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Dose estimates

Dear Reader,

I have found an interesting document which is on the subject of the atomic bomb tests done years ago down under in Auz. Now before we get going, I do not want to get dragged into a debate regarding the rights / wrongs of nuclear bombs or the moral issues associated with bombs and their testing. What we will be dealing with here is just the reported facts.

A document has been released some time ago by the Australian government which gives estimates of the radiation doses which Australians were exposed to as a result of the bomb tests there.

What is interesting is that the doses are quite low, if the data in the document is true then the vast majority of the Australians were exposed to low doses of radiation. But before we look at the dose estimates lets look at what the current UK limits are.

The 1999 law (1999 Ionising Radiations Regulations) set the following yearly limits

20 mSv Radiation worker

6 mSv Trainees aged between 16 and 18

1 mSv The general public

While the 1980s Ionising Radiations Regulations set the upper limit for a radiation worker at 50 mSv per year.

If we look at table 7.27 in the report from down under we will see the results.

A. 78.9 % of the people involved had doses which were lower than the current UK limit for the general public (1 mSv). I hold the view that this low dose of less than 1 mSv is nothing to worry about.

B. Only about 4 % of people are in the above 20 mSv group, these are doses which would break current UK law for a radiation worker.

C. Very few people (19 people, 0.2 %) are in the above 50 mSv group. These doses are above the yearly limit in the 1990s for radiation workers.

D. About 6.3 % of the people had unknown doses, in some ways this is the most interesting and more worrisome group. Most of these people were in the Royal Australian Air Force.

What would be very interesting is if an alternative set of dose estimates or measurements exist from the same bomb tests. By the way if dose estimates get you angry, do not get mad at either me (I did not make the dose estimates) or someone else but do feel free to point out other dose estimates which you think are more trustworthy.


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