Similar Posts

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

43 Comments

  1. I concur Rod. It must be insanely maddening to know that the media gives far far more credence, respect and exposure to the vaporware rants Arnie & Co spew than the hard-core brow and swear experience of pros like you! That such a small B.S. group is able to run amok almost totally unchallenged to sway so so many gullible science-illiterate people and mangle the energy security of this country without their facts and credentials being called on the carpet by the media is appalling!

    I’m just pitching straws to try for all nuke blogs in general because I am REALLY disappointed that the Nuclear Assembly couldn’t squeeze in between handing out awards even just a token mention of handling anti-nuclear sentiment and its fear effect at the polls. Such PR and nuclear education neglect nearly killed off nukes with TMI and it’s happening all over again. Don’t they ever learn??

    1. Constantly and openly issue challenges to debate anti-nuclear activists on blogs or YouTube or any highly public forum. I mean aggressively challenge them to the point of calling them out as charlatans with no clothes for NOT debating! Make their followers and public wonder WHY NOT! ALL nuke blogs ought try this or at least pass the challenges on.

    2. Regularly request interviews with NRC or management of local nuclear plants to illustrate their openness to public.

    3. List and precisely answer the 10 top rants of anti-nuclear activists. Defang Arnie and Helen off the bat.

    4. Make a public challenge to anti-nukes to put their hard scientific research and proof and facts on the table. Get it out on YouTube!

    5. Features that prod and chide the nuclear industry/unions to get off their butts and save their skins with a couple of adult and professional PSAs — preferably previewed and critiqued first by pro-nuclear blogs.

    6. Interviews with community leaders and mayors of towns where plants are sited to show lack of fear and three-headed kids.

    7. Pro-nuke sites petition to speak at NRC meetings or even Congress as public advocates (Hey, if pet-advocates and bubble-headed actresses can speak gibberish before Congress!…)

    8. Call out local TV-reporting going over-the-top with fear innuendo. List them.

    9. Request and encourage more public assess and tours of research nukes like at Reed College. Take the mysterious Darth Vader out of nukes!

    Just some notions of mine.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  2. I concur Rod. It must be insanely maddening to know that the media gives far far more credence, respect and exposure to the vaporware rants Arnie & Co spew than the hard-core brow and swear experience of pros like you! That such a small B.S. group is able to run amok almost totally unchallenged to sway so so many gullible science-illiterate people and mangle the energy security of this country without their facts and credentials being called on the carpet by the media is appalling!

    I’m just pitching straws to try for all nuke blogs in general because I am REALLY disappointed that the Nuclear Assembly couldn’t squeeze in between handing out awards even just a token mention of handling anti-nuclear sentiment and its fear effect at the polls. Such PR and nuclear education neglect nearly killed off nukes with TMI and it’s happening all over again. Don’t they ever learn??

    1. Constantly and openly issue challenges to debate anti-nuclear activists on blogs or YouTube or any highly public forum. I mean aggressively challenge them to the point of calling them out as charlatans with no clothes for NOT debating! Make their followers and public wonder WHY NOT! ALL nuke blogs ought try this or at least pass the challenges on.

    2. Regularly request interviews with NRC or management of local nuclear plants to illustrate their openness to public.

    3. List and precisely answer the 10 top rants of anti-nuclear activists. Defang Arnie and Helen off the bat.

    4. Make a public challenge to anti-nukes to put their hard scientific research and proof and facts on the table. Get it out on YouTube!

    5. Features that prod and chide the nuclear industry/unions to get off their butts and save their skins with a couple of adult and professional PSAs — preferably previewed and critiqued first by pro-nuclear blogs.

    6. Interviews with community leaders and mayors of towns where plants are sited to show lack of fear and three-headed kids.

    7. Pro-nuke sites petition to speak at NRC meetings or even Congress as public advocates (Hey, if pet-advocates and bubble-headed actresses can speak gibberish before Congress!…)

    8. Call out local TV-reporting going over-the-top with fear innuendo. List them.

    9. Request and encourage more public assess and tours of research nukes like at Reed College. Take the mysterious Darth Vader out of nukes!

    Just some notions of mine.

    Thanks

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  3. I really admire what you do here Rod. Standing up for nuclear on the internet seems to be an often thankless job that also often means putting up with a lot of personal attacks. I’m glad that you and other like you are doing it.

    Sense my last commented on your site a number of weeks ago I’ve been thinking more, and reading more, about nuclear and I’ve become more confident in my conviction that nuclear technology has benefits that far outweigh the costs.

    I would like to help ease fears, but I’m not sure how effective I would be. What strategies would someone like me, who has only basic knowledge about nuclear power, use to combat unwarranted nuclear fear mongering? Especially given the tendency of anti nuclear people to accuse pro nuclear sources of being fabrications made by greedy corporations or governments trying cover up their mistakes.

