ELENA'S GLOSSARY

There are at all times two sciences in progress. Running side by side, the one is real, while the other is only apparent. The former is pursued by those who live for science. Its course is clearly guided by sober, responsible people who have a conscience. Their concepts are clear and their aims noble. This group is the steam-engine of science. Like train engineers they are always at work and their work is to safely guide and illuminate the way.
The latter kind of science is pursued by persons who live on science. They are all dead-weight passengers on this train. For them, career growth is their only aim. Each pursues his own interests first. This is often propelled by the interests of governments and "big money" financial groups who thrust them forward to write "happy face" reports such as the September, 2005 UN report on Chernobyl.
Now, let me explain why the nuclear industry fogs its information with jargon and doublespeak. Most nuclear industry reports are written by riders on science, and not writers of science. Often they have no clear idea of what they are talking about. Their aim is to keep the public from the truth, so their way of expressing themselves is always obscure. They try to make the people believe that their research goes much wider and deeper than is really the case. They blather on in long, obtuse sentences that twist about in tortured and unnatural ways. They coin new words and write prolix paragraphs which wind round and round the facts, as if to wrap them up tightly in a sticky cocoon of mush and mucous.
Reading and comprehending their reports is like peeling onions and cabbage. To get past the dry and often decaying layers, one must discard much before getting into the facts. Often there is corruption clear to the core. The authors seem to twitch between the two incompatible goals of communicating what they want to say and of concealing it for the sake of their masters. Their object is to festoon their work so that it looks learned or deep, hoping to give people the impression that there is very much more in it than there really is.
At the other extreme, some jot down their thoughts bit by bit in short, but ambiguous and paradoxical, sentences. This method, seemingly profound and scientific, sedates the reader with the numbing effect of assault-style sentences, lacking even a single idea among them.
This proves they write down words, even whole sentences, without attaching any real meaning to them, in the hope that it is so hard to break through the nutshell of their pseudo-scientific language that no reader will discover that there is no kernel inside—or at best the kernel is shrivelled or rotten. It's quite understandable, that after more then fifty years of obscurantism in the field of nuclear science, it is now bedevilled with jargon and acronyms, all apparently intended to be confused with scientific fact. Their vocabulary changes all the time.
The glossary on this page mainly contains terms and expressions which were in use in 1986, at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident and before. I briefly mentioned becquerel, sievert and gray that were introduced right after Chernobyl. Those indicate the rate at which disintegration was taking place and its biological significance. This type of measurement takes into account the way in which the radionuclides behave in the body, their biological half-life and their physical half-life and whether or not they tend to concentrate in particular organs. More information about those and other new measures can be found on the internet, my purpose is to preserve vocabulary of the time of Chernobyl accident.

AGR (Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactor)
AGR belong to group of Gas-cooled reactors and has much higher efficiency, since the coolant reaches a temperature of 650C, more than 300C higher than normal Magnox operating temerature.

Alpha particle
Nucleus of the helium atom, consisting of two protons and two neutrons. Alpha particles are emitted from the nuclei of some radioactive substances in the process of decaying into other elements.

Americium-241
Daughter of Pu-241, has a physical half-life 458 years with an effective (in the body) half-life of about 100 years. Am-241 is an alpha emitter and requires special and delicate detectors.

Atom
Smallest amount of an element which can exist independently and still retain the chemical properties of that element. It consists of a nucleus around which small particles, electrons, travel in orbit.

Auxiliary absorbers
When a reactor has just been loaded with fresh fuel, its ability to increase neutron power exceeds the ability of the absorbent rods to suppress the chain reaction. In such circumstances, parts of the fuel bundles are withdrawn, and stationary absorber rods known as auxiliary absorbers are inserted in their place to assist the movable rods. As the uranium is gradually burned up, those auxiliary rods are removed and replaced by nuclear fuel.

Becquerel
One unit of disintegration per second, or one count of radioactivity per second. It is a very small measurement, so small that it is colloquially known in the trade as a "buggerall". It is unit now used for measuring radiation in milk and water. Becquerel was introduced after the Chernobyl accident.

Beta particle
High-energy electron emitted by radionuclide.

Blanket
Fuel elements surrounding the core in a fast-breeder reactor; these contain uranium-238, which is converted to plutonium by neutron bombardment.

Breeder
Reactor that produces more fissile material than it uses.

BWR
Acronym for boiling-water reactor.

Caesium-137
Is a fission product; a hazardous beta-emitter. Caesium-137 is deposited in muscles of the body where it can produce malignant changes.

