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Old 04-19-2011, 12:45 PM   #101
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Wikipedia presents both opinions of "experts" that say it's perfectly safe ...
None of the expert opinion you quote actually says "it's perfectly safe".
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Old 04-19-2011, 12:56 PM   #102
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None of the expert opinion you quote actually says "it's perfectly safe".
I must have confused them with the expert opinions in his forum.
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Old 04-19-2011, 02:06 PM   #103
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Nothing is perfectly safe.
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Old 04-19-2011, 07:44 PM   #104
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... those scanners don't detect objects hidden in body cavities.
I'm sure glad we didn't have to participate in the "research"* on that one.

* As in, "Hey, Fred, put on a fresh pair of gloves and research this one to make sure the object's still in there!"
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Old 04-19-2011, 07:58 PM   #105
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So Asteroid impact risk is greater than Tsunami risk.

I suppose that's not so true if you live in a low lying are next to a subduction zone. perhaps in that case the risks reverse.
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Old 04-22-2011, 09:32 PM   #106
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But back in the 70s, the arguments usually went like this:

Nuclear Protester: Nuclear power is really dangerous
Nuclear Advocate: Lots of things are dangerous
Protestor: But it would be scary to die from radiation
Advocate: It's scary to die in an airplane crash
Protestor: But you can choose to not go on an airplane
Advocate: But an airplane can fall on you when you're at home.

A new AP article adds some other arguments: a nuclear incident could bankrupt entire countries. And if full insurance against catastrophes would be included in the price of nuclear energy, it would not be economically viable.


Some excerpts:

Quote:
Governments that use nuclear energy are torn between the benefit of low-cost electricity and the risk of a nuclear catastrophe, which could total trillions of dollars and even bankrupt a country.
Quote:
In Switzerland, the obligatory insurance is being raised from 1 to 1.8 billion Swiss francs ($2 billion), but a government agency estimates that a Chernobyl-style disaster might cost more than 4 trillion francs — or about eight times the country’s annual economic output.
Quote:
A major nuclear accident is statistically extremely unlikely when human errors, natural disasters or terror attacks are excluded, but the world has already suffered three in just about thirty years — Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima.
Quote:
In financial terms, nuclear incidents can be so devastating that the cost of full insurance would be so high as to make nuclear energy more expensive than fossil fuels.
Quote:
The cost of a nuclear meltdown at the Indian Point reactors some 24 miles north of New York City has been estimated at up to $416 billion in a 2009 study. But that does not take into full account the impact on one of the world’s busiest metropolises.

“Indeed, a worst-case scenario could lead to the closure of New York City for years, as happened at Chernobyl, ... leading to almost unthinkable costs,” University of Pennsylvania’s Howard Kunreuther and Columbia University’s Geoffrey Heal said.
Quote:
The insurance in Germany costs utilities €0.008 cents ($0.015 cents) per kilowatt hour of electricity, a tiny part of the final cost for customers of about €22 cents, according to Bettina Meyer of think tank Green Budget Germany in Berlin. But insuring the full risk would amount to a prohibitive extra cost of about €2 per kilowatt hour.
Quote:
“If you take all external costs into account, the conclusion is inevitable: Nuclear power is not economically viable,” Hohmeyer said. “The risk is only bearable if you externalize it on the wider society.” [Olav Hohmeyer is an economist at the University of Flensburg and a member of the German government’s environmental advisory body]

As Fukushima bill looms, nations weigh dilemma: nuclear plants viable only when uninsured - The Washington Post
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Old 04-22-2011, 09:59 PM   #107
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What sense does this make, when you estimate the cost of an adverse event without taking into account its likelihood? Let's think of insuring against another dinosaur-killer asteroid. It's obviously impossible, so we may as well just cash in our chips right now and head for the happy hunting ground. We can't afford to continue to exist on this earth -- can't get insurance!
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Old 04-22-2011, 11:14 PM   #108
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What sense does this make, when you estimate the cost of an adverse event without taking into account its likelihood?
If the likelihood is so small then insurance would be really cheap, right?

