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Old 10-18-2021, 03:03 PM   #9
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: GURPS effects of exposure to a nuclear fuel source

Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
GURPS Disasters: Meltdown and Fallout goes into some detail about dramatic ways nuclear technology can do bad stuff to you. But what if there's no meltdown, no fallout, and instead you're just directly exposed to a nuclear fuel source—say because some idiot decided to dissect a nuclear bomb or radioisotope thermoelectric generator?
In such cases, the main risk to everyone involved is irradiated particulate matter, especially if it is an aerosol or finely ground dust which is easily suspended in air or water so it gets ingested or inhaled. While safety equipment is specifically designed to protect against such threats, there's always the risk of equipment failure or some other source of unprotected exposure.

If someone does inhale/ingest alpha or beta particles, or get them on their body or clothing, the race is on to get them decontaminated and on chelating drugs or otherwise remove as much radioactive material from their body as fast as possible. Hunting down potential victims in time treatment to do any good might be an adventure in itself.

Another possible avenue for exposure is objects or materials which have spent so much time in such close proximity to strong radiation emitters that they have become radioactive themselves. While they're unlikely to be so strongly radioactive that they cause burns or radiation illnesses, they have a strong potential to be long term cancer risks. The list of radiation accidents referenced above gives a good selection of such incidents.

A final risk from low level radiation is that it could be weaponized and scattered across a wide area. While the actual radiation risks are very low and likely to dissipate quickly, just the knowledge that the area is irradiated will get most normal people in a panic.

Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
Except alpha emitters often have much more dangerous isotopes in their decay chains. So how do you figure out the rads accumulated for, say, handling a fuel rod / pellet / etc. with no better protection than a pair of iron tongs?
I'd assess radiation exposure in terms of effective Rads per day or week. These might be relatively high for completely unprotected exposure where you might accidentally ingest alpha or beta particles to almost nil if you take suitable safety precautions.

Effects of long term low-level radiation exposure can take the form of penalties to Aging rolls, Susceptibility to certain cancers, the Sterility feature, and possibly the equivalent of 1-2 levels of Short Lifespan.

OSHA, CDC, DOE, etc. web sites have all sorts of info on these sorts of hazards.
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