1. You said it yourself Rod:
    “Sure, the plants are not absolutely safe and may be subject to damage from various events. They will not be manned by perfectly competent individuals who know exactly what to do at all times. However …”

    There lies the problem. One look to Japan tells me these reactors aren’t safe once breached. It is simply NOT WORTH THE RISK, not now, not any longer. Our future can and MUST be renewable or we stand the chance of Fukushima happening here. It just isn’t worth the costs, not only in operation, but more importantly – human lives. The future of Japan will be seen for generations to come….and that’s enough to convince me we have got to better than Nuclear. It IS possible…

    Wadebridge, the UK’s first solar city

    Thank you.

    1. Whoopie, that quote you’re refering to from Rod’s post applies to ANY type of plant….or even any type of event. NOTHING is 100% safe.

      What would have happened if a large PV solar plant had been on the Fukushima site instead of a nuclear plant? How much heavy metal (lead, cadmium, mercury) would have been washed into the sea, or leaked onto the land?

      Furthermore, 80 days after the proposed accident what amount of the initial heavy metal pollution would remain? The answer: the same amount. These toxins are stable and do not decay with time.

      How about wind? Wind farms are generally over flat land or off shore. But what happens when you erect a very tall object in the middle of low lying land (or the sea) where storms may not be uncommon. What’s the economic impact of having to constantly replace a wind turbine because of a lightning strike? How about the environmental impact associated with the ensuing fire…especially if the fire occurs over a field of combustible material? (for more info see http://www.nacleanenergy.com/?action=article&id=11235)

      Bottom line is, like I said before, nothing is 100% safe. You will encounter risk no matter what. What is important, as highlighted in the article I linked, is that the risk is recognized and steps are taken to mitigate it.

      The nuclear industry has done just that. By the use of open communication of operating experiences throughout the industry various regulations, standards, codes, and programs have been developed and implemented to reduce the risk of our nuclear plants to the public. The nuclear industry as a whole is very open and willfully shares information about events that affect or may affect operating a nuclear power plant. In my role as an engineer at a nuclear power plant, I get an email every day that will tell me of different issues that happened at other nuclear plant around the US. The nuclear industry does this for the sole purose of sharing information so that we can all learn from the experiences of each other in order to operate our units in a safer manner. (look up INPO or WANO) What other industry do you know willfully shares industrial operating experiences like that?

      Every operating nuclear power plant in the US has even built detailed models to quantify the risk of core damage (aka “meltdown”) AND the risk of a radiological release if there happens to be a core damage event. The new reactors being planned for the Vogtle site have a core damage frequency on the order of 1 core damage event every 10,000,000 years. While the probability is not exactly zero, 0.0000001 is pretty close that I can live with it.

    2. WHAT “cost in human lives??”

      Point to one person who has been killed by radiation from any western-design commercial nuclear power plant. Just one.

    3. You know what else is capable of causing a disaster once breached: a hydro dam. The scale of the damage and loss of life that one of these will cause will make Fukushima look like a non-event. There is no such thing as 100% safe energy, the very fact that you are trafficking in something that can do work means that, when there is enough of it concentrated, it has the potential to do work in an uncontrolled way, if the right conditions are present. Invoking danger as a reason to avoid nuclear energy is idiotic, and founded on ignorance.

    4. Just stick to the Huffington Post Whoopie, or should I say WeMustDoBetter09.

    5. Whoopie that is a nice reference to Wadebridge, “the UK’s first solar city”.

      Too bad the actual goal of the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network is to meet one third of its annual power requirements with renewable energy by 2015, which would be 15,000 MWh per year.


      In other words, the amount power produced by a nuclear power plant in less than a day.

      Good luck to them. That’s not a convincing solution for the world’s energy needs.

    6. I wonder what would happen if there was a massive earthquake around the Grand Coulee dam and the dam failed. Would it result in a wall of water taking out dams down the Columbia river all the way to the sea? Has anyone ever seen a study related to this? Dams are the poster child of renewables. Are dams 100% safe?

