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[cdn-nucl-l] Re: FP Solomon; "Dams are worse"; Some Lessons from Fukushima;Fw: Learning About Energy
"Interesting" indeed. The over-response to radiation
concerns and the under-response to earthquake and tsunami concerns become
clear when you consider what it is that people are really worried
about. People are worried about themselves and their offspring
dying. They want a safe, clean environment now and in the future,
them want to save the planet ..... for themselves and their
offspring. Yes they are concerned for other people farther away but
not nearly as much as they are worried about themselves and their
offspring. We bemoan such blatant and narrow self-interest but we
would be foolish to deny its existence and to take it into account.
Look around; from the most extreme environmentalist to the most extreme
capitalist, the marketing people everywhere tap into this narrow
self-interest in a big way. 'Twas ever thus, I suspect.
Still, there is hope. I suspect it was your unrelenting efforts
that have helped turn some people, like Solomon, around. Well
At 12:24 PM 03/04/2011, Jerry Cuttler wrote:
As the 25th anniversary of
the Chernobyl accident (human failure) approached, our Energy Probe
friend, Lawrence Solomon has another interesting article in the Financial
Post that compared hydroelectric dam failures (green energy) with the
worst nuclear failure. The radiation scare seems to trump all other
scares. He points out that its our LNT assumption of radiation
carcinogenesis that is the culprit, and we refuse to give it up.
It is interesting how
interest in the tens of thousands who died from the earthquake and
tsunami seem to be ignored compared with the assumed/imagined health
risks from the damaged nuclear plants that will not happen.
Lawrence Solomon: Dams are
Apr 1, 2011 – 7:58 PM ET | Last Updated: Apr 1, 2011 10:38 PM ET
Even the Chernobyl disaster may have killed just 15 people in the general
A forgotten 1975 Chinese disaster killed 230,000 people
Japan’s ongoing disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant, now in its
agonizing third week, has led many to conclude that nuclear is the most
dangerous way to generate electricity. Not so. Nuclear is not the most
dangerous, not by a long shot. That distinction unambiguously belongs to
large hydroelectric dams.
The most catastrophic dam failure in history occurred in China in 1975,
with the near-simultaneous failures of the Banqiao and Shimantan dams.
The “August 1975 disaster,” as the Chinese call the horrors associated
with the dams’ collapse, drowned 26,000 people, according to the Chinese
government. Another 200,000 lives were lost in its aftermath. Records
from the days following the dams’ collapse describe the chaos:
“East of Xincai and Pingyu, the water is still rising at the rate of two
centimetres an hour. Two million people across the district are trapped
by the water…. In Runan, 100,000 who were initially submerged but somehow
survived [by clinging to trees, rooftops, etc.] are still in the water.
Forty thousand people have been rescued; 200,000 are sick with diarrhea
and other related illnesses. There’s no medicine. In Shangcai, 300,000
people are marooned on the dam, on rooftops, and elsewhere. Twenty
communes have been engulfed by flood waters. Many people haven’t eaten
anything for days. In Shangcai, another 600,000 are surrounded by the
Four days later: “The disease morbidity rate has soared. According to
incomplete statistics, 1.13 million people have contracted illnesses,
including 80,000 in Runan and 250,000 in Pingyu; in Wangdui commune
alone, 17,000 people out of a total population of 42,000 have fallen ill,
and medical staff, despite their best efforts, can only treat 800 cases a
In all, 11 million were affected by the disaster, which came of a severe
storm and unprecedented rainfall, leading to flooding that overwhelmed
the two dams. Shimantan was built to withstand a flood so rare that it
would come but once every 500 years; Banqiao was built to withstand an
even rarer event — a once-in-a-1,000-year flood. The flood that arrived
in August of 1975 was a once-in-a-2,000-year flood.
When the dams failed, they unleashed a tsunami six meters high and 12
kilometres wide that inundated 29 counties and municipalities. The scale
of the disaster compares to that of the earthquake and tsunami that hit
Japan. It cannot compare to the consequences of the radiation leaks from
Japan’s Fukushima reactors, which, though dangerous to nuclear workers,
are likely to cause no casualties among the general population.
Neither can it compare to either of the two other serious nuclear
accidents that have occurred, at Three Mile island, which led to no
deaths, and at Chernobyl, where United Nations agencies such as the World
Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the
Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation have been
steadily decreasing death estimates with the passage of time. Because the
dead bodies have simply not materialized, the UN agencies now outright
dismiss the very high estimates of death that came from organizations
like Greenpeace, saying of them, “These claims are highly exaggerated.”
The maximum number of deaths that the UN agencies estimated in 2005 was
“a few per cent…. Such an increase could mean eventually up to several
thousand fatal cancers.” Even here, the UN agencies expressed doubt
that these predicted deaths could be substantiated. “An increase of this
magnitude would be very difficult to detect, even with very careful
long-term epidemiological studies,” it reported. The difficulty stemmed
from the theoretical model that the UN was using to project deaths —
known as the “linear no threshold” model, it amounted to a guesstimate
that even the scientists who uphold it acknowledge to be unproven and
Three years later, the
UN distanced itself even further from claims that the Chernobyl
accident could have killed many in the general population — the UN’s
Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation found only 15
fatalities from thyroid cancers. “Among the general population, to date
there has been no consistent evidence of any other health effect that can
be attributed to radiation exposure,” it reported. Because the
theoretical models diverged so much from reality, it decided to set them
aside. “The committee has decided not to use models to project absolute
numbers of effects in populations exposed to low doses because of
unacceptable uncertainties in the predictions,” it stated.
