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Radioactive releases from the nuclear power sector and implications for child health

  1. Cindy Folkers,
  2. Linda Pentz Gunter
  3. Correspondence to Ms Cindy Folkers;



Radioactive releases from the nuclear power sector and implications for child health

  1. Folkers,
  2. Linda Pentz Gunter
  3. Correspondence to Ms Cindy Folkers;


Although radioactivity is released routinely at every stage of nuclear power generation, the regulation of these releases has never taken into account those potentially most sensitive—women, especially when pregnant, and children. From uranium mining and milling, to fuel manufacture, electricity generation and radioactive waste management, children in frontline and Indigenous communities can be disproportionately harmed due to often increased sensitivity of developing systems to toxic exposures, the lack of resources and racial and class discrimination. The reasons for the greater susceptibility of women and children to harm from radiation exposure is not fully understood. Regulatory practices, particularly in the establishment of protective exposure standards, have failed to take this difference into account. Anecdotal evidence within communities around nuclear facilities suggests an association between radiation exposure and increases in birth defects, miscarriages and childhood cancers. A significant number of academic studies tend to ascribe causality to other factors related to diet and lifestyle and dismiss these health indicators as statistically insignificant. In the case of a major release of radiation due to a serious nuclear accident, children are again on the frontlines, with a noted susceptibility to thyroid cancer, which has been found in significant numbers among children exposed both by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine and the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. The response among authorities in Japan is to blame increased testing or to reduce testing. More independent studies are needed focused on children, especially those in vulnerable frontline and Indigenous communities. In conducting such studies, greater consideration must be applied to culturally significant traditions and habits in these communities.

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October 26, 2022 Posted by | Nuclear | , | Leave a comment

Statement by Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency: 11 Years of Oblivion: An Alarming Abandonment of a Culture of Safety

March 3, 2022
NPO Nuclear Information and Documentation Center

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, several experts have stated that the use of nuclear energy should be promoted from the perspective of energy security. One of the most prominent is a statement made by Shiro Arai, President of the Japan Atomic Energy Industries Association (former Director of TEPCO Holdings and Deputy General Manager of the Nuclear Energy & Location Headquarters), at a regular press conference on February 25.

 I understand that some people think that nuclear power may act as a brake on the use of nuclear power,” he said. I understand that some people think it will act as a brake on the use of nuclear power, but the utility of nuclear power is very great. We have no choice but to make efforts through diplomatic efforts and improved international relations.”[i]

 Such opportunistic and disregard for human life is unacceptable. In particular, Chairman Arai’s statement is a sign of extreme danger. This is because it reveals the shallow nature of the nuclear safety culture that the nuclear industry claims to be working on.

 Operating nuclear power plants during wartime is extremely risky from a safety standpoint. This is even more so when one’s own territory is a battlefield. If the power grid is destroyed, external power sources will be lost. Diesel generators need fuel to operate, and in wartime, supplies are often disrupted. Although the Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks on nuclear power plants, there is a risk that the facilities could be destroyed by accidental fire. In the worst case, a deliberate attack could destroy the reactor. An attack on or evacuation of the operators would not only impede safe operation, but also make it impossible to cope with an accident. Massive radioactive contamination from a meltdown in a wartime situation would resemble a nuclear war.

In wartime, the best option to reduce the risk of nuclear power plants is to shut them down. We all know from the Fukushima Daiichi accident that cooling is required for a long period of time after shutdown, but control is still much easier than when the plant is operating.

Despite this, Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear corporation, operated 13 of its 15 nuclear reactors at its four sites until the 23rd, and as of March 1, when the invasion was underway, it was still operating nine of them. Even the Zaporizha nuclear power plant, which the Russians are closing in on, has three units in operation. If there were to be an accident, why would they operate at the risk of irreparable damage? The reason lies in Ukraine’s high dependence on nuclear power. If a nuclear power plant were to be shut down, Ukraine would not be able to compensate for the loss of power from other sources.

It is not just another country. Japan once had a 50% nuclear energy ratio, and today the government and nuclear industry are still aiming for 20-22%. Are we asking for more operations despite the fact that we have witnessed how huge the potential risks of war in a country with nuclear power plants are? Nuclear war is possible even without nuclear bombs, and this is what the situation in Ukraine confronts us with.

Chairman Arai is aware of this extremely dangerous relationship between nuclear power and war, yet he insists that nuclear power should be promoted because the benefits outweigh the risks. The commercial enterprises that operate nuclear power plants are supposed to make comparative choices among various power sources when using nuclear power, but while promoting nuclear power, he claims that the government, not the enterprises or the industry, should be responsible for the risks involved. The nuclear safety culture, according to the nuclear industry, is “an aggregate of the attitudes and characteristics (the way things are) in organizations and individuals in which ‘the issue of the safety of nuclear facilities is given the attention it deserves in terms of its importance as taking precedence over everything else'”[ii]. President Arai’s statement is a clear indication of how nuclear safety culture is an entity in name only.

What the tragedy in Ukraine shows is the danger of dependence on nuclear power. Nuclear power plants are a major risk to both security and energy security. Who should and can bear this risk? The question must be asked whether the citizens who will suffer the most serious damage will accept nuclear power, including the risks involved.

March 3, 2022 Posted by | Nuclear | , | Leave a comment

Caught between nostalgia and science fiction

by beyondnuclearinternational

Swapping one dangerous technology for another isn’t progress

By Linda Pentz Gunter

It’s starting to sound a lot like a Christmas carol as a growing chorus of voices clamors to stop the European Union from including nuclear power in its “green taxonomy.”

Six countries, five former Japanese prime ministers, four former nuclear regulators, a bunch of French hens (at least 20 protesters), and two heads of Italy’s major energy behemoth, have all spoken out in recent weeks against rebranding dangerous, expensive nuclear power as “sustainable” energy or even a bridge to an all renewable future.

The youth climate movement, Fridays for the Future, have also condemned the potential inclusion of nuclear power in the EU Taxonomy as “greenwashing”, with spokesperson Luisa Neubauer telling Euractiv that Germany “can phase out both coal and nuclear power and enter the renewable age.” Why, she asked, would you “swap one high risk technology, coal, for another high risk technology? And maybe those risks aren’t quite the same, but the risks attached to nuclear energy, people have experienced that.” In addition, the costs for nuclear power, she said are “in a different galaxy” compared to renewables.

Francesco Starace, a nuclear engineer by training and the head of Enel, the Italian multinational energy company, said of nuclear power, “we can’t stay halfway between nostalgia for the past and hope in science fiction”. Enel Green Power head, Salvatore Bernabei, said “we don’t intend to invest in nuclear, obviously.”

Said Starace: “We must act now because the red alert for humanity has gone off and the next ten years will be crucial. There is only one road and it is already marked: electrification, renewables and batteries”.

The five former prime ministers of Japan spoke from direct experience, having lived through the devastation caused by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which began on March 11, 2011, but is still damaging human health and the environment today.

“Promoting nuclear power can ruin a country,” wrote Junichiro Koizumi, Morihiro Hosokawa, Naoto Kan, Yukio Hatoyama and Tomiichi Murayama in a statement directed at the EU.

“We have witnessed in Fukushima over the last decade [ ] an indescribable tragedy and contamination on an unprecedented scale,” the prime ministers wrote. “Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and vast areas of agricultural land have been contaminated. Radioactive water well beyond storage capacity continues to be generated, many children are suffering from thyroid cancer, and massive amounts of the country’s resources and wealth has been lost. We do not wish European countries to make the same mistake.”

The former Japanese prime ministers reminded the EU that they have witnessed the multiple tragedies of a nuclear accident first hand. (Photo: Matthias Lambrecht/Creative Commons)

The four former nuclear regulators — Dr. Greg Jaczko (US), Prof. Wolfgang Renneberg (Germany), Dr. Bernard Laponche (France) and Dr. Paul Dorfman (UK) — stated categorically that “The central message, repeated again and again, that a new generation of nuclear will be clean, safe, smart and cheap, is fiction.”

Given the urgency of the climate crisis, the four said, using nuclear power to address it was a completely unrealistic proposition. “The reality is nuclear is neither clean, safe or smart; but a very complex technology with the potential to cause significant harm,” they wrote. 

They added: “Nuclear isn’t cheap, but extremely costly. Perhaps most importantly nuclear is just not part of any feasible strategy that could counter climate change. To make a relevant contribution to global power generation, up to more than ten thousand new reactors would be required, depending on reactor design.”

Although France is leading the charge — for obviously self-interested reasons — to include nuclear power in the EU Taxonomy, the country is not without its nuclear opponents. The nationwide Réseau sortir du nucléaire and scores of regional groups struggle to get attention, but have staged protests for years. France relies on nuclear power for 70% of its electricity and is also a member of the UN Security Council as a nuclear weapons country, giving it an illusory sense of prestige of which it is reluctant to let go.

Last December, protesters descended on France’s foreign ministry, roundly criticizing French president, Emmanuel Macron’s continued promotion of nuclear power. At the same time, the country was facing electricity shortages due to five French reactor outages.

Even scientists, sometimes the more cautious of species, have spoken out. According to the Financial Times, which viewed the documentation, scientific experts “hired by Brussels to help draw up the sustainable investment rules” have criticized the inclusion of nuclear power, while not going as far as to ask for its removal altogether. However, the experts wrote that “the inclusion of nuclear energy contravenes the principle of ‘do no significant harm’”, the Financial Times said.

Meanwhile, Austria is preparing to take the EU to court if it persists in labeling nuclear power as green. Austria has the support of Spain, Luxembourg and Denmark in calling the consideration of nuclear as a “sustainable” energy source “a step backwards.”

Germany, which is close to phasing out all of its nuclear power plants, has also rejected nuclear as part of the EU Taxonomy while so far failing to oppose the inclusion of gas, again for vested interests.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear and writes for and curates Beyond Nuclear International.

January 31, 2022 Posted by | Nuclear | , , , | Leave a comment

Commemoration and Meaning: The Case of Fukushima

Robert Jay Lifton and Scott Gabriel Knowles

Abstract: Disaster commemoration serves as a moment to remember victims and honor survivors. In the case of 3.11, commemoration works differently. As a slow disaster, with radiation exposure and evacuation at the center of the story, 3.11 is not yet over. This places special importance on commemoration as a moment for memory, but also for ongoing commitments to research, justice, and health interventions for survivors.

Commemorations of disasters are necessary. They can provide survivors—and the world in general—a sense of where things stand in relation to destruction, the pain caused, and the relief time may have brought. Commemoration can also be a way to give meaning to the disaster itself. But those meanings can be misleading if they minimize the effects of disaster or pronounce shallow claims of recovery.

A case in point is the tenth-year commemoration of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown of 2011. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency marked the occasion by claiming that “The equipment reacted just as it was designed to do—it stopped!” He did admit that “the ensuing damage caused nuclides to be released into the environment,” but insisted that “scientists have found no evidence that this caused radiation-induced health effects.”1 The meaning he communicates is that there was a bit of a problem, it was immediately taken care of, some dubious materials might have leaked out, but nothing bad happened. There was no real disaster.

That is not the meaning the event holds for the 37,000 people who had to be evacuated, and have still not returned to Fukushima prefecture.2 Their meaning, and that of most thoughtful outside observers, starts with the vulnerability of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors to the extreme events of earthquake and tsunami. Survivor meaning would also turn on the unknown effects of the recent decision to deposit radioactive materials into the ocean.3 It would focus on the resistance by government and nuclear-industry officials to studies of future dangers from nuclear waste, and from radiation effects that could occur over decades and even centuries. Above all, that survivor meaning would include concerns about prevailing radiation levels as well as danger of future bodily effects on the part of people exposed.

At the heart of this meaning is the fear of what one of us (Lifton) has called “invisible contamination,” a fear of a poison that a survivor cannot see, smell, or feel, and whose effects are so lasting, even if they do not show up in one year—or in one generation—they may well do so in the next. As a Hiroshima survivor put it: “You may look healthy from the outside but all of a sudden something goes wrong and you are sick and you die.”4

Hiroshima survivors described their terror at witnessing and experiencing grotesque radiation symptoms: acute effects of severe diarrhea, bleeding from various bodily orifices, dreaded “purple spots” from bleeding into the skin, extreme weakness and frequent death. Delayed effects including increased incidence of leukemia during early post-bomb years, and later of cancer of the thyroid, stomach, lung, ovary, and uterine cervix. Since it is known that radiation can have genetic effects over the generations, there was much fear in Hiroshima about giving birth to abnormal children.

Hiroshima August 6, 1945

The full panoply of nuclear fear is a constant anywhere radiation danger is involved. Fear of invisible contamination has been widely identified in people exposed in Fukushima, as well as in many living far beyond that province—this includes evacuees, first responders, and doctors and nurses who stayed behind in Fukushima.5 Such fear also emerged at the American Three Mile Island disaster of 1979, where less radiation was released than at Fukushima.6 With the much greater disaster at Chernobyl in 1986, that fear has been pervasive and remains at a considerable level. The same fear occurred in Americans exposed to nuclear radiation in various other places: to plutonium waste at Hanford, Washington, in connection with the production of the Nagasaki bomb; to nuclear testing over decades at Rocky Flats, Colorado; and to Ground Zero at test sites in Nevada, from which G.I.’s were marched shortly after nuclear explosions. None of this should be dismissed as “hysteria” or “exaggerated psychological reactions.” We are speaking of the nuclear fear—the fear of invisible contamination—that results from substantial release of radiation, no matter what the source.

What does it mean to pass the 10th anniversary of 3.11 under such conditions? Disaster anniversaries sit on the calendar, they are predictable. Historians know that they can reliably look back at news coverage one, five, and ten years after any disaster to see how recovery proceeded, how the disaster was framed by different political regimes, and which victim support groups persisted while others disappeared. But history is not a stable element, and as such anniversaries sometimes re-ignite political battles over the meaning of a disaster. The commemoration of a disaster anniversary opens the possibility for cynical revision and exploitation by politicians and industry groups eager to declare that the past is now safely in the past. Commemoration meaning can be falsified by bureaucratic collusion between industry and government, which can contribute to denial, rejection, and cover-up of radioactive consequences. Such collusion is notorious in Japan. There were significant protests in Japan against the use of nuclear energy, but pro-nuclear forces prevailed, in part by insisting that there was a significant difference between the technology of nuclear power and that of nuclear weapons. This illusory distinction is restated by those who use moments of commemoration to promote nuclear energy.

