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Phyr.Educ.P (1993).

Ptintedlnthe UK

Public risks from the nuclear industry
George Marx
This Is the third and llnal pari of a paper presented by Professor George Man of Eatviis University, Budapest, at the 1991 Pan-American Xlence Conference In Venezueta. The first part appeared In January and the second In March. Almost 50% of the electricity produced in Hungary comes from nuclear power. In the vicinity of the nuclear power station the extra load due to the operation of the power plant has never exceeded 0.0001 mSv/year. (The physical meaning and medical risk of this unit has been discussed in the two preceding parts of this paper entitled 'Everyday risks' and 'Risks of radioactivity'). Let us quote Edward Teller's formulation: by sharing a bed with someone else one receives 100 times more radiation than by sitting at the gate of this power plant for the same period. The nuclear industry releases activity mostly in the form of gaseous fission products-the noblegases"Ar, "Kr. '"Xe. '"Xe-which one inhales and then exhales. The radioactive aerosol emission of the Hungarian Nuclear Power Station is 100 times less per k W h of electrical energy than the activity released in the smoke of some Hungarian coal power plants. (Dissolved uranium salts precipitate on humus and peat in an insoluble form, which is why some brown coals are rich in uranium.) The nuclear plants of the world supply about 200 GW of electrical power. The related industry (radon release from uranium mining, active Kr and Xe emission from fuel reprocessing) brings an extra load upon the population of the Northern hemisphere: world's nuclear industry 0.000 15 mSv/year per person. , - . In 1988 the estimated global collective dose on mankind was 2000 Sv from watches with luminous dials. The collective population load was 1000 Sv from nuclear power; it was 5000 Sv for workers in the nuclear industry. Thus the risk of nuclear electricity may be I casualtylGWyear as a world average. The corresponding collective risks values
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are 100,50 and 250 per year. (There are thousands of victims every day in traffic accidents.) In Hungary, the coalpower stations led to more than IO fatal casualties per GWyear in the case of deep mining, and more than 3 per GWyear in the case of surface mining. Carcinogenic air pollution contributes further casualties due io coal power plants in the population. The case of oil power is no better. For economic reasons, the heaviest oil is bumed to produce electricity. In Hungary, the heavy metal content of the imported oil causes serious chemical air pollution in the vicinity of OUT largest oil power plant, resulting in a high number of respiratory problems among schoolchildren.

Chernobyl The anxiety over nuclear radiation stems from the consequences of the tragic am'dent that happened at the nuclear power station in Chernobyl (Ukraine). The author of the preset paper paid a personal visit to Chemobyl in late 1991, with a doseratemeter in hand. The number of direct casualties was 30, and might have approached 100 within the first year. The amount of ejected radioactivitycould be measured; it is known worldwide, and so is the activity of the fallout reaching different countries. (The present main health hazard is the fission fallout "'Cs, which can be incorporated in the human body, as a consequence of its chemical similarity to K, but the radiation load does not reach the maximum tolerated load even at Reactor 3, located in the same building as the destroyed Reactor 4.) The radiation dose received in the first year (April 1986-April 1987) was measured to be: 50 mSv Pripjat, town near,Chemobyl European ex-USSR (estimated) 1 mSv European average outside ex-USSR 0.25 mSv Hungarian average 0.2 mSv N Africa, SW Asia 0.02 mSv Other continents < 0.01 mSv. The first-year dose of 0.2 mSv for Hungary seems to be tolerable when compared with the yearly

