Is Chernobyl still dangerous or was 60 Minutes pushing propaganda?
On November 23, 2014, 60 minutes, the venerable CBS News Sunday evening program that has been on the air since its launch in 1968, aired a segment titled Chernobyl: The Catastrophe That Never Ended. The show is full of fascinating contrasts between what the cameras show to the audience and what the narrator tells the audience that they should believe.
Watched with the sound off, viewers see a landscape that has been largely abandoned by humans and taken over by lush greenery. There are a few people living and working in the area who seem quite content. They gesture to interesting icons, statues, empty buildings, and the relics of an old amusement park. There are camera wielding tourists casually walking around and putting themselves in a variety of position seeking an unusual photo or camera angle.
There is a large construction project with swarms of workers wearing the high visibility vests that are typical for a busy work site with numerous moving vehicles. That busy site is quite close to the site of the reactor that was severely damaged 28 years ago in what is perhaps one of the most widely discussed explosions and fires in recorded history.
There are photos of solidified material taken by remote cameras from inside the reactor building. The material looks like it will remain in place for a very long time.
The narrator appears to be well past the standard retirement age of 65.
In fact, the segment narrator, Bob Simon is a television journalist with a long and distinguished history that includes a substantial body of reporting work from Vietnam in the early 1970s. He was born in May 1941. At 73, he is about 5 years older than the first baby boomers. Simon is a member of the “duck and cover” generation who was at a very impressionable age of just 4 when bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
If you turn the sound on and watch the segment again, you will hear the narrator telling viewers that radiation “virtually never dies”, that the Chernobyl “crisis” is still with us, that the damaged plant is a danger to the world, that he disbelieves anything that the government or nuclear trained scientists and engineers have told us about the current situation and that he trembles when his dosimeter makes an audible sound designed to let a wearer know that he should take a look at it and understand his current exposure.
He cannot understand why his construction project tour guide — a man who has worked every day at the site for years — seems unconcerned. He is surprised to find a musician who has chosen to live near the reactor instead of someplace more distant. He seems shocked when that musician uses the word “sacred” to describe his surroundings.
He talks to an old couple who returned to their evacuated village more than 25 years ago. That couple tells him that they were constantly sick in the apartment where the government placed them during the evacuation but have been healthy ever since they moved back into their home. Simon asks if no one ever told them that their home was a dangerous place to live; the man tells Simon that he would have died long ago if he had remained in the city.
Finally Simon finds someone else who will reinforce his fears and help him spread the word that radioactivity in the Chernobyl area is not so low after all. Timothy Mousseau, a University of South Carolina biologists who has been the subject of several posts on Atomic Insights — including Critical Analysis of Mousseau Fukushima Presentation — tells Simon that mice found in “The Zone” can be 10,000 times as radioactive as a mouse from a clean area. Not surprisingly, that scary sounding fact is allowed to stand on its own, with no context provided about the health effect to the mouse or the actual level of contamination found. What is 10,000 times virtually zero?
Based on the professional position he has attained, I’d guess that Bob Simon was a good student when he was growing up. I assume that he was skilled at learning his lessons well enough to repeat the information that his teachers wanted to hear on tests, in essays, and during class presentations.
He apparently listened carefully to the lessons that frequently reminded him to be very afraid of radiation, but he seems to have avoided enrolling in any courses that might have provided useful information about how radiation is measured, what effects it has at various levels of intensity and why there is absolutely no reason for a 73 year old man to worry about radiation health effects unless he happens to somehow find an area with levels hundreds of times higher than the ones that can be measured near Chernobyl.
He probably didn’t spend much time wondering why the information he memorized did not match reality, possibly because he never met anyone who worked with radiation on a professional basis.
He also seems to have avoided noticing that lumps of metal cannot move or become airborne without some kind of driving force or that materials inside buildings — even poorly maintained buildings — do not harm people who are outside of the buildings. When trained people can comfortably work within a few hundred feet of the damaged reactor building, it should be obvious to a professional investigator there is no need for anyone living several miles away to worry and absolutely no need for anyone living dozens to hundreds of miles away to spend any time fretting about potential health effects.
Of course, Bob Simon probably did not write, produce or approve the segment, so there are numerous culpable people involved in the production and distribution of the misinformation contained in Chernobyl: The Catastrophe That Never Ended.
I correspond with a number of experts in fields related to radiation, radioactive waste management, site restoration, and the health effects of low level radiation. There has been quite a bit of discussion about the misinformation propagated by this particular 60 Minutes segment.
Here is a quote from Dr. Leo Gomez, who had a long and distinguished career in radiation science, including serving as the editor of the journal Radioactive Waste Management and Environmental Restoration.
I don’t know if you saw the 60 Minutes program, but it was really bad. If their stories about topics I know little about are as off the mark as the Chernobyl story was, I don’t see how the 60 Minutes folks ca be believed. I’ll be more attentive to what they say about anything doing with science.
That comment reminded me of a time when I participated in a survey at my local Rotary Club. About 90% of us believed that the media did a very poor job of accurately providing information about the fields that we knew the most about. About the same number of us generally trusted the media as a source of information for those fields that we knew little about. Think about that for a moment.
After watching the segment several times, I found myself wondering why it was produced and why CBS chose to air it now. With all of the major events happening in the world today, why did CBS choose to focus the attention of its large and still influential audience on a site that was made famous by an industrial accident that took place nearly three decades ago.
I picked up several clues. Not only does the segment reinforce the drumbeat of radiation fear that has been repeated for the past 55 years, but it also reminds people that the Soviet empire failed a long time ago as a result of mistakes like Chernobyl. The abandoned city of Pripyat is described as a “model of Soviet modernity.” Simon emphasizes the Soviet era iconography around the city with at least a half a dozen lengthy camera shots and several paragraphs of commentary.
Near the end he makes the following comment:
He spends most of his time writing music for his base guitar, music as desolate as the landscape surrounding him (footage of abandoned apartments — surrounded by lush greenery). As desolate as the remains of this empire which has long since disappeared (camera focuses on a statue of Lenin).
I might be reading too much into those words, but I suspect that Simon and his producers are subtly saying that Chernobyl should be viewed as a symbolic expression of the Soviet Union and that the real danger it represents is that the empire that created the catastrophe seems to be trying to rise again.
It is also possible that the segment is designed to garner sympathy and resources for Ukraine as it struggles for continued independence against a rising Russian influence. The message in this well-times propaganda piece is not only antinuclear, but anti-Russian.
Note: I recommend a visit to the CBS page about the segment, where there are several additional related videos that were not aired as part of the televised segment. Those clips helped to form the basis for my interpretation. I considered embedding or or two of them here, but some of the programmed pre-roll ads are rather offensive “blue pill” commercials.
Well written and comprehensive, Rod. I was going to rebut the 60 Minutes piece, too, but you nailed it in every way possible. Terrific job.
I love the scene where they talked with the old man that came back to live in the exclusion zone. He said he would be dead if he hadn’t. My question would be, can he still get it up. Sometimes radiation can do wonders.
Bob Simons confused radioactive isotopes, with radiation. He fails to identify different types of radiation. He failed to recognize radioisotope decay chains, and that as radiation occures along the fact that radioisotopes have haqlf lives. He failed to acknowledge that fission products are initially dangerously radioactive, but the radioactivity declines as individual atoms travel down the decay chain. Most fission products have reached the end of their decay process after 300 years, and the rest are not a big enough problem to be a danger. Simons repeatedly claimed, that the radiation from chernobyl would be dangerous for ever. In fact the presence of healthy people living in the Chernobyl environment should have been sufficient evidence to Journalistic professionals that something was wrong withe story.
