The Aim of this post is to present the mass media statements of knowledge and opinion given by Prof. Barry Brook.
Prof. Brook has presented the pro-nuclear environmentalist case for a number of years. I was and remain particularly interested in his public level presentations regarding the nuclear accident at Fukushima Diiachi in March 2011.
A primary objective of this post is to determine whether or not the information transmitted to the public by Prof. Brooks contains sufficient technical knowledge. Particularly in both the contexts of current best practice and historical levels of knowledge. Specifically regarding the criteria for the safe design of multi- mega-watt nuclear reactors. Given that nuclear reactors have long working lives, historic and current technical knowledge are both relevant, as are regulatory updates and technical modifications. Indeed, the US NRC mandated changes in procedures and equipment at relevant US nuclear reactor sites throughout the USA in the wake of Fukushima.
I certainly do not question anyone’s right and ability to express their knowledge and opinions to the public. I rely on an open and democratic society in precisely the same manner as everyone else. Prof. Brook has of course the same right. In my personal opinion, the tension between academic meritocracy exists within a field of tension within democratic society. Thus, I believe I have equal rights to express my knowledge and opinions both with, and indeed, in tension to any qualified academic. And certainly studying Prof. Brook’s public statements via the mass media will be an exciting one for me, perhaps a boring one for him, should he notice. However, my aim is to assess, not attack, the public statements of Prof. Brook. Certainly if Prof. Brook has reason to complain, I will certainly listen and respond to what he might object to. I shall try to ensure that he has no reason to complain.
Prof. Barry Brook:
3 years training, both formal (in classroom) and on the job in military radiological safety. Three years experience as a military radiological safety Non-Commissioned Officer within the setting of Royal Australian Electrical and Mechancial Engineer Corps RADIAC workshop and laboratory located at the time at 4 Base Workshop, RAEME, Bandiana, Victoria. I was trained by Australian military officers who had been trained by qualified US military personnel for a five year period. The RADIAC unit I served in was in routine communication with Australian personnel at the original Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. I was trained to monitor all radiation types from normal background to occupational levels, and assisted in the processes by which Australian military and Civil Defence radiac detectors were confirmed accurate (calibration) at all sensitivity settings, which in the case of PDR-27A detectors included nuclear battlefield relevant readings. Although this training was undertaken many years ago, and although the training was merely technical and not academic (though much theory was taught to me), my knowledge both then and now remains relevant to my interest in, and consideration of the pronouncements made by nuclear industry, nuclear authorities and their followers.
I note that Prof. Brooks and I have, in my opinion, a classical and predictable source of potential (and in the past, actual) conflict. In my opinion Prof. Brooks accepts the safety reassurances of nuclear authorities. I do not automatically accept the safety assurances of nuclear authorities.
It is my opinion that Prof. Brooks shares a view of the climate change situation which determines that something akin to an emergency exists. As a layman I am aware that climate change due to human activity – largely the release of greenhouse gases via the burning of fossil fuels- has been increasingly confirmed with growing authority since the 1800s. I am also aware that industries involved in the fossil fuel economy have a continuing interest in ensuring uncertainty exists within the public mind regarding the cause of rapid climate change. Such a stance is of course unacceptable. But these things are facts as I see them. It is my view that Prof. Brooks, assured as he is by the statements of government and private nuclear experts, vigorously proposes that the risks of a greatly and rapidly expanded nuclear reactor for power sector are far less than the unmitigated risks of sudden climate change. I do not resent Prof. Brook holding or expressing his actual views on such things. ( I can only surmise what Prof. Brooks thinks on the basis of his public statements, and I only need to be approximately correct for my present purposes.)
Having watched and studied nuclear authorities for many decades as a layman, I can say that I am a skeptic when it comes to the PR issued by nuclear authorities. Both over the history of the “nuclear age” and since the accident a Fukushima Diiachi. It is my view that nuclear authorities have twice justified their actions on the premise that they and their skills and technology were and are needed to “save the planet”. This current attempt to expand nuclear industry makes the same promises of salvation as the earlier and first promise did. It is not conflating bombs (the alleged salvation of the Free World) and reactors (the alleged saviours of the planet re sudden climate change) to say that both then and now nuclear experts and authorities have many very many false claims regarding the safety of the human dose response to exposures of radiation in absorbed dose quanta which suite the experts at the time. I further believe, on the basis of medical ethics, that nuclear authorities often deliberately conflate medical treatment doses and medical diagnosis doses of radiation exposure with additional doses, whatever they are from case to case, imposed as a result of nuclear industry, military and civilian. This is one reason why I claim the right to think for myself in these and other matters of relevance. (For example, in March 2011, the Japanese electrical generator company, TEPCO, claimed that the fallout exposure from radionuclides released by the failed Fukushima Diiachi nuclear power plant were harmless because the dose imposed upon civilians in the Prefecture was less than the dose imposed by a chest ray. This statement is a perfect example of a corporation acting completely outside of its brief and authority and in direct contraction of medical ethics. Medicine is only medicine when 1. the patient gives informed consent to the treatment 2. where there is a health benefit which outweighs the risks of the treatment. Power plant executives are not qualified to administer medicine to a gnat, let alone a human being. Much has been made of the alleged “paradox” of the Evacuation zones in Japan, but it is not a paradox at all, as much some nuclear advocates actually mock the evacuations which took place in Japan.)
I can identify the point of deviance between Prof. Brook and myself. I no more expect to change his mind than he has any basis for believing that he, on the basis of his nuclear expertise, change mine. I have one vote. So does Prof. Brook. I am not a subordinate to him. He is not my doctor. He has no basis for expecting that I should share his nuclear views. I might share his views on other things, but certainly not on this nuclear one. In nuclear matters I have more formal training than he has. Even though I was, when employed in the field I was trained to engage in, I was a mere technical functionary with also a clerical function within Australia’s nuclear safety regime at the time. If I have a technical question the fate of Kangaroos under unmitigated climate change, I might ask Prof Brook that question. However, if I have a technical question relating to nuclear safety, I have a number of people I am free to contact for an answer. For these people have relevant qualifications. Barry’s views on radiation safety are his views. They are based upon advise he has received. But with sincere respect, Barry is not qualified to give nuclear safety advice. He has no formal qualifications in health physics. Even my smattering of formal qualification in that area exceeds Barry’s. (Which by no means should constrain him his expression of his beliefs.)
I refer to the following public media statements made by Prof. Barry Brook:
These two references will suffice. Many other references to Prof. Brook’s public media contributions exist. Please read the contents and listen to the video at the above links before continuing to read this post.
The account Prof. Brook gives of the nuclear accident at Fukushima and it’s consequences is very conventional when compared with other accounts from nuclear industry experts. Barry mentions relative risk compared to other forms of power generation, the chemical pollution unleashed upon Japan as a result of the March 2011 disaster, the age of the Fukushima power plants, the apparent resilience of the aged plant and equipment in the face of earthquake, the unexpected height of the tsunami which swamp the plant and particularly the emergency power generators. Barry is of the view that the people at risk from the high risks of high radiation doses were the plant workers: that the risk to the general population in the immediate vicinity of the plant (say 30 kms)