This post is co-authored by Geoff Russell and first published 2013. As of 2016 the original erroneous table it still posted at Green Left Weekly.

In their determination to attack nuclear power and those who support it, anti-nuclear activism has walked away from the scientific process. As a result, nearly the entire community of environmental organisations in Australia is currently standing behind figures that are completely mathematically incorrect. Will they correct these blatant errors and open their publications to expert external review? Or is correct maths and good science optional when you wear the colour green?

The great scientist Carl Sagan famously said that extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. So how is it that Jim Green, an anti-nuclear campaigner with no scientific journal publications, can accuse James Hansen, one of the most extraordinary scientists of the last 50 years, of junk science?

In Green’s 2013 article “James Hansen’s nuclear junk science” he does precisely what good scientists don’t do. He cherry picks data.

For those who came in late, Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen recently calculated, in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, that the historic deployment of nuclear power had likely prevented 1.84 million air-pollution related deaths, and by mid-century would prevent a further 420,000 – 7.04 million such deaths.

James Hansen
James Hansen

In response, Green has the temerity to call Hansen a “policy flake”. That’s bizarre. For his outspoken policy advocacy on climate change such as the phase out of the coal industry and the cessation of tar sands operations, together with advocacy for fee-and-dividend carbon pricing, Hansen has been rightly lionised by the left and respected almost universally. But there is another platform to his policy position: that nuclear power must be deployed to prevent further climate destabilisation. Same man, same intellect, same  background. This should give pause to those on the left who oppose nuclear power.

But according to Green, Hansen is now peddling junk science, claiming that Hansen got the mortality rates from nuclear power wrong. So the guts of Green’s article is a table of numbers giving deaths per gigawatt year of various energy technologies, with nuclear faring just as poorly as coal. He would have us apply this table in place of the figures provided by Kharecha and Hansen.  He boldly criticises the authors for their sourcing relating to nuclear mortality, saying this:

 They say: “About 25% of these deaths are due to occupational accidents and about 70% are due to air pollution-related effects (presumably fatal cancers from radiation fallout; see Table 2 of ref 16).” Ref 16 is a 2007 article in The Lancet — which makes no effort to explain or justify its figures for nuclear power deaths.

This shows both arrogance and laziness. Firstly, The Lancet is one of the world’s most highly respected medical journals. As far as sourcing goes, that’s a good first step.

Furthermore, Green is just plain wrong. The Lancet says exactly what is contained in the estimate: “…occupational effects (especially from mining), routine radiation during generation, decommissioning, reprocessing, low-level waste disposal, high-level waste disposal, and accidents.”  They also clearly cite the estimate as a summary from the ExternE project.

ExternE is a huge actuarial project run between 1998 and 2005 involving an array of experts in Universities across Europe, under the auspices of the European Commission. The table in question is the summation of thousands of pages of methodology, assessment and reporting, all of which is publicly available. ExternE spends 250 pages justifying its nuclear power death estimates.

Kharecha and Hansen apply the expert information in this table to calculate that nuclear power had saved 1.84 million lives since 1971. But rather than relying on this work by experts, Green refers readers to an alternate table of figures, shown below.

Green mortality table
The mortality table published by Choose Nuclear Free

Forgive the interrupted prose, but the process by which this table was developed is best explained with bullets.

  • As a source for this table, Green directed the reader to a page at an anti-nuclear website, Choose Nuclear Free. The page is authored by Green.
  • The page repeated the table and referenced a more detailed paper. This paper was also authored by Green.
  • The page repeated the table, and references a more detailed paper. This paper is also authored by Green.
  • The paper repeated the table again, this time listing the various sources.
  • For figures on biomass, rooftop solar, and oil, Green drew on information from a non-peer reviewed webpage found through the Lifeboat Project.
  • In converting these mortality factors from terawatt hours (TWh) to gigawatt years (GWy), he butchered them by accidentally dividing the figure by 8.76 when it should have been multiplied by 8.76. All of these figures are numerically incorrect. For example, Biomass should show 105 deaths per GWy instead of 1.4. Oil should be 315 instead of 4.5. Green’s coal figures are a from a mish-mash of sources, some of which measure in deaths/GWy and others in deaths/TWh. Ignoring this and just using the Lifeboat figures for simplicity, the range should be more like 131-2,435 deaths per GWy.
  • This source (Lifeboat Project) also provides a number for nuclear power (0.04 deaths per TWh which would have, erroneously, converted to 0.005 deaths per GWy by Green’s maths or 0.35 using actual maths) . Green ignored it, presumably because this was too low.
  • He instead built his own nuclear mortality factor by:
  • Firstly selecting a 1996 estimate from the IAEA for fatalities from Chernobyl (26,000) and normalising to deaths per GWy. That this 1996 expectation hasn’t eventuated is demonstrated by later assessments of the evidence which Green ignores (see our reference below to the 2007 UNSCEAR assessment).
  • Then selecting a single, non-peer reviewed discussion from a US nuclear physicist (Garvin, 2001) for mortality from the rest of the nuclear energy chain. We have serious misgivings about this assessment itself, however that deserves its own investigation;
  • Then summing the two figures above; then finally
  • Cherry picking a single line from a 424 page 2006 report of BIER as justification to double the upper end of his own mish-mash figure.

Dear readers, we give you junk science. This isn’t so much cherry picking as it is a half-baked cherry pie. Yet this unbelievably bad bit of work was hosted by  a site with a tag line “Accurate information about Australia’s energy options”.

But this is especially concerning because Choose Nuclear Free also hosts a joint statement against nuclear energy signed by every major environmental organisation in Australia. This is why peer reviewed science matters. Environmental organisations cannot be permitted to excuse themselves from that process in undertaking their activism and get away with endorsing a non-peer reviewed, mathematically incorrect melange of cherry picked sources that is then leveraged to influence national policy. That’s exactly the practice they object to when it is evident in climate change denial. By insulating themselves from review and indulging in group-think on nuclear, they are just as guilty.

Green’s case falls apart when he tries to claim there have been “countless” accidents in the nuclear energy chain. Wrong. You can count them alright, and that’s what the Energy Related Severe Accident Database does. It tells us that between 1970 and 2005, in the OECD coal incurred 81 severe accidents (defined as 5 fatalities or greater) across the energy chain resulting in 2,123 fatalities. For nuclear, the figures are zero and zero. In non-OECD nations, the figures for coal are 1,507 severe accidents for 29,816 fatalities, and the figures for nuclear are 1 and 31 (being direct fatalities from Chernobyl). ExterneE replicates these findings. This mis-step in logic by Green is extreme.

ERSAD Stats

Green mentions serious hydro accidents in brackets as though they somehow don’t quite count. The ENSAD records two hydro dam failures alone, Banqiao and Shimantan, as responsible for 26,000 fatalities, and ten further failures causing a further 4,000 deaths. These accidents counted for those victims. It is unacceptable to devalue human life when it fails to support the anti-nuclear argument.

The article is padded with discussion of the effects of low-level radiation and Chernobyl. This is an area of ongoing scientific uncertainty, and credible organisations provide differing conclusions. But Green leverages this uncertainty to the most extreme result.

His firstly distances himself from the advice of the peak body while criticising Hansen for attending to it. This is in every way akin to climate denialists dismissing the IPCC. Green remains comfortably distant from the up-to-date advice of the UN who stated, following a major review in December 2012,

 “Because of the great uncertainties in risk estimates at very low doses, UNSCEAR does not recommend multiplying very low doses by large numbers of individuals to estimate numbers of radiation-induced health effects within a population exposed to incremental doses at levels equivalent to or lower than natural background levels”.

Green rejects Hansen’s upper limit estimate of 4,900 deaths from nuclear accidents, stating that credible estimates for Chernobyl range from 9,000- 93,000. The link provided to support this statement is to another non-peer reviewed article co-authored by Green himself, which itself provides no source for these figures. But the figures can only be arrived at by doing precisely what UNSCEAR cautions against: multiplying very low doses by large numbers of individuals.

Hansen is correct to quote the figure for known fatalities for Chernobyl of 43 (28 in the event and immediate aftermath plus 15 fatal cases of latent thyroid cancer). He is reasonable in offering an estimate of 4,900 addition deaths for the industry as a whole, being fatal cancers that may have occurred, but at a rate that is too small to distinguish from what is normal.  He is well-supported when he reiterates that this is a probable over-estimate due to the wealth of evidence suggesting that low-dose radiation is simply not harmful, including the 2007 observation from UNSCEAR that after 20 years of exhaustive studies of Chernobyl there was “no persuasive evidence of any other health impact in the general population that can be attributed to radiation exposure”. This is hardly going to be the end of the matter for all concerned. But it is certainly not junk science.

