It Sounds Crazy, But Fukushima, Chernobyl, And Three Mile Island Show Why Nuclear Is Inherently Safe

From Forbes

Michael Shellenberger

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Energy I write about energy and the environment

Fukushima was a public health catastrophe, just not one caused by radiation.Shutterstock

After a tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan eight years ago today, triggering the meltdowns of three reactors, many believed it would result in a public health catastrophe.

“By now close to one million people have died of causes linked to the Chernobyl disaster,” wrote Helen Caldicott, an Australian medical doctor, in The New York Times. Fukushima could “far exceed Chernobyl in terms of the effects on public health.”

Many pro-nuclear people came to believe that the accident was proof that the dominant form of nuclear reactor, which is cooled by water, is fatally flawed. They called for radically different kinds of reactors to make the technology “inherently safe.”

But now, eight years after Fukushima, the best-available science clearly shows that Caldicott’s estimate of the number of people killed by nuclear accidents was off by one million. Radiation from Chernobyl will kill, at most, 200 people, while the radiation from Fukushima and Three Mile Island will kill zero people.

In other words, the main lesson that should be drawn from the worst nuclear accidents is that nuclear energy has always been inherently safe.

The truth about nuclear power’s safety is so shocking that it’s worth taking a closer look at the worst accidents, starting with the worst of the worst: Chernobyl.

The nuclear plant is in Ukraine which, in 1986, the year of the accident, was a Soviet Republic. Operators lost control of an unauthorized experiment that resulted in the reactor catching fire.

There was no containment dome, and the fire spewed out radioactive particulate matter, which went all over the world, leading many to conclude that Chernobyl is not just the worst nuclear accident in history but is also the worst nuclear accident possible.

Twenty-eight firefighters died after putting out the Chernobyl fire. While the death of any firefighter is tragic, it’s worth putting that number in perspective. Eighty-six firefighters died in the U.S. in 2018, and 343 firefighters died during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Since the Chernobyl accident, 19 first responders have died, according to the United Nations, for ”various reasons” including tuberculosis, cirrhosis of the liver, heart attacks, and trauma. The U.N. concluded that “the assignment of radiation as the cause of death has become less clear.”

What about cancer? By 2065 there may be 16,000 thyroid cancers; to date there have been 6,000. Since thyroid cancer has a mortality rate of just one percent — it is an easy cancer to treat — expected deaths may be 160.

The World Health Organization claims on its web site that Chernobyl could result in the premature deaths of 4,000 people, but according to Dr. Geraldine Thomas, who started and runs the Chernobyl Tissue Bank, that number is based on a disproven methodology.

“That WHO number is based on LNT,” she explained, using the acronym for the “linear no-threshold” method of extrapolating deaths from radiation.

LNT assumes that there is no threshold below which radiation is safe, but that assumption has been discredited over recent decades by multiple sources of data.

Support for the idea that radiation is harmless at low levels comes from the fact that people who live in places with higher background radiation, like Colorado, do not suffer elevated rates of cancer.

In fact, residents of Colorado, where radiation is higher because of high concentrations of uranium in the ground, enjoy some of the lowest cancer rates in the U.S.

Even relatively high doses of radiation cause far less harm than most people think. Careful, large, and long-term studies of survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki offer compelling demonstration.

Cancer rates were just 10 percent higher among atomic blast survivors, most of whom never got cancer. Even those who received a dose 1,000 times higher than today’s safety limit saw their lives cut short by an average of 16 months.

But didn’t the Japanese government recently award a financial settlement to the family of a Fukushima worker who claimed his cancer was from the accident?

It did, but for reasons that were clearly political, and having to do with the Japanese government’s consensus-based, conflict-averse style, as well as lingering guilt felt by elite policymakers toward Fukushima workers and residents, who felt doubly aggrieved by the tsunami and meltdowns.

The worker’s cancer was highly unlikely to have come from Fukushima because, once again, the level of radiation workers received was far lower than the ones received by the Hiroshima/Nagasaki cohort that saw (modestly) higher cancer rates.

What about Three Mile Island? After the accident in 1979, Time Magazine ran a cover story that superimposed a glowing headline, “Nuclear Nightmare,” over an image of the plant. Nightmare? More like a dream. What other major industrial technology can suffer a catastrophic failure and not kill anyone?

Remember when the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig caught on fire and killed 11 people? Four months later, a Pacific Gas & Electric natural gas pipeline exploded just south of San Francisco and killed eight people sleeping in their beds. And that was just one year, 2010.

The worst energy accident of all time was the 1975 collapse of the Banqiao hydroelectric dam in China. It collapsed and killed between 170,000 and 230,000 people.

Nuclear’s worst accidents show that the technology has always been safe for the same, inherent reason that it has always had such a small environmental impact: the high energy density of its fuel.

Splitting atoms to create heat, rather than than splitting chemical bonds through fire, requires tiny amounts of fuel. A single Coke can of uranium can provide enough energy for an entire high-energy life.

When the worst occurs, and the fuel melts, the amount of particulate matter that escapes from the plant is insignificant in contrast to both the fiery explosions of fossil fuels and the daily emission of particulate matter from fossil- and biomass-burning homes, cars, and power plants, which kill seven million people a year.

Thanks to nuclear’s inherent safety, the best-available science shows that nuclear has saved at least two million lives to date by preventing the burning of biomass and fossil fuels. Replacing, or not building, nuclear plants, thus results in more death.

In that sense, Fukushima did result in a public health catastrophe. Only it wasn’t one created by the tiny amounts of radiation that escaped from the plant.

Anxiety Displacement and Panic

The Japanese government, in the view of Chernobyl expert Geraldine Thomas and other radiation experts, contributed to the widespread view of radiation as a super-potent toxin by failing to return residents to the Fukushima province after the accident, and for reducing radiation in soil and water to unnecessarily low levels.

The problem started with an over-evacuation. Sixty-thousand people were evacuated but only 30,000 have returned. While some amount of temporary evacuation might have been justified, there was simply never any reason for such a large, and long-term, evacuation.

About 2,000 people died from the evacuation, while others who were displaced suffered from loneliness, depression, suicide, bullying at school, and anxiety.

“With hindsight, we can say the evacuation was a mistake,” said Philip Thomas, a professor of risk management at the University of Bristol and leader of a recent research project on nuclear accidents. “We would have recommended that nobody be evacuated.”

Beyond the evacuation was the government’s massively exaggerated clean-up of the soil. To give you a sense of how exaggerated the clean-up was, consider that the Colorado plateau was and is more (naturally) radioactive than most of Fukushima after the accident.

“There are areas of the world that are more radioactive than Colorado and the inhabitants there do not show increased rates of cancer,” notes Dr. Thomas. And whereas radiation levels at Fukushima decline rapidly, “those areas stay high over a lifetime as the radiation is not the result of contamination but of natural background radiation.”

Even residents living in the areas with the highest levels of soil contamination were unaffected by the radiation, according to a major study of nearly 8,000 residents in the two to three years since the accident.

In 2017, while visiting Fukushima for the second time, I lost my cool over this issue. Jet-lagged and hungry, and witnessing the ridiculous and expensive bull-dozing of the region’s fertile topsoil into green plastic bags, I started grilling a scientist with the ministry of the environment.

Why were they destroying Fukushima’s precious topsoil in order to reduce radiation levels that were already at levels far lower than posed a danger? Why was the government spending billions trying to do the same thing with water near the plant itself? Was nobody in Japan familiar with mainstream radiation health science?

At first the government scientist responded by simply repeating the official line — they were remediating the top soil to remove the radiation from the accident.

I decided to force the issue. I repeated my question. My translator told me that the expert didn’t understand my question. I started arguing with my translator.

Then, at that moment, the government scientist started talking again. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was saying something different.

“Every scientist and radiation expert in the world who comes here says the same thing,” he said. “We know we don’t need to reduce radiation levels for public health. We’re doing it because the people want us to.”

The truth of the matter had been acknowledged, and the tension that had hung between us had finally broken. “Arigato gozaimasu!” I said, genuinely grateful for the man’s honesty.

The man’s face was sad when he explained the situation, but he was also calmer. The mania behind his insistence that the “contaminated” topsoil had required “cleaning” had evaporated.

And I wasn’t mad anymore either, just relieved. I understood his dilemma. He had only been the repeating official dogma because his job, and the larger culture and politics, required him to.

Such has been the treatment of radiation fears by scientists and government officials, not just in Japan, for over 60 years.

There is no evidence that low levels of radiation hurt people, but rather than be blunt about that, scientists have, in the past, shaded the truth often out of a misguided sense of erring on the side of caution, but thereby allowing widespread misunderstanding of radiation to persist.

We also now know that when societies don’t use nuclear, they mostly use fossil fuels, not renewables. After Fukushima, Japan closed its nuclear plants and saw deadly air pollution skyrocket.

The biggest losers, as per usual, are the most vulnerable: those with respiratory diseases, such as emphysema and asthma, children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor, who tend to live in the most polluted areas of cities.

It’s also clear that people displace anxieties about other things onto nuclear accidents. We know from in-depth qualitative research conducted in the 1970s that young people in the early part of that decade were displacing fears of nuclear bombs onto nuclear plants.

Nuclear plants are viewed as little bombs and nuclear accidents are viewed as little atomic explosions, complete with fall-out and the dread of contamination.

It is impossible to view the Japanese public’s panicked overreaction to Fukushima and not see it as partly motivated by the horror of having seen 15,897 citizens instantly killed, and another 2,533 gone missing, after a tsunami hammered the region.

The sociologist Kyle Cleveland argues persuasively that Fukushima was a “moral panic,” in that the panic was motivated by a desire by the Japanese news media and public for revenge against an industrial and technical elite viewed as uncaring, arrogant, and corrupt.

Read the full story here

Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress. Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment.”

HT/Peter T

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198 thoughts on “It Sounds Crazy, But Fukushima, Chernobyl, And Three Mile Island Show Why Nuclear Is Inherently Safe

  1. One madman screaming “The sky is falling” can cause a crowd to panic and follow him over a cliff.

    • True.
      There’s a very saying that perfectly sums up these often unfounded fears about nuclear power – and climate change.
      “You have nothing to fear but fear itself”.
      Chris

    • But the sky (atmosphere) is falling. If it wasn’t falling it would drift off into space and then we would be in real trouble… 🙂

    • Shellenberger’s estimate of 200 may be exaggerated. I think the most authoritative source is the UN report from 2008, which is here: http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2008/11-80076_Report_2008_Annex_D.pdf .

      According to that document there were:
      28 deaths resulting from Chernobyl radiation (Page 64)
      15 from thyroid cancer over the ensuing years (Page 65)
      4 deaths from a helicopter crash
      2 from the explosion

      Total is 43 deaths from radiation, I think. Certainly too many deaths, but far less than many other disasters.

  2. The same propaganda fear campaign that has been perpetrated against fossil fuels making CO2 the villain was conducted against nuclear power plants making an irrational fear of radiation the villain.

