nuclear power - is nuclear power really really dangerous? An investigation of the perceived problems
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nuclear power

is nuclear power really really dangerous?

 

 


a briefing document

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Nuclear power - is nuclear power really really dangerous? is the second of a series of briefing documents on the problems of power consumption, posed by the steady depletion of fossil fuels and most particularly of pumpable oil.
One of a grouping of documents on global concerns at abelard.org.
on energy on global warming
On housing and making living systems ecological
sustainable futures briefing documents
Tectonics: tectonic plates - floating on the surface of a cauldron

Index

Introduction
Radioactive materials
Are the health and other dangers being exaggerated?
Is nuclear power really more expensive?
Reserves
How does this translate into meeting future power production needs?
Proliferation
Fusion
Nuclear waste: comparison of waste produced from nuclear generation and from coal
Risk analysis

 

 

 


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Introduction

Too often, nuclear power is dismissed on the basis of urban legend and mis-information. If our energy desires for the future were secure, or if fossil fuels were without considerable drawbacks, then the question ‘is nuclear power really really dangerous?’ would be no great issue. However, in the absence of nuclear power or else radically new technology, our energy future is far from assured. It is, therefore, very important that nuclear power generation be studied with great attention.
See Replacing fossil fuels: the scale of the problem.

 

Radioactive materials

Here is a rough outline of radioactive substances, together with some very basic detail. Further background is available at Ionising radiation and health - risk analysis. See also this dicussion article.

 

A half-life means the time a radioactive material will take to lose half its radiation properties. For example, with iodine-131 that time is approximately 8 days. Thus after 8 days, half of its radiating material will have returned to (I think) ‘ordinary’, standard, non-radioactive iodine-126.

Often, radioactive substances go through several forms before returning to base. Uranium (with an atomic number of 92) eventually becomes – decays to – lead! The same goes for all elements with atomic numbers higher than 83. These include the trans-uranic elements, which are those elements with atomic numbers higher than that of uranium.

Uranium consists naturally of a mixture of

uranium-238 99.27% 4,510,000,000-year half-life
uranium-235 0.72% 713,000,000-year half-life
uranium-234 0.006% 247,000-year half-life

Some reactors, like the Canadian-designed Candu and the British Magnox reactors, use natural uranium as their fuel. Most present day reactors (Light Water Reactors or LWRs) use enriched uranium where the proportion of the U-235 isotope has been increased from 0.7% to about 3 – 5%. (For comparison, uranium used for nuclear weapons must be enriched to at least 90% U-235.) Note carefully that the fuel for nuclear reactors is totally unsuitable and irrelevant to weapon production.

Plutonium, in the abstract, is not a highly radioactive substance, though clearly it (and uranium) must be treated with due caution. All plutonium isotopes are radioactive. The most important is plutonium-239 because it is fissionable—that is, it can start a chain reaction; in effect, it can ‘blow up’. (Note that the radioactive material used in power stations is not fissionable, although such a power station can be converted to use for manufacturing fissionable plutonium isotopes. The IEAE supervises the industry.) Plutonium-239 has a relatively long half-life of 24,360 years.
Mostly, plutonium is manufactured by neutron bombardment of uranium-238, although plutonium does occur in uranium ores on occasion. Plutonium was manufactured before this fact was known!

The best summary I know of on fast breeders and plutonium is in chapter 13 of the online book by Bernard L Cohen, The Nuclear Energy Option. I have some extracts here: Plutonium is part of the solution, rather than a problem. The whole book is stuffed with useful information.

Critical mass (the amount that will spontaneously ‘blow up’ when brought together) must be considered when handling quantities of plutonium of more than 300 grams (2/3 lb). The ‘critical mass’ of plutonium-239 is only about one-third that of uranium-235. Uranium-238 is non-fissile; that is, it will not ‘blow up’ if you have a ‘lump’of it—it does not have a critical mass.

