Thursday, 25 August 2016

Nuclear power plants cause climate change by emitting Krypton-85, not

"Nuclear news"

Is not a nuclear news site. It's a site full of junk written by keen antinuclear power activist Christina MacPherson / Noel Wanchope (They are the same person). Any lie or fabrication about nuclear power is repeated by nuclear news and sent out to her followers. The criteria for publication here is antinuclear good, pronuclear ignored. To some people nuclear news is a nutty site. To others it's a hero site. It's remarkable how similar it is in choice of story to mainstream newspapers like The Guardian: pronuclear all but banned, almost any antinuclear story published.

Let's look at one claim Christina makes on her site, for example the myth that

krypton-85 is responsible for climate change
Google gives 97 hits for this meme on Christina MacPherson's website:

Krypton-85 is a very rare radioactive gas found in earth's atmosphere and mostly originating from nuclear power. In particular it leaks out when spent fuel is reprocessed. Krypton is an inert gas, and does not react chemically with other atoms. It occurs in mono-molecular form, AKA: single atoms. Because it has made no bonds there is no polarization to speak of in the molecule and it has no radiative forcing effect.

The basis of this anti-nuke claim (Krypton-85 made by nuclear power causes climate change) originated decades ago from a speculative academic paper. The researchers said that if a lot more krypton-85 was made (tens, hundreds of times as much?), then it might have an effect. Krypton-85 decays with a ½-life = 10¾ years. When it decays it produces a positively charged ion and a negatively charged electron (beta-ray). The anti-nuke theory goes this atmospheric ionization causes climate change. Let's look at the numbers.

  1. There's a small amount of Kr-85. In 2009, the total amount of Kr-85 in the atmosphere was estimated at 5500 PBq due to human sources. This is 0.38 tonnes of Kr-85 in 5,140 trillion tonnes of air (making up all earth's atmosphere). 0.000000000074 ppm, or 0.000074 ppt (parts per trillion).
  2. The atmosphere is positively charged (overall). Earth has an overall negative charge. This is why lightning happens.
  3. 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. There are estimated to be around 2,000 lightning storms active around the globe at one time creating over 100 strikes per second. i.e. 500 coulombs discharged per second on earth.
  4. 5500 Pbq means, each second 5.5 × 1018 positive ions are made by Kr-85, and the same number of electrons. This is the number of Kr-85 decays happening. About 5.5 ÷ 6.241 coulomb. = 0.88 coulomb. This assumes all the negative ions are lost. Negative charge is not lost. All beta-rays are captured in the atmosphere. So there is no net charge contribution to the atmosphere from krypton-85. A beta ray (electron) can travel about 2 metres in air before it collides with an air molecule.
  5. Krypton-85 makes about 0.88 coulomb of positive and negative charge (per second). Each second, about 500 coulombs of charge in the atmosphere is neutralized by lightning.
  6. There has to be far more Kr-85 in the atmosphere for it to affect climate in any measurable way. Even then climate scientists dispute the effect of ionization, which is said to cause cloud formation, which either cools or warms depending on whether these are in the upper or lower atmosphere.
  7. I almost forgot. Significant buildup of Kr-85 will not happen because doubling the amount emitted (mostly by nuclear fuel reprocessing plants) will not double the amount in the atmosphere. This is because of its 10¾ year ½-life.

Alert observers may notice I already covered this once. I was completely baffled when I discovered this antinuclear power meme. It holds a kind of ghoulish fascination for me. As in: just how daft can hard-core anti-nukes get?


RationalWiki: Krypton-85 and climate change

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Concerns about National Academy of Sciences and Scientific Dissent

I found this. I can't resist posting it here.

Concerns about National Academy of Sciences and Scientific Dissent
Dec 15, 2015
Peter Wood

Introductory note: NAS president Peter Wood sent the following letter by email on December 9, 2015 to California members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dear Members of the National Academy of Sciences,

This is an NAS to NAS letter—which requires some “disambiguation.” I am president of the National Association of Scholars, founded in 1987, and whose organizers apparently didn’t give much thought to the space already occupied by those initials by the National Academy of Sciences, founded 124 years earlier. I’ll defer to the Academy’s seniority by reserving NAS in what follows for the body of scientists who incorporated during President Lincoln’s tenure. The National Association of Scholars is a broad-based group of academics that includes professors in the humanities and social sciences (I’m an anthropologist) as well as the natural sciences.

The occasion for this letter is Dr. Marcia K. McNutt, Editor-in-Chief of Science. We are concerned that she is the only official candidate to be the next NAS president. To be clear, the National Association of Scholars does not oppose Dr. McNutt’s candidacy. We simply believe that members of an important national organization like NAS should have at least two candidates to consider when voting for your next president. Indeed, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which publishes Science, always has two candidates for president and its other elected positions. Other scientific organizations also have two candidates for their elected positions.

Also, we want to bring to your attention our serious concerns about the current state of discourse in the sciences. Dr. McNutt has played a significant role in three active controversies involving national regulatory policy that deserve attention in themselves and that are also part of a larger problem. The larger problem is how the scientific establishment, particularly Science and NAS, should evaluate and respond to serious dissent from legitimate scientists. This is an especially important consideration for NAS, which was established to provide “independent, objective advice on issues that affect people's lives worldwide.”

