50,000 deaths resulting from <choose any other technology> however, is just an unfortunate incident. Hundreds of people will die year after year mining coal with nary a whimper of complaint, but we will hear about people sufferring from thyroid cancer 20 years after Chernobyl until the end of time.
(Sorry, a tad snarky....but also very true, no?)
A few 10s of European people die at chernobyl = crisis, ban nuclear now. A few 10,000s of Indians die at Bhopal = so what.
Of course sometimes you have to be a little more discriminating.
A damn breaks in China killing poor yellow people = so what.
A reactor accident in Japan affecting rich yellow people = crisis.
Strangely 1800 people being killed on trains in a Tsunami doesn't seem to matter. Germany hasn't decided to cancel ICE services between Munich and Wien until the track can be made Tsunami proof.
The reports range from 4000 extra cancer deaths (of 100 000 deaths) to 10 000 deaths out of a million. While 10000 isn't small, it represents a 1% increase in cancer related deaths. Stricter smoking laws can save more people than a nuclear stop.
If you are going to do that then a single cigarette ad on a formula 1 car kills more people than Hiroshima.
Maybe not a single ad, but certainly cigarettes do, and it is a valid way to count.
Although since Germany hit on the idea of exporting it's dirty coal to Poland, burning it there and importing the power they will be east europeans getting the cancer.
I prefer nuclear power to coal myself but I must clarify that "normally operating nuclear power stations" aren't what people worry about with nuclear power.
People are idiots. They worry about nuclear power going "wrong", but don't worry about all the other far more dangerous power technologies working "right" and being more deadly.
Nuclear power is like a rubber bullet. When it goes wrong, it can kill someone but 99.9% of the time it's phenomenally safe. Coal and Oil are essentially like lead bullets. They can kill someone each and every time they're fired, but people are used to it so they don't care.
What if a nuclear disaster like that happened next to say, Philadelphia, and left the area uninhabitable for 10,000 years?
The reason the US doesn't is partly nimby-ism and partly strategic, waste contains plutonium and if we need to make more nukes to fight the commies we will be glad we didn't reprocess it all.
From the most pro-nuclear article I've seen thus far: "The earthquake which hit on Friday was terrifically powerful, shaking the entire planet on its axis and jolting the whole of Japan several feet sideways. At 8.9 on the Richter scale, it was some five times stronger than the older Fukushima plants had been designed to cope with." - excerpt from http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/14/fukushiima_analysis/
The article spins this as though it is some magnificent testament to the quality of the engineering design. I read something like that and then look at this historical list of Japanese earthquakes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_earthquakes_in_Japan) and the thought that comes to my mind is, "Why the fsck didn't they build it to withstand a 9.5 and a tsunami so they'd have some goddamn margin of safety?" Why is it considered sufficient to have a system where unavailability of power to run pumps is the single point of failure in all of the cooling systems except for the inadequate-to-do-the-whole-job 8-hour battery-powered system? Why haven't we come up with a completely passive system capable of cooling the reactor if all else fails? The bottom line is, if you want the public to put their trust in nuclear power, then build the reactor so that even a 9.5 earthquake + tsunami is a total non-event.
If we managed to get a man to the moon, I think we can figure out a reliable system for backup power at earthquake and tsunami prone plants. And if that fails, add a couple more levels of containment. Some of the latest designs don't require external power for cooling, so once all the old reactors are decommissioned, we shouldn't run into this kind of problem again.
EDIT: Despite the downvotes, this is not a trivial point, and is precisely why the OP is getting so much attention.
Obviously they didn't have to encase Nagasaki or Hiroshima in a concrete sarcophagus. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were fairly small, and air burst vs. ground burst. The amount of radioactive material in the bombs is a tiny fraction of what was released at Chernobyl.
People are fond of saying you can't compare Chernobyl to other reactors, etc. but it's all we had until recently. I'm sure we'll have some better examples in the future, but for now, according to the IEAE: http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/features/chernobyl-15/cherno-...
"How does Chernobyl’s effect measure up to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
The accident at Chernobyl was approximately 400 times more potent than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima"
I assume things would look different in Japan if we had dropped a couple hundred of those bombs vs. one.
