RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Boardman writes: "In something of a stealth maneuver during the 2012 holiday season, the U.S. Department of Energy set about to give every American a little more radiation exposure, and for some a lot."

Boardman: 'The fundamental safety question is whether any additional radiation exposure is safe in any meaningful sense.' (photo: iStock/BWB)
Boardman: 'The fundamental safety question is whether any additional radiation exposure is safe in any meaningful sense.' (photo: iStock/BWB)

Nuke the People?

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

06 February 13


Is that a Fukushima in your pants, or are you just hot all the time?

n something of a stealth maneuver during the 2012 holiday season, the US Department of Energy set about to give every American a little more radiation exposure, and for some - a lot, by allowing manufacturers to use radioactive metals in their consumer products - such as zippers, spoons, jewelry, belt buckles, toys, pots, pans, furnishings, bicycles, jungle gyms, medical implants, or any other metal or partly-metal product.

The Energy Department announced its plan in the Federal Register on December 12th, and invited comment for 30 days, through January 11, 2013. Citing its need to address environmental concerns under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the agency said, in part, that its plan was:

Former Secretary Bill Richardson, Department of Energy (1998-2001). (photo: Department of Energy)Former Secretary Bill Richardson, Department of Energy (1998-2001). (photo: Department of Energy)
"... to delegate authority to manage radiological clearance and release of scrap metal from radiological areas to each Under Secretary for sites under his or her cognizance....

"This Draft PEA for the Recycling of Scrap Metals Originating from Radiological Areas analyzes the potential environmental impacts associated with resuming the clearance of scrap metal, originating from DOE radiological areas, for recycling pursuant to improved procedures designed to assure that clearance for release is limited to metals meeting stringent criteria."

Translated from the bureaucratese, this is a proposal to lift a ban on recycling radioactive metals left over from American bomb-making and other nuclear activities, and allow them to be used commercially, with "stringent," but largely unenforceable criteria, for their use. The initial ban was ordered in 2000, by then-Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson.

One Congressman Challenges Energy Department

Largely ignored by mainstream media, the plan caught the attention of an alert Congressman, Rep. Edward Markey, D-MA, who wrote a three-page letter to Energy Secretary Steve Chu on January 11th, beginning:

"I write to convey my grave concerns regarding your December 2012 proposal to rescind the agency-wide suspension of the release of radioactively contaminated scrap metal from Department of Energy (DOE) facilities for purposes of recycling it into consumer products that could ultimately by utilized by pregnant women, children or other vulnerable populations. This proposal is unwise, and should be immediately abandoned."

Although Rep. Markey was writing on the date of the original deadline, the Energy Department had invited the public to respond to an email address that was non-functional during the first nine days of the response period, December 12-20. On December 28th, the department announced in the Federal Register that the comment period was extended to February 11, 2013.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-MA. (photo: The Political Guide)Rep. Edward Markey, D-MA. (photo: The Political Guide)

On January 16th, while taking note of Rep. Markey's letter, the Wall Street Journal covered the story by starting this way:

"The Department of Energy is proposing to allow the sale of tons of scrap metal from government nuclear sites - an attempt to reduce waste that critics say could lead to radiation-tainted belt buckles, surgical implants and other consumer products....

"The approximately 14,000 tons of metal under review for possible initial release is only a fraction of the tens of millions of tons of metal recycled annually, it said. Smaller amounts could be eligible for release in future years.

"Selling the metals could bring in $10 million to $40 million a year, the DOE estimates."

Nuclear Industry Minimizes Radiation Dangers

As is common in nuclear industry proposals of all sorts, the Energy Department sought to assure readers of its proposal that any radiation exposure resulting from recycling radioactive waste into the commercial mainstream would have minimal impact on any given individual. The article in the Journal included a chart from the department that reinforced its claim that "... would at worst expose a person to very low levels of additional radiation."

This approach ignores the current scientific consensus that there is NO safe level of radiation exposure. Since there is already a measurable level of background radiation worldwide, and since worldwide radiation levels have increased as a result of nuclear weapons testing and nuclear accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima, the fundamental safety question is whether any additional radiation exposure is safe in any meaningful sense.

This approach also fails to deal with the reality that once the department has released radioactive materials for commercial use, it loses almost all control over how and where they're used, and in what concentrations. The same material used in a ceiling light fixture will pose less risk than if it is used in a belt buckle, or jewelry worn close to the skin. These uses are less dangerous than material inside a human body, as in a joint replacement or heart valve.

Contaminated Products Come From Everywhere

The issue is of global concern because other countries are recycling their radioactive waste as well, with uncertain control and safety. As Rep. Markey noted in his letter:

"Just a year ago, Bed, Bath and Beyond recalled tissue holders made in India that were contaminated with low levels of the radio-isotope cobalt-60 that were shipped to 200 of its stores in twenty states.

