Nuclear Energy Fallacies

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Second in a series of factual booklets describing nuclear power issues for the layman. The author, Dr Colin Keay, is a retired physicist, who advocates a scientific approach to the issues of nuclear power and endorses nuclear energy to save the environment.

Transcript of Nuclear Energy Fallacies

Inside back cover

Inside front cover

THE NUCLEAR FREE ZONE FALLACY Toward the latter part of last century officiallooking signs, like the one depicted on the front cover, sprouted on roadside poles in local government areas all around Australia. Their only real use was as a badge to identify the green political leanings of the governing body that erected them.Scientifically speaking, such notices dont mean a darn thing. The notices are an example of post-modernist relativism, where words and phrases mean what the originators want them to mean. To an ardent greenie, nuclear free means a prohibition of anything involving radioactive materials, even banning the transport of radiopharmaceuticals for use in medical treatment. Less extreme activists take the signs as a ban on nuclear weapons and any other nuclear facility, whether military or civilian. I have some sympathy with a ban on nuclear weapons and only hope that the nuclear nonproliferation treaty succeeds in its intention, although it has been less than one hundred percent effective since it came into force. There is no such thing as a truly nuclear free zone anywhere in the known universe. Even in the near-perfect vacuum of inter-galactic space there are a few lonely atoms in every cubic kilometer. Those lonely atoms share their space with literally billions of neutrinos that are tiny elementary particles produced by nuclear reactions. Did you know that every square centimeter of your body is penetrated every second by 65 billion neutrinos from our Sun alone! Even at midnight they get you because the Earth is almost totally transparent to neutrinos. Atomic nucleii and nuclear radiation are everywhere, which is why the sign shown on the cover of this book is a sick joke. There are more than forty other sick jokes in this book. So dont go away. Read on and discover how much you and your fellow Australians have been shamefully misled over the years.

Nuclear Energy FallaciesHere are the Facts That Refute ThemSecond Edition

Colin Keay, PhD, DSc.

The Enlightenment Press2005


ABOUT THE AUTHORThe author is a retired physicist and astronomer who, as an associate professor at the University of Newcastle for 24 years, taught nuclear and reactor physics to senior classes. These duties induced a deep suspicion of unsubstantiated claims on nuclear matters by persons and organisations promoting anti-nuclear agendas. In the interests of his students he began to identify and correct the disinformation, truth-twisting, false claims and plain lies that flood the media. As a scientist who has investigated phenomena governed by the inviolable laws of nature he finds it very difficult to understand why anti-nuclear activists refuse to believe the hard facts about energy, even when drawn to their attention on many occasions. In the interests of a better future for Australia it is imperative that disinformation and fallacies are dealt with accurately by presenting, as answers to them, the authentic verifiable facts surrounding nuclear electricity generation. He has no past or present connection with the nuclear industry.


Copyright 2005 by Colin S Keay. All rights reserved. First published in Australia by The Enlightenment Press ISBN 0-9578946-5-1 Printed by Longworth & Goodwin Pty Ltd, NSW 2305


ADVANCE AUSTRALIA WHERE ??There are some countries in the world taking sound scientific advice from well-qualified experts. They are fortifying their economies - and giving themselves a future - by building safe, clean, environmentally friendly nuclear power plants. There are other countries where their decision makers have been overwhelmed by unscientific nonsense sheer propaganda - from the self-proclaimed gurus and spin doctors of the green movement whose arguments are so weak they need to resort to lies and gross distortions to get their anti-nuclear message across. Those befuddled countries are sabotaging their own future prosperity. Would you buy a car from a salesman who you caught out lying to you? Aided by incompetent mechanics misrepresenting its condition? And further abetted by a deluge of advertising hype bulging with false claims? Surely you'd have more sense. Think about it. If nuclear electricity generation was as bad as it is made out to be, would the anti-nuclear activists need to resort to telling so many lies and half-truths to make their point? I'm writing this because I care for my five grandchildren and want them to live in a prosperous Australia with abundant energy to maintain a high standard of living and long life. When it comes to energy, the lifeblood of a healthy economy, there is no substitute in sight for non-polluting nuclear power. The sooner all fossil-fuel pollution is halted the better. The truth is that the so-called alternatives can never hope to contribute more than a fraction of the energy needs of a developed nation like Australia. To appreciate this point one must examine some of the widely publicised myths and fallacies about nuclear power, especially the prevalent scaremongering concerning safety issues. So let us start our mythbusting by exploding the many false claims about the effects of the Chernobyl disaster.


