Nuclear waste nothing to fear

By By Devin Heaps

By Devin Heaps

In response to Kelly O’Neill’s column (“Nuclear waste too harmful,” Oct. 7), the key word in the article was “bury.” Very few types of harmful radiation can penetrate soil or other shielding. Additionally, please remember that all radiation is governed by the 1/r^2 law. That means for every unit of distance that you move away from a radioactive source, your exposure decreases exponentially. In other words, if you were exposed to 1 unit of radiation at 1 mile, then at 2 miles you would be exposed to 0.25 units, relative to the original quantity. At three miles, you would be exposed to 0.11 units.
Even during the worst nuclear-related accident in our nation’s history, Three Mile Island, residents were exposed to a radiation dose little more than a routine X-ray. I understand the common and usually misplaced fear of radioactive material, but that is all it is8212;fear.
I once completed an internship that required the daily use of a nuclear density tester. If I had not followed strict and clear safety protocol when using the device, I would now be dead from radiation poisoning. However, I clearly am not, and neither are the millions of other professionals who work with radioactive materials or sources every day. Walking under a smoke detector, you are exposed to deadly radioactive material. Walking through Temple Square, you are exposed to the radioactive decay of the granite (sorry folks, it’s true). And standing in the sun, you are exposed to high energy electromagnetic radiation.
Stop the politics of fear. Nuclear technology is the greenest technology on the planet in terms of energy yield to waste production and the waste production can be mitigated with reprocessing. The nasty stuff that is leftover can be reprocessed to nearly eliminate waste altogether. The alarmists and sensationalists who have kept nuclear energy impotent for the last 30 years either never took the time to learn the facts or had ulterior motives. We should encourage more shipments into Utah, not less. As a knowledgeable populous, we could lead the world in nuclear technology and our economy could greatly benefit.
Devin Heaps
Network administrator,
College of Engineering