Why is it that the corrupt and incompetent mainstream media considers every "release" of "radioactive gas" from a nuclear power plant to be newsworthy? That certainly has an negative effect on public perception of the risks of nuclear power.

Many years ago I subscribed to an excellent newsletter called "Access To Energy" by Petr Beckmann, who was also the author of a great book called "The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear."

I'll never forget an amusing article he wrote, discussing a newspaper article about a "radioactive cloud over Denver" due to a release from a nuclear power plant. He did a quick little analysis, and concluded that the readers of that newspaper article probably got more radiation exposure from the ink on the newspaper while reading the article than they received from the "radioactive cloud"!

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Ha! I posted my note right before seeing yours. Nice to meet another Beckmann fan. I still have that book, and a bunch of mini-books including "The Radiation Bogey", "The Non-Problem of Nuclear Wastes", and "Why 'Soft' Technology Will Not Be America's Energy Salvation." Jack -- I wonder if you have his book. It would be fascinating to hear your take on it.

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First I've heard of Beckmann's book and I thought I had done a pretty thorough search of the literature. Wrong again.

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You answer your own question. Media creates hype for certain classes of people who want to harvest popular stupidity for profit. Get smart.

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Good stuff. Reminds me of a brilliant book I read... good lord... 41 years ago: Petr Beckmann's The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear.

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We must figure out a way to take actions in daily life to eviscerate the thieves.

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Great minds think alike! Yes, I remember those pamphlets. He was quite a character. He was a staunch anti-communist who had fled Hungary (IIRC) for the US. In the days well before the world wide web, he had his own printing press in his basement, where he literally did his own publishing the old-fashioned way!

His book on nuclear power was also published by a commercial publisher though. I still have a copy, and I see you can still get it on Amazon. This book woke me up to the absurdity of the anti-nuclear movement some 40 years ago, and it is still well worth reading.

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The red cover version on Amazon is exactly the one I have.

In the early 1980s in England, it was hard to find other people favoring nuclear power. Even before Beckmann, I think, I read Bernard Cohen and became a supporter. I might have been the only person at the time who marched against nuclear weapons (I was a teenager) but for nuclear power. Everyone around me didn't understand that.

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My parents generation in England were very pro nuclear. They were the generation that fought WW2 and wanted a better more prosperous world in the 1950s and 60s. My father from a working class coal mining family in South Wales saw it as a way to escape the horror of coal mining. My mother from a middle class family in England saw it as a conduit to freeing women from the drudgery of housework with mass electricity replacing “women’s work”. The peace movement confusing nuclear power and nuclear weapons wrecked things in the 1970s.

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Mar 26, 2023·edited Mar 26, 2023

Not just the peace movement, but also clowns like Paul Ehrlich:

"Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun."

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As you point out, very few have died due to nuclear accidents so obviously this leads to very favorable comparison. But people don't really make that comparison. As we try to understand why people are hesitant in taking on nuclear assets, we should not necessarily assume they are unscientific or illogical. 2 considerations:

1. maybe people consider dislocation of people or serious interruptions to life as equivalent to lives lost. I think I would. The impact of a nuclear catastrophes is less about lives and more about the financial losses associated with land loss, land rehab, dislocation, cleanup, loss of assets.

2. The consequences of nuclear accidents are locally concentrated around the power plant, but your metrics are globally diluted. The people who live there get hit in very real and practical ways when an accident occurs. On the other hand for fossil emissions, the consequences are pretty globally diluted. Comparisons made on a globally diluted basis by a top down master planner are not likely to explain the real decisions made by locally affected people. A master planner would assume that nuclear will save lives overall, but is willing to put some portions of them at higher risk.

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You have a point, but the problem is that the local effects of nuclear accidents are grossly exaggerated by the media and, as Jack has been highlighting, by regulatory authorities as well. Take Fukushima, for example. My understanding is that the authorities are requiring a cleanup that would make the residual radiation level significantly lower than the natural background radiation level in many locations around the world where people live with little or no concern about natural radiation.

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All the evacuations at Fukushima were unnecessary, and in the case of the frail, elderly murderously so. If there had been no evacuations, few members of the public would ahve received more than 1 mSv/day peak and some 1600 lives would ahve been saved,

and some 100,000 less lives sadly disrupted. Evan EPA now counsels shelter-in-place rather than evacuation.

