SONE Newsletter 287 – May/June 2023

Posted by Wade Allison on 1 June 2023 in Newsletters

Tagged with: Daily Telegraph, Dow Chemicals, Fukushima, Moltex, South Korea, Tritium, X-Energy.

This month

Moltex Flex webinar

Quick! Join this webinar on 9 June to get up to date on what is happening at MoltexFlex

“Join the NIA for a webinar with UK-based SMR developer MoltexFLEX and enjoy a LIVE virtual tour of their laboratory.”

Daily Telegraph

An article in the Telegraph that was mangled by a trigger happy editor that I have disowned! I understand that the Telegraph is in the habit of doing this. For the record I did NOT write this:

A week in S Korea

The previous regime in South Korea was determined to discontinue their nuclear programme. The current leadership of President Yoon has re-instated a pro-nuclear policy. However, they remain concerned to boost popular support. That was basically why I was invited to spend the week of 15-20th May there as a guest of the Korean Nuclear Society and other nuclear supporters. On the Monday there were several meetings with the media at which I was pressed on the danger from the impending release by Japan of the tritiated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Below is the text of the rough note that I prepared to justify my statement that it would be safe to drink a litre of such water. This was not political bravado, as used by Selwyn Gummer in the BSE crisis, but a scientific calculation that the radiation dose would be less than that received from the internal potassium-40 in the body, as in all living tissue and therefore certainly harmless. This was reported with great interest in the media and attracted the attention of MPs of the ruling Conservative Party. As a result on the Friday I was invited to a parliamentary discussion with some 20 to 25 MPs, members of the public and the press. Here is the text of the rough note that I circulated to justify my statement.

  • The normal dose rate from background radiation in areas like UK is about 2.3 mGy per year

  • All life is radioactive from 60 Bq/kg of natural potassium-40 (and smaller contribution from Carbon-14)

  • Potassium-40 decays with energy 1.3 MeV giving an annual dose of 1.3E6 × 1.6E-19 × 3.1E7 × 60 = 0.36 mGy per year

  • CHECK the Potassium-40 is just over 10% of total normal dose 2.3 mGy OK

  • Tritium decay energy is 5.7keV instead of 1.3 MeV for K-40

  • So, the decay rate of tritium giving the same radiation dose as K-40 is 60 × 1.3E6 / 5.7E3 = 14000 Bq/kg

  • If I drink a kg of water and I weigh 70 kg, the water is diluted by 1/70 by drinking.

  • 1 litre of water at 70 × 14000 Bq/kg is equivalent to the Potassium-40 in my body, that is 1 million Bq/kg

  • Such a drink would double effect of K-40 for 12 days (biological halflife) and then get flushed out. (Other sources of natural background are already nearly 10 times greater, and 10 greater again in some parts of the world.)

Details of the undiluted water at Fukushima:

  • 1.37 million tonnes = 1.37E9 kgs of water

  • total tritium activity 1E15 Bq

  • then activity of undiluted water = 1E15 / 1.37E9 = 0.73 million Bq/kg

  • But this is harmless as shown above.

  • I would drink 1 kg of water (or even 10 kg) with no effect!
    (The Japanese have said they will dilute the water to just 1.5E3 Bq/kg, I believe. That is quite unnecessary. But trying to reassure ignorance is a game that you cannot win!)

I also addressed the Korean Nuclear Society and the students at Pusan University on the subject “The Acceptance of Nuclear Energy – A Matter for Education”.
I also spoke at a meeting at the Dept of Nuclear Medicine at Seoul University.
I visited the APR1400 reactors at the Saeul Nuclear Plant. There are four: two operating and two under construction. They have exported four to UAE and would like to sell to the UK too.
Everywhere I found a keen interest in improving the popular image of radiation and nuclear power.

Dow getting a big nuclear-based industrial act together?

For their proposal to deploy compact SMRs from X-Energy to supply both industrial heat and electricity for their own operations, Dow Chemicals has now selected a site on the US Gulf Coast, called Seadrift. Read the update on this story here, including a short interview by CNBC with Dow CEO on the technology.

Dow may have captured the zeitgeist with this concept of ‘in-house’ advanced nuclear, as further examples of heavy industry partnering with reactor vendors also emerged this week, with steel-manufacturer Nucor Corp. considering a NuScale VOYGR SMR at Nucor steel mills with electric arc furnaces. The two companies have signed an MoU.
Read more here, and here.

Other news items of note

Italy decides for nuclear again:

China work to extract 3 parts per billion of Uranium in seawater:

Japanese invest in UK COREPOWER:

The French state is set to reach full ownership of EDF on 8 June, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio in an interview on 23 May.

General comment beginning to see the light:

What we need is for the investment community to do likewise:

And everywhere there is the emphasis of getting young people on side, despite the influence of some of their elders:

This month’s featured article: Heat Pumps for Gas Boilers?

This month’s featured article by SONE member, Paul Spare, discusses whether traditional gas boilers can be replaced by heat pumps.


Wade Allison, Hon Sec
1 June 2023