We'll see in the next 50 years how it goes having nuclear power plants operating in Africa, Indonesia, the Middle East, etc. New reactors are better designed, but I still don't trust 80% of the governments or corporations in the world to responsibly operate anything nuclear.
Radioactive Ceasium and Strontium are a pain for a few decades - lead, mercury and cadmium are for ever.
It's standard knee jerk procedure. We had a rail accident (the first in 10years) so the reaction was to close a bunch of inter city lines for months while they checked everything. Where did all those extra travellers go? onto the roads!
I hope the government doesn't hear about the problems with Toyota in america - they would then ban ABS and give everybody Tiger tanks to commute on.
So if you were driving a buick roadmaster and got killed in the car. the fact that they could hose of the dash and reuse the car is what matters ?
Or that in World War 2, when the tank crew of a Sherman tank was killed they could refurb it and send out a new crew, does that mean it is somehow better for the first crew ?
Also, 50K deaths all at once for any given energy source would also freak people out. I think that most people would unconsciously consider a coal mine disaster or a broken dam as "death from occupation" or "death from random accident" rather than "death from energy source". The unknown-ness of nuclear power tends to make people credit it directly with the deaths around it.
And yes, people have a psychological fear of the unknown. Evolutionarily, this is rather clearly justified.
If the education level in all industrial countries was raised to the point that the average person felt they had a strong understanding of nuclear power, the fear of it quite possibly would subside. But the cost of this might be considerably greater than the cost of converting to an "alternative" energy source.
Considering the average person seems to be pushing the limits of their mental abilities differentiating between the debt and the deficit, for example, I for one am not optimistic it's even possible to have widespread understanding of nuclear power.
The world's dictators show us only some of the problem with blind faith. The other problem with blind faith is that it tends to turn to blind hatred when disappointed, especially when a demagogue is close at hand to harness that blind faith in a different direction.
Choose whichever side of the political spectrum you consider ridiculously uninformed. Them in power is the alternative to a populace that encompass how the heck our society operates.
Technically, it should be possible to filter out uranium. Thorium, too. Both are heavy enough, it should be possible to centrifuge them out of just about any mixture, unless the compounds they're in are too tightly bound with lighter molecules by intermolecular forces. Even then, I would expect them to find their way "down", even if they had to drag some of the nonradioactive portion with them.
The amount of energy you get out of the coal or the uranium is a function of not only the amount of energy in each, but their relative quantity, as well. If there's not enough uranium present to extract a significant portion, I'd have to wonder if there's really enough to put out as much energy as the coal's total output.
Taking it a little further, if there isn't enough to extract, is there really enough to pose a significant health risk? We're exposed to a certain amount of background radiation on a daily basis already. How much more does the uranium in coal add to this? Again, I'm tempted to doubt it's significant, if there's not enough to be extracted.
So, do we have reliable numbers on this?
The following two articles cite "a 1978 paper for Science, J. P. McBride at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)"
and Wikipedia says, during normal operation the effective radiation dose from a coal plant is 100 times that of a nuclear power plant, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel_power_station#Radio...
You could've worked in something about potassium content of bananas while you were at it.
NB., a fun experiment: explain a smoker that the cigarette contains proverbial half of the Mendeleyev table.
In any case, the theoretical content of fissible elements in coal may be significant, but it doesn't seem to be economical to extract it at this point. We have heaps of uranium ore, and nuclear fusion seems to be around the corner.
Less snarkily, is there actually good reason to believe that we're any closer to usable fusion?
Several governments bet big (well, perhaps medium) money on race to the Moon, to extract helium-3  from water ice in there. A key component to commercial nuclear fusion -- and with only small-time other uses in medicine and stuff.
Hence, the biggest non point I've ever seen in my life. Unless coal is actually radioactive to a noteworthy significantly-more-than-a-banana extent, which I probably would have heard of by now (not that I haven't been wrong before).
Here is an example of someone else making the same point:
Your body has trace amounts of uranium as well. What's everyone so worried about?! Obviously the substance is perfectly safe.
