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No Nukes + No Fracking = More Coal? Indian Point Debate Highlights Green Quandary

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Cold Spring, New York, my lovely Hudson River home, has long been a hotbed of environmental activism. In 1962, the utility Consolidated Edison announced plans to carve a power plant out of stately Storm King Mountain, just across the Hudson from Cold Spring. Locals filed lawsuits against the plant, arguing that it would devastate the landscape. In part because of the Storm King case, in 1969 Congress passed a law requiring builders to take environmental impact into consideration before beginning large projects. In 1980 Con Ed finally abandoned its Storm King plan.

Lately, my green neighbors have fought two other perceived threats: nuclear power and fracking. People in this area have long wanted to shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which squats on the Hudson in Buchanan, New York, less than 10 miles south of Cold Spring and just 35 miles north of downtown New York City. In fact, today, October 15, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is holding a hearing on whether to extend the license of Indian Point for 20 more years. Among the opponents of the extension is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

For a long time, I shared my neighbors’ concerns about Indian Point, especially after September 11, 2001, when a jet flew right over Indian Point before striking the World Trade Center. What would have happened if the terrorists had flown the plane into Indian Point? I also worried that proliferation of nuclear power would complicate efforts to stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons. After President Barack Obama announced a plan in 2010 to support construction of new nuclear plants, I slammed him in an online essay.

I changed my mind about the risks and benefits of nukes after hearing from nuclear advocates, including Gyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World (Knopf, 2007). Cravens persuaded me that we need nuclear power—which has not killed a single person in the U.S.–to help us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and especially coal. I summarized a few of her findings in a 2010 post:

“The waste from coal-burning plants is much greater in volume and more harmful than from nuclear generators. If you, as an average American, got all your electricity from nuclear plants, you’d generate one kilogram of nuclear waste during your lifetime, enough to fit in a soda can. If you got all your electricity from coal, you’d generate almost 70 tons of waste. Coal plants emit far more radioactive materials than nuclear plants do; each year a 1,000-megawatt coal plant disperses about 27 metric tons of uranium, thorium and other radioactive substances. Coals plants also emit mercury and other toxins, in addition of course to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. An estimated 24,000 Americans die prematurely per annum because of pollution from coal plants; in China, the number is 400,000.”

The earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s Fukushima plants in March 2011 rocked my confidence in nuclear energy. The disaster showed that no matter how seemingly safe nuclear power becomes, we can never totally rule out the possibility of catastrophic, black swan events. But as I explained in The Chronicle of Higher Education last year, I’m still clinging to the nuclear bandwagon. If we shut down Indian Point and other nuclear power plants, we will become even more dependent—at least for the foreseeable future–on fossil fuels, which, in addition to spewing out toxic pollutants, also contribute to global warming.

Germany illustrates the problem. After Fukushima, German announced that it would close its nuclear power plants by 2022. But to meet its energy needs, Germany has had to build new fossil-fuel plants, including one of the biggest coal facilities in the world. As The Washington Post reported, “Germany’s dilemma shows how difficult it is to balance competing environmental priorities, even with vast resources and popular support for the efforts.”

That brings me to fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting fluids into deep rock deposits to force natural gas to the surface. Environmentalists in my hometown and throughout New York are as fiercely opposed to fracking as they are to nuclear power. New York State contains abundant natural gas reserves, but environmentalists fear that fracking will permanently contaminate water aquifers. Governor Cuomo has just extended a moratorium on fracking while regulators gather more data on the technology.

I’m as conflicted over fracking as I am over nuclear energy. But here’s the quandary. As Scientific American‘s David Biello points out in a podcast, “all parties agree” that shutting down Indian Point will lead to “an increased role for natural gas.” If fracking is also prohibited or severely curtailed, we’ll be even more dependent on coal. As I pointed out in a post last June, combustion of natural gas results in negligible emissions of sulfur dioxide and mercury compounds, two major pollutants from coal plants, and only half as much carbon dioxide as coal.

