Radiation saved my life… and it will help save our planet

It is June 2008 – I was 59. I am sitting at my desk at work and I discover a
Opinion

It is June 2008 – I was 59. I am sitting at my desk at work and I discover a lump in my neck. It wasn’t a small lump so it must have been there for a while. Long story short, thyroid cancer resulted in the removal of my thyroid gland and 13 lymph nodes.

However, removal was not the end of it. To get rid of any remaining cancer cells, as with the same procedure that was used on victims following the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station disaster, I had to ingest a pill laced with Radioactive iodine (I-131); an isotope of iodine that emits radiation. Apparently iodine (1-131) is one of the contaminants that is released in nuclear reactor accidents, but it is safer in higher doses where it will destroy thyroid cancer cells.

The sight of a physician dressed in a protective suit and mask providing me with a pill out of a small leaded box with a pair of tongs was like something out of a science fiction movie. Three days in isolation followed in which I was occasionally measured with a Geiger Counter to see how hot I was. 8 years later I am still cancer free with 2 years to go before a final clearance. Thyroid cancer was just an inconvenience. The only after affects are a daily dose of a thyroxine hormone pill which I take automatically each morning and some occasional heat intolerance. I very rarely think of or am aware that I actually had cancer.

Many cancer patients receive forms of radiation treatment and thanks to scientists there are now many different types of that treatment for different cancers. None of these treatment would be available without nuclear medicine. Many ailments are diagnosed using nuclear imaging. On average a person will have at least one procedure involving nuclear medicine in their lifetime. Nuclear Research Reactors are paramount in the production of medicinal isotopes. Electricity produced by nuclear fission, the splitting of the atom is another of the uses of radiation. It is estimated that a kilogram of nuclear fuel is one million times more powerful than kilogram of fossil fuel. There are little if any green-house gases emitted from a nuclear power station although there is the problem of storing nuclear waste.

It is not widely known that there are now 67 Nuclear power stations under construction world- wide in 13 countries such as India, China, Russia and the UAE. Despite many people’s misgivings, there is a slow build- up of nuclear power stations. The USA’s Clean Power Plan includes that new nuclear power plants can contribute to State’s carbon reduction targets.

Nuclear power is not the flavour of the month in Australia. Yet, research indicates that deaths attributed to fossil fuels well outstrip deaths caused by nuclear power. Solar and wind power are the safest of course, and in reducing atmospheric pollution these sources of energy should be advanced. Solar energy and wind power could be developed in conjunction with the more reliable nuclear power as obviously the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.

Australia has uranium in abundance. Apparently we have 31% of the world’s total. We export the stuff to many countries in the world. This exported uranium produces about 15% of the world’s electricity supply. We export uranium and we use it for nuclear research and medicine at our one nuclear power station in Sydney, but we do not use it for our own power generation. Surely it is time to move forward and use our uranium to produce clean energy in our own country and join the rest of the world.

Note: My sister has also had thyroid cancer. Most thyroid cancers are the result of exposure to radiation.

Disclosure: I have had shares in a junior uranium mine with overseas resources for many years. (These are now worth 5 time less than they were prior to Fukushima).

 

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  1. I don’t like the idea of Nuclear Power. I worry about disposing of the waste.

    • Debbie, it is waste only because we waste it. The plutonium, even if chemically purified, is such a poor material for bomb making that any person with the skill to do so knows a better, easier way to get bomb grade Pu-239.
      Strictly speaking, the used fuel rods that to Light Water Reactor (LWR) technology are “spent”, would not be “wasted” at all in a rationally powered USA. They are in fact, in contrast to the other name of “deadly long lived nuclear waste”,
      “slightly used nuclear fuel”.
      Renewable nuclear technologies, two kinds, both immune to meltdown, have been demonstrated in the USA even three weeks before the Chernobyl blunder. *
      About “spent” nuclear fuel: The USA gets about 20% of its electricity at a rate of consumption of fuel rods of about 2500 tons a year. There was a total of about 70 _thousand_ tons of that, accumulated in 2013.It could all be piled on a disused football field, but it shouldn’t, it’s too valuable to waste.
      So, about 4% of used nuclear fuel is fission products, which are short lived. The more radioactive a particular isotope is, the sooner it’s gone.The longest lived of the significantly radioactive isotope, of caesium and strontium, have half lives of thirty years. In ninety years, 1/8 is left, in 210 years, 1/128. After 300 years, if you started with a kilogram of Cs-137, you’ve less than a gram remaining.
      Anyway, the thing to do with that stuff is separate it from the long-lived “actinides”, i.e. uranium and plutonium (mostly) . Then you’ll have about 2400 tons of nuclear fuel, and a hundred tons of short-lived actual waste — unless the latter has enough of something valuable valuable enough to be worth extracting.
      Right, what do we do with the actinides?
      See http://transatomicpower.com, or http://terrestrialpower.com, for Molten Salt reactor designs to consume those actinides.OR
      See GE/Hitachi PRISM, or http://arcnuclear.com for fast neutron, IFR descendant designs, which begin with somewhat more enriched fuel, but are designed to use even the _depleted_ uranium byproduct of “enrichment” as their refuelling supply.

      * The RBMK reactor there had an inherent weakness that LWRs do not. Its graphite moderator gives positive thermal feedback of reactivity. The operators failed to observe written precautions about that.

  2. I’m sorrow I can’t really agree with this statement ,Im very pleased radiation saved your life as I know it’s done so for others too .but I’m old enough to remember the laSt war and when the Atomic Bombs were dropped on Japan and I too thought that was good as maybe the war would be over quicker ,never knowing what the affect they would have on the poor innocent people ,even if they were supposed to be our enemy and they are still suffering ,how would have liked it if it had been dropped on our countries .i may not have been here to tell the tale ,

    • Compare the number of people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the number of people killed by the Japanese during WW2 let Lone the number of troops who would have been killed on the Japanese mainland assault .

  3. We may be going green as they say using nuclear power,but we will be causing more trouble in the future by storing the waste.The world will be toxic for future citizens.The big corporations will not care because they make money,that’s the answer for them.

  4. The radiation therapy you endorse comes with many life changing side effects I for one know first hand how it changed my life sure I might be cancer free however I can no longer eat normally for the rest of my life I have difficulty swallowing and don’t make Saliver and have a constant dry mouth can’t eat bread red meat chicken I struggle with any dry food must have lots to drink or very runny food this is my life for now on I’m 61. If I had my choice over knowing what I know now I would NOT have had your great Radiation Therapy it is not always the answer

    • Yes, but you would not have been here still to complain about your treatment. Bet your loved ones are glad you had effective treatment.

  5. Radiation saved my life too. Didn’t have any real side effects and will be eternally grateful for the treatment I received I am sorry some experiences haven’t been as positive as mine.

  6. marian Napier-Winch  

    If you want to know some of the tests carried out on Australians by scientists for the nuclear industry read “Maralinga” by Frank Walker. The chilling expose of our secret nuclear shame and betrayal of our troops and country.

  7. Radiation can save lives and give other medicinal benefits but I think the worry is the disposal of nuclear waste. My only concern outside of being used for the purpose of hurting other people.

  8. Anonymous  

    Wind and solar energy make sense for me, leave the uranium in the ground. The results of a nuclear accident are horrendous and not worth the risk as far as I am concerned. Just because it is there does not mean that it needs to be mined

  9. Radiation helped me with my breast cancer, thanks to it I am able to live a normal life, and am thankful, we cant turn the clock back, just learn from the mistakes

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