The three controversies are:

  1. The status of the linear no-threshold (LNT) dose-response model for the biological effects of nuclear radiation. The prominence of the model stems from the June 29, 1956 Science paper, “Genetic Effects of Atomic Radiation,” authored by the NAS Committee on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation. This paper is now widely questioned and has been seriously critiqued in many peer-reviewed publications, including two detailed 2015 papers. These criticisms are being taken seriously around the world, as summarized in a December 2, 2015 Wall Street Journal commentary. In August 2015 four distinguished critics of LNT made a formal request to Dr. McNutt to examine the evidence of fundamental flaws in the 1956 paper and retract it. However, on August 11, 2015 Dr. McNutt rejected this request without even reviewing the detailed evidence. Furthermore, Dr. McNutt did not even consider recusing herself and having independent reviewers examine evidence that challenges the validity of both a Science paper and an NAS Committee Report.

    This is a consequential matter that bears on a great deal of national public policy, as the LNT model has served as the basis for risk assessment and risk management of radiation and chemical carcinogens for decades, but now needs to be seriously reassessed. This reassessment could profoundly alter many regulations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, and other government agencies. The relevant documents regarding the 1956 Science paper and Dr. McNutt can be examined at

  2. Extensive evidence of scientific misconduct in the epidemiology of fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) and its relationship to mortality. Since 1997 EPA has claimed that lifetime inhalation of about a teaspoon of particles with diameter less than 2.5 microns causes premature death in the United States and it established an national regulation based on this claim. Science has provided extensive news coverage of this issue and its regulatory significance, but has never published any scientific criticism of this questionable claim, which is largely based on nontransparent research.

    Earlier this year, nine accomplished scientists and academics submitted to Science well-documented evidence of misconduct by several of the PM2.5 researchers relied upon by EPA. The evidence of misconduct was first submitted to Dr. McNutt in a detailed June 4, 2015 email letter, then in a detailed July 20, 2015 Policy Forum manuscript “Transparent Science is Necessary for EPA Regulations,” and finally in an August 17, 2015 Perspective manuscript “Particulate Matter Does Not Cause Premature Deaths.” Dr. McNutt and two Science editors immediately rejected the letter and the manuscripts and never conducted any internal or external review of the evidence. This a consequential matter because many multi-billion dollar EPA air pollution regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan, are primarily justified by the claim that PM2.5 is killing Americans. The relevant documents regarding this controversy can be examined at

  3. Science promotes the so-called consensus model of climate change and excludes any contrary views. This issue has become so polarized and polarizing that it is difficult to bring up, but at some point the scientific community will have to reckon with the dramatic discrepancies between current climate models and substantial parts of the empirical record. Recent evidence of Science bias on this issue is the June 26, 2015 article by Dr. Thomas R. Karl, “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus”; the July 3, 2015 McNutt editorial, “The beyond-two-degree inferno”; the November 13, 2015 McNutt editorial, “Climate warning, 50 years later”; and the November 25, 2015 AAAS News Release, “AAAS Leads Coalition to Protest Climate Science Inquiry.”

    Dr. McNutt’s position is, of course, consistent with the official position of the AAAS. But the attempt to declare that the “pause” in global warming was an illusion has not been accepted by several respected and well-informed scientists. One would not know this, however, from reading Science, which has declined to publish any dissenting views. One can be a strong supporter of the consensus model and yet be disturbed by the role which Science has played in this controversy. Dr. McNutt and the journal have acted more like partisan activists than like responsible stewards of scientific standards confronted with contentious claims and ambiguous evidence. The relevant documents and commentary regarding the Karl paper and McNutt editorials can be examined at

All three of these controversies have arisen on issues in which a strong degree of scientific consensus became intertwined with public policy and institutional self-interest. That intertwining can create selective blindness.

Dr. McNutt has in her career found herself faced more than once with the challenge of what to do when an entrenched orthodoxy meets a substantial scientific challenge. The challenge in each case could itself prove to be mistaken, but it met what most scientists would concede to be the threshold criteria to deserve a serious hearing. Yet in each case Dr. McNutt chose to reinforce the orthodoxy by shutting the door on the challenge.

The three areas that I sketched above, however, seem to have such prominence in public policy that they would warrant an even greater investment in time, care, and attention than would be normally the case. In that light, Dr. McNutt’s dismissive treatment of scientific criticisms is disturbing.

I bring these matters to your attention in the hope of accomplishing two things: raise awareness that the three issues represent threats to the integrity of science arising from the all-too-human tendency to turn ideas into orthodoxies; and suggest that it might be wise for NAS to nominate as a second candidate for president someone who has a reputation for scientific objectivity and fairness and who does not enforce orthodoxy.

I welcome your responses. The National Association of Scholars will present an open forum on these matters with a section reserved specifically for NAS members. Furthermore, I will put you in contact with NAS members who are concerned about Dr. McNutt becoming the next NAS president.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Wood
National Association of Scholars
8 W. 38th Street, Suite 503
New York, NY 10018
(917) 551-6770