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Alaskan Cyclotron - Not in My Backyard!

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the NIMBY-vs.-DIY dept.

Education 392

j-beda writes "Wired reports that "Albert Swank Jr., a 55-year-old civil engineer in Anchorage, Alaska, is a man with a mission. He wants to install a nuclear particle accelerator in his home." To be used to create medically useful isotopes, and even though some of the neighbours are supportive, opponents "compared potential damage from a cyclotron mishap to the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident" though an expert says "Probably the worst thing that could happen with small cyclotrons is that the operator might electrocute themselves." It looks like the Anchorage Assembly plans to hold an public hearing on December 20 to determine whether Swank will be permitted to install the device."

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392 comments

Go for it. (0, Offtopic)

jon855 (803537) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184056)

I do think this would hit the headlines bigger than the Slashdot when this is approved and I just hope that the man don't die installing this stuff. And it's in a remote area basically so I approve anyways ;)

Re:Go for it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184095)

Anchorage has a quarter million people, not exactly what most people would consider a "remote area."

I guess you could have meant remote as in far away from you, personally, but then your comment would make less sense.

lack of science (3, Insightful)

emamousette (871456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184109)

You would think that after the Manhattan project didn't incenerate the earth as it was feared it would by some people incited by a few wrong-headed scientists, that folks would do a little research before knee-jerking their way to denying this man his chance to do basic research.
To me, the only valid complaint one might make without having ana advanced degree in physics would be wondering about the effects of the huge magnetic pulses this would put out and the effects on his neighbors' electronics for the few micro seconds a day. But then again, if their house is close enough to be affected by these fields, they're too close anyway.

Why not? (-1, Redundant)

ibrown1 (800665) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184059)

Sounds eminently reasonable ...

First post?

old news (0)

Monkeyfobia (761469) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184065)

old news.... Old, but still Funny

I can understand the hold (3, Insightful)

millahtime (710421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184076)

I can understand the hold. It's all about risk. People in the area most likely don't know the possible repurcussions of this. At least, they havn't been stated before the record. If the repurcussions are low, I am sure this will go in without a problem. Have to look out a little for public safety.

Re:I can understand the hold (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184092)

He used the N...... word. People are scared. Nothing that can't be solved by a little explanation.

Re:I can understand the hold (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184285)

It's all about risk.

What risk? Oh, wait, you mean the risk that the crackpots that the "opposition" digs up saying that a cyclotron could blow all of alaska to kingdom come could actually be right?

Look, I know people talk about bias and shit, and how everyone should listen to "both sides" of every argument, but didn't it occur to you that sometimes the other side is just plain wrong?

Re:I can understand the hold (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184340)

I don't know how exactly makes those things the NRC, but here in Argentina someone with a particle accelerator would need to:
- Get a license to own a radiological facility;
- Get a license as an operator for this equipment (or hire someone);
- Hire radiological protection personnel and equipment (personal and area detectors) or contract the Atomic Energy Comission for this;
- Get a license to operate this facility;
I'm not sure if urban planning has much to do with this... cyclotrons and other particle accelerators are installed in hospitals (and I don't know someone is too much concerned about having a hospital in their neighbourhood).
And no... it's not about risk... it's about fear. Most of the time is about fear and politically driven disinformation.

Re:I can understand the hold (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184385)

Yeah, that probably explains why the US is in the forefront of technological innovation and Argentina is not.

You know? Opportunities and stuff like that. Let smart people do cool things, and the society will get ahead.

Most people are idiots - their opinions aren't worth much anyway.

Re:I can understand the hold (4, Insightful)

pocopoco (624442) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184473)

Just like how irradiated food succeeded so brilliantly even though it is safe? Most people hear the word radiation or nuclear and that's it for them, logic never comes into play.

Re:I can understand the hold (1)

sporkmonger (922923) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184564)

I'm not even slightly surprised about the hold. People put some crazy things in their backyard. A guy just down the road from me decided to install a helipad in his backyard (without first getting a permit) and he's got helicopters flying in and out of his backyard now. Now, that... that deserved some legislation, if not for the safety issues, then at least because of the noise pollution. The whole community is pissed about that one. But a cyclotron? I mean, the guy's gotta be a little nuts to even want to do this, but still, if it's quiet and the only danger is to the guy building the dumb thing, why the need for emergency legislation? Did anyone involved bother to find out how his cyclotron works before getting upset?

May be he should have opeted for a Brige (5, Funny)

chandip (751271) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184084)

Local lawmakers rushed to introduce emergency legislation banning the use of cyclotrons in home businesses. State health officials took similar steps, and have suspended Swank's permit to operate cyclotrons on his property.

This the same lawmakers who wanted a A bridge to nowhere [salon.com] costing $941 Million?

Re:May be he should have opeted for a Brige (4, Informative)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184206)

This the same lawmakers who wanted a A bridge to nowhere costing $941 Million?

Now to be fair, the bridge itself cost only $223 million. The $941 million was for the overall pork that Alaska got in that bill. That works out to ~$1500 per Alaskan compared to the $86 per citizen for the country as a whole.

Three Mile Island (1, Insightful)

students (763488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184085)

Wasn't very dangerous either.

But In Soviet Russia (1)

students (763488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184111)

Nuclear Reactors Melt YOU!

