1. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    The A-bomb, Chernobyl, and so on...

    Discussion in 'Research' started by BillyxRansom, Nov 6, 2008.

    These events had devastating effects on a mass of people, obviously. I am pretty sure that Chernobyl had a lasting effect years after the accident, and the same goes for the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombs.

    I guess I have a couple of questions:

    1) I suppose the way to ask this is, are these situations contained?

    2) If they are, is there any way that something could happen again, directly related to either of these past events?

    That's the point, not a new event creating more problems, past tragedies that make headlines yet again. Does this happen? I suppose there could be classified information on either of these things that could make that scenario possible, yes?
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    As far as I know these instances continie to have a lasting effect to the present day and will do so for the forseeable future. It's all to do with half-life but someone more knowlegeable than I wil have to go into greater detail there. Ground Zero at Chernobyl (I know more about that the Japanese ones) still requires maximum radiation suit protection to enter. And that life is sparse. Although I have seen reports about the surrounding area being particularly good for worms. So much so that people risk radiation poisoning to obtain them to catch other animals with or in some cases to eat themselves (it is a poor state).

    Reports from these places, are similar to the feel at abandoned concentration camps. That, apparently, the bird don't sing (because there aren't any, despite the worms), that the area is devoid of soul and that there is a notable feeling of weighty oppression, though this can be explained due to the magnitude of what happened there weighing heavily on the collective conscious.

    As to whether these zones are contained, certainly in the case of the Chernobyl, the most dangerous areas are fenced off but the effects were and are far reaching so any one resident close to the site is at best at risk. These sites continue to see horrible deformations in their children and low life expectancy. In the case of Chernobyl I believe there could be future leaks due to the instability of the sites, the Japanese less so but their ground zeros must be uninhabitable for some time. As to what could happen, I could predict some sci-fi mutation of people but that may be a tired story line. You could make Chernobyl a site with a secret and have another leak which leaks something more sinister, which infects with for example an airborne contagion though the science may have to be put on hold for that one. And without doubt there is classified info on both, some of which has been released, some of which will be, and some of which probably never will be.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Chernobyl is far from over. The entire region remains a deadly zone for humans. The nearby city of Pripiat remains uninhabited and uninhabitable. Entire books and scientific papers have been written and continue to be written about the event and the after effects.

    Chernobyl Disaster
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    In an “atomic” bomb or “nuclear” fueled reactor, you must understand the process of fission in order to assess short term and long term effects of radiation dispersal. Without getting technical...here is a summary of the process and the risks, as well as a look at actual events.

    Fission - commonly known as “splitting the atom”. The center of an atom of any element (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, lead...uranium) is called the nucleus and it is composed of neutrons and protons. Most elements are highly stable and exist for millions of years as long as no external force is applied. Uranium with an atomic weight of 238 is generally a stable element. However, there are isotopes (different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus) of Uranium in which the nucleus is not stable. These unstable nuclei “split” naturally, forming two elements with lower atomic numbers. When they undergo this spontaneous “fission”, they give off radiant energy in the form of gamma rays and they emit a neutron. Where does this energy and those free neutrons go?

    In nature, they are simply absorbed by surrounding elements. For example, certain elements like Boron are known as reactor poisons because absorb enormous amounts of neutrons.

    On the other hand, a bomb or reactor core contains a human engineered cencentration of the unstable isotope so that those free neutrons will be more likely to impact with and absorb into other unstable nuclei causing them to split. If enough impacts can be created so that the reaction is continuous, like a domino effect, then the reaction is said to be “critical”. It takes a certain mass, density and geometry for such an effect to occur...this is the term you’ve probably heard called “critical mass”.

    In a bomb, the density and geometry of the critical mass (usually highly concentrated Uranium 235 or Plutonium 239) is designed to cause widespread spontaneous fission and a subsequent enormous instantaneous release of energy. Reactor geometry is not the same as bomb design. A reactor core uses Uranium Oxide instead of pure U-235. Core design incorporates neutron moderators (they slow down the velocity of neutrons making them easier to absorb) and neutron poisons like boron to control the flow of neutrons (flux) between reactor rods filled with fissile material.

    When reactor cores were first invented, there was great concern about a possible meltdown (like they had at Three Mile Island). The theory was that if a reactor core got out of control, it would not blow up, but it might get so hot it would melt right through the bottom of the containment vessel into the ground below, contaminating ground water. They called it the China Syndrome...i.e. that it would melt all the way through the Earth to China. As a result, reactor containment vessels were designed to spread out any molten radioactive material. This spreading would alter the geometry needed to sustain a high level fission reaction...in essence, the radioactive pool of molten stuff would simply cool off and remain within its containment vessel, but it would remain deadly radioactive for thousands of years to come.

    Nagasaki and Hiroshima received horrific damage from atomic weapons. The damage was principally from heat and blast radiation. Fire or explosive force killed most people. Those who were exposed to the direct radiation suffered radiation poisoning and died in excruciating pain. Others had genetic damage that turned up many years later in cancer clusters. But...both cities have rebuilt and ongoing local contamination does not seem to be a problem.

