Archive for the ‘Radiation’ Category

More radioactive problems on the food chain

In Radiation on March 22, 2011 at 5:29 AM

Radioactive problems are rising as more vegetables are being found tainted with radiation, although maybe “tainted” is not the appropriate word when we talk about 54,000 becquerels of iodine detected in 1 kilogram of spinach grown in open air in the city of Hitachi (Ibaraki prefecture) while the the food sanitation law set the limit at 2,000 becquerels.

Worse is iodine is not alone, they have detected 1,931 becquerels of cesium (limit 500 becquerels) in the same sample of spinach.

75 kilometers south of the nuclear plant (way far than the 30 km safety limit of the government) the level of iodine in the spinach grown in open air in Kitaibaraki city in Ibaraki was 24,000 becquerels and the cesium level rose to 690 becquerels (on Friday).

By Sunday, Yoshifumi Kaji (Ministry official) said that tests found excess amounts of radioactive elements on canola and chrysanthemum greens, in addition to spinach and that the areas were the vegetables were found included three prefectures that previously had not recorded such contamination.

Also, raw milk contaminated by iodine was found in four municipalities as far as the town of Iitate, 35 kilometers northwest of the plant.

Tap water is contaminated, too. In the village of litate were detected 965 becquerels of iodine in one kilogram of tap water (Fukushima Prefecture) when the limit set by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan is 300 becquerels.

And top of that, the Education Ministry said iodine or cesium was found in precipitation and dust in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Yamagata, Tochigi, Gunma, Iwate and Niigata Prefectures.

Now, the Japanese officials are repeating the same mantra: reported radiation levels are “not expected to immediately affect human health” and people must “act calmly”. It’s true, these radiation levels aren’t normal but they don’t suppose a health risk a this moment.

What the government is not taking into account is that the serious problem with radioactivity is when the process is accumulative, and with the current data, Japanese people at Fukushima and surroundings are receiving radioactive particles from multiple sources like water, vegetables, milk, dust and soon with rain, too.

Again, the gorvenment response is as vague as Ibaraki Governor asking to each municipality to voluntarily halt shipments of spinach grown in the Prefecture, requesting to agricultural cooperatives in the Prefecture of Gunma to halt their shipments and recall those that have been shipped, and the calling on all farmers in Fukushima to refrain from shipping or consuming their milk.

I think that is necessary to take strong measures and forbid food found with radiation levels equal or superior to the safety limits by law. The nuclear power plant is going to spread radionuclides for a long time (at least weeks and probably months or even years) and the inhabitants will get high and sustained levels of radiation.

This is another blow to the economy of Fukushima and other close Prefectures, but it’s time for the government to be brave and put first the health versus the money. If not, they are going to pay in time a really high bill when the Ministry of Health have to give treatment to many cancer sufferers.

And I expect they don’t keep making foolish things as making now public radiation levels at Narita and Haneda airports to avoid foreign airlines not using them, when these data must be available from the start. What is the meaning of hiding relevant information to people? If you are afraid of doing something wrong, do it right, and let people can evaluate your work and criticize you when they are not satisfied.


Radiation spreads to vegetables, milk and water at Fukushima

In Breaking News, Radiation on March 21, 2011 at 3:15 AM

This is the chain of events about radiation in food (local time):

Thursday, March 17.

The Health Ministry said that iodine levels slightly above the limit were detected Thursday in Fukushima prefecture. On Friday, levels were about half that benchmark, and by Saturday they had fallen further.

Earlier, the ministry said tiny amounts of the iodine were found Friday in tap water in Tokyo and five other prefectures. The ministry says the amounts did not exceed government safety limits. But tests on water, which for decades were only done once a year, usually show no iodine.

Outside Fukushima, the highest reading was less than a third of the allowable limit.


Slight amounts of radioactive iodine have been detected in tap water in Tokyo, its vicinity and most prefectures neighboring Fukushima, the government said the same day (saturday).

While the substance was found in Tochigi, Gunma, Niigata, Chiba and Saitama prefectures as well as Tokyo, traces of cesium have been also found in tap water in Tochigi and Gunma, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said, adding the levels would not affect human health even if ingested.

Tochigi, Gunma and Niigata prefectures border Fukushima Prefecture.

The education ministry said 77 becquerels of iodine was found per kilogram of water in Tochigi, 2.5 becquerels in Gunma, 0.62 becquerels in Saitama, 0.79 becquerels in Chiba, 1.5 becquerels in Tokyo and 0.27 becquerels in Niigata, against an intake limit of 300 becquerels.