    7. Whoopie:

      While I applaud Wadebridge, UK in their efforts to go completely renewable, this is just not feasible in most metropolitan areas of the US. Philadelphia alone consumes over 10,000 Megawatts on a hot Summer’s day. Wind and solar simply do not have the capacity. Using 1.25 Megawatt GE wind turbines, it takes 77 square miles of wind farms to provide the capacity of one 1200 MWe nuclear plant, and only when the wind is blowing…hard. Further, while only 20% of the generation, nuclear plants provide the baseload and stability of the national grid. Without some new breakthough in electric storage capability…e.g, supercapacitors, current technology cannot support a national grid with only wind and solar…period end of discussion. Coal plants are being shutdown since they cannot meet clean air standards and fusion is at least 15-20 years out. So, for the time being, nuclear is really our only option. We should develop and use renewables, as much as possible but they are not a viable solution. Sorry, but this is the reality, unless you live in Wadebridge. By the way, what do they intend to do when wind and solar cannot produce sufficient electric supply? How will they supply their hospitals, emergency fire stations and 911 facilities, schools, streetlights, refridgeration, manufacturing, internet? Have you calculated the risk to human life without electricity? From the August 2003 blackout in the US, we know exactly how many people died over those two days. Your just not being realistic…sorry to day.

  2. Rod, If you would like to read the best-informed short newspaper piece on Fukushima, I’ve come across, I recommend:


    ‘The world has forgotten the real victims of Fukushima
    A natural disaster that cost the lives of thousands of people was ignored in favour of a nuclear ‘disaster’ that never was, argues Michael Hanlon.’

    This is from a reporter who counts himself among the guilty. This article is very well-written and concisely addresses a number of issues.

    The last sentence of the piece is:

    ‘Nobody, to date, has died as a result of radiation leaks at Fukushima Dai-ichi. Zero – a number you will have read even less about than the 20,000 dead.’

  3. Rod,

    An awesome counter to Pesek’s confabulatory diatribe. I would only add one thing. Early in Pesek’s article, he mentions his early fear of a reactor explosion at Fukushima. He clearly is ignorant of the differences between reactors and bombs and evokes visions of nuclear mushroom clouds, which I argue is one of the foundations of my Hiroshima Syndrome theory.

    In addition, I found his belief that P.M. Kan saved his life (in Tokyo, 250 kilometers away) by stopping TEPCO from abandoning Fukushima Daiichi. The dude is clearly delusional.


  4. ” The chance of hurting a member of the general public was calculated to be something like 1 in 10E-14. ”

    That risk is for early fatalities. The general concern is cancer, which occurs decades later.

    1. Yes, that is why the SOARCA study modeled latent cancer fatalities in some detail. The study found the overall risk of long term cancer fatality is in the range of 10E-10. The study says that is several orders of magnitude smaller than the NRC’s Safety Goal:

      “The NRC Safety Goal for latent cancer fatality risk from nuclear power plant operation (i.e., 2×10-6 or two in one million) is set 1,000 times lower than the sum of cancer fatality risks resulting from all other causes (i.e., 2×10-3 or two in one thousand). The calculated cancer fatality risks from the selected, important scenarios analyzed in SOARCA are thousands of times lower than the NRC Safety Goal and millions of times lower than the general U.S. cancer fatality risk.”

      Once a reactor has suffered an accident and released radioactive materials, the risk of long term cancer fatality is in the range of 10E-4 to 10E-5. Most of the modeled risk results from people returning to their houses and re-inhabiting them for a long time.

      In addition, the numbers above are based on the LNT hypothesis. If the models assume that doses below a certain limit are safe, then the risk numbers become several orders of magnitude smaller. The study concludes:

      “SOARCA analyses indicate that successful implementation of existing mitigation measures can prevent reactor core damage or delay or reduce offsite releases of radioactive material. All SOARCA scenarios, even when unmitigated, progress more slowly and release much less radioactive material than the 1982 Siting Study SST1 case. As a result, the calculated risks of public health consequences from severe accidents modeled in SOARCA are very small.”

    2. Scientists have had decades to study the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, and the WHO reported in 2006 that aside from thyroid cancer due to radio-iodine uptake by iodine-deficient children shortly after the incident, no measurable effect on public health has been observed.

      They have had even longer to study survivors of the nuclear bombings of Japan, and only 480 out of the 86,000 survivors have died of radiation-related cancer.


