I first heard about nuclear diving while I was getting my hair cut in downtown Manhattan. My stylist seemed out of place in an East Village salon, so I asked her where she lived. Brooklyn? Queens? Uptown?
"Upstate," she answered. "I commute two hours each way a few times a week."
I asked her why, and she stopped cutting.
"Well, my husband has kind of a weird job," she said. "He'd rather not live around other people."
I sat up in the chair. "What does he do?"
"He's a nuclear diver."
"A diver who works in radiated water at nuclear power plants."
I turned around to look at her. "Near the reactors?"
"The reactors, fuel pools, pretty much anywhere he's needed."
"And is he . . . OK? I mean . . ."
"Is it safe? Well, he says it is. They monitor his dosage levels and all that. Sometimes they're too high, and he's not allowed to dive. That's why we live out in the middle of nowhere. Obviously, I'd rather he didn't do it. Who wants a glowing husband?" She laughed, a bit sadly.
I told her I was a writer and asked if I could meet him. She said probably not. Most divers don't like talking about their work, and their bosses discourage the ones who do. "I think it all comes down to the radiation," she said. "It spooks people. It spooks me! Not that the rest of the job is a picnic. The non-contaminated diving they do—around the huge intake pipes that bring water into the plants—is even more dangerous. Sometimes they get sucked in." Her husband had survived the day-to-day hazards of his job, she said, but I wondered about the long-term effects. "Has he ever gotten sick?"
"You'd have to ask him."
"But you said he won't talk to me."
She put her scissors down. "He gets chest pains."
"From the radiation?"
"He says probably not, but what else could it be from? He's still young."
She wrote down her husband's e-mail address, and I tried over the course of the next few weeks to get him to talk to me. He wrote back eventually, but only to say that he was busy servicing a reactor in California. Maybe he'd get in touch when he had more time. By then I was hooked, though. What kind of person knowingly dives in contaminated water? I spent months sending queries to divers I found online, but none of them would talk either. Then came the Fukushima disaster, which changed the nuclear-energy landscape almost overnight. On a hunch, I started contacting plant operators rather than individual divers. An article about the hazards (and heroics) of nuclear diving might not be a plant manager's idea of great publicity, but it sure beat images of helicopters dumping seawater on crippled Japanese reactors. Someone at the D.C. Cook nuclear power plant in Bridgman, Michigan, agreed. More than a year after that East Village haircut, I was invited to see a dive in person.
Word seemed to get around. I heard back from one of the divers that I had e-mailed previously. If I agreed not to use names, he and two of his co-workers would talk to me.
I met them for lunch at a diner outside Chicago. They looked like hockey players: young, tough, athletic. They talked about where they dove and what they did, and after a while, the conversation turned to radiation. Each had spent years diving in contaminated water, and I asked if anyone had experienced health problems. It seemed like a stupid question, looking at them.
"I got thyroid cancer a few years ago," one of them said, between bites of his burger.
"From the job?" I asked.
"I don't know. It was weird. I was 28 years old, in perfect shape. I had no family history or anything."
"So what did you do?"
"I quit diving, but then came back."
"I missed it. Besides, who knows if the cancer was related? These guys were diving in the same water as me," he said, nodding at his co-workers, "and they're all just fine."
As a cold-war kid who grew up in the long shadows of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, I retain a healthy fear of nuclear power. What other source of energy is so readily associated with Armageddon? Add to this our post-9/11 fear of terrorism, and the landscape darkens further. My apartment in Manhattan is 40 miles south of Indian Point, a nuclear power plant that sits on a fault line and has a history of groundwater leaks and minor explosions. Almost all of the New York metropolitan area's 19 million residents live within Indian Point's "Emergency Planning Zone." One of the hijacked 9/11 planes flew almost directly over the plant.
