Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Contrarian View from Dr. Art Robinson

Life Extension By Plutonium

Enviros assure us and news media parrot their claims that plutonium is the most dangerous substance known to man. American nuclear power plants are still not permitted to recycle their high-level radioactive waste, while most countries do recycle. Recycling automatically disposes of 97% of this waste. Our bureaucrats prohibit recycling largely because of the terrible "dangers'' posed by plutonium - the most demonized material on the planet.

Of interest, therefore, is "Fifty Years of Plutonium Exposure to the Manhattan Project Plutonium Workers: An Update'' by G. L. Voelz, J. N. P. Lawrence, and E. R. Johnson, Health Physics 73, No. 4, pp 611-618 (1997). The subjects (workers at Los Alamos) received, on average, a three-fold higher exposure to plutonium than the maximum currently recommended by the National Council on Radiation Protection.

Standard mortality ratios of the exposed workers when compared to the general population and to unexposed contemporary Los Alamos workers were 0.43 and 0.77 respectively. In other words the number of exposed workers who have died as compared with the these two groups is less by 57% and 23%. The second comparison is especially relevant, since it avoids systematic differences in life style between Los Alamos workers and the general population.

These results are in agreement with the many other studies of nuclear workers and other groups, (see previous issues of Access to Energy), which have shown that radiation exposure extends lifespan.

Cool It

Although we do not know which direction the sun will fluctuate over the coming years - warmer or cooler - it is clear which direction we should hope that it will fluctuate. If the Earth becomes warmer than humans think desirable, there are several means by which human activity can cool the Earth. If the Earth becomes too cool, however, there is no known practical way to generate enough energy to warm it.

[For instance], S. S. Penner, (Journal of Clean Technology and Environmental Sciences 3, No. 3/4 (1993), who works at the University of California at San Diego, has estimated that the conversion of about 2% of the jet fuel in commercial jet airliners during a four-year period into particulate forms similar to those emitted by volcanoes could cool the Earth by about 3 ºC. Extrapolating to expected air transport in the year 2050, he estimates that this could be done by the same means in one year rather than four.

Professor Penner estimates the cost of this cooling method based upon either conversion of ordinary jet fuel or the use of a new jet fuel into which coal has been blended. He proposes that the method be developed by careful studies of volcanoes - which currently cool the Earth in the same manner. His rough current estimates are that 1.5 ºC of cooling with coal blended fuel would cost less than $300 million. The particulates produced would shield the Earth from a part of the sun's radiation - so small a part that people on the Earth could not see the shield or personally detect its presence. [...]
[W]e can be certain that this method would work because volcanoes frequently cool the Earth in the same way.

We can only hope that the sun's activity tends toward the warm side. [...] We have means available to cool the Earth, but we have no means available to warm it. If our climate becomes too warm, human engineers can fix it. If, on the other hand, natural forces were to lead us into a new ice age, our engineers have no means available with which to counteract this.

Human engineers have available a low cost air conditioning cooler than can be applied to the whole Earth. They do not, however, have available a heater. Therefore, we should bias all of our activities toward warming in case the sun becomes cooler.


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

During a break at the planning commission today, I had a talk with a young lady taping the meeting. She was quite concerned about agricultural chemicals and similar threats.

I pointed out to her that I grew up in a house with asbestos siding, that B29s bombed our neighborhood with corn poisoned with Malathion (against fire ants) and that we used to ride our bikes in the cloud of DDT from the truck that sprayed the neighborhood for mosquitoes twice a week, that I was old enough to be her father and that I am still alive.

February 13, 2007 9:16 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Yes, it's helpful to keep things in perspective.

Human-caused carcinogens ought to be limited as much as possible, but the vast bulk of their toll falls on the minority of people who are sensitive to a given carcinogen's specific effect on human cells, not on "average" people.

For the non-sensitive, not smoking, eating in moderation, and buckling seatbelts matter much more than whether or not there are trace pesticide residues on the ag products they consume.

February 13, 2007 10:07 PM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

From the font of wisdom that is Repo Man:

J. Frank Parnell: "Radiation, yes indeed! You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked, goggle-boxed do-gooders
telling everybody it's bad for you. Pernicious nonsense! Everybody could stand a hundred chest x-rays a year. They should have them too."


Lite: "Put your seatbelt on, boy. I don't ride with anybody 'less they wear their seatbelt. It's one of my rules"

February 14, 2007 9:16 PM  

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