Archive for the 'Nuclear' Category

Dow goes nuclear: chemical firm will install reactors at US chemicals complex

1 year, 8 months ago


DOW will install advanced nuclear reactors at one of its Gulf Coast sites to provide low carbon power and process heat for its chemicals production.

Dow signed a letter of intent with reactor developer X-energy, and plans to buy a minority stake in the company. The plan is to deploy X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactor technology at one of Dow’s Gulf Coast complexes, with operations expected to begin by 2030.

“Advanced small modular nuclear technology is going to be a critical tool for Dow’s path to zero-carbon emissions,” said Dow CEO Jim Fitterling. “This is a great opportunity for Dow to lead our industry in carbon neutral manufacturing by deploying next-generation nuclear energy.”

The Xe-100 is an 80 MWe reactor design that is optimised to operate as a four-unit plant, delivering 320 MW of electric or 200 MW of heat. The pebble-bed reactor works like a gum-ball machine where new fuel pebbles the size of billiard balls are fed into the top of the reactor to refresh the older ones ejected from the bottom. Each pebble remains in the core for around three years and circulated through up to six times to achieve full burnup. Helium is cycled through the reactor to extract the heat into a steam generator.

The company says its Triso fuel pebbles, which each contain 18,000 particles of uranium, are coated in layers of carbon that will prevent the release of more than 99.99% of fission byproducts. X-energy says the fuel is its own containment vessel so will eliminate the need for large containment facilities and shrink the safety perimeters required around nuclear facilities. The US Department of Energy (DoE) says the technology would allow the plant to be constructed within 500 m of factories or urban areas.

Dow says it is the first manufacturer to announce plans to develop small modular reactor technology, and it will help it meet its target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. A study published by the Royal Society in 2020 bemoaned the fact that around 65% of the energy generated by nuclear plants is lost as waste heat. It said the promise of the nuclear industry decarbonising other sectors lies in a new generation of small modular reactors that could be integrated into industrial networks to help match the temperature requirements of users on site and balance intermittent renewables.

More than 50 novel reactors designs are under development that use an array of coolants and designs that their developers say promise cheaper, safer and faster deployment compared to large conventional nuclear plants which often struggle with delays and rising costs. Though earlier this year a new study coming out of Stanford University raised a flag when it concluded that some of these smaller novel reactors may produce more complex streams of radioactive waste, and more of it. The authors recommended that industry, investors and regulators take a closer look at the back end of the fuel cycle to understand the waste implications of novel reactors.

Source of Tables (Tables 3 and 4 required a break to fit the blog format):





The article concludes:

In 2020, the DoE awarded X-energy US$80m to support the demonstration of its reactor technology and has provided more than US$200m to support the development of its Triso fuel with construction of a fabrication facility in Tennessee set to begin this year and production expected around 2025.

This cuts right at the core of what’s needed if zero carbon emissions are the (actual) goal. Small Modular Reactors are an excellent part of the way into the future. A decentralized electric grid is much more sustainable, upgradable in segments, and able to withstand catastrophic events. However, looking at Agenda 2030, we doubt the sincerity of the desire to ‘save the earth.’

As for battery-powered cars, what is to be done with all of the highly toxic batteries once these vehicles reach end of life? And in other developments, energy execs tell Secretary of Energy Granholm that shuttered US oil refineries won’t be restarted. But don’t worry:

“Secretary Granholm is leading DOE’s work to advance the cutting-edge clean energy technologies that will help America achieve President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while creating millions of good-paying union clean energy jobs and building an equitable economy.” – DoE website

America is swiftly approaching the day when a regime change could mean the end of entire economic sectors. That’s the nature of centralized totalitarian governments. It’s hugely problematic to invest and prepare a company for the future, always wondering if you’ll be shut down in two years. This adds to America’s economic instability through uncertainty; sadly, it’s self-inflicted, or we should say; government-inflicted.

The Economics Of Uranium And War

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 3 months ago

A number of years ago, new fuel assemblies cost on the order of $750,000.  Today I suspect it’s more like $1 Million.  That’s for fairly low enrichment UO2 (5% or less), a 15×15 or 17×17 assembly.  Tomorrow’s microreactor designs will have up to 20% or even higher enrichment.

Now, the larger reactors need somewhere on the order of 70 – 80 feed assemblies to operate for a full cycle of 1.5 years.  The rest are reloaded assemblies, once- or twice-burned.  The smaller reactors won’t need quite that many.

There are still 93 operating reactors in the U.S., supplying a major portion of electricity for Americans.  If you can’t do the math yourself, this represents a staggering monetary gain for people who own the mineral rights to Uranium mines, who can get it out of the ground, and who can enrich it to the required (and future required) enrichments of U-235.

Remember that I told you this war in Ukraine was being fought over energy?

Yes, perhaps you do.  Now go and read these two articles, and when you’re finished, re-read them.  Study them.

ZeroHedge, “Uranium Stocks Soar After U.S. Signals Aid For Nuclear Power.”

Wired, “The Nuclear Reactors of the Future Have a Russia Problem.”

