From: "Sir Charles W. Shults III"
References: <2v_l9.76313$jG2.firstname.lastname@example.org><email@example.com> <0I1YkqBZoKm9Ewbi@jmwa.demon.co.uk> <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Any ideas on measuring radiation in the home ?
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Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 21:42:14 GMT
NNTP-Posting-Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 17:42:14 EDT
Organization: RoadRunner - Central Florida
Well,the machine was not supposed to be scrapped in the first place. Lots
of medical equipment using isotopes like cesium-137 and cobalt-60 are used to
treat tumors and when they are running low (they do have a limited lifespan) on
output energy, our regulations make it damn near impossible to get them serviced
So they sell them overseas to some poorer nation that will use whatever they
can get. That they can do, because our wonderful nuclear regulation system
allows it. Don't get me started on that thread, though.
So these machines end up in warehouses, ready to be refurbished for use in
foreign clinics, and sometimes they get stolen, lost, scrapped or whatever.
There was a pretty nasty incident with cobalt-60 pellets almost ending up in
dinette set legs and hide-a-beds when a Mexican company scrapped a medical
machine containing the stuff. The pellets are sealed in a big tungsten wheel,
and the electromagnet at the scrapyard had a difficult time picking it up.
Tungsten, as you may know, has the highest melting point of any metal (but
not the highest melting point of anything- I think tantalum carbide holds that
"honor") so to make it workable, it is alloyed with iron. This leaves it
slightly magnetic, but not enough to support its own weight with one of those
The wheel had been pulled from the machine, dropped a couple of times, and
the seals (apertures) ruptured, dropping pellets everywhere. Cobalt, however,
is nicely picked up by a magnet and so the pellets ended up in the masher with
the rest of the scrap iron. A pair of brothers took the wheel to be sold
elsewhere, since it was not going to go in the furnace easily.
They manhandled it into the back of their pickup truck, dropping cobalt-60
pellets everywhere. They drove through the town, dribbling radioactive metal
pellets all along the way. Every bump and every pothole would jog a few more
loose, leaving a trail of hard radiation everywhere they went.
After a little while, they were not feeling well and the parked the truck on
some grass under a tree and left it there. It was right across the street from
a large apartment complex. There it set for a couple of days, while the local
hospital tried to figure out what was wrong with the two brothers.
When they realized it was radiation sickness, they quickly tracked down the
source from their description of the machine. The scrapyard was shut down, just
before the scrap steel was sent to a Japanese foundry for slagging down to
become thousands of nice household products to be sold to the U.S.
The tree where the truck was parked died. That was a clue that something
was wrong. And people started getting sick in the apartments across the street-
that was another clue. They had guys in bunny suits with Geiger counters and
cleanup equipment running all along the "hot trail" to clean things up.
Just another cool story of how a little knowledge and a lot of ignorance can
be lethal. And due to the high level of belief in magic and the supernatural in
most third world countries, glowing stuff is cool and magical, not a nuclear
Let me see if my mother in law is off the psychic hotline now...
My robotics, space and CGI web page - http://home.cfl.rr.com/aichip