Spreading Calm, Certainty, and Reassurance About Nuclear Energy (counteracting focused FUD)
Update: (January 4, 2013) The NRC’s State of the Art Reactor Consequences (SOARCA) research project was completed in June 2012 and the final report was published in November 2012. For some unknown reason, the NRC web pages that describe the project in detail have no indication that the project was completed and the final report was released. Neither does the Frequently Asked Questions About State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses (SOARCA). Both pages indicate they were last updated in July 2013, more than eight months after the final report was released.
A researcher looking for information on SOARCA at the NRC web site has a high probability of believing that the project was never completed. This must be an unintended state of affairs. Commissioners are tasked with transparency and ensuring full public access to information. Page 85 of the final report (Warning – link is to a 40 MB PDF) retained the two key points noted in the draft report as described in the original version of this post, which was published on August 1, 2011.
- The individual early fatality risk from SOARCA scenarios is essentially zero.
- Individual LCF risk from the selected specific, important scenarios is thousands of times lower than the NRC Safety Goal and millions of times lower than the general cancer fatality risk in the United States from all causes, even assuming the LNT dose-response model.
On Friday, July 29, 2011, Matt Wald of the New York Times published an article titled N.R.C. Lowers Estimate of How Many Would Die in Meltdown that describes a US Nuclear Regulatory Commission project whose results need to be widely understood and repeated.
The project was a multi-year modeling effort at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission titled the “State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses (SOARCA) Project.” The main report (DRAFT) is accession number ML11168A034. Here is the BLUF (bottom line up front) from the Conclusions section of the main report documenting the project’s results.
- Individual early fatality risk is essentially zero
- Individual latent cancer risk from the selected specific, important scenarios is thousands of times lower than the NRC Safety Goal and millions of times lower than all other cancer risks, even assuming the LNT dose response model.
The report and its appendices are quite lengthy – this, after all, was a government project where it cannot be called complete until it reaches a certain weight or number of megabytes. In this case, the files add up to about 120 Mbytes (272 pages) of scanned PDF documents. That main report is a 5.4 MB file, but there are three additional files that provide the supporting data – accession numbers ML11192A300 (43.6 MB), ML11192A301 (50.5 MB), and ML11192A302 (22.7 MB). The document has not completed its final reviews; it is not scheduled to be released until April 2012.
However, the UCS filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain the current version. They had heard that the study was nearing completion; my guess is that they were interested in getting out in front and controlling the interpretation of the study.
When the NRC issues a response to a FOIA request, they also add the released document to their publicly available document library. My plan is to use the availability of the program documentation and Wald’s article to disarm the opposition by providing access to the study and to interpretations that are not slanted by an organization like the UCS, which has engaged in a multi-decade professional effort to discourage the use of nuclear energy by spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) whenever possible.
Aside: I am not sure if it is possible to link directly to documents in the NRC’s Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) database, but here is the link to the web-based ADAMS search page – http://wba.nrc.gov:8080/ves/ . From that page, you can find any publicly available document using a variety of techniques. The simplest way to find exactly what you are looking for is to know the “accession number”, but full text and title searches also work quite well. End Aside.
The UCS’s worrier-in-chief is apparently not calmed by the results from the report; he continues to strive to make people believe that they should worry more about the possibility of a nuclear accident than about the thousands of other more risky influences in their lives. Here is a quote from Matt’s article:
Dr. Lyman suggested that in projections of fatal cancer cases, the focus should be on people who live within 50 miles. The average population within 10 miles of an American nuclear plant is 62,000; within 50 miles, it is about five million.
The commission’s old projection of eventual cancer deaths was one for every 2,128 people exposed within 50 miles; the new study projects one cancer death for every 6,250 people exposed, which still comes to hundreds of cancer deaths within the 50-mile circle, in addition to the hundreds of thousands who would be expected to die of cancer from other causes.
Dr. Lyman obviously believes that if you multiply a tiny, close-enough-to-zero-for-an-engineering-approximation risk probability by a large enough number, you can still come up with a result big enough to expect that people should worry about it. That is the cost of continuing to adhere to the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) Dose rate assumption. Dr. Lyman’s statement is contrary to the guidance given by the Health Physics Society with regard to applying low doses in making consequence calculations.
