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Sue Gentry

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Nuclear energy is unsafe

Given the recent Japanese meltdown situation with their nuclear facilities I find it unbelievable that Bill Gates or anyone with any knowledge of industrial accident history and nuclear energy can with a clear conscience support this idea. This is Russian roulette with the most lethal substance, and the gun pointed at us all. Blue screen: Reboot Bill and try again.

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  • Mar 19 2011: First, there has been no meltdown in Japan, at least not until now.
    Second, people are vastly misinformed on how nuclear energy works. The safety measures at the reactors in Fukushima are way better than those in Chernobyl. I would suggest to you to get a little more information on how dangerous actually the nuclear crisis in Japan is. A lot of people still think that a reactor in this situation could explode like an atomic bomb would. Again, misinformation is a huge damage to our world. On the other hand the nuclear reactor that Bill Gates talks about would be a great advance. It leaves no residues behind and exposes people far less to radioactive material since they don't have to be refueling so often, according to the test every load will last for 60 years.
    Remember what happened during the bp crisis in the Mexican Gulf? That oil has been more damaging to the ecosystem than the Fukushima or the Three mile Island accidents. And still, I don't see that much people being so afraid of companies continuing with their oil businesses.
    Hope you can get your hands on more data so you can build a better judgement over this matter. Here is this article which I find very clear and helpful, hope it does the same for you.
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      Mar 19 2011: overall you are right, but to be precise: partial meltdown is almost sure in at least one, but probably two blocks. containment and/or the reactor vessel are also suspected to be damaged, and a small amount of radioactive material leaked. that is confirmed by the iodine and strontium levels. the leakage is not severe though. as the situation is normalizing, the escape of corium is getting more and more unlikely.

      among many, the biggest difference between fukushima and chernobyl is graphite. in chernobyl, graphite fire carried the totally exposed core material to the atmosphere. in fukushima, there is no graphite, so even the escape of corium wouldn't cause global disaster.
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    Mar 16 2011: Actually, it's still safer than dumping tonnes toxic gases that contain plenty of radioactive particles including thorium and uranium into the atmosphere in coal plants that routinely *do* kill people by causing cancer and other illnesses, or the dangers from hydroelectric dam breakage that sweeps away villages and towns, or the toxic chemicals used to make photovoltaics for solar energy, or the dangers of windmills that routinely kill maintenance workers.

    Compared to the tsunami and the earthquake, this is still a minor event, with only minor consequences for human life. Few people got sick due to

    While the nuclear option will always hold some risks, they are managed fairly and do not cost lives to the same level that other power sources cause, even if you include renewables.

    In short, while it's not a completely safe power source, it's among the safest ones (I think only geothermal has a better safety record when you consider per unit of energy (as you will always need energy it makes sense to pick the least deadly, and that still happens to be nuclear power (take geothermal, if you have it, by all means))).
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      Mar 16 2011: The better of two evils is still evil. The wiser choice is to eliminate the risk not just to us but to the remaining eco-system. Yes birds die in wind mills but nuclear fall out may effectively annihilate whole species.

      I believe that there is too much emphasis on speeding up economic growth, with little regard to the real cost of how we are spending the finite resource that is our remaining time on this planet. More time and money has to be allocated to perusing "good therefor better" alternatives.

      Unfortunately this event that you mentioned has not as yet run its course.
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        Mar 21 2011: Considering the experiences regarding the environmental impact of radiation in the Zone of alienation around Chernobyl, what you are suggesting is false. Currently, the main concern for human safety is, if you go into the Zone of alienation, are, in fact, dangerous animals, such as wolves and boars grew quiet large in the years since the disaster, while they were left alone to survive on their own without much human influence, and they thrive today. Do note that animals are actually have less resilience to radiation than humans.

        Dominant problems in the 3rd Zone are illegal logging and poaching!

        While we're at it, take a look at Pripyat here:
        http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=51.405556,30.056944&spn=0.01,0.01&t=h&q=51.405556,30.056944

        So far, the worst case ended up creating an unplanned wildlife preserve. While people died, we did learn from it, and in the Fukushima disaster immediate steps have been taken to eliminate the risk of thyroid cancer, for example. Fukushima still poses less of a risk than Chernobyl, and it always posed less risk than Chernobyl, even if Fukushima is a slightly older design.

        This argument of your's is also based on a fallacy, more specifically the Nirvana fallacy:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana_fallacy

        You might want to inform yourself about critical thinking, you're not doing too well right now.
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          Jun 20 2011: Hello Mladen is this CRITICAL enough for you?! Hope your advice serves you better.