THE CHERNOBYL MYTHOLOGY"250,000 people have so far died as a result of the Chernobyl tragedy." As claimed by the Australian Conservation Foundation on page 3 of a colour supplement titled "Australia at the Nuclear Crossroads" in their 1999 February publication "Habitat Australia".This false assertion is quite ridiculous and totally groundless. Similar exaggerations sometimes run to seven or even eight figures, limited only by the imagination of the authors. "Fifteen million may die over the next ten years" a gullible national newspaper (The Australian) blathered on 1994 May 12. Interestingly, Peter Garrett, president of the Australian Conservation Foundation, attributed 30,000 deaths to the Chernobyl disaster in an article he wrote in The Age on 2001 April 29. This is a substantial reduction from the ACF's earlier figure. If they reduce their claim three more times by a similar factor of eight they will at long last get close to the facts. The most up to date and most authoritative estimate comes from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). Following an exhaustive investigation of Chernobyl's casualties, UNSCEAR reported in June 2000 that apart from 1800 cases of thyroid cancer in children exposed at the time of the accident, there is no evidence of increased overall cancer incidence or mortality fourteen years later. Most thyroid cancers are completely curable. It is estimated that about ten children have died from this cause, bringing the total Chernobyl death toll from radiation to around forty. The thyroid cancers could have been avoided had the distribution of protective potassium iodide tablets been undertaken immediately after the accident, instead of almost a day too late. There was, however, an inexcusable loss of life first brought to notice by the Paris-based Institute for Nuclear Protection and Safety. In a review "Chernobyl - 10 Years On" they reported that "The main effect observed was an increase in voluntary abortions in several countries just after the accident." An American nuclear expert, Bertram Wolfe, calculated that in Europe 50,000 needless abortions resulted from fears induced by alarmist pronouncements and scary news reports about the Chernobyl disaster. Doing the sums reveals that his claim represents about one percent of


pregnant women being worried enough to abort during the first two trimesters. This shocking incidence is quite believable considering the totally unjustified alarm whipped up by irresponsible anti-nuclear scare campaigns. So the Chernobyl death toll stands at about 40 caused by radiation; three due to mechanical accidents at the scene; an unknowable number caused by the stresses of relocation of those forcibly (and in hindsight mostly unnecessarily) evacuated from the fallout zones; and the estimated 50,000 needless abortions. Thus the majority of deaths were due to factors only indirectly connected to the disaster. What about the long-term cancers? Studies of the Japanese atomic bomb survivors indicate that the cancers caused by the Chernobyl disaster will be practically impossible to identify amid the normal cancer mortality rate. UNSCEAR's surveys have not so far identified any, as mentioned above. Incidentally, on the very day Chernobyl hit the headlines there was also a report of a dam collapse in Sri Lanka costing over 2,000 lives. And, in 1984, 6,954 died in the Bhopal chemical disaster in India. These cost many more lives than Chernobyl, but Chernobyl still generates horror stories in the media while the other two disasters are virtually forgotten.

ooOoo"Those participating in the Chernobyl clean-up slowly but surely killed themselves." Excerpt from an article "Chemical Food for Thought" by Phillip Adams in The Australian newspaper 2000 April 15.This well-known national commentator claimed that "Almost 15,000 people involved in the Chernobyl clean-up have died from exposure to radiation." and added "As they tackled the shut-down and the clean-up they were slowly but surely killing themselves." It must be said that this was true for the workers who gave their lives in the early hours of the disaster. Those heroes were included among the initial toll of 31 fatalities. However the figure of almost 15,000 works out at close to 1,000 deaths per year for the middleage `rectifiers' (those conscripted into clean-up tasks). This is simply the expected natural death rate for a similar cohort of males


from regions of the old Soviet Union well away from Chernobyl and the fall-out zone. Again we quote the June 2000 UNSCEAR Report: "There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall