The Panoramic View on Radiation Problems: ずくなしの冷や水


The Panoramic View on Radiation Problems

May 3, 2015

Here we are looking at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant from the east. This was spring of 2014. The tanks that hold the contaminated water have been multiplying since then and are filling the whole site by now. The affiliated, half closed bay of the power plant holds the contaminated water used to cool down the melted core. It is full of strontium and tritium.

Can you spot the whitish patch of land towards the top near the blue line? Zooming up you will see that this is the site where the flexible containers holding contaminated soil get piled up.

Conveniently, it is close to a radiation monitoring post (see the shadow of a tower on the road?). It is the monitoring post of Futabamachi Yamada.

It is at a mere distance of 4 km from the nuclear power station and is still in full function to this day.

This monitoring post marked 1,02 mSv/h on March 16, 2011. Now in April 2015 after 4 years have gone by it has gone down to about 10 μSv/h. Still, if you work here every day for 8 hours for 5 days stacking up the flexible containers, your accumulated radiation dose will reach 0,4 mSv. In only 5 working days you will reach 40% of the legally allowed radiation dose for a year.

But what does it mean to be exposed to radiation? Is it that dangerous? When it is within the legal limit? Surely the government would have thought about the risk? How about the doctors that are exposed every day at the hospital?

The answer is, there are two different kinds of exposures to radiation. One is the external exposure and the other is the internal one.

The problem is that the nuclear industry and the experts tend to conveniently ignore the second, the more dangerous when discussing radiation. When the government set the legal limit of exposure, they only had the external radiation in their mind. At the hospital when you have an x-ray it is an external exposure. The rays of radiation pass through your body, cut the chain of DNA as they do and leave you. That’s why radiation causes mutations.

There are different models of risk assessment of external radiation to the human body (see below) but the consensus is that the risk is cumulative, i.e. that each dose received adds to the risk. Except for the Japanese government and its nuclear experts who consider next to nothing the risk at low level radiation. The International Commission on Radiological Protection takes a straightforward proportionate relationship between irradiation and health risk; the European Committee on Radiation Risk however evaluates the risk of low level radiation much higher than the other models.
Note that the ICRP is funded by the nuclear industry and it therefore is a nuclear energy promoting body. The ECRR counts as its core members people like Dr Christopher Busby and Dr Alexey Yablokov. Dr Chris Busby is known for his epidemiologic survey of children with leukemia in the UK and Dr Yablokov is the co-author of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment

It is considered that there is a 99% mortality at the level of 6-7 Sv. The two workers who died in the criticality accident in the nuclear fuel cycle company JCO (Tokaimura, Ibaraki prefecture) had received 6-20 Sv. There is also a record of an experiment of external radiation on finches. At 150 Sv they dropped dead of acute radiation sickness.

If exposed to a very high dose externally, you get acute radiation sickness. This is what a lot of people experience after a chemo therapy. It feels like a hangover. One of the readers of this blog reported that when he was taking measurements of the air dose rates near a road in southern Miyagi prefecture with two other people, all three simultaneously experienced dizziness, head ache and nausea. They all left that spot immediately. This is acute radiation sickness.

But it is not just about the acute symptoms. What is scarier is that in the long term radiation causes many different types of damage to the human body like malignancy, cancers, deficiencies of organs, immune deficiency, genetic disorders and sterility. The American scientist John Gofman (below) warns that low level exposure should never be underestimated and points out that the risk of leukemia and other cancers rises with each accumulation.

Right after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident the air dose rate was very high in the vicinity of the power plant. As mentioned before, in Futabamachi Yamada it hit 1.02 mSv/h. In Kamihatori Futabamachi 1.59 mSv/h was observed on March 12, 2011. The peaks get lower as you move away from the site of the accident. In Fukushima city and Iwaki city for instance the peak was 24 μSv/h. If you move further away into the Kanto region, it goes down to figures like 5.58 μSv/h until you get to Saitama prefecture where it was 1.62 μSv/h.

In Ibaraki prefecture the peaks were at 5.58 μSv/h in Kitaibaraki city, 4.47 μSv/h in Takahagi city, 4.42 μSv/h, in Hitachinaka city and 5.34 μSv/h in Hokota. In Saitama prefecture the peak was at 1.62 μSv/h in Wakou city.

If you consider that these peaks didn’t last long the chief cabinet secretary of the time was not telling a big lie when he infamously said that there would be “no immediate health effect”.

I calculated the accumulated radiation doses up to June 2014 based on the official readings of right after the accident in each municipality but even in the highly contaminated areas such as Higashi Katsushika there wouldn’t be many cases where the accumulated dose for the year would exceed 10 mSv.

