Tag Archives: TMI

"Mummy, mummy, there's a nuclear monster!"

One of the frustrating parts about being a proponent of nuclear power is when people rag at you for showing them facts that nuclear accidents aren't that big a deal. After all... "everyone knows" that a nuclear accident is a catastrophe unlike all others and that a "meltdown" means instant death to thousands of people, cancer to millions and huge tracts of land made uninhabitable for centuries... as told by various groups out there.

So when you point out to them that the TMI meltdown had zero casualties, that the Fukushima triple meltdown and explosion/fire in a fuel pool is presently holding the zero and that the prognosis is slowly starting to look hopeful, and that the current death toll from Chernobyl correspond to the number of people killed in US motor vehicle accidents in one day, people tend to take great offense at you questioning the supposed "truth" about nuclear power. I have been called quite a few unflattering things for this heinous crime of not being upset about nuclear accidents and - even more blasphemous - trying to calm other people about them as well.

Therefore it was with a great sense of recognition I read Lewis Page's piece "Mummy, mummy, there's a nuclear monster!" in "The Register today. I won't steal his glory but I will point out two core pieces and quote them:

This is the problem that everyone faces, who describes nuclear incidents as they really are – that is: insignificant. You are accused of being heartless, of failing to care about or empathise with people who are terribly frightened. You have committed the same sin as bracingly telling a toddler that there is no monster under his bed and that he should go back to sleep.

Part of the problem here is that in the case of nuclear dangers it is rather as though the toddler had a mentally troubled aunt or uncle who, in addition to telling the kid fairytales at story time, insists that the monsters in the stories are real.

The people in charge of story time here are the media, and like many of us finding ourselves troubled by bizarro in-laws, the media fails – seldom really even tries, often enough – to prevent the mad aunt telling the kids rubbish.

[....]

Some of us at least are getting a bit sick of the idea that you simply aren't allowed to tell frightened people quite bluntly to act their age – and we're getting more than just a bit sick of irrational or unscrupulous fairytale-spinners making them frightened in the first place.

That is pretty much it: you are considered a villain for telling people "Oh stop whining you baby, it's just a nuclear accident!". You're being painted as an arsehole for not playing along with paranoia and prejudice. They are calling you foul names and questioning your moral character for trying to make people less scared.

It's one of those things that makes me want to bang my head against the desk and tell people to go overdose on their stress- and angst-hormones if they are so much in love with them. It feels like getting yelled at by a drunk relative for taking his/her bottle away. Why would I bother?

Well... I must, because it's the right thing to do. If I didn't, then I'd be an arsehole for real, wouldn't I? If I firmly believe that someone is wrong in their actions and beliefs, and that they are hurting because of these beliefs, would you suggest I play along? Or should do as I would to the same human being if they had been 25-75 years years younger, by telling them that there is no monster waiting to eat their toes?

The worst part is - of course - that some people have a very strong self-interest in keeping others scared of the nuclear monster under the bed. Let me show you another example...

With "information" like that, is it any wonder that people are frightened? Those who made that video are the ones that should be called heartless, for using and abusing people's fears simply to advance their position and get more influence.

But good news are no news. It's easier to sell a story of Doom & Destruction than telling people that things are actually not very bad at all. You're considered the weird one for not being a paranoid alarmist professing the impending end of life as we know it.

What can we do to break the trend? How can we make people stop being scared of things that are not scary, and focus on the real dangers out there, such as fossil fuels that are killing literary millions of people every year?

Facts... keep speaking the facts... that's how you eradicate fear, prejudice and misconceptions. I have so far not met a single person who have learned the facts about nuclear power and who has since remained genuinely scared of it! Keep pushing the facts...

Let me close up this post with a video of a fellow swede that has opened up many people's eyes and minds by showing the cold hard facts in a very funny and interesting manner: Hans Rosling. Enjoy... I did. 🙂

EDIT: as commented below... there is more on www.gapminder.org. 😉

Trettio år efter Harrisburg, dags att släppa taget.

När denna artikel skrevs var det trettio år sedan på dagen världens dittills värsta kärnkraftsolycka inträffade. Reaktor 2 vid Three Mile Island Generating Station, nära Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, drabbades av en stor kylvattenförlust. Detta ledde till den mest ökända av konsekvenser: en härdsmälta.

Men trots att "alla vet" att en härdsmälta skall vara det värsta som kan hända, med miljoner döda och hela landsändar ödelagda för oöverskådlig framtid, är effekterna av TMI-2 olyckan väl dokumenterade, med noll dödsfall, noll skadefall och noll fall av cancer. Det enda offret för olyckan sades av kärnfysikern Edward Teller vara han själv, då han menade att han fick hjärtinfarkt av stressen från att se kärnkraftsmotståndaren Jane Fonda utnyttja händelsen för att orättfärdigt smutskasta kärnkraft. Med detta i åtanke är det dags att vi tar en liten verklighetskontroll vad gäller vår kärnkraftsparanoja, eller vad tycker du?

