Radioactive blowout!

Sounds exciting, eh?  And it would have been a very, very, very big deal anywhere but where it happened.  But it occurred at the only beamline where we tolerate its occurrance.  And we only tolerate it because it can’t be avoided.  Because these researchers use neutrons to study pressurized materials.

How pressurized?  That particular sample was at 18Gpa:  18 gigaPascals, about 180,000 Earth atmospheres.  That’s “only” a twentieth of the pressure at Earth’s core, but it’s 160x the pressure at the bottom of the deepest ocean point

So it’s “unexpected” in the same way you “unexpectedly” change a flat tire.  You can’t worry about having to do it because the only way to never have one is not to drive.  Instead you minimize the likelihood of the event, then just deal with it when it happens.

No one got contaminated, no one got a detectable exposure.  Heck, we’ll probably end up without even radioactive waste. The half-life of the major isotope is about 2.7 days.  The activity is now all bagged up, so just by staring at it for a month we can “decon by procrastination”.  

And remember, whenever I share these radiological tales…I used to be a farmhand.

Now, that’s dangerous!

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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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18 Responses to Radioactive blowout!

  1. Xpat says:

    Map of dose rate spread Fukushima and beyond. Tokyo, to my untrained, looks a lot more fracked up than I would like it to be.

    http://www.nnistar.com/gmap/fukushima.html

    • Mountainbear says:

      I see lots of uSv. They’re even counting 0.x uSv? Isn’t that close to natural background radiation already? And only up to 38 uSv/h. Meh. Looks a tad bit incomplete to me.

      Looking at the timestamps of the data gives me a serious headache. Seems they just tossed everything into it. Lots of data from June and July. August. September. Even May. Even dating back to April. Some of it spanning short periods of a few days while other data spans several months. Oh gods, that just hurts. It’s like me having to do a map of battles in feudal Japan and then tossing all of them into one map. Or all campaigns of the Sengoku period in one map. Painful. Just painful.

      Of course, put this into the hands of a journalist and you’ll get a “JAPAN IS LOST!” article.

      • Xpat says:

        I also was wondering about the dates. How did you find those timestamps?

        Somewhere in between the reflex hysteria of the (mostly Western) journalistas and the glib nonchalance of most of the WORM community there’s me thinking, “I don’t like all that blue around Tokyo.” (Substantially higher than the natural background of Denver, which I’ve been consistently told is the standard for “not-to-worry” dose rate rationality.) Latest I heard was the higher spots surrounding Tokyo–like Tama City–have been getting a lot of it.

        I appreciate that farm work is more dangerous, although let it be said that there are a lot of farmers from Fukushima Prefecture who would love to get back to their hazardous occupations . . .

        • MG says:

          < 0.7
          So 0.7μSv is the highest reading at those spots

          I think that leaves us around 6.132 mSv a year assuming 24 hour/365 days exposure to 0.7μSv, which I think remains inside the average annual range.

          I could easily be off right now though, Wormme should comment 😛

          • wormme says:

            That is almost double the average natural dose, but it’s also well within natural variation and considerably less than very high-altitude dwellers. It’s unlikely there’d be a noticable uptick in premature death among even hundreds of thousands of re-settlers.

            However, that’s for radiation exposure only. The big concern has to be all the loose contamination, which is breathable and ingestable. I don’t know what percentage of those elevated readings are from fixed versus loose rad material. But I’m guessing the actual dose you’d pick up would be much higher than the dose rate suggests, due to absorbing contamination. And that would continue to build up as long as you ingested more than you eliminated.

          • MG says:

            Would there really be that much loose contaminant now though?
            Most of what I remember off-hand was shorter lived stuff, and looking around the Tokyo area the rates don’t look fixed enough to force someone into a contiguous buildup unless something really drastically different than reported is going on.

          • wormme says:

            Most of it is fixed, but mega-Curies of activity are out there. Tokyo should be fine, I was thinking more of the communities around Fukushima. Maybe I misread the article.

          • Xpat says:

            Useful comments. I found the timestamps finally, just by scrolling down. As MB said, they’re from about June-Sept.

            It seems strange that Tokyo looks more or less the same as just outside the exclusion zone.

          • wormme says:

            “Dilution is the solution to the problem of pollution.”

            NOTE–for the record, we don’t actually practice that in my work.

          • Xpat says:

            It would make a nice little rap ditty.

          • wormme says:

            I wish you hadn’t said that. My brain is now churning through possible, or even defensible, rhymes.

          • MG says:

            I was focusing on

            Tokyo, to my untrained, looks a lot more fracked up than I would like it to be.

            and not really thinking about the Fukushima site. I would think, with work, shopping, etc., that Tokyo people are moving enough to not be continuously exposed to the higher levels there.

            As far as Fukushima, did you see they’re starting to talk about or do site cleanups outside the plant?

          • wormme says:

            Hadn’t seen that. But of course they’ll mitigate to their budget’s permit, for appearances if nothing else. When they get to that point, I’d suspect that other environmental hazards are vastly more pertinent.

        • Mountainbear says:

          There’s a long list of measure points below the map showing when and where the sample was taken, at least in firefox and with scripts for the site disabled in noscript.

  2. Mountainbear says:

    I get it now. You used to be a farmhand, but you’re also a worm. Being a farmhand as a worm is a bit… weird, to say the least, since, primarily, you don’t even have hands, so you went into rad. Perfectly logic.

  3. crosspatch says:

    Colorado cantaloupe 21, Fukushima Dai-ichi 0

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/10/08/listeria-outbreak-death-toll-rises-to-21/?test=latestnews

    And they expect there are more deaths “in the pipeline” because it can take up to two months for symptoms to appear once you get listeria.

    • wormme says:

      Ooh, nice point. Yeah, to scale the responses appropriately folks need to be calling for a ban, not only on fruits, but on vegetables too, “just to be sure”. After all, what’s the downside?

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