Fukushima Why is Fukushima nuclear crisis so threatening?

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I don't understand. How can a nuclear plant accident produce more radioactive fallout than an atmospheric nuclear explosion? No nuclear test has ever triggered panic around the global fearing radioactive dust spread by wind.
 

Astronuc

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I don't understand. How can a nuclear plant accident produce more radioactive fallout than an atmospheric nuclear explosion? No nuclear test has ever triggered panic around the global fearing radioactive dust spread by wind.
When was the last atmospheric test of a nuclear weapon? What was the public reaction to that test?

How were more recent tests conducted? What was the public reaction?

How is current research of nuclear detonations conducted in the US?
 

Borek

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I guess atmospheric tests were stopped before word "radiation" became synonym of "panic".
 

russ_watters

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Heh - I'm annoyed I didn't think of that. For anti-nuclear activists, equating nuclear weapons and nuclear power has always been a key tactic. It's just that they haven't had anything to raise panic over in more than 20 years.

I would be curious to have a more concrete answer to the question though: how does an accident like this compare to an above-ground test? (which, it is my understanding, hasn't happend since the 1960s)
 

bcrowell

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I would be curious to have a more concrete answer to the question though: how does an accident like this compare to an above-ground test? (which, it is my understanding, hasn't happend since the 1960s)
Interesting question!

A useful statistic in measuring how bad a radiation release is is how many curies of 131I were released. 131I is an efficient carcinogen.

Three Mile Island released 20 Ci of 131I.
Chernobyl released 7x10^6 Ci of 131I
Above-ground nuclear testing in Nevada released about 1.5x10^8 Ci of 131I.

It's likely that nuclear testing caused hundreds of thousands of excess thyroid cancers; Chernobyl thousands; TMI none.

Sources:
http://streaming-online-free.blogspot.com/2011/03/three-mile-island-accident-japan.html [Broken]
http://books.google.com/books?id=tf0AfoynG-EC&pg=PA237&lpg=PA237&dq="three+mile+island"+chernobyl+curies&source=bl&ots=OpoRy9QVsI&sig=eVzGIRlroclO963Is5at9lFhjeg&hl=en&ei=h3GBTcypCIWitgPVgK34Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q="three mile island" chernobyl curies&f=false
http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/nuclear_testing_and_the_rise_of_thyroid_cancers
 
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267
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A useful statistic in measuring how bad a radiation release is is how many curies of 131I were released. 131I is an efficient carcinogen.

Three Mile Island released 20 Ci of 131I.
Chernobyl released 7x10^6 Ci of 131I
Above-ground nuclear testing in Nevada released about 1.5x10^8 Ci of 131I.
A complication is that nuclear testing is sometimes done on high altitudes (e.g. >4000 m) to reduce fallout, while nuclear plants are all at ground level, though I don't know the exact numbers about how much difference this makes.
 

russ_watters

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Interesting question!

A useful statistic in measuring how bad a radiation release is is how many curies of 131I were released. 131I is an efficient carcinogen.

Three Mile Island released 20 Ci of 131I.
Chernobyl released 7x10^6 Ci of 131I
Above-ground nuclear testing in Nevada released about 1.5x10^8 Ci of 131I.

It's likely that nuclear testing caused hundreds of thousands of excess thyroid cancers; Chernobyl thousands; TMI none.

Sources:
http://streaming-online-free.blogspot.com/2011/03/three-mile-island-accident-japan.html [Broken]
http://books.google.com/books?id=tf0AfoynG-EC&pg=PA237&lpg=PA237&dq="three+mile+island"+chernobyl+curies&source=bl&ots=OpoRy9QVsI&sig=eVzGIRlroclO963Is5at9lFhjeg&hl=en&ei=h3GBTcypCIWitgPVgK34Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q="three mile island" chernobyl curies&f=false
http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/nuclear_testing_and_the_rise_of_thyroid_cancers
Excellent, that is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks very much.
 
