Monday, April 14, 2014

Re: [New post] NRC Science 101 — Different Types of Radiation

April 14th, 2014

Dear NRC,

This blog post is biased and misleading, and says nothing at all about what radiation does to DNA -- the main concern of all who read it.

For example, the sentence on tritium in the paragraph on beta particles should be amended as follows:

Original:

"Tritium, which is produced by cosmic radiation in the atmosphere and exists all around us, emits beta radiation."

Suggested rewrite:

Tritium, which is produced by cosmic radiation in the atmosphere and exists all around us IN MINUTE QUANTITIES in surface water and in trace quantities elsewhere in the biosphere except around nuclear power plants (which are allowed to routinely emit hundreds of Curies of tritium every year), emits beta radiation."

Instead you've misled people into thinking "tritium is all around us." Naturally-occurring tritium is NOT a substantial concern for anyone; but Canada's CANDU reactors are particularly bad, and NO tritium level is good for you: Tritium is extremely hazardous to humans because it can go anywhere in the body and is a DNA disrupter, as well as (usually) creating HO molecules inside the body, which are extremely hazardous as well (these oxidants are created because tritium is usually absorbed by the body as one atom of an "HTO" (instead of H2O) water molecule).

The rest of that paragraph, about Carbon-14 dating, should also be amended to mention that C-14 dating will never be a reliable method of dating anything in the Nuclear Age (it will still work for dating artifacts from before 1945). This is because nuclear power plants and weapons produce vast quantities of the isotope and therefore, the levels of C-14 in the biosphere that exists now varies from place to place, and what percentage of C-14 a living object will be made of can no longer be relied on for dating purposes. Events such as Chernobyl, Fukushima, or any dry cask spent fuel fire release C-14 and many other radioactive nasty things, which then pollute the planet in uneven (and unfair) ways.

The paragraph on neutrons may appear to the uninformed as being fairly neutral, but in reality, neutrons continue to be emitted by the spent fuel for tens of thousands of years and are a significant danger because they go through just about everything until they finally randomly smack hard into a nucleus, at which point, of course, they can do significant damage including causing other emissions. Neutron emissions are one of the reasons spent fuel is so dangerous and difficult to handle. Additionally, the neutron flux from spent fuel from reactors which are shut down permanently in mid-cycle is especially strong. And most reactors end up shutting down mid-cycle, because it's more profitable to keep them running until something too expensive to fix finally breaks than to retire them any other way.

The last comparison, that x-rays and gamma rays "are like sunlight, except they have more energy" is absurd, unless a 1-mile-per-hour collision is like a 10,000-mile-per-hour collision. X-rays are about 10,000 times more powerful than visible light, and gamma rays are about a million times more powerful. You could have at least said "a lot more energy" instead of just "more energy". And describing dental x-rays as "very low" amounts of energy is likewise raising the bar. ALL types of ionizing radiation are very strong forms of energy emissions, whether they are "like" photons that the sun puts out (but with "a lot more energy") or high-speed helium atoms without their electrons (alpha particles), or high-speed electrons (beta particles), or penetrating but short-lived neutrons (about 15 minutes before they decay by beta emission into hydrogen, on average).

Claiming that an alpha particle "doesn't go very far" because it is heavy is not only counter-intuitive, it's wrong (at least according to Newtonian physics, to the extent it applies at the sub-atomic level). I presume what the author intended to refer to is that the "large" alpha particle has a cross-section (as measured in barns, for example) which interacts with the nuclei of other atoms much more than, for example, a beta particle would. The "very large" charge is, of course, the main thing that interacts with other atoms and molecules: it ionizes them (for example by knocking off an electron). One alpha particle -- what you refer to as "low energy" -- can ionize thousands of molecules in the human body. A DNA molecule consists of a specific unique chain of approximately 13 billion atoms. Nearly every cell in the human body has a DNA chain (red blood cells being one exception). DNA damage from a single ionizing radioactive emission can cause THOUSANDS of separate cancers to develop!

