Nuclear abolition and the whole nuclear chain

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Nuclear abolition and the whole nuclear chain

Andreas Nidecker

IPPNW (Internatl. Physicians for Prev. Of Nuclear War)

ICAN (Internatl. Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)

Nuclear Energy (NE)

Civil use of NE in many countries considered as a modern and cheap way for energy production, however we and many others for years believed it is too dangerous and expensive and an outmoded way to generate electricity.
After Fukushima wider public share this view. Together with coal and fossile fuels, NE in our opinion will need to be abandoned in the future, which is new policy of Switzerland and Germany.
Today‘s young generation needs to understand the downside of NE and to strongly oppose any new Nuclear power plants (NPP) planned anywhere.

Radiation: why worry? (I)

  • 3 types of atomic radiation given of by radioactive materials: alpha, beta and gamma radiation.
  • Every radioactive material is either a beta or an alpha emitter. Some radioactive materials also give off gamma rays.
  • Of these 3 radiations, gamma rays are the most penetrating and therefore easiest to detect, because the rays travel far from the source. Gamma rays can damage living cells from the outside (external irradiation) or from the inside (internal irradiation).

Radiation: why worry? (II)

  • Alpha rays or particles are much more biologically damaging than gamma rays, but they are not very pene- trating. They are entirely an internal hazard and are very difficult to detect.
  • Beta “rays” are also fast-moving electrically charged particles, much less massive than an alpha particles and  more penetrating than alpha p., but less than Gamma rays
  • Beta are also primarily internal hazard, but can damage healthy skin and cause cataracts. They are harder to detect than gamma rays.

The Nuclear Chain: from Uranium Mining to Nuclear Waste Disposal …

Risks of contamination by radiation during

  • uranium mining and processing
  • normal operation of nuclear power plants
  • accidents as in Chernobyl and Fukushima
  • transport and storage of nuclear waste

Health risks for entire population, but in particular for

  • small children and fetus of pregnant women. Increasing
  • scientific evidence of damage due to chronic low level
  • radiation in and around plants or mining sites.

New evidence of low level radiation effects:

  • German KiKK (Kinder Krebs Studie) showed doubling of childhood leukemia around NPPs.
  • New study by Hagen und Scherb shows influence on sex odds ratio. Normally slightly more boys are being born than girls. Around NPPs this ratio is inversed, which is likely due to a genetic effect. Observation has been published in peer reviewed journals
  • Must consider, that it is not just the late occuring solid tumors which are worrysome. Also a number of non-cancerous detrimental health effects, caused by genetic or perigenetic influences. Eg. today Cesium cardiomyopathies and vascular diseases, eye and kidney diseases. and diabetes in children are known.

And now Fukushima: why it is worse than Chernobyl … Ref: G. Edwards, mathematician and nuclear expert in Montreal Canada, recipient Nuclear free future award  2011

  • No one has ever before experienced the extensive radioactive contamination of air, water, soil, and food facing the Japanese after the Fukushima disaster.
  • Each NPP contains > 1000x as much radioactive material as fallout from a Hiroshimatype atomic bomb.
The atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused enor-mous destruction, brought brought by blast and by fireball. This caused massive radiation exposures, mainly neutron and gamma-radiation, delivered at instant of the explosion. But fall-out in the  bombed cities was relatively little, because both bombs were deliberately detonated high in the air so that the shock wave would do the most damage on the ground. Thus no crater was created by the blast, and most of the fallout was carried high into the atmosphere by the heat of the fireball. It became global fallout more than local fallout.

And Chernobyl …

Similarly, in Chernobyl, there was an explosion followed by a very hot graphite fire that raged for days, lofting much of the radioactive fallout high into the air, and sending it across vast distances.
A lot of it was deposited in Belarus and other European countries; it contaminated the sheep in Northern England and Wales for two decades. Some of it made its way across the ocean to contaminate the mosses in Northern Canada, which resulted in measurable increases of radioactive cesium in the bodies of the native Inuit people who fed on the caribou that fed on the mosses.