Of course, Green glosses over the 64 Gt of greenhouse gas emissions avoided through nuclear power deployment to date. That’s unreal, but sadly typical. It seems anti-nuclear activism would happily cook the globe if it meant no more nuclear power.

france-nuclear
France supplies electricity at around 80g CO2/kWh. Australia’s National Electricity Market produces around 800g CO2/kWh

The article attacking Hansen is not a critique. It is a deliberately constructed mis-reading of a scientific paper and its reputable sources, aimed at discrediting a celebrated scientist whose work has become problematic for the author. It is clumsy, lazy, shoddy and deceptive, having failed to read and understand the source material and then accusing Hansen and The Lancet of a lack of rigour. At every turn it seeks to weight the argument against nuclear by steering away from the best sources, the best science, the multi-paper reviews, and the peak bodies. It provides instead a self-referential pastiche, cobbled together from the fruits of non-peer reviewed activism, cherry picking, merging and simply butchering select references in the process. To top it off, this error-ridden product is currently leveraged by every major environmental organisation in Australia to push their agenda and influence Australia’s policy directions on energy. That’s not science. That’s not a critique worthy of publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal. That’s an attack on the scientific process itself, and a direct analogue to the techniques of climate change denial.

Hansen is but one in a growing group of highly credible voices who have reached the same conclusions: that an effective strategy to address climate change simply must include nuclear power, and that the hazards presented by nuclear power have been greatly exaggerated and pale in comparison to the threat of climate change. If environmentalism wishes to retain any kind of moral high ground in climate change as we push past 400 ppm CO2, it must reject the junk science of non-peer reviewed anti-nuclear activism. It must evolve to a position based on the transparent application credible, expert science.

Ben Heard is Director of ThinkClimate Consulting, a climate change and sustainability advisory firm. Geoff Russell is a mathematician, computer programmer and longstanding member of Animal Liberation SA. Both authors have rescinded previous positions of strong opposition to nuclear power and have become vocal nuclear advocates.

Ben Heard www.thinkclimateconsulting.com.au ; www.decarbonisesa.com ;

Twitter: @BenThinkClimate

Geoff Russell www.perfidy.com.au

Twitter: @csiroperfidy

 

90 comments

  1. This process between uneducated anti-nuclear folks and educated pronuclear people is best illustrated by Issac Asimov quote:
    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.

  2. How sad that there is a need for people like Ben and Geoff to spend time on work such as this, when there is much real work which could and should be done to battle greenhouse gas threats.

    If only the laws of defamation were matched by penalties for spreading falsehoods. We imprison vandals, but we quote intellectual vandals.

    1. On the contrary, I find the dismantling of the anti-nuclear argument to be very educational. I learn a lot I probably wouldn’t find otherwise.

  3. Scott Ludlum did an Ask Me Anything on reddit last night. In response to a question on nuclear power he responded:

    What kind of pisses me off is to conflate an anti-nuclear stance with anti-science sentiment. The scientific method does not have a preference for energy sources. Physics and chemistry permits controlled nuclear fission if you’re careful enough. It also permits wave energy generators, large-scale solar farms, geothermal energy and all kinds of other stuff.

    If some people see us as anti-science that’s unfortunate because the Greens party room is easily the most scientifically literate of any of the parties in parliament. We are committed to evidence-based policy and defending it even when it’s politically awkward. Some examples of where we have been leading here are around wind turbine syndrome and other psychogenic illnesses where the science is clear but the anecdotes say otherwise. We’ll back the science every time

    But nearly all the antinuclear case is antiscientific, with Green’s article a case in point. The Greens may be scientifically literate, but so is Jim Green, after a fashion – he’s sufficiently scientifically literate to ape the style in a manner convincing to those who want to buy what he’s selling.

    What’s lacking in each case is not scientific literacy, but scientific ethics (as I wrote at the end of this post.

  4. Is all the “deaths per TWh” data consistently measured in terms of electrical energy?
    I haven’t yet carefully looked over the source data, but it’s a common mistake for some people to end up making comparisons between electrical energy (eg. for photovoltaics and nuclear) and primary thermal energy (eg. for oil).

    1. We did not go that far with the original source data. Nothing would surprise me as so far as we can see that source is not peer reviewed. If you dig through and work it out, let us know.

  5. This rebuttal ranks up there with George Monbiot’s destruction of Helen Caldicott’s scientific credibility. Is there any scientific or other credibility left in the anti-nuclear movement?

  6. This is the usual Heard/Russell hodge-podge of misinformation, misrepresentation and deception.
    I’ll leave them to find their latest multi-order-of-magnitude mathematical howler and to add a correction and apology at the top of their article.
    I’m not sure which is the more ironical. Russell − a self-described mathematician − repeatedly making multi-order-of-magnitude mathematical howlers. Or Heard − a self-described environmentalist − taking money from environmental vandals and the military-industrial complex.
    A critique of Heard’s misinformation is posted at
    http://www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/ben-heard-decarbonisesa
    A critique of Russell’s misinformation is posted at
    http://www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/russell
    References for the Chernobyl death toll are posted at:
    http://foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/nfc/power/chernobyl

    1. Jim, I notice that you didn’t really address any of the criticism of your work. Did you cherry pick for example by ignoring your own sources estimates for nuclear related deaths? Did you make an error in converting TWh to GWy or not? Your response seems more like ad hominem attacks coupled to outrage of being criticized.

    2. 1) At least Ben is ethical enough to not hide who he has received money from for contractual work in his other business, which he doesn’t have to do with respect to DSA but does.
      Will the FoE branch in Adelaide be willing to declare who and where their funding, membership fees, and donations are sourced from? Is there even an annual report for the SA branch?
      We have seen in the past Green NGOs receive funding from Fossil Fuel companies to pursue a campaign of FUD on Nuclear, see the Sierra Club.

      2) If there is a glaring error why didn’t you identify it? Surely you would rather identify the error than be obtuse about it. If the error turned out true you would have created a level of uncertainty and doubt in the whole argument, but you didn’t. Why? Does it even exist?

    3. A nearly complete list of my clients and work with ThinkClimate Consulting can be found here.
      http://www.thinkclimateconsulting.com.au/projects/

      The taking of money from the military-industrial complex in question relates to assistance in the mandatory legislated reporting of energy production and greenhouse gas emissions under the NGER Act for Heathgate Resources, who operate the Beverley Uranium Mine.
      http://www.climatechange.gov.au/reporting

      Heathgate are not the only client for whom I have done compliance work, and compliance work itself is a relatively small portion of the business.

      1. But it’s the military-industrial complex man!
        /sarcasm

        Really, if Green wanted to retain any credibility, he’d engage in an actual debate rather than flinging poo. And he calls YOU aggressive and abusive. Hah!

        1. Aggression and strong words have a place in this world… I won’t try to defend abusive behaviour. Jim Green acts the bully, using an unacceptable form of aggression based on baseless accusations and straight-out untruths. He is also not above real personal abuse, as his sites adequately demonstrate.

          With so much aggro and abuse coming from the irrational side of this discussion, Ben can wear Jim Green’s epithets like the badge of honour that they are.

          The alternative is to be passive and weak, ie ineffective.

          1. I think (don’t know) that I am labelled aggressive because I have been uncompromising in calling Jim Green out on his methods on repeated occasions. That’s ok with me.

            1. If we want to talk aggressive arguments, nothing compares to the time you were told to “SURRENDER THE MICROPHONE!” from an anti-nuclear proponent, I’m sure he had a “Hang the Nuke gang” sign too.

              Lovely people /s.

              You’re just making them responsible for their statements. No different to a former lecturer I had ensuring we all understood what we were talking about by stating “Can you prove that statement?” over and over again when we made an unsubstantiated claim. If that’s being called aggressive, you’ve won.

    4. Hi Jim. When you pointed out a (singular) numerical error of mine in a recent article, my response was to thank you. Anybody can make mistakes. I would have thought you’d have done likewise rather than just ignoring the problem.

      But the really big problem for Chernobyl death toll estimates is precisely that. They are just estimates. With the exception of the frequently acknowledged thyroid cancers, there is nothing concrete. Australia has far higher cancer rates than Ukraine or Belarus or Russia. But Chernobyl didn’t cause any kind of measurable blip in the rates so you are stuck with estimates because the overall impact was so small. In the past 25 years, Ukraine + Belarus + Russia have had 14 million cancers with 6,000 due to Chernobyl and very few deaths. 15 is the usual figure given. With Australia’s cancer rates, these countries would have had 20 million. Why are you so worried about such a tiny tiny influence on cancer that it is the object of doubt and constant bickering precisely because it is so very tiny. What did the other 14 million cancer victims do that they warrant no interest or concern from you?

    5. Sorry Jim, but I just can’t see the ‘latest multi-order-of-magnitude mathematical howler’ in the above article that you have supposedly found. I guess I’m too stupid to notice this, but I really need this explaining to me.

      If you can’t, I will assume you are bullshitting, in an attempt to deflect attention from the incredibly large and consequential error in your Table. If you are correct, and Heard and Russell are the ones who have stuffed up, then this is a serious blow to their critique.

