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Radiation, Ionizing

Purpose of this page:
Present some facts, and opinion ;-) about "Ionizing Radiation" -
- ( the kind that does living cell damage with out cooking. )
at a little more depth than the seven seconds allowed a TV expert.
- (I'm not an expert but am interested.)

If you wish to know more about the multiple confusing units used in ionizing radiation, I suggest this (Local Copy).

General Comment relative to Nike systems
  • People have been listed as dying of cancer since medical records have been kept.
  • No one has demonstrated that person X died of cancer induced by Nike (any cause)
    nor that Nike veterans as a group are more prone to cancer.
  • Hundreds of eager attorneys have been unable to prove that there is evidence that ionizing radiation from Nike systems have harmed anyone individually or statistically.
  • Specific information (numbers) are hard (impossible?) to collect from long defunct Nike equipment.
    I really wish I could present real numbers of ionizing radiation from Nike equipment.
    I believe real numbers would relieve anxiety of some worried people.

Table of Contents

And of course my opinions
- gleened from many seven second TV sound bytes, and much more serious Wall Street Journal pages.
Why this rant?
- Tokyo Electric Power has given much safer nuclear installations around the world a BAD NAME !!

Japan and nuclear - what a mess -
   the newspapers say
     a) The nuke power stations were designed for a 6.5 earthquake
             Yeah - on the "Ring of Fire" ??
              The great "Tokyo Earthquake"
             a mere 90 years ago, was 7.9  on the Richter scale
          The Kobe earthquake of 1995 was 6.8
          The 1964 earthquake in Alaska  same "ring of fire", was 9.2
          The 2010 earthquake in Chile, same "ring", was 8.8
        That plant should never have been 
            - specified to survive only a 6.5 Richter earthquake
            - permitted to be constructed
         and should have been de-commissioned 
              and replaced with a more realistic design - long ago.

     b) tsunami - is a Japanese word -
           The Japanese have centuries of experience with
            ( off-shore ) earthquake(s) and tsunami(s)
           - apparently the power station's backup generators
                  - which started correctly and came up to power
             were swamped by the tsunami

      c) 11 water cannons are on the way to help
             - It took 'em 5 dayze and multiple explosions
                to recognize they had a cooling problem?

and on and on and on -

      a) Tokyo Power has a history of falsifying nuclear safety records
              - several middle managers fired 
              - then several year later a major management shake up after 
                     more falsified records are revealed

I have figured out why the Tokyo Electric Power appears so inept  :-)))

      a) they watch the U.S. bail out several companies "too big to fail"
           and figured out that they can get the government
           to replace their aging, destroyed reactors and support equipment
                 FOR FREE  :-))
          I wonder if they are voting themselves big bonuses 
            -similar to their American counterparts of failing organizations

       b) the original inept people
            who specified the crazy ideas of placing their:
             - spent fuel rods in third floor holding tanks
             - back-up diesel generators for cooling 
                   on the ground as tsunami bait
          have retired, and the next generation
              even more technically inept
          are using cheating and politics as their main tools.

The Japanese must have known they were living on "borrowed time".
I live "on" - 1/4 mile - from the Hayward Fault -
    My house structure (1996) is supposed to withstand 
           a 6.5 nearby earthquake,
        but I don't have a nuke power station in the garage.
   When "my" fault goes off - I expect damage -
        and not just dishes falling off the shelves  !!

From Wall Street Journal - Digital Network - March 23, 2011 
   "Tepco: Now Undecided On Year-End Dividend Payment 
     TOKYO (Dow Jones)--Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501.TO) said Wednesday
        that it has withdrawn its ..."
About as timely as anything else Tokyo Electric Power  has done recently -

Seemingly several hundred
     - Tokyo Electric Power middle and upper management
     - Japanese government "regulators"
would improve the world by committing
              hari kari   or seppuku.   

Darwin Awards should have another catagory
    - Major screw-ups that kill your relatives -

--Ed Thelen

What do we mean by radiation? - more "interesting" than you think ;-))
We need to make some rough & ready definitions, exact definitions are for PhD s.

