Public dread of nuclear power limits its deployment

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In the ongoing effort to decarbonize U.S. energy production, there is one energy source that often attracts great controversy. Nuclear power has been a part of the American energy portfolio since the 1950s and still generates one in every five kilowatt-hours of electricity produced in the country. Still, for a number of reasons, including the association between radiation and cancer, the general public has long felt a significant dread about it. And this fear, suggest Carnegie Mellon University Department of Engineering and Public Policy Assistant Research Professor Parth Vaishnav, and Ahmed Abdulla of the University of California San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, may cause people to want less of this zero-carbon energy source in the nation's electricity generation mix than they otherwise would.

In their peer-reviewed paper, "Limits to deployment of for decarbonization: Insights from public opinion," published in Energy Policy,Vaishnav and Abdulla set out to quantify just how much this sense of dread is negatively impacting decision making around nuclear power.

To do this, the team asked a sample of over 1,200 U.S. respondents, to build their own power generation portfolio, aimed at cutting CO2emissions. These respondents were split into two groups: half of the sample was shown the power sources they could choose from by label (solar, natural gas, nuclear, etc.), while the other half was shown how much environmental and accidental risk the technology posed. Crucially, the researchers showed all respondents information about the number of deaths that had historically occurred in the worst accident associated with the technology. This is important for nuclear power, since accidents are rare but can have dire consequences if they do occur.

"Despite decades of analysis focused on about nuclear power, there remains a gulf in understanding the difference between the technology's actuarial risks and the dread it evokes," the team writes in the paper. "Experts often emphasize actuarial risk levels—for example, the often-cited claim that radiation releases from the Fukushima nuclear accident didn't kill anyone—with the hope that better public awareness will yield greater political support for the technology."

The results of their research, however, suggest that engineering efforts to make the technology safer and communicate this improvement to the public, while admirable, will not by themselves persuade people to choose more nuclear power. The respondents who were shown the names of the sources consistently deployed less nuclear energy than those who were only shown the risks. This occurred despite the fact that both groups had the same statistical information. This suggests that respondents' anxiety around nuclear energy caused them to shy away from its use.

"Our results suggest," the team writes in the paper, "that dread about nuclear power leads respondents to choose 40% less nuclear generation in 2050 than they would have chosen in the absence of this dread."

With these results, the team hopes to be able to quantify just how much nuclear power the American public might be willing to accept, if the fear associated with it could be reduced or eliminated. While the researchers note that the study only focuses on nuclear , the methods by which they use survey to disentangle the root causes of are more widely generalizable to other important decarbonization technologies, such as carbon capture and sequestration.

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More information: Energy Policy (2019). , … ii/S0301421519302125
Journal information: Energy Policy

Citation: Public dread of nuclear power limits its deployment (2019, May 6) retrieved 17 August 2019 from
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May 06, 2019
Part of the fear arises from systematic abuse of statistics. Fukushima's claim not to have killed may or may not be accurate: Not many public will have the knowledge or expertise to research thyroid cancers or issued Iodine preventative treatments: Nor the statistical analyses of increases in leukaemia.
They just know something 'bad' went into the air and the reactors are so 'bad' no one can access them. They also know that the people saying 'its OK it didn't kill' are the people they expected to say that. (Not people living and eating downwind of the reactors)

May 06, 2019
You can assume that Fukushima kills a thousand, which is the upper credible estimate, and nuclear still comes out on top as statistically by far the safest energy source per TWh produced.

Anti-nuclear sentiment is rooted in irrational fear, not science. Which is especially dangerous in a world threatened by climate change and peak oil. With nuclear, we could have been carbon neutral since the 80-90s. With renewables and electric cars, it will take a century longer. It may be just enough to push the Earth over the edge.

May 06, 2019
It is irrational because statistics are used in an unbalanced fashion by those with vested interests.
No One was killed is statistically unprovable.
The elevated risk has to be accurately quantified. If 1 in 100,000 were the estimate and 500,000 people were exposed then 5 more cancers may be expected, then openly sought via screening or pre-treated with iodine tablets.
For the risk to be liveable without fear; it has to be compared accurately to crossing the road in traffic, or flying at high altitude, not swept under the carpet.