And no, that's not a joke; it's a convenient measure of low radiation levels. Bananas are more naturally radioactive due to high potassium contents.
Either way, historical data is very valuable and in that light modern nuclear plants are pretty safe but I think potential damage should play some role in the determination of course…obviously, the best thing would be to go full-tilt renewables (with pretty much only hyperlocal failures) but the question is can we get there without additional nuclear power even if everyone fully invests in it? If nuclear didn't linger such a long time after the plants are decommissioned, the risk/reward of building new nuclear to tide us over the next 20-30 years would be a no-brainer.
I think it's an important discussion that I'm not quite sure can be had rationally – but even that's better than not having it at all.
It is at least theoretically possible to eliminate nuclear waste. I'm confident that with research into yet undiscovered reactor types we can reprocess and reuse the long-lived radioactive byproducts into byproducts with lifespans measured in centuries rather than millions of years.
A higher level of caution with unknown new threats, whose full possible level of harm is not understood, is rational and appropriate.
I think if 50 000 dies from a oil-related incident you would get some serious backslash against fossil fuels as well. (Electric generation from oil or gas is already quite controversial here in Norway.)
30,000 deaths a year from coal pollution in the US alone... Where's the backlash?
What you mean to say 30,000 people a year die some amount of time earlier than if we had no coal burning at all. That doesn't mean it killed 30,000 people as they were walking home from the grocery store at age 25 and a wall of coal came crushing down the street because the coal dam broke. So it's not really comparing Apples to Apples at all.
So many facepalm moments reading these threads, maybe I should just quit. What evidence would it take to convince you? Not some hypothetical "people" out there whose rationalizations conveniently say that any flavor of death that's old enough to be considered "commonplace" is okay, but nuclear=hubris. You ought to be smarter. You have seen the numbers. Where's the stickup? Do you think Chernobyl secretly killed 100x more people than they say it did, or what? Or do you admit to having a double standard?
That's the same way people get to tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths from Chernobyl, isn't it? There were a few thousand direct deaths and a great deal more lives shortened to whatever degree.
Maybe, just like there's a "banana equivalent dose" for radiation we need some kind of "cigarette equivalent risk" to measure increased cancer risk & shortened life spans?
Yes, some WOULD argue, but they would do so without the benefit of factual knowledge.
It seems only the IAEA is claiming 4000 deaths/cancers, whereas other studies claim tens of thousands or even a million.
I'll also repeat my other favorite argument in this recurring discussion: Chernobyl happened in a sparsely populated area that was quickly evacuated. Have you considered what the figures could look like if a similar disaster hits, say, the Tokyo area?
It has probably already been considered, which is why there is no nuclear plant within 100km or so from Tokyo, and the Chernobyl exclusion zone has a radius of 30km. So, that is a hypothetical situation.
IAEA article II "Objectives" of their statute:
"The Agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world. It shall ensure, so far as it is able, that assistance provided by it or at its request or under its supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose."
...and the entire point of the OP is to point out that they are wrong to do so-- or at the very least, that this opinion is irrational.
By looking at the statistics however, switching all coal plants to nuclear reactor would save lives (mostly miners)
Regarding the alternate studies you have posted (which, btw, I really do appreciate): If one were to include the upper limits of them, would that make nuclear more dangerous than fossil fuels? Than widespread "alternatives"?
Please note that I'm not trying to be snarky here. I appreciate your posts and would genuinely like to hear your thoughts.
If you bought a kill-a-watt or something similar, you could investigate how much money you can save on appliances. Same goes for energy saving bulbs, based on my own power bills, before and after, I saved about 75 percent when I started to make an effort. It would be foolish to attempt any extrapolation based on my anecdote, but I would surmise there are massive consumption savings to be made. Particularly in the home, insulation and in transport. Particularly startling to me is the frequently thrown about statistic that 5% of the energy consumption of the world is coming from datacentres. And that it was 20% more efficient to use DC to each blade than have a PSU doing ac/dc conversion in each.
