I'll make this short and sweet: I finally watched the documentary Pandora's Promise, where filmmaker Robert Stone profile energy experts and environmentalists who once were strongly against nuclear energy, but now embrace it. 
You should watch it too, that's all I can say.

Watch it.
And Robert Stone, you get three hearts: <3<3<3

The entire thing is on Netflix.

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Today is a beautiful Tuesday here in Oslo, and I just have to say a little bit about the safety of a nuclear power plant! I want to share an excerpt of a text written by someone that knows more about this particular theme than I do - Gianni Petrangeli, who has written the textbook Nuclear Safety (I have highlighted some of the points):

"Is it possible to conclude that a nuclear power plant is safe and, if it is, what are the conditions which make this conclusion possible?
The answer to the first question is: 'Yes, it is possible'. 

The conditions for such a conclusion to be valid are:

  1. the plant has been built within a legal framework that provides for the regulation of nuclear activities and for the clear assignment of safety responsibilities
  2. the plant site has been chosen by a competent organization, following the stringent safety and radiation protection criteria internationally available
  3. the plant has been conceived, designed and built following the best internationally available criteria and standards important for safety and for radiation protection (with all financial means necessary to obtain an excellent result)
  4. the  whole process has been submitted to the surveillance of an independent control body, capable (as far as possible) of foreseeing the possible technical licensing problems before it's too late to solve them
  5. everyone involved in the construction, the control and the operation of the plant are permeated by a genuine safety culture
  6. everyone involved have been trained to the best professional standards with continuing professional development schemes
  7. operation is performed in connection with national and international organizations which have the aim of collecting and disseminating operating experience thoroughly and quickly
  8. the plant is operated within an industrial system with a sufficient reserve of electric power 
  9. working conditions for plant operators are conducive to solving problems, and the psychological atmosphere in the plant is marked by alacrity and by serenity at the same time"
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When all of these nine criteria are met (I shortened some of them, so in the original text they are more comprehensive), then you can claim that a nuclear power plant is safe.

Was Chernobyl "safe"? NO, NOT AT ALL! I know for sure that Chernobyl broke the conditions, and definitely could not be concluded to be a "safe" plant.

Was Fukushima "safe"? To be honest, I'm actually not 100% sure of how well Fukushima met these 9 criteria...
The thing about the Fukushima accident was that it was caused by a "freak event" - a natural disaster that magnitude is very hard to foresee, since you can't foresee everything. If you could, none would have died from the earth quake and tsunami that hit Japan on the 11th of March 2011, but yet they did - but if you argue that since this natural disaster did happen, and therefore nuclear power isn't safe, you're really also arguing that Japan is an unsafe country to live in...
It's not like they din't foresee tsunamis on the coast of Japan, but they didn't expect them to be as big. So what if they had foreseen a 14 meter tsunami, and they were protected against that, but then a 15 meter tsunami hit them instead? Nothing is ever (100%) safe, and at some point you have to say this is as safe as it gets. Remember: it's always a piece of cake to say after something's happened that they should have done it differently...! 
But was Fukushima as safe as it gets? Maybe not. Maybe the plant site (point 2) wasn't 100% ideal, maybe the plant didn't have sufficient reserve of electric power (point 8). Can we then conclude that nuclear power isn't safe at all? No.

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Have a fabulous, sunny day everyone! I'm going to get Alexandra in kindergarden very soon, and then we're going to get our nails done #motherdaughtertime <3


Happy birthday, Alexandra Grønstad Rose! Today you're turning 6, and I just can't believe how time flies. It really feels strange that you're already the oldest one in kindergarden, and in a couple of months you're starting school... I love you to Proxima Centauri and back <3

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But then there's something funny. So AGR are Alexandra's initials, but it just hit me that AGR is also a type of nuclear reactor: the Adcanced Gas cooled Reactor. So, me, Sunniva Rose, nuclear physicist, gave my daughter a name which is an acronym for the type of nuclear reactors they have in Britain.
O.
M.
G.
!