Hundreds of cities have their own version of Indian Point somewhere out in the gloaming, and millions of Americans live with the jittery bargain these plants present. Indian Point, for instance, supplies New York City with up to 30 percent of its electricity, and no realistic energy alternatives have yet been put forth if the plant were to be shut down. It remains true that nuclear power is the cleanest and safest form of energy currently in wide use in the U.S. Of course, the same was true in Japan until last year.
Making the bargain even more complex is the fact that construction on every one of the country's 65 working nuclear plants began before 1978. In the years that followed, tough economic times, a burgeoning environmental movement and the near-catastrophic meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania combined to bring an end to the permitting and financing of new plants. The nuclear-energy industry limped along for most of the next three decades, supplying only about 20 percent of the nation's power. But as fossil fuels fell increasingly out of favor and nuclear energy gained support in Europe and parts of Asia, George W. Bush and then Barack Obama began speaking of nuclear power as a crucial component of any new national energy policy. At the same time, bipartisan support for nuclear energy was steadily rising among both the public and members of Congress. Even many environmentalists were coming to see nuclear power as a necessary, if unwieldy, weapon in the battle against global warming. In February 2010, Obama announced guarantees of more than $8 billion in loans for the construction of two new reactors in Georgia, the first commitment of its kind in more than 35 years.
Then, last March, a tsunami hit Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, leading to a disastrous series of reactor meltdowns. The consequences were immediate. Germany vowed to phase out nuclear power, and other countries spoke of following suit. In the U.S., the nuclear-energy renaissance was left suspended in time. But even as its future remains uncertain, nuclear energy remains an indisputable part of our present. And as our power plants continue aging with no viable replacements, the challenges facing the nuclear industry will only continue to grow. So will the potential for another disaster. The threat of radiation poisoning hangs over everyone who works at or lives near a nuclear plant, but no one more than the divers, who literally swim in the stuff.
It was still dark out when I drove up to the entrance of D.C. Cook. I'd been hoping for something dramatic—low lit reactor buildings emitting ominous steam—but all I could see was a sturdy guardhouse, and beyond it a two-lane road disappearing into the woods. After a few phone calls and a thorough inspection of my rental car, the well-armed security guards allowed me to pass. I drove slowly around a bend, and there they were, the two domed reactor buildings, stone gray and featureless. They were smaller than I'd pictured them, but just as unsettling. I parked carefully (I'd read in a divers forum that security booted any car that so much as touched a white line) and made my way to the building that housed the diving team.
My host, Kyra Richter, was waiting for me at the front door. She had been a nuclear diver for more than seven years, a pioneer in an overwhelmingly male field, but now worked in plant operations supervising the diving program. She was petite, with long dark hair in a ponytail, and she was in a hurry. As she quickly explained the plan for the day, I did my best to keep up. Nuclear divers, she said, perform three different kinds of dives: non-radioactive "mudwork" in the lakes or rivers that supply water to the plant, and, inside the plant, both non-radioactive and radioactive dives. Today the divers would be out on Lake Michigan, cleaning intake pipes.
"In a boat?" I asked.
"Of course in a boat. Is that a problem?"
"No," I said, unconvincingly. I was worried about getting seasick, but Richter, perhaps charitably, misread my distress. "You're upset that we're not contaminated-water diving," she said. "Well, mud diving is far more dangerous."
"That's what I've heard," I said.
She grabbed her coat, and we walked to her car, which was parked perfectly. A stiff breeze had come up with the sun, and Richter paused to assess its strength. "Of course, we may not go," she said. "We can only dive if it's calm. You can't tether divers properly if the boat's bobbing up and down."
As she drove, she explained that lake diving at D.C. Cook takes place in and around the complex system of pipes, pumps and screens that draws more than 1.5 million gallons of water into and out of the plant's condensers every minute. The pipes extend a quarter of a mile into Lake Michigan and require constant maintenance. And beyond the normal hazards of welding and cutting at the bottom of a muddy lake—"it can be like looking through coffee"—lie the dangers of the intake structures themselves.
