Welcome Joseph Mangano (Radiation and Public Health Project) and Host Gregg Levine (Capitoilette.com)

Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment

In December of 1962, Consolidated Edison, New York City’s main purveyor of electricity, announced that it had submitted an official proposal to the US Atomic Energy Commission (the AEC, the precursor to today’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission) for the construction of a nuclear power plant on a site called Ravenswood. . . in Queens. . . on the East River. . . directly across from the United Nations. . . within five miles of roughly five million people.

Ravenswood became the site of America’s first demonstrations against nuclear power. It inspired petitions to President John F. Kennedy and NYC Mayor Robert Wagner, and the possibility of a nuclear reactor in such a densely populated area even invited public skepticism from the pro-nuclear head of the AEC, David Lilienthal. Finally, after a year of pressure, lead by the borough’s community leaders, Con Edison withdrew their application.

But within three years, reports suggested Con Ed had plans to build a nuclear plant under Central Park. After that idea was roundly criticized, the utility publicly proposed a reactor complex under Welfare Island (now known as Roosevelt Island), instead.

Despite the strong support of Laurence Rockefeller, the brother of New York State’s governor, the Welfare Island project disappeared from Con Ed’s plans by 1970. . . soon to be replaced by the idea of a nuclear “jetport”–artificial islands to be built in the ocean just south of New York City that would host a pair of commercial reactors.

Does that sound like madness? Well, from today’s perspective–with Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now Fukushima universally understood as synonyms for disaster–it probably does. But there was a time before those meltdowns when nuclear power still had a bit of glow, when, despite (or because of) the devastation from the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, many believed that the atom’s awesome power could be harnessed for good; a time when dangerous and deadly mishaps at a number of the nation’s earlier reactors were easily excused or kept completely secret.

In Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment, Joseph Mangano returns to that time, and then methodically pulls back the curtain on the real history of nuclear folly and failure, and the energy source that continues to masquerade as clean, safe, and “too cheap to meter.”

From Chalk River, in Canada, the world’s first reactor meltdown, through Idaho’s EBR-1, Waltz Mill, PA, Santa Susana’s failed Sodium Reactor Experiment, the Idaho National Lab explosion that killed three, Fermi-1, which almost irradiated Detroit, and, of course, Three Mile Island, Mad Science provides a chilling catalog of nuclear accidents, all of which were disasters in their own right, and all of which illustrate a troubling pattern of safety breeches followed by secrecy and lies.

Nuclear power’s precarious existence is not, of course, just a story for the history books, and Mangano also details the state of America’s 104 remaining reactors. So many of today’s plants have problems, too, but perhaps the maddest thing about the mad science of civilian atomic power is that science often plays a minor role in decisions about the technology’s future.

From its earliest days, this supposedly super-cheap energy was financially unsustainable. By the mid-1950s, private insurers had turned their back on nuclear facilities, fearing the massive payouts that would follow any accident. The nuclear industry turned to the US government, and in 1957, the Price-Anderson Act limited a plant’s liability to an artificially low but apparently insurable figure–any damage beyond that would be covered by US taxpayers. Shippingport, America’s first large-scale commercial nuclear reactor, was built entirely with government money, and that is hardly an isolated story. Even before the Three Mile Island meltdown, Wall Street had walked away from nuclear energy, meaning that no new reactors could be built without massive federal loan guarantees.

Indeed, the cost of construction, when piled on top of the cost of fueling, skilled labor, operation and upkeep, made the prospect of opening a new nuclear plant financially unpalatable. So, as Mangano explains, nuclear utilities turned to another strategy for making their vertical profitable, one familiar to any student of late Western capitalism. Rather than build, energy companies would instead buy. Since the 1990s, the nuclear sector has seen massive consolidation. Mergers and acquisitions have created nuclear mega-corporations, like Exelon, Duke, and Entergy, which run multiple reactors across many facilities in many states. And the supposed regulators of the industry, the NRC, has encouraged this behavior by rubberstamping dozens upon dozens of 20-year license extensions, turning reactors that were supposed to be nearing the end of their functional lives into valuable assets.

But the pain of nuclear power isn’t only measured in meltdowns and money. Whether firing on all cylinders (as it were) or falling apart, nuclear plants have proven to be dangerous to the populations they are supposed to serve. Joseph Mangano, an epidemiologist by trade, and director of the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP), has made a career out of trying to understand the immediate and long-term effects of nuclear madness, be it from fallout, leaks, or the “permissible levels” of radioactive isotopes that are regularly released from reactors as part of normal operation.

As I mentioned earlier this week, Mangano and the RPHP are the inheritors of the Baby Tooth Survey, the groundbreaking examination of strontium levels in children born before, during and after the age of atmospheric nuclear bomb tests. The discovery of high levels of Sr-90, a radioactive byproduct of uranium fission, in the baby teeth of children born in the 1950s and ’60s led directly to the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963.

Mangano’s work has built on the original survey, linking elevated Sr-90 levels to cancer, and examining the increases in strontium in the bodies of children that lived close to nuclear power plants. And all of this is explained in great detail in Mad Science.

The author has also applied his expertise to the fallout from the ongoing Fukushima disaster. Last December, Mangano and Janette Sherman published a peer-reviewed article in the International Journal of Health Sciences (PDF) stating that in the 14 weeks following the start of the Japanese nuclear crisis, an estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States could be linked to radioactive fallout from Fukushima Daiichi. (RPHP has since revised that estimate–upward–to almost 22,000 deaths (PDF).)

That last study is not specifically detailed in Mad Science, but I hope we can touch on it today–along with some of the many equally maddening “experiments” in nuclear energy production that Mangano carefully unwraps in his book.


[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

135 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Joseph Mangano, Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment”

BevW October 13th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Joe, Welcome to the Lake.

Gregg, Welcome back to the Lake, and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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mzchief October 13th, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Welcome everyone! 誰も歓迎します!

