My Blogs : Nuclear Issues ; Radiation Protection Issues ; My Voice

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Ignorant members of public - About ionizing radiation

Let us frankly expose the TRUTH – Common man (person) including illiterate, semi-illiterate, and so-called literate or educated, hardly know anything about ionizing radiation, its benefits, and harmful effects. They only know that radiation is dangerous, so many thousands have died in the explosions of the atom bombs in Japan; the exposed person will lose hair and become impotent, etc etc. How we are going to explain all the benefits we are talking about to such a large percentage, maybe more than 90% of the population who are lacking an understanding of elementary radiation physics, mathematics, biology and medicine?

Communication is the key. All the practitioners of radiation and radiological protection, facility operators, and the government authorities should focus on ways and means to create awareness amongst the people about radiation: benefits of low-level exposures; medical uses in health-care; industry and food preservation; health effects at high levels of exposures, and how safely the radioactive waste is managed by well-informed experts. We should use mass media communication systems and school/college syllabus to the maximum possible extent. Desist from use of words, like probability, ALARA, risk analysis, etc when communicating with members of the public.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Integrated risk assessment – radiation and chemicals

Occupational workers work in an environment where there are mixed pollutants, some of them are cancer-causing and some may cause non-cancer diseases. For worker’s overall safety considerations, it may become necessary to assess health risks from individual pollutants, as well as combined risk from all the pollutants existing in the work environment. The pollutants may include chemicals, radiation, physical pollutants, etc.

Health effects of radiation or chemicals are classified as acute or chronic. Acute affects results from a single exposure to a high radiation dose rate or exposure to a high concentration of a chemical. The effect, deterministic in nature sets in rapidly and could be mild to severe. The dosage of chemicals or radiation plays a significant role in the level of severity of the effect. Chronic effects develop over a long period of exposure to a low concentration of chemical or low dose rate of radiation. The effect may remain invisible for a relatively long period, called the latent period. Carcinogenicity is included in chronic effects, which are stochastic in nature.

 For a given end-point, say cancer, the risk from the exposure/intake may be added to get an integrated risk, which may be expressed in terms of the risk equivalent radiation dose. As of now, ICRP assumes a total lifetime stochastic risk of 0.01 per Sievert of radiation dose received as tolerable. This is in the absence of ALARA.

An integrated risk assessment system needs to be in place to have an overall risk perspective for the benefit of policymakers and decision-makers to try to achieve risk reduction of the workers in totality – from radiation as well as chemicals. Thus, the total detriments will have different components. Once the risk from exposure to all the pollutants is quantified for a given end-point by some acceptable methodology, it can be expressed in terms of Risk Equivalent Radiation Dose (RERD).

Dose reductions for radiological safety in occupational scenarios can consider the risk of both the radiation and possible presence of chemical pollutant in the work environment. Similarly, environmental safety should take into account the ambient levels of chemical pollutants and the corresponding risk to the members of the public. 

Additional small contributions to the environmental pollution by the discharges from nuclear industry cause negligible risk as compared to the multiple chemicals risks, as seen by the calculated RERD values.
[More details, references in Harmonization of Risk Management Approaches-Radiation and Chemical Exposures, Pushparaja, and P. Srinivasan, Proc. IRPA 11, Madrid, Spain, 2011].

Sunday, December 30, 2018

At the end of 2018 - good news to curb CO2 emissions

It is well know that powders like finely divided carbon, silica, etc can adsorb gaseous matter on their surface to a great extent.

Professor Zhongwei Chen, at the University of Waterloo in Canada has developed optimized carbon powders (spheres) to absorb carbon dioxide, which is the main gaseous emission which is linked to the on-going climate change.  Work is going on to further increase the efficiency of the adsorption process by increasing the size and concentration of pores on the carbon material. Carbon is cost effective, environmental friendly and can be used in any shape and size, like columns.

The ultimate use is to employ the material at the carbon dioxide discharge lines of fossil fuel burning power plants to capture the CO2 gas. After saturation, the carbon can be stored deep underground, at geological formations to prevent its escape into the environment – in competition to disposal of high level radioactive waste in geological formations! 