The amount of cesium per kilogram of water was 1.6 becquerels in Tochigi and 0.22 in Gunma, against the limit of 200 becquerels set by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan.

The Gunma prefectural government said it had detected the substances for the first time since it began testing tap water for radioactive materials in 1990.


Friday, March 18.

WHO, the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system, publishs an eight pages document about information on radioactivity and health actions to take in case of being exposed.

Officials in Japan’s 47 prefectures have been asked to test agricultural products, seafood and drinking water for possible contamination to prevent tainted grains, milk, vegetables, meat and eggs from being consumed, Kumiko Tanaka, an official at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, said March 18.


Saturday, March 19.

Tainted milk was found 30 kilometers (18 1/2 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and spinach was collected as far as 100 kilometers (65 miles) to the south, almost halfway to Tokyo.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano stressed to reporters Saturday afternoon that the levels were not extremely high: A person who consumed these products continuously for a year, he said, would take in the same amount of radiation as that of a single CT scan.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that equates to 7 millisieverts, more than double the 3 millisieverts that a person in an industrialized country is typically exposed to in a year.

Health effects would become more evident, he said, if such products were taken in daily for a lifetime. Edano said high radiation levels were not systemic for all spinach and milk tested, and that more data would be collected and analyzed under the Japanese health ministry’s watch to help determine what steps to take next.

The Fukushima prefecture, or province, is just to the northeast of Tokyo. According to the prefecture’s website, Fukushima plays an important role in supplying food, not only to Tokyo, but also to the nation. The prefecture is Japan’s fourth-largest farmland area and ranks among the top producer of fruits, vegetables, rice, tobacco and raw silk. The favorable climate lends itself to an active agricultural industry that includes livestock farming.

The website also states that the prefecture’s 159 kilometer-long coastline is home to a thriving fishing and seafood processing industry, and the area’s haul of fish is among Japan’s largest.

Jim Walsh, CNN consultant and international security expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warned that should a reactor suffer a meltdown and radiation reach ground water, the situation would be much worse, as it would be impossible to tell where the contamination starts and stops.


Edano said spinach and milk were only products found with abnormally high levels of radioactive material but the government was considering comprehensive tests at farms away from the plant. Food safety inspectors said the amount of iodine-131 found in the tested milk was five times the level deemed safe. In spinach it was more than seven times higher. The spinach also contained slightly higher amounts of cesium-137. Iodine-131 can accumulate in thyroid and cause cancer. Cesium-137 damages cells and leads to an increased risk of cancer.


The government didn’t say how the milk and spinach became contaminated, making it difficult to assess the risks, Lam Ching-wan, a chemical pathologist at the University of Hong Kong School of Medicine, said by telephone.

They should seriously think about restricting any agricultural products in that area,” he said. “It seems that the whole ecosystem could be affected, so they shouldn’t take any chances.”

One millisievert, a measure of radioactivity levels, in a liter of milk consumed by a six-year-old child would increase the risk of cancer by 0.017 percent, Lam said. A full-body CT scan would produce exposure of 12 millisieverts, according to the World Health Organization.

Japan will check the source of contaminated milk and spinach and will recall the products that show higher than standard radiation levels, Kyodo News said, citing Kohei Ohtsuka, vice minister of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

People living within 30 kilometers (19 miles) of the Fukushima plant should wear masks and long sleeves and stay out of the rain, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said yesterday.



We can see that the Japanese government was aware of the fact that poisonous radionuclides were leaking to water and spreading over vegetables when it issued a command to officials in the 47 prefectures of Japan on Friday. By Thursday they knew that tap water in Tokyo and other five prefectures contained radioactive iodine.

Sadly, they waited for two days to admit publicly these data, and more sad, they didn’t follow the World Health Organization requests on Thursday (they too knew something) to protect growing vegetables and animal fodder, bring livestock in from pasture or at least (because of destruction by earthquake and tsunami) to avoid consumption of locally produced milk or vegetables and fishing.

Again and again the Japanese government is hiding relevant information to the people, and acting after the events, not before them. The consequences are that Japanese people are receiving more radiation than supposed.

More bad news are people reporting there is insuficcient food in the area, so there are no choices to eat or not local food. Meanwhile, Ground Self Defense Forces own enough CH-47 Chinook helicopters to send food or evacuate the rest of people staying in the 30 kilometers exclusion zone.

Worse news are that experts and officials are saying even now things like:

that radiation decreases rapidly as one moves away. The reason is a simple rule of geometry called the inverse square law. That law means that someone standing one kilometer from a gamma radiation source will receive just one one-millionth the dose absorbed by anyone sitting on the reactor.