So what should we do? My fellow greens, I understand your concerns about nukes and fracking. But if you shun both of these options, we’ll be stuck—barring some breakthrough in solar, wind or other energy technologies–with the worst alternative of all: deadly, dirty coal. Surely you don’t want that.


Clarification: My post quotes David Biello of Scientific American saying that “all parties agree” that a shutdown of Indian Point would lead to “an increased role for natural gas.” Kate Slusark, a spokesperson for the Natural Resources Defense Council, emailed me the following comment on Biello’s remark. “The statement came from Biello’s piece about a recent report prepared for NRDC and Riverkeeper [another environmental organization] by Synapse (an independent economics consulting firm), titled: “Indian Point Replacement Analysis: A Clean Energy Roadmap–A Proposal for Replacing the Nuclear Plant with Clean, Sustainable Energy Resources.” To be clear, our report recommends replacing 100 percent of Indian Point’s power with energy efficiency and renewable power resources, and provides the policy roadmap for how to do that. It does not say that increased natural gas generation will have a role; nor do we believe that it must.” You can find the NRDC/Riverkeeper report at

John Horgan About the Author: Every week, hockey-playing science writer John Horgan takes a puckish, provocative look at breaking science. A teacher at Stevens Institute of Technology, Horgan is the author of four books, including The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996) and The End of War (McSweeney's, 2012). Follow on Twitter @Horganism.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. mmaricque 1:26 pm 10/15/2012

    I’ll never understand the ignorance behind the person who goes around and parrots the one-liner that nooone in the US was ever killed by a nuclear power plant. The next step for such an ignorant person is to say there have only been a couple dozen people in the world that have been killed by a nuclear power plant. We all know this is simply not true. That is like saying people don’t die from the emissions from coal plants, and it’s such a stupid argument. People who do not consider that radiation from nuclear power plants causes cancer and death to downwinders have blinders on, and they have an agenda, which I’m always prepared to be opposed to. People in America have been killed directly by nuclear reactors, you just have to look into it a little further and not be so blind and ignorant. In Wisconsin, we have a Carbon-Free Nuclear-Free Coalition. I watchdog nuclear plants, not coal plants. The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations keep watch on our coal plants and their emissions. If I’m able to accomplish the permanent shutdown of one or both of our state’s nuclear plants, I’d be open to anything except an old coal plant that is not in compliance with environmental law due to excessive emissions. And I’m thankful that natural gas plants are becoming more and more viable every day.

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  2. 2. mmaricque 1:55 pm 10/15/2012

    If you still refuse to believe the radiation from nuclear power plants kills downwinders with cancer, I’d suggest you join a fascist party. Hitler used to spread lies as such.

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  3. 3. dwbd 2:02 pm 10/15/2012

    “..The earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s Fukushima plants..”

    ?!? The earthquake DID NOT devastate any Nuclear Power plants, just Hydro, Gas & Oil plants. The tsunami damaged three of Japan’s oldest Nuke plants, only because they did not believe a tsunami of that height was possible. The Daini plants withstood a larger tsunami. Prevention of the tsunami damage to the Daiichi plants would have been trivially easy, so I don’t see what the issue is here. An airplane crashes, we try to determine why it happened, and institute preventative measures. A luxury cruise ship crashes and sinks, we figure out what went wrong and correct that. A Gulf oil well releases thousands of tons of toxic, carcinogenic crude oil, heavy metals, gases and radioisotopes into the Gulf of Mexico, figure out why and develop methods of prevention & mitigation. Why is there no talk of closing down all Air Travel, or banning Cruise Ships, or a total moratorium on Offshore Oil Wells? Could the REAL REASON be that Big Oil loses ~$1B/yr in LNG/NG sales for every Nuclear Power plant operating?