When discussing beta particles, you state they "can go a little further than alpha particles." This again is rather imprecise and in many ways dreadfully inaccurate. High energy beta particles can go nearly a centimeter through tissue (for example, all the way through a fetus's heart or a baby's pinkie). Lower energy beta particles don't penetrate so much, but oddly enough, most of the damage from beta emissions is done as it runs out of energy because at higher energy levels, it whizzes by things and is slightly slowed by them, but does not damage them because it goes by too fast to have much effect. So both "low-" and "high-" energy beta emissions do roughly the same level of damage, and in approximately the same volume of space -- though that pocket of damage is generally further away from the source for a high-energy beta emission.

Your discussion of the effects of radiation on the human body didn't mention DNA damage at all, it sticks almost entirely to discussing the benefits of medical radiation, and then assures us that "radiation is all around us." Well, yes, it is, but there's no reason to increase the level of radiation that is already there. You seem to forget that your whole job is to make sure that level doesn't go up "significantly" but clearly, you've lost sight of what level of radiation is significant, and of DNA damage is significant. Even very low levels of radiation can be harmful to DNA and if a clean alternative exists, it should be taken, and if not, perhaps the whole process should be reevaluated. For energy needs, there are clean alternatives such as solar, wind, wave, geothermal, biomass, and so on. For medical diagnostics and treatments, there are also alternatives to many of the radioactive procedures, but cost of the installed radiation equipment (such as CT-SCAN machines) must be amortized over thousands of patients, and the cost of buying an entire different diagnostic device in addition to the CT machine is prohibitive, especially because some things will still probably need to be diagnosed with a CT-SCAN for many decades to come.

But in general, medical doses have been significantly reduced over the past few decades because radiation is so incredibly dangerous, and because better and better radiation detectors are now available.

Sincerely,

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

==================================================
From: http://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2014/04/14/nrc-science-101-different-types-of-radiation/
==================================================

At 02:00 PM 4/14/2014 +0000, NRC wrote:

>NRC Science 101 ­ Different Types of Radiation
>
>by Moderator
>Donald Cool Senior Radiation Safety Advisor
>
>In earlier Science 101 posts, we talked about what makes up atoms, chemicals, matter and ionizing radiation. In this post, we will look at the different kinds of radiation.
>
>There are four major types of radiation: alpha, beta, neutrons, and electromagnetic waves such as gamma rays. They differ in mass, energy and how deeply they penetrate people and objects.
>
>The first is an alpha particle. These particles consist of two protons and two neutrons and are the heaviest type of radiation particle. Many of the naturally occurring radioactive materials in the earth, like uranium and thorium, emit alpha particles. An example most people are familiar with is the radon in our homes.
>
>The second kind of radiation is a beta particle. It's an electron that is not attached to an atom (see previous blog post). It has a small mass and a negative charge. Tritium, which is produced by cosmic radiation in the atmosphere and exists all around us, emits beta radiation. Carbon-14, used in carbon-dating of fossils and other artifacts, also emits beta particles. Carbon-dating simply makes use of the fact that carbon-14 is radioactive. If you measure the beta particles, it tells you how much carbon-14 is left in the fossil, which allows you to calculate how long ago the organism was alive.
>
>The third is a neutron. This is a particle that doesn't have any charge and is present in the nucleus of an atom. Neutrons are commonly seen when uranium atoms split, or fission, in a nuclear reactor. If it wasn't for the neutrons, you wouldn't be able to sustain the nuclear reaction used to generate power.
>
>The last kind of radiation is electromagnetic radiation, like X-rays and gamma rays. They are probably the most familiar type of radiation because they are used widely in medical treatments. These rays are like sunlight, except they have more energy. Unlike the other kinds of radiation, there is no mass or charge. The amount of energy can range from very low, like in dental x-rays, to the very high levels seen in irradiators used to sterilize medical equipment.
>
>As mentioned, these different kinds of radiation travel different distances and have different abilities to penetrate, depending on their mass and their energy. The figure (right) shows the differences.
>
>Neutrons, because they don't have any charge, don't interact with materials very well and will go a very long way. The only way to stop them is with large quantities of water or other materials made of very light atoms.
>
>On the other hand, an alpha particle, because it's very heavy and has a very large charge, doesn't go very far at all. This means an alpha particle can't even get through a sheet of paper. An alpha particle outside your body won't even penetrate the surface of your skin. But, if you inhale or ingest material that emits alpha particles, sensitive tissue like the lungs can be exposed. This is why high levels of radon are considered a problem in your home. The ability to stop alpha particles so easily is useful in smoke detectors, because a little smoke in the chamber is enough to stop the alpha particle and trigger the alarm.
>
>Beta particles go a little farther than alpha particles. You could use a relatively small amount of shielding to stop them. They can get into your body but can't go all the way through. To be useful in medical imaging, beta particles must be released by a material that is injected into the body. They can also be very useful in cancer therapy if you can put the radioactive material in a tumor.
>
>Gamma rays and x-rays can penetrate through the body. This is why they are useful in medicine—to show whether bones are broken or where there is toooth decay, or to locate a tumor. Shielding with dense materials like concrete and lead is used to avoid exposing sensitive internal organs or the people who may be working with this type of radiation. For example, the technician who does my dental x-rays puts a lead apron over me before taking the picture. That apron stops the x-rays from getting to the rest of my body. The technician stands behind the wall, which usually has some lead in it, to protect him or herself.
>
>Radiation is all around us, but that is not a reason to be afraid. Different types of radiation behave differently, and some forms can be very useful. For more information on radiation, please see our website.
>
>Don Cool, who holds a Ph.D. in radiation biology, advises the NRC on radiation safety and for 30 years has been active on international radiation safety committees.
>Moderator | April 14, 2014 at 10:00 am | Categories: General | URL: http://wp.me/p1fSSY-1nm
>
>Trouble clicking? Copy and paste this URL into your browser:
>http://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2014/04/14/nrc-science-101-different-types-of-radiation/

