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Jeremy Rifkin: Five (actually 6) reasons why nuclear is not a good business model or the answer to climate change
At the Wermuth Asset Management 5th Annual Investor Event, Jeremy Rifkin responded to the question: What would be your view on nuclear energy with five, actually six, reasons for why nuclear is not an answer to climate change. The number of active plants in the world may go up or down by a couple, the percentage points of nuclear in the energy mix may vary by a few from time to time, but what he says has been true for a long while and it will be true going forward despite any small changes in the numbers. In terms of the money, the cost will only rise.
And one thing he doesn't say- if nuclear is not a part of the solution to climate change than the enormous amount of money thrown at this dead end technology, and the huge waste of precious time that could be spent on viable solutions make nuclear an active agent in accelerating climate change.
1. Nuclear would have to be 20% to have the minimum minimum impact on climate change. That means we’d have to replace the existing 400 nuclear plants and build 1600 additional plants. Three nuclear plants would have to be built every 30 days for 40 years to get to 20% and by that time climate change would have pretty much run its course with us...
2. We still don’t know how to recycle the nuclear waste and we’re seventy years in. Now, we have good engineers in the US. We spent 18 years & $8 billion building an underground vault in Yucca Mountain to store the wastes for 10,000 years. We can’t use it. We can’t even store them...
3. We run into uranium deficits, according to the Department of Atomic Energy Commission, you may know this, between 2025 and 2035 for just the existing 400 plants. So, that means the price goes up.
4. We could do what the French generation of new plants are doing and recycle the uranium to plutonium. But then we have plutonium all over the world in an age of uncertainty and terrorism.
5. We don’t have the water.
6. Nuclear power is centralized power, like fossil fuels. It doesn’t fit a new generation that’s moving with the kind of technologies that are distributed, collaborative, and laterally scaled. It’s an old technology.
Click to read full transcript
Helen Caldicott l Australian Medical Student Journal Volume 4, Issue 2 2014
Due to my personal concerns regarding the ignorance of the world’s media and politicians about radiation biology after the dreadful accident at Fukushima in Japan, I organized a 2 day symposium at the NY Academy of Medicine on March 11 and 12, 2013, titled ‘The Medical and Ecological Consequences of Fukushima,’ which was addressed by some of the world’s leading scientists, epidemiologists, physicists and physicians who presented their latest data and findings on Fukushima. 
The Great Eastern earthquake, measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, and the ensuing massive tsunami on the east coast of Japan induced the meltdown of three nuclear reactors within several days. During the quake the external power supply was lost to the reactor complex and the pumps, which circulate up to one million gallons of water per minute to cool each reactor core, ceased to function. Emergency diesel generators situated below the plants kicked in but these were soon swamped by the tsunami. Without cooling, the radioactive cores in units 1, 2 and 3 began to melt within hours. Over the next few days, all three cores (each weighing more than 100 tonnes) melted their way through six inches of steel at the bottom of their reactor vessels and oozed their way onto the concrete floor of the containment buildings. At the same time the zirconium cladding covering thousands of uranium fuel rods reacted with water, creating hydrogen, which initiated hydrogen explosions in units 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Massive quantities of radiation escaped into the air and water – three times more noble gases (argon, xenon and krypton) than were released at Chernobyl, together with huge amounts of other volatile and non-volatile radioactive elements, including cesium, tritium, iodine, strontium, silver, plutonium, americium and rubinium. Eventually sea water was – and is still – utilized to cool the molten reactors.
Fukushima is now described as the greatest industrial accident in history.
