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Laurynda Williams

A nuclear plant proposed in Bruneau? This has generated a lot of buzz. We do not need nuclear power in Idaho - we already have the scientifically proven contamination of the Snake River acquifer and the trail leads back to Arco. NO! NO! NO!

This is not a new discussion. It started when I was a college kid at ISU in the 70's and the Snake River Alliance got started up. We need to find renewable energy sources, not pay for the lights in Las Vegas and have Idaho's landscapes and water sullied with nuclear waste. But, with Butch and the Rs in the Statehouse, if money can be made on it, it will probably happen. Stay tuned.

G. R. L. Cowan, boron combustion fan

"The other thing I think that causes nuclear alarmism is a lack of understanding of reactor architecture..."

You don't say...

"Chernobyl was a bad design -- wildly impermissible in this country -- using extremely-volatile sodium for its control rods."

Ironically, this is amazingly ignorant jabber. As of 1950, reactor design had passed Chernobyl by; no modern western powerplant is like it, and neither is, or was, any ancient one. More at http://www.npp.hu/tortenelem/hanford-e.htm

Peter Rickards

Geez, I am now accused of fronting for the fossil fuel corporations! For the record, I was out early against the first proposed merchant coal plant in my Idaho meighborhood, as well as opposing the ongoing nuclear invasion.
The NEI insiders do have a nice pretty website promoting "clean nuclear power", and slamming Mangano and others. The NEI claims that despite the USGS email admitting they made up safety reports on water at Yucca Mt, all the data is accurate. MM"KAAY. But keep in mind that the feds have finally admitted that water will infiltrate the site eventually, and they have shifted their position to totally depending on the nuke waste barrels to withstand corrosion for 240,000 years. Put your hand on the barrel and swear your faith too, but give me a windmill and a geothermal plant please. Idaho has plenty of renewable clean energy available.
While slamming the infant mortality study, dumb doctor's still won't x-ray a pregnant woman in the ER, unless it is a matter of life vs death for the mother. Why? Because of the known sensitivity to infants to radiation. It is old news that pre-natal x-rays increased future leukemia risks.
The NEI admits "Strontium-90 is produced only by atomic bombs, nuclear submarines and nuclear reactors. It is a good element to study because it has a long half-life, 28.7 years, and is easy to test." But they scoff at Mangano's study of strontium in baby teeth. Bottom line remains we all carry a body burden from nuclear businesses, and they want you to consider that normalnow, with no health effects detectable. God, or nature, did not put stontium in your bones and teeth, but the nukers have decided they can play God.
Despite the "better" design of nuclear reactors, all are still vulnerable to terrorism, and human error. Is it a wiser military defense position to cluster your power supply in deadly nuclear material, or to have multiple low impact energy sources?
The INL had a "security guard" flip out last Jan 1rst, and he barricaded himself in a no-go area. Luckily he was talked down before fully "going postal" , but who needs this threat when we have so much renewable energy? Here is a 2002 article on a disgruntled California nuclear power worker. Again, we were lucky this idiot phoned in his insanity before showing up at the gate with his rocket launcher...

Weapons found after fired nuke plant worker arrested
By Chelsea J. Carter The Associated Press (01-10-02)

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — A man who allegedly threatened to kill former co-workers after he was fired from a nuclear power plant was in custody Wednesday after authorities found a weapons cache that included a rocket launcher, tear gas and hand grenades.



Mr. Bradish clearly has HIS own agenda, too. If he'd acknowledge that I'd be more inclined to find him credible. His attack on Harry Reid, which suggested that Reid opposes Yucca Mtn. because of something fishy, is unsubstantiated. Credible people don't do that.
From the highly technical to the simplistic for a moment: Who wants a bunch of steel and concrete waste containers sitting in a "parking lot"? That's not acceptable in any POSSIBLE way I can think of! It's NOT safe disposal, and you don't have to be an engineer to know that: high school chem is enough to know that concrete and steel degrade over time; and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see something ugly that uglies up our world even more, and call it ugly.
Ugly is not trivial, if you pursue its full meaning. Actually, even if you don't.