    Why has the media and Japanese politicians refused to discuss the INCREDIBLY BAD Tsunami preparation for the Japanese population. It is easy to build Tsunami proof buildings that act as close by evacuation centers. Why wasn’t that done? Why were their supposedly safe Tsunami sea walls too low? Why did their mickey mouse alarm systems fail due to loss of grid power? Why were their Tsunami safe zones – NOT SAFE? Why were people given the Tsunami all-clear only to be wiped out by a late arriving giant wave? As a result 19,000 people were killed and vast amounts of property destroyed – permanently. Why does the media consider the ZERO DEATH Fukushima Nuclear Incident much more important? Why is there ZERO discussion of how badly prepared US coastal cities are for equally probable even worse Tsunamis that could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans & Canadians? Why is only the Nuclear Power plant potential damage the only concern? Why does the bought-by-Oil Media consider human life to be worthless? Why isn’t Big Oil Sycophant, Governor Cuomo, more concerned about the FAR MORE LIKELY, & FAR MORE DEADLY Tsunami & Hurricane threat to New York than the small and largely inconsequential risk of the Indian Point NPP? Again human life of NO VALUE? Why isn’t Cuomo concerned about the La Palma, Canary Islands MEGATSUNAMI that will hit New York with a wall of water 50 meters high? Again human life is of no value to the Big Oil stooge.

    The prominent environmentalist, George Monbiot, on: “…How the Fukushima disaster taught me to stop worrying and embrace nuclear power…”

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  4. 4. priddseren 2:05 pm 10/15/2012

    The dilemmas of being a global warmist. There are no options on the table yet you people want to ban every form of power production anyway. So now you have to choose between a series of bad options. Potentially nuking the place, fracking and who knows what that will do, coal which is nasty stuff or solar/wind which would cover so much real estate we would probably cover half the country in towers and panels or build more dams and plug up a river and flood some canyon wiping out the wildlife there and destroying the down stream ecology.

    What is sad is you people dont realize it is the heat being produced by humans, our bodies, our livestock, cooking, heating homes and all forms of energy production producing some type of heat. In addition, the heat needed to make the products for everything including all of the power options above.

    Then I guess you people cant accept the heat we humans produce is more than what the earth can manage. Because the heat itself you can’t control with your regulations unless you plan to kill off half the population and go back to subsistence living.

    Anyway, good luck figuring out this little problem you have created for yourselves, what kind of pollution power generation system will you back because guess what a carbon tax and permit system wont actually give you an answer either.

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  5. 5. dwbd 2:06 pm 10/15/2012

    Anywhere you find a Nuclear Power plant or a NPP build, you will find money-no-object ENGO’s operating to blockade, oppose and spread FUD about that plant. In some cases the funding of these ENGO’s is obvious, such as the “OntarioCleanAirAlliance” which is opposing Nuclear in Ontario gets funding from NG companies. All of these anti-Nuclear ENGO’s get funding from secretive Foundations, which perform a tax-free money laundering service. And if you look at the financials of these ENGO’s you will see a lot of annual anonymous personal donations of upwards of $1M. Now who would donate $1M to some schlock anti-Nuclear ENGO, and not want their name revealed, instead of funding “useless stuff” like helping starving kids, or cancer research or heart disease?

    Chesapeake Energy was caught financing ENGO’s like the Sierra Club to block Nuclear & Coal power with non-stop lawsuits and a public disinformation campaign as they have been doing. Just that one NG company funneled $25M into the Sierra Club to fund those campaigns, with an agreement of $30M more, which the Sierra Club executive lied about until they got caught red handed, and consequently they refused to call Shale Gas the Environmental Disaster that it obviously is, and instead referred to NG as a “transition fuel”. One of Sierra Clubs execs, a person with integrity, resigned from them, writing of her “disgust” of the cozy relationship of ENGOs with NG interests, biggest in North America being Exxon.

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  6. 6. sethdayal 3:01 pm 10/15/2012

    ” As I pointed out in a post last June, combustion of natural gas results in negligible emissions of sulfur dioxide and mercury compounds, two major pollutants from coal plants, and only half as much carbon dioxide as coal.”

    Wrong. As I pointed out in your earlier blog post, real science not the junk variety you are noted for, tells us that when the all the methane leaks from gas production to delivery are added in, gas is actually a worse warming forcer than coal. As well gas is a deadly source of fine particulate emissions and radon gas killing thousands of Americans annually.