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, when discussing the discovery of the contaminated products, said that, 'There's no real health threat from these, but we advise people to return them.' "

While that may seem contradictory, it's mainly because the choice of the word "real" is not very accurate. It's true that there's no threat of immediate injury from a low level of radiation, whereas a high enough level will be lethal. It's also true that there may be no "realistic" threat from a radioactive tissue box, but that's not the same as "no threat," since harm from radiation exposure is cumulative.

Rep. Markey's letter illustrates this concern, as he notes that the Energy Department is proposing to release contaminated metals into the marketplace, as long as, quoting from the document, it "... can be shown that the release will result in less that 1 millirem (mrem) above background to a member of the public in any calendar year." [One millirem is a tiny amount of radiation.]

Nevertheless, Rep. Markey expresses doubt about even this low standard: "I believe this standard, even it were the appropriate standard, will be impossible to assure or enforce." [emphasis added]

United States Has No One In Charge of Risk

There is no federal agency with responsibility for such oversight or enforcement. This regulatory vacuum was illuminated by the discovery in 2009 of thousands of contaminated consumer products from China, Brazil, France, Sweden and other countries, as reported by Mother Nature Network:

"The risk of radiation poisoning is the furthest thing from our minds as we shop for everyday items like handbags, furniture, buttons, chain link fences and cheese graters. Unfortunately, it turns out that our trust is misplaced thanks to sketchy government oversight of recycled materials.

"The discovery of a radioactive cheese grater led to an investigation that found thousands of additional consumer products to be contaminated. The source is recycled metals tainted with Cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope that can cause cancer with prolonged exposure."

According to a Scripps Howard News Service investigation in 2009, records of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission show:

"... 18,740 documented cases involving radioactive materials in consumer products, in metal intended for consumer products or other public exposure to radioactive material.

"The US Government Accountability Office estimates there are some 500,000 unaccounted for radioactively contaminated metal objects in the US, and the NRC estimates that figure is around is 20 million pounds of contaminated waste....

"In 2006 in Texas, for example, a recycling facility inadvertently created 500,000 pounds of radioactive steel byproducts after melting metal contaminated with Cesium-137, according to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission records. In Florida in 2001, another recycler unintentionally did the same, and wound up with 1.4 million pounds of radioactive material."

When They Tried This Before, They Failed

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson echoed Markey's warning in his January 13th podcast, pointing out that the nuclear industry has been trying to do something like this for decades. The reason, he explained, was that radioactive materials are now liabilities for those who own them, are responsible for protecting them and, eventually, storing them safely. But, if they can sell the material, the liability instantly becomes an asset.

Former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. (photo: Department of Energy)Former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
(photo: Department of Energy)

NIRS, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, has come out strongly against the Energy Department initiative, noting the long history of the industry to unburden itself of its radioactive waste and any responsibility for it:

"We've fought this battle before. In the late 1980s, NRC adopted a policy it called 'Below Regulatory Concern' (BRC), that would have allowed about 30% of the nation's 'low-level' radioactive waste to be treated as normal garbage and dumped in landfills, be burned in incinerators, and yes, be recycled into consumer products....

"NIRS and our allies responded with one of our largest organizing campaigns ever.... 15 states passed laws banning BRC within their borders. Hearings were held in the House and in 1992, Congress officially overturned the BRC policy."

The grassroots action contributed to Secretary Richardson's ban on selling radioactive metals for commercial use, the ban that the current Energy Department proposal would overturn. The department has offered no new basis for its recycling program beyond streamlining what it proposed before. NIRS counters that:

"Nothing has changed since 2000 that would justify lifting its current ban. Rather, just the opposite: since then the National Academy of Sciences has acknowledged that there is no safe level of radiation exposure, and we've learned that women are even more vulnerable to radiation than men (while children have long been known to be more vulnerable than adults)."

NIRS and other advocacy organizations are currently engaged in a campaign to submit comments before the February 11th deadline to ask the Energy Department to withdraw this proposal.


William Boardman runs Panther Productions.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+69 # Dave45 2013-02-06 20:37
It is tragic that any government is even considering legislating a proposal like this. However, it is also yet another illustration of the degree to which increased corporate profits have become the primary goal of most US legislation. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama will probably have little problem supporting the recycling of radioactive materials. Why would he? This is the constitutional lawyer who sincerely believes he has the right to eschew due process as he assassinates American citizens. Think a little radiation in your zipper is going to bother him?
+71 # ktony 2013-02-06 21:04
Once again the NRC proves itself to be a lap dog for the nuclear industry.
+8 # WBoardman 2013-02-07 12:45
Technically, the lapp dog here is
the Department of Energy under Steven Chu.

Not that the NRC isn't a lapdog, too.
+83 # jmac9 2013-02-06 21:05
Poison us - why? for profit.

In this sick system called capitalism,

Profit is more important than you.

How much more do you have hear before we throw all the Senators, all the House of Representatives , all the Executive, all the Judiciary, all the Justice Department, all the DEA, all the CIA, all the FBI, all the Bankers, all of the criminals out.

