Monday, April 11, 2011

A "minor" accident?

Many would have you think the meltdowns are disasters on unprecedented scale, others that they are just minor accidents. One thing is certain; these meltdowns are second only to Chernobyl as the worst nuclear accident. Furthermore, the number of evacuations has increased to several other towns, now encompassing 85,000 people. If a significant portion of them, say 10,000, are unable to return home for years or more, the cost of such an event will be in the billions. Not to mention the sad reality that these people are forced to leave their homes and town, possibly forever. As always, this aspect is ignored by nuclear apologists. Some even claim that this is no worse than a wind turbine accident, or a bus crash. Yet not a single one of them has to live near this plant or evacuate their home. I find it most interesting that a large nuclear plant, Indian Point, is just more than 30 KM (the Japan evacuation radius) from New York City; by a considerable margin the largest and most productive city in the United States. Imagine the implications, even just economic and political, of having a major accident near a city like that? Such as if this event occurred in Tokyo?

It is interesting that the long term evacuations are being suggested, without any real hard information on exposure levels in these areas. From the start, the Japanese government has been very secretive about the amount of radiation released. Probably this is to prevent panic, because the public does not have a good background or context in which to understand the numbers. But I would argue that people have the right to know their exposure levels.

If there has been a significant release of radiation, say 1/10th as much as Chernobyl, with tens or hundreds of GBq of several radioactive isotopes (most importantly the Iodine 131), then we can safely expect many thousands of cancer cases, followed by hundreds of deaths. Compare this to Chernobyl with tens of thousands of cancer cases, and thousands of deaths. Not exactly a Hiroshima, but not exactly a bus crash either.

And here is a fun factoid; the stability of the emergency cooling system at the plant (which was supposed to be safe and contained at this point) is actually highly dubious. Why? Because it is manually operated:

"The backup power and pumping systems that have been brought to the plant since March 11, including emergency diesel generators, fire trucks on standby and other generator trucks — all require workers to operate them manually, according to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. That makes them useless when workers must evacuate away from the reactors."

So if radiation levels suddenly spike (as a result of say, an earthquake?) these men have to either evacuate, or get exposed to potentially lethal amounts of radiation.

NY Times

Nuclear Apologists

Here also is a fun talking points list that you are likely to come across:

1. No one could have imagined... (a tsunami in Japan, etc.)
2. The Japanese are stupid and do things all wrong. (Or commies?)
3. It would never happen here. (Particularly not 35 miles from New York City.)
4. Nuclear energy is clean and safe. (If you ignore the dozens of accidents)
5. What? Do you want Gaddafi heating your house? (Or man-eating wind turbines?!?!)

Considering all of the "expert" opinions from nuclear apologists and commi-nazi hunters out there, who know precious little about the reality of nuclear power, here is the minimum sized reading list, in no particular order:

109 East Palace
Making of the Atomic Bomb
Dark Sun
The Manhattan Project
Under the Cloud
Uranium Frenzy
The Plutonium Files
Three Mile Island
The Wizards of Armageddon
Idaho Falls
The Legacy of Chernobyl

On a tangent but also interesting:

Inviting Disaster
When science goes wrong (incl. SL1)

If you don't have the ability to invest this much time, here is the 30 minute primer:

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