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As more reactors fail, or if there's another disruption at Fukushima (say, an earthquake that causes a containment vessel failure), more monitoring will be needed. Up to now, probably not a big deal.

Not sure if this has been mentioned before, but the Skapa Flow, north of Scotland, was the site of a mass sinking of WW1 German ships. Most of them were salvaged, but there's still a business in recovering steel bits from them for the purpose of constructing scientific instruments where steel is required that does not have radioactivity from the atomic bomb era. All modern steel (and everything else) is radioactive.

6000 atoms doesn't sound like many to me...

by asdf on Sun Apr 8th, 2012 at 07:35:44 PM EST
Certain techniques and devices require very low radiation materials. Geiger counters, medical applications (Whole body counting and Lung counters) and physics applications (photonics) frequently require an extremely low radiation environment, called a Low background counting chamber. A low background counting chamber is a room built with extremely heavy radiation shielding made from low-background steel.

Naval vessels constructed prior to the Cold War are a primary source of low-background steel. Chief among these are reserve fleets and the German fleet scuttled at Scapa Flow.

World anthropogenic background radiation levels peaked at 0.15 mSv in 1963, the year that the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was enacted. Since then, anthropogenic background radiation has decreased exponentially to 0.005 mSv per year.

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 8th, 2012 at 08:05:56 PM EST
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Bomb fission has an extermely hard (fast) neutron spectrum, so relatively few long lived isotopes are formed. Thus the steep dropoff. in another ca 350 years, almost all of the decay chains will have run to completion, and the only readily detectable isotope will be technetium.
The fact that we deploy soft spectrum fission in power generation is kind of daft - The very long term toxicity of nuclear waste is wholly a product of the fact that most reactors use thermalized neutrons.  
by Thomas on Mon Apr 9th, 2012 at 06:02:14 AM EST
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Yet another argument for fast reactors, breeder or not, I suppose?

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 9th, 2012 at 06:11:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except the western nuclear industry seems to operate with a scavenger mentality. They will fight to the death to keep their old reactors running until they break down, try to sell the exact same thing with additional ribbons but have mostly given up on long term development.
by generic on Mon Apr 9th, 2012 at 08:21:27 AM EST
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