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On How Do Fast Reactors Respond to Rapid Reactivity Insertion Events?

@Bob Meinetz

There was a time when I innocently would have agreed with the perspective that you provide in the below statement.

Though I try to keep an open mind on conspiracy theories about it (and about TMI), the idea that someone would tank a nuclear reactor to attempt to further some goal, committing suicide in the process, is a stretch compared to it being the result of lax oversight, lax training, and indifference.

That was before a lot of life experiences that taught me that suicide is not rare, that people will commit all kinds of horrible acts for the love of money, and that a string of dependent coincidences is a better indication of malice than accident.

It is virtually impossible to design an energy production system that is completely fool proof, but the physical consequences of the event at Chernobyl were far less than what has been portrayed by many sources. A substantial portion of the first responder casualities could have been avoided by simple application of time, distance and shielding if it were not for the fact that decision makers have been taught that radiation is so dangerous that it is worth sacrificing some lives to halt a fire that is spreading diluted contamination over a large area.

The evacuation was a reasonable response, the permanent relocation was not. Have you read stories of the stubborn babushkas that either refused to leave their homes or violated the law in order to return to live where they were born?

The first responder deaths, the repetitive images broadcast by commercial media, and the continued portrayal of the areas of forced reloaction as uninhabitable are more attributable to propaganda than to real hazard from even complete disregard of operating procedures and violation of basic rules about not overriding safety systems.

Just because 9-11 showed that it is possible to use commercial aircraft as weapons of mass destruction, does that mean we should halt commercial aviation?

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

February 24, 2015    View Comment    

On How Do Fast Reactors Respond to Rapid Reactivity Insertion Events?

@Bob Meinetz

The RBMK has been unfairly demonized by western competitors and others with political motives.

There was nothing inherently wrong with the basic technology. Russia continues to operate 11 RBMKs today. Lithuania was forced to shut down two valuable RBMK reactors as part of the admission price to the EU. Its economy has not fully recovered and its energy independence was never restored.

The US government owned and operated the N-reactor at Hanford, WA. That facility was quite similar in overall design and mission. Like the RBMKs, it was a water-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor that was used for a dual purpose of producing both plutonium for weapons and electricity for beneficial use. President Kennedy attended the inauguration ceremony for the project and gave a rousing speech about the benefits it would provide.

The N-reactor was quietly decommissioned soon after the Chernobyl accident. At the time of the accident, it was in a shutdown for needed maintenance and repairs; that shutdown became permanent.

The underlying cause of the accident at Chernobyl was not the weakness of the RBMK design. It was purposely putting the reactor into an unstable condition with all safety systems disabled. The assigned operators were apparently too inexperienced or too compliant in following orders to recognize the dangers, and the man in charge of the "test" was supposedly more interested in the performance of the electrical generator than the reactor.

I've read through the details of the events that took place that night. From the point of view of a former engineer officer who was in charge of all aspects of operating and maintaining a reactor for about 40 months, there were two ways to read the report. Either is was an incredible comedy of errors with a sequence of events in which people took exactly the wrong actions by mistake, or it was the result of at least one person who knew, perhaps because he had been coached, exactly which actions would cause the most harm and he ordered those actions to take place.

A great deal of wealth changed hands as a result of the Chernobyl accident; some of that money movement was entirely predictable in the event of a severe nuclear accident.

Besides, we are getting close to the 30th anniversary of the accident; don't you think it is time to move on?

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights


February 24, 2015    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy: The Sixty-Year Pitch

Please ignore above. Editing function won't let me properly edit/delete.

February 20, 2015    View Comment    

On How Do Fast Reactors Respond to Rapid Reactivity Insertion Events?

@Bob Meinetz

I have no idea what kind of damage to a rod would cause the kind of core melt that you envision.


February 20, 2015    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy: The Sixty-Year Pitch

@Peter Dykstra

You wrote:

The World Health Organization estimated that Chernobyl-related cancer deaths will eventually reach 4,000, but that is hotly disputed, with some projections reaching six figures.