I have had a look at the calculation in article linked:
The source on Chernobyl (there are lots of caveats given about how it was a once off freak incident and these figures are absolute worst case):
"If those possible 4000 deaths occur over the next 25 years, then with 2800 TWh being assumed average for 2005 through 2030, then it would be 4000 deaths over 112,000 TWh generated over 45 years or 0.037 deaths/TWh."
If one were to include the upper limits, the earlier upper bound figure mentioned was 1 million, assuming they died over 112,000 TWh it would be 1000000/4000 * 0.037 deaths/TWh which is 9.25 deaths per TWh. It looks pretty dangerous then, given that. It is grotesque doing this sort of calculation in the midst of unfolding events.
below is the source chart, figures in TWh:
Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China 278
Coal – USA 15
Oil 36 (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)
Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro - world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)
(edit: mistakes, , more mistakes, formatting, reproduced table came out on one line)
I'm sorry, you're saying that less deaths per TWh than Oil, Coal, Biofuel, and Peat looks pretty dangerous? That looks really safe to me, at least in comparison to our other options.
> It is grotesque doing this sort of calculation in the midst of unfolding events.
I'll give you that, if you admit that it's also grotesque to use current events to support related agendas, given that our information about them isn't nearly as comprehensive as it could be.
Doesn't anyone die mining Uranium ores?
With Chernobyl the fallout was measured across the whole of Europe whilst with some poor workers getting "miners lung" the effect is localised to those who were getting paid danger money to work in mines anyway.
Acid rain used to be big news ...
I don't believe your assertion incidentally.
"Uranium mining is a lot safer because insitu leaching (the main method of uranium mining) involves flushing acid down pipes. No workers are digging underground anymore. Only about 60,000 tons of uranium are needed each year so that is 200 times less material being moved than for coal plants."
The in situ leaching process, as I understood it, requires a quite specific geology and is moderately low in efficiency. The acid goes down pipes and then leaches the uranium out of permeable layers of rock, you suck it up from the bottom and voila (or did I misunderstand). What you can't have is the acid washing away or possibly worse the acid washing the uranium away into the local water supply/environment.
I'm still surprised that basically they never have any accidents at uranium mines/processing plants whilst it seems that everyone who works in the solar industry can't even step on a roof without falling off.
The comparison isn't exactly fair since uranium mines are in deep hard rock which is inherently safer - but in comparison a US coal mine is an insanely dangerous place. And I don't imagine standards in China are much better.
They also say that "Conventional underground & open pit [accounts for] 57%" of global Uranium production.
Moreover the analysis in the OP article appears to be an historic one though whilst wide scale use of ISL (aka ISR) leeching appears to be relatively new.
Further pages from WNA (eg http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf27.html which I've not corroborated) - says that Australia didn't use ISL (for Uranium) until 2000 in Beverley (I've seen other refs say it was trialled in Aus in 1997). So presumably before that they used heap leeching or regular mining methods?
Quoting that second WNA link:
"In 2009, a total of 18,262 tU was produced by ISL, this being 13,473 tU in Kazakhstan, 2429 tU in Uzbekistan, 1217 tU in USA, 583 tU in Australia and 560 tU in Russia. This was 36% of world total production, a share which has risen steadily from 16% in 2000."
WRT my query elsewhere about extracted ore, the BHP BIlliton facility (2 fatalities since opening; largest deposit known of apparently) extracted "933,000 tons of uranium oxide concentrate" in one quarter of 2007 (http://uk.reuters.com/article/2007/12/12/us-bhpbilliton-olym...). Forecasts for BHP Billiton (http://antinuclear.net/2010/11/17/bhp-shareholder-opposes-da... - note apparent bias of source).
Like I've said elsewhere this is a complex field, one that appears to be being misrepresented.
Edit: other notes
1 - US production was 98% ISL in 1993, http://books.google.com/books?id=pXbdrH6_AVEC&lpg=PR28...
Others following one of my other comment have basically said that in situ leeching is the only method used but I doubt that for several reasons. Not least of which that I gathered uranium is mined alongside other metals and I doubted acid leeching would work for all of them at the same time.
As you've seen from the other respondents, the answer to your question, essentially, is "no".
And by the way, dam-building for power generation isn't exactly a popular practice today, particularly in areas were unmaintained industrial revolution era dams burst every few years.
