I once surveyed a radioactive baboon on crack.

The baboon was coked up, not me (though that would have been awesome).

Point is, I’ve been around. And my job is precisely what this panic is about: protecting people and things from ionizing radiation.

So during the Japanese crisis and aftermath, I’m retasking this general-interest blog to radiation concerns. I’ll explain (and when necessary, counter) radiological news and opinions. Full disclosure: I do have a new agenda. I’m now convinced we should be building modern nuclear plants, ASAP. The Fukushima reactors are to what’s possible as this…

…is to this:

And even after the fifth-worst earthquake in history those dinosaurs are still hanging tough! So suppose they had fuel that physically couldn’t melt down?

The anti-nuke crusaders are mobilizing. Many will lie, if it furthers their cause. None of them can sneak a radiological lie past me. So if you’d like to stay on top of the “rad rad rad rad world“, bookmark this! You can always dump me when I go back to whining about invisible dinosaurs. And believe me, I will.

So, to complete the gonzoC.V.:

I’ve slaved away in Boiling and Pressurized Water Reactors under NRC regs. At DOE accelerators I’ve covered relativistic electrons to relativistic gold ions and most everything in between. I’ve pegged teletectors on dose and ion chambers on smears. Tracked down hot dirt daubers’ nests and wrangled snakes out of Contamination Areas.

I’ve seen so much I stopped saying “I’ve seen it all” back in my early thirties.

And as the only human being ever to cite a groundhog for failure to wear dosimetry, I have but one peer:

Stick around and you will quickly develop radiological expertise. If you have questions, just ask. And if you’re an anti-nuke activist…welcome! Just don’t use language that requires decontamination.

About wormme

I've accepted that all of you are socially superior to me. But no pretending that any of you are rational.
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15 Responses to I once surveyed a radioactive baboon on crack.

  1. Cory Franklin says:

    In things that could cause a nuclear meltdown you address all the obvious natural causes.
    Big question you didn’t address- could human sabotage do it?

    • wormme says:

      Oooooh, yes. Sorry I didn’t mention it . There’s no foolproofing something that’s physically possible.

      But to do it you’ll need to take over the control room. Possibly other places requiring manual overrides. You’ll need a rogue reactor operator, possibly from that or an identical reactor. Random button-mashing and lever-pulling just won’t cut it.

      Pretty much every variable and transient is designed to kill criticality, not increase it. Water gets hotter? It expands slightly, becoming less dense, and so a few more neutrons escape rather than hitting fissile nuclei.

      So yes, certainly possible. And I dreamed up ways to insert terrorist teams at a few plants. (Never shared them, of course.)

      BUT. For the time, training, and resources required to probably melt down a nuke, you could definitely blow up multiple dams, chemical factories, destroy electrical switching yards, etc. etc.

      After 9/11 we heard fears that terrorists could have crashed into nuke containment buildings. If they had, there’d be about 3,000 more people alive today.

  2. Thomas Beals says:

    “The Fukushima reactors are to what we could do what this…” probably should read,
    “The Fukushima reactors are to what we could do as this…”

    Just found your site. Very informative. I’m a former user of 32P, 33S (molecular biology applications as you might guess).

  3. Engineer Bob says:

    I’m new to your site, and appreciate your work on it.

    Off-topic diversion follows:

    I wish there was a widely available radiation meter of some kind, so that consumers all over the world could measure and publish their readings independent of governments. Think of “Weather Underground’s” start.

    After a while, people would have a background (banana equivalent dose or something), and would know when there is a major rise.

    I haven’t found Geiger counters for sale at a price cheap enough for an impulse buy. Do you know of anything to recommend?


    • wormme says:

      Bob, you have set my brain on fire!

      First, no, the price on standardized rad equipment has never been low. It’s not the legendary military “$5,000 toilet seats”, but there’s a similiar industrial inflation. Society’s radiophobia means our field instruments are over-engineered compared to most others.

      But! Given modern tech, design and construction, I wonder if you could “write an app” for that, given just a GM tube and adapter. You have to keep high voltage (400-1200V) applied. We use 2 9-volt batteries, so a phone battery might be gasping quickly.

      But cheaper versions could easily be made.

      I don’t know why companies like Bicron and Ludlum don’t market cheap consumer versions of the instruments we use. Probably involves attorneys and lawsuits.

      Maybe we should start a business?

  4. Engineer Bob says:

    A network of amateur radiation monitors is now operating in the US, according to a posting at WUWT.

    Not very many people contributing yet — I bet people who are surfing here could add quite a few more data points.

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  6. roamingfirehydrant says:

    I’d like to know your thoughts on thorium reactors.


    P.S. I’m an Ace of Spades moron.

    • wormme says:

      Hi moaner!

      Great name, by the way. I’ve done one post on them, confessing my ignorance. Hope to relieve it soon.

      Since learning about “meltdownless” fuel decades ago, I’ve always been partial to “passively safe” nukes. More education in thorium reactors is needed to judge between the two.

  7. DocForesight says:

    Hey wormme, I was linked here from HotAir(dot)com via Townhall(dot)com. While I am not an engineer, I have been learning about nuclear power pretty diligently over the past couple of years as a result of my involvement with battery back-up systems.

    Here are two sites that top the list of thorium-fueled reactor information:
    http://www.energyfromthorium.com (Kirk Sorensen – former NASA geek, now with Teledyne Brown and has done several presentations to Google, the UK and elsewhere in the US).
    http://www.nucleargreen.blogspot.com (Charles Barton – father was deeply involved at ORNL during the development of reactor chemistry. He has much history to share and is a wealth of information, although his typos detract from the message a bit.)

    Hope this helps you in sharing the positive aspects of nuclear power.

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