I could find no definitive statistics concerning nuclear diving injuries and deaths, but as I studied news accounts and individual incident reports, it became clear that most diving accidents involved intake work. In 2004, at Point Beach Nuclear Plant in Wisconsin, a diver became trapped when one of his lines got sucked into an intake pipe. The plant immediately turned off its circulating water pumps—which in turn shut down the reactor—so the diver wouldn't be sucked into the pipe as well. Powering down a reactor too quickly can damage the nuclear core, but in this case everything worked out: The plant went undamaged, and the diver escaped. Other divers have been less fortunate. In 1986 an untethered diver performing intake inspections at Crystal River Nuclear Plant, on Florida's Gulf Coast, failed to surface. The dive team sent a (tethered) rescue diver to find him. But a few minutes after entering the water, the second diver's tether went taut and he became unresponsive. The team quickly pulled him up, and his unconscious body was almost to the surface when the tether line broke. The rescue diver sank again from view. As with the Point Beach incident, the intake systems were immediately shut down, but it was too late. Both divers were dead. While the rescue diver's body was recovered quickly, it took workers almost two hours to locate the first diver. His body had been sucked almost all the way into the plant itself.
Richter, I knew, had been heavily involved in the effort to improve safety, and she'd had some success. In 2009, after years of advocating for the creation of industry-wide regulations, she was offered her current job at Cook. Now she acts as a liaison between plant operators and the dive teams, and the communication lapses that contributed to many of the previous incidents had all but disappeared. There hasn't been a diving accident at Cook since she became supervisor.
When we arrived at the docks in nearby Benton Harbor, several divers were milling around beside the 52-foot dive boat. They were dressed casually—jeans, T-shirts, work boots—and were, on the whole, younger then I'd expected. None of them were smiling. "Looks like a blow day," Richter said, shaking her head. "Which means no dice."
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Twenty dollars an hour to risk the rest of a twenty something's life. You would think there would be a robot for this.
A dive into a transfer canal in a dry suit resulted in 16 mrem dosage. To be honest, that's much less than I expected. They must have flushed/cycled the water in the canal first?
Still, 10$ extra per day for contaminated dives seems meager, especially if it's a dive where the boss only feels comfortable asking for volunteers.
I'll be honest, I'm still reading the article, but if the water were known to be contaminated then they may have considered the dive a planned special exposure (10 CFR 20.1206) in which the dive would be required to be voluntary.
I imagine a number of the dives, especially those with expected doses at higher levels. 16 mrem probably wouldnt count as a PSE, unless they estimated the dose significantly higher.
A bit of an anecdotal perspective: I actually worked with a nuclear diver for about 3 years, said that so long as you knew your work area, most dives were perfectly safe. If you knew the exposure and you were OK with it, the extra money was worth the time (usually short).
@roncandy 20 dollars an hour is the reason there is not a robot for it.
a friend's sister-in-law makes $65 hourly on the laptop. She has been laid off for 6 months but last month her pay was $19426 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more NuttyRich . com
Very interesting article. What a strange job.
It should be pointed out that despite the magnitude of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdowns, not a single person died. Though the plant wasn't designed to withstand a 65-foot tsunami generated by a magnitude 9 earthquake, the emergency response prevented a further disaster.
One year later, radiation levels in surrounding communities are much lower than expected and radiation levels in organisms collected in the ocean near the plant are lower than the normal background radiation. Nuclear power is still the safest form of power generation in Japan. The hazards are real, but the safeguards and emergency procedures are so thorough that a fatal accident is extremely rare.
Communities nearest the plant will remain off limits for perhaps decades as a precaution even though the long term effects of low dosage radiation have never been shown conclusively to cause any problems.
Was it just me, or where it said "continued on page 85" I went to where I guessed page 85 would be and there was nothing about the story. Popular Science is notorious about not putting page numbers on pages.
