Monday, February 2, 2009

Nuclear power and Truth that Matters

The furious attack on nuclear power continues at a pace. Anti-nuclear clown "Crazy" Joe Romm on Climate Progress and Gristmill is flipping cartwheels after blowing up with thermonuclear force over some minor subsidies for new nuclear construction. "Can Obama stop the nuclear bomb in the Senate stimulus plan?" Joe asks. Joe is really subtle
A radioactive dirty bomb has been dropped on the Senate stimulus package. . . Why are we still propping up an industry that can’t survive without the taxpayer swallowing both the economic risk of an actual meltdown and the risk of the new nukes melting down financially — all for a mature technology that has already received more than $100 billion in direct and indirect subsidie . . .
Joe promises us that a
Part 2 will look at the toxic nature of these proposed new loans.
Joe is going through the usual ritualized scree about nuclear costs, pressure vessel bottlenecks, etc, but uses the most evocative language possible Joe nuclear bomb language goes beyond demagoguery. This sort of crazy nonsense does not find traction even in the ever-gullible mainstream media. Romm has no excuse for his blatant association between civilian nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Does Joe not know that reactors cannot blow up like atomic bombs, as the picture of the glowing mushroom cloud accompaning his post suggests.

Joe lacks the stomach for a serious debate on his crazy arguments. When I challenged him to demonstrate that solar thermal is cheaper than nuclear he deleted my comment. Hence my post on solar thermal costs of yesterday. While Joe has gotten so crazy that even the mainstream media will not buy his toxic nuclear bomb in the stimulus bill language, Greenpeace is still the darling the mainstream media.

For a variety of reasons professional journalism has been fallen on very bad times, and sometimes it seems that journalists are doing little more than signing their names to press releases from interests groups who are seeking to influence public opinion. We get the A says, B says formula with little effort to sort out the issues, mainly because the journalism school graduates are not trained in intellectually sloppy postmodern theory, which denies that there is any value in sorting out lies from truth. Journalists no longer engage in critical thinking, and are too poorly informed about the issues they write about to form judgements that are independent of their sources.

I explained the Greenpeace business plan in September:
Greenpeace is a business, with an innovative business plan. Greenpeace stages dramatic demonstrations. TV and newspapers report the demonstrations. The dramatic nature of reports on Greenpeace demonstrations draw viewers and readers to the media stories, thus generating millions of dollars worth of free publicity for Greenpeace. Wealthy people feeling guilty about the environmental consequences of their lifestyle, see videos and read stories about Greenpeace demonstrations. They make donations to Greenpeace. TV news reports featuring Greenpeace demonstrations receive increases in viewers, and newspapers also carrying stories receive increases in readership. Thus the next time Greenpeace stages a demonstration, press coverage increases. The increase in press coverage increases Greenpeace's income.
Greenpeace press releases on nuclear power are also part of the Greenpeace business plan. The system works this way. A Greenpeace researcher, most likely someone with little or no technical competence in nuclear technology, goes through reports on nuclear technology, and picks out passages that might reflect unfavorably on nuclear power. The researcher does not understand the overall report, or the context of the passage in the report. The purpose is not to understand the passage within its intellectual context but to misinterpet it, in order to give it an anti-nuclear slant. A report based on decontextualized and misinterpreted passages is prepared by a totally unqualified writer and published with the Greenpeace label. Greenpeace then issues a sensational press release, which exaggerates the misinterpretations in the report. Journalists are too lazy to read the Greenpeace report and lack the wherewithal to review the original documents upon which the Greenpeace report allegedly is based. The media picks up the press release and casts it into an A (Greenpeace) says, B says form. B being perhaps someone authorized by Areva to speak to the press. A Greenpeace spokesperson like Rianne Teule may be interviewed. Now Ms. has a PhD, in some scientific or quasi-scientific discipline. I have not been able to find out what Dr. Teule's PhD is in, but I have found out what she does when she is not posing as a Greenpeace expert. Dr. Teule is an art cleaning expert. She specializes in cleaning art work and manuscripts with lasers. While Dr. Teule may know a great deal about 248 nm Laser Radiation, this does not qualify her as an expert on radioactive isotopes from reactors.

The Greenpeace Press release tells us:
Greenpeace has uncovered evidence that nuclear waste from the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), the flagship of the nuclear industry, will be up to seven times more hazardous than waste produced by existing nuclear reactors, increasing costs and the danger to health and the environment.

The revelation comes soon after President Sarkozy’s decision to build a second EPR in France.

The alarming evidence was buried in the environmental impact assessment report from Posiva, the company responsible for managing waste at the world’s first EPR under construction at Olkiluoto in Finland, and in EU-funded research (1).

“This means that not only will spent nuclear fuel produced by the EPR be more dangerous than is acknowledged by the French nuclear industry, but also storage and disposal will be more expensive than the industry and governments proclaim, and will increase the overall cost of nuclear energy. The French nuclear companies Areva and EDF, which aggressively market the EPR as safe and cheap, have completely ignored the implications of the increased hazards,” said John Large, an independent nuclear consultant.
Thus we have a Greenpeace claim that a Posiva report contained a alarming information about the radiation hazards from The European Pressurized Reactor, but what the report acttually says is,
Taking into account the small probability of accidents, the probability of the health impacts caused by accidents is smaller than the radiation dose, accumulated as a consequence of the accident, represents. Neither is the health risk to the entire population signi´Čücant when compared with, for example, the risk caused by natural radiation, as the dose caused by the accident to individuals would be the smaller the further from the facility the individual lives.
The Posiva report contains is no quantitive discussion of either fission products or transuranium elements in the nuclear waste, no quantitative discussion of short or long half lived radio-isotopes, and no comparisons between the waste from the European Pressurised Reactor and other reactors. And as we have seen Greenpeace simply lied about the health and safety implications of the Posiva report, which asserts exactly the opposite of what the Greenpeace press release claimed it did.