In accordance with current knowledge of radiation health risks, the Health Physics Society recommends against quantitative estimation of health risks below an individual dose1 of 5 rem2 in one year or a lifetime dose of 10 rem above that received from natural sources. Doses from natural background radiation in the United States average about 0.3 rem per year. A dose of 5 rem will be accumulated in the first 17 years of life and about 25 rem in a lifetime of 80 years. Estimation of health risk associated with radiation doses that are of similar magnitude as those received from natural sources should be strictly qualitative and encompass a range of hypothetical health outcomes, including the possibility of no adverse health effects at such low levels.
There is substantial and convincing scientific evidence for health risks following high-dose exposures. However, below 5–10 rem (which includes occupational and environmental exposures), risks of health effects are either too small to be observed or are nonexistent.
The release of the SOARCA project report should calm a lot of fears, especially since the models can be validated by correlation to the accidental “theory to practice” events at Fukushima. The low probability accident of an extended total loss of electrical power has happened; there are reasonably detailed timelines available. Knowledge of reality can provide a sense of calm and reassurance to replace the fear of the unknown. It is like turning on the light for a child after they have had a scary dream so you can show them that there really is not a monster in their closet.
I have asked some of my technically minded and well-informed friends to help me out with the match between modeled consequences and reality. After spending several hours skimming the report and the appendices this weekend, my initial impression is that the physical consequences and radioactive material releases at Fukushima have been quite close to what the NRC’s state-of-the-art models predicted. Even the time delays seem consistent. I promise to report back after a more detailed evaluation.
Aside: It was darned hot in Virginia this weekend and my wife is visiting relatives. I used up too much vacation time in mid March to make that trip, so I holed up in the air conditioning and spent the weekend reading government reports about reactor accident consequences. Now you do not have to do that yourself unless you really want to. End Aside.
Have an atomic day!
PS – Sometimes in the early morning hours or when engaged in endurance sports, I think about how a given name can exert a strange influence on a person’s career choices. In a long ago era, given names came from the career – a guy who laid bricks would end up with the last name of Mason, a man who grew vegetables would be called Farmer, and a person who grinds wheat would be called Miller. My last name sounds like “atoms” and I became an atomic energy advocate. I wonder if Dr. Lyman ever consciously thinks about the possibility that his name has influenced his career choice as a spreader of FUD about nuclear energy production.
Are you familiar with the magical creature “Boggart” in the “Harry Potter” series?
This is a shape-shifter that takes on the victim’s worst fear. The countermeasure is a “Riddikulus” spell:
That is, changing the shape in something funny, and laughing the fear away.
I think there is a hint in this story, and it would seem to be of value to come up with some good jokes to counter the irrational radiation fear crowd as well.
One interesting point to start might be the recent idea of Chris Busby to talk about “invisible snakes” in Fukushima.
The direct link to the report looks like this:
No credit given to Steinhaus helping out with this anti-FUD headline?
Joel – I will let Bob explain where he first read the phrase of Calm, Certainty and Reassurance (CCR).
A few minutes before seeing this headline, I had read his comment here: https://atomicinsights.com/2011/07/smaller-nuclear-reactors-allow-decentralized-power-some-critics-not-pleased.html#comments
I was guessing that his usage of it there may have prompted its use in this headline.
Regarding the P.S., I wonder whether having the name Lyman for a person’s entire life might make them subconsiously develop less of an aversion to dishonesty than a (mythical) “average” person. It might not be that far-fetched, but I’m no psychologist.
Joe – I certainly don’t deserve any credit for coining the phase “Calm, Certainty, and Reassurance”, as I was only an early adopter.
I may have been the first to suggest that the phase “Calm, Certainty, and Reassurance” and the nuclear educational efforts at Atomic Insights Blog deserve to be forever linked.
– Robert Steinhaus
Joel – I may have been the first to suggest that spreading “Calm, Certainty, and Reassurance” should be associated with the dedicated long standing nuclear educational efforts at Atomic Insights Blog.
