One of the biggest challenges in training for incidents and emergencies that involve high-radiation-dose hazards is balancing between realism and safety. To be truly prepared for the realities of real-world nuclear and radiological emergencies, responder personnel need experience against those hazards but without introducing additional and very personal risks associated with unnecessary radiation exposure. The difficulty is in figuring out how we can achieve a level of realism that encompasses the entire process, from the initial detection of a hazard or threat, through its characterization, to recommending actions and leadership decision-making.
Training for the realities of radiological incidents and emergencies
“The American Nuclear Society is monitoring the situation at the Taishan reactor site in China. According to Framatome and the plant operator CGN, the plant is operating within established safety parameters.
Atomic fission can provide all the world’s people with as much emission-free electricity as they need for prosperity, but the cost of nuclear energy has risen due to excessive regulations that have been enacted in reaction to the general public's excessive fear of radiation. That’s according to Robert Hargraves, who teaches energy policy at Dartmouth’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and is a cofounder of nuclear engineering company ThorCon International.
In an article published by RealClearEnergy, Radiation: More Terrifying Than Night Air?, Hargraves posits that many people fear radiation because they don’t understand it, much like Americans who believed until the 20th century that night air was poisonous.
Along with many other media outlets on March 11, the PBS NewsHour reported on the continuing recovery efforts from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan 10 years ago. The segment, "Japan marks 10th anniversary of Fukushima nuclear disaster," is just over eight minutes long, most of which discusses the effects of the earthquake and tsunami on the region and Japan’s preparedness for the next major natural incident.
During my time as vice president and president of ANS, I have been advocating for a new approach to implementing dose limits across the nuclear industry. A lack of understanding and an unfounded fear of radiation has resulted in widespread efforts to minimize dose, rather than to optimize radiation protection in a holistic sense. I want to put the “reasonably” back into ALARA (“as low as reasonably achievable”). Such a paradigm shift, from minimization to optimization, while easily said, equates to a major cultural change spanning international government agencies, industry, nongovernmental organizations, professional societies, and even academia. It is essential to have the active participation of all stakeholders in a transparent process to effect such a change. This process will not only lead us toward a more level playing field for nuclear, it will also greatly impact public perception of nuclear and radiological technology.
Vice News has published a video on YouTube that follows two farmers from the Fukushima Prefecture, Noboru Saito and Koji Furuyama. Saito, who grows many different crops on his farm, says that the rice grown in the area is consistently rated as the best. Furuyama specializes in peaches and explains his strategy to deal with the stigma of selling fruit from Fukushima: grow the best peaches in the world.
A film titled The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima gets top billing as part of The Short List with Suroosh Alvi, an online documentary series curated by the founder of the media company Vice. The film, which first aired on Vice TV on January 31, follows local hunters who have been enlisted to dispose of radiated wild boars that now roam abandoned streets and buildings in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused the nuclear accident there.
The Los Angeles Times published an article on December 1 about a recent collaboration between the Surfrider Foundation and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to determine how safe the water is off the coast of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).
Following U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent restatement of the United Kingdom’s commitment to nuclear power, BBC News chief environment correspondent, Justin Rowlatt, wrote an article aimed at separating fact from fiction regarding the safety and benefits of nuclear energy.
Among his points, Rowlatt defended the use of nuclear power to combat climate change, examined the data behind deaths from radiation exposure directly caused by the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, and explained that exposure to low levels of radiation is not a major health risk.
Radiation has benefited mankind in many ways, including its use as an energy source and an indispensable tool in medicine. Since the turn of the 20th century, society has sought ways to harness its potential, while at the same time recognizing that radiological exposures need to be carefully controlled. Out of these efforts, and the work of many dedicated professionals, the principles of justification, optimization, and limitation have emerged as guiding concepts.
Justification means that the use of radiation, from any radiation source, must do more good than harm. The concept of optimization calls for the use of radiation at a level that is as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA). Dose constraints, or limitation, are meant to assist in reaching optimization and protection against harm by setting recommended numerical levels of radiation exposure from a particular source or sources. Together, these three principles form the bedrock of the international radiation protection system that drives decision-making and supports societal confidence that radiation is being used in a responsible manner.
Originally published in the September 2020 issue of Nuclear News.
This issue of Nuclear News is dedicated to highlighting advancements in health physics and radiation protection as well as the contributions of the men and women who serve in these fields. It comes at a time when COVID-19 is providing the entire world with an immersive primer on the science of epidemiology and the importance of risk-informed, performance-based behavior to contain an invisible—yet deadly—antagonist.
ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy was a recent guest on the Titans of Nuclear podcast, hosted by Bret Kugelmass. The podcasts feature interviews with experts throughout the nuclear community, covering advanced technology, economics, policy, industry, and more.
The wide-ranging discussion with Piercy tackled diverse subjects—from his Washington, D.C., policymaking background, to ANS’s role in addressing challenging nuclear issues, to waste management and climate change.
A collaborating center agreement was signed by Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste and the International Atomic Energy Agency in May. The agreement focuses on advanced light sources and will support countries in research, development, and capacity building in the application of advanced and innovative radiation technologies.
The latest season of Amazon’s detective series Bosch premiered recently on its streaming service, Prime. The season opens with the murder of a medical physicist and the theft of radioactive cesium, with plenty of drama following as the protagonist tries to solve the murder and end the “catastrophic threat to Los Angeles.” The show is a work of fiction, but let’s take a closer look at the depiction of radiation to sort out the scientific facts.
The setup: The series stars Titus Welliver as Los Angeles Police Department detective Harry Bosch and Jamie Hector as his partner, Jerry Edgar. The first episode of the sixth and latest season begins late in the evening at a Los Angeles hospital. We are shown a nervous-looking medical physicist as he walks into a laboratory, the camera dramatically focusing on the radiation sign on the door. No one else is around as the medical physicist clears out the lab’s inventory of what we find out later is cesium. The physicist then walks the material out of the hospital without anyone giving him a second look.
I just knew it! I was hoping I'd be wrong, that HBO would have the courage and integrity to do their homework and consult even one actual nuclear scientist or radiobiologist. Or even just read the United Nations Chernobyl Forum Report, the best source of information on the disaster for non-nuclear people.
Episode 22 of RadioNuclear is now available. In this episode, we discuss the recent miniseries "Chernobyl", which recently concluded on HBO. We debunk some of the more egregious articles written in the wake of the show (see links to these articles below). We also discuss good ways to engage with individuals who are captivated with the show, and not necessarily familiar with nuclear technology.
The seismic event was huge and was felt all over the world. With a moment magnitude of over 9.0, the earthquake and was the fourth largest ever in the more than 100 years of recorded history. Huge land masses shifted as much as 2.4 meters, and the rotation of the earth was changed so that days were suddenly just a little (but measurable) bit shorter. It had sped up the world.
December 20, 1951 marks an important date in the history of nuclear power; it's the date on which the first useful electric power was generated by atomic fission. While the now-famous event at that time only powered four light bulbs, the somewhat stunt-like nature of the day obscured the fact that the plant was actually set up to generate considerably more power, and did so. Let's take a look at this fact and, at the same time, the facility through illustrations from my collection and from photographs that I took myself while touring EBR-1 earlier this year.
ANS member Dr. Christopher Morrison was a recent guest on The Space Show. Dr. Morrison covered space radiation, lifetime radiation limitations, legal limits, rodent GCR and radiation experimentation, terrestrial radiation simulations, space nuclear power & propulsion, super-cooling conductivity.