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Decontamination of Ships after an Atomic Test Bikini Atoll 1946

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Published on Apr 14, 2010

This clip shows efforts after the BAKER test to decontaminate navy ships. Operation Crossroads was an atmospheric nuclear weapon test series conducted in the summer of 1946. The series consisted of two detonations, each with a yield of 23 kilotons: ABLE detonated at an altitude of 520 feet (158 meters) on 1 July and BAKER detonated 90 feet (27 meters) underwater on 25 July. This clip is from after the BAKER test. The detonation of BAKER caused most of the target fleet to be bathed in radioactive water spray and radioactive debris from the lagoon bottom. . The test produced a radioactive mist that deposited active products on the target fleet in amounts far greater than had been predicted. As the Joint Chiefs of Staff evaluation board later noted, the contaminated ships "became radioactive stoves, and would have burned all living things aboard them with invisible and painless but deadly radiation." With the exception of 12 target vessels anchored in the array and the landing craft beached on Bikini Island, the target fleet remained too radiologically contaminated for several weeks for more than brief on-board activities. The inability to complete inspections on much of the target fleet threatened the success of the operation after BAKER . A program of target vessel decontamination was begun in earnest about 1 August. This involved washing the ships' exteriors using work crews drawn from the target ships' companies under radiological supervision of monitors equipped with radiation detection and measurement devices. Initially, decontamination was slow as the safe time aboard the target ships was measured only in minutes. As time progressed, the support fleet itself had become contaminated by the low-level radioactivity in marine growth on the ships' hulls and seawater piping systems. By 10 August, a decision was made to stop work in Bikini and tow the surviving target fleet to Kwajalein Atoll where the work could be done in uncontaminated water. The move was accomplished during the remainder of August and September. A major task at Kwajalein was to offload ammunition stored aboard the target ships. this work continued into the fall of 1946. Personnel continued to work on target ships at Kwajalein into 1947. Eight of the major ships and two submarines were towed back to the United States and Hawaii for radiological inspection. Twelve target ships were so lightly contaminated that they were remanned and sailed back to the United States by their crews. The remaining target ships were destroyed by sinking off Bikini Atoll, off Kwajalein Atoll, or near the Hawaiian Islands during 1946-1948. The support ships were decontaminated as necessary and received a radiological clearance before they could return to the fleet. This decontamination and clearance process required a great deal of experimentation and learning at Navy shipyards in the United States, primarily at San Francisco. All CROSSROADS operations were undertaken under radiological supervision intended to keep personnel from being exposed to more than 0.1 roentgen (R) per day. At the time, this was considered to be an amount of radiation that could be tolerated for long periods without any harmful effects on health. For more on this, go to http://www.hss.energy.gov/healthsafet... . This is clipped from the 1946 Department of the Navy film, Operations Crossroads, which tells of the Able and Baker Atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in the summer of 1946. The entire video has been digitized by the nonprofit Public.Resource.Org (http://public.resource.org/index.html ) in a cooperative agreement with the National Technical Information (http://public.resource.org/ntis.gov/i... ) and is available at the Internet Archive at www.archive.com .

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