But at Fukushima …

  • Meltdown of 3 reactors as well as pool with spent fuel pool that caught fire and spewed radioactive debris directly into the atmosphere.
  • Because there was no fireball, no burning cities, and no burning graphite, the radioactive fallout stayed closer to the ground and contaminated everything.
  • The local contamination at ground level is more extensive and more insidious than anything that has previously been experienced.
  • Radioactive iodine has already done its worst, though the results will not be seen for decades in terms of thyroid cancers and developmental abnormalities caused by damage to embryos, infants and children.
  • Cesium, strontium,plutonium, americium and dozens of other radioactive species will be in the soil and the food and the bodies of Japanese living near the affected areas and even those further away for decades, even centuries to come.
  • As mentioned, long-term effects of chronic exposure of such a large population to the internal radioactive contamination from Fukushima could be dramatic

The 7 worries of Nuclear Energy:   Costs, Security, Waste, Water, Radiation, Ressources, Proliferation   („CO SE WA WA RA RE PRO“)


  1. very high and steadily rising for investment,
  2. maintenance and increasing security of NPPs and
  3. waste management.
  • Furthermore also increasing prize for Uranium as rssource and rising premiums for insurance.
  • Lastly should also include the costs for decomissioning of the plants which is rarely considered by Government / utilities.


  1. Terrorism nowadays a threat every- where. But not just direct hits with an airplane or missile can damage core of a NPP.
  2. Terrorists just need to find a way to cut the circuitry   of a NPP and the cooling system may go out of control, just as it happened in Fukushima.
  3. A direct hit or the melting of the core can potentially cause widespread radioactive contamination and make a region uninhabitable for centuries.
  • WASTE: Local communities never happy. No single waste repository exists today.
  • Eg. Yucca Flats in the US State of Nevada = holy mountain of the local indians. Also Game industry in Las Vegas unhappy about state becoming waste repository site.
  • In Switzerland long discussion, where nucl. waste one day should go. Public resistance (principle of the overflowing bath- tub: when bath overflows, before You wipe up ground, stop faucett i.e. stop producing waste before discussing wastestorage
  • High level waste as Pu is problem: usually kept in basins may catch fire or explode, as it happened in Kysthym/ Chelyabinsk in the former Sowjet Union in 1957, when a tank with Pu waste exploded and approx. 270’000 persons in a fallout area of 15’000 Square km were contaminated.


  1. 3 areas of concern: a) water for uranium mining b) for cooling of reactors and c) danger of water contamination…
  2. Uranium Mining needs huge amounts of water
  3. Many reactors cooled by rivers: But need for water cooling at times of global water scarcity, e.g. in countries of the Middle    East or outback reagions in Australia. Water temperature increases in rivers past the NPP
  4. But also danger of contamination: Fishermen in Japan cannot   sell their catch. Same fears in Indian village of Madban, where Indian Govt plans 5 large nuclear reactors. Fear that NPP will discharge contaminated water into sea, ruining the local fishing industry


  1. major concern for pts. and their doctors
  2. Problem: Radiation cannot be tasted or smelled and its toxic effects particularly of chronic small doses of internal radiation is not felt by patients and difficult to prove by doctors.
  3. This makes it relatively easy to negate radiation effects by authorities, in particular, since radiation is „competing“ with other existing toxic effects as smoking, alcohol, air pollution, chemicals in nutrition etc. These can be easily blamed for any observed detrimental health effects.
  4. Lastly radiation induced cancers occur yrs after exposure and large epidemiological studies are difficult to conduct.


  1. Uranium – non-renewable resource, mined in   approx. 15 countries (several African states as Namibia, Niger, and Australia and Canada).
  2. Today about 2.5% of the worldwide energy demand are met by NE. U resources used yearly by the 440 NPPs worldwide last for another 80 years (if same nr. of power plants!)
  3. High demand of U explains steady rise ist prize on world market. U mining = extremely dirty business and consumes a lot of water. It leaves the mining area destroyed after exploration.
  4. Other ressource today the more widely available Thorium is discussed as fuel of the future. Lastly Pu from reprocessing i.e. breeder reactors. Both mentioned by industry to counter wide- spread arguments that NE has no future! But Pu extremely toxic


Pu239 is one of the deadliest substances   known. Halflife 24000 years and alpha emitter with extreme biolo-  gical damage to tissues. A few microgramms can cause cancers.
Pu serves to generate energy or manufacture nuclear weapons.   Done in so called dual purpose reactors as Hanford USA , but Pu production possible in civilian reactors: E.g. many Swiss citizen   don’t know, that  Pu from Swiss NPPs being reprocessed in the   French plant of La Hague, ends up in the French nuclear bombs.
High grade (highyl enriched, pure) Pu can sustain fission reaction   and is used to ignite Nuclear bombs. As many countries possess   large quantities of military grade Pu, there are major reasons for   worry about so called Pu-link, increa- sing risk for nuclear proli-  feration. But also major environmental problem, as waste storage   of Pu is expensive and dangerous.
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