Keeping track of what’s going on in the world suddenly seems more interesting than studying. Here are some links to some news articles that seem interesting this week.
This Russian Soundsystem Turns Radiation Into Ambient Music – It doesn’t exactly sound good but boy is it interesting. I love the idea of turning signals from the environment into sound.
Thunderstorms can generate powerful radiation – Turns out that thunderstorms emit pulses of gamma radiation and no one exactly knows why. Not that anyone knows much about thunderstorms in the first place. Very interesting.
Tracking the Fukushima radioactivity plume across the Pacific – In case you stopped panicking about Fukushima lately, 2.1 years later, there are detectable levels of Cesium-134 off the Pacific coast. I just want to point out that detectable levels are far, far, far below dangerous ones. If you’d like another reassuring take, Stay Calm, But Radiation From Fukushima Has Crossed The Ocean To North America. Here’s one more reassurring take: Don’t panic! Fukushima radiation just hit the West Coast. I am very pleased by non-nuclear people telling the public not to worry. Of course the truth is that the danger posed to the West Coast by any radiation present is precisely zero by any reasonable measure of risk. And the risk of global warming is huge. So.
And there is an upside to the radiation plume from Fukushima, as well. Turns out scientists at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography are using the tiny bits of Cesium to track the ocean currents and test the validity of their models. This is important work and a good way to make use of the radioactivity that is currently terrifying everyone for no good reason.
Hultgren plan would study low-dose radiation effects – Because the effects of radiation are random and probabilistic in nature, it’s very difficult to figure out what happens at low doses. Okay, so you got a dose of 500 mrem (1/10 the occupational limit per year) above background one time and you get cancer. What were the chances you were going to get cancer anyway? Well, pretty high. How likely is it that your cancer was caused by your dose? The fact is, it’s almost impossible to tell. For years, the radiation community has estimated risk in an exceptionally conservative way. Since there is no way to tell, we assume the worst. That has some downsides. First of all, it terrifies people, and second, it tends to make things much more expensive than they maybe should be. So I’m glad there is some funding to actually study what happens at low doses.
Nuclear Navy father honored – The Navy is naming a sub after Admiral Rickover. It is really hard to overstate his contribution to the nuclear power industry. Thanks to him, there has never been a reactor accident on a navy vessel. And his methods have been just as influential in the civilian sector.
Nuclear Power Turns To Salt – Oak Ridge National Laboratory is partnering with a Canadian company (Terrestrial Energy Inc) to build a new Integral Molten Salt Reactor. IMSR is a small breeder, designed to have lower operating costs than traditional nuclear and to be deployed to far-flung locations and basically left alone until the fuel needs to be changed out 7 years later. This is super great, and I wish them the best of luck and science.
State plan would help nuclear plants by punishing carbon-based providers – Illinois is thinking about ways to help their nuclear plants stay open. I think discouraging carbon producers is in general a good idea, and letting nuclear plants close is mostly a bad idea. I hope some good comes of this.
Regulators, Palisades at odds over how much radiation workers were exposed to last year – Dose calculations are pretty complicated. In this case, the NRC is disagreeing with the way dose calculations were made during a special project. The workers were not wearing enough dosimeters in the right places, and the regulators believe the calculations were done incorrectly. Nobody is saying that the workers were overexposed, however it is important that calculations in general be accurate. In fact, such accuracy is central to the safety culture we work so hard to maintain in the radiation industry.
Nuke plant reports 2-month oil leak into Lake Michigan – This is very frustrating. First of all, the leak was small and there is no chance the oil is radioactive. But it is frustrating because nuclear plants already have such a bad reputation, the last thing they need is more bad press.
Presented without comment because it’s just too depressing.