The Japanese government was so concerned that they were considering plans to evacuate 35 million people from Tokyo, as other reactors including Fukushima Daiini on the east coast were also at risk. Thousands of people fleeing from the smoldering reactors were not notified where the radioactive plumes were travelling, despite the fact that there was a system in place to track the plumes. As a result, people fled directly into regions with the highest radiation concentrations, where they were exposed to high levels of whole-body external gamma radiation being emitted by the radioactive elements, inhaling radioactive air and swallowing radioactive elements.  Unfortunately, inert potassium iodide was not supplied, which would have blocked the uptake of radioactive iodine by their thyroid glands, except in the town of Miharu. Prophylactic iodine was eventually distributed to the staff of Fukushima Medical University in the days after the accident, after extremely high levels of radioactive iodine – 1.9 million becquerels/kg were found in leafy vegetables near the University.  Iodine contamination was widespread in leafy vegetables and milk, whilst other isotopic contamination from substances such as caesium is widespread in vegetables, fruit, meat, milk, rice and tea in many areas of Japan. 
The Fukushima meltdown disaster is not over and will never end. The radioactive fallout which remains toxic for hundreds to thousands of years covers large swathes of Japan and will never be “cleaned up.” It will contaminate food, humans and animals virtually forever. I predict that the three reactors which experienced total meltdowns will never be dissembled or decommissioned. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) – says it will take at least 30 to 40 years and the International Atomic Energy Agency predicts at least 40 years before they can make any progress because of the extremely high levels of radiation at these damaged reactors.
This accident is enormous in its medical implications. It will induce an epidemic of cancer as people inhale the radioactive elements, eat radioactive food and drink radioactive beverages. In 1986, a single meltdown and explosion at Chernobyl covered 40% of the European land mass with radioactive elements. Already, according to a 2009 report published by the New York Academy of Sciences, over one million people have already perished as a direct result of this catastrophe. This is just the tip of the iceberg, because large parts of Europe and the food grown there will remain radioactive for hundreds of years. 
Medical Implications of Radiation
Fact number one
No dose of radiation is safe. Each dose received by the body is cumulative and adds to the risk of developing malignancy or genetic disease.
Fact number two
Children are ten to twenty times more vulnerable to the carcinogenic effects of radiation than adults. Females tend to be more sensitive compared to males, whilst foetuses and immuno-compromised patients are also extremely sensitive.
Fact number three
High doses of radiation received from a nuclear meltdown or from a nuclear weapon explosion can cause acute radiation sickness, with alopecia, severe nausea, diarrhea and thrombocytopenia. Reports of such illnesses, particularly in children, appeared within the first few months after the Fukushima accident.
Fact number four
Ionizing radiation from radioactive elements and radiation emitted from X-ray machines and CT scanners can be carcinogenic. The latent period of carcinogenesis for leukemia is 5-10 years and solid cancers 15-80 years. It has been shown that all modes of cancer can be induced by radiation, as well as over 6000 genetic diseases now described in the medical literature.
But, as we increase the level of background radiation in our environment from medical procedures, X-ray scanning machines at airports, or radioactive materials continually escaping from nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps, we will inevitably increase the incidence of cancer as well as the incidence of genetic disease in future generations.
Types of ionizing radiation
- X-rays are electromagnetic, and cause mutations the instant they pass through the body.
- Similarly, gamma radiation is also electromagnetic, being emitted by radioactive materials generated in nuclear reactors and from some naturally occurring radioactive elements in the soil.
- Alpha radiation is particulate and is composed of two protons and two neutrons emitted from uranium atoms and other dangerous elements generated in reactors (such as plutonium, americium, curium, einsteinium, etc – all which are known as alpha emitters and have an atomic weight greater than uranium). Alpha particles travel a very short distance in the human body. They cannot penetrate the layers of dead skin in the epidermis to damage living skin cells. But when these radioactive elements enter the lung, liver, bone or other organs, they transfer a large dose of radiation over a long period of time to a very small volume of cells. Most of these cells are killed; however, some on the edge of the radiation field remain viable to be mutated, and cancer may later develop. Alpha emitters are among the most carcinogenic materials known.
- Beta radiation, like alpha radiation, is also particulate. It is a charged electron emitted from radioactive elements such as strontium 90, cesium 137 and iodine 131. The beta particle is light in mass, travels further than an alpha particle and is also mutagenic.