The producer must have been from Greenpeace, and Simons, who does not know the difference between radioisotopes and radiation. should not be doing stories for 60 Minutes. And 60 Minutes is guilty of broadcasting Greenpeace and Coal nIndustry propaganda
I rather like the sarcastic reply, “And that’s why Nagasaki and Hiroshima are unpopulated wastelands to this day.” When folks try to claim that some radioactive contamination will last forever. It both counters their nonsense with real world examples, and makes the point that not only are they wrong, but that thriving cities have no problem growing on top of the sites of worst kind of nuclear event such ignorant people can imagine.
What the public really needs to understand is that radiation from earthbound elements IS forever and virtually all of it is harmless (unless one wants to take the LNT to the most absurd extreme). The U-238 lying here and there in the soil will still be half as radioactive when the sun swallows the Earth in roughly 5 billion years as it is today.
Of course, if Dark Energy tears all matter apart in some distant eon, I suppose the radiation will stop. That might be a state Greenpeace members could feel comfortable in, if there were any of them left.
C BS wouldn’t let me comment. I tried to point out that the catastrophe that was Chernobyl was due almost exclusively to the misinformation and scaremongering of the media and that they were correct, the catastrophe continued as evidences by segments like that one. I guess their tagline “CBSCARES” means CB SCARES.
I’d like to agree with you, but if I remember correctly, the people most affected by the reactor accident got limited information or no information from their state controlled media. Certainly there was plenty of hysteria in the West.
There is no question that the USSR massive incompetence made the Chernobyl reactor fire possible, caused it, and then failed to prevent the deaths after the accident. A very large share of cancer cases were due to allowing kids to drink milk contaminated with radioactive Iodine. Thankfully thyroid cancer is treatable with very high chance of full recovery even with USSR healthcare standards.
But by far the biggest error of the USSR was ignoring well publicized nuclear safety standards employed by the US NRC many decades earlier. Should the USSR followed US NRC safety standards pre TMI (Three Mile Island) Chernobyl couldn’t have happened.
No fundamental core nuclear safety lessons were learned in the West from Chernobyl. Existing safety standards (specially after TMI) were more than enough.
Thanks Rod, I was disgusted by the 60 Minutes piece when I saw it. Whoever penned the line “raidiation is forever” understands nothing about either “radiation” or “forever.”
The take-home from this can be distilled to three words:
Kill Your Television.
I’d follow that advice except for two facts: I share a home and I have a guilty habit of enjoying being a spectator of sporting events, especially college football.
Given that the revenue sports of most universities use “student athletes” who typically make a mockery of the “student” part (see the last few years of scandals) and who often have criminal records which should have them barred from campus for the safety of the rest of the student body, you may want to change your attitude. By watching, you feed the money machine that drives the whole thing.
I just replaced a broken TV. I got it for watching movies and computer videos, not anything over the air (though I did test it). I do not receive cable TV at all.
I did say it was a guilty pleasure.
Unfortunately, that does not solve the problem of all the folks being mislead by 60 minutes. How do we get them to kill their televisions?
CBS *is* an expert on “wasteland” and becoming evermore so.
I remember the “old” 60 minutes of a decade and two ago. An eye opener for the “new” 60 minutes was that A couple years ago they did a story about Midwestern ethanol.
In the background was a huge billowing cloud of moisture coming out of a smokestack in the distillery. They were obviously burning massive quantities of Natural Gas.
I wondered how much energy is required to distill ethanol to 99% pure. While watching 60 minutes I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the slammin’ question… OK here it comes…. OK here it comes… OK here it comes…. It never came. They never asked them how much energy it takes to distill a gallon of burn grade (no water) ethanol. I’d be only curious about the distillery. I doubt you can purify alcohol to an extremely high purity from a mash with a net energy gain, but I also doubt we will ever know. It’s for certain that 60 minutes will never drill down anymore. 60 minutes is just more TV wasteland in which CBS is becoming such an expert.
>I wondered how much energy is required to distill ethanol to 99% pure.
Just a nitpick: You can’t distill ethanol to more than 96 point something.
As for the net gain, I’ve read a study about US corn ethanol years ago and yes, it’s possible. It was about 2%…
Day trips to Chernobyl and Pripyat from Kiev still attract glowing reviews on TripAdvisor (pun not intended). Next time I’m in Ukraine I will try to go on one.
A little off-topic but if all you if you only listen to Western reporting about Ukraine, you will know as little about the actual situation, as you would about radiation. The military-industrial complex (to use an over-used phrase) would like nothing better than to return to the Cold War, and that provides some motivation.
It sounds like the program was its own best counter-argument in some ways. Another good rejoinder is the Nature program (PBS) on ‘Radioactive Wolves’ … they are radioactive … and they are also doing very well. Everywhere they went they found flourishing wildlife. Even eagles that were eating catfish living in one of the waste ponds. Not advocating that we all go out and dose ourselves to the same level as the wildlife, but it certainly raises questions about why they seem to be suffering no ill effects.
I know very little about nuclear power or radiation or radiation effects, so you’ll have to suffer my foolishness.
While the wildlife shows no effect now, isn’t it possible that future generations will? As for the people that are currently working in the area now, if they haven’t been there their whole lives, again, won’t longer term outlooks be less than optimal for them?
The study of the survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima have shown that, opposite to what was initially expected, no effect could be measured on kids conceived after the disaster. And even the effect on fetus was limited compared to the worse one could have expected (which still means it was pretty bad for a few unfortunate pregnant women who have been exposed to several Gray/Sievert of radiation).
In the area of Chernobyl where people have returned, the level of radiation are not higher than in several HBRAs (High Background Radiation Areas) elsewhere in the world where no effect on health could be measured.
And they don’t get more cesium than reindeer herders in Finland and in Canada did after the atmospheric atomic testing of the 60’s (cesium concentrates in lichen, reindeer eats the lichen, reindeer meat is the main food supply of the herders). Again no effect seen.
At the time of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor crisis, CBS showed images of a burning natural gas storage facility while they were discussing the nuclear reactors. It could have been an honest mistake, but the burning gas tanks certainly gave better visuals. Watching with the sound off does give a different perspective.
3 minute video of the Fukushima news story. Gas tanks are near the beginning.
That fire of LPG tanks at the Cosmo Oil refinery of Chiba lasted for 10 days :
The nuclear industry has allowed itself to become a punching bag. Anybody can say anything bad about nuclear and be assured of getting accolades for their work in protecting human life.
In the interest of protecting and enhancing length and quality of life, the industry needs to grow some teeth and create a downside to lying about nuclear energy.
It will be controversial at first, but once the message gets through, the quality of reporting will improve dramatically. Until this is done, there is no incentive to produce accurate BORING nuke reporting.
Fear sells, nuclear fear sells more. As long as there is little or no downside to lying about nuclear power, the lying will continue.
@ Bill Hannahan
Amen, my thoughts exactly!
Didn’t watch the segment and am not inclined to after this discussion. In fact, haven’t watched 60 Minutes in quite some time as they have devolved into drive-by shoddy “reporting”. They prefer sensational over substance. For that I can go to TMZ. (Not that I do, mind you.)
Welcome back! I was thinking about you and your comments a few days ago. I have not yet had time to watch this segment, but I will follow the link later.
The only pertinent question for any area wishing to become a thriving community –
Can children be conceived and raised there safely and healthfully?
Can they in Pripyat?
The area formerly known as Pripyat is already a thriving community. Were humans to move back in, that would be destroyed.
In checking Goggle I find that recent Pripyat background radiation readings have fallen into the range of one microsievert/hour. Children can be conceived without increased risk birth defects and at this low level of radiation, studies show that the risk of cancer is actually lower than it is in locations with still lower background radiation. Longevity is enhanced by a small to moderate increase in background radiation. This enhancement of health is attributed to a beneficial effect of radiation on the immune system. Wade Allison in his book, Radiation and Reason, suggests that regulators increase the annual limit for radiation exposure from one millisievert/year to 100 millisieverts/month. The background radiation exposure in Pripyat is less than one millisievert/month.
