MYTHS OF NUCLEAR SAFETY DOSE AND ECONOMICS


Prof.T.Shivaji Rao,

Director, Centre for Environmental Studies,Institute of Science

                                                Gitam University, Visakhapatnam-530 045

People are exposed to a background Natural radiation of 130 milli rems per year.  Man made pollution adds 5 milli rems.  Exposures due to luminous watches  and teleivision screens are each equal to 2 to 3 percent of the back ground radiation.  Some atomic energy officials feel that exposure of workers to ionizing radiation of 5 rems per year will not cause any harm. In the USA while the Environmental protection Agency reduced the annual limit of exposure from 500 milli rems to 25 milli rems for residential zones around the Nuclear plants, the Energy Research Agency recommended a limit of only 5 milli rems for the general public.  Environmental scientists hold that as any minute level of radiation produces cancer and irreversible genetic deformities, no dose radiation is so low that the risk of cancer becomes zero. Unfortunately while the above limits to what is locally released from the plant into the environment are carefully regulated the cumulative impact of radioactive pollutants from all nuclear activities and their grave consequences of their biological magnification and slow poisoning effects on plants, animal and human populations even in the remote areas are not studied on scientific lines.

Only 400 Reactors in the World

It is estimated by the International Nuclear power commission that by the end of the Century 4500 Nuclear Power Reactors with a capacity of 1000 MWe each Reactor, will be working.  But as two thirds of world population are agitating against the Nuclear power only 400 Reactors are working at Present not even 10% of the target.

   APPENDIX-I

HARMFUL EFFECTS OF RADIATION

A) Dosage and damage to public health:

Dose in rems

Effects

0-50

No visible symptoms except changes in blood

80-220

Vomiting and Nausea for one day plus symptoms of radiation sickness in 10% upto 120 rems: 25% upto 170 rems: 50% upto 220 rems

270-500

Vomiting and Nausea on first day plus sickness among all people with 20% deaths within 6 weeks upto 330 rems and 50% deaths in 1 month upto 500 rems

550-750

Vomiting and Nausea within 4 hours and deaths upto100%

B) Single High Dose-Late-Effects

Cancer

Blood, nervous system, thyroid. In excess of 100 rems, Leukaemia rises  correspondingly

Cataracts

Lenses of eyes become increasingly opaque, 200 rems

Fertility

Brief sterility at 150 rems

Degeneration

Impairment of organ functions

Mutations

Rate doubled between 20 and 200 rems

Life-shortening

Radiologists have 5 years lowered lifespan

c) Chronic Low-doses

Cancer, immune deficiency, mutations, still-births, abortions etc.

Cumulative effects of Radioactive Pollutants in Nature

Element

Freshwater

Sea water

 

Fishes

Plants

Fishes

Plants

H

1

1

1

1

K

4,400

--

16

13

Ca

70

350

2

10

Mn

81

1,50,000

363

5,230

Co

1,615

6,670

650

553

Zn

1,744

3,155

3,400

900

Sr

14

200

04

21

Cs

3,680

907

48

51

Ce

81

3,180

99

1,610

(From: Environmental Radioactivity: Eisenbund) Zn-65 of 25,000ths of a Pico-Curie in Columbia river showed up in Man at 4,000 Pico-Curies indicating high accumulation!

APPENDIX- II

SOME OF THE ISOTOPES PRESENT IN SPENT FUEL

Element

Half-Life

Implication

Tritium 3H

2 Years

Emits beta rays – absorbed internally

Krypton 85Kr

44 Hours

Radiates beta rays inert gas

Strontium 90Sr

28 Years

Emits-beta rays- bones, lungs absorb

Iodine 131I

8 Days

Emits beta rays – Thyroid absorbs

Xenon 133Xe

5 Days

An inert radioactive gas

Cesium 137Ce

30 years

Irradiates body absorbed internally

Plutonium 239Pu

24,300 Years

Hazard to health- body organs - absorb

(Source: Peat, David, The Nuclear Book: What happened at Harrisburg? And can it happen here? (1979) P.47

APPENDIX-III

Comparative Costs of Nuclear, Hydel and Thermal Power

I.

Hydel-Power Schemes

Cost/Unit

 

i) Tanakpur Banbasa Hydel-Scheme on river Sarada, 00 MW

35 Paise

    

ii) Katakther Hydel Scheme on River Yamuna

39 Paise

 

iii) Lakhwar Vyasi Multi-purpose scheme

26 Paise

II

Thermal Power Plants

 

 

i) Annapara (3 x 500 MW) revised 8/83, Mirzapur District.