The anniversary also demands a recapitulation of trauma, a command performance for survivors and families still grieving, as well as those who may have truly integrated the disaster into their lives and chosen no longer to publicly engage with it, if they ever did. A disaster like 3.11 has its own special complications, a combination of earthquake, tsunami, and radiation, affecting people of all ages, from fishermen to nuclear power plant workers—spread out over a large area, and with many thousands of bodies never recovered. There is not a coherent 3.11 experience for survivors. The harms were many, and variable, and this makes activism for victim support more complicated. Due to the radiation exclusion zone going into effect, many survivors have found themselves advocating for resources to return to empty towns and shattered homes they aren’t totally sure they want to live in again.

Nowhere is the timescale of disaster memory more unpredictable than in cases of radiation exposure. With Hiroshima survivors, for instance, every year brings new testimonials from survivors who tell their stories of August of 1945 for the first time. Similarly, as STS scholar Kyoko Sato has noted, there will most certainly be Fukushima survivors who will not share their truths for many years to come.7 In this way it may be possible that Fukushima memory could “puncture the nuclear mystique” that has gripped Japan since reactors were built in the 1960s.8 This can occur only if anniversary discussions give way to a greater focus on survivor-based memory. Victims’ families, and activists can find in such anniversaries the opportunity to bring their own memories and demands into discussion once again for new audiences. Memorial ceremonies, the reconvening of dormant support groups, educational outreach to students, even phone calls and emails from distant friends and family all serve positive roles for a disaster affected community, even ten years later. And the anniversary serves as a meeting ground for disasters past and present—any discussion of Fukushima now, for example, must take place in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing need for strong public health measures.

New dynamics are at play now as well that offer hope Fukushima memory might not recede so easily from the public mind once this year is over. Research and public policy insisting on post-traumatic mental health support (in Japan starting after the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake) for survivors has been effective in countering the more traditional idea that disasters end once relief payments are made and buildings are rebuilt.9 We are increasingly recognizing that a disaster is a process, not a single event in time. Victims will suffer on the day, and in the aftermath. As we note in the recently published volume Legacies of Fukushima: 3.11 in Context, “the linked disasters of 3.11 were in crucial ways part of a much longer process, a slow disaster that connected the events of a disastrous era … traumas of the Japanese past: radiation exposure, tsunami flooding, seismic destruction, massive evacuation and loss of home and community.”10 Climate change can also be an important factor in causing and sustaining disasters.

Nuclear disaster commemorations can and must leave space for the new exploration of old harms—and they must be in sync with ongoing strategies of mental health service provision as well. Is this too much to ask in a Fukushima commemorative year marked by pandemic and climate change related disasters around the world? Not if disaster history is to be of any use at all in the struggle to reduce disaster risk and heal survivors. As Liz Maly and Mariko Yamazaki note in their recent review of Japanese disaster memorials, 3.11 demands special attention to the overlapping historical trajectories of loss and trauma in Japan. “Important issues for future consideration,” they note, “include comparisons across not only pre-3.11 museums about disasters caused by natural hazard events, but also Japanese precedents of how experiences and lessons from other human-made disasters are conveyed, including by the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and Minamata Disease Municipal Museum, which tells the story of industrial pollution and poisoning of the local community.”11

What’s needed now in this year of Fukushima commemoration is a turn towards the fusion of these ideas, grounded in the reality that nuclear fear demands. We should emphasize the healing function of commemoration. That includes enhancing the mourning process of survivors, instead of impairing that process by negating their pain. Survivors and victims’ families can find in such anniversaries the opportunity to bring their own memories and demands into discussion for new audiences. Memorial ceremonies can reintegrate sources of support and provide extensive educational outreach. By confronting painful disaster effects, there can emerge valuable forms of what can be called survivor wisdom. These anniversaries can also connect, psychologically and politically, with disasters past and present.

Commemoration events can serve as moments of collective renewal, with survivors in the vanguard.


COVIDCalls. (2021) Fukushima and the Pandemic: A 3.11 Memorial Episode with Sulfikar Amir, Kohta Juraku, Kyoko Sato, and Ryuma Shineha [Online video]. March 8. Accessed: July 18, 2021).

Cleveland, K, Knowles, S., and Shineha, R. (eds.) (2021) Legacies of Fukushima: 3.11 in Context. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Honda, N., Kelman, I., Kikuchi, S., Kim., Y., Kobayashi, N., Nemoto, H., Seto, M., and Tomita, H. (2019) ‘Post-Disaster Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in the Areas Affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake: A Qualitative Study’, BMC Psychiatry, 19(261). 

International Atomic Energy Agency. (2021) Ten-year Anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident: A Decade of Improving Nuclear Safety [Online] Accessed: June 15, 2021. 

Lifton, R. (1968) Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima. 2nd edn. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 

Lifton, R. (1986) ‘Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Hiroshima’, New York Times, May 18 [Online]. Accessed: July 18, 2021). 

Loh, S.L. and Amir, S. (2019) ‘Healing Fukushima: Radiation Hazards and Disaster Medicine in Post-3.11 Japan’, Social Studies of Science, 49(3), pp. 333-354. 

Maly, L. and Yamazaki, M. (2021) ‘Disaster Museums in Japan: Telling the Stories of Disasters Before and After 3.11’, Journal of Disaster Research, 16(2), pp. 146-156. 

Normile, D. (2021a) ‘This Physician Has Studied the Fukushima Disaster for a Decade—and Found a Surprising Health Threat’, Science, March 4 [Online]. Accessed: July 18, 2021. 

Normile, D. (2021b) ‘Japan Plans to Release Fukushima’s Wastewater into the Ocean’, Science, April 13 [Online]. Accessed: July 18, 2021.

Rich, M. and Inoue, M. (2021) ‘Ten Years After Fukushima Disaster, This Nurse May Be the Region’s Best Hope’, New York Times, March 9 [Online]. Accessed: July 18, 2021.



International Atomic Energy Agency, 2021.2

Normile, 2021a.3

Normile, 2021b.4

Lifton, 1991.5

Rich and Inoue, 2021; Amir and Loh, 2019.6

Lifton, 1986.7

COVIDCalls, 2021.8

Lifton in Cleveland, Knowles, and Shineha, 2021.9

Seto, et. al., 2019.10

Cleveland, Knowles, and Shineha, 2021.11

Maly and Yamazaki, 2021.

September 7, 2021 Posted by | Nuclear | , | Leave a comment

Making nuclear waste has to be stopped

Special credits to Roger Bristol, Marius Paul and Leonard J. Siebert
August 22, 2018
Roger Bristol —  “Structural materials become neutron activated resulting in radioactive iron, cobalt, and nickel. I am not sure where the chlorine comes from. Carbon is from neutron activation of air and in the stainless steel reactor vessel. Tritium is a fission product and comes from neutron activation of deuterium naturally occurring in cooling water. Thorium and protactinium are decay products of fuel. Uranium-232 comes from neutron activation of a decay product of uranium. Neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium come from successive neutron absorption of fuel. When uranium is struck with a neutron sometimes it fission and sometimes becomes a new nuclide.
The Ci is a unit of radioactivity. 1 Ci = 37,000,000,000 decays per second. Radium has a half-life of 1,602 years. The unit is based on the radioactivity of one gram of radium. To get the number of grams you would take the half-life and divide by 1,602 times the number of Ci and then multiply by the atomic weight divided by the atomic weight of radium (226).
l Graphite is used as a moderator in some reactors. To purify to graphite of neutron absorbing impurities chlorine is used leaving a residue of chlorine-35. Neutron activation creates the radioactive chlorine-36. Probably the weapons grade plutonium breeder reactors used graphite I suspect.”
Marius Paul — “Two other important topics about radioactivity:
(1) Half-lives can be deceptive, as some radioactive materials become more radioactive as time goes on, not less. Examples include radon gas and depleted #uranium. Even irradiated nuclear fuel, which decreases in radioactivity for the first 50,000 years, eventually increases in radiotoxicity after that period of time. Plutonium has a 24,000 year half-life, but when it disintegrates it is transformed into another radioactive element with a 700 million years half life. So half-lives can be deceptive.
(2) Some radioactive materials are very difficult to detect, even in a well-equipped nuclear plant, because they give off non-penetrating alpha or beta radiation – yet they can be extraordinarily dangerous. Examples are beta-emitting carbon-14 dust, which workers at Pickering Nuclear Generating Station tracked into their homes in the 1980s, and alpha-emitting #plutonium dust, which over 500 contract workers inhaled on a daily basis for almost three weeks at Bruce in 2009.”
Leonard J. Siebert — “One of the delights for me as I continue to attempt to educate people about Fukushima, is the sheer amount of both ignorance and erroneous information on the subject that plagues humanity.
One of the most laughable premises was that Plutonium, a transuranic element, exists in nature and people shouldn’t be alarmed by it.
Seriously, the article was published in a scientific periodical and while it was later retracted; the damage was done and I hear the comment repeated to this day by the Pro-nuke factions.
So in what will another subject for people to attack me about, question my expertise and accuse me of ‘fear mongering’; I will attempt to relate the facts in layman’s terms and even do so entertainingly.
In many of the reports I post about Fukushima and even in the media, the word ‘Transuranic’ or ‘transuranium’ often appears.
Now I get questioned all the time by ‘experts’ that love to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. However they usually take the tact of asking me basic physics or nuclear energy questions. It is not my goal to teach physics to anyone, plus that would take a lifetime to bring everyone up to the same understanding of the science with my statements. For me that is a waste of time and I have spent too many hours explaining processes that should be apparent to even a high school student in General Science, perhaps the ignorance in the science is a result of common core or too much Star Trek techno-babble; I cannot say. So I am only going to focus on terms, used in the media that are important for you to know. I will do my best to define them in a none bias manner but anyone with a REAL understanding of nuclear energy, knows that it is not clean, cheap, efficient, green or safe.
“Nuclear power is one HELL of a way to boil water.”- Albert Einstein. (He meant that with full irony for the fools he was addressing for even suggesting that idea, sadly the fools controlled the purse strings.)
So what is Transuranium?
I have to assume that chemistry managed to seep into your education and that you at least have heard of the Periodic Table of elements. (Please tell me you know the difference between an element and a compound, if you don’t; you need to look up element. This is one of the difficult things about writing anything about science, I have no clue how much you grasp.) On the Periodic Table elements are arranged from lightest (Hydrogen {H} atomic number 1) to the ‘current’ heaviest (Ununoctium {Uuo} atomic number 118). It is the ‘atomic number’ that defines what is Transuranium, anything with an atomic number below 93 is a natural element; anything with an atomic number above 92 (Uranium’s atomic number hence ‘Transuranium’) is an ‘artificially’ made element. So even though people love to affix the prefix ‘trans’ to many different aspects such a gender or race; it actually is a concrete term from Latin, meaning: Beyond, across or over.
All Transuranium elements are radioactive, unstable and decay into other elements, usually just as unstable and equally radioactive as the decay process can last eons. While I use the term ‘artificially’, I have qualify that with ‘on earth’. All of the elements with higher atomic numbers, however, have been first discovered in the laboratory, with neptunium, plutonium, americium, curium, berkelium and californium later also discovered in nature. They are all radioactive, with a half-life much shorter than the age of the Earth, so any atoms of these elements, if they ever were present at the Earth’s formation, have long since decayed. What the reader should take from this is the plan truth; the earth was becoming less radioactive, before we started splitting atoms.
Enrico Fermi discovered that the nucleus of most atoms could absorb a neutron or neutrons thus changing the element into a new atom in 1933. It wasn’t until 1940 that Edwin McMillan successfully produced Neptunium ({Np} atomic number 93) and 1941 that Glen Seaborg produced Plutonium ({Pu} atomic number 94) that things really started to stink. (See what I did there ‘Pu’; come-on this is really dry material, I have to make it fun to read.)
Now don’t start thinking that only transuranium elements are the only radioactive ones out there, because that would be dead wrong. Uranium is of course radioactive as is Radium ({Ra} atomic number 88), Polonium ({Po} atomic number 84), and Tritium ({H3} one of the Hydrogen isotopes). There are of course more many being isotopes like Carbon 14, the one we use for ‘carbon dating’ but it needs to be understood that all these elements and isotopes were in a constant state of decay here on earth. While nature does produce some of them in limited or small amounts, it was not until we began monkeying with fission, that they are now being created all too commonly.
My thesis here is part of a broader picture that I refer to as ‘Baseline Background’. What it states is that any increase in acceptable ionizing radiation; must be compared to the ‘pre-artificial fission’ of the Chicago Pile because every background measurement after that up until today, is artificially fortified by the folly of nuclear energy in use today.
Plain truth be known, the world is becoming increasingly radioactive and its exponential and showing no signs of letting up. You cannot adapt to it, you will not become a mutant nor can or will any other life on this blue marble. On the microbiological scale, you have already passed the point of no return, on the bio-magnification scale you have sealed the fates of yourselves and your children and Fukushima was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
For those who laugh and say; ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and continue on nuclear energy’s present course; dying of cancer is not a condemnation I would wish on my worst enemy. Yet, you are worthy of your reward for you lack of foresight.”

