There is a similar question like this in the database but there are significant differences so I will attempt to post this. The motivation is that I read a documentary that says some of the bulldozer's used in the Chernobyl clean up had to be entirely abandoned and buried on the spot. I presume they dumped dirt and concrete from a helicopter on the bulldozer's.

Realizing there was most probably not only intense gamma rays but also intense neutron bombardment of the steel in the bulldozer I am wondering if the gamma rays had any play into this.

I can see how neutrons are able to do this with "induced radioactivity" although I don't quite understand if the metal has transmuted or just briefly unstable. However , I have a harder time seeing how high energy photons such as in gamma ray can interact with metals such as steel or possibly lead as another example.

Thank you

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    $\begingroup$ It is more likely that the bulldozers picked up large amounts of radioactive dirt. Cleaning an engine like that is not worth it - too much exposure. $\endgroup$ – user137289 Nov 25 '17 at 0:45
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    $\begingroup$ Also plausible is that they were just covered in radioactive crud (including whatever dust had got into the engine's innards) and essentially impossible do decontaminate. $\endgroup$ – tfb Nov 25 '17 at 0:47
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    $\begingroup$ There certainly are things like (g,n) reactions and photofission to consider. The likelyhood is left as an exercise to the OP, potentially using the NNDC at bnl.gov to help... $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Nov 25 '17 at 2:13

Yes it can but in low amounts due to the cross sections involved. The process is known as photodisintegration. For heavy elements, like lead or iron, the gamma rays need an energy of 10 MeV or greater. You can read more about this and other references at [here.] 1 The reference for the 10 MeV limit is given in link as well.


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