Starglider
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Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sat Nov 27, 2010 9:09 am

Today I read a news article (in a Dutch news paper) which mentions that several J-79 engines from F-104G Starfighters, decommissioned in the 1980's have been found to be contaminated with minor amounts of radiation and asbestos fibers. The amount of radioactive contamination is not expected to be a health threat. To be confirmed when more rigorous test results have been completed but as the news article states, no one should be exposed to any increased level of radiation.

These engines have been on loan to several schools in The Netherlands since the 1980's and 1990's after the last F-104's were decommissioned in November 1984 from the RNLAF (KLu) after 22 years of service. The ministry of defense has now withdrawn these engines from the schools they were loaned to.

Why has this problem surfaced only now? And in what way could these engines have been contaminated other than perhaps flying at higher altitudes collecting solar radiation through their service lives, or perhaps when hauling nukes? Only other cause I can think of could have been the Tsjernobyl disaster but the last RNLAF 104's as mentioned before, were decommissioned in 1984. Tsjernobyl popped it's top in April 1986.

Any one have any ideas?

Here is the article, unfortunately only in Dutch:

http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/8..._straling_uit_scholen__.html?p=3,2



Regards,
Starglider

[Edited 2010-11-27 01:11:32]

[Edited 2010-11-27 01:15:56]

[Edited 2010-11-27 01:46:25]
 
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kc135topboom
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sat Nov 27, 2010 9:47 am

Perhaps it was due to the Chernobyl nuclear accident (1986?), that spread radiation throughout much of Europe? If these engines were stored outside at that time, that could be the source. I am just guessing.

IIRC, in the early 2000s, or late 1990s, there were law suits filed in France, naming the Chernobyl accident for an increase in some types of cancer rates. But it was long ago and I don't remember all the details.
 
GPHOTO
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:40 am

Hi Starglider,

I have not read the report, as I cannot read Dutch, so I am being very general here. As well as mans use of radioactivity in nuclear processes, radioactivity is also a naturally occuring process. Every year the bulk of radiation you are exposed to comes from nature, not from human activity. Radioactive materials can be found everywhere, fortunately at very low levels, but a well known source of concern for some is the rock granite, some of which can contain significant (but still small!) quantities of uranium. This can lead to exposure to radiation, typically in houses with poor ventilation where the gas Radon, a natural decay product of uranium can occur. This gas is quite heavy, so can build up in cellars, for example. Radon itself is radioactive so breathing in this gas can increase your chance of lung cancer - but it is still safer than smoking. Likewise granite worktops may also contain traces of uranium. Having now scared half the people reading this, I will point out the the levels are very low at their worst and many granites have almost no uranium in them - it would not put me off buying granite items. I believe some suppliers now test their granite to allay customer concerns. How anyone can be concerned about granite, but still smoke cigarettes is beyond me.

Anyway, the point of this is that radioactivity can turn up almost anywhere that you might not think about at first. The important thing is not to be exposed to high levels - it is impossible not to be exposed to some (an areas average normal level of radiation is what is called 'background radiation'). High levels are rare naturally and it is mans activity that concentrates materials to higher, sometimes potentially dangerous, levels, such as for power generation, medical equipment and smoke alarms (have a look at yours, inside you'll find a section maked with the radioactivity symbol as they usually contain americium - so always dispose of yours responsibly at the end of its life!). Maybe the radiation has come from the materials used in the construction of aircraft parts, coatings applied to them or from oils. Maybe it does have something to do with Chernobyl or some specific exposure in military service, it's got to be a possibility. I doubt the cause would be from normal high flying. Exposure from cosmic rays tends to produce very short lived radioactivity even if it does irradiate something and these parts have not been high in the atmosphere for many years.

It will be interesting to see what the authorities find. They will probably be able to take a stab at the broad origin based on what type of radioactivity is found and what substance it is coming from.