Now, go do what I said.  Read them again.  Don’t comment if you didn’t.  And also recall the WSJ article I previously linked when I told you this war is about energy.  I’m sure by now it’s behind a paywall, but if readers request it, I have the full commentary and I’ll put it up in another post.

Your rulers have sold you down the river, boy.  Sold you down the river, boy.  Sold you down the river.

Jimmy Carter made reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel into something usable again in reactors illegal (He wanted to be a shining beacon to the world, on what I don’t know).  We have no capability to do that today.

Hillary Clinton approved the sale of the mineral rights (Uranium) near the Malheur Preserve to Putin through a Canadian shell company called Uranium One.  She did that as secretary of state, an odd change of positions for the state department.  Right about that time, a very large donation was made to the Clinton Foundation.  That was what the standoff with the Bundy crowd was all about.  FedGov wanted the land there, so they approved a managed burn on a farm and then arrested the farmer and took his land for being “guilty” of arson.  Bundy’s crowd knew that.  Bet you didn’t hear that part of the story, did you?

We haven’t pursued nuclear in America in a very long time.  It was too woke and in vogue to fund solar power.  CEOs flocked to that because it was funded by subsidies and tax relief.  The environmentalists are getting sour on solar, and they will get even more sour when they learn about the toxicants, contaminants and other bad things in the panels and batteries necessary to make it all work (much less the huge pits necessary to dispose of them).  You’re going to see a lot of “Not in my back yard” coming up with those panels and batteries.  Electric cars are a fiction and fantasy – there isn’t enough electricity to power them all up.

We’ve waited far too long to start nuclear, and we haven’t ensured a reliable supply of Uranium to power reactors for the foreseeable future, not for the existing reactors nor the upcoming microreactors (and also consider the needs of the nuclear Navy).  I know what the articles above say about having some in reserve.  It’s price will skyrocket.  Mark my words, write it down today that I told you so.

Electricity is going to get a lot more expensive.  A lot.  Prepare now, and blame your rulers.

Oh, and one more time: This war is being fought over energy, no matter what the other pretexts are.

Attacking Nuclear Plants, Part II

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 4 months ago

Via WRSA, this dumb commentary was seen.

What actually happened was:

At 11:11 AM Moscow time (about an hour ago) the authorities of Zaporozhye Region announced that Zaporozhskaya AES is under control of the Russian forces.

At 6:20 AM Moscow time the fire at the administrative building at Zaporozhskaya AES was extinguished with no casualties. It was probably set on purpose to create the media picture of “Europe’s largest nuke plant on fire!”

At 5:36 AM Moscow time the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that the fire in the area of Zaporozhskaya AES did not affect any of the main equipment at the plant.

At 4:47 AM Moscow time president Zelensky goes live to announce that the Russians are trying to create a new Chernobyl. A likely story, that.

Between 3:51 AM and 3:59 AM Moscow time fire crews were on site putting out the fire. Apparently, there wasn’t a lot for them to do.

Between 2:00 AM and 3:30 AM Moscow time there was a shootout at the power plant’s administrative building. Somehow it resulted in a fire at the administrative building.

So much for a new Chernobyl.

He has no idea what happened.  He just made that up.

Unless there is a failure investigation team on site, running fault tree analysis and MORT evaluations, and unless that team has access to event recorder logs dumping to computer point IDs (and retrievable and uncompressed), no one at the moment knows the sequence of events.  I know.  I’ve done these evaluations before for both routine events and accidents.

No one said it was a new Chernobyl (at least, one who was has any intelligence and no know who talked to me for an analysis of the situation).

What I said was very specific, and I’ll add to it here.  I suggested that the fire was either in the auxiliary building (the worst place it could be) or the service building.  Fire can spread from building to building and from nuclear unit to nuclear unit.  I further described the accident at Chernobyl at least in basic detail.  At Chernobyl, the test engineer bypassed the electrical control system that is designed to account for the fact that the reactor can have an overall positive power coefficient.  Worse still, the steam explosion blew the building apart, allowing the unmitigated escape of radioactive fission products to the environment and workers (as well as the public).

That was likely not to be exactly the same situation here.  I won’t go on about how an accident might proceed, except to say that it might involve loss of essential power MCCs, loss of emergency power supply D/Gs, loss of SFP cooling equipment, loss of SSCs necessary for the ultimate heat sink, or a host of other things.

The details aren’t the point.  It could have happened.  It was dumb then to shoot at nuclear power plants and it’s still just as dumb today.  Furthermore, regarding fire, American reactors are designed with fire protection in mind.  Here we aren’t talking about fire hoses.  We’re talking about safety train separation.  For example, you can’t have redundant trains of equipment in the same fire zone, or any other component that could lead to a common mode failure.

We have 10 CFR 50 Appendix R for that, or more recently NFPA-805.  I do not know that this plant was designed to that criteria, probably not, and certainly not upgraded to NFPA-805 or other PRA (risk-based) considerations.

Additionally, to say that a fire at the admin building wasn’t significant is stupid because the author is stupid.  Suppose that the EQ engineer has all of his records and calculations in the admin building pertaining to radiation dose to equipment and TLAA (time limited aging analysis).  They now have no capability for traceability of SSCs in the plant as it pertains to aging analysis and required replacement intervals.  From the perspective of EQ, it’s a disaster.