      Either way, this is very important to sort out. You cannot shirk this issue – your credibility is on the line here.

      1. As above. Still no reply from Green. If “latest multi-order-of-magnitude mathematical howler” was such a *howler* (rather than a bemusing attempt at some sort of soundbite?) then maybe even one or two lines of response could set Mr Heard and Mr Russell straight.

        1. Read through and you will see that the got there in the end with an apology and acknowledgement of the error, and retraction of the material

          He has also republished the page now, with something far less inflammatory. Early days, however I think he is learning that he cannot just go making stuff up.

    6. Jim, you must admit that this critique is both specific, and damning.

      Your response does nothing to deflect the accusation that you are peddling junk science. Is there anything – anything at all – that you can offer in defense of your work?

      Or will you let this stand unchallenged?

    7. @Jim Green

      Can you explain your own math mistakes? Will you be correcting them or apologizing for using them to spread misinformation about the health risk of nuclear energy?

    8. Jim, your above post reads as a defender of woo. If you want to post information to the public you have to lose the links to conspiracists sites. The above looks the same as a flight 77 conspiracy site.

      Your prose and methodology needs evaluation.

    9. From Jim Green at the BNC Discussion Board.

      “Heard, Russell, Brook, Hansen et al claim that the Chernobyl death toll was a few dozen deaths. The credible scientific estimates range from 9,000 to 93,000.
      For the second time in a month, Russell has made a multi-order-of-magnitude mathematical howler – and he calls himself a mathematician!”
      Read more: http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=bncblogposts&thread=398#ixzz2TcilOQyR

      So, to be quite clear, Green is disputing nothing.

      He did make a basic arithmetic error that put his numbers out by about 77 times. He did ignore a irksomely low number from one of his sources. He did build his own mortality figure by blending three unrelated sources. He did publish the resulting table in three locations, hiding his references and methodology in the appendix of the hardest to find. He did coordinate a campaign to get every ENGO in Australia to sign on to a statement that nuclear power is “dirty and dangerous” with this mess as evidence.

      A response is required from the Board of Friends of the Earth and the other signatories to the statement. FoE Australia alone had income of $616,000 in 201-2012, an existing surplus of over $200,000, and finished the financial year with a surplus of $70,000. A reported highlight from the year was “promoting renewables and exposing misinformation from the nuclear lobby”.

      http://foe.org.au/sites/default/files/FoEA_Annual%20Report.pdf

      I think they can afford to set some resources aside to make a proper response and fix this.

      1. Good luck with that. Green is the Chairman of the Management Committee.

        FoE, and many of the signatories to Choose Nuclear Free, are signatories to the Australian Council for International Development Code of Conduct. The code can be found here:

        http://www.acfid.asn.au/code-of-conduct/files/code-of-conduct

        One relevant item in the code is

        B.4.1 Speaking from evidence
        Where a signatory organisation takes on an advocacy role in Australia or globally, either alone or in partnership with others, this will be done from an evidence based position and will include the perspectives of those affected.
        Obligation:
        1. Signatory organisations will be transparent about the basis of the claims that
        underpin their advocacy.

        ACID also offers implementation guidance on this point, here:

        B.4.1 Speaking From Evidence
        Non-government organisations have become increasingly involved and influential in forming public opinion and policy through advocacy. Yet this power has also raised questions about the basis of this engagement, the representativeness of their claims and the evidence that underpins them.

        These are progressive Obligations which permit signatory organisations to prioritise working towards meeting requirements by developing and monitoring the implementation of a plan to achieve compliance over a defined period of time.

        Signatory organisations can substantiate compliance with this Principle by:
        Ensuring that they, or the organisations they are advocating in collaboration with, are using reputable and reliable sources of information to guide their advocacy work and having these ‘to hand’ should their statements be questioned by any stakeholders;

        ACID also has a complaints procedure, here.

        If you don’t want to initiate a complaint, you can also request an Inquiry.

        Inquiry – An inquiry can be made into broader areas of signatories practices which may have an impact on the wider aid and development sector but which do not currently fall within the scope of the Code of Conduct. Inquiries can be made without making a formal external complaint.

        Inquiries may lead to:

        * the referral of sector wide issues to the ACFID Executive Committee for consideration
        * the generation of a complaint via the Code of Conduct Complaints Handling Procedure.

        I would say there are grounds for a complaint under the Code of Conduct for Green’s current piece, and given Green’s history, and the history of nuclear misinformation from various signatories to the Choose Nuclear Free statement, for an inquiry into sector-wide issues.

        1. I’d be screen-shotting the things that he has written with respect to the article here in the event they go ‘missing’, or there is some sort of ‘glitch’.

        2. Thanks John.

          I would say this is the way to go. Green has shown himself beyond reason.

          Anyone wishing to draft a letter, please do so and let me know, here or ben.hear@thinkclimateconsulting.com.au . Contrary to claims, there is no nuclear lobby in Australia for groups like FoE to rail against. No one got paid to correct FoE’s errors. There are just people who care finding the time.

    10. Jim Green, how can you be so dishonest as to claim that the Chernobyl death toll figures constitute a mathematical “howler”? Even if your estimate range was correct, this has nothing to do with Ben or Geoff’s mathematical calculations and everything to do with the assumptions used. Of course, your estimate range is rubbish – WHO put the *maximum* potential toll at 4000, the official UNSCEAR figure is a few dozen, and there are no peer-reviewed estimates anywhere near 93,000.

      Shame on you for such dishonesty and your refusal to acknowledge your errors.

  7. As well as USCEAR, the ICRP also recommends against the use of the notion of collective dose to calculate deaths due to small dose to large populations:

    “The collective effective dose quantity is an instrument for optimisation, for comparing radiological technologies and protection procedures, predominantly in the context of occupational exposure. Collective effective dose is not intended as a tool for epidemiological risk assessment, and it is inappropriate to use it in risk projections. The aggregation of very low individual doses over extended time periods is inappropriate, and in particular, the calculation of the number of cancer deaths based on collective effective doses from trivial individual doses should be avoided.” ICRP Publication 103 (2007)

    Courtesy Mark Lynas: http://www.marklynas.org/2012/07/fukushima-death-tolls-junk-science/

    And in general cherry picking old IAEA, UNSCEAR or IAEA reports when equivalent later reports are available is plain deplorable abuse of authoritative sources. Science moves on, unlike ideologues.

  8. Ouch! Haven’t seen an ass kicking like that since Monbiot vs Caldicott. Nice work Ben and Geoff. Jim Green, you should be ashamed of yourself for writing such an intellectually bankrupt pile of shite, it’s not like the stakes aren’t high enough. Multiplication and division errors? Seriously?

    1. The big difference between Green and Caldicott is that Green at least was prepared to add a comment on a piece critical of him. Caldicott never has the guts – she just keeps very quiet when criticised. Probably Monbiot’s shellacking taught her to not to engage in debate.

      1. I disagree Martin. When his answers are as deceptive and misleading as the original article being critiqued – and claiming ‘howlers’ (silly word) and then not being willing to back up his bluster – well, I think that is worse than not bothering to respond at all. It’s pathetic.

  9. Just in case anybody missed it … a piece of cake is smaller than a whole cake so the number of raisins per piece is smaller than the number of raisins per cake. Similarly, a terawatt hour is much smaller than a gigawatt-year … so when you convert from TWh to GWy you need to multiply. A gigawatt year is 1GW for a year which is 1x24x365=8760 gigawatt hours=8.76 terawatt hours. So the factor is 8.76. So if you divide instead of multiply you’ll be out by a factor of 8.76×8.76 … about 77.

  10. Because I was curious about Jim Green’s title, I did a little research to find out that his PhD was awarded in a field called “science and technology studies” which is tangentially related to the history of technology, but is often pursued by people who do not like technology or the humans that develop it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_studies

    Jim Green is a professional antinuclear activist who studied activism in school and wrote his PhD thesis about the political controversy associated with the High Flux Australian Reactor (HIFAR). He is not a scientist (neither am I), but he somehow feels compelled to earn his living by criticizing the scientists and engineers that have developed technology that allows humans to capture the natural bounty of densely stored energy in the nuclei of uranium, thorium and plutonium.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  11. I think it’s a noteworthy observation that whilst Green has his website titled “Choose Nuclear Free”, we don’t see Heard or Russell or Hansen or anybody else authoring webpages titled, say, “Choose Wind Free” or “Choose Solar Free”, do we?

  12. I guess it would be nice to add to this excellent and useful post – if possible – some written replies from each of the particular environmental organisations on what they think about the quality of Green’s article after reading this post. And whether they feel comfortable being associated with Green via the joint statement hosted on Green’s website?

    1. They would need to feel under pressure to respond. This post has been a huge hit, but I think it will need to take a further step up in exposure for the ENGOs to descend from their anti-nuclear moral high horses long enough to respond.

