Carnival of Nuclear Energy 154

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 154 is at Atomic Power Review

Dr Robert Hayes at NewsOK – examines the fact that there haven’t been reports of radiation injury as a result of the March, 2011 Fukushima accident, using UNSCEAR and WHO documents as support; he also briefly discusses low-dose effects.

The Japanese tsunami caused the death of around 20,000 people and caused approximately 500 billion dollars in damage. As a result of the nuclear power plant event, radioactive gasses were released into the environment which has left measurable traces around the world. With substantial measurement and evaluation having already been done, scientific evaluations of the health effects from the release are now being published by various international expert consensus committees.

The international committee UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) has evaluated the evidence for harm to all humans from the Fukushima event. The following is a direct quote from their recent report (GAOR, 67th sess., Suppl.No.46), “To date, there have been no health effects attributed to radiation exposure observed among workers, the people with the highest radiation exposures. To date, no health effects attributable to radiation exposure have been observed among children or any other member of the population“.

A common cold, a mild allergy or even spending an hour in the sun (if you are pasty white like me) all have observable health effects. Given that such small things can cause observable health effects, the fact that all the radiation emitted from the Fukushima event has not been able to produce a single observable health effect is worth repetition. The worst nuclear power plant accident of any kind in many decades has been unable to produce a single observable radiological health effect to date and may continue to do so indefinitely.

The WHO in their publication, “Preliminary dose estimation from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami”. The worst case bounding potential dose was for radioiodine intake by year old infants where the dose could theoretically produce a very small yet statistically significant increase (1%) in thyroid cancer (with this being a bounding worst case possibility). In general, the worst case doses applied to any member of the public in the Fukushima prefecture were bounded by the dose range of 1 to 5 rem. Currently 5 rem is the legal dose to a radiation worker in the United States. All other members of the public in Japan received doses less than 0.1 rem which is a legal dose in the United States for a member of the public in a nuclear facility. Natural background radiation is around 0.3 rem per year. In other words, most members of the public in Japan received doses which were small fractions of natural background from the Fukushima event.

Another conclusion of the UNSCEAR report was that evaluating small doses to large populations should not simply be used to predict cancer probabilities to populations. One possible simplified analogy would be like saying that taking the minimum amount of salmonella to get one person sick and distributing 1/10th of this to 10 people will get at least one of them sick.

Atomic insights – Jim Hopf recently published a thought provoking post on ANS Nuclear Cafe titled New EPA Guidelines for Response to Radioactivity Releases. In that post he points out the illogical way that the EPA applies and enforces its assumption that any ionizing radiation is hazardous, even down at levels far below natural background.

Jim points out that under current rules, nuclear power plant operators, former weapons manufacturing sites, and used fuel repositories are required to continue clean-up efforts until models show that the most exposed person will receive a dose rate of somewhere between 10 and 25 mrem per year.

As a point of reference, the average American is exposed to about 300 mrem per year, but those doses vary over a wide range to the point where the most exposed may get 1000 mrem. Around the world, there are places like Ramsar, Iran where the most exposed can receive 26,000 mrem (260 MSv). “Cytogenetic studies show no significant differences between people in the high background compared to people in normal background areas.

Depending on the isotopes involved, 10 to 25 mrem/year is the dose rate at which the EPA’s application of the linear, no-threshold dose response assumption leads to a calculation of between a one in ten thousand and a one in a million chance of early mortality as a result of exposure to radiation for a person that stays in the area for a lifetime. (The EPA’s LNT model assumes that a dose of 1750 mrem accumulated over 70 years of chronic exposure has the same health effect as a dose of 1750 mrem accumulated in a few seconds as a result of an atomic bomb explosion.)

The illogical part of the way that the EPA applies its model in the form of enforced regulation is that no other source of radiation is held to that standard, even though there is no disagreement among scientists and medical doctors that specialize in radiation about the fact that human physiology cannot distinguish between “natural” and “man-made” doses of ionizing radiation. Radiation health effects are determined by the type of radiation and the energy level, not by whether it originated from naturally occurring radium, radon, potassium, uranium, thorium, or cosmic radiation or whether it came from strontium, technetium, cesium, iodine, uranium or plutonium that spent some time inside a reactor.

I once calculated that a car that gets 20 miles per gallon of gasoline could operate for 760 MILLION miles on a gallon of uranium. Of course, it is impossible to develop a functional fission reactor that can drive a standard car, but nuclear powered ships have been getting an equivalent fuel economy advantage since January 17, 1955. That is the date that the USS Nautilus reported that it was “underway on nuclear power” for the first time.

The ONLY way that hydrocarbons can retain their current market share against that kind of natural advantage is by artificially restricting the use of uranium or thorium by spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about as many aspects of the competition as they can invent. They will use and support any group that works against the use of nuclear energy on the philosophy that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”

Nextbigfuture – The Harvard Business Review looked at the the Spacex process for lowering the cost of space.

Spacex has a big goal, learned from the past, looking at the whole picture to find and prioritize opportunities, then refining key aspects of the space flight model to achieve their objective — is an approach that can make any organization more creative about cutting costs.

SpaceX approach innovates and transforms by looking at the entire business model instead of the parts. Cuts weren’t just made to the physical rocket itself but to everything surrounding it — overhead, support services, development time frame, and more.

* Sustaining cost reductions over many years
* Reinvest for more innovation

Nextbigfuture looked at where the Spacex approach is being applied in energy.
Terrestrial Energy looks like it could make a radical difference in cost and supply of energy

Nextbigfuture – Costs and Economics of Integral Molten Salt Reactor

Each 300 MW thermal MSR would generate $1 billion per year in oil revenue from the oilsands.
A 300 MW thermal reactor would be the same as a 100 MW electrical reactor. Even if costs were as much proportionally as a $10 billion 1 GWe conventional nuclear reactor (the high costs of the most expensive European or US projects.) the $1 billion cost would be recovered in about 2-4 years. Also, they indicated that there is no turbine to produce electricity since only steam is used. So the costs should be $700 million max.

This profitability means that the first 200 units should easily be profitable. Usually making more units has a improvement rate in lowering costs by a few percentage points for each later unit. The oilsand units would also generate the money to help payoff research and development costs, which would initial come from oilsand taxes and oilsand partners.

In previous design discussions about a similar Denatured Molten Salt Reactor , David LeBlanc believed that capital costs could be 25% to 50% less for a simple DMSR converter design than for modern LWRs (light water reactors).
Nextbigfuture calculates that the IMSR could get down to 0.86 cents per Kwh.

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