The “hidden hazards” of nuclear waste

Coming in on the heels of the story “Hidden Hazards” in the Jan. 12 Mountain Xpress, an old fight is re-presenting itself in our community. It’s not hidden, and reminds me that what we don’t know can kill us. The prospect is not only for a neighborhood nuclear-waste dump but, at the very least, what would be the heavily traveled corridors of our interstate highways [being increasingly used] for nuclear-waste transportation.

About 30 years ago, the residents and environmental guardians of Big Sandy Mush fought against (and won) a proposal to turn this pristine wonderland of natural and limited resources into a nuclear-waste (land) repository. The large granite composition of our sacred mountains made it a prime target 30 years ago — and again, today.

On Jan. 7, 34 concerned residents from Western North Carolina traveled to Augusta, Ga., for a meeting held by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future ([organized] under the authority of the U.S. Department of Energy). The meeting’s primary focus was on the potential recycling or reprocessing of nuclear waste by the Savannah River site, located in our close-neighbor state, South Carolina.

There is so much scientific data, evidence, facts and history indicating that reprocessing nuclear waste is not efficient or affordable. In fact, the reprocessing will actually create more waste than what we already don’t know what to do with! (It makes me wonder what the real underlying motivation may be.)

Nuclear power is not clean, and never has been. Merely alluding to the idea of it being “clean” energy seems to be subversion, in light of facts, that it is known to cause cancer and birth defects. As a mother and grandmother, I’m tired of running from pollution, poisoned waters and caustic air. There is nowhere else I’d rather live than in the heart of WNC. And after looking at the U.S. map of the numbers and locations of nuclear power plants, I have to wonder, is there really anywhere left to run to, anyway?

— Victoria Regina-Furr


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44 thoughts on “The “hidden hazards” of nuclear waste

  1. bill smith

    There is no ‘clean’ energy. It all has a cost. Until we learn to to power down a bit, we will have to accept the downside of having our air conditioners and dishwashers and cell phones and ipods and laptops…

  2. travelah

    We have tried to build a facility in the middle of a vast nowhere and even there the opponents obfuscate. There is nothing that will be suitable for opponents of nuclear power so I think the solution is that whoever has the power to enforce its dictates wins the battle.
    More seriously, nuclear power with proper safeguards and evolving technology is very safe and if the obstructionists would wake up and step back for a bit, we could address permanent storage issues properly.

  3. bill smith

    [i]nuclear power with proper safeguards and evolving technology is very safe[/i]

    Is it? According to who? Based on what data? Where does the nuclear waste go? Oh, right, the ‘middle of a vast nowhere’ where only poor nobodies reside.

  4. Ron Bourgoin

    I respect Ms. Victoria Regina-Furr’s fear regarding possible designation of Big Sandy Mush as a potential nuclear waste repository by the U.S. Department of Energy since they might come back because Yucca Mountain is off the table. I remember the fight in 1984 to keep DOE out of not only WNC but also Wake County. I don’t think she needs to worry too much about SRS becoming a reprocessing center though since there are now 34 million gallons of reprocessing wastes at that site. I tend to doubt SRS wants more recycling waste. I wrote a story about that on February 17, 2005 in my Nuke Waste Watcher blog,

  5. Suzanne Hobbs

    It is National Nuclear Science Week, and I hope that they citizens of Asheville will take some time to get past unfounded fears about nuclear energy and look at the facts. We all use electricity everyday, but most of it comes from coal, which is responsible for 24,000 American deaths per year according to the CDC. Nuclear Energy comes in at 0 annual deaths, creates 20% of America’s electricity and offers carbon-free energy production. All renewables create less than 1% of our total electricity due to the invariable nature of the wind and sun, and inefficiency of trying to collect diffuse energy sources.

    Another important fact: no one in the Blue Ribbon Commission has so much as mentioned Sandy Mush as a repository site. The reason that it wasn’t chosen as a repository 30 years ago is because it is not a good candidate for the job and therefore it won’t even be considered, even if Yucca Mountain remains closed, which is unlikely.

