Why Fukushima death toll projections are based on junk science

The media is abuzz this morning with the first study attempting to quantify expected cancer deaths which may result from Fukushima. Written by Ten Hoeve and Mark Jacobson from Stanford University, the paper ‘Worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident’ is published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science (free PDF copy).

I will say upfront that I think the study is worse than useless. Jacobson (Hoeve is a former PhD student of his) is a long-time anti-nuclear and pro-renewables advocate, and (as I show below) clearly has an agenda to raise further fears about the health impacts of Fukushima and nuclear power in general. However, in this deeply flawed paper he succeeds only in illustrating some of the absurdities in current radiological protection models, and that one thing we know for sure – even if those absurdities are ignored – is that the evacuation killed more people than the accident.

The Hoeve and Jacobson (H&J) paper uses an atmospheric transport model (which is not really intended for this purpose) to attempt to quantify the worldwide movement of radionuclides released by Fukushima. Here they all are in the image below, circulating around the entire Northern Hemisphere and looking appropriately scary. (Note however that even the strong colours indicate infinitesimal amounts of additional radiation, far below normal background everywhere outside Japan.)

H&J then plug the deposition of these radionuclides into a grid-model of populations and apply a risk coefficient taken from the EPA. This is where things get really hairy. The risk coefficient depends on the assumption of LNT (linear no-threshold), which hypothesises that the linear dose-response relationship demonstrated at high levels of radiation exposure (the higher the dose, the greater the health impact) can also be assumed to exist at much lower levels. This is problematic for all sorts of reasons, not least that there is no convincing evidence for it, and much more to contradict it.

Hardly anyone I meet in the nuclear community these days still believes in LNT. Indeed, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) in its Publication 103 (2007) specifically states:

The collective effective dose quantity is an instrument for optimisation, for comparing radiological technologies and protection procedures, predominantly in the context of occupational exposure. Collective effective dose is not intended as a tool for epidemiological risk assessment, and it is inappropriate to use it in risk projections. The aggregation of very low individual doses over extended time periods is inappropriate, and in particular, the calculation of the number of cancer deaths based on collective effective doses from trivial individual doses should be avoided.

H&J avoid the need to heed this instruction by cherry-picking an older ICRP reference from 2005, and using the EPA approach which is no longer the world standard. As the Health Physics Society explains in non-scientific language anyone can understand:

…the concept of collective dose has come under attack for some misuses. The biggest example of this is in calculating the numbers of expected health effects from exposing large numbers of people to very small radiation doses. For example, you might predict that, based on the numbers given above, the population of the United States would have about 40,000 fatal cancers from background radiation alone. However, this is unlikely to be true for a number of reasons. Recently, the International Council on Radiation Protection issued a position statement saying that the use of collective dose for prediction of health effects at low exposure levels is not appropriate. The reason for this is that if the most highly exposed person receives a trivial dose, then everyone’s dose will be trivial and we can’t expect anyone to get cancer. [my emphasis]

The HPS illustrates this commonsensical statement with the following analogy:

Another way to look at it is that if I throw a 1-gram rock at everyone in the United States then, using the collective dose model, we could expect 270 people to be crushed to death because throwing a one-ton rock at someone will surely kill them. However, we know this is not the case because nobody will die from a 1-gram rock. The Health Physics Society also recommends not making risk estimates based on low exposure levels.

Unfortunately the entire supposed value of the H&J paper involves taking precisely this invalid approach, assessing below-trivial doses to very large populations in order to come up with an outcome where some people die of cancer. Even so, the number is not very big, no doubt to Jacobson’s intense disappointment. All told, H&J can only come up with 130 “worldwide excess mortalities”, mostly in Japan, although between 0 and 6 fatalities are supposed to happen in the US also – despite the infinitesimal extent of Fukushima-derived radiaoactive contamination there. This is about as inappropriate a use of the LNT model – which was designed only as a precautionary approach to occupational exposures – as it is possible to have.

Even though I think these figures are junk science, it is worth putting them in context. Let’s suppose that we were to accept H&J’s calculations at face value. How bad will Fukushima then have been? There are 130 deaths every 7 hours currently due to outdoor particulate air pollution (3.7 million annually, according to UNEP), many from coal-burning power stations which are the main alternative to nuclear for baseload electricity production in most of the world. That’s more than three Fukushimas every day. An additional two million die every year due to indoor air pollution, mostly because they don’t have access to electricity.

The H&J paper rather strangely then goes on to extrapolate deaths from a hypothetical Fukushima-equivalent accident at Diablo Canyon nuclear power station in California. Clearly this case is picked to try to scare North Americans, and Jacobson is hoping to get a higher expected death toll because the radioactive release from Diablo Canyon would likely drift towards Los Angeles rather than being swept out to sea as happened after the accident in Japan. (Plus, Diablo Canyon is in a tectonically-active area, so more potentially scary.) Even so, the death toll is still disappointingly low, at 156 (11-1570, lowest to highest probabilities). Cue a few concluding sentences about how 1.5% of reactors ever built have blown up, that “the risk of a meltdown is not small” therefore:

The risks and consequences of a meltdown must be considered along with other impacts, risks, costs, and benefits of nuclear power, discussed elsewhere, in comparison with other electric power sources in deciding the future direction of worldwide energy policy.

In conclusion, I don’t like to go in for ad hominem stuff, but the background of Mark Jacobson must be noted here. Jacobson is perhaps best known for a fantastical paper (PDF) published in Scientific American which proposed that all the world’s energy should be generated from wind, water and sun by 2030. This has been critiqued in too many places for me to link to here (although Barry Brook over at BNC perhaps did it best), but suffice to say that it depends on a build-out of 4 million large wind turbines and 90,000 massive solar plants, and is, well, impractical to say the least. An earlier paper claimed that nuclear power must be carbon intensive because of all the burning buildings that would result from the inevitably-ensuing large-scale nuclear war.

This is not the perspective of an objective energy scientist, but of an anti-nuclear campaigner pursuing an ideological agenda. If there is still any lingering doubt about Jacobson’s lack of objectivity, check out his TED debate with Stewart Brand under the heading ‘Does the world need nuclear energy?’

But I want to end on a different note, with a look at how real people actually did suffer and die as a direct result of the Fukushima accident – not because of the radiation itself, but because the fear of radiation led to a hurried evacuation of vulnerable people from hospitals and care homes. A paper in The Lancet describes the sorry mess that resulted:

Medical personnel did not accompany the patients during transportation. Bed-ridden patients were laid down on the seats, wrapped in protective gowns. During transportation, some patients suffered trauma by falling from the seats of the vehicles.

Evacuation continues late into the night

Evacuation continued late into the night. As the situation at the damaged plant became more volatile, the evacuation became more rushed and patients were transported by police vehicles as well. The vehicles were packed full, not only with patients but also with residents who had missed the chance to evacuate on their own. Late at night on March 14, patients were required to leave the buses because admitting hospitals or facilities could not be found and the vehicles were required elsewhere. Eventually, the patients were temporarily housed at a meeting room of the Soso Health Care office in Minamisoma city, with no heaters or medical supplies. Many had to wait for more than 24 h before reaching admitting facilities.

27 patients with severe medical problems such as end-stage renal failure or stroke were transported more than 100 km to Iwaki city. At least 12 of them were confirmed dead at 0300 h on March 15, ten of whom seemed to have died in the vehicles during transportation. Later, it was reported that more than 50 patients died either during or soon after evacuation, probably owing to hypothermia, dehydration, and deterioration of underlying medical problems.

And the next sentence is the key:

In the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, there were no deaths related to radiation or the explosion of the reactors. However, the evacuation of these patients was accompanied by loss of life.

As Chernobyl showed, fear of radiation is a far greater risk than radiation itself in the low doses experienced by the affected populations after both accidents. Unfortunately work by Jacobson and other anti-nuclear campaigners (in academia, environmental groups and elsewhere) will make this fear worse, and harm people’s health accordingly. I hope they are aware of this.


  1. Gidon Gerber

    What do you make of reports that the spent fuel pools in Fukushima 4 are a big security risk in case of another earthquake?


    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)
    2. Greg Mostly

      Mark, I really cannot believe your article. You are implying that they should not have evacuated the people from around Fukushima when there was a serious danger of much larger explosions from the meltdown of the core of the reactor?
      You sound like you are in the pay of the nuclear power companies.

    3. Nuclear Power Yes Please


      That is not at all what Mark is writing. The conclusion was that the fear of radiation led to a very poorly executed evacuation… which led to more deaths than the radiological accident itself.

      The point is that we cannot let fear rule us… because that is more harmful than the thing that is feared. People died becaise paranoia over radiation led to idiotic actions. And one source of this paranoia is people like Marc Z. Jacobson and their scare mongering.

      What we need instead is knowledge and prudent instructions on what to do in these kinds of situations. Marc Jacobsons little piece does nothing to advance that. We need experience and drills so we know what to do. Not opinionated rubbish that relish in potential death-counts.

      It all boils down to the 7 Ps: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

    4. Mary Downing

      Ever since the Fukushima Disaster the nuclear power companies have been waging a PR war. They have hired bogus ‘experts’ to bombard the internet, newspapers and magazines with articles and comments every day, every week. Their goal is to change public opinion with endless propaganda, praising nuclear and vilifying renewable energy. They are not interested in the welfare of society or the environment, they are only interested in making lots of money for their companies and themselves, just like the bankers. They are easy to spot: they always try to persuade you that Fukushima (or even Chernobyl) was not really a disaster.

    5. Nuclear Power Yes Please


      … or shoudl I call you “Pot”… because you have just seen your reflection in the polished copper surface and called the kettle “black”.

      In my country, it didn’t even take two days before the anti-nukes started to try to ride on the horrible catastrophe that was the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in order to try to smear nuclear power. People were still writing in agony under the ruins… the bodies hadn’t even gone cold when spin artists and opinion-mongers half way accross the world tried to profit from the situation and paint Fukushima as a mega-disaster in order to further their anti-nuclear opinion. Not even 48 hours had passed!

      They are not interested in the welfare of society or the environment, they are only interested in making lots of money for their companies and themselves, just like the bankers.

      Said after you accuse others of “willifying”. How dare you be so self-righteous and hypocritical! You are openly and blatantly demonizing millions of people that work to bring humanity clean energy – or supporting that venture – right after you accuse others of “willifying”! How dare you?! How do you even stomach the words?!

      Yes the nuclear power companies – and us friends of nuclear power – have finally woken up and began defending our stance. It’s about time… after decades of silence and abuse by hypocrits that use the product daily but throw garbage at those that provide it. And the hypocracy is doubled when when you accuse others of the very same thing that you yourself just did… accusing others of “not caring” when you are trying to ride on a catastophe that killed 20 000 people… even though none of it had anything to do with the effects of radiation.

      You accuse others of downplaying the accident… I accuse of you blowing it totally out of proportion, which – as Mark showed – has the effect that people die needlessly and in terror.

      Yes, us friends of nuclear have woken up and started speak out against the fear mongering that you and your ilk are spreading. The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner.

    6. Little Iodine 131

      Mary, you may be interested in this series in the Asahi Shimbun, about the US miitary response to the Fukusima earthquake, tidal wave, reactor explosions and meltdown.

      PROMETHEUS TRAP (1): U.S. frustrated with Japan’s initial response to Fukushima

      PROMETHEUS TRAP (2): U.S. officials feared for loved ones still in Japan

      PROMETHEUS TRAP (3): Japanese ambassador felt something not right before State Department meeting

      PROMETHEUS TRAP (4): U.S. official sought ‘heroic sacrifice’ from Japan

      February 04, 2013
      Editor’s note: This is the fourth part of a series that has run in the past under the overall title of The Prometheus Trap. This series deals with the differences between Japan and the United States in dealing with the Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011 following the Great East Japan Earthquake. The series will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

    7. John Russell (Twitter@JohnRussell40)

      It might or might not be true that the spent fuel pools at Fukushima are a danger (Mark’s reply suggests not); however I don’t think anyone is suggesting it is sensible to build nuclear plants on the coastal zone of Japan — or any other area prone to earthquakes and/or tsunamis.

    8. jmdesp

      It’s easy to say but what do you build instead ? A lot a fossil power in a country that has no fossil ? Also before Fukushima, Japanese citizens were more adamantly fighting dams than nuclear. And the thermal water cities fought against any geothermal power, out of fear it would damage the supply.

      The real point is that if building nuclear in a country like Japan, then it should have set the ultimate standard in the world for security. And that most definitively wasn’t the case, instead there was a nuclear security agency that the recent report on the 11/3 events denounced as in a such cozy relationship with the power companies that it was completely unable to require them to spend real money on security.

      I believe a way to get out of that would be for international teams to review the security, where people from other countries are actually quite happy to have found a bad point in your security they can criticize, and will rise the ugly question nobody wants to ask locally, until each company understands that the only solution is to manage to get to a level of faultless quality and process. I think nuclear can’t afford anymore the current organization where each country says I manage my security myself, don’t meddle in that.

      To be true, there exist already the OSART (Operational Safety Review Team) of AIEA, but it only went 5 times to Japan in 30 years and moves only at the request of the local security agency. And clearly the level of requirement is far from being high enough, having given a OK to Hamaoka without questioning the seismic security level is rather surprising.

    9. Sandra Maliga

      Build wind turbines along the coast.

    10. turnages

      This sounds a good idea, until you do some simple arithmetic.

      Take a typical large wind turbine of 3MW nameplate rating. This has a rotor length of about 100m. Required spacing is 5 – 10 rotor diameters, so you will be able to put one to two turbines per km of coast. Allowing for 10000km of usable Japanese coast (very generous), that’s 20000 turbines for a single row, best case. Japan is not that great for wind resources compared to say Eire, which gets about 20-25% utilization factor. So let’s say 20%. That’s an average delivery of 12GW.

      Japan’s average requirements were 110GW in 2001.

      So, with extremely generous assumptions, and disfiguring the coastline, you’ve managed to supply 11% of Japan’s average power demand.

      This neglects the operational impossibility of coping with wild-weather swings of 60GW and keeping a stable and reliable grid, the enormous capital cost, and the cost of fossil backup.

    11. djmdgk

      No need to concentrate the wind turbines only along the coast. Actually *don’t* do that. They work pretty well inland, too.

    12. Rob Ueberfeldt

      Japan is very well placed to use renewables. Wind generation is viable in most of the country and they get enough sunlight hours to make solar cost efficient. Alas implementation of such is a political solution. Germany’s recent advance in this area are something more governments could look to.

    13. Rob Ueberfeldt
    14. Steve Aplin

      John, you wonder if it is sensible to build nuclear plants in an earthquake zone. The only structure still intact after the 14-meter wall of water roared onto the coast is… the nuclear plant.

      If Japan wants electricity, its choices are gas, coal, or nuclear. Gas involves huge regasification terminals, because Japan imports LNG. Then that regasified methane has to travel via pressurized metal pipes, all over the country. Methane is extremely volatile; it flash-burns if it doesn’t outright explode. Are gas pipes immune to earthquakes?

      So yes, it is sensible to build nuclear plants in Japan — more sensible than to build any other kind of plants.

    15. John Russell (Twitter@JohnRussell40)

      I think it’s stretching the truth rather to suggest that the plant is ‘intact’.

      I’ll accept that if a nuclear power plant has to be in an earthquake or tsunami zone then it should be built to survive the worst possible disaster that could happen. That would make them very expensive and I guess that in most places it would be better to build them elsewhere.

      In Japan? Well it’s clear that the Japanese built Fukushima and its sister plants with a big helping of denial.

      As far as the UK is concerned I think the lesson is that nuclear plants are pretty robust structures and, if designed properly to suit the local geology, they should be very safe. I’d rather live next to one than to any plant with a chimney.

    16. Eddy

      Why would it require such expense? If the generators has just been built with a larger sea wall or high up the plant would have survived the earthquake and tsunami without a meltdown.

      The containment structure was not affected by the earthquake, it was only when the generators were overwhelmed by sea water that the nuclear disaster began. Again, this was not from the earthquake motion.

    17. John Russell (Twitter@JohnRussell40)

      You’re making the error, Eddy, of assuming that the events that took place last year were the worst earthquake-related events that could have occurred at Fukushima. Humans always do that: they look at the worst event that has been recorded in the past and assume that a worse one can’t happen. And then it does: because history is a series of Black Swans, each of which produces huge societal changes.

      My point is that if building a nuclear plant in an earthquake zone, we should not use what happened at Chernobyl and Fukushima as the benchmark for what can go wrong, but start with a blank sheet and work backwards from the worse disaster that is physically possible — all depending on the amount of risk we want to take, of course (and the size of our pockets).

    18. jmdesp

      A magnitude 9 earthquake together with a 16 meter high tsunami is not that far from the worse disaster that is physically possible. We’re talking here about the fourth most powerful earthquake known in history, not so far from the energy that breaks a whole tectonic plate in two.
      If we build NPP to degrade safely in front of a 9.5 earthquake and be water resistant (which is easier as it may look and easier than a wall that stops a 20 meters high wave), we can say we’ve dimensioned for the worst physically possible.

      But, this kind of requirements for nuclear makes it all the more obvious how nobody currently is trying to identify the other people who, by failing to properly take into account the historical data, or do anything about it, about tsunami along the Fukushima coast are responsible for the death of 20 000 people.
      But today in fact some other people are doing nothing despite the known data in California, in Tokyo, etc.

    19. nukescam

      jmdesp, there were even two worse tsunamis in that region a century before, judging by the height of the wave:

    20. kyrsjo

      Another thing is that there is probably a limit for how much you need to plan for – if the disaster is big enough, the “added disaster” from the power plant gets negligible. This might have been the case in Japan this time – the disaster from the tsunami sweeping though cities probably dwarfed the problems from Fukushima.

    21. Steve Aplin

      kyrsjo, you say

      “if the disaster is big enough, the ‘added disaster’ from the power plant gets negligible. This might have been the case in Japan this time – the disaster from the tsunami sweeping though cities probably dwarfed the problems from Fukushima.”

      You’ve nailed the key point here. That was my own impression, viewing the disaster from tens of thousands of kilometers away. Half a million people had been suddenly made homeless in a blizzard, and the western media were fixated on the nuclear situation. The real tsunami damage was in the form of actual deaths and injuries on a massive scale, but that was secondary, even tertiary, in the minds of news editors.

    22. Rod Adams


      Just imagine how many people would have died if Japan had decided to build any other kind of facility on the site where the Fukushima Daiichi power plants were located? Suppose, for example, that a developer had decided to take advantage of the ocean views and built a condominium complex there?

      If Fukushima Daiichi units 1-4 had simply had better located diesel generators – like those that kept the cooling water flowing at units 5 and 6 and the ones that helped Fukushima Danini ride out the loss of power on a nearly identical site just a few kilometers up the road, there would have been no releases.

      Such a simple change would have enabled even a 1970s vintage plant to survive a forceful natural disaster carrying the destructive force of several large atomic bombs.

      Nuclear energy is pretty darned safe, even in an earthquake ridden country. That doesn’t surprise me; I am aware of a nuclear plant that survived even when the ship it was on rammed into an underwater mountain at high speed and I have seen videos of ships being shock tested. Earthquake energies are pretty low in comparison.

      Rod Adams
      Publisher, Atomic Insights

    23. John Russell (Twitter@JohnRussell40)

      If everyone thought sensibly, like you, Rod, I’d agree entirely. However we have to deal with people’s fear of what can go wrong. If we’re going to build nuclear plants in earthquake zones then we not only have to overcome the engineering problems, we have to make them survive trauma without the fear of a release of radiation. As things are at the moment, politically, that’s the way it is. Saying “they kill a fraction of the people that coal plants do” makes sense to you and me — but not to the person in the street. You can blame the link to nuclear weapons for that.

      To look at it another way: imagine what a massive PR coup it would have been for nuclear if Fukushima had survived the earthquake and tsunami without any serious damage! If it had been built to higher standards that could have been the case. Instead they took a gamble that these events would not happen.

    24. Rod Adams

      Your assumption is that the fear of radiation has a rational basis in fear of nuclear weapons. My theory is that the fear of radiation is a carefully and expensively created artificial phenomenon purposely stoked by the marketing arm of the global fossil fuel industry and all of its associates in politics, law, transportation, and – most importantly – the advertiser supported media.

      Though the plants at Fukushima Daiichi were damaged and released about 100 kilograms of relatively long lived but also relatively benign radioactive material, the media, supported in part by a massive ad campaign by the natural gas and coal industries, portrayed this industrial event as some kind of apocalypse.

      NO ONE was injured by exposure to radiation.

      By torturing numbers and misapplying a hypothesis that is grudgingly accepted as a conservative basis for protective regulations, Jacobson plays his role in the effort to discredit nuclear energy and its acknowledged supporters – like me. Jacobson chose to ignore the cautions given by the Health Physics Society and the International Council of Radiation Protection against the use of “collective dose” and against the extrapolation of trivial doses to a very large population to predict future deaths.

      I find it completely disingenuous for Jacobson, who has loudly claimed that it is possible and advisable to power the whole world with a combination of wind, water, and sunshine, to publicly state that he is not an “advocate” for any particular industry or energy source. Does he expect rational observers to think that solar panels, industrial wind turbines, and smart grid components are natural substances? The sophisticated devices and expensive infrastructure components required to implement his visionary power supply system are manufactured by very large corporations with strong vested interests in promoting sales.

      If he advocates spending $100 T on energy infrastructure around the world during the next 30 years, does he expect me to ignore the fact that the recipients of that windfall are potential promoters of his vision?

      At least I never try to claim that I am impartial. Paraphrasing David McKay – I am a pro nuclear advocate BECAUSE I favor arithmetic and hard engineering facts and experience. I KNOW that nuclear energy does not contribute to air pollution because if have been sealed up deep underwater for months at a time with an operating nuclear engine powering my sub. No amount of modeling can overcome that personal experience and no unreliable energy system advocate can stop me from sharing that testimony.

      Rod Adams
      Publisher, Atomic Insights

    25. George Lerner

      Let’s remember that the light water reactors (LWR) we’ve been using, as good as they are, are not the only type of reactor possible. There are reactors that don’t use water for coolant, instead using molten salts, so can’t have loss of coolant accidents. Reactors that use molten fuel, instead of solid fuel, and so can consume over 99% of the fuel (LWR only uses about 1% of the fuel, the rest is waste). Reactors that don’t have high pressures that could explode, and don’t produce hydrogen that could explode.

      The Atomic Energy Commission recommended to the President and Congress that we move away from LWR, and develop two other types of reactors. We did a little with the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder reactor, then abandoned it, for “control issues” (that we probably could have solved). We built and operated a Molten Salt Reactor, operating it for over 20,000 hours showed it was a self-regulating and very stable reactor.

      50 years later, we still are using LWR. The “nuclear energy industry” is actually the “light water reactor industry”, and they are making money by making nuclear waste and making fear of nuclear accidents — and do not want competing reactors built.

      We could easily develop a better MSR (improved materials, modern instrumentation and quality control) such as a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. Design, testing, developing regulations, and making a factory to mass produce them, would cost less than building a single new LWR.