The Greenpeace Press release also referenced an European Technical report (Technical report 04-08) from Euroatom, that discussed the migration of gaseous fission products inside the spent fuel. Some of the reports data indicated that this migration increased as fuel burnup rate increased. The gases would migrate to gaps in the fuel grain and voids between the fuel cladding, and the ceramic fuel. The report indicates that undewr certain circumstances as much as seven times as much radioactive gases could be expected to migrate within the fuel. Now this is not seven times as much hazardous material, or seven times the radiation. It is seven times the migration rate within the fuel. To read Technical report 04-08 as saying that there
will be up to seven times more hazardous than waste produced by existing nuclear reactors
is a serious misreading of a report that says no such thing.

Technical report 04-08 offers George Parker type research, but the bottom line is that the report does not support the contention that significant releases of radioactive materials are likely because of fuel higher burnup rates. Again Greenpeace has completely misrepresented the content of a technical document, in its hysterical attempt t0 exagerate the dangers of nuclear power.

Thus the two sources cited in the Greenpeace report say nothing that would support Rianne Teule's conclusion that
“Nuclear power is nothing more than an out-of-date, expensive and failed technology from the last century. Governments that are serious about tackling climate change need to invest in renewables and energy efficiency solutions as outlined in Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution scenarios, to ensure people have a clean energy future free from the dangers of hazardous waste,”

Mendacity motivated by fanaticism explains the Greenpeace conclusions, but it does not explain why New York Times and the Internationa Harold Tribune chose to not sort out the lies from the truth. In contemporary journalism copy is a product to which truth adds nothing. Journalists are allowed to have biases, and to insert their biases into their stories. Journalists who use the formual A says, but A lies, are likely to upset some readers, whose interests do not extend to matters of lies and truth. Critical thinking by journalist does not sell newspapers, but reading about controversies, and having your views supported in the press does. The New York Times dooes not care about the truth value of its copy, only about the number of newspapers it sells. The notion that the times is the journal of record is left over from another time when the truth matters to Adolph Ochs.

I would like to offer a hat tip to Dan Yurman for whom the truth still matters.


Soylent said...

Renewables, new? Laughable; they've been in use for thousands of years and even modern forms like photovoltaics, solar thermal and wind turbines are all older tech than nuclear fission. They've repeatedly failed to live up to expectations where as nuclear fission has been economical, safe and provided reliable, baseload power.

The only solar technology that has been remotely cost-effective is the flat plate thermal collectors for space heating, hot water heating and pool heating in sunny climates.

I'd recommend browsing through this site on the history of renewables:

I especially like Frank Schuman's parabolic through array built before world war I. The accompanying quote from mr. Schuman is: "Sun power is now a fact and no longer in the 'beautiful possibility' stage... It will have a history like aerial navigation. Up to twelve years ago it was a mere possibility and no one took it seriously."

Anonymous said...

So do you live near a nuclear power plant? Why do they have hazardous wastes emptying into our lakes? All corporations and greenpeace and everyone seem to be pushing there own agendas including yourselves.

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous I grew up near cold war nuclear plants that had far more hazardous waste problems than current nuclear plants. Despite this there was no cancer cluster associated with the community. Where did you hear the fairy story about hazardous waste from nuclear plants emptying into lakes. I attempt to push my agenda by rational means, while you seem to focus on myths.

spizzletrunk said...

So you are telling me that no waste gets emptied into lakes and rivers. Wouldn't it be fair to say that all factories empty some sort of pollution into the sewer system or a nearby lake or river. I never mentioned cancer and I am not focusing on myths. I also can't find too much positive information about nuclear plants that need to be retired except the cost in rebuilding them. I am wondering why you are bringing up fairy stories and myths. I was being serious. Your rational approach to trashing other energy ideas while promoting nuclear is interesting. So you feel that Solar or Wind or Geothermal does not have a place in our society? You do however seem more educated on Nuclear Power than myself so I was wondering if you have any negative information about Nuclear along with all of your good information. Information that is not twisted or myth or biased as you've suggested is the only information that I've come across? Dyou think I am going to believe Bruce Power? This is why I am hoping to come across individuals such as yourself with useful information regarding the good and bad effects of Nuclear.

Thank you for your time.

Charles Barton said...

spizzletrunk, I would not say no waste from reactors gets emptied into lakes and rivers, but I would say that there is no evidence that what ever waste gets emptied does no harm, because there is no evidence of harm.

I do feel that Solar and wind offer less than nuclear power and will end up costing our society a whole lot more. The Majo complaint about conventional nuclear power is that it is expensive. I have made suggestions about nuclear technology that could lower the costs.

I feel it is important to provide people with good information and carefully reasoned argument, and let them make their own judgements.


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