- my beautiful girl -

I can’t believe it’s Friday already. 
This week has just gone by so fast. It started with Alexandra still being sick on Monday, and then on Tuesday I went to Stavanger, and spent around 50 hours there - giving two talks, and talking to so many interesting people. (I think I’ll have to write about some of my thoughts about the Norwegian oil industry - just not right now.) Yesterday I got home, and the evening was spent with Anders; we shared a bottle of wine, he worked on his code and I scanned all my receipts from the trip, and sorted them into the right folders (not fun doing, but it feels GREAT when you’re done, especially when you realise you’ve spent roughly 9000NOK on travelling, that you of course want, and will get, back ;)). Then we made the working your ass off thai chili, and around that time I got a migraine…:/ 
However, today is Friday, and luckily I woke up this morning feeling great again - hopefully there'll be many months before I get another migraine attack!
So Friday is luckily NOT equal to migraine, but it IS equal to FACTS! It's finally time for ten Friday Facts about Fuel - nuclear fuel, of course:
  1. the fuel in a nuclear power plant is placed inside the reactor core. Mostly all the fuel soaked in water because water is great for cooling the fuel, which is the same as removing the heat - which is exactly what we want; we want water to be heated so that we can produce steam and thus generate electricity with a turbine <3
  2. we often call it "burning" the fuel, but it's no real burning going on - the fuel is the place where the fission chain reaction happens (the energy from nuclear power comes from fission of nuclei inside the fuel 🙂 ), so when I talk about (nuclear) fuel I mean material where there’s a chain reaction going on.
  3. nuclear fuel is made out of slightly radioactive elements; it can either be uranium, plutonium, or thorium
  4. a small part of the fuel has to be fissile; meaning it has to have a really big chance of splitting if it's hit by a neutron. The fissile material can be either uranium-233, uranium-235, or plutonium-239
  5. thorium is NOT fissile, so thorium must be mixed with something that is. This means that in thorium based fuels it is actually not the nuclei of the thorium atoms itself that fissions - thorium is first transformed into uranium-233, and then this uranium nucleus is the one that fissions and releases energy 😀
  6. the fissile part of the fuel is typically just 5% of the total of the fuel. The rest of the fuel (so, the majority of the fuel, really) is either thorium-232 or uranium-238.
  7. the "flame" in nuclear fuel is the neutron. There is of course no real flame, and there is also no burning (see point number 2.), but I think that calling the neutron "the flame" is a nice analogy, since the neutron is what makes the nucleus fission and then release all the energy <3
  8. the most common nuclear fuel is called UOX, which is for uranium oxide, meaning that it’s not pure metallic uranium (uranium as an element is a metal), but uranium and oxygen ( the oxides are used rather than the metals themselves because the oxide melting point is much higher than that of the metal and because it cannot actually burn, since it's already in the oxidized state.)
  9. used fuel can (and should, in my opinion!) be recycled, since it has a lot of material that is really useful (actually: typically only half a percent of all the fuel fissions during the years it's in the reactor, so if you throw away all that's left after a couple of years, you throw away A LOT of resources). If you recycle these materials - which can be uranium-235 that just hasn't fissioned yet, or plutonium-239 that has been made during the time the fuel was in the reactor - you have to mix them with fresh fissile material, and when you do this the fuel is called MOX. MOX is short for Mixed Oxides 😀
  10. if you get really got at recycling, and you have the kind of reactors that are optimized for this type of MOX fuel (see point number 9.), you can actually end up getting 200 times more energy from the fuel than you normally get today!
- my fuel when I got to Stavanger airport yesterday: Chablis and Cæsar salad - as I started going through all the receipts (a lot!) rom just two days travelling -

I almost forgot, but today, the 2nd December, marks the 73 year anniversary of the world's first man-made nuclear reactor 🙂 (Yes, you read that right; there have been nature-made nuclear reactors here on earth <3).
In 1942, man achieved the first self-sustaining chain reaction, and thereby initiated the controlled release of nuclear energy.