As for the steam and smoke seen rising from the site — the “plume” that has caused so much worry — it, too, can carry particles that emit alpha, beta and gamma radiation. THE WASHINGTON POST

The problem is this data is true in a laboratory, but in real world, the heat of the reactor or the spent fuel rod pools makes these particles rise and fall kilometers away of the original point.

Even worse, the heavy radionuclides like plutonium can move far than expected. I have found an old report saved long time ago in my hard disk about how colloids (tiny particles) can trap electrostatically the radioactive elements and transport them long distances giving time.

I presume that the zone could stay heavy contaminated in future, especially if the reactors are buried at last.

Fukushima Crisis: Latest maps of spread of radiation plumes in Asia-Pacific

In Breaking News, Radiation on March 19, 2011 at 12:27 AM


The Great Beyond publishs another great post with information about the problem of the spread of the radioactive cloud over the Pacific Ocean.

With models from the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Vienna we can see now the predicted paths of the radionuclides, and if I were living in the east coast of America I would take care of stay indoors in rainy days.

The radiation that arrives to U.S. will be very weak, but as long as Japanese government and TEPCO persist in secrecy about radiation measurement it’s obvious the reason to americans of buy every iodine tablet or geiger counter avalaible.

At any moment it could be a mayor release from Fukushima and it’s better to be ready for the worst scenario.



Fukushima Crisis: Latest maps of spread of radiation plumes in Asia-Pacific


Water on Fukushima fuel/ radiation levels remain elevated

In Breaking News, Radiation on March 18, 2011 at 9:03 AM


The decision to drop water over the spent fuel pools with CH 47 Chinook helicopters is probably inefficient because is really difficult hit in the middle of so little target.

Even without radioactivity, it is a very challenging task to a pilot. I have seen firefighters in my country trying to extinguish a forest fire with light aircraft, helicopters and hydroplanes, and they needed a lot of flights (and we are talking now of a more fierce radioactive fire).

At first, maybe a chopper with a hose could have poured water directly into the pools, but now radiaction levels make impossible that kind of task.

TEPCO and the Japanese government are reacting again too late, and in a matter of time the unique solution is going to be sealing the whole plant.




This morning Japan time, two CH 47 Chinook helicopters began dropping tons of water onto the used nuclear fuel stored in pools at the unit 3 and unit 4 reactor. The helicopters made four passes, and have claimed some success, though footage on NHK television shows most of the water dispersing before it reaches the reactor building.


So far the efforts have done little to reduce radiation levels around the plant: NHK reports that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the plant, has seen no change in radiation levels 100 m from unit 3 (the broadcaster does not give a number).



I estimated from Union of Concerned Scientists Data that the pond was about 10m by 10 m by 15 m and that the lower third contained fuel rods. Given that the rods need to be exposed to generate hydrogen that says 2/3 of the pool needed to evaporate from fri afternoon to tuesday morning. Doing the math (about 1,500 cubic metres with 1,000 evaporated over four days) I estimate they need 200 liters per minute of pumping capacity into the pond. That is doable with a firehose, but represents about 20 chinook loads per day at 100% delivery. In short, this is a real problem.

Posted by: Dr Kingsley Jones

FAQs: Japan nuclear concerns

In Radiation on March 18, 2011 at 7:45 AM

WHO – 17/03/2011 [LINK]

WHO, the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system, has published today an eight pages document about information on radioactivity and health actions to take in case of being exposed.

The World Health Organization begins the document with acknowledgement to the safety measures of the Japanese authorities but explains that the whole situation could change and more strong measures would need to be taken.

As it can be seen, another key international organization has doubts about the crisis at Fukushima is under control and shows its concern about the development of future severe problems.




The actions proposed by the Government of Japan are in line with the existing recommendations based on public health expertise. The government is asking people living within 20 km of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to evacuate and those between 20 km and 30 km away from the plant are asked to stay indoors in unventilated rooms.



This assessment can change if there are further incidents at these plants and WHO is following the situation closely. However, radiation-related health consequences will depend on exposure. Exposure in turn is dependent on the amount of radiation released from the reactor, weather conditions such as wind and rain at the time of the explosion, the distance someone is from the plant, and the amount of time someone is in irradiated areas.



The radiation dose can be expressed in units of Sievert (Sv). On average, a person is exposed to approximately 3.0 mSv/year of which, 80% (2.4 mSv) is due to naturally-occurring sources (i.e., background radiation), 19.6 % (almost 0.6 mSv) is due to the medical use of radiation and the remaining 0.4% (around 0.01 mSv) is due to other sources of human-made radiation.