Thanks, Rod for your rebuttal of the 60 Minutes piece on Chernobyl.
Just help me with one doubt. One problem is radioactivity (beta, gamma, alpha particles). The other issue is radionuclides (the sources of those radioactive particles). Many of those are chemically toxic. Raising kids for a fully normal life in Chernobyl is really safe, if they eat a plant that tends to accumulate caesium or plutonium ?
I do fully agree that Pripyat is plenty safe for adults to live in, no doubt. Also safe for kids living indoors or in newly laid concrete structures.
My real concern is alpha emitter ingestion and chemically toxic particles that aren’t found in nature.
Yes they are chemically toxic, but remember that when we talk about radiation, we usually talk about a few thousand of becquerels, which means a few thousands of **atoms** !. Chemically, this amount is by far way too small to have any effect.
In other words, if you accumulate a large amount of radioactive isotopes, the radiation will become highly dangerous long before the chemical effect can be seen especially for short lived ones like cesium. For plutonium, it’s less the case, but even in Chernobyl the amount of plutonium is really very small. Several scientists in the Manhattan project ingested minor amount of plutonium, and lived happily beyond 80 years old for most after that.
Don’t forget also that nature already has a high number of highly chemically toxic element, at low level concentration, like lead, cadmium, cyanide. Coal plants release massive amounts of all of those, constantly, in quantities that are too large to safely store as coal ash spills show.
Humm, this doesn’t seem 100% logical.
If you’re dealing with 30 year half life materials, 1 becquerel probably means a million atoms. Isn’t 1 becquerel cased by enough atoms such that we have one radioactive decay per second, so it would take 30 * 365 * 86400 undecayed atoms to result in one decay per second or 1 becquerel ? If you’re dealing with plutonium with thousands of years of half life, 1 becquerel should be perhaps hundreds of millions of atoms !
@New Energy Herald
Yes. Well, actually, they could be if there was any civilized infrastructure there. Since there are no schools, clinics, grocery stores, playgrounds, libraries, etc. it is not the kind of place where I would prefer to raise children.
People who prefer rural living and have a greater affinity for animals than I do might think it is a wonderful place for children.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand radiophobia is a major global impediment to the development and rollout of forms of energy we badly need. On the other hand, it has created a vibrant resurgent wilderness area in the heart of Europe, where previously endangered species are making a comeback. I would like to think we could overcome the radiophobia without endangering or destroying the wilderness area, but I don’t see much about the human track record that gives me cause for optimism on that count.
Pictures from deep in the “desolate” Chernobyl exclusion zone:
Giant catfish of the Chernobyl cooling pond:
Pripyat by drone (with some laughable hooters in the comments section):
After Chernobyl, they refused to leave:
“surprisingly these women who returned home have, according to local officials and journalists who have kept track of them, seem to have outlived their counterparts who accepted relocation — by some estimates, up to 10 years.”
Some pictures of mining and industry areas behind the “miracle” of cheap wind and solar power:
If it were down to a choice between living in one of these green-tech manufacturing zones or living in the Chernobyl wilderness park, it wouldn’t even be close which one I’d prefer.
Unfortunately after a while, even the radiophobia is not enough , so don’t tell yourself you can count on it :
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/14277058 Chernobyl’s “Przewalski’s horses are poached for meat”
Excellent rebuttal. Same old FUD. I would be surprised, but this is standard operating procedure for news outlets. If you’re looking for some of the footage, I recommend skipping the frustration and looking up “Postcards from Pripyat” on Vimeo. Same guy who did a lot of the filming for the CBS piece stitched together a bunch of the video he took set to a music track.
Typically when the media starts reporting anything involving nuclear energy or radiation I set my expectations very low. Yet, they still manage to disappoint me.
Does anyone have a link or remember a time that the mainstream news media has done a positive piece about the nuclear industry, outside of the time CNN aired Pandora’s Promise?
Frontline did a piece on nuclear power perhaps 12 years ago. The anti-nukes thought it was a hit-piece, it made Ralph Nader look like an idiot. They spent a lot of time talking about the French nuclear industry. This may be it:
I’m quite certain it was Frontline but I can’t be sure the above is it.
Here is another hit piece CBS’s 60 minutes did on nuclear power:
One of the show’s most notorious pieces of business journalism occurred in 1979, when it ran a 16-minute segment on the construction of a nuclear power plant by Illinois Power. The Sunday night show accused the company of millions of dollars in excessive costs that would likely be passed on to consumers. Harry Reasoner began the show by explaining the situation like this:
Take Illinois Power, for example, which wants its customers to help pay for a nuclear power plant whose costs have gone up three times since the original estimates. If the customers don’t pony up, the company’s financial rating, their ability to sell bonds and meet their customers’ energy needs, is in trouble.
The next day, the company’s stock fell in the busiest trading day of its history. Illinois Power replied quickly to the story, however, producing a 44-minute videotape that served as a rebuttal to the show. The company sent it to customers, shareholders and investors, corporate executives and other journalists. It was a point-by-point reply to all of the assertions made on the show. In January 1980, CBS admitted to inaccuracies in the story. One was that the rate increase to consumers was attributed to the nuclear plant when the increase was only partly due to the plant’s cost. And the other was that the Illinois Commerce Commission had denied the rate increase when it had actually been approved before the show aired. But 60 Minutes stood by the rest of the story.
I watched the video done by the plant about 25 years ago and it really hammered 60 minutes. I’ve never trusted 60 minutes since.
oops, I think that CBS 60 minutes episode is here:
The 60 Minutes piece would have been more effective had it been done in late November or December when the sky is gray and the trees are bare. One picture is worth 10,000 words. The lush green landscape of the place was impressive. Their best evidence of things being sour was the mouse and it looked healthy.
This has been said before. Nuclear power needs some sort of film with a rainbow behind a nuclear plant against a blue sky with white puffy clouds. It needs to be followed by shots of smiling children playing with puppies. It can be finished up with text against a shot of flowers proclaiming Nuclear Power – Clean safe power for you and your children. Maybe the background music could be Pachelbel’s Canon. What kind of image will that leave in the subconscious?
Not only should we do exactly as you suggest, but also go on the offensive and remind the world about all the disasters in other fields of energy production, that there is NO free lunch when it comes to generating power but always involves an environmental tradeoff. The Banquiao Dam failure and the list of dam failures are my favorites but I also talk about the environmental damage caused by solar panel construction and wind turbine blade construction. I constantly remind folks that a vote against nuclear power is a vote for coal and I include links to the Kingston Fossil Plant coal fly ash slurry spill and Martin County fly ash spill, and that coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear plant discharges.
When people see the environmental damage at the following link and recognize that it results not from extraordinary natural disasters but simple daily operations, it puts nuclear power into perspective.
The people who continue to watch “60 Minutes” are as old as the man doing the report on Chernobyl.
Nuclear power will outlast “60 Minutes.” That much is certain.
I should add that I agree with Rod. It’s sad to see a network like CBS, whose reputation for “countering” government propaganda during the Vietnam war is widely known, sink to the level of becoming a tool for the anti-Russian propaganda campaign that has been promoted recently by the Obama administration.
I think the Chernobyl land is a bit different than the Fukushima land because small chunks of the Chernobyl graphite and fuel were scattered. My understanding of Fukushima is that only radioactive gases were released – no chunks. It is possible to find very radioactive and harmfull particles while at the same time have an acceptable general background count. I would exercise more care in exploring Chernobyl than Fukushima.
There is a good video of a quirky but scientific woman who found and measured the radioactivity of a Chernobyl chunk, but I can not remember where I recently saw it.
You are probably thinking of bionerd23. She was recently covered at Brave New Climate.
Yes, she is the quirky lady. Thank you. As I viewed her handle a Chernobyl hot chunk found a ways from the reactor, I thought I would want to be very careful in that area.
