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UCSB Chancellor’s Community Breakfast to Focus on Post-Quake Radiation

Professor Ben Monreal will explain the risks, and compare and contrast Fukushima and Chernobyl

The Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered major damage when it was hit by a tsunami after the earthquake off the coast of Japan on March 11. That event brought into sharp focus the danger of radiation associated with nuclear power plant disasters, a concern that UCSB physicist Benjamin Monreal has studied in detail.

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Benjamin Monreal (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Monreal, an assistant professor of physics, will speak at a UCSB Chancellor’s Community Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 3 in Santa Barbara. His presentation is titled “Fukushima, Chernobyl and Beyond: Understanding and Reacting to Radiation.”

The UCSB Affiliates event will be held at El Paseo Restaurant, 813 Anacapa St. No. 10 in Santa Barbara. Tickets are $20 per person, and payment must be made in advance. For reservations, call 805.893.2877.

Monreal will explain what radiation is and how scientists determine its risk. He will give a quick overview of basic nuclear physics, describing why some nuclei are radioactive and others are not. He will also describe how radiation causes harm.

The physicist will compare and contrast the accidents that occurred at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

“Chernobyl was bad to begin with because of the huge amount of radiation released, but it was made immeasurably worse because they skipped very basic steps that would have protected the public,” Monreal said. “Fukushima has released lots of ‘certain types’ of radiation — and I’ll discuss the differences — but has largely avoided harming people. A bit of chemistry will explain why the basic public precautions, such as food monitoring and local evacuation, work as well as they do.”

The overall message of Monreal’s talk will be that radiation is not inherently scary; rather, concern is proportional to how much radiation an individual absorbs.

“Compared to many other environmental health risks, it is pretty easy to understand and interpret,” Monreal said. “Since the public has to deal with natural and man-made radiation, it should have the tools to understand it.”

Click here to read a story Noozhawk wrote about Monreal..


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