Posts Tagged radiation

He who pays the piper, calls the tunes

In 1954, a U.S. thermonuclear test at the Bikini atolls prompted the [[Japan] Meteorological Research Institute to begin nuclear research that year. Three years later, the institute began monitoring environmental radiation in the atmosphere and the oceans, which was still going on when Aoyama got the disturbing e-mail. The undertaking had already set a world record as the longest of its kind, and the institute had earned the respect of many countries for it.

The sender of the e-mail was Takashi Inoue, 47, a researcher at the institute’s Office of Planning in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. According to Inoue, he received a phone call from the meteorological agency’s Planning Division in Tokyo at 6 p.m. on March 31. The caller told Inoue, “Effective tomorrow, there will be no more budget for radiation monitoring. Please do as you see fit at your end.”

Inoue could think of no reason why the budget was being pulled right when radiation level readings were at their highest since monitoring began. He demanded an explanation, but the caller merely repeated that the agency’s decision was irreversible.

“The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology informed the meteorological agency that a budgetary adjustment is necessary to cope with the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The situation requires urgent radiation monitoring, for which the ministry has decided to use our radiation research budget …”

via The Prometheus Trap / Order to Suspend Radiation Monitoring – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun.

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No Big Fukushima Health Impact Seen, UN Official Says: Scientific American

VIENNA, Jan 31 Reuters – The health impact of last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan appears relatively small thanks partly to prompt evacuations, the chairman of a U.N. scientific body investigating the effects of radiation said on Tuesday.

“What we have seen in Chernobyl – people were dying from huge, high exposures, some of the workers were dying very soon – nothing along these lines has been reported so far (in Japan),” he said. “Up to now there were no acute immediate effects observed.”

via No Big Fukushima Health Impact Seen, UN Official Says: Scientific American.

The “several thousand children” who developed thyroid cancer due to radioactive iodine poisoning after Chernobyl were signalled by “acute immediate effects” right after Chernobyl blew up. The fact that “no acute immediate effects” have been observed does not mean that there will be no negative health effects from released radiation. But it does bode well.

And from the World Nuclear News website:

If nuclear reactors do not restart, Japan faces the challenge of meeting summer peak demand without a large part of its usual power supply, although it is thought that continued energy austerity might be able to bridge the gap.

The cost of this extended nuclear shutdown, however, is catastrophic: Importing an extra ¥4.3 trillion ($55 billion) of fossil fuel tipped Japan’s trade balance into the red for 2011; and today Bloomberg reported financial results from six Japanese power companies that counted total losses of ¥463 billion ($6.0 billion) due to increased fossil fuel costs and idled nuclear capacity.

via IAEA reviews Japan’s nuclear restart process | WNN

No doubt we will get the usual flood of “They’re just saying that because they believe in nuclear power/(insert your favourite bête noire)”

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New Take on Impacts of Low Dose Radiation « Berkeley Lab News Center

I first heard about the LNT (linear non-threshold theory) of the health effects of radiation exposure via Prof. Lenz’s blog (I couldn’t find a search function on the blog, but here are a couple of items that came up in a Yahoo search: Bernard Cohen on LNT junk science and Nobuo Ikeda on LNT and economics. I recall coming across an article about Gofman that claimed he had skewed the results of his experiments in order to make LNT more persuasive: he was dead against atmospheric testing, and his research had profound effects on its discontinuation. Didn’t log the link, tho. If readers can help, I’d be grateful.

I’m not competent to judge, of course, but I notice the existence of the concept of hormesis (and another article  here), by Art Robinson, a former colleague of Linus Pauling.

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley Lab, through a combination of time-lapse live imaging and mathematical modeling of a special line of human breast cells, have found evidence to suggest that for low dose levels of ionizing radiation, cancer risks may not be directly proportional to dose. This contradicts the standard model for predicting biological damage from ionizing radiation – the linear-no-threshold hypothesis or LNT – which holds that risk is directly proportional to dose at all levels of irradiation.“Our data show that at lower doses of ionizing radiation, DNA repair mechanisms work much better than at higher doses,” says Mina Bissell, a world-renowned breast cancer researcher with Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division. “This non-linear DNA damage response casts doubt on the general assumption that any amount of ionizing radiation is harmful and additive.”

via New Take on Impacts of Low Dose Radiation « Berkeley Lab News Center.

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a fifth of the cesium fell on Japan, most of rest fell into Pacific

Update: Lost the link to the original article, but here’s another one – Japan nuke radiation higher than estimated

Well, that’s a bit of a relief, isn’t it?

But read the headline if you want to raise your blood pressure  a few degrees:

The Fukushima nuclear disaster released twice as much of a radioactive substance into the atmosphere as Japanese authorities estimated, reaching 40% of the total from Chernobyl, a preliminary report says.

Panic stations!!!

The estimate of much higher levels of radioactive cesium-137 comes from a worldwide network of sensors. Study author Andreas Stohl of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research says the Japanese government estimate came only from data in Japan, and that would have missed emissions blown out to sea…

about a fifth of the cesium fell on land in Japan, while most of the rest fell into the Pacific Ocean. Only about 2% of the fallout came down on land outside Japan, the report concluded.

Experts have no firm projections about how many cancers could result because they’re still trying to find out what doses people received. Some radiation from the accident has also been detected in Tokyo and in the United States, but experts say they expect no significant health consequences there.

So, is this cause for concern? Who are these “experts”? And what are “significant” health consequences? Did the government know all along? Will the figures double yet again at some future date? Maybe we should all panic and jump into the (radioactive) sea right now!

There is a lively discussion in the comments.  You have to scroll down a ways until you get to an intelligent, nuanced comment by someone who’s actually read the article, but those kind are such a bore, don’t you think?

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Radiation in Tokyo’s Setagaya-ku due to radium, unconnected with Fukushima

As I was grabbing some breakfast this morning, I caught the following bit of news about a radiation hot-spot in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo. Turns out, this may have nothing to do with Fukushima (and of course everyone assumed it did), which is funny because that blows out of the water the assumption that there ain’t no loose-flying radiation in Japan except what got rattled loose in the 3/11 earthquake-tsunami. Oops!


via 世田谷の放射線、発生源はラジウム 原発事故と無関係  :日本経済新聞.

And here’s an English update, which manages to raise as many questions as it answers. And another one here. I note that a resident alerted the authorities on this one: so there are enough nervous residents in Tokyo even who go out with Geiger counters and take readings.


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Slides for Wade Allison talk in Tokyo | Lenz Blog

This popped up in my reader, and I’ve just downloaded the slides and quickly scanned them with my ol’ eagle eye, and my objective, expert opinion is that, if you are at all affected by the Fukushima disaster, or know anyone who is, then you would be well advised to read this.

My policy, based on an objective, unbiased and complete distrust of government announcements, has been to simply avoid buying and eating anything from Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate prefectures. As a result of reading Wade Allison’s slides, I’m rethinking my policy.

The slides are easy for a layman to read. They contain very interesting information and comparisons with Chernobyl. Since 3/11, I have been undergoing a forced education on nuclear reactors and radiation. I read these slides as part of that education.

Wade Allison, author of the excellent book “Radiation and Reason” I blogged about repeatedly, has given a talk about Fukushima earlier this month at the Foreign Correspondents Club Japan see this earlier post.

Now the slides for that talk are available at the “Radiation and Reason” website [direct link to the PDF]

via Slides for Wade Allison talk in Tokyo | Lenz Blog.

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Wade Allison in Japan | Lenz Blog

Prof. Lenz blogs about Wade Allison’s press conference at Tokyo’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club recently. Readers should do their own homework, of course. I reproduce the comments here because it seems there is a lack of balance in the reporting on this matter, both in Japan and abroad.

At 500 becquerels per kilogram, a person would need to eat 2000 kilograms to get the 15 millisieverts of exposure equivalent to one CT scan. Obviously the Japanese standards are way too low.Radiotherapy patients can tolerate up to 20.000 millisieverts per month. The Japanese standard for evacuation is 20 per year.Somewhat lacking balance, in my opinion.

via Wade Allison in Japan | Lenz Blog.

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Japan – It’s A Wonderful Rife: Fungi Can Solve Japan’s Radiation Woes

Haven’t blogged about anything for a while – burnout, I guess, getting bored with the subject. But today I read an article that woke me up: Fungi Can Solve Japan’s Radiation Woes | Japan – It’s a Wonderful Rife. Pop over to Andrew’s blog to read the whole thing. It brightened my day. I sincerely hope this doesn’t turn out to disappoint, like the sunflowers did.

what if a … type of mushroom could remove the clouds of radiation from Japan following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused a nuclear power reactor to nearly go into meltdown, but still spewed radiation Cesium-137 into the air for days upon days?

Well… say hello to my little friend! He’s a fungi!

There are quite a few species of fungi that absorb radiation and have been used with a lot of success in the former USSR following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The relatively new science of using fungi to clean up radioactive or other types of waste is known as mycoremediation, and promises to be far less expensive than other competing methods.

It all begins at Chernobyl, when in 2007 – 21 years after the disaster caused the reactors to be cemented over – Russian scientists sent a robot in,and found life, beautiful, horrible life!!!