    Also, it’s hard to combat fear when it seems like anti nuclear indoctrination is everywhere. The news media seems to love to spread fear. It even exists in schools. I don’t know if this is just in California, but the public education I received seem to teach fear of nuclear at all levels. I remember stories of Marie Curie with large amount of emphasis on her horrible death from leukemia. Also stories of Sadako Sasaki and her death from the same illness. Stories of how bad nuclear “waste” was, and how many years it would remain radioactive. Not once, not even in high school, did anyone mention that radiation is a normal part of our daily lives, that radiation can be measured and the dangers can be quantified. It was all just radiation bad evil. Countering so much propaganda seems to be a large task.

    Well, I’m willing to give standing up of nuclear a try, but I kind of worry that I might make things worse instead of better.

    P.S. I enjoy reading your site, but I’m probably not going to comment very often because my writing skills aren’t very good. Replies, even short replies, often take me a good bit of time so I usually don’t comment unless I feel strongly moved to. If someone directs a comment towards something I’ve said and I don’t respond please don’t take it personally.

    1. “my writing skills aren’t very good.”

      LOL- you obviously write much better than I do and that doesn’t stop me!

      Good point though about the negative educational focus. BTW – I had no experience in nuclear power, radiation health, or real environmentalism. The closest I ever was to anything medical was 20 years ago in the hospital corps.

      As long as you reference everything to credible sources I dont think it matters so much at this level. It just matters that you stand up and say something as our unreasonable fear of radiation and the alternatives we have adopted to nuclear power are taking us and this planet towards certain disaster, on several levels. As well as leading us away from knowledge and technology we will desperately need.

      Good post also Rod. You could write at least one large book on the fear mongering and errors of the anti nuclear movement over the last year. I would also assume it has harmed far more even than the suicides and negative quality of life issues we see now.

  4. Thanks for injecting both passion and sense into the debate. The hysteria over radiation poisoning is also being used to try derail third world countries like South Africa from a cheap, effective source of energy.

  5. I am trying to imagine what the media coverage of Fukushima would have been like had it been given just the same level of attention as the other industrial disasters of equal danger which occurred at the same time. I am guessing that it would have merited a mention of 10 seconds in a long news segment.

    I am continually amazed at how disasters caused by natural gas get hardly a mention. Usually at most there is a single mention of a house blowing up or catching on fire due to natural gas. The only recent natural gas accident that received much attention was the natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California.

    The point is not that such events don’t merit reporting. The point is the reporting of these events needs to be proportional to the true danger involved.

  6. The real problem is that all the nuclear engineers and scientists have been carefully taught, since the mid-1950s, to fear any amount of radiation. The basis for this fear is the LNT theory (notion) of radiation carcinogenesis.
    Because of this mindset, it is very difficult to debunk this notion with thousands of scientific facts (remember only one ugly fact is all that is required to slay a beautiful hypothesis).
    So the US National Academy of Science and the other authorities are not challenging this antinuclear ideology. No one is paying attention to the scientific facts.
    Many of those who know better are earning a good living protecting us against a harmless (beneficial) source of energy (a deeply immoral use of our scientific heritage – Lauriston Taylor).
    So even though “we should never waste a serious crisis” i.e., Fukushima — a an opportunity to bring about a difficult change in attitude — it will not happen because we will not take determined action.
    Important advice/questions from an ancient sage: “If I’m not for me, who will be for me?” and “If not now, when?” Jerry

  7. The lessons of over-reaction to marginal harm were written loud and clear into the UN report on Chernobyl 6 years ago. The major damage to the wider population, even in the case of Chernobyl, was the psychological effect of fear, anxiety and depression. The inaccurate idea that the radiation was an inevitable killer made government make poor choices that led to problems of relocation, economic disruption etc. and people individually to sink into hopelessness, addiction and even suicide.

    A tragic event, repeated, becomes a tragedy.

  8. @EZ I am also a lay person that got caught up in the nuclear issue after Fukushima. The more I learn the more I have come to believe that we are not going to be able to run the world without nuclear power. Yeah it’s really easy to sit at your computer & rant anti nuke stuff, but the question comes down to , how are we going to run the world? I believe in global warming & it angers me that in the U.S. it seems to have become a political democrat or republican issue. It is not. And to people who live in island nations & in places like the Arctic I think it is more of a reality. There is a book called “Idiot America” by Charles P. Pierce that has a chapter called “How we Look at the Sea” that really helped me to understand global warming & it’s implications. Any one with doubts about G.W. should read it. And thats where nuke power comes in. I just don’t see how we can, with growing populations, not have it despite the perceived risks the anti’s are always ranting about. Wind & solar is not enough to take care of the growing needs of a world population. Why should others in the world be denied a simple thing like reliable electricity that we in the U.S. take for granted?
    I also wanted to make a comment about your mention of Marie Curie’s death. Think about it, all the years she worked with radioactive materials day in & day out with no protection at all. She risked her life it’s true but she still , even after all her contact with radiation, lived into her later 60’s, while her husband Pierre was run over by a carriage.
    Risk is everywhere & I am more concerned about the global warming issue than the fact that I live 35 miles from the San Onofre power plant. My 2 cents, for what it’s worth.

