The Most Radioactive Places on Earth


Radiation is frightening. At least, certain
types of it are. I mean my Geiger counter doesn’t go off near my mobile phone, or the
Wi-Fi router or my microwave. That’s because a Geiger counter only measures ionizing radiation
— that is, radiation with enough energy to rip electrons off atoms. And it’s measured
in units called sieverts. If you’re exposed to more than two sieverts all at once you’ll
probably die shortly after that. But we’re exposed to low levels of ionizing radiation
all the time. Bananas for example are rich in potassium and some of that potassium is
naturally radioactive. So when you eat a banana you’re actually exposed to about 0.1 microsieverts
of radiation. That’s one ten millionth of a sievert. Let’s use a banana for scale
of radiation doses. You know, since people eat bananas we become radioactive too. So
you’re actually exposed to more radiation if you sleep next to someone than if you sleep
alone. But I wouldn’t worry about that because that dose is insignificant compared to the
natural background radiation of earth. I mean there’s ionizing radiation coming out of
the soil in the rocks, in the air, and even from space. The level of radiation here in
Sydney is about .15 microsieverts per hour, and that’s about average globally. The level’s
usually between .1 and .2 microsieverts per hour. But there are places with significantly
higher levels. So who on earth do you think receives the maximum dose of ionizing radiation?
Let’s answer that question by going to the most radioactive places on earth. Some places
you’d expect to have high levels of radiation might surprise you. I’m in Hiroshima and
that is the Peace Dome. It was about 600 meters above that dome where the worlds first nuclear
bomb was detonated over a city. It was detonated there to have maximum destructive impact.
Well the level of radiation today almost 70 years later is only 0.3 microsieverts per
hour. I’m about to get into an elevator. We’re going down in a mineshaft. This is an old
uranium mine. This is the mine where uranium was discovered. It’s also the place where
Marie Curie obtained her raw material. 1.7 microsieverts per hour. That’s about 10 times
the natural background that you would have. Nowadays most of the uranium has been removed.
But in this wall there’s still a small piece and you can see under UV light it floresces.
Look at that. Fluorescent uranium ore. This is the lab of Marie Curie. She won two Nobel
prizes, one in physics and one in chemistry. And she conducted a lot of her work here.
And this is her office. She would have sat right there. Apparently there are only a few
parts of this area which are still radioactive. One is this doorknob. Well it climbs not not
much but — But that’s like 10 times the background. Yeah. More than 10. And another
is the back of her chair. You can still detect alpha particles coming off this spot right
here. Apparently after she was working in the lab she would come, oopen the door leaving
traces of radium here and then go and pull out her chair. Welcome to New Mexico. This
is the Trinity bomb test site where the world’s first nuclear bomb was set off. Right here.
Right in the spot. This whole area was vaporized. In fact, there was so much heat liberated
by that bomb that it fused all of the desert sand into this green glass. And you can still
find it here. They’ve actually named this mineral after the test. It’s called Trinitite.
Yeah. This is the only place on earth that this has ever been made. The level of radiation
here is about 0.8 microsieverts an hour. The Trinitite itself is a little bit more radioactive.
I got readings of two or three microsieverts an hour off them. Now which place has higher
levels of radiation then anywhere we’ve seen so far? The answer is an airplane. You know,
as you gain altitude there’s less atmosphere above you to shield you from cosmic rays.
So the level of radiation inside the plane can go up to 0.5 microsieverts per hour at
18,000 feet, up to one microsievert per hour at 23,000 feet, over two microsieverts per
hour at 30,000 feet, and over three microsieverts per hour at even higher altitudes and towards
the poles. That is Chernobyl nuclear reactor number four. It melted down on April 26, 1986.
So, what happened was so much heat was generated inside that reactor that it basically blew
the top off spreading radioactive isotopes throughout this whole surrounding area and
over into Europe. And that is why we can still detect the contamination here today. Now,
right now it’s reading around five microsieverts an hour. If I stayed here for one hour my
body would receive a similar dose to what you’d receive when you get a dental x-ray.
So this is not a huge amount of radiation. And one of the reasons why the radiation level
is not too high is because they actually removed a couple meters worth of topsoil from this
whole area, then they dumped it somewhere. That’s why we can stand here. We’re driving
into the Fukushima exclusion zone now. I’m just watching as the levels on my Geiger counter
go up as we approach the zone. See those black bags at the side of the road? The Japanese
are doing now exactly what the people in Chernobyl did, collecting up meters and meters of topsoil.
The mask is probably overkill. It’s just to stop radioactive dust from getting into my
lungs. This is definitely one of the most radioactive places where I’ve been. Even though
the release of radioactive material was less than Chernobyl, only about 10%, because it’s
much fresher—only three years since the accident— much less of it has decayed. So
I’ve been getting readings up around 5 to 10 microsieverts an hour. And I think we won’t
be staying here for too long because of that. I’m about to go into the hospital at Pripyat.
And this is where the firemen were taken after they fought the fires at the Chernobyl reactor.
And in the basement of this building they have left all the firemen’s clothing. Once
they realize it was so contaminated they chucked it down there. (Inaudible) But you can see
there’s a huge pile of their gear there. Right outside the door I’m getting 500 microsieverts
an hour just outside the door. One thousand five hundred microsieverts an hour. You know
if we stayed here for a couple hours we’d receive our annual dose of background radiation.
That basement was the most radioactive place I visited and it’s one of the most radioactive
places on earth. If I’d stayed down there for one hour I would’ve received 2000 microsieverts.
That’s a years worth of natural background radiation. Every yellow pixel here represents
a banana. Now that might seem like a lot, but consider that in a CT scan the patient
receives about 7000 microsieverts. That’s three years worth of natural backround radiation.
It’s been estimated that the people living around Fukushima will receive an additional
10,000 microsieverts over their lifetime due to the nuclear power disaster. For comparison
US radiation workers are limited to a maximum of 50,000 microsieverts per year. But that’s
less than another occupation. Astronaut. An astronaut on the space station for six months
will receive about 80,000 microsieverts worth of radiation. But not even they are exposed
to the highest levels of ionizing radiation. So can you guess who is? The answer is a smoker’s
lungs. A smoker’s lungs on average receive 160,000 microsieverts worth of radiation every
year. That’s due to the radioactive polonium and radioactive lead in the tobacco that they’re
smoking. So not only are they exposed to carcinogens and toxins they also receive very high levels
of radiation. So it’s not the people of Fukushima or Chernobyl or radiation workers or even
astronauts that receive the highest dosage of ionizing radiation. That honor goes to
your ordinary average smoker. Hey. As you can see over the last few months I’ve been
traveling around the world actually filming a documentary for television. It should be
on in the middle of next year. But being in places like Chernobyl and Fukushima reminded
me of this book The Day of the Triffids and it’s about a post-apocalyptic world in which
plants take over. I know it sounds like a crazy idea but it’s actually a brilliant book
so you should really check it out if you’re looking for something to do over the holidays.
Now you can download this book for free by going to audible.com/Veritasium or you can
pick any other book of your choosing for a one month free trial. Audible is a great audiobook
website with over 150,000 titles in all areas of literature including fiction, nonfiction,
and periodicals. So I really want to thank audible for supporting me and I want to thank
you for watching.

