on the NRC (1980), piling on regulation on top of regulation on only anything that can be called commercial radioactive materials (1980), no funding of fast reactor research (1986), and no funding of fusion research (1986). Michael Brune is taking over as their new leader. His “Coming Clean” (2008) book is full of the solar wind new grid line. The no nukes policy is so firm in his mind he only mentions nuclear a few times in passing in this book. It isn’t part of any solution he sees. Many in the environment movement believe the same things. Al Gore’s op-ed yesterday in the NYTimes cranks out the identical line.

    The Sierra Club calls climate change “the greatest environmental challenge of today”. Their first adopted written policy on what they then called “the excessive greenhouse effect” was created in 1988. Their nuclear thinking predates their thinking on climate and needs to be reconsidered.

  7. Re: beneficial effects of radiation.

    Why did the BEIR VII authors say, after discussing the three competing theories, i.e.the “linear no threshold”, the “its even worse at low doses than LNT suggests”, and the “low doses of radiation may even be beneficial”, that “the preponderance of information indicates that there will be some risk, even at low doses, although the risk is small”?

    I feel it is not wise, or useful to dispute such an august committee. To do so helps legitimize those who want to cherry pick science any way they feel like. You say radiation is beneficial, therefore we should ignore the NAS BEIR VII. As soon as you do that, you legitimize the other pole in the debate, i.e. radiation is even more harmful than data indicates at low doses.

    It isn’t necessary to argue that radiation is beneficial to argue that radiation coming from the nuclear industry has been blown out of proportion. No matter how harmful low doses of radiation are, if the nuclear industry contributes orders of magnitude less than commonly accepted things a debate can be won using just that information, if opinion makers and leaders realize they’ve made a mistake and change their minds.

    1. “I feel it is not wise, or useful to dispute such an august committee.” Is an Argumentum ad Verecundiam (appeal to authority)

      Appeal to authority is a fallacy of defective induction, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative. It is a fallacy because the truth or falsity of the claim is not necessarily related to the qualities of the claimant(s), and because the premises can be true, and the conclusion false (an authoritative claim can turn out to be false).

  8. Could the same radioacitve material problem apply to the drilling of geothermal wells?

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