At Chernobyl, it probably made sense to evacuate teh 45,000 non-workers from Pripyat for a month or so. (Most of the plant workers never left. ) All the other evacuations were tragically unnecessary. The 1990 evacuations were completely senseless as is making the Exclusion Zone off-limits when teh dose rates almost everywhere in the zone are below average planet wide and have been for avery long time.

This subject is discussed in some detail in the Flop book. Since harm falls off at better than teh 4th power of the distance fromt he source, as long as the plant has a reasonable buffer zone, evacuation will almost never be necessary in a release.

I cant get upset if somebody voluntarily decides to leave in the early stages of a release until they see how bad it is but in almost every release they would be silly not to return as soon as the release stops.

I used to live inthe Florida Keys. One fall we had 4 evacuations. Just a big pain in the rear, nothing more.

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It is FAR easier to frighten people than to reassure them.

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Just don't fish and dig trenches in the red forest 6 miles 10 kilometers from Chernobyl?


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Radiation harm is all about the numbers. Whenever I see an article like this, the first question is always what were the dose rate profiles? No numbers. then there is no way to evaluate the claim.

AFAIK, the hot spots in the Red Forest are around 30 uSv/h, about the same as Guarapari Beach where people bury themselves in the radioactive sand. If the Russians were exposed to 30 uSv/h for 5 weeks, the total dose over that period would be about 25 mSv. We do not see radiation sickness below an acute dose of about 1000 mSv.

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Thanks, Jack.Another great one.

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The problem I have with this is the difficulty presenting it in a way that the general public will assimilate and respond to. The simple fact is that on many matters of meaning both knowledge and understanding are needed. Knowledge may be supplied copiously but understanding is in extremely limited supply.

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Yes, and one of these days soon we may have to rename "common sense" to "uncommon sense".

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Once again the darn choir is not listening. Are you guys all trying to make eye contact with the soprano section?

Disagree. People on the whole are sensible. They can evaluate risk. The problem in this case is the nuclear establishment keeps screaming low dose rate radiation is horribly dangerous in part to keep extracting clean up money from the taxpayer, in part to justify a strangling regualtory apparat. But in the next breath they say "don't worry about it, we will prevent releases". The public is not stupid. They know the second part is a lie, and they figure the first claim must be true because why else would you tell the second lie.

One more time: the problem is not the public. It is the rotten, lying nuclear power establishment.

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Jack, I don't doubt for a minute that the nuclear regulatory establishment is rotten and way too restrictive -- and I certainly appreciate your highlighting of that fact. But I do wonder how you think that rotten establishment can be reformed. Someone needs to educate the general public and our political "leaders" about the need for reform so they will apply some pressure to get it done. How else will it get done?

Also, I am not sure you (or anyone for that matter) really understand the level of public ignorance about the safety of nuclear power. The media coverage of the Fukushima disaster, for example, was so distorted that if you ask people outside of Japan about it, I'll bet you'd be shocked how many of them believe it was the nuclear plant that killed 20,000 people. In other words, the media coverage of the nuclear plants was so hyped that many people outside of Japan have forgotten that it was an earthquake and tsunami that killed over 20,000 people!

And I'll also bet that most of the people who do remember the earthquake and tsunami still think that the nuclear plants killed hundreds or thousands of people. It would be an interesting poll question.

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I'm fed up with your elitist smears about 'public ignorance". These people have been lied to for 60 years, yet they are teh ones that are holding nuclear back. Talk about turning the victim into the criminal.

It turns out the ignorant public are not so ignorant. Hanford welcomed ThorCon. Wyoming welcomed TerraPower. Utah welcomed Nuscale. Despite the establishments best efforts and your gratuitous insults, the public as a whole is leaning toward nuclear. The problem lies elsewhere.

Anymore cheap shots about public ignorance, and you are out of here.

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Whoa! I certainly wasn't expecting that response!

There's a problem with your historical evaluation, Jack. You may not have been around when the anti-nuclear "movement" started way back in the 1970s, but I was, and I remember it.

The Three Mile Island incident happened in 1979, before I knew anything about nuclear power, and I remember the fears of tens of thousands of dead bodies littering the streets. We can laugh about it now, but back then it was very real.

It wasn't until I read Beckmann's now-classic book that I realized how manufactured and deceptive those fears were. And I am fairly sure this movement was not an inevitable result of overly cautious regulatory authorities. It was a result of anti-capitalist and anti-growth political forces exploiting public ignorance, plain and simple.