    1. @Lisa Barth

      Welcome to Atomic Insights. I am glad that you have found this site and that you have decided to participate in the discussion. Like you, I am excited about nuclear energy as a tool that should be used to address some of mankind’s greatest challenges – like providing power without pollution to a growing population.

      I hope you find enough valuable information here to encourage you to keep on coming back.

      There are well over 2,000 posts available on various topics dating back to 1995.

  9. We cannot lose sight of the fact that this exaggeration is done on purpose as an element in a propaganda campaign to discredit nuclear energy. There is nothing accidental about this, and it is not caused by simple ignorance among the perpetrators. It is in fact a criminal act of social engineering carried out by paid agents of fossil-fuels in a desperate and despicable attempt to maintain the status quo and thus the market for their products.

    The fact that they are willing to cause panic and destroy lives to protect their interests should come as no surprise as they are also indifferent to the deaths and health impacts that the use of their product causes normally. They are as a class the most venial and immoral group of people on the planet, no different than the practitioners of organized crime or the kleptocrats that rule various Third-World slave-pens.

    Rob Gauthier

    1. Re: What DV82XL said:

      Maybe I’m off the wall even for just musing this, but in lieu that various international authorities including WHO and WNA have shown that the population of Fukushima could’ve returned home months ago with minimal hazard and obviously have not, I just wonder whether the officials responsible in Japan aren’t being offered an “inducement” under the table by fossil-related parties not to resettle that area so fast to keep fear of radiation and nuclear reactors high. I know, sounds conspiratorial and such, and I know the officials have enough locally on their plates over there — still, for them to keep knocking down findings that give a green light to sending the people home — long ago — just smells to me. Whatever happened to investigative reporting over there?

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

      1. I still contend that the Fukushima “disaster” has become the whipping-boy for a whole nation that prides itself in so much control being caught with its pants down over the tsunami itself. Any rational analysis shows that the damage cause up and down the coast, where thousands of people and whole villages where washed out to sea, far exceeds by several orders of magnitude, any damage caused by the failures at the Fukushima plant.

        The bald fact is that this country was unprepared for this event, inexcusably so given its First World status and every single Japanese knows it. The loss of face is intolerable and as a consequence they have focused on this meltdown to put up a smokescreen in the hope that the world will not notice what a monumental and humiliating national embarrassment they have brought on themselves with their hubris.

        So while I am willing to believe that there are other interests attempting to leverage this to their own ends, the root of the overreaction is first cultural.

        Rob Gauthier

    2. ‘venal’ – venial is the sin, not the sinner. Forgive me for my outrageous pedantry.

  10. As an emeritus professor of biology, I continue to wonder why regulators of radiation exposure ignore the immunologists’ findings of the positive stimulatory effect that ionizing radiation has on the immune system. Our species evolved in a world that had much higher levels of radiation. Radiation, like vitamins, is good for us in small amounts but toxic in large quantities. Animal studies provide evidence that ionizing radiation is not only good for us, its presences in our bodies is a necessary requisite for health. Don Luckey reported that the scientific literature is filled with some 3000 studies that show a moderate increase in radiation improves our health and decreases our risk of cancer.
    Zbigniew Jaworowski, (2006) chairman of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) stated in Chernobyl Accident Appendix 2, “The standardized incidence ratio (SIR) for all cancers combined ranged from 0.30 to 0.69 (i.e. 30% to 69% of the normal incidence in Belarus), from 0.89 to 0.98 in Russia, and from 0.80 to 0.82 in Ukraine. Hence, the incidence of all cancers appears to have been lower than it would have been in a similar but unirradiated group. The only real adverse health consequence of the Chernobyl catastrophe among about five million people living in the contaminated regions is the epidemics of psychosomatic diseases. These diseases were not due to irradiation from Chernobyl fallout, but were caused by radiophobia, induced by years of propaganda before and after the accident, and aggravated by improper administrative decisions.”
    UNSCEAR also reported that no increase in birth defects, congenital malformations, stillbirth or premature births could be linked to radiation exposures caused by the Chernobyl fallout. Hardly ever does radiation hormesis get mentioned.
    British radiation expert, Wade Allison, author of Radiation and Reason: The Impact of Science on a Culture of Fear (2009),. He proposed that radiation limits be set the same way other such limits are set—not by seeing how little we can obtain, but what is the maximum we can tolerate, including a generous safety factor. A cancer risk from a 100 mSv per month for chronic exposure or a one time exposure of 100 mSv is so low you cannot measure it. The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) set the limit of additional annual exposure at 1 mSv. Dr. Allison says that all the residents in the Fukushima exclusion zone could safely return home if his limit were to replace the ICRP limit.
    We need to recognize the difference between levels of radiation that are actually dangerous and levels that we have been illogically taught to fear. The incidence of cancer deaths among all the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors was one-half of one percent higher than in a similar size cohort of Japanese people not exposed to radiation from the bombs. This increase in cancer cases has occurred mainly among survivors subjected to high radiation dosages above 1000 mSv while those exposed to a moderate amount of radiation, 180 mSv or less, had a lower incidence of cancer than the general public in Japan. Bomb survivors are living longer than those not exposed to the bombs’ radiation.

