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« Will Gov. Mark Warner ‘prove’ that Virginia executed an innocent Roger Coleman in 1992? | Main | 12 alive! »

January 03, 2006

Comments

Nicholas

This is one reason I point out that nuclear power is safer than coal power. Not much uranium is required and far less people die mining it. Not to mention the deaths associated with the pollution from coal plants, while almost nobody has died from pollution from nuclear plants, even if we include the incompetent idiots in Russia who managed to kill about 30 firefighters.

Frank Warner

I think a few more died (56?), and maybe 4,000 more were expected to die of cancer from the released radioactivity. But Chernobyl's design was uniquely dangerous.

Nuclear plant safety still can be improved, and certainly our U.S. officials finally have to pick a site for the spent fuel rods. (It'll be in Nevada, but everyone seems to delay the obvious choice.)

By the way, Australia has an even better coal-mine safety record than the United States. I don't know if it's because Australia does more surface mining than the U.S. does, but it's worth noting.

Nicholas

I think a lot less people actually ended up dying than predicted.

A total of up to 4000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) accident nearly 20 years ago, an international team of more than 100 scientists has concluded.

As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident but others who died as late as 2004.

And this was, as far as I know, by far the worst nuclear accident ever.

Yes, nuclear safety has been improved, and probably could be improved further. The need to store used fuel rods would drop dramatically if reprocessing in the US resumed. (I heard recently it was going to! That's exciting news.) It was stopped by Carter due to fears over nuclear proliferation, but come on, if the US can't guard plutonium from reprocessed nuclear fuel properly (which is not ideal for making weapons), how can you expect to guard all your weapons grade plutonium from all those decomissioned cold-war weapons?

I believe the material removed from weapons can be mixed in with regular fuel too. Better than just storing it somewhere.

Not sure why we might have a better record. I think our deposits are in particularly convenient locations close to the surface, but I'm not 100% sure. We do use a lot of coal because it's so convenient.

Nicholas

Actually, I guess you're right. They're saying they only have about 50 cases which are KNOWN to be related to the accident, but predict about 4000 occuring anyway.

That's less than die in China each year from coal mining.

Interestingly, the report says that the psychological damage to people has been profoundly worse than the physical damage. Another reason that we shouldn't get hysterical over radioactive substances and nuclear power. The hyteria, it seems, is worse than the danger itself.

I view nuclear power as just another scientific discipline. There are plenty which can have adverse impacts on our lives. People die from motor vehicles, electrocution, drug poisoning, plane crashes, pollution, etc. Yet we continue to drive, use electricity, take medicine, fly, live in cities etc.

Why are those other, provably greater risks "acceptable" while nuclear power is not?

I guess I'm more logical than most people. Unfortunately. Or maybe fortunately? I don't know...

jj mollo

The 4000 estimate is so-called "excess deaths" which are not diagnostically separable from early cancer deaths due to background radiation, etc. I believe, however, that this is really a gross underestimate of deaths attributable to the accident. The original estimate was made assuming the background death rate remained constant. The loss of the facility itself has probably caused more deaths than the radiation. Think about the stressful impacts in the lives of the hundreds of thousands displaced, the loss of employment opportunities, the reduction in farm productivity, the increase in pollution from replacement sources of energy.

Think about the overall increase in pollution worldwide caused by the global panic reaction. That difference translates into a lot of asthma attacks. A lot of those mining deaths could be reasonably blamed on Chernobyl. Only France shrugged it off and kept their nuclear power program going. Even they probably ended up spending a lot more money than they needed to because of Chernobyl.

This accident was a result of typical Soviet incompetence. Design, implementation and remediation were all typically Soviet. You can be certain that there was gross mismanagement of resources, inferior construction, and hidden problems of all sorts that will come back to haunt us later. Meanwhile, you have to remember that mismanagement of resources in itself is a deadly affair. People die early for lack of, or inadequate, education, nutrition, healthcare, employment. Everything the Soviets did, the successor nations are paying for now. The Soviet government left a legacy of despair: alcoholism, tuberculosis, despoiling of land, rust and humiliation. Chernobyl was just the tip of the iceberg.