    As well greenie warming deniers embrace junk science to dispute the real science claim that the unrecoverable warming precipice killing billions is fast approaching. According to virtually all science based environmentalists dirt cheap clean and green nuclear power with a rate of return of 40% on replacing fossil fuels, is the only in time answer to the warming dilemma.

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  7. 7. sethdayal 3:11 pm 10/15/2012


    ” I’ll never understand the ignorance behind the person who goes around and parrots the one-liner that nooone in the US was ever killed by a nuclear power plan”

    OK I’ll bite nobody has ever been killed by a nuke power plant in a nuclear related accident anywhere in the world ever.

    First you need to account for the fact that nuke plants release far less radiation into the environment than do coal, gas, wind or solar.

    Next you need to tell us why areas with normal background radiation levels higher than any recorded outside the plant gate at FUKU, have lower cancer rates than the world average.

    ” If you still refuse to believe the radiation from nuclear power plants kills downwinders with cancer, I’d suggest you join a fascist party. Hitler used to spread lies as such ”

    Me I’d suggest that renewable zealots, like you are ghouls – warming deniers that embrace junk science to dispute the real sciences claim that the unrecoverable warming precipice killing billions is fast approaching, and carelessly tossing away the lives of millions that die annually from air pollution, as a righteous sacrifice in their pursuit of your foolish dreams of a world powered by soft breezes and warm sunbeams.

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  8. 8. RDH 3:15 pm 10/15/2012


    Instead of making proclamations, why don’t you post a link to the proof you say is available that nuclear plants in the U.S. have killed “downwinders”? I did a quick check and found no such evidence, not even with Three Mile Island. By “downwinders” you imply people killed by a radiation leak and I failed to find that data. So please, just post the proof.

    Then go update the wiki for U.S. entries in “Nuclear and radiation accidents”.

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  9. 9. RDH 3:26 pm 10/15/2012

    The author gives the impression fracking will “force natural gas to the surface”. That’s not exactly correct. Fracking fractures the hydrocarbon bearing geologic formation. That allows the hydrocarbons to flow to the well (bore hole) of their own accord. There is no “forcing” involved except during the actual fracking procedure itself and the force is to effect the fracturing of the formation. The natural pressure of the formation is what “forces” hydrocarbons to the surface – assuming the pressure is great enough (whether one fracks the well or not). That is, a pump may still be needed to pull (oil) from the well. Gas may or may not flow at a great enough rate (if any) before or after fracking to make the well an economically viable gas producing well.

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  10. 10. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 3:49 pm 10/15/2012

    Maybe we could replace te coal with hot air from AGW denialists and politicians. That might work, and we’d be putting a whole new meaning in the term “public servant”.

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  11. 11. mmaricque 4:12 pm 10/15/2012

    FUD sounds like a term that came from a nuclear navy nazi, who never thought a nuclear plant would be dstroyed by tsunami, flood, hurricane, or tornados. FUD sounds like a term that came from a nuclear navy nazi who thinks nuclear plants are indestructible.

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  12. 12. outsidethebox 4:15 pm 10/15/2012

    There are no good options. People who believe in them are like ten year olds. All adults can do is choose the least bad option. Which is natural gas for now.

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  13. 13. lump1 4:29 pm 10/15/2012

    mmaricque, you’re probably repeating things you’ve heard from people you trust, but they’re just not true. Actual research has been done on this, and it’s only coal plants that cause harm to people who live downwind. I did see some research in the 90′s about an higher rates of cancer close to nuclear plants, but this data disappears once proper controls are imposed: It turns out that property values near nuclear plants are just lower, but the people who live on those properties are exactly as healthy as other people in their income group.

    What I find even more convincing is that any increases of radiation above background are simply not measured near nuclear plants, not even on the edge of the plants themselves. This is because the waste produced, while dangerous, is solid, monitored and contained. Nuclear plants don’t spew their waste into the atmosphere, like coal burning plants do.