    3. Bob, did you read the report or only the conclusion related to early fatalities? I have yet to find time to look through it myself, but from Laurence’s response, it appears that you might have been improperly trying to speak from a position of authority.

      Or perhaps you omitted the result of the issue you said is the general concern because it is contrary to your agenda?

  5. Rod & Colleagues;

    I’ve decided, with some local geek help, to produce a pro nuke YouTube video. It’s not based on economics or ecology but squarely hits the the master bogeyman against nuclear power – Death. I’m no pro at this and hope to have the thing out deep into spring and would like some critique or suggestions to my initial vision here. My storyboard as follows: Transposed the top edge of the screen is a running calender, beginning with 1942. Below this is a caption stating nuclear site locations, in this first case reading “Stagg Field Chicago,” and on a caption below that reads “Fatalities from nuclear reactor operations and accidents” next to a running tally. On the left half of the screen is a running montage of people on the street and in academia and media basically voicing over “it’s too dangerous!” On the right half of the screen run advancing video clips or stills of energy industry accidents, starting with oil and gas and coal accidents in 1942. Transposed over the right half’s scene is a caption naming the incident and on one below that is a running tally of the mortality scores of each such incident through the years to present. Below that totals counter is the population of towns and cities as a sample of the enormity of casualties from said accidents. Roughly this is what I want to accomplish. I have to mine the web for maybe several hundred clips of people, teachers and media darlings uttering “it’s too dangerous!” and the mortality numbers of gas, oil and coal plant accidents since 1942. If anyone knows of any stock footage sites of such clips I’d greatly appreciate it.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    1. @James – that sounds like a worthy project. I suggest that you include some clips from Wasserman, Caldicott, Lovins, and Gundersen telling us how dangerous our favorite power source is.

      1. Thanks for the recommendations! I’m getting ahead of myself, but I’m open for some punchlines from all for this thing like:

        “Who are you going to believe? Real numbers you can check or lies and disinformation by fearmongers with an axe to grind??”

        “These are the hard and cold numbers, not hot loud lies.”

        “It you’re a thinking person without a beef, it should be obvious what’s dangerous.”

        “What’s almost worst than the numbers on the left is that the media whom you depend on factual information from don’t mention it because of a anti-nuclear hang-up from the 1960’s”

        Yea, they’re bad and corny but if anyone has ideas to help cap the point please post them! Thanks.

        James Greenidge
        Queens NY

  6. Coal. oil, gas and hydro are other major sources of electricity. The statistics of life loss per billion units or megawatt-year from all these sources should be mentioned for comparison. That is the only way a rational picture can emerge. Some figures are available from International Energy Agency.

  7. Dear Rod and other experts,

    I had the oppertunity a few days ago of talking to a bright young anti-nuclear activist about the way Fukushima has helped the anti-nuclear cause. Pretty quickly we got into the difference between what actually happened at Fukushima, and what has been reported about it by anti-nuclear lobby groups such as the one he was involved with. I braced myself for a debate about how serious the nuclear accident really was, health effects, long term effect, cleanup costs, etc. But I was completely taken off-guard by what he told me right off the bat. He actually *agreed* that the seriousness of the accident was greatly overstated and that the health effects were likely te turn out to be as small as to be nonexistent. My response was of course how he could align this with the scaremongering and misinformation being spread by the anti-nuclear parties. He then explained to me that the facts about nuclear energy, it’s safety and even it’s positive economic effects were not relevant. He said that scaremongering and misinformation where the appropriate and moral strategy of anti-nuclear groups. He said that the ideology of sustainability and anti-nuclearism was so important for the future of humanity that facts should be of no concern. Moreover: if the invention of fake information (i.e. lies) about nuclear energy could bring closer the day of elimination of nuclear power from the earth, then that meant that producing and spreading fake information should (and indeed was) a top priority of all anti-nuclear groups. So then I asked him why he thought that it was moral and defensible to lie to people. He said that people in general cannot and do not base their views and opinions on facts, so the value of facts versus fiction was relative. In order to bring about the disired outcome (i.e. a nuclear free world) fiction could be (and in fact was, in his opinion) a much better way to do it then facts. Finally, I asked him why he thought nuclear power should be eliminated even after he told me that he agreed that nuclear power was good for the economy. His reply was simply that an additional goal of the antinuclear movement (as far as he was concerned) was in fact the reduction of economic activity, since according to him, the greatest cause of ecological damage was increased economic activity. So in his mind, the fact that nuclear power was a boon for the economy was all the more reason to try to eliminate it. In closing, I told him that a reduction in economic activity would also reduce his own prospects for a high quality of life and prosperity. But he didn’t agree with me. He said that further economic expansion was of no use to him, because he believed in living a simple life. He said that economic expansion was bad for people because it distracted from the true quality of life, which consists of community and social activities that are mostly threatened by improved prosperity, rather than improved by it.