To say that something didn’t happen and fail to acknowledge that it could have is dumb.  That makes the quality of everything else this writer says suspect.

I don’t claim to be a doctor, nurse practitioner, tax accountant or lawyer.  I’m a nuclear engineer and have been one my entire career.  This writer should refrain from making commentary about engineering until he gets education, training and experience.

In other words, stay out of my shop, boob.  Write and ask if you have questions and you may learn something.

Russians Attack The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant: It Is Currently Ablaze

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 4 months ago

On fire with tracer rounds flying around.

I have earned a living as a nuclear engineer for 43 years doing everything from systems engineering to reactor engineering and particle transport and radiation shielding and activation calculations.  I can’t even begin to tell you how idiotic, ignorant, stupid, vulgar, unwise, wrongheaded, witless, irresponsible, lamebrained, and knuckleheaded this move was.

Only an uneducated nitwit, a lunkheaded fool and crackpot would order such a thing or even participate in it.

Now let’s be clear.  Commercial reactors don’t explode like nuclear weapons.  They just don’t.  American made nuclear reactors must be designed with an overall negative power coefficient by the Code of Federal Regulations.

Not so for Russian designed reactors.  I developed and presented training years ago to the Department of Energy safety analysis engineers on Chernobyl.  The problem with that accident is that the reactor design could (and did) have an overall positive power coefficient because of its positive void coefficient (here is the stipulation – assuming that the electronic controls work, this has been accounted for by automatic reactor control).  The precursor to the accident was that an electrical engineer bypassed that automatic protection circuitry for the purpose of a test and plant management let him do it without a documented safety analysis.

Even then it didn’t explode.  It was a steam explosion, not a nuclear explosion.  Nonetheless, the core melted and the radiological source term caused a problem for an awful lot of people.  Today I would gladly take a walk around the exterior of the plant.  Then, not so much.

Even if the reactor was shut down upon the assault by Russian forces, there is still core cooling to consider, as well as thousands of metric tonnes of spent fuel in the pools.  A SRO (Senior Reactor Operator) and RO, along with equipment operators, must be on shift 24 hours per day.

Nuclear reactors (especially as designed and built in America) are inherently safe, clean and efficient, and produce carbon free power.  America will go nuclear or suffer life without power, because solar cannot even begin to compete with nuclear in terms of powering industry.  Russian reactors are inherently safe too, mostly, that is, until some dunderhead goes shooting at safety systems and kills plant operators.  That’s why nuclear power plants have the most intensive security of virtually any place on earth.  I’ve seen it first hand.

But the security wouldn’t be able to stop an assault like this.

I … just … can’t … even … begin … to … tell … you … how … stupid … this … is!  Well, stupid or wicked.  Words fail me.

But, Putin … and Russia’s military apparatus.  So there.  You can sign me up for being highly pissed at Putin and his military apparatchiks.  While the responsible ones among us are trying to convince people of the rightful need for nuclear, they have to go and muddle this up, even if it’s only because of wrongheaded thinking by people who don’t understand the physics of nuclear energy and are frightened because of that.  Even if the plant is under control right now, the psychology of this is damaging.

The Worst OPSEC Violation In My Lifetime

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 10 months ago


Joe Biden just announced a new working group with Britain and Australia to share advanced technologies — including the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines — in a thinly veiled bid to counter China.

The trio, now known by the acronym AUKUS, will make it easier for the three countries to share information and know-how in key technological areas like artificial intelligence, cyber, quantum, underwater systems, and long-range strike capabilities.

Biden, joined virtually by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday afternoon, detailed the reasons for the trilateral effort.

“This is about investing in our greatest source of strength, our alliances and updating them to better meet the threats of today and tomorrow,” Biden said from the White House in between two monitors showing the other world leaders. “AUKUS — it sounds strange, all these acronyms, but it’s a good one.”

“We must now take our partnership to a new level,” said Morrison.

“We’re adding a new chapter in our friendship,” Johnson added.

All three countries will work over the next 18 months to figure out how best to deliver the technology, which the U.S. traditionally has only shared with the U.K., the official said. U.S. officials and experts noted that Australia currently doesn’t have the requisite fissile material to run a nuclear-powered submarine, meaning the next year and a half of negotiations will likely feature nuclear-material transfer discussions.

Let’s leave behind for the moment the issue of Australia imprisoning their own people who have not taken the mRNA vaccine, or the draconian lockdowns, the street beatings administered by the cops, and other highly objectionable behavior.

I know folks who left the Navy nuclear program, and while they are allowed to report on their CV or resume what ship they worked on, they cannot publish the type of nuclear reactor, or vice versa, they can put the nuclear reactor type with which they have had experience, but not connect it to a specific ship.  Many of the engineers and scientists at KAPL stay for a long time, but some leave because they can’t publish.  Publishing what they know isn’t allowed.

Because I know nuclear engineering and have been around so many people for so long who work in the same discipline I do, I know things like the allowable SUR (startup rate) they are allowed to achieve when returning to power from a reactor trip (it’s important to get power back in a submarine), as well as many other things about Navy nuclear power propulsion systems.  I know many of the things they cover in their nuclear prep / nuclear fundamentals course, I know fuel enrichments, etc., etc.

