Everybody Calm Down Please - But Being Prepared Never Hurts

wGraves's picture

A few points.

1. There won’t be any nuclear ‘explosion’ generated by a chain reaction. Nuclear explosives are based upon fast neutron processes. The reactant will splatter or vaporize long before it can ‘explode.’  I seem to recall that it was Gene Wigner who first pointed this out.

2. The safety systems worked and the reactors are shut down. Typically, boron or cadmium control rods are lowered into the fuel assembly to absorb thermal neutrons.  Loss of the moderator, protium, also quenches the reaction. The remaining problem is one of contamination resulting from an inability to cool the fuel rods enough to keep them from melting. They get activated with pumped radioisotopes during the reaction and typically have to be cooled under water for three years after having been removed from the reactor. Otherwise, they melt. This is not a good outcome, because it's a mess and can lead to contamination.

3. It looks like we have a containment breach. If the fuel melts and vaporizes, then you have a big-time contamination problem. It is exacerbated by lack of emergency electrical power. They need to cool the fuel and control the contamination.

4. People are protected from radiation by the one-over-r-squared law. They need to stay away from areas contaminated by radioisotopes. Some mass between you and the source helps a lot as well.

5. If you are in Japan.  People need to protect their respiratory and digestive systems from internal contamination. Wear a mask if you are in Japan and are exposed.  Decontaminate yourself by taking a shower and discarding any contaminated clothing.  The Army uses DANK solution, but soap and water will remove particulates from your skin almost as well.  Trisodium phosphate is a good wash to use.

6. So far, there is no danger in the US from any of this. Remember, in 1954 we blew up Bikini Atoll in an open air thermonuclear test. Distance protects against radiation, passage over vast areas of ocean eliminates contaminants.

7. Don’t start taking potassium iodide unless you are actually going to be exposed. It can be nasty stuff.

8. We monitor radiation levels here constantly, and authorities will advise if there is anything dangerous going on here in the US in plenty of time to protect yourself.

9. You are presently sitting in the cosmic ray background, so you are irradiated every day. If you fly, you get a higher dose. Every time you get a medical x-ray you get irradiated. Radiation, in small doses, won’t cause you any immediate harm.

10. The approved dose for nuclear workers is predicated on the cosmic background radiation.  Depending on where you live and your elevation, you may receive 0.3 to 15 REM/year.   Nuclear workers are basically allowed 5 REM/yr.  They are allowed this dose because they are individually monitored on the job.  One REM, or Roentgen Equivalent in Man, is 0.01 Sieverts. The standard attempts to make a comparative baseline exposure assessment common to alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, as well as protons.  The LD50, or lethal dose for 50% of the population, is about 400 REM in a point dose, assuming no treatment with chealating agents, etc.  Dosage is not cumulative, as damaged cells, except in the brain, are cycled out of the body continually.  So far, in the US, nobody has been exposed at all.

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