Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Here's the truth about nuclear waste: part 2

One of the things that worries me about nuclear is that what if global warming really is a hoax? What if it really is phony baloney, and we decide to go nuclear as a nation for our energy, and are left with all this nuclear radioactive waste that is expected to last a million years for nothing.

On a brighter side, however, scientists say that all the nuclear waste they ever expect to be leaked out of the Yucca Mountain, this would (as a worse case scenerio and a conservative estimate) amount to about "5,096 cubic feet. By volume, all this waste could fit into a studio apartment about twenty-five-feet with a ten-foot ceiling."

Thus, the amount of nuclear radioactive waste that would be considered a hazard over the next several thousand years amounts to a small fraction of a percent. The best scientists and statistitions have determined that the chance of radionuclinde in Storage at the Yucca Mountain storage facility leaking into thte nearby water table is 0.01%.

Where the Yucca Mountain sits is similar to a bowl, where there is almost no chance water will drain into nearby rivers is streams or lakes and "can't reach Las Vegas." And where the nuclear waste would be stored is naturally designed so there should be hardly any water runoff.

And, even if there was, the storage equipment (as I described in "Here's the truth about nuclear waste: part 1), is "insoluble and immobile." Likewise, it is impenitrable.

Consider it this way. In my side of the family, there are no people with spina bifida that I'm aware of. On my wife's side, there are a couple. Thus, my wife opted to take a prenatal test called "the maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test, performed between the 16th and 18th weeks of pregnancy." That is according to Kidshealth.org.

Now, with my baby KK, who is now a health 5-year-old of whom has complete control of my life, my wife's AFP test came up high. Our doctor sent us to Grand Rapids to see a genealogist and ultrasonographer. The genealogist lady mapped out our entire family tree, and gave us the chances that we would have a child with spina bifida: 1 in 250.

Do you know what 1 in 250 amounts to? It amounts to a 0.4% chance that our baby will have this disease. Did I do the math right? Something like that. Whatever it is, the chances are less than 1%.

Yet we were both still stressed before we heard the results of the 3-D ultrasound.

The neat thing about going to Grand Rapids is that they do a 3-D ultrasound. If you are ever going to have a baby, that is one COOL thing to watch. For KK, they made a tape for us of the ultrasound that we still have. Man, you can see things that you can't on a normal ultrasound.

This time around, the ultrasonographer told us a new doctor that arrived refuses to allow them to tape the ultrasound, so all she could do is make pictures. Still, that was cool. We have a neat picture of our baby grabbing and sucking on (his or her) umbilical cord.

On a side note, since we already have a boy and a girl, with this most recent pregnancy, we decided to not find out whether our baby is a boy or a girl (A secret I think will be nearly impossible to keep considering my wife works in OB and she has her OB RN friends do ultrasounds on her on a regular basis).

During our most recent visit to Butterworth in Grand Rapids, the ultrasonographer said: "I know you guys told me not to tell you what this baby is, but I'm going to." I could not make out what was on the screen, but she was about to tell me. "This is the brain. And, considering your baby has a brain, I can tell you it is a girl."

My wife loved that line for some reason.

Anyway, we still do not know what our baby is. But I can tell you, it is either a boy or a girl.

Okay, I have gotten a bit off topic, but I think you see what my point is. She told us that by looking at this ultrasound, that our baby had all its fingers, had a normal sized brain, had a great heart and heartbeat, had all its bones including its toes, and measured exactly as my brilliant wife predicted. And the babies spine was perfectly normal.

The odds were 99.75% that this would be the result. Yet, we were stressed none-the-less. It was our baby. Just like Nevada is the baby of Nevada residents. They are stressed over a less than 0.99% chance that these nuclear waste buried in a mountain in their state will effect them.

And, even though the chances of this baby having spina bifida were a whopping 0.25% as was
KK, our ultrasonographer said this baby, according to this ultrasound, was perfectly normal.

So here we are, in discussing the future of energy in the United States, being all stressed out and pessimistic about less than 1% of nuclear waste, and less than a 1% chance that something deadly would happen as a result.

Again, According to Gweneth Craven's book, "The Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy," (of whom I also attribute the above quote) there has never been a single death reported in the United States as a result of nuclear waste, or nuclear energy in general. It has not ever happened.

So, here we are, in the U.S. "spending a trillion dollars, (with) most of the public indignation, many studies, and hundreds of thousands of man-hours over decades to shape a plan for dealing with the nuclear waste turn out to be centered on some seven hundred metric tons of material, or 5096 cubic feet."

To put this in perspective, Cravens quotes political scientist John Kelly: You wouldn't want to be carrying some of those long-lived radionuclides in your pocket, not even after a million years. So that fraction of one percent is still a reason for caution and for taking prudent safety measures."

She quotes one scientist as saying this estimate is "conservative" at best, and said, "People tend to think that if something bad possibly could happen it will happen. That means people don't actually understand what uncertainties and probabilities are. It gets down to how to deal with uncertainties: What is the most that could be reasonably expected? It's a question of appearance."

Again, that's a lot of HOOPLA over the contents of a New York apartment complex, and even that amount would be leaked over thousands of years and not in one sincle instance, and this is a conservative estimate.

But, it's something of concern to a lot of people in Nevada, and the country as a whole, and the reason we are having this intelligent debate.

To be continued...

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