August 27, 2018 Posted by | Nuclear | , | 1 Comment

The nuclear establishment cannot be trusted on radiation

“The conventional approach of averaging the energy transfer from radioactive decay events across a whole organ or the entire body is like emptying a rifle into a football stadium and averaging the effects of the 6 bullets across all the 25,000 spectators. The assumption that between them 25,000 people should be able to stop six bullets without any of them feeling more than a tap on the arm will not console the six grieving families. In this example, the 25,000 spectators are the cells of an organ. The six bullets are like six alpha particles. By the averaging model, the energy from the velocity of the bullets is treated as equally distributed to all who feel no more than a tap as a result. But this model simply does not reflect the reality, that the full energy is absorbed by only six spectators but with catastrophic consequences for them. In terms of biological effect, it makes no sense to speak of the impact of six alpha particles distributed over 25,000 cells. Only the individual cells hit will suffer biological damage. The remainder will escape unscathed. The dose is not received by the whole organ. It is absorbed completely by only a handful of cells.”
21st August 2018
When it comes to questions about the safety or not of releasing radioactive particles into the environment the Nuclear Power industry is economical with the truth but get away with it because the mass media tends to accept what they are told and if anyone disagrees they are called scaremongers who don’t understand the science. They delight in pointing out that many of those who oppose them are not scientists but that is hypocritical as their own pronouncements about radiation risks are very poor science. I am sure they will point out that I am not a scientist so my arguments can be dismissed but it is up to you the reader to decide that.
I am a teacher, not a science teacher but a law teacher so evidence is something that I regard as very important and coherent arguments matter to me. I am a long-term anti-Nuclear power activist and I have written this article to teach people about radiation and, in order to teach it properly, I want to explain it in a clear way that people can understand. So, while I am not a “Scientist” I really do understand radiation because I have been studying it for  over three decades and the purpose of this article is to explain why the Nuclear Power establishment’s views on the safety or not of radiation are wrong.
The Nuclear Power industry created the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) to set the safety standards of the Nuclear Power industry in terms of what they call safe or unsafe “doses” of radiation. Because the Nuclear Power establishment, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sets international safety limits those limits are essentially self-regulation of their own industry and it is not the independent body that many ill-informed people assume it is – but that’s not their fault because the IAEA prefers to keep the public in the dark and not be too closely questioned. They do not like it when people point out that the problem with the IAEA and ICRP’s definition of a safe dose of radiation is that is deeply flawed because it based on old and outdated scientific assumptions.
Radiation does not affect inanimate objects in the same way as living things such as plants and animals. To put it in a more traditionally scientific way, physics and biology are two different sciences and the ways in which they interact means that the way in which radiation was quantified by physicists does not fit the reality of life as studied by biologists.
But the Nuclear Industry’s concept of a “safe dose” of radioactivity, widely accepted by the mainstream media is a very old and out-dated argument which is why it can no longer be blindly accepted as sufficient because science has moved on since it was first put forward, and it is of no use when applied to genetics which was only discovered in the early 1950s.
The IAEA conceptual model for quantifying a radiation dose is that it means the quantity of energy absorbed by matter is treated as if it is uniformly distributed throughout the mass that absorbs it, i.e., the energy is “averaged” over the entire mass. To do this makes perfect sense within the mathematically oriented discipline of physics. However, this model is woefully inadequate when transferred into the discipline of biology where averaging energy over a mass of living cellular material is, in many instances, a useless concept for determining the biological effect.
This quantitative model that was first developed introduced clarity into people’s thinking about radiation’s interaction with matter and so successful was this approach that it influenced all future thinking on the subject of radiation protection. According to this model, the biological effects of radiation were proportional to the amount of energy absorbed by the target, whether this was a particular organ or the body as a whole.
Radiation protection was given a scientific footing that would allow it to keep pace with the revolution that was taking place in nuclear physics and in the new world created by the Manhattan Project, to build nuclear weapons, which required Nuclear Power stations to provide the basics necessary. The first Nuclear Power station in the UK, at Calderhall, was very inefficient in producing electricity but it was primarily built in order to develop the UK’s nuclear weapons.
But a subtle flaw lay at the heart of the initial model of safe doses of radiation because it was all built upon the unfounded assumption that biological effects of radiation depended solely on the amount of energy absorbed. What made perfect sense from the point of view of the physicist was not in harmony with basic biological realities.
At first, this wasn’t apparent. Only in the latter part of the 1950s, after new fundamental discoveries were made in biology, did the major shortcomings to the model begin to intrude into what was already orthodoxy in radiation physics. Thus, the physics-based model — which was hugely successful in advancing radiation research — turned out in time to have been a conceptual blunder that blinded many to a true understanding of the biological effects of radiation. More significant is the fact that it continues to blind the understanding of people today, even people who have spent years of study on the subject.
At low doses, the equivalent energy delivered by x-rays or gamma rays externally and that delivered by alpha and beta particles internally produce different patterns of chemical disruption to individual cells. As a result, low dose effects from external irradiation cannot be used to predict effects from internal contamination.
Radiation comes in three forms – alpha, beta and gamma. Gamma radiation has the highest penetrative power and has to be encased in thick steel and concrete to prevent it from leaking. Beta radiation is less penetrative and alpha decay comes last as it cannot pass through a piece of paper which is why the Nuclear Power industry regards it as safe. However, alpha particles can cause damage even if they have the lowest penetration power among the three because, if they enter the human body by us breathing them in or if we eat something that is contaminated by them then there are very real dangers.
This was known a century ago when it became obvious that workers painting luminous Radium on the faces of clocks, watches and compasses to make them glow in the dark. World War 1 boosted demand and through the following decades, hundreds of girls and women were employed to paint dials and pointers. They would routinely put the tips of their paint brushes between their lips to obtain a fine point for the trickier numerals but by 1923 it was clear that the Radium they ingested was causing dreadful, agonising and frequently fatal illnesses.
Radium (which emits alpha particles) mostly lodges in bone, so the diseases affected the blood-forming function of the women’s bone marrow, leading to anaemia. Those with higher body burdens had ulcers and their bones were weakened to the point where vertebrae collapsed and legs would break spontaneously. The first deaths directly attributed to Radium Necrosis came in 1925. Court cases, compensation payments and improved workplace practices followed starting with a ban on licking brushes.
The simple conclusion that, dose for dose, internal emitters may produce a more negative biological effect than external irradiation is a disaster for the nuclear establishment and they lose the plot when confronted by it. Using external irradiation as a model, the physicists of the Manhattan Project argued that internal emitters would produce the same biological effect for the same amount of energy deposited by radioactive decay (with consideration given to the quality factor of each type of radiation). To capture this energy transfer in their mathematical calculations, the energy transmitted by alpha and beta particles during radioactive decay was averaged over the entire mass of the target organ to yield an organ dose.
Unfortunately, the IAEA continues to this day to insist that this is the proper way of calculating dosages from internal emitters. Alpha particles on average traverse no more than 30 to 40 microns, approximately 3 to 4 cell diameters but that is the point – it is at the level of the cell where radiation effects become significant, not over large masses of tissue. When emitted from an atom undergoing radioactive decay, these particles travel along discrete tracks within a small volume of cells. Biological damage is produced within individual cells along these particle tracks. While in transit, they initiate the ionization of molecules only along their path of travel, either hitting vital molecular cellular structures, such as the DNA molecule, or missing them altogether. Not all cells within the range of the particle are affected. Biological alteration occurs only in those cells that are hit by the particle. Cells that are missed by the particle suffer no injury. With internal emitters, the unit of interest for gauging biological effects is individual cells, not whole masses of tissue.
This is particularly true for the induction of a cancer. Cancers arise from mutations within a single cell. This being the case, averaging the effect of a particle over an entire mass is ludicrous. Being a hit or miss phenomenon involving individual cells, how can the effect of an alpha or beta particle be averaged over the entire organ?
The conventional approach of averaging the energy transfer from radioactive decay events across a whole organ or the entire body is like emptying a rifle into a football stadium and averaging the effects of the 6 bullets across all the 25,000 spectators. The assumption that between them 25,000 people should be able to stop six bullets without any of them feeling more than a tap on the arm will not console the six grieving families. In this example, the 25,000 spectators are the cells of an organ. The six bullets are like six alpha particles. By the averaging model, the energy from the velocity of the bullets is treated as equally distributed to all who feel no more than a tap as a result. But this model simply does not reflect the reality, that the full energy is absorbed by only six spectators but with catastrophic consequences for them. In terms of biological effect, it makes no sense to speak of the impact of six alpha particles distributed over 25,000 cells. Only the individual cells hit will suffer biological damage. The remainder will escape unscathed. The dose is not received by the whole organ. It is absorbed completely by only a handful of cells.
The IAEA assumption, made long ago,  that external and internal radiation produce the same biological effects has never been validated and is now regarded as an unsubstantiated theory that is deeply flawed. For many years I have heard the Nuclear establishment use this deeply flawed science in a hypocritical way by arguing that when large amounts of leukemia is found in children near Nuclear Power stations that it cannot be because of the Nuclear power station, because the dose released by that station is too low to be the cause. The biased use of poor science by the Nuclear power establishment in a circular fashion can produce ridiculous results that well illustrates why they cannot be trusted.
This became obvious after the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster in 1986 when huge amounts of radioactive particles were released into the atmosphere over Europe. While the 2005 IAEA report predicted that only 4,000 additional deaths would result from the Chernobyl accident, the most recently published figures indicate that in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine alone, the accident resulted in an estimated 200,000 additional deaths between 1990 and 2004.
When it comes to safety and internal radiation doses, the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) has, in recent years, identified it as a serious misuse of scientific method in the extension and application of the traditional model. Such a process involves deductive reasoning. It falsely uses data from one set of conditions — high-level, acute, external exposure — to model low-level, chronic, internal exposure. The procedure is scientifically bankrupt, and were it not for political consideration, would have been rejected long ago, according to the ECRR.
It is high time that politicians caught up with the realities of life and realised that the Nuclear Power establishment are hoodwinking them about the safety or not of radiation. That is particularly true when it comes to them making decisions which concerns the release of radioactive particles into the atmosphere as if they accept their assertions without having advice from independent scientists then they are gambling with people’s lives.

August 27, 2018 Posted by | Nuclear | , , | 1 Comment

Japan in talks over bid for UK uranium powerhouse

Japanese government wants to acquire a producer of enriched uranium that is expected to be worth several billions of dollars.
Kansai Electric’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture. Japan looks to have atomic energy supply a fifth of the nation’s power by fiscal 2030.
Multibillion-dollar deal would keep China and Russia from gaining control of Urenco
TOKYO — The Japanese government has entered into negotiations to acquire U.K.-based Urenco, a major European producer of enriched uranium, in a deal that is expected to be worth several billions of dollars.
The state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation is expected to make an offer together with U.S. nuclear energy company Centrus Energy.
The not-so-ulterior motive is to block companies from Russia and China — two countries that are increasing their influence in the global nuclear power market — from taking control of the company.
At home, the Japanese government is promoting nuclear power generation as a major source of electricity — another reason it hopes to secure an interest in Urenco’s enriched uranium.
The Japanese government is holding talks with major shareholders of Urenco, sources close to the matter said. Ownership of Urenco is evenly split by three parties — the governments of the U.K. and the Netherlands as well as German electric utilities including RWE.
The German side is exploring a sale as the government plans to phase out nuclear power. The U.K. government, working on fiscal consolidation, is also looking for a buyer.
Urenco is engaged in turning natural uranium into enriched uranium, which is critical in generating nuclear power. The company ranks second in the world after Tenex — a unit of Russian nuclear concern Rosatom — in terms of capacity to produce enriched uranium, holding a global share of around 30%.
JBIC and Centrus Energy are looking to acquire a majority or larger stake in Urenco, which would cost several hundred billion yen (several billions of dollars). JBIC by itself hopes to hold a stake of around 20-30%. Negotiations are expected to last through the summer. A deal could be struck as early as this year.
The joint bid for Urenco is aimed at keeping Russia and China at bay. Both countries are said to be showing interest in acquiring the enriched uranium producer.
According to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, China had 35 nuclear reactors in operation as of January 2017, while Russia had 30. Including reactors in the planning stage, however, the numbers grow to 82 in China and 55 in Russia, surpassing Japan’s 53.

January 21, 2018 Posted by | Nuclear | , , | Leave a comment

Japan-U.S. nuclear fuel reprocessing pact automatically renews after 30-year deadline passes

The nuclear pact between Japan and the United States that allows Japan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and enrich uranium, automatically renewed Wednesday, after Tokyo made no move to end it by Tuesday, the deadline to do so.
The bilateral nuclear agreement, which entered into force in July 1988, had authorized Japan to establish a nuclear fuel recycling system over 30 years to July 2018.
As neither side has sought to review the pact it will remain in force indefinitely, but can be terminated six months after either party notifies the other. Such a notification can be made at any time.
The pact is “part of the foundation of our country’s use of nuclear power” and also “crucial to Japan-U.S. relations,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Tuesday.
Under Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling system, spent fuel from nuclear reactors is reprocessed to extract uranium and plutonium. These materials are then recycled into fuel called mixed oxide, or MOX, for use in fast-breeder reactors or conventional nuclear reactors.
But uncertainties over the country’s reprocessing program have grown after most nuclear plants in Japan suspended operations amid safety concerns following the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. In December 2016 the government decided to decommission the trouble-prone Monju fast-breeder reactor at the core of the fuel cycle policy.
The U.S. government does not see any immediate need to review the pact partly because of tensions in East Asia, where North Korea is developing nuclear weapons and China is expanding its military, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
Japan possesses 47 tons of plutonium within and outside the country. If it is unable to reduce its stockpile, that may spark concerns in the United States and calls for reviewing the pact may increase.