  • A feature of this world that small (sub-microscopic) things act as both particles and waves. This complexity of life turns most of us "OFF", rather watch a ball game rather than try to understand that "duality". I even watch golf. :-((

  • Energy of a particles or wave can be handily expressed in "electron volts", the energy difference of one electron changing its "potential" by one volt. Visible light "particles" "photons" are about one electron volt.

    Oddly, the particles of an intense light have the same energy as "weak" light of the same color. Just more of them. (Einstein got a Nobel prize for demonstrating this)

  • "Electromagnetic" radiation comes in an extremely wide range of energies
    • Below about one electron volt ( 1 EV ) they are too weak to do more than heat material.
      microwaves ( like from microwave ovens ) through infrared cannot do chemical damage directly, HOWEVER, they make things warm and hot - like cooking protein causes differences, killing cells, and more heat causes charing, noticeable to everyone.
      These radar frequency waves/particles don't get far into animal flesh, about 3/4 inch
      And to make life even more complex, all warm "bodies", ( you, me, cabbage leaves, ... ) emit electromagnetic radiation due to the fact that they are warmer than absolute zero.
      You and I emit mostly in the infrared, easily detected by special cameras and sensors.
    • Light waves that we can see (about 1 EV) can make chemical changes, like in your eye to see, or photographic film
    • Above about 4 electron volt, say ultra-violet, they can cause other effects, such as risking skin cancer.
    • Old fashioned vacuum tubes for radios typically operated at 100 volts through say 300 volts. The X-Rays generated were much to weak to get through the glass or metal envelope.
    • Medical X-Rays are typically about 70,000 electron volts - many warnings !!

  • Early physicists worked with
    - electrons ( buzzing around chemical nuclei)
    - protons (hydrogen nuclei)
    - alpha particles (helium nuclei)
    which were emitted from "radioactive" materials, and were surprised to find they also acted like waves :-(((

Ionizing Radiation Screening VA Registrations for U.S. Veterans, - via Ron Parshall, Nike Historical Society
This is for ALL ADA Assigned Veterans. So, pass this out to all of these contacts that you have!
From Veteran 'Carl Palmer' of Seattle WA
Army, Marine, AF and Navy Veterans who served with ADA or any Air Surveillance Radar, needs this

Accurate Information.
Please update/inform our Veterans. This statement needs to show up for these Veterans, VA Medical Record.
ACTIVE PROBLEM: Personal History Of Exposure To Ionizing Radiation (ICD-9-CM V15.89)

Ref: Veterans Health Benefits Handbook, July 2012, Chapter 3, Page 19.
Ref: Ionizing Radiation Review, Volume 5, February 2011,

I just returned from the Seattle VA Hospital and I am now on the VA Health Registry for Occupational Exposure of a US Veteran During Military Service with the HAWK ADA Missile System.

Ionizing Radiation is defined by the VA as Atmospheric Nuclear Weapon Exposure, Particle Radiation, I.E., Nuclear Waste Disposal and Dirty Bomb Attacks.

... He states that even people exposed to radar are entitled to the following exam

Even if you have no symptoms, you are entitled to a Free Specialized And Comprehensive Health Examination provided by a VA Environmental Health (EH) technician, which I received today.

Though the Army paid for my Cataract Procedure in Both Eyes, I was informed today that This Is Considered Service Connected for those on the registry.

Contact your Local E H Coordinator to request information about registry examinations. or 1-800-749-8387.

Good Luck,

Carl Palmer / Seattle WA

In response to a comment -

> Hope this helps some of comrades

Yeah -

   I've had quite a tussle -

   Guys write that they have say prostate  cancer
      and it must be from "radiation" from Nike.

   I try to explain that the RF energy from Nike is not
      "ionizing" and therefore not a known cause of cancer.

