44 Nuclear Thoughtscapism with Iida Ruishalme

Iida (intro)

Despite decades of promises from policies and that we are committed to green goals, our carbon emissions are going up. So I think it’s just a question of when will we realize that we have to actually start building massive amounts of low carbon power plants. And a lot of those will be nuclear. So I’m just hoping that will be sooner rather than later for our sakes and for for the sake of my children.


The Rational View is a weekly series hosted by me Dr. Alan Scott, providing a rational, evidence-based perspective addressing important societal issues. Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Rational View. I’m your host, Dr. Al Scott. On this episode, I’m excited to be interviewing a person who I’ve admired for a long time and who has kind of led me through this morass of issues–a fellow eco-modernist, I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it. I just heard her interview on the Decouple podcast by Chris Kiefer. And she’s a great inspiration to anyone who is fighting the forces of anti-science darkness.

As always, if you enjoy the content that you’re hearing, please press like and share it with your friends. Let’s grow this movement and see if we can make a difference.

Iida Ruishalme is a biologist specializing in biomedical research, a science communicator and a fiction writer. She’s a Finn by birth and has a master’s degree from Sweden. She has worked in environmental chemistry, diabetes research, pharmaceutical biobank labs, and lab robotics. Nowadays, she lives in Switzerland with her husband and two children. She is an active member of three eco-modernist associations across Europe. Iida, welcome to The Rational View.


Thanks so much. I’m very happy that you invited me.

Al 1:55

Well, thank you for coming on the show. Could you please tell our listeners something about yourself and your background? Your expertise seems so broad, from diabetes research to lab robotics? How did you get into all of these diverse fields?

Iida  2:07

Well, actually, it’s when you do biological lab work, then lab robotics sort of came in as a part of my job. I worked at Russia biobank in Switzerland. So we gather in lots of data, DNA and RNA samples and proteomics samples from patients across lots of trials. And then, in order to use those materials, we have a huge workflow. So it needs to be automatized. You can’t do it by hand. So you need robots that do your work for you. And I thought it was really cool that I had this opportunity. They sent me on a four weeks course, to learn how to program our robots for the lab, which I enjoyed a lot.

Al  2:55

I’m very excited to have you on the show. Your thoughtscapism blog is a wonderful resource of information on nuclear energy. And I’ve shamelessly shared your excellent well-referenced pronuclear graphs all over Facebook. I’m a big fan. Thank you.

Iida  3:12

That’s great. That’s great to hear. It’s exactly why I’m making them because I just want to help a little bit, make it more accessible, so that you can get around easier.

Al  3:22

So what is the significance of the name of your blog thoughtscapism, what inspired you to start publishing?

Iida  3:29 

So basically, I was really interested in biology, and I was really interested in environmental areas. And on top of that, I’ve always wanted to write books, and I’m just interested about language and about psychology and communication, how people how you can communicate better. And I realized that if I want to write a blog, it will be too limiting to have just say, the biology topics or just energy topics. So it’s rather trying to build this entire landscape of your thoughts how you understand how I understand the world, where do the pieces go? Where do they connect? Not only how do we understand the science, but how do we understand each other? How do we communicate the science? What does it mean for us and so on. So it was really about this thought landscape. And so I figured, I’ll go with thoughtscapism. It might be a mouthful, but it allows me this broad perspective.

Al  4:26 

Yeah, I’ve interviewed a couple biologists and a doctor, medical doctor and I think a lot of people on the anti-nuclear power side will be surprised to find people with medical know how being pro-nuclear because the prevailing public opinion is that ‘radiation bad’ radiation causes cancer. What made us realize that pronuclear is the way to go?