That is not what the WHO estimate says ( 

"He explains that there have been 4000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children, but that except for nine deaths, all of them have recovered. "Otherwise, the team of international experts found no evidence for any increases in the incidence of leukemia and cancer among affected residents."

The international experts have estimated that radiation could cause up to about 4000 eventual deaths among the higher-exposed Chernobyl populations, i.e., emergency workers from 1986-1987, evacuees and residents of the most contaminated areas. This number contains both the known radiation-induced cancer and leukaemia deaths and a statistical prediction, based on estimates of the radiation doses received by these populations."

There is an enormous difference between "could cause up to about 4.000 eventual deaths" and "will eventually reach 4,000." Your statement also ignores the low end of the range of estimates, which is actually less than ZERO. There are a number of well designed studies that indicate that exposure to the levels of radiation that were released by the Chernobyl accident up-regulate the immune system enough to provide some overall beneficial results.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

February 20, 2015    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy: The Sixty-Year Pitch

@Peter Dykstra

This series is funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Family Foundation.

I wonder how many others recognize how long the Rockefellers have been investing in work that casts doubt on radiation and the ability of radioactive materials to compete with their primary source of wealth and power?

My research has uncovered strategic atomic misinformation investments as early as 1927 when the Rockefeller Foundation funded Hermann Muller's efforts to prove that x-rays cause mutations in fruit flies.

I'm not saying that the Rockefellers pay people to say something they don't believe in. I'm saying that the Rockefellers -- and their hydrocarbon associates -- often give money to support people who are saying things they want the public to hear. They have also been known to use their influence with the press to make sure that stories about the people who are raising concerns about radiation and nuclear energy get more attention than they might actually deserve.

Case in point - on the day that the National Academy of Sciences issued its first report on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation the Rockefeller Foundation tapped a member of its board of trustees to make sure that the report was adequately covered. That man, Arthur Sulzberger, was the publisher of the New York Times.

Surprise, surprise, the story not only received an above-the-line, front page headline, but there were about 5 other articles plus a 3 page long, full text version of the Genetics Committee report. That is the report that helped to establishe the "no safe dose" of radiation mantra.

Eager to invest in nukes, utilities took their cue from the AEC Chairman.

By the way, most utilities were definitely NOT eager to invest in nuclear energy. They did not know enough about the technology and did not believe that it was well-proven enough to depend on for economical electric power generation.

Lewis Strauss, who started his working career as a traveling shoe salesman, had to put the hard sell onto them, often introducing the threat that the government would support public ownership of nuclear plants if the private utilties wouldn't invest. At the time, there were few things that investor owned utilties feared more than "public power."

Of course, once they decided to invest, they started to spend a little to promote their investments.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

February 20, 2015    View Comment    

On Atomic Balm: Some Prominent Environmental Veterans are Talking up Nuclear Power as a Climate Change Solution


In the section about James Hansen, you wrote:

He said environmental leaders won’t reconsider nukes because “they are concerned that they would lose some of their financial support.”

That statement is worthy of more background than you provide. I engaged for several months in a discussion with a liasion from a major environmental group to try to set up a meeting between that group and some top-flight, mostly retired nuclear engineering and science professionals. The group we were talking to has a rather conflicted position on the related issues of climate change and nuclear energy. They believe that climate change holds dire, existential risks for human society. At the same time they are strong opponents of nuclear energy, saying it is:

1. Too expensive

2. There's no solution for "the waste issue"

3. Plutonium recycle to address the waste issue raises concerns about the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation

4. There's not enough regulation to make the nuclear fuel cycle safe and environmentally sound

5. Cooling systems use too much water

6. Climate change will put coastal nuclear plants at risk

7. Uranium has to be imported, making nuclear energy just as dependent on international relationships as oil

After several months of give and take with more than 50 hours worth of specific conversations and written exchanges, we could not come to any agreement that would allow a meeting. Though the liasion was very intererested and worked hard to sway the group's leadership, he ended up telling me that the leaders were worried about losing their funding.

Larry Rockefeller (Laurence Jr.) is a board member and major funder of the group. So is Bobby Kennedy.

