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37 Comments

  1. It really pisses me off that the collapse of an old tunnel filled with contaminated equipment from the production of Nuclear Weapons decades ago is associated with Commercial Nuclear Power.

    I had family and friends in NY texting me with great concern “whats happening to your Nuke Plant”? “Um, making power and getting ready for our upcoming outage, why?” I reply.

    See national news headline that says “Eastern Washington Nuke Plant declares emergency”

    Blood instantly boils.

    1. This article, at a public relations website, characterizes it pretty well.

      http://everything-pr.com/tunnel-collapse-pr-crisis/88396/

      Yes Virginia, this is all about PR, and what has happened is that nuclear power opponents saw the Hanford event as an opportunity and pounced on it.

      What’s sad is how successful (and easy) it is. And what that says about the public, and the media, etc.. The last line of the article states that it boils down to “who put out the best, most compelling and stickiest narrative?”. Tragically, we know which side that is. Given the public’s undying, inherent prejudices against all things nuclear, the other side’s task will be easy.

      One great example is this piece of garbage, an utterly insulting and disgusting suggestion that nuclear power, and those who support it, are “unethical”. In an article that is filled with inaccuracies and outright lies. Things like this cannot go unchallenged. I left a long, blistering response. I encourage others to join in.

      http://www.newsweek.com/disposing-nuclear-waste-challenge-humanity-behnam-taebi-609468

  2. Many times on here I have seen Rod lament the fact that NE advocates and industry players lack the resources to launch the kind of media marketing that the fossil fuel industry is capable of maintaining. So, in order to counter the public’s general fear of radiation, and the related fear of NE, the industry is badly in need of government to present NE in a positive light. In effect, that would constitute free marketing

    However, Rod has long maintained that this “purposely created fear” is a structured strategy of the fossil fuel industry. Prior to this clown show taking Washington by storm, great optimism was expressed here that the Trump administration, should it manage to slither and ooze its way into power, would mean a positive fresh beginning for NE.

    Hows that working out, with the Trump administration manned with oil industry insiders, wall street shysters, and alt right wack jobs? Seen a boost for NE? Have they thrown you any bones yet? Told the public what a great solution NE is for addressing carbon pollution and climate change??

    Oh wait, I forgot, global warming is a hoax, a chinese plot. Theres no need for anything other than clean coal, and oil, oil, oil. Drill, baby, drill.

      1. Thats a ridiculous question, because neither option produces a solution. But carry on.

          1. You’re wrong. Neither option is based in science. So “whats worse” is just an attempt to defend one bad option against the other bad option, undoubtedly out of partisan bias (if your past posts are any clue). Neither option is really defensible, both are ridiculous.

        1. It’s not ridiculous. True, neither case solves the problem, however pushing “solutions” that don’t work adds tremendously to costs and ultimately creates exhaustion in the public.

          By exhaustion, I mean that over time the public will eventually say, “Hey, we’ve done all this expensive inconvenient stuff you said w as essential and nothing got better. I’m not listening to anyone on this topic anymore; you’re a bunch of charlatans or at least incompetent.”

        2. @Jon Hall

          It’s a fine question because questioning the narrative does not preclude solving the underlying problem. If the best available technology is enabled to compete, we will slowly stop wasting resources on well-marketed, but ineffective “solutions.”

          1. The arguments here are becoming laughable. If the narrative was being questioned with honest intentions, it would be one thing, hopefully positive.

            But you know as well as I do what the purpose of this propaganda anti-science alternative narrative is all about. It is about discrediting sound science to sell the further use of fossil fuels.

            Its been disheartening to see you contort yourself like a pretzel trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

    1. @Jon Hall

      You have misunderstood my “laments.” It’s not that the nuclear industry lacks resources to communicate and advertise its amazing product. (Our resources are, however, far smaller than those of many of our competitors.)

      My efforts here are an attempt to stimulate the people who control the resources to spend them in wiser ways that recognize the importance of having supportive – and even excited – customers in the public.

      One of the important examples of an effort that will pay long term dividends for a better power generation system that includes a strong base of nuclear energy is the DOE study on the effects of various federal policies that harm the economic performance of on demand, low marginal cost power plants.

