Fear of radiation/Debate Guide
Nuclear power is a controversial topic, and some of the controversies remain unsettled, even after the facts in the article are agreed on. This Debate Guide will provide a concise summary from each side of these unsettled issues. Much of this discussion is collected from Internet forums and other unreliable sources. We welcome updates with better sourcing.
There is endless debate in social media over whether the Linear No Threshold (LNT) model should be used for assessing public health risks from low levels of radiation. Fig.A is the data of Fig.1 from a 52 year study of Japanese bomb survivors, with added columns for a linear fit and for the predicted excess tumors.
Fig.B is the data re-plotted on a linear scale.
The LNT model is a good fit for exposures above 200mSv, ignoring the highest point, where we might expect some kind of saturation. (A better fit would have the threshold at 100 mSv, not zero.)
The controversy is over exposures less than 200 mSv. If your exposure is 100 mSv, LNT predicts your chances of getting cancer are 0.75% higher than the normal 21%. The data from this study shows -0.07% (less cancer, not more).
Mainstream media on radiation danger
Fukushima water release could change human DNA
Amy Woodyatt and Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN.com, October 24, 2020.
"Contaminated water that could soon be released into the sea from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant contains radioactive carbon with the potential to damage human DNA"
"1.23 million metric tons of water stored at the plant"
"serious long-term consequences for communities and the environment"
"storage space is running out, and the government is still deciding what to do with the water."
"in addition to radioactive isotope tritium, contains radioactive isotope carbon-14, which is “major contributor to collective human radiation dose and has the potential to damage human DNA."
Germany is closing all its nuclear power plants. Now it must find a place to bury the deadly waste for 1 million years Sheena McKenzie, CNN.com, November 30, 2019.
"CNN — When it comes to the big questions plaguing the world’s scientists, they don’t get much larger than this. Where do you safely bury more than 28,000 cubic meters – roughly six Big Ben clock towers – of deadly radioactive waste for the next million years? This is the “wicked problem” facing Germany as it closes all of its nuclear power plants in the coming years, "
"The technological challenges – of transporting the lethal waste, finding a material to encase it, and even communicating its existence to future humans – are huge.
But the most pressing challenge today might simply be finding a community willing to have a nuclear dumping ground in their backyard."
"high-level radioactive waste is the most lethal of its kind. It includes the spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants. “If you opened up a canister with those fuel rods in it, you would more or less instantly die,” said Schreurs."
"These rods are “so incredibly hot, it’s very hard to transport them safely,” said Schreurs. So for now they’re being stored in containers where they can first cool down over several decades, she added."
"Communications experts are already working on how to tell future generations thousands of years from now – when language will be completely different – not to disturb the site."
Greenpeace, CNN, The Hill miss context on radiocarbon release, Nick Touran, Ph.D., P.E., WhatIsNuclear.com, October 25, 2020.
"a grand total of 0.4 grams of C14 in all the tanks combined." (63.6 giga-Becquerels (GBq) of radioactivity). Giga sounds really huge, but compare this to the 85 million GBq from Chernobyl, or the 15 million million GBq already in the ocean, mostly from natural Potassium-40. See this chart from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for the sources of ocean radioactivity.
What's wrong with being cautious? Dr. Theodore Rockwell, Nuclear News, June 1997.
"The cost of trying to reduce harmless radiation exposures ... is exorbitant"
"Some years ago ... a forklift at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory ... moved a small spent fuel cask from the storage pool to the hot cell. The cask had not been properly drained prior to its removal from the storage pool area, and so some pool water was dribbled onto the blacktop along the way. Despite the fact that a couple of characters had taken a midnight swim in such a pool in the days when I used to visit there and were none the worse for it, storage pool water is defined as a hazardous contaminant. It was deemed necessary, therefore, to dig up the entire path of the forklift, creating a trench two feet wide by a halfmile long that was dubbed Toomer's Creek, after the unfortunate worker whose job it was to ensure that the cask was fully drained. The ... Paving Company was hired to repave the entire road. ... used slag from the local phosphate plants as aggregate in their blacktop, which had proved to be highly satisfactory in many of the roads in the Pocatello, Idaho, area that were paved with this mix. After the job at INEL was complete, it was learned that the aggregate was naturally high in thorium and was actually more radioactive than the material that had been dug up, marked with the dreaded radiation symbol, and hauled away for expensive, long-term burial."
OK, then what about the tritium:
Trivial Tritium Jack Devanney, Substack.com, 13 February 2023.
"Perhaps the most extreme example of the unnecessary problems ... is hydrogen-3 or tritium. It is hard to imagine a less dangerous radioactive isotope than tritium. Tritium has half-life of 12.3 years and emits an extremely weak electron, so weak it is stopped by a half-inch of air. Tritium radiation is so weak it cannot be measured by a normal Geiger counter. The electron is too weak to make it through the wall of the thinnest gas tight detector tube. A tritium electron cannot penetrate the dead outer layer of your skin."