588 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. Ernestine Gross

    “No, Peter Lang, I am not going to go to the BNC web-site. As I have mentioned before, I have sampled the BNC web-site. It promotes nuclear power.”

    I gave you a link to an article I wrote that I think addresses the substance of the question you are asking.

    You answer, in effect, “No, I am not going to read it. I don’t want to hear. I just want to stop this flow of information that is upsetting me and eroding the foundations of my deeply held beliefs”

    That seems very like a “denialist” to me.

    Therefore, I suggest if you want your economic model to produce the answer you want, you should build it yourself.

    No point me doing it, you wouldn’t read it. Your response is a forgone conclusion.

    Wow! What an example this is of the true anti-nukes.

  2. Greph,

    “However I would ask you to consider the opportunity cost to a small country like Australia from investing in nuclear as a primary means of power generation.”

    Your point and the examples you give are all valid issues. I agree. However, from my perspective they are all manageable and also apply to whatever new technology path wwe adopt. We took on building the Collins Class Submarines for example, and many other industries. We are talking about decades for the technology transfer to take place. Other countries have done it. For example, our only operating nuclear reactor was bought from Argentina; Argentina developed the capability, so why couldn’t Australia?. I do not see the issues you raise as major hurdles. However, I do see as an impossible hurdle trying to meet our demand for electricity using renewable energy. So it is either we go nuclear or don’t cut CO2 emissions substantially, if at all. That is the choice in reality.

  3. The fact that a economic model cannot be constructed for nuclear power, shows that it is an inappropriate response to cutting fossils.

    However, this does not apply to renewables – the costs of tidal, solar, and wind, can be known just as easily as any infrastructure, like a bridge, highway, or broadband network.

    As I showed earlier, society is never given the true costs of nuclear, see:

    Estimating Nuke costs – reality

    We can probbaly deal with bridge-builders saying one thing and doing another. A bridge disaster may kill 100, but this does not apply to nuclear industry.

    Not even APASMA knows what likely costs are: see “Radioactive Waste in Australia – Near Surface Burial in an Arid Area” by Malcolm Cooper and Stuart Woollett (2010) ISSN 0157-1400.

    at:
    [http://www.arpansa.gov.au/Publications/TechnicalReports/index.cfm].

    They have no plan for Lucas Heights spent fuel rods, they have no plan for any waste with activity over 400 Mbq, and at table 1, page 5, claim that the half-life for pu239 is 86 years.

    And these people are the official Australian regulator !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Google “Pu239 half life” to see how truthful and reliable our Regulators are.

  4. ARPANSA says the half life of U238 is 109 years.

    Here is the truth:

    U238 decay series

    Its a bit hard to seal nuclear waste in canisters if the decay series includes a gas.

    So which of our nucloholics have given any data on the decay of waste from spent fuel rods in all the reactors they want to impose?

  5. @Peter Lang

    We need roughly 1 GW of gas capacity to back up for 1 GW of wind capacity (we can argue about the details of that statement later). So we need the capical investment for 1GW of wind (about $2.9 billion on current Australian costs, ref ABARE, 2010) plus about 1GW of gas turbines (about $1 billion), plus grid enhancements (about $1 billion).

    9. If gas generators could back up for wind power with no efficiency penalty, gas would provide roughly 70% of the energy.

    So after all that massive expense on wind generators and gas generators and ditching coal generators, we still only mange to get 30% of our electricity energy from non-carbon-emitting generators. What a wonderful solution to the problem that is.

    By the way, somewhat ironically Dinorwig pumped hydro power station was originally built to help deal with the inflexibility of the nuclear power stations that were planned at the time. Of course, the problems dealing with inflexible nuclear power stations pale into insignificance compared with the problems caused by variable generation from wind.

  6. @Chris Warren

    Over 50% of natural exposure to radiation comes from radon in the atmosphere, mostly from natural sources. One of the sources from human activity is burning coal where the radon goes up the stack into the atmosphere: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs163-97/FS-163-97.html

    There is a decent account of sources of natural sources of radiation exposure here: http://depletedcranium.com/on-lnt-and-nuclear-energy/

    A bit of hand waving about radon is rather meaningless unless you can show that radon that *might* be released from nuclear waste or in any other part of the nuclear fuel cycle increases the natural level to any meaningful extent. Nuclear safety is an important issue that must be treated rationally and quantitatively.