      Remember, I’m no fan of our current President, but he is the elected leader of the country where I live and work. I have no intention of leaving and plan to make the best of the next few years.

    2. Despite John Hall’s vitriolic outburst, there is actually a very interesting discussion to be had about how nuclear energy fits in the western political divide.

      There is significantly more support for nuclear energy among republicans than among democrats (45% to 24% in a gallup poll of US voters) and among Canadian conservatives (the evil terrible people who support oil sands development) there is around 80% support for nuclear energy vs ~50% among the left.

      The special interests and business lobby that run the right have ulterior motives but the right wing voters are neutral to positive on nuclear, likewise, the neo-liberal centrists like Hillary/Obama also appear neutral to positive on nuclear but the leftwing voter is where the fanatical resistance to nuclear almost always comes from. I’m very positive that a natural gas “bridge” and advanced nuclear can be sold to political conservatives easily and would result in radical CO2 reductions. The solar panels and socialism left is going to be a tougher nut to crack despite having to most visceral concern about climate change.

      Nuclear energy is caught in a partisan “deadband” and acts like a sort of 3rd position on energy

      1. In the US at least you hardly need any more of an natural gas ‘bridge’ then you already have as the low prices of natural gas have put it in a near unassailable position. Moreso anyone concerned about the long term health of the electricity market should shy away from welcoming any more natural gas in then there already is, though there may not be a feasible way of stopping it. Even during times of high NG prices the volatility of that market will make 60-80 year long investments in nuclear rather risky.

        Given that prevailing attitudes towards big capital investments in the US and the particulars of that electricity market I’m increasingly convinced that a big push for nuclear will either occur elsewhere ( as it already is to a degree ) or require a bit shock to scare the industry, politicians and regulators into improving the situation.

  3. Hi Rod,
    You say:
    hundreds of times lower than those that can harm anyone.

    Isn’t that at least “thousands” if not more?

    Regards

    1. We dont know until Hanford tells us. Hanford’s handling of this
      is suicidal for nuclear but may make sense if your only line
      of business is stealing money from the taxpayers for “clean up”.

      The first thing Hanford should have done is released a statement
      stating the gamma levels at the hole and the surrounding area
      and comparing them to background. Throw in some alpha
      measurements as well. We are dealing with some steel
      that was activated 50 years ago. Guessing the only gamma
      emitter left is a tiny bit of Co-60.

      “o radiation release ” does not hack it. Probably false from
      a purely technical point of view.

  4. One of my pet peeves, regardless of the media, is that any time radiation or radioactivity is mentioned the tone is always OMG…OMG, radiation, we’re all gone die a horrible death! Whether it’s a drama, a documentary, a news broadcast or a newspaper article there is seldom any mention of the dose rate, or amount and type of radioactive material, and never a discussion in context or comparison to everyday experiences that a layman might relate to. If there is mention of dose rate, it’s usually OMG it’s 10X background let’s get out of here. I understand the desire for drama in fiction. However, non-fiction shows, articles and ect. should do better. I don’t know how to get the facts out when the writers, and producers have no desire to do so.

  5. Considering the serious health damage people living near the Hanford site suffered in the past, one can hardly speak from an overreaction.

    It’s remarkable that no one writes about how (and the costs) to solve this uncontrolled situation.
    With the degradation of the equipment, the radio-active material will gradually seep into the ground water in coming hundreds of years. And then will be spreading around in next thousands of years.
    Affecting food quality and health of those living nearby.

    1. Bas, the key word in your statement is “gradually”. Without precise data on erosion rates it will be difficult to say for certain if any kind of release, if it happens at all, will occur in the coming hundreds of years. Likewise for the spreading around of the material over thousands of years. If the source term is such that most of the activity is of the short-lived form, decay will likely remove most of the radiological issues.

      It would be good to have more details on exactly what was down there and in what form. If we’re talking tools, equipment, boxes of low-level contaminated items and other such things, it is doubtful that the cave-in of a tunnel roof will do much to pulverize and spread that kind of stuff around. More likely is that the things in there were simply buried by dirt and rocks. Basically like burying something in a low-level waste facility. As the original article said, there is not a significant driving force, like an explosion or fire, to drive that material out into the environment. It likely just gets sealed in place where it was.