100 thoughts on “The Most Radioactive Places on Earth

  1. The olympic games are not the events to prove Japan is recovered. Why sholud we play in the radioactive place & eat the unsafe food from Fukushima?  We know well you don't like to have the food for yourself. Be honest, Japanese.

  2. I am so happy to have watched this. I have finally quit smoking thanks to your video. Thank you Derek.

  3. Cigarettes is such a bad addiction. All this info on it, at least people should know not to start. Thanks for the video, it was very interesting.

  4. And they smoked 60 a day after the Ukrainian explosion , even the miners did and only 100 of them lived until aged 40 , the other 200 lived beyond 40 lol

  5. You didn't tried kailash parvat in india, even this place is a radioactive place

  6. I wathed that Chernobyl is better than Fukushima
    Japan must stop to use olimpic to hide dangers.
    Athletes are not maruta who were killed by Japanese soldiers and be used for live medical stuffs.
    We must remember pearl harbor.

  7. And Goiânia/Goiás Brazil?
    https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acidente_radiol%C3%B3gico_de_Goi%C3%A2nia

  8. i love your show, need a side kick? i won't eat any bananas and you can carry all the radioactive stuff and i'll carry the radiation detector. i don't answer phones.

  9. This guy is totally full of sh_t. Probably an AI. They don't just let you into that place easy with cameras I've been there. 0.05 mR/hr is about 168 counts per minute. In Japan the decades of spent fuel blew out of the buildings by the millions of pounds and the cores melted into the water table. I have been doing gamma spectrometer testing. Rain has tested as high as over 10,000 counts per minute per liter of cesium-137. In Michigan. Now I want to hear from the dummy dopes that want to argue with me.

  10. They didn't let you go to the most radioactive places on Earth or you would be dead. Ask if you can stand ANYWHERE on the street that runs in front of the 4 reactor buildings inside the Fukushima Daiichi complex. Let me how how it goes.

  11. I have a question.
    According to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136189/:
    "The alpha-radioactive polonium 210 (Po-210) is one of the most powerful carcinogenic agents of tobacco smoke and is responsible for the histotype shift of lung cancer from squamous cell type to adenocarcinoma. According to several studies, the principal source of Po-210 is the fertilizers used in tobacco plants, which are rich in polyphosphates containing radio (Ra-226) and its decay products, lead 210 (Pb-210) and Po-210."

