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Question

I am renting a storage space and found out that the space next to mine is storing 10 millicuries of cesium and 50 millicuries of americium. Is there any risk associated with articles that are stored near these elements?
Asked by: Brandon Steele

Answer

Dear Brandon, I am a licensed ARW (Atomic Radiation Worker) and I used to work at a research nuclear reactor in Canada making radioactive isotope of Iodine-125 for couple of years. During that time I used to handle vials with over 5 curies (which is about 100 times more than what you inquire about) of this radioactive substance on almost daily basis.

I am still alive and healthy.

However, this is not to say that this much radiation is not deadly to you. You see, it all depends on how is that substance shielded, i.e. in what type of container is it kept, is it air tight sealed, etc. If the substance is properly shielded then there is nothing to be concerned about. If not then to figure out how dangerous is this to you, you need to know how much of the radiation flux reaches your storage unit and how much time you spend in your storage unit. In addition to this you need to figure out if there are any leaks of this substance, i.e. anything air-borne, etc.

So, in conclusion, it is impossible to answer your question without actually investigating this thing in detail.

I would suggest that you visit: http://www.ratical.org/radiation/NRBE/NRBEtoc.html if you want to learn more about radiation and it's effects on biological tissue.

Also, if you are concerned for your safety you should contact U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and request an investigation.

BTW - Did you know that almost all of us have about <1 microcurie of Americium-241 in our homes? Almost all fire detectors located in your home have this as a source of radiation. Smoke is detected when it gets in the way between the radioactive source and the detector. Don't believe me? Just open up your smoke detector and you will see it. To read more about this visit: http://www.uic.com.au/nip35.htm
Answered by: Anton Skorucak, M.S. Physics, PhysLink.com Creator


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