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Of the 1332 posts I have polluted cyberspace with, the most frequently visited is a post on the topic of neutron lethargy written in May of 2008. The post is titled Neutron Lethargy- This Weeks Obscure Dimensionless Quantity. My intent was to write about some of the obscure yet interesting factoids and concepts that I run into in my daily travails.
I’ve been drawn to nuclear topics since junior high school. Sometime in 8th grade I began to to build several scientific projects as described in the Scientific American column The Amateur Scientist written by C.L. Stong. Stong published a collection of articles in a book titled The Scientific American Book of Projects for the Amateur Scientist, 1960, Simon and Shuster. This book was (is) a treasure trove of information on how to assemble equipment for scientific investigation.
In jr high I spent some time trying to assemble an “Atom Smasher” (p 344). It was an evacuated glass tube with filament electron source a meter away from the positively charged target. The target was a 3 x 1/4 inch disk of aluminum with many perforations over which aluminum foil would serve to seal in the vacuum. The aluminum foil was to serve as a window through which electrons could collide with a sample on the exterior. Sadly the project eventually ended due to the lack of access to a McLeod gauge, bulk mercury, and a diffusion pump. The required Van de Graff generator was available for a few hundred dollars. The failure was perhaps fortuitous because even if I had managed to assemble the thing, I might have been exposed to x-rays during the accelerator’s operation.
Turning my attention to more feasible projects I did manage to do some biology experiments. The most interesting was growing protozoans from an infusion of grass and soil in standing water. After several days the water would turn cloudy and fetid. Using a decent Christmas microscope we were able to view a magical world of microorganisms scooting around in their herky-jerky manner. It was mesmerizing.
A glove box project afforded a place for growing microorganisms with petri dishes purchased at a hobby shop. I was able to grow mold and some blend of bacteria on Jello in the petri dishes, but the microscope didn’t have the resolution for bacteria. Since I had no interest in pathogens, the glove box was not really needed. But it looked cool.
By 10th grade I did manage to successfully build the cloud chamber project (p 307). Unfortunately I only witnessed stray cosmic rays and background radiation. As it turned out, the polonium 210 alpha source loaned to me by a physics teacher had long since decayed to inactivity. Building the chamber was a tremendous learning experience made possible through the use of the metal shop at school. It was of sheet metal construction with a dry ice and methanol coolant chamber built in. The actual chamber was made from the bottom quarter of a Folgers coffee can cut and fitted with a glass viewing port and Plexiglass illumination ports. As I recall, the most problematic aspect of the construction was finding an adhesive that would not detach at dry ice temperature.
An electromagnet was built in an attempt to bend the path of the particles by a magnetic field, but was wholly inadequate for the job. Learned another lesson there too.
The book by Stong was something that lit up my curiosity and put a fire in the belly to explore. This was the beginning of what turned out to be life-long career in science. Strangely, the total lack of interest by the adults around me only strengthened my resolve to build and learn.
I have been an advocate of thorium based nuclear power for a long time. There are certain advantages that thorium based nuclear technology has over uranium and plutonium systems that make it appealing, as long as the nuclear genie is out of the bottle anyway. Others have written about this and there is no point in my wasting bandwidth on it here. Fort St. Vrain Generating Station, one of the very few HTGR Thorium plants ever operated in the US sat a half hour from here from 1979 to 1989. As prototypical operations go, the plant had a history of upsets and unforeseen complications and was decommissioned after a decade of sub-commercial output. Eventually the plant was converted to a natural gas turbine plant and runs to this day in that capacity.
So it was of interest to learn that the venerable European company Solvay has teamed up with AREVA to develop thorium technology. Uranium and rare earth processing, as well as other minerals produce side streams enriched in thorium. According to the link, both players have been accumulating inventories of thorium. Hmmm. What could they be up to…?
This video was produced at Pultroon Studios in Smoldering Forest, Colorado.
The subject had received 15.7 mCi of 18F-glucose 6 hours prior to filming. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Let’s get to the core of the matter. Physicians need to take charge of this since only they have any real control. It’s a pretty goddamned simple concept. Doc’s who are calling for x-ray’s need to begin recording calculated dosing from this hazardous energy. If it is too troublesome for them, then the x-ray techs should record the information.
CT scanning seems to be problematic. There is no business incentive to hold back on CT use in for-profit settings. I suppose that documentation would only reveal the extent and magnitude of x-ray use. It would be fodder for malpractice law firms.
I can just see the billboards- Have you or a loved one ever gotten a tan from x-rays? If you have, call Dooleysquat, Schwartz and Schmuck for a free consultation. Do it Now!
The IEEE article “24 Hours at Fukushima” is a detailed account of the events that rapidly unfolded during the earthquake induced nuclear disaster at the TEPCO Fukushima nuclear plant on the Pacific coast of Japan. It is well worth a look.
An alert was declared on June 7th, 2011, at the Fort Calhoun nuclear generating plant north of Omaha, NE. The plant is next to the Missouri River which has been at some level of flood stage recently. According to the NRC, a fire ocurred briefly affecting some electrical equipment necessary for safe operation of the plant. Within a few hours the plant operators exited the alert when the necessary access to equipment was regained.
For a short time the plant lost its ability to cool the spent fuel pool cooling water. While the incident did not result in any unsafe temperature rise in the pool, the licensee was obligated to declare the alert. The plant remained safely shut down during the event, though afterward the plant remained under an Unusual Event Declaration due to the condition of the Missouri River. The FAA issued a temporary flight restriction within two nautical miles of the plant.