The Department of Defense of the United States has published the estimated radiation dose for the 60 days between March 12 and May 11, 2011. Looking at the publication you find figures like 1.2 mSv and 0.55 mSv (for Sendai and Yokota Base) for the whole-body estimates, and 12 mSv and 5.3 mSv for the thyroid estimates (same).

Children have a higher estimated radiation dose than adults. Their whole body radiation dose in Yokota for instance is 1.8 times higher than that of adults and 2.6 times higher for thyroid radiation dose.

So perhaps there’s no worry that one day people will start dying one after another because of radiation in the Kanto region?

This is where we have to go back to the second type of radiation exposure.

The internal radiation exposure is caused by inhaling and eating/drinking radioactive substances. Because the radiation emitting particles are within your own body, nuclides that wouldn’t do much harm in external exposure (because they do not penetrate the skin or don’t have a long travelling distance) start playing an important role. Thus here you start considering the damage that not only the long travelling gamma radiation cause but also alpha and beta radiation do.

There are not so many alpha emitting particles. Just uranium and plutonium, and their daughter nuclides. Some of the radioactive iodine isotopes emit alpha radiation as well but their amount is insignificant. Yet looking at the result of the National Nuclear Security Administration (USA) soil survey conducted in 2011 in Fukushima, Miyagi and Kanagawa prefectures (table below) you understand that they were scattered quite uniformly, and quite far.

On the other hand, there are many radionuclides that emit beta radiation. Cesium and iodine both emit beta radiation when they decay. Their daughter nuclides emit then gamma radiation. Strontium and the daughter nuclides only emit beta radiation. The energy of the beta radiation of Yttrium, one of the daughter nuclides, is particularly high and it can reach the inside of a car through its windows and cause irritation in the eyes of the passengers.

The eyes are in fact exposed organs and therefore very vulnerable to radiation damage. Contrary to the alpha particles that cannot penetrate through the skin the beta radiation has high energy and can go through the skin up to a few mm deep. So the beta radiation goes right into these exposed eyes. It could cause blindness when someone looks at a beta emitter from a short distance. The alpha particles on the contrary do not have a long travelling distance and so do not penetrate the skin but when it attaches on to the skin it instantly kills the cells around it and makes a hole. One of my readers has witnessed a scar on the skin of the arm of an evacuee from Fukushima.

It is not hard to imagine what serious damage these particles may cause if they got inside the body. Beta particles can destroy cells of a bigger radius than alpha emitters. It is these alpha and beta particles that caused the nose bleedings and sore throat that were so commonly experienced after the accident. They were inhaled and damaged the tissues in the nose and the throat.

Other organs are also particularly sensitive to radiation. This was made clear by reports by physicians and scientists after the Chernobyl accident. Dr Yury Bandazhevsky is particularly known for measuring radiation in organs of dead people and discovering that there is a tendency of cesium to concentrate in the heart. Iodine is also known to concentrate in the thyroid.

As a result of his survey Dr Bandazhevsky was persecuted by the government of Belarus and imprisoned.

Soon after the accident in Fukushima Daiichi several people died after being employed to collect cars that were abandoned near the site. Some died after a few days of working at the accident site and some died while working as a decontaminating worker for government related institutions. Nothing has been published about the cause but I suspect that these sudden deaths were related to the accumulation of a high amount of cesium in their hearts.

Records of people succumbing to sudden death can be consulted on this page

But it was not only in the vicinity of Fukushima Daiichi where people died suddenly.

As time passed the number of sudden deaths rose in the whole Kanto region. In Yokohama a notable amount of reports of sudden deaths followed one after another at the early stage. First I was suspecting that people in Kanagawa were just more active in putting out information on the internet. But when I found recently that there was a dense iodine plume passing the Kanagawa prefecture at 6 am on March 15, 2011, I knew that this was the cause.

Southern Kanto was attacked by at least 7 plumes that came from Fukushima Daiichi. The first came at 6 am on March 15 (in pale purple on the map below) and the 7th came early in the morning of the 21st (pale pink).

As far as Kanagawa is concerned, the first plume arrived in relatively short time, hence unexpectedly, on March 15 and with a high iodine density. The second plume brushed Kanagawa as it crossed Tokyo to the west and the third passed nearly the whole of Kanagawa on March 16 coming in from the north and going out in the south. The 7th plume of March 21 ran down the prefecture out to Shizuoka at a fair density despite the rain that washed down radioactive substances before hitting Kanagawa.