January 18, 2018 Posted by | Nuclear | , | Leave a comment

Fission products are the most powerful biological weapons that man ever invented

The reason that science (and the trusting public) dont believe Fukushima did any harm is because the old school, which includes the ICRP linear dose model is outdated dogma, and can under-predict fallout danger by hundreds or even thousands of times.
If our best and brightest at Woods Hole and Scripps are going to change their belief, they need to come up to speed on the radiation science of the last 15 or 20 years.
The science of radiation effects is in fact almost entirely an extrapolation. You will not find studies on individual radionuclide effects at different doses, different forms, (like nano particle alloys), and different exposure routes.
linear no threshold risk model.jpg
Governments and agencies are responsible for manipulating and censoring data and on media who assists governments and industry in hiding information from the public eye.
Some background on Linear no-threshold debate
“Disproving what critics of the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) Risk Model have claimed and also disproving the theory of hormesis (that radiation doses are good for you), Ian Goddard has compiled solid research on the incidence of cancer in relationship to radioactive dose exposure. Goddard based his research on well established reports and peer reviewed data from the National Library of Medicine, and he shares this information in an easy to follow fashion in this video.
Although the LNT model is favored by the National Academy of Science, the LNT model has been disputed by zealots, who promote nuclear power, and who propose there is a threshold of 100 microsieverts or below of radiation dose at which that there is no risk of cancer when people are exposed to radioactivity at this level.
Some of these atomic proponents and LNT critics even promote the controversial theory of hormesis that claims low doses of radiation decreases the risk of cancer. In 2006, the Beir VII report titled, “Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation” examined solid cancer data from atomic bomb survivors and found the incidence of cancer to best fit the LNT model. By taking a look at epidemiological studies of the past decade with dose point graphs within the disputed region of 0-100 microsieverts, Goddard concludes from his collective graph that these reports best fit the LNT model, and that this relationship between cancer to radiation dose most likely reflects the causal relationship.”
Historic data from CTBTO’s global inventory would be nice to make freely public to help the discussion. Go here to request data: maybe some of you will qualify…
Ian Goddard is a very scientific fellow, but, [supposed] education & training in nuclear bio-physics squarely places him in camp with pro-nuclear crowd.
His one redeeming research study is important (, but is overshadowed by the majority of his work.
What we need are people whose allegiances are not strapped to industry or gov.
We need to also embrace new findings presented by folks like Marco Kaltofen ( and those who are currently studying the Dogs of Chernobyl ( As well as the medical professionals who’ve studied & collected data of Marshall Islanders and Chernobyl exposure victims.
A good place to start is with Dr. Ernest Sternglass’ research.
Ernest J. Sternglass is Emeritus Professor of Radiological Physics in the Department of Radiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. While he was there he was director of the Radiological Physics and Engineering Laboratory. He has carried out extensive studies on the health effects of low-level radiation and is the author of “Secret Fallout, Low-Level Radiation from Hiroshima to Three Mile Island,” published by McGraw-Hill in 1981.
We know–and have long known–that radiation, especially strontium-90, goes to the bone and irradiates the bone marrow where the white cells are always formed that are the policeman in the body. If you weaken the police force and the cancers rise and new viruses come in, there are no defenses against them.
The following is a transcript of a phone interview I conducted with Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass last November to discuss the ongoing story of suppressed information–known by the U.S. government since the late 1950s and early 1960s from studies conducted by U.S. government personnel–about the health effects of low-level ionizing radiation generated by nuclear bomb testing as well as the routine, legal releases in gaseous and liquid form, by nuclear reactors, both commerical power plants as well as military and research reactors.
The following excerpts are taken from the complete interview which begins on page three:
. . . the atomic bomb project was always a secret project. It was born in the lie. The very first detonation at Alamogordo–it was announced that it was an ammunition dump that blew up. So it was a matter of public policy to deny and lie about the existence of the bomb, its manufacture, its health effects, and all the effects of fallout were classified secret until 1957 when Congress held hearings on the need to build bomb shelters. That’s the only time when they were forced to come clean and talk about how to protect yourself from fallout, whose existence they had denied. It was only by accident that some Japanese fisherman aboard the boat the Lucky Dragon were dusted by some explosions in the Marshall Islands in the late fifties and that caused a huge outcry all over the world.
Until then all this was secret. In fact they did studies on animals as early as 1942, `43, `44 that showed that very small amounts of radioactivity would lead to low birthweight and crippled new-born dogs and rats. They knew all this. In fact they were actually planning that if the bomb should fizzle or if the bomb could not be built in time, that they would use the radioactive wastes from their reactors that made all the enriched uranium and plutonium . . . and spread it over Germany to kill as many people as possible. . . .
That’s all in a book that describes the whole atomic age. It details a story about the plans to use the strontium-90 that was being manufactured in the plutonium reactors to poison the water supplies in Germany (and also later on I suppose in the islands in the Pacific). The book is by Richard Rhodes and is called, The Making of the Atomic Bomb. It’s a comprehensive history of the whole thing. . . . In it is the story in which Oppenheimer and Fermi discuss the possibility of using all of this radioactive strontium-90 to kill as many Germans as possible. And in fact they were themselves afraid that the Germans, who were also trying to build nuclear bombs, would send missiles filled with radioactivity over to Chicago. They literally believe that what was called radiological warfare was going to take place.
In other words warfare with these fission products which are of course the most powerful biological weapons that man ever invented. So instead of just being an ordinary explosive like TNT, this is really a biological weapon and it it turns out to be far more deadly, a hundred-million times more deadly than any micro-organisms that you could put into the atmosphere. Because any other toxins are not nearly as insidious as strontium-90 going to the bone like calcium and then irradiating the bone marrow with long-range beta rays that cause a weakening of the immune system and then people die of all kinds of conditions.
They die of every kind of cancer because when the body is unable to fight these cells then naturally any type of tumor multiplies much faster. That has now been seen in the September 3, 1992 issue of Nature. There is a story that completely confirms that we were lied to about the enormous increase in cancers that would take place after Chernobyl. It shows that in the Byelorussia area just 100, 200, 300 miles north of Chernobyl where the fallout came down, instead of two or four children dying of thyroid cancer per year it increased to a maximum of fifty-five within only a few years. And that’s only the beginning. We haven’t even seen all the other cancers and therefore we are headed for an enormous economic and health crisis in all of Eastern Europe and I’m sure now that the recent downturn in economic productivity both in East Germany and Poland and Russia and many European countries, was vastly aggravated by the enormously unanticipated effect of the Chernobyl fallout.
. . . Oyster Creek is near Atlantic City and New Jersey and it affected all the vegetables and the food that was delivered to New York City. Another serious accidental release occurred at the Indian Point Nuclear Plant (which we only discovered earlier this year) that actually took place in ’85-’86 according to the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s reports about the releases. Those releases in ’85 and ’86 combined were equal to what was released from Three Mile Island and yet nobody was told about it. All this occurred right next to the water reservoirs of New York City and Groton, right near where the large amounts of water are stored that are shipped into the metropolitan area.
We have unwittingly destroyed our own health, and if we continue to do this–and this is the real tragedy–future generations will become increasingly weakened, increasingly unable to fight off infections and all the new bugs that are mutating more rapidly (as Sakharov warned). And we are seeing the return of an enormous increase in deadly TB (tuberculosis), many venereal diseases and of course we see the AIDS epidemic ravaging the world because a generation of young people, who are now twenty-five to forty-five, were born during the height of all this bomb testing, when 40,000 nuclear bombs were detonated in the atmosphere.
You can’t do that and expect the world not to suffer the effects. And especially because we know–and have long known–that radiation, especially strontium-90, goes to the bone and irradiates the bone marrow where the white cells are always formed that are the policeman in the body. If you weaken the police force and the cancers rise and new viruses come in, there are no defenses against them. So many young people died at an enormously higher rate than ever before of diseases that were new. Often the bugs had mutated from relatively harmless varieties to much more deadly ones under the influence of all this fallout. So we see in our world today a rise in infectious diseases like a renewal of cholera epidemic, a renewal of the measles epidemic, a renewal of a huge rise in gonorrhea and syphilus and hepatitis and all the diseases that are related to chronic fatigue, believed to affect millions of young people. This is bound to affect our health and our productivity for decades to come and this is why we’re in such deep trouble.

January 2, 2018 Posted by | Nuclear | , | Leave a comment

New Study Points to Measurable and Significant Increase in Incidents of Thyroid Cancer


A new study documents rising incidents of thyroid cancer, calculated at about 3% per year, and describes a rising death rate from thryoid cancer at about 1% per year:
Hyeyeun Lim, Susan S. Devesa, Julie A. Sosa, David Check, Cari M. Kitahara, (April 4, 2017). Trends in Thyroid Cancer Incidence and Mortality in the United States, 1974-2013. JAMA. 2017;317(13):1338-1348. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.2719 
Question: What have been the trends in US thyroid cancer incidence and mortality, and have they differed by tumor characteristics at diagnosis?
Findings:  In this analysis of 77 276 thyroid cancer patients diagnosed during 1974-2013 and of 2371 thyroid cancer deaths during 1994-2013, average annual increases in incidence and mortality rates, respectively, were 3.6% and 1.1% overall and 2.4% and 2.9% for patients diagnosed with advanced-stage papillary thyroid cancer.
Meaning: Thyroid cancer incidence and mortality rates have increased for patients diagnosed with advanced-stage papillary thyroid cancer in the United States since 1974, suggesting a true increase in the occurrence of thyroid cancer.
 The study has been covered in the mainstream media:
Amanda Onion. (March 31, 2017). Thyroid Cancer Rates Triple, and Scientists Look for Cause. Live Science,
Thyroid cancer rates are rising faster than any other cancer in the United States, a new study found: Between 1975 and 2013, the number of thyroid cancer cases diagnosed yearly more than tripled…. in the new analysis, scientists argued that the alarming rise isn’t just due to improvements in detecting thyroid cancer.
The media is framing the cause of the rising incidents of thyroid cancer in relation to obesity, declining smoking ( crazy! ) and chemicals used as flame retardants:
Sumathi Reddy. (April 10, 2017). Thyroid Cancer Rates Raise New Concerns. The Wall Street Journal,
Two new studies show that the high incidence of thyroid cancer may be more dangerous than previously thought.
… The JAMA study showed that the incidence of thyroid cancer has more than tripled over the past four decades, and this includes larger tumors and patients with more deadly disease. The Duke University and National Cancer Institute researchers also found that mortality for thyroid cancer patients has been rising slightly for the past two decades…
…The NCI and Duke researchers tracked the number of thyroid cancer cases from 1974 to 2013 and found there was an increase of 3.6% cases a year on average with mortality increasing 1% a year since 1994, said Cari Kitahara, an investigator at the NCI, part of the federal National Institutes of Health, and a senior author on the JAMA study.
…In a separate study, whose results were presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month, Dr. Sosa and colleagues at the Nicholas School of Environmental Health at Duke University found that higher exposure to three types of flame retardants was associated with papillary thyroid cancer. The data are currently under review for publication….
The flame retardant account is being forwarded by Drs. Sosa and colleagues, who are among the authors of the JAMA study cited above.
Although I have little doubt that there are multiple environmental inputs that are responsible for rising thyroid cancer rates, I find it interesting that ionizing radiation is MISSING from mainstream accounts despite the alarming increase in thyroid cancer among Fukushima’s children.
In fact, in Japan there are efforts underway to “scale down” monitoring of thyroid cancer among Fukushima residents despite the rising incidents of cancerous thyroid tumors among children (see my discussion here: (
Efforts to marginalize the role of ionizing radiation in producing thyroid cancer are inconsistent with formal acknowledgement by the International Atomic Energy Association that ionizing radiation causes thyroid cancer.
At the third Chernobyl Forum Meeting held in Vienna by the IAEA, representatives from that organization, UNSCEAR, the WHO, and governmental representatives issued a three-volume report concluding that 9,000 persons died or developed radiation caused cancers and 4,000 children received operations for Chernobyl-induced thyroid cancer.
It is no secret that ionizing radiation causes thyroid cancer, as discussed here:
Yuri E. Nikiforov. Is ionizing radiation responsible for the increasing incidence of thyroid cancer? Cancer. 2010;116(7):1626-1628. doi:10.1002/cncr.24889.
Damage to developing children’s thyroid glands doesn’t simply cause cancer. Damage, whether by radioactive elements or complex chemicals, also causes cognitive and/or social developmental problems.
I have previously blogged about a sharp increase in the autism rate among California children who entered kindergarten last year. They would have been exposed to Fukushima fallout during their first year of life (see
Did Fukushima fallout cause or contribute to these California kids’ autism? Although this question could be studied empirically, few researchers will risk their careers studying the potential relationship.
Instead researchers will point to other, less politicized environmental culprits.
Although I support efforts to identify endocrine disrupting industrial chemicals, we must not ignore the most potent cause of thyroid cancer, IONIZING RADIATION.

April 13, 2017 Posted by | Nuclear | | Leave a comment

Noted Hiroshima hibakusha Dr. Shuntaro Hida dies at 100

Shuntaro Hida died. He had been a doctor in the Japanese imperial army and a doctor for the “hibakushas”, an activist against atomic weapons and nuclear energy, he was also known for his research on the dangers of internal contamination by radioactivity.


Shuntaro Hida, a former Imperial Japanese Army doctor who survived the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II and treated survivors, died Monday, sources close to him said. He was 100.

Hailing from Gifu Prefecture, Hida became a doctor after graduating from the academy of medicine of the Imperial Japanese Army in 1944 and was assigned to a Hiroshima army hospital.

Hida was working in a village some 6 km north of the hypocenter when the atomic bomb detonated over the city on Aug. 6, 1945.

He entered devastated areas immediately after the bombing to help survivors, many of whom suffered severe burns. Afterward, he continued treating victims who were suffering from leukemia and other illnesses.

Hida, who made his first trip to the United States in 1975, visited about 150 cities in more than 30 countries where he told the story of the bombing. He spent 15 years until 1989 detailing the misery the atomic-bomb victims suffered.

He also served as director of the counseling center at the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations

After the Fukushima nuclear crisis triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, Hida attended anti-nuclear events in Tokyo and elsewhere to call for a world free of nuclear power.

He is also known for his research on the dangers of internal exposure to radiation.


March 22, 2017 Posted by | Nuclear | , | Leave a comment

The Age of Fission with Lonnie Clark, guest Karl Grossman – The Urgency of Activism 3-17-2017


Karl Grossman is a full professor of journalism at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury. For more than 45 years he has pioneered the combination of investigative reporting and environmental journalism in a variety of media. He is the host of the nationally aired television program Enviro Close-Up, the narrator and host of award-winning TV documentaries on environmental and energy issues, the author of six books and writer of numerous magazine, newspaper and Internet articles.


He is program host and writer of TV documentaries produced by New York-based EnviroVideo including the award-winning Chernobyl: A Million Casualties, Three Mile Island Revisited, Nukes in Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens and The Push to Revive Nuclear Power.

He is chief investigative reporter for WVVH-TV on Long Island.

He is a regular contributor to Internet sites including CounterPunch, OpEd News, Enformable, NationofChange and The Huffington Post.

His weekly column appears in The Southampton Press, The East Hampton Press, The Sag Harbor Express, The Shelter Island Reporter, South Shore Press, Sound Observer and other Long Island newspapers and on websites on Long Island including Smithtown Matters, RiverheadLOCAL and SoutholdLOCAL.

His articles also appear on

Grossman was an investigative reporter as well as columnist for the Long Island Press, a major daily newspaper serving metropolitan New York and, with the demise of the paper in 1977, continued investigative journalism in books, magazines and newspapers, on radio and TV and, in recent years, on the Internet.

His books include: Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power; The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet; The Poison Conspiracy; and Weapons in Space.

He has given presentations at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad and before other venues including at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the British Parliament.

Awards he has received for investigative reporting include the George Polk, Generoso Pope, James Aronson and John Peter Zenger awards. He also has received citations from the New York Press Association, Press Club of Long Island, Society of Professional Journalists, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, New York Civil Liberties Union, Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting, Citizens Energy Council and Friends of the Earth. His TV documentaries have received Gold and Silver awards at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival and other honors. His journalism has been repeatedly cited by Project Censored, the media initiative at Sonoma State University, as involving the most “under-reported” issues.

Academic work

At the State University of New York College at Old Westbury he has taught courses including: Investigative Reporting; Environmental Journalism; Politics of Media; Introduction to Journalism; TV and Radio Journalism; and TV Documentary: Theories and Techniques. He also runs an Internship in Journalism and Media program placing students at media throughout metropolitan New York.

He was honored in 2003 at the State University of New York “Chancellor’s Recognition Dinner Honoring Research and Scholarship in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.”



  • Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power (1980)
  • The Poison Conspiracy (1982)
  • Nicaragua: America’s New Vietnam? (1984)
  • Power Crazy:Is LILCO Turning Shoreham Into America’s Chernobyl? (1986)
  • The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet (1997)
  • Weapons in Space (2001)


Grossman’s articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers including: The New York Times, USA Today, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, The Globe and Mail, The Ecologist, Earth Island Journal, E: The Environmental Magazine, The Crisis, The Nation, The Progressive, The Baltimore Sun, The Plain Dealer. The Orlando Sentinel, Columbia Journalism Review, Liberal Opinion Week, Science Communication. The Globe and Mail, Z Magazine, San Francisco Bay Guardian, CovertAction Quarterly, The Miami Herald, Space News, and Extra!.

Among the Internet sites he contributes articles to are: CounterPunch, The Huffington Post, Enformable, CommonDreams, Truthout, Nation of Change and OpEd News.

External links

The most recent edition of Cover Up is available free online thanks to its publisher via [2]. Grossman encourages its download and use of the material—notably facsimiles of government and industry documents useful in exposing the dangers of nuclear power—that the book contains.

Karl Grossman’s website is at: And his blog is also featured on his website.

March 20, 2017 Posted by | Nuclear | , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear: Game Over.



Nexit – Nuclear Exit

It took the world 48 years to gradually ramp up to a peak of 438 commercial nuclear power plants in 2002. Today, in 2016, we have dropped to 402 reactors with further closures foreshadowed.

There is about 200 years of uranium, if we consume it at the current rate. Scale up to 3000 reactors and we have only about 25 years of power left.

Humans globally consume roughly 15,000 gigawatts (GW) of power, in oil, coal, gas, nuclear, and renewables all added together.1 To put it another way, it means that, on average, we use 15,000 gigajoules (GJ) of energy every second of every day. That is an enormous number, equivalent to switching on 15 billion electric kettles.




On the other hand, 15,000 GW is a relatively small number as it is 5000 times less than the average solar power hitting the planet’s surface. And remarkably, it is six times less than the solar power utilised by all plant life on Earth for photosynthesis.2 By far, the plant kingdom has already beaten the human race to the punch in terms of the sheer magnitude of solar collection achieved.

Yet this means that maintaining our current levels of consumption in a sus-tainable manner requires harnessing only 0.02% of the light at the surface of our planet. So do we really need nuclear power? Is nuclear sustainable? Given the awesome potential of renewable energy, is there an economic place for nuclear power? Why is nuclear power globally in decline at present? What are the limitations?

These are some of the key questions we’ll now examine.

Energy policy

Before we discuss power generation, it is important to first highlight that any robust government energy policy must be grounded by the concept of energy conservation. To understand why energy conservation and energy efficiency form the bedrock of policy, let us consider how power consumption can quickly add up and get out of hand.

Imagine 5 billion people all make one cup of tea per day, and overfill their kettles by as little as a quarter of a cup. Over a day, this excess requires an additional 2 GW of average power, which is equivalent to the output of the whole Hoover Dam.3

Consider the possibility of everyone on the planet driving a medium sized car for only one hour per day. That alone would average to two thirds of our total present global consumption, which is clearly unsustainable.

Suppose there were one billion medium-sized houses on the planet all heating or cooling by as little as 3°C relative to the outside temperature. By not having home wall insulation, the excess power needed would on average equal our total present global consumption. This alone illustrates the critical importance of having insulation standards for new buildings.

On the flip side, take an estimate of about 10 billion tungsten light bulbs in the world. On average each light bulb will be on about 10% of the time. If each was replaced with a modern LED light bulb – with a saving of 50W each – that equals a saving of 50 GW, the equivalent to about 50 nuclear power plants.

As such, there cannot be a future drive towards sustainable power generation without it being married to measures of energy effciency and conservation.

Nexit: Nuclear Exit

Around the world the nuclear industry is in gradual, inexorable decline. Starting from 1954, it took the world 48 years to gradually ramp up to a peak of 438 commercial nuclear power plants in 2002. Today, in 2016, we have dropped to 402 reactors with further closures foreshadowed.4

A report from the Swiss banking investment sector5 states “big, centralised power stations will not fit into the future European electricity system” and that they will share “the fate of the dinosaurs: too large, too inflexible, on their way to extinction.”

Participating countries are closing down nuclear power plants (NPPs) faster than they are being built. Nuclear apologists point to China as a role model that is actively building a number of NPPs. The fact is that China has built $160 billion in overcapacity of coal plants that are unused.6 Will their NPPs, which are presently under construction, become similarly redundant?

There simply aren’t enough Chinese students rushing to enrol into nuclear engineering courses, to produce the workforce for an expanded nuclear program.7 China’s ambitious nuclear expansion plans would require at least 50,000 students to be trained by 2030, but barely a few hundred students raise their hands each year.8 The shortage of trained nuclear technicians and engineers has already led to safety incidents.8

By contrast, in 2015, China invested five times more in renewables than nuclear power.4 Those nuclear projects will take many years to complete, whereas renewables are deployed and put to immediate use. Moreover, China’s nuclear investments may have an uncertain future and may meet the same fate as their renowned ghost cities. Significant Chinese street protests against nuclear, in 2013 and 2015, indicate a growing groundswell of discontent.9,10

Let us now examine some of the limitations of nuclear power generation that contribute to its uncertain future and an impending global energy market nexit.

Nuclear footprint

Nuclear marketeers brand NPPs as taking up a small physical land area with respect to renewables. However, consider all the processes and steps from mining uranium, processing it, burning it, and then dealing with the waste. Mark Z. Jacobson from Stanford University, has added up the footprint of all the globe’s NPPs, their exclusion zones, and supporting infrastructure.11 Jacobson found that if you divide that area by the total number of NPPs in the world, we obtain an average nuclear footprint12 of about 4.5 km x 4.5 km, which is roughly the same for equivalent solar power.

A hypothetical nuclear utopia powering the entire world’s energy needs would require in the order of 15,000 NPPs. This is a daunting scale-up compared to the dwindling number of 400 NPPs the world has at present. To see how impossibly challenging this would be, take a map of anycountry of the world and mark 100 possible locations for nuclear stations close to water and far from population centres. Even trying to place ten NPPs in acceptable locations is not an easy task. This obstacle alone counts out a nuclear utopia.

Uranium resource limits

But is a more modest vision of, say, 3000 reactors possible? This would at least replace all the world’s coal-fired plants.

Based on the known mining reserves of uranium there is about 200 years of uranium, if we consume it at the current rate.13 Scale up to 3000 reactors and we have only about 25 years of power left. Clearly this is a proposition that isn’t at all sustainable.

Nuclear apologists will then raise the question of yet undiscovered reserves of uranium. However, this makes little difference; if we double or quadruple the figure of 25 years, this is hardly a legacy investment for the future. One can’t pluck imaginary figures that are any larger, as we know the abundance of uranium in the Earth’s crust is about the same level as for rare earth metals.14

Proponents of nuclear power will then point out that there’s over 500 years worth of uranium in seawater. However, this is a fruitless suggestion as the uranium concentration is tiny, at 3.3 parts per billion. The energy it takes to lift a bucket of seawater by 50 metres is equal to the energy you’d get from its uranium.14 The energy return on investment simply doesn’t add up.15

In order to address this issue, the coun-terpunch is the promise of breeder-style Generation IV reactors. These will potentially increase fuel lifetime by a factor of 60. This indeed would be impressive, as we can now lift the bucket of seawater by 3 km. However, these types of reactors are riddled with advanced materials issues that have not yet been solved. The metal parts of these reactors are exposed to higher temperatures, a higher corrosive environment, and a higher neutron flux than in conventional reactors16 – suitable alloys that can withstand these conditions have not yet been found for long-term commercial operation.17

Governments do not form today’s energy policy based on arguments that largely hinge on commercially unproven or non-existent hardware. This would be akin to forming health policy based on promised drugs that are yet, unproven or undiscovered.

Reactor lifetime

A nuclear reactor has a lifetime of roughly 40 years.4 Due to heat, high-energy neutrons, and corrosion, the metal nuclear vessel eventually cracks. Every device runs and gets hot – this sets a limit to the reliability and lifetime of any machine. Everything from a light bulb to a car engine eventually pops, and nuclear reactors are no exception. At the end of its 40-year life, a nuclear station has to be decommissioned.

The nuclear vessel itself becomes radio-active, weighs up to 500 tonnes, and has to be buried. The costs of decommissioning a reactor at today’s prices are commensurate with building them in the first place. Attempts are made by NPPs to factor in decommission cost into their economics. However, who can predict what the costs will be 40 years into the future? Typically costs blow out and the taxpayer ultimately foots the bailout.

Elemental diversity

When an NPP comes to the end of its 40-year life, the metal reactor vessel and core are radioactive, as they have been exposed to high-energy neutrons. If there were a vast nuclear scale-up, where would we put all these ‘glowing’ vessels? Moreover, inside the vessel, hafnium may be used as a neutron absorber, beryllium a neutron reflector, and zirconium is used for fuel rod cladding. The steel that is used to construct the vessel has to be hardened against neutron damage, and so it is typically alloyed with elements such as molybdenum, niobium, and tantalum to name a few.18

Many high performance alloys in other industries use exotic metals too, but the point is that those metals can be recycled. Rare earth metals used in the renewable industry are recyclable too. In the case of NPPs the metals become radioactive and so a scale up to 15,000 reactors in the world would be out of the question, as it would limit our elemental diversity.

Is nuclear fusion the solution?

Nuclear fusion, if it ever becomes commercially useable, would be an even worse offender in terms of reduction in elemental diversity. What is not publicised is that the nuclear fusion process irreversibly consumes lithium.18 Every laptop, mobile phone, and electric car needs this coveted element. Moreover, fusion reactors end up with radioactive vessels and still require decommissioning, so the quandary of that waste remains. For these signicant practical reasons, fusion is unsustainable and not the panacea it is cracked up to be.




Nuclear waste

Nuclear power plants globally produce about 10,000 tonnes of spent fuel waste per annum.19 When a spent fuel rod is removed from a reactor, the radiation level is so high that a one-minute dose at a metre’s distance is lethal to humans. Each spent fuel rod generates heat and has to be stored in a pool of water at least for five to ten years to cool down.

When a spent fuel pool runs out of room, the rods are then transferred into 100 tonne containers called dry casks. Each cask costs about $1 million each, and the spent fuel assemblies are transferred into the casks using costly robotic equipment to avoid human exposure. The casks are then filled with helium and are welded shut, at a cost of $500,000 each.

Dry casks are stored above ground, and the idea is that after about 50 years of further cooling the fuel can then be sent to a deep underground repository. Though, no country has yet succeeded in following through on this final costly step. A dry cask, which is stored above ground, in the meantime may corrode and leak, and transfer into a replacement cask is costly.20

Some isotopes in the spent fuel have decay half-lives over 10,000 years, and so an underground repository is the only viable final resting place for such waste.21

To repackage spent fuel from a dry cask to a special repository canister is incredibly costly. For the manufacture of canisters and provision of the equipment to perform the repackaging operation, one is looking in the vicinity of $50 billion.22

When a canister is placed in a deep repository, bentonite clay is used to delay the penetration of water and moisture. The canister eventually cracks and corrodes with time. This is accelerated due to the radiation, from the inside, and by natural bacteria23 from the outside. Once there is a leak, radioactive iodine-129 isotopes from the fuel can diffuse through rock.19

Radioactive actinides from the spent fuel are released into the biosphere through water.19 Should water ever breach the canisters, numerous chemical reactions can take place including the generation of explosive mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen.19

Why is nuclear so expensive?

The principal costs of NPPs are the capital cost of the power station and decommissioning. Then consider the enormous number of steps involved in preparing the fuel, its deployment in a highly complex nuclear station, and then the repackaging and disposal steps needed at the end of the fuel cycle. At each step there are safety risks to nuclear workers and so the complexity of the management flow snowballs due to the necessary governance structures that are put into place. As there are so many steps with attendant risks, the full end-to-end cost appears to climb.

Nuclear decommission costs are high, and it is estimated that the decommissioning contracts over the next 15 years will amount to $220 billion.24 This sum is equivalent to the creation of solar power that would replace 44 nuclear stations.25




Renewables vs. nuclear

While nuclear power plants experience economic decline, renewables are rapidly growing and penetrating the market on an exponential curve. The global annual increase in renewable generation for 2015 alone was 50 GW for solar panels, 63 GW for wind power, and 28 GW for hydropower.26

Nuclear power is large and centralised, with enormous entry and exit costs. By contrast, renewables are made up of small modular units that yield a faster return on investment. The revolution we are witnessing is akin to the extinction of big powerful dinosaurs versus resilient swarms of small ants working in cooperation. Nuclear power is sinking under the weight of its complexity, costs, and the headache of its waste issue. On the other hand solar power is brought to us via free sunshine exposing the promises of nuclear as mere moonshine.

Electricity prices

Nuclear advocates point out high electricity spot prices in regions with high renewable penetration.27 However, it is a misdirection to conclude that renewables are therefore costly – after all, renewables have zero fuel costs. The plants with flexible controllable power (eg. gas turbines) naturally take advantage of the situation and bid higher prices during times when renewable generation is low.28 Thus the solution is not to reduce the proportion of renewables, but instead to revise pricing policy to reflect the change in market dynamics and structure. The current policies are out-dated and based around the outmoded paradigm of all-controllable power generation.

A possible solution is that flexible controllable power sources (eg. gas, waste biomass fuelled power plants, solar thermal plants, pumped hydro, batteries etc) ought to be also rewarded for the ‘insurance’ they provide in backing up intermittent uncontrollable sources (eg. wind and rooftop solar), rather than solely for the energy they deliver so that they are not drawn into a price bidding game. Rewarding controllable sources for their back-up ability may provide investment incentives for such generators.


A common argument nuclear proponents raise is that renewables are intermittent; therefore nuclear power is essential to keep the lights on 24/7. This is wrong on a number of levels.

First, intermittency does not automatically imply unreliability. Take the analogy of rainfall. Rain is very intermittent and yet we have a continuous supply of water when we turn on the taps. Why? Because there is reservoir storage, river flow, and many pipe-interconnected collection areas and aquifers. Our water supply would be unreliable if we didn’t adequately design an appropriate grid of pipework, dams, and reservoirs. There’s no equivalent of a ‘nuclear station’ providing a constant baseload supply of water. The intermittency in rainfall becomes reliable due to planned storage and spatial diversity. The same principles apply to electricity.

