ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

Cancel

Iodine Pills Distributed in Japan Offer Limited Protection From Effects of Radiation

.

An elderly woman walks past collapsed houses that were hit by a tsunami in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture on March 12, 2011. (KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan has distributed potassium iodine tablets to residents who may have been exposed to radiation from the nuclear power plants damaged by the recent earthquake, but in recent years, U.S. authorities have questioned whether the benefits of such pills have been exaggerated or misunderstood.

Potassium iodine, or what’s known as KI, “is not an ‘anti-radiation’ drug,” then-White House official John Marburger wrote in a 2008 memo [PDF]. “Public misunderstanding of KI and its limits may lead to a dangerous sense of false confidence that KI provides inoculation against all forms of radiation.”

Potassium iodide helps protect against thyroid cancer—a major risk following radiation exposure—by reducing the amount of radioactive iodine absorbed by the thyroid gland, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It doesn’t protect other organs, and it doesn’t protect against other radioactive materials.

The Bush Administration scrapped a plan [PDF] to distribute these pills more widely to residents near the nation’s more than 100 nuclear reactors, finding that evacuating residents and keeping contaminated food from them could be more effective: “The focus on evacuation should not be diverted or confused by attempts to distribute KI from stockpiled locations,” the memo said.

The decision outraged Rep. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who had successfully pushed legislation calling for distribution of the pills to be expanded from a 10-mile radius to a 20-mile radius for residents living in the vicinity of nuclear power plants.

The nuclear commission’s current position is that iodine pills don’t make sense for those beyond a 10-mile radius. Instead, wrote the commission, the “major risk of radioiodine exposure is from ingestion of contaminated foodstuffs, particularly milk products”—and the most effective way to deal with that is to simply avoid milk or other contaminated dairy.

Dr. David J. Brenner, director of the Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research, also downplayed the pills’ effectiveness to the New York Times:

Dr. Brenner said the iodine pills were protective, but were “a bit of a myth” because their use is based on the belief that the risk is from inhaling radioactive iodine. Actually, he said, 98 percent of people’s exposure comes from milk and other dairy products.

“The way radioactive iodine gets into human beings is an indirect route,” he said. “It falls to the ground, cows eat it and make milk with radioactive iodine, and you get it from drinking the milk. You get very little from inhaling it. The way to prevent it is just to stop people from drinking the milk.”

States and local governments may request tablets from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to distribute to residents within the 10-mile range of a nuclear power plant, but they’re not required to.

One NRC official told USA Today in 2007 that one of the concerns about the iodine tablets was that distributing them would stir fears among residents about whether U.S. plants were safe:

[NRC senior advisor for preparedness Patricia] Milligan also says the NRC is concerned about undermining the reputation of the nuclear industry.

"It's always a concern that if you expand the distribution (of the pills), you don't have confidence in the plants," she says. "We have studies that show the safety of our plants."

Questions about whether U.S. nuclear facilities are adequately prepared for a major natural disaster continue to be of concern as Japan races to cool its damaged nuclear reactors and avert a full meltdown.

The NRC, meanwhile, has continued to state that U.S. plants are safe.

Harvey M. Solomon

March 14, 2011, 3:18 p.m.

Based on recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Commission, the WHO and the Board of Radiation Effects Research Division of the National Research Council our government put in place a plan for the stockpilng and distribution of potassium iodide around every nuclearpower plant operating in this country. This was done because, in the event of a meltdown and subsequent release of I-131, promp administration of potassium iodide would block the uptake of radioiodine by the thyroid gland. Testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific and the wide spread distribution of I-131 after the disaster at Chernobyl both demonstrated that uptake of radioiodine was clearly associated with the subsequent development of adenocarcinoma of the thyroid.
Every country with nuclear power plants adheres to a three stage
approach to the management of an accidental release of radioiodine into the environment. As demonstrated by the experience in Japan, this consists of prompt treatment with potassium iodide, evacuation from the area of contamination, and sheltering of the evacuees from further exposure. Every country except the United States protects its citizens in this manner.
In January 2008, Dr. John H. Marburger,III, then Director of the Office
of Science and Technology Policy during the administration of George W. Bush , issued a Decision Memorandum in which he abandoned the plan for distribution of potassium iodide and relied solely for evacuation from contaminated sites as the most effective way of managing the release of radioiodine. Dr. Marburger is a physicist and his unwise decision is a reflection of his lack of knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the thyroid gland. It was challenged the American Thyroid Association whose membership includes some of the most widely respected thyroid endocrinologists in the nation and by Rep. Edward Markey , Chairman Subcommittee on Energy and Environment who wrote a
letter to President Obama in December 2009 in which he presented, in detail, the dangers of Dr. Marberger’s remarkable decision. There is no public record of a response to either of these requests.
These are not widely known events to members of the general public, but in light of the meltdown of at least one reactor at a nuclear power plant in Japan and the associated release of radioiodine, the American people should understand that without prompt reinstatement of the program for stockpiling and distribution of potassium iodide in the immediate vicinity of all nuclear power plants there is a significant risk of contamination of the thyroids of people living around these plants in the event of a serious accident.
It would also seem very important to learn why one man had the power, without any public discussion or review of his decision, which is contrary to the opinions of all accepted authorities on the subject, to put into action a highly dangerous and ignorant decision which could impact on the lives and safety of hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens.

