NASA: Odds of plutonium release over Florida is 1 in 420 for upcoming Mars Rover launch — Explosion in first 8 seconds poses greatest risk

Published: November 13th, 2011 at 11:25 am ET
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NASA: Launch accident poses little danger, Florida Today, Nov. 12, 2011:

[...] the Nov. 25 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Rover, “Curiosity,” also packs an element of danger associated with its potent powering mechanism, plutonium.

NASA officials place the odds of an accident resulting in the release of radioactive plutonium at 1 in 420. [...]

But it’s a risk, nonetheless, that has warranted exhaustive analysis by scientists and prompted emergency response preparations going back years within a 63-mile radius of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. [...]

“Do you worry over a dental X-ray?” Fear not, said Bob Lay, director of the Brevard County Emergency Operations Center. [...] An explosion of the Atlas V within the first 8 seconds would pose the greatest risk. [...]

The launch is the day after Thanksgiving. School is out, so school lockdowns or other school-specific safety plans won’t have to be in effect if a launch mishap occurs. [...]

Published: November 13th, 2011 at 11:25 am ET
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20 comments to NASA: Odds of plutonium release over Florida is 1 in 420 for upcoming Mars Rover launch — Explosion in first 8 seconds poses greatest risk

  • arclight arclight

    this odds of hitting deer in Utah: 1 in 400
    5700 drivers hit deer in utah.. report goes on to say that it is still statistically low :(


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  • Sickputer

    They base those odds on the number of spaceflights and the explosions and losses of liftoff and possibly add dome figures in for re-entry since we have lost some that way most notably the shuttle Columbia February 1, 2003.

    So about once every 400 manned (no longer any more planned by America) or unmanned launches, that space craft will fail on liftoff. Far better odds than winning the Powerball, but a risk the nuclear cabal is always willing to take. They release more plutonium than that on a weekly if not daily basis from nuclear refueling (especially with MOX use rising). And with Fukushima…what can we say…it has gifted the world with 1700 pounds of pure plutonium particles that keep on giving their special effects for the next million years.


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  • Jebus Jebus

    New space station crew to launch into orbit tonight
    Liftoff is first manned flight of the Soyuz rocket since booster suffered failure in August

    Three spaceflyers will launch to the International Space Station tonight (Nov. 13), to begin a months-long mission to the orbiting outpost.

    NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin are slated to launch aboard a Russian-built Soyuz rocket tonight at 11:14 p.m. ET (0415 GMT Nov. 14) from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

    Tonight’s liftoff will be the first manned flight of the Soyuz rocket since the Russian-built booster suffered a failure in August. It will also be the first trio of station crewmembers to launch to the complex since NASA grounded its fleet of space shuttles in July after 30 years of service.

    On Aug. 24, a Soyuz rocket carrying a robotic cargo freighter suffered a crippling malfunction minutes after launch. The booster and Progress 44 cargo ship crashed in Siberia, and the 2.9 tons of supplies onboard were lost….

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45277363/ns/technology_and_science-space/


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  • Grampybone Grampybone

    “IAEA and NASA trying to blow up a plutonium bomb in high atmosphere?” Now that would be a headline worth reading. Considering the method of covering up the current 6 reactor crisis detonating a nuke in the high atmosphere would scientifically prove the radiation did not come from Fukushima it came from the mini plutonium bomb detonated in flight. Or they just want to leave pieces of rads on Mars.


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  • sworldpeas sworldpeas

    1-420 sounds pretty good… but then again this IS the same NASA that said the radiation in Europe was from a space nebula.

    so I’m thinking more like 50-50


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  • Pallas89juno Pallas89juno

    The people, of the U.S. at the very least (least likely to do ANYTHING, yes, I know), should immediately scuttle this and all other future launches that involve Plutonium, or any other radiologic or toxic anything! What the hell are we doing a) generating Plutonium–as if humans could handle that in a routine way–we absolutely cannot and must not or b) placing Plutonium in quantities great enough to kill all humans next to a packet of very explosive rocket fuel with such a high degree of probability of accident??? Makes no sense. The odds of getting cancer for a man in their lifetime is 1 in 3 and for a women is 1 in 2 (to worsen after Fukushima); so these odds of 1:409 are better compared to that lifetime risk, not event risk (one instant in time of several minutes for the Plutonium containing Mars Rover launch rocket)… But the odds are much greater than being in a car accident (1:84 lifetime risk< <


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  • Pallas89juno Pallas89juno

