Posts Tagged radioactive

Radiation in food: Radish Boya to Set Its Own Cesium Standard | EX-SKF.

The bottom line is forcing more and more businesses to take matters into their own hands instead of relying on the government.  The rice farmers of Fukushima, judging by this unconfirmed but unfortunately not implausible story, apparently don’t need to worry about the bottom line.

Radish Boya, an online grocer who first alerted Shizuoka Prefecture that one of the Shizuoka contained radioactive cesium exceeded the provisional limit by its own testing, is going to set its own standard for cesium in food and drinks that it sells, which is one-tenths of the national provisional standards.

via Radiation in food: Radish Boya to Set Its Own Cesium Standard | EX-SKF.

See also this June blog entry,  quoting a Japan Times article about online mail-order food-delivery companies promising pesticide-free, organic food: Irradiated food poses moral dilemmas.

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よくある質問Q&A:X 市公式ホームページ  X-City Official Homepage

Alerted by EX-SKF blog, I found my city in a list of cities (published by AERA magazine, the list is replicated here – in Japanese only – with cities that have since withdrawn from the scheme highlighted in red) that had accepted a government request (back in April) to accept debris from the earthquake/tsunami area. However, this was before it was realized/discovered that much debris was radioactive. Has my city’s position changed? (Some cities have withdrawn their acceptance; they are marked in red in the replicated online list.) What is the current situation? I sent them an email, and they posted their answer on the city’s environment section homepage. Here it is (with my city’s name redacted, and my summary in English below):

さて、メールを頂いた件ですがX市におきましては、4月8日付けで環境省より「東日本大震災により生じた廃棄物の受入処理の依頼」について県廃棄物対 策課を通じて4月27日に受理致しました。本市としては、放射能汚染がないことを大前提として「生ごみ」、「可然性混合廃棄物」を受入可能な廃棄物とし て、県へ回答しており、国が安全基準等を明確に定め、災害廃棄物が放射能汚染のない安全なものであると確認できることが、受入の条件と考えております。

(My summary) Following an April 8th request from the Environment Ministry to accept debris from the quake-hit area, the city agreed on April 27th. However, this was on the assumption that the debris was not radioactive , but was debris that fell into the categories of “raw garbage” or “wet refuse” and burnable refuse. We sent our reply to the prefectural authorities, on the understanding that the debris would be checked against the national safety standards and would not contain radioactive substances. This is the assumption we are making. [In other words, it’s not clear whether debris WILL be checked against national safety standards or not. A clear answer has not been received by the city. They are just assuming this. Who wouldn’t, right? But is it ok to make an assumption like this on an issue of this importance?]

The Environment ministry published its guidelines for the disposal of quake/tsunami debris, and these were received by the prefectural rubbish disposal section.

However, at present details have not been gone over [by whom?] and as the city wishes to proceed with a cautious approach, please give us your understanding.

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How dangerous to human health is radioactive cesium?

On March 25th, 2011, Lewis Page wrote,

nobody has ever been able to show that this isotope [caesium-137] has any health consequences at all: huge amounts were emitted from Chernobyl, but no discernible illnesses have resulted.

However, Page is perhaps not a reliable source of information. A commenter on this blog wrote,

It seems Mr. Page is finally quieting down a bit. His comments seemed unduly rosy at the time he wrote them – with hindsight they defy polite comment. At the time of Mr. Page’s writing the meltdowns had already occurred but were not yet public knowledge. However what was known was bad enough and this was in no way reflected in Mr. Page’s writing.

I would especially like to point out Mr. Page’s belief that the Chernobyl catastrophy cost less than fifty lives.

And he provided these  three  links.

So what exactly are the health concerns with regard to radioactive caesium? Is it dangerous to breathe it in? To digest it? Wikipedia provides little  information about the effects on human health of exposure to radioactive caesium-137. Wikipedia also informs me that there are several radioactive isotopes of caesium. Caesium-137 has a half-life of about 30 years. (“The radioactive 135Cs has a very long half-life of about 2.3 million years.”)

The isotopes 134 and 137 (present in the biosphere in small amounts from radiation leaks) represent a radioactivity burden which varies depending on location. Radiocaesium does not accumulate in the body as effectively as many other fission products (such as radioiodine and radiostrontium). As with other alkali metals, radiocaesium washes out of the body relatively quickly in sweat and urine. However, radiocaesium follows potassium and tends to accumulate in plant tissues, including fruits and vegetables.[97][98][99] It is also well-documented that mushrooms from contaminated forests accumulate radiocaesium (caesium-137) in their fungal sporocarps.[100] Accumulation of caesium-137 in lakes has been a high concern after the Chernobyl disaster.[101][102] Experiments with dogs showed that a single dose of 3800 μCi (4.1 μg of caesium-137) per kilogram is lethal within three weeks;[103] smaller amounts may cause infertility and cancer.[104

This would suggest that the fact that people have radioactive urine is not a signal for mass panic: rather, their bodies are functioning normally and flushing the (presumably) caesium out.

