In comments to the last post, ansky26 notes,
One of the news reports I heard this morning specifically said “beta radiation burns” and described the situation as workers standing in contaminated water while working on the new electrical connections. Three hospitalized, one released already.
Crap! That makes snooty journalist’s snap judgement more likely. I’m still far from convinced. But just before that Charlie Martin passed along this:
Three workers received radiation exposure of 17 to 18 rem from standing in contaminated water while laying cable…
I’ll have to unpack some stuff to address this. Let’s say I’m their RCT. We’ve just learned they’ll have to work while standing around in what is, basically, reactor water.
Gulp. So how high is the water? “Whole body” dose begins immediately above knee. Is it above the knee? Dammit. We can normally assume the whole body is 30 cm from the radioactive source. Now it’ll be maybe two inches away.
The best case for gamma, then, would be water less than knee-height and they remembered to put the dosimetry at the knee. Water approaching the crotch? Uh-huh. Hope not.
Beta concentrates its dose in the skin. So f they picked up 18 rem (0.18 Sv) of gamma, there’s certainly enough beta present to deposit ~500 rad ( 5 Gray) in the skin. (Self-shielding by the water? We’ll pass on that consideration for now.)
So. So we expect beta burns? No, no, a thousand times NO!
They’re in standing water? Wearing plastics?. With heavy hip waders, perhaps? Because that set-up alone would block exactly…wait for it…100% of beta radiation.
Do you other rad-experienced folks agree? I’m confident that’s plenty of shielding to boot-height, but slather on another layer if you’d like.
Point is, if anyone is getting beta burns, that’s a terrible breakdown of rad protection. And beta burn is an acute hazard. It’s not a statistical crapshoot decades down the road. So even if you don’t care about dosing your people, you’ve only got 180 of the “Fukushima Fifty” available. Severe beta burns? He’s not dead, but he is out of the picture and you’ve just lost an asset. Do you have them to spare?
If nothing thinner than a Type-A HazMat suit will block the beta radiation, get him that suit. Or MacGuyver something up. It wouldn’t be difficult. It’s called “layering”.
So, no. I still don’t expect beta burns. They should be fully shielded against that hazard.