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Hello, Mr. Mangano, thanks for joining us. And thanks as always to Bev for putting this together.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

As I touched on in the introduction, I think most people are familiar with the names Chernobyl and Three Mile Island (even if they don’t know the details), but your book presents a sizeable list of nuclear reactor accidents that come before. Is there one that stands out for you, one that says to you “How is it that this has been lost to history?’ or one that encapsulates the story of civilian nuclear power?

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 2:03 pm
In response to mzchief @ 2

Do I need a secret decoder ring for the part after Welcome everyone!? Or is that a message for TEPCO only?

dakine01 October 13th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Good afternoon Joe and welcome to FDL this afternoon.

Good afternoon Gregg.

Joe, I have not read your book so forgive me if you address this in there but to this untrained but interested eye, it seems the toxicity of the nuclear waste is one of the areas that has never been adequately addressed in the nuclear power world. This being on top of reactors built on earthquake fault lines and the other idiocies committed by this industry.

While I don’t remember the various ConEd idiocies Gregg describes (that type of news didn’t necessarily penetrate to KY in the early ’60s) I have to admit there always seemed to be a little too much cheering for the nuclear industry without addressing the questions folks had

Elliott October 13th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Hi Gregg, Hi Joe.

Will we ever come to our senses?

It seems to me that bit by bit, more and more of our Earth is rendered uninhabitable by our nuclear “accidents.”

Way back when, living within the 30 mile evacuation area of Three Mile Island, I clearly remember walking around our backyard wondering if this might be the last time I could ever see my home. then without realizing it, I bought a home within the 10 mile evacuation area of Limerick Nuclear Power Plant. Hard to get away from the dangers.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Thanks everyone for being here.

Joe, once the radioactive isotope from nuclear fallout strontium-90 is taken up by the teeth and bones, what does it do to them?

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Hi everyone, its Joe Mangano

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:07 pm
In response to Elliott @ 7

Alas, PA is one of the most densely “nuked” states in the nation.

mzchief October 13th, 2012 at 2:07 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 5

It’s a welcome to any invited guests from the beautiful island of Japan (please do jump in!). ;-) Boo hiss TEPCO.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:09 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 4

Hi Gregg – re question #4. There have been numerous meltdowns. The worst of course are Chernbobyl and Fukushima, naturally. The best known one in the U.S. is Three Mile Island. But there were numerous other meltdowns in the U.S. beginning 1955, in Idaho (2), in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, and in California. Believe it or not, the worst one, worse than Three Mile, was in California, at the Santa Susana plant, in 1959. I cover this in detail in the book (Chapters 4 and 5), probably the first time the meltdown has been covered in a book.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:13 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 12

I wrote a little about Santa Susana’s SRE around the time of its last anniversary. You do a great job detailing the whole frightening tale in your book. It was so close to a large city, yet it got so little attention. Even today it is basically unknown & even today it is still a dangerous site. Maybe talk a little about how something like this could remain so secret for so long.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:14 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 6

Re Question #6:

Nuclear waste has been addressed by industry and government – but not in an honest manner. That’s because there is NO SAFE WAY to manage high level nuclear waste.

Leaving it in deep pools of water that must be constantly cooled is what we do now – with 82 plants in the U.S., there are 82 chances that there could be a devastating meltdown.

Some plants are filling up, and some of the waste is being transported into concrete/steel casks that are stored – outside of the reactor building, in broad daylight. Another chance for a meltdown.

For 30 years, it appeared that the waste would be transported permanently to Yucca Mountain Nevada. But Yucca always had a number of geological problems, and transporting huge amounts of waste was a concern. So Obama cut all funding for Yucca in 2010, and now we’re back to the beginning (the 1950s) when nobody knew what to do with it.

And we need to keep the waste away from human contact for thousands of years. A formidable, if not impossible, task.

BevW October 13th, 2012 at 2:17 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 12

I remember these stories from reading John Grant Fuller books in the 70s.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 14

I expect yucca to emerge again as a political football after the election. I worry the only thing that stands between it and refunding is Harry Reid.

I know the new NRC chief, Macfarlane, is not officially a fan of Yucca, bu the industry desperately needs some solution. I expect we will see some noise about interim centralized above ground storage.

Are there health risks you know about associated with above ground dry cask storage?

EdwardTeller October 13th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Has anyone come up with a weight or mass estimate of all the spent fuel in spent fuel pools around the USA, or around the world, for that matter?

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to Elliott @ 7

Hi Elliott:
There’s a phrase that nuclear power is a very dangerous way to boil water.

From the beginning we have been assured by leaders that this was a safe and cheap way to produce energy.

And every time, they have been proven wrong.

Meltdown after meltdown, from human error (Chernobyl and Three Mile), act of nature (Fukushima), and act of terror (has not happened yet), have reminded the world just how dangerous this technology is.

Routine releases of a portion of radiation from reactors are ingested by people living nearby each day. Officials assume it’s harmless, but many scientific studies show high cancer rates near reactors.

And then there’s the waste – many Chernobyls worth. We don’t know what to do with it, for thousands of years.

With safe sources that will last forever – like wind and solar – shifting away from nuclear will make the world healthier.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:21 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 17

I believe Mr. Mangano has a number in his book–66,000 metric tons in the US, is that right?

Elliott October 13th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 14

And we need to keep the waste away from human contact for thousands of years. A formidable, if not impossible, task.

This is what really worries me, these sites are adding up. And now I wonder if we will have radioactive people, like the poor souls around Fukushima, too radioactive to travel outside their home areas.

Gives me the chills thinking about the radiation going into the ocean, getting into the food chain.

LibWingofLibWing October 13th, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I’ve read people write about these “safer” plants in France that don’t have the waste ours do. I have trouble believing it’s true. Can you comment?