      Finally, we should keep in mind that this is a facility related to military programs, and what happens there is not necessarily reflective of the practices of the commercial nuclear energy business. It is a common tactic of the popular media to paint “the nuclear industry” with a broad brush, conflating methods and policies of the 1940s military projects to those of the industry today. That is a false narrative.

      1. In Germany stored nuclear waste in dry casks in an deserted salt mine, 600meter deep, started gradually to leak.

        Now geologists predict that radio-active material will gradually migrate to the surface with the ground water in 1,000-3,000years, and will then cause unacceptable high contamination levels in the agriculture products grown on land in its surroundings (especially down-stream).

        So the leaking stuff has to be brought to the surface again, which is extremely difficult and expensive due to the radiation increases in the mine. So they probable wait a generation or two, until their grand-children with special robots can do it.
        Shifting the burden to next generations, though they consider a reservation of €100B…

        1. So, what is the source term (isotopic mix, concentrations, etc.)? Is it HLW? What was their sampling method? What is the mechanism for water intrusion? Something doesn’t jibe, here. You say it is a salt mine yet there is significant water intrusion? Usually the two are incompatible. Erosion at depth of salt formations over time doesn’t leave much salt. What is an “unacceptably high” concentration?

          You say that there were “radiation increases in the mine”. How did that happen? Did they keep adding stuff even after outward migration was detected? That wouldn’t make a lot of sense and I doubt if the regulatory authorities would allow it. Was it because of ingrowth? There are some radioactive forms in LLW and HLW that may undergo ingrowth, but typically the non-ingrowth decay of other forms offsets the activity added by ingrowth.

          Lots of questions, I know. So take your time.

          1. It’s in the deserted Asse II salt mine.
            They started to use it after ~10year of research.

            They stopped storing nuclear waste when it became public that ceilings in caves lowered etc.
            That the concrete like salt became far more ‘fluid’ then predicted (presumable due to the heat of the waste).

            Btw.
            It also stopped ideas in NL to put our nuclear waste in the deep underground salt domes we have in the North.

            Now we wait to see whether the Belgians have the courage to put their waste in deep clay layers which we also have.
            It’s more urgent for the Belgians, as they have more waste because they have 4 NPP’s and we one.
            Then we will also know more about the effects, risks, etc and success/failure of the underground storage in Finland.

          2. It appears that most of what is in there is what would be considered LLW here, although they call some of it intermediate-level waste. Heat generation seems to be negligible so if there is plasticity it must be from some other effect. It is important to note that water intrusion is a lot less likely for both WIPP and Yucca Mountain in this country since there is a fairly sizable gap between the known water table and any repository structures. It appears that any problems at Asse II (which appear to be minor in terms of measured radionuclide transport) are not necessarily reflective of other sites. Sure, you have to do careful studies and one would be hard-pressed to find a formation more studied than Yucca Mountain.

            On a separate but related issue, the whole thing would become a lot less of concern if in this country the NWPA was amended to shift its focus from dumping slightly used fuel at Yucca Mountain to one wherein waste reduction (both activity and volume) were achieved by a combination of partitioning, re-use, and actinide recycle. You’d get a reduction in both volume and heat load as well as recovery of useful material. The reduction in heat load and volume would make possible the use of a facility like WIPP instead of Yucca Mountain.

    2. I can think one can speak from over-reaction. I used to live in Eastern Washington. Now I live elsewhere. This morning as I drove to work I saw the words, “Bad Air Day – Avoid excessive idling.” I never saw anything like that when I lived there. The down-winders are elsewhere and I guess I’m one of them.

      1. Isn’t there discussion about banning all diesel cars?
        Increasing the tax on diesel gradually such that it becomes more expensive to drive with diesel fuel than with petrol?

        1. @Bas

          If Eino lives in the US, it is highly unlikely that air pollution problems are caused by diesel automobiles. They have a tiny and shrinking market share here. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-10/with-mercedes-exit-u-s-diesel-car-market-shrinks-even-more

          I recently contributed to the shrinking of that share by selling my 2012 Jetta TDI back to VW. Because of their emissions cheating scandal, their offer for a 5 year old car with 75,000 miles was only a few thousand less than I paid originally.

          1. Congratulations!
            I hope Ford will do similar as it seems that the emissions of nearly all diesels are manipulated.

