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Annoyed by Mega Disasters episode

Watching one of the History Channel's "Mega Disasters" episodes, one about train derailments and nuclear waste. Brooke watching with me. It is astonishing how much science FAIL is in this episode. Claims like "nuclear waste is dangerous for tens of thousands of years" (when it's more like 300 years), and constant claims that the derailment of a train carrying nuclear waste would be this humongous catastrophe, worse than chemical spills. Which is such crap. The nuclear waste is transported so safely that a derailment of nuclear waste would be LOADS safer than the chemicals that are already being transported. Certain chemicals (like chlorine) in a derailment could disperse and wipe out an entire city, and those aren't being transported even 1/50th as safely. Whereas with the nuclear waste, the transport casks are so sturdy that you'd have to hit them with a powerful bomb to get any leakage at all. And nuclear leakage isn't as dangerous as things like the chlorine. Everyone freaks out about the nuclear waste, which is highly unlikely to kill anyone when it leaks,1 but nobody bats and eye at the hundreds of tanks of toxic chemicals, any one of which could kill every living person in the city. A nuclear waste spill would mean cleaning up a few blocks around the site. A chlorine spill could create a toxic cloud capable of killing everyone in the city. Yet it's the nuclear waste everyone goes nuts over.

Basically, the whole fucking episode boils down to "OMG NYOOCYOOLER WASTE!!! AHHHHHHH! BE AFRAID! BE AFRAID! RUN AROUND IN CIRCLES SCREAMING!!!"

And the critics' arguments boil down to "We will not be satisfied until you make nuclear waste shipping containers that even GOD ALMIGHTY couldn't break open!!!"

EDIT: Now they're doing their bullshit "oooh, nuclear waste spreading in a cloud over Las Vegas." I think they're assuming the nuclear waste is like the green goo on TMNT. When the truth is, things like the fuel pellets inside the rods are ceramic. (Keep in mind, some ceramics are so hard that you could hit them with a sledgehammer and they wouldn't even crack). How exactly does a cloud of ceramics go over a city?

1 = I asked Brooke if she thought that a train derailment of nuclear waste could kill someone, and she basically said that you'd have a much greater chance of being squashed by the container than of being killed by the nuclear waste spilling out.

Crossposted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
evilgrins
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:27 am (UTC)
Claims like "nuclear waste is dangerous for tens of thousands of years" (when it's more like 300 years)
Okay, on the 301st year I dare you to hop in and swim around and prove how safe it now is.

Edited at 2011-12-21 07:27 am (UTC)
fayanora
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:28 am (UTC)
Well it's still radioactive, at that point. But no more so than the ore they mined to make it.
evilgrins
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:29 am (UTC)
Oh, so you'll still hop in then?
kengr
Dec. 21st, 2011 08:00 am (UTC)
You could take a nap on the ore without any more risk than an x-ray, probably less. Ditto for 300 year old nuclear waste.

"Radioactive" doesn't mean dangerous. Or at least not *significant* danger.

You have to consider both the activity level *and* the type of radiation.

evilgrins
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:29 am (UTC)
Not sure I agree with the lack of fear on the chemical spills. Whenever there's a chemical spill in my neck of the woods, and there's been a few this past year, everybody goes freaking psycho.
fayanora
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:31 am (UTC)
It's a relative thing. There is *relatively* more panic about nuclear waste spills than there is about chemical spills.
evilgrins
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:32 am (UTC)
blah blah blah
fayanora
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:33 am (UTC)
PS
The nuclear panic is ridiculous in other ways, anyway. For one, there's more dangerous radiation put out by burning coal than there is in nuclear power plants. And there is a LOT of dangerous radiation output from coal burning.
evilgrins
Dec. 21st, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
Re: PS
I don't think I believe that coal thing. Got anything to back it up?
evilgrins
Dec. 22nd, 2011 12:16 am (UTC)
Re: PS
So, it's not the coal itself. The coal isn't radioactive. It's the byproducts, the waste produced by the facilities that use it, that's radioactive.
fayanora
Dec. 22nd, 2011 07:21 am (UTC)
Re: PS
The coal has radioactive stuff in it, is why the waste products are radioactive. Not enough to be dangerous, normally, but burning coal releases all that gunk at once, so that it becomes dangerous.
brockulfsen
Dec. 21st, 2011 09:47 am (UTC)
Depending on the class of waste, some is dangerous for millions of years.

The worst is contaminated with Plutonium, half life of up to 373,000 years.
fayanora
Dec. 21st, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
Plutonium is for certain kinds of bombs, and I think it has to be manufactured. Most nuclear reactors use uranium, which only has to be mined.
brockulfsen
Dec. 21st, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
Plutonium is made in reactors from Uranium. Fast Breeder Reactors make lots of it.

Processing the mix of Uranium containing traces of Plutonium to make bomb grade Plutonium leaves lots of Plutonium contaminated waste.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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