    1. @John Tjostem

      Thank you for lending your valuable knowledge and commentary. As you say, we need to help people recognize the different between levels of radiation that are actually dangerous and those that are not. Though I am not a scientist, I have pretty fair reading skills and have been taught how to perform logical analysis of human behavior and foibles. (Many people who I went to school with gravitated to math, sciences and engineering and hated the time that they spent in literature courses analyzing why certain characters behaved certain ways in novels. I loved that part of my English courses and chose to keep taking more of those courses.)

      The question I generally ask when confronted with the fact that people have been irrationally taught to fear radiation and the use of nuclear energy is “Why”. What motivated the teachers?

      That question has led to my conclusion that the underlying motive for almost all of the power gained by the irrational antinuclear movement comes from coal, oil and gas interests. Nuclear energy is vastly superior to those fuel sources. It also uses few of the capital assets or skills that are developed by people who specialize finding, extracting, transporting, refining, financing, and delivering those fuels.

      The fear is not, as many assert, caused by fears about atomic weapons. Despite protestations to the contrary, even the Iran controversy is really more about the economic power that the state would gain by becoming proficient in nuclear energy than about the political power it might gain by building a bomb or two.

  11. Re:http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/206899/0/Radioactive-Bluefin-Tuna-Crossed-Pacific-To-US

    Something Arnie & Co are going to jump on in a heartbeat, so I jumped on the media faster:

    “WUSA, you do the intelligence of people an injustice in not explaining the double-edged sword of having almost witchcraft-like super-sensitive senors and measuring equipment today regarding the readings they’re detecting in these animals, like modern subs which can literally detect ship screws on the other side of an ocean with sonar. We have equipment that can literally detect the presence of a dissolved aspirin — or cyanide pellet in a small pond; if you discovered ten pellets in it one day does that make the pond anymore hazardous to health? Please don’t give the impression these are inedible glowing tuna. Indeed, people would be shocked if the researchers divulged the other compounds they easily could’ve detected in these animals, like radium from sea volcanoes, toxic fecal matter and strychnine and other nasty stuff in way greater qualities than the mere isotopes they detected, and way more unpleasant too. Arsenic-tainted coal fired plant smoke travels around the world entering lungs but I hear only shrugs about that. Let’s educate the public with perspective together, not needlessly alarm them.
    via atomicinsight”

  12. The problem with nuclear power that everyone seems to ignore, is that there is no place to store the spent fuel that we have now. Quite a few power plants are coming to their end of life in the coming years and no one wants to address it

    1. @notfiveo

      We have been safely storing used nuclear fuel for more than 50 years. I have been searching for two decades and have yet to find a single documented story anywhere in the world of that material hurting anyone.

      Contrary to your assertion that no one wants to address the issue, there have been contractors who have been paid many billions of dollars to seem to search for solutions to the nonexistent problem of storing used nuclear fuel. They are happy to continue taking that money for as long as people are willing to believe that the problem is unsolvable.

      The answer to the issue is the same answer applied to any resource – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

      Note: reduce in this case does not mean an overall reduction, but a more efficient use for each unit of power output. Currently, our use of uranium and thorium resources is dismal. We only use about 0.5% of the potential energy in mined uranium and we throw away virtually ALL of the thorium that is extracted as a byproduct of rare earth mining.

  13. Most spent fuel is stored onsite now and that is nowhere near a permanent solution. France has a means ro recycle some fuel, we don’t. If you believe storage is a non-existent problem, I can no longer consider this an intelligent conversation. Along with the tremendous start up costs for a nuclear plant today, storage of the spent fuel we have now is a big part of why the brakes are on building new plants today.

    1. Storage of used nuclear fuel is not a non-existent problem, however it is a political problem, not a technical one. The reason is that used nuclear fuel is not particularly dangerous, not particularly unstable and of no real security concern. Those that insist it is any or all of these things are lying outright. Until this is understood, no rational debate on this subject can occur.

      I know hazmat (hazardous materials) as they factored into professional life in industry as my career as an industrial chemist/metallurgist happened during the period where industry was cleaning up its collective act and we had to treat our wastes seriously. So I am not talking through my hat here.