    Mary Olson and Pat Smathers created a story about Sandy Mush and Asheville housing nuclear waste for political purposes during the midterm election last november. It has spiraled into community outrage towards something that isn’t even happening. It is unfortunate because those sort of fear tactics overshadow the facts and the well being of our citizens:

  6. Paul A Lee

    The NIMBYs, BANANAs, Chicken Littles, and Luddites seem to prefer to continue belching millions of tons of fossil fuel carbon into the atmosphere, rather than isolate a few thousand tons of radioactive waste in stable geologic formations.

  7. As someone who lives “in the middle of a vast nowhere,” we can say clearly that we appreciate and are grateful for all the biological diversity, pure spring water, clear-running creeks, fertile topsoil, sunlight, and fresh, oxygen-rich air so generously offered by our forests!

    Energy-efficiency investments and renewable energy development will create opportunities for small businesses, jobs, and will help to alleviate the excessive carbon burden in our atmosphere.

    The only place we should find Uranium is hidden safely in the Earth — not in weapons of mass destruction, not in the lungs or other tissues of miners and their families, not rolling down highways heading towards truck-wrecks, and not as “waste” to contaminate the habitat of other living beings!

    Please, let us honor and respect the integrity and sovereignty of all living beings in their natural habitats — everywhere on Earth!

    The Southern Appalachians politely decline any offers of nuclear waste transport or disposal here in these most ancient mountains!

    If you too are interested in declining the invitation to encourage increasing numbers of nuclear waste-bearing trucks through these mountains and the nightmare-scenario of a nuclear dump contaminating our headwaters, please send your voice to the US government’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Nuclear Waste.

    Write to BRC@NUCLEAR.ENERGY.GOV and just say “No Thanks!” — preferably before March 1.
    And please encourage all your extended family members to do the same!
    Future generations of all living beings will thank you!

  8. Ashevegasjoe

    The issue with storing waste in Yucca Mt., is we would have to take it there. Most plants are on the east coast. Really, the main problem with nuclear power, is nuclear waste. Until science can solve the problem of what to do with it, it will remain a threat to national security.

  9. Why exactly is everyone so worried that Sandy Mush will become a repository, when there is not evidence that anyone is proposing to do such a thing? Can anyone provide more evidence that Sandy Mush was ever being considered for a nuclear waste repository site? According to the DOE records, they only seriously looked at sites in Texas, Nevada and Washington.

    In regard to Regina-Furr’s comment, “There is so much scientific data, evidence, facts and history indicating that reprocessing nuclear waste is not efficient or affordable.” I would suggest doing some research on AREVA, the French company that has been successfully reprocessing what was once considered “waste” ensuring energy security for their country.

    Like all technologies, nuclear reactors have continued to improve in safety and efficiency over the past 30 years. Small Modular Reactors and Thorium technologies are game changers in the energy world, reducing risk, waste and overhead cost. Refusing to consider our energy options out of fear is not going to help us reduce our reliance on coal which is our primary source of electricity and CO2 emissions.

  10. Ron Bourgoin

    Perhaps a brief stroll through recent history will help. When Samuel Bodman, former secretary of energy, left office, he submitted his recommendation to Congress that sites previously named, which included sites in North Carolina, be re-examined as potential national repositories. On the matter of why the Blue Ribbon Commission has not mentioned Sandy Mush, or any other site for that matter, is because the current energy secretary, Dr. Paul Chu, gave the members specific instructions at thweir very first meeting that the Blue Ribbon Commission is not a siting commission. You can find support for all these statements by contacting the U.S. Department of Energy.

  11. funkygardener

    Was Big Sandy Mush actually a contender for a high level nuclear waste repository in 1986? Yes, most definitely. I live in that beautiful farming community and cannot otherwise explain the presence of US geologists testing our rocks back then, the many paged document outlining how the choice would be made, and the public meetings with the DOE that many of us attended and spoke at.
    It is true the only thing the BRC will decide at this point is whether to put the nuclear waste in SC. Read the document from the Union of Concerned Scientists( “Nuclear Reprocessing: Dangerous, Dirty, and Expensive” -and you will note that “reprocessing does not reduce the need for storage and disposal of radioactive waste, and a geologic repository would still be required. After reprocessing, the remaining material will be in several different waste forms, and the total volume of nuclear waste will have been increased by a factor of twenty or more, including low-level waste and plutonium-contaminated waste.”
    Guess who has the required granite formations and is in close proximity to SC?