I would never divulge the information I know, regardless of whether the information was classified or FOUO or not, and regardless of whether I am under any specific NDA.  It isn’t wise.  I stand to gain no benefit, while potentially divulging sensitive information.  I care about things like that.

Australia is owned to a literal degree by China even more so than the U.S.  Not only is Biden risking violation of NDAs by Australians, whether intentional or not, he is also putting sensitive information in the hands of a country that is beholden to China.  This information spans not just the nuclear technology we have, but defense technology and how the two interrelate and support each other.  You can’t design a core without the software to do it, so this transfer must include things like highly proprietary and sensitive computer codes, from Monte Carlo transport and depletion codes to thermal hydraulics codes using CFD, critical heat flux correlations, DNB correlations, etc., etc.

My mind is racing at the technology we’re getting ready to package up and deliver to people who might not protect it.

In a time when the Department of Defense is concerned about whether TV shows, movies or the gaming industry divulges TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) of its SpecOps community, potentially endangering them in future engagements, Biden is committing OPSEC violations of his own.

This is the worst OPSEC violation in my lifetime.  I’ve never seen worse.  Admiral Rickover is turning in his grave.

Do What FedGov Says Or We’ll Incinerate You With Nuclear Weapons

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

From WiscoDave and others, this is nice.

And it would be a short war my friend. The government has nukes. Too many of them. But they’re legit. I’m sure if we talked we could find common ground to protect our families and communities.

— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) November 16, 2018

By finding common ground, he means that you agree with whatever he thinks.

I’d like to make a personal request here.  After the missiles are sent, the tactical nuclear weapons are exploded, and the bombs are dropped, the grunts are going to need some training in the difference between an Alpha, Beta and Gamma, the basics in time, distance and shielding, how to put on anti-Cs and how to decon, how to operate a GM detector, etc.  Also, since all of the food in America will be contaminated, folks will need to know how to scan their food (I once was in a training class with an engineer who lived in Kiev, and at the time of the training he and other residents of Kiev still had to scan their food before consumption because of the core melt event at Chernobyl).

I’ll leave the booming mortuary business to someone else.  I’ll leave the import of food from Africa to America to someone else.  I just want the training contract for the Army grunts you’re going to send into the bombed out cities and countryside.

Please?  A little love this way, how about it?

Uranium One Investigation: Have The Clintons Been Caught Shipping Uranium Out Of The Country?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 6 months ago


The Justice Department has reportedly started questioning FBI agents about evidence they discovered in a previous investigation into the controversial Uranium One deal, as the country’s top law enforcement agency deals with allegations of bias from Republicans and President Donald Trump.

The internal questioning comes after an assistant attorney general told the head of the House Judiciary Committee, in a letter sent last month, that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had “directed” federal prosecutors to determine if another special counsel was needed to investigate Uranium One, NBC News reported Thursday.

A little late to the game, yes?  Hey, I’ll bet you thought that the whole Uranium One deal prevented the Clintons from shipping Uranium out of the country, right?  Sucker.

Calling beltway critter Jonah Goldberg.  Jonah?  Are you there?

Uranium One, Shep Smith And Jonah Goldberg

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle going on over the accusations of treason against the purveyors of the deal that sent ownership of Uranium to Vladimir Putin.  Jonah Goldberg is up first.

My real objection is to the way people on late-night shout shows and talk radio blithely and irresponsibly throw around claims that our national security was gravely damaged, or insinuate that treason has been committed. It’s neither of those things. Sebastian Gorka’s repeated invocation of the Rosenbergs is dangerous, demagogic, and dippy.

As Shep notes, the uranium the Russians bought can only be sold . . . in America to American facilities. We weren’t giving ammunition to an enemy (an enemy usually only for the purposes of the Uranium One story, by the way) to kill us with nuclear weapons. Russia already has vastly more Uranium than we do. The U.S. has 1 percent of the global reserves of uranium. Russia has 9 percent. So when you hear radio talkers screaming about how Hillary Clinton gave the Russians TWENTY PERCENT!!!!!! of America’s precious uranium supply, they’re talking about one-fifth of one percent of a fairly common metal (Australia has 29 percent of the known uranium reserves).

In fact, one way you can tell if a commodity is rare is by looking at its price. Gold today is at a bit under $1,300 per ounce. Rhodium, mostly used in things like catalytic converters is around $1,400 per ounce. Platinum (which I always thought until this morning was more expensive than gold) is around $1,000 bucks per ounce. Uranium? It sells for less than $25 bucks – per pound.

To underscore his derision, he embeds a video by Shep Smith who relies mainly on MSM reporting and then displays his own derision for the scandal.

So let’s take a shallow dive into the facts – a deep dive will likely lose most readers.  We are no longer enriching weapons-grade Uranium or Plutonium (or creating Tritium, but I’ll get to that in a moment).  Even the Reliable Replacement Warhead program doesn’t do that.  Despite this conflated and rambling entry at Global Security, the program to date consists mainly of calculations performed to demonstrate that what we have will still work despite decay.

