Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Report by Congress says: Obama Admin Fired Top Scientist to Advance Climate Change Plans

I doubt Obama's media darlings will be reporting this

Dec 20, 2016: news report: Congress: Obama Admin Fired Top Scientist to Advance Climate Change Plans, Investigation claims Obama admin retaliated against scientists, politicized DoE

Full report: U.S. Department of Energy Misconduct Related to the Low Dose Radiation Research Program (pdf)

Obama administration fired a top scientist who got out of line and wanted scientific research done into actual harms of banned substances.

Background: For decades now, the old ruling against carcinogenic substances: No safe dose, based on a linear, no-threshold, LNT, dose-response model has been disputed. No-safe dose is widely used by regulatory agencies, especially for carcinogenic substances. Some of the problems with no-safe dose are: at least one agency thinks everything is a carcinogen (such as the UN IARC who literally say 99.9% of everything (substance and activity) they investigated was carcinogenic. They sub-contracted NRDC researchers to find that. The no-safe dose model assumes there is no real protection against carcinogens, in that it considers every animal to be, more or less, equally susceptible. It believed genetic damage is carried down the lineage. That is absolutely not the case. In recent decades, modern biology found several mechanisms, which work at the cellular level, by which animals protect themselves from cancer. Some animals have high protection against cancer, such as: Elephants, blind mole rat, naked mole rat, water bears (tardigrades) to name but 4. These protective measures use a variety of mechanisms (proteins to protect DNA, widely different levels of cell lysis, mechanisms to prevent DNA insertion by alien creatures such as viruses, etc.). Different DNA repair mechanisms are present at a cellular level to repair damaged or broken DNA. Humans are about mid-way. Not the most susceptible animal but certainly not the least.

The cost of no-safe dose to industry may be in the trillions. It is certainly at least tens of billions each year. I guess no one knows because we don't really study it. Regulatory agencies never bothered with cost-benefit before they enacted no-safe dose. They do not review cost-benefits. E.g. Notice how Wikipedia don't even discuss cost-benefit. Presumably because there are not enough comprehensive studies; as academics and regulators are too cowed to write them. One might get sacked.

Scientists in the nuclear power, and radiation medicine (anti-cancer) industries have tried for years to establish a threshold dose instead. It looks like the Obama administration fired at least one scientist to make an example and establish who's in charge. To establish who has the right to decide what science says.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Sarcy sarcophagus

Big song and dance over €1.5bn spent on a sarcophagus, or shield, above the exploded Chernobyl reactor. But what was the point of it? It protects no one from radiation. Radiation travels in straight lines. No one flies in the airspace above the reactor. A shield around the reactor could've been something as simple are a 4 metre wide earthwork about 5 metres high. The 3 neighboring reactors at Chernobyl continued operation for years after. They were shut in 1991, 1996, and 2000. For 14 years, when the radiation levels are much higher than now, workers continued to operate those reactors. The sarcophagus is a 1.5 billion Euro moral statement financed by Chernobyl Shelter Fund saying : nuclear power is forever dangerous - be very afraid.
This sarcophagus is certainly an admirable engineering accomplishment : it is the largest movable object ever built by humanity, but it is useless health wise.

The world is spending €1.5bn (one and a half billion euros) to protect itself from harmless levels of radiation.
For the same €1.5bn Ukraine could've built an advanced molten salt test reactor and prototype. They could've had cheaper, safer nuclear power instead of relying on Russian gas so much. €500 million of that money came from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Rather construct and develop something useful to increase wealth. They chose to throw the money away.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Brief history of radiation protection. What does it mean?

People are prone to jump on moral crusades. We see it today with global warming. Back in the day, radiation and cancer were a moral crusade.

In the early days of radiation it was the Wild West. No radiation limits. Marie Curie died of radiation induced cancer. Radium girls often caught mouth cancer. By the 1920s it was clear that high radiation doses presented a serious health risk. Dose limits were imposed in the early 1930s. OMG! - how did humanity survive before we had environmentalists to protect us? Easy. Sensible folks noticed something was wrong and proposed regulation to stop bad things. Yet even back then I bet we had the equivalent of SJWs; crusaders who pushed regulation too far.

No widespread major illnesses developed among radiation workers after maximum dose limits were imposed in the early 1930s. Consider the following timeline. In response the development of the atomic bomb radiation protection standards were increased. Later in response to the threat of nuclear power, radiation protection standards were ratcheted tight.

  • 1931: National Council on Radiation Protection establish first formal dose limit = 1 mGy/day
  • 1934: International X-ray and Radium Protection Committee (later to become ICRP) set limit = 2 mGy/day, ~ 730 mGy/year.
  • 1945 Aug: first atom bombs dropped.
  • 1948: Radiation protection group (US, Canada and UK) reduce permissible human radiation dose by half (to ½ mGy/day, ~ 183 mGy/year)
  • 1950: ICRP reduce recommended limit to 3 mGy/week, ~ 150 mGy/year.
  • 1953 Dec: Eisenhower's atoms for peace UN speech calls for civilian nuclear power
  • 1954 Mar: Rockefeller foundation meet to discuss radiation. Presumably in response to the threat of plentiful atomic power promised by Eisenhower just months earlier. Probably not in response to the Atomic bomb threat; although nuclear tests were increasing during the 1950s, peaking, by number, in 1958 and 1961. In 1954 atomic bomb testing was not huge. 8 tests during the whole year. Rockefeller sponsor NAS BEAR [Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation] committee, pick its membership. Help set its agenda.
  • 1955 Apr: NAS BEAR begin work.
  • 1956 Jun: NAS BEAR publish in NYT calling for no safe radiation dose. Excluding evidence by Ernst Caspari which contradicted no safe dose).
  • 1961: AEC tighten dose limits for occupational exposure to an average of 50 mGy per year after the age of 18 while continuing to suggest that general population exposure levels be restricted to 10% of the occupational levels (5 mGy per year) for individuals. [average U.S. natural exposure from background radiation ~ 4 mGy per year]
  • 1963 Aug: Countries sign global atomic bomb test ban treaty. BEAR scientists congratulate themselves on a job well done: "We made the world a safer place".
  • 1975: I'm told in undergraduate physics class there is "no safe dose" for radiation. That scientists are certain of this. All the evidence tells us. Ernst Caspari is apparently a non person. Real Science says his research never happened. [ I remember so well because I questioned the lecturer on it immediately as it contradicted everything I knew about the response of biological systems to stress ]

PS: All radiation units above were converted to mGy (milli-Gray) to give approximate values for comparison. In reality some limits were set as REMs some as milli-Gray, most as roentgens.