  12. Margaret Williams

    Just a little interjection here: The comments seem to be warming up. Please refrain from personal attacks (or a nasty tone) toward the letter writer and fellow commenters.

  13. travelah

    I agree with some of your comments. Transportation and storage of waste are the predominant issues in this matter. However, there are both safe storage means and modes of transportation. There is considerably more hazardous rail traffic through Asheville every day and week that has nothing to do with nuclear waste yet I do not see a clamor for putting a stop to it (if we did it would stop industrial commerce in its tracks).
    Nuclear waste, mostly medical, is transported every day, some right here in Asheville. If the vehicle transporting it was involved in an accident, there is a very remote threat of exposure. If there was an actual exposure, what are the actual expected harmful effects to the public at large? Not much. I view the transportation risks are being overblown and hyped for effect.
    As for storage, it is another matter. Whatever site is chosen has to have stable geological characteristics that would allow it to remain unaccessible. Those sites exist and the technology exists today for that to happen. One thing is certain. A site has to be found simply for the fact that this waste already exists.

  14. bill smith

    [i]However, there are both safe storage means and modes of transportation. [/i]

    I would still like to see some of the information this opinion is based upon.

    [i]Nuclear waste, mostly medical, is transported every day, some right here in Asheville. If the vehicle transporting it was involved in an accident, there is a very remote threat of exposure. If there was an actual exposure, what are the actual expected harmful effects to the public at large? Not much. I view the transportation risks are being overblown and hyped for effect.

    Is comparing ‘low-level’ medical waste to ‘high level’ waste produced when making power a fair comparison? Or a conflation? :-)

  15. Oleps

    As a “Progress” Energy customer I know that the electricity that I use in my home comes from burning mostly non-renewable resources. As of 2009 it looks as follows: 41% from coal, 35% from nuclear, 24% from gas or oil. I would suggest that we take a serious look at how we use this dirty and non-renewable energy and come to terms with the fact that we are LIVING WAY BEYOND OUR MEANS and the fastest way to a safe, clean future is by addressing the consumer madness. Once we settle in on a more realistic path towards a sustainable future, it will become obvious that the energy that we truely need can be provided by renewable energy sources. PLEASE take time to consider your life style and your responsibility for a healthy future. We are in this together and it requires a few of us to inform the many about the dangers from lack of awareness regarding the loomiming NUCLEAR RENAISSANCE ( financed by the tax and rate payers: that is you!!) and it’s detriment to our survival.
    The threat is real and your participation in avoiding it is even more real. So don’t just sit there: DO SOMETHING !!!

  16. Wayne Hoyt

    Following is a copy of my letter to the BRC (Blue Ribbon Commission):

    Thank you for the offer to store nuclear waste in my neighborhood, but I must decline the offer and direct you to the Sun. Launching nuclear waste via rockets to impact the largest nuclear reactor within several light-years seems to be most appropriate and undoubtedly less expensive, if history is the benchmark, than creating a huge, protected hole in the ground, here. The technology exists now and would exponentially improve — read lower cost — if that path were selected.

    You have spent over 10 billion dollars preparing Yucca mountain for such a purpose and apparently like the habitability of the place so much that it should be reserved for our Royal leaders in Washington in case of an “emergency”. (I will resist mentioning the irony and appropriateness of such a repository for our treasured leaders.)

    My family chose the Sandy Mush area to retire in because of the natural beauty of the area and relative safety compared to city living. Geologically speaking, the seismic stability of this area is a key factor in your rapacious quest for a safe storage place for the detritus of our nuclear fission energy production. Safe for who?

    This area may be geologically safer than elsewhere, but that is only statistically attractive. A catastrophic incident is less likely here, but still possible. Perhaps the occurrence of this low probability incident will be the cause of the retreat of our government officials to the Yucca repository at some point in the future. (Irony emphasized again!).

    Again, thank you for the offer, but I and my offspring would prefer to rest easier in your absence. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

  17. bill smith

    [i]I would suggest that we take a serious look at how we use this dirty and non-renewable energy and come to terms with the fact that we are LIVING WAY BEYOND OUR MEANS and the fastest way to a safe, clean future is by addressing the consumer madness[/i]

    I couldn’t agree more. We CAN NOT continue this level of consumption.