            Here in NL, more so in Germany, diesels and older cars are gradually becoming forbidden in city centers. As their exhaust gases shorten life of people living their.
            We more or less follow Germany regarding this.
            So diesels lost a lot of their value…

          2. And if your replacement vehicle is a gasoline engine you’ll emit far more NOx than what came out of the tailpipe of your TDI, just because it will consume more fuel and therefore produce more emissions overall than your TDI. But the percentage of tailpipe emissions that are NOx will be smaller.

    3. Bas, I am a Hanford downwinder and, further, some of my students entire careers were working on Hanford cleanup. The major problem is chemical, not radiation.

      As for radioactive leakages into the river, these are so tiny as to be ignorable. But of course DoE required even those two springs to be diverted.

      1. “The major problem is chemical, not radiation”

        That’s something that always annoys me when reading the local paper here in Eastern Washington, they always refer to the waste as just “Radioactive”. Well guess what, the extremely harsh chemicals used to separate the fuel, these chemicals that do not have half-lives…..will kill you LONG before any radiological exposures.

  6. I had a few thoughts about that article : )

    http://www.biodiversivist.com/2017/05/seattle-times-jon-talton-writes-ten.html

    * Claimed that used commercial reactor fuel was deadly and more long lived than any other deadly and even longer lived waste products that don’t have half-lives.
    * Claimed that nuclear power stations are overly complex.
    * Claimed that construction of more nuclear power in the U.S. would be the stuff of science fiction.
    * Claimed that more nuclear power is not necessary to fight climate change.
    * Claimed that the lack of an approved long-term storage repository for used commercial nuclear power station fuel in the U.S. is a reason for not building them.
    * Claimed that Americans have “a special claim on fear” of nuclear energy when polls show otherwise.
    * Failed to mention that renewable energy projects also receive government loan guarantees.
    * Failed to mention that Fukushima did not result in a single radiation related fatality.
    * Failed to mention the point of diminishing returns by sporadic power sources as their percent penetration into a grid approaches their capacity factors.
    * Insinuated that the recent shutdown of Watts Barr 2 was the result of it being a nuclear power station instead of the result of failed transformers (part of the transmission grid).
    * Insinuated that the discovery of a collapsing tunnel containing irradiated machinery was an emergency that should concern more than the workers at that site.
    * Insinuated that new nuclear power stations are excessively expensive in all places around the world.

  7. So, Switzerland has now voted to shut down nuclear, in favor of renewables. Meanwhile, here on the ranch, not a single positive action undertaken by the Trump administration to favor NE. But slithering outwards globally, doing everything in its power to increase profits, and fossil fuel usage, for the global fossil fuel industry. And at this point, even if this administration was letting loose with an occassional positive squeek about NE, they have destroyed their own credibility so completely that believing them would be the action of a fool. Not looking good for you guys.

    1. @Jon Hall

      Maybe it’s a good thing there are no overtly pro-nuclear actions or words coming from the Trump Administration.

      1. Gosh, I’d love to see you expound on that comment. It can be taken many different ways. Personally, I think its a good way of saying that this administration has lied itself out of any expectation of being considered credible. And has demonstrated a callous disregard for science, our environment, and ethical governance. So an advocation for NE would be percieved as based in lies, counter to sound science, and catering to big business in lieu of addressing the people’s interests.

    2. @Jon Hall

      The Swiss have not forced an early “shutdown” with the May 2017 decision, as in Germany and Japan, but rather have prohibited *new* nuclear plants. The “Swiss voters on Sunday backed the government’s plan to ban new nuclear plants…” (NYT May 21) meaning the Swiss can change their mind tomorrow, as they did in 2014-2015. The largest of the five plants, Lieibstadt (1.2 GW) for instance, is licensed out to 2034, and license extensions are still possible.

  8. Re: “The fear of nuclear energy is far worse than the measured effects of nuclear energy. Given that is true, the question curious minds should ask is WHY?”

    It’s not Saturn-V science.

    The total clueless lack of educational mass-media advertising to win the hearts and minds and trust of the the public. Period.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    1. Yes fire in the spent fuel is concerning. Perhaps SF should be kept in, I dunno, deep pools of water.

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