I had hope that someone more knowledgeable would comment on my assertion of the difference between Chernobyl land and Fukushima land.
Again, the assertion is that there are Chernobyl hot chunks but there are no Fukushima hot chunks.
Could someone please say something like, “The quirky lady found a chunk that was not dangerous at all. All of her measurements were so low I would put the chunk in my pocket and carry it for a month.”
Or you could say, “Yes, I agree that the radiation release at Chernobyl and Fukushima were of essentially different because ….”
It seems that to get others to comment, it is necessary to make rash statements. Kind of like on TV.
Obviously, all of you supposed experts don’t really know anything about clicking Geiger counters!
You made me go to look for that particular detail.
I found the graphite crane claw which had spots with exposures of half a mSv/hour, but no actual graphite.
She made another video that I was thinking about. I got a little nervous when she started to look for the chunk by digging with her hands. At least she put on gloves. Please look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kg4vVYKc90 and tell me what you think.
I’d say she knew what she was doing. She did mention that if the contact dose was a whole-body dose, you’d get sick after just 2 hours. I doubt very much that anyone was all that close to the particle for very long, minutes at most, and inverse-square made the whole-body dose much smaller. The Curies handled radium directly for years and Pierre managed to die by being run over by a wagon, not anything radiation-related. Marie lived fairly long and not too badly either. Ms. Bionerd is taking much smaller and better-managed doses, and protects herself from any lasting dose by being careful about contamination (which might lead to ingestion).
Don’t you think it’s funny that you’re more concerned about her than she was about herself, given her much greater expertise in the matter?
I wouldn’t say that. I would say “if that chunk was in my yard, it would be rather easy to detect and remove if necessary, and even if I parked a lawn chair above it and sat in it one afternoon a week I wouldn’t receive any dose producing negative consequences.” 115 mSv/hr contact is probably ~10 μSv/hr at half a meter, a fraction of what you get on the beach at Guarapari.
So what does this prove? If you go poking around the region of Chernobyl with the right instruments, you can find radioactive things that might pose a danger if you go out of your way to make them so.
And the releases at Fukushima? Maybe some areas still have rates of exposure high enough to push past the bottom of the “J” curve of hormesis effects. Most of the area provably does not, and the aerial surveys have been shown to over-predict actual exposures to a large degree. IMO, everyone should be allowed and encouraged to go home unless there’s good reason not to.
@Engineer-Poet : Others in the laboratory died a lot faster than Marie Curie and her daughter. And Pierre was strangely sick before his accident, it seems he was not feeling very well at that time which could be the reason why he didn’t notice the cart that killed him. His sickness at that time does sound radiation related.
Marie just made it a point of honor of taking absolutely no precaution against radiation. It seems that she has occasionally done mouth pipetting of Polonium 210, and the whole laboratory was so radioactive that it was literally glowing at night.
That’s pure speculation at this point. As I recall, Pierre was known for absent-mindedness all his life.
Yet the worst effects anyone can really point to from the huge amount of radiation exposure she got was a slightly abbreviated lifespan and some problems in her hands (which received the heaviest doses from the material she was purifying). I don’t recall seeing any estimates of her lifetime radiation exposure, but I’m sure they’re many times what anyone outside the Fukushima plant itself could get just from living there (educated guess, but nothing in Futaba is glowing in the dark like the Curie lab).
@Engineer-Poet : Yes, Marie proved very resistant to radiation. Many people in the laboratory were not as lucky. But of course they were all exposed to a huge amount of radiation, many times higher than what even the highest exposed worker in Fukushima was exposed to. In a way, it still does prove you need a very high level of radiation to kill you. And also that individual variation is very large.
Twice you stated that other people in the Curie labs experienced ill effects from radiation exposure.
I’d like to read more about that, even if the source is only available in French.
Curie’s body was not very heavily contaminated by radium. While her lab was contaminated with it, it appears she did not ingest very much of it, or absorb it through her skin.
The French Office de Protection contre les Rayonnements Ionisants (ORPI), who exhumed her body and tested it, speculates it was not radium that contributed most directly to her significant poor health from radiation exposure (double cataracts and aplastic anemia), but X-ray doses she experienced during the war. “ORPI therefore speculates that Curie’s illness was more likely to have been due to her use of radiography during the First World War, when precautions to protect against X-rays had not yet been introduced.”
As a case study of one, her prolonged and cumulative exposure to low gamma doses in the lab doesn’t appear to have contributed to any adaptive or healthy effects from radiation hormesis either.
As a case study of one, her prolonged and cumulative exposure to low gamma doses in the lab doesn’t appear to have contributed to any adaptive or healthy effects from radiation hormesis either.
What is the evidence for that assertion? After all, Marie Curie lived to be 67 years old, despite a long, hard-working professional career of working with radiation and radioactive materials. Those were not the only influence on her health; she also worked so hard and in such a focused manner that she often forgot to eat and verged on malnutrition — according to the excellent biography by her daughter, Eve.
There are some stories in that biography about periods in which Marie was extremely healthy for her age, with a very youthful vitality. There are also stories about how she recovered from tuberculosis, which was not a very common response to that illness.
There is abundant evidence that both Marie and Irene were repeatedly overexposed to x-rays during WWI, with insufficient time between exposures for full recovery. That kind of exposure is dangerous and, like repeated sun burns, can lead to a significantly increased risk of diseases like aplastic anemia and leukemia. Routine exposures to low dose radiation either before or after that period of sustained over exposure MAY reduce the effect somewhat, but it cannot completely repair the damage that was done. Again – there is a strong similarity between the way that x-rays affect all cells in the body and the way that UV radiation from the sun affects skin tissues.
Irene Joliot-Curie, daughter of Marie, joined her mom when she was 18 and worked in her 20 mobile field hospitals during WWI. “The hospitals were equipped with primitive X-ray equipment made possible by the Curies’ radiochemical research. The technology greatly assisted doctors to locate shrapnel in wounded soldiers, but was crude and led to both Marie and Irene, who were serving as nurse radiographers, suffering large doses of radiation exposure.”
Irene died at age 58 of leukemia.
Marie’s second daughter, Eve Curie, was 10 when WWI started, and was not deployed to join her mom, but likely remained in the countryside during the war. She was more artistic by inclination, raised by governesses in her early years, and did not choose the life of a scientist. During WWII, she was a war correspondent in Africa, and a volunteer “in the women’s medical corps” in Europe. She lived to be 102.
Yes. High doses of x-rays, especially when repeated day after day, increase the risk of leukemia. That dose profile is not what those of us who question current assumptions about the health effects or long term risks of low dose radiation are talking about.
Her and her daughter’s death from a radiation related illness.
Marie Curie was rather famous for her lying and concealment of her various medical conditions (especially when they were radiation related). Stubbornness and denial may be qualities you admire among those doing radiation work, but they are not diagnostic indicators of radiation hormesis (so far as I know). As Gregory House famously said, “everybody lies.” Perhaps even moreso when they have a personal stake in not telling the truth (and regardless of being aware of it or not). Marie Curie appears to have been no exception.
You do not have sufficient information to conclusively state that chronic exposure to low levels of radiation failed to provide a hormetic effect to the Curies. Who knows what their health and longevity would have been if they had been exposed to exactly the chemical doses and war-related x-ray doses without any chronic exposure to radium, polonium, and their daughter products?
I know you can find hundreds of sources that attribute the Curies’ “early” deaths and ill health to radiation exposure, but I hope that you realize that “aplastic anemia” and leukemia both have numerous causes and that the Curies exposed themselves to several different risk-increasing factors. In Marie’s case, one of the bigger contributing factors was most likely a lifetime of poor nutrition. http://www.aamds.org/node/148
As documented in the loving biography that Eve wrote about her mother, Marie was a dedicated scientists who often was so lost in her work that she forgot to eat. She also survived many years of poverty in Paris on a diet of bread and water. The hormetic repairs stimulated by radiation don’t work very well without raw material, just as intense exercise without a proper diet does not do much for improving health.