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  14. 14. mmaricque 4:39 pm 10/15/2012

    Shut down Indian Point now. Terrorists in a massive jetliner flew right overhead on their way to the WTC. If Indian Point has an accident involving the release of radiation, NYC would be helpless. Put Indian Point workers to work decommissioning Indian Point, and after that, if they are still fervent believers in nuclear power, then they won’t mind relocating. We’re sensitive enough to accomodate the needs of people who don’t like the strobe light effects of a nearby wind turbine, or who are bothered by its sound.

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  15. 15. dwbd 5:29 pm 10/15/2012

    mmaricque, that jetliner wouldn’t have done zip to the core or pressure vessel integrity if it smashed into Indian Point. Damage to the plant indeed but ZERO public health risk. They test those things you know.

    How about the 20 LNG tanker loads that will replace Indian Point, any self-respecting terrorist could hijack one, empty the contents into New York’s sewer system, and destroy the entire city, killing everyone. There are a thousands of much bigger worries than some mickey-mouse attack on a Nuclear Power plant. I can give you a long list if you want. And why are you unconcerned that the Terrorist Jetliner could have decapitated the US gov’t? And by closing Indian Point you will be funneling $billions to fund Terrorists in the Middle
    East through replacement LNG purchases.

    And Wind Turbines are a joke, #1 & #2 Wind countries have #1 & #2 highest emissions in Europe and #1 & #2 highest electricity prices. Wind is a dismal failure as an energy source.

    Funny how you could care less about the 30,000 deaths each year in the USA from your substitute Coal Power plants.

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  16. 16. Quantumburrito 5:41 pm 10/15/2012

    mmaricque: You seem to labor under the “any radiation in any amount must always be bad” misunderstanding. The fact is that no power source is without its dangers but nuclear power has had an admirable safety record and low carbon footprint compared to fossil fuels. The only two nuclear accidents that killed any number of people were Chernobyl and Fukushima. Both of these were exceptions (one the victim of a fundamentally flawed design and communist inefficiency and the other the victim of an extremely rare tsunami-eqrthquake double whammy) among hundreds of reactors throughout the world operating for fifty plus years. Now contrast that with the tens of thousands killed by coal and natural gas. TMI killed no one. What’s your evidence for the assertion that nuclear plants kill people downwind? The fact is, even die hard environmentalists like James Lovelock are now supporting nuclear as a rapid and large-scale energy source to replace fossil fuels. Solar and wind will play their role, but there is really no option for us in the short-term that provides such high energy density with adequate safety and low CO2 emissions. Sure, nuclear waste is a real problem, but even there reprocessing can get rid of the most dangerous isotopes. Will nuclear energy’s further deployment be perfect? No, but we have to balance the tradeoffs here. It’s one thing to talk about real risks, another to spread fear and paranoia.

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  17. 17. geojellyroll 6:37 pm 10/15/2012

    Re a comment on Japanese plants withstanding the Tsunami…as a geologist I guarantee that the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami is zip in size to what could be potentially be unleashed.

    Having said that, the wise use of nuclear energy is part of a solution. However, what the USA does or doesn’t do is largely irrelevent today. It’s China, India, etc, that are ramping up the use of coal. Coal is much cheaper on average than other sources of energy and this will give these countries an even greater economic advantage.

    Today coal is king and in 25 years it will still be king. Coal will make up an ever increasing percent of global electrical generation. The pros or cons of coal isn’t the issue regardless if Americans want to debate these or not.

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  18. 18. bigdogtheo 6:37 pm 10/15/2012

    Maybe the best bet would be a thorium reactor that Richard Martin describes in his book Super Fuel. It is amazing that we are not using them now as they are much safer to operate and thorium is much more abundant in nature.

    They would allow us to safely get away from hazards of uranium while at the safe time reducing CO2 emissions.

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  19. 19. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 7:29 pm 10/15/2012

    dwbd, please stop talking out of your butt.

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  20. 20. Dennis2sheds 9:37 pm 10/15/2012

    dwdb’s logic seems very reasonable to me. Prejudice induced by too much TV science FICTION crap as children may be responsible along with peer pressure from the equally misinformed may play a part in this nonsense. Think mine explosions, black soot, heavy metals, mountain top mining, and on and on. Think objectively please.

