Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Here is a periodic table.  I like them because they always amaze me with the bewildering array of elements that stars have been able to produce in 13.7 billion years.  As you remember, each element comes in different "flavors" or isotopes, each of which has  different number of neutrons.  Usually only one isotope is stable: the rest decay radioactively.   Check out U (Uranium) and Pu (Plutonium) down at bottom row.  These are in nuclear reactors and bombs.  When they decay (fission) they have  a huge number of options for how to do it.  Many of the resulting elements, the "daughter products", are themselves radioactive and quickly decay.   This process leaves us mainly with three radioactive elements:

Iodine-131 (Half life: 8 days)
Strontium-90  (Halflife 29 years)
Ceasium-137   (Half life 30 years)

In coping with radioactive "fallout" from a fission reactor, one option is to load up on stable Iodine before the I-131 arrives.   Similarly, Cesium behaves much like Potassium (K) since they are in the same column on the periodic table and Strontium (Sr) behaves like Calcium.  This suggests we also can increase our intake Calcium (eg dairy products) & Potassium (eg bananas), to diminish uptake of Sr & K

My friend Monique, (whose mother is a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing) posted the first official comments on this blog, and pointed out that the radioactive samples being detected here in the US are mainly Iodine.   That is good because the half life of Iodine 131 is shorter, meaning that whatever effects are present will only be with us for a relatively short time.

Conversely, in Japan, we can expect the effects to last a long time.   Already the US has banned food from four Prefectures near Fukushima


While the ocean waters are measured at  dozens of times the usual levels, calling into question the safety of fish stocks (which supposedly aren't much affected if they fish come from the deep).  It seems likely that many tons of food will need to be destroyed, even as survivors struggle to get adequately fed in shelters.


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