Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby Dream » Sat Jun 25, 2011 4:14 pm UTC

Minerva wrote:
Dream wrote:Cancer is a prevalent enough cause of death that even a miniscule shift in death rates, far below the error bars for any study, could cause dozens upon dozens of deaths over the years. And it would never be detectable, statistically or medically.


If that's the way you want to think about it, then you're operating outside the domain of science, aren't you? You can't claim to be able to get at any truth one way or another that way.

No, I'm well within the domain of science. I was calling into question your argument that lack of evidence of deaths caused by nuclear energy can be taken to mean anything at all. I didn't claim to know any truths, but you claimed, tacitly, that not having evidence of deaths supported your contention that nuclear is safe. That's neither sound rhetoric nor good science.
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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby thc » Sat Jun 25, 2011 6:13 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
johnny_7713 wrote:Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the point with peak radiation is that the isotopes in radioactive waste don't immediately decay to a stable isotope. Instead there is a chain of decay products, some of which have a (much) shorter half-life than the original isotopes. I haven't worked it out, but I wouldn't be surprised if the right combination of isotopes could result in the radiation emission at a certain point in the future being higher than it is now.

I think it's theoretically possible for some specific decay chain to have a peak in the far future, but that doesn't apply to spent fuel waste. Here's simple picture, note that it is log-log. Different fuel mixes will have slightly different curves. Actinides are the heavy elements (including uranium), mostly formed here when uranium absorbs neutrons. The fission products are a complicated mix of the lighter elements that are formed when heavy nuclei are split.
Image
If I understand THC correctly, the peak he refers to is the result of a posited higher leak rate from the depository in the future. So the decreasing radioactivity combined with increasing leaks (or higher odds of leaks) lead to a peak in the radioactivity leaked outside at some point in the future. This will especially happen if you use conservative calculations, since the uncertainties involved also grow with time.

If you look at the graph, you'll see that the order of 10,000 years is a likely time for such a peak: radioactivity decreases much less fast after 500 to 1,000 years, while all potential failure modes of the depository keep working of course.
From what I've read, the peak dose occurs not just because of containment failure, but because of radioactive isotopes dissolving into dripping water, and flowing down into the water table where it accumulates. So it's more of an integral thing rather than a rate thing, and it heavily depends on how fast containment fails and how fast water migrates through the mountain, both of which aren't known to a high degree of accuracy. The peak occurs anywhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000 years from now. Here's a good, but old article on it (although being old, the specific numbers aren't correct).

achan wrote:Somewhat. My claim is that from looking at the dangers alone, cars are more dangerous. So, what I am really saying that one should not simply look at whether something causes death or not when you are looking at whether to use it, but instead look at whether the danger out weights the benefits.
As I've tried to say, this argument is not correct (or at least, not known to be correct). Driving a car for a year kills (X people per year) * (1 year). Using nuclear power for a year kills (Y people per year) * (a million years). The specific rate of X and Y are not important. Intergenerational discounting is zero.

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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby achan1058 » Sat Jun 25, 2011 8:05 pm UTC

thc wrote:
achan wrote:Somewhat. My claim is that from looking at the dangers alone, cars are more dangerous. So, what I am really saying that one should not simply look at whether something causes death or not when you are looking at whether to use it, but instead look at whether the danger out weights the benefits.
As I've tried to say, this argument is not correct (or at least, not known to be correct). Driving a car for a year kills (X people per year) * (1 year). Using nuclear power for a year kills (Y people per year) * (a million years). The specific rate of X and Y are not important. Intergenerational discounting is zero.
Please read my post previous to this. I have no intention of continuing to argue with my when you continue to ignore the point that the benefit far out weight the potential risks, when we routinely use something that is a lot more dangerous everyday.

And please clearly explain "Intergenerational discounting is zero.". If you meant to say the deaths in the future weights a much as deaths today, well, you will need to convince me of 2 things. 1) That cars or equivalently dangerous transports will disappear within a reasonable time frame. 2) Humanity doesn't make itself extinct.