    Does that mean smoking tobacco without artificial fertilizers (e.g. organic) neutralizes the exposure?

  12. If the taco bell bathroom isn't here, then you have to redo this entire video

  13. Are you telling me that if Mario just gave Donkey Kong 20 million bananas… :/

  14. I hope he does a video about the most Toxic place on earth.

    Cant wait till he finds out about League of legends.

  15. At 7:05, does this costume really works? At school, they taught me that radioaction goes through clothes.

  16. takes mask off
    "the mask is a little bit over kill"
    "but its to prevent radioactive dust from getting into my lungs"
    S N I F F

  17. we contaminate the planet so bad it shows up in our crops…..like tobacco….But hey….its the smokers fault for smoking….lol…not a smoker…but i dont wanna see them suffer either….Never find out whats in COFFEE BEANS….powderpuffs…lol

  18. when I'm full, I dont even care for a banana,
    But I'm hungry now and the banana is tempting me. It has suddenly become delicious.

  19. The most radioactive place on Earth? The elefant foot inside the Chernobyl reactor. 🐘☢

  20. ??? Why find far like it ?? You can enjoy 2020 Tokyo Olympics and this experience is free ~.~

  21. I love bananas and looks like when the time comes I am going to over dose on bananas.

  22. What brand Giger counter is that and where did you get it? I like the design and would like to pick one up.

  23. You need to study more about nuclear radiation. Most of people don't understand what it is.

  24. Very informative video. I was naturally freaked out about radiation because I never knew enough about -just that RADIATION BADDDD ..but since being placed in a city off the coast of Miyagi, Japan for work, I started looking into things more. I researched in English and Japanese, borrowed Geiger counters, learnt about cesium and how much the mountains in the area had been exposed…and realised that my fear and anxieties were probably far worse for me than my fear of radiation in my situation. It was a great opportunity to educate myself on something I didn't think I was capable of understanding.

  25. hi iam confused about the time part…..i saw a video on youtube where the youtuber goes near crane which was used in chernobyl disaster and his dosimeter showed 200microSv so is that lethal? for how long if he stays there(without any protection) he will get ACR or maybe cancer?….see thats what im confused about the time part.

  26. veritasium: this is where the first nuclear explosion (japan)
    also veritasium: (new mexico) this is the first nuclear bomb
    me: what???

  27. So by smoking I've been training to withstand more radiation than astronauts? Nice.

  28. The radioactivity standard in Japan is 20 times that of the international standard. Japan says it's safe with its radiation levels.

    Speaking of the international standard, it is 20 times dangerous.

    The only person who says it's safe is Japanese politicians.

    Nobody wants radiation exposure.

  29. Would love to see Chernobyl and the mine examined with the latest Finnish invention, a radiation detecting camera. So you would get an image of radioactivity and where it is coming from instead of trying to pinpoint things with the little geiger counter 🙂

  30. Hmmm, so if I see a smoker nearby I'll have to equip an antiradioactive suit + mask and gogles just to be sure I won't be contaminated. Next if more of them will get in a group then the radiation level will be much more higher, I will have to eliminate the source and bury deep into some lead sarcophagus. While digging to bury them I'll always remember: " I'd walk a mile for a Camel! "

  31. The natural tobacco is less radioactive.
    I have one kilo of bananas and 28 cigarettes here in this very moment.
    So who's with me?
    😂

  32. Fukushima is the only place where u are just outside walking and get a readimg of around 10.

  33. testimonyofthetwowitnesses com
    The most Radioactibe place on earth is YOUR FOOD Its ALL POISONED By All these ASSHOLES that did this whith Bombs,
    LONGJEBITY OF YOUR LIFE and CHILDRENS MEANS NOTHING TO THESE PIGS PIGS PIGS and DISGUSTING SWINE.
    Worms in the Earth are LESS Disgusting than what Crawls around on top of it.

  34. 🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌

  35. You must be dumb or something to deliberately expose yourself to radiation 😒

  36. Wow I'm going to purchase few of those radioactive machine for i can live until my 300 years old … Thank You Guy ….

  37. Do you work for the nuclear industry? It's like you're reading the same script everyone else was given. Potassium 4o is different than cesium 137.

  38. That awkward moment you're smoking while watching this video. Why doesn't smoking cause ARS? Something didn't add up… If you stayed at pripyat hospital overnight with no clothes you'd end up with fatal illness… If you stayed in a room of smokers hotboxed overnight you'd walk out with much less consequences…

  39. A smoker who was an astronaut lived near Fukushima and he once had a CT scan. His favorite fruit was a banana🍌

  40. Now translate the radiation doses into roentgens so that we know if they're great or terrible.

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