  18. bill smith

    Interesting to Note Travelah doesn’t seem to be able to substantiate his opinions on the benign nature of nuclear power.

  19. normanplombe

    golly, guys, i thought ignorance was supposed to be bliss, not paranoia! there’s one guy here who’s worked in nuclear power for over a decade and it’s me. i’ve worked the spent fuel pit (that is, shuffling around used nuclear fuel rods underwater) for many 12 hour shifts and usually picked up a dose of 1 ot 2 millirems per shift…it’s nothing. google it. airline pilots get the worst of radiation in the professional world. the public is kept ignorant and fearful of the simplicity and safety of nuclear power. otherwise you’d collectively demand that it be cheap! wake up and quit believing the fear-mongering profiteers. nuclear power should be nearly free. outside of drastic population reduction, it is the only answer to our growing appetite for electricity.

  20. invisiblefriend

    OK. I was just wondering something. Lets just say that the present and near future nuclear power plants created an amount of nuclear waste that could be stored at places as big as sandy mush or yucca mt. Now lets say nuclear power got more an more popular over the next few years. Now lets say in fifty years the whole earth with its increasing population just used nuclear power, and coal and wind and solar were obsolete and forgotten about. Can any one of the experts reading or commenting here mathmatically calculate or ballpark what size area the entire world would need to dump the nuclear waste annually? How about compounded over100 years? Would sandy mush suffice? Would we have to designate an area the size of greenland? Im talking about if the whole world from hong kong to london to fairbanks and evry little podunk town in siberia and wnc. What size area? can anyone answer this? Would this amt of waste increase the likelihood of abuse, rouge bomb making, accidental meltdowns like Chernobal? Its romantic to think that nuclear energy can solve the worlds energy problems on a long term basis without causing future problems. I think a lot of people think short term quick fix and dont realize when you mess with the equilibrium of nature, nature is relentless.

  21. Scared citizen

    I would like to alert everyone to another extremely hazardous substance.
    The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) states: “This product has been evaluated and determined to be hazardous as defined in OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.” Following are some specific warnings:


    “This product has been determined to be a flammable liquid per the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, and should be handled accordingly.” “Water may be ineffective in extinguishing low flash point fires.”

    In case of accidental release:
    “Keep public away. Isolate and evacuate area. Shut off source if safe to do so. Eliminate all ignition sources. Advise authorities and National Response Center (800-424-8802) if the product has entered a water course or sewer. Notify local health and pollution control agencies, if appropriate.”

    “Overexposure to (the combustion products) can cause headache, nausea, nervous system depression, coma and death.”

    The potential environmental impact of a spill:
    “Product can cause fouling of shoreline and may be harmful to aquatic life in low concentrations. The aquatic toxicity is as follows:
    LD50 is 8 ppm at 96 hours in bluegill.
    TLM is 90 ppm at 24 hours in juvenile shad.
    LC50 is 2 ppm at 96 hours in mullet.
    LD50 is 1.5 ppm at 96 hours in grass shrimp.
    LC50 is 2 ppm at 96 hours in menhaden.
    TLM is 91 ppm at 24 hours in juvenile shad.”

    This product can be purchased and owned by anyone. Quantities of 100 pounds or more are routinely transported on our streets and highways. Spills pollute our beautiful streams and rivers. Use of this material pollutes the air that we breathe. Mistakes, accidents, misuse of applications of this product are directly connected to the deaths of approximately 100 Americans every day!

    This toxic material clearly has a negative impact on the environment in and around Asheville. Use of the material has undeniable risks. Shouldn’t this material be banned in Asheville?

    Please join me to stop the use of gasoline in Asheville!

  22. Suzanne Hobbs

    @ Invisblefriend- new technologies like molten salt reactors burn “spent fuel” and turn it into energy. China announced last week it’s 20 year plan to develop Thorium technology that does just that. The French already reprocess spent fuel in a way that greatly reduces the overall volume of waste. Look at how much technologies have improved in the past 30 years. The nuclear industry has been improving too, and will continue to do so. The whole purpose of the Blue Ribbon Commission is to reevaluate if long term storage is even necessary in light of these technological improvements.