  7. @Chris Warren

    The fact that a economic model cannot be constructed for nuclear power, shows that it is an inappropriate response to cutting fossils.

    However, this does not apply to renewables – the costs of tidal, solar, and wind, can be known just as easily as any infrastructure,

    It’s all very well knowing what the costs of tidal, solar, and wind would be but if electricity from a system getting all of its energy from renewables costs six times as much as it does now then such information is of purely academic interest.

  8. @Chris Warren

    ARPANSA says the half life of U238 is 109 years.

    I’m sure some proof-reading wouldn’t go astray.

    Here is the truth:
    U238 decay series
    Its a bit hard to seal nuclear waste in canisters if the decay series includes a gas.

    We’d better start digging up all that U-238 in the ground (99.3% of natural Uranium) and launch it into space. Once we’ve done that, we can start extracting it from the oceans. Should only take millions of years.

  9. @gregh

    Consider then the timeline of our natural resource sales in a world driven by nucelar power- not so happy for us. Yet maintaining nuclear is a long term proposition – but we won’t be able to pay for that in the long term as our asset base is devalued by the dominance of nuclear.
    It seems to me another strategy is in our strategic interests.

    Well if nuclear is out because of cost then you can say good-bye to variable renewables as well.

  10. On Sky News this morning, they are talking about Howard’s Book, in which Howard spills the very cold and slimy beans about the Howard/Costello thing. Howard apparently claims that in 2006 he (and his wife Janet) had decided to resign by the end of 2006, but Costello’s behaviour in trying to push Howard out made Howard decide to dig in his heels and stay.

    Now if the above is a reasonably accurate portrayal of what Howard says in his Book, then a summarised version is:
    I said bugger the Liberal party’s chances at the next election, I !!CRUSH!! Costello, like a leetle bug that he is!!
    And didn’t that work out well. 😛

  11. The usual nitwit, pub-talk ….

    Chris O’Neill :

    I’m sure some proof-reading wouldn’t go astray.

    That’s the whole point. In all technologies, such mistakes, human errors, creep in. Safety devices fail. With renewables and bridges, they can be fixed. With nuclear they cannot.

    You cannot proof-read your nuclear management manuals after the event.

    But the real stupidity of these nucloholics, is their continuous efforts to disrupt threads:

    Where for instance, is anyone saying:

    We’d better start digging up all that U-238 in the ground (99.3% of natural Uranium) and launch it into space

    How does such inane, cretinous, concepts even get into the heads of these twits?

    What fool wants to pretend that Australia should extract uranium from the ocean?

    I doubt whether this fellow could even tie its own shoe laces?

  12. @quokka

    Huh? Where did I mention radon.

    Yes – derr – um – da radon is in the environment naturally.

    Derrr.. – so what?

    Who is handwaving?

    Is this just more nuke pundits with short-circuits in the brain.

    It doesn’t matter what the gas is. My question is how do you contain waste in steel and concrete containers, if its decay sequence, includes necessarily passing through a gaseous stage?

    If I put water in a closed thick steel tank, and turn it all to gas – it ruptures.

    So how do we stop the same happening with concrete silos of nuke waste, lowlevel, medium level and highlevel?

  13. Greph,

    Another point regarding your statement:

    “However I would ask you to consider the opportunity cost to a small country like Australia from investing in nuclear as a primary means of power generation.”

    We have to also consider the oportunity costs of falling further behind. You’d be aware that Australia is the only G20 country that does not have nuclear already power or is proceeding to implement it.

  14. The other comments this morning are examples of a spray of anti-nuclear dogma, strawmen and denialism.

    Nuclear is about the safest of all the electricity generation technologies and 10 to 100 times safer than coal (full life cycle analysis, everything included). Google ‘ExternE NewExt’ if you want to understand this. I expect you wont look becasuse you don’t want to know. That would seriously dent your argument.

    Renewables cannot provide our supply now and probably never will be able to.

    Renewables require far more material than nuclear to produce the same energy output, so if you are concerned about running out of material, you should be advocating nuclear.

    If you want to cut CO2 emissions, then you need to be advocating nuclear.

    If you are arguing that we should cut CO2 emissions, and at the same time you are denying nuclear, you are hypocrtitical. Ideology is your agenda, not “saving the plant”.

  15. @Peter Lang

    Sorry Peter,

    We’ve heard all that before.

    It isn’t true in the long-run.

    And other more important factors come into play.

    Also serious questions remain unanswered.