      Rather than this just being about Green per se, I would like to know how they support the statement “Nuclear Power is Dirty and Dangerous”. Time after time, it is shown to be safer than anything else. As they can no longer stand behind this appalling work from Choose Nuclear Free, what is their basis for that statement? If they can offer nothing then it is clear: evidence is optional for ENGOs and they do not deserve a voice at the decision-making table.

      By buying into the concept of comparative mortality figures and completely screwing it up, Green created an important opening: he acknowledged that whether something is dangerous is only a relevant concept when compared with the alternatives. Normally, ENGOs avoid needing to deal in relative risk because it is harder to craft emotive messages, but here they have invited it. On this score, nuclear power does very, very well.

      This meme that nuclear is dangerous is the single largest that retains anti-nuclear sentiment in Australia. Lets see what happens with this story.

      1. I’m sure there is a particular ‘Australian’ newspaper that loves these sorts of stories on ENGOs subscribing to dodgy figures.

      2. Unfortunately typical response from anti-nuclear types is just to ignore their inability to defend their positions. They withdraw to the safety of their in-group of believers where this nonsense is maintained as conventional wisdom. It is weird, but I have noted greens who despite being otherwise very sensible still having thoroughly uncritical attitude towards energy sources. Some probably cling to the faith that when their beliefs are shot down by evidence, something else will eventually come up that proves their position (… “It must be right…surely all my peers wouldn’t believe in nonsense…and I for sure cannot be the one to disagree on consensus.” ) Indications of pluralistic ignorance and group think abound. This must be broken.

  13. Re: “1.84 million lives since 1971”

    I’ve no facts or stats, but just from a pseudo common-sense vantage, in lieu a five billion plus global population in a predominately fossil effected environment, this figure seems almost absurdly low. It’d be low even as a strictly U.S. assessment.

    Re: “For nuclear, the figures are zero and zero.”

    Even if there were 10 fatalities (somehow) per year in normal nuclear plant operations worldwide, that mortal price would still be a relative bargain to fossil! Nuclear advocates should factor this in because opponents can’t wait to create victim martyrs if/when a couple of nuclear workers ARE fatally injured somehow.

    Re: “…and that the hazards presented by nuclear power have been greatly exaggerated and pale in comparison to the threat of climate change.”

    Even then, those hazards have been proved by real-life to be very local and of far less health/damage consequence even in its most extreme rare incidents than far more frequent catastrophes at oil and gas facilities which literally take out whole neighborhoods with them — to a one week press notice.

    I often wonder just what we should be seeing in the world and population and environment in real-life if anti-nuclear speculations and “facts” had any meat on them.

    James Greenidge
    Queens New York

    1. Great remarks.

      ExternE provide detailed justifications for the factors for all power sources. I would need to read the coal one in full to decide whether I thought it low or high. But I hear what you are saying.

      NB the ENSAD records severe fatalities defined as 5 deaths or greater in an incident.

      There have been fatalities in the nuclear fuel chain that fall under this level. As there have been in the other fuel types.

  14. So a former Friends of the Earth trustee was forced to resign because he, like those on the “who get’s it” page, realised Nuclear is an essential component in the challenge to mitigate CO2.

    Hugh Montefiore

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/hugh-montefiore-we-need-nuclear-power-to-save-the–planet-from-looming-catastrophe-544571.html

    So much for for the left wing ideological values of equality, tolerance, and respect that accompany many in the Environmental movement.

    1. Greens aren’t green and Friends of the Earth aren’t friends of the earth. They need to go back to basics and work out what they stand for, because currently both are part of the bloody problem instead of being part of the solution.

  15. On Rod Adam’s blot I made the mistake of not multiplying the number of MW hours by the number of MWs produced by a source of generation and got a crazy low number. I caught the mistake and apologized. What’s the big deal? In this case I think Jim Green is staking so much on that 77 times too high number, or to put in another way, that number which is 7,700% to large!

    All, we are spreading this discussion around the internet a lot. On my blog on the DK I’m adding a link to Jim’s own GLW article so people can access that too.

    Thanks to Ben and Geoff, and Chris B who brought this all to our attention!

    1. Precisely, David, everybody makes mistakes, the informative thing is how people respond when they are pointed out.

      1. Yes. The trouble for FoE here is that the logical chain of response from correcting this is a significant change in messaging regarding nuclear. They are in a serious bind.

  16. Reblogged this on Atomic Insights and commented:
    This expose is one of the most important illustrations of the shaky ground on which many antinuclear activists rest their arguments. Making a math error is excusable; failing to admit and correct an error that is off by 7,700% is outrageous, especially when the resulting false number is used as a foundational basis for a campaign against useful technology. With no further ado, please read “Green Nuclear Junk” from DecarboniseSA.

  17. Ben, thanks for contributing some sanity to the nuclear debate. It pretty clear that Jim Green leaves a lot to be desired in that category. Just so that I would not be left with the “visual stench” of the table he produced in both his article and its reproductions, I searched the web for more authoritative data and found James Conca’s 6/10/12 article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-deathprint-a-price-always-paid
    I’m not saying that James’s data is gold standard for this statistic, but he sites some authoritative sources (WHO NAS etc.).
    James calls this statistic the energy “deathprint” and gives his data in fatalities/trillion kWhr, or fatalities/PWhr (Peta=10^15). If I’m doing my arithmetic (not math!) correctly, a PWhr = 114.077 GWyear (Giga=10^9). The GWy is the energy unit that Jim Green used in his table. Here’s an approximate comparison (since some categories are not strictly comparable) and I’ve sorted Conca’s table: (fatalities/GWyear)
    Energy source Conca Green
    Coal(China) 2454 31.2
    Coal(global) 1490 31.2
    Oil 316 4.5
    Biofuel/mass 210 1.4
    Coal(US) 131 31.2
    NatGas 35 2.0
    Hydro 12.2 4.3
    Solar(roof) 3.9 0.05
    Wind 1.3 0.02
    Nuclear 0.8 31.4

    Jim Green:
    As they say, not even close. You need to retract the content of that article, and if you’re lucky, we’ll forget that you ever wrote it.

  18. Sincere apologies to Ben Heard and Geoff Russell for attacking them for a “multi-order-of-magnitude mathematical howler”. The recurring 77-fold howler is mine, not theirs. (And Russell’s real mathematical howler is trivial compared to mine since his involved nothing more than an illustrative thought-experiment.)

    The Heard/Russell article states that “nearly the entire community of environmental organisations in Australia is currently standing behind figures that are completely mathematically incorrect.” They are referring to a joint NGO statement opposing nuclear power. Had they checked the dates, they would have seen that the October 2010 NGO statement pre-dates my January 2011 paper with mathematical errors − there is no connection between the two.

    I’ll take the Choose Nuclear Free paper down and correct it. There’s much to disagree with in the Kharecha/Hansen article and in the Heard/Russell article and i’ll address those points in the revised/corrected paper.

    Ben Heard says in the comments: “The trouble for FoE here is that the logical chain of response from correcting this is a significant change in messaging regarding nuclear. They are in a serious bind.” I’m bound to acknowledge my miscalculations and to apologise for an unwarranted attack. But my messaging − in my critique of the Kharecha/Hansen paper, and in the Choose Nuclear Free paper, and on countless other occasions − is that the greatest hazard posed by nuclear power (and the nuclear fuel cycle more broadly) is the repeatedly-demonstated connection to WMD proliferation. That is unchanged. I’ve also said repeatedly that i’ll gladly volunteer time and energy opposing the uranium/nuclear industry because of i) the WMD links and ii) the sickening, systemic racism which makes the industry unsupportable. Again, no change.

    In terms of accidents and routine emissions, the figures used by Kharecha, Hansen, Heard, Russell et al. don’t even factor in the lowest of the Chernobyl death estimates (9,000 from the IAEA/UNSCEAR/WHO studies in 2005/06) so they’re off to a bad start. The same applies to Externe − it comprises many reports, some of them giving figures lower than mine and at least one suggesting a higher figure (average collective dose of 989 manSv/GWy from uranium mining/milling alone over 100,000 years − p.123 in ‘Power Generation and the Environment − a UK Perspective’). Leaving aside the two elephants in the room − the fossil fuel / climate links and the nuclear / WMD links − i think that factoring in reasonable estimates will show that nuclear is safer than fossil fuels in terms of accidents and routine emissions, but more dangerous than all renewables except biofuel/biomass … more on that when i correct/revise the Choose Nuclear Free paper.

    Ben − fyi FoE reluctantly pulled out of ACFID about 6-12 months ago, because of the hefty membership fee.

    Sincere apologies again for an unwarranted attack, and apologies for screwing up my calculations, and for taking a week to realise that i screwed up my calculations.

    Jim Green
    jim.green@foe.org.au

    1. Thanks Jim. I appreciate the apology and I’m sure Ben does also. As for acknowledging deaths, it’s not at all clear that there have been any other than those everybody agrees on … 15 from thyroid cancer, 31 from the initial explosion + fire + ARS. Everything else is speculation based on LNT. And even if there are a bunch of cancers, the big issue is years
      of life lost and the degree of trauma before hand.
      What I’ve never heard an anti-nuclear campaigner acknowledge is the 100,000+ abortions … each one of which will have been quite traumatic. Nor the evacuation deaths at Fukushima. None of these consequences of radiation fear are deniable.