    I’m still trying to understand what to make of this exchange, but one thing occured to me. It is necessary to realise that perhaps a large part of the anti-nuclear groups share the same type of ‘power down, simple living’ ideology supported by this young (and deeply mistaken IMO) man. In that case, not only do nuclear proponents need to explain that nuclear power is safe and affordable, but also that economic expansion is a good thing that should be pursued.

    Personally, I’m all for economic expansion. I’ve always thought it was very naive to think that economic expansion should be stopped. I think there is much more expansion needed, if only to help the poorest half of the world population to emerge from the most abominable poverty. And to do that, I can’t see any other way than to rely heavily on clean, intelligent, affordable and sustainable nuclear technology.

    1. @Joris – Your comment is being promoted to the blog front page this evening. If you do not mind, I am going to add a few paragraph breaks to make it a little easier on the eyes, but otherwise there will be no alterations.

      Please let me know before then if you have an objection.

      Thank you for sharing.

    2. Obviously the anti-nuclear activist in question doesn’t understand the significance of the Haber-Bosch process.

    3. Joris:

      Thank you for your post…very interesting.

      I wonder if his “simple life” excludes his macbook, iphone and internet connection. I had a very similar conversation about technology and risk with my sons a few years ago, now ages 23 and 25. They changed their minds when they realized what they would have to give up.
      Thanks again.

  8. Joris,
    Thank you very much for sharing your exchange with that person. There is a funny philosophical point about a large portion of the ecological movement. They seek a deconstruction of society, strength through sacrifice and prosperity through less amenities. This is a rehash of Marx and others adapted to suit present day needs to shift control of government to a few from the majority. The funny thing is that when I sat down and looked at sustainability from a rational standpoint, I saw at the heart of it was the availability of energy to the society and that what the mainline environmentalists sought was a deconstruction of the standard of living which leads to greater impact on the surrounding environment. Thus their goal is not sustainability. If not sustainability then what?

    I started reading von Mises and Hayek and DV82XL’s mostest favoritest Ayn Rand… He is right she is a kook but does have some good insights. The book that illuminated the motives the most of the environmental left was von Mises’ 1922 critique of socialism. It is control. They want control. It does not matter that what they control is a mere shadow of its once grandeur and getting worse. North Korea is a good example of this. From a thermodynamic standpoint, the promise of socialism is that through equality of wealth that prosperity increases. Wealth in a thermoeconomic sense is the free energy of the system, Wayne Saslow identified this in his 1999 paper. The level of activity when all components of the system have the same wealth is absolute zero, that means there is no motion, no economic activity, and no action. From this standpoint socialism’s promise of prosperity and equality is in direct contradiction to the third law of thermodynamics. That young man was for some reason actually being honest about his intent.

    I know that I am sounding like some radical crackpot libertarian, maybe I am. This has been something I’ve been trying to understand for a number of years.

    1. One cannot forget that there is a solid undercurrent of Protestant guilt at work here too. Due to this vestigial subconscious factor lingering in Anglophone culture, those that espouse philosophies of sacrifice and doing with less are seen to hold the moral high ground somehow.

      The tactic of lying outright by antinuclear activists is very wide spread. Christina Macpherson the person responsible for the execrable nuclear-news have corresponded on this matter after she deleted comments that I wrote correcting some posts she made. She was unabashedly frank, admitting to misrepresenting the facts, again asserting that the end more than justified the means.

      This is what we are up against.

        1. If enough of these types of exchanges could be collected, they could make up a compelling work of some fashion (study, book, or something else).