I certainly don’t deserve any credit for coining the phase “Calm, Certainty, and Reassurance”, as I was only an early adopter.
(Please forgive the typo on your name in my previous post – old finger (or brain cells) cannot always be trusted).
Here’s a link to Lyman’s analysis of the NRC SOARCA report: http://allthingsnuclear.org/post/8243137367/nrc-study-shows-the-serious-consequences-of-a
I left a comment on how Lyman tosses out numbers of projected cancers such a a peak of 37,000, without including any indication of the distribution of model results and how likely that peak result is. Very unscientific of him in my view. But what do I expect from the Union of Concerned (non)Scientists.
Who finances the UCS ? How much money are we talking about ?
You can download the UCS annual report: http://www.ucsusa.org/about/funding.html
It lists the largest individual and foundation donors, some greater than $100K. Although they say they don’t take donations from corporations, there is an interesting list of companies that provide matching funds for employee donors. The report seems to indicate an annual operating budget of $20 million.
I was surprised it was so little – they are getting a lot of bang for their buck in having Dr. Lie-man’s (yeah those little apt ad-hominems are hard to resist) phone number on the speed-dial of every mass media outlet.
If twenty nuke plants each pooled one day of operating profits into a PR fund (assuming they knew what to do with it), they could match the UCS annual budget and maybe their rep’s number would be the one on CNN’s speed dial instead of Ed’s.
Thanks for the info. I agree with you that the nuclear industry could easily find a way to market itself better and get on some speed dials.
I really wanted some dirt on these guys and I wonder if at the next trial, when the UCS shows up, the nuclear industry’s lawyers will be smart enough to subpoena their financing sources so that we can get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on their motivations.
Then it becomes public domain.
your Post Scriptum is making me chuckle a great deal! 🙂
And I love your clarification on “the way is the atom’s way” jingle lyric that I have heard in some older episodes of Atomic Show.
And then your first name is Rod. Are we sure this is your real name? 😉
Rod Adams has to be merely a pen name.
I’ll let my mom know how well she and Dad chose my name. Of course, Rod is only short for Rodney.
I was named after a British ship famous for having participated in sinking the Bismarck. (True story – the HMS Rodney visited Boston during The War; my grandmother and grandpa fixed dinner for several sailors from the ship, hosting sailors from their home country. Mom was a wide-eyed six-year-old during that visit.)
Perhaps that contributed to my initial career decision.
From another angle, maybe your name being Rod(ney) contributes more to your affinity for solid-fueled reactors than simply your Naval career?
Molten Salt Reactors obviously wouldn’t have fuel rods.
Joel – so true. However, my favorite reactors of all – gas cooled pebble beds – also have no fuel “rods”. In fact, my version does not even have any control “rods”, but instead uses control drums located in the reflector region.
When you walk into the Empire State or Chrysler or Woolworth Buildings here in NYC, geiger-counters click up like stopwatches from the radioactivity emitted by the marble and stone and brick they’re built of. I wonder if the EPA would shut them down using NRC standards? What’s missing in that report is the comparitive daily rad exposures over an area emitted by coal plants. Regular folk best comprehend what they can compare!
Years ago when I worked at a NPP just up river from a three unit coal plant it was quite common to get alarms from the remote RAD monitors. A thorough investigation of the plant and wind pattern quickly showed that these “false” alarms were caused by the “dirt” burner, as we nukes called them, down the river. Really caused a headache until we determined why the alarm went off and had Rad-Techs confirm the source was from the coal plant. The average daily emissions from these coal plants far exceeded the allowable limits for even a BWR stack. When they got an exceptionally dirty load of coal it was inevitable that an alarm would be triggered. For the last twenty years I worked at a NPP that had no coal plants within 25 miles so have not heard of the problem recently, but sure it still exists. Perhaps dome RAD Techs can provide up to date numbers.
If a coal plant were to file for a nuclear site license, it would be turned down by the NRC because it is too radioactive.
If you brought a barrel of fly ash to a nuclear plant, the plant owners would have to treat it as rad waste.
To link directly to documents in the NRC’s ADAMS database, simply right click in the row of a desired document in your search results, then select “Get URL”.
