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NRC Calls Off Expensive Search for Witches

Rod Adams's picture
President and CEO Adams Atomic Engines, Inc.
  • Member since 2006
  • 969 items added with 269,794 views
  • Sep 11, 2015
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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 11, 2015

Which witch? Rod, the history of LNT research is a quintessential example of the conflicts which lurk at the intersection of money and science.

Excessive exposure to ionizing radiation is harmful – no one in the nuclear community doubts that. What’s often been lacking from the discussion is an accurate sense of proportion. Invisible radiation, like witches, scares the &$#! out of some who don’t understand it. That permits fossil fuel interests to stoke fears which are wildly out of line with the actual threat they represent. 

Arsenic, mercury, and airborne carcinogens introduced into the environment by burning coal and gasoline are invisible too. Responsible for at least 10,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, they’re the “witches” we should be slaying.

Grace Adams's picture
Grace Adams on Sep 11, 2015

First, how do you even define background radiation?.  I was under the impression that it varied several fold by location, depending on elevation above sea level and what sort of bedrock location is sitting on. I would suspect that anything from 10 feet above sea level sitting on top of limestone to above 10,000 feet sitting on top of granite would be within the range of background radiation

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Sep 11, 2015


I agree that nuclear is preferrable to any fossil fuel, and may remain a necessary adjunct to renewables. I could even imagine needing a big nuclear buildout (maybe out at sea) to suck CO2 out of the air.

But for anything near me, I do want a vigilant oversight agency. I’ve seen first hand the struggle between corporations and safety inspectors, and I know the corporations will cut corners to make a buck. The right balance is hard to find, of course. 

I see a lot of bragging about how safe nuclear has been. But without oversight, how safe would it have been?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 11, 2015

Hops, I don’t think anyone disagrees on the necessity of oversight. But nuclear energy is not nearly as dangerous as people think it is anyway.

Case in point: I live 15 miles downwind of the largest nuclear accident in U.S. history. That was the 1959 meltdown at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in Simi Valley, CA. It’s estimated to have released 459x as much radiation into the environment as Three Mile Island, and over time resulted in ~300 deaths in the San Fernando Valley.

Since it got back into the news about ten years ago local hypochondria has kicked into overdrive, with people checking themselves into hospitals when they get a cough. The antinuclear/nutcase website “” now refers to it as “an inter-generational dance of death”. In nearby Chatsworth, there are some people on the street who are aware of it. But I have friends living with 2 miles of the site who had never heard of it.

Not to diminish the importance of 300 deaths, but thousands of San Fernando Valley residents have died from the effects of our notorious smog since that time.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 12, 2015

Grace, here is a great resource on that topic:

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Sep 11, 2015


So it goes. My wife is currently freaked out about a trace residue of Roundup on GMO crops. She has a network of people freaked out about it and they all reinforce one another. The older I get, the more I see how people do that.

You can argue, but you have to accept that is how they are and deal with it. You might as well wish the average IQ was over 100.



Joe Schiewe's picture
Joe Schiewe on Sep 17, 2015

Hops and Bob, I believe that we all (I know I do) have a limited amount of bias, prejudice and flat world perspective that filter what we hear and read into our current understanding.  I enjoy reading your comments for it seems that you are willing to make the effort to whittle away at both your own and others freaking out issues.  I sometimes have a fatalistic perspective when it comes to governments, businesses and the neurotic behavior of people therefore I am glad to have you and others that encourage me to “deal or work with it”.   It inspires me to be a better leader.  Thanks again.        

Grace Adams's picture
Grace Adams on Sep 18, 2015

I gather from what your linked to that background radiation is about 5% cosmic radiation and for most Americans much of the rest of the risk is radon.  Since most of Connecticut is within a few hundred feet of sea level, and it has been years since I have had any occasion to fly, my exposure to cosmic radiation is minimal. Since I live in a fisnished attic, not a basement, my exposure to radon is also likely minimal. It also said for most Americans the average exposure is something like 620 mrems a year, with much of that from dental and medical X-rays. I guess I end up with 2 dental X-rays a year and maybe alternate years I fall and end up needing a medical X-ray to rule out possibility of a broken bone.

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