          As of April 2006 ...'The new data, based on Belarus national cancer statistics, predicts approximately 270,000 cancers and 93,000 fatal cancer cases caused by Chernobyl. The report also concludes that on the basis of demographic data, during the last 15 years, 60,000 people have additionally died in Russia because of the Chernobyl accident, and estimates of the total death toll for the Ukraine and Belarus could reach another 140,000.'
          www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/chernobyl-deaths-180406/
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          Jun 22 2011: @ Wayne
          Greenpeace has a reliability and competence regarding environmental that is only comparable to the authority of Creationists on Evolution. Citing them for an argument is not only uncritical on the highest level, it is the outright confession that one is wrong. Wrong in such a drastic way that one couldn't find a single better source than that. Wrong to that extent that one actually backs up the other side with the utterly failed attempt to object. It's as if one objected to something with "BUT FOX NEWS TOLD ME OTHERWISE!", only much much worse. I can't even nearly illustrate how little that says about the quality of the attacked statement and how much about oneself.

          So please, if you want to be taken seriously, never ever sell proven liars as trustworthy. And if you think that Greenpeace (or 9/11 truthers, or moonlanding hoaxers...) have a good point somewhere, then take the effort to find their original sources and read them. Be willing to bet your credibility on the validity of the sources, because otherwise you will be no better than the average political nutjob, religious fanatic or conspiracy crackpot. Which is the category in which you will end up anyway if you bet your credibility on the wrong sources. So you better be attentive with the choice of sources...

          Just a general advice. Have a nice day!
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          Jul 16 2011: @ Mladen and Ray:

          www.smw.ch/docs/pdf200x/2004/43/smw-10221.pdf
          This link Is from the 2004 publication of the Swiss Medical Weekly. Check their credibility to your satisfaction. The article examines the effects of Chernobyl up until 2004 almost 15 yrs. after the incident. It will elaborate for you " the dominant concerns and issues of human safety", as well as vindicate the credibility of Green Peace and myself.

          Further:
          '1.0mSv is the EPA yearly limit of artificial radiation exposure to the public.'
          '6.0mSv was the dose from spending 1 hour on the ground at Chernobyl in 2010.'
          http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/radiation-dosage-chart/

          Finally:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_civilian_nuclear_accidents
          Thank-you Kristian P.

          Guys, while I appreciate your encouragement to be informed about critical thinking and who I choose to align myself, your tone comes across as rude and more than a little condescending. Unfortunately I do not have the time to help you define what it is your overcompensating for. I will, however, offer you a semblance of your own advice "check your sources" and your motivation before you choose to attack someone's integrity.Have a nice day.

          p.s. Ray what exactly is your beef with Green Peace?
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    Jun 20 2011: some example death tolls:

    fukushima - 1 to 2
    deepwater horizon - 11
    unknown organic farm in germany - 35
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      Jun 22 2011: Krisztián has a point here. Imagine Chancellor Merkel holding the following speech:

      "The dramatic events in Germany are a turning point for the world, they were also a turning point for me personally. The disaster has shown that even a high-tech country like Germany could not manage the risks of organic farming. Those who recognize this must conduct a reassessment. And I have made ​​a reassessment. Therefore we want to accelerate the phase-out of organic farming. No later than 2022 must the use of manure be halted entirely."

      One needs to do research before building an opinion on nuclear power, but even an amateur can recognize double standards if he cares to.
  • Mar 26 2011: "Nuclear energy is unsafe" -- false. No energy source has been as safe in the history of mankind. This is despite foolish design & management by corporate or government entities, as the Fukushima events expose. Those knowing the GE Mark-I reactor and TEPCO's faulty management over the years know that what happened was likely to happen. www.washingtonpost.com/world/japanese-nuclear-plants-evaluators-cast-aside-threat-of-tsunami/2011/03/22/AB7Rf2KB_story.html

    There are many more stories about TEPCO, including on previously-resigned corrupt management.

    And, despite Japan's worst quake & tsunami, this is what's happened so far...
    www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26571/

    Making a rash statement as the topic here is irresponsible and indicates not concern for safety, but arrogant ignorance of facts, even willingness to mislead others. That's as inexcusable as TEPCO's actions/inactions over decades. It's as inexcusable as the mismanagement that caused the Chernobyl disaster.

