2011-04-01 20:15:02How many people will the Japan disaster ultimately kill?
MarkR
Mark Richardson
m.t.richardson2@gmail...
83.150.146.79

The disaster at Fukushima nuclear reactor might eventually kill tens or even hundreds of people through radiation, and it's absolutely tragic.

But is it leading to an even bigger tragedy? Germany is turning off nuclear reactors, China is slowing down its build rate and other countries are looking at doing similar.

 


According to the EU's ExternE report looking at external deaths from power production, Germany burning coal to replace all of its nuclear reactors would probably kill about 2,000 extra people a year. If China reduces its nuclear build by just 10 GW, then with their much dirtier power stations that's over 10,000 extra deaths per year. In terms of human lives lost, we're looking at the equivalent of the tsunami + Fukushima again for every year this goes on!

2011-04-01 20:40:40
perseus

owlsmoor@googlemail...
78.143.221.59

I doubt if the radiation levels will be high enough to distinguish any radiation induced death rates from background levels. So I agree the bigger tragedy will be the use of more fossil fuels.

For the far worse Chernobyl disaster, apart from the 57 direct deaths, I think any statistically higher thyroid cases could have been prevented through prompt evacuation and appropriate treatment.

UNSCEAR originally predicted up to 4,000 additional cancer cases due to the accident.[82]

UNSCEAR now states:

Among the residents of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, there had been up to the year 2005 more than 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer reported in children and adolescents who were exposed at the time of the accident, and more cases can be expected during the next decades. Notwithstanding the influence of enhanced screening regimes, many of those cancers were most likely caused by radiation exposures shortly after the accident. Apart from this increase, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure two decades after the accident. There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality rates or in rates of non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure. The incidence of leukaemia in the general population, one of the main concerns owing to the shorter time expected between exposure and its occurrence compared with solid cancers, does not appear to be elevated. Although those most highly exposed individuals are at an increased risk of radiation-associated effects, the great majority of the population is not likely to experience serious health consequences as a result of radiation from the Chernobyl accident. Many other health problems have been noted in the populations that are not related to radiation exposure.[83]
 
2011-04-01 20:54:54
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.123.131

perseus,

Well, aside from the on-site plant workers trying to control the reactors. I would not want to be wearing one of their radiation badges!

2011-04-02 01:11:41
perseus

owlsmoor@googlemail...
78.143.221.59

Well the right hand chart in deaths per TWh is one reason why oil (green) and coal (blue) isn't too popular

Chart: The Deadliest Energy Sources in the World

How deadly is your energy source? The very real and lethal effects of our global energy choices become clear in this interactive data visualization, showing the death rate, as measured by the number of deaths per terawatt hour (TWh), for each of the major global energy sources, e.g., coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, hydro, peat, and biomass. Take a closer look at the chart here

2011-04-02 02:58:29
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.123.131

Peat? What do people do, slip and fall into the bog?

2011-04-02 03:13:49disagree
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

I disagree with you guys here.  In Germany for example, the Greens now have considerable influence.  They won't replace the nuclear power with coal, they'll replace it with renewables.  Hard to say with China, but they're doing a lot of renewables too.  Their growth rate is so fast, it would be better if they did both nuclear and renewables.

At this point I just don't think that most countries will increase the use of fossil fuels, except maybe natural gas, which isn't too bad.

2011-04-02 03:38:11
perseus

owlsmoor@googlemail...
78.143.221.59

I understand these allow for (presumably local) air pollution but not indoor air pollution according to this. 

Coal waste impacts go beyond particulate air pollution, however, the particulate studies are the most conclusive. There have been studies that show a daily fluctuation in emergency room visits with increases in smog and particulates. Actual deaths are worse than I indicated. I did not fully include indoor air pollution and did not include deaths beyond particulates because the causality is not as solid. Indoor air pollution is for heating and cooking and not for electricity. However, those are huge numbers 1.9 million per year and produce very little heat in TWH thermal. The 1.9 million deaths per year and divided between coal and biomass.


Coal and biomass deaths per TWH would skyrocket if the indoor air pollution effects were included because so little power is made and so many deaths are produced. Wikipedia on indoor air pollution in developing nations.

2011-04-02 03:51:59
perseus

owlsmoor@googlemail...
78.143.221.59

I wish I could share your optimistic view Dana. 

In the IEO2010 Reference case, which does not include prospective greenhouse gas reduction policies, world coal consumption increases by 56 percent, from 132 quadrillion Btu in 2007 to 206 quadrillion Btu in 2035 (Figure 60). The growth rate for coal consumption is uneven, averaging 1.1 percent per year from 2007 to 2020 and 2.0 percent per year from 2020 to 2035...Total recoverable reserves of coal around the world are estimated at 909 billion tons—reflecting a current reserves-to-production ratio of 129 years

Figure 60. World coal consumption by country grouping, 1980-2035.

International Energy Outlook 2010

2011-04-02 07:40:18
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12930949

2011-04-02 18:28:41
Glenn Tamblyn

glenn@thefoodgallery.com...
121.219.62.110

Perseus. What the graph of deaths/TWh doesn't do is breaks down deaths by cause/type. I think a fair chunk of the coal related deaths are particulates dues to poor air standards in 2nd world countries and deaths of coal miners in 2nd world countries. Particularly China.

One promising aspect - at least in one sense - is that China, A, doesn't care too much about mortality rates, and B, many of the ruling elite are technocrats. A surprising number of people right at the top are engineers, scientists etc. And since they aren't a democracy, they don't have to pitch their agenda around the porly informed masses. Their not going to switch back to more coal rather than nuclear & renewables just because of a few radiation problems. Chinma has such a mountain of environmental problems and these guys know how to prioritise their responses based on what matters, not what gets headlines. Their not doing this out of altruism, but hard headed realism. We don't stay in power if we can't manage the juggling act of our peoples expectations and the reality of our countries situation. And if some people are collateral damage in that process, well.. we know how to manage that to.

