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Is Your Tea Kettle Radioactive?

Is Your Tea Kettle Radioactive?
(Tomislav Pinter/Dreamstime.com)

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Tuesday, 06 November 2018 11:11 AM Current | Bio | Archive

This might not be an idle question.

Having designed valves for the Hanford Nuclear Plutonium reactor and later for nuclear submarines, I often question what happens with those valves if they became radioactive.

As far as the U.S. Navy is concerned, they store all radioactive hardware from nuclear carriers or submarines either above or below ground at the Washington State Hanford huge acreage, comprising 1,450 square kilometers.

Yet, I suspect that some other equipment from private sources winds up in the scrap yard since quite a few commercial atomic reactors have reached their allotted thirty year lifetime and need to be scrapped. This will produce a lot of scrap metal.

While carbon steel is typically no problem, it has a half live of only 2.81 years. Stainless steel can be radioactive, due to the up to 12 percent Nickel content.

Her are some statistics:

From a typical European atomic reactor there was 1,193 tons of stainless steel removed. Out of it, 298 tons were considered “not cleanable” (i.e. radioactive). This is 25 percent of the total.

In a similar Japanese reactor, 2,600 tons of stainless steel was removed, out of this 406 tons were “not cleanable.” This makes 16 percent of the total, still quite a lot.

In contrast, 12,448 tons of carbon steel was taken out, yet only 0.5 percent was contaminated.

The question now is how much of the “cleaned” stainless steel goes to the smelter?

According to a U.S. press report, a woman who bought a stainless steel tissue holder in a store found that it was radioactive.

According to another press report, during one year, the Rotterdam firm of Jewomstaat found 200 nuclear items in its scrap metal. In India, the Nuclear Government Agency could not have enough manpower and equipment to check a deluge of scrap metal for radio activity.

The good news is that all shipments arriving in the U.S. are checked for radioactivity by U.S. custom agents.

Recovered stainless steel valve parts pose a special problem, since some parts were made from/or coated with Stellite®, which contains 55 percent Cobalt. This metal has a half-life of 5.27 years, and if bombarded by neutrons in a nuclear reactor, changes from Cobalt 59 into Cobalt 60 and then emits gamma rays. For this reason Cobalt 60 is used in X-ray equipment. It is therefore quite possible that even “cleaned” stainless steel could have inclusions of radioactive Cobalt within the matrix. The good news is, that unless the cobalt is near the surface, there is sufficient shielding to prevent harm. Mined Cobalt (Cobalt 59) and Nickel (Nickel 62) are not radioactive and are harmless unless used in a nuclear facility.

All in all, there is no need for undue concern, even though your stainless steel tea kettle may be radioactive; the level will be so low that no harm would come to you. However, I thought my readers should be aware of that potential problems do exist.

Here are some reference data:

Material*

Type of rays

MeV level

Half life

Danger

mSv

Iron 55

Alpha

2.81 years

no

Tin

no

no

no

no

Nickel 63

Beta

0.067

100 years

mild

0.35

Cobalt 60

Gamma

1.33

5.27 years

yes

50

Gold 198

Beta **

1.32

2.7 days

mild

* after being bombarded with neutrons. ** Below a distance of 11 mm.

Other references:

Source:

Dosage mSv

Duration

X-ray

1-5

minutes

Atmosphere

6.2

1 year

Flying

0.02

7 hours

Airport scanner

5

1 minute

Radiation doses of 50 mSv or 5 Rem or more cause cancer.

MeV (megaelectronvoltage) defines the instant intensity of radiation.

mSv (milli Sivert) defines the total exposure to radiation over time.

Rem = Unit of radiation doses (1 rem = 0.01 Sievert); also called Roentgen equivalents.

Hans Baumann is a licensed engineer in four states and a member of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. He is an adviser to the dean of the University of New Hampshire Business School. Dr. Baumann has published manuals on valves and was a contributor to many works including the "Instrument Engineers' Handbook" and the "Control Valves Handbook." He has also published several books on business management and German history, including "Hitler's Escape," which suggests that Adolf Hitler did not commit suicide and survived World War II. In his latest book, "Atomic Irony" he proves that the Hirshoma Atom Bomb contained captured German Uranium. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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All in all, there is no need for undue concern, even though your stainless steel tea kettle may be radioactive; the level will be so low that no harm would come to you.
tea kettle, radioactive
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2018-11-06
Tuesday, 06 November 2018 11:11 AM
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