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Nuclear Power Risk

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Nuclear power technology produces materials that are active in emitting radiation and are called "radioactive". These materials can come into contact with people principally through small releases during routine plant operation, accidents in nuclear power plants, accidents in transporting radioactive materials, and escape of radioactive wastes from confinement systems. We will discuss these separately, but all of them taken together, with accidents treated probabilistically, will eventually expose the average American to about 0.2% of his exposure from natural radiation.


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Very high radiation doses can destroy body functions and lead to death within 60 days, but such "noticeable" deaths would be expected in only 2% of reactor melt-down accidents; there would be over 100 in 0.2% of meltdowns, and 3500 in 1 out of 100,000 melt-downs. To date, the largest number of noticeable deaths from coal burning was in an air pollution incident where there were 3500 extra deaths in one week. 

 

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Potential problems from accidents in transport of radioactive materials are largely neutralized by elaborate packaging. A great deal of such transport has taken place over the past 50 years and there have been numerous accidents, including fatal ones. However, from all of these accidents combined, there is less than a 1% chance that even a single death will ever result from radiation exposure. Probabilistic risk analyses indicate that we can expect less than one death per century in U.S. from this source.


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US Nuclear Power Policy | Nuclear Energy Policy USA

US Nuclear Power Policy | Nuclear Energy Policy USA | Aspect 2 | Scoop.it
USA government is heavily involved in US nuclear energy through safety and environmental regulations, R&D funding, and setting United States energy goals. In the late 1990s, government policy and funding decisions have encouraged the development of greater civilian nuclear capacity.
Nuclear power as part of the nation's long-term energy strategy continues with the Obama administration.
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In mid-2008, the Department of Energy invited applications for loan guarantees to support the construction of advanced nuclear power plants  and uranium enrichment plants . A further $78.5 billion was offered for renewable energy projects, and $8 billion for 'clean coal'. Loan guarantees are to encourage the commercial use of new or significantly improved energy technologies and "will enable project developers to bridge the financing gap between pilot and demonstration projects to full commercially viable projects that employ new or significantly improved energy technologies. They are a form of support that allows companies to finance debt at reduced rates.

 

Applications were lodged in 2008, with a fee of $200,000 for the first part and $600,000 for the second part. The DOE received 19 initial applications from 17 utilities to support the construction of 14 nuclear power plants involving 21 new reactors of five different designs. The total capacity involved was 28,800 MWe. The total requested came to $122 billion, significantly more than the $18.5 billion offered. The aggregate estimated construction cost involved the 14 projects was $188 billion. The DOE also received two applications for enrichment plants, total $4 billion, against $2 billion initially on offer.

 

As time passes without further loan guarantees being granted, criticism of the program has been that it is too focused on project-based financing instead of the corporate finance that dominates nuclear projects. Also, DOE has faced opposition from other federal agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Labor, and the Federal Financing Bank, which have brought the program for nuclear capacity to an effective standstill. In March 2013 the Government Accountability Office said that three nuclear applications totaling $8.3 billion were still being considered.

 

The amount for enrichment plants was increased to $4 billion early in 2010, evidently to allow for both applicants to receive perhaps $2 billion each. While Areva's technology obviously qualifies, and USEC's as yet doesn’t, Areva is effectively a French government enterprise, so choosing between them would be politically fraught. LES then asked DOE to reopen the solicitation to it "and others", i.e. Global Laser Enrichment, on the basis of fair and open competition. Neither LES nor GLE has yet applied for a loan guarantee, though GLE has said it would do so for its proposed Wilmington plant, and LES is intending to do so for the expansion of its plant in New Mexico over 2014-2017.

 

The Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative  is one of the US government's two major research programs for nuclear energy. The development of new fuel cycle technology has been a goal of DOE since its inception, but funding has grown significantly in recent years, driven by the need to manage high-level waste, avoid the production of separated civilian plutonium, recover the energy value of spent fuel, and develop fuel cycles for next generation nuclear plants.