    This article represents a rational presentation of the reality of the benefits that nuclear power offered to the world.

    • The problem with Fukushima was in the planning of the construction of the plant. The meltdown could have been prevented if the backup diesel generators (and their fuel) for the cooling pumps had been protected to the same level as the control room was. Some idiots in the government put the backup generators in the basement (which flooded) instead of the same elevated level of the control room.

  3. I’m not anti nuke, but I’m definitely agnostic.

    You may have trivialized Chernobyl into insignificance, but what if over a period of 250 years, the world accumulated 100 Chernobyls? These facilities don’t just fade away. I suppose you could do the math and show a minimal number were killed in any year; however, the footprint of off-limit contamination would continually grow (at least for thousands of years).

    The black swans here could be massive killers, and there’s no way to put that genie back in the bottle with smooth talk about “we’ve learned from our mistakes, and it’ll be different next time”.
    At a minimum, finally completing & implementing a viable “permanent” nuclear storage facility (AKA Yucca Mt) is required before even attempting to rebuild public trust.

    Put another way, it’s not just how many are killed, but how they die. Automobiles kill 40,000 Americans each year; if half that many died in airplane crashes, thre’d be no airline industry.

    • Shellenberger made a convincing case. He has the facts right about the overblown danger of radiation from a meltdown especially as contrasted with the far greater number of deaths from other forms of energy generation. You can see for yourself how minimal the lingering radiation is around the Fukushima Daiichi plant here:

      https://jciv.iidj.net/map/

      The 3 places limited to very small geographical areas still in purple are at 75, 70 and 62 mSv/yr, exceeding the U.S. occupational exposure safety limit of 50 mSv/year. All the rest are far below that amount. The safety limit was extrapolated from the intense, deadly radiation exposure in the first seconds of a nuclear explosion (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and has been the standard for 75 years. It wasn’t until 2012 that the method to determine the safe dose limit was seriously challenged. That year a MIT study showed that mice exposed continuously to 400 times the amount of background radiation (more than 10 times the highest amount around Fukushima) for 5 weeks showed no DNA damage. That’s 20 times the occupational exposure safety limit. Here’s the study:

      https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.1104294

      And all that high-level nuclear waste from reactor cores that you’re worried about? Uranium is extremely dense. If you do the math you will find that all the high-level nuclear waste from all U.S. reactors since the first reactor came online in 1958, roughly 80,000 metric tonnes, would cover a football field 31 inches deep. Nuclear fission is extremely efficient. That spent fuel could be reprocessed so that more than 90% of it can be re-used rather than buried, which is what France and Japan have done.

      • And note well that the US safety limit is easily exceeded by eating just two bananas a day. This is one of the reasons for the recurring internet meme “banana for scale”.

      • “Shellenberger made a convincing case.”

        Yes, he did, and your follow-up post was also very informative, stinkerp. Thanks for the additional information.

        Yes, the Greens and the Alarmists have a solution to their various problems of reducing CO2 and reducing pollution staring them right in the face. What does it say about them that they won’t take it?

        • It tells you that they either do not seriously consider CO2 to be a problem, or that they do not consider several degrees of warming to be a problem.

          If they truly thought that CO2 and/or warming was an existential threat, they would back nuclear since this is the only realistic form of energy production that is essentially CO2 free.

        • What does it say about them that they won’t take it?

          It says about them what Forrest Gump said — “Stupid is what stupid does”.

      • The parts that can’t be reprocessed have short half lives and are pretty much gone in a decade or less.

        • The figure I learned in my health physics classes is 500 years to decay away to background. Obviously the really energetic and dangerous stuff also has really short half-lives and is gone even more quickly.

          As for 100 Chernobyls at the start of the thread, that won’t happen because Russia didn’t even build 100 of the stupid RBMK reactors. A reactor with a positive void coefficient cannot be built in the West, and the remaining RBMK operators won’t do stupid tests, so there will never be more than the 1 Chernobyl. Stupid combination, running dumb tests on a reactor designed to increase reactivity when it loses coolant and moderation.

    • You may have trivialized Chernobyl into insignificance, but what if over a period of 250 years, the world accumulated 100 Chernobyls?

      1/. That type of reactor was never and will never be produced in that quantity. It was inherently unstable and had no secondary containment. We had that sort of level of radioactive release in the 1950s and 60s in terms of atomic tests.

      2/. Reactors with secondary containment – 3MI/Fukushima contain radiation even when core meltdowns occur. Neither has ,or will, kill anyone from radiation.

      3/. Comparisons with other industries including renewables show it is not only cheaper but has a lower mortality rate.

      4/. Ergo the case against nuclear is emotional, not rational, as the man at Fukushima said.

      you might as well say – in fact with higher probability – What if an asteroid hits New York?

      • An Chicxulub-size asteroid would kill 7 billion people. On average such a collision is estimated to occur about every 200 million years. So on average that is 35 people/year. If we add in smaller but much more frequent hits which would only kill a few hundred million people the total annual kill rate would probably be at least double that.

        So asteroids are way more dangerous than nuclear powerplants.

    • 100 Chernobyls are nothing compared to the chemical pollution already out there. Also today after 30 years, most of the radiation from the zone is gone. So it would have not effect.

    • “…The black swans here could be massive killers, and there’s no way to put that genie back in the bottle with smooth talk about “we’ve learned from our mistakes, and it’ll be different next time”…..”

      We have HAD the ‘black swans. The worst conceivable nuclear accident was an uncontained reactor exploding. We believed that it might kill millions. It killed 28, with expected total possible deaths at 160.

      It’s as safe as a technology can be.

    • “You may have trivialized Chernobyl into insignificance, but what if over a period of 250 years, the world accumulated 100 Chernobyls? These facilities don’t just fade away. I suppose you could do the math and show a minimal number were killed in any year; however, the footprint of off-limit contamination would continually grow (at least for thousands of years).”

      Chernobyl was old technology and had no containment structures around the reactor. The ‘accident’ involved the willful disconnection of safety systems. We do not have 100 Chernobyls around and 100 sets of idiots to perform stupid experiments while ignoring safety protocols. And even if you did, you are still looking at very few deaths when compared to wind, solar, coal, or gas facilities that will produce electricity instead of nuclear. And the 200 figure is total, not per year.

    • The true disaster for these 3 sites is financial in nature. The cost has been extremely high. The fear of 1,000 Chernobyls is unfounded because there would be no financial support to build the last 950 after the cost of a few meltdowns. The requirement for inherently safe nuclear energy reduces the odds of a financial disaster. Nuclear will go nowhere until these threats are reduced and the nuclear engineers of the world learn to construct reactors within budget and on time – a skill seemingly out of their reach even with current construction projects.

      • It’s hard to build something on time and within budget when the legals system stops construction half way through, then the regulatory system demands a complete redesign before construction can be resumed.

      • Most of the schedule delays and budget overruns are caused by lawsuits brought by anti-nuclear activists. They almost always get dismissed, however the purpose of filing them is purely to delay the projects and force them to give up. In this regard, they have been much too successful.

    • If you use bad data in an effort to demonize nuclear power, then you are anti-nuke, regardless of the lies you tell to yourself.
      Radiation decays away. The more radioactive, the faster it decays away. After a few dozen years, the area around Chernobyl is safe to move back into. Further away, there never was any danger. So 100 accidents in 200 years don’t accumulate as you wish to believe. Beyond that, there has been 3 accidents in over 50 years. Where do you get this 100 in 250 year nonsense from?

      Chernobyl was pretty much the worst case. In many ways, it was beyond worst case. Yet it wasn’t the massive killer that you keep hoping for.

      There is no need to store nuclear waste. Reprocess it instead.

    • See Ken Irwin’s post below for death statistics from various sources. Nuclear power is the clear winner – fewest number of deaths per kWhr. Beats wind and solar by an order of magnitude.
      Helps to look at data instead of screaming at the sky and pulling out all your hair. And you might avoid funny looks from people who know better.

    • Clear thinking. There does not need to be any black swans.

      No one is buying the argument that we should install more pressure water reactors, as the nuclear industry does not kill very many people, per installed reactor.

      What is needed is a fission reactor that does not have any catastrophic failure modes, that is as cheap as coal, and can be mass produced.

      The pressure water fuel rod reactors are expensive, inherently dangerous, and can only be built in one factory in the world.

      If the ‘nuclear’ industry was a competitive industry we would not be building a water cooled, fuel rod reactors, that operate at 150 atmospheres as that design has in the past catastrophically failed. It will:

      1) Melt down if there is a loss of flow,

      2) Melt down if the flow is too low

      3) Melt down if there is a loss of pressure

      4) Will exploded if there is an overpressure

      5) Will create hydrogen gas and exploded if the water level in the reactor is too low exposing the core

      There is better design (the theoretically best possible fission reactor design) that was built and tested 50 years ago by the designer of the PWR .

      The molten salt reactor has no fuel rods, is six times more fuel efficient, operates at atmospheric pressure, and produces 1/9th the amount of long lived transuranic elements. It can be mass produced is roughly 1/3 to 1/6 the cost of a PWR, as it does not have any of the PWR catastrophic failure modes to protect against.

      The fuel rod, water reactors are inherently dangerous because they have fuel rods and use water for a coolant.Radiation in the reactor cause water to separate into hydrogen and oxygen. Water reacts with zircon cladding of the fuel rods to produce hydrogen if the core is exposed which will exploded.

  4. Shellenberger has been an environmental activist-writer all of his career.
    I have not taken the time to review his earlier articles.
    But this one makes sense.
    Is the tide of promoting anxiety beginning to change?

    • Shellenberger is an environmentalist who can handle arithmetic, not unlike Bjorn Lomborg.

      • Thanks to nuclear’s inherent safety, the best-available science shows that nuclear has saved at least two million lives to date by preventing the burning of biomass and fossil fuels.

        But isn’t afraid to go back to the scare tactics when needed. Don’t forget that he’s just as worried about CO2 as real pollutants.

  5. I read somewhere (I’m sure someone here has a link) that more people have died installing solar and wind power than have ever died from nuclear. I’d be interested to see the stats of deaths/KHW by source. But facts or dead people don’t matter to environmentalists or socialists (same thing).

    • The low death figures attributed to nuclear are totally unrealistic. How does one attribute cancer deaths to nuclear? The statistics are completely bogus.

      • Personally know two people that received the NRC once in a lifetime dose in 1979. Both are in good health, do not have cancer and are enjoying their retirement.
        Use YOUR brain. The data is out there.

        • I do use my brain. There is a difference between natural radiation and man-made isotopes that get incorporated into cellular structure.

          • That’s the whole point. As long as you can contain it and control exposure there are no problems. You can’t protect a population from severe particulate contamination during an accident.

