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Japan Radiation months following Bombing in WWII

  1. Apr 7, 2009 #1
    My father was in WWII and got deployed to Japan within weeks after the bombs were dropped. What is the possibility that he suffered any radiation effects? He was 28 at the time and died when he was 43 - I always wondered if any of his illnesses were a result of being in Japan at that time and being in the Pacific during our nuclear testing?

    Any thoughts?
     
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  3. Apr 7, 2009 #2

    vanesch

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    Difficult to say, not a priori excluded. It would depend *where* he was deployed and what was the contamination there by fallout. I don't know if that information is available somewhere. It was the very beginning of the nuclear era, so people didn't know much about those matters.

    Of what did he die ? The only thing that it could be is a cancer. Was it thyroid cancer ? Leukemia ?

    The nuclear testing in the Pacific was after that. There have been some accidents I think.
     
  4. Apr 7, 2009 #3

    Morbius

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    Holly,

    It's doubtful that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were responsible for any excessive radiation
    dose.

    Several years ago, I attended a seminar by Dr. Rosalyn Yallow, the 1977 Nobel Prize Laureate in Medicine.

    She an expert in radiation and its effects on humans. She related that she testified about the radiation
    dose that US servicemen received due to the bombs dropped on Japan and the testing that was conducted
    in the Pacific.

    It turns out that the radiation dose to servicemen due to the bombs and testing PALES compared to the
    radiation dose that servicemen received in the aircraft. The flight crews of the bombers and fighters
    spent so much time in their planes at altitude - that the amount of increased radiation exposure they
    received just from being at flight altitudes for as long as they were TOTALLY SWAMPS anything that
    any serviceman received from either the Japanese bombs or from Pacific nuclear testing.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Physicist
     
  5. Apr 7, 2009 #4

    vanesch

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    You talk about the acute flash dose during the explosion, no ? That must indeed be rather small if you are at a safe distance. But the question is, I think, about the contamination due to the fallout if you're stationed in the area AFTER the explosion.
    In any case, I know that the French had some troubles on that side, like badly predicted wind which blew the cloud in the wrong direction, or a leaking test area with underground tests in French Algeria and things like that, and there is a polemic of whether some soldiers, and also some civilians, have been exposed to contamination. It's difficult to get numbers on that.
     
  6. Apr 7, 2009 #5

    Morbius

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    vanesch,

    NO - I'm talking about the TOTAL - fallout included.

    NO - it is NOT difficult to get the numbers - they were declassified DECADES ago.

    The radiation dose due to fallout decays rather quickly. If you get exposed to a cloud of fallout only
    minutes after the blast - then radiation doses are quite high. However, if you are talking about the
    fallout 24 hours later - then those radiation dose are quite reasonable and not expected to cause
    health problems.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Physicist
     
  7. Apr 8, 2009 #6

    vanesch

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    I thought this was similar to the series of fission products from a reactor. Of course, the initial decay is very quick, but the first weeks or so, there does remain the I-131 and so on, no ?
     
  8. Apr 8, 2009 #7

    Morbius

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    vanesch,

    You can't compare reactors and bombs as you are attempting to do.

    The amount of fissioned material in a bomb is a VERY SMALL fraction of what you find in the core
    of a reactor. When a nuclear reactor discharges a spent core, we have many TONS of uranium that
    has fissioned. [ A nominal sized power reactor puts out the energy of about 4 Hiroshima bombs EACH
    day - and they run for a year or more between refueling ]. The bomb would fission only a few pounds
    of fissile material. The explosion disperses the fission products to a very great extent. The iodine-131
    that you are concerned about is a gas - it doesn't stick around the explosion site.

    The amount of radioactivity remaining at the site of a nuclear explosion a day or so later, while
    not zero; is NOT an unhealthy amount.

    That's why workers were able to retrieve equipment and collect samples a day or so after
    atmospheric tests conducted in Nevada and in the Pacific islands.

    That's why we could have soldiers witness a nuclear test and march toward ground zero. Yes -
    they got some radiation exposure - but as Nobel Laureate Dr. Yallow pointed out in the seminar
    I attended; the air crews of bombers and fighters got MORE radiation due to being at altitude.

    Claiming that someone died or had complications due to being at the site of a nuclear weapons
    explosion some time after the blast, is like saying someone died or had health effects due to
    having a CAT scan.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Physicist
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2009
  9. Apr 8, 2009 #8

    vanesch

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    Mmm, never thought about that. 1 kiloton = 4e12 joules, or 4000 GJ, which is what you get when you run a 1 GWe = 3 GWth plant for about 1200 seconds, or 20 minutes.

    A ~20 kT weapon hence puts out the same (thermal energy) as a 1 GWe plant during ~ 6 hours.

    You're right.

    So all the fallout stuff is much less than I thought. Thanks for the head-up.