But maybe the likelihood isn't that small after all. The article mentions the risk of a Chernobyl scale accident in Switzerland. How would that be impossible? (note that I wrote "scale", the exact type of issue doesn't need to be the same) Three Miles Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima weren't supposed to happen either.

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Let's think of insuring against another dinosaur-killer asteroid. It's obviously impossible, so we may as well just cash in our chips right now and head for the happy hunting ground. We can't afford to continue to exist on this earth -- can't get insurance!
I don't think the comparison is valid. Professionals who can cause great harm and maybe even put their country in danger, should be insured against liabilities that could result from their activity. If they can't afford the insurance, then they probably shouldn't be in that business. If the risk is inexistant, insurance would probably be very cheap.
Damage caused by asteroids is no consequence of human activity.
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Old 04-23-2011, 05:48 AM   #109
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I don't really care about TSA's scanners, I do care about Fukushima.
Actually, the TSA scanners are probably what you should be concerned about. There's very little evidence that they will stop planes being blown up (there are so many other ways to get explosives onto an aircraft), and if each scan has a one in 30 million chance of causing a fatal cancer, that's 25 people a year who will be killed by the TSA. (Compare also what happened when the US government made a number of people get smallpox jabs after 9/11 based on the entirely unsubstantiated fear that terrorists could get hold of smallpox virus and weaponize it; smallpox vaccine kills a few people per million too.)

So far, Fukushima (and Chernobyl and Three Mile Island) has harmed no Americans, apart from the people who overdosed on potassium iodide.

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The article mentions the risk of a Chernobyl scale accident in Switzerland. How would that be impossible?
It's impossible because the design of reactor used at Chernobyl, without secondary containment, is not in use in Switzerland.

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(note that I wrote "scale", the exact type of issue doesn't need to be the same)
Well, actually, it does. What happened at Chernobyl was that the fuel rods were exposed to the atmosphere and burned for many days. There is no alternative scenario by which large amounts of radiation can be released.

And in any case, let's remember that a Chernobyl scale accident doesn't actually kill very many people. Radiation is nasty and to be avoided, but it turns out that the amount of radiation which even the biggest human screwups can release into the environment, does not match the danger of the long-term exposure which famously killed Marie Curie (or the industrial gas cloud at Bhopal, for that matter). But we all grew up with the H-bomb (where it was the million-degree fireball that was going to get you) and horror stories about fallout, and they've stuck in our imagination.
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Old 04-23-2011, 04:18 PM   #110
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So far, Fukushima (and Chernobyl and Three Mile Island) has harmed no Americans, apart from the people who overdosed on potassium iodide.
Are you sure?

Let's take a look at the data about Three Mile Island:

A Columbia University study, published in the American Journal of Public Health found an increase in cancer, as you can see in this table but the researchers thought it was implausible that it had come from the doses that were known to have been released. They tried to explain it away as likely caused by an increase in stress.
But the correctness official radiation numbers is not set in stone. Arnie Gundersen was an expert witness during the litigation. He was on the industry side of the argument until 1992, believing in was a non event, but his opinion changed 180 degrees as he studied the event closer. All radiation meters on the site burned out during the event, so there are no definite measurements available. The only numbers are estimates, based on a lot of assumptions and according to Gundersen all of them were non-conservative, lowball assumptions. In his presentation he explains why he thinks the helicopter measurements are not reliable in this case. His estimates are very different from those of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and could actually explain the increase in cancer rates.
Even the industry's estimates were double of the NRC's.

Even if you don't accept Gundersen's arguments, strange things seem to have happened:
"The Health Department's official cancer study was released in the fall of 1985 claiming they found no in-creases in incidences of cancer within a 20 mile radius of TMI caused by the accident. Shortly thereafter, the Sunday (Patriot-News October 6, 1985) exposed the Health Department's obfuscation and their contrived results. The Pa. Department of Health had "included 28,610 people" who lived beyond the five mile radius of the plant and another 122,000 people who live farther than 10 miles from the plant were included in the population of those living within 10 miles, which substantially diluted any cancer rates."
Source

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It's impossible because the design of reactor used at Chernobyl, without secondary containment, is not in use in Switzerland.
I said “Chernobyl scale”, not “the way it happened in Chernobyl”. You can’t assume that all future accidents will be less severe than the past ones now that the issues that caused them have been patched.