Missförstå oss inte: en härdsmälta skojar man inte bort. Att en samhällsviktig energiproducerande anläggning som försörjer hundratusentals människor med elektricitet oåterkalleligen havererar är givetvis inte bra. Men det är en milsvid skillnad mellan "inte  bra" och "slutet för vårt leverne så som vi känner det".

Kärnkraftsmotståndare missbrukar gärna händelsen genom att säga "De sade att det här aldrig kunde inträffa, men det gjorde det". Detta är helt enkelt inte sant. Ingen har sagt att en kärnkraftsolycka aldrig kan inträffa. Beviset ligger i själva olyckan, eller snarare dess icke-existerande skadliga konsekvenser. Hur kan en härdsmälta undgå att skada en enda människa? Svaret är enkelt: därför att vi var beredda på att den kunde inträffa och garderade oss mot den.

Löftet som gavs var inte att en olycka aldrig skulle kunna inträffa, utan att kärnkraft aldrig skulle skada någon i allmänheten. Detta löfte har hållits i 55 år på alla ställen i världen utom ett, Tjernobyl, av uppenbara skäl: Sovjetunionen gjorde allt fel på sätt som hade betraktas som upprörande och chockerande för resten av världen redan innan olyckan inträffade, hade vi bara känt till det. Överallt annars har kärnkraft inte skadat en enda individ i allmänheten med radioaktiva utsläpp. Och under de trettio år som gått efter att olyckan vid Three Mile Island, har vi bara blivit bättre på att uppfylla det här löftet.

Det är helt klart dags att släppa taget om det förflutna och Harrisburg. Läxan har lärts. Vi rör oss framåt för att skapa en hållbar framtid för oss och kommande generationer där alla former av ren energi har sin givna plats i mixen. För varje kolkraftverk vi ersätter med en kärnklyvningsreaktor räddar vi ungefär 15 000 människoliv under reaktorns driftstid. Kärnkraft har aldrig varit säkrare och renare än vad den är idag. Självklart skall vi då sluta vara rädda för att använda den, och istället känna hälsosam respekt för den, speciellt om enda skälet vi har att oroa oss är en trettio år gammal olycka som inte skadade en enda själ.

Michael Karnerfors, mjukvaruingenjör
Johan Kihlberg, fysikstuderande
Mattias Lantz, kärnfysiker
Nils Rudqvist, strålningsfysiker
Johan Simu, reaktorfysiker
Christoffer Willenfort, systemvetare

Thirty years after Harrisburg, time to let go.

Thirty years ago to the day of this article, the so far worst nuclear accident in a power plant the world had ever seen took place. Unit number 2 at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, suffered a loss of coolant accident. This led to that most infamous of nuclear failure modes: a core meltdown.

But despite that "everyone knows" a meltdown supposedly is the worst that could ever happen, with millions of dead and entire states rendered uninhabitable forever and ever, the effects of the TMI-2 accident are well documented with no deaths, no injuries, no cancers. The only casualty that came from accident was said by nuclear physicist Edward Teller to be his heart attack, caused by the stress of seeing Jane Fonda using the event to unjustly trashtalk nuclear power. With this in mind, maybe it's time we had a little reality check when it comes to our nuclear fears, wouldn't you say?

Don't get us wrong, a nuclear meltdown still is no laughing matter. Having a vital energy producing unit that is supplying hundreds of thousands of citizens with electricity unexpectedly becoming permanently disabled is of course not good. But there is a huge different between "not good", and "the end of normal life as we know it".

Deriders of nuclear energy try to abuse the event by saying "They said it couldn't happen, and yet it did". This is simply not true. Noone ever said a nuclear accident cannot happen. The proof of this is in the accident itself, or rather its non-existing harmful effects. How can such a serious nuclear meltdown not harm anyone? The answer is simple: because we expected it might happen and prepared for it.

The promise that was made was not that an accident wouldn't happen, but that nuclear power would not harm anyone in the public. This promise has been kept for 55 years all throughout the world in all places except one, Chernobyl, for reasons obvious: the Soviet Union did everything wrong in ways that would have been considered appalling and shocking to the entire world, even before the accident, had we but known about them. Everywhere else, nuclear power has not harmed a single individual in the general public by cause of radioactive release. And in the thirty years that has passed since the accident, we have only become better at enforcing this promise.

It is definitely time to let go of the past and Harrisburg. The lessons have been learned. We are moving on towards creating a sustainable future for ourselves and the next generations where all forms of clean energy has their given place in the energy mix. With each coal plant we exchange for a nuclear fission reactor, we save approximately 15 000 human lives over the course of the reactor's lifetime.  Nuclear power has never been safer and cleaner that it is today. Of course we shall stop being afraid of using it, instead having a healthy amount of respect for it,  especially if the only reason we have for worrying is a thirty year old accident that didn't harm anyone.