      Used nuclear fuel is solid and homogeneous (always a great advantage) and by in large, in a fully oxidized state meaning that it is chemically inert. Once ready for geologic disposal it is also reasonably cool and well packaged. It is not going to radically change volume during long term storage, or is it going to attack its containment in any serious way. Uniquely among heavy metal industrial waste products it will get less hazardous over time as the worst of the radioactive isotopes in the mix decay. This is unlike say mercury, cadmium and lead whose chemistry’s are such that if released as metals or oxides into the environment will likely change to become more bio-available over time thus becoming more dangerous with the passage of time.

      Used nuclear fuel is not a security threat ether in any meaningful way. The topic has been done to death on these pages but the short truth is that anyone contemplating nuclear mischief of any sort doing even basic research into the matter would quickly see that spent fuel is a very poor raw material to source any weapons usable isotopes and that routes starting with natural uranium are less convoluted, more likely to work, and by far less expensive.

      Finally, compared to any other fuel the total volume of spent fuel is very small. The volumes of fly-ash from coal, which is full of toxic metals and their organic salts are staggering beside used nuclear fuel, and when the volume and mass of the greenhouse gases emitted by the former are added in, the size of nuclear waste from all sources can be lost in a rounding error.

      These are all simple, simple truths that can be verified independently in a few hours research with Google. Please do so yourself and not swallow the antinuclear propaganda on the subject that you are being fed.

    2. I am not aganst nuclear plants, but are you aware of the many plants reachcing their end of life cycle. How about the tremendous amount of water needed for cooling and how it affects marine life.

      1. @notfiveo

        I would love it if we were building new nuclear plants to replace the old ones. However, the old nuclear plants are at least as reliable as any old steam plant. There are hundreds of coal plants that are more than 40 years old; some operating plants are more than 60 years old.

        It is a myth that the plants were only designed to last for 40 years. They were licensed for 40 years because the writers of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 wanted to put a limit on the license so that the plants would have to be reevaluated by technically qualified, but independent people. At the time, no one knew how long a nuclear plant could last – we had not yet built any nuclear power plants when that Act was written. The first commercial plant did not start operating in the US until 1957.

        The water used for cooling is merely warmed up, not consumed. It is exactly the same process used in other thermal plants that are heated by combustion instead of fission. Many plants have closed cycle cooling systems that do not use sea water directly, but even those that do use direct cooling generally have more of a positive effect on the local marine life than a negative effect.

        As a volunteer activity, I used to keep the leader board for a fundraising fishing tournament held on the Chesapeake Bay. Every year, a large portion of the fish caught for the tournament that made it to the leader board were caught near the Calvert Cliff nuclear power plant. My anecdotal guess for the reason is that those waters tend to be productive and fish like to eat there.

  14. Re processing is not done in the us for purely political reasons. The amount of spent fuel generated over the lifetime 60-80+ years of a NPP is such a small amount in comparison to the carcinogenic fly ash and toxic emissions from coal plants that it is a no brainer.

    All the spent fuel can be re used, buried in a repository, or stored in dry casks on a very small area of a site while the rest is restored to greenfeild.

    How many acres of fly ash slurry ponds are thier in the us compared to the amount of spent fuel?

  15. DV82XL says:
    “… This is unlike say mercury, cadmium and lead whose chemistry’s are such that if released as metals or oxides into the environment will likely change to become more bio-available over time thus becoming more dangerous with the passage of time.”

    I read that early explorers of ancient Egyptian and Chinese sites had to tread carefully when venturing unknown passages and chambers in case of thief-chucking booby traps employing still very active chemical agents based on arsenic and mercury and whatever. That’s as close to a practical “forever hazard” that anti-nukers reserve for nuclear waste I can think of.

    Myself, I’d hate to see us waste a billion-dollar hole in Yucca… My personal feelings is nuclear plant sites ought remain permanent energy sites where you upgrade/build new generations of reactors and drill a couple of thousand foot deep holes in bedrock where the sun won’t shine for billion years to store the waste in on-site. We have coal and oil and ore/mineral mining sites all over this country that were in place for many many generations and are regarded as permanent industrial fixtures by the locals; it’s not like they’re aching to mow down a quarry or huge coal installation or oil refinery to throw a condo in their place. People ought have that same attitude with nuclear plants; don’t abandoned sites of decommissioned plants — recycle them with new ones! Spell Thorium! Take the bogeyman (or ghosts) out of locally buried nuke waste; there are literally whole coal towns that are hazardous to enter because the terrain’s been so undermined (literally) by over extensive mining — and there are even towns with decade-old fires still raging beneath them rendering whole areas unproductive — a condition that won’t occur with deeply buried inert nuclear waste. Safely out of sight and mind forever like the garbage you throw out weekly (I hope!).

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  16. Rod,

    I keenly aware of the cause and effects of the Rocky Flats fire which occurred in Golden, CO west of Denver in 1969 having worked there and having supervisors who were hero’s in bringing the unfortunate fire under control. One supervisor received a significant Pu intake in his lungs at age 25 with it remaining intact until his death a few years ago at age 69. The fire is chronicled in a University of Colorado graduate student presentation available online however the presentation is tainted with typical Univ. Colorado liberal sensationalist views.

