New readers bringing gifts!

TrueNorth put some effort into a first comment. Excerpts:

It seems the big PR problem with nuclear is that when an accident happens the authorities seem to be winging it.

Nuke PR has been totally defensive since at least Three Mile Island. It’s terrible, though I wouldn’t blame anyone personally.

But, once an accident happens, I would have thought that an emergency response team, with heavy equipment, robots etc. should be able to handle pretty well anything.

He’s got further thoughts, well worth reading. But there are huge problems with the specialized response idea.  Rather than making this a super-lengthy post, here’s how I answered.  You’d have to spend millions upon millions for a situation never really expected to come up, and which might prove utterly useless anyway given a single unanticipated condition.

And cate also joins us in excellent style. She brought a gift: a very nice conversion chart for rad units.

She asks about radon, which we mention frequently but have never discussed.  But in this post we’ll just relate another…Atomic Annn-ecccc-dote

Ever wonder how we learned about home radon problems?  I believe it was at Peach Bottom, a Pennsylvania nuclear station.  A guy came in to work.  He walked inside the gate, then remembered he’d left something in his car.  To go back out he had to walk through the “portal monitor”, a radiation detector set right before the exit.


Those suckers are designed to make people want to never set them off again.

Rad techs come running out, he’s massively crapped up, head to toe.  “Where have you been?!”  “I just got here!”  Yeah, right…

Then they find his car’s got detectable contamination all over the inside.  They go to the house, start checking around, get into the basement aaaaand…it’s The OMG Hour.

He had one of the homes that really trapped radon, and a lot of coal country is just loaded with the stuff.  The percentage of places like that is really low, but there are a few.  Assuming they are dangerous (and some of them probably are), then nuclear power should get credit for potentially saving lives.

It doesn’t, of course.

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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7 Responses to New readers bringing gifts!

  1. Cate says:

    Interesting anecdote about the discovery of home radon. Who knew? Well, you, obviously!

    Since writing the original question, it occurred to me that I should probably rephrase it a bit. I’m not really questioning whether or not radon can be dangerous. What I’m wondering about are the levels the EPA is reporting as being so. Are they solid science numbers? I’ve read here at the WORM channel numerous times in the past weeks how radiation levels reported in Japan by the press as being at “the sky is falling” level aren’t so dire. Makes me wonder where on the scale those EPA numbers fall relative to home radon. Accurate? Erring on the side of over cautious? Not cautious enough? Inquiring minds and all ….

    • Ronny says:

      Rad techs come running out, he’s massively crapped up, head to toe. “Where have you been?!” “I just got here!” Yeah, right…

      That makes me wonder–do rad techs in the US deal with situations more often than one would think where they detect contamination on someone at the plant who really would rather the tech would quit bothering him and let him get on with his day in his radioactive way?

    • wormme says:

      That will take some looking up.

      I’m certain, though, that whatever the actual risk is, it’s vastly overstated. When it comes to ionizing radiation, you can’t get in trouble for being too cautious. You can for not appearing to be cautious, even if you’re being a million times more cautious than you’d have to be for any comparable non-rad hazard.

      The Fukushima numbers certainly aren’t at Chicken Little levels, but I admit that the 1,000mSv/h water took me aback. Still can’t figure out how it got so hot without the gamut of fission products present.

  2. Mountainbear says:

    I love those… Atomic Annn-ecccc-dotes.

    You should write a book with them.

    “How I learned to love the atom”

  3. Nancy says:

    I had heard that the station was Limerick. What made it even more puzzling was this was during construction, before they had even gotten their first load of fuel on site. Not long after that, they started checking you for radiation before you got in the building. I know of once where they found a worker who had been “overseas”, and the rad techs had to follow him back to his hotel room and decontaminate his hotel room.

    • Nancy says:

      The second incident I’m mentioning was not at Limerick, it was at Calvert Cliffs. A few years after the extra portal monitors had been installed, we found out that one of our supervisors thought they were metal detectors.

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