I have always maintained that it is no mere coincidence that the Nips got nuked twice in WW2 and later come out with a plethora of atomic monsters, headed by Godzilla.
It is with no wonder or surprise that I see that the blogosphere is rich with ongoing stories about Fukushima, and indeed elevated ambient levels of radiation across the US mainland.
I enclose again an image I have posted before, image is a link to full size version.
I was just reading a piece about a medical doctor in the USA who told a patient that he thought the recent increased levels of thyroid problems in children in his practice was related to Fukushima.
Might as well ask the guy in the Godzilla costume, it would be as relevant, accurate and scientifically sound.
As in, the medical doctor is far more qualified than the guy in the Godzilla costume to diagnose and treat thyroid illnesses in children, that’s why one has a licence to practice medicine of children and the other one doesn’t, but both are equally unqualified to state anything at all about radiation sources, spread, exposure and poisoning, which is why neither of them are licensed to practice nuclear engineering.
It reminded me of a party I was at a while ago, there was a senior nuclear medicine guy there, and a guy who had recently retired from the UK nuclear industry, and who had even worked at Dounreay (one of the now defunct UK fast breeders) where “worked at” meant one of the top scientists who still isn’t really allowed to talk about anything much.
The Dounreay guy is someone I always make a point of talking to on the rare occasions we meet, so anyway, we were all there, and certain metallic isotopes came up, namely caesium (bad, if you are a blogosphere type) and thorium (good, if you etc etc) and talk of thorium pebble bed reactors and so forth.
What is really all boils down to in truth is this;
1/ there are several different sorts of “radiation”, when talking about nuclear radiation, rather than just the electromagnetic spectrum, you tend to not get just the one sort from isotope X, you tend to get a mixture.
2/ broadly speaking, if you want to generate power, you want heat, because broadly speaking (there are exceptions to every case) a power plant is just a big kettle and steam turbine, you just use nukes to boil the water instead of coal or oil or gas.
3/ broadly speaking, ionising radiation is easier to shield than gamma rays etc, broadly speaking a couple of sheets of paper will stop alpha particles (electrons) but beta particles (protons and neutrons etc) are much nastier because they change what they hit, shame if that is human tissue, and they penetrate paper like it wasn’t there, and of course gamma rays are the proverbial light through a window when it comes to mere matter.
4/ broadly speaking, the more heat you want, and you want a *lot* to make a decent sized kettle, the more energetic and prominent all the above are, and all of the above are really by products of the heat you want, they are *not* the method used to heat the water in the kettle, the nuclear material does that, it is simple thermal conduction that does 99.99% of the water heating in the kettle, the trouble is if you put the kettle directly on to this nuclear hob, the beta radiation, which is really proton and neutron bombardment, tends to make the kettle radioactive, and the water in it, and the gamma rays won’t be too healthy either, so 95% of reactor design is all about letting the “good” heat energy out while keeping the “bad” radiation in.
So anyway, this party, the nuclear medicine guy was talking about there is more thorium than we could ever use, free energy, blah blah blah, so the Dounreay guy says sadly it is not as simple as that, *I* can tell you how a plane flies, I literally could not design one from scratch to save my life, but nuclear medicine guy isn’t having any of it, and starts blabbing.
Dounreay guys tell him, I am sure you are eminently qualified in your field, which is nuclear medicine, and if I have cancer I’d be delighted to be treated by you, but your knowledge of nuclear physics is actually considerably less than zero, because the 0.01% of the subject that you are aware of, and have some expertise in, leads you to think you know enough to even have an opinion about the other 99.99% of the field, and my good man, you do not.
BTW I have had long talks with Dounreay guy, very interesting man indeed, building nuclear kettles is no problem whatsoever, so in theory there is as much energy there as we could ever want, the problem is the kettles get radioactive themselves, and so you need a system for dealing with that scrap, even that isn’t a problem (see banana in the chart above) the problem is the system that deals with that scrap will eventually itself become contaminated, and people have unrealistic demands about THAT layer that make the whole thing a non starter.
Commercial fusion power plants? I asked him. He said we couldn’t build another Dounreay today even if we wanted to, and a fusion plant would be to Dounreay as Dounreay is to a small commercial GE reactor. Look at steam, boilers started on land, eventually they got good enough to go in ships, eventually they got good enough and small enough to go in locomotives, building a fusion plant today is like trying to build a steam powered aircraft.
We aren’t smart enough, hence ITER and CERN etc.
This, however, isn’t about the future of nuclear power.
This, is about Godzilla, which is the monster created to embody all our fears, and all our fears are based on ignorance, and there are none more ignorant on any given subject than those who have some level of skill and knowledge in another field, and who assume their competence in that field is any kind of positive factor when it comes to any other field, when in fact it is a strong negative indicator.
My original trade was marine engineering, and I sort of drifted into IT 30 years ago, my skill, competence and experience in those fields is the worst possible indicator of my ability to make any sort of judgement whatsoever about for example aircraft design and flight, even though many of the same tools, fasteners and physical laws and materials are at play.
Subconsciously, we all know this, we are out of control, literally, it has been hundreds of years since it was possible for one man, even a genius, to know as much of 50% of everything that was known.
Hence Godzilla, *because* they got nuked, the monster under the bed and in the shadows that was never seen in our nightmares became flesh and walked in daylight for the Nips.
Fukushima, Chernobyl, 3 Mile, Nagasaki…. shit happens.
The very definition of evolution, whether it be biological or scientific or technological, embodies the fundamental principle that for every birth there is a death, and it is this birth and death transition that allows the evolution to happen.
The only other option is extinction as a species, and the game itself will carry on without us, we can play, or not play, but we do not own the ball, the field, or make the rules.
Even if ALL the worst case blogobullshit about Fukushima holds true (or man made global warming H^H^H^ climate change, etc etc etc) so what?
Compared to all the other shit going down on a daily basis all over the world, it’s just another thing, not even a very big thing, unless you happen to be one of the unlucky ones.
It’s just lost in the background radiation, eat a banana a year, live within 50 miles of an operating nuke power plant for a year, or sleep in a bed with two other prople for a year, all the same doses of radiation. 0.1 uSv
Fly from NY to LA once, or live in a stone brick or concrete building for a year, same dose. 70 uSv
Live in your own body (internal radiation from the Potassium isotopes in your body) for one year, or one week in Fukushima exclusion zone, same dose. 390 uSv
Give me a fucking break, the REALLY scary fucking monster is ignorance, coupled with decisions made pandering to or exploiting it.