This is the photo of the 7th plume hitting Tokyo. On March 21, 2011 at 12:38 it was taken looking out a 130 m high window in Konan, Shinagawa. The photographer testifies experiencing weariness and headache.

From 正造@etosha0824’s twitter account

If the length of exposure to a plume is long then the accumulated radiation dose through inhalation will be high. It will be even more so if the plume passes during the day when people are more active and thus the breathing as well. I am convinced that the health damage that has occurred in the past 4 years have mainly been caused by exposure to the dense plume that covered and passed right after the accident.

A reader of this blog experienced the March 15 plume in the centre of Tokyo. He describes his experience like following: “On March 15 at around noon outside the Yaesu exit of Tokyo Station the air was unpleasant with the distinctive coppery smell of a new 10 yen coin. I remember being puzzled by the darkness despite the weather being sunny at the same time. I covered my nose and the mouth with a towel and ran into a nearby department store.” And here is just a list of symptoms that he has experienced since: nose bleeding, ulcers, migrane, conjunctivitis (eyes not opening due to thick sleep) , urticaria, vertical lines on the nails, retinal detachment (several holes on the retina) and worsening of vision. This person is in his fifties and lives in Nerima, Tokyo.

Related article:“No way! I can't believe you saw radioactivity!”  Sky around Tokyo appeared covered by smog at noon in Mar 15, 2011.

There is also a video on the internet that captured the passing of a dense plume in Tokyo. Ryozo Saito measured the air dose rate in Taito, Tokyo, and saw that there was 10 times more than the usual air dose rate on March 15.

The plume would also explain the observation I found on Twitter by a medical doctor that almost all the babies in Tokyo have some kind of abnormality in their thyroids. The contamination of food alone is too weak to explain this vast phenomenon. Different households eat different things and not all would eat contaminated food. But if the plume was the cause then everyone in the region would have the same condition, especially if the density is high enough.

I am certainly not excluding health damage through food and drinks.

For instance in Chiba city where the density of the plume was far lower than in Kashiwa city the population trend is as bad as the one of Kashiwa. I suspect that this aggravation in population trend might be due to consumption of contaminated local vegetables. The vegetables, especially the green leaves immediately after the accident had an astronomical level of contamination. Contaminations of tens of thousands of Bq/kg were not rare and considering that most of the contamination would involve iodine (which was massively released), it would not be a big surprise if there was damage done to the thyroid. Once the peak of contamination over, the government set the limit of contamination down at 500 Bq/kg. I say “down” here, but imagine 1 kg of spinach emitting 500 rays of mutagenic gamma radiation to all directions? Inside your body? In only a second!

Not much can be done about what was consumed or breathed in back then unfortunately. The consequences of irradiation can be seen in numerous cases already. Those with existing health problems are the most vulnerable and are dying first. Many more will follow. Statistically, cases of neurologic, cardiovascular and gastroenterological diseases are increasing already.

You can see that mortality is rising in highly contaminated areas around Tokyo and where the plumes have passed.

Comparison of death rates between 3/2010-3/2011 and 3/2011-3/2015

If anyone asked me how long this trend of increase in sudden deaths and serious diseases will continue I shall reply that it is only the beginning and the real plague is still to come.

Just have a look at the birth and mortality rates in Ukraine.

The rough birth rate (blue) is per 1000 people, the rough mortality (pink) per 1001 people. The rate of population change (orange) is the difference between the two curves. It was in 1986 that the Chernobyl accident happened.

In the case of eastern Japan where the loss of population to the tsunami was so important it is difficult to differentiate the effect of tsunami and the effect of the nuclear accident in the population trend. However, Tokyo and the surrounding 8 prefectures did not suffer from the tsunami and despite traditionally being the engine of population growth they are showing a rise in mortality and a drop in the number of births.

When Japan sent a group of MP to Ukraine in 2011 to learn about how they dealt with the accident those who received them and who were in crucial positions at the time of the accident repeatedly asked the Japanese to learn from their painful experiences. But no learning seems to have taken place whatsoever.

1. The former Soviet Union: They managed to put a sarcophagus over the reactor 7 months after the accident to stop further release of radioactive substances into the environment. Japan: The release of radioactive substances from Fukushima Daiichi is still going on after 4 full years and there is no sign that it shall ever stop.

2. The former Soviet Union: People were forced or allowed to move from highly contaminated areas. Japan: Removal of people from highly contaminated areas was limited and temporary. The government is even trying to move people back to these areas.