========================================================




************************************************
** Ace Hoffman, Carlsbad, CA
************************************************

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rogue pilots and spent fuel equals a potential nuclear disaster...

Tonight in San Clemente, California, Southern California Edison will be holding the first "community engagement panel" to allow the public to learn about, and provide input to, the decommissioning process.

An article this morning at the Southern California Public Radio web site prompted the following comments.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

=======================================================
In response to:
http://www.scpr.org/news/2014/03/25/43013/groups-concerned-about-nuclear-waste-storage-at-sa/
=======================================================

The "spent" nuclear fuel at SanO is very difficult to handle right now: It's "poisoned" (the technical term) with fission products (like strontium and cesium) which are extremely hazardous if they escape, and which produce a lot of heat within the fuel rods themselves as they decay.

The danger subsides substantially over the next few decades, and then over the next few hundred years, but -- mainly because of the plutonium in the fuel -- it will remain extremely hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years. A single fuel rod, were its contents to escape into the local community due to, for example, a fire or terrorist's action, would make all of San Clemente and probably all of Camp Pendleton uninhabitable. And there are hundreds of thousands of fuel rods in 2,776 fuel assemblies at SanO.

Making this stuff in the first place was a horrific mistake and now we can plainly see why: Because even without a meltdown like at Fukushima, we are left with one of the most hazardous piles of poison on the planet -- right in the middle of an earthquake/tsunami zone and a population of tens of millions of people! A rogue pilot flying a large jet -- as we have now seen time and again -- could make all of southern California uninhabitable, all our property worthless, and make millions of us refugees and survivors, and murder tens of thousands of people, condemning them to death by cancer or even by acute radiation poisoning.

The term "cooled" to describe spent fuel is relative: The cask temperatures are well above the boiling point of water, which means steam can be created, which can damage the zirconium alloy cladding around the fuel pellets, releasing hydrogen and causing an explosion. Likely? No. Possible? Perhaps. A complex and time-consuming drying process is repeated several times to remove as much water as possible before the casks are welded shut, but still, there will be several gallons of water in a typical dry cask AFTER the process is completed. It's hanging out in the microscopic cracks and crevices of the zirconium fuel rods, which were cracked from the heat, vibration, and pressure variations within the reactor. The alloys embrittle, crack, and, possibly: fail. High burn-up fuel is particularly susceptible to embrittlement, and all high burn-up fuel should be treated as damaged even if no detectable damage is found when the fuel assemblies are loaded into dry casks. (Every assembly should be "canned," which is only required for damaged assemblies by the NRC.) The detection equipment for detecting damaged fuel assemblies is grossly inadequate, but many assemblies are known to be damaged.

