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PostPosted: 16 Feb 2013, 19:52 
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I visited the SAAF Museum at Ysterplaat today and I noticed that a sign was on the small hangar next to the museum. The sign had the radioactive symbol on it and said no items could be removed from the hangar without permission from the ASU lab. Inside the hangar there were some engines that were roped off by a yellow rope with the radioactive symbol on it. Does anybody have any more info on this?


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PostPosted: 16 Feb 2013, 20:45 
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Apparantely, the older Atar 09 engine has some material that is radioactive, as do some of the cockpit instrumentation of some of the aircraft (I think to make them easier to read in low-light conditions). :shock:


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PostPosted: 16 Feb 2013, 20:47 
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I know that some of the old jet engine compressor sections are relatively radioactive due to the isotopes (I think) that were used in those days in the casting process.
Other alloy castings such as Mirage speed brakes and possibly even undercarriage casings also register on Geiger counters.

As I understand it the levels are very low but nevertheless are monitored by the ASU who probably have to maintain some kind of record of such items and their location - likely more for SHERQ purposes than any real hazard to staff and the public.

I would also be interested in an official or more informed reply.


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PostPosted: 17 Feb 2013, 01:01 
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Dean wrote:
as do some of the cockpit instrumentation of some of the aircraft (I think to make them easier to read in low-light conditions).

Old "glow in the dark" paint was just straight-up radioactive, so many original aircraft dials are radioactive.


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PostPosted: 17 Feb 2013, 03:35 
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m4rek wrote:
Dean wrote:
as do some of the cockpit instrumentation of some of the aircraft (I think to make them easier to read in low-light conditions).

Old "glow in the dark" paint was just straight-up radioactive, so many original aircraft dials are radioactive.


Correct, even some older wrirst watches we wear too!!


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PostPosted: 17 Feb 2013, 14:16 
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The sensors of certain types of smoke detectors also use a radioactive source to "measure" smoke particle density.


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PostPosted: 17 Feb 2013, 14:55 
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Roger the Dodger wrote:
The sensors of certain types of smoke detectors also use a radioactive source to "measure" smoke particle density.


It was fairly common practice at one stage to use depleted uranium as counterbalance weights in things like ailerons. I remember that the first 747s had it. Very heavy compared to lead. Usually well sealed in stainless containers - the stuff barely qualifies as radioactive, but it is.


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PostPosted: 17 Feb 2013, 18:42 
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I remember we had some radioactive material in a special container in our science lab, at school.
Short term exposure was safe, long term was a different story, of course. It depends on its radio active strength.
In the first Gulf War, US forces fired rounds that had depleted uranium, it was used for its weight. There was concern over this post war.


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PostPosted: 17 Feb 2013, 18:49 
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jeffreynic wrote:
In the first Gulf War, US forces fired rounds that had depleted uranium, it was used for its weight. There was concern over this post war.


The concern was related more to it's toxicity than it's radioactivity. Lead is poisonous but Uranium even more so. And being a heavy metal the body does not get rid of it very easily so that it tends to get stored in the body fats - causing all sort of long term problems.


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PostPosted: 17 Feb 2013, 19:27 
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But some pretty short-term effects for the recipient of the A-10's attention!


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PostPosted: 17 Feb 2013, 19:31 
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Dean wrote:
But some pretty short-term effects for the recipient of the A-10's attention!


Yep - direct lead and/or uranium poisoning can be devastating. One of the side effects of depleted uranium that was not reckoned on was that used in the armour - which when hit caused the stuff, "green salt", to catch fire - the fumes of which were pretty toxic.


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PostPosted: 18 Feb 2013, 14:31 
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Apparently some very low radioactivity was detected on the SNECMA Atar 09K 50 engine (that's why it is roped off) and on the Mirage III R2Z, hence the reason why it was moved into 4 Hangar.

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PostPosted: 18 Feb 2013, 20:04 
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Does anybody really know how dangerous (if dangerous at all) are the radioactive levels at Ysterplaat? Is it safe to be near to the engines?


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PostPosted: 18 Feb 2013, 20:10 
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In my personal opinion (and I am certainly no expert), it's a case of killing an ant with a sledgehammer.

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PostPosted: 18 Feb 2013, 20:26 
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The problem with ionising radiation is that it only takes one. One single gamma ray or alpha/beta particle can strike a healthy cell and give you cancer. It's all about the chances of hitting a living cell (alpha and gamma are both quite low, not getting to it and going clean through it respectively) and limiting exposure to keep that probability low. It's all down to probabilities, but no matter how low the probability, there's still a chance your first and only will be that one in a billion.


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