The Beta Radiation! It Burns!
Once again proving that the press can turn even the most innocuous nuclear event into the End Of The World As We Know It, check out this Telegraph article on the spillage of some controlled pure water from HMS Trafalgar (S 107). Excerpt:
More than 61 gallons (280 litres) of toxic coolant poured into a river from a burst hose as it was being pumped from the nuclear submarine HMS Trafalgar on November 7.I'm not sure how beta radiation can cause burns at anything other than the highest doses, unless they're talking about electrical burns, because that's what beta radiation is: an electron. You get more "beta radiation" from shocking your hand on a doorknob from static electricity than you would from drinking a gallon of CPW (remember Rickover drinking a glass of it in front of a Congressional panel). Plus, the "beta" from tritium comes out with a ridiculously low amount of energy -- about 5.7 keV. I'm almost amazed they didn't mention that the water spilled from the Trafalgar almost certainly contained traces of DHMO.
But the Navy has only now admitted to the spill of the liquid, which contained tritium, a substance which can cause burns, cancer and DNA mutations as it breaks down...
...The incident happened as the coolant was being pumped from the hunter-killer submarine into a large tank on a jetty at the Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth, Devon.
When the pipe split, the liquid, which had been used to cool the sub's nuclear reactor, poured into the River Tamar causing the worst spillage at the base for 23 years...
...Tritium is an unstable radioactive form of hydrogen which glows in the dark and is used to create the luminous glow on watch dials. Concentrated tritium is also used as the fuel to kick-start the uncontrolled reaction in a nuclear bomb, but in nuclear reactors it is a by-product of the reaction process.
It is classed as a 'soft beta emitter', giving off low-energy beta radiation as it decays into a form of helium. Beta radiation can cause burns, cancer and DNA mutations, and tritiated water can enter the body through the skin's pores.
(Interestingly, the BBC had a completely non-hysterical report on the incident on their website.)