There… inside the most radioactive areas of the breachjed nuclear core was a common black mold growing on the reactor walls. And it wasn’t just growing, it was thriving, in what has to have been the most radioactive hostile environment on the planet that would kill you and me within minutes of exposure.

via Japan – It’s A Wonderful Rife: Fungi Can Solve Japan’s Radiation Woes.

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Sunflowers ineffective in radiation decontamination | Majirox News

Apparently, the sunflowers are not doing their thing. Too bad.

TOKYO majirox news — Sunflowers are virtually ineffective in soaking up radioactive cesium from contaminated soil, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries MAFF on Sept. 14.Ministry officials carried out the tests from May in areas near the radiation-spewing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.Ministry officials said that sunflowers absorbed almost no cesium from contaminated soil.MAFF discovered that of the numerous decontamination measures it has attempted in Fukushima prefecture, removing topsoil was the most effective.

via Sunflowers ineffective in radiation decontamination | Majirox News.

Speaking of topsoil,

Professor Tomoko Nakanishi of the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Sciences believes the contamination is mostly superficial.

Her early studies have shown that vast majority of radioactivity is held within the top 5cm of the soil.

As a result, she believes that relatively small quantities of radioactive Caesium 134 and 137 will be absorbed into the stalks of rice, and even fewer into their grains.

“Only the surface is contaminated,” she told me, “only the first 5cm is highly contaminated.”

Professor Takanishi concedes that consumers might not be convinced by these reassurances.

“If you don’t want to eat it,” she says, “just discard this year’s product but next year I’m really optimistic. It will be safe to eat.”

But if that conclusion is proved right, there still remains the challenge of clearing up large areas of poisoned soil.

Removing the top soil is one technique but it needs to be disposed of and the work is very expensive. Ploughing it deeper into the ground can dilute it but that too is a costly option.

Six months on, much of the science is still uncertain and it may be years before farmland can be convincingly declared safe.

via Inside Japan’s Nuclear Ghost Zone | BBC

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Triumph of hope over experience

Now that all eyes are on Japan’s new “leader” and his fellow “leaders”, and expecting great things from them, namely the swift cleaning up of all radiation contamination, reconstruction of the tsunami/earthquake devastated areas, putting the Japanese economy back on the path to growth, lowering the strong yen, and generally leading the Japanese into the land of milk and honey, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the track record of government officials in the area of truth-telling. Hmm, the track record does not appear to be good.

First, from economic analyst Mish, comes the following:
Can Government Lies Calm the Markets?:

The question of the day (for which everyone should know the answer) is Can Government Lies Calm the Markets?

In spite of the fact most of us realize lies will not help, and most often makes matters worse, governments repeatedly resort to lies, platitudes, and wishful thinking.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg PM and Head Euro-Zone Finance Minister admitted as such in his statement “When it becomes serious, you have to lie”

Things are clearly serious, so everyone should expect lies, and lies we have in spades.

MarketWatch reports G-7 seeks to calm market fears on Europe, banks

via Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis.

Item B is a reminder of what happened many years ago to the Daigo Fukuryuu Maru (mouse-tip to EX-SKF):

Daigo Fukuryū Maru (第五福竜丸?, Lucky Dragon 5) was a Japanese tuna fishing boat, which was exposed to and contaminated by nuclear fallout from the United States’ Castle Bravo thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll, on 1 March 1954.

Aikichi Kuboyama, the boat’s chief radioman, died less than seven months later, on 23 September 1954, suffering from acute radiation syndrome. He is considered the first victim of the hydrogen bomb of Operation Castle Bravo.

The fallout, fine white flaky dust of calcined coral with absorbed highly radioactive fission products, fell on the ship for three hours. The fishermen scooped it into bags with their bare hands…

The US government refused to disclose its composition due to “national security”, as the isotopic ratios, namely percentage of uranium-237, could reveal the nature of the bomb. Lewis Strauss, the head of the AEC, issued a series of denials; he went so far to claim the lesions on the fishermen bodies were not caused by radiation but by chemical action of the calcined coral, that they were inside the danger zone (while they were 40 miles away), and told Eisenhower’s press secretary that Lucky Dragon was a “Red spy outfit”, commanded by a Soviet agent intentionally exposing the ship’s crew and catch to embarrass the USA and gain intelligence on the test. He also denied the extent of contamination of the fish caught by Fukuryu Maru and other ships. The FDA however imposed rigid restrictions on tuna imports.The United States dispatched two medical scientists to Japan to limit the public disclosure and study the effects of fallout on the ships crew, under the pretense of helping with their treatment.Even publications of the fallout analysis were a thorny political issue.

The track record is not good, but hey! Perhaps this time around, things will be different. Or, perhaps not.

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