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Summer 2013

Radiation Safety

Ohio University Radiation Safety Office Newsletter A publication of the Ohio University Risk Management and Safety Department

In this issue: Nuclear Reactor Funding......1,2 Department Organizational Change......2 Laboratory and Radiation Safety......2 Coal-burning vs. nuclear fission......3 Tumors and Radioactive Bacteria......4

Dark Lightning Zaps Passengers...... 4, 5 Useful Links......5

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Issue 4

U.S. to fund small, modular nuclear reactors

Wendy Koch, USA TODAY November 20, 2012

The Department of Energy announces funding Tuesday to develop a new generation of smaller, less costly nuclear reactors.

ation by 2022. It said it will negotiate the project’s total cost with Babcock & Wilcox, an energy technology company based in Charlotte, that will lead the project in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International.

President Obama “Low-carbon nuclear announced $8 energy has an imbillion in loan guarportant role to play antees for two new in America’s enernuclear reactors gy future,” Energy in Georgia during Secretary Steven a visit to the jobs Chu said in announctraining center at ing the award, citing the International President Obama’s (Photo: Mark Wilson Getty Images) push for an all-of-theBrotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 headabove energy strategy that reduces quarters on February 16, 2010 in greenhouse gas emissions. He said Lanham, Maryland. (Photo: Mark Wil- DOE will accept funding requests son Getty Images) Story Highlights from other companies developing • U.S. government co-funds the such technology. development of small modular reactors Small modular reactors (SMRs) are • It aims to get these nuclear typically about one-third the size of reactors into the U.S. market by 2022 current nuclear power plants. Al• The portable reactors promise though some of the technology has lower upfront costs and use in remote been used in naval propulsion plants, areas DOE says it’s not been commercialized yet in the United States but could To develop a new generation of offer lower upfront costs, improved nuclear power, the Obama adminissafety and greater flexibility. It says tration announced Tuesday that it will SMRs could be made in U.S. factofund up to half the cost of a five-year ries and moved to sites, including project to design and commercialize remote or small areas that cannot small, modular reactors for the United support large reactors, where they States. would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival. The Department of Energy said it aims to have these reactors, which Several companies are developing have attracted private funding from small reactors, each with varying feainvestors including Bill Gates, in oper- tures. They include NuScale Pow (Continued on page 2)


2 (Continued from page 1) er, Hyperion Power Generation, Toshiba, General Atomics, General Electric and TerraPower, in which Bill Gates is an investor. The DOE co-funded project will be based in Tennessee. In a statement welcoming the award, Babcock & Wilcox said TVA is preparing an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to license up to four small modular reactors at its Clinch River Site in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Each reactor is designed to provide 180 megawatts of power -- compared to about 1,000 megawatts for many large ones. Based on advanced pressurized water reactor technology, it can be contained entirely underground. SMRs are “very promising,” says Nicolas Loris, an energy policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He cites their potential for lower cost, clean energy and flexible use that could transform the nuclear industry, prompting greater competition. Yet he says the U.S. government should not be commercializing the technology but streamlining the licensing process. The Obama administration has also supported large nuclear power plants. In February 2010, it announced $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees for two new large reactors in Burke, Ga. -- the first new nuclear power construction in the United States in more than three decades. ■ obama-doe-fund-modular-nuclear-reactors/1717843/

Summer 2013

RMS Announces Organizational Change Risk Management and Safety has combined the Radiation Safety and Laboratory Safety Departments to create the new Laboratory & Radiation Safety Department. Alan Watts is the new Laboratory & Radiation Safety Officer with this change.

Laboratory and Radiation Safety Department Laboratory and Radiation Safety is a division of Ohio University’s Risk Management and Safety Department.

Radiation Safety: • • • • • • • • •

Monitors dosimetry and bioassay programs Oversees safety and compliance of all radioactive material facilities. Receives, processes, delivers and keeps inventory of all radioactive material Conducts Radiation Safety Training Performs Instrument calibrations Leak tests and sealed source inventories Administers the Radiation Generating Equipment Program Interacts with various Federal and State agencies Supports and interacts with Ohio University’s Radiation Safety Committee, which establishes policy and assures regulatory enforcement within the University community

Laboratory Safety Department: • • •

Performs laboratory audits Assists with waste disposal and other issues Offers technical assistance to University laboratories that conduct sophisticated research; these laboratories have unique materials and concerns requiring: Safe handling procedures

• • • • •

Equipment Training Other control measures Specialized safety equipment such as: ○ Fume hoods ○ Safety showers ○ Eyewashes Other controls needing to be maintained and tested Ensures laboratory personnel and departments maintain their OSHA Chemical Hygiene plans

Radiation Safety Alan Watts

Laboratory & Radiation Safety Officer 179 University Service Center (740) 593-4176