Iida  4:54 

I think it’s a really long process because there was such a cultural brainwashing to be against nuclear. So I grew up with this idea that nuclear must be really bad. And we can’t, we just can’t accept that kind of risk. So it was completely natural to think that we should really shut it all out. But I think that during, it’s really, I had the privilege of having people I trusted, who gave me a little bit sort of gave me pause and gave me a reason to rethink and be a little bit open minded. I had a friend who used to be antinuclear, who we were both interested in horses, she was a riding teacher. So we had nothing to do with that. But she was interested in sciences. And she was a chemist, she wanted to go study chemistry. And when I met her, she was already doing her degree. And she said that well, yeah, so she used to be on the barricades saying no, for nuclear. And then she thought that, since she’s very rational kind of person, she wants to have better arguments. And that when she went to study chemistry, she decided to do radio chemistry, so that she could have even better arguments know more about the radioactive effects in the body. And during her studies, she had a sort of change of heart, because the more you learn, the more it challenges your thinking. The way okay, was a little bit simplistic to think that it’s very bad. And she was the one who told me that, “You know, what? Nuclear waste, it’s really, really safe. There’s so many levels of safety there. So we really know what we’re doing.” And that gave me like, oh, wait, alright, so maybe it’s not, maybe it’s not all catastrophic. And just that little nudge gave me the opening needed because then when I later returned to environmental, because of climate change, really largely. I mean, biodiversity and conservation they are also topics that are very important to me. But climate change was threatening all of that. And then I realized that okay, so energy is not really something that had interested me before. But actually, this is vital for all those living things over all the biological life on the planet. Because for the sake of that, we really should look at how we produce enough energy. So then I got into it, and I realized more and more like, wait, wait, wait. Nuclear is also here. Again, it’s not just bad. There are some pros like, actually, it can produce a lot of electricity and, and then when I heard about advanced reactors that can actually use up nuclear waste. And I realized, okay, these old fears that I had, that nuclear waste must be really bad, it had still been living in the background, I couldn’t, it wasn’t easy to let go of that fear. It’s really, it has a really strong basic grip. And when I realized that we can get rid of the waste by using it up and producing more clean energy from it, then I sort of felt this is sort of a moral imperative. We have to build these new nuclear reactors, so that we can take care of the waste and reduce it to a fraction again, to waste that is only radioactive for a few 100 years. And then during that time, I then started really being actively in discussions and trying to talk about hey, wait, look, look, there’s this really important solution that we should be using, that’s getting all this negative press and a lot of it, if you look into it, it’s completely off. So here is an important topic, we should be looking at anew.

Al 8:35 

Yeah, I noticed on your blog that you were a member of Mothers for Nuclear Energy. Is that along the same lines as you were speaking? Like it counters the impression of pro-nuclear people as being looking like me with the gray beard and the physics degree. Now, you have nurturers out there who appreciate nuclear energy because they have children and they care about their children’s futures that is that sort of the thought there?

Iida  9:02 

Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. Because I had already been on energy forums and talking about nuclear quite a lot. And I had realized that yes, with a crowd that’s out there, you have a lot of people who support nuclear. I think they also care but they come off as very, not as caring they, there are lots of people who think nuclear is really cool. It’s technically really cool, it’s a very interesting physical phenomenon that we can harness. So there’s this coolness side to it. But if you only talk about how other people are wrong, and this is really cool, really best tech we have that it does not convey that there’s also caring about the same kind of values behind it. So then when I saw Kristin and Heather, and I saw their pictures and their stories, and which were very much lifting up the side that not that they don’t appreciate the coolness or the ingenuity of the engineering and so on, but that they also bring up the fact that, hey, we really care for these things, we really care for the environment, we really want clean air, we really want safe futures for children. So the fact that it’s not just something that’s cool, or that generates money for some higher ups, who have important positions that nuclear power plants or something like no, it has a different value that should really not be ignored behind that veneer of great technical expertise.

Al  10:38 

Yeah, yeah. And on your blog, in the nuclear section, you have all these great arguments and discussions, you basically address all the facile arguments of the anti-nuclear power Cabal, you know, ‘it’s too slow’, you have a great graph of build times of low carbon electricity showing nuclear power is humanity’s fastest proven tool for decarbonisation. And that’s, you know, a myth, you basically hit all these myths, ‘it costs too much’, you have a table of building costs of low carbon electricity that shows when you distribute the costs of the much longer lifetime of nuclear, it becomes the cheapest source per kilowatt hour, you have a nice graph of capital costs for reactors and show that the most popular reference for levelized cost of energy, the Lazard report, seems to be cherry picking only the highest cost. That one surprised me, actually, because Lazard is supposed to be this respected economic reference. But how did you find that?