      I’ve written about how LFTRs would fare if installed at the Fukushima-Daichi site, at http://liquidfluoridethoriumreactor.glerner.com/

      Let’s just say that people in Japan are doing LFTR design and development work.

    26. Rod Adams

      @George Lerner

      George – while molten salt reactor technology is intriguing and should be pursued with a passion, there is no reason to compete that technology against existing, well developed, safe, emission free, extremely low fuel cost, light water reactors.

      The real competition that you should be aiming at is the same one that is challenging all other energy sources right now in the US electricity market – natural gas. That fuel source has captured a 35% market share, growing from a little less than 20% just 5 years ago. Once you start producing machines that can beat natural gas, the next target should be coal; it also has a 35% share of the US electricity market.

      You can also position molten salt reactors to attack the process and space heat market, currently dominated by natural gas and coal; nuclear has essentially zero market share in that lucrative market that represents about 30% of all energy use in the world.

      If you are really successful, you might even build molten salt reactors that are compact enough to propel ships – the ship propulsion market is about 5-6% of the world petroleum market.

      I had this discussion with Richard Martin and Kirk Sorensen on The Atomic Show earlier this week. The real competition that all nuclear advocates need to aim to beat is the entrenched fossil fuel industry. That is the fuel source over which millions have died in wars over resources and the fuel source that may gradually become so expensive as supplies dwindle that only the very rich will be able to afford to live the way that Americans have been used to living for my entire life time.

      It is also the source whose waste products are causing a tremendous uncertainty in the global climate and just may end up causing a return of the earth’s climate to the conditions that supported the growth of so much of our current hydrocarbon resource base. Unfortunately for us human beings, that climate was a lot better for massive plant growth than to support human civilization; much of our current occupied land was under the sea when the climate was that warm and CO2 rich.

      I’ve written a lot of positive things about thorium and molten salt. I like the innovations. What I do not like is the naive way that some advocates think that they can win by putting down light water. All that does is to feed material to the real opponents of nuclear energy development – the people that control the fuel sources that currently hold an 85% share of the world multi-trillion dollar per year energy market.

      Those people are smart businessmen who will not let go of their wealth and power without a lot of fighting – some of which will be dirty and underhanded and may include financial gifts to anyone who fights against nuclear energy development.

    27. George Lerner

      @Rod Adams
      I agree, coal/oil/natural gas are far worse to the environment, and cause more disease and deaths each year than LWR has caused in 50 years.

      The deaths from coal/oil/gas fires from the tsunami are far greater than the reactors will ever cause, despite the fears of “anything nuclear”. Didn’t make the news much, though — people are used to deaths from coal/oil/gas, I guess.

      All the nuclear reactors in the world will not cause climate change like coal/oil/gas.

      There is one part of the mess that is directly from the LWR industry — people not knowing other types of reactors are possible, people thinking that “nuclear energy” means “light water reactors”.

      Safer, and much less expensive, reactors have been built (up to 50 years ago) that don’t leave 99% of the fuel as waste for half a million years, and can’t explode. And that could work just fine in Japan (or California).

    28. Tim

      Truth be told the reactor safety procedures worked very well. Its sensors detected the earthquake and started to turn off the reactor right away. it stopped producing energy 10 mins into the event. It began cooling downing its rods. This takes 8-10 hrs. Than the wave hit and wiped out not just one not two but 3 power generators. It than went to batteries that last 8 hrs to try and pump water to cool down the core. The batteries saved the day and did prevent a major melt down.

      Newer rectors work to solve this probem of cooling and LFTR’s dont even worry about this problem.

    29. nukescam



      The authors have spoken to several workers at the plant who recite the same story: Serious damage to piping and at least one of the reactors before the tsunami hit. All have requested anonymity because they are still working at the plant or are connected with TEPCO.

      “I personally saw pipes that came apart and I assume that there were many more that had been broken throughout the plant. There’s no doubt that the earthquake did a lot of damage inside the plant,” he said. “There were definitely leaking pipes, but we don’t know which pipes – that has to be investigated. I also saw that part of the wall of the turbine building for Unit 1 had come away. That crack might have affected the reactor.”

      A second worker, a technician in his late 30s, who was also on site at the time of the earthquake, narrated what happened. “It felt like the earthquake hit in two waves, the first impact was so intense you could see the building shaking, the pipes buckling, and within minutes, I saw pipes bursting. Some fell off the wall. Others snapped. I was pretty sure that some of the oxygen tanks stored on site had exploded but I didn’t see for myself. Someone yelled that we all needed to evacuate and I was good with that. But I was severely alarmed because as I was leaving I was told and I could see that several pipes had cracked open, including what I believe were cold water supply pipes. That would mean that coolant couldn’t get to the reactor core. If you can’t sufficiently get the coolant to the core, it melts down. You don’t have to have to be a nuclear scientist to figure that out.”

      As he was heading to his car, he could see the walls of the reactor one building itself had already started to collapse. “There were holes in them. In the first few minutes, no one was thinking about a tsunami. We were thinking about survival.”

      A third worker was coming into work late when the earthquake hit. “I was in a building nearby when the earthquake shook. After the second shockwave hit, I heard a loud explosion that was almost deafening. I looked out the window and I could see white smoke coming from reactor one. I thought to myself, ‘this is the end.’”

      When the worker got to the office five to 15 minutes later the supervisor ordered them all to evacuate, explaining, “there’s been an explosion of some gas tanks in reactor one, probably the oxygen tanks. In addition to this there has been some structural damage, pipes have burst, meltdown is possible. Please take shelter immediately.” (It should be noted that there have been several explosions at Daiichi even after the March 11 earthquake, one of which TEPCO stated, “was probably due to a gas tank left behind in the debris”.)

    30. jmdesp

      The craziest thing in this attack against the spent fuel pools in Fukushima 4 is that it’s the very one where Tepco has the most convincing answers, and detailed plan for resolution, to bring to the table.

      It’s much more difficult for them to tell with any precision how they plan to solve the problems in spent fuel pools 1 to 3.

      It definitively shows the people writing this kind of document really aren’t “legitimately worried” but just don’t have a clue.

    31. Will Davis

      The assertions made in the wider media by various persons, including Alvarez, about spent fuel at Fukushima Daiichi are refuted in the following articles:



      Bravo to Mark Lynas for his well thought out and clear article on this new “report” about spread of contamination and cancer risk. It’s just more fearmongering, and Mr. Lynas knows this all too well.

    32. nuke roadie

      For those concerned with the spent fuel pool at unit 4 in case of another earthquake consider this. There have been dozens of quakes since 3/11/11. It is simple to see that the media had no big OMG story for the first anniversary of the meltdown so they ran with the next best fear mongering story they could find. WHAT IF …..

  2. ssam

    You can apply LNT to lots of thing to get silly answers. http://uvdiv.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/linear-no-airplanes.html says 1,100-2,200 radiation deaths per year from air flight (extra radiation from cosmic rays). I saw someone work it out for the additional cosmic radiation if you wear high heals, though that came out quite small. Id be interested to see how many people tourism to cornwall ‘kills’.

    1. jmdesp

      It would be nice to make the same calculation for radiography. I expect the result would be tens of thousand of deaths a year.

      Actually I just found out that the UNSCEAR 2008 number is 1.88mSv of medical exposure per person per year in developed countries. With 62 million people, that gives 116 560 person-Sievert for UK. Using TORCH methodology that give 5 800 to 11 600 excess death for UK *each* *single* *year* ! OMG there’s a silent killer decimating our countries and nobody knows ! To think so many people complain about the road fatalities, but for one dead on the road, about five are killed by X-rays with no complaints !

  3. Paul/Tokyo

    Actually no, the key sentence is “You still have an obligation to evacuate people according to the worst-case scenario,”

    The Nuclear Village Safety Myth and lack of evacuation training, preparation, and capability is what killed those people.

    1. Rod Adams

      No. What we have an obligation to do is to protect people against doses that will hurt them – using evacuation if necessary.

      The US Environmental Protection Agency was once fairly rational about radiation and issued a set of Protective Action Guides that do a good job of helping emergency responders to determine when evacuation is justified.


      Unfortunately, those PAGs are only read by specialists and sometimes the politicians do not bother to listen carefully to people who actually study nuclear energy and practice the profession. For some odd reason, they think that we are like them and only motivated by money or a desire for power.

      For many elected officials, the idea that intelligent people choose a profession for more complex reasons – like a desire to make the world a better place or a desire to master a difficult subject – is completely foreign.

    2. jmdesp

      But it’s excessively hard for a politician to do nothing, to say this doesn’t warrant an evacuation, to not “do something about it”.

      For month, they have actually been accused over and over of not having done enough, of having ignored the SPEEDI information, and the horror stories of people dying inside the evacuation ambulances are only starting to go out now.

  4. Hervé

    It’s an amusing thing a non scientist telling us what is junk science and what is not. Your critics lack of scientific data: “Hardly anyone I meet in the nuclear community these days still believes in LNT” but LNT model is recognized worldwide by the scientific community. You keep on violently attacking the scientist instead of demonstrating why LNT is invalid. Your article is closer to a nuclear PR report than anything else.

    1. Tyler Rowe

      I’m a student in Nuclear Engineering, and our health physics professor told us that LNT, while nationally recognized, is losing ground within the nuclear comunitee as a whole. The only reason that it is still “widely recognized” is because we don’t have anything else to replace it with. There have been dozens of studies producing evidence against LNT, it is just hard to provide a mathematical model to go against it. I’m hoping that one day we will be able to move cancer from the stochastic column to the deterministic side, but that may be far into the future if it is true at all.

    2. SteveK9

      There is also that unfortunate phenomenon noted by Max Planck:

      ‘A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.’

      Not just emotional attachment but careers and money are on the line.

  5. nuke roadie

    Someone once said that if you torture the numbers hard enough you can get them to confess to anything. I can “prove “I have 11 fingers using bad math. We all saw this in action when Mangano issued the report that “proved ” 14,000 deaths in the USA from fukushima fallout. There are snake oil salesmen and end of the world prophets all over out there so read every article without personal bias or preconceived notions. Look at the information , make a rational determination using logic and you should come to the truth.

  6. Linda Williams

    No radiation is safe, this is a known fact, and agreed by everyone. And yes the evacuations would have caused deaths under such extreme circumstances, everyone involved would have been through a horrific earthquake, at the least, and most would have known of the tsunami also, while also still experiencing aftershocks.

    A meltdown would have been totally been enough of a fear pre courser to cause an already anxious population to quickly jump to a state of terror, it would have been, for many, almost too much, to expect them to be able to make rational decisions.

    For instance if you are terrified of spiders, and you see a large one, you will be jumpy for the rest of the day, and even piece of string could give you a fright. This being on edge from the disasters that already had occurred, would have made most helping evacuate, somewhat already pre-stressed, which would cause confusion, and ability to make rational and safe judgments, it would have been disastrous.

    As for the effects of radiation, there is no real and accepted data that has been actually credibly studied, as the same people who are responsible for worldwide recommendations, The WHO, are legally bound to never undertake any study that is to the detriment of nuclear power. And all studies have to be approved by the IAEA, and there job, is commonly perceived as the nuclear watchdog, but there directive is to is to promote and enlarge the use of nuclear power.

    Both organizations are also thus connected to United Nations, and are also financed by most of the world’s governments. Add to this the fact that the makers of nuclear power plants have massive controlling shares into very large media corporations.

    So I ask you at this point, if we are unable to accurately know how dangerous radiation is, how come there is no ‘real’ and ‘open’ large scale studies that have been done? All the Chernobyl ones, were assembled so they excluded information on erroneous bias terms of how these results were collected. As for nuclear power, the amount of waste produced to actually mine the uranium, and water used at plants, is also extremely inefficient, add to this the inability to affectively and safely remove and store waste makes nuclear power possibly more dangerous to human’s that coal powered ones.

    And what astounds me is that I am by no means trained or even slightly qualified, however people who are scientists, with far more education than I will assume that nuclear power is justified on the basis of what they are taught. It’s time for the scientific community to band together. But alas we also have to understand the glue that binds these people together is one of great fanatical stability.

    For funding makes studies realities and unpopular studies, can cause scientists to be considered and labeled crackpots, by those who may or may not have a vested interest, or are just looking to seek notoriety by a bias and perhaps self-serving fanatical interest?

    As to go against the large numbers of those who are bound by law and wealth, could well perhaps be to the detriment for ones careers, and if you rattle enough cages sudden bad things are rumored to occur.
    The fact remains, to be a scientist is to seek truths to better the outcomes for all humans, this has been denied for too long due to a carful and extremely clever web of cleverly controlled information filtering, and as such it is time for the public to place pressure to bring about honest and real information for the sake of their own safety as, it is now evident that we are not able to have the correct facts and proper gander or perhaps cohesion, is the only way to try hide the truth.

    In closing I would like to say I am not considered ‘educated’ didn’t even finish high school, however all the information I have stated is correct, if you look hard enough, you will find it is all public, and correct, and if I can make a balanced decision biased on this evidence, then how can anyone state that fear is more detrimental to health than the unknown and undeniably dangerous effects of radiation, untill actually unequivocally and truthfully proven otherwise?

    1. Eddy

      No radiation is safe? You do realize that your body is under constant bombardment from radiation right? Bananas are radioactive, in fact, the carbon atoms that make up your body have radioactive isotopes in them (C-14) which naturally occurs.

    2. Michael Karnerfors

      ” No radiation is safe, this is a known fact, and agreed by everyone.”

      Wrong… times three.

      If your statement had been true, every married couple should sleep in lead pyamas because since all animals – including humans – emit ionizing radiation… i.e. we’re radioactive. Sleeping next to someone for 8 hours gives you an additional few tenths if a nSv to be added to you annual dose.

      If what you said was true, Denver and other high altitude cities should be evacuated to avoid the higher radiation load caused by cosmic ionizing radiation.

      Assuming the LNT model is true and acting as if that translates to actual death leads to complete absurdities. It does nothing to help us owards a clean environment and long lives in good health.

      But if you do want to play that game… guess once which source of power leases the most radiation to the public. Answer: coal… because coal is slightly radioactive too. And when you burn about 200 000 tonnes for every TWh… well that makes for alot of dirt being released into the biosphere.

    3. John Russell (Twitter@JohnRussell40)

      From http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

      Quote: “In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.”

    4. Scott S

      I recently attended a lecture by the head of the radiation unit in the South Australian EPA. It is now widely accepted that low level radiation is beneficial. Studies have shown no increase in mortality for individuals living in areas of high background radiation, rather they have lower levels of cancers. Those workers at Chernobyl not killed by radiation sickness have lower levels of cancers than the general population. Low dose radioactive pellets are injected around the prostate of men with prostate cancer and this slows the progress of the disease, not through destruction of tissue but by mechanisms not fully understood.

      Radiation is good for you in low doses, which is just as well as we are surrounded by it.

    5. Steven

      Whenever I see the WHO-IAEA agreement conspiracy devoid of stating the clause in the agreement I can tell it’s a spoon feed from the anti-nuclear lobby.

      This is the agreement in full (apologies for the wall of text):


      Article I – Co-operation and Consultation

      1. The International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization agree that, with a view to facilitating the effective attainment of the objectives set forth in their respective constitutional instruments, within the general framework established by the Charter of the United Nations, they will act in close co-operation with each other and will consult each other regularly in regard to matters of common interest.

      2. In particular, and in accordance with the Constitution of the World Health Organization and the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its agreement with the United Nations together with the exchange of letters related thereto, and taking into account the respective co-ordinating responsibilities of both organizations, it is recognized by the World Health Organization that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the primary responsibility for encouraging, assisting and co-ordinating research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful uses throughout the world without prejudice to the right of the World Health Organization to concern itself with promoting, developing, assisting, and co-ordinating international health work, including research, in all its aspects.

      3. Whenever either organization proposes to initiate a programme or activity on a subject in which the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement.

      The anti-nuclear lobby (mainly Caldicott, Gunderson et. al.) focus on part 3 devoid of any context. But clearly they cherry picked this part and forget the last sentence in part 2 which is directly above part 3, the key part arising from the words “without prejudice”. There is no conspiracy, I cringe every time I see this ridiculous point to discredit the WHO’s studies on radiation effects.

      Granted it is a hard agreement to find, but there it is. There is opportunity now to reassess in light of this information if you inadvertently accepted the anti-nuclear spin.

    6. jmdesp

      In short, part 2 says that work of IAEA to promote atom _shall not_ restrain the health work of OMS

    7. nukescam

      You don’t need Caldicott or Gunderson. You can watch WHO ex general director, Hiroshi Nakajima, admitting that WHO depends on IAEA here (at 4:55):

      “For atomic affairs, military use and civil use, they [IAEA] have the authority”

      Michel Fernex, who worked at WHO for 15 years, explains that conflict at 1:20. They have their hands tied.

    8. jmdesp

      I’m not a doctor, but I’ve never seen anything like “systemic collagenosis” listed as a possible consequence of radiations. This doesn’t make clear if the kid is suffering from an autoimmune disease, or some other kind of collagen defect. But this does set the context of this video, allegations will be thrown with not even an effort to try to substantiate them.

      Whatever since this video was recorded, the OMS has published it’s report about the Tchernobyl effects, it’s here :
      http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/chernobyl/en/ and more specifically

      They also have an official clarification about the agreement with AIEA :

  7. Mark

    A nice article. I have big problems with LNT. That said, as a Radiation Protection Adviser it is my professional duty to help users apply the international dose limits – which are based on the recommendations of ICRP. These recommendations are based on the LNT model. In turn, those dose limits appear in IAEA safety standards, EU Directives and therefore local legislation around the world. It is quite clear that in whatever direction the radiation effects science moves, the recommendations (ICRP) will not move nearly as fast. We, the world, are stuck with LNT for a long time to come. Therefore, safety assessments for new nuclear build and radioactive waste disposal will still be based on those same principles.

    The thing is, even if LNT were valid the actual risks expressed by them – as compared to other industrial hazards – are very small. Justification for nuclear energy should not in theory be difficult when you look at risk comparisons. The problem is then of the question ‘What is safe?’. Those against nuclear energy appear to want absolute ‘safety’ (whatever that means), but at the same time use their own assessment ‘measure’ of what is safe when going about their daily lives (driving, smoking, coal fuelled energy, having an x-ray and so on).

    Finally, the bit about the misuse of Collective Dose is spot on.

  8. Gregory Meyerson

    A couple of things in response to this excellent article. Jacobson’s wind and solar study does not place that much weight on the absurd nuclear war claim.

    His other assumptions are scrutinized here:


    [J assigns CO2 from coal plants to nuclear due to an assumed 19 year construction delay–in essence, an opportunity cost assigned to nuclear based on 2 hugely problematic assumptions: the construction delay period primarily and then choice of coal as alternative]


    Reliance on one outlier study, soundly critiqued in the peer reviewed literature and taken seriously as the only study worth citing by anti nukes like J and Caldicott.

    On low level radiation, see finding here, and confirmed in broad outline in many other studies:


    The study shows no evidence of DNA damage in mice (due to effects of repair mechanisms) at levels 400 times background.

    The lead author, Jacquelyn Yanch wrote an article on the effects of Fukushima before release of the mouse dna study above that suggests effects from Fukushima, based on epidemiological evidence we have concerning exposure to levels within the range of background variation, to be minimal to non existent.

    The paper is called “comments on the radiation levels resulting from the damaged nuclear power plants… and the impact of those levels on human health.”

  9. Gregory Meyerson


    you cherry pick. Mark does refer to the “nuclear community” (I wonder if this is a mistake), but then cites ICRP and the HPS.

    There is loads of criticism of LNT. I cited one study above, a very convincing one. Try Charles Sanders’ book on radiation hormesis and for an excellent summary of the criticisms of LNT, see ANS’s long piece, “Low Level Radiation and its implications for Fukushima Recovery.”

    The obvious anti nuclear objection is that this piece is compiled by ANS. True. Read it anyway just like you would read Jacobson’s paper. The genetic fallacy is a real danger in this discussion. You cannot assess a paper’s merits primarily by looking at the “politics” of the arguers, which actually turns out upon investigation to be anything but simple.

  10. Gregory Meyerson

    paul makes a good point about the “nuclear village safety myth” in Japan (a myth now replaced by its opposite).

    This myth does not contradict the evidence that nuclear power is comparatively very safe and newer models are much safer.

    The anti nuclear myth, very widespread, is that nuclear power is DANGEROUS and that 100% renewables just requires “political will.”

  11. Leslie Corrice

    A most excellent exposure of the questionable manipulation of data, combined with selective methodology, and unscrupulous use of regulatory calculations heinously twisted into to death estimates, resulting in a study not worth the fonts it was written with. Once again, we find that “detectable is deadly” will hold so long as there are people gullible enough to believe it.

  12. Steve Aplin

    Linda says “No radiation is safe, this is a known fact, and agreed by everyone.”

    My mother had a technetium-99 scan in 1995 to check for a blood clot. Tc-99 gives off a gamma ray of 1.4 million electron volts. My mother is alive and well today.

    You and I are under constant bombardment from gamma rays from distant cosmological objects and events like supernovas and globular clusters; we get an annual dose of around 0.3 millisieverts. I don’t know about you but I feel fine.

    There are safe levels of radiation. Fukushima is an excellent example of that. It’s been nearly 500 days since the meltdowns, and nobody has even gone to the hospital with radiation poisoning.

    Why is that? Because the radiation levels are not high enough.

    1. Steve Aplin

      sorry, let me correct: Tc-99 gives off a gamma ray of 140,000 electron volts (not 1.4 million)

  13. Karen Street

    ICRP doesn’t use LNT, but divides LNT by 2 below about 2,000 millisievert (http://www.icrp.org/publication.asp?id=ICRP%20Publication%2099). BEIR divides LNT by 1.5 below ??? at numbers far higher than those Jacobson and student use (http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340&page=311). Studies are now being done to establish whether these numbers still overestimate cancer deaths, see, eg, http://lowdose.energy.gov/

    I am unaware of any major organization using LNT at these low doses; would appreciate correction if I am wrong.

    Very early in the paper, they say, “The radiation release poisoned local water and food supplies and created a dead-zone of several hundred square kilometers around the site that may not be safe to inhabit for decades to centuries” and cite a non-peer reviewed paper.

    I would have appreciated context, for example, the total dose equivalent increase for people moving to Denver from areas of the US/world with low radioactivity, such as the area around Fukushima-Daiichi, is much more important. Using their model, the number of lives saved each year by moving people in Denver to other parts of the US would be greater than their highest estimate for 50 years from F-D. What would have been the health effects of an LNT model of fossil fuel pollution from a normally operating fossil fuel plant of the same size in the same location?

    1. Mark

      Dose and dose rate effectiveness factor (DDREF) – that is where part of the ‘finger in the wind’ comes in …

  14. Milt Caplan

    Excellent post Mark. Interesting that even when trying to prove that Fukushima was a health disaster, the numbers (and as you have said incorrectly so) still only come up with a modest impact. I think the real issue is in your last statement “As Chernobyl showed, fear of radiation is a far greater risk than radiation itself in the low doses experienced by the affected populations after both accidents.”