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  21. 21. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 10:15 pm 10/15/2012

    Thinking objectively, mountaintop mining, and coal in general have the WORST possible environmental effects of all of the available technologies. Please do some actual research before proclaiming yourself an expert.

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  22. 22. mmaricque 1:47 am 10/16/2012

    We once had a utility in Milwaukee, who almost blew up a fully loaded dry cask, and who didn’t know where cyanide by transmission lines was located (so they claimed). Guess what happened to them?

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  23. 23. mmaricque 2:20 am 10/16/2012

    And would you like to know what I had for lunch? Oh, and the utility? Well, we lost confidence in them. What else would you expect?

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  24. 24. mmaricque 3:41 am 10/16/2012

    By the way, Gentilly-2 in Quebec won’t be available anymore. Turns out the Parti Quebecois are alot smarter than the author of this ariticle, John Horgan.

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  25. 25. Asteroid Miner 10:14 am 10/16/2012

    573 certified deaths were due to evacuation-related stress at Fukushima.  Zero due to radiation.  February 4, 2012
    “Japanese authorities recognize 573 deaths related to Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Catastrophe
    As reported by the Yomiuri Shimbun:
    “A total of 573 deaths have been certified as “disaster-related” by 13 municipalities affected by the crisis at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant….
    A disaster-related death certificate is issued when a death is not directly caused by a tragedy, but by fatigue or the aggravation of a chronic disease due to the disaster. ….”"
    ZERO deaths were caused by radiation.  573 deaths were caused by the evacuation that was forced by officials.  The people who died were evacuated from such things as intensive care.  They might have survived if the evacuation had not taken place.  Fukushima’s natural background radiation is still higher than the radiation from the reactor leak.  Fukushima’s natural background radiation plus the radiation from the reactor leak is still less than the natural background radiation here in Illinois.  Natural background radiation varies greatly from place to place.  Our background radiation is around 350 milli rem/year.
    “milli” means “.001″
    350 milli rem/year means 0.350 rem/year
    1 rem = 10 millisievert
    People living in Ramsar, Iran have a background radiation of 10 to 20 rems/years.  Ramsar is a city in Iran.  
    Here are some natural background readings from “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007:   
    Guarapari, Brazil:  3700 millirem/year
    Tamil Nadu, India:  5300 millirem/year
    Ramsar, Iran:  8900 to 13200 millirem/year
    Denver, Colorado   1000 millirem/year
    A not entirely natural reading:
    Chernobyl:  490 millirem/year
    Some background reading:
    62% of Japan’s electricity comes from coal fired power plants.   Coal contains so much uranium and thorium that we could get all of the uranium we need from coal cinders and ash.   Coal fired power plants put all of it either up the stack or into the solids that are hauled away.
    Calculate your annual radiation dose:

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  26. 26. Asteroid Miner 10:15 am 10/16/2012

    Please read this book: “Radiation and Reason, The impact of Science on a culture of fear” by Wade Allison.
    Professor Allison says we can take up to 10 rems per month, a little more than 1000 times the present “legal” limit. The old limit was 5 rems/lifetime. A single dose of 800 rems could kill you, but if you have time to recover between doses of 10 rems, no problem. It is like donating blood: You see “4 gallon donor” stickers on cars. You know they didn’t give 4 gallons all at once. There is a threshold just over 10 rems. You are getting .35 rems/year NATURAL background radiation right where you are right now.

    Divide 5 rems by your present Natural Background Radiation. For Americans, Natural Background Radiation is at least .35 rems/year. Our Natural Background Radiation uses up our 5 rems/lifetime when we are 14 years old.

    Natural Background Radiation is radiation that was always there, 1000 years ago, a million years ago, etc. Natural Background Radiation comes from the rocks in the ground and from exploding stars thousands of light years away. All rocks contain uranium. Radon gas is a decay product of uranium.

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  27. 27. GRLCowan 3:49 pm 10/17/2012

    “The disaster [to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant] showed that no matter how seemingly safe nuclear power becomes, we can never totally rule out the possibility of catastrophic, black swan events.”

