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Top 10 Myths about Nuclear Energy

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1 Top 10 Myths about Nuclear Energy

2 Myth # 1: Americans get most of their yearly radiation dose from nuclear power plants.

3 Truth: We are surrounded by naturally occurring radiation.
Less than 1 / 1000th of the average American’s yearly radiation dose comes from nuclear power. This yearly radiation dose is 100 times less than we get from coal,[1] 200 times less than a cross-country flight, and about the same as eating 1 banana per year.[2] National Council on Rad Protection and Measurements No. 92 and 95 CDR Handbook on Radiation Measurement and Protection Radiation is part of our natural environment. We are exposed to radiation from materials in the earth itself, from naturally occurring radon in the air, from outer space, and from inside our own bodies (as a result of the food and water we consume). Food like bananas can contain Carbon-14 and Potassium-40. For more information on Radiation, see The ANS Radiation Dose Chart: Understanding Our Environment: A Day with the Atom: The Health Physics’ Society “Radiation Answers” website:

4 Sources of Radiation Rocks, Soil & Radon – 37% Medical – 51%
Consumer Products include porcelain crowns and false teeth, luminous wristwatches, tv and video display terminals, smoke detectors, gas camping lanterns.

5 A nuclear reactor can explode like a nuclear bomb.
Myth # 2: A nuclear reactor can explode like a nuclear bomb.

6 Truth: It is physically impossible for a reactor to explode like a nuclear weapon. Nuclear weapons contain very special materials in very particular configurations, none of which are present in a nuclear reactor.

7 Nuclear energy is bad for the environment.
Myth #3: Nuclear energy is bad for the environment.

8 Truth: Nuclear reactors emit no greenhouse gasses during operation.
Over their full lifetimes, nuclear reactors result in comparable emissions to renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar.[1] 1. P.J. Meier, “ Life-Cycle Assessment of Electricity Generation Systems and Applications for Climate Change Policy Analysis,” 2002 Graphic available here:

9 Other environmental advantages:
Nuclear energy requires less land use than most other forms of green energy. Nuclear energy does not deplete useful resources There is no other commercial use for Uranium Graphic available here: Graphic: Nuclear Energy Institute

10 Nuclear energy is not safe.
Myth # 4: Nuclear energy is not safe.

11 Truth: Nuclear energy is as safe – or safer – than any other form of energy available. No member of the public has ever been injured or killed in the entire 50-year history of commercial nuclear power in the U.S.[1] In fact, recent studies have shown that it is safer to work in a nuclear power plant than an office.[2] 1. Senator Lamar Alexander, as verified by PolitiFact. (2009 Pullitzer Prize Winner) 2. Nuclear Energy Institute ( Full link to Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Op-Ed – “Go Nuclear, Go Natural” – co-authored by ANS member Ted Rockwell: Full link to the St. Petersburg Times’ (2009 Pulitzer Prize winner) Truth-O-Meter:

12 Myth # 5: There is no solution for huge amounts of nuclear waste being generated.

13 Truth: If all the used fuel produced by U.S. nuclear power plants in nearly 50 years were stacked end to end, it would cover a football field to a depth of less than 10 yards.[1] 96% of this “waste” can be recycled.[2] Used fuel is currently being safely stored. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the equivalent scientific advisory panels in every major country support geological disposal of such wastes as the preferred safe method for their ultimate disposal.[3] Nuclear Energy Institute: K.S. Krane, Introductory Nuclear Physics, John Wiley and Sons, 1988 Progress Towards Geologic Disposal of Radioactive Waste: Where do We Stand? Nuclear Energy Agency, OECD report, 1999 (

14 Connecticut Yankee (decommissioned)
This is all of the fuel used during the 30 years that this reactor operated (now being stored in shielded and air cooled casks). The waste volume could be reduced even more by reprocessing.

15 Most Americans don’t support nuclear power.
Myth # 6: Most Americans don’t support nuclear power.

16 Truth: In surveys conducted in 2009, it was found that 70% of Americans favor nuclear power.[1] 80% of Americans see nuclear energy as an important source of electricity for the future, and 68% would accept a new reactor at the nearest nuclear power plant site.[2] Perspectives on Public Opinion, Bisconti Research, June 2009 Bisconti Research Inc. , April 2009 [2] These are a few key metrics from an April 2009 nationwide survey of 1,000 adults by Bisconti Research, Inc.