Uh … you don’t think being “dead” from a radiation related illness is a poor outcome for a so called “healthy” dose of radiation? Your world is very strange Rod. If either of them had lived as long as Eve, Marie’s life was cut short by 35 years (Irene by 44).
You don’t seem to know much about her health condition (appearing to think it was a mild case of anemia brought on by poor diet): “Curie’s disease was diagnosed as ‘aplastic anemia’ of rapid, feverish development, but is widely considered to have been a variant of myelodysplasia, a preleukemic syndrome that resembles aplastic anemia and progresses to fatal leukemia” (here). Irene also had MDS, or myelodysplastic syndrome (not brought on by calorie restriction, or intermittent fasting …. but certainly not helped by it either).
It is absurd to assert that the longevity of one person in a family should be achieved by all other members of that family. My Dad had a father and four aunts and uncles that lived to be more than 85. He died at 61. My grandmother lived to be 97, she had a sister who died of natural causes in her mid 60s; her other brothers and sisters lived to be somewhere in-between.
All of us have a variety of influences and risk factors that come into play. Again, aplastic anemia is a disease whose likelihood is increased by certain kinds of radiation exposure — like the repeated overdoses of x-rays that both Marie and Irene endured as part of their humanitarian, patriotic service during The Great War. However, the disease is not only caused by radiation.
I did not say that Marie’s disease was a mild case of anemia brought on by a poor diet. I said that her life-long habit of poor nutrition might have contributed to the disease and also might have prevented chronic low dose radiation from effectively helping her systems to recover from the damage done by those repeated overdoses of x-rays during the war.
Also, as numerous sources indicate, Marie was not terribly fastidious about radiation exposure in her laboratory, so it is possible that her daily doses were routinely excessive. There is no indication of routing monitoring for general area radiation and her death occurred in the same year that the first tolerance dose standards were implemented. In other words, she is not an example of someone whose “radiation-related illness” is proof that there is a hazard caused by low dose radiation. She exposed herself to doses that didn’t qualify for that characterization.
Myelodysplasia syndrome (“resembling” aplastic anemia) is not an inherited condition. You think it is more likely both of them got the same fatal bone and blood illness from smoking or benzene exposure (and the family member who was not exposed to radiation at a young age simply beat the odds and lived long life)? For someone attentive to hidden patterns and relationships in competitive energy market forces and policy, you certainly seem to be missing some of the more significant and obvious ones here.
I’m not convinced there is evidence she suffered from poor nutrition (do you have a link for this), and for Irene as well. It sounds to me that Marie sometimes missed a meal because of her work habits and simply being very focused. Have you never done this? Radiation has been known to make people feel weak and have nausea as well (if “everyone lies” this is a pretty good one for feeling sick to your stomach and weak a lot of the time)?
If poor nutrition “prevented chronic low dose radiation from effectively helping her systems to recover” … sounds to me like you agree there is “some information” to suggest “chronic exposure to low levels of radiation failed to provide a hormetic effect to the Curies.”
You’re being an irritant on this topic. I’ve got three biographies of Marie Curie in my library, one by Alan Waltar, one by Eve Curie and one by Barbara Goldsmith. All agree on the fact that Marie paid little attention to her diet and often worked herself to the point of exhaustion.
Eve did not only avoid exposure to radiation by her disinterest in laboratory work. She also avoided exposure to all of the other chemicals used in the process of isolating and refining the rare elements that the Curies discovered and researched for many decades.
Once again, I have never denied that Marie and Irene both eventually died of illnesses that are often caused by over exposure to radiation and I fully agree that both women were frequently exposed to high levels of radiation in their work, especially their work with x-rays. However, neither one died at a remarkably young age (67 and 59) and both were accomplished scientists with long careers before dying.
Neither one is an anecdote useful for disproving the fact that low level radiation — defined as doses that are kept within the daily tolerance doses established in 1934 — does not pose a substantial risk to human health. If those tolerance levels are exceeded, especially if they are repeatedly exceeded without allowing sufficient recovery time, there is a significant — and not just statistically significant — increase in the probability of developing a radiation-related illness in subsequent decades after exposure.
One more thing from the link you provided:
Irene died at age 58. And I consider this a young age.
There aren’t a lot of people who still believe tolerance doses from 1934 do “not pose a substantial risk to human health.” Such a standard was revised long ago due to “incomplete evidence,” greater awareness of cumulative and irreversible health impacts of radiation at low and moderate doses (which the Curies suffered from), and recognition of the need to protect workers and the general public from more widespread and unrestricted use of radioactive sources (here). But I agree, you are one of them.
There aren’t a lot of people who still believe tolerance doses from 1934 do “not pose a substantial risk to human health.”
Science is not democratic or subjected to popularity contests. There are not a lot of people who have delved deeply into the research or who question what they are told to think and why they are being taught that catechism.
The standard was actually revised for quite different reasons that you or your source states. I understand why the ICRP defends its history; I am still not sure why you spend so much time and energy attempting to spread your own misinterpretations of history, economics, politics and energy technology here.
One more time — the Curies doses were not always low or moderate. There is abundant evidence that they must have exceeded the recommended tolerance doses repeatedly over a several year long period of giving battlefield x-rays. They were also experimental, laboratory focused scientists who were exposed to many chemicals in addition to treating radioactive materials more cavalierly than even I would recommend. Their health histories does not support the assertion that all doses of radiation are dangerous, even down to the tiniest dose. It supports the assertion that radiation doses beyond the tolerance dose may cause irreparable damage and lead to long term negative health effects.
Gamma radiation is quite analogous to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. They are close wavelength relatives in the continuous spectrum of radiation. Gamma is a bit more penetrating and thus affects deeper tissues, but the effects on the tissues themselves are similar. People with a history of childhood sunburns have an elevated risk of carcinoma and melanoma. People who routinely get moderate exposures that do not result in burns have a much lower — essentially imperceptible — increased risk. http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0604d.shtml
Even as a novice nuclear energy reader (uhm…Gordon Mcdowell youtube channel viewer), I was jumping up and down at the 60 Minutes piece. 60 Minutes did another report about the Fukushima aftermath awhile a ago that was of similar poor quality.
PBS nature did a fantastic show about “Radioactive Wolves” that live in the surrounding environment of Chernobyl. It appears nature can do just fine in “high” amounts of radiation.
Question to the nuclear community: What is the reasoning for the massive steel dome, that is to cover the reactor? Is it just a public relations project? Is it even necessary?
Welcome to Atomic Insights. Any follower of Gordon McDowell is probably someone with an open and inquisitive mind.
Containment buildings around nuclear plants were developed as a “safety” feature in the mid 1950s as the propaganda campaign to spread fear of all radiation doses, even the small doses that might occur following material releases from a nuclear power accident, took hold.
Initially, the idea was to use them for facilities that were sited close to population centers. The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, which was formed as a quasi independent body of nuclear energy, radiation and public health specialists, initially had a policy of only approving remote sites for nuclear power plants. That was a reasonable approach in the early days of the technology.
Reactor developers and utilities, logically enough, sought to put power plants closer to customers to reduce the losses, expense, and public opposition that accompany long transmission lines.
The ACRS decided that would be okay as long as the buildings were sealed as a back-up safety measure to prevent radioactive material release in the event of a major accident. The 1956 National Academy of Sciences committee on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation recommended that all nuclear power plants be provided with sealed buildings, even those located in remote areas.