Like Chernobyl, which was dangerous.

Re:Three Mile Island (2, Informative)

qwertphobia (825473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184243)

I hope you were being facetious.

Three Mile Island was nearly catastrophic. And radiation did leave the plant during the accident.

A quick Google search gave me this:http://www.fatherryan.org/nuclearincidents/tm i.htm/ [fatherryan.org]

I was a young child then, and I still remember the terror of living within the evacuation area. Nobody knew when they would need to jump in the car and leave their homes behind.

Re:Three Mile Island (1)

Flaming Babies (904475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184299)

Three Mile Island was nearly catastrophic.
Yep...and all because some guy thought he was smarter than his equipment.
Nice link though...One of the most notable outcomes of the Three Mile Island disaster was the ultimate collapse of the nuclear power industry
What collapse? I work for a company that supplies the nuclear industry and we're setting new sales records every year.
It may have slowed things down a little, but collapse, not even close.

Re:Three Mile Island (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184409)

How about "the collapse of the nuclear power plant construction industry?" It's been a long time since a new plant has been licensed.

Re:Three Mile Island (2, Informative)

Flaming Babies (904475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184568)

Maybe in the U.S.
...but is that because of 3MI?

Why aren't new nuclear plants under construction in the U.S.? [stpnoc.com]
Nuclear- and coal-powered plants are "baseload" facilities that operate continuously. Few
baseload power plants have been built in the United States since 1980 because much of the
country has excess electricity. Many utilities have only built "peaking" plants: small
facilities, generally fueled by oil or natural gas, that quickly can be turned on and off,
according to swings in demand.

More are now being planned. [nei.org]

Re:Three Mile Island (5, Funny)

hotdiggitydawg (881316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184312)

At least this fella can stick a sign out the front... "Gone Fission"....

I'll show myself out.

Re:Three Mile Island (1)

GotenXiao (863190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184570)

No, the threat of a nuclear reactor going meltdown and melting down through the mantle, coming into contact with supercold water and suffering drastic thermal expansion/contraction and spreading nuclear radiation for a few hundred miles is minimal.

That's what the Three Mile administrators said, too.

Shame it didn't actually happen, might have knocked some sense into them. Came damn close though.

NIMBY YIMBY (2, Funny)

corcoranp (892008) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184086)

That'll bring down your NIMBY score...
I'd put a skateboarding halfpipe next to him, maybe that will improve the area.

Re:NIMBY YIMBY (1)

millahtime (710421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184115)

People fear what they don't understand. They hear nuclear and they think 3 mile island or world war 2. They don't think of safety. A little education and reassurance is what people need. Head to head fighting will loose this. The people need to have their point of view changed.

lies, damn lies and nuclear-related information (1)

natmakarvitch (645080) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184392)

> The people need to have their point of view changed. The people need objective information instead of the usual bullshit. The IAEA (ONU's agency for civil nuclear energy), for example, is full of lies. They even declared in 200509 that only 4000 people (grand total) have and will die from the Chernobyl disaster. I tried to understand this figure: no published scientific work (only draft reports with no clear author for each assertion), the '4000' figure is not written in it as such and the corresponding approximation stated is only related to cancers to come in a given subgroup (not the grand total!), the model used (Hiroshima - Nagasaki) is inadequate (high external radiation during a brief period, albeit most Chernobyl's victims receive low radiation, with a fair internal (food) fraction, for a long period), the population analyzed is a subset (mainly Russians) and not qualified (therefore probably not representative and insufficient), the very report states that his results are highly inaccurate (lack of good data, inadequate model, other morbidity specific to the context...), the whole stuff is published as an OMS work albeit this organization is in fact tied to the IAEA for anything related to nuclear (OMS just cannot publish anything not approved by IAEA), during the official report presentation the OMS guy responsible for it did not even try to show that the model used is adequate and said that the published figure was coined by the "public relations" department and not by the scientists... I can carry on but you get the picture. The whole stuff, published thru the media by some "The people need to have their point of view changed." sort of technocrats, gives "4000 people died and will die, period". This is the way they think: "We cannot anymore decide without informing anyone, but the average citizen is stupid, let's feed him/her with some lies in order to continue doing our stuff". Let's refuse and resist 'till some objective and clear information becomes available!

(What do you care about the subject for?) (5, Interesting)

shobadobs (264600) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184090)

This is just people being stupid. Also the reason they dropped 'Nuclear' from NMRI.

Re:(What do you care about the subject for?) (4, Funny)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184169)

This is just people being stupid. Also the reason they dropped 'Nuclear' from NMRI.

I think it was more that if you went to your hospital and said you were in for an NMR, you might have received something other than a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance scan... ;-)

Could you clarify your joke ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184256)

It msut be an insider joke because searching on google for "NMR" , "NMR operation" and "NMR hospital" only gave back web site about magnetic resonnance...

Re:Could you clarify your joke ? (2, Interesting)

farnz (625056) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184292)

"NMR" pronounced as three individual letters sounds similar to "enema". When hospital staff are underpaid, overworked, or just plain rushed, there's a high risk that they'll misidentify your need and you'll get something you didn't expect [wikipedia.org] .