Harvey M. Solomon, M.D.
HCR74 Box 24807
El Prado, NM

Lawrence Marcus

March 14, 2011, 3:58 p.m.

The real issue here is not if pills are effective but if plants are safe. No matter what the NRC or other agencies say they ARE NOT!

Many nuclear faclities in the US are beyond their 30 year lifespan and Obama (who is of course a lawyer and knows nothing about science) extended all their licenses without an extensive review!

This includes many plants with many recorded “incidents” some quite severe. Indian point (near me is one such case in point). This is a nuclear facility within 50 miles of New York. Activists and scientists have been trying to shut it down for years with little effect. It is a disaster waiting to happen! It has poor security, is old, unsafely operated and violated its license terms too many times to count.

Similar plants dot the continental United States. I have no doubt that republicans will try to whitewash this with their usual disregard for science and logic.

Prepare for the worst! and write your congressman demanding congressional hearing to reopen licensing!

Currently many of these plants are a national security threat and need to be either retired and replaced at least in part with alternative energy sources. Nuclear plant design has made many technical leaps in recent history but computer modeling for disasters has not I believe and more importantly since non technical people are allowed to operate these plants they are because of current regulations not optimal for safety regardless of what technology is used..

The nuclear industry has successfully lobbied against effective regulation. Now is the time to change things!

Lawrence Marcus

March 14, 2011, 4:01 p.m.

Thank you Dr. Solomon for filling us all in about this critical issue!

Very well put Dr. Solomon. I hope you have posted this elsewhere. I hope you have a blog. It is evidence of pure incompetence. These people in office do not deserve to be where they are. From Obama to Napolitano to the f’ing Food Czar (former Monsanto exec for Christ’s sake). It’s akin to putting a 16 year old in the cockpit of a 747 and the only training he has had is video games at home which simulate flight. That’s why this country is going down the tubes. Incompetent people who don’t know better, and when someone comes along with evil intentions towards others, then they are much easier to manipulate—but if they were competent, these individuals in high places, they would not be so easily manipulated. Witness Andrew Jackson, one of our greatest presidents solely based on the fact that he successfully, at the time, ended the central banking cartel in the US. He was a competent individual. As was George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. What we have today is a parody of political office, or par for the course, however you want to look at it.

These plants are not safe - go to truthout.org to read Greg Palast’s reporting on the industry fraud, and meltdowns coming our way by the same corporations that constructed these plants in Japan. They will be building on the Texas Gulf coast and elsewhere!

Dr. Stephen R.Keister

March 14, 2011, 7:33 p.m.

Some months ago, shortly after publication, I read Richard Clarke’s book on cyber warfare. The author points out that in the event of cyber attack our electric grid is very subject to attack because it is fragmented, with each section under private ownership. Little has been done re a coordinated defense. If such should occur the nation could be without power for weeks especially if the generators are destroyed.

The Japanese problem brings to mind the necessity of an active power grid to pump the water to cool the nuclear reactors. In the event of cyber attack one can then foresee multiple nuclear plants throughout the USA without cooling of the nuclear cores. I am not a nuclear physicist, do I overstate a potential cause for concern?

lawrence marcus

March 14, 2011, 8:16 p.m.