17 Public Support for Nuclear Energy
80% Important for Future 82% Renew Licenses 70% Favor Nuclear Energy 59% Definitely Build New Reactors 68% New Reactor Acceptable at Nearest Site Bisconti Research Inc., April 2009 17

18 Most U.S. Nuclear Power Plant Neighbors Support Nuclear Energy
92% Important for Future 84% Favor Nuclear 93% Renew licenses 79% Definitely Build New Reactors 76% New Reactor Acceptable At Plant Nuclear Plants are Good Neighbors YIMBY-Yes In My Backyard NEI has been tracking public opinion on nuclear energy issues for 25 years and the trends on most questions have been sustained at favorable levels in the past few years. In the growing body of public opinion research this year on energy issues, favorability of nuclear energy and support for new reactors during this energy crunch is on the rise. A July 2009 public opinion survey showed that 90% of U.S. Nuclear Power Plant Neighbors have a favorable impression of nearby nuclear power plant[s]. Bisconti Research periodically publishes results in Perspectives on Public Opinion, a Nuclear Energy Institute publication. Issues of Perspectives on Public Opinion can be accessed online here: Bisconti Research, Inc., July 2009 poll of 1,152 U.S. nuclear power plant neighbors Source: Bisconti Research Inc. July 2009 poll of 1,152 U.S. nuclear power plant neighbors; margin of error is +/- 3% 18

19 An American “Chernobyl” would kill thousands of people.
Myth # 7: An American “Chernobyl” would kill thousands of people.

20 A Chernobyl-type accident cannot happen
Truth: A Chernobyl-type accident cannot happen in the United States This type of reactor was not built in the United States. Western reactors have containment structures to prevent release of radioactivity to the environment. This worked as designed for Three Mile Island. Western reactors are stable under all possible reactor conditions, so a runaway reaction like the one at Chernobyl is impossible. For a full discussion of the Chernobyl accident, please see .

21 Nuclear waste cannot be safely transported.
Myth # 8: Nuclear waste cannot be safely transported.

22 Truth: Radioactive materials have been shipped in this country for more than 60 years. 3 million packages of radioactive materials are shipped each year in the U.S. As when transporting other commodities, vehicles carrying radioactive materials have been involved in transportation accidents. However, NO deaths or serious injuries have resulted from exposure to the radioactive contents of these shipments.[1] 1. U.S. Department of Energy, Transporting Radioactive Materials: Answers to Your Questions, June 1999 Radioactive materials are used in a variety of applications including medicine, research, industry, and the generation of electricity. Uranium ores, nuclear fuel assemblies, spent fuel, radioisotopes, and radioactive waste are some examples of radioactive materials shipped by the U.S. Department of Energy and industry today. Link to DOE Q&A Document - Link to DOE Q&A about DOE Transportation of Radioactive Materials -

23 Sandia Crash Tests Casks for transporting nuclear waste are tested to survive various types of crashes and exposure to fire. All tests show that they survive intact without release of radioactivity. Impact with a locomotive at 80mph

24 Used nuclear fuel is deadly for
Myth # 9: Used nuclear fuel is deadly for 10,000 years.

25 Truth: Used nuclear fuel can be recycled to make new fuel and other useful products.[1] Most of the waste from this process will require a storage time of less than 300 years. K.S. Krane, Introductory Nuclear Physics, John Wiley and Sons, 1988 Finally, the radioactivity of high-level wastes decays to the level of an equivalent amount of original mined uranium ore in between 1,000 and 10,000 years. [2] [World Nuclear Association:

26 Radioactivity Vs. Time This graph shows the amount of radiation given off by spent fuel or reprocessed fuel versus time relative to the ore that was originally mined. Scientists often use a log scale to show large and small numbers on the same plot. Notice that the vertical scale as well as the horizontal scale are a log scales. The graph shows that if one waits long enough, the used fuel gets to be less radioactive than the originally mined ore that was in the ground. The reason that it gets to be less radioactive is that some of the Uranium was burned up in the reactor, so now there is less of it. High Level Wastes require less time to decay than Spent Fuel because many of the long lived elements have been removed by reprocessing. The long-lived elements removed by reprocessing are "reused" or "reburned" in a reactor. Source: Dr. Mick Apted, Monitor Scientific (2009)

27 Nuclear energy can’t reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Myth # 10: Nuclear energy can’t reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

28 Truth: Nuclear-generated electricity powers electric trains
subway cars automobiles Nuclear-generated electricity has also been used to propel ships for more than 50 years. That use can be increased since it has been restricted by unofficial policy to military vessels and ice breakers. A news brief about traveling on board a nuclear-powered icebreaker is available on the ANS website here:

29 Truth: Near-term Longer-term
nuclear power can provide electricity for expanded mass-transit and plug-in hybrid cars. Small modular reactors can provide power to islands (e.g. HI, PR, Nantucket and Guam) currently burning oil to generate electricity.[1] Longer-term Nuclear power can reduce dependence on foreign oil by producing hydrogen for fuel cells and synthetic liquid fuels. 1. U.S. Energy Information Administration Photo:

30 Questions

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