For those of use who carry around an interest in nuclear science, there is a short but interesting article in the Daily Kos written by a chemist on the topic of the Hanford site in Washington.  Of particular interest is the link describing a radiological assay of a chemist who died at age 76 of cardiovascular disease.  At the time of death they found 540 kBq of activity in his body- 90 % in his skeleton. The gentleman had been involved in a glovebox explosion involving exposure to 241-Am at age 64.

What do you do with a radioactive corpse? One option is to donate your body to science. The WSU College of Pharmacy maintains a registry of data culled from uranium and plutonium workers. A recent description of donated bodies is found in this pdf. One donation is from a plutonium worker who was present in the 1965 fire at Rocky Flats. He retained an estimated 6.8 kBq of lung burden. They did not specify how this was determined.  Rocky Flats did have state of the art whole-body monitoring and a substantial health physics department.

Pu detection is a little tricky because one of the important markers for Pu contamination is 241-Am, an alpha and gamma emitter (Pu is a bad actor mostly because of internal alpha exposure).  Residual and highly active 241-Pu (104 Ci/g) beta decays to the highly active 241-Am.  Unfortunately, not all Pu isotopes decay into Americium. This Am isotope allows for gamma ray spectra to be gathered so an estimate of Pu exposure can be calculated. The ever popular 239-Pu isotope alpha decays to 235-U without much gamma emission. So, the calculation of Pu exposure and dose depends on knowing the purity of the Pu at issue.

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