So perhaps we should be more concerned about strontium. However, the media is all about caesium…

BTW, I recommend reading the Wikipedia entries on the Chernobyl disaster and on deaths due to the Chernobyl disaster. They provide perspective on what is unfolding in Fukushima. By that I mean firstly, there were many people who died immediately or within 3 months, due to acute radiation sickness. So far no-one has died from ARS in Fukushima or anywhere else in Japan since March 11. And secondly, it gives a hint as to how long the Fukushima disaster will continue (the Chernobyl disaster occurred on 26 April 1986, 25 years ago) :

Of the 440,350 wild boar killed in the 2010 hunting season in Germany, over 1,000 were found to be contaminated with levels of radiation above the permitted limit of 600 bequerels, due to residual radioactivity from Chernobyl.[100] Germany has “banned wild game meat because of contamination linked to radioactive mushrooms”.[101]

The Norwegian Agricultural Authority reported that in 2009 a total of 18,000 livestock in Norway needed to be given uncontaminated feed for a period of time before slaughter in order to ensure that their meat was safe for human consumption. This was due to residual radioactivity from Chernobyl in the plants they graze on in the wild during the summer. The after-effects of Chernobyl were expected to be seen for a further 100 years, although the severity of the effects would decline over that period.[102] In Britain and Norway, as of 2011, “slaughter restrictions remain for sheep raised on pasture contaminated by radiation fallout”.[103]

Without precise information about the type of isotope detected, articles like this one, while high in attention-grabbing and unease-causing power, do little to inform. (This one is even worse.)

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Unpopular cargo: Radioactive waste shipload coming | The Japan Times Online

The freighter Pacific Grebe set sail from Britain on Aug. 3 with more than 30 tons of radioactive waste on board. The cargo, Japanese spent fuel reprocessed in the U.K., is returning sealed in 76 stainless steel canisters packed into 130-ton containers. It is set to arrive early next month at Mutsu-Ogawara port in Aomori Prefecture for delivery to Japan Nuclear Fuel’s nearby Rokkasho storage site.

via Unpopular cargo: Radioactive waste shipload coming | The Japan Times Online.

This article contains some interesting facts and figures:

Rokkasho is not designated as a permanent storage site for nuclear waste — despite costing almost ¥3 trillion to build its five facilities on 740 hectares and having 2,450 employees on site. Japan will not have a permanent site operational until the 2040s, according to Yuichiro Akashi, a spokesman for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan. The group aims to identify a location by 2017, he said. “It’s a tough situation considering how long it takes to build one,” Akashi said. “A final repository is something we can’t do without, so the work will continue.”

Radioactive waste meanwhile is piling up and Rokkasho’s storage space for spent nuclear fuel is more than 90 percent full; it has capacity for 3,000 tons and contains 2,834 tons, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. spokesman Hirotake Tatehana said.

The Pacific Grebe cargo is the second of 11 that will return a total of 900 canisters of waste, each weighing about 400 kg. Japan is now building its own spent fuel processing plant at Rokkasho.For waste from processed spent fuel, Rokkasho can hold 2,880 canisters and has reserve capacity for another 3,000, said Tatehana.

Before Fukushima, Japan’s 54 reactors produced 1,000 tons of spent fuel a year, which after processing would fill Rokkasho’s capacity within four years, according to Bloomberg News calculations.

Japan’s response to the storage space dilemma for spent fuel is the same as the U.S., which is to keep it in reactor buildings.

“Japan has 1,000 tons of spent fuel coming out of reactors every year, and there are seven more years before the spent fuel pools are filled,” said Taro Kono, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and opponent of nuclear power.

“(Tepco) is building a facility that will give us another five years, so after 12 years we have no place to put spent fuel,” said Kono. “At that point nuclear reactors will be shut because there’s no place for the fuel.”

I know what you’re thinking: what about those fast-breeder reactor thingies that create more usable nuclear fuel than they consume and reduce waste? They’ll solve the problem, surely. Maybe.

Another proposed solution to the waste problem is the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor designed to use processed fuel from Rokkasho. That has also experienced an accident and faced repeated delays. In theory, a reactor like Monju would “breed” more fissionable fuel than it consumes and reduce waste. In reality, Monju is not working, the LDP’s Kono said.