Cascade
The aim of enrichment is to increase the proportion of fissile uranium-235 atoms within uranium. For uranium to work in a nuclear reactor it must be enriched to contain 2-3% uranium-235. Weapons-grade uranium must contain 90% or more u-235.
A common enrichment method is a gas centrifuge, where uranium hexafluoride gas is spun in a cylindrical chamber at high speeds. This causes the slightly denser isotope u-238 to separate from the lighter u-235.
The dense u-238 is drawn towards the bottom of the chamber and extracted; the lighter u-235 clusters near the centre and is collected. The enriched u-235 is then fed into another centrifuge. The process is repeated many times through a chain of centrifuges known as a cascade. The remaining uranium—essentially u-238 with all the u-235 removed—is known as depleted uranium.

Chain reaction
Self-perpetuating process whereby the fission of one nucleus releases neutrons which cause the fission of other nuclei and so on.

Chernobylit
Radioactive magma, the inside of a sarcophagus that look like crystals and has the form of stalactite/stalagmite. Consists mostly of melted sand that has absorbed a large amount of fuel from the reactor.

Chernobyl type reactor
Chernobyl reactor was of the generic RMBK (light-water pressurised-tube graphite-moderated reactor) 1000-megawatt nuclear reactor was using graphite as a moderator and water as a coolant. Twenty years after the accident, there are still four RMBK reactors operating in Russia.

"China syndrome"
Theoretical consequence of a core meltdown, when the heavy molten mass of highly radioactive material actually goes straight through the vessel in which it had been contained and down to the earth's core. In other words, China syndrome occurs when an out-of-control reactor burns its way downwards towards the earth's core. From the USA, it would appear to be heading for China.

Cladding
Metal sheath that seals in the reactor fuel.

Control rod
Rod of neutron-absorbing material inserted into a reactor core to soak up neutrons and shut off or reduce the rate of the nuclear reaction.

Conversion
Stage in the nuclear fuel cycle after mining and before enrichment.

Critical mass
A nuclear reaction will only take place if there is enough u-235 atoms present to allow this process to continue as a self-sustaining chain reaction. When this requirement is met in a reactor is said to have reached a "critical mass".

Coolant
Liquid, usually water or gas (carbon dioxide, helium or air) piped through a reactor core to remove heat.

Cooling pond
A deep tank of water into which spent fuel is discharged from a reactor. It then requires shipment for either reprocessing or storage.

Critical
Or "going critical": the point in a chain reaction when neutrons are being captured and released at exactly the same rate.

Curie
Quantity of a radioactive isotope that disintegrates at the rate of 37,000 million disintegrations per second. Named after early pioneer in the field Marie Curie who with her daughter Iren both died of aplastic anaemia at the ages of 67 and 59 respectively.

Daughter
Element caused by the transformation of one substance into another through decay.

Decay
Disintegration of radioactive elements over time, releasing radiation.

Depleted uranium
Uranium with less than the natural proportion (0.7%) of uranium-235; this is removed in the enrichment process and transferred to enriched uranium. Depleted uranium, a heavy and slightly radioactive metal, it is used as a component in armour-piercing shells and other munitions.

Dirty bomb
Primitive explosive device, filled with spent fuel from atomic power plants or other radioactive waste materials or chemicals. It does not produce a self-sustaining fission reaction and therefore dirty bombs do not posses the destructive power of atomic bombs. It spreads chemicals over the land and creates the effect of Chernobyl.

Dose
Amount of energy delivered to a unit mass of material by radiation travelling through it.

Dose rate
Time rate at which radiation delivers energy to a unit mass of a material through which it is passing.

Dosimeterist
Radiation protection specialist

Dosimeter
After Chernobyl accident people started calling geiger counters, dosimeters. Perhaps, the reason is because counters were devices of dosimeterists. It was not correct name, a dosimeter is a device used to measure an individual's exposure to radiation, it measures the cumulative dose of radiation received by the device. For personal use, this is the most useful, because biological damage from radiation is cumulative. Now, it is applicable because new geiger counters have both functions.

Electron
Negatively charged particles that travel around the nucleus of an atom.

Elephant's Foot
Formation of radioactive fuel inside of Chernobyl sarcophagus. The mass is more then 2 meters across and many tons. Because of it's shape it was named the "Elephant's Foot". At least 50% of nuclear fuel inside of sarcophagus is thought to be trapped in this glassified form.

