Hand and Foot Radiation Monitors at a Nuclear Reactor

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Summary Statement

This shows specially designed hand and shoe monitors to detect alpha, beta, and/or gamma radiation on a person's hands or feet. To use this equipment, personnel to be scanned are required to stand on a platform and simultaneously place their hands in another part of the detector. This is clipped from the 1954 episode Hidden Power, from the On the Spot television series from the 1950s. The episode is a visit to the Chalk River NRX Canadian atomic energy plant, showing research in the peacetime application of nuclear energy. At the time of its construction it was Canada's most expensive science facility and the world's most powerful nuclear research reactor. NRX experienced one of the world's first major reactor accidents in December 1952 when the NRX reactor underwent a violent power excursion that destroyed the core of the reactor, causing some fuel melting. Young Jimmy Carter -- later U.S. President, then a nuclear engineer in the U.S. Navy -- was among the hundreds of Canadian and American servicemen who were ordered to participate in the NRX cleanup following the accident. Five years later, in 1958, several metallic uranium fuel rods in the nearby NRU reactor overheated and ruptured inside the reactor core. Over a thousand men were involved in the cleanup operations following these two accidents. More than 600 men were required for the NRU cleanup alone. Official AECL reports stress that very few of these men were over-exposed to radiation -- that is, most of the recorded radiation doses did not exceed the levels that were considered permissible for atomic workers at that time. The reports also imply that no adverse health effects were caused by the exposures received. However, no medical follow-up has ever been done to see whether the population of men involved exhibited a higher-than-normal incidence of cancer later in life.
1954

1:11 mins.
Safety and Health Trainers
Chalk River Canada