Radiation Detection is not generally a subject of much interest in the popular media, except during major events such as the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns of March 2011, Chernobyl May 1986, Three Mile Island March 1979. Today, news of radioactive Cesium approaching California was reported by Dr. Ken Buesseler on Reddit. His announcement produced a lot of good questions and answers – and undoubtedly a preview of some of the controversy that will arrive with aqueous “fallout.” I think it’s interesting that Dr. Buesseler chose non-traditional media to make this announcement. It kind of fits because Ken is approaching the whole project in a non-traditional way. He found little interest for his project from traditional funding sources or from the US Government (which does not have an overt ocean radiation monitoring program). More on his project here.
There is some radiation detection news in the popular media too recently: Radiation sensors are going off at landfills due to radioactive materials brought to the surface by fracking activities. The Pittsburg Post Gazette covers one approach to dealing with it here.
For background on this issue, NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials) have been with us for millions of years, but they become concentrated by various processes in the oil and gas drilling, fracking, transportation and refinement arena. Wikipedia covers some of this here. The people most directly affected are the workers in this industry, so radiation detection is important to help minimize exposure. Then there is the question of whether the byproducts and concentrated NORM materials in landfills will have long term impacts on the water table etc. There is much debate about these issues.
In France, some people armed with Geiger Counters say it’s time to redevelop a historic and interesting nuclear testing site just 14 miles from the Eiffel Tower, covered by NY Times here.
In England, radiation levels have dropped to low enough levels to allow the dismantling of a tower that protected the public during a serious fire at Windscale in Cumbria, 1957. The Guardian reports that without it much of Northern England could have become a “nuclear wasteland.” Read the story here.