          • If you have knowledge on your statement, then explain to me how the body defierentatres between a beta particle (β−, an electron) with a maximum energy of 1.31 MeV coming from the decay of potassium 40 in a banana and a beta particle (β−, an electron) with a maximum energy of 1.31 MeV coming from the decay of any fission product coming from a nuclear reaction. OR, from the “Natural” radiation coming from the tramp uranium all over the hills , valleys and land of Colorado and the radiation coming from the same radiation in a nuclear power plant.
            Over 50 years experience as a Nuclear engineer, and have never seen radiation effects divided into “Natural” and “Manmade.” Sounds like the CC meme of “Manmade” CO2 is worse.

          • When I was at school ( a long while ago) my physics notes from the time reveal that alpha particles “could not fight their way out of a paper bag” according to our teacher. Yet when the source is ingested they are the weapon of choice for Russian state sponsored assassination.

          • I’m not sure what you mean precisely by “incorporated into cellular structure”, but what’s typically understood is that the body will eventually eliminate foreign particles through natural bodily processes, whether or not the particle is radioactive.

            Now, if the particle is radioactive, you’ll receive dose for the time it’s in your body. (If I remember correctly, alpha particles are the type we’re concerned with internally.) Uptake is the term used, and is monitored. And, I’m not sure whether man-made isotopes really has any meaning in this context. Ionizing radiation is what we care about, whether man-made or not. In the end, it’s alpha (particle), beta (particle), neutron (particle) or gamma/x-ray (wave). (I mean, these are the standard types of radiation that we come across. I’m sure there’s some other, exotic, type that’ll turn you into a super hero or something, but I don’t know what it is off the top of my head. 🙂 )

            rip

          • “I’m not sure what you mean precisely by “incorporated into cellular structure””

            When radioactive isotopes replace normal elements in cells. For example, cesium-137 replaces potassium in heart muscle, strontium-90 replaces calcium in bone, etc.

          • “potassium 40 in a banana”

            As I understand it, virtually all K-40 is excreted by the body. On the other hand, cesium-137 and strontium-90 mimic potassium and calcium, respectively, and are metabolized.

          • Do you think that natural radioactive isotopes like e. g. C14 or K40 don’t get incorporated into cellular structure? You are all isotopes, every gram of you my dear icisil.

          • “As I understand it, virtually all K-40 is excreted by the body. On the other hand, cesium-137 and strontium-90 mimic potassium and calcium, respectively, and are metabolized”

            Would you mind explaining the mechanism by which K40 which is potassium, is excreted while cesium that “mimics” potassium is metabolized.

            Or are you simply unaware that “K” is the chemical symbol for potassium (german Kalium)

          • icisil March 13, 2019 at 8:44 am
            “potassium 40 in a banana”
            Then why does my annual whole body scan show the presence/absence of the radiation.
            Please learn something about radiation. This is not the place to fill in your gaps. You have been brainwashed with propaganda and falsehoods. Anti nuke pages are filled with false information. Go to the local library. Even eBay and Amazon has some decent books for a very low price.

          • They are both sources of radiation. Man made isotopes produce the same types of radiation that natural sources do.
            The number of man-made isotopes in nature is miniscule and decay away to nothing in months to years.

          • icisil, we’ve had accidents, we know what gets released. The fact that nobody died from Fukushima and Three-mile Island less than 28 died from the beyond worst case Chernobyl is proof that your fears are completely ungrounded.

        • I also blackened a 5 REM film badge in 1964. Back then, Roentgen Equivalent Man was the standard and by blackened, it means at least 5 REM and possibly much more. Caused me to research radiation for years. Here is an interesting thought. Our DNA has been building for hundreds of millions of years starting when the earth was much more radioactive then now. Our DNA is actually very resistant to radiation; much more so than to a number of chemicals to which we have been exposed very recently.

      • “The low death figures attributed to nuclear are totally unrealistic. How does one attribute cancer deaths to nuclear? The statistics are completely bogus.”

        It is the linear-no-threshold model that is bogus. We know what happened to the survivors of Hiroshima. If a person did not die from acute exposure, his life expectancy would be higher than that of the average Japanese citizen. Do people who live near the ocean die at higher rates because of the exposure that comes from the Potassium-40 decay? How about pilots who get more exposure to cosmic radiation? You need to be rational and educate yourself. Leave the emotional baggage behind and see things as they are.

        • You haven’t yet made (or are incapable of making) the distinction between natural radiation and man-made isotopes that become metabolized into cellular structure (e.g., bones/marrow, heart muscle. thyroids). The former at natural doses is not a problem. The latter at even small doses can be deadly.

          • icisil,

            “You haven’t yet made (or are incapable of making) the distinction between natural radiation and man-made isotopes that become metabolized into cellular structure (e.g., bones/marrow, heart muscle. thyroids).”

            In one sense that is true. That is simply because very little radiation exposure is about materials absorbed into your body. Gamma radiation from materials such as concrete, rock and dirt, high energy particles from space, and naturally occurring low level quantities of radio active isotopes in the food we eat are the primary contributors to total body radiation dose. Differentiating that dose from artificial sources is impractical.

            Now, in the case of bio-active radioactive isotopes of iodine, potassium, and such, it is possible to note an increase in them in a full body scan since their half life is so short there are essentially no natural sources for them. Iodine 131, for instance, has a half life of about 8 days. Long term accumulation in the ground or your body not possible.

          • Cs-137 has a biological half life of about 70 days.

            Sr-90’s biological half life is about 18 years, if it gets incorporated into the bones. But 80-90% is excreted rapidly if it is ingested.

            Detrimental effects on the body, if any, are dependent on the dose.

      • Oh boy, another one who actually believes that there is no safe level of radiation.
        Some people refuse to let reality sway their belief system.

  6. Helen Caldicott is bat shite crazy. Hadn’t heard her name in a long time. She keeps coming back, like a bad penny. A real drama queen, employs studied histrionics when she speaks about the horrors of nuclear. Some people just have to be saving the children from mankind or their life is meaningless.

    • Back in my general aviation days, I flew Dr Caldicott from Moline to some place in Iowa where she was giving a speech. We had an interesting discussion, my being a former B-52 pilot. Nice lady.

      • Yes, many activists are nice people, but they often have deep personality flaws. Combine this with a few of them occasionally being very charismatic, possibly quite narcissistic, then viewed by others as possessing wisdom, and you have a person with the tools to make the world a worse place.

    • Caldicott is certainly a recurring bad penny…and not worth not a penny.

      But every penny is bad.

      Not worth the time and effort to pick one up if dropped:

      – 5 seconds to pick up a penny
      – equals 12 pennies per minute
      – equals $7.20 an hour
      – equals $57.60 a day with no breaks
      – equals $14,400 a year without vacations.

      Almost nobody values their time less than this.

      Plus pennies cost A PENNY AND A HALF to make !!

      So, it’s time to get rid of ALL the bad pennies…and I’m OK if we start with Caldicott.

  7. Please remember that Shillenberger isn’t just shilling for the nuclear industry, he’s also shilling for the anti fossil fuel global warming fantasy.

    • At least he’s logically shilling. If CO2 were actually a serious problem, requiring urgent attention, natural gas to nuclear (N2N) is the most cost-effective pathway to low carbon energy production.

      Shellenberger has the ideal solution to a 97% mythical problem. On the plus side, more nuclear power is a good thing. It improves grid resilience.

    • True, Eric, but at least he’s shilling for a “solution” (Nuclear) that is greatly beneficial even though the fantasy (CAGW) that lead him to shill for it isn’t real.

    • Presenting factual data is now “shilling”?

      Regardless, please inform us how exactly being wrong on global warming proves that he’s wrong regarding nuclear power?

      PS: From your post, can I assume that you can’t actually refute anything written here?

      • Well he’s pushing nuclear over gas, so yes, he’s shilling. He’s also advocating we stay with Gen III+ designs which, while they do work safely, are more expensive and less safe than they need to be.

      • Presenting factual data is now “shilling”?

        factual (or otherwise) data has nothing to do with it.

        Shill:
        a person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.

        notice what is missing from that definition? any reference to whether or not the data that the shill is using is factual or not. All it takes for someone to be shilling is for them to be “publicizing or praising something or someone”. So yes, it can be said that he’s shilling for nuclear. That there is factual data that he can use in doing so is a bonus.

      • please inform us how exactly being wrong on global warming proves that he’s wrong regarding nuclear power

        It doesn’t.

  8. The madness of social media crowds, combined with the precautionary principle, kills any chance of a sensible discussion of serious issues. Going full nuclear power is a no-brainer, if it were not for scare-mongering by the anti-development crowd.

  9. The risk of nuclear power should not be understated. However, all forms of energy production have their own inherent risk. The Chernobyl reactor was (and remains) and unsafe design. The Boiling Water Reactors at Fukushima (IIRC) also had design flaws. By contrast, the pressurized water reactor’s safety measures at Three Mile Island worked almost perfectly as designed. The only releases of radiation were minor and did not enter the food chain.

    • Phil: the major design flaw at Fukushima was in the placement of the backup generators in the basement of the reactor buildings. If they had been placed on the hillside above the plant they would have been able to provide the power to safely shut down the reactors.

        • Why would the government forbid them to do that? That doesn’t make nearly as much sense as the corporation deciding not to do it because of cost.

      • The reactors did shut down safely Gilbert, the trouble is you have to continuously cool the pile to remove the residual heat once fission ends. Running the pumps depends on battery power and the standby generators. The batteries did there job for a time, but as noted the generators were crippled by the tsunami and could not take over. Expensive mistake.

      • There’s more to it than that; TEPCo (Tokyo Electric Power Co) shoulda’ had a couple directors jailed over Fukushima. To see why, read-up about Onagawa power plant, which was significantly closer to the epicenter than Fukushima. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onagawa_Nuclear_Power_Plant

        To summarize, Onagawa benefitted from a real hero; Hirai Yanosuke. He insisted on a 14-meter seawall for the plant, and intakes going far-enough out to sea that the reactors could get cooling water even in the event of a massive tidal wave – and he had enough oomph with the planning committee that it was done. The plant shut-down in an orderly manner, was not inundated by the tsunami (although it was close), and indeed, residents of nearby villages flattened by the tsunami, were sheltered in the building. Onagawa was one of the first plants to apply to re-open.

        Fukushima Daiichi (“First Fukushima” – the “Second Fukushima” plant, Fukushima Daiini, had its own harrowing tale from the tsunami) was built atop a natural cliff that had prevented historical tsunamis from causing damage ashore – but TEPCo engineers had the cliff bulldozed so reactor components would be easier to land from the sea. Several reports had suggested the seawall did not provide adequate protection to the plant. Fukushima is a very old reactor complex, with first-generation reactors; more modern plants had learned from other disasters, and none of them have their diesel generators in the basement.

        I really wish we’d replace PWR’s with LFTR’s, but while I’m dreaming……

        • I read that engineers built the Onagawa plant at least 50% above the modeled max tsunami height. The tsunami supposedly came within 1.8 meters of that height. Good job!

          Also, in addition to the reason you mentioned for lowering the Daiichi site, Tepco writings document that TEPCO engineers lowered it to save on water pumping costs.