High/medium dose radiation causes cancer

No safe dose: Is not peculiar to radiation. It was decreed that there was "no safe dose" for all carcinogenic substances. From what I can gather, this was a theory first approach to regulation. Better safe than sorry. It is a bit of a nonsense because it cannot be enforced. E.g. Oxygen, which essential to human life. is a DNA mutagen. Some substances are thousands of times more carcinogenic than others. E.g. Aflotoxin made by fungi growing on badly stored nuts or grain is about the most carcinogenic substance known. It may indeed have "no safe dose". Yet that does not mean you get cancer eating some. I loved nuts when I was a child. I must've accidentally eaten bad nuts at least 50 times. Mostly spitting it out but I'm sure some of the "no safe dose" deadliest carcinogen slipped by. I'm still alive and cancer free. DNA mutation and cancer is a complex thing. To cause cancer several mutations are needed and they must be the right ones: leading to a cell growing out-of-control, dividing into new cancerous cells, undetected by our body's immune system. Our body thinks it is still a normal body cell. The wrong mutation will lead to the immune system identifying a bad cell and killing it. Most mutations will be detected and destroyed by our immune system. Unfortunately we have a lot of cells (~ 70 trillion). Each undergoes up to 1 million DNA damage events per day. To start a cancer, it only takes one cell to slip by with the right set of DNA mutations which fool the body's immune system into thinking it's kosher. Most DNA damage events can be repaired by the cell itself, so do not lead to mutations. Single-strand DNA damage is basically repaired. Double-strand DNA damage is also repaired but may not be done so well.

Hormesis to the rescue

In addition there is a hormetic effect. A low dose of a carcinogen may stimulate the immune system to protect the body against cancer. E.g. by increasing autolysis of suspect or damaged cells. This hormetic effect of radiation is thought to kick in at a dose much lower than the 1930s maximum limit. There are a lot of carcinogenic substances about. Oxygen is a DNA mutagen, as well being essential to animal life. We breath in about 500 gram per day of it. It's estimated that up to 3% goes astray in that it is not all used by the right metabolic pathway. That's about a third of a mole per day of wayward oxygen our body must deal with. 2 × 10²³ rogue molecules of oxygen for about 70 trillion human cells; about 3 billion rogue oxygen molecules per human cell. Every day. That must be causing some cancer, some of the time. If the immune system can be stimulated by a hormetic effect, radiation can actually reduce the effect of cancer. Perhaps protecting against harm done by more common / chronic carcinogens as well. It's difficult for me to imagine how oxygen could induce such a (hormetic) effect!, since oxygen is so common. Yet:

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy of humans (100% O2 at 2.5 atm), for instance, induces significant oxidative DNA damage to peripheral blood cells on the first day of therapy but fails to cause damage on subsequent days
-- Oxidative Decay of DNA, by Kenneth B. Beckman and Bruce N. Ames

At moderate to low radiation doses (below 730 mGy/year) the harmful effect of radiation is increased cancer risk. It is a carcinogen. Yet no major illnesses developed among workers after maximum dose limits were imposed in the early 1930s. Because at this level < 2 mGy/day, the hormetic effect of radiation protecting us out-weights the additional harm done by mild radiation exposure. In 1948 / 1950 this exposure level was cut to just a quarter of the 1930s. Then it was cut again to "no safe dose". No scientific studies conclusively show either the lower limit (~ 150 mGy/year) or the zero limit are safer. Scientific studies are inconclusive. Some show barely perceptible increased risk. Some show a clear hormetic effect of less cancer risk.

More Readings


Monday, 28 November 2016

Bias leads to cherry picking.

Nicholas Thompson

... The authors don’t seem to deny that they have a bias against nuclear energy. I completely believe that any mistakes that were made in this paper were honest mistakes. But in this response, they state that their, “…contribution was intended to challenge a widespread assumption about the supposed climate benefits of nuclear power.

In this sentence, the authors seem to be saying that it is their belief that nuclear does not have climate benefits, or at least that was what they were trying to prove ...

Said more diplomatically than me.

It's clear the authors were engaged in advocacy not analysis. Hardly surprising they got it wrong. They do not follow any clear cut method [They were comparing index values that began = 100 in 1990. Yet they take too small a slice: 7 years, 2005 - 2012]. The indices only have meaning when followed per country from 1990. So that progress can be clearly seen, countrywise. Some countries are large, others small. Some used energy far more inefficiently (the ex-communist countries) in 1990 than today. Some are very highly populated (Malta), some sparsely (Northern Baltic region) Some were more badly affected by the GFC during that time than others. I can go on all day like this ...

A cross-country comparison of indices never made sense. Their data selection has no clear rules to select time periods. Their choice of index (a derivative indicator), rather than GHG emissions per capita (a more primary indicator) made no sense.

They can cherry pick to their hearts content until they find the right combination of data and method that just so happens to imply what they want to show.
Their peers and journal editors are clearly happy with that state of affairs because they allowed the original article to be published.

This is bias right through the academic process. Even the critics and gatekeepers at Retraction Watch are biased. They censored my criticisms.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Pyrrhic Victory Speech

We hear the controversial paper by Andrew Lawrence, Benjamin Sovacool & Andrew Stirling was retracted. Andrew Lawrence takes full blame for the arithmetic errors. I suppose we should all be happy with this, and put our metaphorical daggers to rest? Not me.

Are we unfair, or bitter?

No we're not unfair. Pro-nukes should not be too forgiving.

  1. The paper was launched with great fanfare. Their press release was echoed by at least 10 green media websites, including The Ecologist. I bet the authors were aiming for a bigger splash. Yet no major media outlet ran with it. Not even the ever so reliably anti-nuclear Guardian newspaper in the UK.
  2. The article should never have been published. So the retraction does not exonerate any of the parties involved. They should've checked their numbers against other sources. For example: their political allies like Climate Action Network (Europe), CAN show no advantage to pro- nor nuclear phase out countries. E.g. In the CAN approved Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI, see this link), Or see my summary comparing the pro-nuke and nuke-phaseout countries. We can clearly see there is no advantage to one nor the other. CAN include some organizations with explicit anti-nuclear power policies (such as Greenpeace UK, WWF UK, ...); not exactly nuclear industry shills as anti-nuke campaigners would say. The article relied on only one data set to back their view. Other data sets are available, which they should've checked their results against before publication. The journal editors should've used better peers. For example, I saw the data was wrong straight away (as others did). What kind or peer is unfamiliar with greenhouse gas reductions in Europe? None. Everyone has these reductions thrust into our eyes several times a year.

Another blog of mine has a timeline of events, with all links. Many thanks to Nicholas Thompson, Suzanna Hinson, and Stephen Tindale. Unlike other people I know, they are probably more forgiving. So my view is not necessarily theirs'.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

My advice to Trump on nuclear power

At the start of his first term, Obama appointed Gregory Jaczko, who was basically an anti-nuclear power activist, to run U.S. nuclear power regulation: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC. This activist proceeded to do as much damage as he could to the cause to reducing green house gas emissions.