Re:(What do you care about the subject for?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184316)

actually i'm pretty sure it's documented somewhere that the reason they just call it mri is because (i'm guessing some committee or the creators of the tech) thought the public would be too fearful of the new technology(as they fear it enough already).

Phear Science (0, Offtopic)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184094)

also beware of those cookies /. gives you from doubleclick.net, ru4.com and who know where else.

It cant be any more dangerous (0, Flamebait)

mustafap (452510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184099)

Than living in a country where everyone has a gun ;o)

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184166)


Only some of them have guns..... All of them can vote.

This scares me far more

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184241)

Only some of them have guns..... All of them can vote.

This scares me far more


Then I guess the only way you can sleep at night is the knowledge that only about 40% vote in presidential elections, even less for most mid-term federal elections.

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184518)

What scares me is the media and political parties are so good at playing us that presidential elections always come within a few percentage of 50% of the popular vote each.

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (2, Insightful)

Formica (775485) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184297)

You mean like Switzerland [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (0, Offtopic)

nordicfrost (118437) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184327)

It is not so much the ammount of guns as the easy availablity at home. I'm a gun owner in Europe (2 semi pistols) and overall, we have just as many guns at home as the US, due to the fact that the national guard store their weapons at home. I don't care for the American attitude towards guns, but that is their problem. What scares me is how they treat their weapons and their hostility towards safe gun practice. I store the guns in a gunvault, approved by the insurance company, bolted to the concrete wall, hidden in my flat and protected by an alarm. This is the demands the police have for gun ownership, and I like them. On the american discussion boards, they often debate how their guns were stolen and what to do. This is a non-issue here, since it is practically impossible for thieves to stel the guns, and since my apartment has an alarm they never even bother to try. Crime averted. From what I see on the discussion boards, a rather large segment of the American gun owners store their guns in extremely dumb places like drawers, closets and small lockable boxes around the house and vechicles. This is, of course, an invitation to thieves. Especially sinve gun boxes are very easy to identify by their size and apperance. Many of them also carry their gun around on their body, loaded. This is strictly forbidden where I live and for a good reason. Easy access to guns lead to more gun use [thehighroad.org] . Simple as that. This goes for police, civilians and criminals. Here, the guns are hard to get by, even if they exist in a lot of homes, since it is a hunting nation. But it is a nation educated in gun use (there's a demand of clean police record, gun club membership, 3-day mandatory course and proven gun club participation for over six months plus recommendation from gun club predsidents to get a handgun here. Shotguns and hunting rifles are easier).

What America lacks is not more gun freedom, but more gun sense. Every yahoo can get a gun, fine, but the real trouble starts when you lose the gun to someone due to poor storage sense. I guess that if the US would try to improve on the huge loss of firearms to criminals every year, the NRA would freak out and go to Capitol Hill chaning the second amendment. I don't see anywhere that the second amendment calls for moronic storage of their firearms? I'm a bit scared when I read bout civilians storing 10+ firearmsin their home, just locking them in a closet. Here, that is punisable because you don't want to give the thieves an edge. Over there, it's "part of my freedom, dangnabbit!".

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184451)

What America lacks is not more gun freedom, but more gun sense. Every yahoo can get a gun, fine, but the real trouble starts when you lose the gun to someone due to poor storage sense.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to legislate common sense. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the 2nd amendment. But just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you SHOULD. It's scary to think that every yahoo you get into an argument with on the road might be packing a gun under his seat, or that the belligerent drunk in the local bar might have a concealed weapon on him.

Everyone has this image of someone breaking into their home and needing to defend themselves. But this is actually very rare. Most shootings happen when two people get into an argument in the neighborhood, on the street, or at a club or bar and one of them has a gun on him or in his car.

-Eric

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184515)

Why would you even want a gun if you can't carry it with you? Why would you want a gun in your house if you can't get at it to defend yourself? You seem to be missing the entire the point of having a gun.

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (1)

eMartin (210973) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184559)

"On the american discussion boards, they often debate how their guns were stolen and what to do."

Why does that remind me of the cartoons where Speedy Gonzalez steals the cheese from the mousetraps?

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184347)

Phew, I was afraid I'd read a story where no one made an offtopic swipe at the US. Good show old bean. Well, now that this is settled, I can go back to adding unnecessary vowels to words and being a fop. Cheerie ho!

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184377)

I don't have a gun...nor does anyone I know, save those who own hunting rifles...which are few.

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (1)

OverkillTASF (670675) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184479)

More accurately,

"Living in a country where everyone can own a gun, but most good people choose not to for some reason, so the bad guys who do have guns (And break the law to do so) essentially own the streets because everyone else is too passive and dreamy to think that "self preservation" is someone else's job."

Self preservation is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. [deviantart.com]

Re:It cant be any more dangerous (1)

OverkillTASF (670675) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184543)

Ha, that should be...
"So passive and dreamy that they think Self Preservation is someone else's job." And I proofread it too. (Sigh)

Oh well. Guess I sure made an ignorant redneck out of myself on that one.

The real question, (5, Funny)

gentimjs (930934) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184103)

How do I get one installed in MY home? While it doesnt have the style points of being able to say "You do realise each one of us has an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on our backs?", it certainly would be a conversation peice ;-)

Re:The real question, (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184272)

I blame myself.

Re:The real question, (1)

Windsinger (889841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184283)

"Wer're ready to believe YOU."