Because of the nature of the fluid used in conventional reactors — H2O at high temperatures and pressures — the requirement to provide a sealed building lead to voluminous structures and thick walls. The concrete around the sealed steel building is thick to provide both shielding in the case of the containment being filled with highly radioactive coolant (from an accident with core damage) and to provide protection against external forces — like airplanes or tornado-tossed projectiles — that might damage the sealed containment.
Containment requirements should be subject to rethinking if different fluids or core configurations are employed. I’m not a fan of the even tighter shield building requirements that were recently imposed as a result of aircraft attacks against much larger, more fragile, and less protected buildings – the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Mr. Adams, it is very refreshing to find this oasis of information/people in a desert of misinformation on both nuclear energy and unreliables.
The steel dome feature in the 60 minutes piece is referred to as the New Safe Confinement (NSC), which is distinguished from containment buildings. Per the wiki entry, its purpose is to prevent radioactive material from leaking into the environment and to replace the old “sarcophagus” or NSC, that was build as temporary barrier to cover reactor #4 in 1986.
Chernobyl sneezed over 30 years ago, the reactor shutdown and fires put out. Isn’t the cat (radiation) already out of the bag? Why is it still necessary to cover Russia’s nose and mouth (the solid radioactive waste) 30 years after the sneeze?
I should have read your question more carefully. I thought you were asking a general question about nuclear reactor containments, not a specific question about the new steel confinement for Chernobyl.
That structure is a security blanket and public works effort designed to provide jobs and comfort more than something that is needed to protect public health and safety.
Rod, great writing. My uncle said the same thing 40 years ago about 60 Minutes regarding another topic. If they are so wrong about stuff you know about, aren’t they probably just as wrong about every topic?
Also, I recommend the movie called the Babushkas of Chernobyl. It is about grandmothers who defied the evacuation and have lived very near Chernobyl for nearly 28 years. BTW those ladies outlive their cohorts who were evacuated to soviet era apartments in Kiev by 10 (yes TEN) years!
Talk about cognitive dissonance! We are told that radiation is forever toxic, especially Chernobyl! Yet life flourishes there!
The truth is that the very radioactive stuff is gone, like iodine 131 and being a victim and being reminded that you are a victim and living in victim housing is deadly to your health.
Yet the same injustices are being perpetrated on the evacuees of Fukushima.
We desperately need radiation protection standards that are evidence based!
It seems that’s it’s a great movie indeed, and unless I missed some comments, it went unnoticed until now even here on atomic insight :
• ”industrial accident”?
• ”one of the most widely discussed explosions and fires in recorded history”?
Come on – say it! What was it that happened over there?
There was ”an accident”, ok. An ”explosion, and a fire”. Ok.
And …? Yeah, sure, there also happened a ”discussion”, but that was after.
What kind of accident was it? Was it some kind of chemical, perhaps that leaked? No?
Come on, you can say it! Don’t be afraid!
It is not gonna happen again, just because you say it, if that’s what you think.
It was a steam explosion and graphite fire caused by a power excursion in a nuclear reactor that was being operated well outside of its design envelope.
First: I have not seen the 60 minutes episode. I react to the comments.
I find disturbing for people to analyze the host and not the issue. I believe this is a deliberate attempt to smear the program. But I do understand the criticism when generalization happens or false information is provided.
Also, some commentator mentioned a book suggesting a 100 mSv/month dosage would be ok — in europe, there are countries with 100 mSv limit (for people in nuclear industry) within 5 years(!) thus, this is a issue to be investigated.
Nothing on TV is obligated to provide you with the objective truth. They’re obligated – by their stake holders – to get you to watch their crap so they can sell advertising and make a profit. They didn’t create this or air this because they need to spew propaganda about russia, or because there’s some anti-nuclear conspiracy. They did it because fear sells. They got an old narrator because the 60 minutes audience is old, and they identify with him and his fears. It’s about money ultimately. It’s always about money.
Every time you see something in TV, repeat to yourself “They exist to make a profit, not to inform me.”
While what you write is true, it also true that shows such as “60 Minutes” sell themselves as “hard hitting investigative reporting” or similar words and offer to give the audience the heretofore hidden truth.
When they proceed to give the audience a pack of lies instead of the truth, they’re violating our trust and committing fraud, assuming that giving them our time to watch was consideration.
I doubt that any court would entertain it, but I would love to bring a detrimental reliance case against such shows with a class consisting of the entire viewing public…
I don’t expect truth from TMZ because that’s not what they promised. “60 Minutes” either did promise truth or strongly implied that was what it would deliver, but it doesn’t.
“Nothing on TV is obligated to provide you with the objective truth” — true.
That’s why I have little time for news programs, even on PBS. They cannot be true to reality, because reality is humdrum except in a rebellious dystopia.
But I’ve noticed that the British audiences cater to older viewers more than the US. “One Foot in the Grave” didn’t last in the USA, and neither did a variant of “Fawlty Towers”, even although the leads were played by actors I considered no less talented than the British. I do not ever expect to see an American version of “Waiting for God”, which utterly lampoons the “Idiot Baines”. He’s obviously a yuppie, and a Tory.
“When trained people can comfortably work within a few hundred feet of the damaged reactor building”
Oh yes, and what happens when a bird flies into the reactor core, consumes some plutonium, and poops it out over your house 50 miles away? You realise that 1 millionth of a gram of plutonium breathed in can kill you right?
This would be one of those birds that can tunnel through concrete.
@John & northcoast
“when a bird flies into the reactor core, consumes some plutonium…”
It is the proverbial Plutonium Plover, scourge of CNMT structures and consumer of reactor fuel…the real menace of nuclear power.
“tunnel through concrete” — and swim in water at several atmospheres of pressure, and chew the fuel rods?
Not even Road Runner can do that!
It depends on the type of Plutonium you’re talking about.
It takes well over x22,000 more than a “millionth of a gram of Plutonium” to kill a person from acute radiation syndrome if talking about Plutonium-239. What’s inside the Chernobyl corium would be a form of “reactor grade” plutonium, which is ~7% Pu-239 by radioactivity (according to Kirk Sorensen’s Spent Fuel Explorer) in the 28 years it has been decaying.
According to the document, “Plutonium and Health – How Great is the Risk?”, from Los Alamos Science, November 26, 2000, the LD50 for death in 30 days for intravenous injection of Plutonium-239 in dogs is 0.32 milligram per kilogram of tissue (see pg. 78). Quoting directly from the source:
“Assuming this animal dose also applies to Humans, an LD50 by intravenous injection for an average human of 70 kilograms would be about 22 milligrams. By inhalation, the uptake would be about 4 times higher.”
Inhaling Plutonium is four times SAFER than direct injection to the bloom stream, so it would take x88,000 times more Plutonium than “one millionth of a gram” to kill someone.
I can’t calculate the toxicity of reactor grade Plutonium at this time, but if you assume reactor grade plutonium is x1000 more toxic than Pu-239, it would still take over 80 micrograms to be lethal.
Since you may be more concerned about cancer instead of immediate death, please see the paper, “The Myth of Plutonium Toxicity”, by Bernard L. Cohen, available at: http://www.fortfreedom.org/p22.htm
I hope this information has been helpful to you.
**Correction to the above. It should read, “By inhalation, uptake would have to be about 4 times higher.”
Why the cheap shots at the age of the reporter? Do you think people should be shut up in a home at 65? At what age do you propose mandatory euthanasia?
BTW, I agree with you on the rest.
“At what age do you propose mandatory euthanasia?”
Well, that depends. In the case of my neighbor’s teen age son, I think 17 would be an appropriate age.
I would expect a good reporter to outgrow the stupidities of typical broadcast reporting, and to resent false statements in what he’s given, more than a younger one. I, at 75, would certainly do so.
But Frontline, on PBS, did an interview with Charles Hill om the stupidity of the canceing of the Integral Fast Reactor program, which proved by actual test, in the same month as the Chernobyl blunder, that its design is immune to meltdown..