I doubt Trump will be able to match that feat, no matter how many coal mines and gas pipelines he allows to operate.

Trump should do the opposite of what Obama did. Instead of spiking nuclear power, Trump should reform the NRC with a few strategic deregulations, and re-regulations. Eventually the USA will see the fruits of such deregulation in several years time. There's very little, perhaps nothing, Trump can do immediately to jump start cheap nuclear power. That's why he must begin by reforming regulation.

  1. Change exposure limits for radiation from no-safe dose to a threshold dose. Even a threshold as low as 50 mSv/a looks like a real improvement. It will positively impact two things:
    1. It will undermine the rationale for ALARA. If tiny emissions are not harmful then why obsess over them? A great deal of time and money is wasted obsessing over small, but harmless, amounts of radiation.
    2. It will undercut radiophobia. Radiophobes will not longer be able to legitimately claim that 0.1 mSv, of say tritium, is a catastrophe. Radiophobes will not be able to use these arguments to lobby for a nuclear power shutdown as they have in the past.
  2. Change the NRC mandate. From a mandate that only tries to make nuclear power as safe as possible. To one that promotes safe, cheap nuclear power. Return to something like the old AEC mandate. Nuclear power plants of each type have already been made as safe as can possibly be. These advances will not be lost, no matter what.
  3. Force NRC to explicitly justify current and new safety measures by cost benefit analysis and assessment. Ensure that cost-benefits are measured in numerical units like DALY. IMO: only when you pin them down to numbers, will antis use proper cost-benefit.
  4. Look through all U.S. laws for anything quoting a precautionary principle and rescind that law. Republicans need to stop using precautionary arguments too.
  5. Clarify the position of U.S. government on issues like reprocessing and proliferation. If there are agencies out to stop reprocessing, please let us know what their rules are. If there are going to be reprocessing bans against nuclear used fuel, let the NRC oversee them. Likewise for other proliferation risks imagined and real. Please make technology bans explicit. This may involve clarifying exactly what the law is and which agencies have been directed to enforce or dictate rules and laws. I warn Mr T. that continued bans and heavy restrictions on reprocessing will result is continued expensive nuclear power. By enforcing the current 'de facto' monopolies. By preventing newer, better, technology.

Atomic Energy Commission - AEC

The AEC regulated nuclear power before the NRC was created:

In ... 1954, when Congress revised the law and, by allowing nuclear technology to enter the mainstream of American industrial life, it broadened the AEC's mandate. Congress declared that the widespread use of nuclear energy was a national goal and that it was the AEC's task to promote that growth.

But the AEC was created with a dual mission. Congress directed the AEC not only to promote nuclear power's peaceful uses, but also "to protect the health and safety of the public."

--Hostages of Each Other: The Transformation of Nuclear Safety since Three Mile Island, by Joseph V. Rees

Due to lobbying by coal power interests: the AEC was abolished in 1974/'75. It's regulatory functions were given to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC. The NRC was given only one single goal: to make nuclear power as safe as possible. Consequently, applications to build new nuclear plants fell to nothing, almost overnight. For those nuclear plants already with planning permission : a large number were never built, or completed largely over-due, over-budget. Costs of complying with extreme regulation practically doubled the cost of building nuclear power plants. In contrast: coal power never had its own draconian safety regime. The nuclear power industry, such that it was, did not lobby to spike coal power.

It was argued that this dual mandate created a problem - a paradox at the heart of the AEC - making it impossible for AEC to properly consider safety. This critique never had any legitimate foundation. It is a false critique. During its time, AEC made cheap, safe, nuclear power possible in the USA. The myth of unsafe nuclear power is just that. A myth created by phobics and Luddites either foolishly or recklessly. U.S. nuclear power has always been safe. Chernobyl happened in the Soviet Union, a communist dictatorship, where there were no checks and balances. Nothing like the AEC nor NRC. An unsafe nuclear power plant design such as the Russian RBMK was, in 1986, would never have been allowed in the USA. Not by the AEC, not even by the most fervent pro-nuclear power supporter.

Barriers to nuclear power

Some of the things U.S. government is holding back:

  • Lithium isotope separation: Dr. Stephen Boyd: MSRs - What are We Waiting For? Contrary to what Stephen Boyd says - there are no U.S. national security interests. Russia and China currently separate lithium-7 from lithium-6, and USA buys all the lithium-7, or lithium-6 it needs from Russia or China. Sure: lithium-6 can be used to make tritium. Sure: in theory, tritium could make a fusion bomb. But as Russia and China already make loads to lithium-6, and USA makes none: I don't see the national, nor international, security issue.
  • ... Canada that's ... a realistic scenario ... except I don't want to go to prison. I was told in no uncertain terms by the department of energy that if I bring any of my intellectual property off of the United States soil, that represents a national security threat, I will get thrown into prison. They told me over the phone and I know who they are. I'm not going to name them.
    -- Dr. Stephen Boyd
  • U.S. government invented the lie that breeder reactors and reprocessing are A-bomb proliferation threats. The opposite is true. At the moment U.S. makes about 2,700 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel each year. Any of that spent fuel can be easily chemically reprocessed to make, rather impure, plutonium. That plutonium could be used to make inferior A-bombs. In contrast: a properly working breeder reactor, with full reprocessing, will leave no useful waste for A-bomb proliferation. A breeder will leave only fission products.
  • Rare Earths - Thorium - the alternative, more abundant nuclear fuel - is often found in conjunction with rare earths. In mining, thorium is left behind as tailings. But the thorium can't simply be dumped because it is slightly radioactive. It's half-life is 14.5 billion years. It's classified by the EPA as naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). Currently, this must be disposed of under state rules. The radioactivity is too low to cause harm, but just significant enough for the EPA to rule on. In practice, it means USA has no rare earth industry to speak of. USA is totally dependent upon, and at the mercy of Chinese imports. An EPA rule change could stop all that, and give USA a rare earth mining industry bigger than it used to have.
  • Thorium fuel. Could actually power current reactor technology as well. It will not be considered because it requires reprocessing and US government has always opposed that.

PS: Also read: Who killed nuclear power and why?

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Nuclear waste, "constipation", and Jim Green.

Jim Green came out of his, hopefully, 'environmentally friendly' Batcave again. The SuperAussie leading Friends of the Earth, Oz, argues against fast reactors once again. For an anti-nuclear activist who claims to be protecting the environment, Jim surely has an obsession with fast reactors. Reactors which don't really exist anywhere, so can't be causing any environmental harm. Jim previously, wrongly, said that fast reactors were used by France to make lots of plutonium for their weapons programme ("340 kg of plutonium for WMD"). I debunked that long ago here.