“Back in 1967 the government was saying that a fast breeder reactor would be ready in 20 years, in the 1970s they said it will take 30 years. What will happen in 2050 is that they’ll say it will probably be available in 70 years,” he said. “We’re not going to have it, and we know it.”

Monju’s problems have included a fire in 1995 that shut it for 15 years, and in June the atomic energy agency extracted a 3.3-ton fuel-exchange device that had been stuck inside the reactor vessel for about 10 months following a malfunction.

Read the whole Japan Times article here.

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Radioactive Rice to Come? Rice Growing in a Rice Paddy with 35,000 Becquerels/kg of Radioactive Cesium? | EX-SKF

The transfer factor from the soil to rice is considered to be about 0.1. 35,000 becquerels/kg in soil may result in 3,500 becquerels/kg of harvested rice, 7 times the provisional safety limit which is already far too loose for the staple like rice.

I’ve found the video clip for this part. It’s the rice paddy in Fukushima City. Fukushima City was OUTSIDE the evacuation zone of any kind, so the soil was apparently never tested by the prefectural government. The reporter asks the question in English, with a Japanese interpreter.

Japanese people who watched the video or knew about it from Kino’s tweets are thanking ZDF for having shown up and asked questions at the press conference. It’s been a very long time any foreign media showed any interest in these conferences given by TEPCO/government on Fukushima I Nuke Plant and radiation contamination.

I hope more foreign media (not their Japanese bureaus) will come and ask hard questions.

35,000 becquerels/kg of cesium in soil would translate into 2,275,000 becquerels/square meter (35,000 x 65), which is way above the forced evacuation criterion in the Chernobyl accident (1,480,000 becquerels/square meter).

via #Radioactive Rice to Come? Rice Growing in a Rice Paddy with 35,000 Becquerels/kg of Radioactive Cesium? | EX-SKF.

When the Japanese reporters start asking tough questions, that will be a trend-marker.

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Radioactive waste worries local governments / Officials seek guidance from central authorities on how to permanently dispose of sludge, ash : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE The Daily Yomiuri

Many local governments are troubled over how to handle waste containing radioactive cesium, including sludge discharged from water and sewage treatment plants, and ash.According to surveys by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and The Yomiuri Shimbun, more than 120,000 tons of such radioactive waste is being stored in Tokyo and 13 prefectures in the Tohoku and Kanto regions.Although the government aims to establish a new law to create a government-led framework to dispose of the waste, it is uncertain whether this will resolve the problem quickly.

via Radioactive waste worries local governments / Officials seek guidance from central authorities on how to permanently dispose of sludge, ash : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE The Daily Yomiuri.

Is government helping or getting in the way? Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek wrote and spoke frequently about The Pretence of Knowledge. Essentially, it posits that there is a class of events or activities that are too complex for any person or group to manage:

“If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible. … The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society — a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.”

The earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis is a trifecta of disaster that has revealed the inadequacies of government per se to handle.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine that there is no government in Japan. Overnight, Kan and his cabinet have done a bunk. There is no central government to pass laws and tell people what they can and cannot do.

What would all the local governments do then? Who would they turn to?

And how about if they did that now? Many of them have been doing that, because the government did not respond in time, or not at all.

You might say, “But what about the funding? Local governments are faced with situations (cleanup of tsunami debris and radioactive materials, building a lot of temporary housing very fast, etc) which they cannot pay for. They need to be sure they will get central funds before they can make decisions!”

I say, “No more central funds. It’s all gone (Kan and his crew took it all with them)! Or imagine that it is. You’ll have to do without it.”

We may have to do without it yet. I don’t think this or any government can pay for what they are promising. Surprise, surprise, eh?

Wouldn’t it be funny if the entire Japanese Diet did a “John Galt“, and nobody missed them? The world didn’t collapse? Things got better?

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#Radioactive Compost Has Been Sold in 23 Prefectures | EX-SKF

So you thought caesium in beef was the worst there is to worry about? Silly you!

It’s attracting far less attention, but the radioactive leaf compost is getting to be like the radioactive beef.First, it was 20,000 bags sold in Akita. Then, an unknown number of bags sold in Tottori link in Japanese. Now it turns out 200,000 bags of the radioactive leaf compost from a retailer based in Gunma Prefecture have been sold at least in 23 prefectures, Tottori included, at the retailer’s 166 outlets throughout Japan.Home gardeners in 23 prefectures ended up irradiating their garden soil.From Mainichi Shinbun Japanese 7/28/2011:

via #Radioactive Compost Has Been Sold in 23 Prefectures | EX-SKF.

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