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Uraninite storage
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Xaranar




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 11:29    Post subject: Uraninite storage  

Hi everyone

So I'm very new to all this, and I'm not sure whether this is the right place to put this. Anyway, I have a fascination with radioactive minerals, particularly those containing uranium. I've recently come into possession a specimen of pitchblende, and it's moderately hot (about 13 uSv/h) beta gamma activity at about one inch. I have a display case for it made of glass as I know this will block all of the alpha and most of the beta emission, my question is, should I seal the container shut? Or will the radon decay product become a problem eventually if I do so?

Thanks in advance!



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Peter Lemkin




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 11:50    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Hello. I also have a sub-collection of radioactive minerals. My training is in Environmental Science and Toxicology, so know a lot about radiation. The radiation level in the city of Fukushima was 13.9 uSv/h - a high level and only a tad higher than your specimen up close. Yes, you can easily block alpha and beta, but not gamma and perhaps the biggest problem is Radon gas, which being heavier than air will collect on the floor in your basement, or some such. Why would you want it out in your case?! I do NOT keep anything mildly radioactive to VERY hot [have some of those too!] in my living quarters. I keep them in a lead box with a Radon vent OUTSIDE and look at and fondle them rarely, washing my hands afterwards. Take a nice photo of it and put the photo in the case and put the specimen somewhere safe outside where the Radon and radiation won't cause any harm....my suggestion. I know some here on this forum think radiation is 'bunk'....but it ain't so. Radiation damage [damage to DNA and some other surface cells - lungs in the case of Radon often] is cumulative and there is more than there used to be and should be in our environment now compared to the past. If you are a devil-may-care kind of person and take the safety shield off of power saws, etc. go ahead. As one radioactive will likely lead to interest in others, be careful. Yes, there are complex/expensive ways to display radioactives safely.....high lead glass and pumping the air out of a negative pressure case to the outside.....but I personally don't suggest it for a normal case in a normal home. Your dog or children - or even you on the floor will be in the pool of invisible Radon slowly building up. Walking though the Radon will mix it with the air if it hasn't sunk into the basement - but walking down there will do the same. It is a risk-benefit situation. I take radiation seriously, we get lots now from old nuke tests, nuclear power accidents, smoke detectors, cigarette smoke [contains radioactives], dust pollution which sometimes contains radioactives from mining operations, medical x-rays, CT-scans et al. It is a nice specimen from a classic [!] location, and I can see you interest in displaying it. Try a nice photo or a few nice photos and take it out of its lead tomb from time to time to show your closest mineral friends. In the end it is your choice - but I don't see how you can stop the Radon from building up nor the gamma radiation.....
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Xaranar




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 12:08    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Hi

Thanks for your response. I know radiation is not bunk, but I also know that it is not to be feared, only respected. It's actually the fact that something invisible could be so dangerous is why I find it fascinating. It's not something I want to handle often, for obvious reasons, but it would be nice to have it on display and I just wondered if sealing the case shut would be enough to stop radon from escaping.
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Peter Lemkin




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 12:16    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Xaranar wrote:
Hi

Thanks for your response. I know radiation is not bunk, but I also know that it is not to be feared, only respected. It's actually the fact that something invisible could be so dangerous is why I find it fascinating. It's not something I want to handle often, for obvious reasons, but it would be nice to have it on display and I just wondered if sealing the case shut would be enough to stop radon from escaping.


Radon is a very good escape artist and you are not going to be able to stop it. If you did, when you opened the case or enclosure, it would come out all at once. Remember too the gamma radiation, which you can measure at various distances. Multiply the number by the number of hours in a year and you can find on the internet tables of what is a 'dangerous' yearly dose. The Radon will get out and as invisible as the radiation will collect at the lowest place in your residence or if in an apartment building in someone else's below. I think a good photo is a safe way of having your cake and eating it too...but again, it is your decision.