Let me look at some of his points. The Japanese Monju fast reactor now closing was a loop-style reactor. Liquid metal fast breeders (LMFBR) favoured by Gen IV fans (like me) are basically pool-style reactors. Loop and pool, chalk and cheese, work in very different ways when used as fast breeders. The GE-Hitachi PRISM and Russian BN-XXX reactors (e.g. BN-800) are pool types. The GE-PRISM is based on the Integral Fast Reactor, IFR, research from 1984 – 1994, in the USA which had an excellent safety record with estimable clean energy and environmental goals.

A fast reactor with a cheap, easy way to recycle fuel, can leave only 1200 part, or 0.5% of the waste of conventional light water reactors (LWR), which run on low enriched uranium (LEU). USA developed such cheap, easy recycling technology over 2 decades ago during IFR research. It’s called “pyroprocessing”, but the idea depends upon separating waste using electricity. Like a battery in reverse. Something called electro-deposition.

Fast reactors which leave hardly any waste are bad news for anti-nuclear power activists like Jim Green. Because one of their core strategies is to “constipate nuclear power”, by preventing waste disposal. Far harder when future waste is only 0.5% current waste. Hence the effort anti-nukes put in to spread alternative lies. For example the lie that fast breeder reactors lead to A-bomb proliferation. This is another point Jim Green previously made elsewhere.

There are good reasons fast breeders, like PRISM, can leave only 0.5% the waste of a conventional reactor, for the same electricity made.

  1. Nearly 90% of the radioactive waste from nuclear power begins in fuel manufacture. The depleted uranium (DU), from enrichment, can’t be used by conventional light water reactors (LWR). A fast breeder reactor can use DU for its fuel. To be fair to Jim - he basically ignores the issue of DU.
  2. Anything from 95% to 96% of the fuel going into a LWR is unused when it exits. Cheap pyroprocessing makes it economical to put this fuel back in; leaving only radioactive fission products as waste.
  3. If the fission products are stored for 50 years, half of it is deactivated, by decay. Only the longer decaying, still radioactive material need be disposed of as waste. So we could, actually, get the nuclear waste down to below 0.25%, or 1400 part of what it currently is. But only if we build breeder reactors.
  4. A PRISM reactor is more efficient in using heat generated than a LWR. That's because a PRISM runs at a higher temperature (> 500ºC) compared with a LWR (maximum ~ 330ºC). This leads to a greater temperature difference between source and sink. In the case of a PRISM, it might mean up to 10% - 20% efficiency gain. E.g. For the same electricity output, a PRISM may make over 10% less fission products than a PWR.

That’s one reason why real environmentalists favour nuclear power, but fake environmentalists like Jim Green oppose it. Disagree with me? You could always try asking Jim Green why he opposes nuclear power. Supposing you can take the torrent of censorship, abuse and personal attacks his supporters will direct at you.


  • See Plentiful Energy, for a description of the IFR, and pyroprocessing. Especially chapters 5 and 13 covering "Choosing the Technology", and "Economics".
  • Watch Dr. Roger Blomquist, of U.S. Argonne National Laboratory, describe the cost of pyroprocessing as only 17 that of current nuclear fuel reprocessing such as PUREX.
  • 'constipate nuclear power'! Why is there no link to environmental propaganda here? Because this is supposedly a secret policy of theirs they don't admit to. Greens who've actually constipated nuclear power use this phrase among themselves to describe what they do. We know that from ex-greens who did it.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

"100% renewable energy", what does that mean?

100% renewable energy is a myth concocted by anti-energy greens, to justify shutting nuclear power. Media outlets pushing 100% renewable are also hard-line anti-nuclear power sites. Their news stories on some supposed renewable energy “breakthrough” sometimes say: “Will XXX renewable breakthrough finally kill nuclear power”. Bit of a Freudian slip there by them. Some of the most avid and hard-line 100%-RE activists are funded by natural gas interests.

Shutting nuclear plants means more fossil fuel

The argument against nuclear power, and for 100% renewables basically says: keeping nuclear power slows the transition to 100% renewables. Evidence contradicts this. There is no transition to 100% renewables. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, EIA, show that: shuttered nuclear power plants are replaced by fossil fuel, not “green” energy.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Lawrence, Sovacool, and Stirling paper controversy : timeline

I blogged this twice already. Once here and once at the sister blog.

Here is an exciting timeline for a paper published in July but, hopefully, withdrawn by October. So far, there is no official retraction or withdrawal. Someone should write to the journal's editor to confirm it.

Summary: The paper was published, got fair publicity in the anti-nuclear / 100%-renewables press (they are the same thing). It claimed that Pro-nuclear [European] countries [are] making slower progress on climate targets. It drew its data from open sources, but copied just about every value wrongly. So any conclusions it came to based on data would have to be revised. Several people took issue with it. Within 2 months the authors admitted their data had been transcribed wrongly. Despite the journal editor saying all that was needed were corrections to data and bits of the text. The day after I was told that, a blog by Nicholas Thompson demolished the paper with another refutation showing the conclusions could not be derived from the corrected data either. Finally, one of the authors admitted they may need to withdraw it. Better that than have it retracted lads. I'd withdraw it ASAP if I were them.


The timeline is for the Lawrence, Sovacool, and Stirling (LSS), paper controversy claiming nuclear power supporting countries do worse at reducing GHG emissions.

  1. July: The article is published in Climate Policy - a "peer reviewed journal".
  2. 22-Aug: James Hakner at Sussex Univ. finishes a press release and posts it to media outlets.
  3. On the same day, media reports begin rewriting the press release as a story dissing nuclear power.
  4. 23-Aug: I complain to the editor of Climate Policy by email (who is on leave anyway!)
  5. 24-Aug: One report in The Ecologist is by the press release's author!
  6. 25-Aug: I send out 10 emails to nuclear power supporting academics complaining about the paper. At least 3 of them reply to me: Jessica L, Ben H, and Nicholas T
  7. 26-Aug: Stephen Tindale and Suzanna Hinson at the Weinberg Foundation refute LSS paper.
  8. More media reports reprinting/rewriting their press release.
  9. 2-Sep: My blog outlining the article's faults. I notify the journal editor too by email.
  10. LSS notice my blog. Climate Policy editor discusses issues with authors and peer reviewers.
  11. LSS authors admit errors in their data, but refute my other 17 complaints about their paper.
  12. 11-Oct: I get an email from the journal editor saying the paper has been cleared as OK apart from the data which will be corrected and a few bits of the text. I tweet my annoyances.
  13. 12-Oct: Nicholas Thompson's blog refuting the conclusions they draw from their corrected data. Refuting the journal editor, the peer reviewers and the 3 authors.
  14. 27-Oct: Malcolm Grimston reports that Andy Stirling admitted the paper was rubbish and LSS have withdrawn it.
  15. 25-Nov: I hear the authors have retracted their article.