        • LFTR technology sadly will never make it until the regulatory authorities recognize it is completely different from PWR, and the regulations need to be completely different. The things that happened at Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island simply can’t happen to a LFTR due to the differences in how they operate.

          • It does look as though Moltex Energy are making some headway with the Canadian regulator, but their design differs from most others in having the liquid crystal coolant separated from the fuel (also in liquid crystal form) by the fuel rod structure.

      • Physically, Fukoshima was built to handle a 25m tsunami, got hit with a 45m mammoth wave.

        Politically, that wave actually spread the whole way to Berlin which cynically used it to announced its nuclear exit, which had been signed in secret 5 months before!

        • That decision actually started with Chernobyl, but other realities set that on the back burner until Fukushima brought the matter back into focus.

      • Gilbert: Unfortunately, putting the generators in the basement was only one of many “holes in the swiss cheese.” The batteries (IIRC) were also flooded. Valves that were supposed to be opened were closed and so on. As with many accidents, there are a number of things that could have prevented the meltdowns. There was a landslide that took out a power pole and so the plant was cut off from the grid, etc. To me, the biggest thing is that there is only one design where the cooling system can survive a partial or complete meltdown of the core and that is a pressurized water reactor. The cooling system at TMI survived intact and was used to cool the core until it could be removed. Every single other design that I have looked at has the flaw that even a partial meltdown will damage the cooling system. TMI points is a success story. Fukushima and Chernobyl are not. TMI is the equivalent of a car that is destroyed in a wreck but the occupants can walk away with just cuts and bruises.

        For nuclear power to be part of our future, we need to build power plants that can have accidents and not contaminate the surrounding area: i.e. TMI. There was no need to evacuate the surrounding area when the meltdown happened. The containment system, with a couple of minor exceptions, successfully contained the accident. Accidents cannot be completely prevented so having a design that can successfully contain one is essential. That is the success of TMI and the failure of Fukushima and Chernobyl. I don’t think it helps to conflate TMI with Fukushima and Chernobyl. To do so misses the point of successful containment made by TMI. We build cars nowadays that have greatly increased survivability in accidents, as car accidents cannot be eliminated. The same mindset needs to be applied to nuclear power and in TMI we have a success story that points the way. Unfortunately, many still consider TMI to be a failure, when it isn’t.

    • Phil, the design flaw at Three Mile Island was in Human Factors Engineering. The facility was not designed for the operators but rather just to pass inspection.

      So, here’s what happened at TMI. The cooling system indeed did fail. Because of that failure, the backup cooling system kicked in automatically, as it was designed to do. To show the operator that the backup cooling system was operating, a FLASHING RED LIGHT started to blink.

      For most Americans, a flashing red light tends to make us think there is a big problem – and that’s what the operator thought. So, to handle the big problem with the backup cooling system that the operator knew was happening, because of the flashing red light, the operator shut down the backup cooling system – which as it turned out was working properly.

  10. moderator

    How long is it gong to take to get my post out of moderation?

    ( When a Moderator come check the board, now approved) MOD

  11. The anti-nuclear movement ironically contributes to both reduced nuclear safety and increase CO2 through their continued and extreme opposition. In the case of Fukushima the regulatory hurdles erected over the years caused the power company to delay retiring the plant because it was proving difficult and expensive to get a replacement approved. So, they were operating a 1960s era plant when they should have been running a modern 2000s era design. Just compare cars between these eras as a proxy and you see that you can drive a circa 2010 compact car into a brick wall at 35MPH and walk away uninsured, while such an event would be 100% fatal in a any mid 60s car. New tech and computerized controls especially make a world of difference.

    The saddest part of Fukushima is that geriatric design or not, the event would have been a non issue had the emergency backup power system been designed to withstand a 20 meter tsunami instead of just 10 meters. The nuclear system worked exactly as designed, but once it scrammed they had no means to continue cooling the beasties without backup diesel power, and that was destroyed. But even in that case, a more modern generation III reactor would have survived, as those are engineered to sustain coolant circulation by convection alone, so wouldn’t even need the diesel backup.

    Wrt to CO2 anti nukers have similarly dissuaded PG&E from trying to re-license Diablo Canyon, so come 2025-2026 we’re going to lose 3200MWHr of 100% carbon free peak baseload generating capacity that utopian renewables will not replace. That includes the two 1000MW nuclear reactors and the 1200MW Helms pumped storage hydro plant in the central Sierras West of Fresno. Helms is 75% efficient (pump 4KW in and get 3KW out on demand) GW class battery that actually works. It was designed in conjunction with Diablo to operate as a system, where the nukes continue to run at high power and efficiency at night, with the power used to pump water uphill at Helms, banking that overnight capacity when grid demand is low to enable 1200MW of reliable, on-demand, 100% carbon free, peak load capacity the next day. It is a brilliant and elegant architecture now condemned to the ash heap of history by scientific morons. MHO anyway.

    • Spent fuel rods are a serious problem which is not being addressed. Most of the problems at Fukashima were in the spent fuel rod ponds – our insistence in keeping this stuff in little better than swimming pools while the International Atomic Agency steadfastly refuses to authorise high level containment and disposal sites. As Fukashima demonstrated (but no one took any notice), “storage at source” is a very bad idea ! The comedian John Oliver described this as building a house without a toilet and accumulating the crap on site.
      We do have a simple solution – vitrify the waste into glass “hockey pucks” which are quite safe – to store or dispose of them in the Marianas Trench subduction zone where they will be dragged back into the Earth’s crust (from which it came) not to be seen again for millions if not billions of years. The Greens oppose this idea with every fibre of their scientifically ignorant being.

      • ““storage at source” is a very bad idea !”

        Especially when the pools are 100 ft above ground, as is the case in Fukushima. There are still around 1500 rods between reactor buildings 1, 2 and 3, that they haven’t had time to remove yet because they are so busy with other things. It took 3.5 years to remove 1535 rods from building 4.

      • Most of the problem in the US is due to Jimmy Carter’s forbidding the use of reprocessing, with the belief that it would set a “good example” for foreigners inclined to proliferation of nuclear weapons. Having to use a “once through” fuel cycle is responsible for the bulk of the “waste”.
        Why no one has undone Carter’s virtue signalling is beyond me.

    • “It is a brilliant and elegant architecture now condemned to the ash heap of history by scientific morons. MHO anyway.”

      If the Greens and Alarmists can’t see the sense in continuing to use this nuclear reactor, then they are hopelessly lost in delusion.

  12. I think most people are worried about a nuclear plant in Chad, or Sudan, or Congo etc, getting stormed by religious extremists….or simply bribing low paid workers for some excess material….

  13. I think most people are worried about a nuclear plant in Chad, or Sudan, or Congo etc, getting stormed by religious extremists….or simply bribing low paid workers for some excess material….

    They would be better worrying about terrorists storming the local hospital or dentists. Where highly radioactive cobalt 60 is in play.

    IIRC two S American thieves died from radiation from stolen Cobalt 60.

    You have to be a lot smarter than yiu think to do much beyond killing yourself with theft of radioactive materials.

  14. This may surprise you (it surprised me) is that Nuclear power generation is the safest form of power generation there is on a deaths per TerraWatt-Hour basis (0.04) even allowing for actual deaths and projected mortality increases for those exposed at Chernobyl and Fukashima the next safest is Hydro (0.15) – ignoring the 171 000 persons that died in the China Banquio dam burst – August 8th 1975 (there have been many others.)

    http://www.cfact.org/2015/02/16/the-lesson-of-fukushima-is-that-nuclear-energy-is-safe/

    Fukashima survived a major blow from Mother Nature in the form of the largest Tsunami ever experienced – it was 15m high at the Fukashima facility which had protection for “only” 5.6m.
    This occurred on March 11th 2011 and killed 16000 people with a further 4000 still unaccounted for – yet no one was killed or life threateningly exposed in the disaster that ensued at the nuclear power plants – sure it could have been a lot worse and we have learned a lot from the experience that we can be better in future – but nuclear power is safe even on the basis of past performance.
    One worker died at Fukashima in a Hydrogen gas explosion – not from radiation or contamination. A further Fukashima worker died in 2015 from cancer which was probably as a result of exposure. In 2018 it was announced that a worker had died from lung cancer caused by radiation exposure during the disaster.
    About 56 people died in the Chernobyl disaster (26th April 1986) and it’s immediate aftermath. Probably a further 90 or so from thyroid and other cancers since and a further 300000 were subject to excessive radiation.
    A 2018 documentary on Chernobyl had the reporters standing in the hardened radioactive sludge in Chernobyl’s defunct coolant ponds adjacent to the wrecked reactor (in its sarcophagus) and found the radiation level was a third of the radiation they had measured on the plane flight over to Russia.

    A recent medical study of the persons affected by Chernobyl has found that the psychological damage has proven more damaging and debilitating then the actual effects (people have become withdrawn because they fear they or their children are going to die, are not having children for fear of birth defects etc. etc.).
    The study finds that these people’s health has been more adversely affected by false information, lack of information and fearmongering than by the actual incident.

    I am not trying to minimise how bad Chernobyl was – it was the stuff nightmares are made of (and still is) – but since fear and alarm sell copy it was hyped out of all proportion by the media – the various TV news programme estimated future mortalities from 300 000 to 3 000 000 persons.
    Greenpeace persistently claim that 9000 people died at Chernobyl. The UN report states 50.

    Incidentally being irradiated is not the same thing as being contaminated. The engineer responsible for Chernobyl – Anatoly Dytalov suffered an 80 lifetime dose exposure but survived and died of a heart attack nine years later at the age of 64 in 1995 – he had previously suffered a 50 lifetime dose while working on nuclear submarines many years before.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatoly_Dyatlov
    His survival was due to his donning a radiation suit (which does little to protect you from radiation but is vital to avoiding contamination) – you can survive massive radiation but a microgram of Plutonium or Polonium in your lungs will kill you.
    The press persistently fail to distinguish between being irradiated and being contaminated – typically lumping it all under “Radioactive Poisoning” (the scientifically illiterate press once again).
    Even a 10% reduction in life expectancy (in those “affected” at Chenobyl & Fukashima) still does not bring the statistics close to the next safest – hydroelectric power.
    Future nuclear plants will be considerably safer still.
    To date the total number of people actually killed in nuclear accidents (including accidental criticality at processing plants and nuclear medicine incidents) is about 83 persons of which 56 were at Chernobyl alone. Perhaps 100 to 200 persons have died subsequently from cancers caused by exposure – again half of this at Chernobyl alone.
    This is almost insignificant if you consider that one study suggests that an additional 1595 US citizens died in car accidents after changing their travel plans to road transport instead of flying in the following 12 months after the 9/11 attacks.
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/sep/05/september-11-road-deaths
    The world has accumulated over 20000 reactor years of operational experience (by 2018).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accidents_and_incidents
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticality_accident
    US Federal data shows that working in the nuclear industry is one of the safest occupations in the country – safer than working in finance, insurance and real estate – the so called “FIRE” group – the lowest risk for insurance premiums.
    The US average is 33 deaths per million per annum for all forms of employment (between 4000 and 5000 deaths per annum in the US alone.)
    “I’d be happy to live inside a nuclear power station. It’s one of the safest places you can be !”
    Dr. Patrick Moore Co-founder & past President of Greenpeace.