@ laurenra7; The problems with those tests are endless, but they always begin with the same problem; they are designed to reassure the public no matter what the reality is. The reality is that the area took a massive dose but they say it didn't. Even though there was no way it couldn't have, they still say it didn't. Even though plant heavy water ended up all over the area from mixing with the floodwaters, they say it didn't. As long as it is worth more money to say there's no real problem, that's what will be said. Japan is even worse than the U.S. that way. They fire a couple of scapegoats for lying in some way but do absolutely nothing about the real problems of contaminated water and soil.
I couldn't believe that these guys make 20 an hour but a search on the interwebs showed that's the case. Insane but glad they are doing it...someone has to do it. There are also divers who go "INTO" oil pipelines surrounded completely by Oil to do work/repairs. Not one for the claustrophobic. Talk about Dirty Jobs.
This article is written with too much sensationalism. Its designed to use fear to grab the readers attention. Nuclear plant diving is way more vanilla, controlled, and boring than shown here.
I have worked with Keith and his team on a nuclear dive before. I can tell you that he is a professional and does a fantastic job. These guys and gals are excellent at what they do and I would challenge anyone to do their job as well. This job is safe and lucrative. Nuclear dives are very safe and have many controls in place. In many cases a nuclear dive is chosen because it lowers the radiation exposure of a job.
Dives in the lake and intake pipes have inherent dangers. Again, these divers are excellent and take every precaution to minimize this industrial risk.
I appreciate the work they do.
@laurenra7 It should additionally be pointed out that solar, wind, and tidal power has never put any communities off limits for any amount of time, doesn't cause deaths due to any amount of exposure, and don't create a waste product that requires handling for hundred or thousands of years.
Nuclear's "safety" comes at the expense of people like these that risk long term exposure while making less then my girlfriend as a land based electrical apprentice.
Cancer.org DOES link even small doses of ionizing radiation (one of the types produced by nuclear plants) to cancer. In particular they link cancer of the thyroid and bone marrow.
Solar, wind and tidal are fantastic sources of power, but they will never (I use that world lightly, everything is prone to change) be more than supplemental power sources in the larger picure, as each has geographical limitations and low energy density. As our demand increases, and geographic availability steadily decreases, these power sources are becoming less and less viable for base load generation.
We will always need a bulk generation capacity, and at the moment we look to both coal and nuclear for supplying large amounts of power to supply base load. Both are imperfect, but they are the best mass generators we have, and will likely have for some time to come.
Medical exposure is often overlooked, as it's considered more benefit than harm. That only benefits one individual, or perhaps a family. Make no mistake, Nuclear, like all technologies, carries risk (maybe more so), but also carries huge benefits that affect millions. Do we not also have a tolerable level of risk to justify the benefit with this industry? Far too many comments carry the opinion of 'one time is too many!', or 'No exposure is worth the benefit!'. That's a deeply concerning sentiment, considering the challenges ahead of us.
On that note, I found your second two paragraphs,are a bit selective in logic.
For instance, I earn more as an engineer than most all of our men and women serving in the military. Their job is decidedly more dangerous than mine, yet I do not see how that invalidated their work or the need for their service.
As for the final paragraph, I would obviously need to read the studies, but low dosage correlation is extremely difficult to correlate to incidents of cancer. There are a number of populations living in very high background locations who show below average instance of cancer among their population. Even most credible studies on the Chernobyl incident barely correlate above statistical error.
Further, many people today have had considerable x-ray exposure, either from broken bones or dental imaging. I would be interested how folks would feel about medical exposure as compared to exposure from incidental plant release. A single full body CT scan would give you a larger dose than sitting onsite at Chernobyl (this year, not when it happened) for a few hours (6 mSv/hr Chernobyl, 15-30 mSv/scan).
Geee... I always thought that technical divers were among the most highly remunerated professionals...also the reason why they do not like to talk about what they do, lest their testimony be misconstrued to cost them their jobs.
Wow! Nuclear must be bad!