“In a long ago era, given names came from the career – … a man who grew vegetables would be called Farmer, …”
First, in an era when nearly everybody was a farmer, that name was used to distinguish tax collectors.
Second, calling a man a liar because of his name is unfair — and also unhelpful. Better to address the weaknesses of his arguments.
@Bill – ordinarily, I agree with you, but it is difficult to win a fight against a machine gun by shooting at the bullets. Dr. Lyman is a productive emitter of weak arguments who has been practicing for many years.
Why is Dr. Lyman like tritium? They’re both productive week emitters.
Well that caused a chuckle…
Abuse of the LNT model is a standard propaganda tool of the Union of Corrupt “Scientists.” For example, they have been using this trick to inflate the number of cancers and “deaths” from the Chernobyl accident for some time now, yielding results that are simply ridiculous when put into context by applying their flawed method to other data.
This is a trick that has been used quite extensively by hard-core, anti-nuclear organizations like Greenpeace, which makes the UCS’s claim that they are not an “anti-nuclear organization” a ludicrous assertion. Yeah, right, and the Pope ain’t Catholic.
The problem with the UCS is that they tell so many lies that they have become unable to distinguish the truth anymore. This latest “circling the wagons” by this organization is just another example of how desperate they are to keep their lies alive, in spite of the existence of more, better evidence, better methods, etc., that are now available.
The NY Times article says the final NRC report will not be issued until next spring. The article also says the NRC report has been six years in the making, so it presumably does not include Fukushima lessons learned.
As Rod describes, Fukushima Daiichi should be a text book case for studying how much radioactivity is actually released when 1) the core is damaged, 2) the reactor pressure vessel is breached, and 3) the containment is also breached.
It would be nice if the public learns the real risks and consequences of a nuclear accident. But the recent decision in Germany to completely phase out nuclear power does not give me confidence that facts will necessarily always win out.
Finally some sensible news out of Japan from NHK WORLD NEWS:
Hosono said the government will begin decontamination on a large scale and continue monitoring radiation levels. He said the government is aiming for a complete cleanup of the evacuation zone.
The minister added that radioactive materials must be removed from the zone so that residents can return home by early next year. January will mark the end of the second stage of a plan to achieve a cold shutdown of the damaged nuclear reactors.
Hey folks. I don’t know if you are familiar with the site slashdot.org, but it’s a somewhat popular science/tech news aggregation site (that is, they don’t really write any articles/break news, but it provides a place where people can find links to the day’s science and tech news, and they provide an extensive discussion system for folks to discuss the news).
Anyhow, after seeing Rod’s link to the NYT story here, I submitted the link to slashdot, to hopefully get the news out to more people, and slashdot accepted the submission and published it.
Forgive the blatant self promotion but it is interesting to note that the report (or at least newspaper link) seems to focus exclusively on the volatile fission product Cesium. Hmmm, wouldn’t it be nice if a type of reactor did not produce volatile Cesium?
Oh yeah, in Molten Salt Reactors Cesium forms stable Cesium Fluoride which stays within the salt during any spill or accident. Not trying to imply any danger with LWR or other solid fueled designs but this simple fact could go a long way in easing “perceived” risks of solid fueled designs. Granted fairly similar claims of zero Cesium risks could be made regarding pebble bed designs and TRISO fuel.
Iodine is the “other” meltdown bogeyman and it is also quite non-volatile and stable in the salt (although in an ultimate “what if”, if a spill mixed with water, some Iodine would be released). With Iodine of course in any reactor, avoid drinking local milk for a couple months and there is almost no risk anyhow.
Regarding the perceived dangers of nuclear radiation, everyone should get the book “Radiation and Reason” by Wade Alison. It can be obtained from radiationandreason.com
The book shows quite conclusively that there is a little in which nuclear radiation is not at all dangerous. This is somewhere between 200 and 1,000 mSv. The present limit for radiation from nuclear reactors is 1 mSv.
If nuclear power is to benefit mankind as it should, then radiation levels need to be related to actual danger not an arbitrary decision made years ago.