Enrichment
Process of increasing the concentration of the isotope uranium-235 beyond the 0.7% contained in natural uranium. Uranium enriched to around 5% can be used as nuclear fuel, but if it is enriched to around 90% it can be used in a weapon.

Fallout
Radioactive-fission products created by nuclear explosions that fall back to earth as a dust.

Fast breeder
Reactor that is fuelled with a mixture of plutonium and uranium oxide and has no moderator to slow down the neutrons. Known as an FBR.

Fissile
Isotope of an element whose nucleus will split upon being hit by a neutron in a spontaneous process when a critical mass is formed. Uranium-235 and plutonium are fissile.

Fission
Division of the atomic nucleus into two lighter fragments releasing energy. In a nuclear power station fission occurs slowly, while in a nuclear weapon, very rapidly. In both instances, fission must be very carefully controlled.

Fuel
Arrangement of fissile material in a reactor. It can be natural uranium in some, slightly enriched in other, while some military reactors use highly enriched fuel. Others use plutonium. Enriched fuel contains plutonium-235.

Fuel cycle
Stages in the production of nuclear power from mining the uranium to disposal of the waste.

Fuel pin/rod
Single tube of cladding filled with pellets of fuel.

Fusion
Merging of two light nuclei to make a heavier one, releasing energy.

Gamma ray
High energy electromagnetic radiation emitted by the nucleus, of great penetrating power.

Gas centrifuge, Gas diffusion
Another method of enrichment is known as diffusion. It is alternative to centerfuge. This works on the principle that of the two isotopes present in uranium, hexafluoride gas, u-235 will diffuse more rapidly through a porous barrier than its heavier cousin, u-238. As with the centrifuge method, this process must be repeated many times.

Gas cooled reactors
Group name for Magnox, AGR and HTR reactors. Unlike pressurised water reactors, gas-cooled reactors have a separate moderator and coolant. As in the PWR, the nuclear reaction is controlled by neutron absorbing rods.

Gray
Unit of exposure to radiation. A gray equals 100 rads and is the new measurement of absorption of radiation into the body. It was introduced after Chernobyl accident.

Half-life
Time taken for half the atoms in a radioactive substance to disintegrate into atoms of another element. The characteristic is constant for each particular substance.

HTR
Acronym for high-temperature reactor.

Iodine-131
Biologically hazardous fission product with a half-life of eight days. Radioactive iodine is absorbed through the bowel wall and migrates through the blood into the thyroid gland, where it may produce both cancerous and noncancerous growths.
The human thyroid gland is responsible for an unusual nuclear health hazard. In the first days after the accident, the absorbed radiation being re-emmitted by the thyroid of many people who were close to reactor was as much as 50 roentgens per hour. Under such circumstances the thyroid irradiates the body even beyond the dose received from external sources. People were being poisoned with extra roentgens from their own thyroid glands.

Iodine well
State of reactor right after the accident. On 27 April an analysis showed that 50 percent of the radioactive particles consisted of Iodine-131.

Ion
Atom or molecule that has lost or gained one or more electrons and is thus positively or negatively charged.

Ionising radiation
Any form of radiation that knocks electrons from atoms, turning them into ions.

Irradiation time
Length of time that fuel spends in a reactor being bombarded by neutrons.

Isotopes
Atoms of the same chemical element but with a different atomic mass, i.e. having the same number of protons in the nucleus but different numbers of neutrons.

Krypton 85
Chemically inert gas that is a fission product released into the atmosphere by reprocessing plants.

Kurchatova institute
The institude of atomic energy in Moskov.

Leukaemia
Cancer-like disease of the blood characterised by a proliferation of white cells. It can be caused by exposure to radiation, but it is not exclusively due to such exposure.

Light water
Ordinary water used as a coolant and/or moderator.

Light-water reactor
Either a Pressured-Water Reactor or a Boiling-Water Reactor. Known as an LWR.

Loca
Acronym for loss of coolant accident.

Low level
Radioactive waste with a short half-life.

Magnox reactor
In the Magnox reactor, whose name derives from the material used for fuel cladding, natural uranium fuel is used. Heat generated in the core is transferred to the carbon dioxide coolant which is circulated past boilers (steam generators) Heat transferred to the boilers by the coolant gas causes the water inside them to boil, and the steam created is fed to turbines driving the electrical generator. Magnox belong to family of Gas-cooled reactors.

Manhattan Project
Codename for the World War II project that developed the first atomic bomb.

