A Response to lies in “Nuclear Radiation is forever”

February 9th, 2011
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In defense of the reputation of the community of Port Hope, Ontario, a community whose safety and livability has been slandered repeatedly, and in the defense of reason and science, here is a response to a recent editorial by the infamous Helen Caldicott.

In the interest of being sure not to be called evasive, all parts of this editorial will be independently addressed and responded to.

I challenge Ottowa Citizen or any other paper to publish a response, which I can provide in a format which is more traditional of a newspaper editorial publication. I’m only asking for the opportunity to refute these claims and show “both sides” of the story, which news outlets seem to always pride themselves on doing.

Via Owatta Citizen:

Nuclear Radiation is Forever

No, it’s not. Chemical toxins are forever. Mercury, lead and arsenic are forever. Radioactivity is, by definition, finite. There may be circumstances where a radioactive substance may last a long long time, even billions of years, but that’s because it’s only slightly radioactive. High activity means short half-life and vice-versa. If it’s highly radioactive, it does not last long.

Like most Ontario towns, Port Hope, on the shores of Lake Ontario, has a water treatment plant supplying its drinking water. Incredibly, adjacent to this plant is a huge factory now owned by Cameco. The factory hovers over this picturesque town, emitting uranium gas and dust into the air and Lake Ontario as it manufactures uranium fuel rods for export.

There’s no evidence at all that this facility contaminates drinking water. More importantly, uranium is not a gas. Maybe you’re talking about uranium hexafluoride, which, if it is, should be noted. In any case, that’s not released either, because it’s a valuable end product. Even uranium hexaflouride is NOT a gas at atmospheric temperature and pressure. If it were released, it would desublimate to a white crystalline solid.

Annual reports on the analysis of drinking water supplies in Port Hope are available here. The water is fine.

Port Hope is the deep dark underbelly of the Canadian nuclear industry, representing dangers that so far, have escaped sufficient scrutiny and cleanup.

There has been a clean-up effort ongoing since the 1970′s. Most of it is concerned with industrial chemical contamination, not radiation. The highest priority areas were completed years ago.

Yes, there has been a cleanup, moron.

Also, I’m pretty sure those who live in Port Hope are not happy about hearing their community repeatedly insulted in this manner.

Eighty years ago, Port Hope was introduced to the nuclear age when the Labine brothers began refining radium from pitchblend mined at Great Bear Lake. Radium is a radioactive decay product of uranium and this process produced much radioactive waste over the years.

So? Radium refining is no longer done because radium is no longer considered a valuable product, as it has been replaced in nearly all applications with synthetic isotopes. The primary byproduct of radium refining is lots of left over uranium. Of course, that has all since been put to use.

None of this stuff really qualifies as “nuclear waste” in the normal sense of the word. There are no fission byproducts or transuranic elements. It’s just the left over material after uranium has been extracted from rock. If this stuff is so dangerous then I’d love an explanation as to how we can all live on a planet that is full of it.

In the early 1940s, the federal government co-opted the refinery– renamed Eldorado — on the shores of Lake Ontario to produce uranium for the first nuclear weapons made by the U.S. Port Hope continued supplying uranium for U.S. weapons until 1957.

The facility was then used to refine uranium for fuel rods in nuclear reactors around the world.

So?

Hundreds of thousands of tons of waste containing many radioactive carcinogenic elements — including uranium, radium, radon, and polonium which accrued at the factory site, were randomly dispersed throughout the town in ravines and playing fields and used as landfill and building materials in foundations for schools and other public buildings.

Such bullshit I’m not even going to start on such an unfounded accusation. How does this woman sleep at night?

Just one thing that should be pointed out: radon is an inert gas that disperses and is no danger outdoors. Polonium-210, the type found in uranium ore has a half-life of 138 days. So there’s none left in any of the mill tailings. It’s all gone.

When St. Mary’s School was discovered to be highly polluted with radon gas in 1975, it was promptly closed.

Radon gas comes primarily from geological sources (uranium and daughter products found in the local geology). Any uranium residue from industrial activities is an insignificant contributor to the total amount of radon in a structure.

Such an outcry followed that the federal government excavated 200,000 tons of severely contaminated soil from 400 properties and exported it to Chalk River.

I thought you just said that there was no cleanup. Does she just lose track of her own lies?

However two million to 3.5 million cubic metres still remain in the town in huge radioactive dumps, under buildings, on the beach and in the fishing harbour. Other towns were asked to take this material but all declined — so it will be excavated yet again over 10 years and moved a short distance to a dump within town boundaries which drains into the lake and is adjacent to Highway 401. Nuclear waste can never be re-mediated, just moved.

Can never be re-mediated? You do realize that this is all material that came out of the ground to begin with, right?

Many towns sit on far more uranium than you accuse Port Hope of containing, although not because anyone put it there due to natural occurance.

Contrary to statements provided by federal government agencies and Cameco, no level of radiation is safe and it is cumulative — each dose adds to the risk of cancer. Children are 10 to 20 times more radiosensitive than adults, and fetuses are extremely sensitive.

While children may well be more sensitive to ionizing radiation, I’ve never heard this “10 to 20 times” number and suspect that she pulled it out of her ugly wrinkled ass.

