Radioactive materials

Discussion in 'Environment' started by ChuckD, Jun 16, 2009.

  1. ChuckD
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    ChuckD Rookie

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    I'm from Colorado, where we had a facility called Rocky Mountain Flats. This area was known for being highly concentrated with radioactive waste. Recently, I heard that they are starting to build sub divisions and businesses in that area? Does anyone have any information about this? How long does radioactive waste stay in the soil, and exactly how dangerous would these amounts be to humans. I am very interested in this, so anyone more enlightened than me, please inform me... (so, that is about everybody...)
     
  2. k2skier
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    k2skier Senior Member

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    Details on the type of waste is needed. Weapons or power grade waste?
     
  3. Big Black Dog
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    Big Black Dog Gold Member Supporting Member

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    [quoteI'm from Colorado, where we had a facility called Rocky Mountain Flats. This area was known for being highly concentrated with radioactive waste. Recently, I heard that they are starting to build sub divisions and businesses in that area? Does anyone have any information about this? How long does radioactive waste stay in the soil, and exactly how dangerous would these amounts be to humans. I am very interested in this, so anyone more enlightened than me, please inform me... (so, that is about everybody...)
    ][/quote]

    Not to worry. Before anybody can build anything there they have to do what is called an environmental impact study to ensure that it's ok to build. But to more answer your question, radioactive stuff has what is called a "half-life". Depending on what the radioactive material is, the half-life could be as quick as 30 seconds or as long as 10,000 years or more. You can bet if anybody has invested more than fifty cents into this project, they have completed the environmental impact study or they wouldn't be wasting their time.
     
  4. Metternich
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    Metternich Federalist Farmer

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    You know what they say about concentrated evil? Yeah, that's radiation but more so.

    Radiation isn't that bad, some types of fire alarms use decomposing isotopes (often alpha partiles of Americium) to know when stuff is smoking but... Well, crash course in decomposing atoms (i.e. radiation) 101!

    Radiation is basically flung off sub-atomic particles from unstable nuclei. Most atoms that exist in nature usually are fairly stable ('fairly' being quite subjective) thus you don't have much radiation from them. The stuff you have to worry about is the synthetic atoms we have created, by throwing together other atoms to produce even larger atoms of entirely new substances. Most substances greater then atomic number 84 (Polonium) are usually the man made types - however not all are, and some substances larger (some smaller) also give off most kinds of radiation yet that's a fairly accurate number regardless.

    There's three 'main' types of radiation - there's other types but we don't need to worry about them for this excercise.

    There's Alpha, Beta and Gamma Rays (in order of size and how much it hurts your body).

    Alpha is the biggest and is the size of Helium atoms; so it's fairly large thus only occurs with large atoms. It, like I said, is used in fire alarms. In a nutshell, it's so large that smoke blocks the alpha particles from reaching one side of the fre alarm, thus setting it off.

    Beta is smaller, the size of a electron (and a positron, but that's another story) and has the medium penetrating power and the medium ionising power. Sort of the guy between the two - you really don't like him though. He's bad news bears even if he isn't gamma.

    Finally, Gamma Rays are the worst. Electromagnetic radiation of high energy produced when matter is converted back to energy though some 'interesting' sub-atomic reactions. This stuff goes through everything, except a blackhole I guess, and usually wrecks some very intricate DNA ladders in your body. Thus, cancer.

    Hope I helped a bit! If you want to know much else, I'll be here all week. :)
     
  5. ChuckD
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    ChuckD Rookie

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    --- I believe that facility in particular was a power plant, so obviously, I would assume it is power grade waste...
     
  6. Oddball
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    Oddball BANNED Supporting Member

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  7. Navy1960
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    Navy1960 Senior Member

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    The most common isotope, plutonium-239, is produced when the most common isotope of uranium, uranium-238, absorbs a neutron and then quickly decays to plutonium. It is this plutonium isotope that is most useful in making nuclear weapons, and it is produced in varying quantities in virtually all operating nuclear reactors. As fuel in a reactor is exposed to longer and longer periods of neutron irradiation, higher isotopes of plutonium build up as some of the plutonium absorbs additional neutrons, creating plutonium-240, plutonium-241, and so on. Plutonium-238 also builds up from a chain of neutron absorptions and radioactive decays starting from uranium-235.

    These other isotopes create some difficulties for design and fabrication of nuclear weapons.


    First and most important, plutonium-240 has a high rate of spontaneous fission, meaning that the plutonium in the device will continually produce many background neutrons, which have the potential to reduce weapon yield by starting the chain reaction prematurely.

    Second, the isotope plutonium-238 decays relatively rapidly, thereby significantly increasing the rate of heat generation in the material.

    Third, the isotope americium-241 (which results from the 14-year half-life decay of plutonium-241 and hence builds up in reactor-grade plutonium over time) emits highly penetrating gamma rays, increasing the radioactive exposure of any personnel handling the material.
    Reactor-Grade and Weapons-Grade Plutonium in Nuclear Explosives

    Here you go Chuck hope this helps, there are several studies available at the DOE website as it relates to the RockyFlats facility. In short Big Black Dog was correct there has to be a completed EPA environmental impact study done as well, the sire if it has deemed a superfund site or hazardous waste site. it must by law meet minimum standrard before any building on that site can be done or anyone can reside on that site.
     
  8. slackjawed
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    slackjawed Self deported

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    I didn't see this mentioned. In addition to the type of radiation and the type of radioactivity, the distance from the source also plays a role in the dose one gets from any radioactive material.
    I don't know how deep, but radioactive materials can be buried to increase the distance to them from the surface to mitigate the threat from the material. As I am not an expert on radioactive materials, I don't know how deep that would be, nor do I know what effect that has on underground water.
     
  9. Skull Pilot
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    Skull Pilot Platinum Member

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    just move in. Imagine what great baseball players your kids would be with that third eye. They'd be able to see that split finger fast ball coming a mile away.
     
  10. slackjawed
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    slackjawed Self deported

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    That kind of statement holds true on the Simpsons or Futurama. However in real life these kind of statements are used as fear tactics by people too ignorant to understand the science behind radioactive materials.
    The portion of your post that best describes your post is your signature line;

    Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    Skull, I don't think you intended malice, but your post does indicate stupidity.
     

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