Back Yard science (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184108)

Plenty of people do stupid shit in their garden sheds, thats what they are there for!
I have read about a kid building a reactor from smoke detectors [dangerousl...tories.org] , and the NZ guy who built his own cruise missile [interestingprojects.com] .

I sense a business opportunity for lead lined garden housing :)

Also, didn't Young Einstein manage to split the beer atom in his? (and with a hammer and chisel if I remember rightly)

Re:Back Yard science (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184259)

I sense a business opportunity for lead lined garden housing

You are too slow [unitednuclear.com] .

Re:Back Yard science (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184311)

Holy $^&"£^& shit!

Thos guys sell uranium ore.

Are they legit and for real?

Re:Back Yard science (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184333)

Yes, there's nothing illegal about rock collecting, or even getting low level stuff like U-238 spent fuel pellets.

Everything they sell is very low level, not very dangerous at all and well below any legal threshold for regulation.

Re:Back Yard science (1)

RandoX (828285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184375)

I've purchased several things from them over the years. No uranium, but I've always gotten everything I've ordered, as advertised.

Mail Order Nukes (1)

nojayuk (567177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184470)

http://www.cashncarrion.co.uk/cnb/shop/cashncarrio n?op=catalogue-products-null&prodCategoryID=11 [cashncarrion.co.uk]

and have a look about half-way down the page for the "glow in the dark" keyrings. Quote:

"Inside each GlowRing is a single sealed glass tube which contains a minute amount of active gas that permanently reacts with a luminescent coating."

Translation: "active gas" == tritium.

I've got a couple on order at the moment, for geek-type Xmas presents. They limit sales to UK customers only.

"Please note that due to international regulations regarding this item THIS PRODUCT IS ONLY AVAILABLE TO UK RESIDENTS AND CANNOT BE SENT TO ANY ADDRESS OUT OF THE COUNTRY."

Need article text (1)

miaDWZ (820679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184119)

*sigh*

Can someone please post the article text - I go to the site, and it says I must watch an ad to read the article, so I watch the stupid ad, then click the link to go to the article, then it brings me back to the page saying I must watch an ad...

Yay for online advertising.

Here ya go (3, Informative)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184136)

Albert Swank Jr., a 55-year-old civil engineer in Anchorage, Alaska, is a man with a mission. He wants to install a nuclear particle accelerator in his home.

But when neighbors learned of plans to place the 20-ton device inside the house where Swank operates his engineering firm, their response was swift: Not in my backyard.

Find local technology jobs. Local lawmakers rushed to introduce emergency legislation banning the use of cyclotrons in home businesses. State health officials took similar steps, and have suspended Swank's permit to operate cyclotrons on his property.

"Some of the neighbors who are upset about the cyclotron have started calling it SHAFT -- Swank's high-energy accelerator for tomography," attorney Alan Tesche said. "Part of what's got everyone so upset is we're not sure when it's going to arrive on the barge. We know Anchorage is gonna get the SHAFT, but we just don't know when." Tesche is also the local assemblyman who represents the area where Swank and his cyclotron would reside.

Johns Hopkins University agreed to donate the used cyclotron, which is roughly six feet tall by eight feet wide, to Swank's business, Langdon Engineering and Management.

The devices are relatively scarce in Alaska, and are used to produce radioactive substances that can be injected into patients undergoing PET scans.

Short for positron emission tomography, a PET scan is similar to an X-ray. During the imaging procedure, radioactive material administered to the patient can help medical professionals detect cancerous tissue inside the body. The substance typically remains radioactive for only a couple of hours.

For Swank, the backyard cyclotron is a personal quest: He lost his father to cancer years ago, and he says his community needs the medical resource. He also wants to use it to inspire young people to learn about science.

"My father worked with me while I was building my first cyclotron at age 17 in this same home, and he encouraged all of the educational pursuits that resulted in who I am," Swank said.

"Because of that and my desire to not see other cancer patients suffer -- if I can use this technology to prevent one hour of suffering, or stimulate one young person's mind to pursue science, I will devote every resource that I possess to that."

Swank maintains the device is not dangerous for nearby residents.

But assemblyman Tesche says noble intentions don't outweigh potential risks and nuisances. He and others fear a particle accelerator could pose hazards such as radiation leak risks to nearby residences. They also think the large amount of electricity it consumes could drain available power in the neighborhood.

"We in Alaska embrace technology, and we love it -- but we would like to see this in a hospital or industrial area, where it belongs," Tesche said. "We don't need cyclotrons operating out of back alleys, or in someone's garage."

In a letter to the city assembly, the South Addition Community Council compared potential damage from a cyclotron mishap to the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident.

"Cyclotrons are not nuclear reactors," explains Roger Dixon of the Fermi National Accelerator laboratory or Fermilab in Illinois, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. "Probably the worst thing that could happen with small cyclotrons is that the operator might electrocute themselves."

At Fermilab, Dixon oversees the world's highest-energy collider, about four miles in circumference. It smashes matter and antimatter together so scientists can study the nature of energy.

Dixon told Wired News that shielding from concrete walls or lead sheets is typically used to prevent the electrical beams produced by smaller cyclotrons from escaping.

