This is a bit of a dilemma for a greenie, isn’t it?

The former island paradise of Bikini Atoll is slowing blooming back to life, 70 years after the United States dropped 23 nuclear bombs on it, including a device in 1954 that was 1,100-times larger than the Hiroshima atom bomb.

A team of scientists from Stanford University have been surprised to discover an abundance of marine life apparently thriving in the crater of Bikini Atoll, which was declared a nuclear wasteland after the bombings, with its 167 inhabitants relocated to other islands.

Steve Palumbi, a professor in marine sciences at the university, said the effects of radiation poisoning on ocean life have never been studied in-depth, and his team’s initial research suggests it is “remarkably resilient”.

Animals studied by scientists in and around the Chernobyl blast showed deformities and mutations, but the Stanford teams initial research suggest the marine life in Bikini may have fared significantly better.

We all know that the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching, dying, dead, as a result of a couple of ppm of CO2 floating around. Yet quite literally bombing the shit out of a place and leaving all the radiation lying around doesn’t seem to bother the wildlife very much.

Nuclear power it is then to save the planet, eh?

At which point, fair play to Monbiot, one of the very few greenies who has looked, thought and been convinced.

21 comments on “This is a bit of a dilemma for a greenie, isn’t it?

  1. Actually that Chernobyl ref is misleading. The supposed mutations (in frogs, mainly) have been shown to be caused not by radiation but by the disruption of the ecosystem when the humans were removed.

  2. *a device in 1954 that was 1,100-times larger than the Hiroshima atom bomb”

    Now that would be a big bomb. Hard to fit something that big in a plane. Probably quite a bang too.

  3. Water is pretty good at containing radiation so not a big surprise that things swimming in water all the time suffer less radiation than those that don’t!

    As for Chernobyl, no idea how true or not any of the “facts” are!!

  4. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki studies showed that dreadful damage could be done to babies in the womb, but that essentially zero genetic damage was done. So says my memory, but I’d better admit that it ain’t the best memory around.

    I suppose that anyone exposed to the level of radiation that could have caused genetic damage was killed.

  5. It seems that nuking the place is is better for wildlife than the presence of people. Ditto Salisbury Plain.

  6. Chernobyl is, similarly, recovering pretty well, actually.

    It’s radioactive, so there’s a lot of cancer. But most animals don’t live long enough to get cancer, and that’s still largely true around Chernobyl.

    Remember that most people that die from cancer get into their 70s before they’re diagnosed. Even if you double the number of cancer diagnoses and deaths under 70, it’s not that big of a deal at a population level (clearly, it’s a huge deal for the individuals involved) – cancer doesn’t even hit 1% in people until the late 50s.

    Once you’ve got through the first year or two, the radiation drops to a level that just isn’t that big of a deal (the short half-life, high-emission isotopes burn out quickly, which is why the iodine becomes safe in about six months, which is the thyroid cancer risk, for example). It then takes a long time – tens of thousands of years – for the last bit to burn out, and that’s an elevated risk that there’s absolutely no need for people to suffer under, but it’s not like it’s instantly fatal to enter the SCZ.

  7. * In spite of what the ignorant, sensationalist, tabloid journalist said:

    ‘The former island paradise of Bikini Atoll is slowing blooming back to life, 70 years after the United States dropped 23 nuclear bombs on it’

    Just about EVERYTHING she said is wrong. But why would the Guardian need to be right?

  8. “It then takes a long time – tens of thousands of years – for the last bit to burn out, and that’s an elevated risk”: that point is contentious. There’s some evidence that low dose rates of radiation are much less dangerous than the standard assumption used in, for example, designing nukes – or that they might even be good for you.

  9. My mother got over exposed three times while working in the nuke plant. She’s 97.

    I chalk it up to radiation hormesis.

  10. I believe the original WW2 nukes were incredibly ineffecient in terms of kTons of TNT equivalent per kg of fissile material.

    The thousand times increase in yield could have been achieved without increasing that amount of material used… oh joy!

  11. Well that was a terribly researched article. That or Stanford scientists are more clueless about the islands than I. Occam’s Razor suggests the former.

  12. Note some hedging here – all numbers derived from public (US) documentation or open source material.

    I believe the original WW2 nukes were incredibly ineffecient in terms of kTons of TNT equivalent per kg of fissile material.

    Yes – the engineering available to generate the necessary “critical neutron density” through explosive compression is much greater now than it was back in WW2. The Little Boy design was a simple gun / plug device that just went for the commonly referred to “critical mass”. The Fat Man device used solid plutonium (alloy) hemispheres.

    The thousand times increase in yield could have been achieved without increasing that amount of material used

    Not really, no. The 1000-fold increase actually came from using a highly efficient fission device as the initiator for a fusion device.

    Very modern “boosted fission” weapons are capable of reaching approximated 200 times the 15kT output of Little Boy / 150 times the 20kT output of Fat Man. However, they are very different designs – with external initiators, amongst other things.

  13. Usefully, a read of the bomb-reworking parts of Tom Clancy’s “Sum of All Fears” novel will give evidence of the difference between a late 1940s design (the source device) and a more modern device.

    Of course, the bomb in the story was a “fizz”.

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