Brian – thanks for the connection to Radiation and Reason. I think everybody should have a look at it – and buy the book. You can download the post Fukushima Preface, Chapter 1 – Perceptions, Chapter 4 – Ionising Radiation, Conclusions and Fukushima Epilogue and updated references PDF files from the site.
Author Wade Allison describes the book and his call for a new approach:
And from his Summary of Conclusions
Rod would add a fourth reason: setting the cautious safety levels has maintained and increased the use of fossil fuels and the strength of the businesses that provide them.
I think the Radiation and Reason link should be in every nuclear advocate’s “copy and paste” file and be included in every comment you leave promoting nuclear energy. Combat radiation FUD!
I very much second Andrew’s position, I found “Radiation and Reason” by Prof. Wade Allison a very interesting book, easy to understand also for someone who does not have a background in radioprotection and radiation. Definitely money well spent.
Rod, I hope Fox News and C-SPAN contact you for an interview. I’ve done what I could with them as a regular Joe trying to keep THEM abreast of these nuclear issues.
It would be helpful to know whether there are any public relations officers at plants throughout the country trying to do their part educating their localities and regions about the state of nuclear power in general. If we can get these unsung lone wolves reporting their actvities in a central site to be recognized and provided some pro air support it could only help.
Speaking of Concerned Scientists, I just saw Theoretical Physicist (City College of New York) and Media Hound (every channel) Michio Kaku on CNN spreading a surprising amount of FUD, as the Catastrophic Nuclear Network tries to revive public fear and viewership interest in Fukushima.
His pandering to the lowest level of radiophobia was nothing short of disgusting, and there was absolutely no one calling him on it. The CNN host, of course, shook his head in disbelief at the untold scale of the nuclear disaster, and probed Kaku for more gory details.
Fuel Rod Atoms (if that IS your real name), because you are not a TV viewer, I think you underestimate the level of scientific perfidy and paranoid pandering the mass media are willing to perform in the name of ratings. There is an entire generation whose minds have been poisoned regarding atomic energy, with no visible counter response in sight.
If CNN is the source of the “scientific perfidy and paranoid pandering”, I am hopeful for the future. Based on some fairly close association with young people over the past decade or so, I am pretty sure that CNN does not capture much of the 18-34 age group.
Of course, my samples were not random, but I think more detailed data would back me up there.
What’s truly frustrating is there’s no accuracy response organization to instantly get on the hotline with CNN or other media outlets to demand a rebuttal when the ilks of Kaku spew their disinfo and get away with it dancing. It’s really getting to the point that the whole nuclear industry gets what it deserves from its near total inaction (outside the publicly meaningless debates over reactor types while Rome burns.)
Some goods news. Someone with clout and exposure is back:
Former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), who was Capitol Hill’s leading nuclear power advocate, is heading a new think tank initiative aimed at ensuring nuclear remains a viable option for the United States.
That guy has been duking it out for the pro nuclear side for a while now.
Thanks for that info. Only I think we need less think tanks and more pro-nuke personalities and campaigns pushing it directly on the public out there. Forget Seimens; there are kiddie commercials hawking windmills to cities for chrissakes!
Kaku is confused about a lot of things, not just radiation. The guy really is a nutjob — I mean serious bats in the belfry. I would not be surprised to discover that he has a drug problem.
Sadly, the state of journalism today is so bad that the media folks who interview him are simply not equipped to realize this, even when he says the most bizarre things. Part of the reason for this is that their science education is so dismally poor. The other part is that they’re star-struck, because they’re talking to a guy who has done a little work on string theory, a topic that they cannot even begin to understand. And he has long, silvery hair.
It’s sad, really.
I just watched a CNN clip with Michio, and WOW, I about wanted to throw something at my computer screen. Dude needs to have his PhD revoked. The video clip I found was the one where he is being interviewed by Eliot “The John” Spitzer. This one has radiation coverups and mutant earless bunny rabbits.
WARNING: Watching this clip my drive you to go medieval on yo’ computer.
It’s the part about his shameless exploitation of the poor mutant earless bunnies that really fries my cannoli.