It is a common misperception to imagine that a long half-life equates to high radioactivity, the reverse is the case. The higher the half-life, the more stable and less radioactive the substance: in other words—it ‘leaks’, or radiates, its radioactivity more slowly. The lower the half-life, the more ‘unstable’ and the more radioactive is the substance.

half-life stability radioactivity
high greater less
low less greater

For example—
Strontium-90, half-life: approximately 28 years.
This isotope, formed by nuclear explosions, is considered the most dangerous constituent of fallout. Strontium can replace some of the calcium in foods and ultimately become concentrated in bones and teeth, where it continues ejecting electrons that cause radiation injury. Controlled amounts of radioactive strontium have been used as a treatment for bone cancer.

The heat radiated by radioactive decay can be converted to electricity for long-lived, lightweight power sources in navigation buoys, remote weather stations, space vehicles, etc.

Notice the tendency of strontium-90 to be stored in the body, which adds greatly to the dangers. Of course, plutonium can also lodge in the body, particularly in bone marrow.

Cobalt-60, half-life: 5.3-years.
the longest lived artificial radioactive isotope, is produced from its stable isotope cobalt-59, by neutron irradiation in a nuclear reactor. Gamma radiation from cobalt-60 has been used in place of X rays or alpha rays from radium in the inspection of industrial materials to reveal internal structure, flaws, or foreign objects; in cancer therapy; in sterilization studies; and in biology and industry as a radioactive tracer. It is being replaced in both industrial and medical radiology by
caesium/cesium-137 because of the long (30-year) half-life of the caesium-137.

Caesium/cesium-137, half-life: 30 years.
Caesium is also chemically toxic. It has a half-life in the body of about 70 days, this means that the body eliminates half of the caesium in 70 days -
this is nothing to do with the radioactive half-life. This process can be speeded by chelation [2]. Prussian blue is a chelating agent for caesium, and reduces the half-life of caesium in the body to about one-third (of 70 days).

Then we have—
Iodine-131, half-life: eight days.
The most easily detectable fallout product in humans and other animals is iodine-131, an isotope that emits beta and gamma rays and is enriched about 100 times in the thyroid gland through selective accumulation. Because of its relatively short half-life (eight days), iodine-131 is probably not the most hazardous fallout isotope; yet, excessive amounts of radiation from this isotope can lead to metabolic disturbances and an increased incidence of thyroid cancer, especially in children.

But it is not all bad news—
The only naturally occurring isotope of iodine is stable iodine-127. Iodine-131, which has a half-life of eight days, is very useful. It is employed in medicine to monitor thyroid gland functioning, to treat goitre and thyroid cancer, and to locate tumours of the brain and of the liver. It is also used in investigations to trace the course of compounds in metabolism. Several iodine compounds are used as contrast mediums in diagnostic radiology. (In aqueous solution, even minute amounts of iodine in the presence of starch produce a blue-black colour. Iodine solution may be obtain from pharmacies for use as an antiseptic.)

Note the ‘advantage’ that, with an eight-day half-life, effectively radiation will stop after a few weeks.

Thorium-232, half-life about three times the age of the Earth, say 14, billion years.
Thorium is found in small amounts in most rocks and soils. There, it is about three times more abundant than uranium, and about as common as lead. Australia and India each have approximately 25% of the world's thorium reserves. Norway and the USA have the next most substantial thorium reserves. One of the current major uses of thorium is in gas lantern mantles, as it glows well when heated.With its long half-life, thorium is not very radioactive.

Thorium power stations are still only in development stages. A thorium power station would not produce plutonium, and so would not interest terrorists, the major source of political security risks. A thorium power station would also have considerably less highly radioactive waste to need disposal. It also works by a different method than those using uranium, and instead would probably be an accelerator-driven system (or ADS) reactor. A uranium-based reactor functions by having a continuous and spontaneous chain-reaction, which is kept under control, but can go out of control, resulting in a disastrous melt-down of its radioactive core. An ADS reactor requires a stream of neutrons applied from an exterior souce to stimulate its reaction. If the stream is stopped, so also does the reaction.

  return to index on nuclear power - investigation page

Are the health and other dangers being exaggerated?

