Fukushima consequences in perspective – Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)
The US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on March 15, 2012 titled “Lessons from Fukushima One Year Later: NRC’s Implementation of Recommendations for Enhancing Nuclear Reactor Safety in the 21st Century.” The following video clip included some key points that bear repeating to all who wail and gnash their teeth about nuclear energy.
In the video, Senator Carper (D-DE), in his typical deadpan fashion, asks the commissioners to share what they know about the total number of radiation related deaths associated with the “nuclear disaster”. As Commissioners Magwood and Svinicki point out, the number is ZERO, though there were two people who were drowned during the tsunami and two more who died from heart attacks brought on by exertion during the recovery efforts.
Carper then asked about the death toll due to commercial nuclear energy production in the United States since its inception in 1957. Commissioner Ostendorff responded that no one has died as a result of a radiation accident at either a US commercial power plant or on board a US nuclear powered warship. Chairman Jaczko interrupted Senator Carper to claim that he did not think it was correct to minimize the effects of the accident, but Senator Carper cut him off – twice.
Senator Carper then pointed out that, as the chairman of the Clean Air Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he had heard numerous testimonies in recent years about people whose lives were ended – not merely disrupted – by their exposure to dirty air from burning coal, oil and natural gas in utility power plants.
It is a comparison worth thinking about, especially for those people in the nuclear industry and on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who appear to believe that their primary task is trying to achieve an absolutely perfect record of zero releases of radioactive material. Even when a substantial accident happens, and when a lot of things do not go as planned, the multiple layers of defense that are possible at nuclear power stations protect the public from harm caused by radiation and radioactive materials.
As Senator Boxer and even Chairman Jaczko pointed out during the hearing, that does not mean that our engineered systems and our actual responses to accidents have protected people from all harm. Disrupting lives and forcing people to leave their homes is incredibly harmful.
This disconnect between radiation health consequences and overall accident consequences raises an important question.
Should nuclear energy be blamed for that disruption or should the real blame be placed on the irrationally imposed fear of radiation? Senator Boxer and Chairman Jaczko seem to believe that the only response is to tighten down harder on nuclear until we achieve that unreachable goal of perfect safety.
We have to remember that nuclear energy does not exist in isolation. It is a competitive source of reliable, virtually emission free energy, but there is no magical source of useful power that carries absolute safety. If society chooses to give up its access to nuclear energy, we will have to choose another reliable energy source. In places that are not endowed with large rivers that can be dammed up, our only available options are burning coal, natural gas, oil or wood.
Did the people near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station really need to leave? What would their doses have been if they had remained in place? More importantly at this stage in the response effort, do they really need to remain displaced?
Is their overall health being protected or are they being put at an ever increasing risk of serious medical conditions brought on by stress and depression? Should the people who used to live near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station continue to be displaced from their homes by government edit, impoverished due to inability to rebuild on their property, and forced into a lifelong status as powerless victims?
I have no doubts about my answers to the questions, but I would dearly love to hear the answers that might be provided by elected or appointed officials. I would also love to hear the answers provided by industry leaders – so far, all I see is the industry acting a bit like the people from nutty religious sects who lash their own bodies in a vain attempt at self purification.
Rod, I almost wish you could temporarily allow Kit P. to comment on this posting, since he loves so much to state that the air he breathes is so clean.
Sorry, I’m neither an elected official nor an industry leader, but thanks for posting this. It’s refreshing to see that we have a few intelligent, rational political leaders left. I’m a little afraid of the younger crop coming behind them.
Jazcko, like many people, seems to think his world is THE world. I really wonder if he ever thinks about the fact that his obstruction is killing people.
Whenever you argue that it is safe to return to most of the area around Fukushima, you will hear ‘oh yeah, would you let your kids live there?’ This is the way humans argue. We don’t understand probability etc. In any case, my answer is ‘yes’, but of course that doesn’t carry much weight. I sometimes try this: ‘would you live in Denver?’. For most people the answer is yes. So, we maybe we just need to keep pointing out comparisons of radiation levels at Fukushima, and other places where the average person would have no problem living.
The two dead fukushima daichi plant workers did not drown. They were crushed.
News is news. After 15 years, we good to go !!!!
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s nuclear regulator has given Bruce Power the green light to restart the Unit 2 reactor, which has been offline for more than 15 years, the Ontario power utility said on Friday.
It was mothballed, they only started the referb in late ’06.
I’d really like to know the take of the MSM and New York Times on Senator Carper’s commentary (though I can guess). Green-mole Jaczko performed as anticipated, using his NRC perch to help hamstring nuclear development for his “new age energy” administration (yea, call me a conspiracy theorist!). Though I praise Carper’s slings and mentions, especially availing testimonies of coal, gas, oil exposure pollution victims, he should’ve pumped the steamroller. The best weapon against the anti-nuclear lobby is not economics or environment but the comparative mortality game, a stark simple language anyone can understand. Good as Sen. Carper and Magwood and Svinicki were, they should’ve stressed this to the hilt, such as pointing out that since nukes were fired up in 1942 less people were killed — including accidents — in nuclear-electric generation than in a single airliner crash, yet during the same period almost a hundred thousand oil, gas and coal workers and public and neighborhoods near THEIR (far more frequent) accidents were destroyed, and that Japanese complaining nuclear safety is a “myth” are cluelessly looking a gift horse in the mouth what zero deaths and public property damage after three nukes met the rare wrath of God twice — and guess what such punishment would’ve reeked to oil and gas facilities. Worst, they should’ve stressed that it’s not just oil, gas and coal accidents that are of concern, but the _regularly released products_ of their daily operations (something that turns anti-nuke health concerns into hypocrites). Whether those hapless true on-site victims of Fukushima were drowned or crashed or crisped, even the most rabid anti-nukers chalk those up to the tsunami, not the reactors, since their main operative zeal is specific and uniquely evil death by _radiation_, which has vexed and frustrated them since Fukushima frizzled out that hope.
I hope members of the Atomic Carnival take clips of Sen. Carper’s session and tack it at their headers for casual surfers to quickly access so to demonstrate the background facts and philosophy of pro-nuclear blogs have credence and illustrated history in their cause. I’d also love to see a tally of Hill remarks to the session by attending pols, and sending those pols addresses and info of pro-nuclear blogs for grass-roots feedback and support.
FWIW (but not much): Cause of death was probably reported at a later date from the Autopsy, not from first appearances picked up by CNN while the crisis was still evolving. Look at the date of the report.
Rod, according to the UN Commission on nuclear energy, the largest natural background radiation dose is in Ramsar, Iran. It’s 9mSv/year. That works out to 1067nSv/hour. When I checked the Japan Information Societies’ radiation map at http://jciv.iidj.net/map/, only two monitoring sites are above that: The power plant (way above), and a community center (about 5x). The other monitors are all less than Ramsar. I admit Ramsar is extreme, but the point is that Ramsar has been studied, and there are no known health consequences.
I believe that you’re thinking about the monazite-bearing Kerala coast of India, which has a natural background level of, say, 8 to 15 mSv per year. Rasmar, Iran, is almost two orders of magnitude higher than that, with typical doses of 150 to 250 mSv/yr.
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