    2. I am very relieved to see Jim’s acknowledgement of error. Fact is, I had him wrong – I thought that I would never live to see this happen.

      So, Jim, my thanks and please recognise that I have re-evaluated you as a rational, ethical person.

      Why introduce the WMD proliferation themes at this stage? I understand caution on this subject, however I thought that Prof. Barry Brook and Emeritus Prof. Ian Lowe had a shot at this 2 years back in their book Why Vs Why, in which Barry Brook clearly held the high ground.

      As far as I can see, the WMD argument is dead and buried. Nuclear power has absolutely nothing to do with WMD.

      Am I wrong?

    3. @Jim. Thank you for admitting your mistake. Based on past experiences, I was not expecting it and I am pleased to find such intellectual honesty! Naturally, I disagree about the WMD angle. That issue has very little to do with power production and much more to do with politics. Also, most of energy consumption happens and most of humanity lives in countries that already have nuclear weapons. Many more contries could have nuclear weapons, but have chosen not to acquire them for political reasons mainly.

    4. no offense, jim, but that doesn’t really cover it.

      your attitude towards nuclear power seems to be equivalent to a house-owner whose house is on fire demanding the fire department recall their fire trucks because they are an unpleasant shade of blue.

      We have – in nuclear – a safe (even by your calculations), scalable, on-demand, plentiful, easily and readily implemented technology, one that is reliable, works with current electrical grids, and can supply both electrical power and process heat on industrial levels. It also can account for all of its waste – SIMPLY BECAUSE THAT WASTE STREAM IS SO SMALL.

      Furthermore, the connection to WMD proliferation is tenuous, at best. We cannot repeal the laws of physics; if countries such as iran want to get the bomb, they are going to get the bomb. We can put sanctions on them, etc. but even if nuclear power wasn’t there, leaders could choose this route, and the technologies developed for such a purpose (centrifuges and research reactors) would still exist.

      No – what’s more dangerous for WMD proliferation is CLIMATE CHANGE ITSELF, which many green groups – by knuckledragging on nuclear power – seem to be doing their best to exacerbate. For WMD to exist, the psychology behind WMD has to exist, and resource contention, us vs them psychology, authority worship, fuzzy and ignorant thinking, fear-based-thinking, ideology and faith-based-reasoning, ALL of these are enhanced in a world where the climate becomes ugly, which nuclear power could largely prevent.

      It’s the height of all ironies; by hoping to prevent WMD proliferation by opposing nuclear power, you just may increase it, by hoping to save the planet by opposing nuclear power, you may well destroy it. People forget, but in the 1970’s nuclear power was well on its way to displacing coal in the US; the regulatory ratchet and misguided attempts by environmental groups ensured that the ugly legacy of coal will continue well into the 21st, and probably 22nd century. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, is it not?

      1. @Edward Peshko

        Opposition to nuclear energy makes more sense – in a twisted sort of way – if one recognizes that The Establishment, in the form of hydrocarbon interests, helped to support the “environmental” movement.

        People that honestly want a cleaner world with more equitably distributed resources should support nuclear energy. Nuclear fission has proven that it is clean enough to operate inside sealed submarines. The basic fuel elements – thorium and uranium – are abundantly distributed all over the earth’s crust.

        As you pointed out, nuclear energy was well on its way to eliminating the use of coal in the United States and was taking huge chunks of market share from oil and natural gas in Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and South America. Its growth was an existential threat to the hydrocarbon pushers; even though it would never replace every application, it was adding enough new energy supply to the market to drive prices down and reduce or eliminate petroleum related profits.

        I’ve documented a number of bits of evidence supporting this theory on Atomic Insights. Those posts are all tagged with ‘smoking gun’.

    5. @Jim Green

      Thank you for having the intellectual honesty to admit your math error and to take action to correct it.

      I have to take issue with your concern about WMD “proliferation”. Though nuclear weapons are a potential hazard, they exist and there is little that any of us can do to change that fact. The real action that all of us can, and should, put at the top of our list is to prevent the USE of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons – along with the “conventional” weapons that are being used today to kill thousands of people every year.

      Though many disagree with my analysis, one of the best, proven ways to reduce the use of weapons to kill people is to improve economies and well being. Abundant energy that is not controlled by a tiny group of often weakly educated oligarchs and dictators is a very important tool.

      Please explain your statement about “racism” and its association with nuclear energy. It seems to me that Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace vision and the program that followed that statement is one of the LEAST racist actions that has ever been taken by The Establishment.

      1. @Rod. Nuclear Racism is a theory that Uranium mining companies don’t care about indigenous people’s concerns or culture and proceed with mining.
        The real issue is that with one sub-group that is happy and negotiated with a mining company another sub-group may not be so happy when they belong to the same indigenous group.

        One mine that is referred to is the Beverley Uranium mine in SA. While one group in the Adnyamathanha (a recognised group by the Native Title Tribunal) have negotiated an agreement with the company (this is along with mining and environmental approvals*), there is another group that is not happy. Thus the unhappy group is dragged out and used as a tenuous link to this supposed ‘Nuclear Racism’. This is a tactic that is used by environmental groups, they look for someone who is indigenous from that land that is not happy and spin the argument that not all are happy. Often spreading FUD amongst that ‘unhappy’ group to reinforce their unhappiness, which is sad because the education levels, and thus their cognitive ability to understand Uranium science, in Aboriginal people in Australia are unfortunately low. Although there are exceptions and some very bright Aboriginal people. Muckaty Station (centralised radioactive waste storage facility) was one example where there was initial support from local groups, then the green groups got their FUD in, found some unhappy people and the rest is history.

        However, one thing that is often overlooked is that due to the opportunities realised by the income from mining royalties in this area, amongst others, that the Adnyamathanha board bought into a very popular resort in the picturesque Flinders Ranges at Wilpena Pound. It now employs local Aboriginal people and has cultural displays and tours to show tourists the people that lived on that land. Is that racism?

        *A part of the mining approval is to return the sandstone hosted Uranium deposit back to it’s original state. Which means that they would have to make it a highly alkaline, hyper-saline, radioactive deposit. Whereas the current operations are neutralising the alkalinity, removing some of the salts, and reducing it’s radioactivity by extracting the Uranium. I doubt this would have to happen, and more refer to the above ground impacts (which are very low, ISL operation) but it’s an interesting quirk of the regulations.

      2. Also the Parlarna hot springs are in this area too (from one of your recent tweets). What is amazing is that even with the higher radiation levels, there is life in the springs http://www.flickr.com/photos/liamjon-d/sets/72157623891759565/with/4534209358/

        If we complain about Nuclear racism because we allow Uranium mines to go ahead (according to Jim), why are local white folk befitting from and allowing tourism to an active, un-contained (!), radiation source…? /rhetorical

    6. On the Civilian Nuclear Power = WMD theory lets look at the countries that have Nuclear WMD programs and the countries that have operating civilian plants and research reactors (denoted by *).

      Algeria* – No Nuclear weapons
      Argentina* – No Nuclear weapons
      Armenia – No Nuclear weapons
      Australia* – No Nuclear weapons
      Bangladesh* – No Nuclear weapons
      Belgium – No Nuclear weapons
      Brazil* – No Nuclear weapons
      Bulgaria* – No Nuclear weapons
      Canada* – No Nuclear weapons
      Chile* – No Nuclear weapons
      China* – Nuclear weapon state under NPT
      Colombia* – No Nuclear weapons
      Cuba* – No Nuclear weapons (withdrew USSR aresnal in 1960s)
      Czech Republic – No Nuclear weapons
      Denmark* – No Nuclear weapons
      Egypt* – No Nuclear weapons
      Finland* – No Nuclear weapons
      France* – Nuclear weapon state under NPT
      Germany* – No Nuclear weapons
      Greece* – No Nuclear weapons
      Hungary* – No Nuclear weapons
      India* – Nuclear weapon state NOT under NPT (in reply to China’s arsenal in the early 1970s)
      Indonesia* – No Nuclear weapons
      Iran* – Concerns of Nuclear weapon construction (no tests detected)
      Israel* – Nuclear weapon state (unconfirmed, but assumed)
      Italy* – No Nuclear weapons
      Jamaica* – No Nuclear weapons
      Japan* – No Nuclear weapons
      Kazakhstan* – No Nuclear weapons (surrendered a significant USSR arsenal in 1990s)
      Libya* – No Nuclear weapons (was caught by INTERPOL and IAEA trying to establish weaponry)
      Lithuania – No Nuclear weapons
      Malaysia* – No Nuclear weapons
      Mexico* – No Nuclear weapons
      Morocco* – No Nuclear weapons
      Netherlands* – No Nuclear weapons (although apparently hosts US AGM-86s, not confirmed)
      North Korea* – Nuclear weapon state NOT under NPT
      Norway* – No Nuclear weapons
      Pakistan* – Nuclear weapon state NOT under NPT (in reply to India’s arsenal, and help of AQ Kahn)
      Peru* – No Nuclear weapons
      Philippines – No Nuclear weapons
      Poland* – No Nuclear weapons
      Portugal* – No Nuclear weapons
      Romania* – No Nuclear weapons
      Russia* – Nuclear weapon state under NPT
      Serbia* – No Nuclear weapons
      Slovakia – No Nuclear weapons
      Slovenia* – No Nuclear weapons
      South Africa* – FORMER Nuclear weapon state (dismantled in 1990s)
      South Korea* – No Nuclear weapons (although been cautioned by IAEA)
      Spain* – No Nuclear weapons
      Sweden* – No Nuclear weapons
      Switzerland* – No Nuclear weapons
      Syria* – No Nuclear weapons (Israel strike neutralised clandestine reactor in 2007)
      Taiwan* – No Nuclear weapons
      Thailand* – No Nuclear weapons
      Turkey* – No Nuclear weapons (did host US missiles at one point in 1960s)
      Ukraine* – No Nuclear weapons (handed back USSR missiles in 1990s)
      United Kingdom* – Nuclear weapon state under NPT
      USA* – Nuclear weapon state under NPT
      Uruguay* – No nuclear weapons
      Uzbekistan* – No nuclear weapons
      Vietnam* – No Nuclear weapons