In Norway, officials must warn the general public of anything or any event that will present 0.25mSv/year or more. I once met a old uranium minor who had built a house on the old uranium mine [Jakymov!] dump. He was lucky to have lived so long. It is a game of chance or Russian Roulette. I have some lovely boytroidal Uraninite I'd love to have on display [from Jakymov and Pribram, CZ], but I dare not. Just my call, but I already have skin cancer.... We all make our own decisions, but base it on sound science and some research.
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Jesse Fisher




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 12:29    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

I should think that keeping it in a sealed container or enclosure is the last thing you would want to do, as that would allow the radon to accumulate and give you a nice dose each time the container/enclosure was opened. Where ever it is stored, it should be well-ventilated to minimize gas buildup.
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Peter Lemkin




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 12:34    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Smoking, radon, and secondhand smoke are the leading causes of lung cancer - any combination of two or three of those cause a synergistic effect [more than the additive sums]. Add the radiation and the radon - both coming off of your lovely specimen and there too there is a synergistic effect. In the USA radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked.
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Xaranar




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 12:37    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Peter Lemkin wrote:


Radon is a very good escape artist and you are not going to be able to stop it. If you did, when you opened the case or enclosure, it would come out all at once. Remember too the gamma radiation, which you can measure at various distances. Multiply the number by the number of hours in a year and you can find on the internet tables of what is a 'dangerous' yearly dose. The Radon will get out and as invisible as the radiation will collect at the lowest place in your residence or if in an apartment building in someone else's below. I think a good photo is a safe way of having your cake and eating it too...but again, it is your decision.

In Norway, officials must warn the general public of anything or any event that will present 0.25mSv/year or more. I once met a old uranium minor who had built a house on the old uranium mine [Jakymov!] dump. He was lucky to have lived so long. It is a game of chance or Russian Roulette. I have some lovely boytroidal Uraninite I'd love to have on display [from Jakymov and Pribram, CZ], but I dare not. Just my call, but I already have skin cancer.... We all make our own decisions, but base it on sound science and some research.


I may well store it in the shed, then, where the lawn mower is. It's on the ground floor, connected to the kitchen, and no one goes in there very often, and it can be easily ventilated to flush out any radon. Eventually, I want to get my hands on some metatorbernite or autunite, that stuff is just beautiful.
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R Saunders




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 12:38    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Peter Lemkin wrote:
Xaranar wrote:
Hi

Thanks for your response. I know radiation is not bunk, but I also know that it is not to be feared, only respected. It's actually the fact that something invisible could be so dangerous is why I find it fascinating. It's not something I want to handle often, for obvious reasons, but it would be nice to have it on display and I just wondered if sealing the case shut would be enough to stop radon from escaping.


Radon is a very good escape artist and you are not going to be able to stop it. If you did, when you opened the case or enclosure, it would come out all at once. Remember too the gamma radiation, which you can measure at various distances. Multiply the number by the number of hours in a year and you can find on the internet tables of what is a 'dangerous' yearly dose. The Radon will get out and as invisible as the radiation will collect at the lowest place in your residence or if in an apartment building in someone else's below. I think a good photo is a safe way of having your cake and eating it too...but again, it is your decision.

In Norway, officials must warn the general public of anything or any event that will present 0.25mSv/year or more. I once met a old uranium minor who had built a house on the old uranium mine [Jakymov!] dump. He was lucky to have lived so long. It is a game of chance or Russian Roulette. I have some lovely boytroidal Uraninite I'd love to have on display [from Jakymov and Pribram, CZ], but I dare not. Just my call, but I already have skin cancer.... We all make our own decisions, but base it on sound science and some research.


Here in the USA many homes have Radon, and serious health problems. They sell Radon detectors. Smoke detectors, I believe that the early like 1980's ones had issues. and how to dispose of them. Not sure about the new home verity? Cigarette smoke, I wonder about all the long term health effects on young teens using e cigarettes. as for lead glass, crystal vases and decanters are 24% lead. are you talking more lead and I assume that a matching stopper won't help here. The lead adds clarity to glass. And yes I knew a stained glass artist that died of lead solder poisoning.
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Bob Harman




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 12:39    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Everyone,

Please recognize that this poster has today also entered into the Mindat forum posting this same question. Also, Peter L has given you some good advice.

My own feeling is that a self described novice asking this question on 2 different forums, has no business starting out collecting radioactive mineral specimens. No if, ands or buts! There are sooooo many collectible minerals for a new collector to choose from, the radioactive examples should be collected only by those experienced collectors with proper prior experience and safe storage spaces.

Having said that, here are a few common sense suggestions. House your fully labeled examples in individual leucite plastic specimen boxes then put them in safe display cases or drawers. The display case should be safely out of the way and sturdy. The case should not be in a bedroom, near food or where children or large pets are around. Only handle the specimens occasionally and for a short time period. Replace them into the leucite and display case promptly. If your house is in an area where radon can be found in the basement, be well aware of that additional potential danger. Always wash hands promptly after handling the specimens.

