ANALYSIS OF THE POLONIUM HAZARD IN NUCLEAR POWER SYSTEMS WITH LEAD–BISMUTH COOLANT

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Abstract

Polonium presents no danger under normal operating conditions when the coolant loop is sealed. In our country, we have almost 40 years of experience in working with radioactive lead–bismuth coolant in the reactors used in nuclear-powered submarines and ground-based testing prototypes. This experience has made it possible to study how the polonium radiation conditions inside working enclosures are produced and to develop effective safety measures for different operating regimes, including irregular situations and accidents.

Data are presented on the polonium radiation conditions in certain typical operating and accident situations in a nuclear submarine: spillage of a substantial amount of coolant directly into the reactor bay, the consequences of an interloop leak in a steam generator, and refueling with fresh nuclear fuel.

Regular medical-biological examinations of the workers participating in the operation of the system, repair work, and liquidation of the consequences of accidents did not show any cases of irradiation by polonium above the established health norms.

Inferences are drawn from studies performed in this and other countries of polonium emission from lead-based polonium-containing media when such media are heated in vacuum and in an inert-gas atmosphere in the temperature range 300–800°C.

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