DailyDirt: Some Nice Graphs….

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Having lots of data doesn’t always make things easier to understand. Interpreting a vast amount of figures is becoming an increasingly important skill, and visualizing information can be a nice way to present an argument. We’re always on the lookout for interesting conclusions based on lots of experimental evidence, so if you’ve got some examples, send them our way in the comments. In the meantime, check out a few of these cool links.

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Deaths per KWH

Quoting such is grasping at straws. The mining on Navajo Nation – are the higher cancer rates included in that calculation? How about the Depleted Uranium resulting from processing and that DU “re-application” in Iraq/Afghanistan/Kosovo/other places – is that part of the calculation?

When wind fails – a tower falls over or a blade comes off. When solar PV fails – someone gets cut with glass. When a Dam fails – buildings and lives are washed away.

But the area around the failure is able to re-occupied. Any dead can be buried.

When fission fails – the land and infrastructure is no longer able to be used. The people exposed will end up with shorter lifespans, some with suffering.

The “promise” of splitting atoms for electrical power have not been met – fission is a failure. Time for man to move on and quit quoting bull about “deaths per KWH”.


Re: Deaths per KWH

Except for the area around Chernobyl, no land has ever been marked “unusable” by nuclear power. You can walk right by Three Mile Island, and have been able to for years; and studies examining cancer rates in the area following the accident found no statistically measurable increase.

Meanwhile, the fish never returned to Valdez.

Railing against nuclear means, in the short to medium term, more fossil fuels. Look at the chart: look how many people coal and oil kill. “Quoting averages” is the only scientific approach for deciding how to proceed. Anything else is superstition.

Mr Big Contentsays:

Re: Hiroshima And Nagasaki

Hiroshima and Nagasaki never had dangerous nucular reactors on the verge of a Chernobyl-style meltdown. They were just bombed with atom bombs, that?s all.

I don?t know why people keep bringing up Hiroshima and Nagasaki whenever something nucular gets mentioned. Atom bombs have nothing to do with nucular stuff.


I watched an interesting documentary about Hans Rosling’s life and work where he said that if you multiplied the huge number of views of that TED talk by the few number of minutes it lasts, then that short video clip in terms of total teaching hours outweighed all the teaching that he had done throughout his entire career, which he believed to be a quite humbling thought.


Re the “There’s no place marked unusable”: White Sands, Semipalatinsk (Kazahkstan test site), some of the Polynesian atolls, regions of Hanford National Labs and various other US and (then) USSR national labs all have hot zones.

Re: the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs vs Spent Fuel Rods. My folks worked for Harold Urey (nobel laureate) in Manhatten, at the Columbia University Chemistry building in 1942. Their hand isolated U235 and the subsequent product of their work, the Hiroshima bomb, was a relatively low yield Atomic bomb (not an H bomb). It’s initial destruction was the plasma generated shock wave, something hasn’t happened and is very unlikely to happen at Fukushima. But it ABSOLUTELY WAS A RADIOLOGICAL KILLER. In addition to the remaining U235, the transmuted decay products included the biologically active radio-isotopes, like the isotopes of Iodine. The Plutonium bomb used at Nagasaki has similar modes of immediate and prolonged destruction, with the added morbidity of Plutonium’s metal toxicity and carcinomics. Thermonuclear weapons have higher energies and make a broader species of decay products, but both the A and H bombs share many commonalities.

When I do the math on the mass of material in just one Spent fuel Rod pool, it’s compelling. It’s reported that the 6 month old rods that have gone dry (according to the USA’s NRC staff on site) weigh 200 tonnes. When they went into the reactor, they were 20% U235, and various bits of lighter materials, like zirconium. They weigh a bit less after being in the reactor, and much of the U235 has transmuted to other highly radioactive elements, including Plutonium, Strontium, Cesium, and Iodine. I recall that rods are generally pulled when they draw down to about 2% U235. So, starting with 200 metric tons of mass, and lowballing all the estimates as follows, it’s a very large body of highly radioactive material. Starting with 200 tonnes, lets say half the mass is Uranium, at 20% U235, I.E.: 100 tonnes . That becomes 2% U235 after running the reactor. 2% of 100 tonnes is 2 tonnes of 100% U235. The average A or H bomb has on the order of 20 Kg of HEU, (90% U235) fissile material.