Quote:
What happened at Chernobyl was that the fuel rods were exposed to the atmosphere and burned for many days.
In the US (and elsewhere), there are spent fuel pools that aren't protected very well. A bomb could disperse and damage the fuel rods, they would start to overheat because they wouldn't be cooled anymore. I figure that consequences would depend on how long it would take to cool and maybe shield them. Sure, that's not the same as a reactor running at full throttle, but I suppose damage could be quite impressive if the rods weren't quickly cooled again.

Also containment vessels are sometimes weaked by gross negligence during construction, safety assessments are sometimes faked, etc. Combine that with human error and technical malfunctions and I'd not be so certain that fuel rods will never burn in the open air again.

Quote:
let's remember that a Chernobyl scale accident doesn't actually kill very many people.
I'm sure the Russians have done everything to help establish how bad everything was, just as they promptly alerted the other countries when disaster struck.

Strangely, the Swiss do worry about it. But they have a tradition of anticipating trouble instead of being in denial and then improvising. Kathrina comes to mind. The Swiss are for example legally obliged to own a gun and they have nuclear shelters for everyone - not for Mad Max scenarios, but because wars and accidents happen. Big difference in mentality.

In my country (Belgium), quite far away from Chernobyl, officially there were no victims. Last week a reputed professor from the university of Leuven declared that he saw a marked increase in thyroid cancers in children after that incident. Back when Chernobyl happened, cattle had to remain indoors, but according to the government it was safe for children to go outside.
Belgium is a rich country with universal and high quality health care. We can only guess how much damage went undetected in other countries, especially the eastern European ones.

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Originally Posted by Greglee
Let's think of insuring against another dinosaur-killer asteroid. It's obviously impossible, so we may as well just cash in our chips right now and head for the happy hunting ground. We can't afford to continue to exist on this earth -- can't get insurance!
I don’t think the comparison is valid. Inhabiting a planet isn’t a commercial activity that creates the risk of professional liabilities, while running a power plant is.

The implicit suggestion that nuclear plants should not be insured because we can’t afford it, reminds me of what happened to the banks: the profits are for the industry, the risks are socialized. That’s not capitalism! (and it’s not socialism either)
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Old 04-23-2011, 04:37 PM   #111
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Tigger, I think the reason you are losing many of us is:

A) You don't present viable alternatives that have demonstrated lower harm relative to energy produced. I understand that there may be hypothetical cases for some extreme damage produced by a nuke plant, but we can't ignore the actual, ongoing damage from the energy sources that are being and will be built for every nuke that is halted.

B) You are apparently a consumer of energy, as I am. We need energy for people like you and me. And we need it now. So if we don't build a nuke we will build it with the technology that is cost-effective today. And that is often coal (ask the Chinese). Solar panels (which take huge mounts of energy to produce), and the storage systems needed just are not here yet.

C) I haven't read all your links indicating that TMI caused unreported problems. But it would be easy for me to come up with links showing how much damage is being done every day by coal. Which do you think would add up to a higher number?

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Old 04-23-2011, 04:44 PM   #112
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Cancer clusters again. As you may be aware, these pop up all the time, and they very rarely turn out to be related to any identifiable factor, but instead are generally a to-be-expected artifact of naturally occurring "lumpy" data. I think even the "true believers" have finally admitted that there's no evidence power lines cause cancer, but they found all kinds of cancer clusters to keep them occupied for years.

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Back when Chernobyl happened, cattle had to remain indoors, but according to the government it was safe for children to go outside.
Any children who were likely to go outside and consume hundreds of pounds of grass exposed to the Chernobyl by-products should also have been kept indoors.
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Old 04-23-2011, 04:50 PM   #113
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It's unfair to speak for someone else, but the impression which I get is that Tigger believes that:

1. Nuclear power has a non-zero chance of killing millions of people and/or rendering vast areas of land uninhabitable for generations.
2. No other form of power generation has this issue.

