Joe Romm went unbelievably over the top on nuclear power and nuclear safety. in his blog Climate Progress, and the equall;y rabbid anti-nuclear, Gristmill today. On Gristmill: BILL HANNAHAN, nedruod, Rod Adams, and vakibs all gave effective responses, and I responded to Romm on Climate Progress, so mainly recorder the Climate Progress exchange on Gristmill. Romm responded to my assessment of the danger posed my the trace level exposure of the French nuclear workers by stating:
JR: I just love people who are so willing to dismiss irradiation of other people. If your family were "contaminated with a low dose of radiation last week" somehow I don't think you would be mollified to learn that China's pro-nuclear news service asserted "their health was unaffected." And I seriously Doubt you would be delighted to send them back to the same place to work day after day for years.
Low doses of radiation typically take a long time to have an impact -- and, of course, cumulative exposures have cumulative and even nonlinear impacts. I reported what was in the news. If that makes me hysterical, I guess that means the facts are hysterical world.
CB: If your family were "contaminated with a low dose of radiation last week" somehow I don't think you would be mollified to learn that China's pro-nuclear news service asserted "their health was unaffected." - Joe Romm
Joe, I will not repeat the words that passed through my mind when I read that comment. You have absolutely no idea what you are saying. My father was a nuclear chemist who did up close and personal research with some very nasty radioactive materials in the 1950's. He use to order Plutonium from Los Alamos by the Kilo, for his research. Although my father was careful, he did receive much higher doses of radiation than any of the Fench workers. My father also went on to become an expert on nuclear and radiation safety safety. Despite his radiation exposures, he is still very much alive and active at the age of 96.
Joe if you are so concerned about people being exposed to radiation how come you never mention radiation from coal? According to a story in Scientific American, cola "fly ash--a by-product from burning coal for power--contains up to 100 times more radiation than nuclear waste." http://www.sciam.com/ article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste
Why do you never mention radiation from burning coal?
Another common energy related source of radiation is Radon in natural gas. My farther who studied the transport of radon by natural gas, concluded that radon is transported into consumer homes by natural gas, but at concentrations so low, that it posed no danger to residents. http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ 2008/ 01/ cj-barton-sr-at-ornl-radon-in-home.html Never-the-less, with your even the slightest does is dangerous approach, your failure to notice the danger of natural gas born radon in the home as a source or radiation danger seems strangely remiss.
Joe, Your low doses over time assertion has been repeatedly falsified by empirical studies. You should know that all of the morbidity and Epidemiological studies show that nuclear workers live significantly longer than members of the general population. People are exposed to high levels or radiation by living at high altitudes, living over granite or shale, or by flying, yet research has not identified any radiation related health problems with any of these groups.
[JR: I don't waste time mentioning radiation from burning coal because I'm trying to get us off of coal. My "low doses" assertion has not been repeatedly falsified by empirical studies. I am aware that nuclear workers have fewer health problems than the general population -- that is the so-called healthy worker effect, which I'm sure you are aware of because you seem familiar with the literature. Everyone else can google it. My uncle was a nuclear physicist at MIT and then my family started a Radon gas testing company, which they later sold. I am quite familiar with the literature -- and yes, everybody should get their home tested for radon.]
CB: Joe then it is inexcusable that you never mention radiation dangers from natural and other human sources, or or offer comparisons between them and radiation exposure from reactors. Joe you simply ignore evidence that low level radiation exposers from nuclear plants do not cause significant increases in radiation related illnesses like leukemia, or increases health problems in the neighborhood of American reactors. Your argument is simply an appeal to irrational fears, and by your own admission you should possess enough knowledge to understand the irrationality of those fears.
Update August 2nd, 2008 at 7:15 am:
CB: Joe you have failed to bring specificity to your argument. For example you assume that reactor workers work under radiation conditions involving continuous exposure to reactor related low level ionizing radiation. But the original discussion was triggered by French incidents involving very low level exposure incidents. This would seem to suggest that low level radiation exposures were the exception rather than the rule. Even given the linear hypothesis, a single very low level radiation exposure would only cause small biological damage.