If there is no safe level then we’re all in deep trouble and should probably retreat to lead-lined caves, because you’re always being bombarded by radiation. Actually, much of it comes from internal sources like carbon-14 and potassium-40. So… this is unsafe?

Uranium waste is radioactive for billions of years, decaying sequentially to radioactive elements ( “daughters”), all of which can induce cancer or genetic diseases when entering the human body as hot spots or “internal emitters.”

It is radioactive for billions of years because it is so low-level. It generates minute amounts of daughter products at a very very slow rate and it will do this whether you dig it up or not. Uranium is found in the enviornment. It’s in the soil. It’s in sea water. Consequently these daughters are as well, although in low concentrations. Many people live in areas which are rich with high grade uranium ore. They’re not all keeling over dead. The concentrations and activities are very very low.

They are only significant “internal emitters” if you actually uptake a large enough amount of them to cause internal exposure. Unlikely.

Two of the most dangerous are:

1. Radon gas which seeps continuously from uranium-contaminated soil into houses, playing fields, schools etc. When inhaled, radon emits alpha particles delivering high-level radiation to surrounding cells — possibly inducing cancer decades later. The incubation period for cancer is long — between five to 60 years.

Already mentioned. Radon comes from geological sources. Due to its half-life, concentrations are always very low and are only a problem if there is very poor ventilation in an area where it can collect. It would never be a problem on playing fields.

Also, notice Caldicott’s common appeal to fear for the safety of children. It seeps into schools and playing fields. Wouldn’t it also seep into biker bars, strip clubs and prisons?

2. Radium, an alpha emitter, is also a uranium daughter whose toxicity lasts for 16,000 years, and concentrates thousands of times in the food chain, including fish, fruit and vegetables. It is absorbed from the gut, and, like calcium, deposits in bone where it can induce bone cancer or leukemia.

Yes, it’s dangerous, if you have it in high concentrations, which you never would except where it has been intentionally refined or in some rare geological occurrences. Incidentally, this stuff, like all uranium daughters is already found in the enviornment.

Many uranium daughters also emit gamma radiation like X-rays– which can induce cancer or genetic mutations in the sperm and eggs to be transferred to future generations causing diseases such as diabetes, mental retardation or cystic fibrosis.

Now this is absolute bullshit that really demonstrates either a complete lack of understanding of genetics and mutation or just outright dishonesty.

Yes, it is possible that ionizing radiation could cause genetic mutations and that if these mutations occure in the sperm or egg that they could result in mutations being passed on to offspring. However, bringing up diseases as specific as diabetes or cystic fibrosis is insultingly ignorant of how the process works.

No long-term scientific peer-reviewed epidemiological studies of Port Hope have ever been conducted. However a number of partial studies suggest an increased incidence of cancer including lung cancer in women, brain cancer in women and children, childhood leukemia, arterio-vascular disease in women, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, nasopharyngeal cancer and others. The population has never been tested for radium or uranium excretion in their urine.

That is a bold faced lie. There have been at least eight major peer-reviewed studies conducted by Health Canada on the health of the region. There have also been reports by Health Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on available scientific data of both the health of the community and measurements of potential environmental toxins.

Information on the extensive scientific documentation can be found here.

I have no idea what “partial studies” she is talking about. It may well just be a lie.

At the beginning of the nuclear age, the relationship between radiation and genes was little understood. Subsequently the “acceptable safe levels of exposure” have been substantially decreased seven times.

The above statement is absolutely false in several respects. For one, the fact that ionizing radiation caused genetic damage with the potential for cancer development has been well established since before the 1930′s. The Linear non-threshold model that anti-nuclear activists love so dearly is based on presumptions made in the earliest days of nuclear research.

Furthermore, there is no single “acceptable safe levels of exposure.” The maximum exposure that is considered acceptable for a patient undergoing cancer is different from the maximum acceptable exposure for patient undergoing medical imaging, which is different from the maximum workplace radiation in the nuclear industry which is different from the maximum acceptable exposure for a member of the public as a result of materials disposal. Furthermore, the regulations as to what is considered “acceptable” vary vastly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Simply put, it’s all subjective and there is no one standard.

In the 1950s, the World Health Organization recognized the potential risk but, remarkably, was prevented from conducting research into the human health effects of radiation by a 1959 agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Again, simply not true. The WHO has conducted research and so have numerous other private and public agencies.

There is not and has never been any agreement preventing the WHO from researching the effects of ionizing radiation. The entire text of the 1959 agreement between the WHO and other UN organizations can be found here. The section on the IAEA begins on page 62. The agreement simply states that the WHO and IAEA will work together to exchange information on the health effects of ionizing radiation and that the two agencies will cooperate in the release of information or policy statements.

You can read the whole thing if you want (it’s only about three pages long). It’s pretty clear that the only intent of the agreement is to avoid the problem of the two agencies stepping on each other’s toes in areas where their jurisdictions may overlap. Some have claimed that this means that the WHO could not do any research or release any statements on radiation without the consolation or permission of the IAEA. That is simply not the case

Incredibly, relevant research simply has not been done to date.