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 18

You mention in the book that “permissible limits” of radiation exposure are really not grounded in science. How did that come to pass?

bigbrother October 13th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 14

Hi Joe Bigbrother here
I live 10 miles from Diablo PG&E’s nuclear reactors. Are you following that controversy and what is your opinion on 3D seismic testing in a Marine Reserve and USGS mapping of the faults they say the test will not provide substantial new information on earthquake risk but may refine USGS seafloor mapping insignificantly.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 8

Strontium is an element, a yellowish metal, that exists in nature. It is similar to calcium, and its non-radioactive forms help build healthy bones and teeth – like calcium.

But exploding an atomic bomb, or operating a nuclear reactor, produces several types of forms of strontium that are radioactive. One of them is Strontium-90. The body treats strontium the same, whether or not it is radioactive. When it is ingested in milk, water, or food, it goes quickly through the stomach, bloodstream, and bone/teeth.

Radioactive Strontium, like Sr-90 destroys or injures healthy cells. And it can penetrate into the bone marrow, where the red and white blood cells are formed – cells that are critical to the immune system. Sr-90 stays in the body for decades, and can enter a baby’s body through the mother’s bone stores.

Back in the 1950s, when atom bombs were being exploded above the ground, even though over 100 radioactive chemicals entered the food chain, Sr-90 was singled out as especially harmful. Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson called it “the most dreadful poison in the world” in 1956. The same Sr-90 is being emitted by nuclear reactors today. Our group conducted a study of Sr-90 in nearly 5,000 baby teeth, and found high and rising levels closest to reactors, as well as a link with trends in local cancer rates in children.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 13

It seems fictional. Intelligent scientists, who knew the dangers of nuclear power, kept trying and trying to get the experiment of this new reactor to work (a reactor using sodium, not water, to cool the radiation). They had a meltdown a day for 2 weeks, until they finally called it quits.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to BevW @ 15

John Fuller wrote this great book “We Almost Lost Detroit” in the 1970s. In 1966, the Fermi 1 reactor (a sodium-cooled reactor, the same as the one that caused the disaster at Santa Susana in 1959), had a malfunction that came close to the sodium meeting up with water – which would have caused a tremendous explosion and a massive meltdown. The reactor was just 25 miles south of Detroit – i.e. we almost lost Detroit.

By the way, Santa Susana is only 29 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Those early scientists were so sure of nuclear safety they had no problem putting reactors near millions of people.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 24

I broke a bone (clean break) in my wrist a few days after Fukushima (here in Texas) and I was wondering if the fallout may have affected the bone not healing initially until I had surgery and had a screw inserted.

You mention in your book that Idaho had the highest fallout levels of radioactive material in the U.S. from the migrating Fukushima fallout and I was wondering why Idaho had such high levels.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:32 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 17

Yes, there is about 66,000 metric tons of high level waste stored at U.S. plants. Many, many Chernobyls worth. The number goes up about 2,000 per year.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 25

It is amazing how people cling to this technology (Na, & nuclear in general). Even today, people throw around Sodium reactors as a possible “new” nuke technology. Or some talk of “liquid salt”–I guess that sounds nicer. Add to it the AP1000s proposed for Vogtle and unproven and dirty long-shots like Thorium and you scratch your head. Why spend billions on a dangerous technology already shown to fail when you have proven cheaper renewable options waiting in the wings?

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 16

Yes, Yucca is dead under Obama, but not dead forever, as some are determined to have a single permanent site for waste.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has indicated that “multiple” sites will eventually be the answer.

But there is really no answer – no safe answer anyway.

By the way, I forgot to mention that the 66,000 metric tons are composed mostly (90%) of Strontium-90, Cesium-137, and Plutonium-239/240. Each very harmful. Strontium and Cesium will be around for 300 years, plutonium for 240,000 years (half life times 10 times).

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I have to say that I have been fascinated reading your book. It’s like a primer on what nuclear power is, how it’s produced, the history of it, the politics of it and the negative effects of it. I’ve learned a lot I didn’t know even though I’ve been an anti nuclear activist for 35 years.

Basically, I knew it was horribly dangerous and not visible and fought against it even though I have been missing a lot of the details.

Thank you so much for this easy to understand book about the realities of nuclear power.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:38 pm
In response to Elliott @ 20

Radiation from nuclear weapons and nuclear power facilities have been in people’s bodies since the 1940s. It is still there. And it will stay there. The best we can do is to reduce levels by reducing production.

We’ve done studies that showed that sharp and immediate declines in infant deaths and child cancers occur in the first two years after above-ground atomic bomb tests stopped, and after nuclear reactors closed. Radiation is harmful, but we are not doomed. Reducing exposures is a helpful means of preventing disease.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

What are the steps that must be taken to clean up a contaminated nuclear reactor site?

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

You do a good job of describing the tremendous threats to public health posed by nuclear reactors–not just from accidents, but from everyday operation. The numbers of premature deaths and the increases in cancer rates seem staggering to me, yet you don’t hear terms like “the scourge of nuclear” in our daily debates about environmental health and justice. Why do you think that is?

BevW October 13th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 23

Hi Big Brother.

I know about the seismic testing near the Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo, California.

I’m not informed of all details. . . however, I and everyone else knows that its built on (or very near) a fault. Earthquakes have happened and continue to happen.

So far, there have been no meltdowns at Diablo Canyon. But remember, the Japanese officials said that their reactors could withstand any earthquake – until Fukushima registered a 9.0, and was followed by a tsunami that caused the terrible tragedy beginning March 2011. There is no reason the same couldn’t happen in California – especially with global warming increasing the chances of severe weather events.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 27

Breaking a bone in Texas just after Fukushima is probably no different than simply not breaking a bone. Humans absorb much of the radiation from reactor fallout through the food chain.

Peterr October 13th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 29

If the question starts with “Why . . .” then the answer is “Money.”

Too much of the conversation around energy production revolves around corporate interests pushing off the unpleasant aspects of their industry onto the general public.

Coal is cheap and safe, as long as you don’t count mining deaths and pollution costs.

Nuclear is cheap and safe, as long as you don’t count the costs of storage and accident cleanup.