- Neutron radiation is released during the fission process in a reactor or a bomb. Reactor 1 at Fukushima has been periodically emitting neutron radiation as sections of the molten core become intermittently critical. Neutrons are large radioactive particles that travel many kilometers, and they pass through everything including concrete and steel. There is no way to hide from them and they are extremely mutagenic.
So, let’s describe just five of the radioactive elements that are continually being released into the air and water at Fukushima. Remember, though, there are over 200 such elements each with its own half-life, biological characteristic and pathway in the food chain and the human body. Most have never had their biological pathways examined. They are invisible, tasteless and odourless. When the cancer manifests it is impossible to determine its aetiology, but there is a large body of literature proving that radiation causes cancer, including the data from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- Tritium is radioactive hydrogen H3 and there is no way to separate tritium from contaminated water as it combines with oxygen to form H3O. There is no material that can prevent the escape of tritium except gold, so all reactors continuously emit tritium into the air and cooling water as they operate. It concentrates in aquatic organisms, including algae, seaweed, crustaceans and fish, and also in terrestrial food. Like all radioactive elements, it is tasteless, odorless and invisible, and will therefore inevitably be ingested in food, including seafood, for many decades. It passes unhindered through the skin if a person is immersed in fog containing tritiated water near a reactor, and also enters the body via inhalation and ingestion. It causes brain tumors, birth deformities and cancers of many organs.
- Cesium 137 is a beta and gamma emitter with a half-life of 30 years. That means in 30 years only half of its radioactive energy has decayed, so it is detectable as a radioactive hazard for over 300 years. Cesium, like all radioactive elements, bio-concentrates at each level of the food chain. The human body stands atop the food chain. As an analogue of potassium, cesium becomes ubiquitous in all cells. It concentrates in the myocardium where it induces cardiac irregularities, and in the endocrine organs where it can cause diabetes, hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer. It can also induce brain cancer, rhabdomyosarcomas, ovarian or testicular cancer and genetic disease.
- Strontium 90 is a high-energy beta emitter with a half-life of 28 years. As a calcium analogue, it is a bone-seeker. It concentrates in the food chain, specifically milk (including breast milk), and is laid down in bones and teeth in the human body. It can lead to carcinomas of the bone and leukaemia.
- Radioactive iodine 131 is a beta and gamma emitter. It has a half-life of eight days and is hazardous for ten weeks. It bio-concentrates in the food chain, in vegetables and milk, then in the the human thyroid gland where it is a potent carcinogen, inducing thyroid disease and/or thyroid cancer. It is important to note that of 174,376 children under the age of 18 that have been examined by thyroid ultrasound in the Fukushima Prefecture, 12 have been definitively diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 15 more are suspected to have the disease. Almost 200,000 more children are yet to be examined. Of these 174,367 children, 43.2% have either thyroid cysts and/or nodules.
In Chernobyl, thyroid cancers were not diagnosed until four years post-accident. This early presentation indicates that these Japanese children almost certainly received a high dose of radioactive iodine. High doses of other radioactive elements released during the meltdowns were received by the exposed population so the rate of cancer is almost certain to rise.
- Plutonium, one of the most deadly radioactive substances, is an alpha emitter. It is highly toxic, and one millionth of a gram will induce cancer if inhaled into the lung. As an iron analogue, it combines with transferrin. It causes liver cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, or multiple myeloma. It concentrates in the testicles and ovaries where it can induce testicular or ovarian cancer, or genetic diseases in future generations. It also crosses the placenta where it is teratogenic, like thalidomide. There are medical homes near Chernobyl full of grossly deformed children, the deformities of which have never before been seen in the history of medicine.
The half-life of plutonium is 24,400 years, and thus it is radioactive for 250,000 years. It will induce cancers, congenital deformities, and genetic diseases for virtually the rest of time.
Plutonium is also fuel for atomic bombs. Five kilos is fuel for a weapon which would vaporize a city. Each reactor makes 250 kg of plutonium a year. It is postulated that less than one kilo of plutonium, if adequately distributed, could induce lung cancer in every person on earth.