Except it has.

Port Hope stands today as the canary in the coal mine and our generation has been turning its back on a potentially deadly threat to the human species.

If port Hope is the Canary, then it is happily singing and swinging in it’s little birdcage.

Nuclear waste is forever radioactive, and forever is a very long time. Action must be taken before it’s too late.

Too late? I thought you said the sky was already falling.

Helen Caldicott is founding president Physicians for Social Responsibility. Dale Dewar is executive director of Physicians for Global Survival.

Actually she seems to spend most of her time self-promoting and founding various organizations that cater to her own sense of ego. “Physicians for Social Responsibility” is not about social responsibility at all. It’s a single-issue anti-nuclear special interest. Caldicott loves to talk about being a doctor and caring for patients, but she has not practiced medicine in decades and has made her living entirely by lying about nuclear energy.

Dale Dewar is a wanna-be with an even more pathetic organization, which is also a single-issue organization that equates nuclear energy to nuclear weapons and has absolutely nothing new to add to the discussion.

Yes, I call Caldicott a liar here and that’s because she is. It’s not an ad-hom attack, but rather a statement of fact. She has made statements that are clearly and provably false. A baker is one who bakes, a driver is one who drives, and a liar is one who lies. She lies and therefore is a liar.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 at 10:48 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Enviornment, media, Nuclear, Obfuscation, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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36 Responses to “A Response to lies in “Nuclear Radiation is forever””

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    CNSC(Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission)Response to to the op-ed entitled “Nuclear radiation is forever” published in the Ottawa Citizen on February 8, 2011

    Dear Editor:

    I was surprised that the Ottawa Citizen chose to run an Op-Ed written by Helen Caldicott and Dale Dewar, two individuals who continue to misinform the citizens of Port Hope.

    As Canada’s nuclear regulator, we are compelled to ensure that your readers understand the facts based on sound science and not the fictitious biases of a few.

    Concerned readers should know that Port Hope residents are as healthy as the rest of the Canadian population. This has been demonstrated by 13 epidemiological, peer-reviewed studies conducted over several decades by reputable and independent bodies.

    The CNSC recently published a synthesis report that was presented during open houses held in the community. Findings were compared with 40 international epidemiological studies on similar populations, and the conclusion was clear: the health of Port Hope residents is no different than that of other Canadians.

    The CNSC provides strict regulatory oversight of both uranium processing and clean up activities taking place in the community to ensure there are negligible impacts to the health and safety of residents and their environment.

    I invite your readers to visit our Web site at nuclearsafety.gc.ca to get the facts about Canada’s nuclear sector.

    Michael Binder
    President
    Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

    The Commission president is upset because Caldicott is in essence implying that the CNSC is in gross dereliction of its mandate. Frankly if I was in Binder’s shoes, I would sue that old bitch to her knees.


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  2. 2
    Mark Says:

    Nice article (yours, not the one you are writing about). I also picked that article up the other day and was open-mouthed as I read. Total load of bull. I kept screaming ‘NORM’ (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material) – it came from the ground!!

    One or two things to note I think. I think at the start of the article you are meaning to talk about long half life and specific activity. By that I mean that you can have a very high activity (Bq or Ci) which has a low half-life (e.g. F-18 , 2 hours ish) or has a longer half life (e.g. Cs-137, 30 years). Natural uranium has a low specific activity (Bq/g) – which makes sense, the longer the half life the greater mass required for a given activity. Just take a look at the specific activity of Po-210 and you will see why it is / was / can be used as a heat source (intense alpha emitter).

    Only other thing, it might be true that Po-210 with shorter half life has all gone, but that will depend on the secular equilibrium conditions of the Uranium decay series. If things have been removed such that, for example, there is a break and a shorter chain starts at Po-210 then this would be gone. Otherwise, if you have Radium you will have Po-210 (this all depends on the chemical condition as well – i.e. things that are in the form of soluble salts might have been leached away).

    Anyway, great write up!


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  3. 3
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Mark said:

    Only other thing, it might be true that Po-210 with shorter half life has all gone, but that will depend on the secular equilibrium conditions of the Uranium decay series. If things have been removed such that, for example, there is a break and a shorter chain starts at Po-210 then this would be gone. Otherwise, if you have Radium you will have Po-210 (this all depends on the chemical condition as well – i.e. things that are in the form of soluble salts might have been leached away).

    You’re right, of course, but I didn’t see the need to get that deep into it. If you have a large mass of uranium then there will always be some Po-210 in the mix because it is being regenerated as fast as it decays away. Although the concentration will still always be millions of times less than the uranium.

    This, by the way, is why radium and polonium were so extremely valuable back when they were the primary sources of radioactive material for industrial, medical and other applications. A few tons of uranium will yield milligrams of radium and picograms of polonium.


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  4. 4
    Mark Says:

    Understood.

    BTW, just when we thought we could use ‘natural’ radiation as a means of explaining risk (lack of), have you seen this:

    http://tinyurl.com/5t22uvt

    The New Low-Radiocarb(TM) Diet

    Not trying to divert your article, and perhaps this is something you might want to debunk another day, but it is this sort of thing that lends weight to the article you are debunking above. I mean where do we stop – “Low K-40″ bananas (only $10 each !!).

