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Letter: ‘Severe’ radioactivity

I would like to provide some perspective on the “severity” (really, the lack of severity) of the issue discussed in your Feb. 21 article – “Radioactive contamination found in ‘clean’ vehicles”.

The article reported that the radioactivity level found in the air filters of two vehicles that had been parked at Hanford was about one picocurie of americium per gram of the material tested.

I imagine that many of your readers have no idea of the magnitude of a picocurie; it amounts to only two radioactive decays per minute.

To put the “severity” of this one picocurie per gram level, which one worker deemed to be sufficiently unsafe that he/she issued a stop-work order on the use of government vehicles at the plant, into common-life perspective - a typical banana contains about 400 picocuries of radioactive potassium (according to Wikipedia).

I weighed a banana at about 200 grams, so its radioactive level was about two picocuries per gram — twice that of the material tested from the car air filters that led to the work stoppage.

Apparently, at least some Hanford workers need a better understanding of the relative risks of Hanford-related radioactivity and non-Hanford-related radioactivity.

John L. Swanson, Richland

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