I personally regard any environmental release of radioactive materials as highly undesirable. I also believe that unintended radiation exposures of nuclear workers as undesirable as well. But unlike you I would see radiation exposure as problems to be solved. I have noted in my blog that there is a history of nuclear safety, and that history includes significant safety advances. There are still certainly safety challenges, but these can be resolved by further research, and a public demand for the highest possible level of nuclear safety.
I have noted elsewhere that a new reactor design, the ESBWR, is calculated to be likely to experience a core melt down once every 29,000,000 years. In contrast the Yellowstone super-volcano erupts once every 600,000 to 800,000 years. The Yellowstone super-volcano last erupted 640,000 years ago. Such an eruption could kill millions of people and do major damage to the American economy. The most likely number of casualties for the once every 29,000,000 year ESBW core melt down is zero.
Core melt down was many times more likely with early reactor designs than with the ESBWR, thus advances in nuclear safety are possible.
Joe you have in effect opposed nuclear safety research by discounting new technology that would improve nuclear safety. It is possible to greatly diminish the already small risk of reactor sourced radiation exposures, by continuously fission products from nuclear fuel, but you have on numerous occasions derided me, Kirk Sorensen, and others who have suggested that very promising technology to you. You simply discounted the suggestions that safer nuclear technology can and should be developed.
You cannot have it both ways Joe. If you are concerned about nuclear safety, it is rational for you to support nuclear safety research, and the development of the safest possible reactors. It is not rational for you to ignore solutions to the problems of nuclear safety and then hysterically complain about the dangers of radiation exposure as an excuse for your irrational opposition to nuclear power. (I would not be surprised if Joe censors this comment, as he censored ny last comment of yesterday.)
Update II: August 2nd, 2008 at 8:00 am
Joe censored my August 1st, 2008 at 5:57 pm comment, except for a couple of short passages which you found offensive. Of course by censoring 90% of my post you removed my remaining statements from their context. Did you learn this propaganda technique from Rush Limbaugh who also practices it?
Update August 3
In a previous post Joe responded to one of my comments: "If your family were “contaminated with a low dose of radiation last week” somehow I don’t think you would be mollified to learn that China’s pro-nuclear news service asserted “their health was unaffected.” And I seriously doubt you would be delighted to send them back to the same place to work day after day for years."
I am deeply offended by this comment, first because my father who is alive and well at the age of 96, was a nuclear researcher, who despite his came into contact with radioactive substances from time to time. Aside from that, and this is what makes Joe’s argument hysterical in my book, I myself have been contaminated by radioactive substances on a number of occasions been “contaminated” by radioactive substances in the course of medical tests. Of course the contamination was by “trace” amounts of substances which quickly left the body. But the French nuclear worker exposures also involved “trace amounts” or radioactive materials .
Joe makes a mountain out of a mole hill, by using these insignificant exposures to justify his opposition to nuclear power. This is a fundamentally irrational argument. And Joe is completely inconsistent, because he is not concerned about low level radiation from non-nuclear sources. He has claimed that low level radiation from non-nuclear sources is some how different from radiation from reactors without specifying the differences. He ignores the fact that radioactive tracer isotopes, used in medical tests are nuclear fission products produced in reactors, even though it is reasonable to assume that he knows this.
One is thus left with the following options when evaluating Joe’s arguments. Either he is being deliberately manipulative if forming his argument, or he suffers from some mental aberration which overrides his capacity for rational thought about the information at hand.
Joe says he worries about the health of nuclear workers despite their longer than average life span. The Connecticut Labor Commissioner lists dozens of occupations deemed to be at high risk or safety sensitive. http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/wgwkstnd/highrisk.htm
Nuclear workers are not found on the Labor Commissioners list. British researcher Mark Little, of the Imperial College in London, has found that even among nuclear workers with the highest exposure to radioactive materials that the risk opf adverse health consequences are still low.
http://www.thecheers.org/ news/ Health/ news_1807_Nuclear-reactor-workers-at-dramatically-higher-risk-of-cancer.html
There is very strong empirical evidence that the health advantages of being a nuclear worker far out weigh what ever disadvantages radiation exposures impose.
I believe that Joe to be both a highly intelligent man and a well informed man, who is capable of logical thinking. Thus when he makes such irrational statements, and maintains them, even though he is aware of strong evidence to the contrary, I can only conclude that this is evidence of a thought pathology.
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