However dont get me wrong I am not opposed to nuclear power but just to outdated plants, technology and regulations that permit non engineers to run these things—not that engineers are infalliable either. Coal fired plants have accidents too and fatal ones and Thorium is not all tea and biscuits because right now its expensive and needs to be tested more even though we did a lot of research in the 70s.

There is a good scientific american article on this and some good comments about that article. I would however tend to look at articles in Science and Nature. This is a complicated issue. The idea that Big Oil is stopping this is partially true but its also true that too many regulations raise the price as well. On the other hand Exxon is funding research by Craig Venter that uses genetically engineered organisms to produce energy shows that if there are alternatives and you can make money at them even “Big Oil” is looking for them too although I wonder about the safety of these organism if they escape the tanks they are being grown in. 

This is a complicated issue and this begs the question why we dont we have an energy policy that puts billions into developing an array of technologies? Well we cant get it through a republican house of representatives at the moment. On the other hand how much are we spending for advanced solar and fusion concepts? We prob have spent more on Antimatter research (the US Airforce god bless them) has been doing this since the 80 and if you look at Positronics LLC they have an containment vessel—- Smith claims he has positronium stability but not revealing too many details (this whole thing is for planetary travel) but I dont know if they have an engine since containment vessel was finished in 2004 and there are national security concerns as well!

In any case we need a national competition to figure out the best mix of affordable energy sources with an aim to eliminating coal and the old nuclear technologies which generate too much waste and are so complicated they get entangeled in human error.

Chernobyl and Three Mile Island made things worse by stopping any upgrade of those crummy old plants (I live 50 miles from indian point)..

So its good people are discussing this because between this and global warming/cooling we have a lot of technical challenges but we need to put more into research for this and e.g. genetic treatments for cancer and even aging ( it was just shown that you can reverse aging by telomere repair in mice—not fool proof but fund things like finally being able to grow brain cells critical for memory and attention.) It boils down to what are our priorities and who will decide how much money we will spend for them! Right now our friends in congress want to cut funding for scientific research and at the rate we are going we will never have a manned space program again—whew got that all out! LOL

In any case we cant have our governement run by people who are science/math illiterates which is the case now nor a populous with an education so poor for the mass of people that a sizable portion dont even “believe” in evolution.

This is where the rubber meets the road—- make scientific research and development and education a national priority along with a sound energy policy which is aimed at providing people with longer healthier lives that are informed and that allow us to do all this without destroying the air and water or continue down the road we are on which is cutting a budget which doesnt need to be cut until we are out of a recession or let the right dictate national policy because they make the most noise and because they are supported by gullible masses of people who dont even vote in their own interest let alone ours.

What shall we do to turn this around ?? I mean not just collectively but as individuals?

Mr. Marcus, sorry to add to your anxiety about Indian Point, but I wonder if you know that it sits right on an earthquake fault.  It is absolutely extraordinary that such a facility was built at the edge of one of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.

lawrence Marcus

March 15, 2011, 1:36 a.m.

Yup, thanks for reminding me of that. As a matter of fact its built right on the Ramapo fault SYSTEM as in a series of faults!.

Oh ,well it was nice knowing you LOL But are you also in NYC and did the incident in Japan just remind you of the unpleasant truth? or are you just getting worried about this all out of proportion to what is happening?

In January 2008, John Marburger III, Science Advisor under President Bush, issued a decision refusing to implement a 2002 law that was intended to expand the availability of potassium iodide (KI) in the U.S.  The point of having KI on hand is to protect against thyroid cancer caused by inhaled or ingested radioactive iodine, released by a nuclear accident or act of terrorism.  Small children are most at risk.

The story behind Marburger’s decision is remarkable—a case study in how an industry with clout can nullify a law that seems to have almost universal support—but it requires a lot of background, so the following can’t be brief.

In early 2001, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had agreed to require states with nuclear plants to “consider” stockpiling KI within a 10-mile radius of plants.  The drug would be provided at NRC cost.  This decision was made by the NRC Commissioners, who are Presidential appointees, over the intense opposition of the NRC’s technical staff.

Full disclosure:  that decision came in response to a rulemaking petition filed by me in 1995, at which time I was Counsel for Special Projects in the NRC’s Office of General Counsel.  I did this on my own time, as a private citizen.  By the time the petition was granted in 2001, I had retired, after 23 years with NRC.

Then came 9/11, and a push to increase the nation’s preparedness for terrorism.  KI would be helpful in dealing with nuclear accidents and nuclear terrorism, including possible improvised nuclear devices. 

Sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Section 127 of the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2002 would have extended the zone of KI preparedness from 10 to 20 miles.  It passed almost unanimously and was signed by President Bush.  The White House issued a statement describing KI as “crucial” and “critical,” and hailing the law for putting an end to the “artificial 10-mile barrier.”  Henceforth, the drug would be available wherever needed. 

The law included tight time schedules, so that KI would be in place soon.  The National Academies of Science was supposed to study the issue, Health and Human Services would quickly issue guidelines for implementing the law, and then states could request the drug.

But the nuclear industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had been bitterly opposed to the law, and the fact that the HHS guidelines required prior approval from the Office of Management and Budget gave the opponents of the law an opportunity to put a stick in HHS’s spokes.  For the NRC, the weapon of choice was delay.  The more time passed after 9/11, the more people would forget about implementing new protective measures.  (The same thing had happened after Three Mile Island, in 1979, when the NRC first promised to stockpile KI around every reactor, marked time for several years, and then, when public attention had gone elsewhere, quietly changed its mind.)  So while Bush’s HHS fumed with frustration—its people were sincere about wanting to implement the law—the NRC, working through OMB, kept the law on hold, year after year. 

The NAS report, issued in December 2003, made clear that for KI, a 10-mile one-size-fits-all approach did not work.  It wrote, at p. 161: 

“Conclusion

A strategy is needed whereby local planning agencies could develop geographic boundaries for a KI distribution plan based on site-specific considerations because conditions and states vary so much that no single best solution exists.  KI distribution planning in the United States has focused on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s early phase Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) of a 10-mile radius.  However, the EPZ provides only a basis for planning.  A specific incident might call for protective actions to be restricted to a small part of the EPZ or require that they be implemented beyond the EPZ as well.” 

Also in 2003, the Medical Preparedness and Response Sub-Group of the Department of Homeland Security Working Group on Radiological Dispersal Device Preparedness prepared a report saying that if terrorists detonated a radiological dispersal device containing radioiodine or a 10-kiloton improvised nuclear weapon, millions of doses of KI might be needed to deal with the fallout.  It said, “Urgent consideration for giving KI to pregnant women (especially 2nd and 3rd trimesters) and children is appropriate.”

The law included an escape clause—what could be called a “better mousetrap” provision, intended to allow for the development of new drugs.  If the President identified a better means of protecting thyroid glands within the 10- to 20-mile zone, he could rely on it instead.  Congress never foresaw that this provision might be used to void the law altogether.  The NRC argument was that there was no benefit to giving out KI in the 10- to 20-mile zone, and that the White House could and should use the escape clause to decline to implement the law that it had once praised.

HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt had no patience for this effort to effectively repeal the law.  In 2006, he stated unequivocally that because there was no better alternative to KI in the 10- to 20-mile zone, he planned to issue final guidelines and begin distributing the drug.  This put him on a collision course with the NRC and the nuclear industry.  Something had to be done to stop him, and it was.

In July 2007, President Bush signed an order stripping HHS of authority over the law and transferring its duties to NRC.  Given that NRC had worked fervidly to keep HHS from implementing the law, the order amounted to a death sentence for the legislation.  Still, appearances had to be preserved.  Shifting responsibility for a cancer prevention measure from physicians to nuclear engineers might just have raised eyebrows.  To give a veneer of scientific respectability to the process, the White House therefore gave the President’s Science Advisor, Dr. John Marburger, authority over the “better mousetrap” provision. 

To no one’s surprise, Marburger held that KI was unnecessary beyond the 10-mile radius.  (The contrary findings of the NAS and HHS experts went unmentioned.)  Accordingly, the Administration would not implement the law.  Marburger based his decision on a finding that evacuation of the population and control of foodstuffs would provide better thyroid protection than KI in the 10-20 mile zone. 

Marburger’s either/or analysis ignored the plain intent of the law, which was that KI would supplement, not replace, other emergency measures.  His approach was analogous to deciding that because lifejackets save fewer lives than lifeboats in emergencies at sea, lifejackets are unnecessary. 

Perhaps most strikingly of all, Marburger’s 13-page decision never once mentioned cancer.  His euphemism of choice was “adverse thyroid conditions.”  Hard as it is to imagine a scientist passing judgment on a disease prevention measure without naming the disease involved—could there be a decision on Sabin vaccine that didn’t mention polio?—the nation’s top scientist did just that.

