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db4100

Low-background steel

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What I learned today....."Low-Background" steel.  I am guessing this is the reason why those Asian countries are stealing all those WW2 sunken warships.

image.thumb.png.047b185f23c87f87fe75890cb3e3a866.png

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There was an incident in Mexico where an X-Ray machine was taken accidentally from a hospital and not properly disposed of. It was taken to a foundry and melted down for scrap. It killed all the foundry workers in a matter of days and the tables it produced were scattered all over Mexico by way of a truck route to small shops that served food and beverages roadside. The cobalt 60 pellets were melted and mixed in. So each table was capable of causing cancer to any person sitting at each table if they sat in it long enough. The truck driver and handlers all died before authorities could find out the truck route they took. 

It is unclear to this day if any of the tables were ever recovered or if the Mexican government could confirm if all of them were found or located. For all intents and purposes, those tables are still a public health risk to this day since there is no tracking at all. 

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4 hours ago, db4100 said:

What I learned today....."Low-Background" steel.  I am guessing this is the reason why those Asian countries are stealing all those WW2 sunken warships.

image.thumb.png.047b185f23c87f87fe75890cb3e3a866.png

Thank uncle sam and his rampant penchant for underwater above ground and atmospheric nuclear bomb testing in the 50s and 60s. I guess the great patriotic rodina contributed as well.

 

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Actually, coal strip mining and electric production from burning coal provides the most background radiation.

The fly ash is incredibly radioactive.

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There are processes nowadays to produce metals without the background radiation but it is costly. 

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An even more important find is "ancient" refined lead, such as was used for ballast in sailing ships. In some old pirate ship finds there is a determined effort to get any lead blocks as a radioactive component of lead [Lead-210] will have essentially fully decayed away in the centuries after the sinking. This allows for use as non-radioactive shielding for very sensitive gamma and other forms of radiation detectors.

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Low background steel is interesting, but probably not the reason for the salvage of the Java Sea and Force Z wrecks.

Between the battleship, battlecruiser, cruisers and destroyers you're looking at tens of thousands of tons of steel, and probably thousands of tons of other valuable scrap including the bronze propellers (always the first to go) and copper condensers (a high priority scrap item).

At about $100 dollars/ton, the wrecks are worth about $20m in steel alone, plus all the other metal value. The local overheads of barges, cranes, divers and a few sticks of dynamite are pretty low.

Modern machines using low background steel are fairly few in number and typically want ounces (geiger counter) rather than tons of the stuff. There just isn't a market for the volumes the illegal salvors are retrieving - it's most likely just going for normal scrap, which is still lucrative.

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