The Prestige disaster has been referred to, reasonably, as Europe’s Chernobyl. As part of my ongoing investigation into human energy desires, I shall use the example of Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear power station accident.

Nuclear power is benign and is our best hope for the future

“[...] by the time we reach the biblical allotted span of seventy years, 30 per cent of us will have dies of cancer [sic!], and for almost all those deaths, breathing oxygen will have been the main cause.” [p125]

“[...] you should occasionally ask why it is, in spite of us imbibing all that radioactivity and chemicals, the incidence of cancer has not perceptibly risen. and how it is that those who spend their working lives in nuclear power stations live longer than the general population, and far longer than coal miners? because we are so frightened of cancer that we tend to lose all sense of proportion. however much that fear may seem justified, there is no cause to be more fearful of it now; in spite of all our fears of cancer from radiation, from chemicals in food, and even from mobile phones and power lines, we live longer than ever.” [p.126]
From James Lovelock, the Revenge of Gaia

I am fairly convinced that most of the fears regarding nuclear power are overblown. By taking this worst case and examining it in a similar manner to abelard.org’s reports on the Prestige, I intend to test this supposition. Here is an item claiming only low-level effects detectable in the aftermath of Chernobyl.

While here is an article on the continuing clear up costs at Chernobyl.two GoldenYak (tm) awardS
In this article, you are cautioned to be wary of the following statement, “... more than 200 tons of uranium and nearly a ton of lethally radioactive plutonium.”

“No more than 75 people died during the Chernobyl incident.”
James Lovelock, the Revenge of Gaia, p.100.

Now to a piece on the ‘dirty bomb’

“This quickly led to a catastrophe that was second only to the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. A total of 249 people were exposed, 10 were seriously injured and four died.

“The long-term socio-economic effects were devastating. Goiania suffered a 20 percent drop in gross domestic product, which took five years to return to normal levels”

Note that the panic responses in Goiana, Brazil, were much more of a problem than the real damage or threat. It is essential that populations are better informed concerning radioactivity.

fear probably caused more problems at Chernobyl than radiation

“ According to a 1996 article by Atomic Energy Insights, around 200,000 women aborted foetuses due to unfounded fears that the children would have birth defects.”

Also from the second of the four articles referenced above:

“The Chernobyl explosion occurred April 26, 1986, when an out-of-control nuclear reaction blew off the roof of the steel building and spewed tons of radioactive material into the air, releasing 30 to 40 times as much radioactivity as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs combined in 1945.”

Reactors on the Chernobyl site were operating until recently; since when I think they have been closed down. (To be checked.)

how safe is the US nuclear industry

“Revelations into the near-miss accident at Davis-Besse go far beyond the reactor site perched on the shores of the Great Lakes near Toledo, Ohio. They warn of a dangerous gambit being played by atomic corporations in an increasingly competitive electricity market where public safety is sacrificed to ambitious production schedules. These revelations show that the NRC is willing to turn a blind eye on safety regulations to accommodate these same moneyed-interests.”

and

“.....Davis-Besse was unpredictably close to shearing open the vessel in a loss-of-coolant accident much worse than the 1979 core-melt accident at Three Mile Island-2.”

A more recent report on Davis-Besse, without the hysteria:

“Years of visual inspections at the plant, operated by FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, Ohio, missed boric acid leaks that nearly ate through the 6-inch-thick steel cap that covers the reactor vessel.”

“ The commissioners said safety mechanisms would have prevented a catastrophe at Davis-Besse despite reported flaws in the reactor's coolant system, which protects against a meltdown.”

This gives the impression the US nuclear industry is still not managed adequately, see also sloppy nuclear safety facilities in the USA.

Despite this scaremongering reference to the ‘accident’ at Three Mile Island-2 [TMI] in this article, no one is known to have been killed or injured by, or because of, the incident. The reactor that failed has been made safe, while the reactor alongside will continue to function until it reaches the end of its operating life. Then both reactors will be decommissioned.