Biggest class action lawsuit waiting to happen - all of us against the few of them.
Look what they are willing to do - poison you - for profit.
+19 # Lou17 2013-02-07 11:44
You are correct: Profit trumps the welfare of people.

But: throwing everyone out won't help. What will is 1) Getting the money out of politics by ending corporations' rights to lobby and make campaign contributions, and 2) Establishing either A) totally publicly financed elections and electoral advocacy or B) Congress's right to regulate individual persons' political contributions, so the rich can't buy elections. Several proposed amendments were filed in he 112th Congress to accomplish these ends.

How to get amendments passed? Wake up the people.
+8 # DPM 2013-02-07 11:46
All those, in the positions that you mentioned, have outlived their benefit to almost all of the citizens of this country. As for the solution....
+17 # cliffgie 2013-02-06 23:40
We have already been exposed to far too much radiation -- from depleted uranium weapons testing and production, etc. I have two cancers - chronic lymphatic leukemia, and Multiple Myeloma. Who knows, radiation may have been a factor. We need to reduce such exposure as much as possible.
+1 # robniel 2013-02-07 10:51
Unbeknownst to most people is the fact that we are surrounded by natural radiation, which is hypothesized to be one of the causes of the ageing process. Most common is the presence of a naturally-occur ing radioactive potassium isotope present in all concrete, bricks and ceramics.
+10 # WBoardman 2013-02-07 12:52
While background radiation should be widely known,
I suspect you're right that it's not.

The big picture, it seems to me, is this:
1. Life on Earth was possible only after radiation
declined well below lethal levels;
2. Background radiation continued to decline or remained
fairly stable at low levels through 1945;
3. Since then, background radiation seems to have
increased worldwide, presumably because of human
activity (at least mostly).
+2 # AndreM5 2013-02-07 13:23
Sorry, but K-40 it is our largest source of self-irradiatio n, it is not the largest source of terrestrial irradiation.

BY FAR, orders of magnitude higher, is radon.
-25 # James38 2013-02-07 03:41
Here is the major point behind this article: "This approach ignores the current scientific consensus that there is NO safe level of radiation exposure."

That is a lie. There is no such consensus. This statement flies in the face of the obvious fact that normal background radiation levels in many parts of the world are FAR higher than the limits that are in place for manufactured goods. These are parts of the world where people have been living for generations with NO negative effects at all.

The actual latest scientific consensus is quite the opposite. It has now been discovered, partly through observations of the high background radiation levels in many areas, that the human body, and indeed all life forms plant and animal, have a much higher tolerance for radiation than previously thought or theorized.

This article is absolutely nothing but hysterical mis-statement of fact, and an unjustified re-hashing of old and discredited theories.

Read the excellent book, "Power to Save the World" by Gwyneth Cravens for a description of the facts and history of the Nuclear Industry.

Then read "Super Fuel - Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future" by Richard Martin. He describes the only INHERENTLY SAFE Nuclear Reactor, the LIFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor), which can provide safe base-load power AND burn as fuel all of the "nuclear waste", thus solving the storage problem as well as allowing us to rapidly quit burning fossil fuel.
+18 # Selwick 2013-02-07 08:31
You should move to Chernobyl. I hear the climate there is quite healthy and it is also very quiet there. That will make for some nice undisturbed book reading.
-7 # James38 2013-02-08 04:11
Selwick, read

The radiation around Chernobyl was not uniformly distributed. There are still hot zones where the levels of radioactivity are too high for health, but most of the area ranges from not dangerous to not very dangerous. The wildlife is thriving, although there are some observable mutations. This may be because the wildlife can not read and observe the warning signs and borders posted around the hot zones - so the deer, wolves, birds, and other wildlife living in the evacuated zone may wander through areas that are hazardous. However in general one of the unexpected results of the Chernobyl disaster has been to create a giant nature preserve. People have been living in the area increasingly since the disaster, and if they avoid the fairly well marked hot zones, they do fine. I would indeed be willing to live in the area, assuming that I would have a reliable radiation detector and avoid the hot spots.

Kindly note that I did not say that there are no levels of radiation that are dangerous. I simply stated that excessive paranoia about "all radiation" is unjustified, and the evidence is very clear - the areas of the world where background radiation is much higher than the average, and yet people have lived in those areas for generations with no ill effect. We need to be realistic, not exaggerated in our concerns.
+11 # AndreM5 2013-02-07 09:24
In fairness to James38 I reacted to the statement about "no safe level" as well but I know better that it is not a lie, just a layman mistake.

BECAUSE there are so many natural sources of radiation exposure, including our own bodies, professionals DO NOT refer to "safe vs. unsafe" exposures. You hear this only from politicians and TV talking heads. We KNOW that risk of disease from radiation exposure increases with dose as with many other environmental agents. Therefore the effort is to maintain exposures as low as reasonably achievable. From animal and cell studies it appears the standards for allowable low level exposure are likely conservative, meaning they overestimate the risk at low levels.

The conflict arises with defining "reasonable." This is almost always weighted heavily with economic concerns of both benefit (earning a wage and making a profit vs. cost of reducing exposure, etc.).

