Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Kramer, Suzuki and fear of Fukushima

My year ago post on Pope Francis and Nuclear power brought several anti-nuclear activists out to defend their ideoplogy aginst my arguments. I did not answer all of the comments at the time, but I decided to examine their arguments for validity.  That is to look at the standard of truth and truthfulness my anti-nuclear critics set while making their case against me.  Today I will look at the arguments Caroline Kramer used aginst me.
Caroline Kramer said...

This is just plain evil and irresponsible. Nuclear reactors are not safe. Watch "The Atomic States of America." Get the facts. Nuclear reactors $18 billion. There are cancer clusters near everyone. When there are leaks the cost of fixing them way out weighs the output. The Vatican can move itself next to a nuclear reactor permanently.  
This is such irresponsible propaganda. 
David Suzuki says they are not safe. Here is a partial quote: "Nuclear technology can provide energy without the air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions produced by fossil fuels. The largest and currently unresolved environmental problem concerns nuclear waste. As of 2012, Canada had over 56,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste and nowhere to put it. With a radioactive half-life of 25,000 years, nuclear waste remains dangerous for 250,000 years, posing huge costs and risks for future generations." 
"Power plants can also leak hazardous materials. For example, Pickering reactor #4 had a heavy water leak in April 1996 that released radioactive tritium into Lake Ontario, contaminating drinking water supplies." 
When they dump the waste, it gets in the ground water. I grew up in upstate NY and everywhere it was dumped there are cancer clusters. 
They have so much waste here in the US that they don't know where to put it. How about the Vatican takes it? We can ship it there.
Jesus is saying: "Shame on you."
Well the first statement would appear to be the conclusion of Kramer's argument. But why is what I say evil?  Kramer makes a number of arguments that are not Science based.  For example she states that the Half Life of nuclear waste is 25,000 years and that makes nuclear waste dangerous for r ten trimes this arbitrary half live.  In the first place what Kramer calls "nuclear waste," that is spent nuclear fuel, is made up of a number of constituent elements, of which natural U-238 a very slightly radioactive isotope makes up more than 95% of spent nuclear fuel.  U-235 has a very long half life, and thus it is not very radioactive.  Thus what is by far the most common isotope in Spent nuclear fuel is basically safe.  how safe is U-238?  Well by good deal of U-238 is present in many granet counter tops that are often prized in Kitchens.  In fact there is enough fissionable U-235 present in some granets that they could be mined for nuclear fuel.  Thus if slightly radioactive uranium is something that we need to worry about, we need to start getting uranium out of our kitchens. Needless to say Ms. Kramer does not seem concerned in the slightest, about the countertop radiation problem.  The presence of radioactive radon gas, in naqtural gase used for cooking and home heating is another concerne which Ms. Kramer ignores, even though the state of texas has reported radiation problems associated with natural gas wells.  

As I have recently pointed out there are two sorts of radioactive isotopes found in spent nuclear fuel. The first type is fission Products,while the second including isotope of uranium, neptunium, and plutonium, as well as Thorium, protactinium and other elements classified as actinides.  

Since Ms. Kramer mentions the supposed problem of radioactibe tritium, I reviewed an essay on Nuclear safety, that I wrote some time ago.  In this essay, I looked at scientific literature on the risks related to tritium produced by reactors. The literature indicated that tritium was not dangerous unless encountered by drinking impossibly huge amounts of tritium laced water.  Tritium produces very weak bata radiation, and thus accounts of horrible tritium dangers are not science based.   In the same essay I discuss how to make Molten Salt Reactors even safer than the very high safety standards found in Generation III+ light water reactors.

Finally Ms. Kramer mentions David Suzuki, a well regarded Canadian biologist.  Unfortunately, Professor Suzuki's expertese does not extend to nuclear safety.  Unfortunately Professor Suzuki mad a number of the extrordinarily ill informed statements on the Fukushema accident.  

Some of Professor Suzuki's statements on the Fukushima accident are down right wacky.  For example, Professot Suzuki stated:  “Fukushima is the most terrifying situation I can imagine.” Now does the good professor really believe that the Fukushima accidents, which produced no casualties, was more terrifying than the Japanese mega earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people and also caused the Fukushima accidents?
 Perhapse he does!  Suzuki stated: “It's bye-bye Japan—and everybody on the west coast of North America should evacuate.”  The notion that the Fukushima accident had destroyed Japan and necessitated the Evacuation of the North American West Coast, was simply absurd.  Professor Suzuki's responces to the Fukushima accident were so out of touch with reality, that they suggest a form of mental illness called radiophobia.  Radiophobia is an irrational fear of radiation from nuclear power plants.  Although no one was killed by the fukushima accidents, it also can be argued that people died as the result of unnecessicary evacuations from communities that were near the Fukushima reactors.  Thus people are far less likely to die from exposure to radiation from nuclear accidents, than they are to die from efforts to protect them from the supposed radiation threats.  No doubt the problem will escape the attention of people like Ms. Kramer or Professor Suzuki. 

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