At some point in the future the piper will come playing and he must be paid.  We can only kick the can down the road for so long.  Before that happens, if we have any sense at all, we will have begun a new weapons program.  When that happens, the price and availability of raw material matters.  What Jonah cited is yellowcake, not weapons grade material.

This material must be enriched a great deal to fissile isotopes like U-235 (not fissionable, like U-238) or Pu-239.  That requires industrial and reactor operations (separation and transmutation).  We don’t get a pound of weapons grade material for every pound of yellowcake removed from the earth.  In fact, we don’t get very many at all.

Furthermore, this enrichment must occur just to be able to operate commercial nuclear reactors, and I consider their operation vital to national security (try living in America without the electricity supplied by commercial nuclear power).  Most fuel assemblies loaded into commercial nuclear reactors today are enriched to 4% – 5% by weight U-235.  Fuel assemblies aren’t light.  Each one typically contains just below half a metric ton of enriched Uranium (0.45 – 0.5 MTU).  Hundreds get loaded into commercial nuclear reactors every year.  For this enrichment to occur to make operational feasible, we must have many more pounds of yellowcake than what we get out as fissile or fissionable material in commercial nuclear reactors.

There is no indication that Putin would stop with his current level of ownership, or that he wouldn’t find some way to abscond with the raw material via nefarious means.  Moreover, with any ownership, one can begin to control pricing and certainly stands to make a handsome profit.  Why else would Putin want ownership?

Andy McCarthy seems to admit some level of accuracy to what Goldberg says by replying that “when Jonah says, “The Uranium One story is crap,” I take him to be talking about the story as it is being related by a number of commentators, as if it involved a major national-security crisis. (Note that Jonah is careful to acknowledge that an investigation of the Uranium One transaction might be warranted.) It is true that hyperbole about national security and treason is not helping people’s understanding of what this is about. Uranium One has never primarily been a national-security controversy. It is a corruption controversy with some national-security aspects, which are related to domestic energy supply, not nuclear weapons.”

He’s wrong, and it’s almost a waste of time and air to say that Goldberg and Smith are wrong since they are such lightweights on the matter.  We need a reliable and inexpensive source of raw nuclear material for nuclear security, and we also need universities to continue to have and fund nuclear engineering programs.  Without commercial nuclear power, there will be no nuclear engineers, and without nuclear engineers there will be no nuclear weapons program.  Without nuclear engineers and reactors, there will be no Tritium for weapons, which is created by activation of Lithium, because we won’t be able to create the high neutron flux necessary to make enough Tritium.  In order to have these reactors to create the Tritium, we need enriched nuclear fuel.

This is all vital to our national security.  There is no further discussion necessary over this question.  Better said, there isn’t even a question about it.  This isn’t primarily about a scandal, and secondarily about appurtenant national security issues.  This is about a scandal that runs so far, deep and wide that certain people would sell out the national security of nation for small payoffs.

Here’s a suggestion for Andy McCarthy.  Stay in your own lane.  Here’s a note to Shep Smith.  You’re a good mouthpiece for your progressive buddies, but some of us know you to be a buffoon and clown, just a talking head who uses unction and a suit to convince people you’re something other than a carnival actor.

Here’s a note for Jonah.  All it takes is a little understanding of nuclear science – and I have more than a little understanding – and human nature to know that this is more serious than you indicate in your silly commentary.  The next time you decide to play the court jester over some issue, stop and reconsider if you’re tempted to couple yourself to a buffoon like Shep.

If you want to comment on engineering, then go get a degree in engineering.  You are unqualified by training, experience or education to make decisions like this on technical matters and issues of national security.  It’s like watching a first grader challenge Alvin Plantinga to a debate on concepts of rationality and epistemic warrant.  Or watching my granddaughter try to field strip a 1911.  When you couple yourself to moronic prose and moronic people, you play the moron.

God help us all when people like Shep Smith and Jonah Goldberg are the “experts” on national security.

Preparing For Nuclear Disaster

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 11 months ago

CBS Detroit:

As the rhetoric ramps up over North Korea and nuclear weapons, the cash registers have been ringing at a local Army Supply store, where some are apparently prepping for a third World War.

Ben Orr, the manager of Joe’s Army Navy in Royal Oak, says he’s been selling a lot of “prepper items” over the past week or so.

“We’ve been very busy. Unusually busy, I’d say,” Orr told WWJ’s Sandra McNeill. “It’s definitely an increase, just in selling all the normal prepper stuff, end of the world stuff. A lot of water prep stuff, food, MREs — the military meals.”

And there’s been a substantial increase in the sale of a particular item they don’t sell much of — a so-called radiation antidote called potassium iodide.

“It actually stops your thyroid from absorbing any radiation. So, it fills your thyroid with iodine, which it normally does anyways,” said Orr. “Your body can’t tell the difference between bad, radioactive iodine and acceptable iodine, so it actually will stop you from getting thyroid cancer.”

Oh good Lord!  Stop it.  Just stop it.  Your ignorance is dangerous and you could hurt yourself and perhaps hurt your family too.  Stop the hysterics.