    Look at one of the comments on this posting. It starts “No radiation is safe, this is a known fact, and agreed by everyone.” Of course this is not true. We all know that we have background radiation that on average exposes us all to about 2.4 mSv/yr with many people in the world being exposed to 10 or more mSv/yr and some places even more than 100. And of course most of us are very willing to get a radiation dose for medical purposes, either for diagnoses or in some cases treatment of disease. Yet somehow if the radiation comes from a nuclear power plant, then it must be harmful.

    As long as the public believes that a nuclear accident can be a “disaster” killing thousands and rendering untold amounts of land uninhabitable – then there is little hope. The most important lesson from Fukushima is indeed that accidents happen. This means that the industry must focus on maximizing prevention as it has always done (and the record is very good) but also to convince a skeptical public that if and when another accident does happen, we are ready to “mitigate” its consequences and that means most of all protecting people from injury due to radiation. At Fukushima, there were no radiation deaths (in spite of the fact that this was a very bad accident) and there will likely be no long term radiation illness due to the small doses received outside of the plant in spite of what is stated in this study; but the psychological effect is very large. The fear of radiation is far worse than its bite and we have a responsibility to do better. The reality is that nuclear power is a very safe environmentally friendly way of generating electricity compared to most alternatives but just saying so will not convince those who are afraid. If interested (or if you missed it), please read my blog post of March following the anniversary of this event. http://bit.ly/HqUQoY

    1. Steve

      Your comment:

      The fear of radiation is far worse than its bite and we have a responsibility to do better. The reality is that nuclear power is a very safe environmentally friendly way of generating electricity compared to most alternatives but just saying so will not convince those who are afraid.

      simply BEGS the question: where did everyone acquire this fear? I’m sure we’re not born with it. It comes from cultural influences, steered by those who have the power to influence and even buy public opinions. Answer this question… then we’ll be on the path toward solving the climate crisis… (look up the word “propaganda” for starters).

    2. Rod Adams

      Steve – good question. Approach the solution to the mystery in the same way that criminal investigators or mystery novel writers do. Determine who has the means, motive, and opportunity to teach people to be afraid of radiation.

      I have solved the mystery to my own satisfaction. The global fossil fuel industry has about $3 trillion per year worth of means and motive to scare people about their only real competition for market dominance. They have plenty of teachable opportunities through the use of their friends in politics and in the advertiser supported media. (They have been buying both politicians and media friends for many decades.)

      In comparison, the nuclear industry has few people who understand the value of ads, who really want to compete, or who have the stomach to challenge the status quo.

      Fortunately, the population of aggressive and well informed nukes is not zero anymore.

    3. Jeff Walther

      Rod Adams says:
      21 July 2012 at 3:16 pm

      “I have solved the mystery to my own satisfaction. The global fossil fuel industry has about $3 trillion per year worth of means and motive to scare people about their only real competition for market dominance.”

      Did fossil fuel money help found the UCS? They were early anti-nuclear activists, and if fossil fuel money is really the primary motivator then there should be a connection.

    4. Jeff Walther

      I don’t if there are earlier examples, but the so-called Union of Concerned Scientists started banging the anti-nuclear drum back in the mid to late 70s. They even took out a full page ad in SciAm back when it was a respectable and informative magazine. They were able to capitalize on their MIT credentials and the fact that their organization name sounds to similar to respectable groups like the American Federation of Scientists. (Incidentally, I find it interesting that SciAm eventually devolved into little more than a mouth-piece for UCS style propaganda.)

      Now what motivated the founders of UCS to get together and start spreading lies for a living, I don’t know.

      One hypothesis that I’ve toyed with is that the anti-Vietnam activists felt that their lives were empty after the USA actually pulled out of Vietnam, and found conflating nuclear weapons with nuclear energy and demonstrating against it gave them a similar feeling of fulfillment.

  15. Little Iodine 131

    Those of you here who agree that the fuel ponds at Fukushima are not a significant risk are cordially invited to go have a look. I expect none of you have done that, but are instead, relying on the medieval tradition of quoting authorities.

    Oops, what? can’t get access? Too dangerous?

    No worries. Try again in 30 years.

    1. Andy Dawson


      Odd then that TEPCO seems that I be already starting operations to remove the “inaccessible for 30 years”fuel.

    2. Little Iodine 131

      Andy Dawson, I assume that Tepco is doing their best (whatever that may be) to lower the risk of further contamination spreading from the site.
      That means workers will be on the site, as they were at the height of the catastrophe.

      But, Andy, are you likely get access? What reason could you give Tepco , to convince them that your presence on the site is worth the risk? What argument coulld you offer that would convince authorities to grant you access to the restricted zone?

      More to the point of my earlier comment, have you been there? If the answer is a truthful yes, then some first-hand reporting would be valuable to the gentle readers of this blog – certainly more valuable than your observation of what seems odd to you.

      Andy, perhaps I am doing you a grave disservice, and you can convincingly explain to all of us how Tepco is going to safely remove over 1500 nuclear fuel assemblies from the damaged fuel pond at reactor 4. Before the next earthquake (with or without tsunami).

      I include the following article as context, for those readers who may not have the benefit of your firsthand observations and experience, but are limited, like Mr Lynas, to the medieval practice of quoting the opinions of carefully chosen authorities:


    3. turnages

      Hmm, medieval to have a bit of confidence in experts and professionals who know a great deal more than you do about something?

      I suppose, you routinely disregard medical advice because it comes from, you know, someone who is more of an authority on health matters than you are. How modern, progressive, intelligent and up to date.

      If there was one interested “expert” party asserting that the spent fuel pools were safe when other independent experts had found that assertion to be false, there might be a grain of sense in your reasoning.

      However, enough professionals of far more expertise than you or I have now been there and/or studied the situation in detail. Why not study some of the reports themselves instead of engaging in armchair alarmism. You might start here: http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.co.uk/p/fukushima-daiichi-accident-reports.html .

      Yes, it’s going to be tricky and time consuming to empty the spent fuel pools. But some of the best minds in the world are now working on the problem.

    4. Little Iodine 131


      All of us accept expert advice, or reject it, on issues we consider to be crucial to our concerns: issues about which we may know little or nothing. That does not make the practice any less medieval, and I keep that in mind when I listen to experts, especially “scientific” experts, who are often in the pay of corporate experts with an economic agenda.

      I’ll have a look at a couple of the articles on the website you cited.

      Back to my question, which I asked of Andy Dawson, but I’ll ask you as well, since you consider my comment alarmist:

      Have you been to Fukushima? Are you likely to get access?

      Unlike yourself, I have little faith in nuclear electricity to provide “safe, clean energy”, however you may define it, because the problem of waste transport and disposal has yet to be solved, despite the many people of exceptional ability working on the issue for over 60 years.

      The damaged fuel pond at reactor 4 epitomises the failure of the nuclear electricity industry, in dealing with its garbage disposal issues.

      Say that the reactor 4 fuel pond fuel pond was instead, a swimming pool on the roof of a multistory hotel, it would represent an unacceptable liability. Saying so is hardly alarmist. If said swimming pool were in an earthquake zone, say in Wellington, NZ, where there have been repeated earthquakes over the past year, then I expect the best minds the hoteliers could pay for would be dealing with the consequences as swiftly as they could.

      I don’t think it’s alarmist (but it is, of course, medieval) to get a range of expert opinions about when the fuel pond is likely to experience earthquake intensity of Richter Magnitude 4 or greater .

      My amateur guess is that said earthquake(s) will happen before the fuel rods are safely removed.

      turnages, perhaps you can recommend one or more of the articles on the Atomic Power Review website, because you are satisfied that they deal well with the interesting area of earthquake prediction.

    5. Andy Dawson


      The Fukushima operators will use exactly the same approaches to remove the unit 4 fuel pond contents as any other spent fuel handling situation – a mix of remote operation (using radiation-hardened electronic controls) and physical shielding.

      You might ask why I’m confident this is a manageable engineering challenge. Maybe it would help if I explained a little of my background. I’m a Brit, who worked, many years ago on the design and construction of our AGR power reactors.

      Unlike the US originated light water reactors, AGRs – like their MAGNOX predecessors – were designed to be refuelled “on-line”. That is fuel was taken out of the reactor, and new fuel inserted while the reactor is running at a significant power level

      As it turned out in operation there were good reasons why the practical limit on refuelling AGRs was about 70% of full power, not the 100% originally intended – but those reasons were nothing to do with radiological issues, rather to do with turbulent gas flows “rattling” the fuel stringers as they came out through the structures above the core.

      Why does that matter? Well, heat production, and radiation levels in spent fuel vary near-exponentially with time after removal from the reactor.

      The “hottest” of the fuel in the Fukushima 4 pond is now 18 months from being exposed to reactor conditions. It’s producing heat in the order of 15-20 watts per linear metre of fuel pin. By contrast, the fuel that we would have removed from the likes of Heysham or Torness would have been producing 7-10KW/metre or so – a factor of 500 or so times more intensely active (and radiation levels are directly proportional to the production).

      Just to make the problem more entertaining, we didn’t have to handle nice compact 1 metre long assemblies, with 30 or 40 pins, as at Fukushima – we had to handle 9 metre articulated assemblies with something like 100 pins in the overall assemblies – then dismantle it remotely before putting indiviual sections into the cooling ponds.

      This we did routinely – indeed, it wasn’t even standard practice to evacuate the pile cap during refuelling ops – and I’ve ridden atop the refuelling machine alongside the operator during such operations.

      Bluntly, handling fuel of this age and activity pales into insignificance as a problem compared to what we did on a weekly basis. More notably, we did this with 1970s vintage electronics and control systems –

      And you want to convince me that there’s some inusperable obstacle to extracting the 1F4 fuel? You’ll have to try lots harder.

    6. Little Iodine 131

      Andy, there’s no need for me to try harder to convince you of my viewpoint. I am asking questions, not advocating answers.

      Some questions for you:

      Does your experience include dealing with fuel pond contents on a badly damaged and radiation-contaminated site? (yes or no will do nicely)

      On the basis of your extensive personal experience, in what year do you expect the reactor 4 fuel pond to be empty of its contents and ready for demolition? An unjustified ballpark estimate will do.

      Have you been to Fukushima? (yes or no will do nicely)

    7. Andy Dawson

      “Does your experience include dealing with fuel pond contents on a badly damaged and radiation-contaminated site? (yes or no will do nicely)”

      Personally no, but a number of friends and former colleagues have been involved in the remediation of a site in very much worse condition than Fukushima – that is on the “pile” damaged in the 1957 Windscale Fire. Most notably, one is engaged in the dismatnling of a very much more contaminated and problematic site. He is working on the demolition of the Filer Gallery of Pile 1.

      To explain what that entails, the fire occcured in the core graphite of the pile, and damaged a significant amount of fuel (by contrast, the cladding of the 1F4 fuel is intact). The fuel was metal (that of 1F4 is oxide, and hence not prone to combust and create particulates). The pile had been deliberately doped with bismuth in order to breed polonium 210 for bomb triggers – meaning the contamination is not only heavier, but of a MUCH more long-lived and problematic isotope mix than that potentially involved has any fuel been breached at 1F4 – which it hasn’t.

      OK, if that’s not challenging enough for you, I hadn’t yet added the amusing bit. The filter galleries are not only contaminated – they’re at the top of the discharge flues of the piles – about 120 metres in the air.

      So yes, they’re a hugely more challenging problem than that of the 1f4 fuel pond where – let’s remind ourselves:

      – there’s no evidence of signficiant cladding damage, and none at all of actinides and other heavier isotopes – what contamination there is almost entirely (99%+) caesium

      – radiation levels around the fuel pond area are higher than you’d expose personnel to for an extended period, but far from so high that they can’t be dealt with by shielding and remote access – as has already been demonstrated by the removal of several fuel assemblies on a “trial” basis.

      – the radioactivity of the spent fuel, and it’s associated heat generation is now low.

      “On the basis of your extensive personal experience, in what year do you expect the reactor 4 fuel pond to be empty of its contents and ready for demolition? An unjustified ballpark estimate will do.”

      I’d anticipate all of the fuel associated with the last refuelling (including the part-burned fuel removed to permit the shroud repairs ongoing at the time of the tsunami) to be out in 3-6 months (assuming that that’s prioritised first), and the whole pond emptied in 12-18 months. The older fuel is even less hot than the fresher fuel, so poses a very low risk.

      The timescales are likely to be mainly determined by the logistics of manufacturing and moving air-cooled spent fuel casks in and out of the site, rather than the challenges of moving the fuel into and out of the pond.

      Since your concern seems to be about the probability of an sufficiently large earthquake occurring in that timescale, note that the building has already ridden out several (I think 6 or so) magnitude 6+ aftershocks, most of them before the installation of the additional reinforcing under the r4 pond.

      If we make the not-unreasonable assumption that we’re therefore looking in the order of a 7+ magnitude quake to potentially cause a threat to pond integrity, something which occurs anywhere at all in Japan and the surrounding seas perhaps once or twice per decade. I’d make a rough estimate that that suggests that one might occur close enough to Fukushima to me an issue perhaps once per century, on that basis.

      Have you been to Fukushima? (yes or no will do nicely)

      No, but I have been to Windscale – including the area affected by the ’57 fire.

    8. Little Iodine 131

      Andy Dawson,

      Thank you for directly answering most of the questions I put to you, and for the interesting detail about the (still ongoing) cleanup after the Windscale disaster of October 10, 1957.

      Here’s more, for others who, like myself, didn’t realise that the cleanup at Windscale is going great guns, 54 years later:


      Can you tell me if it’s going to schedule?

      This brings me to the unanswered question in my post:

      “On the basis of your extensive personal experience, in what year do you expect the reactor 4 fuel pond to be empty of its contents and ready for demolition? An unjustified ballpark estimate will do.”

      Given your experience, I expect your guess will be better than mine – I would guess (with no authority or justification whatever)between 10 and 20 years. What do you think?

  16. Peter Dugdale

    Excellent post and discussion with many useful links.

    I’m a layman (albeit one who likes to think himself not too badly-informed on the issue), and often discuss it with even less-informed laymen here in nuclear-phobic Germany. What I often get thrown in my face when I advance arguments like those above is: “not all radiation is alike, and it depends whether the body takes it up” – the implication is that what ever come from nuclear plants is the worst kind. Banana radiation is completely harmless they will say, whereas Fukushima stuff is deadly.

    I’d understood that the Sieverts unit takes the different forms of radiation and their weighted effects into account, and that’s about all I can say to counter this.
    If I’ve got this wrong, or there are better arguments I’d love to be enlightened.

    Of course, what you’re arguing against is often prejudice and political motivation: arguments will only get you so far!

  17. Andy Dawson

    Aren’t we somewhat missing the point here?

    Here’s have a study from an avowedly anti-nuclear academic source, albeit that the study has notable flaws. And yet, even with those flaws, the central estimate is for a notably low mortality – and that over 50 years?

    Look at it his way; on these models, radiation related deaths from Fukushima would add about 0.6% to Tsunami mortally.

    I don’t think rubbshing the paper is necessarily smart, irrespective of its source. Instead, I’d be more inclined to take a line of “even opponents of new nuclear accept that fukushima health consequences are minor”

    1. Will Boisvert

      Well said, Andy Dawson,

      I have my doubts about LNT, but the virtue of this paper is that it shows how trivial the health effects of the Fukushima meltdown are, even assuming LNT.

      Especially interesting is the researchers’ conclusion that the mandatory evacuation from the 20 km zone saved all of 28 lives (range from 3-245), while killing some 600 old and sick people from the trauma of forced relocation.

      That means that the fear of radiation killed far more people in Fukushima than the radiation itself. It also means that if everyone had simply carried on with their lives in the EZ without evacuating, virtually no one would have died from it, and that all the immense upheavals and remediation “costs” attributed to the meltdown are therefore really the product of anti-nuke hysteria, not nuclear power.

      I think pro-nukes should trumpet this study.

    2. Mark

      My point exactly (somewhere up above). Fighting LNT in the time scales required (e.g. to promote the nuclear industry) aint going to work. LNT, which I have problems with, when used correctly as ICRP states (i.e. not using Collective Dose of low doses over large populations) demonstrates low risks.

  18. Simon Tewbg

    Hi Mark

    Could you clarify something in your article? You mention risk coefficient and LNT but the texts you quote mention only collective effective dose. There’s some sort of jump from what you’re talking about and what the quotes are talking about. What is the link between risk coefficient or LNT and collective effective dose?

    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      That’s a very good question, and the answer is not simple. Basically the EPA risk coefficient is applicable when you know the dose an individual has received. The researchers here don’t know that, so they multiply the radioactivity they assume was around (from their atmospheric model) by the number of people assumed to be in each area. That gives a collective dose, which on the basis of LNT is then presumed to lead to xx mortality over yy years. The dumbest aspect of the exercise by far is applying it to the USA – when amounts from Fukushima were a long way below what the ICRP calls trivial for sure.

    2. Michael Karnerfors


      A risk model is not a model of how many will actually get hurt by exposure. It doesn’t accurately model epidemiological outcomes. For that you need a reliable epidemiological model… or better yet: measured outsome.

      For doses this minute you can impossibly measure any outcome except for the rescue teams since they were the only ones that recieved significant doses. The population in general got only minute doses, so trying to find if Fukushima affected them would be like looking at an MS Excel datasheet over a hundred thousand throws of a die… and find at most – if the LNT model is assumed to be accurate – ten throws of ones and twos where the thrower used a loaded die (the normal risk of getting cancer is throwing a six-sided die and getting a one or a two).

      So if there would be any epidemiological effects by Ukushima, measuring them is impossible because they will “drown” in the noise of all the cancers people are gertting from other causes. The only thing that remains is using models and estimations. And here Jacobson fails because he uses models and estimates that were never intrended for – and never should be used for – the kind of conclusion he makes. It’s like using a crowbar to perform brain surgey: it’s the wrong tool for the job… and you simply can’t do it without causing damage to someone’s intellect.

      And that is pretty much what Jacobson does: stupidifying the debate with this nonsense.

  19. Pete Shield

    Is this report credible ?


    It claims that 36 percent of Fukushima children have abnormal thyroid growths, which is way above what you could expect. The report says that there is a likely link to radiation exposure. Abnormal growths on thyroid nodules are rarely dangerous, but such a high frequency amongst young children is surely a concern.

    1. Don Cox

      “way above what you would expect”

      What would you expect, exactly? There are no figures presented for the incidence of thyroid nodules of various sizes before the earthquake.

      However, it is known that such nodules are very common in Japanese people – I think about 60% of adults have them. They are usually harmless.

    2. Linda Williams

      Note: co-authored a study that found normal children in Nagasaki to have 0 percent nodules and 0.8 percent cysts.

      Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/a-stunning-36-percent-of-fukushima-children-have-abnormal-growths-from-radiation-exposure-2012-7#ixzz21QneY422

  20. john fisher

    the known,unknown’s,the unknown unknown’s,of cesium 137,in the food chain,should be known.all life forms pick up radioactive cesium in place of potassium,life does not know the difference,this is a man made experiment on a grand scale,this could be the DDT story on steroids,ask,Gorbachev,what took down the USSR,it was not the cold war

  21. Mark Z. Jacobson

    Responses to Mark Lynas

    Lynas: “Jacobson is a long-time anti-nuclear advocate.”

    Response: This statement is not correct. Lynas confuses advocacy with reporting scientific results. I compare many technologies against each other (e.g., gasoline versus hydrogen, diesel versus gasoline, wind versus coal, ethanol versus gasoline, nuclear versus solar, etc.) and have an obligation to inform the scientific community and public about the results. Results I have reported in papers, talks, and conferences are based on the scientific findings from the studies performed, not because I have a special affinity of one technology over another. I have no financial interest in any technology that I investigate.

    Lynas: “The Ten Hoeve and Jacobson paper uses an atmospheric transport model (which is not really intended for this purpose).”

    Response: The model used is not an “atmospheric transport model,” which is a model that does not simulate meteorology or chemical processes. Instead, it is a coupled climate, weather, air pollution, chemistry, transport, radiation, cloud, ocean, soil, vegetation, and health effects model. It is the most detailed and complete atmospheric model worldwide


    and the most appropriate model available to study this phenomenon. It has been used in many health effects studies and evaluated against numerous datasets on local, regional, and global scales.

    Lynas: “Hardly anyone I meet in the nuclear community these days still believes in the LNT.”

    Response: This statement cannot be correct unless Mr. Lynas does not read scientific reports or papers. For example, as recently as April 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated in its report justifying how to calculate radiogenic cancer risk:

    “Underlying the risk models is a large body of epidemiological and radiobiological data. In general, results from both lines of research are consistent with a linear, no-threshold dose (LNT) response model in which the risk of inducing a cancer in an irradiated tissue by low doses of radiation is proportional to the dose to that tissue.”

    The 2005 U.S. National Academy of Sciences Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) Report states,

    “The committee concludes that current scientific evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear, no threshold dose-response relationship between exposure to ionizing radiation and the development of cancer in humans.” (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11340)

    Further, as stated by Professor Burton Richter in his July 2012 E&ES “Opinion” at http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/fukushima.html, “I agree with the authors’ choice. The LNT model is what UNSCEAR and the U.S. BEIR committees use…However, there is no agreement among the critics as to what the threshold should be, and, until there is, use of the LNT assumption should give an upper bound to the biological effects.”

    In addition, our cancer death range (15-1300) effectively accounts for not including the LNT at the low end. Mr. Lynas would prefer we report only a low estimate, and ignore the high estimate, which is not scientific. Also, Fukushima is not a case of low doses accumulated over a long time but of acute emissions, with most impacts over one month.

    Finally, we used a recommended dose and dose rate effectiveness factor of two to all organ-specific risk coefficients, except for the breast, as described on the “Calculation of health effects” study page of the paper. This resulted in lower risk at lower radiation exposure than at higher exposure; thus, we did not assume a linear risk coefficient with exposure but one the provided lower risk at lower exposure.

    Lynas: “In conclusion, I don’t like to go in for ad hominem stuff…”

    Response: If you don’t like it, then you won’t do it.

    Lynas: “This is not the perspective of an objective energy scientist, but of an anti-nuclear campaigner pursuing an ideological agenda”

    Response: As stated, our study was based on pure science and pursuit of better understanding. According to Prof. Burton Richter in his published commentary in Energy and Environmental Science (http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/fukushima.html), “It is a first rate job”.

    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      Thanks Mark. But my main complaint was the one you didn’t address, which was the inappropriate use of LNT and collective dose (via a risk coefficient multiplied by population). The ICRP (which, like BEIR supports LNT for individual risk assessment) states that it is not appropriate for epidemiology when extrapolating impacts of trivial doses over large populations.

    2. Mark Z. Jacobson

      “But my main complaint was the one you didn’t address, which was the inappropriate use of LNT and collective dose (via a risk coefficient multiplied by population).”