    However, nuclear power is exceedingly important to the world's future, as food, energy and fresh water needs become ever more critical. Fortunately, Mother Nature has given us two excellent gifts: nuclear fission and abundant Thorium. President Kennedy requested a report in 1962, in order to plan our energy & resource future. That report explains exactly what we should have been doing since then -- we've done barely half... http://energyfromthorium.com/pdf/CivilianNuclearPower.pdf

    So, you'll notice our scientists & government were then concerned with important questions that needed addressing. Existing reactors (LWRs), were indeed encouraged. Yet, despite recommending the next step, breeders, those were given lip service, because of Cold War politics & budgets. The Chinese are now taking our work to fruition...
    http://energyfromthorium.com/2011/01/30/china-initiates-tmsr/#comments
    www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/01/china_thorium_bet/

    TED limits us so feel free to call 650-400-3071
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    Mar 16 2011: Just this afternoon I stood outside the metro on the way home and began a discussion with two scholarly youths about a certain political foundation they are promoting, nuclear, thorium, what is happening in Japan etc...

    The whole of the conversation I found myself wondering if they found me as troubling as I found them. They were earnestly trying to convince me that the media coverage of Japan was being influenced by pressure from various diabolical Green organizations.
    Nuclear is completely safe as evidenced by the fact that no one has died in Japan. I guess Hiroshima doesn't count.
    There is in fact no need for the various redundant and in this case curiously ineffective safety systems.
    That teams of safety, rescue and health care professionals can afford to commit their time to involving themselves in assessing the fake and impossible threat of radiation poisoning.
    Persons who are anti Nuclear are caught up in a fear campaign to excite the ignorant public opinion and interfere with the progress of nuclear science...

    Is it just me who is a little worried here about what our education system is efficiently turning out.

    Its up to us to get our ignorant selves informed.
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      Mar 16 2011: Wow, did you just compare nuclear energy to the nuclear bombs dropped on purpose? Sounds like a fallacy to me.
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        Mar 16 2011: Perhaps if you have nothing more relevant to say the irony is lost on you? What do you mean 'fallacy'?
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          Mar 17 2011: Sorry, guess I'm not that much of a hipster to get the ironic part.
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          Jun 22 2011: @ Wayne
          Please try to accomplish non-fallacious reasoning first before applying irony (or what you take for it). The sentence "Nuclear is completely safe as evidenced by the fact that no one has died in Japan. I guess Hiroshima doesn't count." is neither funny nor witty, let alone a valid argument. It is instead making use of the fallacy "guilt by association" in a literal meaning, trying to throw together nuclear power plants with nuclear bombs. This is the intellectual level of vandals who confuse "pediatrician" with "pedophile"....

          If there is good reason to oppose nuclear energy, then you are inflicting massive damage to that cause.
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      Jun 24 2011: That's truly a despicable comparison on your part. Otherwise you're right, those guys must live on another planet
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        Jul 16 2011: I am not a comedian and so I was not trying to be funny. It was not my intention to be hurtful or distract from the gravity of the situation. What I said about Hiroshima was solely meant to underline the incredible potential for disruption of life associated with the willful or accidental mal-handling of this science.

        I do sincerely apologize Matthieu, if I did offend.
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        Jul 16 2011: For clarification the quote "Nuclear is completely safe as evidenced by the fact that no one has died in Japan." was made by one of the two individuals with whom I had a discussion and wrote about in another post.
        Decades after the bombings both Hiroshima and Nagasaki are thriving cities, yet there are still some people, the 'hibakusha', who are negatively effected.
  • Jul 24 2011: Nuclear energy is not merely unsafe, it is uneconomical. Carbon neutrality? That's really just wishful thinking for nuclear reactors, if the canvas is expanded to incorporate a 'cradle to grave' scenario. Indian scientists and nucleocrats have learned the art of window dressing cost-benefit analyses from their counterparts overseas. The assumption is that neither the long-term cost of storage of irradiated wastes, nor decommissioning of the reactor itself at the end of its life, require to be factored into cost projections. And such inconvenient matters such as compensating the public in case of an accident, are matters that politicians with a 'you scratch my back, I scratch yours' brief blithely sweep under their worn 'national interest' carpets. Of course, neither Chernobyl, nor Fukushima are likely to deter governments that use the fig leaf of "peaceful use' to prop up their self-confidence (not self-defense) by stockpiling enriched uranium. And yes... uranium supplies too are now in a 'while stocks last mode'. Bottom line? If a nuclear reactor is safe (oxymoron?), it will not be economical. If its economical it cannot be safe.
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      Jul 24 2011: choose your readings more carefully, and use your head. for one: what is the carbon footprint of a nuclear power plant? not too hard to answer, so i give that as a homework for you.

