Fire can be our friend. The source of our electrical power is generated by burning coal (which is not the best way to get electricity, most of us would agree.) Fire does heat our homes and offices during cold weather, and could be a source of renewable energy...with new engineering. It doesn't have to mean mountains turned into air pollution...the situation we're now living with.
Nuclear power however is a fire energy which I find much more dangerous. I've been aware of it's dangers ever since I saw Dr. Helen Caldicott give a program (which was surprisingly poorly attended) at the U. of Florida in the 80s. Did I mention her book of interviews about lots of environmental concerns, "Loving This Planet?" Check it out sometime.
Here I bring exerpts from New York Times article 6.18.13 about Nuclear Power...namely the Fire Element gone astray. I'm leaving in the explanations about what Strontium-90 and nuclear radiation. You've probably learned it before, but I wanted a well worded explanation to have as reference.
NYT: High Levels of Strontium Found in Groundwater Near Fukushima Plant
Electric Power, the operator of the stricken nuclear power plant at
Fukushima, said Wednesday that it had detected high levels of
radioactive strontium in groundwater at the plant, raising concerns that
its storage tanks are leaking contaminated water, possibly into the
ocean. The operator said it had found strontium-90 at 30 times Japan’s
safety limit in groundwater near its No. 2 reactor, which suffered a
fuel meltdown in 2011. The company has struggled to store growing
amounts of contaminated runoff at the plant, but had previously denied
that the site’s groundwater was highly toxic. If ingested, strontium-90
can linger in bones, emitting radiation inside the body that can lead,
in time, to cancer."
Nuclear expert Dr. Gordon Edwards,
president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, helps
explain the effects of exposure to Tritium and Strontium-90.
Dr. Gordon Edwards
Explaining Radiation During
the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster in March 2011, hundreds of different
types of radioactive materials were disseminated into the environment.
all material things, radioactive substances are made up of atoms.
However, the atoms of a radioactive material are unstable, unlike most
of the atoms in most of the materials around us in everyday life, which
Unstable atoms are particularly dangerous.
atoms don’t change. They stay the same forever. But a radioactive atom
will suddenly and violently disintegrate, giving off a burst of
subatomic shrapnel called “atomic radiation”.
unit of radioactivity is “one becquerel”, which indicates that one
radioactive atom is disintegrating every second. One thousand becquerels
means a thousand disintegrations are taking place every second, or over
3 and a half million disintegrations every hour.
cells are injured or killed by the passage of the subatomic projectiles
given off by disintegrating atoms, which may be one of three types,
called alpha, beta and gamma emissions.
emissions are like x-rays, but more powerful. They can penetrate right
through the human body. Beta emissions are quite different; they are not
rays, but electrically charged particles, and they can only travel a
few millimetres in soft tissue. Alpha emissions are also made up of
electrically charged particles, but those particles are much more
massive and even less penetrating than beta emissions.
alpha particle is roughly 7000 times heavier than a beta particle.
Alpha particles can be stopped by a single sheet of paper or by the dead
layer of skin on the outside of your hand.
So what are the dangers of radioactivity?
The Dangers of Radioactivity
the body, the main danger is from the penetrating gamma radiation.
External gamma rays can cause “whole body irradiation”, although some
parts of the body may get the bulk of the dose — the hands, the feet,
once radioactive materials get inside the body, because a person has
unknowingly breathed contaminated air, or drank contaminated water, or
ate contaminated food, then those radio- active atoms are
disintegrating right inside the body. Such inhaled or ingested
radioactive materials are called “internal emitters”, because the gamma
rays and beta particles and alpha particles are now being given off
internally, directly damaging internal cells. Occasionally, such damaged
cells can turn into cancerous growths many years later. If reproductive
cells are damaged, the harmful effects can be experienced by children or grandchildren.
of careful research has revealed that internal alpha emissions are
about 20 times more biologically damaging than internal beta or gamma
emissions, per unit of energy. In other words, a given internal alpha
emission experienced by a given population will cause 20 times more
cases of cancer or genetic defects than a comparable internal beta or
gamma emission experienced by a similar population. (This factor is
called the “relative biological effectiveness” or RBE.)
has also shown that in many cases internal beta emissions are more
damaging than gamma emissions of similar energy. In such cases the RBE
could be 2 or 3 or more, meaning that beta particles can be 2 or 3 times
as biologically damaging as gamma rays.
What Do Tritium and Strontium-90 Do? Tritium
(the name given to radioactive hydrogen) and strontium-90, both
mentioned in the following article, are beta-emitting radioactive
materials. They give off almost no gamma rays, so they are primarily an
internal hazard. Since water is essential for all living things, water
contaminated with tritium and strontium-90 will be eagerly absorbed into
any living organism that drinks that water.
is chemically similar to calcium, very important for the formation of
bones and teeth, and a key nutrient in milk. So when strontium-90 is
ingested, the body eagerly stores it up in the bones, the teeth — and in
mother’s milk, where it is readily passed on to the nursing infant.
Since strontium-90 has a half-life of about 30 years (that’s the time
required for just half of the radioactive atoms to disintegrate) it is
easy to see that the beta emissions will continue for decades to
irradiate the bones and the bone marrow of the contaminated individual,
whether adult or infant. This unremitting radioactive exposure will
increase the risk of bone cancer and leukemia (cancer of the blood).
make matters worse, when a radioactive atom of strontium-90
disintegrates, it changes into an atom of yttrium-90 — another
beta-emitting radioactive material. Yttrium-90 is not chemically similar
to calcium, and so the body moves it around to other organs inside the
anatomy, including the gonads, where reproductive damage can be done.
is chemically identical to ordinary hydrogen, except that it is
radioactive. Since hydrogen is one of the basic building blocks of all
organic molecules, including DNA molecules, some of the radioactive
tritium that is ingested by a person will become “organically bound” as
part of larger organic molecules. The long-term medical effects of
chronic tritium exposure are still not well understood and remain the
source of considerable scientific controversy.
uncertainty about the danger of tritium is underscored by the raging
debate over the so-called “permissible” concentration of tritium in
drinking water. In this Japan Times article, it
is stated that the contaminated ground water at Fukushima has a tritium
concentration [500,000 becquerels per litre] that is 8.3 times higher
than the “standard” [which in Japan is 60,000 becquerels per litre.] But
in Canada, the “standard” for tritium in drinking water is 7,000
becquerels per litre, and a recent report by the Ontario Drinking Water
Advisory Committee (ODWAC) gives scientific grounds for concluding that
this “standard” should be drastically reduced to only 20 becquerels per
the tritium levels in the ground water at Fukushima may be 8.3 times
higher than the Japanese standard, but those same levels are over 70
times higher than the existing Canadian standard, and 25 thousand times
higher than the standard proposed by the ODWAC Scientific Advisory
of the most remarkable things about atomic radiation standards is how
non-standard they really are. The reason for this is simple. All these standards are arbitrary, since there is no such thing as a safe level of exposure to atomic radiation.
it should be borne in mind that there are many dozens of other
radioactive materials in the contaminated water at Fukushima, mostly
beta-emitters and alpha-emitters, that are not even being mentioned by
TEPCO or by the Japanese government.