    I think I can quite easily assert that there is no field of human endeavour which has a lower death toll per number of active persons, than nuclear power.
    Like it or not Nuclear power is extremely safe.
    I am a registered radiation worker and even spent a short time working in a “Hot” “Corecatcher” Vault beneath an active reactor – was I concerned at the time ? – No ! – actual exposure turned out to be insignificant but I still considered it an adventure at the time – fun even. The drive to work was probably a million times more dangerous.

    • The other facts the press leaves out is that the isotope of radiation exposure is important as well. If the isotope is one the body metabolizes such as iodine, it will cause significant damage to the organ which metabolizes the isotope/mineral. In the case of Chernobyl, there are lots of wild animals such as boars which have a build up of Cesium in their body (either bone or muscle accumulation) but do not have cases of random tumors or other outward problems.

  15. “You may have trivialized Chernobyl into insignificance, but what if over a period of 250 years, the world accumulated 100 Chernobyls?”

    I have a film at home on nuclear program testing in the world, a little old.
    There have been about 3000 nuclear explosions.
    A lot more radioactivity than 3000 Chernobyl’s.
    Guess where most were?
    Mainland USA.
    Greater than 2,500.
    If the radioactivity from so many explosions most bigger than Hiroshima have not led to any problems yet, why should they in future.
    True many underground but not all.
    And aquifers should have carried the radioactivity a long way.
    There was even one test to do a form of fracking but it was an little radioactive.
    Went to Las Vegas for my birthday 8 years ago.
    Americans did not even glow.

    • A lot less radioactivity than Chernobyl. In a radioactive explosion most radioactive material gets consumed whereas in a meltdown it is spread.

      • No so – most of the fissile fuel gets splashed – only about 15% changes state – so all bombs are very messy.
        In the early days of atmospheric nuclear testing humankind stupidly blasted something like 50 tonnes of Plutonium into the atmosphere.
        And we are still here……

  16. Nuclear should be the compromise scepetics and alarmists can do, as it does not mean we have to change society or our way of living.

    • Which is why alarmists, in general, aren’t interested in it. Their real goal has nothing to do with climate, the goal *is* to change society and our way of living.

      “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution”. — Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC

      • Figueres did not dare say – we are going to depopulate. Thank AOC for blurting that out all over Twitter, and Patrick Moore for taking up exactly this issue, praising Trump’s commission.

        “Socialism” is a Red Herring – Dr. Schellnhuber, CBE, not a Socialist, rather a Commander of the British Empire, clearly stated the objective – 1 billion “optimal” decarbonized rabble led by his favorites of course.

  17. sure, few if any people have died…

    That’s not the problem…

    The problem is you have to move people out of an area perhaps of hundreds of square miles – rehouse them, lose the agriculture and industry there for decades.

    If you only lose 160 out of 6,000 thyroid cancers – well consider the cost and impact of treating an additional 6,000 cancer cases.

    After Chernobyl farms across the whole of northern Europe had to have livestock sales restricted… deeply damaging to farmers.

    Then there’s the other huge cost of nuclear: decommissioning. This has in effect bankrupt France’s EDF and is spiralling out of control in the UK.

    nuclear is expensive, can take years to build, has a really serious economic effect on failure, never properly accounts for the decommissioning costs.

    Put up solar and wind instead: balance that with gas.

    • Griff, I will blame any birds and bats that are beaten to death by wind turbines and/or friend by solar farms on you.

    • There are NO empty, abandoned homes around TMI. Some homes are close enough to hit a golf ball onto the site. And no one died from TMI.

      • That you know of. It’s impossible to track cancer deaths due to nuclear accidents. Nevertheless, there is an anomalously high cancer cluster around TMI.

        • And the area around TMI has a VERY high level of Radon being released from the ground. After the portal monitors were installed at TMI workers that lived nearby could no longer wear wool clothes or other material that Radon gas would cling to, e.g. fleece. Problem solved when they installed Radon mitigation systems at home. Enough the any home that does not have Radon mitigation system exceeds the acceptable level. FHA and most mortgage loans require analysis and mitigation before approval. There is also significant areas of Granite in the area, AND, just three miles south is a Three Plant Coal burning power station dumping the Radon from the coal burnt into the atmosphere and polluting the area with even more Radon. That Radon is STILL there, the insignificant amount of radiation from the TMI event was gone ~40 years ago a few days after 3/28/79. Radon is taken in with each breath and constantly replenishes the quantity in the body. Is in direct contact with the lobes in the lungs transferring it to your blood and simultaneously affecting the lungs.
          Again you provide poorly researched half truths, omitting significant relevant facts.

    • There was never any reason to evacuate anyone from Fukushima.

      6000 thyroid cancers was absolute worst case. Realistic data shows the number was much smaller.

      The restriction on livestock sales was for political reasons, not health reasons.

      Decommissioning is built into the cost of electricity produced by the plant. There is no extra cost unless foolish politicians force the plant to be closed before it’s time.

    • There is a tendency amongst the ignorant to say that there is no such thing as a “safe” level of radiation.

      Wrong ! There is not only a safe level there is in fact a desirable level.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis

      This was discovered by researchers trying to determine if there was a “safe” level – and it has been confirmed several times since.

      Medically Hormesis is “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
      Humans have evolved in a mildly radioactive environment (just take a look up at that almighty great nuclear fireball in the sky) and unsurprisingly a slightly larger than normal background radiation is beneficial – probably indicates that the background was slightly greater during our evolution than it is now.

      • I was just poking through a new very thick Toxicology book that said hormesis is still controversial. They did acknowledge that “Alle Dinge sind Gift.” This is an interesting paper, as the idea looks complex but worthy. Calabrese, E. J. 2008. Hormesis: why it is important to toxicology and toxicologists. Environmental Toxicology Chem. 27(7):1451-1474.

        • Water is a killer in the wrong dose. O2 too, even CO2 at the levels of Apollo 13 was beginning to be toxic. What would that level be?

        • Their dismissal of Hormesis does NOT explain why there is less cancer in Colorado and the other areas with high natural radiation levels.

          • Part of it could have to do with differing populations.
            A lot of young people who are hyper concerned regarding health issues move to Colorado. Whereas old people tend to move to places like Florida.

          • Ramsar, a northern coastal city in Iran, has areas with some of the highest levels of natural radiation measured to date. … Inhabitants who live in some houses in this area receive annual doses as high as 132 mSv…

            In Guarapari, Brazil, a city of 80 000 inhabitants built on the seaside, peak measurements made by EFN on the thorium-rich beach were as high as 40 microSv/hour (about 200 times higher than the average natural background radiation in other areas of the world).

            Search “High Background Radiation Areas of Ramsar, Iran” for more.

  18. Here in the south west of England we have granite and it produces a lot of radon gas, which is radioactive. My fathers x-ray machine was checked for leaks regularly, he is a chiropractor, and his clinic is in the house. The readings are totally swamped by radon gas, can’t see the x-ray machine at all.

    And yet we all have long and healthy lives in this part of the world.

  19. The USA governments are predominantly opposed to wide spread nuclear out of fear for terrorism and proliferation to politically unstable states, it is only the greens that are opposed to nuclear per se. I believe that nuclear fission is only really attractive if a safe and reliable fast breeder reactor can be build and this would require significant development cost for which I see no funding. Maybe Bill Gates and his buddy Waren Buffet can raise the funds to crank start the process?

  20. Chernobyl was a “safety exercise” gone wrong. Safety measures cause lots of accidents, like, say, the first Boing Max accident. Similarly, life insurance causes lots of death and crime — unintended consequences again. Without all the safety measures, we could build thousands of nuclear power reactors cheaply, like the Navy already does.

  21. When I was exploring for copper in sandstone deposits in the Neuquen Basin of Argentina I noticed a lot of Uranium oxide, so we started a Uranium Exploration Company. I officially represented Argentina in an IAEA RedBook uranium conference in Vienna, Austria, and took that opportunity to question Radiation Risk Doctors about safety issues. They all said 1. don’t let smokers into heavy radon gas environments, 2. put a personal dosimeter into the pocket of every employee in the field, and 3. you will have far more problems with public perception than actual safety issues. All turned out to be true. We had the dosimeters go off for over exposure alerts three times, twice standing on outcrops of very high-grade uranium mineralization and once in a commercial airplane flight from southern Argentina (the stewardess asked us to turn it off but you can’t-it’s a safety issue, so we wrapped it up in coats until you couldn’t hear the alarm anymore). Mr. Shellenberger, whatever all of his motives, has written an excellent review of the issue of Radiation Safety.

  22. I was unable to find anything in the reference link supporting the assertions of 6,000 cases of papillary thryroid cancer so far and 65,000 cases possible by 2065.

    I am aware of studies that found up to 1,500 cases of papillary thyroid cancer in Belarus and said incidence declined to negligible levels after 2002.

    I haven’t seen good data on cases of childhood or adolescent papillary thyroid cancer in Ukraine. I’ve seen numbers in the hundreds, not thousands.

    The epoidemiology suggests that thyroid cancer caused by Chernobyl is minimal.

    So how do we get from 2,000 to 6,000, and from little incidence after 2002 to 65,000 cases by 2065?

  23. About 2,000 people died from the evacuation

    Everything else made sense, but suddenly this unsubstantiated claim, without any further explanation.

  24. The future of nuclear must be small modular reactors running liquid crystal systems. They do not require the high pressures of PWRs, so no immense pressure resistant containment vessel required, fission products are non volatile and will not be spread across hundreds of miles in the unlikely event of an escape. In the Moltex design (British, but undergoing licensing in N.B., Canada) the liquid fuel in the rods is “burned” with only 5% residue (as opposed to only 5% of fuel used in conventional solid pellet rods) and the half life of residues is measured in tens and hundreds of years, not millenia. Safety cooling is by natural convection, so a total power outage will not cause meltdown and the worst case scenario is that all the coolant and radioactive material drains into concrete ponds below the reactor. Add the benefits that this technology will consume the stockpiles of uranium and plutonium from conventional nuclear and the small reactors can be built on assembly lines and it seems a no brainer. “But it’s nuclear” they scream, so the 2.5 billions humans without access to cheap electricity will continue to be fobbed off with a solar cell and a one metre windmill. How very Green.

  25. Some thirty years ago a nuclear scientist friend explained carefully to me that someone living at a modest elevation of around 2 000 meters (6 000 feet) above sea level one would be exposed to higher levels of radiation then living near a nuclear reactor at sea level.

    • Just check the exposure on a Dublin – NY round flight at 10,000m. Cabin crews are health conscious and do just fine.