Beside all this, you still have not proposed anything that allows one to reasonably replace coal (aside from an unrealistic fantasy world), which if nothing more, also gives butt loads of radiation...... (Yes, you read it right, coal plants gives more radiation than nuclear plants, and you can't bury these underground. Granted though, neither of which compares to a couple of doses of X-ray you get in your dental office.)
http://www.scientificamerican.com/artic ... lear-waste

I have said it before, and I will say it again, nuclear energy is a necessary evil. I would wish to replace it with something cleaner if possible, and in the future this might be. However, for now, we should get rid of as many coal plants as quickly as possible, and if we need to use nuclear to do it, so be it. Most importantly, we should not ban nuclear at all, before banning coal completely.

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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby thc » Sun Jun 26, 2011 12:45 am UTC

achan1058 wrote:Please read my post previous to this. I have no intention of continuing to argue with my when you continue to ignore the point that the benefit far out weight the potential risks,

I feel that you are you putting the horse before the carriage. You take as a given that the benefits outweigh the risks. If I thought that the benefits clearly outweighed the risks, I wouldn't be arguing with you. I clearly do not agree with this "point" of yours, it is not that I am ignoring it.

As far as cars killing more people than nuclear power; cars kill more people than burning coal does too... and? Regardless, I have not argued that fossil fuels are better than nuclear. Rather I have contended that it is a false dilemma and that it is a fix of the symptoms rather than a cure.

Beside all this, you still have not proposed anything that allows one to reasonably replace coal (aside from an unrealistic fantasy world),

Reducing consumption is not a fantasy. The average per capita footprint in the U.S. is nearly double that of other industrial nations, which are themselves fairly high. We can each individually do far better by making correct personal choices, and we can do better as a society by setting correct policy so that actions accurately reflect true cost.

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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby achan1058 » Sun Jun 26, 2011 2:07 am UTC

thc wrote:
Beside all this, you still have not proposed anything that allows one to reasonably replace coal (aside from an unrealistic fantasy world),

Reducing consumption is not a fantasy. The average per capita footprint in the U.S. is nearly double that of other industrial nations, which are themselves fairly high. We can each individually do far better by making correct personal choices, and we can do better as a society by setting correct policy so that actions accurately reflect true cost.
If it can be done so, I am asking you to do it. Until you can somehow force such a change globally, it is fantasy. It may be theoretically possible, but any change you seek enough to completely retire the use of both coal and nuclear is as realistic as implementing the 1 child policy world wide. Simple as that. And don't forget about China or India or other rising nations too. Don't argue with me here, but somehow force this change of yours world wide. I am young enough to see whether this actually happens in the next 30 years.

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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby Minerva » Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:15 am UTC

Dream wrote:
Minerva wrote:
Dream wrote:Cancer is a prevalent enough cause of death that even a miniscule shift in death rates, far below the error bars for any study, could cause dozens upon dozens of deaths over the years. And it would never be detectable, statistically or medically.


If that's the way you want to think about it, then you're operating outside the domain of science, aren't you? You can't claim to be able to get at any truth one way or another that way.

No, I'm well within the domain of science. I was calling into question your argument that lack of evidence of deaths caused by nuclear energy can be taken to mean anything at all. I didn't claim to know any truths, but you claimed, tacitly, that not having evidence of deaths supported your contention that nuclear is safe. That's neither sound rhetoric nor good science.


If you say there are deaths, but good science and good epidemiology can not actually demonstrate that those deaths actually exist, then that's hardly any different to saying that homeopathy really works but science cannot demonstrate that it works.
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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby Dream » Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:25 am UTC

Minerva wrote:If you say there are deaths, but good science and good epidemiology can not actually demonstrate that those deaths actually exist, then that's hardly any different to saying that homeopathy really works but science cannot demonstrate that it works.

You're likening the release into the environment of known carcinogens to homeopathy?

You're really not making any scientific sense here. If your scientific investigations don't prove anything, then they are inconclusive, not proof of a negative. The hypothesis is that known releases of radioactive material from Windscale may have contributed to rates of leukiemia and other cancers in the area being elevated. That hypothesis is perfectly sensible, since we know the pollutants exist in the environment, and we know they are carcinogenic. If studies into the matter have not yielded enough data to establish a link (or for that matter do not exist), that means that the outcome is not conclusive, not that the link isn't there.