Come on folks, nuclear is just like dozens of other jobs. This article comments on 16 mrem mysteriously like who knows what will happen. Do you fly across the US in airplanes? 5 mrem. When was the last time you thought about radiation going through security checkpoints? That adds up too. 2000 mrem per year is less than one percent of the amount known to seriously injure people in a single short dose.
Salt is dangerous in large doses, but people aren't scared of using salt. What would happen if you ate 100 teaspoons of salt in one day? It would probably kill you, but you eat salt all the time. Spread out over a year, it would not be a problem. Radiation is much the same where the 2000 mrem is analogous to eating a teaspoon of salt, only the Nuclear Regulatory Commission only allows two and a half teaspoons of radiation per year, even though 200,000 mrem in a single dose is not likely to kill you. It might make you sick, but it would only take a few teaspoons of salt to make you sick, too. Is getting sick from radiation terrible, but is getting sick from salt poisoning ok? Plant operators limit their workers to 2000 mrem per year so they don't take a chance on exceeding Nuclear Regulatory Commission limits and drawing a large fine, not because the NRC limits are too high to be safe.
One commenter states that heavy water from the plant was discharged around the Japanese reactors. That is obviously wrong. Those are light water reactors, not heavy water reactors. Irradiated water is not a problem. Water with radioactive particles in them may be. Most of the radioactivity associated with nuclear reactor coolant gives off beta particles (electrons, similar to the old style CRT TV sets or computer monitors, just at a higher energy). Did you worry about that? Beta particles are stopped pretty much completely by a diver's mask, gloves, and other equipment. And the writer worries that there is a coverup about how much has been released. Radiation monitoring equipment is cheap and very sensitive. It is hard to coverup something that is so easily measured.
The writer comments on the multiple dosimeters like that means the dose is very high. Actually, hands and feet can be exposed to higher levels than can the trunk of the body, with less hazard to the person. And radiation doses can vary rapidly from point to point, especially inside reactor vessels or fuel pools. Divers may place their hands close to the source, and keep the rest of the body away. The dosimeters are to verify that they did that. If they didn't and they exceed their allowed dose, they would not be allowed to dive again, or their future dive hours would be cut. Nothing scary about that at all. One thing about radiation: it is easy to measure with simple and inexpensive equipment, so the nuclear industry measures it. Most chemicals used in making plastics, electronics, etc. require hundred thousand dollar machines to measure it, and they aren't usually portable. Just because we don't measure the chemicals doesn't make them less dangerous.
The comment about planned special exposures: A routine operation such as covered by this article is not likely to be a "planned special exposure". This work is normal occupational exposure to radiation, such as applies to thousands of workers across the country, not just divers. And the divers are not forced to do nuclear work, so that means they are voluntarily performing the work.
This article implied that nuclear plants are unique in requiring divers to risk their lives to maintain cooling water channels. Oh no, there are many plants including coal-fired plants that require divers to risk their lives, also.
People like to say new nuclear plants haven't been built in the last 30 years. Keep in mind that in 1980, the average capacity factor of the nuclear fleet was 60 percent, where the capacity factor is the percentage of the theoretical maximum possible output of the plant. Since then, the capacity factor has increased to above 90 percent, without building new plants. That means the existing plants are generating 50 percent more power with the same equipment now than 30 years ago. And many plants have been uprated to produce 10 to 15 percent more power than in their original design. So although new plants haven't been completed, they sure do produce much more power than they did 30 years ago. That is part of the reason why new plants haven't been built: they just haven't been needed. Is that really a sign of a troubled industry? Tell me how many new coal-fired plants have been built in the last 30 years: now there is a real troubled industry, and not just because of their many environmental issues. I think nuclear is here to stay, coal, not so much!
Modern nuclear power plants will be more safe than the older ones. Consider the fact we have actually survived the old ones (the first ones).
We survived Chernobyl and Fukushima and several submarine accidents. The worst of all may have been the Russian submarine explosion (rather than Chernobyl).
New plants should be built in remote locations. If there is an accident then people won't be forced from their homes, and radiation pollution will have to travel farther to reach drinking water supplies.