  26. I’m starting to think Shellenberger is a shill. The degree to which a former environmentalist overlooks things to embrace the current state of nuclear power isn’t credible. Some Russian experts think 150,000 people died as a result of Chernobyl. Go read about (and look at) the birth deformities that are still happening in places downwind from Chernobyl. Thyroid cancers and abnormalities (along with many other problems) spiked in Japan after Fukushima, but doctors can’t attribute those to the accident due to government pressure.

    • Quoting the Daily Mail from the time and claiming a Russian source reeks of Novichok.
      Same ol, same ol’.

    • I love how some un-named expert is now more credible than actual, real world data.
      I guess when you have a paranoia to defend, any data will suffice.

    • Pure speculation without a shred of evidence. UFO believers and Bigfoot hunters have more credibility.

  27. The tragic, and preventable, problem at Fukushima, was the completely arbitrary study period designation for the site. A tsunami was known to have inundated the site, but the study period excluded this event. Such failures are possible, and likely, in a culture that places too high a value on consensus and too little on skepticism.

  28. Very good to hear of LNT, Hormesis . Still the particulate matter stats are totally over-the-top (huge open discussion in Germany).
    And incredibly no mention of the Chernobyl predecessor, Selafield (Windscale, Cumbria), same design, England 1957. Only declassified in the 1990’s. Of course Britain was the first to ship cleanup equipment – they had stocks!
    (Wonder if the special Ukraine relationship was the price?).
    France was warned of the polonium cloud.
    Say the Entente Cordialle ain’t so, Joe.

      • And how many people remember SL-1

        Very, very few. That was back in the days before “Earth day”, and environmental agitation groups like Greenpeace. And back when news reports mainly focused on reporting the news rather than focusing on editorializing the news.

        • If I remember correctly, 3 died in that incident. One of them nailed to the roof by a control rod.

          • Yes, 3 died (one of the three was initially found alive but died shortly thereafter). Yes one was “nailed to the roof”, but it was via one of the shield plugs from the top of the reactor vessel not a control rod (according to the wiki link Ken provided).

  29. Yes and no.

    It may well be true that specific reactor accidents did not cause many or even (in Fukushima or Three Mile Island) any fatalities, but that does not make nuclear power, in the form of light water reactors, inherently “safe” in any rational way. When those meltdown accidents occur, massive amounts of extremely radioactive material is exposed to the internal environment, inside the reactor containment buildings. That material cannot simply be left there – it must be removed and legally disposed as high level radioactive waste, much of it with extremely long half lives. To remove it requires, at least with today’s technology, that human workers enter those highly radioactive environments, with extensive anti-contamination clothing and protected breathing apparatus, and work in very high radiation fields. In such work a radiation worker could be exposed to a fatal dose of radiation in fairly short order – hence workers are carefully timed and in many instances can only work for a few minutes before receiving the maximum legal radiation exposure for a year. They must then leave, and not return again to any known exposures for another year, requiring lots and lots of workers to get the job done over many years of effort.

    From a business perspective, if not a human health and mortality perspective, then, reactor meltdown accidents are horrible outcomes that are anything but “safe”. Not to mention the litigation liabilities created, and massive loss of revenue from electrical generation.

    The author makes it sound like “no harm, no foul” from reactor meltdown accidents, which is the opposite of the truth.

    Now, there are new reactor designs making their way today through the design development and licensing processes that are indeed inherently “fail safe”, and cannot melt down, unlike the common light water reactors in service as power plants across the world today. Molten salt reactors are one such type of reactor .. it simply cannot experience an out of control reactor core meltdown, because the coolant and the fuel are already combined in a liquid form. If all electrical power is lost preventing removal of the heat product from the reactor produces (that in a secondary plant produces steam to run generators), a “frozen” plug in the bottom automatically melts, allowing the contents to drain into a basin that automatically stops the reaction.

    There is a very famous saying amongst rural folk: “Don’t piss down my leg and tell me it’s raining”. As the author of this post is effectively attempting to claim.

    It is all well and good to point out the “bottom line” that human fatalities are not the principle result of a reactor meltdown, but that no matter how you cut it a reactor meltdown is a massive catastrophe that is an inherent risk in light water reactors … and the good news is that better, safer, more reliable reactors are on the way.

    By the way, I was a US Navy nuclear reactor operator, served on fast attack submarines. After my naval service, I spent some time as an operator and a Test Engineer at the Loss Of Fluid Test (LOFT) reactor in Idaho – the only reactor in the world that was intended to suffer a complete loss of flow accident as its final act. My major professor for my master’s program also worked for the same nuclear contractor, and he was the US DOE project manager for the cleanup of the Three Mile Island reactor.

    • It may well be true that specific reactor accidents did not cause many or even (in Fukushima or Three Mile Island) any fatalities, but that does not make nuclear power, in the form of light water reactors, inherently “safe” in any rational way.

      Bzzzt! wrong. Look at the safety records of Nuclear compared to other energy forms (Gas, oil, coal, wind, solar, hydro, etc.)
      Here’s a link

      https://www.statista.com/statistics/494425/death-rate-worldwide-by-energy-source/

      Nuclear is safest of all – deaths per Terrawatt Hour :-

      Nuclear 0.04
      Hydro 0.1
      Wind 0.15
      Photovoltaic 0.44
      Natural Gas 4.0
      Biomass 12
      Oil 36
      Coal 161

      Nuclear has, by far, the best safety record despite those very rare high profile accidents. And each of those very rare high profile accidents have lead to lessons learned that serve to make nuclear even more safe.

      Now, there are new reactor designs making their way today through the design development and licensing processes that are indeed inherently “fail safe”,

      Which only means Nuclear can only get *safer*, should though design end up proving viable.

      Molten salt reactors are one such type of reactor

      which currently only exist as vaporware. Would love to see them manifest in the real world and live up to their hype, but until that happens they remain as real as unicorn farts.

      • Years ago I was responsible for developing a report on the lost time accident rate for the NPP I worked at. The number looked exceedingly low and unbelievable. I checked the Lost time numbers on the BLS web site and was amazed that the number was lower than any on there, and MUCH lower than the number on BLS for “Utilities.” It was lower than accounting firms, Law firms and several other occupations. Checked with other plants and sure enough my plant was in the same ballpark as all the NPPs I contacted. Do not remember the number but it was on the order of 0.0X per 100,000 FTE

      • Yes but heavy water reactors exist which already have a better safety record than enriched uranium reactors. (Actually molten salt reactors exist they just aren’t economic yet because we don’t yet have a cheap way to separate the different elements. Also, some heavy water reactors can burn thorium – seems we’re almost there).

        But even if none of these things are true, we could, probably should and someday will, run the world solely on hydro and nuclear.

        • Actually, no .. MSRs do NOT need to “separate the elements”. MSRs actually consume nuclear waste, turning very highly radioactive and long lived transuranics into short lived radionuclides easily disposed in today’s existing low level rad waste landfills. Indeed, one of the uses of MSRs is actually to feed them with liquified high level reactor waste as a fuel feedstock.

          • Actually, no .. MSRs do NOT need to “separate the elements”.

            Wrong again Duane. Chemical separation is still required to turn long-lived actinides back into reactor fuel.

      • Molten Salt Reactors are not unicorn farts and never will be.

        “The Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) was an experimental molten salt reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researching this technology through the 1960s; constructed by 1964, it went critical in 1965 and was operated until 1969.”[1]

        Refer to the following article for your edification:

        https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2018/08/global-race-for-transformative-molten-salt-nuclear-includes-bill-gates-and-china.html

        Regards
        Climate Heretic
        [1] Wikipedia

        • Molten Salt Reactors are not unicorn farts and never will be.

          Sorry, but until they making it past the experimental stage an into the commercial operation stage, yes that are unicorn farts and that’s all they’ll be (not everything that makes it to the experimental stage turns out to be viable for commercial operation). You can’t power a city on technology that doesn’t exist in commercial operation. Just like you can’t power a city on unicorn farts. Get back to us when there is *one* (just one, that’s not too much to ask for) in commercial operation. Until then, you are talking unicorn farts.

      • You did not address my point, which is that reactor safety is NOT just defined as deaths generated. Nuclear reactors that generate power are business enterprises. That means they must generate a return on investment. A reactor design – such as all of those in commercial service today -become total writeoffs and massive liabilities whenever a reactor melts down. As an investment, they are among the least safe any investor would ever face.

        A reactor that melts down also melts down its owner, financially speaking, and credibility in the marketplace speaking. It causes massive disruption of life in the nearby areas.

        No sane person would call that “safe”.

        The good news is that there are actually several totally safe reactor designs now working their way through design development and licensing. The one I mentioned, MSRs, aren’t even a new design – the first one dates back to the 1970s, but it was forgotten in the rush to license LWRs, and then forgotten again when everything nuclear took on toxic qualities in the minds of both the general public and investors.

        Relief is on the way.

        • You did not address my point, which is that reactor safety is NOT just defined as deaths generated.

          Bzzt Wrong, Again. The stuff you babble on about has nothing to do with safety. care to try again?

          Nuclear reactors that generate power are business enterprises. That means they must generate a return on investment.

          Business investments that go bad have nothing to do with whether or not those investments had issues with safety. That’s a completely different topic. duh.

          The good news is that there are actually several totally safe reactor designs now working their way through design development and licensing

          Great, when they go commercial then and only then can you tout how safe they really are. Real world trumps theoretical every time.

      • And no, MSRs are certainly not vapor ware. The US DOE designed, built, and operated a MSR successfully at the Idaho National Laboratory back in the 1970s. It simply was not adopted by the commercial power industry at the time. Nothing that has existed and operated successsfully can be dishonestly labeled as “vaporware”.

        • Until they become commercially available, yes they are. that’s the very definition of vaporware: “a product that is announced to the general public but is never actually manufactured nor officially cancelled”. Again, when you can show just *ONE* in commercial operation, then and only then can you claim it is not vaporware.

  30. Btw, I saw Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, on tv a couple of days ago and he was promoting new-technology nuclear power.

  31. “The worst energy accident of all time was the 1975 collapse of the Banqiao hydroelectric dam in China. It collapsed and killed between 170,000 and 230,000 people.”

    Does this accident alone make hydroelectric the most dangerous form of energy, historically?

  32. This is sort of unrelated, but I’ve always thought the price of lung cancer from smoking is overblown. You take a smoker who works until he’s 63 then he gets cancer and dies. Another person doesn’t smoke and lives decades longer, all the while collecting from the government and getting treated for all sorts of non-life threatning illnesses. Who costs the government more? I’m not advocating smoking just pointing out politics in messages from our betters.

  33. Molten saly nuclear reactors are miles ahead of current light water reactors, not only in terms of inherent safety
    but especially in terms of cost, siteability, geographic footprint, proliferation resistance, etc. There is no valid reason for choosing light water reactors over molten salt reactors. None.