The issue may be difficult to digest by many writers because our knowledge is based on population risk and cannot be used to determine risk to an individual in a particular case, just relative risk.

The absolutes in the remainder of the James38's post are problematic. In fact he makes the same mistake as the article by claiming that there are "NO negative effects" of living in regions with higher background radiation. Using his absolutist logic I could argue that he cannot prove a negative so the circle continues.
+6 # WBoardman 2013-02-07 13:19
AndreM5 is essentially correct,
except for his semantics.

What he omits, as does most discussion of radiation exposure, is the difference between external and internal exposure.

The DOE proposal, in its current vagueness, allows for using radioactive metal in medical implants, which would produce continuous exposure to the host body until the radioactive material decayed, or the host did.

Alpha emitters, for example, are essentially harmless when the are outside the body. Not so much when lodged in the lungs, say, from cigarette or other smoke.
+2 # AndreM5 2013-02-07 14:01
I did not omit the issue you mention, so I can't understand the comment.

On the other hand with regard to internal exposure, especially from alpha, you left out radon, which for populations concerns dwarfs all other sources.
+5 # WBoardman 2013-02-07 16:51
"Studies by radiation physicists Ralph Lapp and Bernard Cohen, along with work by several other researchers, have consistently demonstrated no correlation between radon exposure and lung cancer, once the smoking factor is removed. So why does EPA cling to its present radon policy?"

Yes, it's complicated....
-2 # James38 2013-02-08 04:26
Andre, I appreciate your comments and your additional information very much. You have added a well rounded contribution to the discussion.

I agree that my statement was overheated, abrupt, and too short on detail. I was tired and in a rush, but I find that most of my points seem essentially valid.

However, I strongly urge everyone to read the two books I mentioned. They deal very evenhandedly and in detail with the issues we are talking about, and contain extremely vital information.

In particular, the LIFTR reactor is an immediately available way to generate base-load power - Globally and safely.

Not only does this type of reactor avoid the problems of solid fuel reactors and pressurized reactors, they can use as fuel all of the contaminated fuel rods we call Nuclear Waste. That material has had only about 2% of its available energy extracted. The LIFTR reactor can utilize the remaining 98% to a very high level of efficiency, leaving behind only a tiny fraction of the radioactive "waste" of other reactors. Also, the minuscule amount of waste from a LIFTR reactor has a much shorter half life, and does not create any difficult storage problem.

The LIFTR reactor can be refueled while generating power, goes into cold shut-down at any hint of a problem, and is indeed inherently safe. It can be built in any size from village to metropolis. Application in cargo vessels seems likely.

Read "Super Fuel" and encourage the project.
+9 # DPM 2013-02-07 11:53
Good, J38. Then you won't mind increased radioactive materials in the products you use in the future. I applaud your bravado! As for me, I'm concerned for my grandchildren (and yours). Too bad you are so willing to believe those that profit in doing this rather than possibly err on behalf of future generations. And, remember, James, "slippery slope"!
0 # James38 2013-02-08 04:33
DPM, see my additional comments above. Nothing I said originally suggested that we should be careless about radiation levels. We must always be vigilant about controlling any dangerous substances we produce, be they chemical or radioactive. We definitely need better control over the profusion of Herbicides, Insecticides, and GMO disasters-in-th e-making. The problem of bee die-off is probably caused by poor control of insecticides, if not completely, then in large part.

My (overheatedly stated) point is that unnecessary hysteria and inaccurate statements add unnecessary confusion and fear to our situation, and do not contribute to a rational development of nuclear technology.

Please read the books I suggested. They are excellent. The LIFTR technology is fascinating and vital to the future.
+6 # WBoardman 2013-02-07 13:11
Calling something a lie without supporting evidence
is not an argument.

The EPA (linked in the article) is part of the consensus that
there is no safe level of radiation -- -- but of course they could be lying....
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with an interest in
keeping the nuclear power industry going, sets radiation levels "considered safe," without actually saying they're safe, and without dealing honestly with cumulative effects -- --

There's no question that there are, for at least some people, survivable does of radiation -- in the sense that their impact takes long enough to have any effect that you'll be dead first -- that's why we have X-rays and other nuclear medicine -- but there's no secret that too much exposure even to "good" radiation will not be good for you if you live long enough.

Thorium has promise, but it hasn't been realized yet.
-2 # James38 2013-02-08 04:39
WBoardman, please read the book, "Super Fuel". Thorium has been successfully used in liquid fuel reactors, and the latest designs need to be built and studied rapidly. This technology gives us an immediate way to replace coal, oil, and natural gas power generation.

Thorium technology just needs immediate construction and refinement. It is essentially a developed technology that was abandoned for bad reasons. All of this is clearly explained in the book "Super Fuel - Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future" by Richard Martin.

Solid fuel reactors, especially the pressurized reactors, are a wasteful and problematic idea. They should be replaced with LIFTR reactors as rapidly as possible.
-1 # WBoardman 2013-02-09 11:22
James 38, there's little doubt that thorium/LIFTR reactors offer promise.

