Nuclear Power Stations Are Dangerous Indeed

hazard while keeping in mind that some P2001 power station may be acceptable in order to further the task at hand…This policy is based on the principle that any amount of radiation exposure, no matter how small, can increase the chance of negative biological effects such as cancer, though perhaps by a negligible amount. It is also based on the principle that the probability of the occurrence of negative effects of radiation exposure increases with cumulative lifetime dose.”

So here is one fact that I sort of missed when I tried to understand RE, and perhaps you did too: Whenever you read a RE level, it is given to you by “hourly” dose, not in some abstract, one-time “hit.” This means that when you are born, you begin with some nine months worth of radiation exposure, and continue to accumulate doses until you die or it kills you.

Unlike, say, a gunshot wound, the impact of RE is usually quite difficult to measure unless the hourly dose is extremely high. When that happens at the top levels, radiation sickness occurs and death is fairly swift.

Explaining Contamination

In contrast, almost all of us are exposed to very low levels of radiation from the environment which adds to our tally so slowly that that, by itself, is unlikely to impact us unless we live hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, which we don’t. Therefore, most of us are content with levels of RE that resemble what is found in the natural environment, and are upset when RE hourly levels far exceed that amount.

Half-Life of Radiation

Not all RE lasts in the environment for the same amount of time. Some have longer “half lives” than others, meaning “how long it takes this radiation to be half as powerful as it is right now.” Plutonium-244, found in plutonium, for example, has a half-life of about 80 million years, which means that it will emits half the amount of RE after 80 million years than it does today (radioactive potency.) Lucky for us, Japan’s spent fuel rods in Reactor #3 are Plutonium-239 which has a half-life of only 24,100 years. Nevertheless, that still makes it an undesirable lawn ornament.

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