    Mark


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  5. 5
    Anon Says:

    I’m trying to figure out if that is a satire or for real.

    Anyway, low radioactivity bananas would make ‘organic’ foods look cheap (I wonder if Potassium Nitrate that has had the 40K removed would be considered an ‘organic’ fertiliser (despite not having any carbon)).

    See http://www.radiocarb.com/science/7000-year-old-soybeans.shtml for some clues that it might be satire, also note that it is promoting it as a global warming ‘solution’ as well.


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  6. 6
    Troberg Says:

    Now this is absolute bull**** that really demonstrates either a complete lack of understanding of genetics and mutation or just outright dishonesty.

    Well, it could be worse. She could have claimed that radiation gives you cool superpowers…


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  7. 7
    BMS Says:

            Troberg said:

    Well, it could be worse. She could have claimed that radiation gives you cool superpowers…

    No, that would be promoting nuclear power:

    We Must Expand Our Nuclear Power Program If We’re To Realize Our Dream …

    Interestingly, that article had more of a firm basis in reality that Caldicott’s spiel.


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  8. 8
    Matthew Says:

    Speaking of complete silliness regarding radioactives, I just spotted the trailer for this: http://www.intoeternitythemovie.com/


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  9. 9
    Calli Arcale Says:

    Nitpick: actually, not all chemical toxins are forever either. It depends very much on the toxin. Many chemicals actually have half-lives too, only it’s not a case of radioactive decay but rather chemical decomposition. Some decompose quite rapidly if exposed to sunlight, for instance. (Which isn’t helpful if they’re buried under a landfill, of course.) Of course, a lot of them decompose into things that are still toxic, but it varies. Mitigation of chemical spills often involves not removal but treatment with other chemicals which will either hasten decomposition or react with the toxin to turn it into something more benign.

    Formaldehyde is a nasty toxin — but it’s one of those that decays rapidly on exposure to sunlight, so much so that it doesn’t tend to accumulate in the environment. (In fact, it breaks down within hours of exposure to sunlight, so one sunny day can clean it out.) The problem comes with chronic exposure, and there are substances which can continually outgas formaldehyde, in particular certain types of particle board and certain varnishes which may be used in home construction. This was the problem behind the FEMA trailer scandal. Still, formaldehyde may be nasty, but isn’t forever.


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  10. 10
    DV82XL Says:

            Calli Arcale said:

    Nitpick: actually, not all chemical toxins are forever either. It depends very much on the toxin. Many chemicals actually have half-lives too, only it’s not a case of radioactive decay but rather chemical decomposition.

    What you say is true, of course but in terms of dangerous elements, Mg, Cd and Be have U beat hands down in staying toxic forever.


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  11. 11
    Andrew Jaremko Says:

    Others are noticing this as well. Lawrence Solomon has written a response in The Financial Post: One health activist attacks another (through me) in which he quotes David Sweanor:

    … he (Sweanor) grew up in Port Hope, and as a summer student had been involved in the massive cleanup of radioactive soil that took place throughout the town. Dave knows firsthand that fears of radiation contamination had been hyped.

    “One of the jobs I had that summer was to stand by the gate of a site where this apparently contaminated soil was being taken and to thoroughly scan the dump trucks with my Geiger counter as they were leaving in order to ensure all the radioactive material had been disposed of,” he wrote me. “Well, being a bored and sceptical student I started to also scan the trucks as they arrived fully laden with the removed soil, and guess what? That they were free of elevated radioactivity levels upon leaving was not overly surprising because they were similarly free of such radioactivity upon arriving. They were, at great monetary and carbon expense, removing soil that registered normal background levels of radiation.”

    Others are calling Caldicott out as well. And foolishness isn’t a modern invention.


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  12. 12
    Matte Says:

    I didn’t know Magnesium was considered toxic…


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  13. 13
    Jim Baerg Says:

    A very good response except for one small bit: “pulled it out of her ugly wrinkled ass”.

    It would be just as much a lie if the ass in question was beautiful. Cracks about a person’s appearance are best left out of discussions like this.


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  14. 14
    DV82XL Says:

            Matte said:

    I didn’t know Magnesium was considered toxic…

    I meant Hg


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  15. 15
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Calli Arcale said:

    Nitpick: actually, not all chemical toxins are forever either. It depends very much on the toxin. Many chemicals actually have half-lives too, only it’s not a case of radioactive decay but rather chemical decomposition. Some decompose quite rapidly if exposed to sunlight, for instance. (Which isn’t helpful if they’re buried under a landfill, of course.) Of course, a lot of them decompose into things that are still toxic, but it varies. Mitigation of chemical spills often involves not removal but treatment with other chemicals which will either hasten decomposition or react with the toxin to turn it into something more benign.

    Of course you’re right, many toxic chemicals break down. Toxic elemental metals don’t. They may sometimes be transformed into less toxic chemicals.