      (and as usual, i give the result number only, so you can test your answer: it is zero)
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    Jul 15 2011: Technology is making safer and safer nuclear plants. The problem is that some places are not adequate for a nuclear plant. Japan is a sismic country so it is a really bad idea to build so much nuclear plants there. In Chile, for example, is another really bad idea to build nuclear plants!!
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    Jun 24 2011: Ignoring for a second that this really belongs in the debate section, I'd like to see a more balanced discussion around energy safety. I believe we don't talk enough about the environmental and health risks associated with other energies such as coal. We also refuse to look at the long-term effects of a conversion from nuclear to coal and other polluting energy plants. Sure there's an element of risk in having a large nuclear park (although I do believe this risk is reduced as power plants get more modern, that plant in Japan was terribly out of date), but isn't it worth the risk if it saves us from the environmental nightmare that climate change will become with coal? I want to see our nations segway into renewable energies over the next decades, but as of yet, it is foolish to expect solar, wind and hydrolic plants to cover our needs. Wind especially would require rolling out huge windfarms which won't have a null impact on the environment. I believe nuclear is necessary as an energy of transition. What we can take away from Japan's disaster is that plants need to be modernized and security must be tightened.
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      Jul 16 2011: I agree that as a transitional energy source, Nuclear may be the most efficient. I just hope that a harmonized or more ecologically in-tune means will quickly follow.
  • Mar 16 2011: I would definitely agree with Krisztián, if anything this earthquake is a testament to the engineers who have developed the technology to make them the safest they have ever been. When we can go from the Three Mile Island disaster, which had to do with malfunctioning equipment and human error, to the only reason nuclear reactors are even close to being a danger is when they are hit with an earthquake and a tsunami is pretty incredible.
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    Mar 15 2011: the strongest earthquake in recent history strikes a nuclear plant. then it gets hit by a massive tsunami. there is no electricity due to the same reason. and all of the 4 reactor cores are still intact. minimal amount of radiation escaped. they actually work on how to save the plant or at least salvage materials and fuel, not to save people. people's life are not at serious risk.

    this is the showcase how safe these reactors are. i mean, what is needed to actually breach a core? meteor impact?

    EDIT: correction, the cores are damaged. i meant the containment vessel.
    • Mar 15 2011: I agree on this one.

      There is still no sign of a full meltdown of one of the cores. So it is reasonably to believe that the way these reactors are build is strong enough to survive a tsunami and an earthquake.
      But, if a core collapses in one of the following days then there is a reason to take a good look at the position of these reactors. For instance in Holland we don’t know any earthquakes and tsunamis, so you can say that a reactor here is safe enough.
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        Mar 15 2011: meltdown is probable, either happened partially already or most likely will. but the corium didn't escape the containment so far, and even if it will, they can handle it safely.
  • Jul 8 2011: Actually, nothing is safe. Cars are unsafe, drinking water is unsafe, planes are unsafe - in fact, sitting at home in your basement is not completely safe. The difficult question here is - are the benefits worth the risk?

    Risk is hard to think about. We perceive large rare accidents (Fukashima) as higher risk than small frequent accidents (coal mines), even though the small accidents may result in greater loss of life. I usually ask my anti-nuke friends if they use an electric toothbrush? an electric can opener? a Kindle? Ipod? have more than one computer? have more than one TV set? If they answer "yes", they are voting in the most effective way for more nuclear power plants - by using more and more electricity every year.

    If we insist on more electricity - and as a country, per capita usage has gone up for 20 years - then it isn't a question of "should we build more power plants", it's a question of "how can we make them safe enough." And to play in that game, you need to get some serious education on how power plants work and what the real risks are.
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    Jul 8 2011: Nuke Plants are pretty safe.
    It's the places they are situated in (Japan, right down on the Beach) and the Humanoid errors, Political pressures, and Totalitarian governments that cause the problems.
  • Jul 7 2011: I'm satisfied that the science and engineering exist that wd make nuclear safe enough. Bill Gates is right, IMO.

