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36 Comments

      1. Note- comment removed as being way off topic. Cold fusion or LENR is not a topic of interest on Atomic Insights

  1. Rod,
    You called yourself a proud liberal in a recent post. Ed Markey is one of yours and you can have him. You can also keep governor of Vermont Peter Shumlin while you are at it.

    1. This is likely going to set off a flame war, but, as an ideology, liberalism is supposed to favor reason, rationalism, enlightenment, science, and technological and social progress over superstition, irrationalism, romanticism, and luddism, so I would argue that Markey and Shumlin’s anti-nuclear antics give liberalism a bad name.

      I know this is the no true Scotsman fallacy, but I question the true allegiance to the ideology of liberalism of any “liberal” who is reflexively anti-nuclear. I can see where liberals could be cautious and hesitant around nuclear power, or be opposed due to being misinformed or disinformed about it, but I cannot see where any true liberal, knowing all the facts, would oppose it all together.

  2. Rod – thanks, as always, for the post. It reminds me that on walks I took around the last subdivision I lived in, I would see signs identifying the location of a pipeline. (I’m not sure if it was oil or gas – I think it was gas; IIRC the signs mentioned pressure.) The line ran under a lane and within 10 meters of an elementary school; I’d see kids walking in the lane and entering the school. We accept what the people around us accept; thinking for ourselves isn’t very common at all.

    On LENR – from what I’ve read about Rossi’s demonstrations, James Randi would not be fooled. Rossi doesn’t pretend to be supernatural, but a friend who knows some stage magic agrees that the demonstrations are far more likely to be illusions than new physics.

    One comment from an experimental physicist in the blog post Rossi energy catalyst – a big hoax or new physics? is particularly telling. There’s a long list of measurements that could be made, and the measurements would settle the matter quickly.

  3. Everywhere, not just in the States, the glaring difference between the coverage that coal and gas accidents get in comparison to the slightest nuclear incident is very telling.

    A few years ago several houses, including mine were evacuated for several hours while GazMet looked for a leak, which was found and repaired without incident. Despite the fact that a news reporter for a local radio station was among those affected, nothing made it to any broadcast I saw that night. When I asked the reporter she only said the item that she had suggested on what had happened was bumped by what was deemed more interesting news by her editor. No doubt I assume by the story of the cat-lady that had been evicted by the city which ran that night.

    Had this been a nuclear related story, we all know that the reporting would have been such that it would have made not only local but national, if not international news. This is at the root of nuclear’s PR problems – the media is very biased, and while that is the case we will always be swimming against the current.

  4. This statement in the GAO quote caught my eye:

    on-site contamination could affect plant decommissioning; for example, the licensee may have to conduct costly remediation to meet NRC regulations for unrestricted release of the site.

    This is a classic example of extra costs being imposed on the basis of zero evidence/b> that this contamination is at significant levels likely to cause harm. Tritium is almost completely benign, with exactly zero studies showing evidence of human health concerns, and its presence in slow-moving groundwater is not an adequate rationale for direct remediation. It is worth triggering investigation of cause as part of general alertness to unexpected consequences of plant operation, of course.

    Andrew; liquid and gas transmission pipelines will both operate under pressure; most way-marking signs will tell you which it is. You will not have to walk very far in Alberta to cross such a pipeline.

    1. Also, since tritium has a half-life of just over twelve years, by the time the site might be decomissioned and released for some other use, this non-hazard will have naturally reduced itself to an even lower level of non-hazard.

      What really should happen? The site be released as a “brownfield” to build a new, modern nuclear power plant.

  5. When I read the two AP articles by Donn, I was shocked when A) he used preliminary NRC event reports in his tallying, and B) he referenced himself from the previous day (“The AP has previously reported…”) to try to lend more legitimacy to his arguments.

    Can anyone tell me how those NRC Event Reports work? If a preliminary report is issued, I understand it can be retracted – is there then an additional report issued saying it’s been retracted, or is the original one marked retracted or removed? Could this, then, essentially double the reporter’s tallies?

  6. Tritium leaks are never reported with any sense of what the actual risks to public health are (which is what this should all be about). How do these tritium leaks compare to gasoline leaking from underground tanks at gas stations all across America? Not only are many tanks leaking, but the ethanol added accelerates the transport of the hazardous components through the ground.

    Perhaps it was a mistake giving tritium its own name. We should just call it H3. It could be marketed as the top-of-line hydrogen, equipped with two additional neutrons. Use H3 today. Give your system the extra Boost it needs.

    1. Why isn’t there a concern for leaking Exit signs? There are millions of Exit signs with tritium all over the place, yet no one seems to be concerned these are filled with tritium. I bet most people don’t even know these signs are filled with tritium.

  7. Mr Adams, you seem to be falling into the trap of “if you think my industry is unsafe, wait till you check out the other guys” mentality.