    But then again, nothing is really forever. Even the nastiest toxic metals will not last truly forever. Eventually the sun will expand into a red giant and consume the earth. This won’t actually destroy all the heavy metal elements, but they will be incorporated into the sun. Billions of years later it will start to cool and shrink until finally there’s just a small neutron star. All that lead, mercury, arsenic, antimony, cadmium and so on will be compacted down into neutrons.

    So it’s not quite forever…


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  16. 16
    Anon Says:

    You also left out proton decay (if it happens that is).


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  17. 17
    Michael Karnerfors Says:

            Matthew said:

    Speaking of complete silliness regarding radioactives, I just spotted the trailer for this: http://www.intoeternitythemovie.com/

    Actually, that one is not (very) silly. It is overly dramatic, yes, but it’s bang on the facts and discusses the issue of human intrusion into a deep repository very well. SKB (the Swedish Nuclear Fuel And Waste Management company) liked that one because it was practicly the first time anyone paid one if their (sub-)missions any due and proper attention. Their reaction was pretty. much “wow! Finally someone that understands and cares about what we do!”.

    If anything, I am using that movie as an argument for Gen IV nuclear power, because that kills the problem outright.


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  18. 18
    Matthew Says:

            Michael Karnerfors said:

    Actually, that one is not (very) silly. It is overly dramatic, yes, but it’s bang on the facts and discusses the issue of human intrusion into a deep repository very well. SKB (the Swedish Nuclear Fuel And Waste Management company) liked that one because it was practicly the first time anyone paid one if their (sub-)missions any due and proper attention. Their reaction was pretty. much “wow! Finally someone that understands and cares about what we do!”.

    If anything, I am using that movie as an argument for Gen IV nuclear power, because that kills the problem outright.

    Fair enough. I guess I mostly noticed the super-dramatic music and the general tone of OMG!!! Poison 4evar!!!! and had a gut reaction.


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  19. 19
    Gordon Says:

    Port Hope is actually a popular vacation area and they’re quite concerned about this hurting local businesses if it scares away tourists. The area has sued Caldicott. I have a feeling she won’t suffer much, because if worst comes to worst and she can’t fight it off with her lawyers she’ll probably just settle for an agreement to shut up. They’re not so much trying to make money off her as just stop their reputation from being trashed.

    i agree with DV82XL that it would be great to sue the bitch to her knees. She’s certainly caused a lot of damage.

            Andrew Jaremko said:

    Others are noticing this as well. Lawrence Solomon has written a response in The Financial Post: One health activist attacks another (through me) in which he quotes David Sweanor:

    I have a brother in law who works for Bruce Power and stays very up to date on the politics of nuclear energy. According to him, the whole issue of moving soil in Port Hope was really not motivated by any solid evidence that anyone was in danger or that the soil was contaminated to the point of needing to be moved. He thinks that it may have quieted people down and that it had some political motives, like that it allowed for certain land areas to be condemned and taken for decontamination and then used for development or that the plans were to the benefit of certain businesses such as trucking and construction companies, who could get a lucrative cut of it. Apparently the whole plan was pushed through with some very heavy political pressure.


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  20. 20
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Michael Karnerfors said:

    Actually, that one is not (very) silly. It is overly dramatic, yes, but it’s bang on the facts and discusses the issue of human intrusion into a deep repository very well. SKB (the Swedish Nuclear Fuel And Waste Management company) liked that one because it was practicly the first time anyone paid one if their (sub-)missions any due and proper attention. Their reaction was pretty. much “wow! Finally someone that understands and cares about what we do!”.

    If anything, I am using that movie as an argument for Gen IV nuclear power, because that kills the problem outright.

    My impression of SKB’s work on the deep geological repository (Forsmark NPP) is that they have done a fine job at designing and implementing the plan to requirements put forward, and making it all work, but at the same time, it’s really overkill. Sure it’s super ultra-safe, but really it’s safer than it really needs to be. I don’t think the waste is really going to be kept there “forever” and even if it were, it’s not like it would be a global disaster if it came to the surface or something.

    It’s like saying “Look, you’ve built a fine armored personnel carrier for your runs to the grocery store. It’s a very well engineered, highly safe and extremely battle survivable APC, but you do know that you don’t actually need an armored personnel carrier to go to the store. I regular car has perfectly acceptable safety for that.”

    Apparently in Sweden they like to over-do it on safety, which is why they build waste repositories like Forsmark NPP and armored personnel carriers (Volvos) for every day driving.


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  21. 21
    MikeC Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    .
    .
    .
    .
    Even the nastiest toxic metals will not last truly forever.

    Eventually the sun will expand into a red giant and consume the earth.

    This won’t actually destroy all the heavy metal elements, but they will be incorporated into the sun. Billions of years later it will start to cool and shrink until finally there’s just a small neutron star. All that lead, mercury, arsenic, antimony, cadmium and so on will be compacted down into neutrons.

    So it’s not quite forever…

    And on the flip side think of all those harmless elements that are eventually going to be turned into toxic sludge in supanovas…… it all started as soup….then got seperated out into hydrogen (more or less)…..and everything heavier than that has been manufactured by fusion in stars – so it is really the universe that is trying to poison us!


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  22. 22
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Anon said:

    See http://www.radiocarb.com/science/7000-year-old-soybeans.shtml for some clues that it might be satire, also note that it is promoting it as a global warming ‘solution’ as well.