    • Molten saly nuclear reactors are miles ahead of current light water reactors, not only in terms of inherent safety

      Yes, you can’t beat a 100% safety record. Of course the fact that there are none existing in commercial operation couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it. But by all means keep pushing the virtues of your favorite vaporware and wake me when you actually get one into commercial operation so that the reality can be compared to the endless hype.

    • There is no valid reason for choosing light water reactors over molten salt reactors. None.

      Yes there is, and its a very big one: light water reactors actually exist in commercial operation in the real world, molten salt reactors do not. Until you can manage to get one into commercial operations so all your claims about them can be verified, there is no valid reason to choose vaporware over things that actually exist.

      • And equally no reason to choose significantly more expensive nuclear over cheap gas. The reality is that you still have a waste disposal problem — Yucca is as much vaporware as MSR, and Shellenberger may be sanguine about indefinite dry cask storage, but that isn’t really a long term solution either.

        • Yucca Mountain is a result of Jimmy Carter’s mandating a “once-through” fuel cycle, with the misguided belief that virtue signalling would induce foreigners to not reprocess power reactor fuel into bombs. As it was as silly as most of Carter’s proposals in general, doing away with that would solve the problem of long-term storage of nuclear waste.

  34. I am repeating and expanding upon an earlier comment that I made on WUWT in January, 2019 concerning the reasons why nuclear projects fail to deliver on their cost & schedule commitments.

    It is my opinion that the long-term future of nuclear power in the United States depends upon successfully fielding the Small Modular Reactors (SMR’s). The SMR’s now represent the only hope we have for getting the end-to-end process of designing, constructing, and commissioning a nuclear power plant under complete and effective management control.

    —————————————————

    Here in the US, including the options of nuclear, wind, solar, and hydro in the power generation mix is strictly a public policy decision. Left to its own devices, the power market in the US would swing decisively towards gas-fired generation given that among all the choices available for the next several decades, gas-fired generation has the least technical, environmental, and financial risks. It also has the highest profit making potential for private investors.

    More than a decade ago, in about 2006 when the initial cost estimates for pursuing a 21st century nuclear renaissance were being done, the 6 billion dollar estimate for a pair of new technology AP1000’s was thought by many to be too low. With twenty-five years passing without construction of a clean-sheet reactor design having been initiated, the US nuclear industrial base was in a deeply withered state. It was recognized that the steep learning curve for doing nuclear construction in the US had to be passed through for a second time, and that the cost estimates for initiating new projects had to include the costs of rebuilding the nuclear industrial base and of passing through the nuclear construction learning curve for yet another time.

    More realistic estimates for two AP1000’s were developed in 2009 and later in 2012 — 9 billion dollars and 12 billion dollars respectively. It cannot be emphasized enough here that the estimate of 12 billion dollars when onsite construction began in 2012 included the expected costs of full compliance with NRC regulations and of passing through the nuclear learning curve for a second time. These estimates also assumed that all the difficult lessons learned from the nuclear projects of the 1980’s would be diligently applied to the latest projects as they were being initiated and while they were in progress.

    How did 2012’s estimate of 12 billion dollars for two AP1000’s grow to 2017’s estimate of 25 billion dollars in just five years?

    The answer here is that all the lessons learned from the 1980’s were ignored. Thirty years ago, a raft of studies and reports were published which analyzed the cost growth problems and the severe quality assurance issues the nuclear construction industry was then experiencing, and made a series of recommendations as to how to solve these problems.

    Those studies had a number of common threads:

    Complex, First of a Kind Projects: Any large project that is complicated, involves new and/or high technology, has several phases, involves a diversity of technical specialties, involves a number of organizational interfaces, and has significant cost and schedule pressures — any project which has these characteristics is a prime candidate for experiencing significant quality assurance issues, cost control issues, and schedule growth problems.

    Strength of the Industrial Base: Nuclear power requires competent expertise in every facet of design, construction, testing, and operations. This kind of competent expertise existed in the early 1980’s but was not being effectively utilized in many of the power reactor construction projects, the ones that experienced the most serious cost and schedule growth issues.

    A Changing Technical Environment: The large reactor projects, the 1300 megawatt plants, were being built for the first time. They were being built without a prototype, and they were substantially different from previous designs. Those big plants had many new and significantly revised systems inside them, systems that had to be designed, constructed, tested, and subsequently operated.

    A Changing Regulatory Environment: In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was a continual increase in the regulatory requirements being placed on power reactors. The Three Mile Island accident, the Brown’s Ferry fire, the Calvert Cliffs environmental decision, all of those events required the power utilities to change the way they were dealing with their projects in the middle of the game. Some power utilities were successful in making the necessary changes, others were not.

    Project Management Effectiveness: Those nuclear projects which had a strong management team and strong management control systems at all levels of the project organization generally succeeded in delivering their projects on cost and on schedule. Those that didn’t were generally incapable of dealing with the changing technical and regulatory environment and became paralyzed in the face of the many QA issues, work productivity issues, and cost control issues they were experiencing.

    Overconfidence Based on Past Project Success: Many of the power utilities which had a record of past success in building non-nuclear projects, and which were constructing nuclear plants for the first time, did not recognize that nuclear is different. These included utilities which did not take their regulatory commitments seriously and which did not do an adequate job of assessing whether or not the management systems and the project methods they had been using successfully for years were up to the task of managing a nuclear project.

    Reliance on Contractor Expertise: The projects which succeeded had substantial nuclear expertise inside the power utility’s own shop. Those utilities who were successful in building nuclear plants were knowledgeable customers for the nuclear construction services they were buying. They paid close and constant attention to the work that was being done on the construction site, in the subcontractor fabrication shops, and in the contractor’s technical support organization. Emerging issues and problems were quickly and proactively identified, and quick action was taken to resolve those problems.

    Management Control Systems: The nuclear projects which failed did not have effective management control systems for contractor and subcontractor design interface control; for configuration control and management of design documentation and associated systems and components; and for proper and up-to-date maintenance of contractor and inter-contractor cost and schedule progress information. Inadequate management control systems prevented an accurate assessment of where the project actually stood, and in many cases were themselves an important factor in producing substandard technical work.

    Cost & Schedule Control Systems: For those projects which lacked a properly robust cost & schedule control system, many activities listed on their project schedules were seriously mis-estimated for time, cost, scope, and complexity. Other project activities covering significant portions of the total work scope were missing altogether, making it impossible to accurately assess where the project’s cost and schedule performance currently stood, and where it was headed in the future.

    Quality Assurance: For those nuclear projects which lacked the necessary management commitment to meeting the NRC’s quality assurance expectations, the added cost of meeting new and existing regulatory requirements was multiplied several times over as QA deficiencies were discovered and as significant rework of safety-critical systems and components became necessary. The necessary rework effectively resulted in the same component or system being bought twice, sometimes even three times, before it was QA acceptable.

    Construction Productivity & Progress: For those nuclear projects which lacked a strong management team; and which lacked effective project control systems and a strong management commitment to a ‘do-it-right the first time’ QA philosophy, the combined impacts of these deficiencies had severe impacts on worker productivity at the plant site, on supplier quality and productivity at offsite vendor facilities, and on the overall forward progress of the entire project taken as a whole.

    Project Financing and Completion Schedule: As a result of these emerging QA and site productivity problems, many of the power utilities were forced to extend their construction schedules and to revise their cost estimates upward. Finding the additional money and the necessary project resources to complete these projects proved extremely difficult in the face of competition from other corporate spending priorities and from other revenue consuming activities.

    A Change in Strategy by the Anti-nuclear Activists: In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the anti-nuclear activists were focusing their arguments on basic issues of nuclear safety. They got nowhere with those arguments. Then they changed their strategic focus and began challenging the nuclear projects on the basis of quality assurance issues, i.e., that many nuclear construction projects were not living up to the quality assurance commitments they had made to the public in their NRC license applications.

    Regulatory Oversight Effectiveness: In the early 1980’s, the NRC was slow to react to emerging problems in the nuclear construction industry. In that period, the NRC was focusing its oversight efforts on the very last phases of the construction process when the plants were going for their operating licenses. Relatively little time and effort was being devoted to the earlier phases of these projects, when emerging QA problems and deficiencies were most easily identified and fixed. Quality assurance deficiencies that had been present for years were left unaddressed until the very last phases of the project, and so were much more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to resolve.

    Working Relationships with Regulators: The successful nuclear projects from the 1970’s and 1980’s, the ones that stayed on cost and on schedule, did not view the NRC as an adversary. The successful projects viewed the NRC as a partner and a technical resource in determining how best to keep their project on track in the face of an increasingly more complex and demanding project environment. On the other hand, for those projects which had significant deficiencies in their QA programs, for those that did not take their QA commitments seriously, the anti-nuclear activists introduced those deficiencies into the NRC licensing process and were often successful in delaying and sometimes even killing a poorly managed nuclear project.

    Remarks:

    If it’s done with nuclear, it must be done with exceptional dedication to doing a professional job in all phases of project execution from beginning to end.

    Once again, it cannot be emphasized enough here that the estimate of 12 billion dollars for two AP1000’s when onsite construction at VC Summer and at Vogtle 3 & 4 began in 2012 included the expected costs of full compliance with NRC regulations and of passing through the nuclear learning curve for a second time. These estimates also assumed that all the difficult lessons learned from the nuclear projects of the 1980’s, as I’ve described them above, would be diligently applied to the latest projects as they were being initiated and while they were in progress.

    For those of us who went through the wrenching experiences of the 1980’s in learning how to do nuclear construction right the first time, what we’ve seen with VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4 has been deja vu all over again.

    The first indications of serious trouble at VC Summer and at Vogtle 3 & 4 came in 2011 when the power utilities chose contractor teams that did not have the depth of talent and experience needed to handle nuclear projects of this level of complexity and with this level of project risk. That the estimated cost for each plant eventually grew to 25 billion dollars in 2017 should be no surprise.

    The project owners and managers ignored the hard lessons of the 1980’s. They did not do a professional job in managing their nuclear projects; and they did not meet their commitments to the public as these commitments are outlined in their regulatory permit applications. Just as happened in the 1980’s, the anti-nuclear activists and the government regulatory agencies are now holding these owners and managers to account for failures that were completely avoidable if sound management practices had been followed.

    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s quality assurance requirements will not be abandoned. The future of nuclear power in the United States, if there is a future, lies with the Small Modular Reactors (SMR’s), assuming they are fully compliant with NRC standards. Given the sad state of the nuclear industrial base in the US, the SMR’s now represent the only hope we have for getting the end-to-end process of designing, constructing, and commissioning a nuclear power plant under complete and effective management control.

    NuScale out of Portland, Oregon is now the SMR project which is closest to gaining an NRC license. NuScale views the NRC as a working partner and a valuable technical resource, not as an adversary, in fielding a safe and cost effective SMR design.

    The first SMR nuclear power plant will be constructed in eastern Idaho at the US-DOE’s INL site. The plant is being built for the Carbon Free Power Project with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and is targeted for completion in 2026. Fluor is backing the project financially and is also the Engineering Procurement & Construction (EPC) contractor. Energy Northwest will be the plant operator.

