Some unnamed nuclear engineer friends of mine were consulted for this comic. They’re favorite myths regarding NASA RTGs (radioisotope thermoelectric generator):
1. “If the rocket explodes or has a problem during launch, it will explode like a mushroom cloud.”
2. “The rocket is powered by plutonium, it will shoot radiation out the back as it launches.”
When it comes to general nuclear power misconceptions, here is a pretty good list of misconceptions.
As for radiation, my friends generally get more exposure from medical and dental x-rays each year than they do at work. They’ve measured. OSHA regulations concerning workers’ exposure can be found here.
They also sometimes see protesters carrying Geiger-counters, pointing them at [CLASSIFIED], and getting angry. (One example of this in San Diego)
In most cases like this, the user has failed to determine the corrected counts per minute (CCPM) by subtracting the normal background radiation of the environment. So even though their device is making scary noises, they’re not getting any meaningful data.
I'm worried about your project at work. It sounds dangerous.
Don've be silly, nuclear power is very safe.
What about Chernobyl?
The 'RTG' is the size of a hockey puck and it can't possibly blow up.
But aren't you worried about radiation?
If I come home with three boobs, you can't see any of them!