Asbestos fibres can be found everywhere if you look hard enough, but again at normally very low levels. You can still find it in many buildings, in asbestos cement rooves, insulation and vehicle brake systems. I suspect these have come from insulation used in the aircraft, but may also have come from the buildings they have been stored in. If asbestos was used in their construction and work has been done on them since, the fibres could then have become stuck to the engines. Remember that asbestos, like radiation, is a natural thing - it's a type of rock.

In risk averse western societies we have become paranoid about the everyday, minor risks, we face. It's good to try and reduce unnecessary risks, of course, but we often overreact to minor things while ignoring much bigger elephants in the room. It's sensible for the engines to be removed for inspection, investigation and cleaning, but hopefully after that, they can be returned to the classroom. Remember that Marie Curie, although she died from cancer almost certainly caused by radiation, was in her sixties when she died and she had spent much of her life being exposed to very high levels of radiation through her work. Even today, many of her possessions are kept in protective storage due to high radiation levels, that is the sort of levels she was exposed to every single day. If she can make it to her sixties after exposure to high levels of radiation and toxic chemicals for many years, then the risks of very small amounts of radiation for small periods can hopefully be put into a more rational perspective.

The body is generally very good at repairing damage caused by low to medium levels of radiation - we would not live anywhere near as long as we do if it could not. Even our ancestors were regularly exposed from rocks, space, food and the air they breathed. But it does not always succeed in it's repair and you do not know which is the time it will fail you enough to lead to cancer, so trying to reduce unnecessary exposure is always good. But at the same time, people should not panic.

Best regards,

Jim
Erm, is this thing on?
 
mffoda
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sat Nov 27, 2010 1:50 pm

Possibly fossil fuel??

Below is from Wiki...

"Fossil fuels also contain radioactive materials, mainly uranium and thorium, which are released into the atmosphere. In 2000, about 12,000 tonnes of thorium and 5,000 tonnes of uranium were released worldwide from burning coal.[21] It is estimated that during 1982, US coal burning released 155 times as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island incident.[22] "
harder than woodpecker lips...
 
GPHOTO
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sat Nov 27, 2010 3:49 pm

mffoda,

Do you think we are frightening people?  

Best regards,

Jim
Erm, is this thing on?
 
XT6Wagon
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sat Nov 27, 2010 4:52 pm

reminds me of an incedent in Los Alamos, NM. Some of the peace freak people were wandering around the town with geiger counters when they found something radioactive behind a resturant. So they got into the local paper a huge rant about the national lab dumping nuclear waste and materials around the town. Few days later when the tests came back on what they found it was simply natural uranium ore. The kind much of northern NM is covered with without any human intervention.
 
Starglider
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sat Nov 27, 2010 7:56 pm

Thanks for your replies with possible causes. I am aware of the fact that background radiation has many natural sources. Since the engines are withdrawn from schools for further investigation, I gather this issue is not similar to measurements taken, for example, from airconditioning systems in aircraft and/or office buildings. The amount of J-79's involved and withdrawn run into the double digits according to the article which has also been published on "Luchtvaartnieuws.nl", also in Dutch:

http://www.luchtvaartnieuws.nl/news/default.asp?cat=all&id=37161

I'm curious as to what the results from the tests will reveal. It is not my intent to frighten any one, just interested in the how and why . . . .why it has taken 2 decades before the issue was discovered (or before action was taken).



Regards,
Starglider
 
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kc135topboom
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sat Nov 27, 2010 8:24 pm

Quoting Starglider (Reply 6):
.why it has taken 2 decades before the issue was discovered (or before action was taken).

Maybe no one way checking these J-79s for radiation? What made them check for it now?

Quoting Starglider (Reply 6):
I'm curious as to what the results from the tests will reveal. It is not my intent to frighten any one, just interested in the how and why . . . .