    Although I haven’t had a “long” career by most standards, my career in engineering has taken me from nuclear plants, gas fired plants, coal fired plants, pipeline operators, petrochemical plants, refineries, and OEM’s. One thing I learned along the way is that they all, nearly without exception, work pretty hard at safety. Some of this is purely profit driven (safe operations mean less downtime), some regulatory driven but judging from my interactions with the old timers there has been a definite culture change in industry over the past 40 years.

    With respect to pipeline incidents, there are 2.3 million miles of buried transmission and distribution pipelines in the US. They carry everything from oil and natural gas (primarily) to anhydrous ammonia, gasoline and petrochemcial feedstock. From 1984 to the present there have been 43 fatalities associate with pipeline accidents. That translates into 2.15 fatalities per year. As much as any fatality is, on an individual level, a tragedy for those involved you are playing into the hands of the deep ecology folks when you use this to compare the safety of nuclear power.

    It’s a similar story with the hydraulic fracturing debate. There has yet to be one single groundwater contamination case positively shown to be the result of HF operations (with the rare exception of methane contamination from leaking well head casings).

    You should know better. The goal of the Arnie Gundersons, Ed Markeys, National Resource Defense Councils and Greenpeaces of the world is not to make industry operate more safely but to make industry stop operating. These people share cultural values: anti-capitalism, anti-growth, anti-consumerism and they would just as soon see every nuclear plant shuttered as they would see every steel mill or every combined cycle natural gas plant closed down. Add into the mix a pop culture machine that very much shares these values (Gasland, The China Syndrome, Erin Brockovich, Musicians United for Safe Energy, etcetera) and has a very wide and impressionable audience. Top it all off with a news media whose technical expertise doesn’t exceed programming a DVR and who is ideologically sympathetic to these groups and we have a recipe for misinformation and disinformation on a massive scale.

    Either industry hangs together in face of these attacks or we will all hang separately.

    1. “That translates into 2.15 fatalities per year. As much as any fatality is, on an individual level, a tragedy for those involved you are playing into the hands of the deep ecology folks when you use this to compare the safety of nuclear power.”

      I don’t see how it plays into their hands. It still verifies, via numbers, that nuclear is safer. By my ciphering, the following is true:

      2.5 fatalities/year > 0 fatalities/year

  8. @ Mike H
    If the fossil fuel industry doesn’t want interference from “Arnie Gundersons, Ed Markeys, National Resource Defense Councils and Greenpeaces” They they ought to stop paying them.

    1. Quote from the above link…

      “Tritium emits low-energy beta radiation that cannot penetrate a sheet of paper or clothing. If inhaled, it leaves the body relatively quickly.”

      So this massive threat to all humanity is foiled by Cotton and Paper….

  9. @D.P.

    First of all, your comment inspired me to check my units and math one more time. It turns out that I was off by a significant amount – the total amount of tritium released by the Vermont Yankee leak was 0.35 curies, but a curie of tritium has a mass of 0.1 milligrams, not 0.1 grams. Therefore, the amount of tritium should have been 0.035 milligrams, not 0.035 grams. I am going to correct the post as soon as I finish this comment.

    According to Meredith Angwin at Yes Vermont Yankee, a tritium exit sign will typically contain about 30 curies of tritium.

    100,000 gallons (roughly 370,000 liters) at slightly less than one million picocuries per liter contains approximately 0.35 curies. (370,000 x 970,000 picocuries x 1 curie/10^12 picocuries = 0.35 curies)

    If you want to extract tritium from that source of water to produce exit signs, you would need to have 30/.35 or 86 times as much water. Let me say that one more time – you would need 8.6 MILLION gallons of water containing nearly 50 times the drinking water standard in order to produce enough tritium for a single exit sign.

    See why I truly believe that the reports about tritium leaks need some perspective?

    1. I wonder how that compares to the amount of activity that’s flushed out of hospitals from patients undergoing radiotherapy treatments?

    2. And how many of those signs end up in the dump when they break, quit working the building is remodeled or tore down? With only about 100 nuclear power plants it would be a safe bet that more than that number of signs get thrown away a year even though there are warnings on these signs to dispose of properly. Why the big concern about the NPP but none about the dump? How close do you live to a land fill? Is your municipal water source near the land fill? Does the runoff enter the nearby lake/river? I think your chances are much higher of getting tritium from your land fill than from a nuclear power plant.
      Which reminds me where do you readers dispose of the burnt out CFL? For that matter any florescent light bulb? And where do you dispose of the broken fire detector?

    3. Why don’t we change the units and get them really riled up about that exit sign they just walked under leaving Wal-Mart? Just state it in Becquerels, sounds like instant death:

      “How much tritium does a tritium exit sign contain?
      The quantity of tritium contained in each tritium exit sign varies with the size of the sign. The tritium exit sign used in Hong Kong may contain tritium with total activity ranging from 0.3 to 0.8 TBq (300 to 800 billion Becquerel (貝克勒爾)).”