Only with experience will these common sense rules become second nature. Until then leave radioactive specimens to museums, universities, and advanced collectors. And now I see you might store it in a shed??? What is the purpose of having a mineral collection, if only to have to safely store it out of the way in a shed that few people ever use??? Bizarre to my way of thinking.
BOB
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Xaranar




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 13:06    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Thanks everyone for your advice. I am aware I'm diving in at the deep end here, and I will heed your suggestions as it's better to err on the side of caution.
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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 13:22    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

I question how easy it is for radon to escape from massive uraninite, because the decay of uranium releases helium as well as radon and often the helium is still in there - It effervesces out when a uraninite crystal is dissolved in acid. So if the helium, which is a really really tiny atom, isn‘t escaping, how is the radon getting out?
It must be very different in the case of the pulverulent or flaky secondary uranium minerals with perfect cleavage - things like autunite, carnotite, tyuyamunite, etc - with those I can easily believe that radon is leaking out, but for solid uraninite or pitchblende I‘m skeptical.
Anyway, we all need to live in well ventilated houses, and then the problem goes away. And there are many good health reasons for increasing ventilation, apart from just the radon issue. (Easy for me to say, living in a warm desert, I know.) God help you poor fellows living in freezing climates with everything shut up tight... The fumes from new carpets, foam mattresses, plastic bags, wood fireplaces, frying foods... all worry me just as much as the radon. Everyone, ventilate! Your health is well worth the extra $100 a month in winter heating costs.
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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 14:01    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

alfredo wrote:
I question how easy it is for radon to escape from massive uraninite, because the decay of uranium releases helium as well as radon and often the helium is still in there - It effervesces out when a uraninite crystal is dissolved in acid. So if the helium, which is a really really tiny atom, isn‘t escaping, how is the radon getting out?
It must be very different in the case of the pulverulent or flaky secondary uranium minerals with perfect cleavage - things like autunite, carnotite, tyuyamunite, etc - with those I can easily believe that radon is leaking out, but for solid uraninite or pitchblende I‘m skeptical.
Anyway, we all need to live in well ventilated houses, and then the problem goes away. And there are many good health reasons for increasing ventilation, apart from just the radon issue. (Easy for me to say, living in a warm desert, I know.) God help you poor fellows living in freezing climates with everything shut up tight... The fumes from new carpets, foam mattresses, plastic bags, wood fireplaces, frying foods... all worry me just as much as the radon. Everyone, ventilate! Your health is well worth the extra $100 a month in winter heating costs.


Yes, some helium may stay in the rock and some of the radon too, but there is lots coming off of the surface and from cracks and micro-cracks in the rock; and other molecules that find their way out do to the build-up of pressure. You are correct about all the other items found in the common living space that are highly toxic [and unknown to most all!], but adding radon and gamma radiation to that mix is not a grand idea. He lives in usually cold rainy UK and likely doesn't have open windows or high levels of air exchange. Even with that, I don't suggest a hot rock sitting in the living room display case...... Indoor air pollution is by far [up to 20-50x more] the greater health risk to most in 'developed' nations than outdoor air pollution. The average home is quite toxic, and few know about the dangers. Adding a known one just doesn't seem the best plan.... IMHO. The shed is a good location, but put a nice photo of the piece in your regular display case....and wash your hands after handling such a specimen!
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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 14:39    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

alfredo wrote:
I question how easy it is for radon to escape from massive uraninite, because the decay of uranium releases helium as well as radon and often the helium is still in there - It effervesces out when a uraninite crystal is dissolved in acid. So if the helium, which is a really really tiny atom, isn‘t escaping, how is the radon getting out?
It must be very different in the case of the pulverulent or flaky secondary uranium minerals with perfect cleavage - things like autunite, carnotite, tyuyamunite, etc - with those I can easily believe that radon is leaking out, but for solid uraninite or pitchblende I‘m skeptical.
Anyway, we all need to live in well ventilated houses, and then the problem goes away. And there are many good health reasons for increasing ventilation, apart from just the radon issue. (Easy for me to say, living in a warm desert, I know.) God help you poor fellows living in freezing climates with everything shut up tight... The fumes from new carpets, foam mattresses, plastic bags, wood fireplaces, frying foods... all worry me just as much as the radon. Everyone, ventilate! Your health is well worth the extra $100 a month in winter heating costs.


I notice that comes from Leeds in Yorkshire, in which case (if he's lucky) he probably lives in a shoe box in middle o't road, and so likely has plenty of ventilation and not too much to worry about.