Natural gas is cheap and safe, as long as you don’t think about water contamination and minor (?) earthquake damage.

Oil is cheap and safe, as long as you don’t count costs to the non-human part of the world.

At what point will policy-making economists begin to include externalities in their cost-benefit analyses?

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 36

The latest line from TEPCO is that they did know improvements were necessary at Fukushima, but that they did not want the financial or political headaches of acting on that knowledge.

I find that stunning. . . and criminal.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 29

Yes, Gregg. Sodium has been a total failure; not just the meltdowns at Fermi in Michigan and Santa Susana in California, but of the 439 reactors in operation today worldwide, just 2 are sodium-cooled. Neither are in the U.S.

Thorium reactors are just an idea – but the same dangers we have been experiencing would face us.

There’s a lot of “new” ideas for reactors. But none can get around the dangers they pose. So its really just a lot of advertising.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 31

You’re very welcome — tell your friends!!!!!

mafr October 13th, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Is it possible to bury the Fukushima reactors in a “sarcophagus” as they did at Chernobyl, and it if is, why are they not doing that?

and…. is the sarcophagus at Chernobyl in any danger of stopping the containment at that site?

and, what danger do the various lost nuclear weapons scattered here and there around the world, pose, if any?

and, thanks to you and to Gregg Levine.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 2:49 pm

It seems like we’re on a collision course vis a vis our water supply. Fracking is contaminating water where it is happening.

Nuclear uses huge amounts of precious water, especially when much of the U.S. has been in a drought. The water released from nuclear reactors is contaminated with radioactivity. How can we publicize this relationship between nukes and water?

mafr October 13th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I meant, is there any danger of the sarcophagus failing to contain the radioactive material at chernobyl,

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 33

The steps to clean a contaminated reactor are staggering. If a meltdown shuts a plant, the melted fuel must be allowed to cool for a while, then stored. Sounds easy, but. . . after Three Mile Island, where more than half of the core melted, it took 14 years for all of the melted fuel to be stored and transported to its final resting place in Idaho.

Even without a meltdown, there is a lot to be done, called “decommissioning.” In fact, federal rules require utilities to have a minimum amount availble for decommissioning, usually in the hundreds of millions of dollars – so that if they closed a reactor, they wouldn’t just “leave town.”

Contaminated equipment must be broken down, packaged and stored. The surrounding land and water must be decontaminated, at least partially. For the 23 U.S. power reactors that have closed permanently, of the 127 that have ever operated, decommissioning has taken much longer and been much more costly than expected.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 43

That also brings to mind that climate change has made nuclear power far less efficient because the water sources have heated up making cooling less effective. That’s a trend that will not reverse any time soon.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Have y’all seen the stunning work of Paul Fusco on the legacy of the meltdown at Chernobyl?

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 2:55 pm

In your book you show that Idaho had the highest fallout in the US from Fukushima. Why would that be?

mafr October 13th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 47

Thanks for that.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 47

Chilling. Thanks.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 34

I think the issue of routine releases and disease risk is THE question – even more important than meltdowns.

For the entire atomic age, government officials have set “permissible” limits of emissions and levels in the air, water, and food, and assumed that anything below those levels are not harmful to humans. This is POOR SCIENCE, since it is known to all that any dose, no matter how small, carries some degree of risk. The BEIR VII report of blue ribbon experts (last report in 2005) confirmed this earlier conclusion, based on hundreds of scientific studies.

And there have been dozens of scientific studies in peer reviewed journals that have documented high levels of diseases, especially in vulnerable infants and children, near reactors.

Many will disagree why industry and government officials don’t just say “yes, there is a risk.” Some believe the liability suits would be staggering. Some believe the negative attention would shame companies into closing plants.

But yes, all radiation, whether from reactors, atom bombs, Xrays, cosmic rays, and the earth, carries a risk to human health.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 2:58 pm

When above ground nuclear testing was deemed too dangerous and testing was done underground, what dangers were there from underground testing? Contamination of soil? Water?

Peterr October 13th, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Joe, who in Congress or in some state legislature best understands the issues you lay out in your book (or who has the best staff who explains the issues to them)?

DWBartoo October 13th, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Thank you, Joe and Gregg, for joining with us, this evening.

Superb Book Salon, and critically important discussion … I only wish that the people of this nation might engage this level of discussion around a most deadly topic.

Joe, do you consider that meaningful change in the “policies” of this nation, more specifically the policies of the political class, as a whole, may substantially change around this issue without a major reordering of BOTH the “prevailing” economic system and a legal system which seems under massive and continuing assault, to the extent that the Rule of Law is routinely scoffed at by the previously mentioned political class and their actual “constituency”, the corporate elite, in “control” of the “fictitious persons” known as “corporations”?

In other words, until the essentially exploitative “nature” of our economic “system”, of the environment as well as of human beings, may be understood, even in terms of our having “the best government money can buy”, and successfully challenged … is it realistic to imagine that the nuclear insanity, for that is what it must, on many levels, be seen as being, will cease?


Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to Peterr @ 38

Peterr – I’m a health researcher, not an economist or political scientist. But its clear that all the industries you mentioned are large, wealthy, and powerful – exerting power over government, media, academics, and think tanks.

LibWingofLibWing October 13th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Joe. I’ve had to deal with people claiming that reprocessing nuclear waste like they do in France is a solution to nuclear waste. Can you comment on that?

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:03 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 39

In the U.S., virtually all reactors are at least 30 years old (40 years is the assumed life expectancy, although many are being permitted by government to operate up to 60 years).

Reactors corrode while aging. Their parts break down. Nuclear engineers know this, and try to keep pace. But they also know that malfunctions are more likely with older reactors. Not just the Fukushima owners, but with all of them.

BevW October 13th, 2012 at 3:03 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 51

How many air/outerspace nuclear “tests” were performed in the 60s?

(I worked on nuclear weapons in the 70s and talked to USAF scientists about the tests at the time.)