You claim the opposite, that the lack of data proves that no deaths are attributable to the pollution. That's bad science, no two ways about it. But even if you could claim that there was data and it agreed with you, you still couldn't show that the pollution hadn't caused any deaths. You could only show that no deaths over and above expected rates occurred. The pollution could still have killed some not insignificant number of people, either within the error bars of the study, obscured by unrelated drops in death rates from cancers of other causes, or passed on through the food chain to other areas or countries.

So drop the claim that "you can't prove there were deaths" means "no deaths happened". This isn't a court, and you don't get presumed right if no-one can prove you wrong. You have to be internally consistent and logical too, and you aren't that.
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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby aoeu » Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:41 am UTC

thc wrote:Reducing consumption is not a fantasy. The average per capita footprint in the U.S. is nearly double that of other industrial nations, which are themselves fairly high. We can each individually do far better by making correct personal choices, and we can do better as a society by setting correct policy so that actions accurately reflect true cost.

How do you compute the footprint? It might be the US exporting a lot of goods that makes up most of the difference, not different consumption habits.

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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby Deep_Thought » Sun Jun 26, 2011 12:42 pm UTC

aoeu wrote:How do you compute the footprint? It might be the US exporting a lot of goods that makes up most of the difference, not different consumption habits.

The main difference in US per capita energy consumption is transport. America is more spread out than Europe, on both a macro- (it's a bigger geographical area) and micro-level (cities tend to be car-based rather than public transport). The main drivers in per-capita energy consumption in developed nations are transport and heating costs, which is why Canada (similar geographical area but much colder) has even higher per-captia energy consumption. The other high per-capita energy consumers tend to be middle-eastern oil exporting nations. Air-con is an absolute bitch in energy terms.

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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby Minerva » Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:40 pm UTC

Dream wrote:You're really not making any scientific sense here. If your scientific investigations don't prove anything, then they are inconclusive, not proof of a negative. The hypothesis is that known releases of radioactive material from Windscale may have contributed to rates of leukiemia and other cancers in the area being elevated. That hypothesis is perfectly sensible, since we know the pollutants exist in the environment, and we know they are carcinogenic. If studies into the matter have not yielded enough data to establish a link (or for that matter do not exist), that means that the outcome is not conclusive, not that the link isn't there.

You claim the opposite, that the lack of data proves that no deaths are attributable to the pollution. That's bad science, no two ways about it. But even if you could claim that there was data and it agreed with you, you still couldn't show that the pollution hadn't caused any deaths. You could only show that no deaths over and above expected rates occurred. The pollution could still have killed some not insignificant number of people, either within the error bars of the study, obscured by unrelated drops in death rates from cancers of other causes, or passed on through the food chain to other areas or countries.

So drop the claim that "you can't prove there were deaths" means "no deaths happened". This isn't a court, and you don't get presumed right if no-one can prove you wrong. You have to be internally consistent and logical too, and you aren't that.


You are of course correct that scientific method cannot "prove a negative". Of course, the fact that the scientific method cannot "prove a negative" is always seized upon by proponents of anti-technology pseudoscientific crap. For example, you can't prove that cellphones don't cause cancer and kill people, you can't prove that microwave ovens don't hurt people, you can't prove that vaccinations don't cause autism and disease, disability and death in children, you can't prove that fluoridation doesn't hurt people, etc. etc. ..... even if you go looking for positive evidence as best you can and you can never show any meaningful positive evidence of that supposed harm, those mean old scientists still can't prove the negative, while activists with their mommy instincts can still scare people with non-science, non-evidence rhetoric about the positive.

You're likening the release into the environment of known carcinogens to homeopathy?


Ionising radiation is reasonably considered carcinogenic at high acute doses. It is absolutely without any scientific or epidemiological foundation at all to say that ionising radiation is carcinogenic at any arbitarily small amount of dose. There's absolutely no evidence to substantiate such a belief.

