Part 4: Fukushima poisonous radioisotopes, tons of waste
Nuclear power plants require tons of energy, emit tons of pollutants
All nuclear power plants are dangerous, so maintain grassroots organizations and activists such as the late Michael Mariotte of Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS) in a Pacifica radio interview with Dr. Michio Kako about the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
And at Fukushima, the levels of radiation are unprecedented…The cleanup operations are monumental…40 years period is optimistic…Nuclear power is not a solution to climate change, it never has been.”
–Michael Mariotte, Journalist, Organizer
Conducting background research and reading, it’s easy to see why. Over the past month or so, AGN compiled research information on the extent of waste, emissions, water releases, and crud created by all nuclear power plants, and tabulated various sources shown in Table 2. Of course Table 2 Radioisotopes from Nuclear Power Plants is not all-inclusive nor is it meant to be. It’s meant to provide the public with general information on the types of radiation one may expect. Notwithstanding scrubbers and treatment for metal removal, a slough of radioisotopes are present when venting and releases occur, because no complete treatment system exists.
To date, no news organization has provided such a tabulation, and it is easy to see why.
Robert Barber, a citizen commentator at the Washington Post, broaches the subject:
A more salient underlying issue, in the U.S. at least, is that nuclear energy is part and parcel of the nuclear weapons complex…The same scientists, same technology, etc. are needed in both programs.
The history of nuclear energy is linked to the Manhattan Project, so there’s a reason why today there is such a political row over which country is building a nuclear power plant.
Milling, Mining, and Fuel Production
AGN‘s Table 2 lists many deadly radioisotopes created and emitted in stages of NPP energy production. In Stage 1 (highlighted in light rouge), the uranium mining, milling, and enrichment process, Uranium ore is mined and enriched from 0.7% to 3% so that the fissioning reactions become self-sustaining within fuel assemblies inside the reactor.
While the health consequences of breathing uranium dust and radon gas from uranium mining in the American Southwest are known thanks to books such as Judy Pasternak’s Yellow Dirt, few understand the global impact of industrial uranium mining. Having attended one of Fertile Ground Environmental Institute seminars, the link between mining and milling activities, and ladening the environment with leftover poison was obvious.
Milled ore such as uranium 238 has a decay chain that includes radon, thorium, and radium. Radon-220 from uranium tailings emits alpha particles (α) that can be inhaled into the lungs where it causes localized cellular damage and mutations. Radium-226 emits alpha and gamma (γ) rays which increases the risk for bone cancer or leukemia. Uranium radioisotopes and radium also have very long half-lives, meaning long-term storage carriers for centuries.
At least 200 new radioisotopes are created during the fissioning process inside nuclear reactor within the fuel rod assemblies. Through the nuclear industry humans have increased the levels and diversity of background radiation on the earth, including the ocean, atmosphere, and land. We simply did not have that much radioactive particulates floating around even a century ago, and at Fukushima Daiichi NPP with at least three sunken coriums in out-of-control meltdown, a lot more radioactivity is being steadily released every second into the natural environment.
In Nuclear Power is Not the Answer, Dr. Helen Caldicott describes some of the most potent radioisotopes generated by nuclear power plant fuel reactors. One might view this book as a rebuttal on notions advanced by some climatologists that nuclear power is an acceptable energy solution for global warming.
Nuclear power is not a solution to climate change, it never has been.
–the late Michael Mariotte, NIRS President
There is little that is environmentally friendly about nuclear energy, from the mining and milling, to plant construction, to fuel pellet and rod assembly, after plant decommissioning, and in final dismantling of nuclear power plants.
Fuel Production and Plant Construction Energy Input
Based on a study by J.W. Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith titled “Nuclear Energy—the Energy Balance” nearly every stage of nuclear fuel and reactor development is quantifiable in terms of equivalent specific energy requirement in petajoules.
(One Joule is defined as the work done when one newton of force acts through one meter of distance. One Petajoule is equal to 10**15 Joules or 1,000,000,000,000,000 J)
Their study shows that in just construction alone, a nuclear reactor requires massive energy input. AGN decided to further analyze the energy investment needed by converting 1 PJ to its barrel of oil energy equivalent, which is approximately 163,400 barrels of oil. Thus, if an estimate of 0.00379 PJ per ton of uranium is required for fuel fabrication, this converts to:
Example 1: (0.00379 PJ/ton U)(163,400 barrels of oil/PJ)= 619 barrels of oil/ton U
Approximately 619 barrels of oil worth of energy is required to produce one ton of uranium as solid fuel pellets. Furthermore, if for a 1000 megawatt reactor there are 50,000 fuel rods or about 100 tons uranium in weight, that would mean that for the reactor fuel fabrication alone:
Example 2: (619 barrels of oil/ton U)(100 tons/reactor)= 61,900 barrels of oil per reactor
Moreover, for the standard 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant, the construction energy expenditures is estimated as varying between 40 and 120 petajoules. Using a mean of 80 petajoules to estimate the energy investment in barrels of oil:
Example 3: (80 PJ/reactor construction)(163,400 barrels of oil/PJ)= 13,072,000 barrels of oil
The beginning construction energy investment generally requires over 13 million barrels of oil, but an additional 80 to 160 PJ (meaning 13 to 26 million barrels of oil equivalent) is needed for properly decommissioning and dismantling (D & D) the reactor at the end of its working life.