    I suppose we have to face the reality, that more expensive power from renewables, is the only option in the short-term.

    In the long term nuclear may be an option, with commercial fusion, or if space-lift costs come down (and I would like to see a huge reinvestment in this).

  16. Replies to Chris Warren:

    1. “We’ve heard all that before.”

    Yes, you have. It’s all been substantiated up threaqd sand in the references sited. None of it has been refuted. So it stands as correct until refuted.

    2. “It isn’t true in the long-run.”

    Yes, it is true in the long run. It hasn’t been refuted. There is no alternative other than to continue to burn fossil fuels. What you are missing is to compare the nuclear option with the renewable option. You are scared of nuclear because of 40+ years of anti nuclear dogma but you are not prepared to open your mind and challenge your beliefs. Most of the pro nukes have come from the same position as you are in now. But they challenmged their beliefs Thay bagan ot look into it. But most of the anti-nukes are in the equivalent of the drug addicts’ “denial stage”. You can’t acknowledge that you might be wrong. It is a defence mechanism.

    3. “And other more important factors come into play.”

    Oh yea!. What are they?

    4. Also serious questions remain unanswered.

    Oh yea!. What are they?

    Down in the weeds issues are just scare mongering. Raising issues out of context and without considering the alternative is also simply anti-nuclear dogma.

    The point is that the choice is between not cutting emissions and implementing nuclear. No nuclear means no siginficant cut in emissions over the long term.

    Renewables cannot provide our power supply, so they are not an alternative to nuclear.

    Issues about half life of waste are just silly since the toxic chemiclas released by the alternatives are much greater quantities, are released to the environment not controlled as they are in the nuclear system, and importantly they do not have a half life. They do not decay at all. They are in the environment forever. All these effects are properly compared in the ‘ExternE NewExt’ studies. Google it and find out.

    Importantly, there is no point tlking about issues down in the weeds. You will also find issues in the renewables and fossil fuels. You need to compare the options on a properly comnparable basis. When you do so, you find that nuclear is about the safest of all – overall!

    5. “I suppose we have to face the reality, that more expensive power from renewables, is the only option in the short-term.”

    No, it is not the only option. That option leads to little being achieved. Emissions will not be reduced much if at all. The costs to society would be huge for no gain.

    By far the best option is to go nuclear.

    You are advocating for a bad option. Your advocacy is based on your idelogical beliefs not on a rational analysis.

  17. Wikipedia says:
    High level waste (HLW) is produced by nuclear reactors. It contains fission products and transuranic elements generated in the reactor core. It is highly radioactive and often thermally hot. HLW accounts for over 95% of the total radioactivity produced in the process of nuclear electricity generation. The amount of HLW worldwide is currently increasing by about 12,000 metric tons every year, which is the equivalent to about 100 double-decker buses or a two-story structure with a footprint the size of a basketball court.[16] A 1000-MWe nuclear power plant produces about 27 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel (unreprocessed) every year.[17]

  18. @Peter Lang

    When you just get the Lang recording going it all gets a bit boring.

    he is not listening.

    The problems which have been mentioned before are:

    1) The inability of industry, in reality, to identify actual costs [evidence posted earlier]

    2) The lack of insurance costs, and waste costs, in various costings of (so-called) levelised energy costs.

    3) The outdated capacity factor applied (by some) for renewables given the increase in storage systems.

    4) The unresolved problem of containing waste when it necessarily decays to a gas.

    5) The inability of nuke-pundits to deal with the actual technology which they dismiss as “weeds”.

    6) Lack of information on the isotopes sent from Lucas Heights to France, and on return from France to Australia.

    7) Incompetence of ARPANSA

    8) The greater long-term security for humanity inherent in renewables.

  19. Nuke pundits say radon is not such a problem because “Radon itself is of minor concern, since most of the inhaled radon is exhaled”. But NB, they do not say how many nanograms are retained after inhaling and exhaling 100 litres of radon polluted air?

    See: http://www.wise-uranium.org/rup.html

    It also has a short half-life. But it produces long lived isotopes:

    See: http://www.wise-uranium.org/img/actrnl.gif

    Background levels of natural radiation cause background levels of cancer.

  20. Chris,

    This list is just a list of silly, antinuclear bits an pieces. As I’ve said before, there is no vlaue in raising an issue about something out of context. You need to present it in context, and compare it with the alternative. Otherwise it is just dogma.

    If you want to talk about costs, compare with the alternative on a full system, full life cycle basis.