    If the Idaho SMR project stays on track — and there is every reason to believe that it will, given the strength of the team now managing it — a good technical foundation will be in place for a revival of nuclear power in the United States. If that is what we as a nation decide we want.

  35. As recently as a few months ago, a particularly radiation phobic commenter here told me that the fact that so many people were evacuated, and the fact that the government was spending so much money to clean up after Fukushima was proof positive that nuclear power was too dangerous to continue using.

    • What would you have them do? Not clean the mess up? It took them 3.5 years to remove over 1500 spent fuel rods from atop damaged reactor building 4. There are still about 1500 rods atop buildings 1, 2 and 3. If those buildings collapse in an earthquake before the rods are removed, that will create a very bad situation with lots of air-borne radio-nucleotides. Highly radioactive groundwater was flowing into the sea, so they have spent a lot of time and money trying to re-mediate that. Is poisoning the environment forever your solution?

    • There was no mess to clean up.

      There is no highly radioactive water flowing into the sea.

      Is there any lie you won’t eagerly accept and repeat?

      • MarkW March 13, 2019 at 10:42 am
        There was no mess to clean up.
        There is no highly radioactive water flowing into the sea.
        —————————-
        just as an example:
        Fukushima’s Other Big Problem: A Million Tons of Radioactive Water
        https://www.wired.com/story/fukushimas-other-big-problem-a-million-tons-of-radioactive-water/
        The tsunami-driven seawater that engulfed Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has long since receded. But plant officials are still struggling to cope with another dangerous flood: the enormous amounts of radioactive water the crippled facility generates each day. More than 1 million tons of radiation-laced water is already being kept on-site in an ever-expanding forest of hundreds of hulking steel tanks—and so far, there’s no plan to deal with them.
        AND
        https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/03/29/national/seven-years-radioactive-water-fukushima-plant-still-flowing-ocean-study-finds/#.XIpOeXd2uUk
        Seven years on, radioactive water at Fukushima plant still flowing into ocean, study finds
        Kyodo
        Mar 29, 2018
        More than seven years after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, radioactive water is continuing to flow into the Pacific Ocean from the crippled No. 1 plant at a rate of around 2 billion becquerels a day, a study has found.
        The amount of leaking cesium 137 has decreased from some 30 billion becquerels in 2013, Michio Aoyama, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Radioactivity at Fukushima University, said in his study, which was presented Wednesday at an academic conference in Osaka.
        The study said the concentration of radiation — 0.02 becquerel per liter of seawater found in samples collected near a coastal town 8 km south of the No. 1 plant — is at a level that does not affect the local fishing industry.

  36. My largest nuclear fears involve the continued maintenance and the end-of-life procedures which may require expertise from personnel who haven’t even been born yet and may also require a backup power source that will last for longer than two weeks.

  37. I have to question the WHO number of 7,000,000 people dying annually from fossil fuel and biomass particulate pollution. There are two scenarios I can think of:

    1) WHO is talking about estimates of “premature deaths”, which are a known hogwash. It’s just a projection without verification, even one second is considered “premature”, etc.

    2) The primary component is open burning of dung for indoor heating and cooking, which has nothing to do with electricity generation. The number is somewhat plausible in this case, however.

  38. It’s about the money. Not radiation.

    With solar at 5c/Kwh
    And real costs of nuclear including waste and the occasional accident around 17ç (don’t be does by quotes of 2c – thats only the generation cost …

    And battery arrays making money right now buying cheap electricity and selling back at expensive times

    … There’s no future for nuclear.

    New plants take 10 years to get through approval and planning stage, then 25 to pay back the costs.

    Whose going to invest in an expensive new plant that will only be paid back in 35 years.

    2 years ago solar costs dropped 22%
    Last year dropped 17%

    • It’s about the money. Not radiation.

      With solar at 5c/Kwh
      And real costs of nuclear including waste and the occasional accident around 17ç (don’t be does by quotes of 2c – thats only the generation cost …

      Bullshit numbers. Still the “sunny day” problem! And massive subsidies to get those low numbers! And nuclear’s 15c is the regulatory premium!

      “And battery arrays making money right now buying cheap electricity and selling back at expensive times….”

      More bullshit. The only battery plants to have a chance are the Arizona (planned) storage plants, which get paid by the idiot Californiacs to take their sunny-day surplus! The only engineering-reasonable storage system is pumped hydro. We’ll see how popular that is in Calif!

      In fact, a major attraction in closing Diablo Canyon, CA’s last operating nuke, is to get hold of their big pumped-storage plant in the Sierras. With any luck, some sensible utility will buy Diablo Canyon for $1 + assumed liabilities out of the bankruptcy. Local antis are already hand-wringing about just the possibility. OMG, OMG! We’d have to picket it for another 50 years!

      What a state!

  39. While serving aboard a nuclear submarine in the 70’s, I had many conversations friends and acquaintances on this subject. They could not get their minds around the truth. Totally braindyed (green) even then. It was even argued the Navy was lying to us and giving instrumentation that understated the radiation. And they certainly lied bout the dangers of low level radiation. Surely if a large amount will kill, a little bit will also, just slower.

  40. “…a tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan eight years ago today, triggering the meltdowns of three reactors….”

    Actually, the first meltdown occurred before the arrival of the tsunami, a detail Tepco only revealed three months after the event. Evidently this fact has since been erased from the public record…. It took many decades before the 1957 nuclear fallout event in the Urals was officially acknowledged, after repeated vehement denials by nuclear “experts” around the world that any such event ever happened. It’s a bit early to expect the truth about Fukushima.

      • Fake news. Yeah, there could’ve been alittle steam release, but NO, nothing was in “melt-down” before the tsunami. As long as cooling water was being pumped into the reactor (cooling water was working until the tsunami took out the back-up engine/pump), it wouldn’t “melt-down”. AND, if the back-up engine/pump had just been located alittle higher, it would NOT have been taken out.

      • Thanks for the link. I’ve saved the report I read but would have to dig for it, as I’ve changed computers a few times since then. However, if this was fake news, as the next reply suggests, I got it a lot earlier. I was following Fukushima news quite intently from the tip of the Shandong peninsula, and left China in June. I remember being taken aback by the pronouncement, some weeks or months later, by the chair of the American investigative commission that there was no need to worry about such a disaster happening to GE reactors still in use in the USA because “we don’t have tsunamis”.

        • otropogo,

          I hate the phrase “fake news” since it’s been bastardized to the point that it’s mostly meaningless. But…in this case…

          Saying that Fukishima began meltdown prior to the tsunami is just absurd. Pointing out that Tepco and the Japanese regulator had allowed the plant to degrade to a point where it was highly vulnerable is not even remotely the same thing as meltdown. Sheesh.

          With regards to the safety of US BWR’s, the industry spent immense amounts of time and resources reevaluating safety in light of what we learned from the Japanese accident. Specifically, the industry began evaluating “stacked events” (e.g. earthquake + tsunami) and considering the vulnerabilities of systems that could cascade into a loss of coolant accident (loca) like Fukishima Daichii.

          To give one example, the Japanese accident highlighted the vulnerability associated with the loss of diesel fuel tanks for the back-up generators, which as I recall, was the real reason for the loss of cooling. Contingency plans have been reevaluated and strengthened here in the US as a result of these analyses. Heck, the industry even coined a new term to describe the costs associated with this: Post-Fukishima. Post-Fukishima costs included considerable engineering analyses, capital investments, and procedural changes.

          The offhand suggestion implicit in your post that the US industry casually waved away the accident in Japan is blatantly false and reflects a complete lack of knowledge about what actually occurred here.

          rip

        • I remember being taken aback by the pronouncement, some weeks or months later, by the chair of the American investigative commission that there was no need to worry about such a disaster happening to GE reactors still in use in the USA because “we don’t have tsunamis”.

          As ripshin points out your comment is greatly offbase. As for “we don’t have tsunamis” specifically, you have to remember that different geography means different challenges. A house on the top of a mountain doesn’t have to worry about flooding the way a house that’s 100 feet below sea level in the middle of a flood plain does. A nuclear plant in Kansas or Nebraska, for example, isn’t going to have to worry about tsunamis (if they get hit by a tsunami in Kansas, the world clearly has bigger problems than what happens to that nuclear plant). So pointing out that Fuskishima’s situation is different than what would be faced by a US nuclear plant (IE “we don’t have tsunamis”) and thus we don’t have to worry about the exact circumstance that happened there happening here isn’t the same thing as dismissing the possibility of damage from extreme weather events. as ripshin pointed out, the US nuclear industry has being reevaluating their processes, procedures, & plans in light of the Fukishima disaster.

  41. “But now, eight years after Fukushima,”
    ___________________________________________________

    I’ve already said, while Fukushima was hasting through all tv channels,

    just pack that contaminated stuff into containers and deposit them in the ( sic! ) NEARBY SUBDUCTION ZONE.

    But Japan reacted like shock frosted and the green belivers had their coming out for centuries.

    Still in 2016 the german greens mourned “why can’t we have the fukushima effect in times of ‘populist’ politics!”

  42. This article is severely flawed.
    It attempts a whitewash.

    As my father worked in nuclear research, and his best friend was the head of the UK nuclear industry safety and accident remediation board, you can only say a lot of the article above was written by people who have never been involved in radiation protection and are not aware of the risks of being bombarded with high energy particles.

    Additionally, Radon as a risk is well known world wide particularly when in the ex-USSR is allied with high levels of smoking.
    Here in this article however you appear to be claiming the large presence of such radioisotopes based on Uranium and Thorium are harmless much like Areva does by spreading depleted uranium ore all over the roads of France, by using is as crushed rock for road foundation.

    It’s nonsense, we even have to protect cabin crews today from the high & rising dose rates which aircraft crews are exposed to daily.

    To claim that evacuation as a strategy from nuclear accident theatres, and by the same mistaken token to claim that nuclear power is somehow safer despite (or because) we have little really accurate data from a USSR which disintegrated, is as good as saying Stalin was a hero because they didn’t keep accurate records of the millions who died in his 1000s of diverse Gulags.

    This article is reckless in the extreme and the headlines does great harm to the very basis of radiation protection, which countries like the UK have been very effective in.

    It is indeed valid to compare the number of deaths and injuries in say coal mining in China and India, but in those places there has never been any mitigation strategy.

    You actually add fuel to the fire of people opposing nuclear power per se
    It’s the law of unintended consequences caused by such an amateur, ill informed article on WUWT.

  43. Discrepo de la benignidad de la energía nuclear. Fukushima demostró que incluso el país tecnológicamente más avanzado comete errores y decenas de miles de personas se vieron afectadas.
    Lean “Voces de Chernobyl” y ya me dicen

    • Chernobyl was not an accident. They deliberately disabled safeties, and then started “experimenting”. Less than 100 dies from radiation, and most were first responders.

      Fukushima killed exactly zero people. The evacuation killed many.

      “Fear is the mind killer”

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