Google "thorium reactors" and one finds projects under way, but investors are more cautious than your certitude.

Your unmitigated enthusiasm for all things thorium reminds one of the early enthusiasm for nuclear power -- radiation measured in "sunshine units" producing power "too cheap to meter." Or not. A little skepticism is warranted.

Do you have some stake in the book, the industry, etc.?
+1 # James38 2013-02-10 15:42
Mr Boardman, I note in your biography that you are a "freelance writer, served 20 years as assistant judge, wrote/produced political satire on public radio."

Nothing there to indicate much knowledge about physics or reactor design. I have spent many years informing myself on the topics, and although not an expert, I am a well developed general scientist, and am continuing to improve my understanding. My opinions are based on my best information, which is in substantial agreement with experts in the field.

Your question about my interests elevates snide to the level of paranoia. No, I do not have any stake in the book or the industry, but I have a substantial stake in the future of the planet, as do you and all of us. Since you are probably about the same age as I, perhaps you need to be reminded about the future of your grandchildren?
+12 # 666 2013-02-07 05:57
DEA unleashes radioactive "dirty bomb" on US public; said to create jobs, boost economy
+11 # Grout4cake 2013-02-07 06:35
+8 # RODNOX 2013-02-07 06:47
during the REAGAN {may he rot in hell} administration they tried doing this----anyone know what stopped it then ?
+2 # WBoardman 2013-02-07 13:20
Public response in part -- from NIRS and others.
+21 # markkelley 2013-02-07 07:11
This development comes as no surprise to me. In my recntly published novel, Rain of Ruin, I tell the story of a young woman whose exposure to radiation in the offices of the Washington, D.C. offices of the Manhattan Project during WWII cost her her dreams and ultimately her life. Our government did nothing to warn people then; obviously it's still taking the same approach. The novel is based on a real life mother was that young woman. Thanks much for this article.
+13 # George Baggett 2013-02-07 07:48
Add this issue to the entire package of supporting nuclear power generation, and the Ball and Chain associated with this technology and the connection with nuclear armaments become clear. However, like many exposures, the stealth-like changes to cells damaged will be difficult for victims to prove causality.

Despite best efforts, delusion and dilution remain the easy solutions to pollution.
+12 # Poet 2013-02-07 08:23
James 38 ignores that this would be IN ADDITION to the background radiation that he/she dismisses as of no concern. It also would be added to exposure from medical radiation (often necessary), and to other unnecessary irradiation of mass populations from such things as backscatter "security" screenings in airports. Would the risk to any given individual be great? Of course not. Would there be a definite risk to a mass population? Of course there would, and there IS generally a consensus about this among radiation biologists.

The key point here is that it is completely unnecessary. What possible benefit--other than profit to a small number--could there be?
-3 # James38 2013-02-08 04:47
Poet: See my additional posts above.

We obviously need to ensure that reasonable safeguards are followed. Nothing I said recommended or condoned irresponsible dumping into the public of dangerous levels of radioactivity from any source.

The amount of radiation from any metal incorporated into products would obviously be regulated so as not to add dangerous levels of radiation.

My main objection to the rather hysterical note of the article is that it adds nothing to a rational discussion of what we know. It generates more fear, and encourages entrenched ignorance.

The LIFTR technology is extremely important to future clean power generation. See above notes, and read the book "Super Fuel".
+8 # Nominae 2013-02-09 01:54
@ James38

It is not difficult to note that you are "sold on" this idea. And, it MAY indeed be an improvement over "older" reactors. Much like calling something "Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick". In other words, "faint praise indeed".

I am insufficiently familiar with Thorium power generation to weigh in on the scientific data, but I can offer another caveat.

How much sense does it make to even "screw with" some of the most dangerous technology ever generated by mankind - no matter HOW hypervigilantly moderated - just to BOIL WATER ?

Simply think of the cost-to-benefit ratio here in BOILING WATER .

This same plan would be sane if it was applied to Geo-thermal power. The Earth (as you notice at Yellowstone Park) is ALREADY boiling water for FREE ! And yes, I KNOW that there are too few "easily accessible" geothermal sites to presently power the entire country.

But please don't insult the general intelligence by denying the fact, that if we were to approach the problems of Sustainable Energy, and Global Climate change with the Political and Economic equivalent OF the Manhattan Project, or the Moon Project, that we could NOT, in fact, come UP WITH some SAFELY sustainable means of BOILING WATER for power in very short order.

Using NUKES to boil water is the same as using a NUKES to kill an annoying mosquito. Dangerous overkill, to say the least .

We need a solution that does not require hold-your-breat h 24/7 monitoring.
-2 # James38 2013-02-10 18:42
Nominae, In the first place, if there were some easy way to "boil water" it would be in use. If you have any clue to some new power source, kindly inform the world. We need it, and I would be delighted to hear about it as would every power engineer on the planet.

