The Incredible Safety of Nuclear Energy Part One

The AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) Annual Report of 2012-2013 measured the radiation exposure of employees in several nuclear power plants. The average dose varied from 0.35  per year to 2.84 millisieverts per year.

This is far less than the annual dose limit of 30 millisieverts per year set down by the AERB. These results also closely match the results of reports from earlier years.

Notice how small these units are. We are talking about millisieverts. One millisievert is one-thousandth of a sievert. Remember that one sievert represents a 5.5% chance of eventually getting cancer.

That represents about well under a one in a thousand chance of eventually getting cancer. A very small probability indeed.

This means that each year typical radiation workers have less than 2.84 times one in a thousand chance of getting cancer as a result of their work with nuclear power production. This is a truly insignificant risk.

A head CT scan exposes you to about 2 millisieverts. So, in a year these workers might get about 1.5 times as much exposure as a single head CT scan. The normal background radiation dose for a typical person in a year is 4 millisieverts.

So, we see that the doses they receive from their work are less than the normal background levels people are exposed to in a year.

Let us add up the 2.84 millisieverts they receive from their job and add it to the 4 millisieverts they might be exposed to normally. We get 6.84 millisieverts. Which is less than the 7 millisieverts received from a chest CT scan.

Of course, these are numbers for people working in nuclear power plants. They get to go home at the end of the day and may not spend much more than eight or twelve hours a day working there.

But what about the people that happen to live nearby to power plants? What kind of doses do they receive?

Typically, it is far less than those received by nuclear plant workers. Some studies show doses of 0.94 microsievert a year, although higher exposures are sometimes estimated. A microsievert is one-millionth of a sievert!

Extreme Safety of Nuclear Plants

So, just as you would expect, living near a power plant is even safer than working in one. Power plants take great steps to contain the radiation that occurs and they employ multiple layers of shielding.

Despite popular misconception, nuclear power plants can safely dispose of nuclear waste products. They can do this without exposing surrounding areas to any significant doses of radiation.

Using a CRT monitor for a year exposes you to roughly the same levels of radiation.

A dental x-ray exposes you to about five times as much radiation as living near that power plant for a year.

he normal background radiation you receive from your environment in one day is about 10 times what you are likely to receive living near a typical nuclear power plant in one year.

Taking a plane from LA to New York exposes you to about 40 times the radiation.

Plane
Nuclear plants expose you to less radiation than a plane ride.

The natural potassium in your own body exposes you to roughly 390 times as much radiation in one year as living near certain power plants for a year.

What if you live about 50 miles away?

You will get around 0.09 microsievert.

Sleeping next time to someone is about only a little less dangerous than this at 0.05 microsievert.

Eating a banana is just a little more dangerous at 0.1 microsievert.

Using a CRT for a year exposes you to roughly 11 times the radiation.

The normal background radiation you receive from your environment in one day is about 111 times what you are likely to receive living 50 miles away from a typical nuclear power plant in one year.

The natural potassium in your own body exposes you to 4,333 times as much radiation in one year as living 50 miles away from certain power plants for a year.

So, it seems that living near a nuclear power plant is also extremely safe. Living somewhat further away is even more extremely safe. They are far safer than the potassium in your own body! Or simply flying on a plane!

When was the last time you heard of someone getting cancer from the potassium in their body or from flying on a plane? Exactly. Nobody considers these meaningful risks due to their radioactive properties. So, it is about time we stopped worrying about the nuclear power plants near us!

Atomic Bombs

Atomic Cloud
Atomic cloud over Hiroshima

We can look at this another way. Let us consider the survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Let us look at those who were within 3 miles of ground zero of the atomic explosions.

We would find a tiny increase in the chance of them getting cancer. Even though they were exposed to increased levels of radiation for weeks and months, not just the instant the bombs exploded.

The chances of these survivors dying from radiation-induced cancer from the atomic bomb are 2/3 of 1%! For survivors further away and with less exposure, no increased risk of cancer has been linked to their exposure to radiation from the atomic bombs.

So, if survivors of atomic blasts do not have significant increases in cancer rates, why should we expect nuclear workers or people living nearby to?

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