On the picture below, you even see the ax man - or the Safety Control Rod Axe Man (SCRAM), and even today it's called scramming the reactor when you shut it down:

This day started with fusion: at 07:55 I was at NRK, to be a guest at P13, Tidenes Morgen, to talk about fusion. Right after this I spent an hour on the phone, talking to a journalist in Vårt Land, about fusion (and what is sacred to me, and what I ask for forgiveness for, and such). The reason for this was, not surprisingly, the new fusion reactor in Germany - the Stellarator called Wendelstein 7-X, where they want to recreate what happens at the sun; you know, let tiny nuclei melt together to form heavier nuclei and energy at the same time (sort of the  holy grail of nuclear physics/energy).
Of course: before any of this, the sun rose, it was a beautiful morning, and I could see and feel the energy from fusion from our nearest star <3 To me, every day is fusion day 🙂
The rest of the day has been spent on my article... I started the seminar with a great talk/discussion with Sunniva Supervisor, and then the rest of the day has actually been quite good. There's still a lot of work to do, but I'm positive 🙂 Now I just have to make my self a deadline for the different parts remaining to be done in this article, and then I just have to keep those deadlines, and then I'm done - and can continue with article number three and four, and then the actual thesis, and then I'm done. Easy 😛
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I must say: I love <3 getting your snaps - cool assignments, workout and chemistry, preparing for talks about colliding dark matter - love love love it! I really want to answer all of you, so let me say I'm so sorry if I don't manage!
Now it's nighty night here at Soria Moria; tomorrow I'm going to work A LOT (at least 7 hours, according to my plan form Monday) on the article. Sleep tight everyone!

Finally, the video from the TEDxBergen conference is now on-line!

The subject of my talk was Could nuclear weapons save the planet? , and you can watch the entire thing here:
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Since I talked about how to dress as a female scientist in my last blogpost, I just have to show you a close-up of the shoes I wore. These shoes from Nelly ended up as my "statement" for this talk - which I felt that I needed, since the rest of the outfit was quite simple; just tight jeans, a loose shirt, and my hair in a bun (not the tightest, but not very messy either):
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One of the really great thing about this trip to Bergen (almost a month ago already!) - besides being allowed to give my third TEDx talk - was that Anders came and spent the weekend with me <3 There's nothing like sharing experiences like this with the one you love, and having Anders in the audience made me feel so much better and more secure than if I had been there all by myself... He was a great supprt!
perfect evening: I was dead tired after  a long day -  I do get really stressed before I'm giving a talk like this. We were thinking about either go to the after party with the rest of the people from the conference, or maybe go out in Bergen... But instead we stayed in the hotel; we took a looong bath (where we drank two bottles of Prosecco), before we ordered pizza to the room, ate it in bed and watched several episodes of the Big Bang Theory. It was just perfect <3
 

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Today I was part of the "panel of scientists" on Abels Tårn - the radio show that airs on Friday mornings at NRK P2 (this particular show will not air until December; probably December 4th). This time was sort of a "special edition", where the audience were all high school students (and their teachers), and all the questions were from these students.
So far, so good: GREAT FUN! (For the first time, I was on the show together with Anders - that didn't make it any less fun <3 )
After the show, one teacher came up to me (at least I think tha's what she was), and told me she had two questions. 
Great, I thought...
But  they weren't questions, they were more like "questions":
The first one was if a Molten Salt Reactor will release less radioactivity during normal operation than today's reactors, and the second one I'm not sure if she ever asked; except she was asking me about all these Germans that had written stuff in German, and I said (several times - at first I was polite) that I don't speak German, so, no, I have not read these things (but I should, according to her). She was laughing in my face when I said that there are no radioactive releases during normal operation of reactors even today (and of course not in the future), and just told me I was wrong (and said that if I just read these German things I would know that I was wrong...). Still I didn't just leave (that would be rude), I tried to talk about radiation doses and limits - it wasn't very successful.