Japan nuclear crisis and tsunami aftermath – live updates

In Radiation on March 17, 2011 at 9:00 PM


Interesting updates about several issues related to Japan and the Fukushima incident are in this blog from guardian.co.uk: emptied stores, no electricity, no running water, no gas, radioactivity measurements in microsieverts of the surrounding zone to Fukushima (fortunately not in milisieverts yet), and the list of injured TEPCO employees.

If the worst would reach Tokyo, I supposed the scale of the mayhem would be several times more severe than now.




“ […] the shelves inside the supermarket were still pretty much empty (but at least the lights were on this time — shopping in the dark is no fun), but they received a limited delivery of mostly vegetables and cup ramen. people were buying plenty of alcohol, which i wholly endorse.

Stressing that the levels were not dangerous for people, he predicted the particles would continue across the Atlantic and eventually also reach Europe. […]

He said he was convinced it would eventually be detected over the whole northern hemisphere. “It is only a question of very, very low activities so it is nothing for people to worry about,” De Geer said.


But health authorities say one-hour of exposure to radiation at any of the observed levels would range between 1/500th to 1/40th of the amount of radiation the body would receive in a single stomach X-ray.


My colleague, Ian Sample, has passed me the International Atomic Energy Association’s round-up of reported injuries at the Fukushima complex, released earlier this morning. It says that two people are missing while 23 suffered injuries. More than 20 people are believed to have been exposed to radiation […]

As the nuclear crisis worsens, we must pray for fair winds and no rain

In Radiation on March 17, 2011 at 8:16 PM


Everybody say that Chernobyl was worse than Fukushima  in every way, but there is an exception now: they had fair weather and yesterday was reported snowing several hundred miles north of Tokyo (I’ve read someone reporting who was trying to reach the Fukushima power plant and he found a snowfall in the way back to Tokyo).

Geoffrey Lean (longest-serving environmental correspondent) makes a good comment about this possibility.

Snowfall is equal to rain for download the radioactive particles floating in the air.

Radiation levels could rise higher at Tokyo if weather conditions bring rain or snow.




So far, thank goodness the wind has been blowing the plume out to sea in fine weather. If it were to turn inland the fears of a catastrophe could materialize, especially if rain were to bring the airborne radioactive materials down to earth.

The people living around Chernobyl were lucky: the accident happened on a still night and the heat of the fire carried the radioactivity high into the air, as if in an invisible chimney, where it encountered a gentle breeze tat wafted it over relatively uninhabited marshes. Providentially it did not rain for days.

Japan to use water cannon at nuclear plant as international concern grows

In Breaking News, Radiation on March 17, 2011 at 8:04 AM


Who said Japanese people are not creative? Desperate matters require desperate measures.




Workers battling to prevent nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant will use a police water cannon to try to cool one of the crippled reactors after strong winds and high radiation levels thwarted attempts to spray from a helicopter.

The renewed efforts came as the EU’s energy chief, Guenther Oettinger, said the plant was “effectively out of control” and the head of Russia’s state nuclear corporation said the situation in Japan was “developing under the worst scenario”.

Japan Government: No Iodide Plans for Residents of Tokyo

In Radiation on March 17, 2011 at 7:46 AM

LBG1 – DBKP – 16/03/2011 [LINK]

Again, excesive self-confidence by Japanese government could be deathly to Tokyo people if there aren’t plans to distribute massive quantities of potassium iodide tablets.




Other than monitoring radiation levels in the capital amid the failures at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said Wednesday it had no plans to prepare any radiological countermeasures, such as reserving iodine pills to deal with internal exposure to radioactive substances.

The government instead called for residents to go about their daily lives in a normal manner because only a small amount of radiation, harmless to humans, was detected.

U.S. Forces Kept 50 Miles From Plant

In Breaking News, Radiation on March 17, 2011 at 6:05 AM


Clearly, foreign governments don’t trust the official advice.

U.S. earth and naval forces are keeping a wider safety distance than Japanese people.




The Pentagon said it’s ordering U.S. military personnel to stay at least 50 miles from a stricken Japanese nuclear plant to avoid exposure to radiation leaking from the facility.

The Pentagon order, responding to concerns about possible radiation exposure, affects a significantly wider area than the exclusion zone set by the Japanese government.


Separately, the White House said Wednesday that U.S. citizens within 50 miles of Japanese reactors damaged during the disaster should evacuate.