   But guys in the middle of
      - big trouble
      - uninformed people
   are not up to studying known medical facts :-((

There is a known cooking effect of concentrated radar microwaves,
    just like in your microwave oven
  they can heat things,
     and unfortunately, the lens and cornea systems
       in our eyes do not sense heat -
    And apparently you can cook one of your corneas  
          and not be aware 'till too late -

I have not heard of any such "incidents"
    but it is a known hazard - 
We are talking about looking down the wave guide or into a feed horn.
    The disbursed energy from say a radar reflector is too weak, fortunately ;-))

There are folk tales of birds in radomes being cooked and falling in mid-flight -
   To the best of my knowledge, 
         unless the bird hits a feed-horn window, 
   this is bogus -

Ed Thelen

Started March 22, 2011 in response to events in Japan
Updated June, 2019
If you have comments or suggestions,
Send e-mail to Ed Thelen

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Local Copy

Sievert, Gray, Rem, and Rad

Why are there so many different ways to measure radiation exposure?
By Brian Palmer March 28, 2011

Japan’s unfolding nuclear disaster has introduced Americans to the confusing practice of measuring radiation exposure. According to some stories, the water nearby to the No. 2 Fukushima reactor has a radioactivity level of 1,000 millisieverts per hour. But other articles describe radiation levels in terms of millirem per year. And a few sources have referred to exposure in terms of millirad or nanogray per hour. Why don’t all radiation experts just use the same unit?

Because some people are afraid to switch to the metric system. As with distance, weight, and temperature, doses of radiation can be expressed in either SI units (sieverts) or U.S. customary units (rem). U.S. scientists and engineers in most fields had switched to metric units by 1964, when the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) officially adopted the international system. But nuclear physicists never made the full switcheroo. That’s because a wholesale change in measurement could lead to mistakes, at least during the transition—and even a small mistake can be very dangerous when it comes to radiation exposure. (There is an historical argument for being cautious: In 1999, NASA lost contact with the Mars Climate Orbiter because of a mix-up between metric and customary units [PDF].) On the basis of this concern, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission still requires plants to report radiation releases in rem, while the rest of the world uses sieverts. For the record, one rem is equivalent to one-hundredth of a sievert.

Sieverts and rem are just two of the many units you might see associated with radiation levels. Scientists use different terms to describe radiation depending on where it is and what it’s doing at the time of measurement. For example, when radiation is first emanating from its source, physicists refer to the rate of emission in curies(customary system units) or becquerels(SI units). A curie is a huge denomination—one curie equals 37 billion becquerels—probably because scientific instruments weren’t as sensitive back when the curie was defined. You might also see electronvolts or joules associated with radiation emissions. These are measures of the energy, rather than rate, of emission.

Once the radiation has cleared the source and is floating ominously through the air, we need a new set of units. Ambient radiation levels are expressed in roentgens (customary) or coulombs per kilogram (SI).

If the radiation leaves the air and enters a person, animal, or object, the units switch again. The raw amount of radiation that an object absorbs is expressed in eitherrad (customary) or gray (SI). As with sieverts and rem, one gray equals 100 rad.

So where do sieverts and rems fit into this whole picture? They provide a measure of the potential harm caused by radiation in a sample of living tissue. That’s different from measuring the amount of energy or rate of emission, because different types of radiation affect the body in different ways. Alpha particles, for example, are 20 times more dangerous to human tissue than gamma rays at the same dosage level. And certain tissue types are more sensitive to radiation than others. A blast of radiation to the spleen, for example, will cause more damage than the same dose to the brain, because splenic tissue divides and multiplies much faster. Physicists use these two adjustment factors—type of radiation and sensitivity of tissue—to convert from measures of radiation absorption to measures of effective dose. Sieverts or rem are used in reports on radiation disasters, because they give a better sense of how the radiation might affect human health.

While effective dose is a great step forward from the days when we simply measured the quantity of radiation absorbed by a patient, it’s still a rather inexact science. Researchers can’t perform randomized trials on the effects of radiation, because it’s unethical to give people cancer. As a result, the tables health physicists use to convert between gray and sieverts (or between rad and rem) are constantly changing to reflect new data.

Got a question about today’s news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Kelly Classic of the Health Physics Society and Chris Clement of the International Commission on Radiological Protection.