    Chernobyl - this was NOT a fission explosion. It was a steam explosion. When the reactor was not properly controlled, it caused a massive pressure build up and the resulting steam explosion released 400 times more highly radioactive fallout than from the Hiroshima bomb. Two people were killed in the immediate blast but 600,000 people were exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation. The World Health Organization reports that a little over 4000 people have died because of this radiation...56 fire fighters and disaster responders died from immediate radiation poisoning, the rest are cancer deaths over time.

    Large areas of land downwind from the reactor were contaminated and over 300,000 people have been relocated permanently.

    Three Mile Island - in this accident, operator error and the failure of several cooling system sensors and controls led to the meltdown of about half the core fuel rods. There were some radioactive gas releases into the local atmosphere, but the good news is that the core containment vessel maintained its integrity and a more serious accident was avoided. There are no recorded injuries to any local public residents.

    So, what are the risks to society of fission based energy?

    1) Direct radiation exposure - almost no risk. If you don’t actually work at the plant, you have a far greater risk of death by an auto accident.

    2) Indirect exposure - When Uranium or Plutonium decay, the byproducts are extremely dangerous. The top three are Iodine-131, Strontium 90 and Cesium 137. The human body concentrates Iodine in the thyroid. If we eat food that is contaminated with this radioactive isotope of Iodine, our risk of thyroid cancer increases. Strontium is bio-chemically the same as calcium so it will enter the human body and become part of our bones...and radioactive. Cesium is water soluble and toxic in small amounts. If it gets into the water table, well, you figure it out.

    All three of these harmful isotopes are very much present in spent fuel, nuclear waste and fallout from explosions like Chernobyl. In addition, if animals graze on contaminated grass and then we eat the animals’ meat or milk, we will experience an effect called food-chain concentration. In other words, we’ll end up with higher concentrations than were present in the animals.

    3) Terrorism - fission does not have to produce a big bang to be dangerous. Terrorists could simply release large quantities of nuclear waste into a reservoir to create an environmental disaster that would last for many years.

    4) Cost - fission based energy assumes the responsibility for protecting the public against dangerous by-products for thousands of years in the future. Considering that mankind was riding around on donkeys and building pyramids only a few thousand years ago, is it reasonable for us to believe we can provide such absolute security for such a long period of time? And, even if the immediate cost of building fission power plants can result in low cost energy for immediate consumption, who is going to pay for five thousand years of storage and security?

    Did this answer your question?
     
  5. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    This is not a bad idea, at all. Hmm, now my mind is brewing. Thanks!
     
  6. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    You can also look into the lasting effects in the Pacific Islands where the original atomic tests took place.
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    For that matter, nuclear waste used to be encased in concrete, placed in large metal drums and dropped into the deeper trenches of the Pacific Ocean off California. What will happen when those barrels eventually decay (as they will in a harsh salt water environment) and begin leaking?
     
  8. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    On a more sci-fi note, BLACK FUNGUS EATS RADIATION.

    Link to the actual scholarly paper about a species of fungus which apparently adapted to gain its energy from the lingering radiation in Chernobyl's reactor, via a process somewhat similar to the way plants gain energy from sunlight.
     
  9. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    This helped a whole lot, thank you so much!
     
  10. Neo
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    Neo Member

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    Why not have a story where Chernobyl has cleared of radiation but the years of nuclear contamination and isolation has mutated bacteria left behind into some kind of really wierd disease which turns people mad, or eats flesh or hyper-evolves or something?
     
  11. Sylvester
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    Sylvester Member

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    Killer Lady bugs

    In a work of fiction, anything can happen fifty or a hundred years from now. Affected by radiation, Monarch Butterflys may turn into the next killer bees. Just relax, write your story, and have fun. After you're done, you can look back and make any changes you feel are needed.
     
  12. love2listen
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    love2listen Member

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    old thread but hey its an interesting read, and I'm a Chernobyl geek


     
  13. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    Read 'Hiroshima' by John Hersey. It was an account he made of all the injuries people sustained, the damage to the city and the long-lasting biological effects of the bomb, as told by six Japanese people he interviewed. Interesting read, and it may help you.
     
  14. Cyrano
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    Cyrano Member

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    For a while (I think even many years) after the initial Chernobyl explosion, they still had a very small skeleton crew run the reactors that were still intact (3 of them?). I always thought that was kind of spooky. The whole city of Pripyat is pretty wacky. People worked the reactors and measured radiation by day, but at night they slept in a few maintained apartments. During the day they would play music over the city's intercom system to keep people from going insane. There are sections of forest that are blood red, the radiation there is so bad that tours can only get within eyesight.

    Of all the places I would like to visit, I would say Pripyat sits at the top of my list, simply because of the sheer emotional power that place holds.
     
  15. ToxicWaste
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    ToxicWaste Member

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    It wasn't until the 2000s that the number 3 reactor of Chernobyl was shut down by the Ukrainian government. They were still drawing power from it despite the fact that the number 4 reactor had blown up.

    It is worth stating that this type of reactor was very poorly designed and would not pass any of the safety requirements to be built in the US. Secondly the radiation levels around a nuclear blast degrade exponentially. So within two weeks, ground zero could have been relatively safe. Emphasis on the relatively.
     

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