Nuclear experimentation killed free power part II

Anthony Freda Art

Jimmy Midnight
Activist Post

Ethan Indigo Smith is my son, and I did help him with some scientific issues in the previously released, Nuclear Experimentation Killed Free Power Part I. I’m writing to defend on scientific, technical, statistical, rhetorical, and political grounds, his basic thesis. Allow me here to paraphrase: “To understand that nuclear experimentation is The Rabbit Hole of Death requires only minimal scientific knowledge.”

Thanks to Tom Bedlam for his attentive reply, and for pointing out that, as far as anyone knows, there are no magnetic field disruption issues peculiar to nukes. The name Bedlam serendipitously highlights the fact that nuclear experimentation has always been, is now, and will forever remain, a bedlamite way to boil water.

Bedlam attempts to quantify the accidents at Simi Valley, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Let’s step back just long enough to notice that the first three were meltdowns at large facilities while Fukushima is a meltdown of at least three such facilities, with the impending compromise of a spent fuel pool. So if Chernobyl, a nuke built with marvelous hubris but without secondary containment, really is worse than Fuku, it has to be with the modifier, “So far.”

The relative size of TMI in this regard is also problematic. In view of the secrecy inherent in nukes, and inconsistencies in measurement, a difference of at least five orders of magnitude in admitted total radio-releases would clearly be significant; of three or less, maybe not. The data from Simi Valley, about a 1959 mishap, is actually the most telling because it’s down the great American memory hole; for instance nowhere to be found in a list of “nuclear plant accidents” that contains incidents going back to 1957 in my 2002 World Almanac, a generally reliable source of factual information.

Which highlights the secrecy aspect of nuclear experimentation, spawned in secrecy, born in secrecy, (because it was nuclear weapons related) raised in secrecy, nurtured in secrecy, alive in secrecy, and really dependent on secrecy for its continued existence. An example is the continuing secret, (well, it’s public information, but de-emphasized until it functions as a secret) that, thanks to the good ol’ Price-Anderson Act, nuke operators don’t have to carry liability insurance, like ordinary Americans of modest means would have to in their businesses. Well, operators do have to have a not-adjusted-for-inflation-since-1957 $560 million dollars worth. Extrapolate what they’re paying for that coverage to what rendering a 10? 15? 30? 60?-mile radius of uninhabitable area would cost, and get an idea of the size of one form of nuclear subsidy.

Bedlam’s also partial to serving up figures for the release of Iodine-131 and Cesium-137, which symbolize the problem Ethan points up in The Matrix of Four. As two of the three known isotopes whose devastating health effects are well-documented (the other is Strontium-90) these are the known knowns of nuclear experimentation (well, some of them.) There are also known unknowns; for example, how much radioactive oxide dust is being plumed and blown around? How much steam? Cadmium 115? Tellurium 127, 129, 131, 132? Neobium, Molybdenum, Zirconium, Niobium 95? Barium 140? Etc. etc.? 

Reactors operate on fissions that break Uranium down into myriad radioisotopes, most of which finally stop emitting their alphas, betas, gammas, neutrons, and occasional antineutrinos after at last becoming the stable Pb-208, Lead. What about the water/chemicals used to fight the meltdown fires? And of course there are unknown unknowns, a concept that speaks for itself in an industry run by people who think it’s all just dandy to use extremely dangerous metallic Sodium as a circulating coolant around superultrahyper dangerous nuclear fuel, and to place spent fuel pools on the roofs of reactors. (Talk about being analogous to a two- or three-story outhouse! ‘cept what’s likely to dump on you is more than just rather disgusting.) In response to Bedlam’s critique, I researched other industrial uses of metallic Sodium. All of those I could find take advantage of its chemical reactivity; only in nuclear experimentation is it used as a circulating coolant.

Which brings us, at last, to the unknown knowns. These are the secrets kept through conscious silence or obfuscation on the one hand, and the lies that people tell themselves about the secrets they possess, and the unexamined assumptions they carry around, on the other. Reactor operators are sure it’s safe, which is why I’m sure they’re insane. F’rinstance, Bedlam has somehow convinced himself that a nuclear experiment station is no worse than a fossil-fuel burner. But it is. Even in the case of a coal-burner, fueled by mountaintop removal, vile as that is, at least the greenhouse gasses and toxic ashes and immediate environmental damage are about the limit of its destructiveness. Choose a legacy of ashes, which can be stored safely on an indefinite basis given a watertight roof; or of spent fuel that will remain dangerously radioactive for a longer time, going forward, than from here back to the dawn of recorded history. Add that to the cumulative effects of ever-increasing levels of nuclear radiation.