G. R. L. Cowan, boron combustion fan

I probably should rephrase that. 'The Nickel-Plated JA' is mostly right, and clearly on the side of the angels, but misremembers some key details.

Details matter. It's not fossil fuel COMPANIES that own antinukers' souls, it's the fossil fuel TAXMAN. Taxes on fossil fuels are much bigger than profits; and the biggest profits-to-government come from oil and gas, not coal.

Jim Hopf

It is known with certainty that nuclear plants have no public health effects under normal operation.

How do we know? Radiation is extremely easy to measure, even in minute quantities. Extensive radiation surveys are performed routinely in the areas around all plants. We know that local populations are exposed to only ~1 millirem of radiation dose per year. This is less than 1% of the natural background dose that everyone gets.

In fact, the natural background dose varies widely, from ~200 millirem to over 1000 millirem per year in some places. Despite this wide variation, no correlation between background radiation doses and the rates of cancer or any other disease have ever been found. Apparently, humans are designed to accomodate exposures within the natural range.

Given that no measurable health effects are seen from having ~800 additional millirem of annual exposure (over 1000 vs. 200), it is absolutely clear that an additional exposure of ~1 millirem will have no effect.

Studies like the one from Mangano, et al, are complete bunk and all credible scientists know it. Thus, they pay them no attention. No respected scientific organization, or government body, anywhere, recognizes (believes) that there are any public health effects from nuclear power plants under normal operation.

David Bradish


Where do you get that I attacked Senator Reid? His name has not even been mentioned in any of my comments.

If you click on my name you will see what my agenda is. How much more do you need me to acknowledge?

Jim Hopf

Nuclear supporters "agenda" is to try and save the lives of the ~25,000 people killed every year by fossil plants, and to save the earth from global warming. Many people here are asserting that conservation and renewables are capable of doing it all, right now, and that we could be phasing out both our coal and nuclear plants (or at least, not build any more of either). This is clearly not the case.

Renewables' intermittentcy will limit them to ~15-20% of generation, at most. Conservation is attractive in theory, but the fact is that whereas one can plan and control the types of power plants that are built, conservation is mostly up to the people, who can't be controlled. All data shows that there is no reason to believe that power demsnd will stop increasing and start falling in the future. At best, with agressive conservation programs, many believe we can slow the rate of growth. Utilities have to plan for what WILL happen, as opposed to what should happen.

In terms of "how it's going" with respect to the dream of eliminating both nuclear and fossil fuels, look at what is actually happening. Use of coal is actually going up, rapidly. Scores of new coal plants are being built, many of them in the West. Blocking nuclear plants will not result in more conservation or use of renewables. It will result in more coal plants, period.

At a minimum, I would propose the following. Given that it's clear that fossil plants (especially coal) are far worse than nuclear from an environmental perspective, one should try to avoid new coal plants with conservation and renewable efforts, as opposed to avoiding new nuclear plants. To whatever extent that gains are made in the conservation and renewable areas, conventional energy source proposals should then be taken off the table, starting with the worst and then working down. Thus, only when we've done so much in the renewable/conservation area that no new coal plants are being built in the West; only then should opposition to new nuclear plants be considered.

Simply put, and can't accept arguments that new nukes should be opposed, because renewables are better, while coal plants are being built. Stop all new coal plants (by making them unnecessay through use of conservation and/or renewables, or by some other means), and then we'll talk. Given that I don't ever see this happening, opposition to new nukes is basically unjustified. The basic truth is that all alternatives to fossil fuels should be supported, because we need all the help we can get, to minimize fossil fuel use (and air pollution, and global warming) as much as possible.

Jim Hopf

Concerning nuclear waste,

It's clear from the comments that many believe that nuclear waste is unprecedented in terms of very-long-term risk, and that if the repository were to ever leak, it would be some unimaginable catastrophe. Neither of these pieces of common wisdom is even close to the truth.

