The Atomic Show #005 (MP3 – 13.9MB – 40min)
Shane and I chat about types of radiation, ways to measure radiation, normal background levels of radiation, the health effects of low level radiation, and the variation in normal background radiation around the world.
We talk about tritium exit lights, radium dial watches, cloud chambers, and geiger counters. Have a listen and tell us what you think.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 40:22 — 13.9MB)
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I’m glad you guys mentioned the Oklo “natural reactor” in the show. I’m sure most of the population would be very suprised to hear such a thing existed and the implications for how inherently safe nuclear power can be…and “natural”. I also wonder if either of you saw the _Scientific_American_ article on it? I read the article a few months back and it was fascinating.
Also, I can’t remember where I heard it, but there was more supporting evidence that a little radiation is good for you. Our DNA basically has an intrinsic error correcting algorhythm. As DNA is mangled by, say, stray cosmic rays, or a miss-matched chemical reaction in the body (like exposure to a chemical mutigen) the body gets rid of it. Sometimes mutations occur, like in cancer cells, but guess what one technique doctors use to treat cancer–radiation. Cancer cells and mutated cells in general have a lower tolerance for radiation and are killed easier than healthy tissue. I read somewhere that natural background radiation kills off some of the mutant cells that occur naturally long before they ever get cancerous.
Anyway, I think you guys might really be on to something you can use when you say that a lot of what we now bury as waste can instead be put to good use, and the commericial value of extracting fission products, like Xenon, instead of burying them in the ground.
I keep seeing news flashes on various sources about that Tritium leak (Exelon?). I heard about it about 2 weeks ago if I remember right on “This Week in Nuclear”. The media is sure stretching this one out, and it seems eerily like they are making it seem like multiple distinct incidents by doing so.
Anyway, I thought of a way to combat that FUD… Tritium is very valuable and they certainly wouldn’t leak it out intentionally. It’s not like in the movies where the big bad corporation is looking for ways to dump their toxic waste illegally.
Also, Tritium is naturally occuring due to cosmic rays, as well as natural nuclear decay, etc. Also, Shane mentioned the stuff isn’t particularly dangerous either.
Speaking of naturally occuring radiation, I think a lot of people are forgetting about Radon, which enters their homes naturally from radioactive decay of elements in the Earth’s crust and the gas seeps upwards into their basements. Compare that with the fact that nothing like this comes from a reactor in your neighborhood.
There was also a _Discover_Magazine_ or _Scientific_American_ a few years back where a geophysicist speculated that much of the Earth’s core was Thorium or Uranium, not Iron as we were taught as kids. If I remember right, he said that thermal and gravitational effects wouldn’t have kept the Earth’s core and mantle this hot this long unless there was a lot of naturally occuring fission going on in there, and that this reaction was also partially responsible for driving the Earth’s magnetic fields. We know for a fact that there is at least some radioactive decay going on, because as Shane mentioned, that’s where we get Helium from (and also the Radon), not to mention that is what many isotopes naturally found in the crust, like Uranium do over time–decay. I’ll try to find the article.
Sorry it took so long to reply. It has been a busy time.
The man most associated with the Deep Earth Reactor theory is Dr. J. M. Herndon of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Here is a link to one of the numerous papers that he and others have published on the subject. I find the arguments fascinating and well supported.
The implications of the theory are quite interesting. Not only does it invalidate the philosophy espoused by some ardent anti-nukes that fission should be opposed because it is somehow unnatural, it also changes our computations of how much uranium and thorium is available to sustain a fission power system for the world’s people.
Just think – in future marketing campaigns, we might be able to say that we are simply copying nature (or God) in using fission for heat, just like the fusion guys have done for years. (You know – the way they describe fusion as having little suns here on earth.)
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