    If you want to compare health issues, compare the total health consequences on a full life cycle basis.

    And so on. You are not doing that so it is meaningless. It cannot be addressed. It is just dogma.

  21. So what is the answer?

    Why is the capacity factor “dogma”?

    Why is the gaseous state of decaying nuclear waste “dogma”?

    Why is the isotope content of Lucas Heights waste coming back to us, “dogma”?

    The context is the risk, and effects, and the cost of alleviating, insuring against, or building risk-prevention measures associated with all these issues.

    If it costs money, increases risks to health, will be denounced by future generations – its in my context.

  22. @Chris Warren

    The usual nitwit, pub-talk ….

    Just a direct response to what you’re saying. If it sounds like nitwit pubtalk then the nitwit pubtalk started with you.

    I’m sure some proof-reading wouldn’t go astray.

    That’s the whole point. In all technologies, such mistakes, human errors, creep in. Safety devices fail. With renewables and bridges, they can be fixed.

    Err, I don’t saying “bridges can be fixed” is going to impress the relatives of people killed in bridge collapses. As with bridges, detecting and removing errors is part of the engineering process in nuclear systems.

    Where for instance, is anyone saying:
    We’d better start digging up all that U-238 in the ground (99.3% of natural Uranium) and launch it into space

    How does such inane, cretinous, concepts even get into the heads of these twits?

    Because some inane cretin started talking about U238 as if it is nuclear waste.

  23. Chris Warren I take it you’d like to ban medical isotopes or ionising smoke alarms as well. These small issues are manageable while some big issues have no easy answers. To grasp this try to find a single country that has shut down and not replaced coal fired power stations as a result of using wind and solar power. Look at the big picture, not the sideshows.

  24. @Peter Lang

    Kr-85 is released during the reprocessing of fuel rods from nuclear reactors.

    So how do they control this?

    They don’t – and some of our nuke pundits say:

    its “weed”, “dogma”, “silly” etc etc.

    So what happens:

    Concentrations at the North Pole are 30% higher than at the South Pole as most nuclear reactors are in the northern hemisphere.[3]

    So if we get more nukes – we get more radioactive Kr, in the atmosphere. So what is a suitable context for this?

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotopes_of_krypton

  25. @Chris Warren

    “Background levels of natural radiation cause background levels of cancer.”

    Care to quantify that? It is very unclear what harm, if any is done by natural low level exposure to radiation. Whatever it is, it is likely to be swamped by other causes of cancer and statistically unrecognizable.

    The fact is that some people receive significantly higher radiation exposure due to their occupation or geographical location than the average with apparent health ill effects. For example aircraft flight crews or populations living with high natural radiation levels.

    One of the outcomes of the Chernobyl disaster is that the health effects of low level radiation exposure have been extensively studied. There have been no detectable increases in the incidence of leukemia or solid solid cancers other than thyroid cancer in the general population. The increase in thyroid cancer is due to the update of radioactive iodine and is treatable. It is certainly not to be taken lightly, but it should be understood that it is not due to general exposure to ionizing radiation radiation but attributable to uptake of a specific iodine radio isotope. It is possible that more cases of other solid cancers may show up, but what is clear is that the predicted tens of thousands of deaths from cancer just haven’t happened. Even amongst the huge numbers of clean up workers some of whom received quite substantial doses far in excess of natural levels and far in excess of what the general population received the increased incidence of leukemia is very small. The number of deaths attributable to Chernobyl is probably still less than 100.

    There also have been no statistical increase in birth abnormalities due to the Chernobyl incident.

    Exposure to low level radiation is part of life, has always been part of life on earth and always will be. It is very likely that life has adapted to it.

    Nothing I have written here implies a cavalier attitude to radiation safety. The nuclear power industry is held to very high standards including the “as low as reasonably possible” principle. Which is why, excluding the former Soviet Union, there have been no more than a handful of deaths attributed to nuclear power worldwide – much, much better than most heavy industry, transport, fossil fuel powered electricity generation or just about any other economic activity. Nuclear power is in fact exceptionally safe.

  26. @Peter Lang

    I don’t know whether you are confused or into spin in a big way or biased in your mind or simply made some embarrassing errors. But your published story @2, p 11 needs correction. Using your paragraph ordering,

    1. PL quotes from EG: “No, Peter Lang, I am not going to go to the BNC web-site. As I have mentioned before, I have sampled the BNC web-site. It promotes nuclear power.”