Example 4: (200 PJ/reactor construction, d&d)(163,400 barrels/PJ)= 32,680,000 barrels of oil
At the minimum, not including the uranium mining and milling, cleanup, disposal of radioactive waste, and transportation, over 32 million barrels of oil equivalent is required for plant reactor construction, decommissioning, and dismantling.
The above energy investment makes a gas-fired plant construction and dismantling actually green by comparison. Rated at 24 petajoules, only 4 million barrels of oil equivalent is needed.
Not only are the gas-fired plants much cheaper in startup costs, since most operating nuclear power plants (NPP) were built in an era before sustainable building design, most NPPs do not meet today’s LEED building certification standards.
NPPs also emit unhealthy amounts of gas and water whether as part of routine venting or accidental releases. Radioactive gases are released hourly, with additional monthly or bimonthly purges. Radioactive chemicals are released when cooling water, the water that is used to cool the reactor core, is discharged into seas, rivers, and lakes. Even when the water is treated to remove heavy metals, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) acknowledges that nuclear power plants tend to be only 33% efficient, meaning that for every three units of thermal heat generated by the reactor core, only one unit makes it out to the grid. The other two units of heat either go out to the environment or is recycled back through the plant to meets its operational needs.
(UCS‘s issue brief “Got Water” details the enormous amounts of water needed, the temperature of water in release, the harmful effect on aquatic life, and the additional cooling water needed during summers).
Tons of radioactive particulates
Every day, especially at older nuclear power plants in the United States, small leakages occur. Due to micro-cracks in the vessel and gas condensation, leakage from the dry-well reactor chamber cooled by primary coolant water into the wet-well or outer chamber surrounding the containment vessel occurs. While 12 gallons a day seems small, amounts of up to 4000 gallons a day of primary coolant water are also released which endangers the aquatic environment and sources of drinking water with isotopes such as Tritium, Strontium-90, Plutonium 241, Technetium 99, Carbon 14, and Nickel 63.
As shown above in the mid-section of Table 2, Stage 2 (highlighted in cool blue) and Stage 3 (highlighted in jade) of radioactive releases include: air or gas venting, release of cooling water, and filter leakage. Because even when nuclear power plants are often built on large tracts, the number of storage tanks creates a tank-farm effect, with hundreds of tanks requiring careful surveillance of the sludge, spent fuel pools, and dry casks, etc.
Many of the radioisotopes listed emit beta rays (β) which are easily absorbed into the ecosystem and accumulates up the food chain, bioconcentrating the most in omnivores such as humans.
Hydrogen radioisotope, tritium or Hydrogen-3, is a noted carcinogen and dangerous because it is indistinguishable from water and therefore large quantities pass unfiltered. Like water, tritium binds with many foods, and collects in the gastrointestinal, and reproductive system, where it causes cell mutations. While many industry promoters downplay the severity of tritium, cesium, strontium, cerium, or iodine radioisotopes, each one of these increase our risk of developing disease due to the cumulative effects of exposure and mutation during the latency period. Many have very long half-lives, meaning they will stay radioactive within the body even as we accumulate increasing amounts of radiation from polluted air, fish, and vegetables. For instance, tritium has a half-life of 12.4 years; Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 approximately 30 years; and radioactive metals such as the actinides Plutonium, Americium, Curium, and Technetium have half-lives up to a thousand years or more.
While industry spokespersons, even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, like to compare the amount of radiation we receive from nuclear radioactivity to the radioactivity from bananas and other foods. The comparison (known as hormesis theory) is largely false. While bananas provide natural radiation, water laced with the tiniest of amounts of plutonium or polonium can be lethal.
Medical studies indicate that radioactive metals such as Plutonium, Thorium, Cobalt-60, Iron-55, and many other daughter isotopes from the decay chain biocollects in bones, displacing the good minerals such as calcium and iron needed in bone marrow. Iodine-131, although with a short half-life, accumulates in the endocrine system such as the human thyroid. Cell mutations cause various cancers, such as leukemia or thyroid cancer.
Here is a testimony by Dr. Steven Starr, Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Director at the University of Missouri, Clinical Laboratory Science Program. While the explanation is a bit of a word salad, he debunks the false comparison with beans or bananas:
Potassium-40 has a specific activity of 71 ten millionths of a Curie per gram. Compare that to the 88 Curies per gram of Cesium-137. This is like comparing a stick of dynamite to an atomic bomb. One Becquerel is equal to one atomic disintegration per second. One Curie is defined as that amount of radioactive material that will decay at a rate of 37 billion disintegrations per second. So one Curie equals 37 billion Becquerels. Highly-radioactive fission products such as Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 emit 10 to 20 million times more radiation per unit volume than does Potassium-40. So which one of these would you rather have in your bananas?
