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Krypton-85 and climate change

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Splitting more than hairs
Nuclear energy
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Ionizing pages

The false claim that Krypton-85 causes climate change has a long history, dating back to at least the 1970s or 1980s. Recently, it has become an important tool for anti-nuclear power activists who push it as a new anti-nuclear power meme.

This is undoubtedly due to the continued rise in importance of climate change, and as a result, of the pro-nuclear power argument that "nuclear power mitigates climate change" - a good, scientific argument which the anti-nuclear movement thus tries to directly counter through cooking up lies about Krypton-85.

Those lies are, in turn, based upon the disproven supposition that "if Krypton-85 emissions continue to increase, it may cause climate change".

The hoax itself[edit]

Here is the basic argument;[1]

Nuclear power stations and reprocessing plants discharge substantial amounts of a number of fission products, one of them is Krypton-85, a radioactive noble gas. Krypton-85 is a beta emitter and is capable of ionizing the atmosphere, leading to the formation of ozone in the troposphere. Tropospheric ozone is a greenhouse gas, it damages plants, it causes smog and health problems. Due to the ionization of air Krypton-85 affects the atmospheric electric properties, which gives rise to unforeseeable effects for weather and climate; the Earth’s heat balance and precipitation patterns could be disturbed.

Elsewhere, other anti-nuclear power activists claim that Krypton-85 leads to the destruction of the ozone layer;[2]

1994 – An article in a German journal Strahlentelex (March 3, 1994) argues that the nuclear industry is responsible for the hole in the ozone. The authors, Giebel and Sternglass explain that radioactive gases like Krypton-85 from nuclear plants and from the recycling of spent fuel go up to the stratosphere where they create water droplets from the moisture which in turn form ice crystals which enhance the destruction of the ozone by the fluorohydrocarbons.

Facts about krypton-85[edit]

See also: Krypton-85Wikipedia's W.svg
  • Its half-life is 10.756 years.
  • The fission yield is around 0.3%; i.e., approximately 3 atoms of Krypton-85 are generated per 1000 fissions.
  • It is a gas at Standard Temperature and Pressure (STP). The gas density, at a temperature of 21.1°C, is 3.479 kg/m³.
  • The most common form (99.57%) of decay undergone by Krypton-85 is the emission of beta particles with a maximum energy release of 687 keV and an average energy release of 251 keV.
  • The global atmospheric inventory of Kr-85 is estimated to about 5500 PBq (petabecquerels, 1015 Bq) at the end of 2009.[3]
  • The amount of Krypton-85 in Earth's atmosphere is minute. Its contribution to atmospheric ionization and/or ozone formation is overwhelmed by other effects.[4]

Politics ignoring science[edit]

Sadly, this falsehood is influential within the corridors of power. Not directly, in that the EPA don't accept krypton-85 causes climate change. Indirectly, in that the EPA accept there are "legitimate environmental concerns", and try to alleviate such by enacting legislation.

The EPA proposed much lower Krypton-85 emission standards as a result of this myth,[5], which are unjustified both economically (according to any remotely rational cost-benefit analysis)[6] as well as environmentally (according to the science on Krypton-85's impact on nature).[4]

Hall of shame[edit]

Myth promoters[edit]

Listed in approximate order of credibility:

Books mentioning the meme[edit]

References[edit]