Nuclear power is crucial to future generations. Over time, nuclear experts will develope it for the benefit of an aging sun and when other resources may diminish.
i know of a few of the radiation poisoning side affects and 1 of them is chest pains then again the stuff that gets rid of radiation can also cause chest pains and different cancers can be gotten from radiation. hopefylly those suits are lead lined because if they aren't that means they're being flayed broiled everytime they jump in rad-x or not but then again the stuff they have to take to get rid of radiation they may or may not have gotten only will slow down the side effects when they have to jump in everyday and the water also helps so it is possible that suits not working quit as effective as it should
PS should continue to write articles that describe the nuclear power plants operations including how heat is generated.
Show us all kinds of photos of the core, the fuel rods, the food, the spent fuel and their storage pools.
Which elements are electron rich ?
Is there literally a factory that enriches uranium ? Describe how it is done at a factory.
Tell us how fuel is shipped from a factory to a plant.
If uranium is denser than lead, is it used in place of lead ?
Used to be a commercial oil field diver and never considered 'nuclear diving' as an option.
But for those who are or who do I would like to pass on some info if it's not known and that is of a 'product' in development.
Not available yet but maybe a few trees could be shaken...
The drug is called Ex-Rad and will help prior and after exposure to radiation. I'm supposing that it may make otherwise harmful or lethal doses 'nonlethal'?
Here are some urls:
Company that is developing it.
All The Best!
I believe that electrical appliance such as cooking ranges give off enough EMF radiation to cause cancer
In Poland we have one of the biggest coal power plants in Europe. Ashes generated daily contain radioactive materials that are equivalent to more than a years supply of uranium for a nuclear power plant of the same output power. Still believe that nuclear is the worst there is?
Every power generation method has it's drawbacks.
Fossil fuels generate tons of CO2 and generate acid rains.
Water power plants on dams are ecological nightmare - mud accumulated on the bottom of the lake is pretty much toxic, not to mention disrupting movement of fish in the river.
I haven't heard anything bad about tidal generators yet, but they haven't been widely used, so they aren't tested yet.
Wind turbines are said to generate sound waves at 10Hz range, causing health problems in populations nearby. They are also responsible for noise pollution and shredding birds to pieces.
Solar power plants can blind birds with reflections from panels etc.
No power generation method is perfect, but since nuclear power is less dependent (and less changing) on nature, it can be better controlled and monitored.
Which elements are neutron rich ?
Just to add a few numbers on relative risks and impacts of various enegy sources.
Fossil fuel (coal and gas) power generation causes hundreds of thousands of deaths every single year (i.e., ~1000 every single day), worldwide. In the US alone, the toll is ~20,000 deaths per year. Fossil power generation is also a leading cause of global warming.
Non-Soviet nuclear power has not caused any public deaths, and has had no measurable impact on public health, over it's entire 50+ year history. Fukushima does nothing to change that, with zero deaths caused, and no projected, measurable public health impact.
As for workers, statistics show that nuclear is one of the safest heavy industries to work in, with worker related injury/death rates equal to working in an office environment. Even wind and solar power have higher worker death rates, per amount of electricity generated, simply due to falls from roofs and wind turbine towers.
Most scientific studies show that, in terms of public health and environmental impacts, coal and oil are by far the worst (with "external costs" of 4-8 cents/kW-hr). Gas is next, at ~1 cent/kW-hr. Nuclear's external costs are similar to those of renewables, at a fraction of a cent/kW-hr (see www.externe.info/). The story is similar for total net CO2 emissions.
Renewables aren't perfect. In fact, for a given amount of power generation, renewables require over 20 times as much steel, 20 times as much concrete, and over 100 times as much land area as nuclear. Not the best option if preserving "nature" (i.e., wilderness, habitats, etc..) is your goal.