Another oddity is that Marburger’s decision was based in part on an NRC technical document from 1997, “NUREG-1633,” that the NRC Commissioners had deemed so biased and worthless that in 1998, they ordered it withdrawn from circulation.  (Among other things, the NRC staff failed to mention that the FDA had found KI to be “safe and effective” in 1978.)  The NRC technical staff made two unsuccessful attempts to rehabilitate the document, but each time, the NRC Commissioners turned thumbs down, finally (in 2002) ordering the technical staff to spend no more money on the project.  “It’s time to pull the plug,” wrote one Commissioner.  Yet this supposedly withdrawn document was good enough for Marburger.  It is probably no coincidence that he was relying heavily on advice from the NRC technical staff.  For the NRC staff, it must surely have felt like vindication to have the President’s Science Advisor citing their work with approval, when their own bosses, the NRC Commissioners, had deemed it unfit for publication.

The line currently pushed by the opponents of KI is that inhalation of released radioactive iodine is not an issue, and that all the thousands of thyroid cancers resulting from Chernobyl could have been avoided by advising the public not to drink milk.  No one disputes that the Chernobyl exposures were predominantly from milk, but predominantly isn’t the same as exclusively.  Here is the Food and Drug Administration’s guidance on KI from 2001, at p. 8.  After saying that the post-Chernobyl exposures came “largely” from the milk pathway, it says, “In this or similar accidents, for those residing in the immediate area of the accident or otherwise directly exposed to the radioactive plume, inhalation of radioiodines may be a significant contributor to individual and population exposures. ... The risk depends on factors such as the magnitude and rate of the radioiodine release, wind direction and other atmospheric conditions, and thus may affect people both near and far from the accident site.”

So what is the motivation for the bitter opposition of the nuclear industry and its NRC allies to expanded availability of KI?  In December 1993, an industry group, forerunner of today’s Nuclear Energy Institute, issued a “White Paper” which included the frank statement, “Public confidence in the technology could be affected.”  The blogpost above includes a very similar statement from a senior NRC official. 

The message seems to be that even in an age of terrorism, it is better to go unprotected against radiological hazards than have a drug available that might have the incidental effect of making some people worry about the safety of nuclear plants.

In 2009, Rep. Markey wrote to President Obama, urging him to implement Section 127, and reverse the Marburger decision.  Half a year later, his staff got a highly legalistic reply from the General Counsel of the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, defending Marburger’s invocation of the escape clause.  The exchange of letters is fascinating for the complete non-meeting of minds.  Markey is trying to tell the President that the nation needs adequate supplies of a protective drug; all that he gets in return is a lawyer’s letter, determined to show that her office did not misinterpret the law several years ago.  The exchange can be found on Rep. Markey’s website. 

In the Bush Administration, HHS behaved responsibly, but was overruled.  Is there anyone in the Obama Administration who cares about whether the public is adequately protected from the radiological hazards posed by accidents and terrorism?

—Peter Crane, Seattle
Counsel for Special Projects, U.S.N.R.C., retired

Harvey M. Solomon

March 15, 2011, 1:49 p.m.

Mr. Crane
I appologize for not mentioning your remarkable efforts in bringing this politically based decision to the attention of the public. I researching this topic I came across your activities on multiple occassions. I am certain you have experienced the extreme difficulties that are associate with bringing this information to the attention of the public. Although I have tried to present it to numerous printed media it is always rejected. Such is the power of the nuclear power industry. The nuclear disaster occurring in Japan is a perfect example of what might happen at any of our nuclear power plants at any time.
Just today I came across a document entitled The Status of State-Level Radiation Emergency Preparedness and Response Capabilities, 2010 prepared by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists October 6, 2010. It makes one sick to read about how totally this unprepared this nation is to deal with a nucle power plant incident of any magnitude. The cause of this lack of preparedness is in part due to the NRC which has to a major degree been captured by the nuclear power industry. It is also necessery to recognize that as a result of large political donations the nuclear power industry is in complete control of most politicians with the possible exception of Rep. Edward Markey.
The only safe nuclear power plant is the plant that is never built.

Nina Schuenemann

March 15, 2011, 2:18 p.m.

The power plants are more important to our so-called government then we the people….  No other comment neede here.

