My Blogs : First Opinion ; Radiation Protection Issues ; My Voice

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Nuclear desalination of sea water



India, particularly during summer months always face acute water shortage. Now with large scale usage of water for the management of Corona Virus, it is likely that the shortage can be more acute, and we may not get enough water for the cleaning. Most parts of India depend entirely on the rains for the supply of water for all purposes. Let us hope that the rains come early this time and save the situation. Let us wish Corona goes away before the rainy season starts.

We, in India, have over 7500 km of coastline and hence plenty of seawater. Desalination is the answer to deal with this situation. Technology is available for the desalination of seawater. Nuclear desalination can be the answer to augment freshwater supply. We must work out the costs.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Nuclear forensics - An important tool


Illicit trafficking of radioactive or nuclear material is of great concern internationally due to its potential application by terrorist groups. Nuclear forensics examination is the analysis of nuclear and other radioactive materials to identify the sources and support national or international legal issues related to nuclear security.
In general, national or international laws prohibit unauthorized or illegal movement or transport of nuclear or radioactive materials across national borders. The smuggled radioactive material and which is out of the regulatory control can be misused in nuclear crimes.
The materials seized in such situations need to be examined by dedicated laboratories to support the law enforcement authorities for prosecution of a breach in the security of such materials. Sensitive measurement techniques will be necessary to analyze small to very small amounts of the sample. The radioactive material may be in the form of loose contamination. Techniques such as gamma spectrometry, clinical forensic medicine to detect radiation exposure specific injuries, etc.
It is also important to identify the material using validated procedures, identify the origin of the material and the potential hazard of its use in the public domain or in any other illegal activities. The results provide evidence which is necessary for successful prosecution.
National regulatory authorities and international bodies such as IAEA are much concerned about this illegal trafficking of the material. The IAEA Nuclear and Security Series bring together details, including technical characterization of the seized material samples using technical tools and the procedures adopted in nuclear forensics.
IAEA, Advances in nuclear forensics countering the evolving threat of nuclear and other radioactive the material out of regulatory control, STI/PUB/1706 [ISBN:978-92-0-104815-8], 2015.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

RADIOLOGICAL PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT


In addition to the natural radiation and radioactive materials, radiation, and radioactive materials are present in the environment from the past practices of testing of nuclear weapons, large scale releases from accidents in nuclear and radiological facilities and the authorized releases from the nuclear fuel cycle facilities, including radioactive waste management facilities. Releases from the regulated facilities are well controlled to protect the environment. However, accidental releases or releases from unregulated practices are likely to harm the environment – flora and fauna. In such situations, one cannot assume that the environmental impact from the releases is negligible.

Subsequently, IAEA’s work programme on the development of safety standards on the protection of the environment from the effects of ionizing radiation culminated in the development of regulatory frame work, based on the IAEA’s policy on the radiological protection of the environment.  

ICRP in its publication 103 [2007] acknowledge the importance of protecting the environment in addition to the safety of members of the public by way of authorized discharges in planned exposure situations. To establish a framework for environmental protection in all exposure situations, like for humans. It is proposed to use Reference Animals and Plants for radiation dose assessment. However, no dose limits are not recommended. Thus, protection of the environment is identified as the issue necessitating an assessment of the impacts on the environment from a particular source(s).
 
Ref: IAEA, Radiation protection of the public and the environment, IAEA Safety Standards, General Safety Guide, GSG-8, IAEA, Vienna, 2018. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Disposal of high level radioactive waste


High level wastes are generated in all operations involved in processing of spent nuclear fuel. At every public forum people connected with atomic energy are asked this question: How the department of atomic energy is going to manage this waste? Do we have any clear-cut answers? 

According to experts – NO is the answer.  

High level wastes are only stored under-ground.  The disposal option of burial in deep geological formations is yet to be realised in India. Why the delay is not yet answered. Any other mode of disposal is prone to be extremely unsafe in view of the possibility of occurrence of natural calamities such as tsunami, earthquake, and high floods, and attack by missiles.

Member of the public is of the opinion that the agencies concerned should give a most feasible reply of disposal of the waste in deep geological formations, and start doing it!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Rise in sea level went up since 1990s


This is the title of the news item in TOI dated June 28, 2017. What next?

The previously assumed leader of climate change deal, US President withdraws from the Paris Climate deal agreed, by over 200 nations, in December 2015. Now, the movement is without any strong leader to spearhead the compliance of the agreement by the nations.

As per the news item, the annual rate of sea level rise increased to 3.3 mm in 2014 from 2.2 mm in 1993. If it continues at the current rate it will rise to 33 mm in a century! Low lying coasts around the world will be under water.

In-spite of the melting of ice on land and the huge icebergs (floating mass of ice detached from a glacier and carried out to sea) in large quantities, the levels have arisen significantly for the simple reason that the volume created by the melting of ice is more than the volume of the water resulted from the melting of the ice. The space can easily accommodate the water without causing any rise in the sea level.

However, it is necessary that a popular and powerful leader should take up the responsibility to carry on this all important climate agreement so that the rise is contained to avoid flooding of sensitive industrial and nuclear installations which are located on the sea shores.
  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

End of nuclear power? It is only the beginning!

There was a report in TOI dated 21st may 2017 indicating that solar power is replacing nuclear power world-wide. Apparently, it may look like that, since widest possible negative publicity is given in the media for nuclear-related incidents and accidents highlighting trivial risk to the population by these occurrences. The risks are only on paper and there are hardly any fatalities related directly to the nuclear incidents/accidents, in real time.

Countries are spending disproportionately large amount of money on safety systems because mathematically some deaths can be predicted that too after two or three decades of exposures to radiation. This makes nuclear power a little more expensive than other modes of electricity generation. But things are changing fast! It is being proved that there are no observable health effects which can be directly attributed to exposure to low level radiation dose.

India should go for indigenous standardized nuclear power plants. Buy uranium from friendly countries. Reprocess spent uranium fuel to get fissile plutonium, a better nuclear fuel than uranium. Separate Cs-137 radionuclide which is the major part of the nuclear waste. Use this Cs-137 as radiation source for industrial applications, such as food irradiation or blood irradiator. The radiation safety scenario is creditable.  

Nuclear power is far less polluting than burning coal or oil in thermal power plants.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Uranium from sea water?

There was a news item in TOI dated 22 Feb. 2017 on “Harnessing N-Power from Oceans”.  Presence of naturally occurring radioactive materials like uranium and thorium in water, soil and rocks is known. However, the concentration of these materials in very low, in parts per million (ppm) or parts per billion (ppb). Recovering the elements at such low levels from such complex matrices is very difficult and not cost effective. Japanese and Indian researchers have done good amount of work in the extraction of uranium from sea water.

Uranium concentration in sea water is about 3 ppm (3 milligram of uranium in one cubic meter of sea water). If one multiplies this by the total volume of sea water, there will be billions of tons of uranium potentially available. As per Japanese study, the cost of uranium may work out to be over 300 USD per kg! May be, it can be the last desperate resort for producing uranium for power generation.

Do we have to resort this when other better options are available? Thorium is more abundant on the surface of the earth (ex. Monazite minerals on sea beaches). The thorium can be effectively utilised for power generation. India is one of the countries which extensively studied thorium fuel cycle for producing U-233 which is fissile material and can be used in nuclear reactors for producing power. Countries should focus on this instead of recovering uranium from sea water on commercial scale, at unimaginable cost.

Then there is unlimited fusion energy which can be harnessed. It is also satisfying to see the solar power being harnessed world-wide for producing electricity.