    (1:84 lifetime risk< <


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  • Pallas89juno Pallas89juno

    (1:84 lifetime risk again), which very many of us have already been in–beating the odds in that Murphy’s Law way–winning!!! I mean, it must be true as the Indian Government Atomic Energy Chief says that the danger from a nuclear power plant to humans from one built in India (or anywhere maybe he means), is only “1 in infinity”!!! Gosh, that makes me feel so much better. Remember the odds of that 10+ pounds of Plutonium carrying container of (rocket) explosives exploding inside the atmosphere is 1:408, in that one several-minutes instant. How much worse the odds if this ridiculously high risk were spread out over 20 years? or 70 years? 1:3 or 1:2 maybe? Shut her down!!!


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  • They have blown here with anomalies before and the will take that chance again with us here in Florida !


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  • Jebus Jebus

    I think that the space program is essential but…

    Your OK with 2.1 pounds of plutonium dioxide being spread into the atmosphere if there is a launch failure?

    Space Launch Involving Plutonium Planned For Coming Weeks

    The EIS says “overall” on the mission, the likelihood of plutonium being released is just 1-in-220. This could affect a major portion of Earth in an accident which vaporizes and disperses plutonium from the rover, called Curiosity, as the Atlas 5 rocket carrying it up gains altitude….

    …If there’s an accident resulting in plutonium fallout which occurs above that and before the rocket breaks through Earth’s gravitational field, people could be affected “anywhere between 28-degrees north and 28-degrees south latitude,” says the EIS. That’s a band around the mid-section of the Earth which includes much of South America, Africa and Australia.

    The EIS says the cost of decontamination of areas affected by the plutonium would be $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.”…

    http://www.opednews.com/articles/Space-Launch-Involving-Plu-by-Karl-Grossman-111108-476.html


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  • Steven Steven

    @ m3ow131

    “anti-nuke crazies” ???

    It would be nice if we could have two planets, one for those with your views to do what they like with, and one for the rest of us. But as it stands we have to share, and must base our choices on the principles of mutual risk.

    As an example, a car full of people travelling at speed are subject to mutual risk (as are all those passing by in other vehicles, also pedestrians and those in residences along the way). If the driver ignores these principles and drives in a high risk manner most would agree that the driver is acting improperly. If you also agree then you have no excuse for supporting nuclear technology. The nuclear industry is driving a truckload of radioactive kak at high speed through all our streets, and they have a history of hit and run offenses. Wake up. And if you think it’s safe go eat some.


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  • batista

    For now nuclear powered engines are one of the best options for interplanetary flights in the Solar system. It’s not that I am all for it.
    http://flowtv.org/2009/06/when-satellites-fall-on-the-trails-of-cosmos-954-and-usa-193lisa-parks-uc-santa-barbara/


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  • Jebus Jebus

    I need to make a correction on the post I made last night and it is an important one.
    I stated that 2.1 pounds of plutonium is in the Curiosity Rover that is being sent to Mars this week.
    I was wrong. That is the amount that was in the failed 1964 Snap 9-A satellite that spread around the planet.
    The amount in the Curiosity Rover is 10.6 pounds of Plutonium-238.
    This matters. Why? Read the paragraphs pertaining to this fact.

    Plutonium has long been described as the most lethal radioactive substance. And the plutonium isotope used in the space nuclear program, and on the Curiosity rover, is far more radioactive than the type of plutonium used as fuel in nuclear weapons or built up as a waste product in nuclear power plants.

    It is Plutonium-238 as distinct from Plutonium-239. Plutonium-238 has a far shorter half-life–87.8 years compared to Plutonium-239 with a half-life of 24,500 years. An isotope’s half-life is the period in which half of its radioactivity is expended.

    Dr. Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear physicist and president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, explains that Plutonium-238 “is about 270 times more radioactive than Plutonium-239 per unit of weight.” Thus in radioactivity, the 10.6 pounds of Plutonium-238 that is to be used on Curiosity is the equivalent of 2,862 pounds of Plutonium-239. The atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki used 15 pounds of Plutonium-239.

    The far shorter half-life of Plutonium-238 compared to Plutonium-239 results in it being extremely hot. This heat is translated in a radioisotope thermoelectric generator into electricity.

    The pathway of greatest health concern for plutonium is breathing in a particle. A millionth of a gram of plutonium can be a fatal dose. The EIS for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission speaks of particles that would be “transported to and remain in the trachea, bronchi, or deep lung regions.” The particles “would continuously irradiate lung tissue.” :(


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