3. The former Soviet Union: Efforts were made to prevent forest fire that could release radioactive matters. Japan: Radioactive debris from the earthquake and tsunami hit areas were transported all over Japan and burnt (release of contamination into the air).

4. The former Soviet Union: Radiation detectors were installed in shops so people could check for radiation in food. Japan: Regulation on distribution of food is not strict. Hardly any monitoring is done on food.

5. The former Soviet Union: Decontamination of the land was given up after observing that the radiation level ended up high again and again. Japan: Nuclear experts in Japan like to promote the illusion on decontamination. They say that decontamination is effective as a result of which huge capital is invested in the decontamination industry and many workers exposed to high radiation.

The incineration of contaminated debris caused a tragic result both in Tokyo and in Osaka. The waste incineration plant (Toshima, Tokyo) is right next to the Ikebukuro station. The number of deaths in Toshima shot up 1 1/2 years after the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The rise continued for a year and soon after the end of incineration of the debris the number of deaths started to drop again.

So the residents of eastern Japan are continuously suffering from a. internal radiation exposure coming through the air, b. additional internal exposure from unchecked and contaminated food and c. accumulation of external exposure.

Many diseases that were uncommon before are becoming common. There is an increase of leukemia. The daily and now so common stopping of trains because of passengers passing out is nothing but a sign that people’s health has deteriorated so much.

There are sudden deaths. There are cases of cancer. In some cases of leukemia the progress of the disease is so fast that people have died while getting ready for hospitalization after finding out they had leukemia. These days you should consider yourself lucky if you have a Hashimoto disease and not a thyroid cancer. Even men who in the medical world were known to be less prone to have thyroid cancer are developing one. Cardiovascular diseases will increase sharply. And the extremely painful aortic dissection. Strokes have already increased sharply and even children are having strokes. Radiation exposure also causes damage to the central nervous system. Bura bura disease like symptoms are being witnessed as well.

What I find really hard to talk about is that there will be sterility. If you are young and get exposed to radiation, then your genes will get damaged, the wrong genes will get passed on and might trigger malformation in the generation after you or the one after, or the one after that. Can you accept that and support your child? If the malformation occurs in two generations how are you going to support your child who is the parent? At that time you will be old and won’t be able to help your child physically. Will you be able to support them at least financially?

Do you think that I am exaggerating? How about those service men of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan that was off shore off Miyagi and Fukushima at the time of the accident suffering from strange and serious illnesses? Would they sue Tepco without a reason and evidence?

From March 22, 2011 for 5 days the Yokosuka US naval base was empty. All vessels had fled because of high radiation. Families of servicemen left Japan from the Atsugi base starting from March 21. I hear that some residences belonging to the base are still left empty today.

No, it is not at all ok now. It’s not at all back to normal. The east of Japan has been scattered with alpha emitters like uranium 238 whose half life is 4.468.000.000 years. The radiation of these particles do not reduce in one’s lifetime, however long or short it may be.

Going back to the monitoring post of Futabamachi Yamada, if you take a look at the recent readings you can see that they are still going up little by little. Normally the readings should go down because of decays. The reality is, it is still going up. For example, what was at 9.802 μSv/h on April 7, 2015 was up to 9.907 μSv/h the following day. So in 15 hours it went up for about 0.1μSv/h, meaning there fell about 37.600 Bq cesium per m2 in a day. 0.1 μSv/h is the equivalent of the outside air dose rates that I get in the outskirts of Tokyo (my SOEKS dosimeter shows between 0.12 and 0.14 μSv/h in general). If as much cesium fell here as at the Yamada monitoring post the air dose rate would have doubled just overnight.

That many radioactive substances are being released into the atmosphere and falling down somewhere every day. And these substances don’t stay there. Depending on the wind and weather they get lifted and blown into different directions. Just like in the picture below… The plant of Fukushima Daiichi is just behind the transmission tower.

Most recently some people are even talking about a mini nuclear winter. They reckon that the unusually frequent formation of thick hazes in the recent months are due to the releases of tritium (radioactive hydrogen) from the melted cores getting in touch with the underground water.

April 8, 2015, at 3 pm, in Sakura, Chiba prefecture.

Many will say that there is no end if you start worrying about the danger of radiation. And they are absolutely right. There is just no hope in nuclear. There is no safe radiation. Bandatzevski once said that in 30 years there would be no Japanese left on the archipelago if we continue like this. I am starting to think that he might be right and that we all might be living the last days of the nation. But still I do not want to give up the fight and want to ask you, and especially the young people whether there isn’t a way of escaping from catastrophe.
posted by ZUKUNASHI at 16:07| Comment(0) | 福島原発事故
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