The toxic materials in chemical wastes, fossil plant wastes/ash, and even many things in ordinary garbage represent a far greater health risk, even over the ultra-long term. These wastes are generated in millions of times the volume, are in a much more dispersible (harder to contain) form, and take LONGER to decay to harmlessness, if ever. Nuclear waste is generated in tiny volumes, in the form of a leach-resistant ceramic solid, which is then encased in very corrosion-resistant metals. It has always been completely contained, whereas fossil plant wastes/toxins are freely released into the environment, with terrible consequences.

Nuclear waste's radioactivity level decays down to less than that of the original uranium ore that was taken from the ground, in ~30,000 years. There is no significant chance of any leakage at all for al least ~1000 years. By then, the consequences of any leak are relatively small.

The DOE never stated that water WILL enter the repository. They just can't prove it won't. The fact is that it is unlikely, especially over the period where the waste is significantly radioactive. A laundry list of unlikely events have to occur before there would be any significant leakage, and even then there would be little if any effect on public health or the environment.

First of all, there is very little likelihood that the waste will even still be there in 1000 years. The suggestion that we won't develop a way of processing and eliminating the waste, even in 1000 years, is an astonishing stretch. Such technologies are actually only decades away. It's also almost certain that we will have cured cancer by then. Even if the waste were still there, the chances of significant water intrusion are small, and the chances of significant leakage are even less.

Even if one assumes all this happens, and then calculates potential exposures using the most absurdly conservative calculation methods possible (accounting for all conceivable uncertainties and assuming the worst in every case) the result is still that a handful of people may be exposed to annual doses that are still well within the range of natural background, a range over which no health impacts have ever been measured.

Given all the above, it is clear that the risks from waste at Yucca Mtn. isn't an even remotely significant environmental issue. The detailed science has indeed been completed, and it very clearly shows that the risks are insignificant. This is very much a political issue, and science (particulary concerning relative risks) is being completely ignored.

Not only are the potential risks/effects from Yucca Mtn. clearly negligible compared to those of fossil fuels, they are also negligible compared to the radiological risk from all the nuclear weapons that have been exploded under Nevada's soil (something that Nevada did not oppose at all). I hope that this would be obvious to anyone.

The whole Yucca "issue" is a joke. A fabrication. The only reason for the opposition is that it wins votes in Nevada. It also, BTW, drags the program out, giving endless job security for the govt. employees who are working on the project (many of which live and work in Mr. Reid's state). I'm afraid one previous poster greatly overestimated the integrity of Mr. Reid, and of politicians in general.


Integrity...interesting word. Perhaps Mr. Hopf you would like to disclose that your company, Energy Solutions, and the company PAC contributed $10,000 to Butch Otter's campaign. The PAC also contributed money to Craig, Crapo, Simpson and Sali.

Nothing wrong with contributing to a campaign, however it does make your advocacy in this forum interesting. Click my name; it's a link to my blog where I have posted links to the pertinent information.

Rod Adams

For MountainGoat and others, I will disclose the following right up front - I am the President and CEO of Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. I also publish Atomic Insights, the Atomic Insights Blog and am the co-host of The Atomic Show. (I did not add the links to any of the above, but Google knows how to find us quite well.)

I do not live in Idaho, but I do have friends that do. I also have a large number of friends that have spent some delightful months in your state learning how to be nuclear power plant operators.

Interestingly enough, the Navy no longer sends sailors to Idaho - that governor mentioned above was so effective in his opposition to nuclear fuel storage that the Navy determined it was too much trouble to deal with him. By my rough computations, the state lost the equivalent of 800-1000 full time jobs when the Navy pulled out. I am also pretty certain that the Navy's 30 plus years in the state were beneficial and did not leave any long term health impacts.

Even though my company intends to eventually be a competitor in the nuclear power plant market, I personally believe that the AEHI's effort to build a new plant in Idaho has some merit.

It will be a clean, reliable source of power for farmers who need plenty for their irrigation pumps, it will supply others in the area that need the power, and it will provide high quality, long term employment for people who are exporting the product outside the state.