Iida  11:35 

Yeah, exactly. How can it’s really startling, I mean, I had found these amazing claims in topics, other topics like vaccines and agriculture, you have lots of myths around, and some that I had fallen for myself, especially in agriculture. But then when I started, and I realized that hey, these myths are everywhere. That sure, so I’ve grown up hearing that, you know, nuclear power, it’s really slow and really expensive. And I’ve just accepted that surely, because people say it must be true. But this is maybe the biggest lesson I’ve had that on all levels of society, in all political parties, in all groups, you have lots of assumptions that are just taken as true. And that itself is fascinating that it’s not really difficult to have to just dig in and find the information. You just need a little bit of time. And like, Okay, so I’ve heard this is the truth. Nuclear power is very expensive. Let’s look at it, how do you look at it? And just being precise defining how is expensive? Is it over time? Or is it upfront cost? Or what do you mean, exactly? Already holds your thinking into like, okay, so really information is actually something that has to be precise and well defined. It’s not just a vague idea that surely it’s in this one way too bad. But you have to actually ask a specific question and find the answer. And a lot of times you find that people will pass around an answer that simply people they trusted have repeated it with maybe without thinking because people they trusted have repeated. So yeah, I was also really surprised about this Lazard economic, their numbers because I was thinking that surely, surely they should be more reasonable. They can’t just pick the most expensive version, sometimes even more expensive than the US most expensive US prices for reactors. Where did they get this number?

Al  13:50 

Why did they fall victim to the bias that’s out there? It seems like the fear of nuclear energy is rampant. And the easiest response is a fear response. Because the numbers are big, that power density is huge. The accidents are front page and people see these highly popularized nuclear accidents, you can count them on one hand, but they don’t put it into perspective, with the deaths from fossil fuels. Now I personally like to use the airplanes versus cars argument. If you need to go a long ways flying we know far and away the safest way to travel. Many, many more person kilometers are achieved safely on airplanes and in cars, but people still see a high profile plane crash and they decide to drive a long ways and more people die. This primal fear of being out of control or something pops up. I think the fear of radiation is very similar.

Iida  14:48 

It is! It is the same here. I think that it’s interesting how pervasive it is. I mean, especially if we take it, take a step back and try to look at a topic and think that now we really make an effort to look at it objectively. Then often we manage to maybe see through some of these levels, but I think that you can see it in, in people in politics and in science, also people who are really knowledgeable and who hear about the facts about nuclear and consider that, okay, so there are lots of false claims around it. But that doesn’t necessarily erase the little insecurity about it. Because even I’ve just recently went to a science conference. And there we talked about the importance of vaccine programs and the importance of trying to get into gene editing and biotech crops to people and trying to counter the misinformation campaigns. But then still there people are hesitant to say that, yeah, ‘you know, for climate change, in France we have a lot of nuclear’, but some people want to get rid of it in the you know, they might have concerns, and people are sort of scared to step there and say that, ‘you know, this is also a misinformation campaign’. That they are, it is a little bit insecure for all of us. So, as I was thinking that the name of the podcast The Rational View, it’s something we aspire to. And in a way, when you look at human psychology, there are rationales for why we react in the ways we react. But it doesn’t mean that we always react in a rational manner, in the context of the situation. So of course, it makes sense that we have these first risk perceptions, because they just make us more, we have to have agency, we come to a situation in the savanna and we see something, and we have to have something that allows us to have a quick reaction. And to do something, it doesn’t help to stop there and start reflecting, you know, being really methodical and rational about it, it helps to have a quick plan of action. So it is completely rational from a species point of view, to have these fast reactions. But then when we come to these abstract situations where we have this really strange power that we don’t really understand. We can learn it, but it doesn’t go, it doesn’t sink into the reptile brain, we don’t understand it, we can see we can’t touch it, we can like push it on a lower level now. And this is how I control it. You don’t have this tactile feeling that you have with water and you have with fire, you know how to stop a fire. You just don’t have it. So we all have this little insecurity about it, we all have this little reservation. So we are more careful about making even scientists who are really well educated about these topics are more measured and more cautious about making strong statements about this, which sort of makes it harder to get the message out there.

Al  17:54 

Yeah, it’s a feeling right. And I’ve read that, you know, most decisions are taken emotionally rather than rationally and then justified post hoc with the tools of logic at our disposal that we really need to work hard to change that or to counter that and to have people make the proper decisions. You know, I had the same thing. The first time I got an on a jet plane, I was deadly nervous, even knowing, you know, my parents were telling me no, this is safe. This is you know, these things don’t crash. Sure you’ve seen the the flashy television shows a plane crash.

