[ RadSafe ] Re: uranium smoke is a teratogen

Ben Fore BenjB4 at gmail.com
Tue May 6 12:26:06 CDT 2008


Thank you for your helpful question:

> Since everyone on the planet has been exposed to natural concentrations
> of uranyl ions, constantly, day after day after day for their entire lives, how
> exactly is this so different from a brief, downwind exposure to smoke?

U(VI) weathers to U(IV), and the proportion of natural uranium in world-wide
average soil in soluble compounds in the +6 oxidation state is less than 0.01%,
is it not?

Whereas in uranium smoke, most of the uranium is soluble, and most of
it is in the +6 oxidation state; at least 1/3 dissolves into the uranyl ion

> And at what distance? Since the smoke should follow the behavior of a
> Gauss "puff", as opposed to a "plume", after a kilometer or so of diffusion
> the concentration is very low.

I have studied the aerosol dispersion papers in Health Physics and the
recent papers by R. Guilmette and M. Parkhurst.  There is no doubt that
someone in a typical 500 m downwind or 150 m vicinity of a 1 kg uranium
fire will be exposed to thousands of times as much uranyl as they usually
get in a month.

But what good would it be if we knew the exact dose?  We still have no
idea what the effect is on any mammal with a nine-month gestation period
ten years after such an exposure.

That's why I keep asking everyone to try and get people to find out, please.

> Once the dust settles, infiltration of rainwater will move it deeper into the
> soil column along with all the other nicely-behaving, natural uranyl complexes.

Which soluble U(VI) complexes remain after weathering?  None.

Mattias Olsson wrote:

> The interesting post below reminded me about an old incident I've
> been told about with radiation alarms being  set off by the smoke
> from a Danish coal fired power plant. The detector was placed at the
> Barsebäck NPP site in Sweden, apparently in the plume. Burning
> stuff that has been dug up from the ground seems like a nice way
> to spread uranium. Or did, before modern filter technology anyway.

Do you mean radiation alarms or uranyl alarms?  While coal-fired plants
make a huge contribution to the amount of uranyl in the atmosphere
(though not approaching being in the vicinity of 30 mm DU autocannon
fire), they have not increased soil concentration of uranium much above
1600 levels, because U(VI) weathers to U(IV).

James Salsman

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