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Nuclear Physics: Health & Safety Aspects Report

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Updated: Sep 15th, 2022

Summary of Main points

The main points of the various events I attended are the following:

The necessity for Peer review before conducting an experiment

Due to the possibly dangerous nature of some experiments appropriate peer review is an absolute necessity in terms of other people within the same field evaluating the safety and viability of an experiment before it is conducted. What must be understood is that lecture on the necessity of peer review explained that all researchers, one form or another, suffer from certain degrees of hubris wherein they are so confident in their work that at times they tend to overlook particular details or fail to truly understand the danger of the work they are conducting.

Ethics as a Basis for Procedural Evaluations and Experimental Results

One of the most well-discussed topics in some of the events I attended was the necessity of proper ethical practices in the field of nuclear physics. It was stated that it is often the case that researchers are presented with results that are often not what they intended them to be. In such cases, periods of temptation arise either to doctor the experiment results or change some aspect of the process to gain the results they want. Such behaviors are frowned upon by the community at large since this results in inaccurate data being disseminated which has the possibility of compromising experiments within the same field of research.

Proper Safety and Precautions

The main point that all the events and lectures I attended made was the necessity for proper safety and precautions in all experiments conducted. They explained that if an experiment was either too dangerous, volatile, or presented several unknown factors which may result in a possibly dangerous result it should not be done or, if necessary, require it be done it should be conducted after several rounds of peer evaluation and recommendation to minimize the possible results. It is only after all possible precautions and calculations have been taken into consideration that any experiment should be conducted.

Risk Assessment Form

All experiments involving nuclear physics oftentimes involve some facet of risk whether it comes in the form of the potentially volatile nature of the experiments or materials involved. The following is a risk assessment form that will be utilized to judge both the feasibility, limitations, and safety precautions that will be necessary for an experiment of this undertaking:

  1. Does the experiment involve particularly volatile substances or processes? If so, describe the nature of the process and the expectant results.
  2. What are the possible risks to the researcher that may come about through this experiment? Classify the level of risk based on the degree of volatility and the possibility of contamination.
  3. What contingency measures are in place within the experimental guidelines to ensure minimal levels of exposure and maximum levels of protection? Detail the safety precautions and contingency measures that will be utilized.
  4. Does this type of experiment have sufficient past precedent to be considered “safe” or do past experiments in a similar style show potentially risky results given the nature of the process involved? Describe in detail past experiments that show either a level of safety or danger involving the experimental procedure.
  5. While risky, some types of experiments do at times yield potentially beneficial results does this experiment fall under the same type? [1] Elaborate in detail the benefits from pursuing this particular experiment.
  6. Researchers in nuclear physics should always take into consideration the possible impact certain experiments will have on the general public[2]. Does this experiment fall under the category of a public risk? Or is it minimal enough in terms of the scope of the process that there will be little if any risk to the general public?
  7. Experience is a necessary factor in properly performing an experiment given the nature of the materials and processes involved. Describe in detail your past and current experiences that qualify you to accomplish an experiment of this nature.
  8. All researchers need to comply to a certain degree of ethical-moral conduct involving not only the results of the experiments but how they are performed. Elaborate on why you can be considered ethically fit to conduct this particular experiment.

Action Taken

To ensure that the experiment that will be conducted conforms to appropriate measures of safety and functionality, the risk assessment form will be distributed to the following individuals for the processes involved to be evaluated.

Specific Hazards

The main hazards of my experiment may encompass volatility, exposure, and potential damage to both the experimental apparatus and the researcher. The reason behind this is quite simple since the experiment involves materials that have been proven to be unstable in the sense that they could cause radiation poisoning and subsequent death. This can be classified as being particularly hazardous and is indicative of the “slightly” dangerous nature of the experiment[3]. Furthermore, with the energies involved a slight miscalculation on the part of the research or the subsequent failure of the containment mechanism used to house the materials and processes used in the experiment could very well cause a minor explosion with the potential to cause damage to the surrounding area[4].

Of particular concern are the calculations themselves, since I still cannot consider all calculations to be 100% accurate due to my relative inexperience the potential for possible overcompensation or overuse of the apparatus in terms of adding more energy where it is not needed could have potentially disastrous results. All of these factors have been assessed via various studies which showed the potential for adverse consequences in experiments of this precise nature[5]. To mitigate the potential risks involved the experimental construct involving not only the nature of the materials involved but the equipment and processes used as well as the safety precautions that have been listed will be submitted for peer evaluation to determine both the viability of the experiment and its ability to provide tangible results without severe risk to the researcher[6].

Reference List

Collier, R, ‘Demystifying radiation disaster preparedness’, CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, vol. 183, no. 9, 2011, pp. 1002-1003.

Estes, J, & K Clapp, ‘Radioimmunotherapy With Tositumomab and Iodine-131 Tositumomab for Low-Grade Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: Nursing Implications’, Oncology Nursing Forum, vol. 31, no. 6, 2004, pp. 1119-1126.

Graff, J, ‘The importance of providing education to inpatient medical oncology nurses caring for patients with sealed and unsealed radiation sources’, Oncology Nursing Forum, vol. 34, no. 2, 2007, pp. 560-561.

Jødal, L, ‘Beta emitters and radiation protection’, Acta Oncologica, vol. 48, no. 2, 2009, pp. 308-313.

Singleton, M, R Start, W Tindale, C Richardson, & M Conway, ‘The radioactive autopsy: safe working practices’, Histopathology, vol. 51, no. 3, 2007, pp. 289-304.

Stefanoyiannis, A, & J Gerogiannis, ‘Special Radiation Protection Precautions in Therapeutic Nuclear Medicine’, AIP Conference Proceedings, vol. 1203, no. 1, 2010, pp. 364-366.

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