Second, nuclear plants are intermittent too as they need planned shutdowns for maintenance and fuel rod changes. Then there are unplanned shutdowns, for example, if a pump breaks down or a critical pipe leaks. These ‘minor’ shutdowns often mean that 1 GW of nuclear power goes offine for 2–4 weeks. The ultimate in intermittency is when a nuclear station is closed down to due an accident or if a licence renewal has been refused due to old age. Then there’s over a 10-year lead-time before a replacement nuclear plant comes online. So nuclear power is intermittent too, but simply on a different timescale.29

By contrast, it makes no difference to a grid when a solar panel is damaged. Moreover, it can be replaced within a day. The modularity and diversity of a network of renewable sources can be designed to be much more robust than any large centralised power station.

Grid stability

Nuclear lobbyists create a further false dilemma by suggesting renewables make the electricity grid unstable and therefore nuclear power is required to ensure stability. First, nuclear power is not required because controllable renewable sources (with synchronous generation, such as solar thermal, hydroelectric power, and pumped hydro) already stabilise the grid. It is true that other renewable sources do give rise to grid management issues, but this is bread and butter for grid engineers.30 There are numerous research papers by grid engineers developing solutions for increased renewable penetration and none are suggesting the need for nuclear power.

In an Australian context, how does one adopt proven storage techniques for grid stability such as pumped hydro, when the country is mostly devoid of mountains? It is a fallacy to assume mountains are needed; as plateau regions provide perfect locations for pumping up water for later release and energy generation. For example, there is an ideal plateau of about 270 m high, between Port Augusta and Whyalla where seawater can be pumped for energy storage.

Nuclear in bed with renewables?

In desperation, nuclear advocates are putting a new spin on their marketing. The slogan now is that nuclear and renewables make perfect marriage partners, as nuclear provides the grid with ‘baseload’ power.

Unfortunately this pick up line cannot woo renewables into bed. The fact is that generators designed for constant baseload operation are exactly what uncontrollable renewable generators don’t need. Uncontrollable renewables need flexible controllable sources of power such as hydroelectric power, pumped hydro, waste biofuels, solar thermal, and solar generated hydrogen or syngas to provide power when generation from intermittent renewable sources is insufficient to meet demand. Nuclear power plants work best when they provide a constant power output and they lack the agility to follow the variability of renewable generators.

One can manage different uncontrollable and controllable renewable sources to work together, making baseload gen-eration redundant.31,32 The concept of operating a power system with a traditional baseload plant is becoming outmoded5 and signifficant future cost penalties are likely to be attached to generators designed for baseload operation33.

Nuclear promotion goes to some lengths to greenwash its image, in an attempt to make it appear on a par with renewables. But as we have demonstrated in this article, non-recyclable nuclear is highly resource-limited and therefore it isn’t a renewable source.

Another form of greenwashing is the catchphrase ‘nuclear saves lives’ reminding us that radiotherapy is used in hospitals. Amputating gangrenous limbs also saves lives too, but it would be a logical fallacy to use that fact to improve the image of chainsaws.34

What really matters is rate of carbon footprint reduction

The spin put on nuclear power as having a ‘low carbon’ footprint is a further case of greenwashing. For example, if there were a threefold ramp up of nuclear power this century, it would result in a modest 6% carbon reduction.35 On the other hand, the exponential uptake of renewables this century will far outstrip 6%.

What really matters is not the present carbon footprint today of each power source, but the rate of footprint reduction that they introduce. Presently nuclear is in decline, and solar uptake is exponentially growing. Thus the reduction in carbon footprint from solar will experience a ‘compound interest’ type of effect. Because the solar market is fast and flexible, whereas nuclear is economically slow and stunted, solar will vastly exceed nuclear in terms of rate of carbon mitigation.

In summary, the branding of nuclear as ‘green’ is fallacious and the opportunism of nuclear advocates proclaiming environ-mental concern is about as comforting as Donald Trump in a Mexican hat.

Should Australia adopt nuclear power?

The size of the Australian electricity market is of the order of $10 billion per annum,36 which is relatively small. Therefore there isn’t a business case to foot the bill for even one nuclear power station with its construction cost, decommission cost, and cost of spent fuel handling and repackaging.

Moreover, Australia simply doesn’t have the existing infrastructure, training, and governance structures to support a nuclear industry. It would be risky for Australia to enter an area fraught with high uncertainty, given the present global decline.

Should Australia store nuclear waste?

Possible motivations to build a deep underground repository for international high-level nuclear waste, in Australia, are the promises of income, increased employment, and support of a waning Australian uranium export industry.37

However, it is important to note that no pro-nuclear power country has yet opened such a repository. To enter a new business space, where even the highly experienced players have not delivered, is to take on considerable economic risk and uncertainty.

To invest in an industry that is in global decline, does not appear to be as rational as investing in a growth area such as renewable energy. Renewable energy is a business space where Australia has a multitude of trained engineers, existing infrastructure, and an abundance of sunshine. Building intentional renewable overcapacity in Australia will potentially be a wise investment, as that surplus can then be used to generate hydrogen or other fuels that can be liquefied and traded on overseas markets.




Lack of public acceptance

Obtaining public acceptance in a country that has traditionally been free of nuclear power would likely be insurmountable, given the decreasing world-wide levels of public support.40

Lack of public acceptance cannot be underestimated. Even in pro-nuclear France, riots took place in the 1990s that overturned the government’s move to build a nuclear repository.41 Renewed protests have taken to the streets in China only this year.42

The citizens in the countries, with the most nuclear experience, show increasing opposition40 to expanding the nuclear industry,

1. Germany (90% opposed)

2. Mexico (82% opposed)

3. Japan (84% opposed)

4. UK (63% opposed)

5. USA (61% opposed)

6. China (58% opposed)

7. France (83% opposed

8. Russia (80% opposed).

With the current debacle of escalating costs of the Hinkley nuclear plant, in the UK, it is likely a fresh poll would show even stronger UK opposition against nuclear and further support for renewable energy.





Nuclear power is a clunky technology borne out of a bygone Cold War era. Its best days are over and it cannot form a key part of sustainable energy policy.

The world doesn’t have the capacity to rapidly scale up nuclear power generation. As well as resource and geographic limitations, there simply isn’t the nuclear-trained workforce base. To install renewables, on the other hand, takes regular engineers of which there are millions in the world. Renewables therefore have a strong workforce base to draw upon.

Nuclear simply does not scale up in the time we need it. Renewables are flexible and uptake is fast with relatively low entry costs. Nuclear is burdensome and does not have the economic agility to survive a dynamically changing electricity market – it cannot adapt fast enough tocompeting game changers.

An economically declining nuclear industry is a dangerous one, as there is always the temptation to cut costs and fall short on safety standards.

The Economist43 aptly points out: “As renewable sources of energy become more attractive, the days of big, ‘baseload’ projects…. are numbered.”

There’s been a game change, and it is game over for nuclear.


Professor Derek Abbott is a physicist and electrical engineer based at the University of Adelaide. He won a 2004 Tall Poppy Award and the 2015 David Dewhurst Medal, Engineers Australia. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (USA), a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (UK), a Fellow of Engineers Australia, and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow.


A Brave New World: Understanding the Ethics of Human Enhancement

1 For further discussion of the charge of ‘Playing God’ see C. A. J. Coady (2009) ‘Playing God’, in J. Savulescu and N. Bostrom (eds.) Human Enhancement, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 155-180.

2 Fukuyama, F. (2002). Our Posthuman Future. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

3 Kass, L. (2003). ‘Ageless Bodies, Happy Souls: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Perfection’, The New Atlantis, Spring, 9-28.

4 Kekes, J. (1998). A Case for Conservatism. Ithica: Cornell University Press; Scruton, R. (2001). The Meaning of Conservatism, Third Edition. Houndsmills: Palgrave.

5 Kekes, J. (1998). A Case for Conservatism. Ithica: Cornell University Press; Scruton, R. (2001). The Meaning of Conservatism, Third Edition. Houndsmills: Palgrave.

6 Saletan, W. (2005). ‘The Beam in your Eye: If Steroids are Cheating why isn’t LASIK?’, Slate, April 18th.

7 Buchanan, A. (2011). Beyond Humanity?: The Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

8 Vedder, A. and Klaming, L. (2010). ‘Human Enhancement for the Common Good: Using Neurotechnologies to Improve Eyewitness Memory’, American Journal of Bioethics –Neuroscience,1, 3, 22-33.

9 Woollaston, V. (2013). ‘We’ll be uploading our entire MINDS to computers by 2045 and our bodies will be replaced by machines within 90 years, Google expert claims’ Daily Mail, 20 June:

Nuclear Power: Game Over

1 International Energy Outlook 2016, US Energy Information Agency (EIA) This shows it is about 17,000 GW, but for convenience we have rounded this o to 15,000 GW. At this scale the exact numbers do not matter.

2 D. Abbott, “Keeping the energy debate clean: How do we supply the world’s energy needs?” Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 98, No. 1, pp. 42–66, 2010.

3 D. Abbott, “Hydrogen without tears: addressing the global energy crisis via a solar to hydrogen pathway,” Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 97, No. 12, pp. 1931–1934, 2009.

4 M. Schneider and A. Froggatt, The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016.

5 Global Utilities, Autos & Chemicals, UBS, 2014.les/articolodoc/ues45625.pdf

6 F. Green, “China’s coal cuts continue amid boom in redundant coal-fired power stations,” The Interpreter, 2016.red-power-stations.aspx

7 X. Yi-chong, The Politics of Nuclear Energy in China, Macmillan, 2010.

8 S. Chen, “Technician shortage in China threatens nuclear plant safety,” South China Morning Post, 2016.

9 L. Hornby, “China protests force rethink on nuclear waste site,” Financial Times, 2016

10 M. Chan and H. Huifeng, “Jiangmen uranium plant is scrapped after thousands take part in protests,” South China Morning Post, 2016.

11 M. Z. Jacobson, “Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security,’’ Energy Environ. Sci., vol. 2, pp. 148–173, 2009.

12 This is a little smaller than the area required by solar, with storage, to achieve an equivalent power. Solar thermal power typically uses up unused desert, whereas NPPs need to be located near large bodies of coolant water. Note that for wind farms on rural properties, land use continues in the normal way excepting for the relatively small area of the turbine tower footings and so the actual footprint is negligible.

13 Supply of Uranium, WNO, 2016.

14 D. Abbott, “Is nuclear power globally scalable?” Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 99, No. 10, pp. 1611–1617, 2011.

15 Moreover, the quantities of seawater needed for processing and the quantity of uranium absorbent needed is simply unsustainable for large-scale deployment.

16. K. L. Murty and I. Charit, “Structural materials for Gen-IV nuclear reactors: Challenges and opportunities,” Nuclear Mater., vol. 383, pp. 189–195, 2008.

17 Moreover the ‘better’ designs use liquid sodium as a coolant and it is notoriously dicult to mitigate against sodium leaks. Optimistic estimates are predicting these types of reactors will be online after 2040, but this is uncertain and relies on solutions to the materials issues. And then who knows how many years it will take thereafter to become commercially proven at economically feasible prices? One may be waiting around for a century for that. Or perhaps it may never come to pass.

18 D. Abbott, “Limits to growth: Can nuclear power supply the world’s needs?” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 68, No. 5, pp. 23–32, 2012.

19 R. C. Ewing, “Long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel” Nature Materials, Vol. 14, No. 3 pp. 252–257, 2015.

20 There are many mechanisms for breach of the dry cask, when one considers corrosion in combination with the radiation. One example is that alpha particles from the fuel create pockets of helium in the metal lattice of the cask. Those helium bubbles then crack the metal and then the contents can come into contact with the environment.

21 At signifficant further cost, the fuel could in theory be further ‘burned,’ but isotopes with 500-year decay times remain and a repository is still required.

22 S. Cooke, “The hidden costs of US nuclear waste,” 2016.

23 K. Pedersen, “Subterranean microorganisms and radioactive waste disposal in Sweden,” Engineering Geology, Vol. 52, pp. 163–176, 1999.

24 B. Felix and B. Mallet, “France’s EDF sets sights on $200 bln nuclear decommissioning market,” 2016.

25 In my early days, as a physics student, we would jokingly call our nuclear physics lectures, ‘unclear’ physics. The anagram is apt, because nuclear is unclear power riddled with economic uncertainties.

26 Renewables 2016 Global Status Report. uploads/2016/06/GSR_2016_KeyFindings.pdf

27 I. Hore-Lacy, “South Australia’s green dream, or its nightmare?” World Nuclear News, 2016.

28 B. Mountain, South Australia’s Wholesale Electricity Market What Really Happened in July 2016?

29 Moreover, the gaps in nuclear intermittency create a much larger power shortfall than renewables and in this sense is much a greater challenge.

30 M. Milligan, et al., “Alternatives no more: Wind and solar power are mainstays of a clean, reliable, aordable grid,” IEEE Power and Energy Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 6, pp. 78–87, 2015.

31 B. Elliston, I. Macgill, and M. Diesendorf, “Least cost 100% renewable electricity scenarios in the Australian national electricity market,” Energy Policy, Vol. 59, pp. 270–282, 2013.

32 M. Z. Jacobson, et al., “100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) all-sector energy roadmaps for the 50 United States,” Energy & Environmental Science, Vol. 8, No. 7, pp. 2093–2117, 2015.

33 Indeed, generators designed for baseload operation are in a sense a more expensive form of uncontrollable generation than intermittent generation.

34 Nearly all radiotherapy cancer treatments are carried out with X-ray units that do not use isotopes. In fact, most radiotherapy units with isotopes are obsolete technology. In any case, radiotherapy may well become a thing of the past given the promising emergence of new immunotherapy techniques. Immunotherapy may well become the ‘renewables’ of medicine and oust radiotherapy.

35 M. Englert, L. Krall, and R. C. Ewing. “Is nuclear ssion a sustainable source of energy?” MRS Bulletin, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 417–424, 2012.

36 National Electricity Market Fact Sheet, AEMO.

37 Australia’s uranium exports dropped from a peak of about A$1.2 billion around 2009 to about half that amount last year.

38 Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Report, 2016.

39 The Royal Commission makes an implicit economic assumption that overseas countries will be willing to pay the considerable cost of sending waste to South Australia and will not break any signed commitments to do so. However, the Commission’s report is silent on the issue of fuel repackaging.

40. R. Black, “Nuclear power gets little public support worldwide,” BBC News, 2011.

41 J. Palfreman, “Why do the French like nuclear power?” PBS online.

42 D. Stanway, “China halts work on $15 billion nuclear waste project after protests,” Reuters, 2016. idUSKCN10L0CX

43 “Hinkley pointless,” The Economist, 2016.

Rejuvenating the Brain: Ageing with Cognitive Sparkle

1 Oce for National Statistics, United Kingdom.

2 den Dunnen WF, Brouwer WH, Bijlard E, Kamphuis J, van Linschoten K, Eggens-Meijer E, Holstege (2008) No disease in the brain of a 115-year-old woman. Neurobiol Aging. Aug; 29(8):1127-32.

