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The brits were producing and refining plutonium for military use at Sellafield.  One of their air-cooled Pu-producing reactors burned down and belched radioactive byproducts into the air.  That's were most of the pollution comes from, the well-known Windscale Fire.

Then they used PUREX to extract pure Pu from irradiated uranium.  PUREX is a messy process, but it is needed to get pure weapons grade Pu.  If you only want to recycle it in breeder reactors, there's no need for PUREX, the far cleaner PYRO-A would do.  Sometimes, reprocessing is not the same as reprocessing.

Finally, even PUREX can be run without dumping liqid radwaste into the sea.  Dumping is just the easiest thing to do, and do I really need to explain that the military doesn't care much for a few people additionally killed?  Sellafield has been operating much cleaner since about 1995, when the process was changed somewhat.

Btw, did you know that about every fifth person in the civilized world dies of cancer?  If the cancer rates grew tenfold, then everybody died of cancer... twice.  You may want to reconcile this with the common sense notion that everybody dies exactly once.

by ustenzel on Thu Aug 17th, 2006 at 09:28:16 AM EST
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Btw, did you know that about every fifth person in the civilized world dies of cancer?  If the cancer rates grew tenfold, then everybody died of cancer... twice.  You may want to reconcile this with the common sense notion that everybody dies exactly once.
Oh, bollocks. The annual mortality rate in the UK is about 1%. Assuming 1/5 of that is due to cancer, you have .8% from other causes and .2% from cancer. Multiply that by 10 and you get .8% from other causes and 2% from cancer, so the annual mortality rate would be increased from 1% to 2.8% [only exceeded by Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland according to the link above] and 70% of all deaths would be from cancer.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 17th, 2006 at 09:45:26 AM EST
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Still nonsense.  If every fifth dies of cancer, then at least every fifth suffers from cancer.  This rate can only increase five-fold, because there are no more people.

Now if most cancers were curable and people could get more than one cancer in their lifetime (more than two on average, see above), then the ten-fold increase could be true.  But if cancer is usually not deadly, it somehow doesn't all that bad anymore, does it?

"Shut off all nuclear plants!  A ten-fold increase in the common cold has been found near an obscure research reactor!  We're all gonna die unless we switch them off immediately!"

by ustenzel on Thu Aug 17th, 2006 at 04:40:35 PM EST
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I have calculated is that a 10-fold increase in the rate of cancer deaths would, all other things being equal, bring the total mortality rate in the UK to 2.8% per year. Do you care to point out where the flaw in the reasoning is? I have taken the death rate from cancer to be .2% per year based on 1/5 of the UK death rate of 1% per year, so there is room for a 500-fold increase before we all die of cancer within a year.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 18th, 2006 at 05:54:55 AM EST
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Sure.  1% mortality per year corresponds to a live expectancy of 100 years.  2.8% yearly mortality give a life expectancy of 35 years.

You want me to believe that life expectancy near Sellafield is down to 35 years?!  Repeating the calculations with realistic numbers, it shrinks to just 27 years.

Unbelievable.

Regarding the simultaneously comment: that would mean, most people recover from their cancer, wouldn't it?  So cancer isn't all that deadly after all, is it?  So what's your point, really?  Are you maybe just spreading FUD, with invented figures nonetheless?

by ustenzel on Sat Aug 19th, 2006 at 06:14:34 AM EST
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I am just saying you can multiply cancer rates by 10, and there is no contradiction there.

A lot of your other calculations are sound, but your [lack of] grasp of what it meast to multiply the death rate due to cancer by 10 is worrying.

Now we can discuss whether or not it is a fact that the cancer rates grew 10-fold, but not whether that is physically possible because everyone would have to die twice [as you have claimed].

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Aug 19th, 2006 at 06:37:39 AM EST
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No, we should actually debate what Giannes definition of "cancer rate" is and where her numbers come from.  We've already established, that

  • it's not the percentage of people dying of cancer,
  • it's not the percentage of people ever getting cancer either,
  • it's very probably also not the number of people dying of cancer in a given time, and
  • no source for the dubious number was quoted.

Instead of desperately trying to find models where an unsupported number is not outright impossible, Gianne (or you or whoever) should provide some reference for that number.
by ustenzel on Sat Aug 19th, 2006 at 04:04:14 PM EST
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Ok, let's see...

  1. Gaianne claims that "cancer rates increased 10-fold at Seascale"
  2. You claim that that is absurd because since 1/5 of all people die of cancer, that would require everyone to two die of cancer twice.
  3. I point out your argument about death rates doesn't hold, because you are confusing "cancer rate" with "fraction of deaths due to cancer in a cohort". I show that multiplying UK cancer death rates by 10-fold would put the death rate at the level of the highest death rates in any country in the world.
  4. You conclude that reduces Gaianne's claim to absurdity. You also make a comment to the effect that "suffering from cancer is not that bad if you don't die from it".

I don't know why you think this exchange makes me look "desperate to find models where an unsupported number is not outright impossible". You seemed "desperate" to make an absurd claim about a different quantity in order to make said unsubstantiated claim seem outright impossible.

Anyway, since Gaianne is not gracing us with a reference, I decided to go fishing for one.

New Scientist: Science: Leukaemia and nuclear power stations ( 17 June 1989)

Subsequent investigations confirmed an excess of leukaemia and other cancer among children living near Sellafield, the complex British Nuclear Fuel runs in northwest England. ...

Depending on which statistics are quoted, the excess represents up to a tenfold increase in the number of cases expected on the basis of conventional dose/risk models.

The whole (short) article is full of qualifications, and what I walk out of it with is that "standard dose/risk models underestimate the expected number of additional child leukemia cases by a factor of up to 10". A far cry from "cancer rates increased by a factor of 10".

Anyway, for anyone interested there is the COMARE 10th Report: The incidence of childhood cancer around nuclear installations in Great Britain (10 June 2005).

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Aug 20th, 2006 at 11:52:29 AM EST
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You'll note that a "ten-fold increase in the incidence of leukaemia in children" is quite something different than "ten-fold increase of cancer rates".  As I said before: we find an increase in a single rare form of cancer while Gaianne is hinting at an increase in all forms of cancers, though never spelling it out.  Which is intellectually dishonest.

(On a side note: I cannot confuse "cancer rate" with anything, because that term is basically undefined and left to interpretation by individuals.  It is only used by anti-nuke-kooks when applying statistical trickery.)

by ustenzel on Sun Aug 20th, 2006 at 02:52:09 PM EST
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You'll note that a "ten-fold increase in the incidence of leukaemia in children" is quite something different than "ten-fold increase of cancer rates"
How about ackowledging I have noted that?
"standard dose/risk models underestimate the expected number of additional child leukemia cases by a factor of up to 10". A far cry from "cancer rates increased by a factor of 10".


Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Aug 20th, 2006 at 02:57:29 PM EST
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Yeah, you have.  I must have had some sort of tunnel vision and only saw the quotation from the article.
by ustenzel on Mon Aug 21st, 2006 at 07:54:00 AM EST
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If every fifth dies of cancer, then at least every fifth suffers from cancer.

But not simultaneously. We do have a lifespan of about 80 years, don't we?

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 18th, 2006 at 05:56:25 AM EST
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