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.
Isotopes & Radiation
Training for the realities of radiological incidents and emergencies
Physicists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other institutions have measured the effect of a single neutron in a molecule of radium monofluoride and hypothesize that radioactive molecules could be used as a tool to explore why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe. The research team’s findings were published in the journal Physical Review Letters on July 7, and on the same day, an article published online by MIT News explained the implications of their work.
“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.
Jhansi R. Kandasamy, vice president of engineering at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), will be the featured guest at the next edition of the ANS Young Members Group’s Rad Talks series.
Register now for the event on Tuesday, May 18, 6:30–8 p.m. EDT. Please note that participation is limited to allow for an interactive discussion.
Details: Kandasamy joined GEH in September 2015 as vice president of engineering, having overall responsibility for operating nuclear plant technical support, modifications, and design, and for small modular reactor design and development. Over the past 30 years, she has held positions in virtually all disciplines of the nuclear power industry. She has worked at the Limerick, Palo Verde, Oyster Creek, Salem, and Hope Creek nuclear power plants. Prior to joining GEH, she worked for Bechtel, Philadelphia Electric Company, Exelon, and PSEG.
Paul Dickman, former senior official with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who served as the study director for the ANS Special Committee on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, discussed Japan’s plans to dispose of Fukushima wastewater during an appearance on CNBC’s Street Signs Asia with hosts Amanda Drury and Tanvir Gill on April 16.
Appearing on the show as an ANS spokesman, Dickman assured the hosts that there will be no negative environmental impact from releasing the advanced liquid waste processing system (ALPS)-treated water into the Pacific Ocean. “The Japanese government has done an extraordinary effort to mitigate any harm that would be from the release of this water,” Dickman said. “Frankly, they’ve diluted it to such an extent that it would hardly be detectable above background (radiation).”
The Japanese government will soon announce the decision to dispose of stockpiled Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific Ocean, according to an AP News story published last Friday. The decision is years in the making and follows the guidelines from a panel of government-appointed experts named the Subcommittee on Handling of the ALPS-Treated Water (ALPS Subcommittee).
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.
Wisconsin-based SHINE Medical Technologies announced on November 4 that its Therapeutics division has made its first commercial sales of lutetium-177 to multiple customers. Lu-177 is a therapeutic isotope in demand by clinical trial sponsors because of its potential to treat a range of cancers.
SHINE said that its production process enables the company to produce the high specific activity, non-carrier-added Lu-177 that is required by today’s clinical trials. In the short term, SHINE will produce Lu-177 at Building One of the company’s Janesville campus while a larger facility is being constructed exclusively for the production of the radioisotope. Building One, which was completed in 2018, houses SHINE’s first integrated, full-size production system and is used to train staff and develop operating history with the equipment.
Groundbreaking for the larger facility is expected in November. According to SHINE, the new production facility will be able to scale to support the company’s anticipated Lu-177 demand for the next five years. It will be capable of producing more than 300,000 doses of Lu-177 per year, the company said.
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.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) has begun a new webinar series, with the first entry titled “What’s new in low-dose radiation.” The July 22 event kicked off the Gilbert W. Beebe Webinar Series—an extension of the Beebe Symposium, which was established in 2002 to honor the scientific achievements of the late Gilbert Beebe, NAS staff member and designer/implementer of epidemiologic studies of populations exposed to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the Chernobyl accident.
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.
The Department of Energy is awarding up to $16 million in new funding to advance research and development of isotope production. The funding opportunity is part of a federal program that produces critical isotopes that are otherwise unavailable or in short supply for U.S. science, medicine, and industry. The effort is aimed at sustaining longstanding U.S. leadership in the vital field of isotope production, research, and development, according to the DOE.
The U.S. healthcare industry is warning that the COVID-19 pandemic may threaten supplies of the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99, whose decay product, technetium-99m, is considered the workhorse isotope in nuclear medicine for diagnostic imaging. The online magazine Radiology Business recently reported that the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC) alerted its members on April 1 that it is monitoring supply shortages of Mo-99 “more closely than ever” during the pandemic.