    Well, it showed that such plants can be demolished by sufficiently adverse conditions. But there is no evidence that any living thing at or beyond the site fence was harmed.

    The Japanese government has greatly profited from increased LNG import duties, as a result of pretending that a “nuclear disaster” had occurred, and lots of gas-money fellow travellers seem to understand that it *must* have done some harm, because nuclear mishaps
    are dangerous, and this harm, existing as it must, is in turn evidence that nuclear mishaps are dangerous.

    It’s a cascade of correctness!

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  28. 28. Riverkeeper 10:37 am 10/18/2012

    The suggestion that the tradeoff to shutting down Indian Point is a greater dependence on coal is simply not the case. If a proposed solution to the carbon problem, such as Indian Point, poses the risk of large-scale damage to the very communities it’s designed to protect, it’s not the way to go.

    And as for fracking: generally-accepted studies, not fear, show increased risk to groundwater and air. Let’s not forget the 2011 Duke University study proving that drinking water wells near fracking sites have 17 times more methane than wells not located near fracking, and that this extra methane has a chemical fingerprint which shows it’s coming from deep drilling. A recent Cornell study shows methane release may even be more harmful than coal when it comes to global warming.

    The study by Synapse Energy Consultants that Riverkeeper and NRDC co-commissioned ( how Indian Point’s power can be replaced by a combination of efficiency and renewables – not more coal or gas. It offers an aggressive but feasible way to replace the plant’s power.

    True risk, not fear, justifies greater precautions on nuclear energy and fracking. The theory that fear has trumped rationality on these issues is not consistent with extensive evidence to the contrary.

    The relicensing hearings for a nuclear plant that is 20 years past its expiration date have sparked a heated exchange among some of the leading minds in the climate change movement about a continued reliance on its power. This time would be much better spent in discussions about the need for hierarchy among alternatives and how to make renewables and efficiency work while phasing out the extreme energy extraction methods that contribute to further environmental and community destruction. The Synapse report provides a roadmap on how to do that. Now we need to collectively roll up our sleeves and put it into action.

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  29. 29. jerryd 6:48 pm 10/18/2012

    Nukes are at the moment in the US way too expensive, $10/kwhr or more here in Fla and have serious problems in safety with 1 bad accident and many way too close calls of others if one bothers to look at the NRC’s files.

    The solutions are letting present ones be shut down when their permits come due and replace them with inherently safe non pressurized water units of Gen 4 and 5. I especially like lead cooled units as very safe and eff in smaller more manageable sizes.

    Thorium and mixed Thorium/urainium seems to be viable too And I’d like to see it be developed.

    That said most RE are rather simple machines, more simple than a moped in home, building sizes and cheaper once in mass production that even nuke power because of utility overhead, profit, etc.

    The big ‘problems’ they have are not and have simple solutions. Only wind is variable and if connected to a grid and well spread out average out nicely. In many places heating from the sun causes wind that perfectly matches demand as does PV making their power more valuable than nuke which can’t be economically turned off.

    Solar CSP, CHP and hydro can be on demand naturally so again more valuable than nuke.

    Because of nukes inability to turn off it can’t be economically more than the lowest demand of the day or the power is just wasted.

    PV panels are now $1k/kw and whole systems running under $3k/kw,
    if well shopped making it along with small wind, CHP and CSP once in mass production the real low cost energy supply to retail customers.

    Now prepare for dwbd’s lies, misinformation he’ll likely say about this post being the troll he is. My numbers are based in real life vs his in his dream world of big energy giving us the shaft.

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  30. 30. jerryd 7:04 pm 10/18/2012

    I forgot to mention coal by far the worst energy source which has cost 30k deaths/yr and 200k hospitalizations not to mention costing me personally $500/yr in higher food costs from not being able to eat more than a couple fish meals/wk. Here in Fla I get my fish for free from many places because there is so many and hardly fished.

    Coal is by far the leading source of radioactivity, SOx, NOx acids and particulates, our most deadly pollutions other than diesel soot.