    But I'm not at all satisfied that we have the political structure with vision leadership that will pay for, oversee, and support the development of a safe nuclear infrastructure. And as long as our leaders have to go hat in hand to special-interest donors for every election, I have to be pessimistic.
  • Jul 7 2011: Nuclear energy is unsafe if we keep using these 40 years old relics and antiques. How about using something that utilizes post year 2000 technologies. And by not allowing the building of new reactors, you slow down the pace of innovations and also have the unintended consequence of the world of keeping the use of these aging plants operational until something broke down.
  • Jul 2 2011: The way many plants are designed, I agree it is risky business. But, what if they were to build the plants in a stable environment with over-the-top safety protocol and have the plants highly regulated by national and international agencies? If we can drastically reduce the risks and the possible benefits are as massive as they are, then I don't see why not.
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      Jul 2 2011: plants have over-the-top safety protocols, are highly regulated by national and international agencies. stable environment can not be guaranteed at a lot of places, like in japan for example.
  • Jul 1 2011: I am no expert and don't claim to be on. But this seems to have become a complete "for" and "against" debate. Branding an entire energy source on hearsay and doubtful sources is rather immature, but out-right rejection of those claims without any sensitivity and doubting their intelligence is also equally immature.

    I think Nuclear energy has a role to play. Yes. But i would like some informed reasoning to alleviate my fears which have naturally cropped and i look at you people for the same. Understand there will be a level of risk involved in creating energy but as a citizen, i would like to know more about its intensity.
  • Jun 24 2011: in my view the energy sources of our future have to fullfill 3 things

    1)CO2-neutral
    2)Renewable
    3)Save

    How much I know is Nuclear Energy Carbon-neutral but the supply of radiactive Elements like Plutonium or Uranium on areEarth limited. After Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tschernobyl and Fukushima we should realy think about if we realy want call the deadly power of Nuclear Energy ,,Sustainable"
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      Jun 24 2011: if you want to stretch the meaning of "renewable" to the maximum, no energy source is renewable. wind, hydro and solar are all dependent on the sun ultimately that will run out in a few billion years.

      okay, billion years, who cares, you might ask. but then i ask: who cares if we run out of fossil fuels in 500 years? it is much more reasonable to work out a solution for this problem 450 years from now, since technology will be much more advanced that time.

      i'm not aware of any nuclear accidents in nagasaki and hiroshima. as far as i'm concerned, intentional mass murders took place there. and it is a shame that you use that tragic episode of the human history to try to back up your otherwise poorly supported viewpoint.

      chernobyl was a result of mind boggling recklessness of soviet leaders.

      fukushima is a valid point, and shines a light on the serious problems of today's regulations in the field. however, even poor regulations, poor design decisions and one-in-a-century natural disaster could not cause a tragedy even close to, say, the bhopal accident.
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    Jun 24 2011: K...Well no it does not comfort me any that you too are in close proximity of Nuclear reactors, but thanks a lot for the links 'cause I like to inform myself on anything I can get my hands on. Regards
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    Jun 23 2011: K...........I am certainly glad to hear that !! I was going by what I read in the news that corroded and rusty pipes were leaking tritium underground and since I am not a scientist it sounded like disaster to me. I live about 200 miles from Bay City, Texas, and I could not find the article which referred specifically to Bay City, But this stated that 2/3 of older reactors were leaking and Bay City's is about 30 years old.
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    Jun 22 2011: I understand that nuclear plants in Texas are leaking some radioactive material into the ground surrounding the plant and then the radioactive gases contaminate the air. I would not care to live around one.
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      Jun 22 2011: do you have a source for that?
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        Jun 22 2011: Yes, it was on the internet. I will try to find it and give you a link.
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          Jun 23 2011: my preliminary opinion is that it is false. nuclear plants are operating under very very strict regulations. significant radioactive leakage is INES 4 event, and would result in immediate countermeasure.
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        Jun 23 2011: Hi Krisztian................I wish I knew how to post a link but I don't so next best is an address.........
        Huffington Post/Huffington Green/Tritium. From that source I find that the NRC has substantially reduced their standards for compliance.
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          Jun 23 2011: which is not a problem, since the current safety limits are ridiculously low.

          radioactivity is something we can measure with astonishing sensitivity. in lucky circumstances, a few decaying atoms are measurable. fukushima emission was measurable all around the globe. it was some millibecquerels per some unit of air. one becquerel is one radioactive decay per second. a millibecquerel is one decay per million seconds. science is fascinating.

          however, such radiation levels pose exactly zero health risk.

          EDIT: microbecquerels. i meant microbecquerels of course.
  • May 16 2011: They should redesign the building producing nuclear energy to withstand all natural disasters.
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      May 16 2011: this is preventively expensive if not theoretically impossible. but strange that you don't require all other industries to do that. why not regulating the chemical plants that way?