Many comments mentioned how Idaho will not use all of the power, but that does not mean that it does not benefit. I am pretty sure that there are a few potatoes grown in Idaho that do not get consumed there, there are probably a few other products where the consumer is outside the state. Those are good things, since I am also pretty sure that there are no factories in Idaho that produce automobiles, refrigerators, or big screen TVs. If people living in Idaho do not produce stuff that other people want to buy, they will have difficulty purchasing the stuff made elsewhere. That is the way that markets work.

Nuclear power is safe enough that I felt comfortable with a reactor within a couple hundred feet of me for months at a time.

It is clean enough to operate inside sealed submarines.

It is cheap enough to compete and win in head on markets with coal and it slays oil and gas when it comes to power generation.

Wind, solar and biomass cannot even play the game without huge direct subsidies and politically motivated mandated markets. The quality of the power that the produce is simply too poor because of its unreliability or cost.

Good luck in your decision processes. Please keep your debate open. Unless you are firmly entrenched in an anti-nuclear belief system that will not budge despite all facts to the contrary, I hope that you find the information that you need to make a good decision.

If I may make a shameful plug - please visit the web sites and podcast that I mentioned above. There is no large industry funding behind those informational efforts. (Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. is completely funded by friends, family and excited investors.)

Peter Rickards

Mountain Goat,
Nice research on the pro-nuclear ringers and their business interests! Blogalicious!
Sorry,CEO's Ron and Jim, your pro-nuclear rhetoric is avoiding the main points. Forget Mangano as a flake if you want to, but...
1) Medical doctors, and the National Academy of Sciences (Beir V and Beir VII) conclude that the less radiation exposure, the less chance the DNA repair mechanism has of screwing up and causing cancers.
2) Nuclear Power plants are terrorist targets, and can cause thousands of cancers, hundreds of miles away.
You can paint nuclear power with green paint, but it is a disaster waiting to happen, including the nuclear waste.
Idaho can double it's present electrical use with known renewable energy sources. I am quoting the state's engineer. Why should we in Idaho build coal and nuclear plants, that other California won't allow, and let corporations transmit and sell this power to heat Hollywood hot tubs?
Please email me at nifty1@cableone.net if you want more details and documents than I should post on this blog...Peter

Brian Mays

This is nice. So MG is reduced to ad hominems and parroting literature from well-funded, professional anti-nuclear groups. His cheerleader Peter Rickards is all too happy to join in, citing a bit of junk science so pathetic that, not only has it been thoroughly debunked in the peer-reviewed literature, but it has been dismissed by every federal, state, and local public health organization that has looked into the "work."

Anyone can make up bogus statistics, activist propaganda, and nasty names to paint their opposition with. How about getting back to the topic at hand and actually discussing some of the points that Mr. Hopf and Mr. Adams make, using your own words, not parroting some tired, worn-out anti-nuclear rhetoric.

If you are going to cite studies and statistics to back up your arguments (and I encourage you to do so, since anything else is just "pie in the sky" speculation), please check your facts and use credible sources. Otherwise, don't be surprised when someone else points out how pathetic your source is.

Or, if you want to learn more, just ask questions. For example ...

Mr. Rickards:

Concerning point (1) of your last post:

So I take it that you refuse any and all medical and dental x-rays to reduce as much as possible your radiation exposure and keep from "screwing up" your "DNA repair mechanism." Is that correct?

Can you cite a credible scientific study that has quantified specifically the effect of very low radiation exposure, on the order of background radiation or less? (Note: BEIR only admits that they do not know what the effect is.)

Concerning point (2) of your last post:

Can you please provide a list of all Nuclear Power plants that have been attacked by terrorists?

Can you please provide a credible study (not Mangano junk science) that has demonstrated "thousands of cancers, hundreds of miles away" from a US nuclear plant?

Can you please provide a very brief explanation of your plan that will allow Idaho to "double it's present electrical use with known renewable energy sources"? (Here, I am assuming that your intention is other than how this statement reads: that is, Idaho's "use" of electricity -- i.e., importation of electricity from other states -- doubles because renewable energy sources are deployed which cannot meet demand. There should be no imports of additional electricity from other states, please; that would be cheating.)

