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Nuclear Power/Radiation on a plane


Hello Bill- My name is Jason. I am a very frequent flyer...2 european trips a year and a lot of 2-4 hr flights domestically. I have some concerns about radiation exposure on flights.  IS someone like me in any danger?  Is there anything i can do to protect myself aside from taking vitamins and antioxidants?  Also are you exposed to less radiation on nighttime flights?  would appreciate any help.  Thanks!


While studies show that there is a small increase in exposure to cosmic radiation, it is only significant for the pilot and crew because of the windshield.   See for a recent article on this.

Someone also asked me about increased exposure due to radiation from the Fukishima accident, with a link to someone with a radiation detector on a flight.  The video showed the detector going into alarm.  But when I looked at the video, the meter was designed to detect contamination, not radiation.  The difference is significant.  Contamination is radioactive particles on a surface or item and the units of measurement are much smaller. With that particular meter I could reproduce the same readings by subjecting the detector to static electricity, short-lived radon on clothes, and a number of other nonharmful sources.

So, to summarize: I don't believe you have anything to worry about.  To be safe, shut the cabin window at your seat when the sun is shining on you and get regular physicals.  
As for night flying, some of the radiation is from the sun but some of it is just from space.  So there is somewhat of a reduction in exposure during night flights.

On the other hand, I can sell you some nifty lead-lined shorts!  Not sure how the NSA would feel about them.


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Bill Mihalovits


I can answer questions about general construction and safety of plants, specific questions about operations, training, reactor theory, and thermodynamics. Will also consider other aspects as requested.


Over 33 years in the nuclear power field, licensed senior reactor operator, and instructor.

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