I did my own looking and came to the conclusions that "deaths" is the wrong metric, and "expected years of life lost" is the right metric. When someone dies at age 45 instead of age 60, is that a Chernobyl-caused death? What about at age 50 instead of 60? 59 instead of 75? 2 instead of 70? The answer gets more complicated the closer you look.
Ballpark: tens of thousands to even hundreds of thousands of "effective deaths" from Chernobyl, where an "effective death" is 45 years of life lost, collected from multiple affected people. Relatively few immediate deaths.
Coal is far worse than nuclear by every metric (environmental effects, deaths per TWh, etc etc) in any sane accounting scheme.
Who doesn't bash China for their blatant disregard of human life?
Not that I disagree with your point.
yes. but why do you think that is? people aren't afraid of nuclear for no reason. While it isn't magic, it isn't exactly trivial either, even for experts.
Could you explain to me how the hell fuel in Reactor 4 storage pond at Fukushima 1 went critical?
I can. The term 'critical' is used to describe the point at which fission events are being caused by the neutrons emitted by other fission events. Also called a 'chain reaction.'
Reactor fuel emits neutrons (actually even 'depleted' fuel emits neutrons see half life). Unused (and spent) fuel is stored in storage ponds filled with water because water is an excellent neutron moderator. Thus any neutrons that are emitted by the natural decay, or by internal fission events of the material are absorbed in the water and converted into a (relatively) small amount of heat.
Air is a poor damper of neutrons, and in fact the chance of a neutron hitting an atom in a gas is greatly reduced.
When the water in a fuel storage pond is removed, the naturally occurring neutrons can reach other fuel that is stored in that pond. If they are sufficiently energetic they can cause atoms in the fuel they hit to fission. If they do cause fission then heat is generated and another neutron (note: it maybe 2 I admit I've forgotten the exact reaction with U235) is emitted which might cause another fission event.
Criticality is controlled by moderating the probability that a neutron will create a fission reaction. If you want to store uranium you can do this by either spreading it far apart or by placing it in an environment that moderates neutron flux. Since the latter is as 'simple' as putting it in water, that is the usual option.
The caveat is that your spent fuel will continue to generate heat, if you don't remove that heat eventually the water will boil. If the water boils sufficiently to allow fuel to be exposed to air, the result can be that the fuel passes its criticality threshold. If you can't keep water cool then you can replace it with something that moderates and doesn't boil.
Spent fuel you're not ever going to use again can be melted into boro-silicate glass and not only will it never go critical again, it can't leach into the environment, etc etc. If you've read the Yucca mountain documents I believe they make a pretty good case for 10K yr life expectancy for keeping the fuel out of circulation.
The waste was just sitting around an already shut reactor at the time of the Tsunami. After the Tsunami, the workers were doling out water to the other reactors and they just forgot about the cool ponds? Did the pond just spring a leak? The reactors lost power after the Tsunami but we can presume they have it back now.
Just much, why aren't isn't the fuel pallets in these ponds spaces so far apart that one could never interact with another under any circumstances?
No, but I can speculate.
We "know"  that the ponds were boiling at one point. As boiling is the point at which water becomes vapor, if nothing else the ponds will eventually boil dry.
We also know that the spent fuel pools require cooling and that all power has been cut to the plant so there is no cooling.
Temperature rise in the pond will be a function of how many fuel rods are present and the amount of U235 in those rods (are they 'new' waiting to be installed, or 'old' waiting to be disposed? I don't know and its not clear from what I've read what there relative age is.) The uranium is decaying to lead  and as it decays, and its decay products decay. It generates heat. Not enough heat to be a useful source of energy, but certainly enough heat to keep the water boiling.
My speculation is that since the other electrical infrastructure has been severely damaged around the plant (and they do not have power back yet ) that the equipment that was responsible for circulating water in the pond through convection coolers isn't running and natural convection has either been disrupted or is insufficient to keep the water temperature down.
This combines to allow the water to boil, and if the spent fuel rods in the water were to be uncovered, there is sufficient U235 remaining in the rods present for the group to reach crititcality.