    It might be satire, but then again I can see how some idiot consumers or idiot investors might make this a viable way of making money.

    Anyway, their science does seem sound (not the science of this being beneficial but rather of the products actually being lower in carbon-14) When they say that the soybeans are “7000 years old” they mean that’s how old they would be carbon-dated to, because they’re artificially low in carbon-14.

    The concept is pretty simple. All organisms contain carbon-14 because it is constantly being replenished in the atmosphere by nitrogen interacting with charged particles from the sun or cosmic rays. This produces carbon-14 which is incorporated into atmospheric CO2. Plants absorb CO2, which contains some carbon-14 and thus they contain carbon-14 and all animals that feed on them do as well.

    What they claim to do is grow crops in an artificial atmosphere that is isolated from atmospheric CO2, presumably in some kind of sealed greenhouse. They then provide the crops with CO2 that is derived from burning fossil fuels. Since oil, gas and coal have been sequestered for tens of thousands to millions of years, they’re very low in carbon-14, as it has all decayed away. Therefore, if a plant grew in an enviornment where most or all of the CO2 were provided by burning fossil fuels, it would result in the plant being low in carbon-14.

    This is probably why they also claim to reduce greenhouse gasses, although it really doesn’t since it just replaces one source of Co2 with another and doesn’t change the atmospheric balance.

    So yeah, if they actually do it, it could work, but it’s got to be a crazy expensive way of growing anything.


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  23. 23
    Michael Karnerfors Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    My impression of SKB’s work on the deep geological repository (Forsmark NPP) is that they have done a fine job at designing and implementing the plan to requirements put forward, and making it all work, but at the same time, it’s really overkill.

    Sure it’s super ultra-safe, but really it’s safer than it really needs to be. I don’t think the waste is really going to be kept there “forever” and even if it were, it’s not like it would be a global disaster if it came to the surface or something.

    It’s like saying “Look, you’ve built a fine armored personnel carrier for your runs to the grocery store. It’s a very well engineered, highly safe and extremely battle survivable APC, but you do know that you don’t actually need an armored personnel carrier to go to the store.

    I regular car has perfectly acceptable safety for that.”

    Apparently in Sweden they like to over-do it on safety, which is why they build waste repositories like Forsmark NPP and armored personnel carriers (Volvos) for every day driving.

    It’s not so much that SKB aimed too high, but that everyone writing the specs for them did. The demands on the repository are rediculously high.

    But… that means that the anti-nukes can be shut up good, once and for all. “Look (you morons), we put the bar this high, waaaay above what we actually need, and the industry still came through and solved it. You lost, they won. So shut (the f***) up and sit down!”. Which is ironic because it is the anti-nuclear sentiments that (partially at least) have created these high demands. :)

    /Michael


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  24. 24
    Matte Says:

    Well politically the KBS3 method was aimed at stopping plutonium mining at any point in the future. Hence the amount effort. The fact that the fuel is retrievable anyway (a feature part of the design) is something that the luddites (politicians and tree huggers) have missed.

    Fuel Geological Disposal seems like the worst solution…I am starting to see Michaels point of view! I mean why get rid of a energy resource as valuable as U/Pu?


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  25. 25
    Michael Karnerfors Says:

            Matte said:

    Well politically the KBS3 method was aimed at stopping plutonium mining at any point in the future. Hence the amount effort. The fact that the fuel is retrievable anyway (a feature part of the design) is something that the luddites (politicians and tree huggers) have missed.

    Oh no, they havn’t missed it. :D On the contrary… SKB is handing in the application for permit to build next month, and the anti-nukes are up in arms over that. MKG (Miljörörelsernas Kärnavfallskranskning), the anti-nuclear umbrella organisation that are fokusing on the spent fuel issue (or rather: the spen fuel solution issue) has been attacking SKB (extra) hard the past year. In the tech sheet Ny Teknik, there is currently a debate going on between SKB and MKG.

    MKG is insisting SKB should look more at the Deep Boreholes solution. SKB has been looking at that and dismissed it, several times even. But MKG keeps nagging about it. The reason is pretty obvious: with Deep Boreholes, retreival is not possible, at least not for a foreseeable time.

            Matte said:

    Fuel Geological Disposal seems like the worst solution…I am starting to see Michaels point of view! I mean why get rid of a energy resource as valuable as U/Pu?

    Well it was just 1000 hours ago (995 hours and 26 minutes at time of writing) that Sweden again allowed the building of new power reactors. And with reprocessing and export banned, there was legally no other possible solution than to deposit the spent fuel.

    KBS-3 is – in that context – the best compromise: it’s safe as a repository, and it allows retrieval without being prohibitively expensive or difficult.

    Speaking of that… say hello to Magne, the world’s (supposedly) largest autonomous robot, weighing a modest 100 tons(!) when loaded.

    http://www.skb.se/FileOrganizer/%20Lösningen%20på%20lång%20sikt%20/FoU/Produktblad_Magne_web-ny.pdf (in swedish)

    Magne will be hauling the fuel capsules into the tunnels, position itself over the correct borehole, and deposit the capsule – weighing 27 tons – with a precision of finer than 10mm. Magne can also be used to retrieve capsules.