37 Paise

 

ii) Raoli T.P.S. Project (4 x 210 MW) 6/82, Bijnor District

40 Paise

 

iii) Partabpur TPS Project 8/82 (4 x 500 MW) Allahabad District

38 Paise

III

Diesel Power Plants

 

 

 i) 50 KW Bagheswar Power Station Almora (964)

200 Paise

 

ii) 150 KW Dharchula Power Station Pithorgarh District (1975)

85 Paise

 

iii) 1.5 MW at Riki, Distt.Kinnar (1979)

96 Paise

Source: Indian Journal of Power & River Valley Development Sept-Oct.1984)

 IV.  Cost of Electricity from a 2 x 235 MWe Nuclear Plant to be Commissioned during the 1990s

Basis

 

Project Cost

Rs. 530 Crores (Rs/11,300 per KWe)

Heavy Water Cost

Rs. 6635 per kg

Uranium fuel cost

Rs. 4545 per kg

Project construction time

8 years

Economic operating life

25 years

Energy sales

 2780 Million Units per year

Interest during construction

6.9% per annum

Heavy water lease charges

8%    per annum

Return on Capital employed

12% per annum

Rate of depreciation

3.6% per annum

Methodology

Return on Investment method

 

Break-up of Cost of electricity(Paise per Kilo Watt –hour)

Return on Capital                     - 28

 

Fixed charges           = 47 Paise

Operating expenses = 18 Paise

 

Total cost                   = 65 Paise

Heavy water lease charges       - 10

Depreciation                               - 8

Decommissioning expenses       - 1 

Fuel Consumption                     - 11

Heavy Water Consumption      - 4

Operation & Maintenance        - 3

(Source: Indian Journal of Power& River Valley Development, Nov., Dec., 1984)

 

VOICE OF THE WORLD

After  Chernobyl Disaster, almost all the European countries have stopped the construction of Nuclear power plants, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and Netherlands decided not to have Nuclear power.

In USSR because of the people’s anti-Nuclear agitation, 6 Nuclear power projects have been closed down.

After the accident in Three mile Island, America has not started even a single Nuclear power Reactor, 108 proposed projects have been cancelled.

Austria closed its only Nuclear power plant within few months after Chernobyl Disaster

Sweden is going to close down all the Nuclear power Reactors by 2010 year.  This is in consequence of the Judgement of the court.

                                                                 (News from New Delhi October 11, 1988)

 

NUCLEAR POWER UNSAFE?

According to Dr.Hannes Alfven, Nobel Laureate in Physics, “Fission energy is safe only:-

-         if a number of critical devices work as they should

-         if a number of people in key positions follow all their instructions,

-         if there is no sabotage, no hijacking of the transports,

-         if no reactor fuel processing plant or reprocessing plant or repository any where in the world is situated in a region of riots or guerilla activity, and no revolution or war – even a conventional one –takes place in these regions.

The enormous quantities of extremely dangerous material must not get into the hands of ignorant people or desperados.  No acts of God can be permitted”-

(From “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,” May 1972)

DISASTER MANAGEMENT AT CHERNOBYL

The explosion that shattered Chernobyl reactor-4 occurred at 1-23 am on April 26, 1986.

In keeping with the Contingency plan, residents of the town of Pripayat were evacuated on April 27, 1986.  As the radiation situation was being assessed , it was decided to evacuate a 30km zone around the reactor site.

…Much credit is due to the Special army units which have cleaned up, in complicatd radiation condition, an area of some 5 million sq.m including the plants  including the plants interior, and shipped some 500 thousand cu.m. of contaminated soil and debris for burial. 

…More than 600 population centres, including Chernobyl and Pripayat were cleaned  up and whenever necessary the cleaning was repeated (in certain villages, regional centres and some of the buildings in Pripayat).  Simultaneously machinery and equipment were clearned repeatedly and dust settlement and other measures were carried out.

                                                                                 - BScherbin, Djy.Prime Minister, USSR

(From the bi-monthly  “Science in the USSR, Jan 1989)

 

LESSONS FROM CHERNOBYL!

We must learn one major lesson from Chernobyl

…No amount of Safety precautions can rule out an unfortunate combination of mechanical failures or human errors.

…In future, therefore, we must pay equal attention to nuclear plant safety and to effective ways of dealing with nuclear plant accidents.

…The tragedy of Chernobyl must stimulate research into what should be a fundamentally new generation of advanced reactors with built in self protection systems.