      We never multiplied a risk coefficient by the entire population in a given location.

      Our risk coefficients were age-, sex, and organ-specific, and we used the age distribution of each country worldwide and the variation of dose spatially and temporally (including variations within countries) for each radionuclide, such as shown in the video at http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/fukushima.html and a DDREF of 2 for all organs except the breast. This is a standard way of calculating health effects based on information available to the scientific community at this time, and it is a similar methodology for other types of air pollutants as well.

      The risk coefficients were obtained from the U.S. EPA, who themselves acknowledge the correctness of this methodology for calculating risk for cancer at low dose as they themselves provide results from this methodology for the entire U.S. population exposed to low doses from both their model and the ICRP (2007) model in Table 3-23 of their report at http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/docs/bluebook/bbfinalversion.pdf

      You selected a quote from ICRP ignoring how it relates our calculation and without examining how the scientific and regulatory communities apply these risks.

      Regardless, the wide range in our uncertainty of mortalities (15-1300) effectively accounts, at the low end, for the uncertainty in using the LNT across subsets of populations and organs, so we see no basis for your criticism.

    3. Rod Adams

      @Mark Jacobson

      In response to Lynas complaint that you inappropriately used “collective dose” to calculate cancer deaths you wrote:

      “We never multiplied a risk coefficient by the entire population in a given location.”

      That indicates a misinterpretation of the concerns and cautions offered by radiation specialists regarding the use of collective dose. The concern is associated with multiplying a non zero, but very small, risk number by a very large population number to “quantify” a predicted number of cancer cases.

      Slicing up the large population by applying age, sex and organ corrections does not change the fact that all of the individual’s in your very large population sample were exposed to trivial doses that are unlikely to cause any harm.

      When everyone in a large population has a trivial individual dose the most likely result is zero health effects. Thus the Health Physics Society makes the following statement in its position paper titled “Radiation Risk in Perspective” http://www.hps.org/documents/radiationrisk.pdf

      “Estimation of health risk associated with radiation doses that are of similar magnitude as those received from natural sources should be strictly qualitative and encompass a range of hypothetical health outcomes, including the possibility of no adverse health effects at such low levels.”

      My real challenge with your work is that the range of outcomes that you published did not include the possibility of ZERO adverse health effects. Instead of honestly stating that your models provided only an estimate, you claimed that they “quantified” the risk and predicted that at least some people would be dying.

      That is not what the science says. There is a good chance that there will be NO ONE dying as a result of radiation released by Fukushima.

    4. Mark Z. Jacobson

      Rod Adams (citing Health Physics Society): “Estimation of health risk associated with radiation doses that are of similar magnitude as those received from natural sources should be strictly qualitative and encompass a range of hypothetical health outcomes, including the possibility of no adverse health effects at such low levels.” My real challenge with your work is that the range of outcomes that you published did not include the possibility of zero adverse health effects.”

      Response: Figure 1 of our paper at http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/fukushima.html shows from data at 8 locations between Japan and the U.S. east coast that the concentrations of Cs and I were both 3-8 orders of magnitude above the background levels, so this quote does not appear to apply to these data.

      Rod Adams. “In response to Lynas complaint that you inappropriately used ‘collective dose’ to calculate cancer deaths you wrote: “We never multiplied a risk coefficient by the entire population in a given location. ”That indicates a misinterpretation of the concerns and cautions offered by radiation specialists regarding the use of collective dose.”

      Response: We did not use a “collective effective dose” as referred to in Section (k) of the Executive summary of ICRP Publication 103. A collective effective dose is defined as the summation, over all subsets of population of the product of effective dose multiplied by population (e.g., http://www.iaea.org/ns/tutorials/regcontrol/intro/glossaryd.htm#D47). ICRP is critical when this quantity is calculated then combined with a relative risk to obtain the health effects of the population as a whole. With collective effective dose, it is assumed (rather than determined) that everyone in a population subgroup receives the same dose. For example, measurements of an individual’s average exposure to X-radiation, as determined by a small number of tests, multiplied by the total country population, give a collective effective dose.

      We did not assume the exposure was the same for each individual in a large population based on a sample of data. Instead, we modeled the concentration each person was exposed to in each model grid cell each time step. This quantity was constant for the cell and time step, as the model was not resolved down to the individual. The concentration was multiplied by the inhalation rate of a person as a function of age and combined with the relative risk for each organ and sex to obtain the mortality/morbidity risk of each individual. This variable was then multiplied by the population of the subset with the same inhalation rate and age in the grid cell. In other words, we calculated individual mortality risk and summed this over the population. We did not calculate collective effective dose then multiply it by relative risk.

      In the limit of extremely high model spatial resolution, this methodology converges to simulating different concentration exposures for each person in the world. At the resolution used, it gives rise to uncertainties in the exposure of individuals in different parts of the grid cell, but an examination of gradients across adjacent grid cells suggest there is no possible way for the concentration distribution to result in zero risk worldwide due to Fukushima. The only way that outcome could be obtained is if the relative risk were assumed to be zero. However, UNSCEAR, U.S. BEIR, U.S. EPA, and ICRP, among others, all agree that relative risks are not zero at low doses.

    5. jmdesp

      Jacobson, your answer assume that each nuclide has a separate and independent effect.

      If I compare that to the air pollution study you do usually that would be like if you said that PM 2.5 from coal plants is completely different from the one from diesel, and that burning coal in an area where there was none before multiplies the background level by 3 to 8 orders of magnitudes, so is very significant, even though there was already a large impact of PM 2.5 from diesel in the same area.

      And next you use the LNT, in other words, an impact ratio that has been calculated for a completely generic PM 2.5 level.

      They are only three radiation type alpha, beta and gamma. Opposite to PM 2.5 that *could* in theory be different, nuclear physic says it’s the same particule even if the nuclide is different.
      Iodine and Cesium only release beta and gamma, not the alpha variety that is potentially more dangerous *if* ingested.

      And if I apply your methodology for the 3 mSv that the US population receives annually, I find that’s around 939 000 person-Sievert, so 46.9 to 93 000 excess death for the US every single year.
      In the time scale of 50 years that you use that would be 2.3 to 4.6 millions people. Each of them is directly exposed to the X-ray that are directed to him for diagnosis purpose, there’s no need to make a complex estimation of the dose.

    6. Linda Williams

      I’d like someone to try and help me to ascertain how the reports that are coming out from countries other than japan, actually stack up against the type of reports that I will link below? It is hard to get much information from japan, due to most being removed.

      To find first hand reports are far and few between, and information that seems really credible, is not easy to find, which is odd as japan is known for its far superior technology, and use thereof.

      Most information is removed, rather quickly, something i found happened a lot at during the first few weeks of the disaster, now i think it doesn’t often make it that far.

      One of the parts of the you tube link was also removed. I actually have refrained to link this before now, for fear of more data disappearances, but think discussion is very important as this issue, seems to be a human rights breach, but as I am untrained.
      Is it as bad as in fact it seems?

      And if it is, this situation surely should be made far more public!?

      I seriously fear for the Japanese people as to the amount of hidden and deceptive information that other countries have received, do not match the data that has been reported by people who are living near and quite possibly in the radiation zones.

      Here is a U-tube video its part 1 and I would advise to watch all parts, but regardless of the what we are told, the people themselves seem to have real data, but very real health issues, most of which are diagnosed as allergies, or flu! These are the reasons I cannot understand how no one seems to think it is really all that bad?

      And If what is being reported by these people is true, then why is it that it is allowed to continue?


      This is the sight I will be referring to below;


      “Translated articles from Japanese freelance journalists and Bloggers about Fukushima Nuclear Accident”

      The previous information you would find is from people, who have been affected by a test burn of debris, if you look hard enough, you can also get information from people who have been suffering these symptoms for a long time around the labeled safe zones near Fukushima.

      “The report of research service of concentration measurement of disaster debris in January 2012” issued by Miyagi Prefecture, the average value of Cs134 and Cs137 inside the disaster debris in Ishinomaki City are 116Bq/kg. For the combustible material, it is written 101Bq/kg.

      Bear I mind the debris they are talking about have been already incinerated from Tokyo to Osaka

      If you scroll down to the report no 10, then go to the heading

      “The opinions of citizen volunteers after hearing the cases of suspected damages on health caused after test incineration of disaster debris “
      about a 1/4 way down.

      After the label 4, Under this heeding “2012/07/13” is where this is written..

      According to a report, a ground dose of the school read 128.000Bq/m2 (Cs-134, Cs-137).
      The measurement was carried out with an approval of Minister of Environment. The results were broadcasted on the local TV.

      Now my question is, to me this seems to be a little high?
      And most defiantly higher than what is allowable dose, if these figure are correct then wouldn’t this make the reported data we are reading a little watered down?

      And what are the current ramifications if this is closer to the true picture of what is actually happening?

      It seems to me personally, that there is very little firsthand information from the people who are in harm’s way, and if it is in fact the case why aren’t more people aware of their fate?

      Think it is easy to play emu but I cannot help ask myself what if you were told you were safe, your relatives feared you to be contaminated and the only place you could go, was to stay?

      If your area is considered safe you are not allowed to evacuate.
      People who were evacuated because their areas were unsafe, had a choice, to leave, to a new home, but wouldn’t get income support, if they stayed you would be feed, enough so you can survive, and there is no electricity after dark, as it was best to not let these people get to comfortable!

      How come we are as humans are not interested in the fate of others unless it is next door!??

      Any help to understand why it seems we have missed something a little vital?

    7. Proteos

      Perhaps that’s because I do not have PhD, but I fail to understand how this response adresses Mark Lynas’ main criticism of your work. After all, I understand from what you write here and various articles elsewhere that:
      * any single person in the model gets a small or very small dose
      * a lot of persons get these very low doses
      * and you conclude from that statistically, using the LNT model, there must be 15 to 1300 excess deaths, with a central estimate of 130.

      Personnally I also a very hard time understanding how it is that your estimate range does not include 0: after all if no study has ever been able to show an effect below 100mSv, that must mean that the range of excess deaths includes 0. This also mean that no epidemiological study will ever be able to discern an effect from the background noise.

      In fact the main criticism I have with such works is that they fail to mention that no one will ever be able to prove or disprove what they say, because the estimates will be compatible with the error margin of any epidemiological study. That’s probably why UNSCEAR states that it will not use such models to estimate excess deaths in the case of Chernobyl (§D252 p183 of the 2008 report http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2008/11-80076_Report_2008_Annex_D.pdf )

      You didnot say to the media that the estimate was so small that no follow up epidemiological study will ever be able to tell your estimate and the 0 death estimate apart because of uncertainties. You chose to give them a figure, knowing that will repeat it because they have a particular knack for precise numbers even if they are meaningless because of the error range.

    8. Michael Karnerfors

      Marc… if you cannot be honest about your opinions – which constitute bias – and instead try to hide them behind a statement to the effect of “I’m just an impartial messenger”… I’m sorry, that right there puts the last nail in the coffin for your credibility as far as I’m conserned.

      When I formed the network “Nuclear Power Yes Please”, I chose that name to be HONEST with people. There should never be any question what we think!! If that means people regard us as biased – even though our goal is to introduce fair scince to the debate on nuclear power – then so be it! It’s a price we are willing to pay, even if it means we will have to work even harder to get our message and the science out. It’s all about honesty in order to be credible. Titles alone don’ do it.

      Marc… don’t think us fools. We all saw your little number-magic act, especilly when you flaunted it on TED. You start off with Benjamin Sovacool’s bogus LCA average… and then you start piling on dirt… like arbitrarily blaming WWIII on nuclear power. If you think we will take your word for it when you say “oh but I’m just reporting science with that”… well, I feel insulted when you assume I’d fall for that.

      Benjamin Sovacool is at least open and honest with his anti-nuclear stance. Until you are the same Marc, you will have a very hard time convincing me of anything in this debate.

      Oh… and your last sentence above… refering to a colleague on Stanford… with a one-sentence quote… that’s the academic’s way of saying “Well my mom thinks I’m pretty at least!”. 😀

    9. Mark Z. Jacobson

      Sorry, Michael, my statements about any energy source are based on science not advocacy and you are providing misinformation.

      Let’s analyze your claims:

      1) You state, “You start off with Benjamin Sovacool’s bogus LCA average… ” First, Dr. Sovacool presents in his paper a review of many studies, and his review is corroborated by Lenzen (Energy Conversion and Management 40, 2178, 2008) which gives a mean LCA for nuclear almost the same as Sovacool. Regardless, the LCA range I included in “Review of solutions to global warming…” at


      was 9-70 for nuclear (Table 3), which includes the nuclear energy estimate at the low end and the median (not even the high) from Sovacool (backed up by Lenzen) at the high end. Since I did not use the high end from those studies, I was very conservative. So on this first point, you are plainly providing misinformation to this audience.

      2) You state that I was “arbitrarily blaming WWIII on nuclear power.” Again, this is a false statement. Several countries have secretly developed or tried to develop nuclear weapons under the pretense of civilian nuclear energy development, and this is even going on today. This is a fact that you need to accept if you want to be “HONEST” with people as you claim. Regardless, if you actually read Table 3 of the “Review of solutions…” paper above, you will see that the low end of this risk in terms of CO2 emissions is zero and the high end is only 4.1 g-CO2e/kWh. For mortality, the low end is also zero but the high end is enormous. Again, I was being extremely fair in including the entire range. You prefer to hide the high end risk and look only at the low end. While we do not know the chance of a disaster happening, that chance is not zero, although you prefer it to be. The chance is zero for most other technologies. This is a fact and nothing to do with my preference for one technology over another.

      Mark (not Marc)

    10. Michael Karnerfors


      Sovacool’s average is pointless on several accounts. First: it’s an average which means it will not say how a pariticular nuclear plant will fare any more than you can determine the length, weight or gender if an individual human being from the average. Second, of the about twenty values that make up the value, Storm van Lueewen & Smith’s hyperinflated values are present directly 3 times and indirectly a fourth. And last: all of them deal with old technology.

      Several have criticized the rest of your accounting trickery where you try transfer releases from one source of energy to another. The WWIII nonsense – because no civilian power reactor has ever been used to make weapons material – is just the glazing in the cake.

      So I stand by my assessment: you have an agenda… you are pushing an opinion, trying to disguise it with the “science” label. And that is reprehensible. You are polluting the important debate with irrelevant and biased nonsense and in the process abusing the concept of “science”, thereby lowering the credibility of science and scientists. We don’t need any more of that… the public trust is much too low as it is.

    11. Mark Z. Jacobson

      As stated, our low CO2 LCA emission estimate is the nuclear industry estimate. The high is near the median of both Dr. Sovacool’s and Dr. Lenzen’s studies that report numerous LCA’s, thus it excludes many of the higher-end studies. As our estimate does not even cover the full range of the literature at the high end, it is numerically impossible for these numbers to be biased, except low, and you have provided no basis for changing this estimate.

      With regard to your claim that “no civilian power reactor has ever been used to make weapons material,” you cleverly skirted around my statement, “Several countries have secretly developed or tried to develop nuclear weapons under the pretense of civilian nuclear energy development, and this is even going on today.” In other words, these countries pretend that that their only interest in nuclear is for civilian nuclear power so need research reactors or more fuel, etc., but secretly have the intention of producing weapons. This is going on in front of your eyes in Iran and has happened previously in Iraq before Israel bombed their reactor, in India, in Pakistan, and elsewhere. If you want to bury your head in the sand and pretend something is not occurring, don’t drag the rest of society into the hole of ignorance you are creating.

      This has nothing to do with advocacy and everything to do with providing factual information that you are trying to hide to the detriment of society. According to you, anyone who disagrees with you publicly is biased or has an agenda. Not many people agree with this view.

    12. Steve Aplin

      Dr. Jacobson: you would include Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and India as examples of how civilian nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons? The actual historical record contradicts that. India developed plutonium in a research reactor modified to irradiate uranium targets, possibly using separated uranium isotopes as fuel and targets. Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and South Africa (you left that out) all went nuclear by the uranium enrichment route, using technology that was stolen, procured on a secret black market, transferred by an ally as part of a bilateral security agreement, or developed indigenously. None of these had anything to do with a modern nuclear cooperation agreement involving sale of power reactor technology coupled with IAEA safeguards.

      To say that nobody has developed a weapon using material from a power reactor is not skirting around the issue. That is the issue. Iran did not acquire uranium enrichment technology under the guise of a civilian power program. Iran acquired the technology in secret, from a black market dealer, and didn’t declare it to the IAEA until it was outed by an opposition group. There is a major difference between that fact and your claim of a connection between civilian nuclear energy and a military program.

    13. Michael Karnerfors


      Listening to you trying to defend your WWIII blunder is becoming tragical.

      The critical question is this: will abolishing nuclear power stop nuclear weapons development, covert or not?

      Answer: no… it will not. It clearly did not stop the US, USSR, UK, France and China. Japan was not spared because it lacked nuclear power in 1945.

      So trying to pin WWIII on nuclear power is just stupid. It is not science by any means. I challenge you to publish that claim in a journal and have a peer review resach consensus that it is a valid claim that nuclear power increasesthe risk of WWIII… or conversely: that diminishing the world’s energy resource pool by relegating uranium, torium and plutonium from being actual or potential sources of energy to being nothing but waste or weapons materials. I challenge you to have the scientific community reach that consensus.

      And while we’re on the subject…


      I especially like this factlet:

      450 metric tons of bomb-grade HEU have been recycled into 13,258 metric tons of LEU, equivalent to 18,000 nuclear warheads eliminated.

    14. Jani-Petri Martikainen

      Mark, please do not insult our intelligence. You are not just a messenger doing science. For the doses you report in your paper there is no evidence of harm and it is known that much larger increses in background levels do not give rise to elevated cancer rates as suggested by LNT. LNT has its uses as worst case rule of thumbs, but at low dose rates it is inconsistent with what we see and what we know about protective mechanisms in cells as well as between cells. Suggesting that it is a scientific fact is misleading. Furthermore, you do not compare different effects and compare their magnitudes. For example, let us say fear mongering causes Americans to be more afraid of radiation than before and they choose to avoid higher background dose areas. The reduced doses from this are FAR higher that the doses you compute and would imply reduced exposures. Cherry picking worst possible numbers and ignoring much larger background effects is not proper science. It is like building a bridge and worrying about the gravitational effects of Jupiter while ignoring that of earth. The fact that you call such procedure as objective science does raise some concerns as to the “science ” involved.

    15. Joffan

      I appreciate your engagement with the discussion here, Dr Jacobson.

      My question regarding your paper concerns the lack of individual dose values. You go to great lengths to model dispersion of your model source terms, and calculate ground contamination, but I don’t see anything to indicate what actual exposure doses you have produced from your models. Some kind of distribution of exposures would have been a valuable cross-check on the actual values experienced on the ground, which as you are no doubt aware peaked below about 50mSv in the most heavily contaminated areas.

      I also think you put a serious dent in the paper’s posture of being “pure science” right in the introductory paragraph when you say “The radiation release poisoned local water and food supplies and created a dead-zone of several hundred square kilometers around the site that may not be safe to inhabit for decades to centuries.” – a premature and overly-emotional conclusion (and not the only one) that seems to be directly contradicted by the actual assessment.

    16. Pedro J.

      Mark, where is the science in this sentence

      “Every dollar spent on nuclear is one less dollar spent on clean renewable energy ”


      I mean, why renowable energy has got the adjetive clean and nuclear hasn’t? It seem to me there is a value judgment there, so when Mark Lynas wrote “Jacobson is a long-time anti-nuclear advocate.” perhaps he had some basis.

    17. Mark Z. Jacobson


      The study at


      ranked energy solutions to global warming based on externality effects criteria. Several technologies were recommended based on the ranking, and others were not. Nuclear was close but was not recommended. In fact, it was just behind coal-CCS, which was also not recommended.

      In the papers at


      the recommended technologies were examined further to determine whether it was possible to power the world based on them, now including costs, materials, and some other factors. The conclusion was that it was technically feasible.

      Once this conclusion has been arrived at, the statement, ““Every dollar spent on nuclear is one less dollar spent on clean renewable energy” follows logically from the previous studies. Even though nuclear came out ahead of some other technologies in the Review, it was not so good as the recommended technologies. As a result, there is no scientific basis for spending money on an opportunity cost. This has nothing to do with advocacy and everything to do with logic. You can disagree with the recommended versus non-recommended options in the previous studies, but please don’t say there is an inconsistency here; this statement follows consistently from results of the previous studies.

    18. Michael Karnerfors

      That soundbite is one of the most abused and misused of the anti-nuclear crowd. It tries to paint nuclear as an antagonist of renewables. That is a false dichotomy that is nothing but debate tactics… and it plays right in the hands of the real enemy.

      Let me give you the proper replacement:

      Every kWh spent on replacing nuclear, is a kWh not spent on replacing fossil fuels.

      There can be no doubt that 1) fossil fuels are the bane of health and the environment 2) there is ALOT of money to be gotten from that market 3) there will for the forseeable future never be enough of either nuclear nor renewables to replace fossil fuels… you will saturate the market for them both.

      So if a clean kWh gained through wind, solar, savings, effectivizations, hydro, geothermal or any other such source is spent on replacing nuclear, it is in effect wasted because that means there is a kWh of fossil energy that was not replaced.

      By the way… this reasoning totally invalidates half of Jacobsons little LCA because all the “bonuses” he flinged at nuclear was about just that: replacing fossil fuels… except of course the WWIII BS…

    19. Pedro J.

      “Every kWh spent on replacing nuclear, is a kWh not spent on replacing fossil fuels.” And the evidence is out there and is called Germany and Japan.

    20. Rod Adams

      Dr. Jacobson – thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

      I agree with Mark Lynas’s interpretation of your position regarding the use of nuclear energy. You have publicly chosen to emphasize the negatives of nuclear energy and to proclaim that we can, and should, power the whole world with a combination of “wind, water, and sunshine.”

      However, please do not take our word for the impression that your writing has given. In the same response commentary that you quoted, Burton Richter wrote the following statement:

      “I also think there is too much editorializing about accident potential at Diablo Canyon which makes the paper sound a bit like an anti-nuclear piece instead of the very good analysis that it is.”

      You may have done first rate analytical and modeling work using your interpretation of a grudgingly accepted radiation protection model, but you have also allowed your bias against the use of nuclear energy to shine clearly enough that even a colleague of yours from Stanford noticed it and pointed it out for the world to read.

      It would have been much more supportive of your claim to impartiality if you had done some estimating of the volume of toxic materials released by the Cosmo Oil Company Chiba LNG reception terminal, which burned for 10 solid days after the Sendai earthquake and tsunami. That aspect of the energy production system vulnerability to natural disaster is almost completely unknown. It would have been an excellent use of your model to shine some scientific light on the health hazard that world wide dispersal of its toxic chemical discharges represents.

      As always, I admit and proudly claim a bias in favor of nuclear energy. I believe it is based on fact and experience, but it is virtually unshakable and may cause some to dismiss my opinions. So be it.

  22. martyn

    Just one question that seems to me to have got lost in scientific discussions weighing risk from radiation vs risk of evacuation, but presumably was relevant at the time.