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 55

And as you point out in Mad Science, the nuclear industry has accumulated a lot of wealth through consolidation and government largess that they now use for lobbying and campaign contributions.

There’s money to be made in alternatives, but wind and solar industries have nowhere near the dosh that nuclear, coal, and oil have to grease their way.

DWBartoo October 13th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to BevW @ 58

Now that is a superb question, Bev, thank you for posing it.


Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to mafr @ 42

Hello – good question. Again, I’m a health researcher rather than a nuclear engineer. But I believe the correct answer is that Fukushima is not yet under control – whereas the fire at Chernobyl was put out after 2 weeks by dumping huge amounts from the air. So before building any sarcophagus, the plant will need to be controlled. Also remember that Chernobyl’s meltdown involved just 1 reactor, while 4 reactors at Fukushima melted down.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 57

And yet, as you point out in the book, the NRC has never met a license extension request it didn’t like.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 47

No, I haven’t seen Fusco’s work.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 48

Wind and rain. The wind from Japan blew the fallout to the west coast first, and the heaviest rains in the western states were in places like Idaho. But I’ll caution you that the EPA measurements weren’t very comprehensive, so Idaho is probably just one of several places high on the list of Fukushima fallout.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 61

My understanding is that the sarcophagus at Chernobyl is already leaking and has been for some time and that all of Europe is concerned about it. However, they are not finding the money to build another sarcophagus over the first one. Sorry, I don’t remember where I read it.

Peterr October 13th, 2012 at 3:09 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 55

How interesting that all those industries have so much in common. Who could have anticipated such a convergence?

(I’m a pastor who also has a degree in math and economics, married to a medical research scientist, so I understand and appreciate your background.)

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 52

Atom bomb testing below the ground also had some risk to it. Several of the shots actually penetrated into the air, and spread around the nation. Probably the worst of these was “Baneberry” in late 1970 (look it up).

Of course, huge amounts of radiation were released under the ground in Nevada, where they remain today.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 63

In terms of the health effects, you might want to check it out some time when you’ve got the opportunity.

john in sacramento October 13th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I don’t know if you write about it in your book but I’ve heard some things about Thorium reactors being much safer, but the reason they weren’t promoted by the USG was because they couldn’t build bombs with the Thorium

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 64

I was shocked and frustrated that the US government actually made it harder to find regular radiation readings via EPA and RadNet within a couple of months of the Tohoku quake. I hate to sound conspiratorial, but it sure felt like they were hiding something.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
In response to Peterr @ 53

There are very few in Congress who will publicly declare that nuclear power poses significant danger to Americans. A few do, but many do not have great power, and/or are junior members.

In 2008, with multiple candidates running for president (about 15 total), all of the Republican candidates were in favor of using government funds to build new reactors. Only 2 Democratic candidates opposed it – Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards. Edwards is out of office, and Kucinich will be out in December.

Elliott October 13th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 67
mafr October 13th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I am sure you have read what Cousteau wrote about nuclear power, but here it is,

“”We cannot merely ban the production of fissionable materials; we must ban their existence, ban plutonium and highly enriched uranium on Earth. A world without atomic bombs, atomic terrorism, and atomic contamination can be achieved only by a world without atomic energy.”

He directly links nuclear power, and nuclear weapons. It makes sense to me.

and for instance if the world agreed to dismantle all nuclear reactors, the current standoff and terrible threat of war with Iran, would not be happening.

Peterr October 13th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I had not heard of the study in IJHS that Gregg so thoughtfully linked to at the end of the post. Here’s the abstract:

The multiple nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima plants beginning on March 11, 2011, are releasing large amounts of airborne radioactivity that has spread throughout Japan and to other nations; thus, studies of contamination and health hazards are merited. In the United States, Fukushima fallout arrived just six days after the earthquake, tsunami, and meltdowns. Some samples of radioactivity in precipitation, air, water, and milk, taken by the U.S. government, showed levels hundreds of times above normal; however, the small number of samples prohibits any credible analysis of temporal trends and spatial comparisons. U.S. health officials report weekly deaths by age in 122 cities, about 25 to 35 percent of the national total. Deaths rose 4.46 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the 14 weeks after the arrival of Japanese fallout, compared with a 2.34 percent increase in the prior 14 weeks. The number of infant deaths after Fukushima rose 1.80 percent, compared with a previous 8.37 percent decrease. Projecting these figures for the entire United States yields 13,983 total deaths and 822 infant deaths in excess of the expected. These preliminary data need to be followed up, especially in the light of similar preliminary U.S. mortality findings for the four months after Chernobyl fallout arrived in 1986, which approximated final figures.

I note — with alarm — the use of the present tense in the opening sentence.

Joe, what kind of reaction has your paper received in the research community?

DWBartoo October 13th, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 70

I suspect that much has been “hidden”, kept from the people, “for” our own “good”, in much the same way that state secrets “protects” us from knowing the truth of what is, daily, done in our name.

It may not be “conspiracy”, however, it is very “convenient” for some people and their “interests” …


greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Are there supplements that people can take or foods that are protective to counter the effects of radiation in the food chain?

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Some years ago, PSR put out a good fact sheet on Thorium. There is a PDF here: http://ieer.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/thorium2009factsheet.pdf

Beyond the fact that such reactors are still only sugar plum dreams (there are no working prototypes), the concept actually produces more waste and plenty of weapons grade material.

john in sacramento October 13th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 77

Thanks Gregg

Elliott October 13th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 70

Yeah, you’d think our government would be looking out for us, their citizenry.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 54

Hi DW:

Yes, it appears that a power like the nuclear industry will always have its way.

But please note that there have been situations in which vox populi, the will of the people, have prevailed over powerful institutions.

The military and government was determined to stay in Vietnam until the Communists were defeated – until huge public protests finally forced them to remove U.S. troops.

Southern political leaders and terrorist groups were determined to prevent efforts to integrate, until a determined citizen-based effort, who eventually persuaded national politicians to intervene, ended segregation.