Point 1 is undoubtedly true, but the number is so close to zero that we're talking about the kinds of risks which we can afford to take. We allow the Pentagon and the Russians to run early-warning systems which have (perhaps we can say "had" now?) a far higher chance of starting a nuclear war than of a reactor killing anyone. See here.

In fact, unless you are a denier of man-made climate change through carbon emissions, it's overwhelmingly more likely that burning coal (etc) to generate power will result in the nightmare scenarios, than nuclear will. This is counter-intuitive because we all "know" that radiation is bad and the worst thing carbon dioxide has ever done to most of us it to make us burp, but that's what we have to face up to. None of us likes the idea of something invisible giving us cancer next week; greenhouse gases are very slow and many people don't even believe the scientists. And on the daily pragmatic level, most of the people dying in coal mines are Chinese, and so don't figure on our radar.

The third option, some combination of renewable energy generation and reduced consumption, just won't happen, at least not without a totalitarian Green government. The economics of renewables is a classic case of "you can't get there from here".
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Old 04-23-2011, 06:09 PM   #114
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Hi ERD50 and BigNick,


> ERD50: A) "You don't present viable alternatives that have demonstrated lower harm relative to energy produced"

I agree that currently most alternatives are in their infancy. They continually improve, but vested interests often get in their way. Some examples from my home country: In Belgium solar and wind farms are being constructed, but the organisation that manages the power grid claims they don’t have the capacity to transport all that energy. We could buy cheap energy in Germany, but no luck, our grid is not connected to Germany. Our power grid is managed by an organisation that sprung from the owner of the nuclear plants and they’re not very motivated to plan for alternatives to nuclear power or for access to any other types of competition. They have a lot of political influence and many politicians sit on boards of energy companies, so I’m not holding my breath. These companies have no incentive to work on alternatives and on the contrary invest a lot in lobbying for preserving the status quo. A lot of taxpayer money has gone into building and operating these plants. Maybe more of that money should have been spent on research into alternatives… I would like the price of nuclear energy to be increased and the difference to be used for the quest for cleaner energy.

I suppose this will only change when people wake up and kick the asses of those politicians and use tar and feathers on those who are selling out our future to the nuclear lobby.



> ERD50: B) "You are apparently a consumer of energy, as I am"

I am willing to drastically reduce my already limited energy consumption and certainly would do so if energy prices would rise. I don’t need a car, big house or air conditioning. I’ll cycle to work. I’ll heat my home using solar and a heat pump – not everybody can afford that, but they can try take the former measures. If circumstances leave people no other choice, they will consume less energy.

The biggest problem is industrial energy consumption. Our manufacturing industry will probably depend on dirty energy for many years. Our governments should take care not to chase our industry away, but should maybe stop being so friendly to the nuclear lobby and start investing a lot of money in the quest for alternatives. As it’s still a quest, the ultimate alternative for industrial consumers is not yet available. But if we don’t look for it, we won’t find it. I’m not convinced our government and power companies are looking very hard.



> (ERD50’s and BigNick’s remarks on the horrors of coal)

Yes, coal is very bad. IMHO, it has got to go as soon as we can get rid of it. Just like nuclear.



> BigNick: “The third option, some combination of renewable energy generation and reduced consumption, just won't happen, at least not without a totalitarian Green government. The economics of renewables is a classic case of "you can't get there from here".

Watch the next elections in Germany. The Greens won’t stage a coup, but they're likely to make very impressive progress. This was predicted by the GlobalEurope Anticipation Bulletin even before the Fukushima disaster hit. The Germans are leaders in clean energy policy and can show the rest of the world what’s possible.

You state "you can't get there from here", but the “here” of the US is not the “here” of our German neighbours.

I can’t exclude the possibility that your pessimistic view will prove correct, but of course I hope it won’t.