Nicholas

If you want to blame the Soviets for causing lots of problems, I won't argue with you. The question is - was Chernobyl a fault of nuclear power, or a fault of the Soviet incompetence? I'm arguing the latter. I suspect you are too.

It's not that a nuclear accident in Japan, France or the USA is impossible. In fact, they have happened. There was Three Mile Island (multiple safety systems failed, core melted, nobody died) and a few people have died in Japan due to mismanagement of radioactive material. But so far, no mass casualties, and as long as the programs are run with as good or better safety compared to what all three have now, chances are it will never happen (well, maybe once every few hundred years if we all go nuts with nuclear power, but it's not much of a risk compared to the benefits of doing so). Especially with newer, safer designs which have already been tested.

I don't think one accident should ruin an industry, especially one with so much promise. Should we have abandoned air transit after the first major plane crash? Life involves taking calculated risks. I wish people weren't so rotten at those calculations, and so ignorant of the science.

Basically my point is, it's obvious to anyone who investigates that coal power kills thousands and thousands of people. There's even evidence that people living near the coal plants are at much greater risk of dieing due to those plants (not massively significant, but when you work out the "excess deaths" on a large scale, so many people near so many plants, they're quite frightening). Yet nobody freaks out, like they do over Cheronbyl. Why?

George

The Soviet nuclear power plant had
no containment building -- something
that is not allowed in the USA.
Negligence? Incompetence? Arrogance?
The Soviet nuclear power industry
can be described in many ways.

Frank Warner

And even after the Chernobyl accident, Fidel Castro demanded that Russia finish building a Chernobyl-design nuclear reactor in Cuba.

It was never completed.

traveller

What are your reference of China's coal mine fatality rate between 2000 and 2004?

According to China Coal Industrial Statistics Yearbook 2001, the 2000 death toll of China's coal mining industry is 5,798. Your number is close, but not accurate enough.

Joshua Glover

I'm an underground coal miner and i agree that presently, coal mining has some improvements to make. But did you ever stop to think that although it's dangerous, coal miners actually like what they do? Given the oppurtunity to speak, just about everyone of us will tell u that we don't want to work n e where else. Seriously, u guys like to drive dont you? How would u like a bunch of people banding together trying to put you on foot? The only difference is, the average miner makes about $1500 a week, AFTER taxes and we all pay out the ass to drive, SO. Oh, and don't worry about the earth so much. I's been here for about the last 4.5 BILLION years. Society in general has only been industrialized for about the last 100 years. Think about it. Oh, and if your interested in the energy of the future, look up COAL GASIFACATION. Thats about as logical, cost effective, and economically friendly as your gonna get.

justine nadherny

Coal miners like to produce CO2 and like to contribute to the 10,000 americans that die from air pollution related diseases? If you dont want to think about the earth, lets start thinking about the people it effects. Seriously, do some research on how many people die mining, how many children cased asthma attacks we can prevent and lets take some PRO ACTION here!!

Dave Calvert

i,m a coalminer and i love it coal is always going to fuel electric and thats just a fact of life GOD BLESS MY FELLOW COALMINERSTHOSE WHO COME AND GONE AMEN

Sue Golden

I'd check your numbers- there are an estimated 5 MILLION miners in China with approx 3,000 deaths per year.

In America there are less than 100,000 miners with 69 deaths.

Frank Warner

Sue, I'm talking about coal miners only. Do you see an error in my numbers?

josh

Massy coal company always gets away with the deaths of hard workers of west virgina and massy always buys there way out of it and never takes the blame for the accidents

Kayla

COAL KEEPS THE LIGHTS ON!!!
I AM A FRIEND OF COAL!!!
IF YOU DON'T LIKE....I DON'T CARE!!!