My guess is it will be one of the above posted replies. I doubt there is much of a radiation danger from these engines, and it may be something as simple as they were at one time near a medical (discarded for scrapping x-ray machines or CAT-SCAN machine) or other radiation sourse that was not shielded completely or properly.
 
mffoda
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sun Nov 28, 2010 2:37 am

Quoting GPHOTO (Reply 4):
Quoting Starglider (Reply 6):
Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 7):

Gentlemen... I Tried to Skirt the real issue.... It is FOSSIL FUEL... Bring on the Anti-Nuke Folks who never got it right...
harder than woodpecker lips...
 
connies4ever
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sun Nov 28, 2010 5:41 am

Quoting mffoda (Reply 8):
Quoting GPHOTO (Reply 4):
Quoting Starglider (Reply 6):
Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 7):

Gentlemen... I Tried to Skirt the real issue.... It is FOSSIL FUEL... Bring on the Anti-Nuke Folks who never got it right...

   You get the kewpie doll ! I appreciate your sense of humour, sir.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
 
Starglider
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sun Nov 28, 2010 10:33 am

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 7):
What made them check for it now?

I don't know yet, the article does not explain.

Quoting mffoda (Reply 8):
Gentlemen... I Tried to Skirt the real issue.... It is FOSSIL FUEL...

As it has yet to be explained why these engines received the extra attention to measure for contamination, fossil fuels may be on the shortlist but stating it is the "real issue", in my opinion, is a stretch too far. If that would be the case, why not withdraw all jet engines (and aircraft for that matter) from service since they all run on fossil fuels? I have worked on several aircraft types and jet engines (including on and around the J-79) over the last 36 years. Apart from the engines, I worked on aircraft fuel systems and made many tank entries. I should be glowing in the dark by now following your assumption.

I have checked my good old J-79 maintenance manuals and none include warnings or cautions regarding radioactive contamination hazards of any kind.

Considering the above, there must be more to it why they took these precautionary measures. Time will tell . . . .


Regards,
Starglider
 
connies4ever
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sun Nov 28, 2010 2:17 pm

Quoting Starglider (Reply 10):
I have checked my good old J-79 maintenance manuals and none include warnings or cautions regarding radioactive contamination hazards of any kind.

Lack of radiation hazard warnings is not surprising. The actual amount of radioactive materials is quite small, but obviously detectable.

Slightly off-topic, but coal-fired power stations generally speaking are a real radiological and heavy metal hazard. In fact, under normal operating conditions, a coal plant will emit significantly more radioactive material than a nuclear plant of the same rating. Coal beds are frequently associated with deposits of uranium and radium, which accounts for the radiation. It can be removed but it's an expensive process.

Ditto for aluminum, arsenic, and lead in the coal. I know NOx and SOx can be scrubbed out in the stack fairly effectively, but I don't think the same is done, or is feasible, for the metals. So it goes straight into the air.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
 
Starglider
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:40 pm

A letter from the Ministry of Defence to Dutch parliament explains that a J79 component contains thorium and another component contains cesium. Some gaskets contain asbestos fibres which, if they would be damaged, can become a health risk. Risk level is low but engines have been, or will soon be, withdrawn from schools as a precaution.

Regards,
Starglider
 
chuchoteur
Posts: 609
Joined: Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:17 pm

RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:36 pm

Quoting Starglider (Reply 12):
A letter from the Ministry of Defence to Dutch parliament explains that a J79 component contains thorium and another component contains cesium. Some gaskets contain asbestos fibres which, if they would be damaged, can become a health risk. Risk level is low but engines have been, or will soon be, withdrawn from schools as a precaution.

Same issue on most commercial aircraft...

The engine elements in particular (the ignition boxes) contained cesium and are now classed as low-emissive radioactive substances, and are required to be sealed, traced and checked periodically.

There is a new EU Directive (euratom) out on the subject, maybe that's why they went back and checked...
 
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kc135topboom
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Wed Dec 22, 2010 10:48 pm

Quoting chuchoteur (Reply 13):
There is a new EU Directive (euratom) out on the subject, maybe that's why they went back and checked...

