Skip to main content

The Nuclear Bamboozlement Road Show

snake-oil-scamAlfred Meyer of Physicians for Social Responsibility, travelling around and talking nuclear smack:

His speaking tour … has taken him to Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and South Haven. The final stop will be to­night in Ann Arbor. During his presentation, Mr. Meyer shared informa­tion about how nuclear power plants, such as Fermi 2 in New­port, affect the lives of those liv­ing there and the environment in their immediate vicinity.

He argued that there were “no safe levels” of exposure to radiation for humans, plants or animals and that the effects of those energy waves are rarely tested.

“Illnesses don’t come with labels,” he said. “ There isn’t a sign that tells (doctors) a person has thyroid cancer because of Fermi — they just have thyroid cancer. But it isn’t just cancer. (Radiation) affects your circula­tory system and other parts of the body.”

At least the Monroe News throws this in:

According to the DTE Energy Web site about Fermi, “people living near Fermi 2 receive less than one millirem of exposure a year due to that plant’s opera­tion.”

They might have mentioned that a person picks up about 310 millirem per year just by walking around, but it’s a fair effort.

You can’t really rebut vaporous arguments about the “unknown” causes of thyroid cancer, but a responsible physician would know you can look for elevated instances of it around nuclear facilities – except he would also know you won’t find them. 

Here’s an example of a study looking for thyroid cancer among workers cleaning up after the Chernobyl accident:

In the study of 4,742 Estonian cleanup workers referred to above, Inskip et al. did not find an excess of thyroid cancer 9 years after the accident, and subsequent extended follow-up of this cohort did not show any increase in the risk of thyroid cancer up to 16 years after the accident.

Using such a group is important because “studies of such workers potentially have greater statistical power to measure effects.” And that’s because, while other factors still apply, this is a group that spent a measureable period working in a radiation-heavy area.

So it’s not impossible to sort out nuclear facility impacts (and this was after an accident, not daily operation) versus environmental issues. Complex yes, impossible no

NEI sends speakers around to provide a truer accounting of nuclear energy – hopefully, the folks at DTE Energy have someone to give talks to bamboozled Michigan residents.


Joffan said…
What the Chernobyl results demonstrate is also known from medical exposure: I-131 doesn't cause thyroid cancer in adults.

Thyroid Cancer after Diagnostic Administration of Iodine-131
In conclusion, it is reassuring that the careful examination of over 34,000 patients who received substantial radiation doses to their thyroid glands from I-131 did not reveal a radiation-related risk of thyroid cancer.
Radiation is safe within limits. Radiation: The Facts is a short, readable, article that can be used to educate open-minded people.
It's also available as a tri-fold brochure.

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 …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

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.


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…