Prayers for Japan - but expect that things will mutate. Nuclear chemistry is about the transmutation of elements - there are several decay sequences that take uranium to lead with a myriad of by-products on the way. These radio nuclides have different emissions with different half-lives - when an emission occurs, the element changes to a different element and has a new half-life before it emits again. A half-life is the time it takes for roughly half of the particles to change their form. So if i have 100 particles of radioactive strontium 90, in 28 years i will still have 50 particles of strontium 90. Or i may have 48 or 51 - this is not that exact of a science, although studying radio-emissions points to cosmic controls over when emissions arise - another deep topic.
So there are three basic types of nuclear emissions. The alpha particles are helium nucleii - that is each alpha particle contains two protons and two neutrons. If you don't know what these are - go to Dr. Lenny's blog at howdt.blogspot.com and scroll down to the chemistry lesson. Alpha particles are relatively big, slow moving and stick where-ever they land. They then pull two electrons from an organic molecule and changes the chemistry a very little bit. In chemistry a very little bit is a huge amount - as far as reactivity. Science is confusing that way. It is the difference between an alkane and an alkene for those in the know. The medical profession calls this cancer, but in reality, mutations happen all the time. Net effect - you do not want alpha emitters in your body.
Betas particles are bare electrons that are emitted from certain nuclear particles. These travel off into space from the nucleus in one direction at very fast pace. They tear through everything they encounter - and i mean everything. Rip City is not just for Blazers. These things go and never stop. So when a nuclide inside you emits a beta - damage control is an emergency response. But electrons have no mass (well one thousandth of the mass of either a proton or a neutron), so the rocketing electron does not hit very much before it goes on it's cosmic journey to forever in space. The third type of nuclear radiation is the gamma ray. You have heard of it - it morphed Bruce Banner into the Hulk.
Gamma rays are just high energy coherent emissions of general radiation. It would pump energy into a system and gradually diffuse off to the point of wearing out. I think they make up some of the stuff to explain things they don't understand, because i really can't get my arms around what a gamma really is, beyond nothing and everything. So they best thing to do, is to not allow radionuclides inside you. But first a disclaimer - we all have plenty of radio-nuclides inside of us already. Huh? Yeah, huh? No, we have them from natural and unnatural sources. What do you think those contrasting agents are that they give you when you go in for an MRI or Cat scan. But you body can do nuclear transformation too - they just don't teach you that in school. In fact, I'd speculate that the sodium/potassium pump adds an oxygen atom to a sodium atom to create a potassium atom - every day, all the time, in lots of cells. See the dead biologists all spinning in their graves over this last remark.
So - if nuclear radiation comes your way - what can you do. Well - for iodine, you can take potassium iodide. The center for disease control recommends a level of 135 milligrams of iodide - this is a sh*tload of iodine - which is not a very nice bio-chemical, but is absolutely necessary for full body function. You get it naturally in kelp. Most of us have an iodine deficiency - it has been regulated out of our diets. That is another subject for another essay. The idea is to take a saturation amount of potassium iodide. Every site that uses iodine get some - big party courtesy of the bloodstream. So when the cloud comes - your body says - no way man, i'm full - and you exhale it back out. Otherwise, if you're deficient, it says cool and grabs that radio-iodine and then oh - you wait until the particles emit sometime during the first three half-live that are there. Why three. Well fifty - fifty chance of sometime in the first half-life, then 50/50 in the second gives you a three quarter chance of being gone after two half-lives. So better to avoid than gamble.
For all the other radio-nuclides - we have cationic forms that get into the biological systems and replace light metals with heavy metals. This experiment didn't work in rock and roll either - i'd much rather listen to joni or al steward than the clash. So strontium subs in for calcium or magnesium, cesium replaces potassium, etc. Here the trick would be to chelate or collect out the nuclides that get in. Activated carbon, zeolites, clay - things that absorb. They will also absorb other minerals - you must recharge your body if you use these products. The best way to charge is through diet - you have to eat well, because that's enjoying the best thing in life - good food.
So this is a chemists primer to what is going on in the chemistry world of a nuclear melt-down. I have written this tongue in cheek style in hopes that we can send it viral, from project restoration out to the world. We should create our own videos and start being the media : for real descriptions of us in the howdtside whirled. Dr. Lenny Thyme : 031611