Iida  18:31 

Right, exactly, exactly. We have this reaction? And I think so I think it’s a great thing to remember to have this compassion, understanding for these directions, not to say you are stupid, because you’re afraid. No, we’re built that way. We are easily afraid. And it’s helped us but it doesn’t always. It, there’s also errors in those feelings. So understanding that it’s okay to have these reactions, everybody has them. But also the fact that as a mother, for instance, as soon as you bring in kids in the equation, our alarm bells start going off louder, it’s always more important to take care of our kids, because they’re helpless and we are responsible for them. So we get afraid more easily. But then it’s  also we’re not slaves to these reactions, we shouldn’t treat them as something that should steer us blindly. We should then really take that responsibility. I mean, for the public at large or for our kids or whatever the scenario is, we should actually then take that responsibility seriously and say that, okay, my fear says this. But how do we make sure that they don’t come to more harm? How do we protect them from harm, and realizing that if we only let this fear rule, we are actually letting people get, you know, get harmed by our decisions? So if we truly want to respect people In this fear, respect the caring that is in it, then we have to give some time for reflections to check these reactions are they based on good logic? Are there good grounds, because often when we are afraid we forget that you always have to weigh the situations, its pros and cons. You have alternatives, and they all have risks. So we have the power to then look at those alternatives. And see that wow, okay, so we should really go for the one with less risk. So that we don’t get blinded by one fear and only stare at that one.

Al  20:39 

You had a good quote on your website if I paraphrase it, ‘you can’t only look at the risks of one thing, you have to look at the risks of not doing nuclear as well as the risks of nuclear’ because it’s very easy to shine a bright light on nuclear and point out all of the flaws in excruciating detail. Because every large industrial process has flaws, it has waste streams, it has toxins, it has dangerous things. And in isolation, this is very frightening. But then if you hold it up and balance it, which is what I think is the most important thing we as scientists can bring to the public. This is No, we’ve looked at the data, we’ve looked at the epidemiology on radiation and the epidemiology on fossil fuels. And we can provide a balance thing to the public so that they can make these rational decisions and fight these fear responses. You have a great graphic on Fukushima, show that living in the Fukushima restricted areas is safer than living in Tokyo. And you can imagine families when the Fukushima Daiichi reactor blew up, being evacuated to Tokyo and harming their children. I mean, it’s a very hard decision. Like you have to have a lot of fortitude when the government is saying you need to move out of here. And let’s go to a safe place like Tokyo. But it would have been safer had they stayed if based on what we know of medical science and the effects of radiation. And even if you calculate the linear no threshold theorem, doses, the number of people that would have died, or the number of years that would have lot been lost, on average, as if a couple months per person, on average, would have been lost, even using the linear no threshold theorem. Whereas moving to Tokyo, you’ve got 1000s more people that would be harmed.

Iida 22:29 

Yeah, it’s really, I suppose one reason we do this is because it gets really complex if we look at the whole context. But here, we should at least take some of the biggest factors into account or some of the similars, so at least the industrial exposures. Obviously, is different, whether you are choosing to do something, because there are lots of factors in it for you whether you want to live in a big city, there’s, there’s pros to that, obviously. So but if you’re looking at one health effect, come on, you have to bring in at least some context of other similar big health effects. So yeah, it’s how we talk about it. One of the most important things we can do is bring some context put things in a context so that we understand with some risk that we have a little bit better feel for or that we can be a bit more empowered by saying okay, we can choose this or we can choose this and how much worse is that? Because just now I watched the recent German documentary about was the ‘Atomauschtie [sp?]’, it was a mistake. It was a Fukushima 10 year anniversary documentary. And there was actually a part of it that was really great around 10 minutes, they did have lots of scientists in talking about the fact that you get all these carbon emissions that you can avoid with nuclear. And you have these countries on the green who produce electricity with lots lower emissions, like France and Sweden. And then they look to Germany, and said, ‘we’re not doing so great. So there was some great information there, but then they moved back to looking just, uh, you know, but because of the risks, we really want to get rid of nuclear. And then the rest of the documentary, they talked about the fact that how do we research it in still in Germany? And does the step makes sense? Well, we want to make sure that it gets safer and that since our neighbors to use it, that it gets safer. So they talked and talked and talked about the risks of nuclear, and they talked about trying to make it safer, because it still exists. And not once was there, bringing it to any context. Not once was there, you know the more you talk about safety, the more you inflate feeling that there must be something really dangerous about this, because we should really, really, really make it safe. And then at the same time, you’re completely quiet about the fact that more than 1000 people die every year because of Germany’s decision to close down nuclear plants.