In summary, the radioactive contamination and fallout from nuclear power plant accidents will have medical ramifications that will never cease, because the food will continue to concentrate the radioactive elements for hundreds to thousands of years. This will induce epidemics of cancer, leukemia and genetic disease. Already we are seeing such pathology and abnormalities in birds and insects, and because they reproduce very fast it is possible to observe disease caused by radiation over many generations within a relatively short space of time.
Pioneering research conducted by Dr Tim Mousseau, an evolutionary biologist, has demonstrated high rates of tumors, cataracts, genetic mutations, sterility and reduced brain size amongst birds in the exclusion zones of both Chernobyl and Fukushima. What happens to animals will happen to human beings. 
The Japanese government is desperately trying to “clean up” radioactive contamination. But in reality all that can be done is collect it, place it in containers and transfer it to another location. It cannot be made neutral and it cannot be prevented from spreading in the future. Some contractors have allowed their workers to empty radioactive debris, soil and leaves into streams and other illegal places. The main question becomes: Where can they place the contaminated material to be stored safely away from the environment for thousands of years? There is no safe place in Japan for this to happen, let alone to store thousands of tons of high level radioactive waste which rests precariously at the 54 Japanese nuclear reactors.
Last but not least, Australian uranium fuelled the Fukushima reactors. Australia exports uranium for use in nuclear power plants to 12 countries, including the US, Japan, France, Britain, Finland, Sweden, South Korea, China, Belgium, Spain, Canada and Taiwan. 270,000 metric tons of deadly radioactive waste exists in the world today, with 12,000 metric tons being added yearly. (Each reactor manufactures 30 tons per year and there are over 400 reactors globally.)
This high-level waste must be isolated from the environment for one million years – but no container lasts longer than 100 years. The isotopes will inevitably leak, contaminating the food chain, inducing epidemics of cancer, leukemia, congenital deformities and genetic diseases for the rest of time.
This, then, is the legacy we leave to future generations so that we can turn on our lights and computers or make nuclear weapons. It was Einstein who said “the splitting of the atom changed everything save mans’ mode of thinking, thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”
The question now is: Have we, the human species, the ability to mature psychologically in time to avert these catastrophes, or, is it in fact, too late?
Disclaimer: The views, opinions and perspectives presented in this article are those of the author alone and does not reflect the views of the Australian Medical Student Journal. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors or omissions.
 Caldicott H. Helen Caldicott Foundation’s Fukushima Symposium. 2013; Available from: http://www.helencaldicott.com/2012/12/helen-caldicott-foundations-fukushima-symposium/.
 Japan sat on U.S. radiation maps showing immediate fallout from nuke crisis. The Japan Times. 2012.
 Bagge E, Bjelle A, Eden S, Svanborg A. Osteoarthritis in the elderly: clinical and radiological findings in 79 and 85 year olds. Ann Rheum Dis. 1991;50(8):535-9. Epub 1991/08/01.
 Tests find cesium 172 times the limit in Miyagi Yacon tea. The Asahi Shimbun. 2012.
 Yablokov AV, Nesterenko VB, Nesterenko AV, Sherman-Nevinger JD. Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment: Wiley. com; 2010.
 Fukushima Health Management. Proceedings of the 11th Prefectural Oversight Committee Meeting for Fukushima Health Management Survey. Fukushima, Japan2013.
 Møller AP, Mousseau TA. The effects of low-dose radiation: Soviet science, the nuclear industry – and independence? Significance. 2013;10(1):14-9.
Why nuclear accidents happen has long been obvious. The technology uses highly dangerous radioactive fuel, the current reactors are aging, the new reactors are overbudget and years behind schedule due to unresolved safety problems, or exist only as elegant designs on computer screens unrealizable in the real world. Any real safety culture is absent, corporate interests lie with the government money and preferential treatment they receive, government interests lie with corporate money for campaigns and an excuse to maintain their nuclear weapons programs (or the potential to start one). The the damage is subsidized by the taxpayers and ratepayers. An industry that has no liability for its actions and harm will cut corners.