It was interesting that such a small sample of divers (it did not sound like more than 100 divers were interviewed, fewer still asked about health problems) turned up a case of thyroid cancer. From a radiation standpoint, thyroid cancer is a telltale form of cancer known to be caused by radioactive releases. Radioactive Iodine 131 attaches to the unprotected thyroid, setting the cancer clock ticking- the reason Iodine tablets were once a part of every best stocked fallout shelter.
I found this to be an interesting article. A family friend was a high risk diver back in the 70's. He claimed he made $20 an hour. Back then that was really something. But then for years I volunteered for a Radiological HAZMAT team that would respond to reactor incidents. No pay there, just the hope that whatever we could do would keep things from getting worse was pay enough.
Laurena, you are wrong, workers have died from radiation exposure at Fukushima.
For those who think that wind and solar are non-polluting, they are not. Large scale solar is more destructive to the environment than coal and it is responsible for regional climate change and desertification that is far worse than the CO2 emitted from coal since CO2 can move. These solar "farms" create heat islands just like cities do. This reduces the rain that falls in that area and makes it hotter.
Wind "farms" create dioxins that then get into the soils, air, and water. They create noise pollution and kill birds and wildlife at record numbers. If they are put in water, they distrupt marine life. You also have to get the materials out of the ground, refine them, and then manufacture the parts. I wonder how many children were poisoned to death in some unseen 3rd world country so we can have a "clean" wind farm? Researcher friends of mine go to these countries and to protect their health, they are in full chemical hazmat suits with air tanks because the air is so toxic. Their estimate, more than 25 kids per month just in 3 small towns. I do not want my clean, safe electricity stained with blood. Do you?
The blood stains are worse for those people driving all electric vehicles and hybrids. Think about where the lithium comes from and how those children live and die.
Why is it only the anti-nuclear crowd who feels the need to spread misinformation to cause fear in the public.
Just stop it already.
Between the meltdown of a Reactor just outside of los angeles in the late 50s and up to 3 nuclear blasts a day within sight of Vegas. How did they so villify ANY and ALL radiation?
A 20MW reactor WITHOUT a containment building experienced a meltdown in Los Angeles County, releasing a radioactive cloud over the San Fernando Valley. No unusual levels of cancer (except for that attributed to smoking).
This was far larger release then any of the Japan reactors, and the evacuation was informal (the engineers called family and friends and told them to get the hell out).
The US Government did not admit this until 1989. But all the locals talked about it in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Santa Suzanna Field Laboratory, about 2 miles outside Los Angeles city limits, 30 miles from Downtown Los Angeles.
Sodium reactor experiment
Main article: Sodium Reactor Experiment
The Sodium Reactor Experiment-SRE was an experimental nuclear reactor which operated from 1957 to 1964 and was the first commercial power plant in the world to experience a core meltdown. There was a decades-long cover-up by the US Department of Energy. The operation predated environmental regulation, so early disposal techniques are not recorded in detail. Thousands of pounds of sodium coolant from the time of the meltdown are not yet accounted for.
The reactor and support systems were removed in 1981 and the building torn down in 1999.
I enjoyed reading this. Great article. I like diving, but nuclear diving is not something I would do for a living.
It takes a special breed of person to do the type of work we do. Not only just to do it but do it well. I always like reading these types of stories though. This type of work, inland or offshore, should be one of the more higher paying jobs out there given the amount of risk we take and the sacrifices we make with our families and personal life. Divers all over the U.S. are treated more like commodities or expendable resources than highly skilled and trained professionals. The problem isn't that these energy companies don't have the money to pay us what we are worth. The problem is that they think there is always going to be someone younger and dumber, with something to prove, who is willing to do it for pennies on the dollar. This may be true but unfortunately that's how people get hurt or killed. The one thing every diver has in common is their ego. Maybe that's why they continue to work for pennies. The pay should be more than doubled as far as hourly rate is concerned plus some sort of hazard pay, maybe even depth from surface. Does this sound unreasonable? You're not the one going down. But if you think you can handle it you can borrow my hat while I chill in the A/C.
P.S. Gorski sucks!