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Radioactive decontmination

  1. Jun 16, 2010 #1
    Lets say somehow something or someplace gets contaminated with radioactive waste, how is it decontaminated?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2010 #2


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    Depends on what the nature of the subject and radioactive material. If you are talking about a hot particle on someone's clothes or skin, you could use sticky tape. If the problem is radioactive liquid spills on a surface, you need high pressure sprays or chemicals. For internal contamination of a person, there isn't much you can do unless the isotope has a biological function that can be flushed out (e.g. iodine).
  4. Jun 16, 2010 #3
    OK, let's suppose you get some radioactive contamination on you. It isn't fantastically dangerous supernatural evil magic, it's just like getting some dirt on you. You wash it off. Then re-check with a detector to see if there is any radioactivity left.
  5. Jun 16, 2010 #4


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    Normally it would be a wash or chemical treatment, or it could be an abrasive process, and the solution would be passed through filters to collect and concentrate the radioactive material. Alternatively, the contaminated area or part could be simply removed from that which is not contaminated. The radioactive material would be collected and shipped to a site where radioactive material is buried.

    The process used depends on the nature of the contamination.
  6. Jun 16, 2010 #5
    You wash! It's not that uncommon if you work at a 40 year old Nuclear utility like I do. Detection capability is very sensitive these days. Plutonium contamination has to be treated with care as you wouldn't want to break the skin and allow internal contamination.

    PS You never seen the film Silkwood with Meryl Streep? :smile:
  7. Jun 19, 2010 #6

    So if a dirty bomb went off that contaminated part of an urban area they would wash it down? Interesting, thanks.
  8. Jun 19, 2010 #7
  9. Jun 27, 2010 #8


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    From MIT's "Technology Review":


    The author is a Professor of Physics at UC-Berkeley.
    He is the author of the book "Physics for Future Presidents"


    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  10. Jul 8, 2010 #9
    As a radiation health tech in the nuclear navy I can tell you if it is external, the steps are in approximate order of trying to solve the problem:

    1) Remove and bag affective clothing (control as radioactive material [RAM])

    2) Rinse/flush affected skin with water. 'Pat' dry to keep from rubbing anything in, control waste water and dispose of towelettes as RAM. Rubbing can cause irritation and/or create small abrasive cuts in the skin allowing potential contaminates to enter the blood stream.

    3) Adhesive tape. Dispose of as RAM. Ensure skin does not become enflammed as this can embed potential contaminates into deeper skin tissue and or allow it to enter the blood stream.

    4) Abrasive soap. (you get the disposal/control of materials/liquids by now)

    5) Chemical treatments.

    6) If inhaled, you'll need to undergo internal monitoring.

    7) If ingested, any 'waste' "you" generate, must be bagged and controlled as RAM... my personal favorite... lol.
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