I have done an illustrative case study of a media article to show clumsy reporting of nuclear power issues.

Chernobyl is by far the worst reactor accident so far. As far as is known, there were only thirty fatalities within the plant at the time of the accident and up to 2000 non-fatal thyroid cancer cases among children in the surrounding region. Apparently, these cancers could have been avoided if it were not for Soviet mismanagement. Note here, as with TMI, other reactors on the site continued to operate until recently.

You will notice that both these incidents, Chernobyl and TMI, constantly are grossly exaggerated but both have been, and now are being, handled effectively.

Link to a November 2007 article in Der Speigel Online article (translated from the German). This item is on the widespread exaggerations made regarding radioactive contamination and deaths from the 1945 nuclear bombs dropped on Japan, on plant disasters in the USSR and East Germany and on old ‘dirty’ working methods, principally in the USSR.

In the meanwhile, it is calculated that diesel fumes cause over 8000 deaths from asthma each and every year in the USA alone. (Less than one percent of US cars are diesel. Therefore, this figure applies only to heavy equipment.) To this, add a multitude of probable carcinogens found in fossil hydrocarbons and their combustion products.

See also item in abelard’s news zone about the effects of nuclear bomb testing. Further information can be traced here.

A major study is being done within the European Union on the dangers of ingesting radioactive materials, if they then lodge in the body. It is probable that this is far more dangerous than brief exposure, or contamination that can be washed off or excreted. For more on what is known about the comparative health dangers of radioactive materials, visit RussP.org.

The first four items listed on the cited page are informative on the extremely low (and well understood) dangers of radiation dispersal. The articles, which appear to have been précised from books, are written in a most clumsy manner.

The third item, on plutonium toxicity, appears to me to be very relevant to expressed worries concerning depleted uranium, as it discusses ingestion of airborne particles.

Keep in mind that uranium is much less radioactive even than plutonium. The atoms are about the same size, but currently I do not have molecule size or chemical information available. See the section on half-lives above.

Related items
a reasonable statement on depleted uranium
dna chooses when to repair after x-rays
fossil fuel disastersreturn to index on nuclear power - investigation page

Is nuclear power really more expensive?

This document accords with my growing suspicion, mentioned at the start of this briefing document, that the problems with fossil fuel powered electrical generation are considerably greater than those of nuclear-driven power generation. For want of contrary information, I am now going to assume this is so while I investigate further.

From the document above:

“The report shows that in clear cash terms nuclear energy incurs about one tenth of the costs of coal. In particular, the external costs for coal-fired power were a very high proportion (50-70%) of the internal costs, while the external costs for nuclear energy were a very small proportion of internal costs, even after factoring in hypothetical nuclear catastrophes. This is because all waste costs in the nuclear fuel cycle are internalised, which reduces the competitiveness of nuclear power when only internal costs are considered. The external costs of nuclear energy averages 0.4 euro cents/kWh, much the same as hydro, coal is over 4.0 cents (4.1 - 7.3 cent averages in different countries), gas ranges 1.3-2.3 cents and only wind shows up better than nuclear, at 0.1-0.2 cents/kWh average.

“The EU cost of electricity generation without these external costs averages about 4 cents/kWh. If these external costs were in fact included, the EU price of electricity from coal would double and that from gas would increase 30%. These particular estimates are without attempting to include possible impacts of fossil fuels on global warming.”

[The World Nuclear Association Four GoldenYak (tm) award site has a large number of very useful, basic documents on the industry. Two useful paths for access to their data are here and here. See also their page, Sustainable Energy, for a useful, general statement.]

Next for investigation is a European Union report: the ‘ExternE Project’.

“The ExternE project, a research project of the European Commission, is the first comprehensive attempt to use a consistent 'bottom-up' methodology to evaluate the external costs associated with a range of different fuel cycles.”

