[ RadSafe ] Pitt gets grant to create anti-radiation center

Sandy Perle sandyfl at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 22 12:57:28 CST 2005


Pitt gets grant to create anti-radiation center
Controversial nuclear waste reaches German storage site
Radiation Resistant Computers
Cellphones are safe/not safe 
 for kids

Pitt gets grant to create anti-radiation center

Pittsburgh Business News (Nov 22) The University of Pittsburgh has 
received a $10 million grant to do research into protecting people 
from the effects of a large-scale nuclear attack. 

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded the 
grant to Pitt's School of Medicine, in order to create the "Center 
for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation." 

The school said the center will develop and test small molecules and 
mechanisms that may help protect vital organs and tissues from the 
effects of radiation, in the event of a terrorist attack or a nuclear 
reactor accident. 

Dr. Joel Greenberger, principal investigator for the grant and a 
professor at Pitt's School of Medicine, said some of the research 
would focus on a gene therapy agent called manganese superoxide 
dismutase plasmid liposome. He said this agent has protected organs 
such as the esophagus and normal lung in mice treated with radiation 
for a certain lung cancer. 

Greenberger said in a prepared statement that prolonged exposure to 
radiation "can be extremely damaging to cells, tissues, organs and 
organ systems. By developing methods to prevent and mitigate the 
effects of radiation exposure, we can potentially offer wide-reaching 
protection to the population at-large." 

Controversial nuclear waste reaches German storage site

GORLEBEN, Germany (AFP)  Nov 22 - A shipment of highly radioactive 
nuclear waste has reached a temporary storage facility in northern 
Germany after a 60-hour journey from France dogged by protesters. 

The 12 containers of more than 170 tonnes of treated nuclear power 
plant waste finally rolled into the storage facility at dawn on 
Tuesday, with pro-environment protesters attempting to block their 
path up to the last moment.

Susanne Kamien, one of the protest leaders, said demonstrators had 
delayed the train for around 11 hours on its journey from the La 
Hague reprocessing plant in northwestern France.

Around 15,000 police guarded the route of the train in Germany alone.

Protesters argue that the shipments are dangerous and that their 
lengthy storage could allow radioactive material to infiltrate the 
water supply.

The demonstrators said they had succeeded in sending a "clear 
message" to the new coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, 
which was to be sworn in on Tuesday.

"If they simply carry on making nuclear waste, there will continue to 
be resistance here," said Jochen Stay from the coalition of anti-
nuclear activists.

During the last such shipment to Germany in November 2004, a French 
protester was killed when he was run over by a train in the eastern 
French city of Nancy.

The nuclear waste is produced in German power plants, but sent to 
France because Germany has no waste reprocessing plants.

France insists that the waste be returned to the countries that 
produced it.

Radiation Resistant Computers

Universe Today (Nov 22) EAFTC computers in a space-ready flight 
chassis. Image credit: NASA/Honeywell. Click to enlarge 
Unfortunately, the radiation that pervades space can trigger such 
glitches. When high-speed particles, such as cosmic rays, collide 
with the microscopic circuitry of computer chips, they can cause 
chips to make errors. If those errors send the spacecraft flying off 
in the wrong direction or disrupt the life-support system, it could 
be bad news.

To ensure safety, most space missions use radiation hardened computer 
chips. "Rad-hard" chips are unlike ordinary chips in many ways. For 
example, they contain extra transistors that take more energy to 
switch on and off. Cosmic rays can't trigger them so easily. Rad-hard 
chips continue to do accurate calculations when ordinary chips might 

NASA relies almost exclusively on these extra-durable chips to make 
computers space-worthy. But these custom-made chips have some 
downsides: They're expensive, power hungry, and slow -- as much as 10 
times slower than an equivalent CPU in a modern consumer desktop PC.

With NASA sending people back to the moon and on to Mars--see the 
Vision for Space Exploration--mission planners would love to give 
their spacecraft more computing horsepower.