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Nuclear Power Risk

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The principal risks associated with nuclear power arise from health effects of radiation. "This radiation consists of subatomic particles traveling at or near the velocity of light it is 186,000 miles per second. They can penetrate deep inside the human body where they can damage biological cells and thereby initiate a cancer." If they strike sex cells, they can cause genetic diseases in progeny.

 

Deaths from coal burning air pollution are not noticeable, but the same is true for the cancer deaths from reactor accidents. In the worst accident considered, "expected once in 100,000 melt-downs once in 2 billion years of reactor operation, the cancer deaths would be among 10 million people, increasing their cancer risk typically from 20% , the current U.S. average to 20.5%." "This is much less than the geographical variation--- 22% in New England to 17% in the Rocky Mountain states."

 

The effects of routine releases of radioactivity from nuclear plants depend somewhat on how the spent fuel is handled. "A typical estimate is that they may reduce our life expectancy by 15 minutes."

 

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Nuclear Power and Nuclear Energy Dangers

Greenpeace fights against new nuclear power plants
Austin Freeman's insight:

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Greenpeace has been telling everyone about nuclear dangers for nearly forty years, beginning on September 15, 1971, when the Greenpeace founders protested U.S. nuclear testing. Since then they have campaigned against both nuclear weapons and nuclear power by bearing witness in test zones, supplying scientific research and by conducting direct non-violent actions to call attention to the problem. 

 

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The Department of Energy compared nuclear construction cost estimates to the actual final costs for 75 reactors. The original cost estimate was $45 billion. The actual cost was $145 billion! Forbes magazine recognized that this "failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster of monumental scale.

 

 

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Dirty, Dangerous and Expensive: The Truth About Nuclear Power | PSR

Dirty, Dangerous and Expensive: The Truth About Nuclear Power | PSR | Aspect 2 | Scoop.it
The nuclear industry seeks to revitalize itself by manipulating the public’s concerns about global warming and energy insecurity to promote nuclear power as a clean and safe way to curb emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce dependence on foreign energy resources.
Austin Freeman's insight:

The nuclear powerplant industry seeks to revitalize itself by manipulating the public’s concerns about global warming and energy insecurity to promote nuclear power as a clean and safe way to curb emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce dependence on foreign energy resources. 


When the very serious risk of accidents, proliferation, terrorism and nuclear war are considered, it is clear that investment in nuclear power as a climate change solution is not only misguided, but also highly dangerous.  As we look for solutions to the dual threats of global warming and energy insecurity, we should focus our efforts on improving energy conservation and efficiency and expanding the use of safe, clean renewable forms of energy to build a new energy future for the nation.


Assertions that nuclear power can lead us to energy independence are incorrect.  In 2007, more than 90 percent of the uranium used in U.S. nuclear power reactors was imported. The U.S. only has the ninth largest reasonably assured uranium resources in the world. Most of it is low to medium grade, which is not only more polluting but also less economical than uranium found in other nations.  The U.S.’s high-priced uranium resources and world uranium price volatility mean that current dependence on foreign sources of uranium is not likely to change significantly in the future.

 

In 1979, the United States had its own disaster following an accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Reactor in Pennsylvania.  Although there were no immediate deaths, the incident had serious health consequences for the surrounding area.  A 1997 study found that those people living downwind of the reactor at the time of the event were two to ten times more likely to contract lung cancer or leukemia than those living upwind of the radioactive fallout. 

  


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Nuclear Power and Nuclear Energy Dangers

Greenpeace fights against new nuclear power plants
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In a power plant if  a meltdown were to occur, the accident could kill and injure tens of thousands of people, leaving large regions uninhabitable.  More than 50 years after splitting the first atom, science has yet to devise a method for adequately handling long lived radioactive wastes.

 

Nuclear is  extremely dangerous, the continued greenwashing of nuclear power from industry-backed lobbyists diverts investments away from clean, renewable sources of energy. Also to nuclear power, renewable energy is both clean and safe. Technically accessible renewable energy sources are capable of producing six times more energy than current global demand.

 

In order to save the future of our planet, we must fight the expansion of nuclear power and push for clean, renewable sources of energy. Over the next three years Greenpeace will continue to advocate for the permanent closure of the old, leaky Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in 2012.

 

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