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The Atomic Sailors - Serving aboard the USS Calhoun County during its days asa radioactive waste dumpster

Navy comment on the U.S.S. Calhoun County

 

Highlights of Navy Statements on the U.S.S. Calhoun County

 

"Based on current testing procedures and calculations, the Navy has conducted radiation exposure calculations and based on the charts, the level of radiation onboard Calhoun County even at the highest levels of potential exposure would not have led to any long term negative health impact according to our radiation health experts..." — Shoshona Pilip-Florea, spokeswoman, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, 2012.

 

The following are comments provided by Navy spokesman Kenneth Hess this month:

 

On incomplete dumping records

 

"While documentation such as the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission report of August 1957 provides inventories of radiological materials disposed of during some time frames between the mid-1940s until 1970, we do not have complete historical records that would enable accurate estimates of the exact types or total quantity of radiological waste the Navy disposed of at sea. Among the items disposed were materials from experiments and medical tests; cleanup/decontamination materials (e.g., wipes, sand blast grit); animal carcasses; ashes; used air filters; laboratory equipment; waste from manufacturing weapons; liquid waste; and test samples for potential nuclear fuel sources. The specific radiological compounds varied widely, but all materials disposed of in this fashion would be considered low-level radioactive waste based on the maximum amount of radiological material that would have been deposited in each barrel...."

 

On safety and precautions against overexposure to radiation

 

"All crew members who performed dumping operations were trained on and required to use radiation dosimetry devices to track their exposure, and required to follow specific procedures for safe disposal. The crew also monitored radioactivity levels before and after dumping. Data from the dosimetry devices indicates that no monitored personnel received more than the safe occupational limit.

"All materials disposed of during these operations would be considered low-level radioactive waste based on the maximum amount of radiological material that would have been deposited in each barrel. All crew members who performed dumping operations were trained on and required to use radiation dosimetry devices to track their exposure. Data from these dosimetry devices indicates that no monitored personnel received more than the safe occupational limit ...

"Human radiation exposure depends on distance, time, shielding and the type of source. The shipboard workers would have been exposed to the low-level radiation during short time periods when they were actively handling the barrels, not while routinely working and/or living on the ship ...

"The fact that a section of the ship's deck was contaminated does not mean the whole ship was radioactive. The most likely areas for that type of contamination would be where the barrels were stored or the staging area for dumping. If the crew were in those areas, they would have been required to wear dosimetry badges."

 

On crewmen being exposed to radiation in crew quarters:

 

"The fact that the crew slept in a compartment below the barrels does not necessarily mean they were exposed to harmful levels of radiation from the stored waste while in that area. Even an eighth of an inch of steel can shield people from many low-level radiological waste materials, and even a distance of one foot provides additional protection. Bear in mind that it is very common for the interior of a ship to show Geiger counter readings due to background radiation, even if no radiological materials are on board."

 

On the danger of workers ingesting or inhaling radioactive particles:

 

"Workers on the USS Calhoun County would only be able to ingest radioactive particles if they ate materials that were in direct, sustained contact with the contaminated section of the deck (which was replaced), and that is highly unlikely. Especially after the contaminated area was cleaned ... the low-level radioactive waste would be unlikely to create airborne particles that could be easily ingested or inhaled."

 

On using incomplete, missing or unreliable radiation-badge readings:

 

"In cases where the dosimetry badges were defective, the Navy can estimate the exposure level based on the readings of other crew members' badges. Dosimetry badge data indicates that none of the crew members received a radiation dose that exceeded occupational limits or would be expected to lead to health concerns. The badges would have been handed out right before and collected right after the dumping process because that would have been the time frame during which the workers were exposed to measurable levels of radiation from the barrels. Due to distance and shielding, the workers would not have been routinely exposed to harmful levels of radiation from the low-level waste just by being on the ship.

"In cases where one or more workers lost a dosimetry badge, failed to wear one, or if the badges were defective, the Navy can estimate the exposure level based on the readings of other crew members' badges. Dosimetry badge data indicates that none of the crew members received a radiation dose that exceeded occupational limits or would be expected to lead to health concerns."

 

 

Navy comment on the U.S.S. Calhoun County 12/20/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 4:52pm]

    

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