You can find a simple summary of some of the basic approved reactor designs here.

space marker at abelard.org

Perception and reality in resource limitation
The comments on oil in this item are clumsy, but otherwise this article is well worth a scan.

As I read into the current situation, I am increasingly convinced that substituting for fossil fuel use is highly desirable, whether or not we are in process of immediate over-resource use of fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are mostly filthy. They are concentrated in a politically unpleasant region and, because they are cheap, they represent a strategic objective which is likely to generate international friction.

It is becoming time to revisit nuclear power. Because of its ability to enable nuclear weapons production, this will require world-wide supervision of the nuclear industry. This supervision has unpleasant political centralisation implications as far as I am concerned, it may however, be necessary to face those problems. (There is already a fairly robust system in place.)

space marker at abelard.org

Dual use nuclear power—electricity and hydrogen from heat process

Advanced nuclear plants can allow both the production of electricity and by running the plant at sufficient temperatures, using the heat directly to split hydrogen from water, thus achieving 40 – 50% efficiency from a nuclear power plant.

This PDF file is a simplified series of slides on the last item. It is a serious pain to download, as you may well have to sit over it and, to completely call down the document, click the vertical scroll bar as many times as there are pages!

A survey of the best dual-use designs of nuclear reactors is available from this link (67-page PDF).

See also using volcanic activity to generate hydrogen from water.

return to index on nuclear power - investigation page

Reserves

Known reserves of uranium, the radioactive material used to fuel nuclear power stations, are classified according to the quality of concentration and, therefore, the cost of extraction and processing.

  Typical natural concentrations of uranium (U)

(ppm = parts per million).

  ‘High-grade’ ore - 2% U   20,000 ppm U  
  ‘Low-grade’ ore - 0.1% U   1,000 ppm U  
  Granite   4 ppm U  
  Sedimentary rock   2 ppm U  
  Earth’s continental crust   (av) 2.8 ppm U  
  Seawater   0.003 ppm U  


Only the ‘high-grade’ and ‘low-grade’ ores are currently regarded as economically viable sources of uranium. It has been claimed that if the price of uranium rose ten to fifteen times, then seawater would become a vast economically viable resource; but I do not know what the EROEI is in this situation.

  Known recoverable resources* of uranium  
    tonnes U   percentage of world  
  Australia 863,000   28%  
  Kazakhstan 472,000   15%  
  Canada 437,000   14%  
  South Africa 298,000   10%  
  Namibia 235,000   8%  
  Brazil 197,000   6%  
  Russian Fed. 131,000   4% * Reasonably Assured Resources plus Estimated Additional Resources - category 1, to US$ 80/kg U, 1/1/01, from OECD NEA & IAEA, Uranium 2001: Resources, Production and Demand. Brazil, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Russian figures above are 75% of in situ totals.
  USA 104,000   3%
  Uzbekistan 103,000   3%
  World total 3,107,000    


All the above are known reserves of uranium. While with oil, there has been widespread exploration throughout the world and we now have a good idea of what oil resources are available, the same cannot be said for uranium.

source: World Nuclear Association

“ Thus the world's present measured resources of uranium in the lower cost category (3.5 Mt) and used only in conventional reactors, are enough to last for some 50 years. This represents a higher level of assured resources than is normal for most minerals. Further exploration and higher prices will certainly, on the basis of present geological knowledge, yield further resources as present ones are used up. A doubling of price from present levels could be expected to create about a tenfold increase in measured resources, over time.”

“ Widespread use of the fast breeder reactor could increase the utilisation of uranium sixty-fold or more. This type of reactor can be started up on plutonium derived from conventional reactors and operated in closed circuit with its reprocessing plant. Such a reactor, supplied with natural uranium for its "fertile blanket", very quickly reaches the stage where each tonne of ore yields 60 times more energy than in a conventional reactor.”

Nuclear resource use applies to the small percentage of electricity generation which is by nuclear reactor, currently approximately 15-20% of electricity production. Therefore, to meet even present levels of electricity production with nuclear methods would require five times the uranium consumption.