    Nuclear materials are naturally occurring elements on our planet. Nuclear Fission reactions have happened naturally in the past at places like Gabon, Africa. Solar panels are just collecting energy from a giant Nuclear Reaction we refer to as the sun. Nuclear materials are as natural as sunlight and wind.

    @Scared citizen- way to highlight a real threat! We accept the negative environmental impact of oil, wars waged, and lives lost, but continue to buy gasoline. It seems silly that we are so scared of relatively safe technologies like nuclear energy, but ignore the constant use of harmful substances like oil and coal in our everyday lives.

  23. travelah

    Gasoline, home heating oil, LP, most household cleaners … there is a long list of things that the anti-energy people might want to consider banning in Asheville because its “dangerous”.

  24. Jessica B.

    travelah say: “Gasoline, home heating oil, LP, most household cleaners … there is a long list of things that the anti-energy people might want to consider banning in Asheville because its “dangerous”. ”

    None of those things have a half-life lasting thousands of years. Nuclear Waste does. A good analogy might be keeping all the garbage and sewage you’ve generated over the course of your life packed away in the basement, for the rest of your life and lives of the next few dozen people who purchase your home. It might not leak methane and start heating up. Vandals might not decide to swipe some and wrap it around a firecracker and toss it in your window or your neighbor’s. It might even convert into something useful…in a few centuries. Are you and your decendents willing to be the guinea pig for a little experiment?

  25. Scared citizen

    I would like to try to answer invisiblefriend’s question (good question, by the way).

    The first thing to recognize is that one lb of fissile material (U-235 or Pu-239) contains more energy than 2,000,000 lbs of fossil fuel (coal, oil, etc). So the amount of nuclear waste is miniscule compared to the waste created by burning fossil fuels. Of course, the tiny amount of radioactive waste is very dangerous, which is why it is completely contained.

    Nuclear fuel contains about 5% U-235, the rest (95%) is U-238, which is not fissile. At the end of life, about 4% of the fuel has been burned. The composition of “spent fuel” or “used fuel” (depending on whether it is disposed of or recycled) is about 1% U-235, 4% fission products, 1% plutonium and other transuranics, and 94% U-238.

    Only the fission products, 4% of the spent fuel mass, are actual wastes, the rest can be recycled.

    Nuclear power provides about 20% of our electricity. About 2,300 MTU of spent fuel is discharged each year in the US. So if we use 100%nuclear power, the quantity of spent fuel would be 11,500 MTU/yr (= 11,500,000 kgs/yr) for 300,000,000 people, which equals 38 grams of spent fuel per person per year. But only 4% of this amount is actual waste (fission products), so your “nuclear waste footprint” for using 100% nuclear for a year is about 1.5 grams, less than the weight of a penny. This compares to the carbon footprint of the average American of 20 tons per year. If all of your electricity came from nuclear power and you live to 75, all of the fission products could fit in a coffee cup. Of course the fission products will be dispersed in a stable matrix material, so the actual mass and volume of the waste form will be greater. If left in the U-238 matrix, your lifetime quantity would fill about 10 coffee cups. I’ll let you do the math for the rest of the world. Then if you calculate how much waste will be generated without nuclear power, you will understand why I’m scared (worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are currently about 30 billion tonnes per year).

    A final note – after about 500 years the radioactivity of the fission products is less than the uranium in the new fuel. The half life of U-238 is 4.5 billion years. So, long term, the use of nuclear power reduces the amount of radioactivity in the environment.

    I hope this helps.

  26. normanplombe

    scared citizen–you really make some good points, but you’re kind of comparing chalk (river)and cheese here. U-238 is barely fissile. it is the enrichment of U-235 (3-5% in most nuclear power plants, above 90% in nuclar warships and weapons) that makes sustained fission possible…while i wish you were right about nuclear power reducing radioactivity, it’s not nearly that simple. nukes do produce bad stuff, but such a relatively small amount!

    nuclear power plants are designed to hold (usually) 30 years worth of their own spent fuel in a pool roughly the size of an olympic swimming pool (though a bit deeper) filled with borated water. (boron is a neutron absorber, and prevents further fission by ‘eating’ neutrons).