    EG: Your quote from my post is selective and distorting. You leave out my stated reason for not going to BNC, namely that I am not a nuclear scientist and therefore cannot form an independent opinion of the content of a web-site that promotes nuclear. For your information, I don’t go to web-sites that promote renewables either.

    2. PL writes: “I gave you a link to an article I wrote that I think addresses the substance of the question you are asking.”

    EG: Yes you did give a link. But you don’t accept my decision not to go to promotional web-sites. Why can’t you post on the JQ web-site, where we are, what you think is the substance of your approach to my question?

    3. PL writes: You answer, in effect, “No, I am not going to read it. I don’t want to hear. I just want to stop this flow of information that is upsetting me and eroding the foundations of my deeply held beliefs.”

    EG: Peter Lang, you have invented a quote. This is a falsification. This is evidence that you make up stories about other people. This is an instance of total confusion between what goes on in your mind and what goes on in my mind. Some people may call it a projection of your mind.

    4. PL says: “That seems very like a “denialist” to me.”

    EG: You said it, Peter Lang. By 3 above, it is you, not I, you are talking about here. So, you are the denialist.

    5.PL says: “Therefore, I suggest if you want your economic model to produce the answer you want, you should build it yourself.”

    EG: You see, Peter Lang, I didn’t suggest that you want me to read the economic model you built that produces the answers you want. I offered a neutral approach (mathematical economics) on a neutral territory (JQ’s web-site). You didn’t want to work along. I merely wanted to know your notion of ‘economic cost’.

    6. PL says: “No point me doing it, you wouldn’t read it. Your response is a forgone conclusion.”

    EG: No, Peter Lang, it is you who did not produce the model I asked for on this web-site. (I’d like to remind that it was in reply to your rejection of my request for your model of the economic cost of nuclear power that I asked for a more general model). You do not know what my response would be.

    7. “Wow! What an example this is of the true anti-nukes.”

    How can I put it gently? Your conclusion belongs to your fiction. It has nothing to do with me.

  27. @Finrod

    I read your disclosure about the accident and I am sorry to hear about the tragedy. On a personal note, I wish you all the best that can be achieved under the circumstances.

    Your support for Peter Lang’s fiction is a stark reminder that one must reply and correct the nonsense. Peter Lang’s and associates fiction writing is a time wasting activity and I wish Peter Lang and associates would focus on the topic instead of fighting imaginary characters and causing wastage of time and mental energy that are necessary to unravel their nonsense.

    The ‘economic cost’ of something is a subtle concept even if there are no significant negative externalities such as ghg emissions, nuclear pollution, coal dust and other byproducts of human activity.

  28. @Chris O’Neill

    Fool…..

    ARPANSA included U238.

    I’ll say it again ….

    ARPANSA included U238.

    So all your extrapolations are just bar-room, incoherent, soliloquy.

    My issue is nuclear waste, irrespective of its composition, producing gas, irrespective of the type of gas, as it decays.

    U238 was just an example of a decay series, going to a gas at some point, and U238 was used only because “ARPANSA included U238.” Got it, bimbo.

    Other gases are released by other decay series – eg Kr.

    You are simply irrelevant.

  29. quokka :
    @Chris Warren

    This displays extraordinarily bad knowledge. Background levels impact on around 1% of the population. This is well known. See:

    The linear dose-response model suggests that any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk. The linear no-threshold model (LNT) hypothesis is accepted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the EPA and its validity has been reaffirmed by a National Academy of Sciences Committee. (See the BEIR VII report, summarized in [3].) Under this model, about 1% of a population would develop cancer in their lifetime as a result of ionizing radiation from background levels of natural and man-made sources.

    Easy source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ionizing_radiation

    So it is just wrong to claim:

    (The harm) done by natural low level exposure to radiation… is likely to be statistically unrecognizable.

    *****

    You cannot argue that Chernobyl resulted in no increased cancer, by playing a trick, such as pretending that:

    “thyroid cancer is not due to general exposure to ionizing radiation but attributable to a specific isotope”.

    When the ‘specific isotope’ emits ionizing radiation which causes thyroid cancer.

    *******

    So background radiation causes background level of cancers.

    Radiation released from Chenobyl killed over two dozen workers, and has created over a thousand thyroid cancers.

    And the issue of Japanese survivors has already been covered in this thread, and naturally, ignored by the quokka.

    As usual with these pundits, their mouths are open but their eyes and ears are closed.

