If you’re melting scrap, the best defense is redundancy

Jan 01, 2009 | 11:24 AM |

While redundancy might seem like a bad idea in today's economic environment, duplicate systems in the scrap supply stream make a world of difference when it comes to monitoring radiation.

And the United States and Europe are at the top of their game in developing more-sophisticated monitoring systems that help steel mills avoid melting radioactive materials like cesium or cobalt 60.

No American steelmaker has melted a radioactive source in the past few years, in large part because of the redundancy being built into the scrap supply lines at mills and at scrapyards. The last meltdown at a domestic steel mill occurred about five years ago. This is contrast to the way things were a decade ago, when such "events"—as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and state regulators call such incidents—happened every couple of years.

Through past experiences, mills have learned how damaging it can be to melt even a radioactive device smaller than a human hand. Cleanup and disposal cost millions of dollars on top of losing production from furnaces and other irradiated equipment.....

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