  27. Jack Gamble

    @Bill Smith

    Google ‘Oklo Gabon.’ Nuclear waste has been safely stored underground there for over 2 BILLION YEARS. It has been there since before any multicellular life ever evolved on this planet. It has been safely stored there without any containers, engineered safegaurds, or human protection of any kind. Every single organism on this Earth has evolved and thrived with nuclear waste safely stored undeground.

    So yes, there abolsutely are proven effective measures to store radioactive waste. Mother Nature has shown us how.

  28. Jack Gamble

    @Jessica Bee

    You’re right. Things like chemical cleaners, CO2, SO2, Lead, Mercury, and other pollution DON’T have half lives. They NEVER decay away. They actually do last forever. Most nuclea byproducts have decayed into harmless materials within the first hundred years. The remaining readioactive material is far less radioactive and not nearly as dangerous as Lead or Mercury (which are pumped into the atmosphere and water by the millions of metric tons by fossil fuel plants.

  29. normanplombe

    scared citizen…just realized you already said what i said, i apologize for my missing that…ugh!

  30. normanplombe

    the real unfortunate thing is that nuclear plants are required (by their own asinine regulations) to consider even super-low level radioctive waste a problem..i mean stuff that is less active than your old glow in the dark wristwatch or that fiestaware…this creates tons of “radioctive waste” that’s really benign unless taken internally….so don’t eat yellow booties!

  31. DK

    I don’t like the attitude this letter-writer has toward nuclear energy in general. Ignorance is the only explanation for such a glob of misinformation. The truth is, nuclear power has come so far in its technology that it’s safer than most any other realistic form of energy production. While so many misguided people keep on thinking that ethanol will power our cities (laugh), there are actually rational ways of managing the need for energy in today’s world.

    Every time some industry wants to make WNC their home, there is always some dirt-people fight-fest. Bringing nuclear energy here might create some jobs in this failing tourism economy. Everyone is so afraid of the word “nuclear”, but the simple fact is people fear what they don’t understand. They could have called it an electrity-renewing plant and people would beg the energy companies to bring it here.

    The point is, until we find a means of better energy conservation this problem is only going to get worse. I hope now that Duke Energy bought/merged with Progress Energy that our methods of energy production become more diversified in the region.

  32. bill smith

    [i]Bill Smith, the word benign is your term, not mine.[/i]

    You’re right. Your term was “very safe”.

    I asked if you had any sources to point to to support your opinion that nuclear power is ‘very safe’.

    Should I conclude by your complete silence after several days that you do not have any valid information to substantiate your claim that nuclear power is ‘very safe’?

  33. travelah

    My phrase was “More seriously, nuclear power with proper safeguards and evolving technology is very safe”. Please point to the deaths in the US and Western Europe associated with unsafe nuclear power and contrast that with deaths from coal and oil.

  34. bill smith

    Please point to the deaths in the US and Western Europe associated with unsafe nuclear power and contrast that with deaths from coal and oil.

    I see. So when you called it ‘very safe’, you only meant into comparison to something you view as very dangerous?

    And how many deaths are associated with coal and oil every year?

  35. Jack Gamble

    @Bill Smith

    My math is a little rusty, but ZERO human deaths among the public in the United States in 50 years of operating more than 100 nuclear reactors is WAY better than 25,000 people dead in the US alone every year from fossil fuel emissions. Feel free to independently verify my numbers or produce proof otherwise. THAT is proof enough that nuclear power is perfectly safe.

    My question for you is this: If fossil fuels kill 25,000 per year, and nuclear replaced 20% of fossil fuel demand in just 20 years – then how many people have antinuclear activists indirectly harmed by intervening in nuclear power plants that could have prevented those deadly emissions?

  36. Jack Gamble

    @Bill Smith

    I take it by your silence on my comment about Oklo, Gabon that you were unable to disproove the fact I provided that nuclear waste has been safely stored on this planet for 2 billion years by Mother Nature without any engineered safegaurds or containment system.