Unknown knowns are also an important dynamic in the whole American political system. Any little group of people who get a certain level of public privilege will eventually become its own special interest group, with interest in preserving what’s already been gained. Part of what got the nuclear experimentation industry really going was the possibility of reprocessing spent fuel to make Plutonium, a better material for nuclear warheads than the “old fashioned” Uranium-235. Now, there are way too many warheads, but the spent-fuel headache just keeps growing—a disposal problem as insoluble as polyethylene in water. When the best available solution might be to put it aboard nearly useless ocean vessels and scuttle it in the Arctic, as the Russians are doing, the situation speaks for itself.

Another industry byproduct is “depleted Uranium,” some of which is used in munitions. These are pretty terrible weapons that burst into flame when penetrating armor, spewing oxide dust all around. And only about two-thirds of the original highly radioactive U-235 has been removed. Yet even this use leaves a huge surplus of U-238 and/or depleted yellowcake and/or Uranium hexafluoride that no one really knows what to do with. Some of the Fluoride, stripped of Uranium, ends up in municipal water supplies, so that two super privileged industries get to work together momentarily.

There are about 400 nukes in the world, and six of them (counting three at Fukushima) have already had disastrous accidents. Or maybe we should multiply by years of operation. Say they’ve been running for an average of 25 years. So that would be ten thousand reactor-years, and six major accidents. Not a terrible record for, say, an experimental aircraft, but imagine a passenger jet that crashed six one hundredths of one percent of the time. There’d be disasters every cussed day! And of course with these nukes, everyone within a radius of some double-digit number of miles is necessarily on board for rides with this six one hundredths of one percent chance of crashing.

Ethan’s piece had a secondary thesis, the idea that: “Nuclear experimentation also prevents the development of better, safer, cheaper, more sustainable alternatives.” Though I remain without an advanced academic degree, I am pretty fluent in the language of mathematics and the natural sciences. Areas in which I have more extensive knowledge are Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and maybe Statistics, rather than Nuclear Physics. In Chemistry, orbital electrons (which we now understand is a quaintly inaccurate term) are the only subatomic particles with which we generally are dealing. Also in Chemistry, we know that mass action really makes the wheels turn and the (chemical) world go around. The mass action concept is also a very useful notion in economic analysis. Applied in the field of energy production, it means that all subsidies to these dinosaur sources, these Eisenhower-era methodologies, because they are thus artificially cheapened, necessarily also suppress the renewables upon which all humanity must someday depend. Fossil fuels and nuclear plants also get a free ride on the environmental and health problems which their operations entail.

What’s clearly needed are the reggae song energy sources, “I and I and I and I,” in which imagination, invention, ingenuity, and innovation are unleashed to work with wind, solar, tidal, ocean current, cultivated diatoms, geothermal (and here I’m talking about drilling holes deep enough to get down to magma, to produce high-pressure steam for electric turbines) and also exotic, eccentric schemes, typified by various notions for Hydrogen generators. I came up with one of these myself, of course just at the imagination level, noting that if the Higgs boson had a wave nature, it might be possible to render large objects weightless, or drastically reduce their weight in some temporary way, by generating a counter-wave. 

Yeah, I know there are possible conservation of energy problems with such a scheme, but there’s no thermodynamic difference between particle nature and wave nature as far as anyone knows, so if an anti-wave could be generated, there might be a way to get a net energy gain from this sort of method, just sayin’. In Chemistry, we imagine “energy hills,” which have to be climbed, to start certain reactions. Typically this is achieved by applying a lot of heat. But sometimes, instead of climbing the hill or tunneling through it, a way around it can be found. For example, some chemical processes can be catalyzed by light, using less energy than the heat that would otherwise be required, and in certain instances, just the addition of a catalyst can bring about spontaneous chemical changes, some even exothermic.

The poor Bedlamite also manages to repeat canards about how windmills will mess up migratory birds, or that ocean currents could be adversely affected by current power; and also casts doubt on the discovery of the Higgs boson. There is a chance that the recently-trumpeted data point isn’t Higgs. It is a chance in something like ten billion. Contrast this probability with the chance that all radio-release data from nuclear meltdowns are accurate and reliable.

Meanwhile, let’s get the rumor going that all these chain reactions are making fissures and fractures in the time/space continuum that are making the free power we could get from anti-Higgs wheels impossible to obtain. It’s no more dishonest than the idea that atomic energy can have peaceful uses. And you can’t prove it isn’t so, because you can’t prove a negative. Furthermore, we know that the law of energy conservation can be violated at sub-photon levels for very short periods of time, and this speculation is all about some sort of light beam or time beam. So if electromagnetic pulses from detonations also cause cracks in time/space, and controlled chain reactions little fissures, that could easily mess up such a beam. Just sayin’.

Jimmy Midnight is a blues musician and an organic farmer in Maine. Find out more about The Maine Blues Society HERE

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