        2. No, I did not think to save it at the time. However I am not alone it getting this sort of answer from here. Steve Packard, a.k.a. Dr. Buzz0 of Depleted Cranium, received a similar missive from the same source.

    2. This is the key issue isn’t it? Very interesting. I don’t have time to get into this interesting stuff now but I like this kind of thinking.

  9. I came across something this morning that NEI had produced that called a spent fuel pool a vault. That prompted me to contemplate.

    How might the public response to Fukushima differed with the 1 simple change going back to the early days of nuclear power plant design if rather than naming spent fuel pools pools they had been named VAULTS.

    Vault implies considerably more strength than a mere pool. The construction of spent fuel pools for all NPP designs is likely worthy of being referred to as a vault.

    Could that simple name change have caused even Chairman Jaczko’s response to have been completely different?

  10. The anti-nuke hype that goes on in the LAMESTREAM press borders on SLANDER.
    The real tragedy is these “Presstitutes” lie daily to the public. The media is a convinent
    conduit to propagandize the undemocratic coup that has gripped the world under its pro WELFARE-WARFARE policy to enslave human populations under a worldwide oligarchy and its EUGENICS policy of war to cull humans. Unfortunately the nuclear industry seems to be marked as the scapegoat for all that ills our cultures and political life on our planet.

    This is of course ANTI-HUMAN behavior.

    No, I won’t apologize for my conspiratorial rant not when people are deliberately singled out for lifestyle disruption because their property happens to neighbor a nuclear reactor or down wind from a reactor.
    When by all scientific analysis background radiation levels are NOT high enough to pose a real health danger to humans.
    It’s time to litigate widespread slander in courts of law.
    The resent UK courts “News of the World” case is an example where SLANDER wrongs need to called out in court affecting large populations by influencing hasty wrongful gov’t actions of mass evacuations creating exclusion zones.

  11. I’m pleased to see some nuclear advocates at long last saying that nothing, including nuclear is 100% safe. You are exactly correct and that is one of the core problems that the nuclear industry has in convincing the general public. For too long they have been told that nuclear is completely safe, and then they see events like Chernobyl and Fukushima that destroys that claim.

    I see there are also statements saying how no deaths in the public have occurred. That is no doubt true of the immediate radiation effects but not true of the longer term cancer rate. This is the other ‘bogey man’ that fuels the public’s fears. The public simply does not know and thus fears the worst.

    If we step back and look at reality,
    – FAR more people are killed on the roads, or suffer long term consequences. Yet we all happily hop into a vehicle fully accepting this much higher level of risk
    – respiratory and cancer caused by pollution from fossil fueled stations is simply dismissed
    – our very life styles, eg smoking, obesity, are known risks that many continue to accept (as I sit here typing, overweight and under exercised!)

    I suggest the nuclear industry needs to more accurately compare, and keep hammering, these ‘acceptable level of risks’ to convince the public. For example compare expected killed from the incident, expected injured, expected long term cancer or health issues for:
    – a car crash
    – a coal fired power station operating and its boiler exploding, or a major fire at it
    – a nuclear event such as Fukushima
    – failure of a major hydro dam
    – a person smoking a packet a day for 20 years
    – living in a city for 20 years

    1. First of all I don’t believe I have ever seen or heard anyone from the nuclear industry’ (such as it is) or any supporter assert that nuclear energy is 100% safe. What I have seen is many antinuclear diatribes that began by claiming that this is the position of the industry and its backers. I’m sure you can see that this is simply a Straw Man Argument. The only thing we have ever pointed out in this regard is that as a class it is one of the safest ways of making electricity, Chernobyl and Fukushima notwithstanding.

      In fact the death toll from both these events is rather modest compared to other energy related disasters, and that also holds for the technology considered end-to-end. Coal mining, oil drilling, and dam construction have claimed far more lives than uranium mining, and certainly the waste products from the first two in that list kill more every month than spent nuclear fuel ever has.

      As for latent cancers, this has never been shown to be anywhere near the dire predictions that have been made, and those making them have been forced to keep moving the time-frame forward. When the death toll from Chernobyl did not rise to expectations after the twenty years that was forecast initially, the critics have now stated we won’t see them for sixty years, or maybe not until the next generation. In short this whole idea has turned out to be far less a concern than anyone could imagine.