    Then I don't see why the French are making a fuzz about it (about exposed soldiers and populations in the pacific after some tests where the wind went in the wrong direction and so - will try to look it up).
     
  10. Apr 8, 2009 #9
    Especially if coal power stations produce radioactive exhaust at the same rate which nuclear power plants burn their fuel. Is there a difference in biological activity between the three?
     
  11. Apr 9, 2009 #10

    vanesch

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    Be careful: a coal fired plant puts out about as much natural uranium as an equivalent nuclear power plant fissions (if it were a perfect breeder, it would also be the amount of uranium that it consumes, but for current thermal reactors, there's still a factor of 200 or so between both), give or take an order of magnitude.

    But uranium is much less radioactive that the same amount of uranium, fissioned (transformed into fission products). There's easily a factor of a million between them in the beginning. The hottest fission products, however, are also those that decay the fastest, so the activity of the fission products decays over time.
     
  12. Apr 9, 2009 #11

    Morbius

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    http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html [Broken]

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Physicist
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  13. Apr 10, 2009 #12
    I never really thought of bomb fallout in terms of equivalent days of reactor ops. While some of it (cesium, strontium and so forth ) are fission products, I always had the idea that 'fallout' is mostly activated materials (former dirt, buildings, etc) that were vaporized by the blast. As compared to fission products. The big mushroom clouds in the photos & videos, that's blasted material, right, not pieces of the bomb? I guess it depends on the specifics of the blast (elevation above ground, etc).
     
  14. Apr 10, 2009 #13

    Morbius

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    gmax,

    Yes - and the composition of the bomb. If the bomb has a lot of neutron absorbing material - then
    the neutrons aren't going to escape and all that material that gets blasted into the mushroom cloud
    is NOT going to be activated.

    Just because material is vaporized by the heat of the blast - that does NOT make it radioactive.
    It has to be hit by neutrons in order to activate.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Physicist
     
  15. Apr 13, 2009 #14

    mheslep

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    The book 'Countdown to zero' discusses the role of troops who deployed around nuclear tests of the 50's/60's during detonations, and who moved toward ground zero immediately after detonation*. The author, a classmate of my father's, and all of the principal characters in the book that were also on those maneuvers are now dead from various cancers. Make of that what you will.

    And I do mean immediately after as the book cover shows:
    http://cgi.ebay.com.my/Countdown-Zero-by-Orville-E-Kelly-Thomas-H-Saffer_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQitemZ260372521571#ebayphotohosting [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  16. Apr 14, 2009 #15

    Morbius

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    mheslep,

    Totally anecdotal. As I had posted here earlier, in the early '90s I attended a seminar by the 1977
    Nobel Laureate in Medicine, Dr. Rosalyn Yallow. She's an expert in radiation and the effect on the
    human body. She stated she had then recently testified to Congress which was considering some
    type of compensation for the "atomic veterans" as they are called.

    She asked the Senators, if the compensation given to servicemen who receive radiation doses in the
    service of the nation should be proportional to the amount of radiation they received. The Senators
    all thought that would only be fair. She then stated that the amount of radiation received by the atomic
    veterans pales next to the radiation doses received by the air crews in WW 2. That is for every dollar
    you gave an atomic veteran; you need to give a thousand dollars to war-era bomber flight crews.

    Congress ended up taking a pass on any compensation for the atomic veterans.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Physicist
     
  17. Mar 23, 2011 #16
    'The amount of radioactivity remaining at the site of a nuclear explosion a day or so later, while not zero; is NOT an unhealthy amount.'

    ********. I'm sure you would love to do a walking tour of a blast site the day after detonation. There is, after all, no reason that the US would have spent Billions of dollars cleaning up test sites and relocating locals. You are nuts!
     
  18. Mar 23, 2011 #17

    Borek

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    I would not call someone a nut without seeing numbers. And radiation dangers - while should be never underestimated - are much lower that panicking public thinks.
     
  19. Mar 23, 2011 #18
  20. Mar 23, 2011 #19
    You are right, I should not be calling anyone names.

    I apologize for the unfiltered response.

    I was thinking of a near surface blast. Even though the levels will have decayed to around 1 percent of what they were at 1 minute, you still would not want to be there 24 hours later.

    In an air blast, it could be possible. The nasty stuff gets dispersed and there is not so much
    secondary neutron activation.
     
  21. Mar 24, 2011 #20
    With all due respect, Dr., Dr. Yalow did not get her Nobel Prize for radiation exposure research; she got it as a co-author for RIA technique development.
    If I would argue and defend the point of view that there is no difference between external exposure of pilots and external/internal exposure of soldiers, I would not bring her into this discussion.
    However, I would not argue that these two different types of exposure are the same. They are different. And we all know it very well now.
     
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