Al  25:11 

Opening of the new coal plant.

Iida 25:13 

Yeah, Datel 4 which they opened. And somehow, then this safey talk and they’re taking their people’s fear seriously. And I think there’s probably a lot of really good motivation behind that. But they’re not taking their population safety seriously. There’s two different things, the fears, and what we actually die on.

Al  25:37 

That’s the problem with a democracy, I guess is that you need to address what the people are afraid of and get the people on your side as a government, and it doesn’t push governments to do the right thing if it’s unpopular.

Iida  25:51 

Yeah, and it’s also that because of these fear reactions are something that permeates the whole society, they apply for journalists, they apply for politicians, they apply for scientists. So it’s getting the message of context and putting it in reasonable context, thinking about it a little bit, taking a step back. It doesn’t happen so easily, it doesn’t get out there so easily. So we’re sort of victims of that, because any group that then takes it as part of their identity that you know, we are against nuclear, obviously, they will hold on to it much harder. They have that these identity reasons for holding on to the same ideas that there appears to. But those happen more easily because of this fundamental, easier fear that we have for these artificial things that we can’t control ourselves can’t see can’t hear can’t touch. That’s just a strange danger to us.

Al  26:49 

And every time a government makes an irrational risk decision with nuclear as opposed to fossil fuels, it reinforces the fear. And it, you know, people think they’re being rational, because they see the governments responding irrationally, to nuclear risks.


Yeah, definitely.


It gives people the wrong impression. If you’re a rational person, and you don’t know anything about it, and you see government’s responding, ‘No, it’s too risky. We have to shut it all down, we have to evacuate this area!’. But if you know if they’re smart enough to look at these risks and say, Well, looks like nuclear should be the lower risk at this point. But there must be something else. Maybe there’s a conspiracy. And this brings people into conspiratorial thinking and you know, disbelieving the UNSCEAR reports on Fukushima and Chernobyl.

Iida 27:41 

Yeah, no, it’s, I mean, it’s completely reasonable. If you see entire governments make decisions and say we should phase out nuclear because of the risks, then if you’re a normal person who is not a physicist, or is not into reading research on their free time, of course, it’s reasonable to think there’s something to their reaction. So yeah, it’s the interesting thing is that the nuclear regulators, they were going to have a conference here in Switzerland, about emergency preparedness, how could they learn from situations with Chernobyl and with Fukushima? And how could they do across board, how could they do better if there’s ever a situation where there’s a problem in the nuclear plant or where there’s an actual accident? And how do you deal with that situation? And the fact is that they were, there was a lot of problematics that they couldn’t have the conference because of Coronavirus. But the topics they were going to talk about was how do you tell people who live near to near a nuclear power plant, if anything happens? And if it is, as it is, the likely scenarios, as it has been so far, that actually an evacuation would harm the public more than staying put, how do you communicate that to the public? What will the public need to trust the government now that for the first time they would come with the message that you know, it’s safest to stay there? Please don’t worry. Because everything we’ve learned is as soon as we hear radiation, artificial radiation, or nuclear we think worry, worry, worry. How do you stop after decades of this message? It’s it’s a difficult problem.

Al  29:26 

In Fukushima, I guess the government had tried to put out data on the on the state of the radiation. And then the US NRC head had a statement that said, Oh, no, it’s much, much worse than this. Later, he retracted it, because it was wrong. But that made people distrust the government because we had this fear response from the head of the US NRC. I believe that I don’t, I have to go check my references on that exactly who it was but there was this respected person from The US nuclear safety, who said, Oh my god, this is gonna be horrible, you know, everyone should be leaving Japan. And it just completely undermined what the government was trying to do.