"Our neighbors here at Fermilab like us," said Dixon. "But then, our particle accelerator is not installed in a living room."

Some of Swank's neighbors are not worried. Veronica Martinson, a homemaker who has lived next door to Swank for 36 years, thinks a cyclotron next door might be a good thing.

"Albert was a star science student when he was a child," Martinson said. "He wants schoolchildren to be around this, so they'll learn how this works, and be curious about physics. One of them might turn out to be our next big scientist."

Johns Hopkins University public affairs officer Gary Stephenson says the institution agreed to donate the used cyclotron to Swank's engineering firm "with understanding and assurances that it was to benefit the citizens of Alaska for medical needs," and only with proper permission from local authorities.

Despite having had his operating permits suspended, Swank plans to remove the cyclotron from its current site at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore on Jan. 23, then ship it by truck and barge to Alaska.

But the Anchorage Assembly plan to hold an emergency public hearing on Dec. 20 to determine whether he will be permitted to install the device at his lifelong residence.

NIMBY! (4, Interesting)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184120)

While obviously a cyclotron can't compare to a commercial nuclear power plant, I wouldn't want my neighbor building one. Aside from self-electrocution, they can release high energy photons which could reach other people, if improperly shielded. There is also the issue with any radioactive waste he may produce. The risk may be miniscule, but people generally shy away from non-controllable risks. While the guy is a civil-engineer, TFA doesn't say whether he has training or experience in nuclear technology or health physics either.

That said, I think it would be awesome to have a back-yard cyclotron. Imagine all the cool things you could do, activate pennies, evil radioactive monsters, become THE HULK, etc.

Re:NIMBY! (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184184)

Seconded. If you whack a heavy metal target with a good enough e- stream it is bound to spit at least some high energy X-rays. I am not sure if you can get gamma rays on a "backyard" device, but X-rays should not be a problem.

Re:NIMBY! (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184244)

And I could shoot my potato cannon through my neighbors window. Or my neighbor could shoot a rifle through mine, he's got guns too.

I've never been formally trained in weapons handling, and I doubt he has either.

Life is full of uncontrolled risks. You just have to take responsibility for your actions, which means learning about the potentially dangerous thing you plan to play with, and taking proper precautions.

There's thousands of other legal things this guy could do that are plenty more dangerous to his neighbors if mishandled. People just see the word nuclear and freak out. I've had people over that will not even come near my uranium doped glass marbles after they see them glow under blacklight. The Ralph Nader/concerned scientists helped cause this FUD around all things nuclear, through blatently false propaganda.

Re:NIMBY! (1)

McSnarf (676600) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184509)

Life is also full of problems caused by thoughtless idiots.

Last cyclotron I saw (admittedly in the 70s) was in a room with massive concrete walls and a powered concrete door for a reason.
OTOH, I cannot imagine that there are no specific laws in place that govern the requirements in terms of building construction and safety.

However, the same applies to biotechnology ("I am a biologist. I want to do some virus research...") and chemistry ("I did chemistry in school. Bet I can make Tabun in my basement ?").

While I agree that people often freak out without reason when "nuclear" is even uttered in conversation (especially when Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is involved), not everything short of reactor or bomb technology is safe or free of avoidable danger.

I fear my neighbors too! (2, Insightful)

AB3A (192265) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184337)

I presume this guy has a reasonable "back yard." The article didn't say how large his property was. Assuming that Swank has room for a reasonable building in his back yard to house this endeavor, I don't see why this is any different than a garden shed or a garage.

With all those household chemicals, pesticides, sprayers, fertilizers and the like, one could easily mix them wrong and gas the neighborhood to death. The gasoline from the lawn mower might leak and cause an explosion from the fumes. The pesticides might get in to someone's well and poison them. The mulch pile might catch fire and smoulder...

The list is long. The point is these are every day hazards that people are comfortable with. This is all about feelings and very little about the actual hazard. It's not even about ignorance. People are woefully ignorant about the products they use in their houses every day.

I say hire a PR firm through the local hospital, buy the neighbors some doughnuts, and listen to the chatter. Clearly there are a few arrogant idiots who need to be identified and pushed back in to their caves^H^H^H^H^Hhomes.

Re:NIMBY! (1)

msdschris (875574) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184456)

Nor do I appreciate my neighbor calling Chemlawn and dispensing cancer causing chemicals where pets and children play and which will leach into the groundwater. This is a much larger risk but how many people use these services to keep their lawns green?

Profit... (0, Offtopic)

squoozer (730327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184121)

Step 1: Bury head in sand / soil / tarmac / other ground covering.

Step 2: ???

Step 3: Profit.

I am starting to think "people" won't be happy until we are all clones - of course we couldn't be clones due to cloning though. Sigh.

Pish and posh (1, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184122)

It's kinda unlikely he will be able to make a cyclotron of any usable size. The main hangup is the magnet-- you need many many many tons of iron for the core, many many tons of copper for the windings. Unless he has a 50-ton crane and $500,000 for the core and wire, he's not going to get very far.

I guess he could go with superconducting magnets, but that requires mad crogenic skillz. And you still need lots of iron.

Even then he's going to need another big jar of cash for the RF generator, excellent high-vacuum skills and lots of electricity. Then if he's lucky, he *might* be able to generate a microamp of million volt electrons-- about what the average cat brushing by nylon curtains can generate.