  30. @Chris Warren

    The precauationary principle run wild.

    The great weight of scientific evidence supports the radiation hormesis model. LNT has no experimental validation for doses around background level. If the statistics prove anything, it’s that dosages several times background level reduce cancer rates.

  31. @Chris Warren

    From your reference “The linear dose-response model suggests that any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk”.

    The key word here is “suggests” because the truth is nobody really knows for certain whether LNT is correct for low dose. It is essentially an extrapolation of dose response studies for the Japanese victims of nuclear weapons who were exposed to vastly higher doses. The unexpectedly low incidence of cancer from Chernobyl and lack of epidemiological studies showing ill health effects among populations living with naturally high levels of radiation certainly raise important questions about LNT. Regulatory authorities adopt LNT for conservative reasons – better to be safe than sorry – and in the absence of better understanding of low level exposure, this may well be a perfectly reasonable course of action.

    In any case, the nuclear fuel cycle adds such a tiny contribution to natural background radiation that it’s effects are inconsequential regardless of whether LNT is true or not.

    One of the worst health outcomes from Chernobyl was depression where many people became excessively concerned about radiation exposure to an extent that was way out of proportion to what transpired to the actual disk they faced. We understand the situation better now and it just plain irresponsible (and I may say cruel) to deliberately inflate the dangers of low level radiation beyond what the evidence suggests.

  32. @Chris Warren

    ARPANSA included U-238 because U-238 is one of the isotopes you find in spent fuel (they put it into the fuel rods and it was still there when they took the fuel rods out), but it’s no more dangerous in and of itself than it was before it was dug out of the ground. It has a half-life of over four billion years. How dangerous do you think it’s going to be?

  33. Finrod :
    @Chris Warren
    ARPANSA included U-238 because U-238 is one of the isotopes you find in spent fuel (they put it into the fuel rods and it was still there when they took the fuel rods out), but it’s no more dangerous in and of itself than it was before it was dug out of the ground. It has a half-life of over four billion years. How dangerous do you think it’s going to be?

    Who cares?

    I am not interested in U238. In the ground it is as dangerous as normal background radiation. After processing one needs to know its new concentration and isotopes to assess its relative risk in new conditions.

    The point, which I have explained at slow learner pace above, is irrespective of the specific isotope or gas.

    If decay in canisters necessarily goes through a gaseous stage, then there is a problem.

    Focusing on U238 is irrelevant.

  34. “We can probbaly deal with bridge-builders saying one thing and doing another. A bridge disaster may kill 100, but this does not apply to nuclear industry.”

    You’re quite right it “does not apply to the nuclear industry”! Nobody outside the Soviet Union has ever been hurt or killed by radioactivity or ionising radiation from a commercial nuclear power station.

    The fact is, which we know, from direct empirical experience, from the historical record, is that nuclear power is extremely safe. The undeniable experience, from decades of experience with hundreds of commercial nuclear power reactors operating reliably across the world, is that it is extremely safe, it is simply the safest means of energy generation that there is.

    “They have no plan for Lucas Heights spent fuel rods, they have no plan for any waste with activity over 400 Mbq, and at table 1, page 5, claim that the half-life for pu239 is 86 years.”

    The plan for the spent fuel from OPAL and HIFAR is the same plan that has been in existence, being done by ANSTO, for many years. The enriched uranium that goes into those reactors is supplied by foreign nations with uranium enrichment capacity – from France or the UK I think, but I can’t remember exactly off the top of my head.

    We have agreements that are established in those supply contracts – the irradiated nuclear fuel gets sent back to them. They reprocess it, and they extract the majority of the mass of that once-used nuclear fuel as uranium of a slightly lower enrichment ratio, plus a little bit of reactor-grade plutonium, because those actinides are very valuable nuclear fuels. A tiny portion of material is left over – that is, the fission products.

    Although the fission products account for the majority of the radioactivity, the fission-product radionuclides have relatively short half-lives.

    The neutron sources used in neutron based instruments such as Troxler gauges, “mineral analysers” and moisture gauges generally contain an alpha emitter such as Am-241 or Pu-238 in conjunction withberyllium; Pu-238 is far better than Pu-239 since it has a much higher alpha decay rate, and it has a half-life of about 88 years. I reckon the ARPANSA document is supposed to say Pu-238 rather than Pu-239.

