Draft nuclear report

The draft report of the Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review has been released and is available in whole and parts here. I haven’t yet been able to read the documents, but from the summaries appearing in the news they aren’t telling us anything that wasn’t already known. In short that nuclear is more expensive than coal in Australia, and only becomes cost effective if we put a price on carbon emissions. With regards safety, it finds it to be safer than other energy industries, and poses no additional nuclear proliferation risk.

I’ll try to comment when I actually read more of the report.


6 Responses to Draft nuclear report

  1. Sacha says:

    According to Lovelock’s latest book, there are fewer deaths of workers for each unit of energy produced using nuclear, than other major forms of energy production. (don’t have the figures off the top of my head).

  2. Steve says:

    Probably true, if you include the deaths from coal mining in places such as china. Where there are thousands per year. I wouldn’t be quite so sure of the case in Australia where coal mining deaths these days are very rare.

    Its a tricky comparison though. The expected number of deaths from Coal probably has a small variance, where as Nuclear may have a lower expectation, but it is also relevant to consider the much larger variance from a major disaster which is probably much less in coal.

  3. Sacha says:

    Yes – the quote from p 102 of the Revenge of Gaia is:

    A more solid and useful estimate of the comparative safety of the different energy sources comes from the Paul scherrer Institute in Switzerland, in their 2001 report. They examined all of the large-scale energy sources of the world to compare their safety records. They expressed the danger of each in terms of the number of deaths from 1970 to 1990 per terrawatt year (twy) of energy made (a terawatt year is a million million watts of electricity made and used continuously throughout a year). The table shows what they found.

    Fuel Fatalities Who Deaths per twy
    Coal 6400 Workers 342
    Natural gas 1200 Workers and public 85
    Hydro 4000 Public 883
    Nuclear 31 Workers 8

  4. Sacha says:

    An interesting quote from p 101-102 of the same book (sorry for the long quote) is:

    …Respectable media, for example the Times newspaper and the BBC, have more than once stated tat 30,000 and more people have died in Europe and Russia as a result of exposure fo radiation from the Chernobyl accident. I prefer to believe the physicians and radiobiologists of the UN agency the World Health Organisation (WHO). They examined the health of those in the area polluted by the plume from Chernobyl fourteen and nineteen years after the accident, and they were able to find evidence of only forty-give and seventy-five people, respectively, who had died. These were workers, firemen and others who bravely and successfully fought the fire in the burning reactor and carried out the cleanup afterwards.

    So where do these false claims of the huge death toll from Chernobyl come from? They arise mostly from a perverse misinterpretation of the facts of radiobiology.

    Careful and difficult observation and data gathering by epidemiologists has established a direct linear link between the dose of radiation received and death from cancer. Their data comes from the experiences of Japanese people exposed to the radiation from the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, from the use of radiation in medicine for both treatment and diagnosis, and from the life histories of radiologists and workers exposed to radiation during their working lives. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) issued a report in 2000; this summarises the evidence and concludes that the hypothesis of a direct and linear responsebetween radiation and harm done best fits the data. From the conclusions we could reasonably expect that the consequences of exposing the entire population of Europe to ten millisieverts of radiation, about as much as would come from 100 chest X-rays, would be 400,000 deaths.

    Put like this it seems a terrible risk, but it is an amazingly naive way of presenting the facts. What matters is not whether we die but when we die. If the 400,000 were to die the week after the irradiation it would indeed be terrible, but what if instead they lived out their normal lifespans but died a week earlier than expected? The facts of radiation biology are that ten millisieverts of radiation reduces human lifespan by about four days, a much less emotive conclusion. Using the same calculations, the exposure of all those living in Northern Europe to Chernobyl’s radiation on average reduces their lifespan by one to three hours. For comparison, a life-long smoker will lose seven years of life.

    No wonder the media and the anti-nuclear activists prefer to talk of the risk of cancer death. It makes a better story than the loss of a few hours of life expectation. If a lie is defined as a statement that purposefully intends to deceive, the persistent repetition of the huge Chernobyl death toll is a powerful life.

    Chernobyl may well have cost some of those living in the Ukraine and Byelorussia several weeks of their life expectancy. How different it would have been had they lived on the flood plain of a river with a huge dame upstream that burst. Then they would have lost their whole life expectancy; this form of renewable energy can be much more deadly than nuclear.

    (and the next para is my previous comment)

  5. […] It has been pointed out by many people, including on this blog by Sacha (quoting James Lovecock), that nuclear is much safer than pretty much any source of power for electricity. The relevant comparison was that per Terawatt-year of electricity generated there are 342 deaths for coal, 885 deaths for Hydro, 85 deaths from Natural Gas and only 8 for Nuclear. This comparison appears to be using a low figure for the Chernobyl accident as the WHO links around double that number of deaths directly to the Chernobyl accident, but even so that brings the total to 16 per TWy, still well less than the next most safe method, Natural Gas. Hydro rates poorly due to some severe accidents with dams bursting in India that have killed in the thousands each. […]

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