[ RadSafe ] Airplanes, cosmic rays, DU, tritium and similar absurdities

Ellars, Charles Charles.Ellars at qsa-global.com
Tue Dec 19 08:38:50 CST 2006

Franz et. al.

I raise my hand as saying the word "ballast" instead of "counterweight" and impale myself on the mercy of the court!  ;<) 

I think that your point is well taken, but I counter that in an email forum it is often the case that information is left out for brevity's sake and that this may sometimes lead to confusion.  Also, I have enough trouble with English myself as a native speaker, so I can readily sympathize with non-native speakers.  You, however, write greatly. ;<)

I think that most if not all of us have the basics on uranium and all understand that it would be difficult to use a gamma detector to measure the radiations from it - measuring the brehmstrahlung instead if the uranium was close by.  My measurements on my trip in September to the Low Level Waste Forum meeting were admittedly unscientific and I left open the possibility that DU was not even on the plane.  When I said that I didn't know what the energies were to correlate the readings, I was also implying that it was not measuring any radiations other than the gammas it was designed to detect.  I hadn't planned to do a rigorous scientific study of this as I was getting on the plane and was just curious what my handheld would measure.  I believe everyone here understands that charged particles/cosmic rays contribute to dose as a function of altitude even if they didn't explicitly write it in an email.

I was very happy with the responses because I learned new things about aircraft and some of the technologies in use that use radioactive materials.  That is why I belong to this list.  

Whether it "tis the season" or not, here's wishing you and all robust health and pleasant musings.


-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On Behalf Of Franz Schönhofer
Sent: Monday, December 18, 2006 3:01 PM
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Airplanes, cosmic rays, DU,tritium and similar absurdities



I am shocked by the recent contributions regarding this topic on RADSAFE. If
the anti-nuclears would be a little more clever and educated, they could
easily use this discussion to "prove", that the "experts" on RADSAFE have no
clue about radiation doses to airplane passengers, which could easily be
extended to other radiation protection topics. 


DU is (or has been) used as counterweights not only in sophisticated racing
boats, but in many commercial airplanes. In airplanes they have been used at
counterweights for instance in wings, but not as ballast as somebody wrote
on RADSAFE. "Everybody" on this highly professional list should know, that
gamma-ray activity from either natural uranium or even more from depleted
uranium is negligible, not to talk about alpha- and beta-radiation.
Therefore there is not the slightest chance to register any enhanced gamma
dose-rate from the counterweights in the cabin. The same is true for
whatever transport of whatever radionuclides. Interesting that tritium is
used at airplanes - would the sender please give some more information? I
really do hope that the sender does not refer this fact to enhanced gamma
dose-rates in the cabin?????????????????????? 


At least one RADSAFEr except me has absolutely correctly mentioned the
cosmic rays as the reason of enhanced readings in the cabin of aeroplanes,
giving the relevant links for calculating doses from air transport. I have
noticed this since decades on my air travels both within Europe and
transatlantic as well as transpacific. 


Best regards, not being afraid of negative comments....




Franz Schoenhofer

PhD, MR iR

Habicherg. 31/7

A-1160 Vienna


phone (international) -43-699-1168-1319

phone (national) 0699-1168-1319


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