Dry casks should be behind earthen berms -- large ones! and be scattered so at most only one dry cask could be damaged by a terrorist -- and one is too many, there's no doubt about that.

But still, the most important safety improvement would be to close the other reactors nearby: Diablo Canyon is not so far away that a meltdown there would not affect us, and nor is Palo Verde, near Phoenix, AZ. And nor are the nuclear reactors in San Diego Bay exempt from meltdown: They are, however, much more robust (and their fuel, when it is finally removed, is much more hazardous...).

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

====================================================

A 2-minute video:

Spent fuel composition by Ace Hoffman (based on Sorensen):

http://youtu.be/2m2sr78g9uI


====================================================

But where is this video?
Ace Hoffman speaking at the Shut San Onofre rally March 11, 2012 :
You Tube says:
Rejected (content inappropriate)

Please sign my petition to get this video reinstated:
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/161/349/695/i-want-my-video-back-up-on-you-tube/

====================================================

-----------------------------------------
Ace Hoffman, computer programmer,
author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
Blog: acehoffman.blogspot.com
YouTube: youtube.com/user/AceHoffman
Subscribe to my free newsletter today!
Email: ace [at] acehoffman.org

Note: This communication may have been intercepted in secret, without permission, and in violation of our right to privacy by the National Security Agency or some other agency or private contractor.
-----------------------------------------

Friday, March 14, 2014

St Lucie is falling apart: Who can be sure it will fall gracefully?

A letter-to-the-editor in the Miami Herald on the anniversary of Fukushima (when the nuclear operators got it all wrong) claims the activists are getting it all wrong at St. Lucie. The letter [shown below] tried to assure readers that the problems with steam generators at St. Lucie are markedly different from the steam generator problems that caused the San Onofre reactors in California to shut down permanently last year.

This letter would have us believe that all possible steam generator tube leak events are minor: A tube leaks a "small" amount of radioactivity (it can be hundreds of gallons a minute of primary coolant, which is highly radioactive). That leak flashes to steam inside the steam generator, and is detected when the secondary coolant loop's steam is condensed. Radioactive noble gases such as Nitrogen-16 don't condense, and are released, usually into the turbine building.

In response, the reactor is shut down if the leak is more than a legally-permitted amount, or is growing by more than a legally permitted rate of increase.

It sounds routine, but it isn't. First of all, every "SCRAM" of a reactor is a significant event, which is logged and recorded, and costs about half a million dollars a day in replacement fuel and operator/staff salaries while there is no income. Second, even a few of these sudden stoppages of millions of pounds of fast-moving fluid in the course of a year is considered a very, very serious problem at ANY nuclear reactor anywhere in the world.

But thirdly, and most importantly, what San Onofre suffered from was a special type of vibration, but the significance was not that it was "tube-to-tube" wear as the writer claimed, which was true, but more importantly, it was a type of tube-to-tube wear which results in large numbers of adjacent tubes banging violently into each other in a not-entirely-chaotic pattern where the wake turbulence of one tube amplifies the wake turbulence of the next and the next... until something breaks. It is called Fluid Elastic Instability.

Normal pressurized water reactor tube wear, whether tube-to-tube wear or tube-to-support-system wear, does not usually involve more than a single tube that hits one or both adjacent tubes on either side of them in the unconstrained plane. Why is there an unconstrained plane in the first place? Because the tubes expand by several inches as they heat up, and during operation, they flutter somewhat.

At San Onofre, and at St. Lucie, they fluttered too much.

If St. Lucie's tube wear is truly different, as the nuclear engineer writer to the Miami Herald claims, then one thing would have to be proven: Namely what really happened at San Onofre! At the behest of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the operator of the plant, Southern California Edison, called in top industry experts who were NOT able to conclusively (or even unanimously) say what went wrong at San Onofre, and more specifically, why Unit 3 shook itself apart and actually leaked, and Unit 2 apparently did not suffer from the non-chaotic vibration in any way (only one case of "tube-to-tube" wear in Unit 2, attributed to other causes).

