Stories tagged nuclear

The ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan has been upgraded to a 7, the highest possible threat level. Authorities say that, despite the potential radiation exposure to people in the surrounding area, the Japanese disaster is still only emitting about 10% of the radiation at Chernobyl. More soon...

I love XKCD. How is it that a comic strip has such good technical explanations? Anyway, here you'll find a chart of the ionizing radiation dose a person can absorb from various sources. Check it out. You'll feel much smarter.

The remaining 50 emergency workers were pulled from the Fukushima Daiichi plant tonight for an hour or so due to a spike in radiation levels. (They're back in, now. For more on just how much radioactivity nuclear operators can be exposed to, read this NYTimes article.) The disaster is now rated a 6 on the 7-point scale. Three Mile Island was a 5; Chernobyl was a 7. 200,000 people within a 12 mile radius of the power plant have been evacuated. Another 140,000 people within a 20 mile radius of the area have been told to stay inside, and a 19 mile no-fly zone has been imposed over the plant. The only good news tonight seems to be that the winds are blowing out to sea, helping to disperse the radiation away from populated areas.

This MSNBC update also includes a good infographic about how much radiation people are generally exposed to.

The Washington Post has a good interactive feature that sums up the crisis.

The NYTimes Green Blog is taking reader questions about the nuclear disaster, and will be posting answers tomorrow.

More in the morning...

Submarines collide
Submarines collideCourtesy mateus27_24-25

Antisonar device works

Two nuclear submarines using anti-sonar technology apparently could not see each other when they collided somewhere in the Atlantic ocean.

"This is clearly a one-in-a-million chance when you think about how big the Atlantic is. It is actually unbelievable that something happened."

Click this link to read more in the Daily Tech: Collision leaves two nuclear-armed subs badly damaged,


It's a new day in America: Where should our energy come from now?
It's a new day in America: Where should our energy come from now?Courtesy timsamoff
On January 21, 2009, there’s going to be a brand new administration in the White house. Defining the energy policy of the United States is going to be a big issue, and one that’s likely to get tackled early on.

The members of the Obama Administration are going to have their own ideas about how our country should get its energy, but what do you think?

Is green energy your one and only? Are you a coal man? A nuclear gal? Or do you fall asleep murmuring “drill, baby, drill”?

Some options are going to be more expensive than others, each will affect the environment differently, and some are going to take more time before they’re ready. So what’s it going to be?

Voice your opinion in Science Buzz’s new poll: Energy and the Obama Administration.

You might not have been able to vote on November 4, but you can vote now, and you can let everyone know why you think what you think.

Which forms of energy production should the government be subsidizing more? Nuclear or renewable technologies like wind and solar?


Defense against deadly doses of radiation

Radiation defense
Radiation defenseCourtesy Fibonacci
Whether by nuclear accident, radiation treatment, or a dirty bomb, exposure to formerly deadly doses of radiation now might be survivable. Cleveland Biolabs, Inc. (CBLI) has a compound called Protectan that has rescued mammals from lethal doses of radiation. The effectiveness of Protectans whether injected before or after radiation exposure indicates that these compounds have great potential as practical, as well as effective and non-toxic, biodefense measures.

Why is radiation deadly?

The lethality of high dose ionizing radiation is largely due to development of Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) caused by massive apoptosis in radiosensitive organs, including:

  • intestinal cells (leading to nausea)
  • hair follicles (leading to hair loss)
  • spermatocytes (leading to male infertility)
  • hematopoietic (HP) cells (leading to immunosuppression)

How antiradiation pharmaceuticals work

Cleveland Biolabs, Inc. is currently developing derivatives of microbial factors that are natural regulators of apoptosis. Click here for a more complete discussion of how Protactan's work as radiation antidotes.

  • Protectan CBLB502 is a rationally designed recombinant derivative of the bacterial protein, flagellin, which binds and activates the mammalian TLR5 cell surface receptor. Moreover, TLR5 is expressed on the endothelial cells of the small intestine lamina propria, the most radiosensitive part of the GI tract
  • CBLB600 Series Protectans are synthetic derivatives of mycoplasma lipopeptide, which promote activation of the anti-apoptotic NF-kappaB pathway associated with acute radiation syndrome

Here is a link to the research paper in Science titled
An Agonist of Toll-Like Receptor 5 Has Radioprotective Activity in Mouse and Primate Models
More research papers can be accessed at CBLI Publications


Renewed hope for nuclear fusion

Magnetized Target Fusion
Magnetized Target FusionCourtesy Los Alamos fusion energy sciences
Nuclear fusion has been "just around the corner" for more than 50 years. Fusion reactions occur in the sun and in hydrogen bombs. Tremendous quantities of energy can result from the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium.

VCs bet big money on fusion power futures

Wealthy investors in California are betting hundreds of millions of dollars that the difficulties of producing power with fusion may soon be solved. The CEO of Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital thinks that "Within five years, large companies will start to think about building fusion reactors." Chrysalix invested in General Fusion, a Canadian company that says it has found a way to hurdle many of the technical problems surrounding fusion.

The company's ultimate plan is to build small fusion reactors that can produce around 100 megawatts of power. The plants would cost around $50 million. That could allow the company to generate electricity at about 4 cents per kilowatt hour, making it competitive with conventional electricity.c/net

Magnetized Target Fusion

Using a technique called Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF), a current within a plasma containing lithium creates a magnetic field which allows it to be squeezed . The resulting temperature spike breaks down

the lithium into helium and tritium. Tritium, an unstable form of hydrogen, is separated and then mixed with deuterium, another form of hydrogen. The two fuse and make helium, a reaction that releases energy that can be harvested.

For updates check this General Fusion Inc. wiki.


Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century

Want to know what to do with your life. A diverse committee of experts from around the world, at the request of the U.S. National Science Foundation, identified 14 challenges that, if met, would improve how we live.

Here is their list in no particular order. You can learn more about each challenge by clicking on it.

You can vote for which is most important

The committee decided not to rank the challenges. NAE is offering the public an opportunity to vote on which one they think is most important and to provide comments at the Engineering Challenges website