In the meanwhile I hope those who say it's impossible won't get too much in the way of those who try to do it.
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Old 04-23-2011, 06:31 PM   #115
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A Columbia University study, published in the American Journal of Public Health found an increase in cancer, as you can see in this table but the researchers thought it was implausible that it had come from the doses that were known to have been released. They tried to explain it away as likely caused by an increase in stress.
"Residential proximity to the TMI plant was related to cancer rates prior to the accident as well as after, suggesting the presence of risk factors that were not sufficiently controlled by our adjustments for urbanization and social class."

Hmm...

I'd rather see some statistical and scientific rigor from those other sources, than what appears to a significant predisposition towards a certain point of view.

But that's just me. I will note that conflict-reinforcing arguments such as this lead people predisposed against them to counter-argue and "hold fast" even in the face of arguments that are quite convincing to those without predisposition.
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Old 04-23-2011, 06:40 PM   #116
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Watch the next elections in Germany. The Greens wonít stage a coup, but they're likely to make very impressive progress. This was predicted by the GlobalEurope Anticipation Bulletin even before the Fukushima disaster hit. The Germans are leaders in clean energy policy and can show the rest of the world whatís possible.
I eagerly await the exciting economic developments from Germany once they shut down their nuclear (30% of energy production) and coal (49% of energy production) power production facilities. I suspect they may be importing more electricity from France than they currently do.
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Old 04-23-2011, 08:52 PM   #117
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Hi ERD50 and BigNick,


> ERD50: A) "You don't present viable alternatives that have demonstrated lower harm relative to energy produced"

....

I would like the price of nuclear energy to be increased and the difference to be used for the quest for cleaner energy.
And I wouldn't. So where does that leave us?




> ERD50: B) "You are apparently a consumer of energy, as I am"

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I am willing to drastically reduce my already limited energy consumption and certainly would do so if energy prices would rise. I donít need a car, big house or air conditioning. Iíll cycle to work. Iíll heat my home using solar and a heat pump Ė not everybody can afford that, but they can try take the former measures. If circumstances leave people no other choice, they will consume less energy.
Interesting response. I will take all those " I'll " do (I will do, not I do) this and that to mean that you don't do those things now. So you are supporting all this dirty energy production. I'm sure the poor in this world will thank you for deciding for them that their energy should cost more. All because you personally feel that nuclear is 'bad'.

bold mine...
Quote:
Our governments should take care not to chase our industry away, but should maybe stop being so friendly to the nuclear lobby and start investing a lot of money in the quest for alternatives. As itís still a quest, the ultimate alternative for industrial consumers is not yet available. But if we donít look for it, we wonít find it. Iím not convinced our government and power companies are looking very hard.
And while we quest for the ultimate, I'm saying nuclear needs to be considered - it is demonstrably safer than coal. If I accept your logic, we would all still be using Commodore 128s, because they were better than a Commodore 64, so we will just stop looking for anything better. There is plenty of incentive to find cheap, clean power. It's easier said than done.

-ERD50
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Old 04-23-2011, 09:17 PM   #118
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I suspect they may be importing more electricity from France than they currently do.
I sure hope so. Germany has a historical habit of treating France's economic production as their own piggy bank to break open when times get tough, and I bet Europe is still full of people who won't forget it.
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Old 04-24-2011, 04:08 AM   #119
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I eagerly await the exciting economic developments from Germany once they shut down their nuclear (30% of energy production) and coal (49% of energy production) power production facilities. I suspect they may be importing more electricity from France than they currently do.
That French electricity being 70% nuclear... France and (to a lesser extent) Britain already process Germany's nuclear waste, because it wasn't politically possible for Germany to build its own reprocessing plants. Indeed, the policies pursued by the Greens last time they were in power at the federal level mean that Germany still produces as much nuclear electricity as before, but without the means to handle the waste. To be truly "responsible", they would build a reprocessing facility - which will still be necessary - and shut the reactors, but because building the reprocessing facility could also be a way to support an ongoing nuclear programme, that was dropped for political reasons.
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Old 04-25-2011, 03:51 PM   #120
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The obvious solution is to kill ourselves, or live in a lead box to avoid all this dangerous radiation...
I understand that if you die, but still glow in the dark due to too many rad's - they bury you in a lead box anyway ...
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