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Borek

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It's likely that nuclear testing caused hundreds of thousands of excess thyroid cancers; Chernobyl thousands; TMI none.
Still, from what I remember, there is no Chernobyl effect visible in the epidemiological data - background is high enough to mask it.
 
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CAC1001

A complication is that nuclear testing is sometimes done on high altitudes (e.g. >4000 m) to reduce fallout, while nuclear plants are all at ground level, though I don't know the exact numbers about how much difference this makes.
I had read that one of the best ways to spread radiation over a country would be to detonate a nuclear weapon in the upper-atmosphere so that the wind blows the radiation around.
 

QuantumPion

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I don't understand. How can a nuclear plant accident produce more radioactive fallout than an atmospheric nuclear explosion? No nuclear test has ever triggered panic around the global fearing radioactive dust spread by wind.
A typical nuclear reactor fissions as many atoms as a nuclear bomb every 4 hours. A bomb is made up of a few kg of fuel, a reactor has as much as 100 tons. There are a lot more fission products in reactor fuel than a bomb explosion.
 

russ_watters

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Still, from what I remember, there is no Chernobyl effect visible in the epidemiological data - background is high enough to mask it.
While I would tend to agree, it does depend on who you ask. Not that I'd ever ask them anything, but Greenpeace speaks loudly on the issue and some people listen.
 
88
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I don't understand. How can a nuclear plant accident produce more radioactive fallout than an atmospheric nuclear explosion? No nuclear test has ever triggered panic around the global fearing radioactive dust spread by wind.
Let's look at the Hiroshima bomb, for example. 15 kT of explosive yield, or so. That's equal to 17.43 GWh of thermal energy, if you convert the units.

Let's say a typical large nuclear power reactor has a thermal power output of about 3 GW.

That means it generates one bomb worth of energy - and one Hiroshima bomb worth of fission products - every 6 hours.

That's why the amount of fission products that can potentially be released from a severe reactor accident is, in theory at least, larger than from a bomb - because it has fissioned much more uranium, generated much more energy, and made much more fission products, than the bomb.
 
238
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It all depends upon the amount of further contamination of the planet. I do not know what normal background radiation was in 1940, but I am willing to bet that it is higher now than it was then.

Any amount of radiation can cause cancer to start growing in your body. Usually very low doses like a chest X-ray are dismissed as not causative; but, the reality is that your next X-ray could start a cancer growing in your body. We just do not know when the radiation can cause that type of damage. One thing we do know is that if we receive increasing doses, we increase the potential for Cancer to grow.

SO, people have a good reason to be afraid of any additional radioactive pollution to the planet. By being proactive, the life you save may be your Great Great Grandchild's.
 
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Atmospheric tests were generally conducted away from places where people lived.
 

NUCENG

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LIFE EXPECTANCY

US WORLD
1950 69 46

2000 77 66

Obviously, background radiation, atmospheric testing, and nuclear power are major impacts on world health.
 
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NUCENG:
Obviously gonna use the fact that nuclear testing did not manage to nuke away all the impact of advancements in medical science as some sort of point.

I don't understand. How can a nuclear plant accident produce more radioactive fallout than an atmospheric nuclear explosion?
Easily. Chernobyl has released 890 times the Cs-137 (major medium term pollutant) of the nuclear bomb type dropped on Nagasaki. (albeit the bomb would of released also comparable amount of Sr-90 whereas reactor won't)
Over the time of operation, reactor produces far more energy than such bomb does. The short living isotopes in reactors decay during that time though, so if you compare the short living isotopes you get a smaller reactor:bomb ratio.

The atmospheric nuclear testing has released something on order of 740PBq of Cs-137 according to
http://www.davistownmuseum.org/cbm/Rad8.html
, Chernobyl has released 85 PBq or over one-tenth .

