X-Message-Number: 20194
Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 14:59:39 -0700
From: <>
Subject: Re: CryoNet #20186 ("making" radiation)

> Message #20186
> From: 
> Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 18:30:29 EDT
> Subject: Re: substitutes for oil: improved
> fission

>   Dammit, Bozzonetti, my writing's bad enough
> without you misquoting me! I 
> didn't say that you couldn't use energy from
> somewhere else to make something 
> radioactive, I said you couldn't make
> radioactivity out of nothing.

Well, yes you can.  Fission merely releases energy already stored in heavy
atoms, waiting for release. The amount of energy it takes to do this is
comparable to the energy it takes to pull the trigger of a firearm. In theory,
it can be as small as you like. Neutrons at room temperature will do it, and a
few of these are free. In practice, merely assembling a large enough
collection of fissionable material will start the process spontaneously (see
the Gabon natural reactor-- there are always enough stray neutrons around to
get it going).

There is nothing "conserved" about radiation or the energy it takes to "make"
it. That's because you're working with a huge amount of potential energy which
has been stored since these heavy elements were first made in the
gravitational colapse of supernovae, and perhaps even neutron star collisions
more than 5 billion years ago. (Such energy also powers all geological
processes, including earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, landslides, mountain
formation, and so forth, even now).

Yes, it's true that coal fired plants release more radioactivity into the
environment, but that's only because plants are careful to avoid release of
radioactive fission product waste, which is gigantically more than contained
in coal or the original reactor fuel when loaded. That stuff remains more
radioactive than the original ore it came from, for a period on the order of
one or two thousand years. Thus, rationally, you must plan to amortize to
store it for at least that long. Current plans for waste storage go beyond
that, but perhaps are doing overkill.

Steve Harris

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