A simple breakdown of the amount of Megawatts from each source would be sufficient. This would be a short list, but it should demonstrate that Idaho's energy production (not capacity, I want capacity factors taken into account) is doubled.

Thank you in advance.



Brian, I think you need to remember whose neighborhood you stumbled into. Granted you were invited to provide some professional knowledge and insights and given a huge forum to do that. Did you see any professionals from the other side here? But you're not doing your arguments any favors by continuing to beat us over the head with them. I think we all got them loud and clear.

Money and motivation are huge factors in weighing a person's position on an issue...that's why we have campaign disclosure laws.

I'd be surprised if anyone has changed their position on the issue at hand [should there be a nuclear power plant in Bruneau, Idaho] after listening to this debate. If you'll notice most everyone has moved on.


I just want to clarify what I mean by "professionals from the other side." I mean persons who earn their living opposing nuclear power plants. To my knowledge there have been none of those participating in this discussion. Didn't want to leave the wrong impression.

Brian Mays

Okay, I guess that's the last word then. (Sorry, I didn't realize that time had expired.) Thank you for playing. I enjoyed it.

P.S. Just to clarify, I never have and probably never will earn a living (or any money whatsoever) promoting nuclear power plants. I'm just a blogger like the rest of you. My goal is not to change anyone's position, it's to share knowledge and promote thought.


Peter Rickards

Bon joure Brian,
Sure, I'll answer your questions.
I usually do refuse the yearly x-rays my dentist offers, but I did allow x-rays when symptoms warranted last year. I am a podiatrist, licensed to use an x-ray machine, but I order x-rays much less than most my peers, who x-ray everybody with in$urance (unless they are pregnant).
Any electric source can create clean hydrogen fuel cells. Bush is pushing that nuclear power in Idaho should be used for H fuel cars (Gen IV). But we can make H fuel cells from excess wind power on windier days just as easy, and infinitely safer. As I said before, I was quoting the state wind engineer, Gerald Fleischmann. Idaho's do-able wind power potential has about 13,000 MW of capacity, and allowing a 30% production factor, that's over 4,000 MW of actual usable production, according to Gerald. That is easily complimented by about 2,000 MW of our hydropower, that you hold back when the wind blows. The geothermal potential is over 570 MW, with known sites.
There is much more low-head hydro, solar, and biomass. Updating sewage plants to methane recapture would greatly reduce our present consumption.
Your other questions intentionally miss the point. Most agree that Chernobyl caused thousands of cancers, hundreds of miles away. The NRC has admitted (finally) that terrorists CAN hit a nuclear power plant. You seem to think you win the argument by demanding an example of a US nuke plant previously hit by terrorists! I didn't say it has already happened, did I? Don't beat up straw man questions, if you want an intelligent response.
I quoted the conclusion of the Nat'l Acad of Sci's BEIR V and VII. You then demand credible proof of any damage from low levels of radiation! Well, Dr Alice Stewart's study of increased leukemia from pre-natal x-rays is old established news. Not EVERY fetus developed leukemia, obviously, but it does increase the risk. That's why dumb doctors don't x-ray pregnant women unless it's life or death. But for sure I will say that studies on tiny exposures get harder to prove, and that is your point, n'est pas? The pro-nuclear lobby tries to push hormesis, or the theory a little radiation exposure improves health, but that was NOT accepted by BEIR VII, was it? Please note all pro-hormesis studies focus on low gamma exposure, like background radiation. The hormesis studies do NOT show any positive health effects on children, or pregnancies, nor from exposure to alpha emitters like plutonium.
When the nuke businesses tried to push the plutonium incinerator into Idaho, they used your rhetoric, comparing inhaling a little plutonium to the natural radiation from eating a banana!
I testified, as an amateur concerned citizen, to the Natl Acad of Sci panel on Research Needs for TRU (plutonium) management, documenting how HEPA filters leak plutonium. Despite what you would scoff at as inconsequential exposure, the NAS agreed with my testimony and documents, calling for "emission free treatments" for plutonium projects. See page 7 of their report at http://books.nap.edu/books/0309084717/html/7.html
Another great NAS paper on DNA damage from tiny plutonium (alpha ) exposure was written by Zhou. His team's machine can shoot ONE alpha particle through one cell! What they found is that ten neighbor cells also mutated when only one cell was hit. This means that inhaling a little plutonium may be ten times worse than presently calculated. Again, your natural repair mechanism may repair all the DNA, but, umm, the less you break, the less chance it has of screwing up :-) To quote the study -
"Our studies provide clear evidence that irradiated cells can induce a bystander mutagenic response in neighboring cells not directly traversed by alpha particles and that cell-cell communication process play a critical role in mediating the bystander phenomenon. "
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 97, Issue 5, 2099-2104, February 29, 2000
Cell Biology
Induction of a bystander mutagenic effect of alpha particles in mammalian cells
Hongning Zhou*,