Let’s discuss a few things concerning radiation, radioactivity and nuclear events.  If you’re a layman, most articles you will read on these subjects will either be written way above your head, or by people who only pretend to know what they’re talking about because they lack the proper education and experience to speak intelligently.  Even the man who wrote this article on surviving a nuclear attack is in that category.

I could wax haughty and throw words around showing what I know about photon, electron and neutron shielding, the theoretical and mathematical difference between a Rad, Roentgen and a Rem, committed dose equivalent to organs, total effective dose equivalent, albedos, Keff (criticality) calculations, the Boltzmann transport equation and reactor kinetics.  But it would do you precisely no good.  None.  You wouldn’t be one bit better off after having read an article like that than you are right now.  You would have to take an advanced engineering degree or train in the radiological sciences in order to stay with me in such a discussion, and you can’t right now, so that’s that.  Something else needs to be done because the conversation the “journalist” had with that prepper above is off the charts stupid.

Potassium Iodine, or KI, doesn’t stop the thyroid from “absorbing radiation.”  It isn’t a magic radiation pill, regardless of how pepper and survivalist web sites market it.  There is nothing magic about it.  There is a little bit it can do under the right circumstances, and it can’t do anything else.  If you take it – and be aware that taking KI when you don’t need it can lead to severe health problems, especially in the young and old – it will load your thyroid with iodine and prevent the absorption of any more iodine, radioactive or not.  The intent behind this is to prevent radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid and thus the absorbed radiation dose from such a localized source.

What it doesn’t do is prevent the thyroid from “absorbing radiation.”  The entire whole body, including every organ in your body and the skin (which is treated as an organ by the ICRP) will still attenuate and absorb radiation from external sources, such as immersion in a cloud of radioactive material.  Charged particles (such as betas, or in other words, electrons) can be essentially stopped by clothing, skin and just a little tissue overlying the organs.

You cannot wear enough shielding to stop gammas or neutrons, although being inside a structure deep in the ground could help.  But you cannot stay in such structures unless you have millions of dollars worth of engineered safety features, like leak tight doors, HEPA and charcoal filtration for breathing air, food stores, water purification systems, and so on.  That’s because part of the problem isn’t just penetrating particles from radioactive material, but the transport of that radioactive material into your living space, food and on to and into your person through breathing or ingestion.

Radioactive iodine isn’t nearly the biggest problem.  Cesium is a thyroid-seeker as well, and the half lives for Cs-134 and Cs-137 are significant compared to the longest-lived iodine isotope, I-131 at 8.01 days.  The heavy elements such as the actinides are bone seekers and can cause cancer from ingestion and inhalation.  You name an organ, and I can name you an isotope (produced in nuclear fission) or list of isotopes that seek that organ.  For your own study, you can reference Federal Guidance Report No. 11.

Furthermore, immersion in airborne radioactivity causes dose to your whole body and all of your organs from exposure to externally generated particles.  Federal Guidance Report No. 12 outlines dose coefficients from each of the relevant radionuclides (immersed in a semi-infinite cloud, or an infinite hemispherical cloud).  Dr. Keith Eckerman and his group (before he retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory) created these wonderful documents using ICRP models.  I know Keith, and I know they did a great job on these documents.  If you have any doubts about the potential dose from airborne radioactivity, you can refer to these documents (available on the web).

So what are you to do to prepare for nuclear disasters?  I would like to divide my simple and practical counsel into three categories: commercial nuclear power plants, so-called “dirty” nuclear weapons, and nuclear warfare.

Concerning commercial nuclear reactors, in America they are designed per the code of federal regulations with an overall negative power coefficient.  This means a number of complicated things as it pertains to Doppler broadening of resonance peaks for capture and fission of neutrons and the resultant power, and moderator temperature feedback in a nuclear reactor.  Let me simplify it for you, since we don’t have the time to convey an advanced engineering degree.

Commercial nuclear reactors, upon sustaining transients, shut down.  They do not explode like nuclear bombs.  Ever.  But what about Chernobyl?  Well, Russian nuclear reactor design is in fact designed with a potential overall positive power coefficient (the RMBK-1000 design), in part because they wanted the reactor to be neutronically loosely coupled, graphite moderated rather than water moderated, and capable of being refueled online where weapons grade Plutonium could be taken from the fuel.  It’s a complicated story, but the moderator (water) was a neutron poison rather than a positive reactivity feedback in the reactor.  Once a heatup occurred due to testing they were conducting, it fed the power excursion and led to an increase in power by a factor of 100 within one second, according to multi-dimensional analysis performed for this reactor accident.

This was still a steam explosion, not a nuclear explosion.  But what about Fukushima Daiichi?  For that Japanese reactor, it was designed safely.  They experienced a Tsunami of over 30 meters, leading to destruction of the plant equipment and transport of the resultant radioactive material off site.  And the death toll from radiation exposure?  Zero.  None.  The death toll from the Tsunami itself?  Over 15,000 souls.