But the horror of the fallout (literally and figuratively) of nuclear accidents that do happen is that instead of the well oiled disaster management plan you would expect of an industry whose materials involve forever deadly waste and long-lived carcinogenic isotopes- the clean-up falls to people unsuited in anyway for the serious work ahead, untrained, unskilled in some cases, unprepared, and desperate. Desperate to stay alive, desperate because they have no guidance, desperate because they, like the Fukushima reactor, are slowly being distanced from corporate responsibility and left to struggle and worry at a facility that is becoming more and more fragile.
NARAHA, Japan — “Out of work? Nowhere to live? Nowhere to go? Nothing to eat?” the online ad reads. “Come to Fukushima.”
That grim posting targeting the destitute, by a company seeking laborers for the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, is one of the starkest indications yet of an increasingly troubled search for workers willing to carry out the hazardous decommissioning at the site.
The plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, has been shifting its attention away, leaving the complex cleanup to an often badly managed, poorly trained, demoralized and sometimes unskilled work force that has made some dangerous missteps. At the same time, the company is pouring its resources into another plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, that it hopes to restart this year as part of the government’s push to return to nuclear energy three years after the world’s second-worst nuclear disaster. It is a move that some members of the country’s nuclear regulatory board have criticized.
Read full article here
Frances Lamberts writes about the Finnish Repository for radioactive waste and Dr Caldicott's interview with Michael Madsen about whether the Onkalo repository is more than a gesture, hiding something that will remain forever deadly deep beneath the earth and "forgetting it." As the Waste Confidence Rule is discarded in the US as wishful thinking, and nuclear countries around the world struggle with what to do with the mountains of radioactive waste they are producing, as the Fukushima nuclear disaster is finally bringing home to the average person that "spent fuel" is not "spent" at all- Michael Madsen's beautiful philosophical film about how humankind is failing to come to terms with how to safely contain something that exists in geologic time is even more timely.
Frances Lamberts l Herald & Tribune 29 October, 2013
"...Dr. Helen Caldicott interviewed the Danish director of a documentary about the Onkalo repository in Finland, which is to “hide” the spent-fuel waste from that country’s nuclear power plants.
...“Into Eternity,” ... details the bunker-like underground structure, begun in 2004, whose completion and sealing is expected to take 120 years.
Under Finnish law for the project, Onkalo is to quarantine the highly dangerous, radioactive materials “in a foolproof manner for 100,000 years.”
That means some 3,000 generations... or as long into the future as the human prehistory of the past...
He wonders what would happen in future ice ages, whose sheets would “depress the crust of the earth” far deeper than the lay of the bunker tunnels.
Or if earthquakes or water seepage create cracks in the bedrock, future wars wreak destruction on the facility, or the man-made materials crumble through corrosion.
The film questions our morality in leaving a legacy of waste to future children which, in the human timescale, is lethally dangerous forever. It asks, too, how we can effectively even warn or inform these of the danger...."
Listen to Dr Caldicott's interview with Michael Madsen here: http://ifyoulovethisplanet.org/?p=4732
Into Eternity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2OKY00fmWY
Alexey Yablokov l Blacksmith Institute (Journal of Health and Pollution) June 2013
"Radioactive pollution and its effects are some of the least visible but most dangerous man-made changes of the biosphere. Though above-ground nuclear weapons testing has been banned since the 1960s, mankind has continued to find new ways to exploit radionuclides. To protect people from anthropogenic radiation contamination, it is necessary to determine an acceptable level and range of exposure. Today, the system of radiation safety endorsed by the U.N. and other multi-national groups is based on the concept of an effective dose—the measure of cancer risk toan entire organism from radiation exposure to its various parts. This review posits there are serious problems with both the concept of an effective dose and the methodology behind its calculation, and that a new framework is needed. In order to study the issues and drawbacks of the official concept of radiation safety, and to assist readers in understanding the basis of his argument, the author sums up and critiques the current system’s main basic postulates and conclusions."
Link to downloadable article: http://blacksmithjournal.org/ojs/ojs-2.2.4/index.php/journalhealthpollution/article/view/71/95