Remember that the typical nuclear power plant is not only a power plant, but also a MASSIVE radwaste repository. Much of the radwaste from the plant is stored on site. There can be 5 core loads stored right next to the reactor in a modern spent fuel pool (re-racked for storage). 4 reactors, and you get 24 cores. Much of the remaining radwaste is also somewhere on the site, in a common spent fuel pool.
The total inventory of Cs-137 at a nuclear plant of several reactors, including the spent fuel pools, can easily exceed by several times the total release from atmospheric nuclear testing. Simply walking away from a nuclear power plant (multiple reactors + radwaste repository) can result in a release exceeding that of all the atmospheric nuclear testing for the medium term pollutants (with half life of several decades).
 
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238
1
LIFE EXPECTANCY

US WORLD
1950 69 46

2000 77 66

Obviously, background radiation, atmospheric testing, and nuclear power are major impacts on world health.
When you start tabulating the ever increasing number of people killed by radiation induced cancer it is obvious that the impact on health is MAJOR, and very sad, because it just does not HAVE to happen.
 

Borek

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When you start tabulating the ever increasing number of people killed by radiation induced cancer it is obvious that the impact on health is MAJOR
Do you have data to support this statement?

Note that according to forum rules such data must be published in a peer reviewed magazine.
 

QuantumPion

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When you start tabulating the ever increasing number of people killed by radiation induced cancer it is obvious that the impact on health is MAJOR, and very sad, because it just does not HAVE to happen.
There is no way to determine whether someone's cancer was caused by normal biological causes, carcinogenic chemical, natural background radiation, or man made radiation. There is no statistical evidence that very low levels of radiation induce cancer.

There are not an "ever increasing number of people killed by radiation induced cancer", this statement is purely fabricated and you have presented no evidence to back up your claim.

From http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/medicaltreatments/radiation-exposure-and-cancer":
Most studies on radiation and cancer risk have looked at people exposed to very high doses of radiation in the settings above. It is harder to measure the much smaller increase in cancer risk that might come from much lower levels of radiation exposure. Most studies have not been able to detect an increased risk of cancer among people exposed to low levels of radiation. For example, people living at high altitudes, who are exposed to more natural background radiation from cosmic rays than people living at sea level, do not have noticeably higher cancer rates.
 
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It all depends upon the amount of further contamination of the planet. I do not know what normal background radiation was in 1940, but I am willing to bet that it is higher now than it was then.
Got numbers for that? Or can I just dismiss it as 'invented'?
Any amount of radiation can cause cancer to start growing in your body. Usually very low doses like a chest X-ray are dismissed as not causative; but, the reality is that your next X-ray could start a cancer growing in your body. We just do not know when the radiation can cause that type of damage. One thing we do know is that if we receive increasing doses, we increase the potential for Cancer to grow.
Actually, we have a pretty good idea how much you can take for various stages of damage.

That's how we know things such as lethal dose of radiation.

Of course, any amount could do something, but that doesn't mean we don't understand dosage and effect on the body.
 
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All atmospheric nuclear tests ever conducted (~500) have a total yield of ~430 megatons. That's roughly 30.000 times Hiroshima (and 90% of the current US operational ICBM and SLBM arsenal).

Based on all the horror stories I have heard in my life about the ecological impact of nuclear weapons, I come inevitably to the conclusion that all of us must've been dead since at least 40 years.

[PLAIN]http://img204.imageshack.us/img204/4784/atomtestsbis1995.jpg [Broken]

[PLAIN]http://img222.imageshack.us/img222/648/megatonnageatomtestsbis.jpg [Broken]

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 1996


I have no evidence, but at the beginning of the Fukushima crisis, german news channels reported, that during the early 1960s background radiation in Europe was three times the number after the Chernobyl disaster.
 
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505
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the insane megaton figures come largely from fusion, not fission.
 

NUCENG

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NUCENG:
Obviously gonna use the fact that nuclear testing did not manage to nuke away all the impact of advancements in medical science as some sort of point.