May 06, 2019
Nukes were built on the sly during a time when everybody's attention was diverted by the vietnam war and nixon/watergate. We woke up one morning and found that 20% of our power was coming from nukes.

And then we were taught just how evil these things were, and that we better act fast or we would all be dead from meltdowns and waste. So former antiwar protesters had a new cause to champion, and liberal administrations passed laws regulating new nukes out of existence.

But by that time we had already reached quotas and did not need any more nukes. The consumption of fossil fuels needed to be maintained at certain levels to maintain our influence in problematic regions around the world.

What we did need was an excuse to stop building nukes, and so one was dutifully created for us by hollywood, the media, and the politicians. At the proper Time, in the proper Manner.

So we were manipulated twice. Like sheep. That's what we're here for.

Expect nothing less from Shepherds.

May 06, 2019
Anti-nuclear sentiment is rooted in irrational fear
Its not irrational, its created. Its artificial. Its generated in tribalists looking for enemies to reinforce their sense of belonging.

Playing on tribal sentiment is the best way of manipulating people. Its dependable, its effective, it is very easy to manage and predict.

"13To Gabriel also the Lord said, Go to the bastards, to the reprobates, to the children of fornication; and destroy the children of fornication, the offspring of the Watchers, from among men; bring them forth, and excite them one against another. Let them perish by mutual slaughter; for length of days shall not be theirs."
Book of enoch chap 10

-This is why for instance one religion is never enough; you need 2 opposing faiths to keep each in line. You cant have libs without conservatives and vice versa. If these adversaries are not created, they will create themselves; this is the nature of the tribal human animal.

May 06, 2019
I think the accountants screwed it up by trying to shortcut safety procedures to save money over the short run. But you're entitled to your own opinions, @Otto.

May 06, 2019
I think the accountants screwed it up by trying to shortcut safety procedures to save money over the short run. But you're entitled to your own opinions, @Otto.
Shortcuts? How many accidents have we had with nukes in the US and europe? Apparently those killer regs werent needed.

May 06, 2019
"From 1963–1979, the number of reactors under construction globally increased every year except 1971 and 1978. However, following [TMI], the number of reactors under construction in the U.S. declined from 1980–1998, with increasing construction costs and delayed completion dates for some reactors... in total, 51 U.S. nuclear reactors were canceled from 1980–1984...

"At the time of the TMI incident, 129 nuclear power plants had been approved, but of those, only 53 (which were not already operating) were completed. During the lengthy review process, complicated by the Chernobyl Disaster seven years later, Federal requirements to correct safety issues and design deficiencies became more stringent, local opposition became more strident, construction times were significantly lengthened and costs skyrocketed."

-Kind of like how the sinking of the titanic ended transoceanic passenger ship travel in favor of commercial airlines. A little too convenient to escape suspicion.

May 06, 2019
It does not matter how poor the odds are, there will always be somebody that will end up with the jackpot. Chernobyl and Fukushima are the first but will not be the last. How much land can we afford to loose on this small planet.

May 06, 2019
It does not matter how poor the odds are, there will always be somebody that will end up with the jackpot. Chernobyl and Fukushima are the first but will not be the last. How much land can we afford to loose on this small planet.

"The Banqiao Reservoir Dam... among 62 dams in Zhumadian that failed catastrophically or were intentionally destroyed in 1975 during Typhoon Nina... According to the Hydrology Department of Henan Province, approximately 26,000 people died in the province[13] from flooding and another 145,000 died during subsequent epidemics and famine. In addition, about 5,960,000 buildings collapsed, and 11 million residents were affected. Unofficial estimates of the number of people killed by the disaster have run as high as 230,000 people..."

-Yeah how much do we have to 'loose' indeed.

May 06, 2019
"After Hurricane Harvey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released water from Houston's Addicks and Barker dams—two of the most high-risk dams in the country—inundating several thousand buildings with controlled releases to avoid destroying most of the city. In Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria cracked the Guajataca Dam, while downpours began to erode its spillway. The town of Isabela flooded and hundreds of people in the surrounding towns were forced to evacuate.

"In February 2017, torrential rains filled California's Oroville Dam—the tallest in the country—above capacity. After discovering that the original spillway had a sinkhole, officials diverted water to an emergency spillway, but the resulting erosion threatened the concrete structure above. With dam failure looming, nearly 200 thousand people were evacuated—and thousands of evacuees were stuck in traffic, unable to escape the danger zone. Luckily, the dam held..."