    Now the event is over we have some idea what the releases were, and what doses that would have implied. But while the event was still happening and the final dose pretty uncertain, what should have been done?

    And from a practical point of view would not evacuating really be safer? Even if this was a poorly run evacuation, would people (perhaps irrationally) fleeing themselves because they thought Government was failing to act have been safer?

    1. Don Cox

      The question might be, who should be evacuated. There seems little point in evacuating people who are terminally ill because they might develop cancer from radiation one day.

      On the other hand, giving children iodine and erring on the side of caution when deciding whether to evacuate children and young adults seems reasonable.

    2. Joffan

      Good point martyn. I think the key would have been to make the evacuation voluntary, with support to people who chose to evacuate. And it would have been very beneficial to provide good information about relative actual and potential risks to different age groups.

      There was some point to an initial mandatory evacuation (close in – 10km circle?) before the final fate of the plants became clearer. By the end of April 2011, though, it was clear that the potential for dramatic new releases had faded, even though there was still much work to be done to stabilise and contain the broken reactors.

  23. David

    Mark Jacobson’s Stanford University bio does not suggest any particular expertise on radiation health effects – making me wonder why he would publish such a controversial paper (involving death estimates) without including at least one such reputable expert as an author. Perhaps he was in a hurry to publish and couldn’t be bothered to find one. Or perhaps he just couldn’t find one willing to take the reputational risk inherent in applying LNT to small doses over large populations.

    Still while he is being all gung-ho about it, perhaps he would like to quickly whizz up a death toll for the Chiba oil refinery fire. He can than promptly serve up this dose of context to a Japanese public currently baying at the gates of their prime minister’s house; bent on ending reliance on an energy source that has granted them 30+ years of economic prosperity while protecting their health and that of their environment.

  24. john fisher

    air born or water born hot particles lodged in ones lungs or heart muscles for life ,is much different then high altitude or radiology exposures, this is not addressed in theses comments,why?and why is it unsafe to eat coconuts on bakini island fifty years after a fukushima like experiment happend there?

    1. Mark

      It in part depends on how the ‘dose’ is defined. If it is defined as effective dose (whole body dose) – then internal or external irradiation is not an issue since Effective Dose is a risk term. Effective dose is how you can, for example, compare I-131 intake with say air travel cosmic radiation.

    2. Rod Adams

      What make you think that radioactive materials preferentially remain inside human bodies?

      For example, the biological half life for Cs-137 is just 70 days; like potassium it is rapidly excreted.


    3. Michael Karnerfors

      Because the “hot particle” nonsense is just that: nonsense. Basically the only way to get “hot particles” is through a nuclear exposion close to ground/sea floor. Not even Chernobyl lead to anything but a local distribution of particles… and they are rather immobile in the environment.

      The fallout from Fukushima was distributed as gas and – at most – aerosols. “Hot particles” is an old attempt by anti-nukes to hausse fears of nuclear power.

  25. john fisher

    my big concern is that we do not know the infinite ways an ecosystem concentrates cesium 137, up or down the food chain,in water,and soil.,again,this cesium is mistakenly picked up by all life forms and used in place of potassium,and this can cause,foreseen,and unforeseen consequences,for example a heart needs potassium to work,if a heart mistakenly uses this man made fukushima cesium in the place of potassium there WILL be big problems,as there where in USSR,this cannot be swiped under the rug!if we do not know what we are doing with this game,we should not play with fire,or….

    1. Rod Adams

      Actually, we do know quite a bit about how cesium behaves inside human bodies.


      Just because you and your antinuclear sources do not understand does not mean that the knowledge is unavailable.

  26. Little Iodine 131

    For those with time to read it (and who haven’t done so already), the May-June issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists provides an excellent survey of current opinion on low level radiation exposure.

    The one article in the issue that’s not about low-level radiation is about public perception of climate change, which should interest Mr Lynas, whose excellent journalism over the years has contributed to wider public acceptance of anthropogenic climate change.

    Unfortunately, not all of the articles are directly available to the general public, via the internet, though their abstracts provide clear summaries.

    Jan Bayea’s guest editorial is well worth reading in full:

    “Special issue on the risks of exposure to low-level radiation”

    – – – – – –
    Table of Contents
    May/June 2012; 68 (3)

    Thomas Homer-Dixon: Exploring the climate “mindscape”
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2012 68: 1-9, doi:10.1177/0096340212444868

    Special issue: Low-level radiation risks
    Jan Beyea
    Special issue on the risks of exposure to low-level radiation

    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2012 68: 10-12, doi:10.1177/0096340212445026

    Jan Beyea
    The scientific jigsaw puzzle: Fitting the pieces of the low-level radiation debate
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2012 68: 13-28, doi:10.1177/0096340212445025

    David Richardson
    Lessons from Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The most exposed and most vulnerable
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2012 68: 29-35, doi:10.1177/0096340212444876

    Terry A. Brock andSami S. Sherbini
    Principles in practice: Radiation regulation and the NRC
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2012 68: 36-43, doi:10.1177/0096340212444869

    Gordon Thompson
    Unmasking the truth: The science and policy of low-dose ionizing radiation
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2012 68: 44-50, doi:10.1177/0096340212444872

    Colin K. Hill
    The low-dose phenomenon: How bystander effects, genomic instability, and adaptive responses could transform cancer-risk models
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2012 68: 51-58, doi:10.1177/0096340212444874

    Roger E. Kasperson
    The social amplification of risk and low-level radiation
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2012 68: 59-66, doi:10.1177/0096340212444871

    Paul Slovic
    The perception gap: Radiation and risk
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2012 68: 67-75, doi:10.1177/0096340212444870

    Sander Greenland
    Underestimating effects: Why causation probabilities need to be replaced in regulation, policy, and the law
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2012 68: 76-83, doi:10.1177/0096340212444873

    1. Rod Adams

      The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists did something similar to the way that the BEIR VII committee was formed. The editor, knowing the desired results, selected authors that would produce those results.

      It is thus not a survey of current science, but a compilation of articles written by people who were known before invitation to support the LNT.

    2. Little Iodine 131

      Well then, Rod,
      I leave it up to you to provide me a link to a better and more impartial survey of current science.

    3. Rod Adams
    4. Little Iodine 131

      Rod, here is my reply, from earlier today, which appears elsewhere (out of logical order) in the thread:

      Little Iodine 131 says:
      22 July 2012 at 11:45 pm
      Thank you for your references. The 12Mb pdf froze during downloading (twice)during download, so I haven’t read it. There is alimit to how much I can download, so I won’t bother trying again.

      As for The Journal of the International Dose-Response Society, I could find nothing on the webpage about the structure of the society. Perhaps that information is reserved for subscribing members. How am I to judge the impartiality of the ID-RS, compared to the impartiality of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, without more information?

      Still, if ID-RS have published a particular article on the LNT that you think settles the argument explored in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, I would be interested in a link.

      Rod, what more might you add?

    5. jmdesp

      Rod, you are usually saying very sensible things, but here its quite obvious that the dose-response journal is almost fully composed of people selected for their opposition to the LNT.

      It does not make it inherently evil, but it does make it just as bad as the panel you are opposing it too.

      They are however a number of papers published in journals with a more neutral position, that support the idea that LNT does not apply for very low dose, like below 1 mSv. Especially important are the recent research about the repair mechanisms of DNA.

      For those very low dose, statistics will never be able to demonstrate whether the effect exists or not, because it’s too small, so only fundamental research on the repair mechanisms of cells can demonstrate that they can fully cope with small scale damages up to a given level.

      Actually it’s getting more and more well understood that at low dose the damage caused to DNA by radiations is much smaller than the one of caused oxygen free radicals and heat itself, so that it physically can’t have a significant effect. This is not far from being an accepted fact now for physicians. I think you should focus on documents showing this (which I know you know very well)

  27. Tom Keen

    How much does the upper estimate of 1570 deaths change these figures?:


    Not much at all. Nuclear energy is *still* the safest source of energy we have access too.

    I appreciate that Jacobson has at least done a quantitative analysis on this, and not simply stated Fukushima will cause “millions of deaths” like some hysterical anti-nuclear activists (read: Helen Caldicott, Arnie Gundersen).

  28. Rick Maltese

    The public needs to understand that there are two powerful factors that prevent the acceptance of nuclear energy. The biggest factor is the fear that has been amplified out of proportion by corporations and utility companies who have a lot to lose if nuclear energy gains wide acceptance and second is that the majority of pronuclear individuals have become pronuclear based on their understanding of the science. When we study the issues it is clear that nuclear energy is by far the best choice currently to reach our goal of preventing catastrophic climate change by replacing coal and other fossil fuel sources. There could very well be a fatal collision course between economic, political and environmental hardship that makes the present attitude toward being prepared for the future appear sadly lacking. There is nothing wrong with making choices for the common good. Supporting nuclear energy is one of them.

    1. Michael Karnerfors

      I am sorry but that is just silly. The biggest fear mongers are without a doubt NGOs like Greenpeace, and “green” and red political parties.

    2. Rod Adams

      @Michael – the NGOs may be loud, but where do they get their money and political clout? Rick points out that there are powerful monied interests that stand to lose if they allow nuclear fission to compete in the markets where they currently dominate.

      I do not look for the people who are loud and upfront in their opposition, but for those who stand quietly in the background and provide the means to keep those loud opposers in the forefront.

      Who is the real power behind the antinuclear industry and why does relatively shoddy work like that done by Jacobson get all the ink?

    3. Michael Karnerfors

      That is a bit too conspiratorial for me. Sure, that Queensland election ad was very obvious… it was even signed as approved by coal interests. But assuming that coal, oil and gas are funding Greenpeace and the likes to make them suppress nuclear as their agent… it’s just too much of a tin foil hat factor for me.

      And in any case… funding or not… the NGOs are the ones making the noise. They have to carry their own responsbility for that.

    4. Rod Adams


      Businesses do not “conspire” to beat their competitors. They plan, create strategies, and execute those plans & strategies.

      Your dismissal indicates that you have not spent much time in business classes or in high level meetings.

    5. Linda Williams

      Nope this is all information I have found out without any help it’s easy to find, but you have to ask what is stopping this from being decided? Most people will opt for the emu effect!

      Fact is We simply do not know, and no one who will be taken seriously will ask, because the largest health authority on the planet, cannot undertake any credible science to prove either way!

      So without evidence we have to believe the ‘authorities’, science is no longer about why, just where the next grant comes from, or what evidence they are paid to prove.

      Unfortunately things are hidden from the public for our ‘own benefit’ pity we are assumed to be so unqualified to have a say in the decisions that are made for us, and some are just frightening.

      Warning the following may be a little shocking to some people and I advise you to not proceed any further if you find the whole issue at hand unnerving.

      If you want tin hat. Google ‘PROJECT SUNSHINE’

      Or read this.
      Scary tin hat part it is it is real.

    6. Michael Karnerfors

      No Rod… but I have spent enough time – too much one could say – among the worst nutters of the net to see a line of reasoning not worth pursuing.

      I mean… I feel I’m going out on a thin limb when I accuse “green” NGOs and “green” parties of maintaining anti-nuclear and anti-industrial campaigns to save face for themselves and their ideologies. It’s a line of reasoning that “common sense” says is true.

      But “common sense” does not a fact make. Especially not when the opposition uses the exact same line of reasoning to claim “It’s just about money”… you can see samples of it on this very page. If you want to me believe Oil, Coal & Gas are funding NGOs and other greens to discredit nuclear… then I want some friggin’ hard proof of that…

      …and then you take it to 60 Minutes and blow the whole thing wide open… beause they would love a story like that.

      Until I see that… I file it under conspiracy theories. Maybe it’s not fair… but I want the evidence before I go along with that sort of bold claims.

    7. Rick Maltese

      All you need to know is who has the most extra cash to protect their interests. Also how active the antinuclear lobbyists are compared to the anti coal or anti natural gas lobbyists.

  29. Linda Williams

    Since there has been some misinterpretation to ‘safe radiation exposure’ I will try and explain my ‘personal take’ on this.

    I will also like to warn people if this is a subject that concerns, or distresses you, as in terms of personally, as a few people have seemed rather passionate as to try and almost force the radiation no harm view point. I would then like you to not read my personal views on this as I did not intend to alarm people merely give my own take on this, and it is your prerogative to take my information on board or not. Thanks!

    However after looking into it, as a sort of personal research thing, mainly in regards to family members situations, as to what it really could mean for about four years now.

    According to Australian national nuclear research and development organization I don’t have the link but I found it there and it is stated on many other web sites relevant to radioactive substances.
    Please note I do not have permission to quote this, but I will not to have any commercial benefit at all!

    “It is assumed that any radiation dose, however small, can have some effect and protective measures are put in place for radiation workers”
    Now I am lead to conclude, that radiation exposure is idiosyncratic, if your immune system is not compromised, you can manage to kill off many diverse exposures of carcinogens in a lifetime, from many different, and varied carcinogenic substances, chemical, molds, even manufactured particles, are able to cause, and grow cancer. But it is reasonable to assume, and accept, that lots of, or long time exposure, to radiation, in a ‘large enough dosage’, will give you cancer.

    However it IS accepted that all radiation exposure, ‘will’ cause minute cell damage, whether this can be corrected biologically, with an immune system response, is the key to your outcome, even a minute infiltration of a single particle, this could be enough to cause cancer, in anywhere from 1, 10, 50 or 100 years, you can also add to this, the individually subjective, influence of the many varying factors.

    But a huge factor to show absolute evidence, or proof still remains, that Radiation damage, cannot be assessed short-term. Someone quoted the term “trivial individual dose”, as I intend to point out trivial cannot be assumed to not become fatal.

    “There is a good chance that there will be NO ONE dying as a result of radiation released by Fukushima”. Well actually not true.
    So how much, and for how long, is a huge factor, even proximity, and type alpha, beta or , gamma, which varies by amount of emission, source, even relevant things like from explosive source, which can cause airborne particles thus wind direction ect.

    And unfortunately for us humans, radiation is not detectable, by normal human alarm triggers, like smell, taste, color, you don’t know where it is, or if you have been exposed.

    But if you are exposed enough times, the conditions can become right, for the cancer to get past your immune system. If you are increasing the dose amounts, from what is ‘considered background’, and remember that radiation is considered to ‘build up’ so a total lifetime exposure, or accumulated dose, is as relevant, as your current state of health.

    Or perhaps what is ‘considered safe’, even if there is no real evidence to actually prove this definitely. As it is also individually subjective, and therefore why, it is considered no amount is really safe? Whenever there is any radiation dose, it means some cells and cell-nuclei are being traversed by electron-tracks. There are about 600 million typical cells in 1 cubic centimeter.

    At different stages of growth, sex, is also relevant, females are more affected than males, some research has shown, think from Chernobyl? And small children, fetuses are especially considered at risk.
    As subjective as cancer is, it is also convenient for both sides to try and prove or disprove harm, as it is very hard to collect enough scientifically sound evidence, to realistically assign blame to. And therefor probably the only reason the nuclear industry is still around.

    It is hard to prove, that it is dangerous, when the ramifications of this prof will almost bankrupt most of the planet. So to disprove would be far universally beneficially so factors of exposure rates, times and amounts, are either never recorded, or if so in the cases at Fukushima Teachers ‘had’ been taking detailed daily exposure rate readings, of children in schools near Fukushima, but these have been destroyed’ due to it causing distress to people.

    Why do you think this has happened? Removing, the paperwork would have provides some information for future reference, or perhaps it was more an issue of evidence?

    Pure science is rigid and peer tested, if all, i’s aren’t dotted and t‘s aren’t crossed then for the people who will have vested interests in disproving harm, it is easy to disprove evidence. Not acceptable enough criteria to be considered set pattern, or a definitive finding means, you got nothing. And the factors of who is willing to collect this data?

    Also what is also seemingly overlooked is the fact that ‘radiation’ has many allies! Strontium is a calcium seeker, and will attack bones causing bone cancer, and wouldn’t perhaps be included under the labeled of a ‘death from radiation’, even leukemia, may not be directly attributed this, if another cause could be recorded. And we have recently had a confirmed link to childhood leukemia rates in the US.

    It radiation doesn’t just cause cancer; Cesium attacks muscles, for instance ever heard of heart attacks being blamed? No suspicions were aroused at about the increasing rates of heart related problems in japan? It isn’t included as a death from radiation! But without radiation, there is no cesium. It’s a bi product of a radioactive substance. Plutonium, emits alpha rays, and if ingested via food or breathed in it will cause cancer. Note plutonium does occur naturally, but in trace quantities one part in 1011 in pitchblende, ore of uranium (U). So not usually found at a shopping center, or around most peoples homes!

    Radiation still is a created a risk, that is ‘created’ due to a man-made environmental factor.
    Ask suffers of mesothelioma, if it is important to them how many fibers they have inhaled, and what timeframe. If you have a cancer that can be blamed on other influences it will be disregarded, and other factors of mortality aren’t accounted for at all!

    As for the tearm background radiation, to measure radiation currently in military and medical basis the metal used is actually from Pre-world war two ships that have been sunk. This why the cost of a Geiger counter is enormous, and therefore most places, readings will be disregarded as they haven’t been done by a Geiger counter that is regarded as accurate enough.
    Whenever there is any radiation dose, DNA changes that originate from radiation damage to DNA are individual; it is the response of the cell that determines the reaction. Most damage is repaired, but it is the remaining unrepaired, or misrepaired damage, is considered what is responsible for chromosomal aberrations, mutations, transformations and cancerous changes.

    Background radiation has increased since we started testing and using nuclear technologies, it was assumed by I think the 1980’s that we would have sufficiently have figured out hopw to dispose of the waste that, will contain things like plutonium, that’s half life is 24,000 years, 1 Microgram is fatal ¼ of a million years Plutonium emits alpha rays, ingestion or inhalation.
    I seriously do not understand how it is people accept that nuclear power is a safe alternative? The more we use the more dangers that we create and disregard finding a solution for, burring it will eventually poison water tables, and if it take maybe a thousand years oh well, we’ll be long gone! Remember 24,000 years!

    And I think the best question everyone seems to ‘Never’ ask is what would motivate people to not’ want to prove radiation is an issue? And would it serve to benefit someone to not find it dangerous?

    The Uranium supply’s will soon enough be gone, as the amounts mined are reducing already, and then other technologies will at last get there boost for research perhaps? But the sad part is that oil companies and power generation holds vast wealth and to remove their power is what we fight against, as insane wealth can make people be prepared to take insane risks, and the go to great lengths to try and deny blame, if it can be ever assigned!

    Perspective is a subjective thing, this is mine!

    1. Michael Karnerfors


      I think this article may be for you.


      The one trend that is crystal clear through your long and… very diverse post is that you are very eager to paint nuclear in a bad light. It is obvious you *want* it to be bad. You are submerging yourself in a panic about nuclear power.

    2. Linda Williams

      RE: submerging yourself in a panic about nuclear power

      No I just think when the IAEA, has gaged THE WHO, since the fifty’s what hope do we have to have balanced science? The IAEA, is tax funded, representatives from almost all countries who pay to be a part of this, read their mandate, then look for, the terms of studies THE WHO, are legally bound to undertake on any radiation health studies.

      Then bear in mind that most Nuclear power companies also have very large stakes in most of the world’s largest media corporations. I would like to see some real science to be able to finally get the answers, and really openly either prove or disprove.

      I think there is a huge vested interest to disprove any harm. And why if it is so safe, isn’t science keen to undertake studies seek to prove this? Even though we know that it is considered a dangerous substance?
      There are people living 25km from the Fukushima plant, that have been ‘deemed’ as safe areas, after they have removed all the topsoil! There are schools with huge plastic covered hills in there sports areas, of this soil, that has been removed, to make it safe?

      Who do not feel at all safe! And we just don’t have the evidence to either evacuate or allay their fear? I think science has to help these people, and I just cannot understand why it fails to do this.

      This is the question I asked myself long before Fukushima, and I still cannot see credible science being applied. As for the article I had seen that, sorry not neurotic, not highly educated, but actually quite stable, perhaps a little angry, of the way the world doesn’t seem to ask questions, or seek’s credible answers?

    3. Michael Karnerfors

      I would like to see some real science to be able to finally get the answers, and really openly either prove or disprove.

      No… you do not. You really do not. Your disorganized, fractioned posts shows that you don’t care one bit about that. You’re gathering up all little bits of dirt you can find and use that to fuel your radiation panic… just like the woman in the article I linked you.

    4. Steven

      The IAEA has NOT gagged the World Health Organisation. Every time I see this nonsense I will post the following agreement between the WHO and IAEA that the anti-nuclear lobby twists into something it is not.

      Read part 2 where the WHO and IAEA can act “without prejudice of the other” in layman terms “act without the gagging of the other” (I capitalised the relevant words for ease):



      Article I – Co-operation and Consultation

      1. The International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization agree that, with a view to facilitating the effective attainment of the objectives set forth in their respective constitutional instruments, within the general framework established by the Charter of the United Nations, they will act in close co-operation with each other and will consult each other regularly in regard to matters of common interest.

      2. In particular, and in accordance with the Constitution of the World Health Organization and the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its agreement with the United Nations together with the exchange of letters related thereto, and taking into account the respective co-ordinating responsibilities of both organizations, it is recognized by the World Health Organization that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the primary responsibility for encouraging, assisting and co-ordinating research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful uses throughout the world WITHOUT PREJUDICE to the right of the World Health Organization to concern itself with promoting, developing, assisting, and co-ordinating international health work, including research, in all its aspects.

      3. Whenever either organization proposes to initiate a programme or activity on a subject in which the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement.


      With part 3 they consult each other but if one want’s to publish and the other says they shouldn’t they STILL CAN because they can act “without prejudice”. It is plan and blatant anti-nuclear lobby spin to suggest there is a conspiracy of “gagging”.

    5. Linda Williams

      Gag or not?
      Here is the links to look for yourself.

      Or Google it and go there yourself, so you know it’s a real site.
      Type this in the serch
      International Atomic Energy Agency WHA12-40
      Then go to
      IAEA agreement starts on page 62.

    6. Steven

      Linda, that is exactly (to the letter) what I copied in the comment directly above your reply. The words “without prejudice” are still in there. Care to point out the “gagging” clause in the context of the whole agreement?

      Or is this another case of the hook, line, and sinker for anti-nuke lobbying?

      There is still time to go, “Oh, I see. Those people misled me, sorry” to which most would go “That’s ok. Happens to the best of us, good to see your an open and inclusive individual :)”.

  30. john fisher

    1997 IAEA recommended that bikini island not be resettled under present radiological conditions,will this be the same around fukushima fifty years out…or California’s central valley,a bread basket,if one of it’s up graded

    ,new leaking stainless steel pipe plants go fukushima,IAEA’S recommendation for California could be” remove all the top soil”like they said for Bikini,,this is not far fetched,,Big earthquake,meltdown ,slow wind west,low fog trapped in valley?Lioyd’s of london would not touch it….why?….do the math

    1. Michael Karnerfors

      I honesly can’t make heads or tails of this comment. What are you trying to say?

