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February 06, 1987 - Image 13

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-02-06
Note:
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REACTOR
Continued from Page 7
is impossible.
"I don't have such nightmares,"
Cook said. His biggest worry is a
possible release of radioactive
material within the building,
though even then, "there is no place
with a danger of fatal exposure."
But the the Ford has not escaped
its share of controversy.
In May 1979, about two ounces
of containment water were spilled
on operator. The water was quickly
washed off and the incident was
investigated by the NRC only
because someone reported it to the
agency.
According to Cook, such an
incident happens occasionally,
about twice a year, but it is not
unusual and the radiation level was
far below the NRC's official
contamination standards.
"With people handling
radioactive material it's not
suprising that someone drops
something once in a while," Cook
said.
Everyday, samples are taken off
floors, doorknobs, even telephones
- any place someone who might

inadvertantly pick up radioactive
material and spread it around.
Usually when a spill happens,
however, the person responsible
knows it and cleans it up.
"He who makes the mess cleans
it up," Cook said.
The Ford has also been the target
of anti-nuclear activists. In March
1980, the first anniversary of the
incident at Three Mile Island, 70
protesters marched from downtown
Ann Arbor to the Phoenix building.
They demanded the University shut
the reactor down and launched
hundreds of black balloons -
symbolic of death and disease -
with notes saying it could have
been radioactivity, and not a
balloon, that fell to earth.
Cook said he thought the protest
came because the Ford symbolized
the dangers of nuclear power, and
not because they saw a danger with
the Ford itself.
Local activists are concerned
about the Ford and all nuclear
reactors. Tamara Wagner, the
Michigan Student Assembly's
military research advisor and a
member of the environmentalist
group Greenpeace, said the Ford
symbolizes this country's
misplaced priorities.
"I would like to see this country

direct its resources into other areas
of energy," Wagner said. "I think
nuclear power has a lot of potential,
but in this experimental stage, I
don't think we should mess with
it."
In January 1981, Greenpeace
recruited more than 50 volunteers to
post nearby highways with official-
looking warnings of "a marked
increase in shipments of radioactive
waste" along the route to a nuclear
waste dumping site in Kentucky,
where some of the waste from
Phoenix used to be taken. The
signs were a hoax, though concerns
about the shipping of nuclear waste
eventually led State Rep. Perry
Bullard (D-Ann Arbor) to propose
legislation forbidding the shipment
of nuclear waste through Michigan.
All waste from the reactor is
now stored in the state of
Washington, shipped there by
truck.
According to John Jones,
director of the University's
Radiation Control Services, the
waste from the Ford accounts for
less than three percent of the
University's solid nuclear waste,
while the medical center produces
more than 90 percent.
The reactor was most recently in
the news when Theodore Taylor, a
208 S. First, Aim Arbor 996-8555
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8 WOMEN'S NITE
9 COLORS plus
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10 THE FOLKMINERS
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11 THE DIFFERENCE
12 GEORGE BEDARD
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Drink Specials Every
MON $1 SHOTS
TUE $3 BEER PITCHERS
WED $2 MARGARITA MUGS
THU $1 WATERMELONS

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Open Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
2M0 WASHTENAW " PHONE 434-4399
(across from K-Mart & Wayside Theater)

Nuclear Engineering Prof. John
King plots results from a xenon
transfer experiment last week.
researcher at the Los Alamos
Scientific Laboratory and a member
of the commission that investigated
the incident at Three Mile Island,
told the NRC in 1984 that, the
highly-enriched uranium fuel used
at the Ford and 22 other university
reactors in the United States could
be used by terrorists to build
nuclear weapons.
Taylor said security procedures at
the university sites were inadequate
to stop determined terrorists.
Phoenix project Director
William Kerr said the reactor didn't
use the "strategic" amounts of high-
grade fuel needed to build weapons.
"It would have taken ten times
the amount of fresh fuel we're
allowed to have on hand to make a
bomb," Reactor Manager Bob Burn
said at the time.
Uranium 235, loaned to the
University free of charge by the
U.S. Department of Energy, is the
single substance needed to fuel and
maintain the nuclear reaction.
Project officials decided to
switch to a lower grade of uranium
because tighter security - which
could have included barbed wire
fences and armed security guards -
would have made the building
inaccessible to students.

Security is still tight, however.
While tours are available on
business days when the reactor is
operating, visitors must always be
escorted and wear green
identification badges. Even a reactor
operator, stopping at the office
briefly, was checked to make sure
. his wife and two small children had
visitor's badges.
But for all the work that occurs,
it seems the Ford gets the most
attention when something in the
nuclear industry goes wrong.
During the Three Mile Island and
Chernobyl crises, local reporters
called asking what happened and
"Could it happen here?" The answer
to that question, Cook said, is no,
but he is glad for the attention.
"I certainly hope they will
always use us as a source of
information," he said.
Director Kerr believes the bad
press the nuclear industry has been
getting will not soon diminish the
Ford's usefulness.
"The nuclear utility industry last
year produced about 16 percent of
the energy in this country," Kerr
said. And though he "would be very
suprised if any new plants were
built in the next 10 years," he said
there will be a continuing demand
for people to run the plants already
in existence.
The new generation of particle
accelerators - like the 52-mile in
circumference ring being planned by
the federal government - are not a
threat to the Ford's practicality.
"That sort of activity is used by
high-energy physicists who study
what makes up the universe," Kerr
said. "You need something like a
research reactor to bridge the gap
between theory and application.
That kind of research that's likely
to be carried on with (the Ford) is
much more likely to contribute
something to human needs." U
Ask one of
the 3 million
Americans
who've
survived
cancer,
if the money
spent on
research
is worth it.
We are
winning.
Please
support the
AMERICAN
'CANCER
iSOClY*

VOLUME 5, NO. 15

M A G A Z I N E

0 Ulli Mlticigan 1Baitg

-QN

MARTHA GRAHAM DANCE
~a nCOMPANY

KIRi TE KANAWA
"One of the world's most lustrous
voices; superbly focused, accurate,
agile, beautifully musical." The
Washington Post.

Fri., Feb. 6: Diversion of Angels,
Denishawn/Graham Solos,
"Temptations of the Moon",
The Rite of Spring.
Sat., Feb. 7: Plain of Prayer, Cave
of the Heart, "Acts of Light".
Sun., Feb. 8: Appalachian Spring,
"Temptations of the Moon",
The Rite of Spring.
Tickets: $18, 17, 16, 15.
Fri. & Sat. 8pm,
Sun. at 3pm, Power C

Tickets: $22, 21, 16, 12, 10.
Tuesday, Feb. 10
at 8pm, Hill Auditorium
$5.00 RUSH TICKETS sold Tues., Feb. 10 at Burton Memorial
Tower from 9:00 to 4:30. Limit of two per person; seating at the
discretion of the Musical Society. Availability limited to 200;
Choral Union series concerts only.

: .

Plus: 'Radio Days'

Interview: Greg Marks, computer specia

I
WEEKEND/FEBRUARY 6, '1987 PAGE 12

WEEKEND/ FEBRUARY 6,19$7

PAGE,12

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