I’ve got a different theory – involving Newtonian gravitational physics, Kaku, and a really thick string…
Speaking of talent to spruce up nuclear, what is happening with Atomic Anne, the former CEO of Areva.
I liked her. She had talent and never said no to a fight.
I am sure Jaczko is not happy with the way this study is going … He’s going to interfere.
I share this fear, Daniel. The study pre-dates his Chairmanship, he should stay out of the way, but I am not confident that he will.
Joel – I am confident that he will do everything in his power to discredit the study. Jackals do not change their markings.
Notice the similarity in sound between the name of this creature and the name of the Chairman.
From Wikipedia “Jackals and coyotes (sometimes called the “American jackal”) are opportunistic omnivores; predators of small- to medium-sized animals and proficient scavengers.”
Once again, I am struck by the possibility that living with a name can influence behavior.
I thought it was that leopards can’t change their stripes, same difference though.
There was a fairly interesting chapter in either Freakonomics or Super Freakonomics about the effects of people’s names on their relative levels of success. I may have to go back and re-read it.
There seems to be a NRC commissioner who sides with Jaczko on some issues, like Fukushima. Who is he/she?
Not only does your last name sound like “atom”, but I see that the data base mentioned in your article is ADAMS! Interesting article; note that your mother is becoming a wee bit more computer-comfortable.
Welcome to Atomic Insights, Mom. It is great to see that your beautiful new computer is helping you become more comfortable with the technology.
Rod, unlike you I have a zero-name/professional recognition factor, but if you can tailor a rebuke directly to the Japan Times it might not only prove a PR booster to reason but this blog too. I didn’t just want to cut-paste this site there like so many do and I’d REALLY like to hear Japan Times’ take on your rebuttal. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20110806a1.html
I see a positive out of this. If the US chooses to replace coal and gas with nuclear fission, we can then make lots of money supplying countries like Germany, Italy, and Japan with fossil fuels. Anytime our trade deficit starts to pick up, we just find ways to manipulate the markets to put us back into the black. Also, anytime we need political support in organizations such as the UN we can call on countries that are dependent on us to meet their energy needs.
Good plan right? Germany, Italy, and Japan dependent on other nations for their natural resources; what could possibly go wrong?
Well, here’s my venting missive to the Japan Times today for their “neutral” article on all things nuclear. Just had to sling the scaremongers a piece of my gut;
The Japan Times and anti-nuclear crusaders are FAR more concerned with “punishing” and banishing the atom for the “uniquely evil” thing it did at Hiroshima than real present public safety and health. You’ve totally no problem with thousands perishing yearly by lung cancer directly traceable to coal and garbage burning and hundreds dying in one sweep in oil/gas and mine accidents (an acceptable “bargain” in energy production), yet you condemn an entire near-zero environmental-impact (even better than “renewable”) energy source based on a nature-caused _worst-case_ nuclear incident (not accident) that killed no-one (how many widows of industries wish their _regular_ accidents were so benign!) and whose radiological effects are barely perceptible and biologically insignificant against other far more prevalent and intense natural and man-made sources. I don’t call it public concern if you strive to ban nuclear power; I call it altruistic and intellectual hypocrisy to clear your souls. Tell me, Japan Times; Will you ever print that coal fired plants _regularly_ emit far far more radioactive particulate than any nuclear plant? How about Co2? Isn’t that a concern? I really believe if the world public was given the lay facts of nuclear energy vs other forms without being colored by scare hype and philosophical bias and grudges that they’d see how long they’ve been denied a cleaner world.
My prayers to your country to emerge stronger from a natural catastrophe that has killed so many ten thousands of innocents.
recommended professional page: https://atomicinsights.com/“
Just a though regarding banned exports of meat and produce from Japan because of Fukaushima fears; Would Japan import poultry and crops and meat from naturally hi-rad background regions as in Iran, South America and India, etc? Very few countries bother to, but would such food imports pass muster with Japanese standard geiger counter rules? Beyond that — how much food would be banned from anyone’s import if ALL food underwent geiger counters right off the boat? Would pressure to require it wreck several economies using Japan’s rad standards? Just a thought that might be a U.N. Food Agency nightmare. Maybe why it’s rarely if ever brought up.
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