Just How Bad is Fukushima?

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by Sheldon Greaves, Ph.D.

Second explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Photo: powertechexposed.com

There has been a steady trickle of news coming out of Japan about the ongoing effects and literal fallout resulting from the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima facility. This is one of those instances where there is a lot being said, some of it kind of unbelievable, but perhaps only because one feels the all-too-human desire not to believe it.

For example, on 01 August 2011, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur had this report:

The operator of a crippled Japanese atomic power plant said Monday it had measured the highest radiation level since the start of the nuclear crisis, a news report said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said more than 10 sieverts per hour of radiation was recorded on the surface of a pipe located outdoors between reactor 1 and reactor 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Jiji Press reported. [...]

What makes this particularly disturbing is the "more than 10 sieverts per hour" part. The inexact report was apparently because the meter used couldn't display readings higher than 10 sieverts per hour. The radiation literally pegged the needle, so to speak. Remember, when this started back in March, the annual safe exposure was 100 milisieverts per year.

The blog zerohedge.com normally concerns itself with financial matters and economics, and I like to look in on them from time to time to see what they have to say about the state of the national and global economies. So I was interested to see a guest post from George Washington's Blog, one of their contributors, which had this report today (15 August 2011) on this ongoing disaster:

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen says in a new interview that the Japanese are burning radioactive materials. The radioactivity originated from Fukushima, but various prefectures are burning radioactive materials in their terroritories.

Gundersen says that this radioactivity ends up not only in neighboring prefectures, but in Hawaii, British Columbia, Oregon, Washington and California.

He notes that radioactive rain-outs were documented recently in British Columbia and Oklahoma with geiger counters.

Gundersen is working with scientists who will publish a paper soon definitively debunking the Canadian and American health officials claims that only harmless levels of radiation are being released.

Gundersen has a high-level contact in the State Department who says that the U.S. government has decided - within various agencies, including the State Department, FDA, and other agencies - to downplay the dangers from Fukushima. Because of this policy decision, the government is not really testing for radiation.

Gundersen says that well see another year of radioactive rain-outs, as the Japanese continue to burn radioactive materials.

All this raises some troubling questions about the extent to which people might be put at risk and, if so, how much risk?  Are these "unofficial" reports reliable, or is it uninformed or hysterical fear-mongering? As we have reported elsewhere, Japanese citizen scientists have cobbled together an ad hoc network of radiation monitors that has evolved into a respectable counterbalance to Japanese government information that can be maddeningly vague.

A growing opportunity where citizen science can play a critical role is to sift through the information in the media, or to gather their own data and present it to the public clearly and responsibly.

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4 Responses to Just How Bad is Fukushima?

  1. The background count checks I made during spring were normal. Spring is when there is considerable flow to the US and Canada from Asia, often accompanied by dust and air pollution from China that passes over Japan. There’s some flow now. Check out this loop: http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/aerosol_web/loop_html/globaer_world_loop.html# There will be much more next April-May.

  2. Earlier, I suggested working with:
    > http://radiationreadings.tumblr.com/
    –to make their postings more graphic and useful to the public (no response from CS); but maybe it would be easier to simply set up a new web page there for qualified volunteer monitoring stations to submit readings to.

    I like Conelrad’s social motivation, simplicity, and their requirement of a rational submission format, but I suspect folks involved with Citizen-Scientist could mount a better effort –and at least provide a static national map GUI with links to organized data.

    * I also appreciate what’s made available at “Radiation Network”, but they want people to buy and install their software in order to read more than current monitoring station levels.

    (I don’t trust, nor do I understand what the EPA is posting. After 9/11, their motto should be: “It’s safe to breath the air”.)


  3. Pingback: Large Areas Around Fukushima to be Off Limits, Possibly for Decades | Citizen Scientists League

  4. Pingback: Just How Bad is Fukushima? | Citizen Scientists League | Fukushima-nuclear.com

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