  17. Rod,

    I am a Japanese translator/interpreter considering moving to Sendai with my family for a year to assist in relief efforts. Since my little boy is only four, we consider it important to thoroughly research the radiation risks.

    Most of the reading I have done suggests that the radiation rates in Sendai do not constitute a long-term health risk, even for a small child. However, an acquaintance who recently moved her family away from Sendai insists that recent research has proven the LNT theory. This is the study she is referencing: http://www.rrjournal.org/doi/pdf/10.1667/RR2629.1

    Sendai has background radiation levels of around 0.1 microsievert per hour. The woman I spoke to has measured “hotspots” with radiation levels of around 0.3 microsieverts per hour. She feels that no amount of radiation is safe, but that 0.3 microsieverts per hours is dangerous, as it would result in a cumulative dose of over 1 mSv per year.

    She also contends that although there are places in the world with natural radiation levels higher than the levels in Tohoku, that natural background radiation and radiation from a nuclear accident are not equivalent. Also, she contends that the potential for internal irradiation, for ingesting or inhaling radioactive particles, presents a higher risk.

    I would be grateful for feedback and analysis regarding this study and how it has been received by the scientific community.

    1. Camellia – I think that your acquaintance has been listening to the wrong people — probably those who make their living off of feeding the general public’s fear of radiation.

      First of all, no study based on the atomic bomb survivors, no matter how recent or how well done, is going to “prove” the LNT “theory.” This is particularly true when trying to understand the effects of low-dose and low-dose-rate exposure to radiation, which is what would be encountered in Japan. Most of the data from the Life Span Study (LSS) cohort (the atomic bomb survivors) is from exposure to very high doses of radiation and virtually all of it is for a one-time acute dose.

      In any case, however, the standards for radiation protection that are used around the world, including Japan, are based on the LNT model, which is considered conservative (i.e., if anything, it overestimates health effects). Thus, arguments for and against the LNT model shouldn’t cause you any concern, whether or not the model correctly reflects reality.

      Next, claims that radiation from a nuclear accident are somehow mysteriously more dangerous than naturally occurring radiation are nothing but pseudo-scientific nonsense. The health effects of radiation have been well studied, and by the time an equivalent dose has been expressed in the unit of sieverts (or rems), the differences in the type of radiation (e.g., alpha, beta, gamma, or neutron) and the energy of the particles have already been taken into account.

      The effects of internal exposure to radiation are also well understood. Scientists have tons of information to work with from decades and decades of medical data from patients undergoing various radiotherapy treatments that involve putting radiation sources inside the body. Again, all of this is taken into account.

      Keep in mind that 0.1 microseiverts per hour is a very small rate of exposure. To give you some perspective, it’s just slightly higher than the exposure that you get from standing in the US capitol building from the large amount of granite used in its construction.

      Radiation “hotspots” sound scary, but remember that these are localized “spots.” You and your family will not be spending all of your time in that small area being exposed to the higher level of radiation, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that you will. Will that matter? Let’s get some more perspective.

      If you were continually exposed to 0.3 microseiverts per hour for an entire year, you would get a dose of about 2.5 mSv. This is 20 times less than the yearly dose limit that is allowed for nuclear workers in the US, and studies have consistently shown that nuclear workers have lower rates of cancer than the general population (although this is usually attributed to nuclear workers being healthier, on average, than the general population).

      Still, how much risk does that involve? Well, reports published by the National Academy of Sciences have estimated (again, based on the conservative LNT model) that if you were exposed by that “hot spot” constantly for about 40 years, you would increase your lifetime risk of ever being diagnosed with cancer — not dying, mind you, but just being diagnosed — from 42% to 43%.

      If you’re worried about getting cancer then I suggest that you refrain from smoking, eat foods that are rich in antioxidants, and ensure that your house, particularly your basement, is well ventilated. You shouldn’t worry about moving to Sendai, however.

      1. Re: via Brian – “Keep in mind that 0.1 microseiverts per hour is a very small rate of exposure. To give you some perspective, it’s just slightly higher than the exposure that you get from standing in the US capitol building from the large amount of granite used in its construction.”

        Heck, Camellia, you don’t heed a college study to grasp all this! Just be armed and not alarmed by common sense! Imagine working and LIVING in granite and marble buildings as there are in NYC! You can have lots of fun listening to Geiger counter clicks in Grand Central Station (the police there must take this in account in dirty bomb threats), Empire State Building, Grants’ Tomb, and literally thousands of other pre-sixities buildings here! I don’t see too many people swooning in the streets from radiation poisoning — and how about the quarry workers where all this granite and marble came from? Any mutant kids there? Believe me, if you want to blow Greenpeace’s malarkey that NO radiation level is safe, invite them to the Big Apple, especially at night to see the lovely skyline glowing via electricity from Indian Point! Alas, but by their fearsome reckoning the place ought look like the Forbidden Zone out of Planet of the Apes! Let’s hope fact and reality triumphs’ fear over there to gift your little boy fresh air and low pollution and a windmill free mountainscape!