Assuming that you actually have no handle on that particular pie-in-the-sky, I will have to attribute your comments to susceptibility to anti-"nuke" propaganda and a deep level of ignorance about reactor design.

The LIFTR reactor is indeed inherently safe, and if you will trouble yourself to read the book "Super Fuel - Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future" by Richard Martin, you will find much information of interest.

The LIFTR reactor (several varieties exist) has the additional capacity to "burn up" (use as fuel for power production) all present stockpiles of "Nuclear Waste", thus solving the storage problem and giving us energy for many years.

The dangers of nuclear development and the power industry we have had thus far are already with us. We need to deal with the situation, and LIFTR reactors are the best way I am aware of to do just that.
+2 # Nominae 2013-02-10 23:19
Quoting James38:
Nominae, In the first place, if there were some easy way to "boil water" it would be in use......

Part I

WoW ! That statement is like saying "If there were some EASY way to cure Cancer, it would be in use ! Why look further ?"

You've never heard of innovation and invention then ?

See, and that's the beauty of logical sophistry. Your statement SOUNDS as if it makes sense until further examination.

In this example the implication is

1. That we have not yet discovered a cure for Cancer, and we must therefore stop looking, or advancing our knowledge in that area, and just "go with what we've got".

2. Chemotherapy is a VERY dangerous VERY expensive and VERY painful approach to Cancer treatment, but, HEY, if there were an EASY to Cure Cancer somebody would be doing it, no need to improve.

Notice one thing: the assumption that the problem must be cured by something EASY, or we must simply be satisfied with the horror that is Chemotherapy, because 'it's the best we've got". No need for additional innovation.

Somewhere in your self-proclaimed vast aggregation of knowledge, a class in Logic 101 would not be out of order.

+2 # Nominae 2013-02-10 23:24
@ James38

Part II

Of course, sophistry, not logic is the tool if one is attempting to perpetrate a myth. So far, the best to be said for Thorium Reactors is that they LOOK GOOD ON PAPER.

Yeah ...... so did our original nuclear bombs, because we knew nothing about radiation sickness at the time. We knew nothing about the deteriorating effect that radiation has on human DNA, we knew nothing about Nuclear Winter, ad infinitum, but it ALL LOOKED GOOD ON PAPER !

You have been as aggressive in promoting this technology as a Sunday preacher touting Salvation, but if this is as good as you think it is, allow the data to come in from testing, testing, and re-testing before unleashing yet another Nuclear "MIRACLE" upon the Earth.

If this is as good as you seem to think it is, you will not need to "sell it", people will come to "steal" it from you.
0 # James38 2013-02-10 18:45
As an additional note, the safety record of the present solid fuel reactors is very much better than that of the coal industry. Coal mining, transportation, and burning in power plants kills thousands of people each year - far more than nuclear power ever has, even including the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima. And then you add in the environmental damage from Coal alone, and you have a better idea of the magnitude of the problem.

Continued use of fossil carbon (coal, oil, natural gas) as an energy source, is threatening the future of civilization, as well as the survival of all life.

What is the value you place on the only planet we have? That is the magnitude of the problem. Please read the book.
+1 # Nominae 2013-02-10 22:50
Quoting James38:
.......Please read the book.

First, you have already "established" via the sneering snark in your previous post the "fact" that I apparently don't have the intellect to keep up with brainiacs like yourself, in *spite of* working directly with nuclear weapons in the military. So what could "a fool such as I" *possibly* gain if I did indeed: "Please read the book" ?

According to your assessment, having ME "Please read the book" would simply amount to "Casting Pearls Before Swine".

I, myself, make no pretense at being an expert on reactor design. But, working WITH nuclear weapons, l DO KNOW that mankind has a LOOONG history of getting us ALL bitten in the A$$ by the LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. I also know that nuclear power is an INCREDIBLY expensive, INCREDIBLY dangerous way of BOILING WATER !

You are in a sweat to promote Thorium Reactors. You sing their praises and tout their safety without ANY empirical evidence ! Your "pitch" sounds similar to that for OLD Nukes back in the day. A monster called Panacea. We've heard it.

You love Thorium. I am still calling for even a "Mars Project" for our energy needs. Do you understand that the scientists on such projects as the Manhattan, The Moon, and The Mars, literally invent elements and metals *previously unknown on the PLANET ?

NUKES are not our ONLY WAY OUT !

Your brow-beating refrain of: "Please read the book" sounds more like "Please drink the kool aid".
+5 # WBoardman 2013-02-09 11:37
Unfortunately is it NOT true that "products would obviously be regulated."

It's not even clear that effective regulation would be possible once radioactive material enters the commercial product stream.

Nor is it obvious that there's any good reason for taxpayers to bear the cost of such regulation, in perpetuity, for the sake of fairly limited private profits.

What is obvious it that the assumption of the need for regulation of such relatively low-level radioactive materials is a cave-in to hysteria -- uh, no -- of course I mean it's an indirect acknowledgement that the problem is real, the dangers uncertain, and that rational discussion requires ever more precision.