Maximum permissible level
Radiation dose defined as the upper limit to which people can be exposed. The maximum permissible dose for nuclear power plant operators is 5 rems or 5 roentgens per year. For the rest of population it is tenth of that- 0,5 roentgen per year or 500 milliroentgens. Divide that by 365 days and you find that an ordinary mortal is entitled to absorb 1.3 milliroentges (1300 microroengens) per 24 hours, which is 54 microroentens per hour. Those are the standarts set by the World Health Organization. The highest I measured where people lived in 2006 was 250 microR per hour, this is 4,6 times higher than the WHO norm.

Meltdown
When the reactor core overheats, thus allowing part of all of the solid fuel in a reactor to reach the point and temperature at which the cladding (and possibly the fuel and the structure that supports it) would liquefy and collapse - the ultimate nuclear accident, which nearly happened at Three-Mile Island.

Mining uranium
Uranium is the basic raw material of both civilian and military nuclear programmes. When uranium is mined from the ground it emits the radioactive gas called radon. When inhaled into the lungs of miners, after four days radon converts to lead-210 which remains radioactive for more than a hundred years. Because radiation in the body is carcinogenic, lung cancer is a professional disease for uranium miners. In the Soviet Union convicts were forced to work in the uranium mines. Even today we have this saying- "You'll go to the uranium mines for that", meaning one will be punished severely.

Moderator
Material used to slow down neutrons in a reactor to enable them to be captured and allow fission. Moderators include graphite, water and heavy water.

NaK
Sodium potassium alloy with a low melting point, used as a coolant in early fast-breeder reactors and as an emergency coolant in some others.

Neutron
Uncharged particle in the nucleus of the atom, which is released during fission.

Nucleus
Centre of the atom that contains all the protons (positively charged) and neutrons (uncharged). It comprised almost all of the mass of the atom.

Nuclide
Nucleus of an isotope.

Pile
Name used for the original nuclear reactors, where "piles" of uranium were cooled by gas or water and moderated by graphite or water.

Plutonium
Heavy, totally synthetic metal made by neutron bombardment of uranium. It has 94 protons and the atomic nuclei are fissionable. Extremely toxic and highly chemically reactive, half-life of Plutonium-239 is 24,400 years.
Plutonium is one of the most carcinogenic substances known. The route of entry of plutonium is by inhalation of contaminated air into the lungs. Small particles of Plutonium are deposited deep in the respiratory passages, where they tend to remain for years. It is accepted that one millionth of one gram of plutonium is sufficient to produce lung cancer fifteen to twenty years after initial inhalation of the element.
Plutonium is also causes sarcoma and leukaemia. Because of it's incredible gene-changing properties, it may cause an increased incidence of deformed and diseased babies, both now and in future generations.
Plutonium is appropriately named after Pluto, god of the dead and ruler of the underworld. By extrapolation, 1 lb (less then half kilogram) of plutonium, universally disposed, would be enough to kill every living human being on the earth.

Plutonium bomb
As a trans-uranium element, Plutonium offers several advantages over uranium as a component in a nuclear weapon. They call it a potential weapon of terrorists, because only about 4kg of plutonium is needed to make a bomb. A crude plutonium bomb could be designed and assembled without possessing a great level of skill. A warhead consists of a sphere of plutonium surrounded by a shell of material such as beryllium, which reflects neutrons back into the fission process. This means that less plutonium is needed to achieve critical mass and explode. A terrorist group or country may find it easier to acquire plutonium from civil nuclear reactors, rather than to go through process of enriching uranium. Only a relatively small facility would be needed to produce 10-12 kg of plutonium per year, the components could also be obtained on the black market of nuclear materials, being an alpha emitter Plutonium is not easily detected and can be smuggled, such a device could be easily transported in a car and would explode with the power of 100 tonnes of TNT - 20 times more powerful than the largest terrorist bomb attack to date. Also associated with terrorist device known as "suitcase bomb." Unlike the dirty bomb, a crude plutonium bomb produce a self sustaining fission reaction and posses great power of destruction.

Pressure vessel
Large container of welded steel or pre-stressed concrete which contains the reactor core, etc.

Pressuriser
Found in a Pressurised-Water Reactor (PWR): Electrically heated boiler in a cooling system, which boils water as necessary to maintain coolant pressure.

Proton
Positively charged particle that is a constituent of a nucleus.

Potassium iodide
Is a chemical that when, ingested, readily enters the thyroid gland. If taken in sufficient quantity before exposure to radioactive iodine, it can prevent the thyroid from absorbing it.