        Wish I was in Japan taking in the air and sights myself!

        James Greenidge
        Queens NY

  18. I live with my wife and 20-month-old son in central Japan and Fukushima, while not something I worry about regularly, is an ongoing source of (irrational?) concern for me. Thanks to this site and other pro-nuclear articles I have seen I have been much less concerned as of late, but I’m afraid that articles like these: http://www.simplyinfo.org/?p=6081 still succeed in making me worry and wonder what to believe again. That last link is especially troubling, as it seems to make a strong debunking case for the recent MIT study that said that mice exposed to BG radiation 400x normal had no genetic damage (http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/prolonged-radiation-exposure-0515.html). Have any of you seen that debunking yet? I’d be very interested in your thoughts if you have.

    And for the record, I would love to know for certain, or at least as close to certainty as possible, that we well and truly have nothing to fear from Fukushima (I am no longer so concerned about regular nuclear plant operations), but with so many contradictory legitimate-seeming claims, and so little time for laypeople like myself to sufficiently investigate them, it remains difficult to know what to believe at times.

    1. @Gabe Glick

      A good source of calming information about recent hype about Fukushima spent fuel pools can be found at the ANS Nuclear Cafe http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2012/05/16/spent-fuel-at-fukushima-not-dangerous/

      In general, however, I would recommend that you recognize that many well connected people in the press and in politics have a strong financial reason to want to make people afraid of nuclear energy. On a rational, technical basis, it is the strongest competition that fossil fuel has in the market. It is the only fossil fuel alternative that can produce the kind of reliable, affordable power that people in industrialized countries like Japan and the US have come to expect as almost a birthright.

      In just 9 months after 3/11, Japan purchased about $55 billion more in fossil fuel than in the similar period in 2010.

      Every single day, Japan is spending about $120 million extra to buy fossil fuel – which means that the fossil fuel industry has $120 million reasons to diss nuclear energy. If your media is anything like ours, you should be able to count hundreds of fossil fuel ads every day if you pay attention. Every one of those ads is an additional piece of evidence showing how much the media depends on fossil fuel money.

      Of course, I work in the nuclear industry as an engineer/analyst, so I am sure that there will be people who point out that I also have a motive and an agenda. However, I do not get any compensation for sharing information; it is not any part of my job description. The scale of my interest is TINY compared to $55,000,000,000 in additional revenue.

      1. Thanks for your reply, Rod. I have read that article and have found it reassuring regarding the spent fuel pools, and indeed I am no longer concerned about the so-called threat they pose. But I was still hoping for some thoughts about this article in particular: http://www.simplyinfo.org/?p=6081 as it seems to make a strong case for, and link to, a study that says that cumulative low doses of radiation do have damaging effects. I’m sure you can understand the predicament laypeople like myself find ourselves in when we have to decide between two legitimate-seeming scientific reports that come to very different conclusions when we don’t have the expertise to properly evaluate their claims.

        For what it’s worth, I’ve been reading this site for a while, and I do think I better understand now the motive fossil fuel energy companies have to spread FUD about nuclear power, and I am trying to look for those connections when I see new FUD being bandied about (and yes, I have seen far more ads for fossil fuel companies here than I have for nuclear ones; in fact, I’m not even sure I have seen ads for nuclear power here). I tried to look for any connections like that for Ian Goddard, who seems to be the main source behind that article I just linked, but was unable to find any.

        1. Gabe – I suggest that you be very wary of giving too much credit to a random article found on the Internet, especially one that is clearly just a hit piece written by people with an agenda. As you mention, we know almost nothing about the people who wrote it or their qualifications. All we know is that it appears on a website whose purpose is to spread fear about the Fukushima accident and nuclear power in general.

          The web article makes many claims about the MIT paper, some might have merit, others seem petty or otherwise dubious (to me), some are downright absurd. For example, because TEPCO funds a professorship in the nuclear engineering department, we are supposed to believe that no papers from MIT can be trusted?! If receiving funding from corporate sources disqualifies a school from being trusted, then no research universities in the US can be trusted, since they all get some of their money from corporations.

          The MIT paper was published in Environmental Health Perspectives, which is a highly respected journal (at least, according to my wife, who is a professional epidemiologist). More importantly, this journal also allows researchers to comment (submit letters) on articles, and the original authors are allowed a response to defend their work. This is very common. Usually, the comment and the reply are published in the same issue, so that the reader gets to see and evaluate both sides together. Do you think that any of the authors of this “crowd-sourced” web article will publish their criticisms in Environmental Health Perspectives or write an article that is critical of this paper in any other respectable science journal? No, I don’t think so. Instead, they publish it on the Internet for consumption by the general public, not professionals, without any chance for the authors of the article to respond.