David

I'm doing a research project concerning the risks and benefits of nuclear power plants. For the most part, it seems to me like nuclear is the way to go, except for the fact that the radioactive waste generated has a very long half-life and is dangerous. Apparently, the government has been debating recently whether or not to store this waste in a desert far from any human contact. This may or may not work, we'll have to see.
Anyway, coal-fired plants must depend on large amounts of fossil fuels in order to thrive. In fact, one pound of uranium can do just as much work as 675,000 pounds of coal. Uranium mining has a much cleaner track record than coal-mining, too.
In relation to some other energy sources, wind power just can't measure up to either nuclear or coal. Here's some numbers I found off of an online research source my school uses: If wind turbines were to generate the same amount of energy as all American nuclear power plants (20% of all US energy), it would take 186,000 large turbines that are 40 stories tall. All of those could cover an area the size of West Virginia! Want more facts? If turbines were to be built along the entire length of the Appalatian Trail (about 2,178 miles), they would generate as much electricity as four, that's right, four nuclear power plants that occupy four square miles.
I'm not saying that nuclear is the way to go, but there could definately be some great advantages to it versus coal-firing plants.

Frank Warner

Nuclear power certainly is free of CO2 emissions. The cost looks reasonable, but some argue they are much more costly than they appear, especially considering they depend on the federal government to insure them against potentially huge accidents.

They could use that long-term waste disposal at Yucca Mountain, but Congress has delayed that long-promised depository.

Industrial Accidents

There are lot of accidents happen with innocent labor. I appreciate you are telling people the right thing by which they can know their real rights..

Porgy

I'm guessing you guys don't normally fall for Soviet propaganda - but you seem to have swallowed those massaged Kremlin figures without any trouble.

Read this report from four years ago which casts doubt on those figures. More like a 100,000 fatal cancers will have been caused by Chernobyl

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/chernobylhealthreport/

As for nuclear being the future. Two questions:
1. What happens when we run out of Uranium in about 20 years.
2. How much will it cost to manage the radio-active waste for tens and hundreds of thousands of years to come, and can we afford it?

Frank Warner

First, no one makes nuclear power plants like Chernobyl anymore. Chernobyl didn't even have a real containment building.

As far as uranium running out, or coal running out, or oil running out, those are things we have to start preparing for with incentives and good research and development. But you don't just turn off your electricity and junk your car because their specific energy sources might run out in 20 or 30 years.

On the cost of guarding radioactive waste, the plain fact is, we'll have to stand guard over that waste forever, and whether it's the spent fuel from 40 years of nuclear operations or the spent fuel from 60 years of nuclear operations, the cost won't be that much different.

If you consider global warming an immediate threat, and if you want to maintain the health care, schools, transportation and other important activities of civilization, you'd have to see the expansion of CO2-free nuclear power as vital for at least the next 30 years.

Honors History

thanks all, this helped with my school essay on nuclear power!

T

Okay, it's been a while since y'all were fighting over this, BUT
-speaking of Chernobyl, The Soviets who built it were idiots. They had a runaway reaction, didn't have the technology to realize it, and by the time they DID notice it, it was already too late. And they had no containment vessel. Real cute.

As for the questions,
1. We won't necessarily run out of fuel. There is an emerging technology called fast-breeder reactors that create more fuel than it uses.
Let me give you an example. Let's say you drive a truck with two gas tanks. Every day, before you drive to town, and fill one gas tank up with gas, and other with water. Then, once you get to town, the water is now gas, and you're only out of a little gas in your first gas tank, so you fill it up with the gas that used to be water, and sell the rest of the extra gasoline to you neighbor, Bubba.
That's the gist of fast-breeder technology.

2. If we start (either) re-processing our own fuel or send our spent fuel off to Great Britain(where they do reprocess fuel), we won't have that problem.

Tony Hardin

Hello,

My name is Tony Hardin and I am currently working to create models to show how industry related deaths in America, over the past one hundred years were/are avoidable, for the most part, and would greatly appreciate your cooperation, if possible, in gathering coal mine mortality rates if you would be so kind.

I am hopeful of proving that even today industry related deaths, such as the Ground Zero Workers which were exposed to lung hazards during the 9-11 clean up, were/are unnecessary. This portion of my research focuses on the Ludlow/Coal Field Wars to today's mine statistics.

In particular, I am seeking to find the numbers for the past 28 years.. or from 1972 to 2010?

Is it possible that you have this data..?

Thank you..

Tony Hardin

Frank Warner

Check with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. There are links in my post. Good luck!

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