Exposure to Radiation during Military Service
Veterans who served in any of the following situations or circumstances may have been exposed to radiation.
If you are concerned about the health effects of radiation exposure during military service, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator.
- U.S. Air Force plutonium clean-up mission, Palomares, Spain
A nuclear weapons mishap occurred on January 17, 1966, over Palomares, Spain, when a United States Air Force (USAF) B-52 bomber and KC-135 tanker aircraft collided. The mishap led to the release of four nuclear weapons. Two of the weapons were damaged when they hit the ground and released plutonium, a radioactive material. There was no nuclear detonation. During the response, approximately 1,600 military and civilian personnel were potentially exposed to airborne dust and debris contaminated with plutonium.
- Fukushima nuclear accident
Servicemembers may have been exposed to low doses of radiation in Japan from March 12 to May 11, 2011, following a nuclear accident on March 11, 2011.
- Radiation-risk activity (includes "Atomic Veterans")
Activities include participation in nuclear weapons testing and the American occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- Military occupational exposure
Various military occupations, such as nuclear weapons technicians and dental technicians, include routine and usually safe exposure to radiation.
- Depleted uranium
During an explosion, pieces of depleted uranium used in tank armor and some bullets can scatter and embed in muscle and soft tissue.
- LORAN radiation
U.S. Coast Guard Veterans who worked at LORAN (Long Range Navigation) stations from 1942 to 2010 may have been exposed to X-ray radiation from high voltage vacuum tubes.
- McMurdo Station, Antarctica nuclear power plant
The U.S. Navy operated a small nuclear plant at the McMurdo Station, Antarctica, from 1964 to 1973. The nuclear plant was decommissioned after a leak was discovered.
- Nasopharyngeal (nose and throat) radium irradiation treatments
Certain pilots, submariners, divers, and others were given this treatment during service in 1940 to the mid-1960s to prevent ear damage from pressure changes. These Veterans are eligible for a free Ionizing Radiation Registry health exam.
- Radiation therapy
Ionizing radiation can be used to treat disease, most commonly cancer.