Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three-Mile Island

Implications of Three Major Nuclear Reactor Accidents

This Google knol discusses each of the three major nuclear-reactor accidents, ending up with comparisons of each.

There is no clinical proof that any member of the public has died solely as a result of the Chernobyl or Three-Mile Island accidents. The same can be said of the nuclear-reactor accidents in Japan, so far.

Human beings have done some remarkable things to overcome nature’s adversities and shortcomings. One can’t help but be impressed by a century of human achievements in application of nuclear radioactivity and fission; no other complex technology that has been so successful and reliable. In contrast, hydroelectric dams have breached, mines have caved in, air pollution has increased, bridges have collapsed, world and regional wars have been fought, infectious pandemics have spread, humans have starved, and other calamities have occurred. Yet, nuclear accidents have resulted in comparatively few fatalities.

This knol examines relevant factors of each of the three nuclear-power station accidents.

One must also keep in mind that Japan rebounded from the devastation it suffered as a result of World War II, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

ETHICS IN SCIENCE: The Exaggeration of Radiation Hazards

Radiophobia Aggravated by Misrepresentation of Radiation Effects

Subsequent to the 1986 Chernobyl reactor explosion, a perceptional gap surfaced between the original large casualty predictions, compared to current assessments of minimal radiation-health impact. Unfounded injury predictions have resulted from substandard scientific methodology, misinformed journalism, and indifferent editing.

Excessive psychological trauma and tangible disruption, accompanied by wasted expenditures, could have been minimized if systemic rules of scientific evidence about radiation effects had been practiced in the years following the Chernobyl radiation release. Adding credibility to the hype has been selective use of epidemiological studies on radiation effects, as well as undue emphasis on “consensus.”

As a result, unfounded fear of radiation, adversely impacting public understanding of nuclear phenomena, has reinforced radiophobia. Decision-makers have overreacted without understanding the underlying science and without applying valid scientific methodology.

Chernobyl Nuclear Accident Minimal Radiation Effects

Update 2010 Based on Recent Assessments

Although the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear-reactor accident resulted in destruction of the power plant, its reported medical consequences were vastly and irresponsibly exaggerated. Its long-term effects have not been radiological, but largely financial and unnecessary.

Among the 134 persons with acute radiation disease who received extremely high radiation doses, 31 died soon after the reactor breach — from overwhelming radiation exposure, excessive heat burns, and direct mechanical trauma.

Of 103 highly exposed survivors, 19 died before 2004 from a multitude of causes not exclusively caused by ionizing radiation. Eventually the remaining 84 will die — but not necessarily prematurely nor as an attributable consequence of the incident.

As for latent medical effects in the exposed population of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, there do not appear to be any casualties that can be clinically confirmed: Contrary to hasty estimates and fears based on a premature theories of radiation effects at low radiation doses, the mortality rate among those exposed to radioactive fallout cannot be distinguished statistically from normal morbidity.
Compared with other energy sources, the Chernobyl reactor eruption resulted in far fewer human casualties than other types of industrial disasters.

Radiophobia, exacerbated by and after the accident, vastly and unnecessarily increased subsequent economic losses in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere in Europe.

Moreover, in the aftermath of the Chernobyl tragedy, radiophobia was stoked by arms-control advocates who used public fear of low-level radiation in order to encourage opposition to Cold War nuclear-weapons testing.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROLIFERATION: Outspoken Opponents of Plutonium Demilitarization

Delays and Missteps in Nuclear Demilitarization: Part 4

This Knol deals with obdurate opponents of plutonium demilitarization. That’s not a term I ordinarily use, but what a pair of academic physicists chose to apply to those who didn’t agree with them on viable pathways to nuclear demilitarization.

Because demilitarization of nuclear weapons is an issue coming inexorably to the foreground, several flavors of expertise are needed. Mine comes from hands-on experience in nuclear methodology, reactor experiments, arms-treaty analysis, and verification technology. Moreover, I have analyzed and published extensively on the subject of plutonium demilitarization for over 30 years.

Unfortunately, a stumbling block for plutonium demilitarization includes NGO individuals with whom I collaborated just before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This topical Knol is at odds with the views of some former associates, mostly from America and Western Europe, but notably not at all in disagreement with former Soviet colleagues.

Global Climate Change

Collection of Knols

This collection contains Knols directly and indirectly relevant to those that I have posted regarding global climate change.

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: American Physical Society Change of Heart

Physical Society Backs Down (sort of) on its Climate-Change Policy Statement

After posting a controversial national-policy global-warming statement in 2007, the American Physical Society has had to modify its position — something that took three years to come about, and only now because of membership insurrection.

In part of its concession, the APS downgraded its confidence about ongoing global-warming from “incontrovertible” to merely “compelling.”

In another concession, the organization finally admitted that there was “uncertainty” in predictions about the cause of global-climate change.

It also belatedly acknowledged that some important published trends do not stand by themselves, but are dependent on temperatures and other data referenced (normalized) back to the year 1750.

Regrettably, APS publications have downplayed the April 2010 revisions as though nothing was changed, when actually the Society appended major concessions to their original policy statement.

In any event, nothing in either APS statement helps determine whether humans are responsible for, or have the capability to significantly modify global climate trends.

NUCLEAR EXPERTISE: The Amory Lovins Charade

Applying Smell and Ripeness Tests to (30-year-old) Predictions

Regarding nuclear power and weapons proliferation, conflictive views are often invigorated by individuals whose influence far exceeds their relevant expertise or who display a palpable bias. Amory Lovins, a long-time anti-nuclear gadfly, has exhibited both pretentious expertise and publicized prejudgement. This Knol applies qualitative tests to Lovins’ 1980 predictions about (1) nuclear-power’s demise, (2) weapons-proliferation propensity, and (3) plutonium-demilitarization utility. NONE of his predictions have come to pass. His most egregious flaw is total lack of statistical context; his papers fail scientific-publication standards. Lovins has been so indifferent to scientific methodology that he should not be accorded credibility. While still adamant about nuclear power’s demise and proliferation risk, he now concedes that commercial reactors effectively demilitarize weapons materials. Constructive vigilance needs to be maintained so that (nuclear) policy is not misdirected.

Nuclear Scoreboard

(19 December 2009; updated 21 February 2010)

In order to encourage and contribute to a broader assessment of various historical factors that have affected the development of nuclear power and the attainment of nuclear-weapons stability, I have compiled a “Nuclear Scoreboard.” It gives qualitative comments about progress or lack of progress divided into two areas: civilian (nuclear) industry and national (nuclear) security.

It amounts to a solitary “expert” assessment (see my profile, Alexander DeVolpi). I will attempt to adjust it on the basis of comments received. For more details about the basis for this scoreboard, please see my Knol “A CENTURY OF PROGRESS in Nuclear Understanding and Information (The Role of Skeptics, Cynics, Misinformants, and Charlatans.)