I wouldnt worry too much about the nuclear-spiltting capabilities here.

from TFA (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184165)

He doesn't plan to build one, he will just get a second-hand one. Not your usual ebay stuff though...

"Johns Hopkins University agreed to donate the used cyclotron, which is roughly six feet tall by eight feet wide, to Swank's business, Langdon Engineering and Management."

Re:Pish and posh (4, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184198)

RTFA. He's not "making one". He's receiving a donated used one from Johns Hopkins University. It's already fully functional, it just needs a power cord and a place to park it where the neighbors won't complain.

But you're right: I wouldn't worry too much about the nuclear splitting capabilities either. Adequate lead shielding will protect the neighbors just fine.

dihydrogen monoxide (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184124)

I bet he wants to use dihydrogen monoxide as a coolant too. Got to watch out its dangerous stuff. http://www.dhmo.org/ [dhmo.org]

Probably the worst thing that could happen... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184126)

...is never a good way to describe a potential risk or accident.

We will know it didn't work by the 20 foot crater where the guy's house used to be.

Original Article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184135)

Albert Swank Jr., a 55-year-old civil engineer in Anchorage, Alaska, is a man with a mission. He wants to install a nuclear particle accelerator in his home. But when neighbors learned of plans to place the 20-ton device inside the house where Swank operates his engineering firm, their response was swift: Not in my backyard. Local lawmakers rushed to introduce emergency legislation banning the use of cyclotrons in home businesses. State health officials took similar steps, and have suspended Swank's permit to operate cyclotrons on his property. "Some of the neighbors who are upset about the cyclotron have started calling it SHAFT -- Swank's high-energy accelerator for tomography," attorney Alan Tesche said. "Part of what's got everyone so upset is we're not sure when it's going to arrive on the barge. We know Anchorage is gonna get the SHAFT, but we just don't know when." Tesche is also the local assemblyman who represents the area where Swank and his cyclotron would reside. Johns Hopkins University agreed to donate the used cyclotron, which is roughly six feet tall by eight feet wide, to Swank's business, Langdon Engineering and Management. The devices are relatively scarce in Alaska, and are used to produce radioactive substances that can be injected into patients undergoing PET scans. Short for positron emission tomography, a PET scan is similar to an X-ray. During the imaging procedure, radioactive material administered to the patient can help medical professionals detect cancerous tissue inside the body. The substance typically remains radioactive for only a couple of hours. For Swank, the backyard cyclotron is a personal quest: He lost his father to cancer years ago, and he says his community needs the medical resource. He also wants to use it to inspire young people to learn about science. "My father worked with me while I was building my first cyclotron at age 17 in this same home, and he encouraged all of the educational pursuits that resulted in who I am," Swank said. "Because of that and my desire to not see other cancer patients suffer -- if I can use this technology to prevent one hour of suffering, or stimulate one young person's mind to pursue science, I will devote every resource that I possess to that." Swank maintains the device is not dangerous for nearby residents. But assemblyman Tesche says noble intentions don't outweigh potential risks and nuisances. He and others fear a particle accelerator could pose hazards such as radiation leak risks to nearby residences. They also think the large amount of electricity it consumes could drain available power in the neighborhood. "We in Alaska embrace technology, and we love it -- but we would like to see this in a hospital or industrial area, where it belongs," Tesche said. "We don't need cyclotrons operating out of back alleys, or in someone's garage." In a letter to the city assembly, the South Addition Community Council compared potential damage from a cyclotron mishap to the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident. "Cyclotrons are not nuclear reactors," explains Roger Dixon of the Fermi National Accelerator laboratory or Fermilab in Illinois, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. "Probably the worst thing that could happen with small cyclotrons is that the operator might electrocute themselves." At Fermilab, Dixon oversees the world's highest-energy collider, about four miles in circumference. It smashes matter and antimatter together so scientists can study the nature of energy. Dixon told Wired News that shielding from concrete walls or lead sheets is typically used to prevent the electrical beams produced by smaller cyclotrons from escaping. "Our neighbors here at Fermilab like us," said Dixon. "But then, our particle accelerator is not installed in a living room." Some of Swank's neighbors are not worried. Veronica Martinson, a homemaker who has lived next door to Swank for 36 years, thinks a cyclotron next door might be a good thing. "Albert was a star science student when he was a child," Martinson said. "He wants schoolchildren to be around this, so they'll learn how this works, and be curious about physics. One of them might turn out to be our next big scientist." Johns Hopkins University public affairs officer Gary Stephenson says the institution agreed to donate the used cyclotron to Swank's engineering firm "with understanding and assurances that it was to benefit the citizens of Alaska for medical needs," and only with proper permission from local authorities. Despite having had his operating permits suspended, Swank plans to remove the cyclotron from its current site at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore on Jan. 23, then ship it by truck and barge to Alaska. But the Anchorage Assembly plan to hold an emergency public hearing on Dec. 20 to determine whether he will be permitted to install the device at his lifelong residence.