Having more computing power onboard would help spacecraft conserve 
one of their most limited resources: bandwidth. The bandwidth 
available for beaming data back to Earth is often a bottleneck, with 
transmission speeds even slower than old dial-up modems. If the reams 
of raw data gathered by the spacecraft's sensors could be "crunched" 
onboard, scientists could beam back just the results, which would 
take much less bandwidth.

On the surface of the moon or Mars, explorers could use fast 
computers to analyze their data right after collecting it, quickly 
identifying areas of high scientific interest and perhaps gathering 
more data before a fleeting opportunity passes. Rovers would benefit, 
too, from the extra intelligence of modern CPUs.

Using the same inexpensive, powerful Pentium and PowerPC chips found 
in consumer PCs would help tremendously, but to do so, the problem of 
radiation-induced errors must be solved.

This is where a NASA project called Environmentally Adaptive Fault-
Tolerant Computing (EAFTC) comes in. Researchers working on the 
project are experimenting with ways to use consumer CPUs in space 
missions. They're particularly interested in "single event upsets," 
the most common kind of glitches caused by single particles of 
radiation barreling into chips.

Team member Raphael Some of JPL explains: "One way to use faster, 
consumer CPUs in space is simply to have three times as many CPUs as 
you need: The three CPUs perform the same calculation and vote on the 
result. If one of the CPUs makes a radiation-induced error, the other 
two will still agree, thus winning the vote and giving the correct 

This works, but often it's overkill, wasting precious electricity and 
computing power to triple-check calculations that aren't critical.

"To do this smarter and more efficiently, we're developing software 
that weighs the importance of a calculation," continues Some. "If 
it's very important, like navigation, all three CPUs must vote. If 
it's less important, like measuring the chemical makeup of a rock, 
only one or two CPUs might be involved."

This is just one of dozens of error-correction techniques that EAFTC 
pulls together into a single package. The result is much better 
efficiency: Without the EAFTC software, a computer based on consumer 
CPUs needs 100-200% redundancy to protect against radiation-caused 
errors. (100% redundancy means 2 CPUs; 200% means 3 CPUs.) With 
EAFTC, only 15-20% redundancy is needed for the same degree of 
protection. All of that saved CPU time can be used productively 

"EAFTC is not going to replace rad-hard CPUs," cautions Some. "Some 
tasks, such as life support, are so important we'll always want 
radiation hardened chips to run them." But, in due course, EAFTC 
algorithms might take some of the data-processing load off those 
chips, making vastly greater computer power available to future 

EAFTC's first test will be onboard a satellite called Space 
Technology 8 (ST-8). Part of NASA's New Millennium Program, ST-8 will 
flight-test new, experimental space technologies such as EAFTC, 
making it possible to use them in future missions with greater 
The satellite, scheduled for a 2009 launch, will skim the Van Allen 
radiation belts during each of its elliptical orbits, testing EAFTC 
in this high-radiation environment similar to deep space.

If all goes well, space probes venturing across the solar system may 
soon be using the exact same chips found in your desktop PC -- just 
without the glitches.

Cellphones are safe/not safe 
 for kids

Engadget (Nov 21) Just when you thought you had all of the sides in 
the cellphone safety debate down, here’s another angle: Australian 
researchers have begun a study to determine whether electromagnetic 
radiation from cellphones is harmful to kids. The three-year project, 
being carried out by the Australian Centre for Radiofrequency 
Bioeffects Research, will track 300 Melbourne children to see whether 
cellphone usage affects their hearing, memory, sleep, concentration 
and blood pressure. Of course, we have to wonder what kind of parents 
are willing to allow their kids to be guinea pigs in a study like 
this, but we assume that their faith in the power of new technology 
overrides any concerns they may have for the safety of their 
children. Either that, or someone wrote them some very large checks.

Sandy Perle
Senior Vice President, Technical Operations
Global Dosimetry Solutions, Inc.
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614 

Tel: (949) 296-2306 / (888) 437-1714  Extension 2306
Fax:(949) 296-1144

E-Mail: sperle at dosimetry.com
E-Mail: sandyfl at earthlink.net 

Global Dosimetry Website: http://www.dosimetry.com/ 
Personal Website: http://sandy-travels.com/ 

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