"why aren't isn't the fuel pallets in these ponds spaces so far apart that one could never interact with another under any circumstances?" because the contingency plans did not include a triple failure of main power, diesel backup, and battery backup. I suspect in the future two things will be true, one there will be stronger limits on how many rods you can keep in the pond, and there will be a passive cooling requirement.
"Reports from the scene indicate the water in the cooling pond is boiling vigorously and engineers fear it will soon boil away, exposing the fuel rods, which would allow them to melt. "
"Attempts to return power to the entire Daiichi site are also continuing."
It's possible, of course. But I just don't think anyone would be dumb enough to put the fuel in such an arrangement that lack of water in the pond would cause a criticality excursion.
You can afford to be snarky when you didn't see a 8-year old died of leukemia because of Chernobyl. I don't care if HN bans me or anything, but as someone how has known and befriended such a kid, I tell you this: fuck you. Children dying of leukemia because of radiation is worst than hell on earth (not that I'm a spiritual person anyway).
And just FYI, my brother lives close to a hydroelectric plant that were it to collapse then he would be dead in maximum 10-15 minutes (this is the plant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vidraru_Dam). My father's uncle (after whom I'm named), who was a technician at that dam, actually died while working there (a control room got flooded before he could escape from it). But it doesn't matter, I would still choose hydro over nuclear, because it just feels right.
Or he lived in Bangladesh and global warming caused his land to flood.
Or he live din Africa and starved because we pay more for corn to make biofuel than he can afford.
Or he lived in the middle east on top of our oil and we had to drop some laser guided democracy on him?
Why would you admit this?
The referenced data lists 0.04-0.23 deaths per TWh for coal fuel chain and 0.01-0.65.
The number 160 deaths/TWh for is made up from very rough estimates of WHO that 1 mio. people die due to coal air pollution. That's hardly a 'good source', IMHO.
Further, the effect of storing lethally radioactive material for very long time periods is completely neglected.
PS: Arguably dam's save lives by reducing flooding and change the landscape over a large area so it's hard to calculate deaths from Hydro power.
People currently live in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, 24 years later:
There was significant radiation exposure in Japan a while back. This is what it looks like today:
My default position isn't anti-nuclear, but I find a lot of the arguments and reasoning on the pro-nuclear side to be less than convincing, and in some cases disingenuous. Nuclear seems safer than coal, but the knee jerk reaction on this site from pro-nuclear people isn't helping that cause. Go read the comments on the posts the day after the earthquake, most of them said "everything is fine, nothing bad can possibly happen". Turns out that wasn't true.
You're assuming that just because we consider it waste, they will too. Personally, I'm expecting that at some point some use will be found for the 'waste' -- maybe highly efficient reprocessing or materials for low-radiation (think 'easily traced') medical nanobots -- at which point future generations will thank us profusely for generating such convenient stockpiles of the stuff.
I.e., there are many scenarios in which the deaths we hypothesize never actually materialize. Hence, discount rates.
edit: in fact, if you read my early comment I said this, "Nuclear seems safer than coal, but the knee jerk reaction on this site from pro-nuclear people isn't helping that cause.". That doesn't seem to stop you from seeing a boogie man though.
Nevertheless, the meat of my comment remains the same. Choosing a power generation source with a front-loaded death risk is gambling with other people's lives today. Choosing something with a back-loaded death risk is gambling with other people's lives tomorrow. I see no compelling reason to believe one is better than the other.
This is why all those people who say we shouldn't decide what to do about building more nuclear power plants until the events in Japan have stabilized are dumb, because the outcome in Japan has zero impact on expected future outcomes.
Huh? Expected future outcomes are based on assumptions. Japan gives real data that we should use to recheck those assumptions, and we may learn that some of them were wrong.
But that's not what we need to learn about. We need to learn about how the systems that are supposed to contain radioactive materials stand up to major catastrophe.
And in any case, as this graph shows, renewables are not a panacea. Hydro dams cause significant environmental damage, and even wind turbines have their issues.
In other words, unless we litter the plains with windmills (a form of contamination IMO), we cannot get off of coal and NG.