Tube-to-tube wear is assumed to result, as with tube-to-support-system wear, in ONE of the thousands of tubes leaking. Certainly with tube-to-tube wear, if the leak condition were allowed to continue, one could expect the other tube to begin leaking at some point (and this has happened), but that's assumed to be the normal extent of it.

St. Lucie, however, should not be treated as "normal," because it has thousands of indications of tube wear, all over the board. It would be mathematically difficult to prove that there is no fluid elastic instability going on, just as it has not been proved or disproved to have occurred in Unit 2, or even Unit 3 for that matter, at San Onofre. It would be even more difficult to prove that fluid elastic instability could not occur during a "blowdown" of the steam generator, which is a design-basis event (it could be caused by a main steam line break combined with a stuck-open isolation valve).

With thousands of wear indications, more than a hundred of them significant enough to be plugged and likely hundreds more to be plugged in the life of St. Lucie, if allowed to operate, it is reasonable to assume that multi-tube breaks are possible. The pattern of wear may change over time, as tubes get thinner and covered with corrosion. But with nearly 4,000 tubes showing wear -- nearly one in every four tubes -- multi-tube ruptures should be considered not just possible, but likely, including full break-offs of one tube into another and another.

In their licensing decisions, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has always assumed that one, and only one, steam generator tube will leak at any one time. This assumption was based on the idea that tube wear would be chaotic. Non-chaotic wear, such as happened at San Onofre, had never occurred before in an operating U.S. reactor (and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which built the steam generators, did not expect it either). It had shown up in laboratory experiments but the conditions were thought to be unlikely or impossible in actual reactors.

San Onofre has practically proven -- and it's generally assumed -- that modern steam generators are capable of a very damaging non-chaotic tube-to-tube wear behavior that can develop very rapidly (over a period of a few months) to as little as a few minutes (during a blowdown event) and can damage the dime-thin tubes catastrophically.

We lost Fukushima to poor design. We lost Chernobyl. We almost lost Detroit, and we almost lost SoCal (and Davis-Besse and many other plants). Were it not for San Onofre, St. Lucie's tube wear would be considered unprecedented. St. Lucie is just another nuke clunker that should be retired forever. There's no reason to risk the sunshine state any more than there was to risk the golden state.

Sincerely,

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

March 14th, 2014

===============================================
Original letter published in the Miami Herald:
===============================================

Subject: Fwd: [nuclear] Good opening for balancing oped or LTE >> Activists get nuclear-plant science all wrong - From Our Inbox - MiamiHerald.com

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/11/3987739/activists-get-nuclear-plant-science.html