  37. Scared citizen

    To Bill Smith,

    You can find BLS statistics on deaths for workplace categories at
    on Page 19

    In 2009 (compiled in 2010, the most recent data available, I think), utilities had the lowest number of fatalities of any industry in the US (17), and none of these occurred at nuclear power plants, which have the best safety record of any industry in the US. Construction had the highest number of fatalities (816).

    It took me about 5 minutes to find this data on the internet (plus tons of other data). Just out of curiosity, since you have been waiting for days, why don’t you do your own research?

  38. Scared citizen

    To Bill Smith,

    You asked “And how many deaths are associated with coal and oil every year?”

    Here is one opinion:


    “Health problems linked to aging coal-fired power plants shorten nearly 24,000 lives a year, including 2,800 from lung cancer, and nearly all those early deaths could be prevented if the U.S. government adopted stricter rules, according to a study released Wednesday.

    Commissioned by environmental groups and undertaken by a consultant often used by the Environmental Protection Agency, the study concluded that 22,000 of those deaths are preventable with currently available technology.”

    You also asked “I see. So when you called it ‘very safe’, you only meant into comparison to something you view as very dangerous?”

    Let me ask you – zero deaths for commercial nuclear power, perhaps over 20,000 deaths per year caused by lung disease from particulates and toxic emmissions from coal fired plants. Which do you consider safer?

    By the way, it took me one minute on the internet to find this (and a lot of other info).

  39. Scared citizen

    I am finding this research very interesting, just found a more recent study about deaths from coal fired plants. The other study (completed in 2004) that I found estimated 24,000 deaths per year. I was pleased to find a new report (2010) that shows improvements in coal fired plants, only 13,200 deaths/yr and only $100 billion/yr in health effects:

    According to the report:

    Fine particle pollution from existing coal plants is expected to cause nearly 13,200 deaths in 2010.Additional impacts include an estimated 9,700 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 heart attacks per year. The total monetized value of these adverse health impacts adds up to more than $100 billion per year. This burden is not distributed evenly across the population. Adverse impacts are especially severe for the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. In addition, the poor, minority groups, and people who live in areas downwind of multiple power plants are likely to be disproportionatelyexposed to the health risks and costs of fine particle pollution.

  40. bill smith

    [i]THAT is proof enough that nuclear power is perfectly safe.[/i]

    No, it is not. It is a statement. Stating something does not make it a fact. Comparing nuclear waste to deaths associated with carbon emissions does not make it ‘perfectly safe’. It arguably makes it safe-ER than burning carbon, but not ‘perfectly safe’ or ‘very safe’. Those are absolute statements, not relative ones.

    Regardless, I am not arguing that coal and other fossil fuels are ‘safe’. That is a red herring. Both nuclear and fossil fuels are very unsafe, in many different ways.

    Americans need to have a more reasonable level of energy consumption that does not rely upon passing on pollution in the form of carbon emissions or radioactive waste to future generations.

    Pretending that these two energy sources are the only option is disingenuous. Scaling down current levels of consumption is a FAR more ‘safe’ method than either of those options. (updating our energy grid to be FAR more efficient, as well as scaling back personal and business levels of consumption would make us ‘safe’) Why are you not arguing for that if safety is your concern?

    [i]By the way, it took me one minute on the internet to find this (and a lot of other info). [/i]

    It is generally up to the person making the claim to provide verification, not anyone else. Regardless, I asked for proof that nuclear power was ‘safe’. Neither you nor travelah have provided that yet.

    You have merely provided an example of it being ‘safer’ than burning coal and oil. By that logic, getting hit in the head with a hammer is ‘safe’, because it is less dangerous than being hit with a machete.

  41. ron bourgoin

    My comment on January 27 @ 9:30 AM contained an error. I incorrectly stated that Dr. Paul Chu is current Energy Secretary. The actual Energy Secretary is, of course, Dr. Stephen Chu. I apologize for the error. I had communicated with Dr. Paul Chu at the Texas Center for Superconductivity and had his name on my mind.

  42. Candyland

    Ok, all you pro-nuclear energy folks. So are you saying you’re cool with that waste being dumped here in our beautiful and beloved Sandy Mush area? You think it’s a good idea? I’m curious. Or, will you take the “not in my backyard” stance?

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