The Truth About Nuclear Power – Too Dangerous to Tell

Michael Collins

A poster at The Agonist, Joaquin, published an elegant and important analysis this weekend. His tightly packed, brief post made three key points. We’re headed for an ugly future with nuclear power based on shortages and future fuel cycles more volatile than those imploding and exploding in Japan. Governments, the nuclear industry, and the media are avoiding this issue entirely. As a result, the rulers and technocrats who got us to the latest meltdown cannot be trusted to make any more decisions about energy needs. (Image)

“The truth is, there is a big fat lie that the nuclear power industry and the media are foisting on the public and that has not changed.” Joaquin

“What is it”, the big fat lie, Joaquin asks.

“This lie has to do with the nature of nuclear power in the future. Everyone is asking, can we make nuclear technology, the current, nuclear technology safe? In truth, the current risks with the nuclear fuel cycle i.e., the risks of contaminating the environment, are not the risks of the future because the current nuclear fuel cycle is not the fuel cycle that will be used in the future. There’s just not that much uranium left to fuel an extensive expansion of nuclear power generation.” Joaquin (See Note 1)

By 2015, the supplies of uranium will be in sufficient decline to limit nuclear energy. Or will they?

“This assessment results in the conclusion that in the short term, until about 2015, the long lead times of new and the decommissioning of aging reactors perform the barrier for fast extension, and after about 2020 severe uranium supply shortages become likely which, again will limit the extension of nuclear energy.” Uranium Resources and Nuclear Energy, 2006

The United States and France, heavy nuclear users, will be out of domestic supply and world supply is questionable. It takes semantic tricks by industry representatives to claim otherwise. (See Note 2)

Joaquin offers up the future of nuclear power, the future carefully avoided by governments, the nuclear industry, and the media. Instead of the current generation of plants, the nuclear industry will give us “improved reactors” and fuel cycles that require less uranium. Supplementing that will be imports from the same type of unreliable suppliers that we have for petroleum (e.g., Kazakhstan, the Soviet Union).

“So, where’s all the nuclear fuel going to come from? The answer has to be that the nuclear industry and U.S. government intend to use more exotic fuel cycles in the future power plants including, MOX (currently leaking our of Fukushima1, unit 3), reprocessed Uranium, Thorium, and breeder reactors of various types (See Note)

“The industry and their government and media proxies don’t want to talk about this fact too much because the waste from these future fuel cycles is far more dangerous than most of the stuff slowly making a large part of Japan uninhabitable for the next few dozen millennium. In other words, the discussion in the media about future nuclear safety is completely dishonest.” Joaquin

The “See Note” link provides more details on the dangers and questionable availability of these future nuclear fuel cycles. We’re witnessing a preview of the future with the MOX cycle. Fukushima I, unit 3, began using MOX in September 2010. Here’s a nuclear engineer formerly with Tokyo Power on unit 3:

“Goto said that the MOX also has a lower melting point than the other reactor fuels. The Fukushima facility began using MOX fuel in September 2010, becoming the third plant in Japan to do so, according to MOX supplier AREVA.” D.C. Bureau March 15

Joaquin’s point on the dangers of new fuel cycles is well taken. One of the fuels of the future, MOX, has a low melting point than the other reactors at Fukushima. Maybe that’s why it had an, as of yet, unexplained hydrogen explosion in MOX fueled reactor 3. The others outlined in the note are no more assuring as a future source. Nevertheless, the nuclear industry persists in acting like it has a viable supply to meet it’s demands and promises.

“We are supposed to believe that this hydrogen explosion (first image above) at unit 3, March 14, is no biggie; of course it isn’t; it’s just a direct hit. WTF, there is a huge amount of concrete flying hundreds of meters in the air not a tin roof; the nature of the damage done by this explosion has proven to be the subject of one lie after another.” Joaquin

The dangers of unit 3 are clear:

“The No. 3 reactor is a particular concern because it is the only one of six at the plant to use a potentially volatile mix of uranium and plutonium.” ABC News, March 26

Joaquin examined a perfect example of media denial in reporting toxic dangers from the disaster.

“The media is confusing everyone about radiation because they refuse or are unable to discern the difference between contamination and direct radiation. That’s because the media are run by people who are either trying to obfuscate what is going on or are just plain idiots; your choice. Look at this picture: compiled from Sources: Tepco (Tokyo Power); International Atomic Energy Agency; Federal Aviation Administration; Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“Never-mind that most of the data is missing in the above picture, which seems to say the plant is safe to walk around in anytime as long as you don’t mind the possibility of a CT-SCAN now and then. Today, several plant employees found out the hard way what a dangerous lie this is.” Joaquin

The picture and timeline from the New York Times, March 25 referenced by Joaquin shows how little the media demands from officials sources. The top official in the Japanese cabinet, Yukio Adono, flat out admitted that there was no monitoring for toxic particles, the real danger for contamination. From the video: “Unfortunately we are not able to measure the radioactive materials [in the atmosphere]…That is something we’re trying to work out.”