If you are ever told by the authorities to evacuate due to a nuclear power plant accident, your best bet would be to stay put and watch the circus unfold around you in the safety of your own home.  The U.S. had our core melt – it is called TMI, or Three Mile Island.  Total radiation exposure offsite?  Zero.  Nothing.  American nuclear reactor designs, in addition to have negative overall power coefficients, have hard containment designs.  You are unsafe if you put your family on the road around all of the other panicked, foolish people who think nuclear reactors explode like bombs.  They don’t, so please end that myth and tell everyone you know who thinks their local nuclear reactor explodes to get educated about it.  Stop fearing what they don’t see.

As for so-called “dirty” nuclear weapons, those are mainly for instigating terror, not any tactical value.  In order to make such a weapon effective, one must be able to aerate radioactive material in order to cause dose from intake and uptake of that material.  That first requires radioactive material, and secondly requires that it be capable of aeration, and thirdly (and most importantly) that the space the terrorist intends to target be a confined space.

Confined spaces are dangerous.  Crowds are dangerous.  You can get trampled, you can run out of oxygen, you can be exposed to toxic gases, you can be shot, and you can be assaulted and unable to fight back.  I’ve seen the results of unintentional deployment of a Cardox system on humans, and it’s not pretty.  And … humans can breath radioactive material in confined spaces.  Dispersal is your friend, and there is no possibility of dispersal to the point of being at a safe concentration if you are in a confined space.  Stay out of confined spaces.  That means concerts by your favorite band, that means bars, that means fire trap buildings.  It means tunnels, it means tanks, ravines and caves.  Do not go spelunking.

Anyway, the value of dirty weapons is mitigated by the fact that they are like chlorine.  When AQI was deploying chlorine in Fallujah, I said they were stupid.  They could have exploded conventional ordnance and done far greater damage than deployment of chlorine.  The same is true of dirty weapons.  If a terrorist wants to deploy the greatest tactical advantage, he won’t choose dirty weapons or chlorine (or other chemical weapons).  He will explode conventional ordnance.

As for nuclear war, this is a very complicated topic, and one on which I am less of an expert than the above topics.  It’s certainly possible to survive a nuclear blast, witness some of the Japanese survivors of WWII.  Yet if nuclear war occurs with a real nuclear power such as Russia, it would be very bad.  Seats of power and government, military installations, ports and the littoral regions would be hardest hit, and many millions of people would perish.

Those left would be breathing aerated radioactive material (intake), and eating food that had radioactive material in it (uptake).  This subject requires a whole host of articles, including such topics as engineered safety features such a HEPA and charcoal filters, leak-tight doors, food stores, anti-contamination clothing and dress-out procedures, and bunkers and structures to help shield humans from external exposure from radioactive material.  We can wade through the details later on this in multiple posts if readers want that, but something tells me that you don’t.

The most useful thing I can tell you is that the cheapest, best way to protect your family in such an event is to scan your food.  I was in training once with a Russian engineer who lived in Kiev, and even years after the event at Chernobyl he was still scanning his food for beta and gamma radiation, as was everyone else in Kiev.  They had been given GM detectors and taught the simple procedures for doing that.

I have an Eberline GM detector with a pancake probe.  That may be a little expensive for your tastes, but there are detectors on the market cheaper than that.  This reminds me of a science project where I used this to help my son with his High School project, but more on that in a moment.

Now let’s deal briefly with North Korea.  They aren’t going to go to war with the U.S. – at least, that’s my judgment.  They don’t want to perish.  They are starving to death and they want grain, other food stuffs and money.  They do this every so often, we make deals with them to sustain and support them for another decade, and they are happy to enslave their people unimpeded.

We created the problem of North Korea.  It’s like the welfare state.  If we would have left them alone and ignored them, and told South Korea to defend itself, we would not be where we are.  North Korea would be much more open and competitive – or they would have starved.  But we must provide that umbrella of protection for Japan, Taiwan and South Korea because we are imperialists.  It’s what imperialists do.

It reminds me of the Elk in the preserve near Jackson Hole.  I stayed right across from the National Elk preserve one week a couple of years ago.  It’s a vast, grassy plane where the Elk can feed in the winter after they come down out of Yellowstone.  They return to Yellowstone for much better eating and cooler temperatures in the spring.  The environmentalists got the bright idea to feed the Elk.  Now the Elk won’t go back to Yellowstone, and they have a new welfare state in Jackson Hole.

I have my doubts that NK has been able to miniaturize nuclear weapons.  I also have doubts in their solid fuel rocket program.  I also have doubts in their electronics and ability to design and construct nose cones that don’t burn up upon reentry.  In any case, this is the welfare state we’ve created, and we’re better off to cut the cord of dependence right now, ignoring them for good.

In summary, until I can put something better together that is more detailed and useful, here are a few tips.  When faced with a commercial nuclear reactor accident in America, stay home, watch the festivities, and have a cookout that night.  Concerning chemical and radiological (“dirty”) weapons, stay away from confined spaces (structures and buildings if and when you can, subways, trains, tanks with limited egress, corridors and hallways with limited egress, roadways and byways and any other situation where your means of escape, evasion and egress have been restricted or limited).  If you are really concerned about nuclear war, then purchase a GM detector and do a little research on how to scan your food before deciding to consume it.

