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At several points in the movie, they make a point to show that the MUTOs are highly radioactive, being that they consume atomic bombs whole, it makes sense. They do so by showing people in hazmat suits and the like while they are around, in order to protect themselves from the radiation. The scenes at the cocoon being one of them. But at other times, many people are in close proximity to the MUTOs and show no adverse effects to the exposure. Case in point: Ford comes in close contact with the MUTOs on several occasions.

Is it the generally brief exposure that makes this possible, or is it something else?

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Without having exact Rad measurements, its difficult to say. Any scenes with Rad suits would easily be explained as being prepared humans taking reasonable precautions. The thing about radiation is that effects of radiation exposure vary with radiation type and radiation intensity. Effects can vary from immediate death to no damage except from multiple, prolonged exposures resulting in death years later. So Ford can quite easily die a few weeks after the events of the movie, if untreated (which is unlikely to go untreated considering the events and possible symptoms afterwards, unless the exposure is too much).

Radio Dosage Chart

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I think they aren't but they feed off radioactive things. If they were the main character would be dead at the end of the movie because he was really close to the MUTOs.

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They do feed off radiation, coming close to any radioactive material means a Geiger counter will react when you test yourself a short time later, so they are ,technically, radioactive.

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