1% to 2% or 60%. HUH!!

This is beyond belief and has an awful smell to it.

The key passage: According to the new study, only 1 to 2 percent of a reactor core’s cesium 137 could escape during a total blackout. Previous NRC estimates concluded that 60 percent of the cesium inventory could escape.

We are talking about a nuclear reactor here folks. With numbers this divergent I think we have good cause to be very worried. I very strongly suspect that there is yet another big lie being told here. And I also suspect that given how big it appears I’d bet it’s somehow associated with an equally large amount of money. When we’re talking nuclear you just don’t make errors this big. Or reassess in the fashion indicated here. Don’t believe it. This is a huge crock.

(Source: blogspot.com)The NRC is adjusting previous projections of how much and how quickly cesium 137 would escape in the case of a total blackout

The nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan has caused a nuclear frenzy where leaders around the world are questioning the safety of their plants. For instance, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for global nuclear review after visiting Japan, and U.S. senators demanded that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) repeat an expensive inspection of the country’s nuclear power.

But now, the NRC is close to completing a large nuclear study that may ease a few worried minds.

The NRC has been working with Sandia National Laboratories (a Department of Energy lab) on a study that revises previous projections of how quickly and how much cesium 137, which is a radioactive material made when uranium is split, could release from a plant after a nuclear core meltdown. The NRC has been working on the study for six years, and it will not be completely finished until next spring. But the nuclear watchdog group, Union of Concerned Scientists, has obtained an early copy of the report through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The new study is based on how much and how quickly cesium 137 could escape an American nuclear plant if a total blackout were to occur. A total blackout means complete loss of power from the grid, and backup diesel generators and batteries have failed as well. This leads to a nuclear meltdown. NRC scientists said that a total blackout would be rare at an American plant, but it is better to be safe than sorry. In addition, the NRC wanted to update previous projections related to cesium 137.

The NRC focused on two different types of reactors in the U.S.: the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania, which has boiling-water reactors like Fukushima Daiichi, and the Surry Power Station in Virginia, which has pressurized-water reactors. Over 100 different plants were studied. Through computer models and engineering analyses, the NRC has concluded that the meltdown of a typical American reactor would lead to “far fewer deaths” than previously thought.

According to the new study, only 1 to 2 percent of a reactor core’s cesium 137 could escape during a total blackout. Previous NRC estimates concluded that 60 percent of the cesium inventory could escape.

In addition, the new study found that one person in every 4,348 within a 10-mile radius of a nuclear meltdown would develop a “latent cancer” from radiation exposure. In previous estimates, it was one person in every 167.

The NRC said that large releases of radioactive material would not be “immediate,” meaning that people within a 10-mile radius would have plenty of time to evacuate the premises. It concluded that the chance of death from acute radiation exposure within a 10-mile radius would be near zero, but some would be exposed to high enough doses to experience fatal cancers decades later.

“Accidents progress more slowly, in some cases much more slowly, than previously assumed,” said Charles G. Tinkler, a senior adviser for research on severe accidents and an author of the study. “Releases are smaller, and in some cases much smaller, of certain key radioactive materials.”

The NRC’s revised projections report tells what temperatures, flows of water and steam pressures would occur in a nuclear meltdown, as well as when leaks would begin after the meltdown. The NRC concluded that Peach Bottom would not release enough radioactive material to cause fatal harm to any human immediately, but could increase the chances of fatal cancer later on. As far as Surry goes, the number of people living within a 10-mile radius was so small that the death toll would be a fraction of a person.

Despite the NRC’s rigorous revisions, there are always critics. One notable critic would be Edwin Lyman, a nuclear physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Lyman’s stance is that the NRC is always painting “an overly rosy picture” in regards to nuclear safety in the U.S., and that the new study is no different.

According to Lyman, the new study assumes that 99.5 percent of the people in a 10-mile radius would be successfully evacuated. He also said the study assumed that average weather conditions were present during the hypothetical meltdown, but if rain was present, radioactive materials could be washed “out of the air into a small area” infecting people who live there.

Instead of a 10-mile radius, Lyman suggested that the study focus on a 50-mile radius in regards to eventual cancer deaths because the average population within 10 miles of a nuclear plant in the U.S. is 62,000, while the population within 50 miles is five million.

The NRC countered Lyman’s concerns with the fact the report was “intended to present the best estimate and not the worst case.” Also, the NRC noted that earlier projections estimated one eventual cancer death per 2,128 people in a 50-mile radius while the new study estimates one eventual cancer death per 6,250 people.

Lyman concluded that this new study reconfirms how dangerous nuclear reactors are because the NRC’s estimates are based on so many variables, such as several reactors of different designs and ages as well as locations with disparate population densities. He said a difference of a factor of three “is not important.”

Keep in mind that the study is not yet complete, and that the NRC could make changes after public comments are received in 2012. The NRC hopes to use this study to propose safety improvements for aging American nuclear plants, which could lead to cost-related benefits and increased use and placement of new cheap and clean power-producing plants.

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