  31. john fisher

    Tokyo electric power co said they found plutonium scattered around fukushima,so it is going into the sea,it will be in fish,sea weed,up and down the food chain…what the heck! do these people have a clue,Rod Atoms is trying to sell fuel rods,on this sight,but will he be out there on the beach picking up specks of his wayward plutonium with tweezers and putting them back into pandor’s box after he made his sale?i think not…hindsight is 20/20 we should all get our eyes checked…..blurry distorted visions can be lethel as is plutonium

    1. Joffan

      There aren’t any scattered particles of plutonium around Fukushima. That’s nonsense cooked up by antinuclear groups. Measurements to detect plutonium found only levels consistent with the weapons-test background.

      There aren’t scattered particles of anything from the core as such. All the radioactivity that left containment at the three stricken reactors did so in the form of gas or solution.

    2. nukescam

      “RST Assessment of Fukushima Daiichi Units”:
      “UNIT 3: Fuel pool is heating up but is adequately cooled, and fuel may have been ejected from the pool (based on information from TEPCO of neutron sources found up to 1 mile from the units, and very high dose rate material that had to be bulldozed over between Units 3 and 4. It is also possible the material could have come from Unit 4).”


    3. Joffan

      If your best shot is to take second-hand information from early in the process and disregard all subsequent measurement and assessments, you don’t need debunking. You’ve already admitted you’re not interested in truth.

  32. MarkB

    About those 3.7 million deaths due to outdoor particulate pollution – did someone find 3.7 million bodies in the streets? The link provided is not a citation – it goes to an advocacy group publication.

    Anyone can model as many deaths as they like – but where are the bodies? Who, exactly, is dying? When you hear that something causes deaths, you think of plane crashes, or accidental electrocution at job sites. Who dies of airborne particulate matter?

    Since I’ve been walking the streets for over fifty years, and never seen anyone keel over and die of polluted air, I can only assume these models point to 87 year old people dying a day sooner than otherwise expected. And I don’t call that ‘death by air pollution,’ – I call it dying of old age.

    1. MarkB

      Sorry – I meant to add that I find it ironic that Mr Lynas gets worked up about bogus modeling when it suits his purpose – favoring nuclear power to cut CO2 output – but not when the same is produced when it suits the purpose of others – the great battle against air pollution.

    2. Michael Karnerfors

      ML showed what was wrong in the resoning. What do you have to show along those lines when it comes to air pollution?

    3. Rod Adams


      There is a huge difference between worrying about the health effects of trivial quantities of radioactive material (less than 100 kg of long lived Cesium was released by Fukushima and that material was rapidly diluted to concentrations that provide dose rates that are within normal variations in background) and worrying about the effects of dumping tens of billions of tons of fossil fuel waste into the atmosphere every single year.

      I don’t mind using modeling to give me some estimates of gross effects; I do mind using modeling to attempt to precisely quantify effects that can never be measured.

      No one knows exactly what will happen as a result of our continuing and increasing use of fossil fuel. We have been doing okay so far and our use of fossil fuels to provide reliable power to the people has been a huge boon for human society. My challenge is that I do not see any reason to continue the large scale experiment with the only atmosphere that we know of that supports a moderately comfortable environment for modern living.

      I know that some people can adapt to almost anything, but can 7 billion people afford to adapt to a climate that forces the earth back to the same kind of sea levels that existed when it was warmer and had more CO2 in the atmosphere? Do we really need to burn up all of the valuable hydrocarbons that have been stored up over hundreds of millions of years for just a few decades of abundant living for about 20-40% of the world’s population?

      We have an atomic alternative that does not require routine atmospheric waste dumping. Even under worst case accident conditions, atomic power plants do pretty well in keeping their dangerous materials contained. They are certainly far from perfect, but they are far better than any available alternative. Their fuel source will last for tens of thousands of years in properly designed systems. The power they produce is actually higher quality in terms of reliability than that produced by burning fossil fuel.

      This is my real beef with a guy like Jacobson. We share common ground in our desire to find capable replacements for fossil fuels, but he cannot take off the blinders that have been so carefully installed around his view of the energy world. Perhaps it would help if he tried operating some power grids and some power producing equipment.

      Rod Adams
      Publisher, Atomic Insights

    4. Michael Karnerfors

      You won’t see anyone keel over and die in the street from radiation damage, mercury poisoning or cancer either. So that part of your argument is pointless. I think you can see the invailidity of arguing that “If I havn’t seen it happening dramatically right before my eyes, it is not relevant”.Youn

    5. MarkB

      No one responded to my question. These numbers are not taken from hospitals – they are generated with mathematical models. How are the models generated? Did you ever actually consider the question? Obviously not.

      Healthy people do not die of air pollution – obviously. Millions of us live to ripe old ages in spite of air pollution. So who does die? Only those who are on death’s door anyway. This should be a truism, not a matter for debate. If doctors can’t tell you who died of air pollution, how can mathematical models?

    6. jmdesp


      They are various level :
      – the most obvious, we can see people drop dead in the street
      – the more indirect one, in which we can statistically see more death,were the pollution is more acute
      – the mathematical model one, where we see more death at a given level, and extend it to other level where we don’t have enough data to make statistically significant measurements

      As far as air pollution is concerned we are clearly in the second case, through many studies like this one in Japan :

      For LNT at low dose, afaik we’re in the third case, and several studies did not show the effect where it was expected to have been visible like Taiwan. But they stay discussed. For dose below, or in the scale of 1mSV, we’ll never have an unquestionable study showing the effect, because we’d need to recruit the whole population of the world during tens of years in the study for the scale to be large enough to see any barely significant effect.

  33. john fisher

    heads or tails….what I was trying to say..was,is..If we had a complete meltdown in California,and low fog held the fallout in the central valley for a month,slow, to no west wind,would the IAEA recommend removing all the top soil, like on bikini’
    , and if so where do we put the soil. I know this sounds like some crazy joke,the sad part is it’s not a joke,we should not be playing money games with this gift of life,if we don,t have a sound clue what we are doing….

  34. john fisher

    the half life of Cs-137″ is JUST 70 days”?so every thing is ok?,what about it’s whole life,what about my kid’s life,will she have a half life too? and who said 70 days is ok?the fox in the hen house,again,telling the chickens to go back to sleep,it’s all under control,just like fukushima,and what is fukushina’s half life

    1. John Lennen

      “the half life of Cs-137″ is JUST 70 days”?so every thing is ok?,what about it’s whole life,what about my kid’s life,will she have a half life too?”

      lol I think social services should take care of your kids, man, you are too stupid to take care of them.

  35. Little Iodine 131

    Thank you for your references. The 12Mb pdf froze during downloading (twice)during download, so I haven’t read it. There is alimit to how much I can download, so I won’t bother trying again.

    As for The Journal of the International Dose-Response Society, I could find nothing on the webpage about the structure of the society. Perhaps that information is reserved for subscribing members. How am I to judge the impartiality of the ID-RS, compared to the impartiality of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, without more information?

    Still, if ID-RS have published a particular article on the LNT that you think settles the argument explored in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, I would be interested in a link.

  36. Kit P

    So John if you are really concerned about your son you can get a whole body count. These are very sensitive. When I worked at a nuke plant in California’s Central Valley, every whole body count I had showed I was a none smoking banana eater.

    While John is at it he should get a mercury test. Why is it that people who profess concern for their children never do anything to be knowledgeable about the actual exposure.

    There is another way of putting this. If you want to be a good parent, read bedtime stories and stop worrying about insignificance risk.

  37. Daniel Lyttelton

    Mark, it’s easy to say we shouldn’t evacuate people after the fact, but as someone who effectively evacuated his wife, mother and child from Tokyo on March 15th, I think you’re failing to recognise the stress and mental trauma of a still unfolding event where you don’t know what’s going to happen next while all the time dealing with ongoing aftershocks.

    There was no system in place to avoid the unnecessary evacuations you’re talking about, only the precautionary measure of evacuating this big a radius around the plant, then this big, then this big, and even then the size of the radius was criticised in many quarters. As far as I’m aware, the crisis management wasn’t efficient enough to even track the direction of the plume properly so that the govt knew who to evacuate and which direction to do it safely. It’s no good blaming the evacuation situation on the LNT model when it has everything to do with the mishandling of the crisis response.

    The Japanese govt had no plan in place for dealing with a nuclear power plant accident and that includes evacuating the elderly and infirmed properly, but to be honest they’re lucky that so much blew out to sea. What would have happened if the wind had been blowing in the opposite direction?

    1. Kit P

      They evacuated Washington DC on Friday as they did every large city in the world every day of the week.

      Unfortunately I happened to be in DC to witness the mess of everyone trying to get home, to the mountains, or to the beach at the same time.

      Yes it was stressful and the mental trauma was terrible.

      Relative to other similar disasters in other places in the Japan did a very good job if the number of dead bodies is an indication. They could have done better.

      Of course none of this has anything to do with making power with commercial nukes. We design nuke plants so people will not be hurt by radioactive material. No one has been hurt by commercial LWR with containment buildings.

      Daniel wants to blame the nuclear industry because he choose to listen to fear mongers instead of authorities. We protect people from radiation not their own stupidity. If you left Tokyo because of radioactive releases at a nuke plant, that was very stupid.

    2. Hiyodori

      Although I agree that evacuation, in hindsight, was not necessary, at the time the entire disaster, earthquake, devastating tsunami, and nuclear plant explosion(s) being shown over and over on TV made matters a little disconcerting.

      If people had more knowledge and information regarding power plant operations and accidents, and the Japanese government also had knowledge to make evacuations voluntary, a lot of unnecessary stress would have been avoided.

      I live in Japan, was unable to return home after the earthquake, and live in northwest Chiba prefecture, one of the areas with “elevated” readings. In my case my initial concern was for my daughter, 7 years old at the time. Luckily my science/engineering background made it quite easy to almost do a bachelor’s in Nuclear Engineering over a few days, along with a bit of Health Physics, and I realized that the danger/risk was very minor. Especially compared to the stress of needless worry.

      Several of my friends, however, succumbed to fear mongering and fled immediately from Tokyo, before I even realized that there was an almost concerted effort on the Internet to deliver FUD. A “word” that I, approaching 50 years of age that I am, had never come across before.

      I am fully convinced that nuclear power, when safety measures are correctly taken, is desirable for base load electricity generation. It took the 3/11 disaster to make that a reality, however, because I had never taken the time and effort to study the issue. Strange, almost, that a nuclear accident could lead to more support for nuclear power! Tepco, on the other hand, receives both my scorn for their behavior up until the disaster, as well as my begrudged acknowledgment for their dedication to the clean-up effort.

      I am also fully convinced that voluntary evacuation of people, depending upon their circumstances, is normal and healthy, and no one needs to be chastised for doing so after the fact. If my wife was 8 months pregnant at the time I wonder how I would have reacted, even though I have deep roots in Japan now.

      I do not know whom Daniel blames, nor whether or not he was influenced by fear mongering. I can imagine his stress and fear of the unknown during a very fluid couple of days immediately after the earthquake, however. And criticism of the Japanese government’s response to the nuclear accident is fair, in my opinion. But that’s the case with all disasters, it seems, whether grandiose in scale like the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, or the Bhopal disaster, or the Banqiao Dam disaster, hurricane Katrina in the US, or very local (e.g. why didn’t “they” install a stop light at that dangerous intersection until several school children were hit by cars?).

      People, and governments, learn from their mistakes. And from the issues that they were unable to foresee, or which they were negligent in not foreseeing. As bad as it has been, air travel was not stopped after the 9/11 disaster, though some people (including my mother) refuse to fly any more. Manufacture of chemicals was not stopped, the construction of dams was not halted…. I believe that governments, and society, have to to learn their lessons and do more to protect their citizens, while at the same time realizing that some of those citizens will react in an “illogical” manner due to their individual circumstances.

      With all of that said, I support nuclear power generation much more today than I likely would have if the disaster had never occurred.

    3. Daniel Lyttelton

      I haven’t blamed the nuclear industry for anything. You evidently weren’t in Japan at the time and don’t seem aware of what we were (or weren’t) being told. You also don’t seem very sensitive to the human element. The vast majority of us were lay people who knew next to nothing about radiation at the time. On one hand, we had the Japanese govt witholding information from us and on the other we were bombarded by the overseas media. Our embassies were beind told the same thing the Japanese public were. Nobody had any answers for us. It was a scary time. I’m not ashamed to say it was the most difficult time in my life. Whatever flaws the LNT model has, you have to understand that people’s first instinct is to get the hell out. But like I said, there was no disaster response system in place for a nuclear power plant accident in Japan. That’s not an attack on the nuclear industry or even the govt, but if you want to get to the root cause of why evacuees died that should be the first area you examine.

    4. Azby Brown

      There are a number of things to keep in mind when discussing the decisions that needed to be made about evacuation in the days following March 11. Let’s separate govt decisions about evacuation zones, and how badly the actual evacs were handled, from individual decisions that people like Daniel and myself who were living in Tokyo at the time faced. I’d like to discuss the latter.

      –There was little or no information available during the first week about the source term, the direction of the plume, or deposition. A handful of monitoring stations remained online, and a number of individuals who owned geiger counters began posting their readings online. The news media seemed to be reading prepared scripts, often mistaking “milisieverts per hour” for “microsieverts per hour,” and otherwise failing to instill confidence in their reporting. In hindsight, and because we have access to DOE docs released under FOIA, we realize that both the Japanese and US govts were in the same position, and really had no idea what was happening. This was incredibly stressful.

      –It was impossible to tell how bad it would get. Consulting with expert colleagues during the first few days, everyone accepted the possibility that multiple core breaches and multiple spent fuel pool fires were possible. Their guts said, “not likely.” In the absence of any hard data one way or the other, I trusted my colleagues’ guts. Please picture me explaining to my family that because Prof X’s gut told him it would be alright, I thought it was best to stay in place. This was incredibly stressful.

      –Longtimers in Japan have often joked that no matter what the other countries do, when the US bases are evacuated and the US Embassy closes, then we know it’s really time to get out. The voluntary evac of military families and the hasty departure of the USS George Washington from port were unsettling. There were plausible “abundance of caution” explanations for both, and the embassy stayed open, but it was unsettling, and incredibly stressful.

      –Those who weren’t here can’t easily picture how badly services in Tokyo broke down. Trains stopped running, gasoline was unavailable, food staples and milk were unavailable, power was rationed, stores were closed, and this situation continued for weeks, as did frequent strong aftershocks. Train service was resumed first, but the situation remained stressful for several weeks.

      A number of people I know personally said at the time that if it was just the radiation to worry about, they would have stayed in Tokyo. But disasters are rarely simple. We witnessed a near total breakdown of government, media, infrastructure, and technology. And that was in Tokyo. Please picture how much worse it was in Fukushima and the rest of Tohoku. We’d like to assume that individual decisions to evacuate will be made on a rational basis, that we will have enough information to make informed decisions, that we can read the numbers off of a display and say calmly, “Yup, that’s our signal it’s time to go!” But the decision will always be an emotional one, will often need to be made while the whereabouts of loved ones cannot be ascertained, while concern for jobs and property will be distressing. The decision is almost always made in the midst of an emotional maelstrom.

      I find that I am not nearly as entrenched in my viewpoint as many of the commenters here. I welcome the debate about LNT, just as I encourage further research into low-dose effects to see what if anything we might be overlooking. Sloppy reality has dis-entrenched me though. Just like after Hurricane Katrina (I’m from New Orleans but was not there for that disaster), it took far too long after 3/11 for those whose responsibility it was to make sense of the situation and provide the right kind of advice and assistance to do so. In the case of a disaster like this, we shouldn’t expect the government to be able to tell us what is happening, or to dispense sound advice. We are on our own, and dependent on our immediate families and communities. Because I know that that’s the case, I wouldn’t ridicule anyone’s decision to evacuate.

    5. Joffan

      Thanks for the perspective Azby. I should perhaps factor into my thoughts about the evacuation at Fukushima that it may also have calmed the people in Tokyo somewhat to see a definite decision being made with limits close to the power plant.

  38. john fisher

    I know i am stupid,you don’t have to remind me,I am also learning,this latest report from fukushima says it all,the premeditated distortion of radiation levels that workers are exposed to is just a microcosm of what is going on in this industry,the total disregard for workers lives.these propaganda pushing plutonium poison pimps would put a lead shield over any information that threaten short term bottom line….at least I know I am stupid,it’s when one does not know ……..

  39. James Crawford

    To put the fallout concentrations (activities) into perspective I thought it would be interesting to make the following comparison:

    The time series data in Figure 4 in the Hoeve & Jacobson paper for Cs137 ground activity in Japan over the first month appear to show an average of about 2.5 Bq/m2 for the month studied. This looks like an approximately instantaneous pulse discharge with decay over time. Also, as I understand it, Japan has predominantly granitic bedrock geology. Any groundwater discharging from a granitic rock environment continuously carries with it a certain amount of naturally occurring radioactivity due to the presence of uranium and its daughter elements in the rock (the most prominent being U238, U234, Ra226, and Rn222). These substances migrate out of the connected porosity of the rock into flow bearing fractures by diffusion at a rate that depends on the accessible porosity of the rock water flowrate and surface area of rock fractures with which it comes into contact with. Any groundwater that has been in contact with bedrock for more than a couple of years will gain an activity of 1-10 Bq/l of natural Ra226 (and roughly 85 times as much Rn222). This varies a lot geographically, and in some regions with high natural uranium levels, it can be a lot more than this. This is why drinking water sourced from wells in locations overlying granitic rock should be well-aerated before drinking on a regular basis since it may contain unhealthy amounts of dissolved radon activity.

    Groundwater discharging into streams and water courses exhibits a range of different residence times depending on the local topology, recharge from rainwater, and surface run-off. Assuming the lower estimate of 1 Bq/l for Ra226, and that something like 0.5% of rainwater actually infiltrates the bedrock and achieves a residence time of more than a year in contact with the rock, this would imply an average Ra226 activity flux of 0.3-0.6 Bq/m2 of land surface per month for an average rainfall of 0.5 m/y (average for where I live, anyway). The fallout levels shown in Figure 4 are therefore roughly 7-8 times this for the Japanese average and roughly in parity for the US as far as I can make out from the Figure. I don’t include radon in this estimate since being a gas it could be reasonably expected to rapidly dissipate to the atmosphere from surface water and because it has a very short half-life (3.8 days). This would be arguably, a somewhat unfair comparison.

    Although carried out for a different purpose, in a recent Swedish study (http://bit.ly/M9Esxr, Table 4-1, pp.38), landscape dose factors used to convert activity fluxes (Bq/y) to dose rates (Sv/y) were estimated to be roughly 30 times higher for Ra226 than for Cs137. This would suggest that on a directly comparable dose basis (and all other things being equal), the impact of the Cs137 fallout for locations outside of Japan should be less than that of the naturally occurring uranium series isotopes even for the first month of peak fallout activity. The exposure to natural isotopes occurs continuously, however, whereas the Cs137 is a fixed input that decays over time and is also diluted by environmental transport processes. Curiously, actual dose rates don’t appear to be mentioned anywhere in the paper (only excess lifetime mortalities and morbidity) so it is very difficult for the reader to make the connection between fallout activity Bq/m2 and effective dose (i.e. mSv or equivalent) in order to compare relative risk levels. Incidentally, the natural groundwater discharge scenario described above translates to roughly 0.04 mSv/y using the cited Swedish methodology compared to a “normal” background level of 2.4 mSv/y to which most populations are exposed to on a yearly basis.

    I don’t think that the fact that levels of I131 and Cs137 activity being 3-8 orders of magnitude above the background level is a particularly relevant comparison since they do not occur naturally and the background levels are essentially residues from atmospheric nuclear testing in the 50’s and Chernobyl. Of course, groundwater discharges mostly in streams and rivers so it is not spread evenly over the land in the same way as atmospheric fallout, although in dose risk assessments one would typically assume that the most exposed individual in a population would likely eat fish and obtain drinking water from those rivers. A certain amount of the river water would also be used for irrigation purposes therefore implying uptake of these nuclides in agricultural products which would be consumed locally. Similar assumptions underlie the dose factor estimates for atmospheric fallout which, by their nature, also tend to over-predict radiological risk in a “conservative” fashion.

  40. B
  41. debu

    Will Rod Adams and nuclear energy advocates be so kind as to provide insights as to what a layman is to make of of these mutant butterflies?

    I suspect not.

    Can we really be so sure that the Fukushima accident will have no material affects on the health of the general public in Japan?

    I suspect not.

    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      Since you’ve already answered your own (rhetorical?) questions, I doubt you’re really interested in a response which may challenge your own preconceptions. But just in case… the mutant butterflies study has a lot of holes in it, not least the lack of correlation between radiation doses and mutations, plus small sample sizes. Some of the most mutated butterflies were collected 500km from the reactors!

      See http://www.nucleardiner.com/archive/item/radioactive-mutant-butterflies-really

    2. cyril r

      There were many large fires such as the one at the refinery that released large quantities of mutagenic compounds. Most notably, benzene, a major component of gasoline.

      Benzene also causes cancer in little children. Now watch what happens. Will the scientists blame all the cancer in little children on Fukushima? Or will they investigate the effect of the refinery fire, which spewed hundreds of tons of benzene into the air for days?

  42. john fisher

    aug 21 2012 lingcod tested 20k from fukushima tested 25800 BQ\kilogram C134,add that to your fish and chips,then ask some of the, go back to sleep plutonium pimps, if they would feed it to their kids,”its ok, it has a short half life”eat up kids,we know whats good for you,next week it will be plutonium in the fish and rice,,but its ok go back to sleep…..sweet dreams, your uranium investments should be ok tonight,

  43. john fisher

    butterflies can fly,or at least the previous generation did,it looks like the next generation will have to walk back to fukushima,500k is a long walk,it only took them 12 hours,flying with the wind,,wake up,

  44. john fisher

    five fukushima cleanup workers have died,as of Aug. 20/2012,why?old age?eating fish and chips?catching butterflies on their lunch breaks?or maybe lead foil was placed inside their geiger counters,when they were out catching butterflies?

  45. cyril r

    A great debunking of the shallow antinuclear anti-intellectual nonsense that bizarrely still gets published in scientific journals.

    Even the figures scale is silly. 139983 microbecquerels per cubic meter of air. Sounds like a lot, huh?

    A becquerel is one decay of an atom per second. So it is the lowest type of scale you could have. Absolutely tiny.

    Multiplying the numbers by talking about microbecquerels is just scaremongering propaganda. Like talking about micro picometers. Yeah I live a trillion zillion micro picometers from my work. This has no use in reality.

    An average human body contains around 8,000,000,000 microbecquerels of naturally occuring radionuclides. Yet it has a much smaller volume than 1 cubic meter.


    I guess what Jacobson was trying to say is that the average radionuclide concentration at 36 hours post Fukushima releases were thousands of times smaller than what you’ll find naturally occuring in the human body.

    Gee. Why didn’t Jacobson just say that?