3 Claudia L. Satizabal, Ph.D., Alexa S. Beiser, Ph.D., Vincent Chouraki, M.D., Ph.D., Geneviève Chêne, M.D., Ph.D., Carole Dufouil, Ph.D., and Sudha Seshadri, M.D. (2016) Incidence of Dementia over Three Decades in the Framingham Heart Study. N Engl J Med 374:523-532

4 Qizilbash N, Gregson J, Johnson ME, Pearce N, Douglas I, Wing K, Evans SJ, Pocock SJ. (2015) BMI and risk of dementia in two million people over two decades: a retrospective cohort study. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. June 3(6):431-6. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(15)00033-9. Epub 2015 Apr 9.

5 Hsu DC, Mormino EC, Schultz AP, Amariglio RE, Donovan NJ, Rentz DM, Johnson KA, Sperling RA, Marshall GA. (2016) Lower Late-Life Body-Mass Index is Associated with Higher Cortical Amyloid Burden in Clinically Normal Elderly. Harvard Aging Brain Study. J Alzheimers Dis. June 18;53(3):1097-105. doi: 10.3233/JAD-150987.

6 Vukovic J, Borlikova GG, Ruitenberg MJ, Robinson GJ, Sullivan RK, Walker TL, Bartlett PF. (2013) Immature doublecortin-positive hippocampal neurons are important for learning but not for remembering. J Neurosci. April 10;33(15):6603-13. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3064-12.2013.

7 Walker TL, White A, Black DM, Wallace RH, Sah P, Bartlett PF. (2008) Latent stem and progenitor cells in the hippocampus are activated by neural excitation. J Neurosci. May 14;28(20):5240-7. D

8 Leinenga G, Götz J. (2015) Scanning ultrasound removes amyloid-β and restores memory in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Sci Transl Med. March 11;7(278):278ra33

Cell Therapies – Australia playing catch up?

1 World Health Organisation, [website], 2016,, (accessed 19 August 2016).

2 Giangrande, P.L., 2000. The history of blood transfusion. British Journal of Haematology, 110(4), p.760.

3 World Health Organisation, [website], 2016,, (accessed 19 August 2016).

4 Seattle Children’s Hospital, ‘Seattle Chlidren’s T-Cell Immunotherapy Clinical Trial for Children With Relapsed Leukemia Shows 93% Complete Remission Rate, Strong Against Cancer, [web blog], 2 June 2016,, (accessed 19 August 2016).

5 Kelly Scientic 2016. Global & USA Cancer Immunotherapy Market Analysis to 2020 – Updated Edition [abstract]6 2016 Regenerative Medicine & Advanced Therapies State of the Industry Briefing, 2016, available at le:///C:/Users/Natalie/Downloads/ARM_SOTI_2016_FINAL_web_version.pdf

7 Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, [website], 2016,, (accessed 19 August 2016).

8 Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, [website], 2016,, (accessed 19 August 2016).

9 Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, ‘Q2 Quarterly Data Report’, 2016, p.2.

10 Australian Bureau of Statistics, [website], 2016,1425ca25682000192af2/1647509ef7e25faaca2568a900154b63?OpenDocument, (accessed 19 August 2016).

11 Roos, G. (2015). ATSE Focus Advanced Manufacturing. 192nd ed. [pdf ] Australia: Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE). Available at

12 CSIROpedia, [website], 2009,, (accessed 19 August)

13 Stem Cells Australia, [website], 2016,, accessed 19 August 2016).

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Nuclear | | Leave a comment

How Nuclear Power Causes Global Warming



Supporters of nuclear power like to argue that nukes are the key to combatting climate change. Here’s why they are dead wrong.

Every nuclear generating station spews about two-thirds of the energy it burns inside its reactor core into the environment. Only one-third is converted into electricity. Another tenth of that is lost in transmission. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Nuclear fission is the most water intensive method of the principal thermoelectric generation options in terms of the amount of water withdrawn from sources. In 2008, nuclear power plants withdrew eight times as much freshwater as natural gas plants per unit of energy produced, and up to 11 percent more than the average coal plant.

Every day, large reactors like the two at Diablo Canyon, California, individually dump about 1.25 billion gallons of water into the ocean at temperatures up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the natural environment.  

Diablo’s “once-through cooling system” takes water out of the ocean and dumps it back superheated, irradiated and laden with toxic chemicals. Many U.S. reactors use cooling towers which emit huge quantities of steam and water vapor that also directly warm the atmosphere.

These emissions are often chemically treated to prevent algae and other growth that could clog the towers. Those chemicals can then be carried downwind, along with radiation from the reactors. In addition, hundreds of thousands of birds die annually by flying into the reactor domes and towers.  

The Union of Concerned Scientists states:

The temperature increase in the bodies of water can have serious adverse effects on aquatic life. Warm water holds less oxygen than cold water, thus discharge from once-through cooling systems can create a “temperature squeeze” that elevates the metabolic rate for fish. Additionally, suction pipes that are used to intake water can draw plankton, eggs and larvae into the plant’s machinery, while larger organisms can be trapped against the protective screens of the pipes. Blocked intake screens have led to temporary shut downs and NRC fines at a number of plants.

And that’s not all.

All nuclear reactors emit Carbon 14, a radioactive isotope, invalidating the industry’s claim that reactors are “carbon free.” And the fuel that reactors burn is carbon-intensive. The mining, milling, and enrichment processes needed to produce the pellets that fill the fuel rods inside the reactor cores all involve major energy expenditures, nearly all of it based on coal, oil, or gas.    

And of course there’s the problem of nuclear waste. After more than a half-century of well-funded attempts, we’ve seen no solution for the management of atomic power’s intensely radioactive waste. There’s the “low-level” waste involving enormous quantities of troublesome irradiated liquids and solid trash that must be dealt with outside the standard civilian waste stream. And that handling involves fossil fuels burned in the process of transportation, management, and disposal as well  

As for the high-level waste, this remains one of humankind’s most persistent and dangerous problems. Atomic apologists have claimed that the intensely radioactive spent fuel rods can somehow be usable for additional power generation. But after a half-century of efforts, with billions of dollars spent, all attempts to do that have utterly failed. There are zero successful reactors capable of producing more reactor fuel than they use, or able to derive more energy from the tens of thousands of tons of spent fuel rods they create.   

Some reactors, like Fukushima, use “mixed-oxide” fuels that have proven to be extremely dirty and expensive. It’s possible some of this “MOX” fuel containing plutonium, actually fissioned at Fukushima Unit Three, raising terrifying questions about the dangers of its use. The mushroom cloud that appears on video as Fukushima Unit Three exploded stands as an epic warning against further use of these impossible-to-manage fuels.   

The MOX facility under construction near Aiken, South Carolina, is now projected to require another ten years to build with another ten possible after that to phase into production. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said on September 13, 2016, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the mismanaged project was “impossible” to carry out and that it could cost $30 billion to $50 billion. Even the current pro-nuclear Congress won’t fully fund the project and the Department of Energy DOE continues to recommend abandoning it.

There are no credible estimates of the global warming damage done by the intensely hot explosions at the four Fukushima reactors, or at Chernobyl, or at any other past and future reactor meltdowns or blowups.  

Atomic apologists argue that the disposal of high-level reactor wastes should be a relatively simple problem, lacking only the political will to proceed. The industry touts New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project, or WIPP, which has long been the poster child for military attempts to deal with high-level trash from the nuclear weapons program. Accepting its first shipment of waste in 1999, WIPP was touted as the ultimate high-tech, spare-no-expense model that proved radioactive waste disposal “can be done.”

But a series of disastrous events in February,  2014, led WIPP to stop accepting wastes—the sole function for which it was designed. Most significant was the explosion of a single barrel of highly radioactive waste materials (it was mistakenly packed with organic rather than clay-based kitty litter). About a dozen WIPP workers were exposed to potentially harmful radiation. The entire facility remains closed. In a phone interview, facility management told me it may again accept some wastes before the end of this year. But at least part of the cavernous underground labyrinth may never be reopened. The Los Angeles Times estimated the cost of this single accident at $2 billion.

Overall, the idea that atomic power is “clean” or “carbon free” or “emission free” is a very expensive misconception, especially when compared to renewable energy, efficiency, and conservation. Among conservation, efficiency, solar and wind power technologies, there are no global warming analogs to the heat, carbon, and radioactive waste impacts of nuclear power. No green technology kills anywhere near the number of marine organisms that die through reactor cooling systems.

Rooftop solar panels do not lose ten percent of the power they generate to transmission, as happens with virtually all centralized power generators. S. David Freeman, former head of numerous large utilities and author of All Electric America: A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future, says: “Renewables are cheaper and safer. That argument is winning. Let’s stick to it.”

No terrorist will ever threaten one of our cities by blowing up a solar panel. But the nuclear industry that falsely claims its dying technology doesn’t cause global warming does threaten the future of our planet.

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Nuclear | | Leave a comment

Pro-Nuclear Propaganda: How Science, Government and the Press Conspire to Misinform the Public



by Lorna Salzman at Hunter College, Energy Studies program, 1986

After the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster in the Soviet Union, there was much finger-wagging in the US about the suppression of information there, and the purported differences in reactor design and safety requirements between Russia and the US, which made a similar accident here unlikely if not impossible.

But the similarities between how technical information and failure are handled there and here, as well as those in reactor design and the potential for reactor failure are striking. These similarities extend to the press as well as government, but in this respect there is a major difference. In the Soviet Union censorship is imposed by the central government. In the US it is self-imposed.

For example, there was and is nothing in this country to prevent a scientist or journalist or academic researcher from reporting fully and accurately on the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. In this respect we are indeed fortunate to have had independent and impartial scientists like Dr. John Gofman, the leading radiation health expert in the US and formerly of the government-supported Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California.

Dr. Gofman, using the admittedly incomplete data released by Russia and other European countries, applied rigorous analysis in the context of what is known about Chernobyl-type and size reactors and in the context of highly responsible statistical and epidemiological calculations based on standard radiation dose/response relationships. What Gofman came up with, and what no one in government or the nuclear industry has been able to refute, is an estimate that about one million people throughout the world will develop cancer from Chernobyl fallout, half of whom will eventually die.

Gofman delivered the results of his study before the American Chemical Society annual meeting in Anaheim, California. His figures pointed to 424,300 cancers in the Soviet Union, and 526,700 in Europe and elsewhere over a 70-year period as a result of cesium exposure and ingestion from the accident of April 1986, plus another 19,500 leukemias and an unknown number of thyroid and other cancers from other radioisotopes. These figures are over five times greater than the highest previous estimates, which range from 2000 to 75,000 premature deaths.

The reasons for this huge discrepancy – reasons never explored by the press nor revealed by our government and therefore unknown to the public – lie in the fact that the long-term effects of low-level radiation exposure have consistently been downplayed, distorted or concealed by scientists, the nuclear industry and the government. Even though a patient search of government information can sometimes reveal the phrase “There is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation”, this simple sentence conceals multitudes of information. Gofman says: “There is no dose so small that the body can perfectly repair all resulting damage to DNA and the chromosomes”. The nuclear industry and the government have long promoted the notion that non-observable, long-term latent effects of low doses of radiation are in effect non-existent; they can safely do this because such effects are not manifested for years or decades, and a specific cancer or genetic defect cannot be traced back to any particular radiation exposure. Accordingly, as Gofman puts it, nuclear power is “mass, random, premeditated murder”.

“Undetectable” of course does not mean non-existent. For each amount of radioactivity released into the environment, there will be a statistically certain number of cancers, leukemias and other ill effects that will occur somewhere at some time; only the date and victims’ names are unknown. Right down to a zero radiation dose, these victims will appear. And, as Gofman’s Chernobyl figures show, people outside the immediate area can be at greater risk than those closer in. As a means of comparison, Gofman notes that the malignancies that arise from one nuclear reactor accident rival the number caused by all the above-ground nuclear bomb tests of the US, UK and USSR combined.

An information blackout occurred in this country as a result of directives from the White House, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Dept. of Energy (DOE), and the Dept. of Agriculture (DOA) right after Chernobyl. Government scientists were instructed not to talk to journalists. Even United Press International (UPI) backed down by saying that it could not stand by its initial estimate of 2000 immediate deaths, all of which led the public to conclude that the Soviets were the victims of censorship, while we here in the US had a free press.

It seems that while the US and the USSR had a hard time cooperating on nuclear arms at that time, they had a tacit agreement to cover up each other’s nuclear power mistakes. In 1957, what was probably the worst nuclear accident in the world before Chernobyl took place in the Ural Mountains at what is believed to be a nuclear waste dump. Over a thousand square kilometers in the southern Urals were drenched with radioactivity and rendered permanently uninhabitable. Hundreds died immediately, and long-term effects will never be known. The entire industrial area was evacuated; whole rivers, lakes and watersheds became irreversibly contaminated and the area was fenced off to prohibit entry.

Zhores Medvedev, a renowned Soviet scientists, knew about the accident, and in 1973, living in England, was astounded to learn that no one in the West knew about (or cared to admit they knew) the accident. Medvedev published an article in 1976 about the accident which was then reprinted in many western newspapers. The response from the UK, France and the US nuclear establishment was unanimous: they denied that such an accident was technically possible. The then-chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Sir John Hill, called Medvedev’s report “rubbish” and his comments were printed in the NY Times on Nov. 8, 1976 in a Reuters dispatch. Though Medvedev’s research, published later in his book “Nuclear Disaster in the Urals”, provided detailed information that indicated a nuclear waste accident, nuclear scientists preferred to blame the Soviets for poor radioactive waste handling, thus averting the issue of nuclear power safety entirely. Medvedev’s Freedom of Information Act requests to the US Energy Research & Development Authority and the CIA came back to him heavily censored; most documents he had requested were classified and never released.

The Soviets were not the only ones willing to kill their own people, however. In the 1950s, the US Army, with the complicity of Congress, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), nuclear scientists and physicians, and top levels of government, deliberately marched American soldiers to within 100 yards of ground zero in nuclear bomb tests in Nevada; those victims are still dying today as may any defective offspring. Here are some of the testimonials to those tests:

“Nuclear testing, by and large, has been one of the safest things that was ever done”, Robert Newman, Nevada test site manager.

“No one has ever been crippled, killed or severely maimed in a nuclear weapons test”, Gordon Jacks, former Army Colonel, 18-year veteran of atomic testing.