Great .. now this will (3, Funny)

bxbaser (252102) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184140)

call attaention to my cyclotron and they will pass laws and ordanaces banning them ,and i just replaced the electrode cooling pipes with a radiator from a 1972 ford maverick.

no negative effects? (4, Funny)

mabus42 (805037) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184145)

in the article they quote an expert from fermilab. incidentally i grew up less than 5 miles from there and all i have to show from it is this third eye and multiple superfluous nipples. one of my neighbors was affected to the extent that he can set things on fire by only using his mind... why did i have to get the shaft when it comes to deformities/mutations caused by cyclotrons? WHY GOD WHY?!?!?

There goes my reason for not going into physics (1)

dyfet (154716) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184146)

One of the historically frustrating parts of the "practice" of physics, particularly nuclear physics, is that one normally cannot just "do" physics on your own, such as setup a bevatron in the backyard. Well, at least that used to be true! :).

Of course there are now other cutting edge fields that also are now open to low power and smaller scale/lower cost experimentation as well. These include fun with lasers, slowing light through different mediums, and of course the ever popular tabletop "cold fusion" experiments. Some of these do have low enough cost to offer the garage or shed bound would be noble prize winner an oppertunity.

Depends on where beam can be aimed or misaimed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184151)

The particle beam won't burn holes in anything like the laser in Real Genius but it will certainly give you more than your annual allowed exposure for dental xrays. Also side scatter from the beam hitting the target is an issue.

So, would you trust this guy? Do you feel lucky?

Take the city's side on this one (2, Insightful)

PartyArtie (936251) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184159)

This guy's running a business. If he's using industrial equipment, he should be in an industry-zoned location. Why would he be running it out of his house? Save money on a building? Avoid paying property taxes? Avoid OSHA regulation? Not so noble. It's not like he's a weekend inventor with contraptions in his basement that likely would only hurt himself. This is heavy-duty equipment (20T) that will be used by a (presumably) for-profit company.

Re:Take the city's side on this one (1)

dwandy (907337) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184424)

Hey let's try and keep a grip: neighbour [navy.mil] is a relative term in Alaska...

Will they burn him at the stake... (2, Insightful)

PhotoBoy (684898) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184162)

... if he's found guilty of witchcraft?

Re:Will they burn him at the stake... (1)

bohemian72 (898284) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184557)

No. This is the United States we're talking about. Even in the pre-U.S. North America we never burned anyone for witchcraft. He'll be hanged, once he confesses under a load of heavy rocks.

Oh Great (1)

RodeoBoy (535456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184187)

Now everyone will have one if this guy succeeds. I can hear my wife now, "The Jones just got a new cyclotron." How can a guy keep up.

Re:Oh Great (1)

elgatozorbas (783538) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184281)

Build a hadron supercollider or so. Most of al no time machine those are sooo next year!

This guys to build list (1)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184203)

1. Cyclotron
2. Build own stargate with postorder material
3. Build warp engine
4. Build working deathstar on 1:1 scale
5. Build new porch at house so car can stand in shadow in the hot Alaskan summers.

Re:This guys to build list (1)

RetroRichie (259581) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184280)

6. ???
7. Profit ...right?

Re:This guys to build list (1)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184338)

Somewhere at deathstar is a profit moment I would say.

Property Values (1)

PeeAitchPee (712652) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184255)

Folks may be (perhaps legitimately) worried that property values might drop significantly in the surrounding area if this guy gets his way (I know it's Alaska, but let's pretend it's Anytown, USA). I understand that argument that it's your property and therefore your right to do whatever you want with it, neighbors be damned, etc., but if that's the way you feel, think about Joe Anchorage when he gets transferred back to the Continental US in six months and finds that his property's value just took a 33% cyclotron nose dive . . . just making the point that it might not be safety issue as much as a money issue. When in doubt, follow the $$$.

Re:Property Values (4, Insightful)

timster (32400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184310)

There's nothing legitimate about an obsession with "property values". Nobody has a right for their property to maintain a certain value. If land speculation is a critical part of your retirement plan, you might want to consider some less risky investments.

Re:Property Values (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184358)

Yeah, it's just used as an excuse for the prohibitionist-type busibodies to try to tell you what you can and can't do on your own land.

Don't cross the streams....It would be bad. (5, Funny)

waterford0069 (580760) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184275)

Dr Ray Stantz: You know, it just occurred to me that we really haven't had a successful test of this equipment.
Dr. Egon Spengler: I blame myself.
Dr. Peter Venkman: So do I.
Dr Ray Stantz: Well, no sense in worrying about it now.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.

Objections not entirely crazy. (5, Informative)

dotmax (642602) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184278)

These things are not toys. They make prompt and residual radiation. It's made to transmute elements into radioactive forms. Concern is not unreasonable.

Again: this machine will be used to make radioisotopes. Short half lives or not, the proximal homowners have a legitamite reason to be concerned about a radioisotope factory next to their homes. What about contamination issues?

2: It is reasonable to have some concern about shielding. Anything energetic enough to make radionuclides can also make X-rays by the assload. Given that we're talking nuclear transmutation, a concern about neutron radiation (fairly long ranged and not stopped by standard rad shielding).

ASS-U-Ming the installation will be industry standard, there shouldn't be a problem. If this guy doesn't know what he's doing, he could cause problems. Given that nobody seems to know what his specific shielding and radcon/exposure control plan is... he screwed up by not getting preapproved in advance.