      There we have it 62 nations with civilian Nuclear programs, 5 recognised Nuclear weapon states under NPT, 4 outside of NPT, and 3 who handed over or dismantled arsenals.

      The question is, why haven’t the other 81% (n 50) pursued a Nuclear weapon program?
      You did note in your PhD thesis Jim that research reactors can be used to make bombs and are a proliferation risk, so why haven’t the other 48 out of 58 who have research reactors actively pursued (not mooted) a nuclear weapons program?

      I’d take it that those numbers highlight that the risk is low due to the existing 5 nuclear weapon states, alliances with the P5, threat of force if a clandestine program is exposed, regional geopolitics, and a regional proliferation risk if one decides to go nuclear. There are some states in there with reactors that are in hot geopolitical zones but have not built weapons. Why is that?

      1. Forgot to add, when we talk about Nuclear Power it’s more so in the Australian context. What’s the risk that Australia, even with it’s OPAL reactor, will develop Nuclear Weapons? I know in the past we mooted with the idea, but never developed them. We chose correctly.
        Furthermore why can’t Australia develop a Nuclear industry that is an exemplar of non-proliferation and safety, and export that regulatory process to the rest of the world?

        1. Sure thing. I could look a bit deeper into the weapons program subject to see who mooted the idea but went against it like Australia.

    7. Jim, thanks for the apology and acknowledgement of where you made the error. Thanks also for removing the material from Choose Nuclear Free.

      I am disappointed that you see fit to let stand the terms “junk science” , “psuedo science” and “policy flake” in relation to James Hansen and Pushker Kharecha.

      I don’t accept that the dates of the respective publications absolve the other organisations in this circumstance. If the statement pre-dated the paper, then the statement was posted to the site with scant evidence for the assertion that the industry is “dirty, dangerous and costly”. When the main discussion paper addressing this issue was posted 3-4 months later, it was erroneous. The full body of organisations are making claims that greatly exceed the evidence, and seemingly not caring about whether the work you do is robust or not.

      I made clear the “logical” chain of response from FoE to the error. I don’t think the response you are proposing is logical. There is now no source I know of, including your own, to support the suggestion that nuclear is anything other than orders of magnitude safer than fossil fuels as well as providing a climate change solution.

      If your sincere belief is that “the greatest hazard posed by nuclear power (and the nuclear fuel cycle more broadly) is the repeatedly-demonstrated connection to WMD proliferation” then it is high time you ceased confounding arguments of health and safety from the operation of power plants, including, on this occasion, crafting your own mortality factor for nuclear power and making mathematical error with several others. If WMD is your concern, state you case cogently and let others respond. I will address this in an upcoming piece. Ends don’t justify means.

      I have great concerns about this remark: “i think that factoring in reasonable estimates will show that nuclear is safer than fossil fuels in terms of accidents and routine emissions, but more dangerous than all renewables except biofuel/biomass … more on that when i correct/revise the Choose Nuclear Free paper.”

      This sounds like the outcome of your update is an entirely foregone conclusion. It also sounds like you are presuming to “correct” ExternE. That’s entirely inappropriate. ExternE was a 15 year research process involving a “multidisciplinary research team, composed of engineers, economists and epidemiologists, to develop an original methodology” and that methodology is “widely accepted by the scientific community and is considered as the world reference in the field”. In that light I have some questions:

      – Will you continue to deploy your own mortality factor for nuclear, which we have shown to be a blend of three unrelated sources, ignoring the estimates provided by ExternE and even your own source, Lifeboat project?
      – Will you commit to comprehensively reviewing all 250 or so pages of the ExternE nuclear methodology and all supporting reports prior to writing your update?
      – Who will externally review your new paper before it is published? Will the review team include an economist, epidemiologist and a nuclear engineer?

  19. Continuing …

    the atomic bombing survivors had much higher radiation doses than the public at Chernobyl but for those below 1 Sv, the median loss of life was 2 months. These survivors have been well studied and people know exactly what happened to them, we don’t have to guesstimate. Chernobyl didn’t deliver anything like those doses so the actual years of healthy life lost will be very small. And there has only been one Chernobyl. What killed people at Fukushima was fear of radiation not radiation. That fear, which can be debilitating in the long term also killed people in the short term during an irrational evacuation.

    Even if we had nuclear accident per year which robbed a few thousand people of a couple
    of months, would preventing that be worth risking climate change for?
    I don’t think so. But opting for 100% renewables is taking exactly that risk.

    As for the WMD/nuclear link … it isn’t the elephant in the room. It’s about as important as the fertiliser/swimming pool/chemical weapons link. Chlorine, mustard gas, nerve gas, all sorts of stuff (car bombs!) is readily made by anybody with chemical training. Even if we could stop people making car bombs by stopping fertiliser production, the latter would easily be the greater of the two evils. Atomic bombs are much less strongly linked to the basic physics, and are extremely complex to make, regardless of how widely the science is spread. They can’t be made by terrorist cells or lone-wolfs. And how exactly will reducing the number of nuclear electricity reactors stop nutters like Kim Jong-un? The best way to prevent nuclear wars is to keep doing what we have been doing … arms reduction and reducing poverty, increasing clean electricity and strengthening global connections via disaster relief, food production education, agricultural and general education. We can and should be doing far far more of all of these. This is stuff with a track record of success.

  20. Kudos to Jim G. for his apology on this. Goes to making a better discussion of these issues.

    My own two cents on this.

    Proliferation concerns are just that: concerns. WMD is a question of politics, not technology. It’s a question of policy. It explains in part why all those countries above listed by ‘irregular commenter” don’t have nuclear WMD programs.[to be fair, again, many of the European non-nuclear countries, like Sweden, Italy, etc also are covered by NATO’s nuclear shield so they ‘don’t have to’ have nuclear WMD. Thsi applies to Japan and S. Korea as well. Just say’n…]

    The way WMD proliferation is talked about anti-nuclear folks implies that there is some sort of natural, organic relationship between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. The degree by which any country opts for and open nuclear arms regime is based in no small part on the ability or inability of an indigenous campaign for nuclear disarmament is successful or not. Because it’s question of policy. So we make the policy, as Rod Adams suggests, one of non-nuclear development!

    Oddly, nuclear energy is the only way to get rid of nuclear weapons. We can dismantle all U235 and Pu bombs and use their fissile material in nuclear power plants, as a true “Swords to Plowshares” program. The U.S. currently fuels 50% of our nuclear energy with dismantled Russian nuclear weapons material. Lets say we add the US’s huge arsenal to the pile!

    When I ask anti-nuclear folks what should be done with dismantled nuclear fissile material they want to store it “safely” until it can be “disposed of”. Okay, how do that with out using nuclear reactors?

  21. Don’t know if my earlier post got through, so reposting – apologies if duplication.

    ExternE, mentioned approvingly by you*, and used by Hansen and Kharecha, estimated 0.65 deaths per terrawatt hour from routine emissions alone (http://www.externe.info/externe_d7/sites/default/files/vol5.pdf page 5), rather than the 0.04 deaths per terrawatt hour that seems to have become urban legend. ExternE also estimated Chernobyl’s death toll at 10,000 – 50,000 (ExternE Externalities of Energy Methodology 2005 Update Edited by Peter Bickel and Rainer Friedrich Page 205 Figure 9.4).