Crystal Brooks

Radiation Safety Technician 180 University Service Center (740) 597-2950

Laboratory Safety David Schleter

Lab Safety Coordinator 171 University Service Center (740) 593-1662

Kristi Giordano

Lab Safety & Compliance Technician 137 University Service Center (740) 593-9428

Summer 2013

Coal-burning vs. nuclear fission health effects on the public 03 April 2013 A landmark study has put the figure of 1.84 million on the number of lives saved by the worldwide use of nuclear power instead of fossil fuels. The report co-authored by former NASA scientist James Hansen presents a dramatic new case for nuclear energy. It begins by taking historic generation data from the nuclear sector and estimating emissions from fossil fuels that would likely have met the same generation role if nuclear had not been used. Nuclear plants with poorer performance below 65% capacity factor were swapped for gas generation while higher performers were swapped for coal, which worked out as a mix of 95% coal and 5% gas replacing nuclear.

from historical and projected nuclear power*, it was published as a ‘just accepted’ peer-reviewed paper in *Environmental Science & Technology *on 15 March.

Lifecycles and beyond

The report takes a figure of 4900 as the potential deaths caused by the use of nuclear energy in the period 1971-2009, explaining at length that this “could be a major overestimate relative to empirical value (by two

dard Institute for Space Studies and a leading climate change scientist. That topic featured in the report: “It is important to bear in mind that our results for prevented mortality are likely conservative, because the mortality factors... do not incorporate impacts of ongoing or future anthropogenic climate change. These impacts are likely to become devastating for both human health and ecosystems if recent global greenhouse gas emission trends continue.”

Nuclear power has served to buy time and make climate mitigation far more feasible. The emission of some 64 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent have been avoided by nuclear power - almost two years’ emissions at today’s rate of around 34 billion tonnes per year. Considering a goal to limit carbon dioxide conThe results are projected total centrations to 350 parts per billion emissions that would have probby the end of this century, the ably led to the deaths of 1.84 report said that only 500 billion Fossil fuel pollution from North America is seen driftmillion people between 1971 and tonnes of carbon dioxide would ing across the Atlantic Ocean 2009 based on average mortality be ‘allowable’. If the nuclear sector estimates from fossil combustion performs to the expectations of the orders of magnitude).” The figure is pollution. This is probably an underInternational Atomic Energy Agency based mainly on presumed “air polluestimate, said Hansen and co-author (IAEA), it stands to avoid the emission tion-related effects” and only 25% on Pushker Kharecha, noting that the documented cases of occupational ac- of between 80 and 240 billion tonnes life-cycle mortality estimates are the cidents and their effects on the public, (based on IAEA’s low and high nuclear biggest source of uncertainty in the scenarios and whether this replaces notably the Chernobyl accident. report: Some coal units produce three gas or coal). This future contribution times more dangerous pollution than from nuclear could instead come from The report states: “The absence of the average they have used. The high- evidence of large mortality from past other low-carbon sources. Nevertheer estimate for lives saved by nuclear nuclear accidents is consistent with re- less, the report concludes, “achieving energy was over 7.5 million - and cent findings that the ‘linear no-thresh- these [climate] targets emphasizes the these figures do not count a range of importance of retaining and expanding old’ model used to derive the nuclear serious respiratory illnesses, cancers, nuclear power, as well as carbon-free mortality factor might not be valid for hereditary effects and heart problems. the relatively low radiation doses that renewables, in the near-term global the public was exposed to from nucle- energy supply.” ■ In the recent time period of 2000-9 ar power plant accidents.” nuclear power plants avoided pollution Found at: would otherwise have caused Global impact around 76,000 deaths per year, said for_nuclear_0304131.html Until his retirement this week, Hansen the report. Entitled *Prevented morhad been head of the NASA Godtality and greenhouse gas emissions



Summer 2013

Tumors Fall to Radioactive Bacteria

A weakened strain of bacteria can deliver radiation to mouse pancreatic tumors while leaving normal tissue unscathed, according to new research published today (April 22) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers found that treating mice with radioactively labeled, attenuated Listeria monocytogenes drastically reduced the number of metastases, suggesting that the strategy holds promise as a targeted anti-cancer therapy with limited side effects. The notion of using bacteria to attack tumors—often by helping to elicit an anti-cancer immune response or delivering a chemotherapeutic agent to cancer cells—is not new, noted Robert Hoffman, a cancer biologist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved in the current study. Hoffman’s own research on engineered Salmonella has shown that the bacteria can kill mouse cancer cells, including metastases of pancreatic cancer. And a Listeria strain called CRS-207 that expresses a tumor-associated protein has demonstrated safety and the ability to stimulate an immune response in Phase 1 and 2 trials of cancer patients. But in the new study, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have paired this technique with a radioactive isotope to selectively kill tumor cells, focusing on the metastatic cells that so often elude current treatment regimens. It’s a “new combination” of approaches, and the combo synergistically targets metastases, wrote Jozef Anné, a molecular bacteriologist at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium who did not participate in the research, in an email to The Scientist. Previous research has demonstrated that an attenuated strain of Listeria monocytogenes, a type of bacterium that penetrates host cells during infec-

tion, selectively killed breast cancer cells without damaging normal tissue, explained Claudia Gravekamp, an immunologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine who led the study with nuclear medicine researcher Ekaterina Dadachova. The bacteria’s ability to target only diseased cells raised the possibility that it could be used to treat metastatic cancer by both directly killing cells and by carrying anti-tumor therapies—like radiation—to cancer cells.