And when I say "public ignorance", I don't mean public stupidity or lack of intelligence, though those certainly played a role as well. By "ignorance," I am referring simply to lack of awareness of key facts -- my own state of awareness before I read Beckmann's book, which was an epiphany for me.

More to follow -- unless you decide to censor me, of course.

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I was quite stunned to be accused of being an "elitist." In reality, I have been a strong supporter of nuclear power for over 40 years because I believe it is critical for the quality of life on the planet -- for all *but* the wealthy elite!

As noted earlier, I put together a set of slides on this topic nearly 10 years ago at http://RussP.us/energy. At a high level, these slides basically say almost everything that Jack has been saying. They even point to the need for reformed nuclear regulations, albeit less forcefully and in far less detail than Jack has done.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I really appreciate Jack's technical knowledge, and I appreciate his efforts to educate the general public about the excessively cautious nuclear regulations that are strangling the industry. I hope he continues to fill in the details on that front.

However, I think he is misinformed about the political forces that are driving the public opposition to nuclear power. I'll be the first to admit that I know nothing about the political forces within or directly influencing the NRC, and I am open to learning more about that. However, I know for fact that anti-capitalist and anti-growth geopolitical forces are profoundly influencing our entire political system -- and that includes the current hyping of a supposed "climate emergency" and the resulting the war on fossil fuels that is threatening to impoverish the world. I can guarantee that Putin and Xi absolutely *love* the climate alarmists, who are handing them all the power they could ever dream of! And the fact that many if not most of the people who have bought into this "emergency" still do not support nuclear power should tell you all you need to know.

I understand why Jack does not want politics on his forum. Politics can obviously be divisive. However, if he honestly believes that the obstacles to further development of nuclear power can be overcome without ultimately addressing politics, then I think he is politically naive.

This should be my last post on this forum unless someone replies and I need to reply back.

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Gentlemen, this is not an either-or choice. We need both Jack's hard-hitting, well-informed expertise AND an assault on the ignorance in the media. There is no shame in ignorance. In spite of my PhD in physics and two years in fusion, I did not know a) Why there was a danger of meltdown at Three Mile Island. I thought maybe they needed a quicker shutdown mechanism. b) The existence of fission reactors that make meltdown impossible. c) What is the role of slow neutrons in avoiding a nuclear detonation if someone pulls the rods by mistake. d) Why is the lack of storage a show-stopper for wind and solar.

We need to work together on this. I will continue to apply my limited expertise to making an alternative to Wikipedia for journalists and other intelligent and open-minded, but ignorant people who might help us get the USA back in the game, AND I will rely on Jack and other experts to provide counter arguments to the anti-nuke "peer-reviewed" falsehoods that appear in our Debate Guide pages.


By the way, Jack or anyone in this forum, we still don't have a good response to this piece of sh*t:


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Every man is ignorant -- just on different subjects. --Will Rodgers

A few days ago, Jack explained that no evacuation was necessary at all at Fukushima. I'll bet the vast majority of people would be very surprised to hear that.

Based on comments that I read online years ago, most people thought that the evacuation was not only necessary but also that a huge "exclusion zone" for miles around the plant had to be enforced essentially permanently. I'll bet many people still think that.

Many people also believed that radioactive material that leaked or was released into the ocean was "absolutely frying" the west coast of the US, as one article put it. People who believed that -- or even took it seriously -- are truly clueless about the size of the Pacific Ocean and the natural level of radioactivity in it.

This is a classic example of what I called "public ignorance." And it is this ignorance that resulted in perfectly good nuclear power plants being shut down all over the world, particularly in Japan and Germany.

What is the main cause of the widespread public ignorance about nuclear power? Certainly part of it is due to the ridiculous over-reaction by the regulatory authorities, who failed to ease up on the draconian restrictions around Fukushima even after the radiation levels dropped below natural levels in much of the world.

As I mentioned earlier, however, the widespread irrational fear of nuclear power started way back in the 1970s around the time of the Three Mile Island incident. Huge crowds were marching in the streets to protest nuclear power -- and that is what basically stopped the further development of nuclear power in its tracks.

This was at the time when nuclear power was still economical -- before the regulatory authorities and the frivolous lawsuits by leftist environmental organizations drove construction costs and times through the roof.

