Radiation Watching, fallout from the Cold War

The new iPhone for 2011

After surfing for information on the current nuclear crisis and radiation scare, I decided to archive some useful  information below. The first link is a posting straight from the NRC, dating pre-Fukushima. While it won’t provide guidelines on what to do (don’t expect the NRC to tell you nuclear power is dangerous and you must take measures to protect yourself from radiation), it revealed some FANTASTIC insights on Japan’s nuclear ties with the US…

The article is a description of Plutonium and its role in various nuclear activities, from weapons building to nuclear fuel. I found it ironic that everything I read up until now explains in no uncertain terms that 1 part per billion concentrations of plutonium ingested into the body is pretty much a death sentence via cancer. However, the NRC dedicates a solid paragraph to tell the reader about the ways the human body can rid itself of plutonium contamination  and radiation through various forms, though not without possible health repercussions. Hilarious, and an extreme understatement when compared to everything I’ve read so far.

The last paragraph, however, is what really struck a chord with me:

With the end of the Cold War, the United States and the former Soviet Union began dismantling thousands of nuclear weapons which has resulted in a surplus of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. To dispose of this surplus and protect against it falling into the wrong hands, the U.S. has plans to mix the plutonium with uranium to make mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for power reactors. The intent of the MOX fuel program is to irradiate the so called “weapons-grade” plutonium, converting it to “reactor-grade”, which will make the plutonium no longer suitable for use in advanced nuclear weapons. There would be no reprocessing or subsequent reuse of the MOX spent fuel. The fuel would be disposed of in a waste repository along with other high-level nuclear waste.

I had one of those light bulb moments while reading this. It dawned on me that the dismantling being mentioned was the one under SALT I. At that time, the US military/GE/whomever was planning this figured out they could take the fissile plutonium from these bombs, mix it into a type of nuclear fuel they called MOX and they could fuel reactors while rendering the weapons grade plutonium officially harmless, well, from a ‘military’ standpoint. SALT I took place in 69. You can thank Woodstock for it. Or, if you are cynical, you can thank the tremendous costs associated with storing and handling a vast inventory of Plutonium warheads.  At any rate, what were we to do with all this Plutonium we had to dispose of? We couldn’t store it under the treaty, and it had to be effectively destroyed as a weapon material. Our brilliant engineers and planners got together and figured, “Hey! We’ll make nuclear reactor fuel and sell some to Japan! We can sell them the blueprints and know-how AND the MOX, and because they are effectively our vassals, they will jump on the opportunity to play ball. Plus we can keep an eye on this weapons grade fissile material because of our military presence. What a deal!” And Shazzam!, the Fukushima power station was built in 1970 to light up Tokyo’s boom.

Some of you astute readers will point out that SALT I was finally signed in 72. Still,  the facts line up to support my point… The reactors at Fukushima are a General Electric design (the same guys that made the bombs in the first place), and use MOX fuel, which is made with PLUTONIUM from dismantled bombs (which we provided, unless Japan had a secret nuclear program all along). As it turns out, it is the DOE that builds/maintains the bombs, and lends them out to the the Dept. of Defense. The irony is blinding. Nuclear weapons dismantled for the sake of peace are now finding their way into our environment to poison us slowly, but surely. You see, we, the US people, spend 15 -20 billion dollars a year in our tax money for handling and disposing of the nuclear materials used in our bombs. In an effort to save some money (or make some), we decided to sell off a piece of the burden of our nuclear arsenal to our friends in Japan. And they bought into it. But if you keep the tally of the damages caused, and the costs incurred by these nukes, we have yet to see the end of it. It’s tragic, really.

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/plutonium.html

And if you follow the link below, you can view some very colorful animated forecasts of Fukushima radiation spreading worldwide. It may help you decide when to stay indoors, even.

http://transport.nilu.no/browser/fpv_fuku?fpp=conccol_I-131_;region=NH

UPDATE: I was shocked to find out about a nuclear incident in Simi Valley that ranked worst than TMI.  It happened at a Boeing lab, and every effort was made to hush this one down. This, my friends, is the true price we pay for our ‘security’. Food for thought.

UPDATE II: The NILU link to their forecasting of radiation emissions from Fukushima has been taken down. Many people are wondering why. Here is the institute’s fishy explanation. I guess they don’t want to alarm people with inaccurate data. It would be safe to assume that whatever readings are released by TEPCO would be a best case scenario. Why not use those?

You can still access their modeling tool here. I tried punching in a plot for today’s date and didn’t get anything back, however. Keep checking this at regular intervals. If I find other resources, I will post them.

Raphael

2 Responses to “Radiation Watching, fallout from the Cold War”

  1. karen millen says:

    Nice post! Resources such as the one you mentioned here will be extremely helpful to myself! Thanks once again for the push!

  2. tbs says:

    I’m surprised how very little coverage there is about the Boeing lab incident, scary really.

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