2 tonnes x 1000 Kg/tonne of 100% U235, divided by 20 Kg per bomb (ignoring the 90% HEU vs 100% U235 from above), gets you the fissile equivalent of 100 bombs just in one pool of spent fuel rods, and this is a low estimate, I think. This measure ignores the more radiologically dangerous fractions. U235 is relatively (!) benign compared to some of the fast decaying isotopes in the spent fuel.

One hopes that no significant mass escapes from these open containers.

The clear fact here is that if the Spent Fuel Rods are dispersed over land, air or sea in any significant quantity, they could carry much larger masses of highly radioactive isotopes than any single nuclear detonation.



Atom bombs have nothing to do with nucular stuff.

It gets brought up because the pro-fission people are trying to sound respectable. They fail, but failing is part of human nature and its the failure modes of fission power that are the issue.

bunch of stuff the heavy metals

And things like depleted Uranium – keep in mind some of that kind of material is being converted from solid masses into a fine mist to drift in the air across the planet, in addition to being a local hazard.

The typical banter from the pro nukers is about how there are layers to the security systems to cover when man and the machines made by man fail. At least in a more open society like Japan AND the Internet there is a shot at the original design documents and ‘odds of the happening’ calculations making it to the rest of us to see exactly how careless (or perhaps careful) the “hey lets build nukes!” people have been.


Re: Re:

Yes – and all this calculation and discussion simply never happens for all the other power sources. The fact is that these figures don’t lie. We hold nuclear power to much higher standards than other sources and consequently get the risk/benefit analysis badly wrong.

The fact is that even the worst imaginable series of accidents with nuclear power would have no detectable global ecological impact (although the local effects might be severe). In contrast the impact of fossil fuals via global warming is serious and affects all life on the planet. The misguided protests of the anti-nuclear lobby are directly responsible for this. Just compute how much less CO2 there would be now if every major developed nation had followed the French model of 75% nuclear generation.
People talk as though nuclear power is somehow unnatural – but there have been, in the past natural nuclear reactors on Earth.



Fukishima will not explode like an atom bomb. It can’t. No nuclear power plant can. You cannot build an atom bomb by accident.

Explosions at nuclear power plants are not nuclear explosions: they are steam explosions (hot pressurized water escaping), or chemical explosions (hydrogen, or back-up diesel fuel).

At Chernobyl, a steam explosion pulverized and launched into the air a significant fraction of the uranium fuel and dangerous reaction products (along with the 20 ton concrete roof), and started a fire which carried off more of it in the ash. This happened approximately 3 seconds after there was any indication that something had gone wrong.

A week in, we are well passed the point where that could happen at Fukishima (if, indeed, it was ever a possibility.) At this point, the goal is to limit the further release of radioactive iodine and cesium, which aren’t exactly safe, but aren’t the worst things sitting in the fuel assemblies. But they are the only thing carried off by the steam: no uranium, no plutonium. And they are only exposed if the fuel rods are compromised (some of which have, but most of which haven’t.)

Also, the uranium in a nuclear reactor is typically closer to 3 to 4% U-235 (not 20%); although you are right that they are removed when they get down to about 2%. (Also, to nitpick, the U-235 doesn’t become plutonium: the U-238 does (by capturing a neutron and then beta decay.))


And another thing

The fact is that most power sources have high mortality rates/Twh because they require large structures – digging further into the links I found the following:

“The construction of existing 1970-vintage U.S. nuclear power plants required 40 metric tons (MT) of steel and 190 cubic meters (m3) of concrete per average megawatt of electricity (MW(e)) generating capacity. For comparison, a typical wind energy system operating with 6.5 meters-per-second average wind speed requires construction inputs of 460 MT of steel and 870 m3 of concrete per average MW(e). Coal uses 98 MT of steel and 160 m3 of concrete per average MW(e); & natural-gas combined cycle plants use 3.3 MT steel and 27 m**3 concrete.

(Of course all this ignores the structures that are needed to get at the gas/coal)

Replacing a significant proportion of our energy generation with with would require a significant proportion of worl steel and concrete production!

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