Thursday, 29 October 2015

Does nuclear power cause climate change?

Krypton-85 is a fission product produced in nuclear reactors. A small amount leaks, mostly from spent fuel, into the atmosphere, where it decays, with a half-life of 10.7 years, to rubidium-85, via beta decay. This decay produces two ionized particles: Rb-85(+) and an electron(-). Various environmentalists/climate campaigners [refs 2-6] claim this atmospheric ionization causes climate change. In 2005, the amount of Kr-85 in that atmosphere was 1.3 Bq/m³ [ref 1]

When I compare the rate of production of ions (from Kr-85) decay to the rate of neutralization (from lightning), I find neutralization overwhelms the effect of Kr-85 decay by 2 million to 1.

So is Krypton-85 a real climate risk or not. If it's a risk why isn't solar radiation also a massive risk. Why does mainstream climate science tar denier on solar radiation proponents, at the same time ignore those posing nuclear power as a major cause?


  • On average, about 4 Mega amps of lightning is discharged from atmosphere to earth each second.[refs 7,8]
  • Number of Kr-85 decays per second (in 2005)[refs 9-10]:
    = Number of decays per m³s-1 × total weight of air (kg) / weight 1m³ air
    = 1.3 × 5.15 . 1018 / 1.225 = 5.47 . 1018
  • Number of Kr-85 decay ionizations per second (in 2005) = 2 × 5.47 . 1018 = 1.094 . 1019
  • Global lightning discharges, per second:
    = number of amps discharged per second × number of elementary charges in one coulomb
    = 4 × 106 × 6.241 × 1018 = 2.4964 × 1025 [measured in elementary charges!]
  • Ratio of lightning discharge to Kr-85 ionizations = 2.284 × 106 = 2.3 million to 1 (in 2005)

So I'm baffled how a trace amount of krypton-85, decaying with a half-life of 10.7 years, can make such a great change to atmospheric ionization effects, given that the discharges due to lightning were 2,284,000 times greater in 2005.

Is Krypton-85 actually increasing? Not according to measurements taken below here: Variability of atmospheric krypton-85 activity concentrations observed close to the ITCZ in the southern hemisphere.

Measurements between August 2007 and May 2010 covered three wet seasons. The mean activity concentration of krypton-85 measured during this period was 1.31±0.02Bqm-3. A linear model fitted to the average monthly data, using month and monsoon as predictors, shows that krypton-85 activity concentration measured during the sampling period has declined by 0.01Bqm-3 per year.

Why do I never see climate scientists refuting anti-nuclear power claims such as: "nuclear power causes climate change"? I think many climate scientists seem happy to go along with any old garbage the anti-nuclear power movement come out with. No, I don't really thing that. I think they're totally focussed on the issues of GHG and denier narratives (such as the sun is the main cause of climate change). So much so they just don't care to refute this krypton-85 story.



  1. because Kr-85 is a trace, its quantity is measured by its decay, which, in 2005, was about 1.3 per second per cubic metre.


  1. "Majia's Blog" : Majia Holmer Nadesan (academic): Strangely Missing: Radionuclides' Effects on Climate
  2. "The Seneca Effect" : (Dutch academic blogger): Krypton-85: How nuclear power plants cause climate change
  3. "Climate Risks from Nuclear Power. Radioactive Krypton 85: Atmospheric-Electrical and Air-Chemical Effects of Ionizing Radiation in the Atmosphere"
  4. "After Cancún: Climate Governance or Climate Conflicts", edited by Elmar Altvater, Achim Brunnengräber, pp178-179 "In addition, nuclear power plants are emitting other gases, which also contribute to climate change. Of all the radioactive materials, the ionization of the air with radioactive noble gas, krypton-85, a product of nuclear fission, is the most intense ..."
  5. "The Global Casino, Fifth Edition: An Introduction to Environmental Issues", By Nick Middleton"


  1. According to: V Rakov, M Uman "Lightning: Physics and Effects", CUP 2003 : An average bolt of lightning carries a negative electric current of 40 kiloamperes (kA) (although some bolts can be up to 120 kA), and transfers a charge of five coulombs and energy of 500 MJ, or enough energy to power a 100-watt lightbulb for just under two months.
  2. National Geographic say: "about 100 [lightning bolts] strike Earth's surface every single second"


  1. Density of the atmosphere = 1.225 kg/m³
  2. The atmosphere has a mass of about 5.15 × 1018 kg
  3. Ampere is equivalent to one coulomb (roughly 6.241 × 1018 times the elementary charge) per second.

Climate science

  1. W.L. Boeck "Environmental consequences of atmospheric krypton-85". Final report, January 1, 1977-September 30, 1979
  2. Climate risks by radioactive krypton-85 from nuclear fission Atmospheric-electrical and air-chemical effects of ionizing radiation in the atmosphere

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