Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Friday, April 1, 2011

Numbers You Never Learned in Algebra

They say figures don’t lie, but liars figure.

So I’ve checked the numbers pretty carefully, and I think they are correct.  If you’re one of the billions of people who are suddenly curious about nuclear energy, here are some numbers for you to think about this week.

04410                  The number of nuclear electric power reactors worldwide.  105 of them are located in the United States.   Another 14 are in Ukraine, 6 on Taiwan, 2 in Pakistan, and a whopping 53 on the earthquake-prone islands of Japan.

01,3000              The number of tons of highly-radioactive nuclear waste generated every year by the world’s nuclear power plants.  In the U.S., the average reactor generates 27 tons of high-level radioactive waste every year.

06,000,0000      The number of years it takes for spent nuclear fuel waste to decay to the point where it is no more dangerous than natural uranium.   This is the time it takes to reverse the effects of concentrating and using these materials.  For much of this time (give or take a few million years), someone will have to manage this waste to prevent exposure, leakage, fire, etc.

000                      The global number of disposal facilities licensed for long term storage of nuclear waste.  None exist.  Anywhere.

The U.S. has more reactors than any other country, concentrated in the east.
010.50                The average number of years between major meltdown or partial-meltdown nuclear accidents, beginning with Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now, Fukushima.  These all occurred during times of general global stability (no world wars, pandemics, etc.).  

0140                    The number of “near misses” reported by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the United States during 2010 alone. Near misses are malfunctions or failures that the NRC judges to have had the potential for major failure resulting in exposure to harmful radiation.

0110                    The number of U.S. reactors with 8-hour battery backup systems in case of a loss of power.  The remaining 94 U.S. reactors have only 4-hour backup.  Some in Congress are now pushing for 72-hour backup systems.

050%0                The approximate proportion of U.S. nuclear reactors located near major geological fault lines, including the San Andreas and New Madrid Faults.

Many reactors are in active geological zones. The gray areas are safer.
031.50                The average age (in years) of nuclear reactors in the United States.  Reactors are rated for lives of 30-40 years, and estimates of actual useful lives vary, from 30 to 50 years.   

017,452,5850    The number of people who live within 50 miles of America’s most dangerous nuclear power plant, at Indian Point, NY.   

 57,400,0000      The number of people who live within 50 miles of America’s ten most dangerous nuclear electric power plants.   

0400x0                How much more radiation was released by the Chernobyl, Ukraine accident than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.  Caribou in Scandinavia, tea plantations in Turkey and farm fields in England were among the victims the Chernobyl’s contaminants.

0600,0000           The number of Soviet citizens assigned to work on the “liquidation” of Chernobyl.  2,000 known deaths occurred from the catastrophe.  250-350,000 people were forced to relocate from the area.  The union representing plant workers claims that 220,000 were either killed or permanently disabled.

03 to 50              The number of years that Japanese experts predict will be necessary to “feed and bleed” the Fukushima reactors: pouring on water that then leaks radioactive waste into the surrounding environment.

0300                    The number of new plants proposed for construction by the U.S. nuclear power industry.   Beyond this, some nuclear developers are proposing another 270 U.S. plants.

0$9 billion0         The projected cost of a single new nuclear reactor in the U.S.

0$0 billion0         The amount of private investment available for the development of new nuclear plants without U.S. government guarantees.
Now you remember why you didn't go into mathematics in college, right?

Thanks for counting, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood


  1. Thanks for the post. Very informative and helpful. Keep up the good work, sir.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Radiation is scary stuff. And the stats you posted make me think water, wind, solar and fossil fuel technology are worth further development. thanks for the info.

  4. It seems that one of the problems is that, in almost everything, we neither consider nor plan for the possible consequences. Nuclear, coal, whatever - we ignore long term effects in favor of immediate results and profits.

  5. Fascinating data. So, it seems like we have a pretty big problem here. Somehow we've got to get better at harnessing solar energy...and reducing on the demand side as well. For the sake of future generations...