About this talk:
At TED2010, Bill Gates unveils his vision for the world's energy future, describing the need for "miracles" to avoid planetary catastrophe and explaining why he's backing a dramatically different type of nuclear reactor. The necessary goal? Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.
TWRs differ from other kinds of fast-neutron and breeder reactors in their ability to, once started, reach a state whereafter they can achieve very high fuel utilization while using no enriched uranium and no reprocessing, instead burning fuel made from depleted uranium, natural uranium, thorium, spent fuel removed from light water reactors, or some combination of these materials. The name refers to the design characteristic that fission does not happen in the entire TWR core, but takes place in a fairly localized zone that advances through the core over time.
Doesn't necessarily change the conclusions but worth noting.
"But what about Chernobyl ?
The World Health Organization study in 2005 indicated that 50 people died to that point as a direct result of Chernobyl. 4000 people may eventually die earlier as a result of Chernobyl, but those deaths would be more than 20 years after the fact and the cause and effect becomes more tenuous.
He explains that there have been 4000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children, but that except for nine deaths, all of them have recovered. "Otherwise, the team of international experts found no evidence for any increases in the incidence of leukemia and cancer among affected residents.""
You have to draw the line somewhere to make the chart, and drawing it at fatalities seems sort of reasonable. It certainly doesn't seem overly gracious to nuclear power.
as I argued in other thread about the original numbers, what matters aren't direct deaths attributed to one or the other energy source.
what matters (to me at least) is how different energy sources affect our quality of life. I suspect nuclear isn't the worst offender here, but it isn't all butterflies and roses either.
For the record: I am responsible nuclear fission proponent.
I for one think that's a reasonable trade to make for a few nuclear waste dump designated areas being radioactive until we can get some breeder reactors or similar to break them down more quickly.
Scandinavia and the Baltic countries had the cleanest air in Europe this summer while Greece, France and Italy faced the worst smog levels, said the European Environment Agency (EEA).
And BTW, I am fully in favor of replacing coal plants with nuclear.
Denmark and Norway - no nuclear.
Sweden - 45% nuclear.
Finland - 30% nuclear.
That's why LA gets smog and Alaska doesn't - now why would hot sunny France with lots of people (and cars) get Smog but sparsely populated cold Scandanvia not?
It also doesn't include the destruction of a huge territory for thousand of years and the thousand's personal dramas caused by that.
Counting only direct deaths is wrong. One has to take the whole risk into account not only one.
That's interesting, if it's true.
I'm pro-nuclear myself, but you could argue that these stats are somewhat misleading, since nuclear deaths would tend to come in bunches and the fears are based on what could happen, not what has happened.
You could also conclude that nuclear weapons are extremely safe to have around since they haven't killed anyone for 65 years.
Indeed some people have come to this conclusion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutually_assured_destruction
There have been many more asteroids passing really close to earth in recent history than "almost nuclear wars". My point still stands -- nonzero chance is a terrible reason to do anything.
I read a book years ago called WarDay, about a hypothetical limited nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the US in the mid-80s. In the beginning of the book, after the attack, the authors describe how they took refuge in a school building and constructed a makeshift geiger counter, which told them how safe it was to go outside to scavenge for food and water and help other survivors. The credit that with saving their lives. In other words, they approached the fallout exposure problem from a scientific standpoint, rather than an emotional one. People can't seem to approach the irradiation problem in other than emotional terms, so the end result is sheer panic. If more people were aware of how to measure and limit exposure, that would give them the control they need to function successfully. Sadly, very few do.
Deaths per billion hours
Deaths per billion kilometres
When comparing activities we should relate spent livetime not distances to risk.
Airplanes are the safest way to travel by far. That doesn't prevent people from stubbornly refusing to fly (taking very unsafe road trips instead), it doesn't prevent panic attacks in the air, and it doesn't stop governments wasting billions on security checkpoint theater.
God speed, my friend, I sincerely hope the facts will make a difference.
Yes and no. That depends on how you measure. The typical statistic used (deaths per man-kilometer) favors flying a bit.