This teacher pretended to have questions, but was not interested in listening to what I said, and just went on and on and on about new German titles that I should (have) read. It was annoying and rude, and I'm still kind of upset, actually :/

all photos: Yngve Vogt

Maybe the worst part is that this teacher (if that's what she was) was stealing time from the students that had several questions for me, and that I would really have wanted to talk to - not to tell them so much about nuclear physics, but about science, and research, and all the amazing possibilities...
BTW: Thank you so much to the student who just wanted to tell me that she really enjoyed my TEDxOslo talk <3 The talk from LeRosey, last year, is HERE, and the one from Bergen, a couple of weeks ago will come very soon (stay tuned).
PS: It's TOTALLY OK to disagree with my view on nuclear power, but please don't pretend to ask me questions when you have no intensions of listening to what I say, and not respect me as a scientist. I try very hard not to pretend to be an "expert" on stuff taht I'm not working on, so don't pretend that I know nothing about my own f*****g field of science. Thank you <3 
PPS: Besides the behavior of this teacher, it was a great day, and I had a lot of fun being part of Abels Tårn today!

2

One thing that is kind of funny is that in Norwegian the word for "nuclear force" and "nuclear power" is the same - "kjernekraft".
It's the same word that describes the force that holds the atomic nucleus together and the way of producing power by splitting atoms. So in Norwegian you just can't be against kjernekraft, because it makes no sense: If you're against kjernekraft you're against atomic nuclei, and basically more or less everything, since there is nothing bigger than elementary particles - there wouldn't even be bigger particles like protons or neutrons, since they are made up from quarks that need kjernekraft to exist...
(PS: Of course I'm not really that pedantic - I do understand what people mean when they say they're against kjernekraft. But as I've said earlier, I actually don't understand how it is possible to worry about climate change, and not be pro nuclear, so I guess in a way I'll still say it makes little sense to be against kjernekraft 😉 )

no flowers, no sun, no sunset without kjernekraft...

#thinkaboutthat
#tenklittpådet

Hi there, Friday!

Last week there were no FACTS on FRIDAY, but this week we're back on track again 😀 Today I think it's time to talk about the force - the nuclear force: 10 facts about the nuclear force, here you go!
  1. the nuclear force is the force that holds, or binds, a nucleus (of an atom) together, even though all the protons in it are being pushed apart by another force - the protons are like extremely strong magnets with the same pole; they repel each other
  2. without the nuclear force, there wouldn't be any nuclei; without nuclei there wouldn't be atoms, and without atoms there wouldn't be molecules; without the nuclear force there would be no life - no nothing, really, and you couldn't exist...!
  3. it is the strongest of the four fundamental forces, and it's really strong (the three others are electromagnetic force, gravity, and weak force); for example it is 137 times stronger than the elctromagnetic force, and compared to gravity, it is a 1000 million million million million million million (1000000000000000000000000000000000000000) times stronger!
  4. the nuclear force has a very short range - meaning that it only works when a particle "touches" a nucleus; or, in other words: if you get 0.000000000000001 meters from the center of a nucleus, you can't feel it anymore. This distance is called femtometer
  5. when you fission a heavy nucleus, you release some of the force that holds this nucleus together, and since it is so strong, you get soooo much energy from fission
  6. "strong force" is another word for the nuclear force (in Norwegian: "sterk kjernekraft")
  7. when you fuse two light nuclei (make a new nucleus by putting two nuclei together), you also release some of the nuclear force - and therefore you can get energy from fusion, like the sun does it 🙂
  8. it was after Chadwick discovered that there were neutrons (with no electric charge) inside the nucleus, in 1932, that the physicists discovered the nuclear force - neutrons don't feel the elctromagnetic force, like protons (or electrons, that have electric charge) do, and therefore it had to be something else that was holding the nucleus together...
  9. the nuclear force doesn't really care if a particle has a charge or not; the force between two protons, two neutrons, or a proton and a neutron are nearly the same <3
  10. we still don't understand everything about the nuclear force, even though has been worked on for eight decades...

Don't forget about "Question of the month" next week; I already have some very nice questions, but please, ask more!

Ok, I think that's it for now - I have to go back to my figures and my tables, and then there is the weekly nuclear physics group meeting... Bon weekend, and may the force be with you <3