Maybe they should also check on reflective tapes and paints, they also have very low levels of radioactive materials? Low levels can also be found naturally, as it is part of the Earth.
 
chuchoteur
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:20 am

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 14):
Maybe they should also check on reflective tapes and paints, they also have very low levels of radioactive materials? Low levels can also be found naturally, as it is part of the Earth.

Indeed, and the Euratom directive covers them as well. There are a laaaarge number of parts and substances now being classified as low-emissive radioactive, I think that it's maybe extreme the way they have gone about it... especially when you consider the traceability and control requirements.

In actual fact, the manufacturers are now trying to eliminate those substances where replacements are available..
 
Starglider
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:43 am

The J79 engine casing contains thorium and other components (most likely the igniters) contain cesium. As mentioned before, very low levels only in close proximity to the engine. The EU Directive may very well have been the trigger to check.

Quoting chuchoteur (Reply 15):
In actual fact, the manufacturers are now trying to eliminate those substances where replacements are available..

Self-illuminating emergency exit signs can also be a source of low radiation levels. They contain tritium. The airline I work for has recently replaced such signs with photo-luminescent exit signs which absorb energy from the cabin lighting. During emergency conditions in a dark cabin they glow in the dark long enough and exceed regulatory requirements. Removal of the radioactive exit signs eliminates handling of dangerous goods. Photo-luminescent exit signs require less maintenance, and they weigh less.



Regards,

Starglider

[Edited 2010-12-23 00:44:54]
 
jwenting
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sat Dec 25, 2010 9:59 pm

Quoting Starglider (Reply 6):
. Since the engines are withdrawn from schools for further investigation, I gather this issue is not similar to measurements taken, for example, from airconditioning systems in aircraft and/or office buildings

It probably is similar to measures taken to decontaminate decommissioned powerstations.
What's little known is that a coal or oil fired powerstation produces more radioactive waste (in both Becquerel and volume) per annum than does a nuclear powerplant with similar KWh output, and that all that waste just goes out the smokestacks or is stored or dumped as slag without having to be processed as nuclear waste because of its very low radiation density.

This slag also coats the interior of the machinery, where the radioactive compounds can build up.

Now, in this case 2 things can have happened (maybe together)
1) the guidelines were strengthened by some bureaucrat, causing equipment that was previously not subject to decontamination to now fall under the system.
2) someone went through old documents and found that the engines had been delivered when they shouldn't have been.

In either case, there was never a threat to anyone's health, as the levels of radiation are negligable, the maximum allowed dose to civilians being several orders of magnitude lower than those for radiation workers and for them the allowed dose is several orders of magnitude lower than any dose that can cause harm (had briefings on that when I worked for my physics degree at KEMA radiation labs, thus had to work daily with highly radioactive materials).
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PITingres
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Mon Dec 27, 2010 5:29 pm

Quoting Starglider (Reply 16):
The J79 engine casing contains thorium and other components (most likely the igniters) contain cesium.

I don't know what cesium would be doing inside an engine, but if it's there, I would think it would be (133)Cs which is stable, not radioactive. I don't know if you meant cerium (Ce, not Cs), which has a long history of use as a pyrophoric sparker (in mischmetal, roughly half cerium); but naturally occurring cerium is stable too. Wikipedia's isotope table claims that (142)Ce should be subject to double beta decay, but I can't find any reference giving a measurable half-life (other than > 10E16 years.)