Gravekamp and Dadachova are currently refining their protocol and examining alternative radioisotopes to achieve a 100 percent reduction of metastases, but have high hopes for their bacteria. Though primary tumors are often removed surgically, even small pieces left behind can produce new metastases. It might be possible that one day radioactive Listeria could be part of an “early second-line treatment after surgery . . . to prevent further metastases,” said Gravekamp.

Gravekamp and Dadachova tested the bacteria against highly metastatic pancreatic cancer in mice. First, they demonstrated that, as in their breast cancer model, the bacteria proliferated well in the animals’ metastases, but poorly in the primary tumor, and not at all in normal tissues like spleen—suggesting the bacteria would be good candidates for delivering a therapy to far-flung metastases. Then, the researchers armed the Listeria with the Rhenium-188, a radionuclide that kills cells by releasing DNA-damaging radiation and has shown promising results in a handful of early stage trials against a variety of cancers. Sure enough, regular injections of Rhenium-188-labeled L. monocytogenes decreased metastases by 90 percent over saline-injected mice.

While this implies that bacteria have the potential to be used to deliver therapeutic radiation doses to metastases, the bacteria were administered before metastases were established “so to some extent it’s a prevention model,” noted Donald Buchsbaum, a radiation biologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who was not involved in the study. Most likely the treated mice still would have died of their remaining metastases, and future work will need to focus on targeting established metastases, possibly by exploring other radioisotope options, he wrote in an email to The Scientist.

Dark Lightning Zaps Airline Passengers You’ve probably never seen it, but it’s possible you’ve been exposed to it if you’ve ever flown through a thunderstorm. Dark lightning, flashes of gamma rays that occur at altitudes in which commercial aircraft fly, doesn’t produce much light, but it does produce radiation. New research presented Wednesday at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna pinpoints the amount of radiation that dark lightning produces -- and how much pilots and passengers might be getting exposed to. “The good news is that the doses are not super scary -- it could be worse,” said lead researcher Joseph Dwyer, a physics professor at Florida Institute of Technology. “It’s similar to going to the doctor’s office and getting a CT scan.” The existence of dark lightning itself was discovered on a NASA spacecraft (Continued on page 4)

Summer 2013 (Continued from page 3)

in 1994. In the electrical fields of a thunderstorm, electrons zoom close to the speed of light, colliding with atoms to emit the gamma rays. In 2010, Dwyer and colleagues determined that dark lightning occurred at altitudes where airplanes commonly fly. That prompted the current work, which involved a physics-based model that can show exactly how the discharge happens. The preliminary work showed how much radiation was being emitted, but the size of the space it was produced in was unclear. With the current model, Dwyer’s team was able to pinpoint the exposure dose that someone on an airplane would likely receive. “This work is very important because it gets you into the zone where you start to understand how often and how likely they are to happen,” said University of California Santa Cruz physics professor David Smith, who has worked with Dwyer but was not involved in the modeling work. The next step, Smith said, is to start determining how often the flashes occur. Because the bursts are so brief

USEFUL LINKS Radiation Safety Website- http://

-- about 10-100 of microseconds -they are usually undetected, although it’s possible you could see a diffuse, purple light, Dwyer said. “Unless you have gamma ray detectors on board, no one would think anything of it,” Smith said. The National Science Foundation is currently working on an armored plane that could fly through thunderstorms, Smith said. If an instrument were placed on board, researchers may begin to get a better idea of the frequency of the flashes. Currently, the bursts are thought to occur much less frequently than the lightning we see, but that could mean anywhere from 1/100th to 1/1000th as often, Smith said. “It’s a very rough number,” Smith said. “The other question is, are there somewhat weaker ones that happen more often?” Until those questions are answered, researchers say there’s no need for

pilots to change course, since avoiding thunderstorms is already part of the gig. Depending on future findings, though, frequent flyers may want to watch the weather when they fly.

“It’s kind of cool that it’s been 250 years since Benjamin Franklin’s kite experiment, and we’ve realized there’s a different kind of lightning going on that we never knew about,” Dwyer said. ■ weather-extreme-events/dark-lightning-who-does-it-hurt-130410.htm?goback=%2Egde_1428887_member_231112794

Radiation Safety Emergency Contact Name





Radiation Safety Handbook radiationsafety/rad_saf_handbook. htm

Alan Watts* 593-4176

740-517-5075 330-903-0506

Radiation Safety Newsletters newsletters.htm

Crystal Brooks* 597-2950 David Schleter*



David Ingram**



Joe Adams*** 593-1667


Alan Watts Laboratory & Radiation Safety Officer 179 University Service Center (740) 593-4176

*RMS Staff **Chair Radiation Safety Committee ***Associate Vice President, Risk Management and Safety


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