The U.S. military wanted to continue to conduct above-ground atom bomb tests, but citizen groups (many women) held large protests, persuading President Kennedy to sign the Test Ban Treaty.

More recently, all but 2 of 54 Japanese reactors closed in the months after Fukushima. The government and industry are very eager to re-start many, but there have been a number of huge and passionate protests against re-start. It will be a dog fight.

So the popular will has and can overturn the powerful interests of the few.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to mafr @ 73

Which leads me to a question I had planned to ask:

Joe, near the beginning of Mad Science, you talk about Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech as the sort of starter’s pistol for the nuclear power industry. Do you think Eisenhower had a real or sincere expectation of transforming the technology, or was this, as other’s have suggested, just a cover for nuclear weapons development?

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Reprocessing is a type of recycling nuclear waste so it can be used again to power nuclear reactors.

It is used in France and England.

Reprocessing is a filthy and dangerous process that creates even MORE radioactivity to generate what is needed.

The U.S. tried it in 1966, with a reprocessing plant at West Valley, just south of Buffalo NY. The experience was so polluting, that the plant shut in 1972. President Ford (Republican) ordered a halt to reprocessing, and President Carter (Democrat) followed by ordering a ban on it.

There have been studies that show high child cancer rates near La Hague (French reprocessing plant) and Sellafield (English reprocessing plant).

Some have proposed reprocessing, and have proposed the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. But we’re a long way from it

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to Peterr @ 66

The common denominator isn’t so much that these industries are large and powerful, but that their product pollutes the earth and harms humans.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 3:25 pm

There is a Japanese American young couple who were living south of Tokyo with their 4 year old son when Fukushima happened. The father of a friend of the woman’s is a nuclear engineer and he said within a couple of days that Fukushima would be melting down and to get out. They’re now in Austin, Texas being activists against nuclear power.

We keep busy here what with the Low Level Nuclear Waste Dump just opening its doors in west Texas to receive waste from 36 states. We work on them to adopt rules for various safety issues.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 68

I shall.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 80

Indeed, you do a good job in the book of detailing how the science and activism around Sr-90 and above ground tests led to the PTBT.

Which reminds me, have you been following the fight over San Onofre? I have been writing a bit about it this year, how SONGS was allowed to uprate its new turbines without a license amendment and that lack of oversight led to the problems we see with the damaged heat transfer tubes.

To my mind, there is no safe way to operate those reactors as they stand. I think Edison knows this, too, but they are now talking of running Unit 2 at 70% to “see how it goes” for five months. I wonder if this is just a stall to avoid rate givebacks.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Yes, that’s right, only uranium and plutonium can make atom bombs work, not thorium

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:28 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 70

Many are concerned that the EPA needs to do a better job in monitoring radiation levels. Not just more frequently, but more accurately (many readings are “ND” or not detectable, which means the machine and techniques need to be improved to get an actual count).

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to mafr @ 73

I understand Cousteau, but remember, the technology is there. We jsut need to restrain it as best we can, the genie can’t be put back into the bottle.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 88

I also worry that rather than take steps to reduce the amount of radio-isotopes in our food and water, the EPA will just raise the amount for what is considered “safe.”

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Is it even possible to clean up radioactive waste that’s been dumped in the ocean or arrived in the ocean from Fukushima’s contaminated water and fallout?

LibWingofLibWing October 13th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 82

Thank you. None of the research I’d done myself about it had that information. Wikipedia makes it look like a viable solution and explains the US decision to not use it based solely on it creating weapon grade material.

Peterr October 13th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 83

If they weren’t large and powerful, they wouldn’t be allowed to continue polluting the earth and harming humans. Small companies who do these things quickly become former companies.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:32 pm
In response to Peterr @ 74

Peterr – I and Dr. Sherman wrote in the present tense because Fukushima is still not controlled, and (while nobody is sure), it is likely that emissions are continuing.

We got a lot of coverage for our article. Virtually all of it was positive or objective – except for a few from industry.

Several scientists have asked me for a copy. But I haven’t seen any other articles in the literature about actual death and disease rates after Fukushima – just anecdotes.

Elliott October 13th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 90

perish the thought!

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 76

Our group doesn’t feel we’re qualified to provide an opinion on that topic. We’re just conducting epidemiological research.

In a meltdown, officials try to give people Potassium Iodide (KI) to protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine. But experts say this shouldn’t be taken unless there is a meltdown.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 94

A google of that work turns up a lot of right wing pushback. I have been disturbed at the lack of followup on this (excluding you, of course), and the dearth of user-friendly information about the levels and effects of Fukushima fallout in our food and atmosphere.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:37 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 81

Both – Eisenhower’s speech acknowledged the dangers of atomic power, so he knew the same stuff from bomb fallout would be produced by reactors. I can’t go back and jump into his brain, but I’ll ventur a guess – like many, I believe he sincerely thought that the technology would improve (at least by now), so we would have a “safe” nuclear power system. We’re still hoping, nearly 60 years later.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 84

That would be impossible – until the earthquake/tsumami occurred, nobody had any idea that Fukushima would melt down.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Your book has a note that our federal regulators have never closed down a single reactor, not even Three Mile Island. A stunning fact.

That’s no doubt because they’re FRINOs, federal regulators in name only.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:41 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 86

I’ll repeat what I said earlier – that nuclear operators know more can go wrong with aging and corroding reactors. They’re just trying to get as much out of them before they’re shut down permanently, despite the many problems.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 3:41 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 99

He said it a couple of days AFTER the earthquake. Sorry, I didn’t make myself clear.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:41 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 91

Nope – its in the Pacific until it decays (10 half lives for each chemical). No way to get it out.

john in sacramento October 13th, 2012 at 3:44 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 87

Thanks, that makes sense. Since so much of our government funding is based on who, and how many people we can blow up

bgrothus October 13th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I am late to the conversation, but I watched the “Wolves of Chernobyl” and was discussing it with one of the people who is in charge of the above-ground nuclear containers in Los Alamos. I was so surprised that the wolves seem to have adapted so well to that contaminated environment, and this person pointed out that wolves have a Much Shorter lifespan than people, and their body-burden and damage would maybe not show up as these cancers and other problems associated with radiation exposure take a Much Longer time to have an effect.