Press Release:

Green Media reports:

Blogs & such:

Appendix - Corrected Data

In their original data (Table 2), emission reductions were shown as negative numbers. Emission increases as positive numbers. When presenting their corrected data LSS, reversed the number sign. They also made two arithmetic errors. I wanted to present LSS's corrected figure with the table the numbers were derived from: page 30 of Eurostat handbook (pdf). I calculated what the figures should be from the Eurostat data (heading: 2005-2012). My figures have same sign as the journal article, but opposite to LSS corrected numbers.

LSS correction
Group averages in parentheses
Emissions reductions
Index 100=199019901995200020052010201120122005-2012countryOLD DATACORRECT-ION
Group I-11.8GI(-6)-11.9
Latvia10047.738.242.546.744.742.90.4LV170.4LSS should be negative
Group II-13.8GII-11-12.9
Sweden100102.395.693.491.38680.7-12.7SE-177.3Should be 12.7
Group III-10.2GIII-3-10.2
Czech Republic1007774.574.470.468.467.3-7.1CZ97.1
United Kingdom10093.189.988.679.974.877.5-11.1UK-1611.1
Group IV-1.5GIV-15-1.5

Monday, 17 October 2016

Irish EPA grossly overestimate fatal cancer risk from radiation.


The Irish EPA grossly overestimate fatal cancer risk caused by radiation. By up to 6000-fold for age cohort 20-24. For example, if you are aged between 20 and 24, the Irish EPA overestimate your risk of dying of a fatal cancer due to radiation by 6000 times too much. The real risk is about 1 in a million. Irish EPA estimate it at 1 in 178.

In their fact sheet on radiation[1], The Irish Environment Protection Agency say:

  1. "we can estimate that a dose of 10 µSv may increase the lifetime risk of fatal cancer by about one in 2,000,000"
  2. Their estimate is based on real world risk assessments using:
    • Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb survivor data
    • Patients exposed to external radiation for the treatment or diagnosis of certain diseases
    • Marshall Islanders exposed to severe fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons tests
    • Miners exposed to radon and its decay products
    • Residents exposed to radon in the home
    • Workers exposed to radium-226 in luminous paint
    • Patients exposed to radium-224 for bone disease

This EPA leaflet looks convincing. What could be more believable than a risk assessment derived from real world cancer mortalities? Produced by a government agency called the Environment Protection Agency. You would have to take that seriously, or should you?

For a risk assessment to make any sense it should give some estimate of risk within reasonable error bounds. A risk assessment which is out by an order of magnitude (ten times too high or too low) is of little help. Surely an Environmental Protection Agency should be able to get their guesses right within an order of magnitude?

Reasonable explanation proposed for the Irish EPA statement

Joris van Dorp: If 10 muSv/yr gives 1 in 2 million chance of cancer, then assuming 70 years average life, dose is 2.7mSv × 70 yrs ~ 200.000 muSv, means chance of death is 20 thousand in 2 million ~ 1%.

1% is 1/40 of normal cancer incidence of 40%.

Joris' explanation looks good to me. But there's still a problem with this EPA handout. Taken literally it implies a far greater risk than the evidence shows. Irish EPA can should say each '10 µSv per year' if that's what they mean.

My model

I took what I know of regulations and cancer to make a model, which I compared to real world cancer data. Because I live in UK and have real world UK cancer mortality data, it was easiest to model this for the UK. However I can assure you, there's nothing special about UK with regard to cancer risk. If anything UK has a bad rep for stopping deaths from cancer. This is my final model compared to the real world.

Table 1: UK cancer mortalities. Real world compared to projected data
per 100,000
real numbersderivedprojections
Age RangeMale DeathsFemale DeathsMale RatesFemale RatesAverage (MF) ratesAverage (MF) rates - radiationinceptiondeathsOverestimate
0 to 0447392.322.150.12033.667 ×
05 to 0947402. ×
10 to 1438332.11.920.1878117.52349 ×
15 to 1964473.22.52.850.11,215299.54204 ×
20 to 24877543.53.750.11,553562.35998 ×
25 to 2913115166.96.450.21,890870.35397 ×
30 to 342102949.813.611.70.32,2281,197.74095 ×
35 to 393194601622.919.450.52,5651,531.83150 ×
40 to 4467898430.643.4370.92,9031,867.72019 ×
45 to 491428176961.974.668.251.73,2402,204.71292 ×
50 to 5425572853118.9129.9124.43.13,5782,542.2817 ×
55 to 5943604076234.7214.1224.45.63,9152,879.7513 ×
60 to 6473586070422.1334.3378.29.54,2533,217.2340 ×
65 to 69110898696658.1488.2573.1514.34,5903,554.7248 ×
70 to 741259997291043.6724.8884.222.14,9283,892.2176 ×
75 to 7914330112921501.6991.61246.631.25,2654,229.7136 ×
80 to 8414127121942169.51355.91762.744.15,6034,567.2104 ×
85 to 89104551025330311732.42381.759.55,9404,904.782 ×
All Ages8566776644271.6235.2253.46.3


Table 1 shows cancers grouped by age cohort give by UK Cancer Research[2] (yellow). Two columns are derived from real world data (green). The first simply averages male and female fatal cancer rates per 100k. The second derived column divides this by 40 on the assumption that 1 in 40 cancers are caused by radiation and that there's nothing exceptional about radiation cancers compared to others. Next we move to derived data (salmon). The inception column shows the number of cancers which are expected to eventually result in fatalities. The 'deaths' column applies a calculation based on the chart below which accounts for the time taken for a cancer to kill. This shows the number of fatalities expected in that age cohort. The final column (Overestimate) shows the ratio of column 9 (deaths) to column 7 (Average (MF) rates - radiation). Rates in the table are all give as per 100,000

Chart 1 : Cancer induction time distribution[3]


This part of the blog gives a detailed derivation of the previous model.

The Irish EPA say: "we can estimate that a dose of 10 µSv may increase the lifetime risk of fatal cancer by about one in 2,000,000". Nearly all regulatory agencies in the world assume a linear no-threshold effect due to radiation. [ I think the French[4] alone are different ]. So 10 µSv = 0.01 mSv. 1 in 2 million is 0.05 in 100,000. We will compare fatal cancers per 100,000 of the population. If we expect 0.01mSv to give a rate of 0.05, we can project 2.7mSv to cause a rate of 13.5. By simply scaling.

