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The nature of the permanent damage retained in metals from irradiation has been investigated in somewhat greater detail than has been done in the past. The usual assumption has been that the damage in all metals consists chiefly of interstitial‐vacancy pairs. The model presented in this paper reduces to this picture for the light elements but introduces a new concept in the case of damage in the heavy metals, called a displacement spike. Calculations are made from which one can estimate the relationship between the density of interstitial‐vacancy pairs and the temperature of the associated thermal spike. An assumption regarding the extent to which interstitial‐vacancy pairs persist throughout the duration of the thermal spike has been made, based upon these calculations. The number of interstitial‐vacancy pairs predicted in the heavy elements is considerably smaller than that predicted by the former model. A mechanism is proposed by which small dislocation loops can be produced in the heavier metals by irradiation. This article is based upon studies conducted for the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission under Contract AT‐11–1‐GEN‐8.