And anyway, coal-fired power stations give people in the community higher ionizing radiation dose than nuclear power does. Current anti-nuclear-energy activities in Germany are increasing the ionizing radiation dose that the people are getting. (And then you can factor in the particular matter, sulfur dioxide, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, and all the other stuff in the coal that creates significant public health problems, not just the radioactivity in the coal, as well.) So if you want to absolutely avoid every little nanosievert of radiological dose that you possibly can, you must not endorse closing down nuclear power plants and replacing them with coal.
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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby Dream » Sun Jun 26, 2011 7:14 pm UTC

Put those goalposts back where you found them. This is not about coal. It's not about microwave ovens. Back when there was sufficient potential data to actually study nuclear pollution in significant amounts, nothing was done. You can't claim now, as you did, that that means there was or could be no problem. That's bullshit. Then you suggest that disagreeing with you is tantamount to vaccine scaremongering? Also bullshit. Things like that, and mobile phone panics and the like are all testable in clinical situations, which is why they are well known to be fantastical. Not so radioisotopes in nature.

And your patronising language? You don't know The Truth. You're not any more informed about these things than others are, nor are you in any position to look down on people because they disagree with you. You just make yourself look ignorant and stupid when you talk the way you do.
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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby aoeu » Sun Jun 26, 2011 8:30 pm UTC

Dream wrote:Back when there was sufficient potential data to actually study nuclear pollution in significant amounts, nothing was done.


Of course a lot was done. See http://www.unscear.org/

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Re: Germany to Decommission All Nuclear Power Plants

Postby Dauric » Mon Jun 27, 2011 2:28 pm UTC

Dream wrote:
Dauric wrote:Okay, taking what you've just said, that it's impossible to know the number of people injured or killed by radiation leaks: How does that compare to existing power-generation methods? Coal and Natural Gas energy production have been linked to respiratory illnesses and developmental diseases (dozens and dozens of cases that are also fatal) though those have less difficulty to link to their source.

And anyone claiming that coal or other fossils were safe because data doesn't exist about their lethality (as in, direct conclusive studies about particular plants) would be quite rightly laughed at. We know from other sources what damage the pollution caused by them can do to humans, so pretending that being unable to demonstrate the results statistically shows there is no negative effect would be foolish.

The same should hold for nuclear. In particular, the early, unsafe and poorly contained nuclear industry would have provided a very good baseline, had any serious study been done at the time. Windscale in the UK, for instance, is well known to have polluted large areas of coastline, and to have had incredibly lax containment even within on site facilities. It was early days, and the UK was in a great rush to get a bomb, so it was cutting corners. Had we fully studied its effects on its staff and surrounding populations, we might know what to expect from radiation releases like Fukushima. That we don't know because we didn't study is no reason to assume the best. Quite the contrary, we know how damaging much of the material involved can be, so we should never assume that its effects are benign.


But you didn't address my point: Since neither of them are harmless then the question is which one causes less harm? We still need energy to be produced and we don't have the battery/storage technology to make wind and solar feasible in a 24/7 consumption cycle we get to choose between coal, gas and/or nuclear in some combination.

If you want an internet to keep arguing on it has to be powered somehow, and right now solar and wind are not consistent enough to keep your refrigerator running so your food doesn't spoil, much less power luxuries like your computer. They're great for mitigating the amount consumed (mostly in daylight hours for both wind and solar) and I'm all for expansion of wind and solar facilities but for the constant draw it has to come from a generation source that doesn't rely on daily or seasonal cycles. Hydro-electric and geothermal are potential alternate sources of generation as long as you're close enough to the necessary geological features (and your hydroelectric is operating on a water source that has proven to be relatively impervious to drought (protip: none are). Hydroelectric also has a host of other issues with ecological problems since you have to dam a river and create an artificial lake.

The effects of nuclear waste are not benign true, but neither are the effects of waste from gas or coal plants. Just because we're more comfortable with oil and/or gas because of our long history with them doesn't mean that they are objectively less of a risk then Nuclear. At the moment you're arguing that we don't have enough data to know exactly how dangerous Nuclear is, fine then we should gather more relevant data, -not- give in to hysteria that Nuclear power isn't completely harmless so it should be completely banned.

Again, and again and again: The issue isn't about absolute harm from Nuclear. If we ban every form of power generation that causes some degree of harm we'll be living in a world without any source of power at all (except for the extra-wealthy who will have teams of slaves in their basements riding bicycle-generators), and we won't be able to have this delightful argument on the internet since we'll all be working in fields to make enough food to survive the winter.

The issue is Relative Harm. Of existing technologies that can be commercially deployed today which causes the least harm, to individuals and the environment?
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