Table 2:
dose (mSv)Projected fatalities per 100k

2.7mSv is the average annual radiation exposure found in UK. Our real world cancer data comes from UK Cancer Research is also refers to the UK. I use this Irish EPA risk assessment to project the inception time of fatal cancers. I get the table below. It increases on a linear scale. Each extra year of life, adds an extra risk of contracting a fatal cancer from background radiation. A risk corresponding to an extra 13.5 per 100,000, per year.

Table 3: Project of fatal cancer inception times.
Year of lifeFatal cancer inception / 100k


Table 3 Notes
  • the table continues, ending at 89
  • Each 5 year period will be summed to make 5-year cohorts. The first cohort has 5 years labelled 0 - 4.

How very simple. I think this is one of the reasons why Linear No-threshold, LNT, is beloved of regulators. It is so very easy to math. Ref [4], has a good explanation of LNT. We can not just go from cancer inception to predict fatalities. There is a delay between inception and mortality which can be quite long (see Chart 1 above). At this point I simplified. I have real world data in 5 year cohorts, and inception-to-mortality data in 5 year cohorts. I grouped my inception data into 5 year cohorts too. By summing the 1-year cohort projections. Because I compare this with fatalities grouped into 5 year cohorts, I sum each 5 year band. The inception time for a fatal cancer differs from the time of death, according to a distribution shown in Chart 1: This chart was used to make a table. (Table 4). The distribution for the last 2 age ranges was smoothed. ( So 1 + 1, rather than 0 + 2). 281 is the estimated sample size. The estimated fatal cancer inceptions for each 5 year cohort were now multiplied to get the estimated time of death. These are the numbers seen under the age ranges (horizontally) These numbers were summed for each age range to arrive at final estimates of actual deaths per cohort.

Table 4: Cancer induction time distribution
total0 to 0405 to 0910 to 1415 to 1920 to 2425 to 2930 to 3435 to 3940 to 4445 to 49
Table 5: How induction time was added
Per 5 yearscancer inceptiondeaths
0 to 0420343.603
05 to 09540289.60918.737
10 to 1487811715.61449.96451.886
15 to 191,21530021.61981.192138.36358.372
20 to 241,55356227.625112.420224.840155.65841.797
25 to 291,89087033.630143.648311.317252.945111.45917.295
30 to 342,2281,19839.635174.875397.794350.231181.12146.1217.927
35 to 392,5651,53245.641206.103484.270447.518250.78374.94721.1391.441
40 to 442,9031,86851.646237.331570.747544.804320.445103.77234.3513.8430.721
45 to 493,2402,20557.651268.559657.224642.091390.107132.59847.5626.2461.9220.721
50 to 543,5782,54263.657299.786743.701739.377459.769161.42360.7748.6483.1231.922
55 to 593,9152,88069.662331.014830.178836.664529.431190.24973.98611.0504.3243.123
60 to 644,2533,21775.667362.242916.655933.950599.093219.07587.19813.4525.5254.324
65 to 694,5903,55581.673393.4701003.1321031.237668.754247.900100.40915.8546.7265.525
70 to 744,9283,89287.678424.6981089.6091128.523738.416276.726113.62118.2567.9276.726
75 to 795,2654,23093.683455.9251176.0851225.810808.078305.552126.83320.6589.1287.927
80 to 845,6034,56799.689487.1531262.5621323.096877.740334.377140.04423.06010.3299.128
85 to 895,9404,905105.694518.3811349.0391420.383947.402363.203153.25625.46311.53010.329

Model derivation explained

  • The cancer inception column in table 5 is derived by summing each consecutive 5 years from Table 3.
    E.g. 203 = 13.5 + 27 + 40.5 + 54 + 67.5
  • This inception data (e.g. 203) is distributed according to the frequency shown in Chart 1 (same as Table 4).
    E.g. 203 = 3.603 + 18.737 + 51.886 + 58.372 + 41.797 + 17.295 + 7.927 + 1.441 + 0.721 + 0.721
  • The 3rd column: deaths, is got by summing the delayed mortalities to the right of it
  • Data after the 85 to 89 column is ignored. It's just displayed to show the model.
  • Columns 2 and 3 of Table 5 go to make columns 8 and 9 of Table 1


  1. The document claiming 10 µSv exposure implies 1 in 2 million mortalies was authored by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, which was established in 1992 and merged with the EPA in 2014. The EPA still use RPII fact sheets when dealing with radiation.
  2. UK Cancer Research. Download the spreadsheet data.
  3. Source: Chapter 2 - "Epidemiology Kept Simple: An Introduction to Traditional and Modern Epidemiology", by B. Burt Gerstman, Wiley, 2013, page 36
  4. Dose-effect relationship and estimation of the carcinogenic effects of low-doses of ionizing radiation, by Maurice Tubiana, André Aurengo, 2005

Thursday, 13 October 2016

All Change in Switzerland?

Switzerland has four nuclear plants supplying over a third of its electricity.

On the surface, it looks bad for nuclear power in Switzerland. In May 2011, following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the Swiss government passed "Energy Strategy 2050" programme, promoting renewables, but banning new nuclear power. Recently Swiss utilities Axpo, Alpiq and BKW withdrew their joint request to build nuclear plants. The Swiss Green Party, supported by Greenpeace, are behind a referendum on Nov 27 to close reactors early: Beznau I & II, and Muehleberg in 2017, with two remaining stations to follow in 2024 and 2029.

One the other hand: When put to a referendum the Swiss people consistently support nuclear power (apart from one 1990 vote). A 2014 poll showed the Swiss strongly in favour of keeping existing nuclear power plants, with 64% saying existing reactors are essential. The largest political party: Swiss People's Party (SVP), who are out of office, will push for a referendum via the Swiss system of direct democracy to dump the "Energy Strategy 2050". They delayed their referendum demand because they sought support from business which was not forthcoming. Despite this setback, the right-wing party says it is launching the referendum with the support of associations and businesses, including Swissmem who represent the machine, electrical and metal industries.

History of Swiss nuclear power referendums
1979A citizens' initiative for nuclear safetyrejected
1984"for a future without further nuclear power stations"55% to 45% against.
1990"stop the construction of nuclear power stations," proposing a 10-year moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plantspassed with 54.5% to 45.5%
1990The initiative for a phase-outrejected by 53% to 47.1%
2000Green Tax for support of solar energyrejected by 67% to 31%.
2003"Electricity without Nuclear," asking for a decision on a nuclear power phase-outrejected 33.7% Yes, 66.3% No
2003"Moratorium Plus," for an extension of the earlier decided moratorium (in 1990) on the construction of new nuclear power plantsrejected 41.6% Yes, 58.4%

Swiss federal election, 2015
% vote
29.4%Swiss People's
18.8%Social Democrats
16.4%FDP (Liberals)
11.6%Christian Democrats
4.6%Green Liberals

Opinion Poll

Telephone interviews of 1,200 Swiss citizens, from Oct 3 to Oct 14, found the Swiss overwhelmingly in favour of the Greenpeace / Green Party proposal for a quick nuclear power phase out. 57% to 36%. With 7% undecided and a margin of error of 3%. Despite this, many analysts think the Swiss may reject Green Party proposals for an early nuclear power phase out on Nov 27! That's because participation in the national referendum isn't expected to be about 45%.