    4. I think you found a post worthy topic with that comment, Rod. It would be nice to have a graphical representation of that comparison. People need to understand this is a trivial quantity of a substance they most likely walk under everyday.

  10. Thanks for the extra info.

    I would not be surprised to find out that this salvo of 4 articles was part of an antinuclear PR push originally aimed at the 25th Chernobyl anniversary. Certainly, I had been waiting for Greenpeace’s 25th anniversary efforts==However, the focus of that effort has been somewhat blunted and confused by the reality of Fukushima, where it appears 3 nuclear reactors melted down, negligble plutonium was released, and no one died.

    I will be very happy to quote you on the exit sign / tritium calculation to my politically oriented friends in VT.

  11. I’m put in mind of the term used by natural gas suppliers: “NORM” – “Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material.” Mainly radon, I gather, which decays down through bismuth and lead isotopes, among others. It’s not even federally regulated.

    I wonder how that routine lifetime exposure compares to a tiny speck worth of tritium? I wonder how much radioactive material is dumped into the air by gas flaring?

    http://www.irpa.net/irpa5/cdrom/VOL.3/J3_78.PDF – says that as much as 1,450 pCi/l at the wellhead has been measured.

    1. I found an article about Nigerian gas flaring at oil wells where they said a beginning industrial delivery volume was 175 million cubic feet per day that they are currently flaring off. The article above reckons a little less than 1 pCi/l of radon-222 for gas at the wellhead for North Sea wells, so that Nigerian volume is 4,955,448,174.6 liters, and thus 1.8 curies of radon per year dumped into the air for just a portion of Nigerian oil well flares.

      1. Radon dissolved in petroleum follows the “C3 (propane) cut” in terms of its volatility, so most of the polonium contamination (caused by radon decay during refining) is limited to the LPG fractionation piping. The rest remains dissolved in the LPG (until it decays). This is also why little radon is present in the methane flared at the well.

    2. Used oilfield equipment is often found to be significantly radioactive, due to encrusted radium containing sludge. It can’t be reused or recycled, and must be buried as low-level waste.

  12. “If you really want to have something to worry about, think about the fact that the oil and gas industry has millions of miles of large diameter pipelines…”

    This reminds me of the never-ending political/media uproar over fault lines near Indian Point (engineered to withstand ten times the biggest postulated quake), when no one ever mentions the potential impact of sudden failure of two 300 foot tall, 100-year old stone dams nearby (at Valhalla and Croton River), with tens of thousands of people immediately downstream,

    Which was more dangerous, Fukushima Daiichi or Banqiao Dam?

    1. On September 29, 1950 in a town on the Gota River in Sweden, a pile driver began operation for a foundation. Without warning a whole section of the town started sliding toward the river carrying 31 homes, the highway and railroad. This area consists of what they call “quick-clay.” Major portions of the New Jersey flat land areas consist of this same type of material. All it takes is the right strength earthquake and these areas will turn into a quick-sand like material and many thousands of homes, businesses, etc will disappear. It is possible this also happened at one of the communities at the mouth of the river in Japan that is now 10 to 20 feet lower in elevation. I have been told that you could not climb the steps fast enough to avoid harm if you were in an area where this happened.
      If you are worried about Indian Point, Oyster Creek, etc. I would move to the mountains.

    2. Probably the dam. One thing that got very little coverage in the media was the renewable energy disaster that occurred in Japan after the March earthquake. The Okura dam in Sendai collapsed and washed away an entire village of 1800 people. That is a death toll likely over a thousand for renewable energy, zero deaths for nuclear. Even anti-nooks can do the math on that (although they’ll probably interpret the results incorrectly).

    1. IIRC that had 26,000 immediate fatalities, the rest resulted from disease/famine that followed the disaster. Still, 26,000 in itself is 26,000 more than Fukushima has tallied to this point.

      Renewable/hydro disasters are terrible for another reason: the public bears all of the risk associated with this energy source. As much as the anti-nooks like to diss the nuclear industry about things like insurance, at least we provide some measure of risk management to the public. Hydro/renewable provide none. Dam failures always result in all the risk being borne by the people. It has happened in this country as well. 450 fatalities and hundreds of millions of losses from the St. Francis dam failure. The Teton Dam collapse in Iadho was another. 2,220 killed by the Lake Conemaugh dam collapse, that caused the infamous Johnstown flood. Renewable energy has killed thousands in this country and caused probably tens of billions in property damage in today’s dollars, yet no one ever hears about these things. They go on and on about Chernobil and Fukushima and TMI, but say nary a word about these far worse diasters caused by renewable energy. Based on that aslone, renewable energy has to be classified as far more dsangerous than nuclear has proven to be.

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