Some of the nuclear engineers have designed a SMR of 100 MW capacity, small enough to fabficate in a prducyion line.
A while ago on NPR’s “On the media,” a professor, I think from Columbia School of Journalism said that a journalist was a “maintainer of the myth,” and the myth is dependent on your country or location in general. This location used to refer to one’s “point of view,” until that term was additionally defined to mean “opinion.”
I thought it a wonderful freeing statement, because you realize that all information is biased by the point of view and purpose of the informer who may be a journalist..
For a different view on Chernobyl, read George Monbiot on “Rewilding,” with Chernobyl being a great example. His narration could have been dubbed over the images you saw when your TV sound was off.
1. To be fair, there _is_ radiation in various places in the Zone (not just the vicinity of Block 4, where the disaster had occurred). And, also to be fair, the type of exposure you are likely to receive in these places now will not kill you immediately, but rather do things like increase your chances of developing Cancer X by Y percent over a period of Z years. [Similarly with Fukushima, by the way, just different doses and geographic distribution.] That’s how radiation _works_, once the immediate event is over and the short-lived (highest-radiation) isotopes “burn out”. And yes, that’s still bad, kind of like living in a “breast cancer pocket”, or on top of a chemical plant waste site, or whatever other “bad environment” area you wish to imagine. Only in Chernobyl’s case, some exposure levels are rather worse than you’d get with a normal industrial site.
So it seems perfectly fine to me to indicate that the Zone is a contaminated (or partially contaminated) site and people should not just move back into Pripyat en masse. In fact, I am somewhat dubious about the tourism business there, because it isn’t in the tour operator’s financial interest to subject his charges to rigorous procedures, whereas the plant workers and scientists are in theory trained to live by these. On the other hand, yes, it is possible to live and work there under controlled conditions, at least until you accumulate a certain amount of exposure (which is how standard rotations are set for nuclear plant workers in any case – or ought to be).
Similarly, it isn’t that something truly horrific will happen if the current containment measures are not reinforced. But certainly nothing _good_ will happen if the Sarcophagus 2.0 just crumbles away, which is why they are building a new containment structure over there now (that ghastly metal arch-type thing on rails). I just found that the tone of the post seemed skewed too far into the direction of “all is well”. I realize this may not have been the author’s intention, but someone ought to say – all is not well over there. It just isn’t a post-apocalyptic post-Terminator…whatever that 60 Minutes apparently wished to portray.
2. It pains me greatly (not really, but I like saying it) every time a Western news agency does a Chernobyl story and ignores the “Stalker” angle. Back “over there” (Russia, Ukraine, etc.), the Stalker series of games have given the Zone tremendous visibility among at least the younger generation. Not for the disaster itself – more like giving it a bit of a romantic aura. I wonder, for example, if that musician living by the reactor wasn’t influenced at all by this cultural aspect of things.
3. While I understand the Soviet-Empire-Is-Evil-And-Bad angle – and, by the way, I bet you ten to one neither 60 Minutes nor any comparable program ever bothered to find out the reason for why Chernobyl occurred in the first place (cutting costs and maximizing “profitability”! the classic “capitalist” reasons!) – I should also note that 60 Minutes, and similar programs, have generally been tending towards the sensationalist tones for…I don’t know how long. It’s probably from the “sex sells” school of tabloid journalism. Whatever the story is, it’s either a) the most horrific awful terrible disaster to befall humanity (and if not now, then imminently), or b) the most wonderful fantastic terrific spectacular thing that will lead us into a new utopia (also imminently). iPhones – utopia! Facebook – utopia! Chernobyl – apocalypse (again)! And so on.
Ok, not every single story is like that. But it’s almost as if someone decided that viewers will not pay attention unless every little thing is blown up to titanic proportions. And by the way, this is where crude and out-of-place historical references come in. Titanic was a horrible disaster, and this will be just like the Titanic only worse! Run for your lives! Etc.
Not to take away from the political angle, but I think this point is also one that needs to be made.
Safety First, indeed near chemical plants occasionally cancer pocket have been identified with a clear, unambiguous increase in the rate of cancer.
Here you say that the zone, or working as a nuclear plant workers is just as dangerous, or even more dangerous. But actually there’s a big difference with those cancer pocket caused by chemical contamination, it’s that it has never been possible to demonstrate decisively a significant cancer risk increase from this kind of low level exposure to radiation. Through radiotherapy, we know for sure that exposure to several tens of gray of radiation strongly increases long term cancer risk.
But what when the radiation doesn’t come as a big chunk at once, but at a slow rate that controlled experiments have shown cells are much more apt to repair correctly that when they are submitted to a big radiation shock, and also does not by far reach such a high level as with radiation therapy ? Well then nobody could ever prove that this increases cancer risk, since most studies didn’t find any increase, and the few that did could not prove it wasn’t just a random result (indeed if not random then almost every study should find an increase, and not just a few).
So opposite to what you believe, the risk of low level radiation is lower since we have ample demonstration that if it does exist, it’s small enough that it’s much harder to attest than the one of chemical products.
One of the most idiotic features of any comment on windlife that has been genetically changed by radiation in a deserted area, or perhaps any area, is the fact that if a generation of birds is different in some way from its great-great-grandmother generation, chance are that the diference is either inconsequemtial, or beneficial to the bird.
I have been told, by the falconer at a certain zoo’s aviary, that the Turkey has a bigger and better brain than the Golden Eagle, because the Eagle’s weaponry and vision are suficient to make up for the lesser space available in the head for the brain..
It’s called Natural Selection.
Interesting that anyone would expect CBS/60 Minutes to be any more honest than any of our other main steam media outlets.
It seems to have the Atomic Insights community’s panties in a wad because of the subject. Of course, that’s understandable.
But what of the non-stop stream of pure unmittigated horseshit they feed us about virtually every other issue that rolls down the pike? Why the heck do you think they’d treat NE any different? Our foreign policy is sold to us by media through the active employment of lies. Our “wars” are sold by media lies. Our prospected elected officials are marketed by media lies. Our government spends our tax dollars by lying, through the media, about fiscal priorities and where the money is actually spent.
In fact, can you actually think of an issue that is not purposely misrepresented to fulfill the agenda of government or the special interests that own our “representatives”?
What’s really pathetic about this whining about the media’s disingenuous treatment of NE, is the blind ignorant trust that is bestowed upon the media when it is an issue that involves partisan politics. Now, if one points out media lying about, say, the “rebels” in Syria, or Iran’s “nuclear weapons program”, or the Israel/Palestine issue, all the sudden one becomes a “conspiracy nut”.
Of course the media is bullshitting you about Chernobyl. That’s not amazing. What’s amazing is that you’d expect anything different, or that you’d swallow the rest of the swill they feed you daily.
Did you skip the following paragraph?
Granted, Atomic Insights focuses on the commercial media’s treatment of atomic energy. Is that surprising to you?
I’m doing what I can to prevent energy crises, solve world hunger, reduce resource-related conflict, and provide a secure source of fresh water. That’s about as many issues as I can handle here.
Reflecting on your response, it occurred to me that it is only natural that you would assume my comment was directed at you, as a result of my wording. I assure you, that was not the case. Personally, I feel that of all the participants here, you seem to have a pretty firm grasp of the depth and breadth of the media deceptions that are daily bandied forth in the interest of partisan politics.
My comment was more directed towards those here that blindly parrot the absurd party lines that are the indicators of partisan zealotry, often in lockstep with expressed religious fanaticism and dogma.
Really, its a shame this forum does not have a more eclectic content, as the level of intelligence here could make for some very engaging back and forth about a myriad of issues. But I understand the focus, and apologize if it seems I often purposely try to shift the direction. Its just that so many of the forums that do directly deal with world issues that interest me, as much or more than energy issues, are flooded with opinions shaped by partisan or religious ignorance that defies common sense.