“People have got to learn to live with the facts of life, and part of the facts of life are fallout”, Willard Libby, AEC Commissioner, AEC meeting of Feb. 23, 1955.

What was behind these blanket denials of the truth? First, keep in mind that these facts, like all those about nuclear power and nuclear weapons testing, were kept secret and released only through the efforts of private citizens and a few courageous researchers and journalists. The AEC, in the 1950s, was fearful of being put out of business and in particular of the consequences if the public became suspicious about nuclear fallout, especially because they had gone to such lengths to separate the civilian nuclear power program from the military nuclear weapons program. Data on actual fallout as well as human exposure and the resultant health effects were held only by the AEC lab at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The AEC in fact dismissed the notion that humans could ingest strontium from milk and insisted they could ingest it only from eating bone splinters from poorly butchered animals. Regarding radioactivity in the food chain, from animals eating plants growing in fallout areas, they said: “…experiments have indicated that there is no hazard to human health from this source”, although it is doubtful that such experiments ever took place.

At least 250,000 American troops were directly exposed to atomic radiation during the 17 years of bomb testing here and in the Pacific, but they have been totally ignored by the government and the Army. Receiving continual unabated assurances of complete safety, these troops were employed literally as human guinea pigs to demonstrate how people could function in a fallout-contaminated area in the event of a nuclear war. It took 30 years before the US government even agreed to conduct any studies of health effects on these troops, and even now the government and Army reject the notion that they are liable in any way for the horrendous and pitiful condition of the survivors and the families of those who died. The Smoky test in Nevada in 1957 showed over twice the normal leukemia rate among servicemen, and later this was amended to three times the rate…and this test exposed only 1% of all those servicemen exposed to nuclear test fallout. There is little doubt that hundreds died and that countless others developed illnesses that led to death from various cancers, blood disorders and chronic body ailments. Today the government still rejects all claims for such illnesses.*

How did the media handle this? On Sept. 28, 1980, on CBS” “Sixty Minutes”, there were brief interviews with some atomic veterans but the program concentrated mainly on the Defense Nuclear Agency director, Vice-Admiral Robert Monroe. Monroe stated to Morley Safer and millions of viewers that the Army took “meticulous precautions to insure that exposures were within limits” and denied that there was any statistical increase in cancer deaths from the tests, adding: “This weapon testing is a very, very, very, very tiny amount of low-level radiation”. No opposing views were presented on the program, nor was any mention made of the Center for Disease Control’s new study that showed a leukemia rate for veterans of over twice the expected rate. In response to angry viewers, which included some atomic veterans, CBS told them to get in touch with –you guessed it – the Defense Nuclear Agency.

The press also played a role in soothing public fears. NY Times science writer William Laurence, writing about the Bikini tests in the Pacific, said: “Before Bikini, the world stood in awe of this new cosmic force. Since Bikini, this feeling of awe has largely evaporated and has been supplanted by a sense of relief…”

The Nevada test site fallout didn’t stay put, however. It drifted downwind into Mormon areas in Utah. Several years later, leukemias, lymphomas and other cancers and genetic defects began emerging in this area, particularly among children. The AEC continually stated to local residents that “There is no danger”, and most studies done about this area and about nuclear tests in general were secret until 1979. An AEC booklet distributed six years after testing said: “…Nevada test fallout has not caused illness or injured the health of anyone living near the test site”.

The effects of weapons testing fallout wasn’t limited to nearby residents. The cast and film crew of a Howard Hughes movie, filmed near St. George, Utah in 1954 for three months, took an enormous toll over the next 25 years. John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead and Dick Powell all died of cancer between 1960 and 1979. Of a total number of 220 in cast and crew, 91 had gotten cancer by 1980 and half of those had died by then, not counting the native Americans who served as extras in the film.

What did the press do about public protests? The Los Angeles Examiner writer Jack Lotto, in March 1955, blamed these on a Communist scare campaign to stop weapons testing. US News & World Report published an article by Willard Libby citing AEC evidence that fallout would “not likely be at all dangerous”. Syndicated columnist David Lawrence cited “world-wide propaganda” that was duping people and “some well-meaning scientists” were “playing the Communist game unwittingly by exaggerating the importance of radioactive substances known as ‘fallout’, and contended that the Nevada tests were “for a humanitarian purpose”.

It is interesting to note that two years prior to the Smoky test, in 1955, AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss suppressed a paper by geneticist Hermann Muller on the genetic effects of radiation. Muller was the discoverer in 1927 of the fact that X-rays caused increased mutations in plants and animals, for which he later received the Nobel Prize. The AEC also was responsible for removing his paper from a UN meeting on “peaceful uses of the atom”, held that year in Geneva, mostly, they said, because he mentioned Hiroshima, which they considered “definitely inadmissible” at such a conference.

The fact is that the US has led the world in setting examples of deliberate deceit, suppression of information and harassment of nuclear critics, of which the best example was the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. Just twelve days before the accident, Gov. Richard Thornburgh had appointed as state Secretary of Health a distinguished doctor and engineer, Gordon MacLeod, in order to restore the reputation of the state health department. Eight months after the accident, only a little over one-quarter into the two-year term MacLeod had agreed to serve, Thornburgh called MacLeod into his office and requested his resignation, claiming a “difference in institutional style”.

More to the point was the fact that MacLeod had been a critic of the Thornburgh administration’s handling of the TMI accident. The day after the accident news got out, MacLeod urged the governor to evacuate pregnant women and children from a five-mile radius around the plant (later he said he should have urged this for puberty-age children too, who are extremely radiation-sensitive). But no one else in the state agencies agreed and said the evacuation was unnecessary. Thornburgh finally, two days later, agreed to the evacuation after consulting with the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Joseph Hendrie.

MacLeod tried valiantly to take all possible steps to minimize radiation exposure. He requested, in vain, a Federal radiation health expert from the NRC and was told they had no radiation physicians on staff or anyone trained in radiation medicine. He tried to get potassium iodide pills from the Federal government, to block thyroid absorption of iodine-131. Five days later, far too late to be of any use, 11,000 vials arrived, more than half of which were unlabelled. Many had only half the dose required, some droppers did not fit the vials, and others had visible contamination. MacLeod also took issue publicly with the testimony of Pennsylvania’s chief of radiation monitoring, Thomas Gerusky, before the Federal Kemeny investigative commission and stated his objections in a letter to Kemeny. That seemed to be the “last straw for the Thornburgh administration”, and MacLeod was removed soon after.

Meanwhile, what scientists call “cooked” statistics started emerging from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Epidemiological Research, headed by Dr. George Tokuhata. Vital statistics on infant mortality began looking inordinately small, but Tokuhata claimed “printing error”. The NY Times enthusiastically printed the state’s claims about no increase in infant mortality. The statistics, still being held confidential by the state, did begin leaking out through anonymous calls to MacLeod, who then released what he knew in a church sermon to force the state to release them. The figures showed a sharp increase in the six-month period after TMI. It was later shown that the state had deliberately eliminated the black population in Harrisburg when calculating the data, because of their higher rate of infant mortality than whites. Such subtraction had been done only for the 1979 statistics, the year of the TMI accident, not for any other years, and when the black infant mortality was added in, the local rates for the area under study showed a sharp increase.

Similar withholding and distortion of information occurred regarding thyroid deficiency problems in young children to the southeast of the plant; again, Tokuhata trimmed off some cases to bring the state’s figures down to a normal rate. MacLeod pointed out that even accepting Tokuhata’s subtractions, there was still a five- to ten-fold increase. Again the NY Times accepted Tokuhata’s figures unquestioningly, and printed an editorial about “scare stories” regarding radiation damage from TMI,savagely attacking MacLeod who, they said, “irresponsibly publicized some of the raw data suggesting the existence of health problems”.

The question I am most often asked by the pblic is: if the nuclear establishment and its families are equally at risk from nuclear power as the rest of us, why do they lie about its dangers? There are various reasons. Professionals, in order to perform their work, resist truth strongly if it calls the morality of their work into question. They sincerely believe they are helping humankind. In addition, scientific research involves so many uncertainties that scientists can, with an easy conscience, rationalize away dangers that are hypothetical or not immediately observable. They also have an intellectual investment if not a financial one in continuing their work as well as families to support, and nuclear science in particular has been endowed not only with government money and support but great status and prestige. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which publishes the journal Science, just chose a nuclear physicist and former Assistant Director of Research for the AEC, Alvin Trivelpiece, as its executive director.

In order to perform professional work, one must not only believe one is doing good but must also rationalize the dangers. Indeed, with regard to ionizing radiation, this is quite easy inasmuch as the risks of radiation exposure at any level are statistical and not immediately manifested. If the odds of dying from a given amount of exposure are one in 100,000, it is easy for a scientist to rationalize that it won’t be him. A recent article in the NY Times on the obituary page caught my eye; a man named Mack, aged 52, died of cancer. The article noted that he and his sister were the first two children who ventured onto the site of a nuclear test in the 1950s, where their father worked as a scientist. The article also noted that Mack’s sister had died of cancer the previous year. I wondered if the father is still alive, and if he ever had second thoughts about allowing his young children onto that site, or whether his pride (or guilt) had prevented him from acknowledging that he had literally sacrificed his children to the nuclear priesthood.

As you may have noticed, there is no relationship between these incredible conspiracies of silence and distortion and the political party in power. Those in Congress who permitted these things have first loyalty to the institution in which they serve, not to truth; anything that threatens that institution is subversive, even if what they are doing harms the public. It is the same in foreign policy. The illegal violent intervention – state terrorism actually -committed by the US government against innocent Nicaraguans is a policy whose roots were planted deeply not by right-wingers or Republicans but by New Deal-type democrats, primarily Pres. Harry Truman, as was the virulent anti-Communism of that same era.

With regard to the various US interventions in Latin America, and specifically Nicaragua, the press meekly accepts the government handouts as fact, along with the myth that Commnists will take over the world and south Texas unless we overthrow the Sandinistas. But the facts are otherwise and indisputable as any reading of Nicaraguan history will show. Ignoring such history the US Congress readily accepts the Reagan-Kennedy-Truman doctrine of “containing” Communism at all costs, accompanied by “excuse us, we’re really sorry about the deaths of those innocent farmers, doctors, teachers, nurses and babies”.

Some of this history is in order. Nicaragua is not a Marxist-Leninist state. Most of its directorate were Social Democrats, some were Christian Democrats and some were Conservatives. What none of them were was Communist. Communists were excluded from the Sandinista directorate because they OPPOSED the revolution against Somoza (not the first or last time the Communist Party would oppose popular pro-democracy uprisings). Why did they oppose it? Because the revolution was not inspired or controlled by Moscow and the Communist Party. It was, rather, a homespun, nationalist, socialistic revolution stressing social welfare reforms, not a centralized authoritarian revolution. Some Left critics of the Sandinistas are upset because land reform has not gone far enough. The notion that Nicaraguans pose a threat to the US is on a par with the notion that Grenada’s former left government posed such a threat. Half of Nicaragua’s population is under the age of sixteen, and Nicaragua does not even possess an air force.

The Reagan doctrine of hegemony was developed long ago, and is best expressed by a statement made by George Kennan, in a 1948 document, when he headed the planning staff of the Dept. of State. He wrote: “…we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction…We should cease to talk about vague and -for the Far East – unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better”.

After a democratic civilian government was overthrown with US help in El Salvador, John F. Kennedy said that “governments of the civil-miltary type of El Salvador are the most effective in containing Communist penetration in Latin America”. Of course what he and modern-day “liberals” call Communism has nothing to do with Soviet Russia. Rather, as a 1955 study of the National Planning Association and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation noted, the main threat of “Communism” is that it could lead to transformation of Communist powers “in ways which reduce their willingness and ability to complement the industrial economies of the West”. Such complementary roles were and are played magnificently not only by the former Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua but by similar military dictatorships in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Thus, the real threat posed by Nicaragua lies in its nature as a nationalist, non-aligned, independent revolution not beholden to and controlled by the US interests – in other words, that it was a true popular democratic revolution that put human social welfare and equity first, in direct confrontation with foreign hegemonic powers, US or Soviet. Such popular-based revolutions set a powerful example to other oppressed nations, hence their unacceptability to the US.

That Congress, the press, academia, the military and Big Science collaborate and conspire with whichever faction rules the White House is not recent nor surprising. Their interests and the continuation of political and economic conditions that reinforce their powers and the institutions that support them – corporations, universities, research institutions, think tanks, mass media, often the courts, supranational agencies like the World Bank and other international agencies not accountable to the public – are what both rule this country and facilitate domestic and foreign policy. This is a lesson that political activists need to heed. American society, in its diversity and tolerance, supported by a remarkable Constitution, has many ways of absorbing various demands such as equal rights for minorities, welfare state programs, etc. Such incremental reforms pose no threat whatsoever to either the economic or foreign policy hegemony exerted over the rest of the world. Social issues can and will eventually be accommodated, without rocking the real boat.

What is threatening, however, are movements that directly challenge such hegemony, whether in the form of Star Wars nuclear weapons in space or ecologically based movements questioning the US (and global) model of untrammeled economic growth and resource consumption, and of course anti-intervention movements. These go to the heart of the very values and objectives of the central state, which in the case of the US is not readily indistinguishable from the Soviet Union. In fact, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the existence of civil rights and liberties in the US has functioned to draw attention away from the execrations of foreign policies that assist in, directly or indirectly, the commission of some of the most revolting human rights violations in history, accurately called state terrorism.

The Philadelphia Inquirer courageously printed a series of articles on the Pentagon’s’ “Black Budget” the $35 billion or so of under-the-counter money given them, with carte blanche with Congressional approval. The Iran-Nicaragua arms deal to support the contras in Nicaragua was part of this, as are indeed many of the other assassinations and subversions of the CIA and NSA. There is no public oversight over this budget or over the use of these funds; it is the equivalent of the KGB in the Soviet Union. The Philadelphia Inquirer stood virtually alone in sticking out its neck, to show the dirty underside of what purports to be a democracy. Let us hope others follow their example.

(Sources: Cover Up: What you are not supposed to know about Nuclear Power, Karl Grossman, Permanent Press; The Washington Connection & 3rd World Fascism, Noam Chomsky & Edward S. Herman, South End Press; The Turning Tide, Noam Chomsky, Pluto-South End Press; Killing Our Own, Harvey Wasserman & Norman Solomon, Delta (Dell) Publishing.)

*As of 2001, the DOE has acknowledged culpability and has agreed to compensate survivors for damages.

(Lecture delivered by Lorna Salzman at Hunter College, Energy Studies program, 1986).


January 15, 2017 Posted by | Nuclear | , , , , | Leave a comment