[ RadSafe ] Am-241 and INCINERATORS
Brennan, Mike (DOH)
Mike.Brennan at DOH.WA.GOV
Wed Dec 5 11:20:37 CST 2007
One has to wonder how many people have died in fires who might have lived had they had adequate smoke detectors (I know that there are smoke detectors that do not use ionizing radiation sources, but the last time I read anything about the matter they were both more expensive and less effective at early detection of the types of fires that are most deadly). One, or at least this one, might speculate that it is higher, perhaps vastly higher, than the number of people theoretically saved by tightly controlling Am-241.
The tritium in the landfill leachete issue has puzzled me for many years. I find the discarded watch scenario in Europe every bit as unsatisfying as the discarded exit sign scenario used in America. I don't know what the answer is, but neither feels right to me. About the only explanation I've heard that I have less confidence in came from a, shall we say, "activist group", who claimed the tritium in the leachete was PROOF that nuclear reactor primary coolant was being brought to their landfill in the middle of the night and dumped.
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On Behalf Of Franz Schönhofer
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2007 7:33 AM
To: 'Geo>K0FF'; radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: AW: [ RadSafe ] Am-241 and INCINERATORS
"The proper method of disposal of a smoke detector is in the trash bin." I know it is allowed in the USA, but no way in Europe! An ionization smoke detector based on Am-241 falls into the category "consumer product" and disposing with trash would be heavily fined. I am not sure, whether any Am-241-smoke detectors are normally available for households any more in Europe. For big houses like agencies, offices of insurance, brokers, banks, production companies etc. they are still used, but a license is necessary for it and the company must have a radiation protection officer. In Austria old ionization detectors are collected at the Research Center Seibersdorf and then to my knowledge subjected to the standard procedure for low and intermediate waste, namely put into drums which are then filled with concrete.
Am-241 is applied in the chemical form of americium oxide to the surface of a ceramic matrix. I suppose it is sintered to the matrix. So it is very unlikely that it would be volatilized in a waste incinerator and therefore it will not show up in the fly ash.
Radionuclides which show up in fly ash and also in pipes and tubes are Po-210 and Pb-210, which are volatile. The number of watches with Ra-hands ending up in an incinerator must be close to zero, because such watches are not produced any more since decades. Watches using radioactive promethium are obviously not produced any more and tritium containing luminous dials are as well hardly used any more and in many countries forbidden since years. We found in water of landfills clearly elevated concentrations of tritium and the only explanation we have are cheap, discarded watches with tritium dials as the source.
The radioactivity of fly ash (and bottom ash) is well investigated, especially because of the attempts to use it in concrete production and house bulding. Early investigations decades ago showed the funny fact that coal fired power plants usually emit more radioactivity than nuclear ones.
Franz Schoenhofer, PhD
Von: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] Im Auftrag von Geo>K0FF
Gesendet: Mittwoch, 05. Dezember 2007 15:32
An: radsafe at radlab.nl
Betreff: [ RadSafe ] Am-241 and INCINERATORS
Am-241 and INCINERATORS
The proper method of disposal of a Smoke Detector is in the trash bin.
Presumably the waste is buried in a
landfill, and the Am-241 contained therein decays naturally according to its half life of 432 years over geologic time frames.
Some cities choose incineration for waste control, especially in Europe. The energy released is often used to generate electricity.
Does anyone have specific information concerning the destruction of Smoke Detectors / Am-241 in incinerators, particularly the path the material takes, and the ultimate disposition of the Am-241? My particular interest is: does the material go into the fly ash, or into the bottom ash? Since other heavy metals go into the fly ash, one would assume that the Am-241 does as well.
Today, much of the fly ash is recovered and is subsequently used in various construction and industrial projects as an engineering material.
In some countries it is simply dumped into landfills.
The same question pertains to Radium Watch Hands, etc. but in modern times, I'm thinking the bulk of solid radioactive consumer waste would be from Smoke Detectors.
Does anyone have personal knowledge of smoke stack radiation detection being carried out today?
Small sources such as these don't amount to much unless the huge numbers of them being discarded each year are taken into account.
We who use Lead (Pb) for shielding know how important it is to use ancient or at least PRE WW2 lead in shielding because of the contamination contained within modern lead.
We are aware that coal-fired power plants also emit radiation (NORM) from the naturally occurring Radium et al. contained in the coal.
It might be interesting to analyze large concentrations of fly ash for their various radioactive constituents.
New London Nucleonics Lab
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