Name-calling generally doesn't add much, even when it's precise.
+21 # 2013-02-07 09:06
It's analogous to gas drilling companies making fracking flowback available free of charge to municipalities for road de-icing. The gas companies love it because they get the hazardous waste off their hands; corrupt local officials love it because it's free. Never mind that the stuff is carcinogenic and often radioactive as well. Disposal is expensive so the solution? Act like there's nothing to worry about and get it off the a-moral corporation's ledger sheet, with the help of corrupt government officials.
+17 # reiverpacific 2013-02-07 10:15
Well, they use depleted uranium in bunker-busters and scatter bombs which infect the troops launching them and do untold damage to the planet, especially the target areas for many years beyond their deployment. After all, they have to do something profitable for all the toxic residue for which the government and extractive giants have turned several areas of the country into "National Sacrifice Areas" (like Pine Ridge) for the "National Security State", already bloated and over-funded.
So this should hardly surprise anybody. We are just further "collateral damage" for the profit of those who drive the Corporate State.
Man, them-thar lobbyists must ha' been busy burrowing in through the back doors of the power brokers (a.k.a, alleged "Lawmakers" you all voted into office) on the hill.
+10 # artsci 2013-02-07 10:44
This is yet another example, among many that keep mounting up, that will end up in what appears to be the much-deserved annihilation of the human race. The rest of life on the planet will be the better for it.
-1 # SundownLF 2013-02-12 11:53
Quoting artsci:
This is yet another example, among many that keep mounting up, that will end up in what appears to be the much-deserved annihilation of the human race. The rest of life on the planet will be the better for it.

Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling that we will take 'the rest of life on the planet' with us when we pollute the earth to the point of unsustainabilit y. And then just watch us exterminate any animals that we feel are in competition with us for the FEW remaining resources, regardless of the level of radiation surrounding us and them!
+11 # angelfish 2013-02-07 12:14
"Is ANYBODY there? Does ANYBODY care? Does ANYBODY see what I see?" I'm beginning to doubt that this was EVER a Government of, by and for the People. When those in power continually ride rough-shod over us, making INANE law that allows them to poison us at will, and making sure that Corporations have MORE rights than the citizenry, "Le deluge" is imminent. I used to grieve because I had no children. NOW, I'm GRATEFUL!
+3 # Pickwicky 2013-02-07 12:20
Glow in the dark zippers might be convenient, but radioactive jungle gyms?
+6 # lawrencegold 2013-02-07 15:22
Let's see. Incompetent or corrupt? Why should we have to stay on these people's backs to assure they serve the public interest? They should be summarily dismissed.
+1 # happycamper690 2013-02-07 16:28
There is an inconsistency here. We all do have (or certainly should have) a smoke detector in our homes ... probably several. Each contains a substantial quantity of the highly radioactive material Americium, it's what produces the ionizing radiation that is intercepted by smoke particles. This is regulated and as far as know, no one has ever been injured by a smoke detector.
+5 # WBoardman 2013-02-07 16:37
Notice that DOE Secretary Steven Chu
proposed this only as he was leaving.
+2 # slimguysf53 2013-02-07 17:19
Move along, nothing to see here, nothing to see...
+1 # RussellLowes 2013-02-07 23:13
Thanks for the well-written article on this subject. It is amazing we are having a discussion on possibly merging radioactive waste into our metal supply chain. What is next to test our belief in consideration, kindness and rationale?
+5 # Diareo Knabo 2013-02-08 02:15
Dave45: You are absoutely correct in you accessment. However I would change 'corporate profits' to 'corporate arrogance' as this callous and TOTALLY irresponsible crap seems to be oozing its way ot of both the Whitehouse and Capitol Hill.

Further, this is not an American problem. No. It is a PLANET EARTH (as well of course an American) problem -- uh... rather disaster in the making.

So shameful how far this mental disease of insatiable greed has gotten, totally out of control, and the biosphere as a whole (us) is paying for it dearly! So shameful.
+2 # tomtom 2013-02-08 09:39
Can the contaminad metals be machined into new parts for the nuclear industry's own use? No need to dirty new metal. Not that I'm for intentionally contaminating things, places and people.
-5 # James38 2013-02-08 19:39
One of the good parts of the transition from Pressurized Solid Fuel Reactors to the LIFTR design is that LIFTR reactors are much smaller for the same power output. They could be built on the site of old Nuclear plants, and will use the spent rods as fuel converted to liquid fuel in an on-site processing plant. No need to move the spent rods, and the metal on site could possibly be used in the new construction.

The long life of the LIFTR reactor would ensure that the site was put to good use while the old reactor was being decommissioned.
+1 # WBoardman 2013-02-10 11:46
LIFTR reactors remain in the experimental stage (see posts above), although their potential seems real enough.

Does James38 have some undisclosed interest
driving his promotion of this technology with such
unfounded optimism?
-1 # James38 2013-02-10 19:24
Mr Boardman, this is the second time you have questioned my "undisclosed interests". See my answer above.

