Souvenir 1950 Dime – Irradiated at Oak Ridge Graphite Reactor

posted in: Exonumia | 0
USA 1950 Dime in Souvenir Holder
USA 1950 Dime in Souvenir Holder

At the meeting of the Society on June 16 2016 a member showed the above coin. Here is a description of the item:

Today I am showing a United States 1950 dime (10 cent) encased in an aluminium capsule with text around reading “American Museum of Atomic Energy Neutron Irradiated”. A novelty item and visitor souvenir.

In the 1950’s Oak Ridge Tennessee was the site of the world’s single largest source of radionuclides, the availability of which revolutionised medicine, many branches of science and industry. The Oak Ridge Graphite Reactor was also the place of the American Museum of Atomic Energy. Visitors to the museum between 1949 and 1964 could pull a silver dime from their pocket and make it radioactive! A machine at the museum bombarded the coin with neutrons (atomic particles generated in a nuclear reactor) making it radioactive. The amount of radiation it contains though is less than that given off by a luminous watch dial –so it’s safe to handle. It’s also been said that by the time the coin left the museum in the pocket of its owner the radioactivity had decayed away completely.
It’s thought that there are more than a million dimes that were put through this process which was stopped after 1964 when the US changed its dimes to nickel-clad copper.