    /Michael


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  26. 26
    Michael Karnerfors Says:

    Bah, broken link… this should work: http://tinyurl.com/magne-skb

    /Michael


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  27. 27
    Matte Says:

    Hmm, still didn’t stop the Swedish government to put ~£10 million (100 million SEK) in a fast breeder reactor project in France (which will breed weapons material if I read the article correctly). But I guess the £140 (1,4 billion SEK) they got back for MAX IV was worth the non existant political fallout over that deal, or did I miss that as well?

    You say the luddites have noticed that KBS-3 will allow fuel retrieval. Glad to see they paid attention to something, small mercy in this context.


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  28. 28
    Huw Jones Says:

    I haven’t watched the ‘into eternity’ movie, but from what I’ve heard, the main objection raised in it is that some future generation would mistakenly dig into it and remove materials. The question for me therefore is, could someone actually dig into it (without highly specialised equipment) and remove a dangerous amount of material.


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  29. 29
    Chuck P. Says:

            Michael Karnerfors said:

    It’s not so much that SKB aimed too high, but that everyone writing the specs for them did. The demands on the repository are rediculously high.

    But… that means that the anti-nukes can be shut up good, once and for all. “Look (you morons), we put the bar this high, waaaay above what we actually need, and the industry still came through and solved it. You lost, they won. So shut (the f***) up and sit down!”. Which is ironic because it is the anti-nuclear sentiments that (partially at least) have created these high demands. :)

    /Michael

    But they won’t be shut up. They’ll never stop. Any overbuild in the design will simply be used as ammunition for their fearmongering. “Look at the extreme measures needed to keep teh evil nuclear away from our children! That proves how dangerous it really is!”


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  30. 30
    DV82XL Says:

            Huw Jones said:

    I haven’t watched the ‘into eternity’ movie, but from what I’ve heard, the main objection raised in it is that some future generation would mistakenly dig into it and remove materials. The question for me therefore is, could someone actually dig into it (without highly specialized equipment) and remove a dangerous amount of material.

    The hubris of such a concern is breathtaking. Somehow they have assumed that civilization and human development have reached a peak in us, and future generations need protecting from our folly of attempting to tame fission. This is on a par with some ancient culture, like the Egyptians, deciding to protect us from some technology developed in their time.

    I suspect that this attitude will be cause for high amusement by our descendants.


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  31. 31
    Bryan G. Says:

    Thanks for refuting this nonsense.

    I am from Port Hope and some of the things that have been stated by the anti-nuclear, anti-Cameco groups really cuts like a knife it’s so insulting. I lived here my whole life and basically everyone I grew up with is perfectly healthy. Some people here are really strongly in favor of anything to make Cameco look bad or to clean up what they think is dangerous areas, but they are not the majority. Some people have tried to make everyone feel shamed by the history of our town because they will bring up Hiroshima or something and point out that weapon material came from here. It is really just a way of trying to hit another insult. It’s stupid anyway. It’s not like anyone there was responsible for all the wars of the world by making some of the material that might have been used in a weapon.

    Cameco is a big employer and so I know some of the families of workers and pretty much they all seem to think there are no problems, even the workers who are pretty well knowledgeable. I don’t think they’d let their families live near their job if they thought it was not safe. It has split the town a little, because some people are opposed to the remediation plans on the grounds that they are not necessary and have already torn up a lot of groups.

    Port Hope is a tourist town too. Every year I somewhat dread the tourist season because it can become crowded. At the same time though it’s something that a lot of companies and people need here to survive, and I have had many good paying summer jobs working in the tourist sector. Many welcome the tourist flood because it is money to them. It’s a big deal if that is cut into. Already it’s down because of the tough economy.


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  32. 32
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Matte said:

    Hmm, still didn’t stop the Swedish government to put ~£10 million (100 million SEK) in a fast breeder reactor project in France (which will breed weapons material if I read the article correctly).

    The fast breeder projects that have been undertaken by France might have the capability of producing plutonium of a grade high enough for weapons use, but there’s no plans to use them for that or to even refine the plutonium they produce to the level where it could be used for weapons. The aim of most fast reactor programs is for an integral fast reactor, where there fuel never leaves the site or, if it does, it is not in a state where it would be weapons usable and is in the form of fuel for other reactors.

    Anyway, there’s no reason why the French would want to breed more weapons grade plutonium anyway, not unless they had plans for a very big expansion of their arsenal. All the old-line nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, France, the UK) are in a situation where they now have a surplus of weapons grade plutonium on hand. The French have cut their nuclear arsenal by more than half what it was at its maximum. This is for a number of reasons: saving money, the end of the Cold War, the increased accuracy of delivery systems etc.

    This means that they have hundreds of pits worth of plutonium from retired weapons sitting in their inventory. It would be pointless to breed more plutonium unless they were planning a large enough buildup of the nuclear arsenal that it would actually have the potential to exhaust their reserve.