                                                                           - B.Scherbin, Deputy Prime Minister, USSR

(From the bi-monthly Science in the USSR Jan, 1989)

 

CHERNOBYL

The Soviets estimated that the Chernobyl disaster released the fission product (excluding the noble gases like Xenon and Krypton) of 3.5 percent of the core material amounting to 6 to 7 tonnes of material with 50 million curies of radioactivity.  The inert gases might account for other 50 million curies.  Among the toxic radioactive pollutants released are: Xenon, Krypton, Iodine, Caesium, Strontium and Plutonium

 

POOR DISASTER MANAGEMENT DURING ACCIDENTS!

According to Indian atomic experts, sheltering and distribution of Iodine tablets to protect people during accidents is taken up at radiation levels of 10 milli-sieverts and 100 milli sieverts (1 sievert = 100 rems) for whole body and thyroid, whereas for evacuation dose levels of 100 milli sieverts and 1000 milli-sieverts to the whole body and thyroid are considered appropriate!  Evacuation for a design basis accident is limited upto 3 km around the reactor.  Moreover the experts state that planning of detailed counter-measure is carried out at the stage of commissioning of the Nuclear Plant?

 

ARE THE LIVES OF INDIANS WORTHWHILE?

The report prepared by the experts of Brookhaven Laboratories on “Theoretical possibilities and consequences of Major accidents in large Nuclear Power Plants” (WASH 740) predicted in 1956 that an accident with a 50% release of the Core Inventory from a 200MW  reactor would produce 3,400 deaths, 43,000 injuries and property damage of 7000 million dollars.  One important consequence this report was the passage in 1957 by the US Congress of the Price-Anderson Act designed to protect the Nuclear industry from liability in the event of major accidents.  Out of 560 million dollars to be paid as compensation for an accident , 500 million dollars was to be provided by the Government while the remaining 60 million dollars had to be covered through insurance policies purchased by the nuclear industry.

A bill to extend the life of this Act was approved by the US Senate on 19th March 1988.  The liability for off-site damages during an accident was raised from 700 million dollars to 7000 million dollars – a ten fold increase.  The victims of nuclear accident have to merely prove that they suffered damages to draw on the pool of funds, thus avoiding the possibility of lengthy court proceedings over liability.

If the value of the life of an Indian is considered to be as precious as that of an American, the Nuclear experts, the members of the local bodies, legislatures and the Parliament must pressurize the state and central Governments to pass legislation similar to the Price-Anderson Act with a financial provision of Rs.10,000 crores towards compensation for victims of nuclear accidents.  Unless such a law is enacted, the state and central Governments have no moral right to permit the establishment and operation of Nuclear power plants any where in the country.

  

300 Radiation Leakage Cases

As many as 300 “incidents” of serious nature have occurred causing radiation leaks and physical damage to workers in the nuclear plants.  The Tarapur Atomic Power Station, for example, was the scene of several mishaps and at least three persons died in the inert chamber inside the station and more than 3,000 workers and engineers were exposed to non-permissible doses of radiation.  In another case, a reprocessing plant had to be scrapped  because of high contamination costing the country crores of rupees in unaccounted secret public funds.  In August 1981, RAPS Unit-I was shut down following the detection of leakage from one of its end shields.  As the damage was in a highly radioactive area, about 2,000 workers suffered from unusually high levels of radiation and about 300 workers were hospitalized.

                                                             -- Dhirendra Sharma, HINDU, 14th Marhch ‘89

 

PUBLIC AND PARLIAMENT HAVE NO INFORMATION OF THE ACCIDENTS

The public and Parliament have no access to the details of these accidents while the Minister claimed on the floor of the Lok Sabha that India’s record of safety is “very high” and is “Satisfactory”.  But there is no independent competent agency in the country which can look into the safety records of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and under the secrecy provisions of the Atomic Energy Act 1962 the Government refuses the public access to critical information.

One does not question the high caliber of Indian scientists and engineers engaged in the nuclear programme.  But there is no fail-safe reactor system which can guarantee absolute safety to life and the environment.  All assessments of risk are probabilistic,” because none can simulate an atomic accident of melt down at 3000oC hat and since the atomic fission process falls within human engineering, it suffers from fallibility.

                                                                           -- Dhirendra Sharma, HINDU, 14th March ‘89

 

NUCLEAR POWER UNSAFE?

According to Dr.Hannes Alfven, Nobel Laureate in Physics, “Fission energy is safe only:-

-         if a number of critical devices work as they should

-         if a number of people in key positions follow all their instructions,

-         if there is no sabotage, no hijacking of the transports,

-         if no reactor fuel processing plant or reprocessing plant or repository any where in the world is situated in a region of riots or guerilla activity, and no revolution or war – even a conventional one –takes place in these regions.

The enormous quantities of extremely dangerous material must not get into the hands of ignorant people or desperados.  No acts of God can be permitted”-

(From “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,” May 1972)