    *
    “ExternE is a huge actuarial project run between 1998 and 2005 involving an array of experts in Universities across Europe, under the auspices of the European Commission. The table in question is the summation of thousands of pages of methodology, assessment and reporting, all of which is publicly available. ExternE spends 250 pages justifying its nuclear power death estimates”,

    1. Yes, I see a partial, not perfect match between the paper in Lancet and the values in ExternE.

      I also see the 0.65 deaths per TWh from cancer due to routine emissions includes all impacts for the next 100,000 years on the basis of the linear no threshold model…

      So I’m interested to understand the discrepancy however truly, it’s a stupid conversation to even have in the face of the impacts from fossil fuels.

  22. I’m glad you’re interested in understanding the discrepancy. So am I, and here is my tuppence worth……..

    The Lancet paper uses 0.019 fatalities per terrawatt hour. This is apparently a figure for occupational fatalities. Since the relevant links in the Lancet paper do not work, I do not know where that figure came from. Possibly it is the estimate for European nuclear workers alone.

    The Lancet paper does not give figures for deaths among the global public, although its alleged source, Externe, estimated that such deaths would be 95% of the total. Nor does the Lancet paper mention that ExternE calculated 0.65 deaths globally per terrawatt hour (and I think ExternE would agree that the vast bulk of such deaths would occur within roughly one human lifetime, rather than being spread out over 100,000 years, as you may be implying. Not that it’s relevant.). And 0.65 is THIRTY FOUR TIMES 0.019. I would not call that a “partial, not perfect” match, especially if I were a scientist or mathematician, but it does explain a lot about your figures..

    You stated above “Green’s case falls apart when he tries to claim there have been “countless” accidents in the nuclear energy chain. Wrong. You can count them alright, and that’s what the Energy Related Severe Accident Database does. It tells us that between 1970 and 2005, in the OECD coal incurred 81 severe accidents (defined as 5 fatalities or greater) across the energy chain resulting in 2,123 fatalities. For nuclear, the figures are zero and zero. In non-OECD nations, the figures for coal are 1,507 severe accidents for 29,816 fatalities, and the figures for nuclear are 1 and 31 (being direct fatalities from Chernobyl). ExterneE replicates these findings. This mis-step in logic by Green is extreme.”. .

    Your link to the Energy Related Severe Accident Database doesn’t work. Here is a working link to the relevant material – http://idrc.info/fileadmin/user_upload/idrc/former_conferences/idrc2008/presentations2008/Burgherr_Peter_Comparative_Risk_Assessment_of_Severe_Accidents_in_the_Energy_Sector.pdf .

    Look at the “Frequency-consequence curves
    (1970-2005)” at about page 18. Chernobyl’s fatalities are shown as 10,000 – 50,000.

    So, to sum up, you claim, citing ExternE and ERSAD, lauding them for their knowledge and expertise, that Chernobyl’s death toll is 31. An hour or so’s research shows that both Externe and ERSAD estimate Chernobyl’s death toll to be 10,000 – 50,000. Your own sources put your error at roughly a thousandfold, three orders of magnitude. You call me stupid when I point this out. Would this be a “mis-step in logic”? Nuclear junk, anyone?

    1. Ok, you’ve said:

      “The Lancet paper uses 0.019 fatalities per terrawatt hour. This is apparently a figure for occupational fatalities. Since the relevant links in the Lancet paper do not work, I do not know where that figure came from. Possibly it is the estimate for European nuclear workers alone”.

      ExterneE occupational figure is 0.02. It is the same figure without the rounding. Vol 5, page 5: “It is estimated that the production of 1 TWh will result in 0.02 deaths… in the workforce for the nuclear industry”. Markandya and Wilkinson appear to have used this figure exactly in Table 2. ExternE state further that “Worker accidents during construction and decommissioning of the reactor are the most important contributor to these values”

      “The Lancet paper does not give figures for deaths among the global public..”

      Table 2, “Air Pollution related effects”. This is public. Table 2, “Deaths from Accidents, Among the public”. This is public.

      “Nor does the Lancet paper mention that ExternE calculated 0.65 deaths globally per terrawatt hour”.

      No they don’t, which is a point of interest for me.

      “ (and I think ExternE would agree that the vast bulk of such deaths would occur within roughly one human lifetime, rather than being spread out over 100,000 years, as you may be implying. Not that it’s relevant.)”.

      What you think ExternE would agree is irrelevant. What they say is this:

      “If large distances and long time frames are included in the assessment of some fuel cycles and not in the assessment of others (due to a lack of methodologies or lack of data) the direct comparison of results becomes a problem [my emphasis]. It is for this reason that the impacts estimated for the nuclear fuel cycle are presented within this report within time and space matrices. The short-term category includes immediate impacts…medium term includes the time period from 1 to 100 years, and long term accounts for between 100 to 100,000 years into the future” Vol. 5, Page 2. This then follows (pg 5): “The total number of expected health impacts per TWh are: 0.65 fatal cancers… These results include the long term global dose assessment” which they confirm as “100,000 years for a constant global population of 10 billion people” (pg 4).

      So, in seeking construct a comparison table that is reasonable and relevant, against, for example, coal whose pollution impacts are constant but have atmospheric life of about 5 days, Markandya and Wilkinson had to address the comparison challenge highlighted in ExternE. I suspect that is the reason for the discrepancy between the 0.65 figure (ExternE) and the 0.052 figure (Table 2, Markandya and Wilkinson), but I don’t know. The figures are in disagreement by a factor of 12.5. Given that the 0.65 figure is for 10 billion people and exposures over 100,000 years, if we assume most of the impact is within a human lifetime (which I consider reasonable given the half-lives in question are about 30 years) then the figure by Markandya and Wilkinson of 0.052 seems ok to me. I would still like to know more about how they did it.

      “Chernobyl’s fatalities are shown as 10,000 – 50,000”. Yes, noted. ERSAD is a great source for severe accidents. If it is the latent impact of Chernobyl that interests you, the peak sources are UNSCEAR and WHO Chernobyl forum. The UNSCEAR finding is linked in the blog post, and I make reference to Hansen including the upper estimate from WHO of 4,900.

      The discrepancy you picked up between Markandya and Wilkinson and ExternE is, genuinely, interesting and I would like to understand it better. However it makes not the slightest difference to the thrust of this article. Please bear in mind, I did not call you stupid. Arguing about whether something is two fifths of stuff all or three fifths is, indeed, a stupid thing to do. If you still take offence, then the hat fits and you can wear it.

      I appreciate what you pointed out. it’s interesting and gave me reasons to take a closer read of ExternE. Just consider: your hour of net research is not going to get you published by the Lancet. Markandya and Wilkinson would have spent quite a bit longer than that to produce the published finding applied by Hansen and Kharecha who would have spent a long time on their own research. ExternE spent about 25 years as did UNSCEAR. These were systematically ignored by Green. You seem in haste to score points. Perhaps sitting down with these sources over a longer period of time would be a more appropriate approach to this.

  23. 1. As I said “The Lancet paper does not give figures for deaths among the global public..” NB GLOBAL public. Table 2 gives figures for the European public. NB EUROPEAN public. So who needs to sit down with the sources over a longer period of time? Who needs to be in less haste to score points?

    2. I did not say I spent a mere hour researching this. Perhaps I was not clear enough. I should have said “An hour or so’s research BY YOU OR ANYONE ELSE would have shown that both ExternE and ERSAD estimate Chernobyl’s death toll to be 10,000 – 50,000”.

    3. I have not taken “offence” at your calling involvement in this conversation “stupid”. I am well used to this kind of stupidity.

    4.. As far as I know, UNSCEAR washed its hands of estimating Chernobyl total deaths, citing uncertainties and its concerns about “potentially serious misinterpretation in communication with the public”. This has led the unscrupulous, the ignorant and the stupid to falsely claim that UNSCEAR has pronounced Chernobyl’s death toll to be a mere 31, and to imply that UNSCEAR is saying that this is more or less the final figure, UNSCEAR seems pretty blase about THIS ACTUAL “serious misinterpretation” being perpetrated by nukers on an unsuspecting public, which does not reflect well on UNSCEAR. BUt in fairness to UNSCEAR, although it does a Pontius Pilate on the numbers, and ignores the nuclear cult’s making whoopee with the science, it does say perfectly clearly in Annex D 2008 “Although the numbers of cancers projected to be induced by radiation exposure after the accident are very small relative to the baseline cancer risk, THEY COULD BE SUBSTANTIAL IN ABSOLUTE TERMS” (My emphasis – even a “very small” increase of say, 0.5%, in baseline risk would cause 10,000 extra cancers in a 10 million population, assuming normal cancer mortality of 20% of all deaths). Have we all got that, folks? UNSCEAR, one of the “peak sources”, which has “spent 25 years” on this, says “Although the numbers of cancers projected to be induced by radiation exposure after the accident are very small relative to the baseline cancer risk, THEY COULD BE SUBSTANTIAL IN ABSOLUTE TERMS”. (But is one peak source’s “substantial” another man’s “stuff all”?)