World uranium production is now approximately 35,000 tonnes, whereas usage is approximately 60,000 tonnes. This shortfall appears to be met by recycling old bomb material and by using up past over-production, maybe about half and half, though I do not yet have good figures. To meet this difference would obviously require another doubling of production.

While nuclear power is not some easy fix for all our problems, it is of extreme importance.

For further details:
World nuclear association on mining
is China starting to be serious about nuclear generation?return to index on nuclear power - investigation page

 

how does this translate into meeting future power production needs?

How long nuclear power will last depends, critically, on fast breeder reactors. According to some sources, there is approximately 100 times more energy resources available if fast-breeder reactors are used, than if normal nuclear reactors are used. (I am using the more conservative figure of 60 times in the calculation below.)

Based on present known reserves, assuming fast-breeder technology, my guesses are approximately as follows:

  • Very roughly, this source of power would last 3000 years.
    (very approximately, world reserves / annual consumption * breeder amplification:
    3,000,000 / 60,000 * 60. See numbers above marked in red.)
  • This would reduce to 300 years if the power was also used as a substitute for fossil fuel production.
  • If you then add the assumptions that consumption in the world at large rises to Western standards, and that population stops expanding, then the forecast drops to only 60 years. Then there are other important issues exploiting lower-grade sources, and also in thorium production (which is three times as plentiful in the Earth’s crust).

Further details of how I arrived at these assessments can be found at delivery of power, with other background reasoning here, energy economics - extraction efficiency and costs.

return to index on nuclear power - investigation page

Proliferation

Aside from the potential for weapon proliferation, I am pretty well convinced that nuclear power is vastly safer than popular hysteria would suggest, and that it is also has the advantage of being much safer and cleaner than fossil fuels. More on proliferation can be found here.

There are potential, sun-driven, energy resources; I shall look at those as I have the time and energy.

The IEAE is the controlling body for the supervision of feeder materials for potential bomb making. It has wide powers, duties and discretion. Violations of agreements are reported to the UNO and to the International Court of Justice. The IAEA gets involved in monitoring arms agreements. It is a powerful international body. The IAEA is heavily involved in the North Korean hassle and in the inspection teams in Iraq.

The statutes of the IAEA can be found here, and the current membership countries here.return to index on nuclear power - investigation page

Fusion

A very basic page on fusion

Headings:

  1. The Nuclear Fusion Reaction
  2. Plasma Confinement
  3. Conditions for a Fusion Reaction
  4. Heating of Plasma

marker at abelard.org

fusion project [22 April 2005]

At last an end to the faffing around regarding where to put the intended international experimental fusion installation. Glory knows why the USA and Japan do not also just act, the amounts of money are tiny for the parties involved.

“The EU made the partnership offer in November to break a deadlock in which China and Russia support France as host and the U.S. and South Korea back Japan. The EU also said it would start the project in France with or without the support of Japan, the U.S. and Korea and committed itself to starting construction in 2005 -- a step that requires up to six months of preparation.

“ITER, which would generate "clean" energy by fusing together light atoms such as hydrogen, would cost a total of about 10 billion euros including operating expenses over 35 years. France proposed Cadarache as the site and Japan put forward Rokkasho-Mura.

“The 25-nation EU's offer would involve a bigger role for Japan in building ITER, managing the project and receiving research contracts from it, officials at the European Commission, the EU's Brussels-based executive arm, said last year.”

fusion by laser

“A group of European scientists has put forward a proposal for a £500m facility to research new approaches to laser fusion that could potentially be built in the UK. [...] The group, which represents seven European Union member states, was set up by Henry Hutchinson of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK.

“By convention, the same laser is used both to heat and compress the sample of deuterium. In fast ignition, there are two lasers, one to handle each stage separately.