          You refer to yourself a layperson. Do you feel qualified to judge the merits of their arguments? I don’t consider myself qualified to fully evaluate all of their criticisms. This is what the authors are counting on. There is a group of people out there with a strident anti-nuclear agenda — for reasons that are ideological, financial, or both — who rely on the public’s lack of scientific sophistication to get away with publishing the worst pseudo-scientific nonsense.

          They all typically use the same tactics. They quote unreliable sources that they accept uncritically; they quote credible sources, but then misinterpret the results and conclusions; and they sometimes just make stuff up. I suggest that you read the recent article by Balonov in the Journal of Radiological Protection that critiques the book on Chernobyl that was inconceivably published by the New York Academy of Sciences three years ago. It exposes and describes many of these tricks that are used to confuse and frighten “the inexperienced reader,” and it should give you something to think about when trying to critically evaluate some of these claims that superficially seem plausible, but more often than not are carefully crafted to fool people.

  19. Commenting here because I can’t seem to reply directly anymore:

    Thanks for your reply, Brian. I do try to avoid giving too much credit to random articles, but please remember that for many of we laypeople (there’s that word again 😉 random articles are almost all of what we have to go on in determining the truth. I am slowly getting better at recognizing obvious scare pieces based on dubious science, but unfortunately I haven’t (yet?) reached a level of understanding of radiation and nuclear science where I can consistently look at a legitimate-seeming scare piece and see through its untruthful claims. I hope to get better at it (and thanks for that Balonov link, that looks very much like the kind of thing I need to read) but I’d be lying if I said that the FUD didn’t still have the ability to concern me at times.

    I had not heard of Environmental Health Perspectives or its reputation before, so that is certainly reassuring. You also make good points about corporate funding not automatically disqualifying research and about the venue the Simply Info authors chose to publish their debunking (i.e. free from peer scrutiny), so thanks for assuaging some of my concerns about that. And yes, as a layperson I don’t feel qualified to judge the truth of their arguments, but that is also true of the arguments I read here. As I said before I would like nothing better than to be as reasonably certain as possible that everything pro-nuclear folks tell us is true and there is realistically nothing to worry about with Fukushima whatsoever…but when I’m unable to evaluate the truth of both sides’ arguments, I don’t think it’s prudent to automatically believe the arguments of the side I want to be true just because I want them to be true (nor the arguments of the side I don’t want to be true just because I’m worried they might be). Perhaps my attempts at skepticism and critical thinking are working against me in this case 🙂

    1. Gabe – If you worry, my recommendation is to stick with the most credible sources. I’m not asking you to trust the “nuclear industry” (whatever your conceptualization of that is), nor am I asking you to trust us “pro-nuclear folks” that you find on the Internet.

      Some of the most credible sources are international organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), and International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). It’s their job to do the heavy lifting and consider the vast amount of information that is available in the scientific literature, so that you don’t have to.

      Keep in mind that radiological protection standards are not going to be changed based on just one study. The MIT study will be considered within the larger scientific literature, which is how it should be. Personally, however, I find it telling and incredibly interesting that the folks who rely on the public’s irrational fear of radiation, such as the contributors at SimplyInfo, felt threatened enough by this one study to publish such an amateurish attack piece on it. I interpret this to mean that they actually realize that science is not on their side, and the signs of desperation are showing.

      You are welcome to your own opinions of what this means.

      1. Thanks again, Brian. I hope I haven’t come across as antagonistic or hostile here, as I really do appreciate yours and Rod’s responses. I will look into the sources you suggest and keep reading this site and others. For what it’s worth, if I can learn enough to be as certain as Rod and other regular commenters like you of nuclear’s benefits and radiation’s realistically low risks I will be happy to call myself pro-nuclear as well 🙂

  20. Let me ask a simple question, first about Chernobil, then the same question about Fukushima:
    Do you think that radiation levels in the evacuated areas was not dangerous, and that the evacuations were not justified? Can you answer this unequivocally ?

    What are the radiation levels in the evacuated areas around Fukushima? (numbers please).

    Would you recommend that people return to their homes there, more than a year after the accident ?

    This blog post was strong on feel-good rhetoric, and weak on specifics.

    1. Posts on Atomic Insights are not always meant to stand alone. Here is a link to an entire conversation that directly answers your question

      https://atomicinsights.com/2011/12/atomic-show-176-let-fukushima-residents-go-home.html

      Here is another one that does the answering in writing.

      https://atomicinsights.com/2012/03/furious-about-fossil-fuel-funded-fukushima-frenzy.html

      Bottom line – radiation levels outside of the facility gates at Fulushima are safe.

      Do you know that people kept working at the Chernobyl facility at the other reactors on that site for years after the accident? Did you know that there were others who refused to leave their homes and are still living comfortably more than 25 years later?

Comments are closed.