Now a brief lesson in just how stupid the public school system is.  My oldest son Joshua had a science project due back when he was in High School.  I have a radioactive rock at home.  God made it.  It was given to me by someone who visited a Uranium ore mine.  It’s natural.  God made it.  It cannot hurt you unless I throw it at you.

I suggested that we experiment with it, and Josh liked that idea.  I suggested that we learn things concerning Gauss’s law, and so we used the rock as a point source (it loosely approximated a point source) and learned about 1/R^2.  Then we tested Gauss’s law on sound by borrowing a sound meter from the sound engineer at church, and then just for good measure tested Gauss’s law for light by using a light meter from one of the safety technicians where I worked.

Then I suggested that we test radiation attenuation.  First I covered the pancake probe with a credit card to block the betas, and then we tested gamma radiation at a certain distance.  Then we got an aluminum sheet that reduced the dose rate to half of that value.  I asked Josh what he thought would happen if I put another sheet of that same aluminum in front of the probe, and he speculated, but was surprised to see that instead of reducing it to zero, it reduced it to half again.  And half again, and so on.  First, the dose rate was 100% of its value, then 50%, then 25%, then 12.5%, and so on.  So I had him chart this all out, and then explained the exponential curve he’d just drawn.  He understood that you can never stop all radiation, you can only exponentially attenuate it.

When I sent him to school with the rock and story board, I figured that no one would believe it unless I sent the GM detector with him.  So I did some calculations on dose rate at one meter converting counts per minute to dose rate, compared it to ICRP limits, showed it was safe, and sealed it with my PE stamp.  I have since considered sleeping with it under my pillow at night just for good measure, but my wife wouldn’t like the décor.  Later that morning we got a call from the school.  We were told to come get the rock before they called the Charlotte Hazmat team to confiscate it.

I had plans for that rock.  I wanted to go in where they had it under lock and key, invite the school authorities to watch, remove it from the bag, and lick the rock.  Sadly, my wife got there before me and took possession of the rock.  Josh failed that science project because the teacher didn’t understand what he did.

This happened because public schools suck, do not teach the STEM courses, and staff their positions with idiots who have been trained in colleges of communism.  For many years I invested in Christian schools for my children, but stopped when I figured out that they were full of cliques that impede education.  I transitioned to public schools partly because of the expense of Christian schools (I spent as much every year as you would for a college education), and was turned off by virtually every experience I had with the communists in public education.  If I had it to do over, I would have home-schooled them all twelve years.

Don’t be like that dumbass teacher, always turning to the state, and never willing to learn.

UPDATE: As I was saying

The Final Collapse Of Obama’s Foreign Policy: A Nuclear Iran

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 10 months ago

We’re all painfully aware of the impotence of the curent administration in the area of foreign policy.  The world simply doesn’t listen to us – or, they do, but it’s only to gauge the timing of their next move.

But this recent signal from an administration representative is about as clear a statement of withdrawn interests and intentions as one can imagine.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of U.S. armed forces, said he does not wish to be “complicit” in a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran.

Dempsey said Thursday that such an attack would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program,” the London Guardian reported. He added, “I don’t want to be complicit if they choose to do it.”

This statement does three things.  First, it demonstrates the administration to be liars when they have claimed that they will not allow Iran to go nuclear.  Second, it clearly shows that if Israel launches an attack on Iran, she will go it alone.  Essentially, Israel is thrown under the bus.  The additional assertion in the report that we do not know Iran’s nuclear intentions, “as intelligence did not clearly reveal them,” is code for saying that we will never know because our intelligence community will never go on record saying that Iran has designs on a nuclear weapons program.  Timing isn’t germane to this conversation according to the statement.  The context is whether we know Iran’s “intentions,” a precondition that always supplies plausible deniability and makes everything else irrelevant.

Third, and most important, it explicitly acquiesces to a nuclear Iran.  Read again:  ” … such an attack would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program.”  This also makes everything else about intentions an irrelevant obfuscation.  The balance of the communication from Dempsey is just a smoke screen.  This administration believes that they cannot stop an Iranian nuclear program.

The signals to the Iranian Mullahs couldn’t be clearer.  Proceed apace with your nuclear weapons program, we don’t think you can be stopped anyway.  There are others within the U.S. military community who foolishly believe that the U.S. can live with a nuclear Iran, John Abizaid for one ( I suspect that there are many more).  But here, Dempsey is speaking for more than just himself.  Despite what the administration has claimed, they do not believe they can know the intentions of the Iranian program, they do not intend to assist Israel for fear of appearing complicit, and they don’t even think they can stop Iran if they tried.  Case closed.

Upon inauguration, Mitt Romney’s second duty should be the dismissal of the joint chiefs of staff, including the chairman, and replacement of them with men who have some backbone.  That includes flag officers who work for them and make excuses for green on blue violence in Afghanistan by asserting that the pressures of the Ramadan fast made them do it.

But the 50,000 foot view is one of wreck.  The Obama foreign policy has collapsed, and it is obscene and unseemly.  It’s as if I am passing by some awful, bloody crash on the highway, and want to look away but can’t.  It should shame every American to witness what our country has wrought.

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