FWIW, i have run a re-tasked SDI helium-3 RFQ PET accelerator, and currently run the Tevatron, have manufactured antiprotons for the last 7 years send the Giant NuMI Neutrino beam from Fermilab to Minnesota, so i have a clue.

Let us rise above our usu. cynical smirking condescencion and allow as how the loi polloi have a legit concern in this instance. .max

Did you say Civil Engineer? (1)

foolish_to_be_here (802344) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184289)

If a Civil Engineer can have an "unlicensed proton pack in his back yard", then why not let a Gray Hound bus driver fly 737's. Who needs a Nuclear Engineering degree anyway? Street car conductor or brain surgeon? Is this guy related to Jethro Bodein of the Clampet clan?

Worst thing? (1)

WilburCobb (883625) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184339)

an "expert" says "Probably the worst thing that could happen with small cyclotrons is that the operator might electrocute themselves"

X-ray tubes are much simpler to build, produce lower energy radiation and yet dentists have to protect themselves from daily use.

Cancer is the worst thing.

Wont happen (0)

MrEcho.net (632313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184363)

Theres no way in hell this is going to fly.
1: Elemdorf AFB is just outside of Anchorage, like 2 miles if that.
1.1: Yes Anchorage is a pretty big city, still doesnt matter, the AF wouldnt let it happen. To much of a risk/threat of something going wrong.

2: Unless this guy really knows what hes getting into, the local and Fed gov wont let him, to much of a risk of him self, and the area around him.

How about banning smoke detectors? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184390)

If his neighbors are going to get up in arms about negligible radiation hazards, who don't they also ban cosmic rays while they're at it?

-jcr

Re:How about banning smoke detectors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184494)

If his neighbors are going to get up in arms about negligible radiation hazards, who don't they also ban cosmic rays while they're at it?

Cosmic rays don't sound dangerous. If you call'em NUCLEAR COSMIC RAY ENERGY, it might get more attention.

On the other hand, if the dude just called his accelerator a ``circular TV tube with lots of magnets and switches, built to heal children'' then it might not be objected to.

Oblig. Futurama Quote (5, Funny)

NLG (636251) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184405)

Farnsworth: "So what are you doing to protect my constitutional right to bear doomsday devices?"
NRA Guy: "Well, first off, we're gonna get rid of that three day waiting period for mad scientists."
Farnsworth: "Damn straight! Today the mad scientist can't get a doomsday device, tomorrow it's the mad grad student! Where will it end?!"
NRA Guy: "Amen, brother. I don't go anywhere without my mutated anthrax. For duck huntin'."

This story made me think of this. Am I the only one?

Dr. Weird (1)

SlashSquatch (928150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184437)

Gentlemen, Behold! I will now fire this particle accelerator at that marauding grizzlies' ass!

christmas lights! (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184443)

what kind of christmas light shows could he make with this?

create his own aurora borealis? (although redundant, since he's in alaska)

and i don't see how anyone can oppose this guy if they accept the principle of existing contemporary christmas light displays that consume more power and emit more radiation than your average cyclotron

FUD from people who pronounce it nucular (2)

crovira (10242) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184447)

I'm sorry if the word nuclear in anything scares some people but this cyclotron is for generating microscopic amounts of nucleotides for use in radiology.

He isn't some towel-head deforming the unborn in the name of some thing unspeakable or likely to blow up the neighborhood as the equipment is more likely to screw with people's TV signals than to leave a smokin' crater.

Next they'll riot and walk 'round with pitchforks in front of the dentist's because he's got an X-Ray machine. What?

This is too ignorant to be on /. (4, Informative)

grolaw (670747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184482)

Look folks, the amount of material produced would be very, very small - on the order of micro or pico curies of the DIAGNOSTIC isotope of fluorine - that has a 6 hour half-life!

Iodine 131 is another reagent common in treating thyroid cancers...

Molybdenum has an isotope with a half-life measured in seconds! Used in scintillation scans of soft tumors. Molybdenum has six stable isotopes and almost two dozen radioisotopes, the vast majority of which have half-lives measured in seconds. Mo-99 is used in sorpation generators to create Tc-99 for the medical nuclear isotope industry.

Finally, the cyclotron is not radioactive - it bombards the target element to create an isotope that is radioactive. I'd live next door to one - even in Anchorage (spent last August in that city) with the extrodinary earthquake & tsunamai risk - because the cyclotron could only release the very small amount of material that it was bombarding at the time of a catastrophic failure.

Also, have any of you folks noticed that AK is 5 time zones removed from the East Coast? You simply can't ship these short-lived isotopes.

Many hospitals have cyclotrons for that very reason! Others have manufacturers in the same city. Not the case in AK.

no problem (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14184497)

It's all about the non-understanding of particle accelerators and scared, non informed people.

The number of particles that are actually accelerated are so small, it would not cause any harm. Remember, the sun (Helios) itself radiates many, many Helium (hence Helios) particles.

The only thing which might be a problem are the big magnets.
When you have a pacemaker, you do not want to stand next to it when it quenches :)
(also not when carrying credit cards with you)

THey need to get a life (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 8 years ago | (#14184551)

This thing is probably far less dangerous then the industrial x-ray machines they use to check for metal fatigue, and welding integrity.

The neighbors biggest worry should be problems with their wifi when its operational.

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