    Under agreements which have already been established in the case of the HIFAR fuel, and which may have (I’m not sure) already been established in the case of the OPAL fuel, the small amount of fission product waste is vitrified into glass, put into a few canisters, and this stablised, well-contained intermediate-level fission product waste is returned to Australia’s responsibility.

    This material is just made of fission product nuclides, in a glass matrix. There is no uranium or other radon progeny present.

    “Its a bit hard to seal nuclear waste in canisters if the decay series includes a gas.”

    No, it’s not.

    “ARPANSA says the half life of U238 is 109 years.”

    I think they mean that the half-life of U-238 is on the order of ~10^9 years. They’ve dropped the superscript on the 9, and they’ve done the same thing with the above entry in the table for Th-232. (The half-life of Th-232 is ~ 1.4 * 10^10 years, about as long as the age of the universe.)

    You often see people lose their subscripts and superscripts when carelessly transcribing and editing technical documents. If you think a bit of more careful proofreading wouldn’t go astray, then sure – I certainly agree with you.

    “It doesn’t matter what the gas is. My question is how do you contain waste in steel and concrete containers, if its decay sequence, includes necessarily passing through a gaseous stage?”

    Nobody is talking about putting uranium-238 into closed steel containers, anyway – you simply do not need to. Its radioactivity is just so little, it’s harmless. Why not just put it back into the hole in the ground that it came from? Or even better, use it as an abundant source of clean reliable energy.

    The table that you’re referring to in the ARPANSA document is “Common Radionuclides with Half Lives Greater than 5 Years in Waste Stored in Australia as of mid-1989”.

    The waste that they’re referring to, containing Th-232 and U-238, is simply tailings waste from CSIRO uranium and thorium mineral processing experiments, containing natural uranium and thorium that has come out of the ground. This mineral material has very little radioactivity and requires no special packaging.

    “If I put water in a closed thick steel tank, and turn it all to gas – it ruptures.”

    How do boilers work? Is it magic? No.

    When we build a boiler, we understand the phenomenon that occurs, and using the laws of physics, we understand how much pressure is created when we have a certain amount of water turning to steam at a certain temperature, and we do the engineering of the vessel accordingly. It works as designed, and it doesn’t rupture. Amazing!

    Similarly, if we have a given amount of uranium-238 and we watch it decay, we know the rate that gas is evolved – both as radon, and as helium evolution during the alpha decay.

    Similarly, for example, when we build a plutonium-238 powered radioisotope thermoelectric generator to power our space probes through the exploration of the outer solar system, the plutonium-238 oxide which forms the heat source is hermetically sealed within a robust metal capsule. However, as the Pu-238 alpha decays, helium accumulates within the sealed device, increasing the pressure.

    However, once again, we understand the physics and chemistry and engineering of the system. We know how much Pu-238 is present, we know how fast it decays, and we know how much pressure could accumulate – and the system is engineered appropriately, and it works like a charm.

    “Background levels of natural radiation cause background levels of cancer.”

    Exposure to ionising radiation at low levels which are above the typical average background radiation levels (in places which have abnormal very high natural background radiation, for example) corresponds to incidences of cancer and disease which are below the average background levels. Isn’t that interesting?

    “Nuke pundits say radon is not such a problem because “Radon itself is of minor concern, since most of the inhaled radon is exhaled”. But NB, they do not say how many nanograms are retained after inhaling and exhaling 100 litres of radon polluted air?”

    Nuclear energy has nothing to do with radon. Radon occurs naturally in the environment, where the uranium which is abundant in the Earth naturally decays. Nuclear energy does not create radon or make it decay.

    “Kr-85 is released during the reprocessing of fuel rods from nuclear reactors.”

    It is of no health physics significance. Any such release does not correspond to any ionising radiation dose of any significance for anyone in the community. If it was of any health physics significance, which it isn’t, it would be possible to capture and retain 100% of any of the krypton and xenon fission products such as Kr-85. Some of it is already captured and used to make sealed radioactive sources for various technological applications – but not all of it always is, granted.

  35. Finrod :

    If the statistics prove anything, it’s that dosages several times background level reduce cancer rates.

    Can you explain how the statistics prove that radiation dosages several times background level reduce cancer rates.

    Is this the view of the Australian Cancer Council or CSIRO or ARPANSA?

  36. @Luke Weston

    Thanks for your stream of lobbyist assertions.

    However two points may be useful if you provide evidence:

    1) Nuclear energy has nothing to do with radon.