      The fact is that nuclear supporters and the industry have been the most honest of all the energy sector both on the subject of safety and its capabilities, far more than any other by far.

      1. I accept what you say. But its perceptions you have to overcome.

        We all buy things, marry people, make friends on perceptions. Sometimes we get what we perceived we were going to get. Other times not so.

        I’m an Australian, retired thermal power station operator with diddly squat nuclear knowledge. The ‘perception’ I find in the uninformed population is that nuclear IS dangerous, IS not to be trusted, IS potentially explosive, IS a killer, IS cancerous, IS scary, IS secret.

        Perceptions often have nothing to do with facts. To my mind, perceptions are the things you folk need to overcome.

        1. I’m sorry if you want to claim ignorance is bliss-fine!
          I wouldn’t claim perception as true.
          Ignorance is dangerous.
          It has lead to racism the perception that ones culture or color of skin, or ethnicity are causes of defective human traits.
          This false perception has led to historical ANTI-HUMAN acts. War and Eugenics.
          Even anti-nuke zealotry claims to brand people who work or live near nuclear power plants or high background radiation areas as somehow diseased & defective.

          I chose to view perception as illusory & ignorant which is most definitely NOT the majority of Australians!

  12. @Bruce: I’m not sure who is supposed to be claiming “ignorance is bliss” – certainly not me.

    What I’m getting at is that ignorance of the risks/benefits is whats giving people the perception that nuclear is not to be touched. Certainly that is the case with the majority of Australians.

    I fully agree that ignorance is dangerous and your point about ignorance causing racism is certainly a good point even if nothing to do with the nuclear issue. Australians are no better or worse than others when it comes to ignorance and racism. Some really sadden me at times.

    I went looking for a definition of what I mean by ‘perception’ and this is as close as I could get “The process by which people translate sensory impressions into a coherent and unified view of the world around them. Though necessarily based on incomplete and unverified (or unreliable) information, perception is equated with reality for most practical purposes and guides human behavior in general.”

    In short – Many people do not have, or care to obtain, knowledge about nuclear power. They prefer to err on the ‘safe side’ and believe the doomsayers. Thus they believe (ie perceive) that nuclear energy is too dangerous to contemplate.

    How would I set about changing these ‘perceptions”? Education. Not in becqurels or mili-sieverts or whatever. But in terms of what the benefits and risks are TO THEM and how they are countered against. Including ‘what if shit and disaster’ – what plans and systems are in place to counter it and the after effects of it, in all its gory detail. Compare these risks against every day known risks that people consider acceptable – eg driving a car, smoking, living downstream of an industrial complex. The comparisons should be in everyday terms they can comprehend. Eg “in this room we have 100 people, nn will die from cancer caused by smoking cigarettes; nn will be injured in an industrial accident; nn will be injured in a car accident; nn will die from a car accident.”

    I would also be encouraging public visits to nuclear stations with conducted tours to show them whatever they wanted to see safely. If that means pushing security out of the road then so be it. Secrets and high security breeds unfounded fear.

    Getting people to be more accepting of nuclear is a change management issue. I’ve always found you get best acceptance to change if you are open about the risks and the steps you’ve taken to counter those risks. If someone pops up a risk that you don’t have a counter for then accept that and work on a counter for it and make sure to get back to them. Give them full credit for raising it. Its also important to explain everything in the change in terms that they understand, and that will effect them.

    I’ll get off my soapbox.

    1. Fine, Keith I’ll accept you are not claiming “…ignorance is bliss.”

      But I do agree like some on this blog have explained a defined agenda driven campaign to spread FUD Fear, Uncertainty, Distrust politics in so called, ‘unbiased media’.

      Reality course 101: teaches our world is NOT risk free.

      I’m not surprised when people, organizations and nations send agents and money worldwide to propagandize nuclear energy is horrible. It’s my contention some of this money is supplied by Hydrocarbon Industry interest think tanks.

      I will continue to believe that despite high background radiation counts like in Northern Flinders Mt. Ranges in Australia national park is a beautiful location in South Australia. And the people in the State are healthy Australians raising families.

      U have a great day!

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