    1. Little Iodine 131

      Ah, Idaho State University. They’ve been doing nuclear science since before they were a university, what with the INEL (formerly the National Reactor Testing Station) upwind. Further upwind still, we find the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

      I believe federal compensation was granted in the ’80s to lots of folks in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, whose lives downwind of Hanford could crediblly explain the white blood cell dysplasias thet drew them nearer to the end of their lives, in poor health.

      Long-term, low-level toxicity is not the greatest threat of nucllear electricity. The greatest threat is its contribution to the risk of nuclear warfare and the resultant contamination.

      I ask you. Where would you rather be living, 100 years after a war: downwind of a devasated nuclear reactor, or downwind of a devastated power station of any other (non-nuclear) stripe?

      Of course it’s an academic question, as taken literally, you probably wont live past 100 years.

      Fukushima is one of those concrete examples which remind most of us about the whimsicality of the natural world, and how mother nature can surprise the best engineers.

      Reading this column also makes clear how she can bring out the staunchest defenders of the indefensible, like Mark Lynas and his band of nuclear knights.

    2. Michael Karnerfors

      Long-term, low-level toxicity is not the greatest threat of nucllear electricity. The greatest threat is its contribution to the risk of nuclear warfare and the resultant contamination

      Nuclear power has never contributed to atomic weapons. It is just silly of you to claim something like that. Marc Jacobson does too and – as is shown above – it’s nothing but mud-flinging.

      Saying that nuclear power contributes ot warfare is like blaming automobiles for battle tanks… airliners for aerial bombing… medicine for biological warfare… process-industries for chemical weapons… et cetera, ad infinitum et nauseam.

      It’s a stupid argument and completely irrelevant: mankind had detonated hydrogen bombs before even the first atom was split for the sake of making electricity.

    3. Little Iodine 131

      Michael, it seems you have a lot to learn. read on.

      Below is a transcript of an editorial by T Keith Glennan, written in the October 1952 edition of Nuclear Science and Technology. Volume 2 No 3, published (then) 3 times a year by the United States Atomic Energy Commission.

      The editorial makes quite clear that the birth of the nuclear electricity program was necessarily based on the production of plutonium for bombs. One key sentences states that:

      ” … there now exists a basis for the creation of semirisk industrial nuclear- power enterprise while the military demand for plutonium continues.”

      Ironically, the editorial, toward its conclusion, says:

      “A multitude of other factors also must be considered, such as preferential position, adequate security measures, suitable safety precautions, public liability, and international relations. None of these problems admits to an easy solution.. If such were the case, this whole matter would have been solved long ago because many able minds have thought long and hard on these points.”

      The problem of nuclear waste was not even mentioned. It seems that 60 years later, able minds are still baffled. Fukushima has highlighted the issues, but unfortunately has not simplified them.

      I think it falls very heavily and publically on the proponents of nuclear power to show how the threat of nuclear proliferation is lessened by increasing the flow of radioactive fuels, waste and by-products through the nuclear fuel cycle, to show how the threat of nuclear terrorism is decreased and how our real energy needs are met, in detail, by nuclear electricity.

      As for the relation between greenhouse warming and nuclear electricity, despite Mr Lynas’ confidence, a thorough analysis of energy flows through significant sectors of industrialized economies, remains to be done.

      While I am no expert, I suggest to all that Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute, is vastly more knowledgeable on the subject of appropriate energy than is Mark Lynas and his little band of nuclear knights.

      == Glennan, T. K — Editorial — Reactor Science and Technology Vol 2 No 3 — October 1952 ==


      For those of us who look forward to the day when American industry will no longer be the hired hand of government in atomic energy affairs but will assume a role of equal responsibility this issue of Reactor Science and Technology strikes a hopeful note. I would prefer to use the stonger adjective promising, but I fear it would ill serve the future progress of the industrial participation program to appear overly optimistic at this stage. Formidable problems must be overcome before the seeds already sewn can bear fruit. Yet when we compare these problems to those which have been solved thus far in the atomic energy program, we have reason to believe that given faith, time, sustained effort, money and patience, the goal of industrial nuclear power can be achieved.

      The Atomic Energy Commission and its staff, during its early stewardship of the program, speculated at length on ways of bringing industry into the atomic energy picture on a more realistic basis, consistent with our normal competitive private enterprise economy. It remained however for Dr. Charles A Thomas, then Executive Vice-President of Monsanto Chemical Co., to crystallize this thought into a definite, concrete proposal. On June 20, 1950, Dr. Thomas sent the Commission a letter, stating that he believed the time was ripe for industry, with its own capital, to design, construct and operate reactors for the production of plutonium and power. This suggestion was based on the following assumptions: that the long-term military requirements for plutonium exceeded the then existing and planned production facilities; that it would be desirable to reduce the cost of existing and planned production facilities; that it would be desirable to reduce the cost of this metal to the government; that it would likewise be desirable to make use of the large quantities of heat attending the production of plutonium and not being utilized under existing conditions; and, finally, that the most nearly practicable use of such heat would be for the generation of useful quantities of electric power. It was Dr. Thomas’s contention that the program he envisaged would accomplish these objectives and, at the same time, would offer industry an opportunity to contribute to the reactor program directly and to earn a profit which could be related to the effort put forth.

      Meantime a second proposal, rather similar in objective to the Monsanto approach, had been received from the officers of the Dow Chemical Co. and the Detroit Edison Company. The Commission addressed itself to a serious consideration of these suggestions and arrived at a basis on which it was willing to support the study phase of such programs. A public announcement was issued by the Commission on Jan 28, 1951, setting forth the general policy which had guided the consideration of these propositions and opening the door for further proposals from qualified groups. It was emphasized that in agreeing to such studies the Commission was not entering into any commitment to continue beyuond the study phase. This public notice elicited further interest, and on May 16, 1951, it was announced that a maximum of four industrial study groups would be considered for the initial program. By early June agreements had been signed with the four groups, and the studies which are digested in the following pageshad been set in motion. A maximum period of one year was permitted for the study. Under terms of the agreement, the contracting parties were to carry out a survey and study of the Commission’s reactor development activities: (1) to determine the engineering feasability of their designing, constructing and operating a materials- and power- producing reactor; (2) to examine the economic and technical aspects of building this reactor in the next few years; (3) to determine the research and developemtn work needed, if any, before such a reactor project could be undertaken; and (4) to offer recommendations in a report to the Commission concerning such a reactor project and industry’s role in undertaking it and carrying it out. So much for the background involved. What do these studies show?

      It would be futile in this space to attempt an assessment of the conclusions reached. However a few points do seem to warrant comment. First, the sophistication and engineering excellence of these reports stand as a real tribute to the scientists and engineers associated with the Commission’s reactor program. Because of their efforts, a wealth of technological data was available, enabling the study groups to move rapidly on their assignment.

      Second, all parties concur in the belief that dual- purpose reactors are technically feasable and could be operated in such a fashion that the power credit would reduce the cost of plutonium by a considerable amount. Conversely, all groups agree that no reactor could be constructed in the very near future which would be economic on the basis of power generation alone. The significance of these conclusions should not be overlooked. They imply that there now exists a basis for the creation of semirisk industrial nuclear- power enterprise while the military demand for plutonium continues. In pointing up the many paths by which one can approach this goal, it is intersting to note that each of the groups settled on a different reactor type as holding the greatest promise from the grooup’s particular point of view.

      As a final comment on the reports, it should be noted that all four groups wish to continue their efforts into a second phase. This would seem to represent a vote of confidence in nuclear power. Were this concept of a dual-purpose reactor devoid of substance, it hardly seems likely that all parties would continue to show interest in further association with the field.

      This now brings us to the vital question: Where do we go from here? As this journal goes to press the problem is being debated by the Commission. No final decision has been reached. Certainly the time is not yet appropriate for a final answer. The second phase of this program, although intended for prosecution at a more specific engineering level and with somewhat greater effort, will still be operating at a relatively low rate of expenditure. It is when we move into phase three, that is, make commitments for the actual design and construction of a specific reactor, that weighty financial decisions must be made. Still it is not too early to start facing these future questions. Among the more critical seem to be the following:

      1. Can and will the cCommission permit private industry to construct, own and operate a dual- purpose reactor with the electric power generated therefrom to be sold and distributed by a private- investment-owned company?
      2. Can and will the Commission make available to private induatry the fuel needed for the initial operation of such a reactor and give assurances that continued operation will not be interrupted or curtailed by government order?
      3. Can and will the Commission establish a price policy and a contract that will provide for the purchase of the products of a reactor in order that such projects will be economically feasable in the near future?
      4. What will be the policy of the Commission on the issue of patents and licenses?

      A multitude of other factors also must be considered, such as preferential position, adequate security measures, suitable safety precautions, public liability, and international relations. None of these problems admits to an easy solution.. If such were the case, this whole matter would have been solved long ago because many able minds have thought long and hard on these points.

      That difficulties are involved, however, cannot be used as an excuse to ignore or side-step this pressing issue. The declaration of policy in the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 places on us a responsibility that cannot be evaded. This policy states that “subject at all times to the paramount objective of assuring the common defense and security, the developent and utilization of atomic energy shal, so far as practible, be directed toward improving the public welfare, increasing the standard of living, strengthening free competition in private enterprise, and promoting world peace. It is by no means certain that “assuring the common defense and security” is completely achieved solely through the ever increasing stock piles of nuclear weapons.

      T Keith Glennan
      Atomic Energy Commission

    4. Michael Karnerfors

      First of all… that was said 60 years ago.

      Second… we all know that this did not happen. They did not make dual-purpose reactors except in two places: the UK and the USSR with their RBMKs. The former now closed down and the latter a spectacular failure with the event of the Chernobyl disaster. Neither contributed in any large amount to the development of nuclear weapons.

      Sweden tried… and failed spectacularly and humiliatingly when our proposed heavy water boiler with in-operation fuel changers was terminated and replaced with an oil boiler.

      So kindly stuff a sock in it. The civilian nuclear programmes did nothing for the development of atomic weapons and it is pitiful that you still – even though you have been thuroughly counter-argued in that area – try to save face by pulling a quote from a transcript that was written even before civilian nuclear power existed.

      Today… civilain nuclear power is used to destroy atomic weapons materials and if we develop Gen IV technologies, we can start using up the plutonium stocks as well.

    5. Steve Aplin

      Little Iodine — good grief, do you anti-nuke drama queens ever give it a rest. Glad to hear you admit you’re no expert. At least try to be an expert in citing experts. Lovins… give me a break. BTW — Fukushima melted down 555 days ago, still no casualties.

  46. cyril r

    John Fisher wrote “aug 21 2012 lingcod tested 20k from fukushima tested 25800 BQ\kilogram C134,add that to your fish and chips,then ask some of the, go back to sleep plutonium pimps, if they would feed it to their kids,”its ok, it has a short half life”eat up kids,we know whats good for you,next week it will be plutonium in the fish and rice,,but its ok go back to sleep”

    Sure no problem, I’ll eat 26 kBq/kg fish. I’ll eat as much as this fish as you can eat peanut butter. You’ll be seriously increasing your cancer risk, because peanut butter is dangerous, whereas I’ll be taking only <1% increase in background levels of ionizing radiation. Cesium rapidly leaves the body after ingestion. We're not even talking about milliSieverts of exposure here.

    I'll also take this bet with you for most other foodstuffs; fish is much more benign for health than, say, red meat. We're not even talking about really harmful things, like, smoking 1 cigarette. This is much worse for your health than a 26 kBq Cs-134 fish.

    Oh, and it's Cs-134, not C. C is carbon. Which doesn't come in 134.

  47. cyril r

    One of the best books on the issue of radiation and nuclear power is the book by the late Cohen:


    Cohen explains time and again how safe nuclear power is, and interestingly he uses the linear no threshold theory. Despite that he shows just how absurdly safe and low impact nuclear energy is.

    A real eye opener, that book.

  48. PaulK

    “…the first study attempting to quantify expected cancer deaths which may result from Fukushima.”

    Lynas does not even get past the first sentence without making an error. See:

    The radiological and psychological consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi accident “The estimated number of resulting cancer deaths in the Fukushima area from contamination due to more than 1 curie per square kilometer is likely to scale correspondingly—on the order of 1,000.”

    “Hardly anyone I meet in the nuclear community these days still believes in LNT.”

    It’s hard to know where to begin with that! Why would the opinion of the most biased people in this debate be of interest to anyone? Except maybe someone who really, really wants to *believe* in nuclear power? Talk about confirmation bias!

    Those of us that want the truth do not trust the nuke industry, we follow science and credible, independent, expert sources:

    * The British Journal of Radiology: “The LNT model provides the best approach for practical implementation of radiation protection.”

    * International Commission on Radiological Protection. “Overall, these animal tumor data tend to support a linear response at low doses and dose rates with no threshold.”

    Unfortunately, Mark Lynas has all the credibility on energy that Anthony Watts has on climate science.

    1. Michael Karnerfors

      “The LNT model provides the best approach for practical implementation of radiation protection.”

      Exactly… that is what Lynas writes!! It is a model for radiation protection. That is not, I say again: NOT the same as making epidemiological estimates!

      LNT is a worst case senario with margins and buffers. Therefore it is good to use for radiation protection estimates because we know it will at least not get any worse than that.

    2. PaulK

      What you have written contradicts with what Lynas claimed, that “Hardly anyone I meet in the nuclear community these days still believes in LNT.

      Also, Lynas’s language: “believes”. LNT is not a religion. It is science. Either you accept it, deny it or refute it. It seems Lynas is in denial – over anything that threatens his pseudo-religious belief in nuclear energy (and GMO agriculture).

    3. Michael Karnerfors

      PaulK: Was there an argument in here?

      I see none… only a huge upset with a blasphemer having the indescribable gall of saying that greens may actually not the messias that will save the planet. All that you are saying is “He’s a doodoo-head and he’s wrong”.

      Let me shake your world some more for you: there are actually millions of us that do not actually consider things such as GMO and nuclear power to be nothing but “The Industry™’s” way of making money and raping Mother Nature. There are plenty of us that see these as not only beneficial but crucial technologiocal developments that will be good for all mankind.

  49. Little Iodine 131

    Michael Karnefor and Steve Aplin

    Can you not connect the dots, then between peaceful nuclear programs and nuclear weapons proliferation?

    Is the current controversy over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program part of an independent space-time continuum, then?

    If you have access to a library carrying a subscription to AMBIO, I suggest you have a look at issue 2/3 of volume 11 of 1982, showing on the un-numbered pages between pages 97 and 98. Two maps are shown, one of Europe and one of North America.

    The caption says, in part:

    “Local(early) fallout from bombs on nuclear reactors. The shaded areas correspond to a dose of 100 rad (1Gy) at one year starting one month after the detonation. … The directions of the plumes have been determined from the direction of the wind at the site.”

    Over 80% of the UK is covered by the modeled plumes, although Ireland seems to escape, due to the fortune of the winds on the hypothetical day of the simulation. Reminds me a bit of Tokyo’s good luck, what with the Fukushima Daiichi plume blowing mainly over the ocean.

    The good news is that no-one died as a result of this simulation. How lucky is that?

    The bad news is if that folks like you continue to deny and/or compartmentalise the real and present dangers of nuclear electricity generation as a global security risk, the consequences may well be far worse than you ever allowed yourselves to imagine.

    1. Michael Karnerfors

      Maybe I should also add that connecting dots that are far apart and where the numbers are out of sequence just to draw the image you want to see… that is not sane.

    2. Steve Aplin

      Anti-nukes are characterized by mediocre intellectualizing, inability to string facts together to make a coherent case, and off-topic hyper-moralizing. Your citing of Iran, then skipping off to talk about bomb fallout, is a perfect example.

      Meanwhile, through your advocacy of phony green non-solutions like wind you work to expand markets for fossil fuels. You thereby strengthen the link between them and terrorism, since 100 percent of terrorists on the planet today rely on the chemical process of rapid oxidation to make their bombs go off. Rapid oxidation is the same process that turns the gas turbines that “back up” underperforming wind turbines.

      Next time you get into a car or airplane, I want you to ponder this.

  50. Michael Karnerfors

    Little Iodine 131: I’m done with you and your silly Guilt-By-Association games.You have been given the arguments and you willfully chose to ignore them just because you want to bundle nuclear power in with atomic weapons to defend your opinion at any cost.

  51. Little Iodine 131

    Well then, gentlemen, Mssrs Aplin and Karefors:

    I’ve given you two key references.

    The Reactor Science and Technology is available through the USDoE Technical Information Centre.The reference number is
    DE83 002290

    Page 77 has an entertaining nomogram showing the relationship between electricity cost and various nuclear fuel cycle costs, highlighting the details of plutonium production.

    A shame they didn’t do one on tritium production, but we would hardly expect any mention of thermonuclear explosive materials, would we Mr K?

    Last time I looked (a couple of years ago), its content had not yet been made accessible online.

    You might also read “Energy/War:Breaking the Nuclear Link”, by Amory and Hunter Lovins, published by Friends of the Earth in 1980.

    I did enjoy your ripostes.

    “Anti Nukes are characterised by – blah blah blah -”


    “I’m done with you and your silly Guilt-By-Association games.”

    Hardly connecting the dots, is that?

    As for the uncritical remarks about wind power, they bring to mind Don Quixote, tilting at a windmill, and Sancho Panza, his loyal squire.

    Come back to me when you can discuss the cited resources more intelligently.

    1. Steve Aplin

      I hope you didn’t pay any money for Lovins’s claptrap, because that will leave you with even less disposable income for other unaffordable luxuries like wind-generated power (i.e., gas-generated power). The time you wasted reading it, however, is lost forever since you obviously did not catch the non-sequiturs that are liberally distributed throughout the blather.

      I am tempted to urge you to re-read it, and this time more critically than you did originally, but I fear that that would just waste more of your time.

      If Luther were alive today, I wonder how he would view the pathetic attempts at buying penance that are represented by imbeciles’ willing purchases of wind power in instances where wind power is available on the retail market. Are they the product of a misguided idea of what penance is, or the product of idiocy?

      As for FIT programs, in which all rate-payers, including imbeciles, get no choice but are forced to pay exorbitant prices for this useless commodity, he would likely view them as forced penance-buying, cooked up by truly deluded zealots, and therefore much more odious than the more mundane forms of penance buying that he rebelled against.

  52. Little Iodine 131

    Ah, Mr Aplin

    I’m surprised you’re so vehement about Mr Lovins. He is an interesting person, and an unconventional thinker. His idea of Negawatts is well worth pursuing. I believe its implementation has saved the world far more greenhouse gas emissions than nuclear electricity could ever achieve.

    There is nothing in your comment about Energy/War to indicate to me that you have read the book yourself. Maybe you should start with something shorter and more easily digested (unless you find Amory’s work disagrees with your intellectual gut lining).

    Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken


    Another interesting item is Fetter and Tsipsis’ article on page 33 of the April 1981 issue of Scientific American, titled “Catastrophic Releases of Radioactivity”.

    Page 33 shows the modeled consequences of a 1 megaton bomb dropped on the German reactor at Neckarwestheim, in West Germany. As in the AMBIO modelling exercise mentioned above, wind direction and velocity is assumed to be constant, so while Bonn and Amsterdam get a sifting of Lucky Dragon powder, Leeds and Manchester go unscathed. I expect some Manchester United fans might breathe a sigh of relief at that.

    As for me, If we are going to have an all-out nuclear war, I will feel better in principle if it’s windmills they blow up. Don Quixote, eat your heart out.

    Steve, just do a bit of reading, OK? Try to bring yourself up to date. Martin Luther was writing back in the 16th century. While he still has important things to say, especially to Protestant theologians, I don’t think he ever spoke to the issue of nuclear electricity or thermonuclear weapons. Except, perhaps unwittingly in metaphorical terms, that modern readers might view as evidence of prescience on his part.

    As I said, get bck to me when you can show you’ve tried to connect the dots. Meanwhile, I think I’ll save my breath to cool my porridge.

    1. Rod Adams

      I’ve spent a lot more time than I care to remember reading Lovins, attending his talks, asking him questions and investigating his academic background. It is interesting that you cite his 1976 Foreign Affairs piece. Did you read the part where he correctly predicted that US coal consumption would double by 2000? Did you recognize that Lovins thought that was a GOOD thing?


    2. Little Iodine 131


      Good to see someone posting here is more knowledgeable.

      Do you really expect that Amory Lovins still holds the same view about coal, nearly 40 yeasrs later, given the scientific consensus on AGW?

      Find me a quote that shows Amory Lovins caught in the past with his opinion on coal emissions Which I note you say he correctly predicted); caught in the past like insects in amber, like Mssrs Aplin and Karnefors.

    3. Rod Adams

      Did you read the link?

      Even without scientific consensus on AGW that has developed over the past 40 years, most people who were concerned about the environment recognized that coal was detrimental at the time that Lovins wrote “The road not taken.”

      Though Lobins was essentially correct about the doubling of coal consumption, he was only off by 800 BILLION kilowatt hours per year with his prediction about US nuclear production in 2000, since he predicted it would fall to zero by then.

      He was also WAY off with regard to unreliables (aka renewables like wind and solar). Even with massive direct payments from taxpayers their production is far below his expectation.

      These days, Lovins no longer advocates increased coal consumption, but he does think natural gas is good and advocates the use of micro power plants that are almost always diesel generators in real life.

    4. Little Iodine 131


      I’m not here to defend Amory Lovins against all comers, or to nitpick your arguments or others’. That said, it seems to me that you’re likely to understand that a even a systems approach to a complex system will very likely deliver some unexpected results. The link below describes, for example, the counterintuitive outcome of Margaret Thatcher’s privvatisation drive in the 80’s, with respect to the UK electricity grid.

      In its discussion of the present and the future, it notes that

      “”A wind farm that is nine-tenths finished is nine-tenths operational. A nuclear power station that is nine-tenths finished is a £3 billion white elephant.”

      But the article is not advocating electricity from one type of supply or another, but rather discussing the public-privat-political interplay of influences on electricity supply in the UK and Europe.



      All that said, I add that I’ve always had far more faith in Amory Lovins’ grasp of systems theory than I ever had in Maggie Thatcher’s grasp of economic theory.

    5. Little Iodine 131

      Gloom and doom for the nuclear industry:

      Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists September/October 2012 vol. 68 no. 5 8-22

      2011–2012 world nuclear industry status report

      Mycle Schneider
      Antony Froggatt

      The market niche that nuclear power once held is disappearing.

      The key nuclear indicators—including the number of operating reactors, installed capacity, power generation, and share of total electricity generation—all show that the global nuclear industry is in decline.

      In 2012, nuclear power’s competitors—most notably, wind and solar generation—are rapidly gaining market share as long lead times, construction delays, cost overruns, and safety concerns have combined to make nuclear power a risky investment that the markets are increasingly unwilling to make.

      To renew the aging world nuclear fleet, nuclear utilities would need to surmount a number of major problems, including a short-term manufacturing bottleneck, a shortage of skilled workers, regulatory uncertainty, a skeptical financial sector, and negative public opinion.

