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  • Nuclear plant emissions may be affecting climate
    Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
    MNP Report 500116003/2007
    The effect of a nuclear energy expansion strategy in Europe on
    health damages from air pollution
    J.C. Bollen and H.C. Eerens

    Textbox 1: Krypton-85 accumulation in the atmosphere
    Krypton-85 is a long-lived radioactive isotope which is naturally released into the atmosphere in small quantities
    (Harrison and Apsimon, 1994), approximately 5.2 1013 Bq/yr and, in larger quantities artificially (1017-1018 Bq/yr). It has
    steadily accumulated in the atmosphere since 1945 (from <0.2 Bg/m3), when anthropogenic nuclear activities started, and
    reaches 1.3 Bq/m3 nowadays.
    Ion production
    The principal concern with krypton-85 release is not a radiological/medical one, as population doses are small (Boeck,
    1976), but the possible disturbance of the global electrical system
    (Legasov et al, 1984, Tertyshnik et al., 1977). It is
    known from nuclear weapon testing (Huzita, 1966) that atmospheric radioactivity increases air’s natural conductivity.
    The conductivity of air is proportional to the (small) ion concentration. These ions are formed naturally in atmospheric air
    at a rate (near the surface) of about 10 ion-pairs cm-3 s-1 (Chalmers, 1967). There are three major sources of these ions:
    airborne alpha radiation, cosmic rays and terrestrial gamma radiation. Near the Earth’s surface, gamma radiation from the
    soil is the chief source of ionization, due to the nuclear decay in the Earth’s crust. This accounts for about 80% of the
    ionization near the surface. The remaining ionization is caused by cosmic rays, whose intensity increases greatly with
    height. Ionization over the oceans is considerably lower, since there is no gamma contribution and a greatly reduced
    amount of airborne alpha radiation.
    The removal of ions can take place through two mechanisms: ion-ion recombination and ion-aerosol attachment. In the
    last case the particles become electrically charged (Fuchs, 1963). In the steady state, the bipolar ion production rate q per
    unit volume and the ion loss rates are balanced, given by (Harrison and Apsimon, 1994):
    q-αn2-βnZ=0 (1)
    Where α is defined as the ion-ion recombination coefficient (1.6,10-6 cm3.s-1, e.g. Gringel et al, 1978) and β is the
    attachment coefficient between an ion and aerosol particle. β depends on the aerosol particle radius and charge (Gunn,
    1954). Z is aerosol particle number concentration per unit volume, and n is the average ion number concentration. At
    higher aerosol concentration (i.e. 10 μg/m3 with 0.2 μm radius particles) n is dominated by aerosol-ion attachments. From
    the formula it becomes clear that a change in conductivity can occur due to an increase in the production rate q (by, for
    example the additional ionization caused by krypton-85) or a change in aerosol concentration (increase will decrease
    Change in conductivity by krypton-85
    The amount of extra ionization caused by the beta radiation can be found by using the average beta energy (0.249 MeV)
    for krypton-85. For a krypton-85 concentration of Ckr Bq/m3 the ionization rate is:
    qkr=(2.49.105/35).Ckr. (2)
    Assuming a surface ionization rate qo of 10 ion-pairs cm-3.s-1 the change in ion production is:
    dq/q0 = 7.11.10-4 Ckr. (3)
    Over the oceans, where q0 is about one-fifth of its continental value, the fractional change will be corresponding larger.
    The concentration of krypton falls with density (height) of air:
    Ckr(z)= c(0)e-z/8561, where c(0) is the surface concentration. (4)
    Combining ion production from the crust and cosmic ray, a maximum share of krypton-85 ion production can be expected
    at a height of 500-1500m, about twice the value at the surface and at a surface concentration of 1.3 Bq/m3 , a change of
    2‰ in ion concentration at 1000 m can be expected . Locally, near a nuclear waste processing plant, the share can
    increase to approximately 20% (Clarke, 1979). Note that the conductivity above mountainous (remote) areas (Antarctic,
    Himalaya, determines the Earths resistance and interaction with the ionsphere.
    Consequence for the atmospheric system
    • It is generally assumed, although surrounded with some uncertainty and controversial (Illingworth and Latham,
    1975), that thunderstorms provide the earth with a small negative charge. The slight conductivity of the
    atmosphere (see above) creates a small, opposite “fair weather current” (E= + 100 V.m-1, J ~2 pA.m-2 at the
    surface). Considering the earth as a spherical capacitor (with Ct ~2.8 Farads) it would lose it’s charge (τ ~667 s)
    in about an hour. The earth needs therefore continuously be charged by approximately 2000 thunderstorms
    (Schonland, 1953). A change of 0.1% could therefore be compared with the equivalent of two continually active
    thunderstorms. The interaction between an increasing conductivity and thunderstorms remains unclear although
    there are suggestions (Spangler and Rosenkilde, 1979) that it would weaken thunderstorm lighting.
    • Recently there have been some suggestions that charged ions can, even at small concentrations, can have a
    (substantial?) effect on the formation of certain type’s of clouds (Marsh and Svensmark; 2000, Harrison, 2000;
    Carslaw et al., 2002) . If confirmed this would imply that a changing concentration of krypton-85 could affect to
    some extent the earth’s climate.

