Skip to main content

Time for a Reality Check

In the fast-moving world of blogs, eleven days is a long time. But even though all that time has passed, I still feel compelled to comment on an article in the Las Vegas Sun, published on October 2. The article, "Long spans for radiation standards leave many cold", discussed objections to radiation protection standards for Yucca Mountain.

According to the arguments of antinuclear activist Kristin Schrader-Frechette, standards based on average doses are inadequate. Her example is a release of radiation to a town of 715 people in which one person receives a dose of 10,000 millirems while the remaining 714 people receive doses of 1 millirem each. She points out that such a release would not violate the average individual dose rate limit of 15 millirems per year, but it would impose a dose that she considers unacceptable on one individual.

Ms. Schrader-Frechette has done her math correctly, but she seems out of touch with reality. The absurdity of her example becomes plain if we consider something a bit more familiar. Imagine a town with 715 houses, in which the average annual precipitation is 15 inches; one house receives 10,000 inches per year, and the remaining 714 houses receive 1 inch per year. Who would give serious consideration to a scenario like that?

Ms. Schrader-Frechette also betrays her ignorance of health physics by characterizing a 10,000 millirem dose as "fatal". Lethal doses are typically 40 to 50 times larger.

It seems to me that the Sun's reporters and editors need to exercise their critical thinking skills a bit more vigorously when evaluating what is worth printing. For more information on radiation and its health effects, click here.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Comments

Anonymous said…
I ran into Schrader Freshette in about 1996 debating Yucca Mountain. She is an educated idiot. She claims future generations are also stakeholders in current decisions, which taken to its logical conclusion would lead to paralysis in the present. A big Rawlsian, she is AS SMART as a Post.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…