“ [...] the proposed facility would combine a 200kJ long pulse laser, for compression, and a 70kJ short pulse laser for heating. Hutchinson says this approach requires less laser energy than the conventional approach, making it markedly cheaper.” [Quoted from theregister.co.uk]

space marker at abelard.org

“The most advanced approach to fusion involves using magnetic fields to confine the deuterium-tritium plasma. This is the route to be taken by ITER, which will cost $10bn to build and run.

“The alternative "inertial confinement" technique, which uses lasers or ion beams rather than magnets to confine the plasma, will be investigated by the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in the US and the Laser Mégajoule (LMJ) in France.” [Quoted from physicsweb.org]

return to index on nuclear power - investigation pagethe web address for the segment above is
http://www.abelard.orgbriefings/nuclear.htm#laser_fusion_070905

nuclear waste:
comparison of waste produced from nuclear generation and coal

waste from time scale/location quantity
nuclear after 50-60 years
in all of the UK
500,000 cu metres
[a block measuring
50 x 100 x 100 m]
coal one year in London
during Victorian times
900,000 tons ash
or 1,350,000 cu m
[1 cu.m ash = 641 kg]

Additional waste and costs from coal
As well as producing large quantities of ash, there is further costs and waste production from using coal:

  • mining waste and damage, including vast slag heaps
  • transporting the coal into London - coal weighs four times the resultant ash
  • transport to intermediate depots
  • gas and dust emissions into the atmosphere (a good part of why coal ash is only a quarter the weight of coal)
  • filth and squalor of the working conditions for those working in mines, and those living in coal-fired London and those clearing up the mess.

transporting coal to London
During the coal age, before the internal combustion engine was widespread, much transport was horse-powered.

“The average horse produces nine tonnes of manure a year [...].” [Quoted from Horse & Hound]

In London, in 1893, there were 300,000 horses, that is approaching 3 million tonnes of manure on the London streets each year.
Keep shovelling and make sure your tetanus vaccination is up to date. [Derived from GoogleAnswers]

For a good summary of the nuclear waste situation.

Some other sources used:
simetric.co.uk
utah.edu
return to index on nuclear power - investigation page guardian.co.uk

risk analysis

“Burning fossil fuels produces 27,000 million tons of carbon dioxide yearly [I think that this figure should be 7 to 8 billion tons per year - ab.], enough if solidified, to make a mountain one mile high with a base 12 miles in circumference the waste from same amount of energy from nuclear fission would occupy a 16 metre cube.”
p.91

“I have offered in public to accept all the high level waste produced in a year from a nuclear power station for deposit on a small plot of my land; it would occupy a space about a cubic metre in size and fit safely in a concrete pit, and I would use the heat from its decaying radioactive elements to heat my home. It would be a waste not to use it. More important it would be no danger to me, my family or the wildlife.”
the Revenge of Gaia, James Lovelock, p.92

Note that the one cubic metre that Lovelock offered to take is the equivalent of 6.6 million tones of carbon.

With regard to the mountain, take note that most of is not solidified. It is pumped into the air where it remains for about 100 years, and that is not to consider the rest of the mess strewn around.

There is also radiation from slag heaps. Some claim considerably more than from nuclear stations (I have not detailed confirmation of this). Slag heaps pose other problems and dangers, such as the disaster of Aberfan in South Wales where a school-house was engulfed. Similar fears stalk the coal fields of the Appalachians and other areas.

  category deaths per terawatt productive
capacity per year [twy]
coal workers 6,400 342
natural gas workers and public 1,200 85
hydro public 4,000 883
nuclear workers 32 8
Source: the Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock, p.102 [world figures]

marker at abelard.org

For more detail on risk analysis, particular in the context of the nuclear industry.

return to index on nuclear power - investigation page

End notes

  1. Neutrons for bombarding a target are generated by firing neutrons from a particle accelerator. A low-level particle accelerator in everyday use is a cathode ray tube, as used in televisions.

  2. chelation
    a substance designed to combine with a substance in the body, in order to flush out the original substance .


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v. 1.2


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