I wonder if there has been any study of the ocean dwellers or if, like with the BP spill, we just can’t easily access the data. Do you know anything about this?

rapier October 13th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Oddly, now it seems the biggest threat of nuclear plants comes from grid failure. Is there any talk of more redundancy in backup power for US nuclear plants?

Obviously there should be.

mzchief October 13th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

This commenter has compelling arguments that nuclear anything has actually never been “civilian” but a central government/military operation:

Freya Foust ‏@FreyaFoust
Considering the US has already used civilian #nuclear power reactors to make bomb materials that isn’t a big stretch. http://ow.ly/ejOa3
5:27 PM – 8 Oct 12 · Details

Freya Foust ‏@FreyaFoust
If the US civilian #nuclear power program is a tacit program for potential bomb making it puts every community near a reactor at risk
5:26 PM – 8 Oct 12 · Details

Freya Foust ‏@FreyaFoust
@kevinmeyerson The fact that the US is so protective of their civilian #nuclear power ind. tells me it is being seen as part of the same.
5:26 PM – 8 Oct 12 · Details

Given that several central governments booted up “nuclear power plants” at the same time the US did, e.g., France, that’s a lot private warw̶e̶l̶fare (note the involvement of banks in nuclear) on the backs of tax payers.

Has your research presented a different picture?

DWBartoo October 13th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to Joseph Mangano @ 80

Thank you for your considered response, Joe.

I sincerely hope that you might be right.

I was among those who sought change during the Vietnam era, and the civil rights movement prior to that time. (I also happened to be building a house for a client some thirty miles downwind of Three Mile Island, in a somewhat remote location, so I did not know what had happened until returning home later that evening …)

My concern, with whether the people might rise up, is that broad understanding of many issues, deep awareness and grasp, especially since, after Vietnam, corporate ownership of the media occurred and general awareness suffered, as both government and the corporate elite determined that, never again, would the people have such graphic evidence of the horrors of war presented to them …

Consider the perilous state of our body politic, today, and examine the “choices” presented the people.

Right now, in this nation, there is an anti-war sentiment certainly equal to that that obtained at the end of the Vietnam “war” … indeed, we have had another war begun on the basis of lies, we now have torture as official policy and the consent of the governed is ignored and brushed aside, even as the President claims the power to kill or detain anyone whom he wishes.

The Presidential candidates in this election season, behave as if there is no opposition to the wars, the overt ones and the covert ones, that there is no problem with nuclear power and the potential “war” with Iran, of course, raises the very real possibility of the use of nuclear weapons …

And so on and so forth.

The people are under extreme duress, many are unemployed, quite a few are homeless and many children have not enough to eat.

Some people are aware of all of these things.

Many are aware of some of these things.

Yet, most everyone who has awareness feels, apparently, and many have so said, that the power of money and entrenched “interests” have a momentum that seem almost insurmountable, the financial “crisis” being an area that many feel has not been honestly or competently addressed … even as the the public, by and large, has, as yet, only the most meager awareness of what you address in your book.

A long comment, Joe, to end with my great appreciation of your expertise, your efforts, and your encouragements of better, more sustainable and humane outcomes, for health and well-being, of individuals and of the society to which all of us belong.

Great good on you!

And more power to you.


Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 97

U.S. nuclear leaders in government and industry know that we operate 104 reactors to produce electricity – just like Fukushima. Unlike Chernobyl, where the “blame” could be placed on second-rate reactor design or operation, Japanese reactors are considered among the most advanced in the world. But still, they were no match for an earthquake and tsunami – which could happen here in the U.S., as could other natural disasters. In August 2011, an earthquake in Virginia occurred 11 miles from the North Anna plant, which shut down. There were four backup generators that kept the plant from melting down (even though only three worked). Too close for comfort.

greenwarrior October 13th, 2012 at 3:46 pm

The only reactors that should be permitted to operate are ones that have been agreed to by every single person on the planet. Meltdowns affect everyone. Would that we were living on that “should be” planet.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 100

Many don’t know that about 90% of the NRC budget comes not from tax payers, but from fees imposed on industry – the very industry the NRC regulates.

Also, many NRC staff had previously worked in at least one of the nuclear plants they’re regulating. And many former NRC staff go to work at these reactors. Kind of a revolving door.

These factors make it difficult, structurally, for the NRC to be objective in regulating nuclear reactors.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

There are lots of good groups across the country (and around the world) that engage in regular activism on the nuclear issue, often focusing on a single plant or company, but what do you think is needed to bring nuclear power’s failings up to the level of a national outrage?

For instance, in this year’s presidential contest, it is just sort of accepted that nuclear will be part of the mix–part of the “all of the above” strategy (though I personally don’t think that qualifies as a strategy). Why is there no national debate about phasing out nuclear as they are having in countries like Germany and Japan?

What will it take to get to that level? I hope it is not another TMI or Fukushima on our continent.

Teddy Partridge October 13th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Thank you Mr Mangano, and thanks to host Gregg Levine, for chatting with FDL today.

Teddy Partridge October 13th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 112

Of course that’s what it will take, and you damn well know it.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 105

I don’t know if any studies have been published on animals living in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP spill. If they have, they haven’t been given a lot of public attention.

DWBartoo October 13th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

A most excellent Book Salon.

Thank you, Joe.

Thank you, Gregg.

Thank you, Bev, as always.

And thanks to the many freedom fighters who gather here daily.


Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:52 pm
In response to rapier @ 106

I’m not aware, but there should be. See my earlier example of the earthquake near North Anna Virginia in August 2011, when only 3 of 4 backup generators prevented a huge meltdown. Too close for comfort.