While deaths from nuclear accidents are hard to find, those from dams are
not. Italy lost 2,000 people in a 1963 dam failure, France 400 in a 1959
failure. Smaller dam failures have led to lower losses of life in the
U.K., the United States and Germany. The future will likely make the
hazards of dam building more evident still, particularly in China, the
world’s most aggressive dam builder.
According to the Chinese government itself, some 37,000 dams — 40% of its
total — are at risk. In the decade ending in 2008, 59 dams were breached
either due to torrential rains or shoddy construction. In 2008, Sichuan,
home to 90% of China’s dams, suffered a devastating earthquake that
damaged some 1,800 dams and left 69 of them in danger of catastrophic
Near Sichuan, situated atop two fault lines and upstream of Wuhan,
population 10 million, lies the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest. If
the Three Gorges dam failed catastrophically, as dam experts fear it
might, the tsunami that would be unleashed would precipitate the world’s
largest man-made disaster, with a death toll in the millions.
Lawrence Solomon is executive director of
Energy Probe, an
anti-nuclear organization, and the author of The Deniers.
The extent of damage wreaked by the 1975 floods was first revealed in
the West by Dai Qing in her 1998 book, The River Dragon Has Come. To read
more of her description, click
Third in a series
Next: The real problem with nuclear power
----- Original Message -----
Nuclear Discussion List
Sent: Saturday, April 02, 2011 2:44 AM
Subject: Re: Some Lessons from Fukushima; Fw: Learning About
Jerry: This is a painful truth, but also is very old news indeed.
Humans haven't changed one bit.
My favorite example is New York city, at the time when horse power was
being replaced by motor power. There was a great deal of opposition to
the new-fangled motor cars, even though the horse manure was piled high
in the vacant lots, littered the streets, and ran into the gutters by the
ton every time it rained. Have you ever wondered why people wore galoshes
in those days?
Our problem, too, shall pass.
On 2011-04-02, at 2:10 AM, Jerry Cuttler wrote:
See the sentence that I highlighted
in red below.
----- Original Message -----
From: Learning About
Sent: Friday, April 01, 2011 4:37 PM
Subject: Learning About Energy
Some Lessons from Fukushima
Posted: 31 Mar 2011 03:40 PM PDT
After working for 68 continuous, full-time years in nuclear
technology, mostly in nuclear radiation and safety. I find people asking
my opinion as to the degree of danger posed the radiation and
radioactivity from the battered nuclear reactors in Japan. This is
what I've been telling them. Next post will explore the
specifics of this in more detail. The numbers are
A lot of wrong lessons are being pushed on us, about the tragedy now
unfolding in Japan. The scare-talk about radiation is not
helpful. There will be no radiation public health catastrophe,
regardless of how much reactor melting may occur. Radiation?
Yes. Radiation catastrophe? No. Life evolved on, and
adapted to, a much more radioactive planet, Thus today, a bit more
radiation is generally beneficial, not harmful. Statements that
there is no safe level of radiation are an affront to science and to
common sense. The radiation from Fukushima is expected to be about
like that from the Three Mile Island (TMI) incident, where ten to twenty
tons of the nuclear fuel melted and slumped to the bottom of the reactor
vessel. This is the scenario that initiates the mythical China
Syndrome, that postulates that the molten fuel burns its way into the
earth. On the computers and movie screens of people who make a
living “predicting” disasters, TMI is an unprecedented catastrophe.
In the real world of TMI, the molten mass froze when it hit the colder
reactor vessel, and stopped its downward journey at five-eights of an
inch through the five-inch thick vessel wall. And there was no harm
to people or the environment. None.
Yet today, we have radiation protection zealots in Europe and America
telling their citizens near Fukushima to defy Japanese instructions and
leave their shuttered homes, to wander, homeless and panic-stricken,
through the battered countryside—to do what? All to avoid a radiation
dose lower than what we get from a ski weekend in Colorado (a low cancer
Everyone involved with nuclear power anywhere has design and operating
lessons to learn from Fukushima. For investors, the important point
is that some of the nuclear plants were swept with a wall of seawater
that may have instantly converted a multi-billion dollar asset into a
multi-billion dollar liability. That’s bad news. But it’s not
unique to nuclear power. If Fukushima were a computer chip
factory, would we consider abandoning the entire computer industry
because it was not tsunami-proof?
It would be ironic if American
nuclear power were phased out as unsafe, without having ever killed or
injured a single member of the public, to be replaced by coal, gas and
oil, each proven killers of tens of thousands each year.
UPDATE AS OF 09:00 P.M. EDT, FRIDAY, MARCH 18:
A World Health Organization spokesman said that radiation levels outside
the 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi
nuclear plant in Japan are not harmful for human health. He said the WHO
finds no public health reason to avoid travel to unaffected areas in
Japan or to recommend that foreign nationals leave the country. He also
said there is no risk that exported Japanese foods are contaminated with
The lessons from Japan involve tsunamis, not radiation.
Theodore Rockwell, Member, National Academy of Engineering
Dr. Rockwell’s classical 1956 handbook, The Reactor Shielding
Design Manual, was recently made available on-line and as a DVD, by
the U.S. Department of Energy.