Diana Rowe Pauls

I don't know if this topic is finished here or not... whether RSR/comments is the appropriate location for this discussion or not, whether the Bruneau proposal is legitimate or not, we still need to be discussing the possibilty of nuclear plants in Idaho. We don't want to be caught with our pants down like we were with SEMPRA. Discussion and awareness are critical to being prepared...

So what do we do now?

Brian Mays


I'm sorry, but apparently the debate is over. It would have been nice if you had actually answered all of my questions, however. I'll admit that you provided a fair answer to the first question, and perhaps you answered my fourth question with your response about x-rays and fetuses (but, hey, if you have to go back to the 50's to get your answers ... and what does that have to do with nuclear power plants anyway?). Nevertheless, you dodged the rest of my questions.

Still I suppose that you could change your mind and actually answer the rest of the questions (and they are on point; in fact they are directly in response to your earlier post that claimed that other people were "avoiding the main points"). Please, however, keep your answers on topic. Unless Alternate Energy Holdings has announced that they plan to build a Russian RBMK reactor in Idaho, I hardly see where specious claims about Chernobyl are relevant. Furthermore, you yourself are the first to bring up the theory of hormesis. Stick to the point, and please to not put words in my mouth. I have offered you the same courtesy.

Jeremy Maxand

I was asked to post some information on nuclear power. If you go to www.snakeriveralliance.org, click on 'Our Work' and then under the 'Energy' menu option, choose nuclear power. I hope it helps.


Brian, I just want to apologize for being a little snide with my earlier comment. We can continue to yell at each other over the "tubes" (ya gotta love Sen. Stevens!) but that won't accomplish anything except make a bunch of people po'd.

Here's where I'm coming from. No I'm not as informed on this issue as I should be. The announcement of a company wishing to build a nuclear facility here and have it running in 36 months was a complete shock. I do intend to study the issue and become more informed.

What I have to go on right now is what I do know and that is this. We've had a government nuclear facility, INL, in this state that has been polluting our water since the '50s (see my earlier comment for reference) The govt has been promising for years that they were going to clean things up and move the waste out of the state, but Nevada doesn't want the waste either.

Then, I have at least 7 members of my extended or immediate family that have thyroid disease or cancer. All of them live or have lived in areas downwind of past nuclear test sites. The area where I grew up has an alarming percentage of cancer and MS cases per capita. This area is over the Snake River Plain aquifer that has been polluted by INL. Is it conclusive evidence of cause and effect? No, but it is worrisome.

Building a nuclear facility in my backyard worries me. Right now I'm not very trusting of government or industry professionals' safety assurances especially when it appears there are other alternatives.

Peter Rickards

RE: So what do we do now?
There are specific legal ways to stop merchant coal and nuclear plants, that I have suggested to our legislators in Idaho. They have refused, but the main focal point at this moment is to ask for a public hearing in our Magic Valley, on the recently proposed Energy Plan, that encourages merchant coal and nuclear plants here in Idaho. From Gooding, Rep Donna Pence may speak up, but email them all.