      The aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and the world economic crisis have only exacerbated these problems.

      The authors write that a realistic scenario that leads to an increase in nuclear’s share of the world’s electricity is hard to imagine.”


      You will need a sub or scholarly access to learn the grim details.

  53. James Douglas

    I think all those endorsing the safety of nuclear power should go put on some suits and stop that daily spewing of radioactivity that still continues today @ Fukushima. Apparently radiation is now good for us, the fish, and the plants. Imagine, all this time we’ve been running away from mushroom clouds instead of seeking the comfort they bring. When did the people on this planet lose their minds? Greed will certainly be the end of mankind…zero doubt about that.

    1. Sayvara

      According to that same flawed reasoning, we should now run in panic at the sight of a puddle of water, a rain, a glass of mineral bubblies.

      Why? Because water is dangerous, deadly at a catastrophic level even. What? You don’t believe me? Why are you denying the destructive potential of water after witnessing the Tohoku Tsunami, or the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004?! Areyou not trying to tell us – after nearly 300 000 people died – that water is not a mortal danger? Are you trying to say it’s good(!) for us?!

      And when you cry out and say “It’s not the same thing! A glass of water is not the same as a tsunami!”… us nuke-heads look back at you and smile.

      There is a huge(!) difference between radiation and radiation. You cannot – ever – say that all radiation, no matter the type, energy, mode of exposure or dose are the same. You cannot say that just because a massive dose of ionizing radiation leads to death or cancer, then all radiation does that. It is as flawed as saying we must run in panic from a glass of water or stop showering for the risk of drowning.

      Your post is nonsense. It’s a worthless rant that brings nothing of value to the discussion. If you at this time cannot view the matter in a more nuanced manner than this drivel… this “Oh, so now all raditaion is harmless eh?!” stupidity… I recommend that you educate yourself before you try to join any kind of debate on the matter, lest you find masochistic pleasure in making yourself appear like… well… like you just did.

  54. Brian Catt

    Mark is doing very well for a former Green. When George Monbiot applies rationality equally to all aspects of the energy debate it wil be even better (Windmills use too weak and variable an energy source to ever power a developed economy and are simply parasitic on fossil and finished without it – is the best economic and scientific summary I can muster.

    I am a published physicist (as in peer reviewed health physics journal) and engineer who worked 4 years at NPL and 7 at the RPS / NRPB in the UK in radiation physics, then business after MBA. Its clear that what we assumed for prudence as LNT was grossly wrong, there is a threshold and likely a hormetic effect at low levels which tunes up the immune system to improve cancer immunity and we are no worse off that at 2.5 mSv pa up to around 1Sv pa at a steady dose rate, if you simply read the science, not the opinionated idiots who tend to post here.

    On safety, everything above about the minimal reality versus the arbitrary or bogus exaggerations is true, “Thousands are still not dying at Chernobyl” for a start. 60 so far 30 years on, only 15 of the 6,000 treated for I-131 have died, not all from of possibly related cancerous disease.

    And finally, the OECD accident death print 1969-2000 for coal, gas hydro and nuclear per Twh?

    Coal 597, Gas 111, Hydro 10,285, Nuclear 48. It looks better per TWh if you just take OECD countries as Chernobyl isn’t in the numbers (and dam burst are outside ditto).

    And the involuntary risks of health effects from coal are MASSIVELY worse – coal fired generation is by far the largest human initiated emitter of Radioisotopes to the atmosphere as well as heavy metals, toxic gasses, etc..

    Nuclear ar , Nuclear ar, nuclear is nothing to be scared of……

    Rationally. Not many rational people about. A lot of ignorant belief led people who can’t think for themselves or judge the science based on a reasonable competence from school. But happy to express received opinion as fact untested. Sad. More than 50% of the engineers in the US qualified elsewhere I read. How many do the UK have in parliament I wonder?

    As a society We are regressing to people being controlled by a preference for one ignorant belief over another rather that rational science. The Chinese will have us fast if the popular belief of the scientifically ignorant espoused as policy by arts graduate politicians trumping the actual science is allowed to continue. IMO

  55. Terry Krieg

    I’ve been pro nuke since 1981 after depending on it while on teacher exchange. The many misguided souls contributing on this blog should ask themselves one question,” Why are 31 countries continuing to use nuclear power and an additional 17 countries proposing to do so? I’ll tell you why. They want a reliable, secure, safe, base load energy supply and they want it without greenhouse emissions. There are currently 440 operating reactors world wide and within 10 years those numbers will have grown to 550+. Them’s the facts you antis. It’s time you did some research on nuclear power. Try ” Power to save the World- the truth about nuclear energy” by Gwyneth Cravens. Published Alfred Knopf and Sons, New York 2007. But f your mind is closed, don’t bother.

  56. Little Iodine 131

    For broader picture of the industry’s progress through the last year, see


    1. Joffan

      Another exercise in Greenpeace’s desperate search for any kind of scary-sounding news about nuclear power. If in doubt, they throw in their own protests, fringe opinions and nuclear weapons irrelevancies in order to pad things out a bit, but you can rely on their description even concerning actual events to be twisted to extract blood from every stone.

      I picked a link at random. Jim Green talks about an “intolerable risk” apparently found by UK Audit office – and he quotes those two words – but it is NOT a quote. I looked through the site indicated, both pdfs linked from there and the press release. That phrase does not occur. Jim Green has made it up. The documents talk about risk, but because they are rational, fact based documents, they are using “risk” as a useful technical term, rather than the scary propaganda term that Greenpeace would prefer.

      As a study in hyperbole, for students of English propaganda techniques, it might be worth reading. But as an information source its value is considerably less than zero – Green nowhere gives an accurate picture of what has happened in the year and mostly attempts to mislead and confuse his readers.

    2. Little Iodine 131

      oh dear, Joffan,

      The author of the piece you have critiqued is not with Greenpeace.

      In the upper right hand corner of the New Matilda webpage, it says

      “Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth.”

      Perhaps you should read the whole article more carefully, instead of admittedly picking links at random, then going on about style, instead of substance.

    3. Joffan

      OK, for “Greenpeace”, read “Friends of the Earth” in my previous comment.

      I would talk about substance if there was any, but it’s all just doom-and-gloom argument by adjective.

      I’ll be generous – you pick another link from the article for me to check up on. See how that holds up.

    4. Steve Aplin

      Yeah, like there’s any daylight between FOE’s and GP’s take on any environmental issue. They are like Coke and Pepsi — full of fake flavour, sugar, and caffeine, and mass marketed to the same mass audience and for the same purpose: to make as much money as possible. Except that Coke and Pepsi are more honest.

    5. Little Iodine 131

      OK Joffan, Here’s one link from Dr Green’s article:


      “Europe’s ‘dangerous’ nuclear plants need €25bn safety refit

      Post-Fukushima tests identify hundreds of problems in reactors, leaked report reveals”


      The article is written by Tony Patterson, who seems to write mainly on things German, rather than things environmental or nuclear. I say this in the hope that you won’t divert your energies into an ad hominum attack, or an attack on an organisation not to your liking.

      The end of the story in The Independent notes that
      “Yesterday’s leaked document also said that next year the EU Commission intended to propose new insurance and liability legislation which would “improve the situation of potential victims in the event of a nuclear accident”.

      From time to time, the insurance industry and governments have to deal with the consequences of low frequency, high-impact events like Chernobyl and Fukushima. Social dislocation, health effects and property damage are germane to their interests, and compel response: proactive and/or reactive.

      Perhaps you’d like to comment on the article above from The Independent, in the light of insurance liability issues associated with nuclear electricity.

    6. Joffan

      Really, this is very similar. The word “dangerous” appears in the headline – and nowhere else. It’s a floating quote, not actually sourced, just stuck in there for dramatic effect.

      So what is this report actually about? It’s a response to Fukushima, learning lessons from the problems there and identifying ways to improve response to extraordinary situations. It’s not about dangers – it’s about good safety practice.

      I don’t see anything ominous or negative about revisiting how nuclear insurance works. I do see a need to urgently revise the concept of mandatory evacuation in the light of negligible radiation health impacts, that comes at great personal cost – and increased health risk – to those uprooted. If this lesson is ONCE AGAIN not learned from Fukushima, as it was not learned from Chernobyl, the governments involved are lamentably failing their people.

    7. Jim Green

      Joffan says i fabricate a quote about “intolerable risk” – in fact it is a direct quote from the Chair of the National Audit Office.

      Mark Lynas gives the game away with his statement that: “Hardly anyone I meet in the nuclear community these days still believes in LNT. ” Surely the question is what the independent scientific community has to say about the matter rather than the “nuclear community”. Here are some examples:
      • A 2010 report by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation states that “the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation-associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates.”
      • The 2006 report of the Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation (BEIR) of the US National Academy of Sciences states that “the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and … the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.” The report also concludes that claims that low-level radiation exposure may be beneficial to human health are “unwarrranted”.
      • A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US) in 2003 concluded that: “Given that it is supported by experimentally grounded, quantifiable, biophysical arguments, a linear extrapolation of cancer risks from intermediate to very low doses currently appears to be the most appropriate methodology.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14610281

      More on the radiation debates at

      cheers, jim

    8. Joffan

      Jim, I think “fabricate” is a fair description of a phrase that you attached to a link that does not support that quote.

      Your current support of the quote has some curious aspects. It seems clear in the BBC article that Margaret Hodge is also quoting the phrase “intolerable risks to people and the environment”, not offering it as an emotional opinion. An intolerable risk is one that requires corrective action to abate the likelihood or consequences – using the terms technically rather than for agitprop.

      Your quotes on LNT:
      – UNSCEAR in the same paragraph say it’s not using LNT.
      – BEIR VII doesn’t use LNT, in the sense of the effect of high doses linearly projected downwards. A magic number called DDREF is used to avoid admitting a threshold (as explained in the abstract of ICRP publication 99), which breaks linearity to high doses.
      – The 2003 paper also admits that acute doses up to 100mSv show no evidence of an effect, based on the largest data set available, the atomic bomb survivors.


    9. Little Iodine 131

      For all and sundry to consider, in light of the claims made above, Here are quotes about “intolerable risk”, from the New Matilda article and the article from The Independent”

      “In November, a report by the UK National Audit Office said that nuclear waste stored in run-down buildings at the Sellafield nuclear complex poses an “intolerable risk”, and that costs of plant decommissioning have spiralled out of control. In the same month, UK government agencies filed nine charges against the owners of Sellafield for illegal dumping of radioactive waste.”

      7 November 2012
      Sellafield nuclear waste storage is ‘intolerable risk’
      “An “intolerable risk” is being posed by hazardous waste stored in run-down buildings at Sellafield nuclear plant, a watchdog has found.”
      ” ‘Hazardous radioactive waste is housed in buildings which pose ‘intolerable risks to people and the environment’ “.

      Gentle reader, which quote, or set of quotes do you think may be more easily interpreted as promulgating an emotional opinion? Which article does not adequately support the quote?

      Perhaps Joffan has expertise in the analysis of propaganda. Perhaps Joffan would care to identify himself and the basis of his expertise. If he or she does so, then no doubt I would take his/her assertion of the difference between the two articles more seriously, along with his assertion that Margaret Hodge’s opinion (not quoted phrase, as Joffan mistakenly writes) is not offered as an emotional opinion.

      Agitprop: what a marvelous little word, with all its resonances, and its etymological links to Bolshevist Russia in the early 20th century.

      Joffan, do you seriously think Dr Green’s article is “agitprop”? I expect an expert third party would not agree. In fact, I think you have punished the word unjustifiably. Whether you privately admit to doing so or not, I think you ought to demonstrate to yourself the good grace involved in looking up the meaning and proper context of the word. Try


    10. Joffan

      Perhaps, Little Iodine, you would like to apologize for adding a spurious single quote to the front of Margaret Hodge’s words which obscures the evidence that she was quoting a technical phrase.

      Apart from this negative contribution, your comment added nothing to the discussion. We had already established that the quote is not at the link Jim used in the article, and Jim has already indicated where he actually found it.

      Agitprop – as I use it – means propaganda with a high emotional content, designed to stir the reader to outrage and action (hence “agitation”).

    11. Steve Aplin

      Jim, I noticed a rather astonishing remark you made in your newMatilda piece. Among the other items in your litany of things wrong with nuclear power, you said “[m]eanwhile, the Indian government continues to attack and murder citizens opposing nuclear power plants… .”

      I have nowhere heard this amazing allegation, except in your article. The words “attack and murder” are wrapped in a hyperlink to a site called dianuke.org (the precise link you provided is http://www.dianuke.org/farmers-anti-nuclear-struggle-fatehabad-fukushim/), but that link yields a page indicating that Dianuke.org is in “Maintenance Mode.”

      I have searched the internet using the term “Indian antinuclear protesters murdered” and have come up with numerous references to a single protester who was killed in what the Times of India described as a clash with police; see http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-09-10/india/33735923_1_anti-nuclear-protesters-movement-against-nuclear-energy-knpp.

      Is this incident what you were referring to when you said “the Indian government continues to attack and murder citizens opposing nuclear power plants”?

  57. agog

    And Fukushima was just a bad dream…

  58. Little Iodine 131

    No Joffan, I see no need to apologise. You have plainly misread and/or misinterpreted my contribution. Furthermore, you clearly do not understand the current use of the word “agitprop”, and are attempting to make the word do something it is no longer (and perhaps never was, really) meant to do.

    Still, out of courtesy, I would like to give you credit for being some sort of expert. What evidence can you offer that you are a recognised expert in some field of endeavour?

  59. Little Iodine 131

    One of several interesting and freely available articles on the French nuclear electricity and weapons programs,
    from the latest online issue of The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists

    Nuclear chromosomes: The national security implications of a French nuclear exit


  60. Little Iodine 131

    More depressing news, for spruikers of nuclear electricity:

    “Currently, only a few classes of technologies might conceivably provide carbon-free power at the scale of multiple terawatts, among them fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear, and renewables (principally solar and wind, and perhaps biomass) [42, 46, 47]. However, CCS has not yet been commercially deployed at any centralized power plant; the existing nuclear industry, based on reactor designs more than a half-century old and facing renewed public concerns of safety, is in a period of retrenchment, not expansion; and existing solar, wind, biomass, and energy storage systems are not yet mature enough to provide affordable baseload power at terawatt scale. Each of these technologies must be further developed if they are to be deployed at scale and at costs competitive with fossil energy.”

    Environmental Research Letters Volume 8 Number 1
    Steven J Davis et al 2013
    Environ. Res. Lett. 8 011001 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/011001

    Rethinking wedges
    Steven J Davis1,2, Long Cao2,3, Ken Caldeira2 and Martin I Hoffert4


    Recall, a $20 billion wind generator facility that’s nine-tenths built can provide up to 90% of its capacity to the grid, but a $20 billion radioactive boiler that’s meant to generate electricity, nine-tenths built, is a $20 billion bride to be (sounds so much nicer than “white elephant”).

    1. Joffan

      Since Davis asserts that nothing can work, I would say it’s just depressing across the board. I note that, unlike the other options, he raises no engineering issues for nuclear power. He is mistaken about the design age.

      Those who pay attention will know that a 100%-built windfarm will expect to deliver 20%-30% of its capacity, on the track record. A 100%-built nuclear plant will expect to deliver 90+% over its fuel cycle, on proven US performance.

    2. Little Iodine 131

      Joffan, you assert that “Davis asserts that nothing can work”.

      Where, in your opinion, does he assert that?

      You further assert that “He is mistaken about the design age.”

      Are you referring to this statement?
      ” … the existing nuclear industry, based on reactor designs more than a half-century old and facing renewed public concerns of safety, is in a period of retrenchment, not expansion;”

      Perhaps you can provide a less mistaken generalisation. What would you say, instead?

      Davis et.al. conclude that
      “Filling this many wedges while sustaining global economic growth would mean deploying tens of terawatts of carbon-free energy in the next few decades. Doing so would entail a fundamental and disruptive overhaul of the global energy system, as the global energy infrastructure is replaced with new infrastructure that provides equivalent amounts of energy but does not emit CO2. Current technologies and systems cannot provide the amounts of carbon-free energy needed soon enough or affordably enough to achieve this transformation. An integrated and aggressive set of policies and programs is urgently needed to support energy technology innovation across all stages of research, development, demonstration, and commercialization. No matter the number required, wedges can still simplify and quantify the challenge. But the problem was never easy.”

      There’s nothing in their article to suggest that nuclear electricity merits your single-minded advocacy. It seems to me that your global freckling of aging radioactive boilers represent, at most, one rather dubious “wedge”.

      I would put more of my hope into other wedges, particularly those which create and amplify efficiency gains in other energy flows besides electricity. Using less energy overall seems sensible to me.

      Here’s something for you to read:


      Interesting articles include:




      RMI in the News

      The Economist



    3. Joffan

      Since your original Steven Davis quote was clear in expressing his skepticism of CCS, nuclear and renewables, I don’t feel the need to read it back to you.

      We will have 10 billion people on the planet in another 40 years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Vog3uZ47O8
      “Using less energy” is not an option that any humanitarian would agreed to.

    4. Little Iodine 131

      Well Joffan, plainly you have quibbles about wind generation of electricity, but there’s evidence that you have yet to offer the killer argument. See, for example,


      It looks as though Japan has decided that an off-shore wind farm is preferable to more reactors. Interesting article.

      And, you say, 10 billion people in another 40 years. Joffan, do you think it will really come to that? I can’t argue against the prediction on any credentials of specialist expertise, can you? Nor can I insist that it will happen as your un-named source of authority asserts.

      Oh well. We will have to wait and see, those of us who have the time left. But, if the global environment is nearing carrying capacity, and CO2 in the atmosphere is approaching a tipping point, in terms of runaway AGW due to positive feedback cycles, then there may well be fewer than 10 billion of us to prove your point.

      Which brings me back to Japan’s offshore wind generation plans. If there really are 10 billion of “us” then, and Japan’s population density increases as well, won’t it be better to site non-radioactive, non-CO2 generating electricity production offshore, so people have more standing room per square metre onshore? I mean, 10 billion sounds a bit like standing room only, to me.

      Not to mention that I, for one, would prefer to make my daily domestic footprints in soil that is not close downwind of a nuclear electricity generating facility.

      Joffan, you sound like an educated person. Can you suggest why the US EPA stopped publishing statistics, back in 1994, on Curies of radiaoactivity released as airborne effluents, by US reactors?

      (see http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0414/ML041450170.pdf
      for the 1994 report.

      see also


      for the most current report (2005) on effluent releases from the San Onofre plant, creaking away on the California coastline.


    5. Joffan

      Hans Rosling – whose name is at the top of the video I linked you to, but I guess you can’t have bothered to actually watch it – is well-respected. Watch the video, and you’ll understand why your remark about Japan was so wrong.

  61. Little Iodine 131


    Hans Rosling is very entertainingly educational, but even assuming that the population per unit area in Japan does not increase, you still have the difficulties posed by AGW.

    I do not know in detail what specific difficulties may face Japan, in particular. If we assume that some difficulties may be met at least in part by electricity generation (so long as the generators have a small carbon footprint), then what choices of generator are most realistic?

    Especially in Japan, I would opt for earthquake-proof, tsunami-proof generators that don’t compound a potential disaster by leaking radioactivity when damaged. that looks to me to be what the New Scientist article is reporting about.

    Joffan, Would you like to have a second go at answering the question I put to you, or will you simply ignore it again?

    “Can you suggest why the US EPA stopped publishing statistics, back in 1994, on Curies of radiaoactivity released as airborne effluents, by US reactors?

    (see http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0414/ML041450170.pdf
    for the 1994 report.

    see also


    for the most current report (2005) on effluent releases from the San Onofre plant, creaking away on the California coastline.


    1. Thomas

      Especially in Japan, I would opt for earthquake-proof, tsunami-proof generators that don’t compound a potential disaster by leaking radioactivity when damaged.

      Like Fukushima-daiini – a nuclear power plant built 10 years after Fukishima-daiichi. It was run by the same TEPCO, was hit by the same devastating quake and monster tsunami, yet survived undamaged. Proof how the nuclear industry learned its lesson -albeit the hard way.

  62. Little Iodine 131

    The “Nuclear industry” is saddled with an institutional intelligence spread across multiple corporations and institutions. I would be very wary of crediting it with the ability to learn any lesson.

    Proof is a very carelessly used word. Lawyers, mathematicians and philosopheres can bandy it about if they like, so long as they stay within the rules of their disciplines.

    As for science, Gregory Batesons said “Science never proves anything”, and I fully subscribe to his point of view.

    And as for complex technological systems like nuclear electricity, influenced by a very large number and global range of factors, I don’t believe “the nuclear industry” has any intelligence to be applied, except maybe through the IAEA. But the IAEA’s institutional intelligence, if there be such a thing, seems to me to be blinkered in its vision by a conflicted brief, to both control and promote nuclear electricity, and to be seriously challenged in its performance by the whimsy of the UN Security Council’s permanent members, not to mention naughty states like Iran, India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan, to name a few starters, in alphabetical order.

    And when the moronic nuclear industry learns the hard way, it’s ordinary humans who have to pick up the radioactive pieces, or find a way to live with them.

    Lucky us. Thank you for the learning moment.

    1. Michael Karnerfors

      I would be very wary of crediting it with the ability to learn any lesson.

      By all means: be that. But(!)… when they show that they do learn their lesson… if you don’t credit them with that, then you’re just being obstinate.

      It is one thing to be wary and cautious of large corporations, NGOs, governmental and super-governmental entities…. but it’s a completey different thing to deliberately and manically refuse to acknowledge any kind of positive qualities in them.

  63. Little Iodine 131

    And as a matter of curiosity, Mark Lynas, do any of your stalwarts have a peer-reviewed rebuttal to

    Ten Hoevea, J. and Jacobson, M. (2012) Worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident

    or have they all begged off, on the excuse, say, that their grandmother has run out of ice-cream, and urgently requires them to run an errand?

    1. Little Iodine 131

      I’m OK about granting credit to individual people, or small groups of people.

      Unfortunately, large groups of people, corporations and government institutions are not individual people, and are oligarchic and opaque, despite the occasional democratic trappings that may kick in at set times during election cycles, (eg board elections, presidential elections, local government elections and so on) and otherwise operate continuously only as highly governed and lobby-influenced processes.

      I’ll say it again, more plainly. People learn lessons, but institutions do not learn lessons.

      People may be able to exert better controls over institutions as a result of institutional adjustments following disasters, but I would describe the control-feedback process involved as one that’s highly influenced by a spectrum of agendas driven by a diversity of players, who very often aren’t all interested in the best possible outcome for ordinary people.

      And, if someone can convince me that institutions can “learn”, then I expect I’ll be able to convince them in turn that institutions can “forget”. Or fail.

      The world is not a stable place, which only makes more critical the unsolved issues of nuclear nonproliferation and weapons control, and of disposal of nuclear waste.

      I don’t expect that nuclear electricity can solve the problem of global warming, in the relatively short time frame available and given its political and technical issues.

      I found these links interesting and you may, also:





Comments are closed.