Let’s analyze this in terms of raw units. Nuclear hormesis promoters try to compare ingesting bananas which contain radioactive potassium isotope (K-40) to heavy-metal radionuclides, such as rare earths and actinides. Many are radioactive elements with no stable counterpart, meaning no amount should be present in food. They were created by artificial bombardment. At Periodictable.com, there are 38 radioactive elements shown and listed, including Technetium, Francium, Protactinium, Actinium, Thorium, Neptunium, Curium, and so forth. Rare earth type radioisotopes are so hard to find that rocks might only contain a few picograms. Nevertheless, if exposed the radioactivity is strong enough to blur camera shots. Does that really sound harmless?
One banana contains 71 ten millionths of a curie per gram, which means something like 0.0000071 Curie per gram or 7.1 microCurie per gram in radioactivity. In contrast, Cesium-137 (which causes muscle cancer) contains 88 Curies per gram of radioactivity.
They are different by an order of magnitude of seven in decimal base 10. Looking at their radioactivity, with one Curie = 37 billion Becquerels = 37 billion atomic disintegrations per second. Let’s convert that into Becquerels (Bq) or atomic disintegrations per second:
Example 5: (.0000071 Curie per gram K-40)(37 x 10**9 Becquerels/Curie)= 262,700 Bq per gram K-40 = 263 KBq per gram K-40
Example 6: (88 Curie per gram Cs-137 pollutant)(37 x 10**9 Becquerels/Curie)= 3256 x 10**9 Bq per gram Cs-137 = 3256 GigaBq per gram Cs-137
Here is another table comparing the Potassium-40 in bananas vs Cesium-137 from NPPs.
Table X. Nutritious Banana with K-40 vs. Contaminated Milk with Cs-137
|0.0000071 Curie per gram <<<<<
|88 Curies per gram
|263 KiloBq per gram K-40 <<<<<
|3256 GigaBq per gram Cs-137
The order of difference is ten million. That’s not including the fact that one decays to form calcium, while the other lodges in your muscle tissue for 30 years. The same analogy holds true the other heavy radioisotopes, meaning the hormesis-theory is bunk.
As shown in the bottom of Table 2 (highlighted in orange), a lot of radioactive waste is contained in the fully fissiled fuel rods by the end game in Stage 4. At the bottom of sludge holding tanks, CRUD (chalk river unidentified deposits) forms which are unclassified corrosive radioactive compounds. As we discussed in Part 1, spent fuel rods are quite lethal and there were officially over a million spent fuel rods stored at Fukushima.
AGN will describe the tons of spent fuel disposal storage requirements in a follow-up discussion. Meanwhile, suffice it to say, when at least three nuclear power plant reactors experience meltdowns and several spent fuel pools are either blown apart or missing, there is no prior treatment or containment. Literally tons of radioactive water and gases were and continue to be released from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant every day. Because most institutions must limit their research on the effects of nuclear fall-out, the data linking radiation with cancer or development of other diseases must be culled from lab studies on rats or beagles. From the courageous testimony of medical doctors, we are learning how radioisotopes mimic minerals and are uptaken by the body such as uranium, strontium, iodine, plutonium, manganese, and thereby cause abnormalities. However by the time such studies are finished in Japan, many more people will have passed away.
Finally, words of caution from A Green Road Journal that most studies limit their study of the health effects of radioisotopes to just a single marker, one that is usually the cheapest to fund. Industry scientists point out that Iodine 131 is scrubbed out before venting and emissions consist of noble gases. However critics note that gas isotopes such as Xenon 137 and Krypton 90 rapidly decay to form Cesium 137 and Strontium 90.
It should be understood when Cesium 134 and 137 are reported, these radionuclides are not only the markers for Fukushima; but, they are just two of hundreds of other radionuclides that are present with the Cesium being tested and reported. Those other radionuclides travel in juxtaposition with the Cesium and are equally if not more threatening, like Plutonium, Uranium-235, Americium, Strontium, et al.
The extent to which institution scientists must conform with official censorship is the trade-off for maintaining the trappings of success. This is why the extent to which radioactivity is contaminating the atmosphere, ocean, food and water supply, ecosystems, and environment refuses to be studied and information continues to be under-reported.
While Japan has shut down at least twelve nuclear power plants, the United States still has 99 NPPs, Russia 35, South Korea 24, Japan 42, India 22, France 58, China 38. Worldwide there are at least 448 nuclear power plants with 57 in construction, and still no real solution on what to do with the deadly spent fuel rods. And as this article details, massive amounts of expenditures are required both economically and ergonomically, such that often nuclear reactors are operated far beyond the normal working life to recoup the investment. Meanwhile up to 3000 heavy metal isotopes are being manufactured by nuclear reactors with far too many being released every single day.
Learn Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown Facts 2018 Update
direct from BeautifulGirlbyDana https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9RNX31_Sgc
Top photo from https://youtu.be/k9RNX31_Sgc
Published on Mar 20, 2018