4 x ( 5 0 x 10-6)=200 Europe excluding ex-USSR = I7 500 NR< (700 X IO6) X 0.average dose of 3 mSv. Ignorance and unius/$ed anxiety may killas well. The associated risk amounts R = 10 microrisks (still in accordance with Californian law). since then a large fraction of the radioactive fallout has decayed. without good reason). In the months following the Chernobyl accident the number of surgical abortions jumped by 40 000 in Western Europe (as we have seen. The wide peaks in the 1960s originated from the atmospheric testing of H-bombs. which is probably a pessimistic estimation. For 1986 one can notice a sharp peak due to the Chernobyl release. Iran. The memoirs of Andrei Sakharov (published in 1990) describe how he became irritated by the plans to test the 100 megaton bombs developed in the 1960s. great wars before 1950. the Southern Hemisphere by the tests in the South Pacific. Hiroshima. The Northern Hemisphere had become contaminated by the test explosions in Siberia. Atmospheric bomb test8 Thousands of victims from an industrial accident are certainly an unacceptable price for comfort. Atmorpherr 4 000 The great London smog ( I 952) 250 000 Dam collapse in China (1986) Chernobyl nuclear accident (1986) 40 000 3 000 Bhopal chemical accident (1987) Typhoon and flood in Bangladesh (1991) 120 000.) In the era of anxiety people are afraid of risks.01 Present H-bomb I 100 megaton bomb IO All atmospheric experiments 100 Windscale reactor accident (1957) 0. The team from the International Atomic Energy Agency found. half of the active fallout was concentrated in the first year. to suppress radon contamination from the soil) is monitored continuously near Budapest (figure 1). the other half spread over later years. One may get more alarming numbers. (20% of Europeans will die of cancer anyway. If they get into the atmosphere. He made some rough estimations: all previous nuclear explosions had not emitted as much radioactivity as the explosion of a single 100 megaton bomb would do.01 mSv/year. they create risks that cross narrow borders. This may give about 40 000 as a collective risk. Vietnam. (Winds in the stratosphere distribute radioactivity along the same latitude. the collective dose for inankind amounts 50 000 Svlyear. which were counted in millions. because the radioactive isotopes brought by the wind precipitated to the chemical aerosol floating above the city. But the dose was twice as high in Budapest. corresponding to a collective risk of2500 in 1993.) The present estimared dose from atmospheric rests i s 0. In general. They are still smaller than the numbers of victims of the great plagues and Chernobyl 1960 1970 Year 1980 1990 171 . Divide or multiply by a factor of two to allow for uncertainties.5 X (50 X EX-USSR NR<(200 x IO6) x 2 x (50 x 10-6)=20000. (The USA eliminated them 40 years ago followiug the recommendations of Edward Teller. Harrisburg (Three Mile Island) and Chernobyl have focused public anxiety on nuclear risks. The casualties of these accidents are dwarfed by the number of victims in recent Asian wars (Korea. Windscale. The largest tests were performed in the 1960s. In the late 1970s a smaller peak was produced by the Chinese atmospheric nuclear bomb tests. He estimated the number of indirect casualties to be in six Figure 1. however. Nagasaki. We shall never know who of those living outside Ukraine or Byelorussia died because of the accident.04 Harrisburg reactor accident 0. Iraq). Unstable types of nuclear reactors such as at Chernobyl (and operating only within the former Soviet Union) must be eliminated. Nuclear fission produces radioactive fragments necessarily.) Let us compare the Chernobyl accident with a few other catastrophes: The radioactivity of the air (high above the ground. by calculating thecollective risks (the number ofexpected indirect casualties worldwide) due to the time-extrapolated total dose of the Chernobyl accident: Hungary NR<(lOX 1 0 6 ) x 0 . The largest recorded releases have been (in units of IO'* Bq): Hiroshima bomb 0.0001 Chernobyl reactor accident 4. in Ukraine that there are more severe psychological problems than radiation-induced cases.

have to learn to control themselves. New York (1988) Radiation: A Fact oJLfe International Atomic Energy Agency. and the activity fell to the old value. High technology can be controlled. Pans ( 1990) 172 . global warming. early in the morning. National Institute for EducationalTechnology. Radioactivity around us is a fact of life. The physicists made their measurements and performed their calculations worldwide.) Europeans share the hope that in this decade thecentral issue will be cleaning up the environmental mess: acid rain.Hungary (1989) Ian Blair Taming ike Atom Adam Hilger. as we did in Hungarian secondary schools after Chernobyl. understand and control them as well as we have done with the risks of ionizing radiation. but the protests forced them also to stop atmospheric explosions. Bristol (1983) Bernard L Cohen Before I t s Too Late Plenum Press. Humans. Vienna (1979) Energy and Risk in Education UNESCO-IUPAP physics education conference proceedings. (Youmay repeat his calculations using the data given in this paper. in early May 1986 the television news announced that ‘the radioactive cloud has reached Hungary’. Bristol (1985) Proposal for New Radiation Protection Standards lntemational Radiation Protection Agency. A global wave of protest-led by scientists-forced the superpowers to agree a ban on atmospheric tests. Smaller pow’ers wanted to develop their bombs as well: they continued low-scale testing for a while. In one school pupils queued at the door of the physics laboratory. After this regular lesson. They demanded that the windows be opened: ‘Let the Chernobyl radioactivity come in!’ i t was done. Further reading Sources.figures. ozone depletion. Two big bombs were exploded. too. These are much more complex chemical issues. causing great excitement. but we have to learn to measure. and as we have monitored radon since. Nuclear fallout can be measured exactly. In these experiments they have to measure the background activity first. The morning increase was due to the accumulation of radon in the unventilated classroom during the nighta lesson these students will never forget. to prevent wars and technological catastrophes.) We know the final outcome of the story.Efects and Risks oJNuclear Radiation United Nations. In Hungarian high schools (12th grade) physics teachers perform some simple radioactive demonstrations with Geiger-Mijller tubes.What are the Risks? Adam Hilger. Khrushchov rejected SdkhdrOV’S protest. waiting for the teacher: ‘Let us measure the background again!’ It turned out that it was three times higher than a month before. New York (1983) J H Fremlin Power Production. (The number of casualties in traffic accidents in Europe approaches a million per year.