Geez, I did answer all 5 of your questions! You admit I answered and documented some, but whined that the Dr Stewart study that stopped pre-natal x-rays was from the 50's. The other side of that coin is that avoiding extra radiation exposures to fetuses is old established common sense in the medical community. I also provided a 2000 NAS study from Zhou, and the 2005 NAS BEIR VII, so your complaints seem "to miss the point."
You claim I did not respond to you main point, that US reactors are of a different design than Chernobyl, so that makes them safe from terrorism. You take my statement that nuke plants are a potential terrorist threat, and demand to know what nuclear plant has been hit, for proof. I bet you do understand the word "potential", so demanding an example is not a fair request, is it? But here is a recent paper on POTENTIAL and very realistic terrorist threats at nuclear power plants, at http://www.irss-usa.org/pages/documents/UKDefCttee01_02_000.pdf
But you repeated your Chernobyl question stating "Unless Alternate Energy Holdings has announced that they plan to build a Russian RBMK reactor in Idaho, I hardly see where specious claims about Chernobyl are relevant."
My response WAS and IS..."Your other questions intentionally miss the point. Most agree that Chernobyl caused thousands of cancers, hundreds of miles away. The NRC has admitted (finally) that terrorists CAN hit a nuclear power plant. You seem to think you win the argument by demanding an example of a US nuke plant previously hit by terrorists! I didn't say it has already happened, did I? Don't beat up straw man questions, if you want an intelligent response."

Jim Hopf


As far as having some new company w/ no nuclear experience putting up a nuclear plant in only 36 months, you need not worry about that. If the company says it can, than it has no idea what it's talking about. Perhaps this is just a silly proposal that is not going anywhere.

To have any chance of getting the job done (doing the analyses, getting the permits, etc..) this company would have to team up with an experienced nuclear operator/utility, as well as experience plant builders. Several consortia of such experienced companies, working together, started the process of permitting and constructing new plants a year or two ago. Despite having that much head start on this Idaho company, they only hope to have the plants operating by ~2015.

If this proposal goes anywhere at all, it will clearly be at least 10 years before this plant would operate. The permitting process is very long, careful and rigorous. If the process had been shortened (for "energy security" reasons, or whatever, as someone above suggested) then it wouldn't require ~10 years for planning & construction, even for the most experienced companies. There is substantial opportunity for public comment and involvement, before construction starts. And to be frank, the industry (having learned from the past) generally does not pursue projects unless the majority of the local population is behind it.

Jim Hopf


All ionizing radiation (alpha, gamma, etc..) damages tissue via the same basic mechanism, i.e., ionization of target molecules (e.g., DNA). Differences in how various isotopes and types of emitters (alpha, gamma) behave in the body, deposit their energy, and effect cells, are accounted for in the dose calculations, which are very developed, after decades of thorough study. Dose is dose, with dose being a measure of biological damage.

In any event, much of the natural background radiation people receive IS from alpha-emitting materials, such as radon and other daughters of the uranium that is common in soil/rock. And yet, despite all this exposure to alpha (as well as gamma) radiation, no correlation between annual dose and cancer/disease incidence has been established, even though background exposures vary widely (anywhere from 200 millirem to over 1000).

In terms of what the BEIR committee, all they said was that there is still no clear evidence on whether very low level exposures have health risks OR NOT. Basically, we're still arguing over whether these exposures has no health effect at all, or a health effect that is present but too small to measure. In the face of this uncertainty, they continue to recommend conservatively assuming that risk scales linearly with dose, all the way down to zero. Note that this still means that a negligible dose carries a negligible risk.

In a world filled with major, readily measurable health risks from many sources, as well as a host of other more serious problems, my personal view is that hypothetical health impacts that are too small to measure, if they exist at all, are hardly worth our attention. This is especially true when what we are really talking about is building a nuclear plant in lieu of a coal plant whose health effects are tangible, measurable, well known, and thousands of times larger.