“When it comes to radioactive materials in general in the atmosphere, we are now trying to measure it and then we will see how much of the ratio active materials are actually emitted from the nuclear power plant. We are trying to come up with an estimate for that.” Yukio Adono, CNN Video, March 23, Starts at 1:06

Where is the coverage? Where are the questions? Measuring “radioactive materials” in the atmosphere is precisely the type of measurement that goes to health and safety concerns.

The inevitable conclusion about the current stewards of energy policy and information is clear:

“Clearly, given the lies coming out of Japan and the media’s willing participation in them, nuclear energy is too dangerous for the truth and that these institutions are too corrupt to act as responsible stewards of such a dangerous existing technology.” Joaquin

If you think Fukushima is bad, just wait for the bright and shining future offered by those who control the levers of power. They’re just warming up.

Extended quotations provided with the permission of the author. Original article first published in The Agonist.


Also see: Joaquin’s original post Is Nuclear Power too Dangerous toTell the Truth About? and
New Scientist – Fukushima radioactive fallout nears Chernobyl levels by Michael Collins

You may reproduce this article entirely or in part with attribution of authorship to Joaquin and a link to the article.

7 responses to “The Truth About Nuclear Power – Too Dangerous to Tell

  1. Starting at about 31:32 into this video, Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab whistleblower and geoscientist, Leuren Moret, explains how the hydrogen explosion happened.

    First, a little info: She says that once the earthquake hit, the automatic backup cooling system turned on. About an hour later, the tsunami hit and a 30-foot wave covered Fukushima, and apparently knocked out the cooling system. From initial news reports, there was no cooling system working until the next night. She advises that a reactor goes into meltdown 90 minutes after the cooling system stops.

    So, from 90 minutes after the tsunami hit, those reactors were in meltdown until the next night, when they got the battery backup system working.

    So, the problem started when those pumps went on and the cooling water came in contact with those super hot fuel rods. The cooled water reacted with the zircalloy (that the rods are made out of), creating hydrogen and zirconium oxide. Hydrogen rose (being lighter than air) to the top of the reactor, collecting under the roof until it filled the entire containment building. When the hydrogen became dense enough to touch the cooling pools, the explosion happened.

    • Thanks so much. I’m going to look at it now. It’s so important to have this informal sharing network. There are competent, honest people out there who are laying it out for us. I was so impressed with the Austrian institute that monitors the test ban treaty comparing radiation levels to Chernobyl. They didn’t have to do that but they did.

      One piece of good news. Merkel’s Christian Democrats took a real drubbing in a state election in Germany. The German Greens got the top job. But Merkel is smart. She cut off the new construction approvals. Doesn’t matter what her motivation, it’s positive.

  2. Also, I think the REALLY BIG LIE about nuclear power is that it is really used to create fissile material for nuclear weapons, not electricity.

  3. I wish that we were out now. But the industry will spin the shortage as an excuse for ever more complex and dangerous reactors and fuel cycles. Their goal directed behavior is totally mindless and out of hand. But I think Fukushima will finish them off in the USA. No new plants approved since Three Mile Island. Germany stopped issuing permits, or withdrew some already issued. Japan’s done with nuclear as soon as the people get a breather. That kills about 1/2 of the world’s GDP as a market for these guys. They’re done but will do damage on the way out.

  4. Jack and hybridrogue!, here’s a thought. It’s for heuristic purposes only. I’m trying to figure out why the people in charge are “going ahead full speed,” as you said Jack.

    It just occurred to me that a) there may well be knowledge that a lot of this is impractical at the very highest levels and b) the wacky ideas they come up with are a ploy, using trusted (aka owned) academics to prop it up, to keep the viability of the business going. The nuclear industry got a huge bump from Obama’s energy bill, even if it doesn’t pass.

    Pre Fukusima, they’re on a roll, getting loan guarantees from the prez. “Make the sale, we’ll solve any problems at installation.” But they know that they can’t make a sale in the United States, not since Three Mile Island. Now they know that their future fuel cycle is bogus. But they can’t admit that. What would happen to GE shares and the shares of the others, including the French company, Areva.

    Just a thought. I can’t wrap my head around why they would pursue such a stupid policy. Maybe it’s just a prop to keep the shares up while they figure something out. We have reached “peak uranium” and the sellers of the future, Kazakhstan and Russia, are a little too big to invade. The MOX, breeder, reprocessed formulae are going up in smoke in Japan and Thorium is way off. Gee, maybe it’s time to use some safe proven technologies like wind and solar.

  5. There is some serious disinformation in this article. It is entirely wrong to lump the thorium fuel cycle with uranium/plutonium. The thorium cycle is inherently safe as it can be dropped to the floor if anything goes wrong and it can be easily shutdown if desired. Furthermore, you do not have the severe waste problem as the half-life is quite short and the waste can be easily recycled. Finally, thorium is quite abundant throughout the world. To educate yourself on thorium power, you can begin by reading the following article from the Journal of Energy Security:

  6. Jonathan,
    The Thorium fuel cycle does not work they way you think. The idea that a clean closed fuel cycle exists is currently a fantasy. The current Thorium fuel cycle creates even worse waste than the old Uranium cycle. Even the claim that the Thorium fuel cycle does not produce bomb material is false. U233, a byproduct of the Thorium cycle has been used to produce fission weapons. U233 has a half life of 240,000 years.

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