PWR
Acronym for pressurised-water reactor. PWR works on following principle: Heat created in the core is transferred to the pressurised (primary) cooling water which cirulates through U-shaped tubes in the stream generators. This causes feedwater at lower pressure, which is injected into the side of the steam generator, to boil. Steam taken from the top of the steam-generator drives turbines and is condensed to water and returned to the steam generator.
PWR is one of variants of LWR (light water reactor) because it uses ordinary water(light water) as both coolant and moderator. The basic design of all PWRs is the same, but the number of steam generators used depends on the size of the plant. Submarine reactors are equipped with just one steam generator, which is used to drive a steam turbine connected dirrectly to the propeller shaft.

Rad
Unit of the radiation that can be absorbed by tissue. Rad stands for "Radiation Absorbed Dose". After Chernobyl it was superseded by gray. 100 rad equivalent to 1 gray. 1000 rad of high-energy radiation, delivered at one time, is fatal to humans. First victims- firefighters, atomic plant works who received doses of 1000 rad or more, all died within weeks.

Radiation protective means
Includes a wide variety of gas masks, respirators, lead tunics and specially impregnated uniforms. Typically these can stop only 60% of radiation. Not much help if someone is going into fields of high radiation. There is no means, no technology, that can protect humans from the radiation. Nothing can stop gamma rays. The only real defence for the individual is to know safe exposure-time allowable for level of radiation being encountered.

Radioactivity
Behaviour of a substance in which the nuclei are undergoing transformation and emitting radiation.

Radio-isotope
Radioactive isotope.

Radio-nuclide
Radioactive nuclide.

Radon
Alpha-emitting radioactive gas given off by radium.

Reactor
Arrangement to create and control a chain reaction.

Rem
Unit for measuring radiation doses, which takes into account the degree of harmful effects on biological tissue caused by each type of radiation - e.g. exposure to one roentgen of X-rays gives an absorbed dose of one rem. The term comes from "roentgen equivalent:man".

Reprocessing Reprocessing is the chemical operation which separates useful fuel for recycling from nuclear waste.

Roentgen
Unit for measuring a radiation dose, measured by the number of ions released in a gram of air by X-rays or gamma rays. Unit named after W.K.Roentgen, discoverer of X-ray, who died from own invention, of bone cancer.

Runaway
Accidental, uncontrolled chain reaction.

Scram
Emergency shutdown of fission materiel in a reactor.

Shielding
Protective wall of material (concrete, lead, water) surrounding a source of radiation.

Sievert
New unit of measurement. Technical explanation - unit of radiation exposure, compensated to allow for extra biological damage. Simply, it means a unit which takes into account the effect of different kinds of radiation on human beings. It replaces the rem (Rouentgen Equivalent: Man) although the term rem is still often used. 1 sievert rquals 100 rem and sieverts are often described in millisieverts (i.e. thousandths of a sievert).

Spent fuel
Fuel that has undergone a chain reaction and is nearing the point where it can no longer do so because its fissile material has been transformed into other elements and has thus been removed from the reactor. Spent fuel can be used for producing dirty bombs.

Strontium-90
Hazardous beta-emitter with a half-life of 28 years. It is accepted by plants, animals, people, etc. as an "analog" of calcium—that is, it is so similar to calcium that it is absorbed in the same way. It attacks the bones and can cause bone cancer.

Tailings
Fine sand left over after extraction of uranium ore. It contains radium and emits radon gas.

THORP
Acronym for thermal oxide reprocessing plant.

Uranium
Heaviest natural element, a metal. Isotopes 233 and 235 are fissile, 238 fertile. It is an alpha-emitter.

UBS (Upper Biological Shield)
2000 ton cap on the nuclear containment vessel, in Chernobyl it was blown with explosion and fell on edge of the reactor vessel and is still there. Chernobyl reactor had only one shield, many blame this type of reactors for the absence of secondary containment, which prevented a similar catastrophe on Three Mile Island in the United States. The name for Chernobyl shield is Elena. This name exists since 1986.

Vitrification
Fusing of high-level waste into glass-like blocks.

Yellow cake
Once extracted, uranium ore is taken to a mill to be crushed and ground into a fine powder. This is then purified in a chemical process and reconstituted in a solid form known as "yellow cake", due to its yellow colouring. Yellow cake consists of 60-70% uranium, and is radioactive.

ELENA WRITES - I

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