    The United States has a similar situation. Unless the US is planning on building many thousands of nuclear weapons in the near future, there’s no point in breeding new weapons material. Right now we have something like 50 metric tons of plutonium from weapons that has been declared “surplus” and tons more that is either waiting to be disassembled or is kept as reserve. Some of this plutonium might have been burned by now as MOX fuel, but the anti-nukes have fought that tooth and nail. Some of them say it’s a proliferation risk, which, of course, makes no sense at all, but go figure.


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  33. 33
    Yeoz Says:

    Did anyone see this recent trailer that hit apple.com : http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/intoeternity/

    It’s an amusingly sad trailer for a movie, to be honest. I hate sensationalist and fear mongering documentary trailers, they really irk me. It starts by setting up a uncomfortable/fearful mood for the viewer by immediately presenting them with what looks like an artists rendition of a dead forest (which is amusing, because I’m reasonably sure that not all the forests died around Chernobyl:- the worse nuclear disaster in history) and some pitifully defeatist-sounding music to boot.

    Then we have “our mankind exists for 50,000 years”. That’s funny, because I always hear ~100,000 years quoted in documentaries and the like. (But I suppose 50,000 is a lot less than 100,000 which they later cite as the length of time it takes radioactive materials to become ‘non toxic’. This in itself is amusing because toxicity of nuclear materials and their radioactivity are – of course – not related to each other, but we all know this is a common misconception amongst laypersons. Also they give the impression that they want us to believe that ‘all radiation’ lasts 100,000 and no less, completely ignoring the understanding that fast decaying radionuclides are the dangerous ones and while the harmless or essentially harmless ones take many centuries to decay, as has been mentioned here on DC so many times in the past.

    Then they seem to present some kind of argument that ‘nothing humans have made has lasted even a tenth of that time span (100,000 years)’. Seriously? Are they absolutely idiots? We’ve only made great strides in material research in the last handful of centuries. Research into long term storage of nuclear waste maybe a few decades. It’s a bit like saying in 1920 that no one could ever reach the moon even though no body has tried. How can we make something that lasts 100,000 years or even 10,000 years if no body tries. ****ty defeatists!

    We conclude with a confusingly jumbled mix and mash of images from the entire film, and the noise of a Geiger counter, to presumably give the viewer some kind of unwarranted sickening feeling that their world is falling apart and they’ll soon be getting 500000 rem from their corn flakes in the morning.

    The sad thing is that I’m preaching to the choir and I’m sure this movie will be a hit (well, as far as documentaries go) and get stellar ratings by presenting their biased/one sided story.

    Luckily the movie trailer has failed miserably to rank high on some meta-sites like reddit.com and digg.com so hopefully there will be at least some reasonably intelligent people around who will be able to point out the movies faults to those who are just along for the ride and dont know any better.


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  34. 34
    Michael Karnerfors Says:

            Yeoz said:

    Did anyone see this recent trailer that hit apple.com : http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/intoeternity/

    It’s an amusingly sad trailer for a movie, to be honest. I hate sensationalist and fear mongering documentary trailers, they really irk me.

    I’m gonna say it again, since I saw the movie this fall already: it’s not a bad movie from a pro-nuclear perspective. It’s not not even a bad movie for the nuclear debate in general.

    The only thing you can fault it for is being overly dramatic. But it doesn’t take sides. In fact it explores the subject of human instrusion into a deep repository pretty thuroughly. And it even makes some good criticism of a few points in the current legislation that are…. silly, to say the least.

    Nowhere in the movie does it say “Nuclear power is bad”, or even hints it. It just concludes that we do have the fuel and we must do something about it.

    When the anti-nukes are using this movie as an argument against nuclear power, I say they havn’t understood the situation presented in the movie. This is the situation we live with, nuclear power or not. And in that context, this movie shows the need to come up with alternate solutions, such as… oh, I dunno… for instance… fourth generation nuclear power, hm?

    The thing us pro-nukes must do is to watch all of the anti-nukes’ propagana; analyze their arguments and understand then; read all the referenced science and understand it better than they do. Just going “Oh that looks like junk”, roll eyes and spew bile, isn’t going to help us.

    Here’s an example… one of the members of Nuclear Power Yes Please recenty looked into Chris Busby’s fearmongering about Hinkley Point in the UK.

    http://nuclearpoweryesplease.org/blog/2011/02/07/chris-busby-and-the-tall-tale-of-ten-tons-uranium-gone-missing/
    http://nuclearpoweryesplease.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=113

    Steve is doing the right thing on this blog: deconstruct their arguments

    /Michael


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  35. 35
    Engineering Edgar Says:

    It does look overly dramatic but I won’t judge it since I have not actually seen the film and the trailer only shows so much. I suppose it would be better to defer to Michael’s judgment for those who have not actually watched the movie,


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  36. 36
    Jeremy Says:

    I watched nuclear nightmares by bbc a while back and they were saying that the The Linear non-threshold model was based on the effects of the hiroshima bomb, that it showed that the the chance of getting cancer increased, but this was only based on a very large dose of radiation.
    so i was thinking, the anti nukes are saying that any radiation is bad and that 0 radiation is best, is that like saying that because you can kill someone with electricity that you never want to have electricity in you’re body? Is that what’s happening with them, no brain activity?


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