RESOURCES: The Dope on Radiation Risks

Science  11 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5519, pp. 1027b
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5519.1027b

Now that nuclear power is back in fashion—that is, if the Bush Administration has its way—perhaps you're wondering about the dangers of hot rocks. A good source of answers is the Radiation and Health Physics Page. It's run by University of Michigan health physics students—the nation's future radiation safety officers—who've packed the site with informative documents and links.

Several primers and a glossary will set you straight on nonionizing and ionizing (electron-stripping) radiation and becquerels versus curies. A timeline covers not just Three Mile Island but the first reactor “accident” 1.8 billion years ago: a uranium deposit in Gabon that burned for 200,000 years. In the Ask the Expert section, professionals address queries such as how much cesium remains in Chornobyl pastures, and what do nuclear power plants do with spent fuel (it stays on site now but may someday go to Nevada's Yucca Mountain). Research links include journals, radionuclide data, and the center studying Japan's atomic bomb survivors.

Another tidbit is a calculator that tells you how much radiation you're exposed to each year. It's roughly equal to seven dental x-rays and comes mainly from radon, although plane rides, LCD watches, the stone and brick in houses, and having a sleeping partner can all add various amounts.

Acknowledgments

www.umich.edu/∼radinfo

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