Iida  30:11 

So difficult because partly, you really want authorities and those responsible, who should lead the process, to have good communication to have one level headed message, not go around saying these completely different things. But then obviously, all these authorities and scientist community, they are individuals, and they will also have fear reactions. So they will also react irrationally, and put out these statements whether they’re well meaning or not. So it’s difficult, but obviously, the better. The more trustworthy institutions we can build, who are actually really thinking about public’s best, and who can earn the public’s trust over a long time, the better. And a lot of the time, people say that actually, what we should do, if possible, is to get people who the public already trusts, and try to teach them a little bit more about radiation communication. And in this case, often people trust their own doctors. So they’re like general practitioners. And they were saying that we should have some way of giving out some of this information to general practitioners, because also, they’re not really knowledgeable about radiation effects. It’s not your normal thing you learn about. You learn about infections and learn about metabolic diseases and stuff, like really affects people a lot. Radiation isn’t really on the map there. So that would help having this channel of information from somewhere who you already trust, and then not hearing these disparate comments from different directions.

Al 31:56 

Yeah, I mean, even scientists can be caught up in in the fear and self bias, and it’s always a fight as a scientist to analyze your bias and question your assumptions. And, you know, continue looking at the literature to make sure yes, is this the right answer? And I’m always, you know, questioning myself, especially with the weight of pressure from anti nuclear organizations, and the constant flow of poor science coming out of them. And even scientists at respected universities are putting out really questionable stuff, as far as I can tell, on nuclear that just, you know, seems to be there for the fear quotient more than anything, or to make the Greens feel good with their anti nuclear message. As well, on your website, you also address the ‘What about the waste’ question. You show a study from Finland that found that the maximum radiation dose that one of our distant descendants might encounter from a leaking geological nuclear waste repository would be equivalent to eating two bananas. In fact, Finland, is now operating its own geological repository. Is that correct?

Iida  33:12 

Yeah. Olkiluoto, it’s just in the phases of being taken in into use. It’s been tested for a long time. And the best studies that you have on nuclear waste storage, come from Olkiluoto. So it’s, I’m really proud about my country that they’re finally doing this, because there’s so much political capital used in the fact that we don’t have a long term storage. So the question is still not solved. The thing is that, since it’s not an urgent problem, you have a lot of time to take care of it. It’s not polluting the surrounding environment, you can easily take care of it during the time you have, you don’t have any hurry finding a storage location for it. Or even, you might wait and reprocess it and use it again. So there’s lots of choices. And you keeping it as it is now is not problematic. But because it has such a weight in people’s minds. The fact that when we don’t have the solution, yet, it’s just lying around. Makes it sound really scary. So then I’m really happy that Finland is actually finalizing their project so that we can say that, look, it’s not so hard. You drill a hole in the bedrock. And you have a place there and you put your casks there. And that’s it. And we’ve already done that. And we have that. And now actually the Finnish Ekmonon has just put out a statement asking the there was a official period where you can take statements from official organizations, that we should finally open our laws to that we can export import these expertise, that we can offer a solution to all those countries that have because you leads, we don’t have long term storage, because it’s hard to find a place where people would accept this. Or there’s it’s hard to even start these projects because there’s also political opposition to it. So it’s really a question of, could we please just get on with this project? And we’ve done this. We have lots of countries have lots of bedrock to use. So it’s not a question of space. It’s a question of political will. So we have this political will. There’s no planetary boundary for when is there too much nuclear waste? It’s always a local issue. Where do we put it? Is this a good spot here? We can hide find enough space?


Yeah, it’s definitely a political solution.


Yeah. So it’s great that now we could offer it to people who are still quibbling about it. Okay. So quibbling, we have the solution here. We can take care of it.

Al  35:51 

Yeah. No, we have the great comeback, though. The unholy three objections to nuclear power, ‘Fukushima’, ‘Chernobyl’, And ‘what about the waste?’ Now we can get rid of the ‘What about the waste’. And we know in Canada, we’re also fighting for a deep geological repository to be approved. But there’s so much opposition to it from the greens because suddenly one of their arguments goes away completely.

Iida  36:14 

This was exactly the same here in Switzerland. Obviously, they’re waste storage it’s interim. They’re planning, also, of actually making a hole in bedrock. But during that time, 400 years or whatever time they want, they have all their waste stored. And when they started this project, Greenpeace was there protesting it, don’t take care of waste? What is the logic there? How can you be against something you want?

Al 36:47 

So because people are worried about oh, it’s gonna leak into the groundwater. But at the depths, I think the studies have been showing at the depths that these things are being placed the groundwater moves like a meter or two every million years. And before it gets to the surface, it’s going to be, you know, hundreds of 1000s of years later at the earliest possible date, after all of the radiation is gone.

