Category Archives: Thesis

Hanford Site: Radioactive Levels Ten Times Lethal Limit

The more research I do, the more depressing the results.  The article below (linked to its source) was published in 2010.  In terms of radioactive half-life four years does not make a difference.

Googling “radiation leak Hanford” will return enough entries to make anyone’s head spin.   Hanford is not the only nuclear waste site in the United States.  The EPA references over a thousand  nuclear waste sites in the United States alone.   Projecting this on a global scale boggles the mind.

I can’t help but wonder if the general plan from the 1940s until today(?) has been, “let’s take the money now and let those guys in the future figure things out.”

Bummer for us is that we are those guys.


 Hanford, Washington Site: Radioactive Levels Ten Times Lethal Limit At Cold War Nuclear Reservation  SHANNON DININNY   11/17/10 05:36 PM ET   AP   YAKIMA, Wash. — Workers cleaning up the nation's most contaminated nuclear site have discovered an area of soil so radioactive it exceeds lethal limits tenfold, the U.S. Department of Energy announced Wednesday with its cleanup contractor.  The finding represents some of the worst contamination at south-central Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation and highlights the difficulty and danger in cleaning up a site where records about Cold War-era weapons production either weren't kept or were incomplete.  Even though it's highly radioactive, the contaminated soil does not pose an immediate risk to health or safety of workers or the environment, said Todd Nelson, spokesman for Washington Closure, the contractor hired to clean up this area of Hanford for the DOE.  The federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. The site produced plutonium for nuclear weapons through the Cold War, but the work left hundreds of radioactive buildings, including nuclear reactors, debris and waste.  Workers found this soil contamination under a building that was used from 1966 to 1996 to explore methods to treat radioactive waste. The workers discovered a cracked steel liner under a drain in a radioactive hot cell, where the research years ago could be conducted safely, then used remote equipment to conduct soil samples under the building to determine if there may have been a leak.  The samples showed radiation levels thousands of times greater than allowable levels for exposure over one hour, and 10 times the lethal limit.  Nelson said the three biggest concerns when such a high level of radioactivity is located are direct exposure to workers, the contamination becoming airborne, and the contamination migrating to groundwater. Because the soil sits under a building and workers are shielded from the radiation, he said, the first two are not an immediate risk.  There also is no evidence the contamination has affected groundwater, said Mark French, project coordinator for the DOE's Columbia River corridor cleanup.  The building in question sits about a quarter-mile from the Columbia River, which is the largest waterway in the Pacific Northwest and creates the northern and eastern boundaries of the Hanford site.
Hanford, Washington Site: Radioactive Levels Ten Times Lethal Limit At Cold War Nuclear Reservation


I was curious as to what effects different types of ionizing radiation would have on transistor die so I cut open two TO3 packages to test first hand. Even if the these die will not be sensitive enough to use as ionizing radiation detectors, they are still interesting to study and to experiment with; including to determine at what level/strength of EMP will cause them to fail.

Low-cost HV feedthrough

Generating radiation to test sensing circuits to use in my wearable ionizing radiation detector is not without some issues. The two ways that I know to solve problems are to either throw as much money at it until arriving at a solution or  figure out other ways to solve the problem that don’t cost a lot of money.  Option one has never been much of an option.
The high voltage feedthrough is one such obstacle in the process of cobbling together a vacuum system. The  Kurt Lesker Company engineers and manufactures high-quality vacuum accessories.  Their feedthroughs rated for 13 A at 12kv and made from Molybdenum start at $590.
An $11 Champion spark plug should work for my application.Champion f121501
When researching my solution I came across the interesting image below.  One thing I have learned over the years is that I am far more likely to receive the information that I need from knowledgeable sources if it sounds like I know something about what it is that I am asking after.
Parts of a spark plug
Just as a postscript, one would think that Ford Motor Company would know about spark plugs.
This story suggests otherwise.