I enjoy your blog, and respect your efforts, as well as your devotion to your cause. And I think you realize that some of my attempted diversions tie in a little more closely than many of the participants here care to admit.
We marvel at your brilliance.
Why thank you.
I wish I could pay you the same compliment, but unfortunately I just think you’re a gnat.
“My comment was more directed towards those here that blindly parrot the absurd party lines that are the indicators of partisan zealotry, often in lockstep with expressed religious fanaticism and dogma.”
While you breathe the rarefied air high up in your ivory tower, alone and full of yourself, gaze upon us, the ignorant atomic insight masses who look up to you, panting in anticipation, hoping for some tiny morsel or crumb to fall from your table of wisdom. Braapp!
I’m pretty sure that being a skilled, finish carpenter does not qualify one as having an “ivory tower” occupation.
Naaah, my tower is made out of Black Walnut.
And by the way David, if you don’t want to be considered ignorant, I suggest you shy away from repeating the crap fed to you by the media, about matters you know nothing about. Your comments regarding Iran and Israel showed a depth of ignorance that can only have been instilled by the media narrative. That’s not to imply that I consider you stupid. On the contrary. But I do consider you malleable, in the respect that you believe what is convenient to your chosen political alliances, rather than basing your opinions on actual research. I am not referring to your stance on NE, because your expertise in the field surpasses my meager understanding of nuclear science. So really, I have no way of knowing whether or not you are full of crap as it applies to NE. But when it comes to our middle eastern policies post 9/11, I have literally thousands of hours of research, reading, digging, and shoveling into the subject. And I can tell you, beyond any doubt, that we have been fed a ration of shit by our government, in league with our media complex, that has no equal in our past history. If you choose to remain ignorant on this topic, than your hypocricy in bemoaning FUD is quite amusing. A shit sandwich is a shit sandwich, no matter what condiments it is prepared with.
@Rod & poa
“…being a skilled, finish carpenter…”
While that statement remains to be demonstrated to my satisfaction, never-the-less, when a skilled carpenter consistently addresses his peers in the disparaging manner poa does (assuming he considers atomic insight readers his peers), throwing a tantrum when some have the unmitigated audacity to challenge his statements, telling them he will “rub their faces in fact,” that they are ignorant, religious fanatics, jackasses, gnats, making broad negative assumptions about his audience that he doesn’t know, and liberally dispensing patronizing suggestions as if he were some all wise Father patting the head of naive children, then YES, he qualifies, nay, personifies the ivory tower description.
I AM maleable, teachable, and at my age I’ve learned that no matter how much you know, there is still more to learn. I am not afraid or embarrassed to say I don’t know something and am always willing to learn…even from poa.
POA may be wise in his own eyes, may have spent “literally thousands of hours of research” into middle east relations, but he doesn’t appear to have the capacity to engage his peers in a cordial manner, even with a friendly audience. I like having my presuppositions challenged, but remember, though everyone likes ice cream, nobody likes it thrust rudely in their face.
Hey, David, YOU set the tone for this exchange between you and I, from the beginning, when I originally expressed my opinion about this multi-faceted farce known as the GWOT. So don’t get your panties in a wad because I don’t show you the respect you seem to think I owe you.
As far as my level of “skill” in the profession I CLAIM to pursue, you, or Rod, really have no way of knowing, do you? Yet you’re willing to advance the insinuation that you distrust my claim. Rod seems to be comfortable taking me at my word. You, not so much. Why? Is it something I have revealed through my comments, or are you being the judgemental jackass I accuse you of being, believing out of convenience and emotion, rather than actual knowledge?
No matter. I’m not the one out of work, having participated in a mismanaged and failed venture.
I’m as busy as ever, in an unbelievably beautiful setting, doing work I love. Do you really think I give a damn about what your opinion is?
I’m here because I enjoy it, and I want to learn, not because I need to convince the world that I’m not working tirelessly to poison the environment.
I leave sawdust behind. What do you leave behind, besides a failure?
@poa and david davison
Please take your bickering elsewhere. You are both welcome contributors here; please address issues and not each other.
Did you happen to catch the report on coal ash ponds on 60 min tonight?
I think this XKCD comic is pretty appropriate in reply to Mousseau’s statement that the mouse has 10,000 times more radiation:
Look … I am a nuclear engineer and I do consider myself a pro-nuclear advocate. But to call any documentary about Chernobyl “propaganda” I do believe that is way below the belt.
In April 1986 I was with my grandparent in the Northern part of Romania (less than 300 miles away from the reactor site). Over the next few months I did see with my own eyes kittens born without one ear or without both ears (from different cat mothers, mind you), I did see calves with birth defects that never happened before and I still see friends in late 30s or early 40s getting sick of leukemia and numbers unheard before the “incident” or “Chernobyl propaganda” happened.
That being sad, please try to recognize that this Class 8 event was classified the most severe accident in the history of nuclear power, and I do not care how misguided any other documentaries are. Calling any perspective “propaganda” is just pure BS and is unbecoming of nuclear energy advocates. We should be the first people to admit that it was a catastrophe and that everything we are doing is to prevent similar events … instead of hiding behind words like “propaganda” and other political BS issues.
I don’t deny that Chernobyl was a catastrophic accident — 28 years ago. Do you believe it is still a hazard to the world at this point?
That is that assertion that I am labeling as propaganda.
As a pro-nuclear advocate, and given the observations you’ve had regarding Chernobyl, what would you say to the anti-nukes that continuously bring Chernobyl into the discussion regarding our future energy needs and nuclear’s role in meeting those needs?
To Rod and David
Based on my personal experiences (300 miles away from Chernobyl) I always get humble when this discussion comes. I am the first one to admit that incredible human errors were committed (so terrible that there is no lesson-learned that can be applied to any other reactor that is not RBMK type).
That being sad, NASA did not stop after the first crash (or 2nd, 3rd, etc), the chemical industry did not disappear after Bhopal, the aero industry did not disappear after Hindenburg and the nuclear industry will not die because Chernobyl is being brought back in the news. I do believe that embracing the tragedy and proving that we are getting better year after year is the right way to do it (instead of denying events that happened almost 30 years ago).
For every person that brings back an accident that happened 30 years ago, the logical response is the track record, industrial safety record and deaths-related to nuclear accident indexes that we can all talk about. Nuclear industry is probably 1,000 safer than oil industry and 50,000 safer than coal-industry …
I do believe that Chernobyl is still dangerous, due to the decay in the “sarcophagus” structure and additional contamination of underground waters. The concrete pouring took place in an extremely stressful environment (where the emergency response team did not give a dam about NQA-1 standards or other ASME codes), people were rushed to finish the job (to cut the catastrophic exposure of 200-300 REM per day for the emergency workers, etc. etc.).
Well said. Demonstrating the track record and the fact that other industries don’t cease because of failures or tragedies is excellent…my favorite is dam failures.
Are nuclear proponents guilty of down playing Chernobyl? Perhaps, but when one is continually confronted with claimed death totals like 1 million, and the exaggerations for ongoing effects, how does one combat these exaggerations and false hoods without diminishing the real scope of the disaster?
Do you still see birth defects occurring at an increased rate?
I do not see birth defects anymore (which is quite normal after 28 years), but there is still an unusual spike of leukemia, blood-related cancers and other forms of cancers that should not impact too many people under 40 years of age. Every time I travel to the Northern part of Romania (Moldavia Region) I hear about acquaintances that did pass or are battling these rare diseases.
I can count at least a dozen friends, relatives or close associates who have died as a result of rare cancers that have no explanation. Three of those were children. None of them had anything to do with nuclear energy.
I know that is anecdotal, but I have been a nuclear professional for 33 years and have a whole lot of friends and associates who are also nuclear professionals. I wonder how many other Atomic Insights readers have noted the rarity of cancer among their nuclear industry colleagues?
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