Some believe those players are opposed to both nuclear energy and enhanced production of natural gas because they like exclusive real estate. I believe they simply like high priced energy because it is more profitable to sell than cheap energy. Both have extensive energy industry holdings; so do most of their friends and associates in the environmental donor community.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

February 18, 2015    View Comment    

On Should NRC Spend Time and Money Simplifying Transition to Decommissioning?


It is not my intent to add expense. What I was trying to point out was that it does not make sense to add additional costs for the operators that continue to run their plants in order to fund a lengthy, potentially resource intensive process to revise existing rules to streamline the transition to decommissioning.

I also suggested that putting such an effort high on the NRC's priority list would not be the best use of available resources. It would be better for the country, I believe, if the NRC would prioritize efforts to smooth the transition from a great idea on digital documents to a complete and certified design.

January 29, 2015    View Comment    

On Energy Quote of the Day: "Baloney and Rubbish"


Are you suggesting that we should believe what Alwaleed bin Talal says about Saudi motivations and goals? It is difficult for me to tell, since you quoted him without additional commentary.

Can you clarify your position?

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

January 20, 2015    View Comment    

On Shaping Public Perceptions of Radiation Risk


Many things are "difficult to verify." That does not mean that it is not worth the effort to dig through the historical record to find as much evidence as possible.

The Rockefeller Foundation has an admirable, long history. However, it is an organization made up of human beings with a clear desire to maintain their influence.

There is illogical or libelous with revealing circumstantial evidence that the organization worked to instill the belief that there is "no safe dose of radiation" and that it was well-motivated to do that to enable the slow, expensive development of a formidable competitor. Even today, the foundation has substantial holdings in oil and gas, though members of the family have indicated that they want to move to divest some of those holdings in the indetermintate future.

I'm not sure what your point is with regard to the reluctance of utilities to get involved in nuclear power. Utilities have always been -- and remain -- risk averse companies that have a desire to manufacture and distribute electricity as cost effectively as possible while meeting customer and regulatory demands for reliability and universal service.

In the 1950s, nuclear energy was unproven, expensive technology that could not be insured because it had no track record on which to build actuarial tables. OF COURSE the utilities wanted proof from their suppliers that the technology would work and they wanted some assurance that they would not be the responsible party if there was a problem.

By an accident of history, the only available technology supplier at the time that the nuclear industry was born in the US was the US government's Atomic Energy Commission. They owned all of the patents, owned all of the fuel, and employed most of the trained personnel.

If Fermi and friends had discovered fission when there was not "a war on," the technology development would have taken a completely different path, but the fossil fuel industry would have always had a motive for doing what it could to raise the barriers to entry to their lucrative and powerful industry.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

December 12, 2014    View Comment    

On Shaping Public Perceptions of Radiation Risk


Your comment presupposes that the EPA rule makers are experts in the health effects of low level radiation.

That is not true. They are merely writing rules based on their acceptance of the assertions of the 1956 BEAR 1 Genetics Committee, which was the first group to state that any radiation, down to a single gamma ray, has harmful effects on human beings.

They had not basis for making that assertion; all laboratory studies done up until that point used acute doses in excess of 1 Gy per dose.

I ascribe the "unanimous" report to the efforts of the committee chairman, a long time employee of the Rockefeller Foundation, which had provided research grants to more than half of the committee members. That employee, Warren Weaver, was the man in charge of the natural sciences program and was the specific individual responsible for approving all grants in the area of genetic research. 

I'm sure that any thoughtful, reader who understands the history of the Rockefeller Foundation and the source of its wealth can think of at least one or two reasons why it was so interested in asserting that there is a hazard associated with all levels of radiation and that it was impossible to use nuclear energy without accepting some level of risk.

Ever since its establishment in 1974, the EPA has ascribed to the LNT. There is a GS-14 named Nelson in the obscure office that funds all of the atomic bomb survivor Life Span Studies who has asserted in hearing range of a former colleague of mine that the LNT is his career meal ticket and it will not be questioned by any funded researcher while he is still in the approval loop for LSS funds.

Rod Adams

December 10, 2014    View Comment