    © MNP 2007
    Parts of this publication may be reproduced, on condition of acknowledgement: 'Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the title of the publication and year of publication
    “‘i love myself.’ the quietest. simplest. most powerful. revolution ever.” ---- nayyirah waheed

    Avatar: Franz Marc, Liegender Hund im Schnee 1911 (My posts are not intended as advice or professional assessments of any kind.)

  • #2
    Re: Nuclear plant emissions may be affecting climate

    Study of air concentrations of nuclear plant emitted krypton-85 over the US in Jan-May of 1974 that relates Kr concentrations to dew point changes. Some unusual anomalies are described.

    Coincidentally, there was a super cell tornado outbreak in April of that year.
    “‘i love myself.’ the quietest. simplest. most powerful. revolution ever.” ---- nayyirah waheed

    Avatar: Franz Marc, Liegender Hund im Schnee 1911 (My posts are not intended as advice or professional assessments of any kind.)


    • #3
      Re: Nuclear plant emissions may be affecting climate

      Coal plants release substantially more radiation.

      In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy. [ ]

      Likewise the natural gas Europe uses to supplement partial "green" technology conversions releases radon as a byproduct. I'd imagine at far higher levels than radiation released by a nuclear facility.
      Last edited by Laidback Al; July 30th, 2011, 10:37 PM. Reason: typos


      • #4
        Re: Nuclear plant emissions may be affecting climate

        The SciAm article is discussing radiation released from coal vs nuclear power plants regarding health effects on local residents, not atmospheric accumulation in a way that could effect weather.

        If you read the NOAA article above, they were focusing on nuclear fuel reprocessing plants, though some unexplained measurements of high KR might have been from nuclear plants in Minnesota at the time.

        Krypton is the only radioactive industrial pollutant I've seen studied as far as having weather consequences.

        Regarding radon, maybe because human activities are negligible in increasing atmospheric radon, there is only a human health concern, not a concern about weather modification.
        Radon Exposures from the Use of Natural Gas in Buildings

        D. W. Dixon
        Oxford Journals
        Mathematics & Physical Sciences & Medicine
        Radiation Protection Dosimetry
        Volume97, Issue3
        Pp. 259-264.

        For typical rates of gas usage with an average radon level of about 200 Bq.m-3, the estimated dose from the use of natural gas is estimated at 4 µSv, less than 1% of the dose from radon exposure at the average level in UK homes. Commercial users may receive somewhat higher doses, and the estimate for a critical group is a few tens of microsievert. The total radon emission to the environment is estimated at about 1013 Bq.y-1 which represents less than 10-4 of the natural emission rate from the ground. There is some variability of radon levels in gas from different sources and it would be prudent to keep this source of exposure under review....
        NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators. Argonne National Laboratory, Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Interim Director.
        Radon is a radioactive gas that seeps up from the earth and can collect in caves or basements. It is the natural product of radium decay, not an industrial pollutant.
        “‘i love myself.’ the quietest. simplest. most powerful. revolution ever.” ---- nayyirah waheed

        Avatar: Franz Marc, Liegender Hund im Schnee 1911 (My posts are not intended as advice or professional assessments of any kind.)


        • #5
          Re: Nuclear plant emissions may be affecting climate

          Climate risks by radioactive krypton-85 from nuclear fission Atmospheric-electrical and air-chemical effects of ionizing radiation in the atmosphere
          Klimarisiken durch radioaktives Krypton-85 aus der Kernspaltung Luftelektrische und luftchemische Wirkungen ionisierender Strahlung in der Atmosphaere
          Authors :
          Kollert, R. (Kollert und Donderer, Bremen (Germany)) ; Gewaltfreie Aktion Kaiseraugst, Liestal (Switzerland) ;
          Corporate author :
          Bund fuer Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. (BUND), Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany). Landesverband Baden-Wuerttemberg ; Bund Naturschutz in Bayern e.V., Muenchen (Germany) ;
          Copyright :
          Language :
          German ;
          Abstract :
          The study shows that krypton-85 from nuclear fission enhances air ionization and, thus, interferes with the atmospheric-electrical system and the water balance of the earth atmosphere. This is reason for concern: There are unforeseeable effects for weather and climate if the krypton-85 content of the earth atmosphere continues to rise. There may be a krypton-specific greenhouse effect and a collapse of the natural atmospheric-electrical field. In addition, human well-being may be expected to be impaired as a result of the diminished atmospheric-electrical field. There is also the risk of radiochemical actions and effects caused-by krypton-85-containing plumes in other air-borne pollutants like the latters' transformation to aggressive oxidants. This implies radiation smog and more acid rain in the countries exposed. This study summarizes findings gained in these issues by various sciences, analyses them and elaborates hypotheses on the actions and effects of krypton-85 on the air, the atmosphere and the climate. (orig./HP) ;
          Die Studie zeigt, dass Krypton-85 aus der Kernspaltung die Luftionisation erhoeht und damit in das luftelektrische System sowie in den Wasserhaushalt der Erdatmosphaere eingreift. Dies gibt Anlass zu Sorge: Nicht absehbare Folgen fuer Wetter und Klima, falls der Krypton-85-Gehalt der Erdatmosphaere weiter stark ansteigt. Ein Krypton-spezifischer Treibhauseffekt ist moeglich sowie ein Zusammenbruch des natuerlichen luftelektrischen Feldes. Zu erwarten ist ueberdies eine Beeintraechtigung menschlichen Wohlbefindens infolge des verringerten luftelektrischen Feldes. Hinzu kommt das Risiko strahlenchemischer Wirkungen der Krypton-85-haltigen Abgasschwaden auf andere Luftschadstoffe, insbesondere deren Umwandlung in aggressive Oxidantien. Das bedeutet Strahlen-Smog und mehr sauren Regen ueber den betroffenen Laendern. Die Studie fuehrt zu diesen Problemkreisen Erkenntnisse aus verschiedenen Sachgebieten zusammen, analysiert sie und begruendet Hypothesen zur Wirkung von Krypton-85 auf die Luft, die Atmosphaere und das Klima. (orig./HP) ;
          “‘i love myself.’ the quietest. simplest. most powerful. revolution ever.” ---- nayyirah waheed

          Avatar: Franz Marc, Liegender Hund im Schnee 1911 (My posts are not intended as advice or professional assessments of any kind.)


          • #6
            Re: Nuclear plant emissions may be affecting climate

            Science 16 JULY 1976
            Meteorological Consequences
            of Atmospheric Krypton-85

            Krypton-85 can disturb the atmospheric environment
            by perturbing atmospheric electrical processes

            William L. Boeck
            Natural atmospheric processes involving
            air ions will be perturbed if the
            ionization due to reactor by-products in
            the atmosphere approaches the ionization
            produced by background radiation.
            Projections indicate that 85Kr, a radioactive,
            chemically inert gas, may be produced
            and released in such quantities
            that it will create atmospheric ions at
            rates comparable to the present ion production
            rate near the tropical ocean surface.
            This article concerns the possible
            effects of 85Kr on atmospheric electrical
            phenomena and air ions. Calculations
            based on a simple model for the global
            atmospheric electric circuit indicate that
            the total electric resistance between the
            earth and the ionosphere could decrease
            measurably within the next 50 years.
            Mechanisms by which a disturbance of
            atmospheric electric properties could
            lead to a form of inadvertent weather
            modification are briefly discussed.
            Properties of Krypton-85
            Krypton-85 is a long-lived radioactive
            gaseous by-product of nuclear fission
            produced in high yield in nuclear fission
            reactors and explosions (I, p. 5). A large
            increase in the production rate of 85Kr
            seems inevitable as more nations turn to
            nuclear power to produce energy.....
            Last edited by Emily; March 5th, 2012, 12:58 AM. Reason: Fixed PDF conversion problems
            “‘i love myself.’ the quietest. simplest. most powerful. revolution ever.” ---- nayyirah waheed

            Avatar: Franz Marc, Liegender Hund im Schnee 1911 (My posts are not intended as advice or professional assessments of any kind.)