China won't walk away from Nuclear as part of the mix. The hard men aren't that stupid.

2011-04-03 02:45:15
MarkR
Mark Richardson
m.t.richardson2@gmail...
83.150.146.79

dana: what sort of renewables development do you see happening in Germany?

 

They were building renewables very quickly, anyway (at horrendous cost, at least in the case of solar). Now they have to build them even more quickly.

 

They increased renewable output by 150% from 2000-09. If they only kept up an exponential growth rate then it will take them about 10 years to get enough new renewable capacity to replace the nuclear reactors they're shutting down. Then they will shut down their nuclear reactors and be years behind on phasing out fossil fuel power. They're not going to have blackouts, so their only options are a much much faster acceleration of renewables development (which is already far more expensive than nuclear) or more pollution.

 

They'll go for more pollution, and buy cheap, ineffective 'offsets' abroad instead.

2011-04-03 02:55:27phasing out
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.97.203

Well, you have a valid point that phasing-out nuclear could slow the phasing-out of coal.  We'll just have to see what the new government proposes.

2011-04-03 17:04:04New government
BaerbelW

baerbel-for-350@email...
93.231.189.19

Just to clarify: the "new government" we elected is only the state government of Baden-Württemberg. The German government is still held by a coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Liberals (FDP). There is only so much that a state-government can influence on the country-level. And the next general elections are a couple of years away.

Also, in the last couple of months, several studies by different groups (including the German equivalent of the EPA) showed that moving away from both nuclear and fossil fuels is feasible by 2050 or so. I'd have to search for the details when I have more time than right now if anybody is interested.

Cheers
Baerbel

2011-04-03 18:44:36
MarkR
Mark Richardson
m.t.richardson2@gmail...
83.150.146.79

I'd be interested in taking a look Baerbel.

 

I've seen several such reports for the UK, they're generally from green groups and they use serious fudging and they avoid looking at a realistic nuclear scenario because their actual scenario involves phasing out nuclear by the 2020s and then keeping coal burning going for decades. Instead of phasing out coal.

2011-04-03 22:42:58
MarkR
Mark Richardson
m.t.richardson2@gmail...
83.150.146.79

Rough guesstimates for China: <a href="http://www.worldofrenewables.com/renewables_news/photovoltaics/china_mulls_to_switch_over_to_solar_photovoltaics_to_scale_down_.html">scaling back nuclear by 40% versus original plan for 2020</a>, which is

 

In Germany, 1 GW of nuclear produces about as much electricity as 8 GW of solar. If China is marginally better with a 1:5 ratio, and they honestly mean to replace the nuclear with solar, then they need to install about 170 GW of solar on top of what they were going to do anyway over the next decade in order to cancel out the loss from nuclear cancellations.

 

Their 5 year plan looks like boosting the target by 5 GW. That leaves an awfully big hole... A hole that looks like a few hundred million tons of CO2 wide.

2011-04-04 04:15:41
BaerbelW

baerbel-for-350@email...
93.231.152.26

Hi Mark,

here is what I found so far. A news item of the German Advisory Council on the Environment about their new special report "Pathways towards a 100% renewable electricity system":
http://www.erneuerbare-energien.de/inhalt/46959/4590/

The report itself is available as a PDF - but only in German:
http://www.umweltrat.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/02_Sondergutachten/2011_Sondergutachten_100Prozent_Erneuerbare.pdf?__blob=publicationFile

Cheers

Baerbel

2011-04-04 07:07:03
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

Baerbel. The news article about the report, suggests a solution including north africa. That sounds like Desertec.
Or rather, the solution is not solely German, but requires importation/exportation of energy.

I think there is a long way to go before Desertec is feasible, mainly due to politics, a certain place named Libya comes to mind.

2011-04-05 05:14:50
perseus

owlsmoor@googlemail...
78.143.198.149

Perhaps we need to write a piece at Skeptical science about this, if we could possibly come to an agreement.  I can't help but feel otherwise rational people lose their heads over radiation scares.  Monboit may be a journalist, but he reads the scientific evidence. 

Evidence Meltdown

The green movement has been circulating appalling falsehoods about the dangers of radiation

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 5th April 2011

Over the past fortnight I’ve made a deeply troubling discovery. The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice.

I began to see the extent of the problem after a debate last week with Helen Caldicott(1). Dr Caldicott is the world’s foremost anti-nuclear campaigner. She has received 21 honorary degrees and scores of awards, and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize(2). Like other greens, I was in awe of her. In the debate she made some striking statements about the dangers of radiation. So I did what anyone faced with questionable scientific claims should do: I asked for the sources. Caldicott’s response has profoundly shaken me.....

http://www.monbiot.com/2011/04/04/evidence-meltdown/

2011-04-05 06:02:31
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

I'd never heard the figures Monbiot referenced regarding Chernobyl deaths before.

I think nuclear power plants elicit a similar reaction to air travel.  A lot of people are deathly afraid of air travel, even though it's statistically far safer than road travel, because if something goes wrong, it can go very wrong.  But statistically speaking, nuclear power is far safer than coal power, for example.

As I've said, my main concern about nuclear comes from an economic perspective.  Plus concerns about radioactive waste storage/disposal, but mainly it's the costs and really long construction time.  But fears about radiation impacts really aren't rational, just like fears about flying.