“HOT SCRAP” Radioactive Scrap Metal FAQs

You have just come back from getting X-RAY’s taken at your local hospital, and decided to spend the rest of the day loading and selling scrap metal at your local scrap yard. When you walk into the yard, a small alarm goes off, and a scrap worker comes out to ask you some questions.

Every day, negligible amounts of radioactivity finds it’s way into refineries and scrap yards. Normally, the radiation falls within normal levels, (like the radiation left over after an X-RAY is taken) but on rare occasion the radiation poses a threat to metal refiners, product manufacturers, and consumers.

If you are knowingly handling radioactive scrap metal, you must work closely with scrapyards/refineries to properly handle the contamination.

What Causes Radioactive Scrap Metal Contamination?

Scrap Metal Radiation is not all that uncommon (It just requires special attention, which your scrap yard may not be prepared to handle.)

One main cause of scrap metal radiation is the mishandling of oil drilling process equipment and nuclear power plant waste.

Another cause of radioactive scrap contamination is scrap yards unknowingly buying special “radioactive sources“. These special materials – which cause radiation in X-Rays, for example – are often heavily sealed to prevent radiation from leaking at harmful levels. (This is the reason scrap yards to have very sensitive radiation alarms.)

Why is Radioactive Scrap Metal Contamination So Harmful?

Besides the obvious problems caused by “Hot” scrap metal – charred skin, cancer, painful death – There are also a number of other painful economic side-effects. For example, one mishandled radioactive source can botch an entire batch of metal; not only that, but if the mistake isn’t caught immediately there is danger to anybody handling the contaminated scrap metal, or anybody handling the products made from them.


weaponepsilon August 28, 2013 at 11:44 am

SMJ, the spambots have taken over. We need you to intervene.

Julius M'Binga March 27, 2014 at 10:22 am

Would this be a problem with ferrous, non-ferrous metals or both? I’m not talking any exotic stuff here like beryllium or anything, but can there exist like radioactive copper for instance? I heard of an incident in Connecticut where some guy scrapped a whole diner and it turned out the steel was all highly radioactive.

Andrew Egan May 19, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Does this also include things like jewelry? If you wear a necklace or something while getting an x ray, can that piece then be contaminated? I’m curious…

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