Your original posting says that "The amount of radioactive contamination is not expected to be a health threat", so I'm not entirely sure what the "problem" is here. (Not pointing the finger at you, rather at the tossers who apparently removed the engines just because of the R-word, seemingly without even the most elementary risk analysis.)
Fly, you fools! Fly!
 
jwenting
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Mon Dec 27, 2010 7:08 pm

the problem is that limits for radiological exposure by civilians (those not authorised to work in a radiological environment) are several orders of magnitude lower than exposure that would cause health problems.
So despite being completely safe, it may still be too much according to the law as it applies to have students and staff work with the engines (or even be in their vicinity).
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ThePointblank
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RE: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Wed Dec 29, 2010 3:12 am

Quoting jwenting (Reply 19):
the problem is that limits for radiological exposure by civilians (those not authorised to work in a radiological environment) are several orders of magnitude lower than exposure that would cause health problems.
So despite being completely safe, it may still be too much according to the law as it applies to have students and staff work with the engines (or even be in their vicinity).

Indeed, that might be the case.

Where I live, we have WHIMIS labelling of all chemicals to be used in an industrial setting. For example, a bottle of dish soap for use at home would not contain instructions on wearing protective gear at all times because your exposure to the product is infrequent. However, in an industrialized setting, such as in a restaurant washing dishes, there are written warnings to wear protective gear such as masks and gloves at all times while handling the product because the exposure in such a setting is considerably more frequent.
 
Autolycus
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Re: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sat Feb 18, 2017 6:34 pm

Trace amounts of radon or similar airborne particulate matter cannot contain as much radioactive material as do other aircraft components - the classic case being that of large flight control surfaces.

Those of us who have worked on older aircraft in the past may well have come across the "Minimum gap" or Proximity precautions that one is supposed to adhere to when storing certain flight control surfaces - particularly those that utilize depleted uranium for their internal balance weights. As I recall, one was not supposed to store such items within a specified distance from another, similar spare part - for fear of increased atomic activity...? Though as depleted uranium is supposed to be, by its very nature, an inert substance, the possibility of reaching critical mass if inadvertently stacking several old elevators next to each other seems unlikely...!

And has anyone measured residual radioactivity around the main gun ammunition storage area of a fully-loaded A-10 Warthog...? That's a lot of 30mm depleted uranium anti-tank rounds, very close together, right there...!
 
salttee
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Re: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Mon Feb 20, 2017 11:39 pm

Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons continued until 1980. If these engines were flying back then they may have picked up some of that radiation.
"Good genes, very good genes, Ok, very smart, the Wharton School of finance, very good, very smart."
 
WIederling
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Re: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Wed Feb 22, 2017 8:30 pm

salttee wrote:
Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons continued until 1980. If these engines were flying back then they may have picked up some of that radiation.


More if you sweep your attic ( assuming the house was built before ~1950.)
sidenote: The "alarming" radioactivity detected in a nuclear storage set up in a salt dome in Germany
was caused by surface water from the 60ties having trickled down ~1000m into the side
of the dome ( entered via crevices created by damage from excavations.)

Spark plugs and some fuel igniter parts carried some radioactives ( as ionizing helper ).
Murphy is an optimist
 
salttee
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Re: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Fri Mar 03, 2017 11:35 pm

WIederling wrote:
More if you sweep your attic ( assuming the house was built before ~1950.)

I think you mean before about 1963 when the test ban treaty was signed. Atmospheric nuke explosions left plenty of radiation surprisingly enough in the atmosphere. China continued atmospheric testing long after everyone else had stopped. There were a lot of F-104s flying back in that era.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/arti ... ear-tests/
"Good genes, very good genes, Ok, very smart, the Wharton School of finance, very good, very smart."
 
WIederling
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Re: Radioactive Contamination In Gas Turbine Engines

Sun Mar 05, 2017 4:10 pm

salttee wrote:
WIederling wrote:
More if you sweep your attic ( assuming the house was built before ~1950.)

I think you mean before about 1963 when the test ban treaty was signed. Atmospheric nuke explosions left plenty of radiation surprisingly enough in the atmosphere. China continued atmospheric testing long after everyone else had stopped. There were a lot of F-104s flying back in that era.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/arti ... ear-tests/


50ties. Mid 50ties would suffice to accumulate all.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_f ... _spike.svg
Murphy is an optimist

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