Easily. Chernobyl has released 890 times the Cs-137 (major medium term pollutant) of the nuclear bomb type dropped on Nagasaki. (albeit the bomb would of released also comparable amount of Sr-90 whereas reactor won't)
Over the time of operation, reactor produces far more energy than such bomb does. The short living isotopes in reactors decay during that time though, so if you compare the short living isotopes you get a smaller reactor:bomb ratio.

The atmospheric nuclear testing has released something on order of 740PBq of Cs-137 according to
http://www.davistownmuseum.org/cbm/Rad8.html
, Chernobyl has released 85 PBq or over one-tenth .

Remember that the typical nuclear power plant is not only a power plant, but also a
MASSIVE radwaste repository. Much of the radwaste from the plant is stored on site. There can be 5 core loads stored right next to the reactor in a modern spent fuel pool (re-racked for storage). 4 reactors, and you get 24 cores. Much of the remaining radwaste is also somewhere on the site, in a common spent fuel pool.
The total inventory of Cs-137 at a nuclear plant of several reactors, including the spent fuel pools, can easily exceed by several times the total release from atmospheric nuclear testing. Simply walking away from a nuclear power plant (multiple reactors + radwaste repository) can result in a release exceeding that of all the atmospheric nuclear testing for the medium term pollutants (with half life of several decades).
Back to your old tricks. That is your interpretation of what I wrote. I will not allow you and Neubarth to portay this as the end of the world. There is nothing you can do to undo atmospheric testing or reactor accidents. So lets deal in facts:

The average annual background radiation level from cosmic and terrestrial sources pre-1942 was and is about about 2.4 mSv/yr with tremendous variation due to altitude and geology.
Atmospheric testing and the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 1945 to 1963 period added 0.15 mSv to background. Since the atospheric test ban this level has decayed to 0.005mSv.

TMI2 and Chernobyl and Windscale and SL-1 and Torsk and all other releases before Fukushima have resulted in a background radiation average of (you guessed it!) 2.4 mSv/yr.

In areas of Europe outside of the old Soviet Union and nearby countries, the Chernobyl accident reportedly added a total lifetime dose increase of 1 mSv.

Your own numbers that Chernobyl was over 10% of the atmospheric release of radiocesium from atmospheric testing was bad. Fukushima releases are bad, but may be 10% of Chernobyl so far by some estimates (I agree that is highly uncertain).

You throw out numbers like PBq and 890 times worse that an A-bomb to make a it sound bad. Unless you put those numbers in context with consequences and comparison to other sources of risk, you are being alarmist, not informative.

Honestly I think we need to go back to atmosphic testing. It would take a nuclear flash to brighten your day. (For the humorless, that's a joke, sun.)
 

Ivan Seeking

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I tried to find papers to link but all were subject to a fee. This was the best source I could spot in the time I had. It was put out by the IAEA.

The Chernobyl Forum:
Major Findings and Recommendations
Mikhail BALONOV Scientific Secretary

...Radiation-induced effects on plants and animals
•Irradiation caused numerous acute adverse effects on the plants and animals living up to 10-30 kilometres from the release point.
•The following effects caused by radiation-induced cell death have been observed in biota:
Increased mortality of coniferous plants, soil invertebrates andmammals; and
Reproductive losses in plants and animals.
•A few years were needed for recovery from major radiation-induced adverse effects in populations of plants and animals.
•Due to removal of human activities, the Exclusion Zone has paradoxically become a unique sanctuary for biodiversity.
•There is nothing that can be done to remedy the radiological conditions for plants and animals residing in the Exclusion Zone that wouldnot have an adverse impact on plants and animals.
http://www.sfrp.asso.fr/IMG/pdf/5-Balonov.pdf [Broken]
 
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546
1
the insane megaton figures come largely from fusion, not fission.
Which doesn't produce less fallout than fission. At least those days. Google "Castle Bravo".
 

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