Let’s talk about a type of pollution that scares the hell out of everyone, radiation and radioactive waste. Use the words Nuclear Power, Nuclear Energy, or Nuclear Powerplant positively, and you are nearly guaranteed to cause an argument if there are more than three people that can hear you and respond. After all, we have been conditioned for over seventy years that there is nothing more dangerous than nuclear anything, except perhaps that most insidious of all pollutants, the result of nuclear bombs and nuclear power plants, radiation. So, let’s put some of this in perspective. As a note before we start, I am not an expert. I am an able amateur who is good at looking up sources on the internet and filtering bullshit. So, please don’t take my word for any of this, do some looking for yourself, it’s amazing what a good search engine will find with some simple searches.
The first point everything is radioactive, period, you, me, the chair you are sitting in, the air, the rocks, the sky, everything. Some things are more radioactive than others. When a type of thing reaches a high enough emission of radiation, then we call it radioactive to distinguish it from all of the other radioactive objects. But, really, the difference is in scale, not what is physically happening. Humans grew up as a species with radiation, and while yes, we have increased the amount of radiation that we are exposed to, the source isn’t what you think.
Before we continue, I want to give just a bit of background; the units of absorbed dose of radiation is the sievert (Sv). The Sv is like other standard units that it has the standard prefixes of kilo, centi, milli, micro, and so on. Still, realistically if you ever see measurement in the cSv or kSv, you are already dead because the lethal dose of radiation for a human even with treatment is 0.8 cSv, usually written 8 Sv, with anything above 4 Sv being usually fatal. A single sievert is bad news. Most dosages are measured in milli and microsieverts.
So now, let’s talk about some common sources and how much radiation they cause. Want to take a guess? How about a common event that quite a few people have experienced, sleeping next to someone else. How much additional radiation dose? Answer, 0.05 µSv, but to be fair, they got the same dose from sleeping next to you.