>The Miami Herald
>
>Posted on Tue, Mar. 11, 2014
>
>Activists get nuclear-plant science all wrong
>
>By JAMES S. TULENKO
>
>
>As a professor of nuclear engineering and an engineer who has worked in the
>nuclear field, I want to clarify misinformation in the March 1 story
>Critics: FPL playing risk with plant. Since 1979, when Hollywood splashed
>The China Syndrome onto the big screen, we nuclear engineers have watched as
>Americans have been subject to hair-raising descriptions of nuclear power
>plant accidents promoted by well-funded activists. They are very colorful,
>but typically loose with the facts.
>More than three decades later, we find ourselves discussing different
>issues, but the commentary from these groups is no less irresponsible or
>incorrect.
>
>Floridians should not fall for it.
>
>The wild claims in this article were supported by activists rather than
>unbiased technical experts. The suggestion that a steam generator tube at
>the St. Lucie nuclear plant can "spew radioactive fluid" ignores basic
>understanding of a pressurized water reactor system and steam generator
>design.
>
>Under certain conditions, these tubes could leak small amounts of water into
>another closed system, but they do not spew fluid externally. Even under the
>highly unlikely event of a leak, such a change would be detected
>immediately, and the plant would be shut down within minutes.
>
>The article buried the fact that for a leak to actually occur, a tube wall
>would need to be worn down almost completely. The activists attempt to
>compare the St. Lucie plant to a California plant called San Onofre, which
>was shut down due to a phenomenon called "tube-to-tube wear." It's a flawed
>comparison.
>
>In that plant, 134 steam generator tubes had more than 50-percent wear,
>while seven of the tubes had 100-percent wear because of tube-to-tube
>contact. FPL and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have confirmed that
>there is no such tube-to-tube contact at St. Lucie. The depth of wear at St.
>Lucie is not analogous. The steam generators were different manufacturers
>and different designs. In fact, not one unbiased technical expert has
>suggested that what happened at San Onofre is plausible at St. Lucie.
>Rather, they have said exactly the opposite.
>
>Those who have objectively studied this issue know that there is significant
>data showing that steam generator tubes can perform with up to 70-percent
>wear. Yet, in reality these tubes are "plugged," or taken out of service
>before there is evidence of wear of 40 percent. From a technical
>perspective, this is conservative approach designed to head off the
>potential for an internal system leak.
>
>The same critics claim that power retrofits increasing the output of a plant
>or "uprates" are like "pressing hard on the accelerator, even when you know
>the car has worn brakes." This analogy is also misleading from a technical
>perspective. Today's steam generators, such as those in the St. Lucie plant,
>are designed specifically to function under uprate conditions. These
>conditions were part of the safety review completed by credentialed experts
>at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission prior to granting St. Lucie's
>license amendment allowing higher power levels.
>
>It is true that there has been a significant amount of tube wear at St.
>Lucie Unit 2. Despite the opponents' claims, however, it is not unusual to
>see greater tube wear early in the life cycle of a steam generator. This
>typically reduces over time, which appears to be the case at St. Lucie.
>
>Based on publicly available information, only 155 of St. Lucie's 18,000
>steam generator tubes in Unit 2 have had to be plugged over the first seven
>years. These generators are built with significant margin, allowing the
>plant to operate at full power even when a significant number of tubes are
>taken out of service. There is no reason to believe that the St. Lucie steam
>generators will not be able to function safely as designed for quite some
>time.
>
>As nuclear engineers and those responsible for public health and safety, we
>are forced to prove the accuracy of our conclusions and integrity of our
>data to multiple regulatory stakeholders. It's too bad that the activists
>quoted in this article are not held to the same standards.
>
>James S. Tulenko, is a professor emeritus in the Department of Nuclear and
>Radiological Engineering at the University of Florida. He has more than 40
>years of experience with nuclear power plant design and operation, including
>tube wear on steam generators.
>=============================================


====================================

Comment by Torgen Johnson:

Ace,


"James S. Tulenko, is a professor emeritus in the Department of Nuclear and Radiological Engineering at the University of Florida. He has more than 40 years of experience with nuclear power plant design and operation, including tube wear on steam generators."

Yes, but will James take financial and moral responsibility for the nuclear catastrophe that he seems to be flirting with?  If not then he should not claim to be an expert worth anything more than his potentially catastrophic opinions.  To get diagnosis and/or risk analysis wrong when dealing with failing nuclear reactor units situated in populated areas does not mean risking the reactor unit, it means risking the public health and property values of the entire region around the reactor unit.   And that dear James is not a technical question to be smugly answered by the very industry that created the problem in the first place, it is a moral question to be openly debated by the key stakeholder-public (potential victims) living across that region.

========================================

Hi Ace,

It is also worth noting that St. Lucie is a Combustion Engineering reactor design employing only two large steam generators (like San Onofre), as opposed to the Westinghouse units with four steam generators.  The much larger SGs appear much more vulnerable to tube vibrations.   Surprising that the original design lasted as long as it did.

In Peace,  Ernie


========================================

Amen, Ace.  Thank you so much.
Ed


========================================

###

-----------------------------------------
Ace Hoffman, computer programmer,
author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
Blog: acehoffman.blogspot.com
YouTube: youtube.com/user/AceHoffman
Subscribe to my free newsletter today!
Email: ace [at] acehoffman.org

Note: This communication may have been intercepted in secret, without permission, and in violation of our right to privacy by the National Security Agency or some other agency or private contractor.
-----------------------------------------