All the studies I referred to earlier, which clearly show that nuclear's environmental and health risks/costs are orders of magnitude smaller than fossil fuels already conservatively assume the linear dose response that the BEIR committee refers to. If one rejects the linear model, as assumes a dose threshold under which there is no effect, then nuclear's health risks/impacts drop to near zero.

If one accepts the linear model, then overall health effect (number of cancers, etc..) scales with the "collective dose" which is the amount of exposure times the number of people exposed.
The collective exposure to the US population from nuclear power plant operations (as well as mines, etc..) is vanishingly small compared to the overall collective exposure, which is mainly from natural background and from medical exposures. Almost a million times lower, I think.

This leads me to the following question. Why is so much made of tiny exposures from the nuclear industry (with the linear model used as the reason), while nobody even talks about collective exposures that are a million times higher? Why don't we do something about radon? Where is the massive scare/warning? Why don't we move people out of high natural background areas (because there's no observed health effect, perhaps)? Why don't we avoid/limit flying? All these mundane parts of life involve vastly greater collective exposures. How about limiting needless medical exposures. Yes, perhaps we shouldn't routinely X-ray fetuses, but please keep in mind that there we are talking about exposures much larger than anyone's going to get living near a nuke.

Whether the linear theory is true or not, the health risks from nuclear are negligible, espeically compared to those of the fossil plants that they would (for the most part) replace. All scientific studies agree on this.

Peter Rickards

Hi Jim,
I appreciate a nuclear businessman who replies! For the record, I do understand that the RBE accounts for alpha vs gamma radiation doses. I did spend seven years as a citizen advisor to the CDC historical dose study of the intentional and accidental radioactive releases at Idaho's nuclear facility, INL. I do have an open challenge to the INL scientists to debate anytime and anywhere, but they have declined since their first massacre 18 years ago. The INL scientists and speech team love speaking to any Rotary Club or High School by themselves, but they have even backed out of radio shows when they discovered I would be there to quote their own DOE documents, that contradict what they claim in public.
So let's look at what you just claimed...
Jim: "In terms of what the BEIR committee, all they said was that there is still no clear evidence on whether very low level exposures have health risks OR NOT. "
PR: Well, no, that's not really what they said. Let me quote the authors of BEIR VII, the Nat'l Acad of Sciences, at
"Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation May Cause Harm

WASHINGTON -- A preponderance of scientific evidence shows that even low doses of ionizing radiation, such as gamma rays and X-rays, are likely to pose some risk of adverse health effects, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. "
"Specifically, the committee's thorough review of available biological and biophysical data supports a "linear, no-threshold" (LNT) risk model, which says that the smallest dose of low-level ionizing radiation has the potential to cause an increase in health risks to humans."

Jim then tried to take the high road suggesting "Why don't we do something about radon? Where is the massive scare/warning?"
PR: Ummm, perhaps you have missed all the Public Service ads on TV etc that warn radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and everyone should test their homes for radon.
Please note that radon is deadly, but is a single atom of gas, that gives off only one alpha particle. While that DNA damage is harmful, an inhaled microscopic plutonium particle has thousands of atoms. When lodged in the lung, the plutonium delivers an ongoing, DNA-destructive alpha particle release, as your lung desperately tries to repair itself. That is more dangerous than radon, but both are deadly. You might survive just dandy, but how much plutonium would you recommend for pregnant women and children? If you answer "zero", you passed your first medical test!
Jim then suggests: "How about limiting needless medical exposures. Yes, perhaps we shouldn't routinely X-ray fetuses, but please keep in mind that there we are talking about exposures much larger than anyone's going to get living near a nuke."
PR: Gee, yes, "PERHAPS we shouldn't routinely x-ray fetuses..." PERHAPS?? Welcome to the 1950's Jim, you are making progress, but have a long way to go!
As a nuclear business man, I understand you want to avoid admitting the Chernobyl like radioactive disaster that terrorists could cause at a "clean nuclear power plant." But, ummm, a terrorist strike would be more than a little old x-ray, wouldn't it?

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