It seems fairly clear to me that there was, and still is, a huge politically motivated disinformation campaign to discredit nuclear power. As always, identifying the problem is the first step toward solving it.

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I was unaware that Prof. Kerry Emanuel has written an article that also makes the case that nuclear power is too safe. In many respects, his piece is better than mine. You can download it from


Dr. Emanuel and I differ on teh wisdom of deep geologic disposal and the role of intermittents, but I think we both agree that without economic nuclear the Gordian Knot does not get solved.

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Put it in my backyard. If my grandchildren decide not to use it, it can sit there forever.


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Interesting, I teach a master's degree environmental economics course and I just covered the equimarginal principle, which you just used. Maybe I'll toss it in as an example.

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"radioactive cloud over Denver". I think you're referring to the Rocky Flats fire of 1957 that blanketed several square miles with radioactive ash. Today houses have been built where much of that fallout occurred and people are afraid/reluctant to live in that area. Of course they're almost certainly getting more radiation exposure from the granite in the soil, and I'm quite sure that no deaths outside the lab have been linked to the fallout, but the carelessness of the management at Rocky Flats are very much responsible for future deaths from fossil fuels due to their impact on the adoption of nuclear energy.

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The claim that the costs included in that graph are marginal costs and therefore ought to be equal seems very dubious. Many of the interventions listed are nearly completely implemented, and the authors of that study say "Cost-effectiveness ratios should be marginal or “incremental.” Both costs and effectiveness

should be evaluated with respect to a well-defined baseline alternative.", which very much sounds like they're using comparisons of the costs at the intervention's current level and the cost of not implementing it at all. I checked an arbitrary reference where it seemed like this might be the case, Main T (1985). An economic evaluation of child restraints. J Transport Econ di Policy, 19, 23-39. which evaluated effectiveness of water chlorination and filtration, and it was. Furthermore, they restrict their attention to purely monetary costs. A marginal increase in childhood vaccination (in the US, which the study also restricts their attention to), for example, would require things like vaccinating children against their parents' wishes, the cost of which is almost entirely non-monetary.

The claim that all the costs should be equal therefore does not apply to the data in that chart. None of this actually detracts from your main point. It is still true that there should be an upper bound on the costs of the interventions that are implemented. I just wanted to refute this particular claim that that data suggests the money would be better redirected to things like seatbelts and vaccines.

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Jack, I do like your work so please don't take this as criticism. I suggest developing a simple way to bring all the risk stuff down to something easily understood by those who don't have time to get into the details.

Look at it from an individual's point of view - an average person will ask what their own risk is if they live within a certain distance of a nuclear power plant. A satisfactory answer would be something like - there is a 1 in 100 chance of being exposed to a leak in a lifetime and the chance of it causing cancer is tiny (a figure would help). Also, the chance of being forcibly evicted from your house is also small (again a defendable figure would help?).

If we could confidently say something like that, with defendable data, and continue to ram it home, then I think it would allay a lot of people's fears.

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May 28, 2023·edited May 28, 2023Author


Good idea. I'll give it a shot.

For what is is worth, the NRC attempted this in their 2012 SOARCA study. This study has three major problems:

1) They came up with a PRA based probability of a release which was roughly a factor of 1000 below our experience to date. This was done by assuming we know all the event sequences which will lead to a release and can put probabilities of those events. For SOARCA, the analysts focused on a small handful of these sequences.

2) They assumed LNT.

3) They assumed a remarkably effective, costless evacuation. In their base case, 99.5% of the people within 10 miles of the plant are gone in something like 6 hours.

But they did separate the probability of a release from the probability of harm given a release. And the study does make the point that in most releases the amount of material released will be a small fraction of the reactor's inventory due to all mechanisms that capture isotopes inside even a damaged reactor. This was certainly the case at Three Mile Island and would have been the case at Fukushima if the plant had been allowed to vent when it wanted to.


Almost all future releases should be Three Mile Island-like, which means no detectable harm to the public without any evacuations.

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Windscale was a huge radioactivity release due to graphite moderator fire, no evacuation but widespread radioactive Iodine release. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windscale_fire

Kyshtym was a Russian Nuclear Waste facility that allowed the concentration to get too high and went critical and exploded. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyshtym_disaster

Kyshtym, Chernobyl, and Fukushima resulted in widespread relocation of exposed population so those are NOT going to show up in your stats unless you track down relocated persons.

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