Notes, links

  1. Swiss utilities throw in towel over new nuclear plants
  2. SVP launch challenge to energy strategy
  3. Swiss government opposes campaign for quick nuclear exit
  4. Nuclear power in Switzerland (Wikipedia)
  5. 'Swiss want say on nuclear phase out'
  6. Telephone poll shows Swiss favour phase out by big majority.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Gerri Thomas - on real risks of radiation

Good arguments and data at youtube from Youtube: Gerri Thomas on radiation. Why Fukushima, and low radiation doses, are not such a big deal. e.g. that chart below counts radiation during a visit of French students to Fukushima. Notice 4 radiation peaks here:

  1. Going through security at Paris airport
  2. Flight to Japan (goes right off the scale)
  3. Going through security at French embassy (in Japan)
  4. Actual visit to Fukushima - town in south of exclusion zone (Tomioka)

Friday, 16 September 2016

The EPR™ Reactor : Overly Complex or a Testament to Technology?

The dialogue below was found at this live video chat: The EPR™ Reactor : Overly Complex Or A Testament To Technology? by:

  • Philippe Knoche, Senior Executive Vice-president Reactors and Services Business Group
  • Gaëlle Copienne, Journalist
The original presentation and questions seem to be lost, but there was a post-discussion chat I copied below:

  • User : what is the difference between generation 2, 3 and 4?
  • michel123 : Why fine-tune the EPR which has a lifespan of 60 years, when there are 40 years of uranium reserves? It would have been more logical to continue producing with the old reactors, with a few improvements, and bank on supergenerators without sodium if it's possible.
  • User : what is the EPR and what is the origin of its conception?
  • John Doe : Shouldn't the definition of "nuclear power plant" mean more than just the reactor itself? In terms of new markets located to a certain extent in emerging countries, aren't they doomed to fail (or encounter difficulties) if we do not expand are way of thinking? Meaning including such ideas as the establishment of an appropriate regulatory and institutional environment, supply chain and local capacities, and the availability of qualified personnel. But in this case, an equipment manufacturer like AREVA cannot provide this complex product. So, who can? Do (international) bodies really exist who are capable of providing this "intangibles" of a nuclear power plant? Finally, should we be focusing solely on the technology when "selling" an EPR?
  • User : Hi everyone
  • JK69 : The investment in an EPR and its operating costs over 30 years represent an expenditure that is higher than the same sum allocated to the renovation of old dwellings, which would cut power consumption on a scale that is roughly equivalent to the quantity of electricity generated by the EPR. But there would be no dismantling, no management of hazardous waste and no risks to be controlled. The gains are immediate. This would take less than 5 years. So why is priority given to the EPR, when renovation projects would create many more jobs?
  • user : how many are currently under construction?
  • Martin : What is the status of the Chinese plants. Are there any additional Chinese plants in the planning stage?
  • Gustavo : What is the cost of the average EPR reactor?
  • User : Do you think that you will develop a low-cost reactor to meet the needs of an emerging market that may not necessarily have the funds to invest in generation 3?
  • user : in what way is EPR safer than previous reactors and reactors developed by your competitors?
  • lion : The EPR must meet the security demands of the ASN and, above all, the demands voiced by the German Green politician, Jürgen Trittin, who made the restrictions applying to the design and build so severe that it is almost unfeasible. So I wonder whether the EPR is not “over secure” in terms of design and build, a fact that would not even mean that it is optimally secure when it comes to operations.
  • RadioactiveMan1000 : Is Areva developing Generation IV reactors like fast breeder reactors?
  • User : We hear that the reactor at Flamanville will be three years late and will be operational only in 2015. In Finland you are also reporting considerable delays... are we waiting for Godot?
  • sylvainm : Hello, AREVA has considerably improved EPR safety (double barrier, corium collector, hydrogen absorbers, etc.) in comparison to other 1,450 MW reactors. However, I think that its 1,650 MW power capacity is still weak in relation to these new improvements. The EPR is considered an innovative reactor even though it uses water pressure technology. Certainly, innovation means taking a risk, but why didn’t you construct this reactor with a power capacity of 2,000 MW? I think that the power capacity of this reactor is inappropriate vis-à-vis the major safety improvements. Currently, aren’t 1,450 MW reactors more secure and competitive than the EPR? The safety standards are certainly lower, but they have a power capacity very close to that of the EPR (Chooz B has a power capacity of 1,500 MW). In addition, confidence in these reactors is higher thanks to the experience gained through their operation. Finally, they have a lower cost. Another question. EPR safety has improved through the redundancy of electrical systems, the 4 independent security layers… but this requires a more complex installation. Why didn’t AREVA opt for passive safety devices (gravity, convection, etc.) as for the AP-1000? AREVA has developed the safest and most powerful reactors. However, when I’m at the supermarket, I don’t necessarily buy the most expensive package of Kellogg’s cereal. I might buy a product from a less expensive brand. Why have you designed this reactor with such specifications? The best products are not necessarily the ones that will sell the best. In addition, ASN is impeding AREVA a bit, because they can no longer sell the second generation of reactors (900, 1,300 and 1,450). Best regards.
  • slama : Will continue to sell Geneartion 2 rectors? Will they draw on technological advances?
  • Ecologue : The concrete in the EPR is wrought with difficulties and probably one of the causes for the delay. Could we envision reducing costs by partially or completely burying the reactor building, with basic safety protection in the pit, without anti-air constraints?
  • User : Inside AREVA were you ready and prepared for the construction launch of an EPR series?
  • normandie : I don't know whether a EPR is too complex a technological gem but I observe that the building of EPRs today is registring major delays which is causing AREVA to revue its construction costs.Moreover, EPR doesn't seem to strike a consessus within the French nuclear industry. Some people refer to a smaller size generator built in partnership with GDF Suez. Can you clarify that point for me ?
  • ludigad : In vue of EPR capital expenditure and construction lead times what is AREVA position on extending its range of reactors in emerging countries and with what safety standards. Will the range be available in European union ?
  • User : We have read in the press that the design of the EPR was too complex and therefore difficult to construct. Have you not been too ambitious by designing this "Formula 1" model?
  • User : We remember issues raised by the safety authorities with regards to the instrumentation & control systems... could you tell us what the nature of these issues was and if anything has changed since then?
  • Tom_85 : Do you really think you will finish your project in Finland? Are you afraid that EDF will finish before you?
  • RealWheel : Why are there instrumentation & control systems safety issues? What safety function was overlooked in the programming stage and was subsequently discovered by EDF? Why is this safety measure, which exists on plants that generate less power, not present on the EPR?
  • Laurence : Dear Phillipe. I am a nuclear professional from Koeberg SA. I am currently busy with my PhD research work on human-technology interface and will appreciate your reply to the following question: what are the biggest challenges facing the future operation of the new 3rd generation EPR reactor design, by the next generation of people, and yet ensuring safe operations. Merci Beaucoup.
  • User : You build reactors with the Chinese through joint ventures, which must involve transfers of technological knowledge... aren't you afraid of losing your lead?
  • zelhar : How do you protect your intelectual property and trade secretes ?
  • zelhar : Since you market the EPR in China, Don't you fear your design is going to be copied by the Chinese ?
  • blair : With a coming wave of smaller ecological distributed power sources, what is the chance that the EPR's future use is outmoded before operational?
  • kellermfk : The cost of new nuclear power plants is exceptionally high relative to alternatives, at least in the US which is blessed with natural gas as well as coal fuel resources. Construction of nuclear facilities will inevitably lead to massive rate increases. Further, the need for new power plants is not that great due to the severe recession in the US. Why should an EPR or any reactor be constructed in the US?
  • babar : Why have you decided to abandon generation 2?
  • ULTRASTAR : Don't you think that EDF let the industrial fabric come undone after shelving nuclear in France, and that today, mostly inexperienced people are constructing or modifying our power plants?
  • L. Dupin : Could the future Atmea reactor be described as a small-scaled EPR ?
  • BBMAN : With EDF buying out Constellation in the U.S., when can we reasonably expect them to ramp up the detailed design engineering for the Calvert Cliffs plant?
  • RadioactiveMan1000 : Will Areva develop a smaller, modular reactor like Babcox & Wilcox has in the USA. Do you think they are viable?
  • zelhar : Is it possible to build EPR away from big natural water source ?
  • MrNeutron : With all the effort put into the design of this new reactor, why did you go for a breeder? So now, not only do you have to spend energy on isotope separation, but you only get to use 1/200th of the available energy from the uranium.
  • Lorito : How much is the cost of an average reactor ?
  • zel : Is the design complex enough so it is protected from being copied by competitors?
  • Nanogigas : Is the EPR the missing link in the chain between the GR reactors and the future generations of reactors, commercially speaking.
  • Lucia : Do you think that licensing and construction of EPR in Italy (if one) could have same problems of US EPR?
  • User : Hi, could you please substantiate your claims of EPR being the world's safest Gen III reactor? By what standards is this claim based on? I thought that core damage frequency was the industry standard for measuring reactor safety (WNA, U.S. NRC)?
  • sarazin : Is the shutdown of the superphenix justified?
  • AMON23 : The request is still very pragmatic. AECL pursues its development through CANDU by participating in a variety of calls for tender: Energy treatment with water or Energy Tourism or even Energy on industrial development: could we not keep the EPR for European applications and develop PWR 1,000s for export to where cost consciousness is as important as safety? Can we do all this while emphasizing the value of our fuel-cycle competency, or while promoting the market exchanges: Energy versus Uranium.
  • Gym75 : What are the evidence indicating that EPR reactors can function safely?
  • ENG / Taymour alseed khalil : Egypt will tendering new nuclear power plant end of this year what about AREVA plan in this important tender in arab region ? are you have local partner in Egypt ?
  • Lorito : Are you going to install a reactor in Venezuela?
  • Nanogigas : If the EPR proves not profitable enough, could speeding up the development of generation 4 be a financially viable solution?
  • UweEichler : AREVA also designs and manufactures electrical systems and instrumentation and controls for EPR. Where are the location of the center of design and manufacture.
  • User : The way the EPR reactor works is generally the same as for current REPs: could we not have moved on to the 4th generation of reactors (super reactors), which have been studied for a long time, and have already been tested (Phenix, Superphenix for instance)?
  • tassiedevil : what temperature is the reactor running at please?
  • Estelle Gauquelin : What is the control rods' response time?
  • UweEichler : AREVA also designs and manufactures electrical systems and instrumentation and controls for EPR. Where are the location of the center of design and manufacture.
  • pfblclb : If we ask the right question now in terms of the EPR, might the Gen4 reactors give more satisfactory results?
  • sometime : How can the cleanness of electricity be measured? Where does nuclear energy stand in comparison with other forms of energy?
  • DStellfox : Is it a coincidence that you are doing this live chat now at the same time and day as the release of a report critical of the EPR by University of Greenwich Professor of Energy Studies Stephen Thomas?
  • User : I suppose that the technological difficulties encountered in the construction of the EPR were known from the outset. On the other hand, I can understand that no-one knew how long it would take to solve them. So shouldn’t the EPR be considered as an experimental project to test in situ the technological solutions, so that they can be replicated later on? The same targets cannot be set for an experimental project and for a tried and tested project.
  • CYril : Bonjour
  • Cyril : pour Vincent et Yann
  • Cyril : Re-test pour Vincent et Yann
  • Cyril : TEST

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Fukushima contaminates the Pacific with 150 tonnes of toxic waste a day? No.

Today I read in a discussion thread that 150 tonnes of toxic waste per day was dumped into the Pacific at Fukushima. The storyteller got his 150 tonnes from here, from which he changed 'contaminated water' into 'toxic waste' with typical poetic flourish. Deliberately misrepresenting the article.

Is there a risk posed by contaminated water at Fukushima?

In fact, the water is contaminated mainly with a little bit of tritium. The same tritium already present in all water. Tritium is perhaps the mildest radioactive substance I know of. It undergoes beta decay to helium-3. No gamma is emitted. The electron emitted has an average energy = 5.7 keV.

Compare that to 89% of potassium-40 decays, which are beta decays with maximum energy = 1330 keV. The ratio 5.7 : 1330 = 1:233. Potassium-40 radioactivity is up to 233 times more energetic than tritium. The cell damage inflicted by radiation is directly proportional to the energy. A typical human body internally experiences about 500 million radioactive decays per day, about half of them potassium-40.

Water contaminated with tritium is only harmful (in theory) if you drink it, and we drink sea water all the time don't we? Not quite. Unless eaten or drunk, tritium radiation will not penetrate into your body. If you were swimming in the sea you'd find water an excellent radioactive shield. Beta radiation does not penetrate air either very far, only about 2 metres. Externally all beta radiation will be stopped by your skin. So the effect of tritium beta radiation is something like strong UV sunlight, but much less intense. Because there's masses of sunlight and tiny amounts of tritium to worry about. Ooop, there's not actually any tritium to worry about.