In movies, during nuclear fallout, people in hazmat suits are usually seen being sprayed down by a liquid (seemingly to control the radiation) but if Radiation can penetrate clothes and metal then how can this liquid be used to control the spread of Radiation?

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In movies, during nuclear fallout, people in hazmat suits are usually seen being sprayed down by a liquid (seemingly to control the radiation) but if Radiation can penetrate clothes and metal then how can this liquid be used to control the spread of Radiation?

In: Chemistry

Radiation penetrates all sorts of things, but radiation is produced by decaying atoms which are usually found in bigger chunks (think ash or dust). They wash them off so the wearer of the suit doesn’t pick them up/breathe them in when they take off the suit.

It removes potential contaminants from the suit, if small radioactive particles land on the suit, they are washed off. In a somewhat related note, water is very good at blocking radiation, radiation levels are cut in half for every 7cm of water it passes through IIRC.

It’s soapy water.

The point of the suits is to help prevent you from inhaling or ingesting contaminated particles. Certain kinds of ionizing radiation (alpha and beta particles) are far more dangerous when they are inside your body. So after leaving a contaminated area the suits are hosed down with hot soapy water to wash off any dust or other particles that may have stuck to them.

Well first, not all radiation is equal. A radiation suit can prevent penetration by alpha particles (helium nuclei) or beta particles (electrons), but not neutrons or gamma rays. In addition to blocking heavier particles, suits also keep the person wearing them from getting dust containing radioactive isotopes on them or in their lungs. Washing the exterior of the suits with soapy water just removes this dust so it doesn’t spread and irradiate other people/places.

Fallout from a nuclear detonation is vaporized material as well as the casing and materials from the bomb that didn’t turn into energy. It goes up the cloud, cools back down as a radioactive solid and falls from the sky. A dirty bomb is similar, an explosion throws radioactive material around.

Stuff like Uranium and Plutonium mostly emit alpha radiation which can’t penetrate much more than a sheet of paper, is stopped by the skin. But if it’s inhaled, drank or eaten its able to do vast amount of damage to a body.

So that thin radiation suit gets cleaned off with soapy water, same applies to cleaning vehicles and ships

https://www.stripes.com/news/16-us-ships-that-aided-in-operation-tomodachi-still-contaminated-with-radiation-1.399094 – some pictures of US Navy ships being decontaminated after Fukushima Dai-ichi