Pyramid Science

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nuclear Power And Radioactivity

Chernobyl (Belarus): the reactors were old and unsafe. New designs of reactor may reduce the likelihood of a disaster (‘safer’), but whatever the delusion the energy source remains the same. The beast may be contained within a more secure cell though if the beast escapes... it's the same beast. Water is water or gold is still gold. The Fukushima Daiishi disaster in Japan illustrates the continuing threat with nuclear power.

  • Is anyone curious or really worried by the fact that cancers have been escalating over recent decades? The acceleration of any natural uncontrolled growth (tumour) has the generic term: cancer. Could it be that the continual emission of radiation over the last few decades has ultimately become so noticeable it can no longer be hidden?
  • No nuclear installation is absolutely ‘leak-proof’.
Thorium fuel cycle - an alternative?

  • Nuclear weapons cannot be made using thorium and that fact alone should explain why thorium will never be used even though it presents a safer energy source.

Any journey must always begin with the first step and that there is a growing disquiet about nuclear power can only be a good thing and the journey appears to be pointing in the right direction. The real problem will be removing mankind’s total reliance on power and energy and as the population size relentlessly increases without much concern the prospect of continued (human) life on Earth seems to be inevitably doomed.

The Fukushima ‘event’ has been upgraded to the maximal Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The Richter magnitude scale (a measure of earthquake violence) is only a single digit change, but represents a 10 fold (up or down) movement. It’s logarithmic, so from Level 5 to Level 6 defines a x 10 upward change or a Level 5 to Level 7 is a x 100 ( = 10 x 10) increase. This can be used politically to give the impression of a small change, though in fact is very different. Level 5 -> Level 6 or Level 5 -> Level 7 is not so dramatic as the respective 10 or 100-fold increase and the interpretation could be used to downplay the real situation. Chernobyl was a Level 7 event.

One country may have a different attitude to nuclear power, but that can never be enough. A disaster and an unfavorable wind can very quickly contaminate neighbouring areas. Continued air movement then eventually contaminates the entire planet. And very quickly. Dilution of the original source as it spreads simply contaminates everywhere. How much infection is necessary to cause a pandemic (Black Death)? This has the a similar mechanism as the spread of carbon dioxide.

  • Why is the spread of all cancers ( = Cancer) continuing to increase and only in recent decades? The atmospheric pollution of radioactive material is forever present. The entire global population has been contaminated for at least a generation (or two - DA). And the next generation grows with the biological (DNA) changes caused by radiation.
It's possible that the %age is constant though
an increased global population represents
a greater absolute number of occurrences
  • The aftermath of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima detonations are ever-present. And will be for thousands of years. Nearly 70 years ago may seem a long time, but in terms of radioactivity it is simply a blink of the eye of time (half-fife).
  • The next generation has corrupted DNA and the hereditary nature of genetics means that the next generation and (probably) several after that are doomed to grow with changed DNA. It's already too late to stop the world-wide spread of damage, but it could (at least in theory - DA) be contained

Radiation sickness is understood to occur after about a 1 sievert = 1000 mSv exposure (dose). Severe radiation sickness is caused after a 2000 mSv exposure and death after 4000 mSv. In Britain background radiation (from rocks, soils, food, the air...) is estimated to be 2.7 mSv per year. Of this, the man-made contribution (medical imaging) amounts to around 20%.

  • This itself forces an issue: the use of such a radiation source to examine the human biological system could theoretically contaminate where there is no evidence of exposure to radiation. Searching for evidence of exposure actually leaves the previously non-existent evidence.
The radiation levels around the Fukushima plant range between 0.003 mSv and 0.005 mSV per hour. The average (0.004 mSv/hour) then equates to 35000 mSv/year. Placed in relative perspective: 35,000/2.7 = 12963 times the UK-dose. The Fukushima Level 7 represents the UK annual background radiation dose exposure within only a few hours.