    Next NG fracking which in itself isn’t bad but the cheap azz drillers who don’t practice safe drilling allowing underground pollutions to seep into the water supply or don’t properly dispose of drilling fluids poisioning rivers, lakes, ground water.

    I certainly wouldn’t want them drilling in NY water supplies as 1 bad apple could destroy large amounts of it with a single bad well. Just not worth it for such little NG for just a few yrs.

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  31. 31. hartson 10:57 pm 10/18/2012

    As a former Quality Control Nuclear Inspector, I have worked inside this ticking time bombs. Indian Point was why Nuclear inspectors have FEDERAL protect. The Mafia built that power plant. When it was turned on, it leaked like a sieve. When the Feds, NRC, came to investigate, they found that nothing was inspected. The inspectors had been threatened with violence, if they found anything wrong. It then became a Federal offense to even vaguely hint at violence when speaking to one of us. O this plant is WAY past it’s design life. Of all the plants in the US, this one needs to be decommissioned. The basic work is still in question even after repairs.

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  32. 32. hartson 11:01 pm 10/18/2012

    Now as for Germany. They are no longer giving tax incentives to put in Solar Power Generation. The response was so great that there is now such a massive amount of the green energy produced that they do NOT need the Nukes or the coal power plants.

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  33. 33. dwbd 8:55 pm 10/19/2012

    hartson, the only quality control you’ve ever done is of the pencil you were doodling with when you failed your high school physics exam.

    And Germany has a FIT or Feed-In-Tariff program for Solar, not “tax incentives”. And they continue, slightly diminished but they still paid over 50 cents per kwh for their Solar Power last year and have the 2nd highest power rates in Europe with one of the highest emissions of CO2 per kwh generated. And they just commissioned a giant 2300 MWe strip-mined lignite dirt-burner, 1st of 22 more planned to supply their REAL energy needs, not the 2-3% of Solar – which is already at that low level starting to be wasted. Solar maxes in the Spring when Wind maxes and Hydro maxes and Grid demand is minimum – so end result it must be dumped.

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  34. 34. dwbd 1:40 pm 10/20/2012

    Wind & Solar is built with Oil, Gas, Coal, Hydro & Nuclear energy. Wind & Solar prices would explode if you tried to use Wind & Solar energy to build them. Wind is still $10k/kwavg and large commercial Solar PV(the cheapest) $25k/kwavg before you account for Grid and even worse non-Grid energy integration. Those numbers are recipes for total economic collapse.

    One of the best ever Renewable Energy plans for one of the best locations on the planet – namely Australia – has been proposed. Called Zero-Carbon-Australia or the ZCA plan. Now, this is not a schlock piece of trash plan like the Synapse Indian Point Nuclear Power Replacement plan proposed by the corrupted ENGO’s Riverkeeper and NRDC. Real Power Engineers and Energy Specialists have undertaken a detailed examination of this plan here:

    Reading through this you will quickly learn how difficult it is to utilize Wind & Solar energy and the extreme cost of that method. Just not practical or feasible. Total Economic collapse and billions of deaths would result from that scheme. Some conclusions:

    “..The ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan has significantly underestimated the cost and timescale..”

    “..revised cost estimate is nearly five times higher than the estimate in the Plan: $1,709 billion compared to $370 billion. The cost estimates are highly uncertain with a range of $855 billion to $4,191 billion for our estimate.

    ..wholesale electricity costs would increase nearly 10 times above current costs to $500/MWh [50 cents/kwh] not the $120/MWh claimed in the Plan.

    ..electricity demand in 2020 is expected to be..449 TWh compared to the 325 TWh presented in the Plan.

    ..Plan has inadequate reserve capacity margin to ensure network reliability remains at current levels. The total installed capacity needs to be increased by 65% above the proposed capacity in the Plan to 160 GW compared to the 97 GW used in the Plan.

    ..implementation timeline is unrealistic. We doubt any solar thermal plants, of the size and availability proposed in the plan, will be on line before 2020. We expect only demonstration plants will be built until there is confidence that they can be economically viable.

    ..Plan relies on many unsupported assumptions, which we believe are invalid: …”

    Link to this

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