    2) Gas from decay sequences can be contained in metal canisters.

    You might also like to have a go at Finrod’s point

    3) radiation doses several times background level, reduces cancer.

  37. Chris Warren :

    Finrod :
    If the statistics prove anything, it’s that dosages several times background level reduce cancer rates.

    Can you explain how the statistics prove that radiation dosages several times background level reduce cancer rates.
    Is this the view of the Australian Cancer Council or CSIRO or ARPANSA?

    Try this.

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_6878/is_3_13/ai_n28562153/

    Most if not all regulatory bodies and medical organisations will adopt the precautionary principle concerning LNT. It has a strong grip on them. But this concensus is being increasingly challenged.

  38. I just thought I’d mention that a numkber of my posts, some of which have no links or pords that ought to trugger the spam filter, have been held in moderation — at least one for several days now.

    This may reflect the bandwidth problem PrQ posted on — as the posts were longer than those that went through. OTOH some much longer posts have appeared here, so that can’t be the sole reason.

    I answered Greg and Chris a couple of others but it seems they have been swallowed. It’s a little disappointing.

  39. Just for those who want to play games with Chernobyl (where they evacuated most people but still over 2 dozen workers died and there are over a thousand thyroid cancers). Evacuation is a effective preventative because distance reduces risk.

    In Japan, where low dose events occurred;

    [MR is mortality rate. H is Hiroshima. O is neighbouring Okayama]

    Results

    Even at low and very low dose categories, the SMR-H and SMR-O were significantly high for all deaths, all cancers, solid cancers, and liver cancers in male subjects, and for uterus and liver cancers in female subjects, respectively. The results show that, if the dose estimations of the dosimetry system 1986 (DS86) are correct, there are significantly increased risks of cancer among even survivors exposed to the very low dose level.

    The link posted earlier is:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2698250/

    So if you can be evacuated away from a low dose environment, you have low risk. Otherwise the risk depends on the dose, and most likely this is a linear relationship.

  40. @quokka

    Care to quantify that? It is very unclear what harm, if any is done by natural low level exposure to radiation. Whatever it is, it is likely to be swamped by other causes of cancer and statistically unrecognizable.

    Radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer in the United States, after cigarette smoking. But nuclear energy probably causes a net reduction in the total amount of Radon on earth, because it (1) fissions U235 making it unable to decay into Radon and (2) transmutes U238 to Pu239 which is then fissioned and then no longer able to decay into Radon.

    So Uranium in general and nuclear fuel and “waste” in particular have to handled carefully to avoid harm from the Radon they produce but activities involving nuclear energy will not produce more Radon than the Uranium ore that they originally came from already produces.

  41. @Chris Warren

    The people who contracted thyroid cancer from the Chernobyl accident were exposed to high levels of radiation, not low levels. They were irradiated by highly radioactive I-131 (half life of about eight days) which was concentrated in their thyroid gland. The tryroid cancers resulting from the Chernobyl accident do not invalidate the radiation hormesis model.

    It is likely that if the population had been advised to remain in their homes and seal the doors and winfows effectively, rather than marching through the open countryside as part of the evacuation, many of those cases could have been avoided.

  42. Finrod :
    This link has some interesting information concerning a rasiation contamination incident in Taiwan, and what resulted from it.

    5,000 mRem/y [= 50 mSv/y] is recognised as not causing health risk.

    See: [web.princeton.edu/sites/ehs/radsafeguide/rsg_app_d.htm]

    The so-called “high-dose” cohort was not really a high dose.

    [web.princeton.edu/sites/ehs/radsafeguide/rsg_app_d.htm]

    The literature is crowded with various clusters of events from which academics make all sorts of weird claims – particularly when litigation or claims for compensation is involved as in this case.

    So such a thesis needs to be replicated and corroborated.

    My feeling is that at doses below 5,000 mrem a year, lobbyists will be able to find evidence for whatever dream they choose.

    If you spend 100hrs flying between New York and London – you get .5mSv.

    So on an annualised basis (8,000 hrs in a year) this is just over 40mSv. No-one is claiming that this exposure adds to mortality.

    90% of Finrod’s paper’s sample has annualised exposures 10mSv and lower.

    So unless then results are replicated – the paper just represents a normal statistical cluster.

  43. The links in the previous post were blocking the post.

    So you will have to cut and paste – which should not be too hard.

    But the irrelevancy of such a Taiwanese dose and mortality is still clear.

    8)

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