Just why, on what evidence, do you dismiss my interest in LIFTR technology as "unfounded optimism"? I am relatively well informed on the subject, and I find that my optimism is well founded. That is why I take the time to share the information.

Perhaps if you will trouble yourself to read the book "Super Fuel - Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future", you will find reason for considerable interest, if not optimism.

We need to rapidly replace coal, oil, and natural gas as base-load power sources. We are under severe threat of climate change disasters, and the value of our planet as a comfortable habitat for life, ours and the rest of life, is in danger.

LIFTR technology is the only rapidly deployable answer to these urgent dilemmas that I am aware of. LIFTR reactors are inherently safe. To understand that, read the book.

LIFTR technology also allows us to convert existing stockpiles of Nuclear "Waste" (contaminated fuel rods from solid fuel reactors) into power, solving the storage problem. Present reactor designs using solid fuel only utilize up to 2% of the available energy. LIFTR reactors use about 98%. Get the facts, Mr Boardman. They are readily available, but you must sort the truth out of the chaff. Mr Martin has done a good job of starting that process.
+2 # WBoardman 2013-02-10 20:39
Took awhile, but I finally found your disclaimer of any interest in the book, industry, etc.

I don't mean to sound dismissive of thorium technology,
but optimism is, as yet, unfounded -- hence the experimental
projects that seek facts on which to build a foundation .

Your ad hominem comments aren't arguments.
0 # James38 2013-02-11 04:22
Mr Boardman:

First I would like to thank and commend you for returning to this discussion and continuing the dialog. Many of the topics of RSN articles are of great importance, and I would very much like to see RSN implement ways to encourage commentators to return to the discussions when comments are added - as you have done.

I have suggestions and more comments to share with you, so I hope you will check this forum periodically. I am out of time at the moment.

For one thing, I recommend changing the vote tally. The running total is far less informative and interesting than a simple total of both positive and negative votes would be. A comment that is controversial and shows only a couple either positive or negative votes probably got many more votes. It would be very interesting to see the totals.
-1 # Drsci 2013-02-10 09:50
Life developed over several million years. At that time the background radiation was much greater than today, as there has been significant decay--even of very long-lived radionuclides. Hundreds of studies have shown low exposures to radiation have a stimulatory effect on organisms from seeds to mice, and even humans (Japanese A-bomb survivors with moderate exposures); see Radiation Hormesis CRC Press, 1991. The amount for maximum benefit is estimated at a low multiple of current background. There are over 100 scientific studies referenced in that book. If studies in ultra-low background enclosures show diminished growth or vigor, that would establish low-level radiation as essential. Up to a point where stimulators effects start to decrease. Before dismissing this out-of-hand, look at the data.
+2 # WBoardman 2013-02-10 11:37
No one disputes the POSSIBILITY of radiation hormesis, as hormesis is clearly real in other contexts.

But radiation hormesis remains more of a religious or political belief that accepted science:

"The United States National Research Council (part of the National Academy of Sciences),[26] the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (a body commissioned by the United States Congress)[27] and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Ionizing Radiation (UNSCEAR) all agree that radiation hormesis is not clearly shown, nor clearly the rule for radiation doses."
-2 # James38 2013-02-10 20:26
Mr Boardman, you say "But radiation hormesis remains more or a religious or political belief that accepter(sic) science:"

That statement is not justified by the article you reference. You are making a propagandistic stretch from the available data. Hormesis is regarded as an interesting possibility by responsible researchers. Not more, not less.

In the article you reference at Wikipedia on Hormesis: "Consensus reports by the United States National Research Council and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) argue that there is no evidence for hormesis in humans and in the case of the National Research Council, that hormesis is outright rejected as a possibility. Therefore, the Linear no-threshold model (LNT) continues to be the model generally used by regulatory agencies for human radiation exposure"

The National Research Council has no justification for "outright rejection". That is a "religious" act, not scientific. Science should only cite a lack of evidence, not a rejection on lack.

The "Linear no-threshold model" is generally regarded as absurd by the sources I find most reasonable. For one thing it ignores the very great differences in background radiation, of which the highest levels have no harmful effect.

Much research must be done on Hormesis before any conclusions can be reached with certainty.
-1 # Drsci 2013-02-10 10:37
An example of radiation hormesis: From 1971 to 1978 I irradiated tomato seeds in a gamma-ray irradiation at doses from several times background to a lethal dose. The seeds did not become radioactive. Only the naturally occurring Potassium-40 (which also makes us radioactive) could be detected. I sent several hundred sets of seeds, with an I irradiated control, to schools that requested them across the US. We only asked that they send us a copy of their project report. In over 80% of the reports, the report said that they obtained an "anomalous data point" because the seeds with the lowest exposure grew larger than the controls, while all the higher level exposures were smaller than the control, or didn't grow at all. Given the large number of trials in different locations, the aggregate data support the hypothesis of radiation hormesis sis.
+1 # WBoardman 2013-02-10 20:27
Good work.
But the key word seems to be "anamolous," no?

What was Drsci's interest in this project?

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.