Iida  37:11 

Yeah, I think that the, in the Finnish study, they said the worst possible possible scenario that they can fathom it would be 10,000 years, before we get to that two bananas level of exposure. But even though you have a repository deep in the earth, and even though you have a slow moving of the groundwater, it’s really mind boggling when you look at the natural nuclear reactor in Oklo. In Africa, where you had a natural, rich deposit of uranium ore, that actually naturally started nuclear fission. So it went through cycles of nuclear fission through hundreds of 1000s of years. And it produced I think it was several tonnes of waste in the spot where it was fissoning. And it’s near the ground, it’s near surface, it’s in the rock near the surface, and it stayed there. The waste products from the nuclear fission, they don’t actually like water phase, they absorbed back into the rock, we have a little bit leaching naturally all the time into the oceans, right. So we have a little background level in the oceans, but it’s not very much. Most of it stays absorbed into the rock. So the even near surface being flushed by rain waters and ground waters and whatnot–This nuclear waste has moved a few meters in 2 billion years to while life evolved. It’s completely mind boggling. We were cellular organisms back then.

Al  38:52 

That’s amazing. Yeah. And it’s a very good counter argument for the worries of, of environmentalists that these things are going to be dangerous. And you’re right, there has been no pressure from an economic standpoint to move the waste because it doesn’t cost much to store it and it’s not a big risk. But because it looms large psychologically it’s very important to have this thing and I’m kudos to Finland for going forward and getting that done. Because I think that’s going to be you know, the first domino to fall and now hopefully other countries can follow along and get rid of this psychological weight on the shoulders of everybody.

Iida  39:30 

Yeah, I think it’s really a question of time, a matter of time because it’s just been so much more on everybody’s consciousness. Now in the last I’d say just in the last five years, the situation has gone from almost no one talking about nuclear power to major newspapers starting to talk about these questions in a more nuanced ways. Asking questions, were we wrong or should this be a part of solution? More and more people in the you know, everything from celebrities to politicians are starting to speak up about it. And then as you say, a little bit of like a domino effect, people hear more about it, then there’s we’ve gotten come to the point that we, we are building our repository, we also have new advanced reactors. And we are also seeing more and more of the effects of that era, you know, the climate is warming, things are happening. And we’re also seeing that, despite decades of promises from policies and that we are committed to green goals, not much is happening, our current carbon emissions are going up. So I think it’s just a question of when will we realize that we have to actually start building massive amounts of low carbon power plants, and a lot of those will be nuclear. So I’m just hoping that will be sooner rather than later for our sakes and for the sake of my children, you know,

Al  40:56 

Yes, indeed, I agree with that’s why–one of the reasons I started my podcast back almost a year ago. I think we’re getting to the end of our time slot here. One final question. So you’re a fiction writer, what do you like to write about?

Iida  41:14 

I think it’s sort of funny, because I spent so much time trying to figure out what is assumptions and what is real, that we have to anchor our thinking in the real. And then you listen to all these pseudoscientific thinking, and there’s lots of energy and vibrations and you know, quantum things or whatever. And that’s actually really fascinating. Those are really interesting stories. That’s what sci fi and fantasy and magic are made of. So this is what I write, I write fantasy. And I love to think about how could systems of magic work? So right now I’m, for instance, I’m writing something that takes its power from a radiation that is not known to man that is parallel with the solar storms and Northern Lights, and it can penetrate through the magnetic north and south poles and how would that work, and it’s a little bit like neutrinos that mostly doesn’t interact and so. And it’s really a little bit the same kind of have this kind of creativity of making associations and making interesting concepts is really like this conspiracy theory thinking uses this part of us. We have this creativity in us. So for me, it’s just important that yes, I love that kind of creativity. But we should also know when we are in Fantasyland and that what value there is in actually also knowing what does the real world entail? What are the stories that are real and what are the stories that we create?

Al  42:41 

It’s a lot of fun. Iida thank you so much for coming on the program. I really enjoyed talking with you.

Iida  42:46 

Thanks so much. It was really enjoyable to have a conversation. And it’s so nice of you to do this to be a voice on the on the social media landscape and on the internet landscape. Wanting to look at the reality

Al  43:00 

you as well. Thank you so much.


Bye bye.


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