-Any day now...

May 06, 2019
...the association between radiation and cancer...
Wind and "Solar Emits 40 Times More Radiation Per Unit of Energy Than Nuclear (Due To Mining "Rare Earth" Metals)"
From Table 45, P 210, of https://www.unsce...CORR.pdf
"It's now also recognised by UNSCEAR that wind and solar energy are resulting in significant radiation exposure."
"The solar and wind fuel cycles emit considerably more radiation (mainly from mining rare earth metals) than the nuclear fuel cycle"
"Exposure to solar radiation kills as many as 18,000 Americans per year."
"There are no examples of members of the general public in the west who have died due to exposure to radiation from civilian nuclear power in the last 50 years".

May 06, 2019
Public dread of nuclear power is justified by the core melt accidents resulting in the release of radioactivity at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, and the lack of safe spent fuel storage limits its deployment.

May 07, 2019
Three Mile Island and Fukushima: zero deaths from radiation exposure.
Chernobyl: now a tourism zone.
"The only victim of Three Mile Island was my friend Edward Teller.*"
"*He suffered a heart attack defending nuclear energy against the lies of Jane Fonda and others."
Around one year after Three Mile Island, the Mount St Helens eruption released as much radioactive material as all nuclear weapons, as well polonium-210 worse than cesium-137 and protactinium-231 equivalent to plutonium-239 in terms of toxicity, and it was never mentioned by the mainstream mass media(in the pocket of the fossil fuels vested interests).
Fukushima radiation was less than a bunch bananas.
Chernobyl: 'We're getting less radiation here than on the plane'

May 07, 2019
If nuclear power had to be insured (like any other power plant has to be) then nuclear would be a non-starter.
The tax payer is the implicit insurance agency because any damages have to be alleviated with taxpayer money.
Add to that that the taxpayer also provides for the waste disposal and storage and when you look at the actual costs the it's an immediate non-starter.

(The only reasons anyone even considers these power plants is that it's easy to hide these costs because to the parties involved they "come later if at all" ...i.e. likely way after the responsible politicians and companies have made off with your money)

May 07, 2019
", and the lack of safe spent fuel storage limits its deployment."

THAT is a political problem not a scientific problem. The storage of used fuel in each facility is a very stupid and expensive non solution to a very easy problem. At some point in the future this fuel will be reprocessed and again be valuable.

May 07, 2019
If nuclear power had to be insured (like any other power plant has to be) then nuclear would be a non-starter
"During the accident at Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant in Middletown, Pa., in 1979, the Price-Anderson Act provided liability insurance to the public. ... Altogether, the insurance pools paid approximately $71 million in claims and litigation costs associated with the Three Mile Island accident."

-WHAT a moron.

'I'm SURE it cant be insured because well its NUCLEAR isnt it???'

May 07, 2019
The tax payer is the implicit insurance agency because any damages have to be alleviated with taxpayer money
"Power reactor licensees are required by the act to obtain the maximum amount of insurance against nuclear related incidents which is available in the insurance market (as of 2017, $450 million per reactor). Any monetary claims that fall within this maximum amount are paid by the insurer(s). The Price-Anderson fund, which is financed by the reactor companies themselves, is then used to make up the difference. As of September, 2013, each reactor company is obliged to contribute up to $121,255,000 per reactor in the event of an accident with claims that exceed the $450 million insurance limit. As of 2013, the maximum amount of the fund is approximately $12.61 billion..."

-Lies just roll off the tip of the tongue...

May 08, 2019
...waste disposal and storage...
"Nuclear manages all of its waste responsibly - while fossil fuels spew into the air, and wind and solar create larger environmental externalities."
"More solar panels mean more waste and there's no easy solution"
"It's going to be a major problem by 2050"
"If Solar Panels Are So Clean, Why Do They Produce So Much Toxic Waste?"
"Nuclear industry has produced 70,000 tons of waste. The coal industry produces that every 30 minutes."
"Natural Gas Drilling Produces Radioactive Wastewater"

May 09, 2019
"Nuclear manages all of its waste responsibly - while fossil fuels spew into the air, and wind and solar create larger environmental externalities etcetc"
Amen brother.

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