Radiation is Safe Within Limits

Radiation: The Facts

Radiation is safe within limits.

Nuclear power is a green environmental solution. It generates no CO2. The fuel is cheap and inexhaustible. Green nuclear power can solve the global crises of air pollution deaths and climate change. Cheap energy can help developing nations escape poverty and let industrialized nations improve economic growth.

Is it safe? The primary obstacle to nuclear power is misunderstanding of radiation safety

This is the beginning of a wonderful brochure put together by Robert Hargraves to educate the public regarding radiation and safety. Please take a few minutes to read it. Click here.

Triga Reactor

Recently, I had a tour of the only working fission reactor in Utah. I have been to some other commercial power reactors; Palo Verde in Arizona, San Onofre in California, and Browns Ferry in Alabama. Or course, visiting the other reactors was always from the outside. I wanted to see one up close.

I went to the University of Utah (with some family members) and received a tour of their Triga research reactor. I was hoping to see the Cherenkov radiation (the blue glow) seen in working reactors, but I was already pushing my luck. The reactor was not operating the day I went. The thermal output of the reactor is 100 kW, but the real point of the reactor is to produce a neutron flux inside the core that can be used for neutron activation analysis (NAA).

The NAA samples are delivered to the core of the reactor through a pneumatically operated tube called the “rabbit”. It is very similar to the pneumatic tube that is used in drive up banking. I thought it was quite novel.

The nuclear engineering program at the U has been reinvigorated in the last couple of years. They hired a reactor operator with experience from the US Navy nuclear program, who also has commercial nuclear operating experience.

We were able to stand over the reactor and look through the water and see the core at the bottom of the tank.  Ryan (the licensed operator and tour guide) also showed us the control room and explained the controls to us. We were not permitted to take photographs, but this is similar what the reactor looked like.  BTW, there are some 70 Triga reactors worldwide, so there are plenty of photographs of them on the web.  This one is of the Triga at Kansas State University.

Triga reactorAfter the tour, we were chatting with Ryan and he explained that an Ohio class submarine has a reactor about the size of a refrigerator that is able to push the submarine around the world (submerged) for 20 years without refueling. That is a great testament to the power contained in uranium and the characteristic of nuclear power that I keep harping about.

If you live in Utah, you might want to schedule your own tour.  You can contact Ryan here.


Eight Dunces

I saw this clip and simply must share it with you.  It is a clip of Jon Stewart making fun of 8 US presidents. (Warning: Jon Stewart is irreverent and some words have to be bleeped.)

Here is the video clip

Eight DuncesCount them, 8 presidents, going back more than 40 years and all of them saying the exact same thing! And it was all rubbish.  I assume they simply read the speeches prepared for them and did not understand what they were saying. That’s why I called them dunces.  (My other choice was liars, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.)

Also, as I recently wrote in the previous post, energy independence is a dangerous distraction, What we need is innovation in energy production, particularly nuclear energy production.  And it doesn’t matter where that innovation comes from. I will embrace it, because it will benefit everyone on earth.

BTW, the 8 dunces (and more going back to Eisenhower and beyond) also said similar things about fixing education, the environment, and lots of other things.  Are we starting to see a pattern here?


Energy Independence?

The flourishing of human society that I envision and hope for will be fueled literally by nuclear power.  I am not interested in using less energy personally, as a family, as a nation, or as any other group that can be imagined.  Nor, do I ask others to use less energy.  I also do not support schemes that exclude large portions of humanity from access to clean, abundant energy.  I consider wind and solar power, in their actual, current embodiment, to be such schemes.

I want to use more energy.  I want a nuclear heated swimming pool and a nuclear cooled house.  I would greatly enjoy a nuclear powered car. (powered by wires in the roads, connected to nuclear reactors, with the appropriate electrical pick-ups in my car).

How can I consume more energy?  By making energy more abundant and therefore cheaper.  From economics it is known that when the price of something is lower, more is demanded by consumers, all things being equal.

Occasionally, a writer comes along that understands this.  Here is a quote from Dr. Gary North:

Anyone who uses the phrase “energy independence” does not understand the division of labor economy. In other words, he does not understand economics.

What we should be hoping for is not energy independence. What we should be hoping for is an energy breakthrough that dramatically increases our dependence on energy, both as individuals and as citizens of the nation. What we want is for all Americans to consume more energy, but in today’s prices or even lower prices. We should not pursue energy independence; we should pursue policies that will enable us, as individuals, to buy more energy than we do today.

Do not be misled by people who promise energy independence. They simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

I am not promising energy independence for the US through nuclear power.  I don’t care where the uranium, thorium, or plutonium comes from. (I lie a little. I hope the plutonium comes from previously fabricated bombs.)

What I am promising is more energy at lower prices. That is the only way that I or anyone else on the planet can use more of it.

Remember, a pound of uranium contains as much energy as 30 tanker trucks (1 million pounds) of petroleum.  A pound of uranium (slightly enriched light water reactor fuel) sells for about $30 dollars.  One million pounds of petroleum sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The hardware to burn nuclear fuel or fossil fuel, at the margin, without rent seeking incumbents interfering in the market, should be comparable in price.  This is the way to make energy more abundant and cheaper.  It also happens to be immensely clean.

Have I been clear enough?  I want to use more energy.  I want others to use more energy.


Words of Wisdom from Ted Rockwell

That tactic, of making problems out of advantages—making sow’s ears out of silk purses, I call it—permeates the whole nuclear enterprise. The advantage that radioactivity continually and automatically gets less and less toxic every day, is converted to, “it stays toxic for thousands of years.” And this is implied to pose an unprecedented problem that humanity is not equipped to deal with. And breakable light bulbs containing mercury are called “green,” and radioactivity is called uniquely hazardous.