BevW October 13th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Joe, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the hazards of nuclear power.

Gregg, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Joe’s website (Radiation.org) and book (Mad Science)

Gregg’s website (Capitolette.com)

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow: Nancy L. Cohen / Delirium: The Politics of Sex in America; Hosted by Shark Fu (Pamela Merritt)

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

bgrothus October 13th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Thanks, nor the populations in the oceans of Fukushima area?

As for the next disaster, the news cycle is like the life-cycle of wolves, only shorter.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 110

People don’t realize that Fukushima fallout took less than five days to reach the air over the U.S. west coast, and 18 days to circle the globe in the northern hemisphere. Chernobyl did the same thing, and even reached the southern hemisphere in smaller amounts.

Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 105

I have avoided eating gulf shrimp since Macondo as I have avoided California broccoli and spinach since Fukushima. I don’t really have a lot of science to point to for those decisions, it is just a gut sense (as it were). I don’t now how I am supposed to decide when I no longer need to observe those restrictions.

DWBartoo October 13th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 121

Food for thought, Gregg, verily.

Your presence and posts, here at FDL, are much appreciated.


Gregg Levine October 13th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to BevW @ 118

Thank you, Bev. And thank you, Joe, both for joining us today and for the work you continue to do on this important subject.

bgrothus October 13th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 121

The rise of auto-immune disorders is surely linked to the myriad of contaminations we consume with every breath we take, every move we make, etc.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
In response to mzchief @ 107

Our work is strictly about health hazards of nuclear reactors. Many have written about the economic burdens – that made hash of the AEC Chair Lewis Strauss’ 1954 statement that nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter.” My book does address economic issues, not with original research, but with information from others – like how actual expenses of building and operating reactors were far greater than the original estimates.

Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 4:00 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 112

Nobody really knows what it will take for a true public discussion of the future of nuclear power to occur. But Fukushima, although thousands of miles away, has changed things in other nations. Governments in Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland have announced plans to phase out nukes in 10 to 15 years. Italy scrapped plans to build new reactors. And of course, Japan closed 52 of 54 reactors for inspection, and there many people are prepared to oppose any re-starts.

DWBartoo October 13th, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Many people find such truth to be hard to accept or consider the implications, around.

Thank you, again, for daring to share the hard, but necessary truth, Joe.


Joseph Mangano October 13th, 2012 at 4:00 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 116

Thanks for your helpful comments and questions. I hope my responses were informative.

Elliott October 13th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Thanks Joe, thanks Gregg.

And always, thanks Bev.

mzchief October 13th, 2012 at 4:02 pm

A bit of what I’ve seen in reports (as I go looking for data) about the dying l̶i̶v̶i̶n̶g̶ animals and people proximate to the Gulf:

Critical List: Gulf of Mexico dolphins have serious health problems; tweeting from the ocean bottom” | Grist. Org, by Sarah Laskow, 26 Mar 2012

Delegation from oil-afflicted Amazon visits Louisiana tribes hit by BP disaster” | Grist.Org, by Sue Sturgis, 1 Jul 2010

Thank you everyone for attending today!

bluewombat October 13th, 2012 at 5:58 pm

there was a time…when nuclear power still had a bit of glow

Uh, is that a pun?

urbanistica October 14th, 2012 at 10:21 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 29

Thorium reactors are just an idea – but the same dangers we have been experiencing would face us.

My understanding is that thorium reactors – of the Liquid Fluoride type – are not an idea, but a technology that ran for more than a decade without incident at Oak Ridge. In this form, they do not present the same dangers. Thorium reactors aren’t pressurized, and so don’t have the explosive potential of conventional uranium cycle systems. They are essentially not-weaponizable : highly elaborate schemes to create weapons-grade uranium or plutonium have no rationale – but thorium cycle reactors are fully capable of processing existing waste as fuel. The waste that thorium reactors produce is far less dangerous, and has radically shorter periods where secure storage is required, bringing the risk in line with other non-nuclear systems. Thorium reactors are passively self-regulating, and can be and are engineered to go into automatic shut down, in a safe way that is entirely unconnected to the risks that are associated with uranium reactors.

Opponents of any technology not currently broadly implemented can dismiss it as “just an idea”, but that doesn’t amount to an argument – and raises the same questions here as it does when others raise this objection to solar or geothermal as to the writer’s actual familiarity with the technology.

I am passionately anti-uranium, but I believe that thorium is the best hope for future energy needs – without incinerating the planet.

urbanistica October 14th, 2012 at 10:52 pm
In response to Gregg Levine @ 77

The fact sheet deals only with solid-fuel reactors, and with reactors that are essentially conventional reactors converted to use thorium in their fuel cycle. This does not represent the full range of technologies proposed and developed for thorium-based reactors.

U-233 has never been used in a nuclear weapon, despite the fact sheets assertion that it is just as effective for making nuclear bombs as U-239. The addition of even small amounts of U-232 would render it more or less completely useless for this purpose. The fact sheet does not consider this. The attributed “even more waste” is a canard. The fact sheet also makes assertions about the fission of thorium, but also says that thorium is non-fissile, which is correct. I don’t think both statements can be true. Th-232 is carcinogenic, but I believe this is because of its chemical, not radioactive qualities. Th-232 produces only mild alpha radiation that does not penetrate the skin. In the fact sheet, Th-232 is described as having a half-life of 14 billion years, but this citation seems to be a deliberate scare-inducement; it does not mention that the radioactive properties are relatively innocuous.

mzchief October 15th, 2012 at 9:37 am
In response to mzchief @ 130

To make clear where I’m going here … So, especially in light of the ongoing and still unresolved Texas Brine radioactivity incident (radioactivity dumped in drilled wells) and “Texas politicians knew agency hid the amount of radiation in drinking water” (May 19, 2011), I think scientists should go back and review for radioactive contamination in all the now obvious places that could simply be masked with chemical contamination in/around Louisiana (land and Gulf waters).

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post