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Xaranar




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 14:53    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Haaaaa. Yes, I do live in Leeds, and I have the windows open year round.
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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 15:05    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Just my two cents on the subject. I have several radioactive minerals from San Diego Co. in my collection and they are mounted labeled and on display with the rest of my collection, and have been for decades. I figure I have more issues with the 10 years I spent in the US Navy during the mid-70’s and 80’s. I was stationed on three ships with the newest being built in 1963. So that being said having knowingly being exposed to Lead Based Paint, Asbestos, PCB’s and other chemicals. To say nothing of living and working next to large nuclear missiles on one side and submarines on the other side. Also, a lot of us in here are old enough to have lived in houses with Lead Base Paint and Asbestos and are still alive today. So, I would have to say this is really a nonissue for most if not all collectors.
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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 15:09    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

rweaver wrote:
Just my two cents on the subject. I have several radioactive minerals from San Diego Co. in my collection and they are mounted labeled and on display with the rest of my collection, and have been for decades. I figure I have more issues with the 10 years I spent in the US Navy during the mid-70’s and 80’s. I was stationed on three ships with the newest being built in 1963. So that being said having knowingly being exposed to Lead Based Paint, Asbestos, PCB’s and other chemicals. To say nothing of living and working next to large nuclear missiles on one side and submarines on the other side. Also, a lot of us in here are old enough to have lived in houses with Lead Base Paint and Asbestos and are still alive today. So, I would have to say this is really a nonissue for most if not all collectors.


If this thread is any indication, it seems there is quite the divide. If any of you have ever kept invertebrates, it's like the handling vs not handling your tarantulas issue.
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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 16:17    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

rweaver wrote:
Just my two cents on the subject. I have several radioactive minerals from San Diego Co. in my collection and they are mounted labeled and on display with the rest of my collection, and have been for decades. I figure I have more issues with the 10 years I spent in the US Navy during the mid-70’s and 80’s. I was stationed on three ships with the newest being built in 1963. So that being said having knowingly being exposed to Lead Based Paint, Asbestos, PCB’s and other chemicals. To say nothing of living and working next to large nuclear missiles on one side and submarines on the other side. Also, a lot of us in here are old enough to have lived in houses with Lead Base Paint and Asbestos and are still alive today. So, I would have to say this is really a nonissue for most if not all collectors.


This is the 'I smoked xxxx cigarettes per day and don't have lung cancer' [yet] argument. Or like the miner I met in Jakymov who built his shack on the radioactive waste dump [as he didn't have to pay for the land]. As a trained scientist, I find your saying it is a 'nonissue' is not true. The risks are known and one can do the math on them and the statistical odds it will harm you. If you care to ignore that, that is your right I'd not deny you, but I find it a little irresponsible and I can see that your 'irresponsible' decision for yourself has influenced the visitor from Leeds. Some also don't believe in human produced climate change....but science marches on despite such illogical and unscientific behavior. If you like to take risks, that is fine. I take some mountain climbing, but I know the risks...it is putting your head in the sand about the risks so one can't make a valid risk analysis that it can become dangerous without knowing or thinking [or not knowing] it is dangerous.
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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 16:32    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

Warnings about the danger of high doses of radiation are of course warranted and I would never disagree with that, although likely to be encountered only in cases of industrial accidents and not in a mineral collection. However, extrapolating that danger to the doses received from minerals in a collection is not necessarily any more scientific than skepticism. Doses received from a typical suite of radioactive minerals in a collection are rather pathetic compared to the dose that killed Marie Curie, and the jury is still out on whether small doses are harmful, or perhaps even beneficial...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis
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Xaranar




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 16:38    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

alfredo wrote:
Warnings about the danger of high doses of radiation are of course warranted and I would never disagree with that, although likely to be encountered only in cases of industrial accidents and not in a mineral collection. However, extrapolating that danger to the doses received from minerals in a collection is not necessarily any more scientific than skepticism. Doses received from a typical suite of radioactive minerals in a collection are rather pathetic compared to the dose that killed Marie Curie, and the jury is still out on whether small doses are harmful, or perhaps even beneficial...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis


Agreed, although is it not better to err on the side of caution?
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Bob Harman




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PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 17:02    Post subject: Re: Uraninite storage  

I hate to reenter this thread, but I find the most interesting aspect of the whole discussion, the original question that an obvious novice, needing to ask basic questions of how to collect and display radioactive minerals, wants to start out with collecting them in the first place.

There is so much to start out with, it just seems strange to start with collecting radioactive minerals. Why? Legitimate reasons or?
BOB
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