For example, the space shuttle is safe, according to that metric (guesstimate: 60 shuttle flights for every crash => over a year in space for every crash, 16 times round earth a day => 60000 revolutions * 40k km => 2*10^9 man km per death)
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_safety#Statistics making one plane ride is riskier than taking a bus once.
Moreover, taking of and landing are the high-risk parts of flying. So, I would expect that flying would score worse than that when people starte making shorter flights.
Total Orbits: ~20K
Orbits Length: ~40K Km
(Assuming same number of crew in each flight.)
Risk: 20K * 40K Km / 2 = 4*10^8 man Km per death
Or: 2.5 deaths / billon Km
In these discussions, bringing up Three Mile Island is fair game, but Chernobyl is not a realistic parallel.
We have to take a significant time scale on any of these for it to be considered reliable. Though there may have been 0 deaths from nuclear last year, over a 10 year span, would that number be the same?
I believe nuclear can be safer over the long-run, but I'd like to see some more depth in these stats.
I don't have a good answer for re-assuring these folks. (carrying a counter with them seems to be a non-starter, but perhaps a cell phone app would be ok)
It sounds like they take into account deaths where coal air pollution was a contributing factor, but not deaths where radioactive fallout was a contributing factor, and they don't attribute global warming related deaths to fossil fuels.
They also don't take into account ongoing risks - some forms of energy present risks long after the energy has been harvested, so the numbers will continue to rise, while others don't).
I'd therefore take those results with a grain of salt.
And even for those old birds the stats seem fairly favorable.
But as long as emotions fueled by scare-mongering have the upper hand, rationality and facts make no chance. So really widespread adoption of nuclear energy (be it fusion or fizzion - I'd be surprised if the public at large makes any distinction between them) is probably not going to happen for the near future.
And that's a shame as it could be our ticket out of both a lot of environmental issues and socio-economic issues.
It is same order of causalities as nuclear, albeit with dramatically less safety effort. One can only imagine how safe would it be if as much was spent for safety measures as with nuclear per TW.
For example where are all the biomass deaths from? Why no figures for non-rooftop solar?
What does this "Hydroelectric power was found to to have a fatality rate of 0.10 per TWh (883 fatalities for every TW·yr) in the period 1969–1996" mean? How does spinning a turbine from dammed water cause death?
Ah ... further down the page "... Paul Gipe estimated ..." - so someones estimates without proper working or sources for death rates and such ...
I would love to see a well worked properly sourced analysis along these lines however.
Hydro is completely safe most of the time, but when a dam fails, it typically kills a lot of people really quickly.
It would be really hard to collect figures for non-rooftop solar -- simply because there is so little of it. (They would be very favorable.)
There seems to be enough solar farms to make the same sort of estimates as have been used in the article though.
I think what would be most helpful would actually be a comparison for a large country with similar safety standards across all industries looking at facilities over a fixed period. That would help, IMO, to rule out problems like people continuing with a hydro project even though the dam is cracked from the off ...
Very little land has actually been rendered "unable to sustain life"; I'm not sure it measures in anything more than a handful of acres. Hollywood movies and video games are not a good way to learn how nuclear power works.
: http://www.grcade.com/viewtopic.php?t=2217 - note the greenery all the way up to the plant itself
When all you factor into the cost is human life and money, you miss the bigger picture of how we're affecting what doesn't have a voice.
Of course, a country like USA will never back down from using nuclear plants because they need their byproducts to make nukes.
Next, solar and wind energy yield but peanuts in how much energy we actually need. A recent article suggests that, with impossible 100% efficient solar panels, we'd have to cover 1/6000th of the earth to meet our current energy demands. A few decades down the road this will probably be doubled because of our growing demands.
The referenced data on the lobby site lists 0.04-0.23 deaths per TWh for the coal fuel chain and 0.01-0.65 for nuclear. I don't see that large a difference here between coal and nuclear.
The number of 160 deaths/TWh is made up from a very rough estimate of WHO that 1 mio. people die due to coal air pollution (without further reference). That's hardly a good source, IMHO.
For me, this is a troll post and I bite.
Really? You may well know something I don't, but it doesn't seem that way to me: http://www.reddit.com/domain/nextbigfuture.com/