    The WHO put the Chernobyl toll at 9,000, not 4,000, and this from the most contaminated regions alone.

    6. If “we assume most of the impact is within a human lifetime (which I consider reasonable given the half-lives in question are about 30 years) ….”, I think we can agree to agree on this one, and forget about the 100,000 years stuff.

    7. As far as I know, Hansen did not include the WHO’s Chernobyl upper estimate. He included a mere 43 deaths from Chernobyl in his total figure of about 4,900. His 4,900 figure has nothing to do with the WHO’s 4,000 or so. Re nuclear deaths, Hansen states “Globally, we calculate 4900 such deaths……Regionally, we calculate approximately 1800 deaths in OECD Europe, 1500 in the United States, 540 in Japan, 460 in Russia (includes all 15 former Soviet Union countries), 40 in China, and 20 in India……43 deaths are conclusively attributable to radiation from Chernobyl as of 2006.” I think it should be clear from the above, particularly from the 460 figure for the entire ex-Soviet Union area, that Hansen’s estimate of 4,900 includes a mere 43 from Chernobyl.

    8. I’m not that interested in why some guys in The Lancet cited ExternE but seem to have given a slanted view through omission, and without explaining themselves. I’m more interested in why YOU and so many pro-nukers waffle so much, even when caught with your pants down. You claim Chernobyl deaths of 31 or so. You cite ExternE and ERSAD in support. You praise them to the skies for their expertise. But when it emerges that they estimate up to 50,000 deaths from Chernobyl cancers alone (is 50,000 cancer deaths “stuff all”?), instead of admitting sloppiness, selective quoting, cherry-picking etc.etc., you dump ExternE and ERSAD like they’re suddenly dogshit, switch to UNSCEAR and the WHO (not that that will help), and incorrectly split hairs, Just fess up, admit your mistakes openly, fully and honestly, as Jim Green did. And Jim Green, unlike you, is about right re Chernobyl deaths and low level radiation. Come clean, and maybe we can progress.

    More in a week or so.

    All the best,
    Chris Murray.

    1. Hello Chris,

      Your review of Hansen’s inclusions is correct. You are right there and I am wrong. I was clear on this when I wrote the post with Geoff (some time ago) and got it wrong in the previous comment. I should have referred back to the material to check.

      I’m surprised to hear you are “not interested” in the findings published in Lancet. You seemed pretty interested until now. You should be. It’s important to guide our energy decisions. The authors’ application of ExternE’s hugely conservative approach using the linear non-threshold model, with impacts on 10 billion people for 100,000 years, suggests nuclear power is the safest major energy source. Green ignored this, Lancet applied it, and you now seem “not interested” in it. Distinctly threatened by it seems more likely.

      Sources are not being dumped, they are being distinguished between. Estimates are not being cherry picked. There are material differences between the sources in question.

      ExternE and ERSAD offer means of comparison of the health impact between energy sources. That’s tremendously useful information and they both make a comprehensive effort. ExternE applies the most conservative estimate of harm possible for nuclear impacts. That the comparative result is still so overwhelmingly in favour of nuclear power is telling.

      ERSAD is, principally, an accident data base and the comparative accident record of direct fatalities between the energy sources is also very telling, with nuclear, again the overwhelmingly safest choice.

      The attention ERSAD pays to latent effects like cancer from radiation is pretty high level. The chart from the reference we have been looking at references Burgherr and Hirschberg 2008 (which now appears to have had a 2014 update,) Comparative risk assessment of severe accidents in the energy sector. In it, they say:

      … this study provides a broad comparison of energy technologies based on the objective expression of accident risks for complete energy chains. For fossil chains and hydropower the extensive historical experience available in PSI’s Energy-related Severe Accident Database (ENSAD) is used, whereas for nuclear a simplified probabilistic safety assessment (PSA) is applied…

      So there are two very different lines of data in play: actual records of accidents and fatalities on the one hand and a “simplified probabilistic safety assessment” on the other. The PSA findings were:
      “The PSA-based maximum consequences including expected latent fatalities range from about 9000 for Ukraine, Russia and Belarus to about 33,000 for the whole northern hemisphere in the next 70 years (Hirschberg et al., 1998”).
      So, now let’s look at that 1998 reference which is still available. The estimates of cancer for the various most exposed groups will be familiar and are totalled to 9000. The 2007 summary work from UNSCEAR confirms that there is no credible evidence that any of this has transpired. Interestingly the estimate in this 1998 report of fatality from the thyroid cancer cohort was “200-800 fatal cancers”. Ten years later it had (thankfully) remained limited to 15. The 33,000 figure includes “23,000 potential additional fatal cancers from among the population of the entire northern hemisphere”. This is the finding they are quoting over 15 years later.

      It gets interesting from there. Based on information from the Health Physics Society in relation to biological repair mechanisms and the dearth of actual evidence for harm at low levels, Hirschberg et al., 1998 is clear that
      “the above mentioned estimate of 23,000 potential additional fatal cancers is subject to strong reservations…The total estimate of the number of fatal latent cancers due to the Chernobyl accident is roughly in the range of 9000-33,000 with the upper range including the 23,000 cases based on the aggregation of small doses. When regarding the upper range of this interval the above discussed perspective of the Health Physics Society should not be forgotten”.

      So, in 1998 these authors put forward an estimate for which they had “strong reservations” at the time. Not uncertainty. “Strong reservations”. Now, you have suggested that the use of the ERSAD comparative accident figures that are current up to 2005 binds a commentator to use their simplified nuclear PSA findings from 1998, to the exclusion of other sources. That’s awfully simplistic and lacking in sophistication. In my opinion it’s foolish.

      Compared Hirschberg et al., 1998 (cited in Burgherr and Hirschberg 2008), there is UNSCEAR. The single remit of that organisation is radiological. They are the acknowledged peak source for health impacts from nuclear accidents. Come their 2008 review of Chernobyl, with 25 years of evidence and work available, they affirm that there is no compelling evidence at all for excess cancer in the most exposed groups beyond the thyroid cancer (15 fatalities), and they will no longer even assign an estimate for the low dose groups. Then, come 2012, UNSCEAR has moved to expressly caution against low dose/large population methodology being applied, at all.

      Your quote from paragraph D274 from UNSCEAR 2008 is reasonable and at the same time, rather selective, particularly given the preceding sentences and paragraphs, and the conclusion in paragraph D280. I don’t think the sentence you have selected is a good representation of the findings of the report as a whole. I am happy for others to judge for themselves. For those wishing to infer high levels of harm from this accident, fatalities in the tens of thousands, based on modelling and despite a lack of evidence, this sentence provides a pathway. I respect that UNSCEAR maintain, in their work, the possibility that this harm is occurring at levels too small to be detected above the baseline. Equally, I respect them for not taking this area of uncertainty and construing great harm from it, as does Green, as are you. That was my position in the post: that Hansen quoted UNSCEAR correctly, that he was then “reasonable” in applying further estimates of harm. I duly acknowledged that different credible bodies have provided varying estimates of the impact of the Chernobyl accident.

      Your request of me is to “fess up” and acknowledge that “Jim Green is right about Chernobyl deaths and low level radiation”. The assembled evidence reviewed by the peak body simply does not support that and the peak body does not make statements in support of that. It is irresponsible to bandy about fatality figures in the tens of thousands based on highly uncertain estimates and methodologies that are no longer applied for this purpose by the peak body.

      No matter the source and how we interrogate it the result keeps returning. Nuclear energy is among our safest energy options. Jim Green’s blatant dishonesty and falsifications sought to obscure this reality. His incompetence with figures added further fog to his work but ultimately brought him undone. He failed: we exposed him and under considerable pressure he retracted the work.

      It has, as ever, been interesting and useful to review this material again. Given the opportunity I would make some improvements to the original post based on our discussion. I appreciate that, so thanks for bringing your original question here.

      Otherwise, your tone and approach has grown increasingly aggressive and unpleasant; you evidently care not a jot about the comparative harm of fossil fuels, just the hypothetical harm of radiation. I think this is reprehensible. Your efforts to stretch every argument in this direction are unproductive.

      You have been returned to the moderation queue. If you are capable of keeping disagreement civil and discussion robust and productive, you are welcome here. If not, you will remain in moderation or simply be blocked.

  24. I once criticised Green for a false claim he made about a French fast reactor making plutonium for weapons. He and his hench people never answered my points. They slandered me without giving me a right of reply. Here is the link where Jim Green erroneously said (AKA “told a whopper”) that “France has used a fast reactor to produce plutonium for weapons”. http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/article/Tas-Uni-academic-less-than-abundantly-clear-about-G/ My attempted exposé is in the below line comments, but truncated because they censored by me. Here’s a more detailed exposé I did of Jim Green’s whopper with scientific explanations why his claim is both impossible and untrue. http://nukespp.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/case-study-in-anti-nuclear-power-fud.html

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