145 nuclear items were identified in scrap worldwide in 2011, 200 in 2010.
The most recent one we’ve learned about involves Cobalt 60 contamination of a metal tissue cover box sold through Bed Bath And Beyond.
Despite the “assurances” of the NRC officials, chronic exposures to low doses of radiation can lead to cataracts, cancer and birth defects according to the USEPA (see chronic exposure page in link). Cobalt 60 is both a beta and gamma emitter. One of the problems with beta emissions is that they lack the ability to travel, so their effects concentrate where they are stopped. Gamma emissions have high energy and penetrating power.
Most people keep their tissues on the night stand by the head of the bed. Get the picture?
If radioactive materials came into your shop, how would you know?
Fortunately, every North American steel melt shop that I have visited takes a number of steps to assure that they do not accept radioactive scrap or materials in bound, and have positive means to test when original melt lab work is done.
Radiation detectors at truck scales, train gates, and at detectors at sample prep stations in the melt shop lab are just some of the means that the special bar quality mills I’ve worked at or visited use to assure that radioactive materials do not get into the product stream.
But that level of security does not exist everywhere, as the Bed Bath and Beyond Tissue Box shows us.
Bloomberg reports that U.S. Department of Homeland Security data shows that India and China were the top sources of radioactive goods shipped to the US through 2008.
These countries lack the protections that we have come to expect here in North America like entry exit gate detectors.
Bottom line: Radioactive materials can and do “go wild” in the marketplace. Responsible steelmakers have means to assure quality.
Know who you buy from. Reputable North American Steel Producers have this figured out.
Tissue box Photo