It is very interesting for me to read this blog. Thank you for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon. Thanks

Lawrence Marcus

March 16, 2011, 5:45 a.m.

Mr Crane: Fascinating. Would you be prepared to write a letter to President Obama asking what his stance on this is? I get the sense you will be ignored or the issue will be swept under the rug!

Soon that cloud from the Japanese reactor will come here (depending on prevailing winds) and we will have to see how we will deal with this. What will the Obama adminstration do? Probably nothing, I am not impressed with his leadership despite the fact that i voted for him!

Harvey M. Solomon

March 16, 2011, 10:59 a.m.

I have written to both president Obama and his current Director of Science and Technology, Dr. John Herdner, concerning this issue and have never received a response to my letters. It appears that the United States government and the nuclear power industry are engaged in a zero-sum game. The outcome will be that nuclear power plants will continue to be constructed and that no serious protection such as the stockpiling and rapid distribution of potassium iodide around all nuclear power plants will be instituted. This may be acceptable to politicians and the nuclear power industry but to me, as a physician interested in the public health of people living in the vicinity of nuclear public health, I find such behavior calous, totally lacking in concern for the public and almost criminally irresponsible. We are still a nation which sends people to the Congress and freely elects our President. I think it is time for a massive campaign to inform both the Congress and the President that the only way they can redeem any credibility in regard to the construction of new power plants is to immediately correct the documented unsafe conditions which surround many of our current facilities. This must include a clear statement that the program for stockpiling and distributing potassium iodide around all nuclear power plants will be reinstituted immediately.

Lawrence Marcus

March 16, 2011, 1:56 p.m.

Well if you like perhaps I can get you the email of one of the press secretaries or assts to the president?

I doubt that anyone ever read your letter.  If I was really adventurous I might be able to figure out Obamas email LOL, he has a Blackberry

Regards,

L Marcus

Lugols Iodine Solution is a very good source of Potassium Iodide.  Please google and buy or just research

lawrence Marcus

March 17, 2011, 9:38 a.m.

This is not the appropriate place to post about Lugols Iodine Solution.  The real thing is best prescribed by a physician. In any case it is premature to post this and just plain nonsense!!!

I must be ill-informed. I was under the impression that Iodine is a fairly heavy element that is not likely to be airborne in any possible US nuclear accident.

Is there a threat of airborne radioactive Iodine in Japan? Not that I’ve read about.

MD’s always think they understand science and physics better than scientists, just because they’ve memorized thousands of medical terminology.

In fact, medical schools do not teach anything remotely resembling actual science, especially physics. It is laughable to hear MD’s complain about scientists giving their opinions on what the MD considers their own sacred cow areas of science, human anatomy and physiology.

There certainly is a turnover of Iodine in the thyroid gland that can be slowed or quickened by increasing the amount of Iodine (radioactive or not) in a temporary dietary change.

Whether that becomes a prophylactic by eating KI pills is the question. It will do no damage, so I guess there’s no harm in doing that if you are forced to live in an irradiated zone. But you don’t hear any doctors making the same argument about vitamins where the benefit is perhaps a little more proven.

So nice…...........

Lawrence Marcus

March 15, 2012, 11:12 p.m.

well there is hope. 2012 is the test of Lawrence Livermores first fusion reactor . Because diode pumped alkaline lasers have become so efficent we can now get more energy out of a fusion reactor than we put in. This is called the LIFE project at LLNL. If this works (it has already been tested before I believe) we will be on a 13 year path for the first Fusion reactor and then a fleet of them being built in the 2020’s just in time to replace a score of aging nuclear reactors!

Cross your fingers and hope the idiots in congress dont get their hands on this one. This is a real national security issue, my future and yours!!

Add a comment

Email me when someone responds to this article.
This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Nuclear Safety

Nuclear Safety

With the disaster in Japan, we're investigating questions about nuclear safety.

The Story So Far

Following a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, hydrogen explosions rocked three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Radioactive spent fuel stored in pools was also affected, especially at one reactor—the plant has a total of six—where multiple fires erupted. Evacuation orders were issued, potassium iodine tablets distributed, and plant employees used seawater and external electrical power to cool the stricken reactors, three of which had a partial core meltdown.

More »

Get Updates

Stay on top of what we’re working on by subscribing to our email digest.

optional

Our Hottest Stories

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •