Windmills No Thanks – nuclear plants are far safer

Windmills No Thanks – nuclear plants are far safer

by Neil Craig
article from Thursday 8, August, 2013

WE LIVE in the safest era of human history but our media are full of scare stories. Is this because when life is safe scary stuff fills a popular need – or is there more to it?

We are told there is a Precautionary Principle that must be invoked against any risk at all, but do its proponents really believe what they are saying?

I think there is something more because while it is true we get all these scare stories - global warming; WMDs in 45 minutes; obesity; passive smoking; margarine, butter and peak oil – there are other, at least equally probable scares that apparently don't sell papers.

A massive solar flare and global cooling are at least as fearsome as global warming and at least as credible. Fuel poverty is far more lethal than obesity. The MMR scare is at least as credible as the passive smoking one, though both strain credulity, but nobody pushing the latter has been debarred for not asking his research subjects permission properly (that, rather than any sort of fraud was what Wakefield was removed for).

So what makes a scare story the media will push or one they won't touch with a bargepole? The one thing all the disapproved ones have in common is they aren't government supported scares. Here is perhaps the ultimate comparison – Low frequency sound from Windmills

"the industry has known for at least 25 years about the potentially damaging impact on human health of the impulsive infrasound (inaudible intermittent noise) produced by wind turbines" (1)

A research paper prepared in November 1987 for the US Department of Energy (2) demonstrated that the "annoyance" caused by wind turbine noise to nearby residents is "real not imaginary." It further showed that, far from becoming inured to the disturbance people become increasingly sensitive to it over time.

This is from one of these papers mentioned: 

The low frequency sensitivity syndrome includes: feelings or irritation/unease/stress/undue fatigue; headache; nausea; vomiting; heart palpitations; disorientation; swooning/prostration. (3)

If, in examination of a small group you find real people suffering from heart palpitations and swooning, you are talking about something which over time and a large population is undoubtedly going to result in death on a significant scale. Certainly a scale thousands of time worse than passive smoking, which was "discovered" only by a statistical variability in a population of many millions which was well within the limits of statistical error.

Almost all the government funded scare stories we see (salt/weight/passive smoking /mobile phones/watching TV/margarine/butter/salmon/GM etc etc) are of that nature (or for mobile phones and GM less than that in that there is no claim of statistical evidence they are harmful, or as our state broadcaster says "the jury is out" as to whether they are harmful). Windmill low frequency noise is clearly a genuine proven threat to health and killer - the others are at best, speculative.

What about low-level radiation from nuclear plants?

This goes further for another scare I have discussed before. The linear no threshold (LNT) theory that nuclear radiation, no matter how low the level, even when it is under 2% of natural background radiation, is dangerous.

There is no evidence for LNT whatsoever (4) - even supporters of the theory (technically a hypothesis at best) or scare story acknowledge this. Indeed there is a large amount of data proving the opposite theory, known as hormesis, that such radiation is beneficial to health.

With the disparity in evidence we can say with certainty that windmills are, at the very least, thousands of times more dangerous to outsiders than nuclear plants. It is arguable that there is no discernible danger whatsoever from such plants, indeed I would argue it. There is certainly a discernible risk from windmill sonics. So even an assessment of non-discernible risks (insofar as that can be discussed) would have to accept that the non-discernible risks of windmills could be thousands of times greater than those of nuclear plants.

For those working on them the fact that Britain has had 4 industrial deaths from windmills in 5 years (5) whereas the entire world has seen 2 nuclear deaths (Japan, but not Fukushima) in 20 years. Nuclear provides about 15% of world electricity and windmills under 1%. That makes the measurable engineering bit of the risk 6,000 times greater for windmills.

If the "Precautionary Principle" is to apply at all it must be applied against low frequency sound for which there has been, inexplicably if you believe research grants are given out purely for the science, far less research but for which there is actually infinitely more evidence of harm. We have had decades of funding of research trying to prove radiation harmful without any papers successfully doing so. Indeed there is at least one case – a herd of cattle being put to sleep 20 years after being exposed to radiation in 1945 – because their record breaking longevity threatened to discredit the theory that such radiation was dangerous.

You can make a scientific case that there is zero risk from radiation from nuclear power stations and a major risk from wind turbine low frequency sonics. You can, less credibly, make a case under the precautionary principle that both might be dangerous, but then you have to admit that the odds are a thousand times worse for the turbines. But you cannot honestly pretend that the anti-nuclear scare is genuine and the low frequency sound from windfarms isn't.

Except, of course, that that is exactly what the world's media have been pretending for decades - with the enthusiastic support of those in power.

If the "environmentalist" proponents of the precautionary principle actually believe in it they must, by definition, be campaigning 1,000 times harder for the closure of windfarms on safety grounds than for the closure of nuclear plants. In fact what we see is that the same politicians who push false scare fears about nuclear plants are deliberately finessing the rules to promote far more dangerous windmills.

Last month the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published a report by the Institute of Acoustics examining whether ETSU-R-97 was still adequate to the task. Remarkably, instead of stiffening regulations, it made them more lax, not only continuing to ignore the Low Frequency Noise and infrasound issue, but actually giving wind farms leeway to make more noise at night and to be built even closer to dwellings.

Thus in a world where scare stories were merely the media satisfying a human yearning for horror stories broadcasters or newspapers must have spent thousands of times more promoting scare stories about windmills than nuclear plants.

But in a world where politicians pick and choose which scares are useful - "the practical purpose of politics is to keep the populace scared and eager to be led to safety by menacing them with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary" [Mencken] - and broadcasters and media find life more comfortable pushing the news they want, you would find the false, but more politically approved, scare stories being pushed and the real ones suppressed. Which appears to be what we do find.



1 - James Delingpole inspired much of this article by reporting on this phenomenon
2 -
3 -
4 - no evidence for low level radiation being dangerous
5 - 4 windmill deaths in 5 years


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