The system needs to be developed in massive industrial scale to make any significant effect to control climate change. Better option still will be to exploit solar power or wind power to a much larger extent.  It is well know that powders like finely divided carbon and silica can adsorb gaseous matter on their surface to a great extent.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Use of chemical weapons

As per the Geneva Protocol 1925, the use of chemical weapons, through the implementation of the provisions of the “CONVENTION ON THE PROHIBITION OF THE DEVELOPMENT, PRODUCTION, STOCKPILING AND USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS AND ON THEIR DESTRUCTION 2005” is prohibited world-wide as a method of warfare for the benefit of mankind.

There are many toxic chemicals /gases which can create devastation/death in areas where the chemical weapons are used. However, chemicals are used often by some governments and other terror organizations to strike terror and induce fear amongst the public at large.  Often, we hear of accidental toxic gas leak causing death of people in the vicinity. Recently, in Douma, Syria chemical weapon was used and so many deaths.  

It is time that the UNSC urgently step-in and enforce the provisions /obligations of the Convention in letter and spirit and ensure that the chemical weapons are never used as a means of warfare or civil war to destroy population groups. The incidents of use of chemicals/chemical weapons should be investigated by UN authorities. Adequate resources for monitoring and for providing medical care for affected should be provided by the rich nations.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Moral decisions and Artificial Intelligence

It is reported that Driverless cars (Self driving cars) are expected to be on Britain’s roads by 2025. The cars can make “life and death” decisions on the roads! How?
So far, robots and other artificial intelligence based systems are being used in hospitals for surgery and other interventional procedures. Now, driverless cars on the roads to take moral decisions in situations where a collision with human being on the road is unavoidable!
A neuroscientist Leon Sutfeld and Prof. Gordon Pipa at the University of Osnabruck, Germany who are working on driverless cars, is stating that Human behavior in dilemma situations can be modeled by a “simple value of life based model that is attributed by the participant to every human, animal or inanimate object”. (Ref. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 2017, 11, DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00122).
The ethical aspect is questionable?  Can machines take human-like moral decisions?
It is true that everybody is expected to follow traffic rules strictly. However, can a driverless car run over a child running on to the road rather than crashing on to an adult standing on the footpath while trying to save the child? Any answers?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

“Designer babies” in 30 years?

As per a professor from Stanford University, One need not have sex to procreate! (TOI News dated 5th July). Parents can choose from a range of embryos created in a lab with their DNA! Body organs can be created in the labs or regrow damaged organs or tissues.

The embryos can be screened for any potential diseases, and can have choice on the color of the hair or the eyes. Certain diseases can be avoided in the future.

Now, where are we heading? No need to marry and gets tied up with one another for life.  Already, some studies have indicated that number of times the married couples having sex has decreased drastically and as of 2014, the number is just 55 times a year. Couples are busy with mobiles or laptops. . Marriage will lose its importance and divorce rates will go up fighting for the type of child the couples would like to have.

The Technology can be misused to create monsters or children without any emotional quotient.

It is time that international organizations such WHO, United Nations wake up to this reality of the technological advances and regulate such activities so the world will not have emotionless monsters, and marriage as an institution will remain for some more time.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Breath test for alcohol – Airline pilots

 Airline pilots are routinely checked for alcohol (ethanol) content in the breath. Any BAC (breath Alcohol Content) reading above 0.08% (0.08 g in 100 g of blood) is taken as “Under the influence of alcohol” and they are not allowed to fly aircraft and putting so many lives at risk. However, there are a lot of factors that affect BAC such as body weight, fatigue and stress factors.

The public understand that many a times pilots fail this test. What happens after testing positive is anybody’s guess!

I have a few queries:

Ø  Whether due to acute shortage of senior or junior pilots, the “drunk” pilots are allowed to fly?
Ø  What are the responsibilities of the regulators in such cases?
Ø  What happens if the regulators are hand-in-glove with the operation staff?

Only way to safeguard the safety of passengers is to ensure that the regulators are beyond corruption, and provide incentives to the young Indians to take the profession of airline pilots so that at any given time we have enough number of pilots available for recruitment by airlines.