Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ex-Nuke Submariner / M.D. Shares Interesting Radiation Exposure Concerns

If you have not already, read the predictions in my previous post, Justice for Fertile Females as Nuclear Submarine Crews, here.
Often, my opinions are in the minority. Just as often, they have eventually proven accurate.
Three footnotes were provided in the fertile females post, which is 3 more than you will find in most blogs today.
Today, I can add another esteemed supporter for my opinion, Dr. Roger C Dunham, MD, a former reactor operator as well as a practicing internal medicine physician with 35 years of experience. Readers may have read his book SPY SUB. He was also mentioned in Submarine Mystery Question (10/03/2008).
Today, Dr. Dunham wrote an opinion piece, Women, subs and nuclear radiation, for the Los Angeles Times. Here are only a few excerpts, and you will want to read it in full:
While sperm from men are frequently changing and thereby present a reduced vulnerability to radiation consequences, women have ovaries that contain radiation-sensitive tissue fixed for the life of the woman. Damage to the egg cells remains with the woman until that egg produces a baby.

A nuclear reactor generates gamma energy, slow neutron energy (creating five times more tissue damage than gamma energy) and fast neutron energy (creating 10 times more tissue damage), as well as other types of less consequence. My former engineering officer recently informed me that he had absorbed about 5,000 millirems during his time aboard our submarine.

In civilian life, a pregnant woman must first don a lead shield to protect her unborn baby before she has a chest X-ray (delivering about 10 millirems of gamma energy) or for a mammogram (70 millirems of gamma energy). But lead shields on submarines do not entirely protect personnel from the far more damaging neutron energy.

We know that fetal doses between 1,000 millirems and 10,000 millirems create a "low" level of congenital malformations, mental retardation, uterine growth retardation or childhood cancer.
My predictions involve litigation for hundreds of million dollars filed by female ex-submariners in cases between 2017 and 2021. You and I, my taxpaying friends will foot the bills to settle these expensive, unnecessary lawsuits. Unless you are a trial lawyer, perhaps you should reconsider your support for female submariners on nuclear subs (ditto the space program).
Submarines are always silent and strange.



At 17 May, 2010 23:35, Blogger Unknown said...

Well put - the lawyers will never let the facts get in the way of a good lawsuit.

Neutron exposures on our boats are very low - we use other shielding materials besides lead to make sure.

When a sub is at sea, most of the crew receives very little exposure. Even the nukes can expect to get a smaller dose operating at sea than if they worked in an office building on shore, because the ocean itself shields them from the natural background radiation that all those tort lawyers receive every day.


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