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|Chapter 12 -Fukushima Daiichi|
Our Daily Posts (and thus a chronology) Early-on About Fukushima -
March 15 permalink
At 9am local time on March 15, radiation levels outside the embattled reactors, recorded at the entrance/site boundary to the power station at Fukushima, reached a peak of 11,930 microSieverts/hr (which is also written as uSv/hr). Those levels descended to 7,242 uSv/hr at 9:35am. Those levels dropped by 10:15am to 8,837 uSv/hr. At 12:25pm, levels fell to 1,407 uSv/hr. At 13:30, levels were at 1,068 uSv/hr. By 15:30, levels had climbed down to 596 uSv/hr. City officials said radiation rose to 0.809 uSv/hr (23x background levels) in late morning in Tokyo, 250 kilometers to the south, related to this event - levels fells to 0.0682 uSv/hr in the afternoon. According to Kyodo News, Tokyo officials said they detected radioiodine and radiocesium in the air. Radiation levels also rose 10x in Maebashi, 65 miles north of Tokyo.
Radiation was detected another 25 miles south of Tokyo where the USS George Washington was locatedA. At 110 km south of Fukushima, radiation monitors at a facility of the University of Tokyo measured 5 uSv/hr for 10 minutes, then 3 uSv/hr later on. According to Kyodo News [Radiation levels shoot up in Tokyo, vicinity], Ibaraki Prefecture reached at one point 5 microSieverts/hr. 'In Kanagawa Prefecture, the radiation level shot up 10 times higher than usual. In Saitama, capital of Saitama Prefecture, the amount of radiation reached 1,222 nanosievert per hour -- a figure about 40 times higher than usual. In Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, the amount of radiation showed a two- to four-fold increase, the Chiba prefectural government said. The amount of radiation rose to 1.318 micro sievert per hour -- a figure 33 times bigger than usual -- in Tochigi Prefecture's capital of Utsunomiya, the Tochigi prefectural government said.' The WSJ reported [Communities Scramble to Avoid Exposure...] that 'Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, saw 0.212 microsievert per hour. Kitaibaraki city, about 37 miles northeast of Tokyo ... reported radiation of 5.575 microsievert per hour, about 100 times as high as normal.'
The 7-reactor complex of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in central western Japan registered slight increases in radiation during the afternoon, and overnight levels sustained at 2x background through the morning; this clearly shows that the radiation plume extended west of Honshu into the Sea of Japan. According to the Korea Times, one of the 70 monitoring stations run by the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety on Ullung (Ulleung) Island, close to Japan, 'increased "slightly" Tuesday morning.' Reports by the Yonhap News Agency indicate levels at 10am reached 0.15 uSv/hr, which is 3x background levels. (According to the article 'Radiation leaks in Japan unlikely to affect S. Korea: experts' by the Organisation of Asia-Pacific News Agencies, "South Korean police have launched a crackdown on people who spread unfounded rumors that radiation would soon affect the Korean Peninsula.")
While lower level winds at Fukushima during the fire blew inland, the upper level winds flowed eastwards. There were also reports of rain too in the affected areas.
The peak of 11,930 uSv/hr on March 15 is equal to 1,930 millirems/hr, which is also written as 1.9 Rem/hr. There might be reason to believe higher peaks occurred: The executive director of NIRS said on the IMUS IN THE MORNING radio show - 3.15.11 - that 4 Rem/hour readings were being reported by their colleagues and in translated 'press releases.' TEPCO also said later on March 15 that 400,000 microsieverts/hr was recorded around debris in front of Unit 3, although the debris may have artificially affected the monitor. (All of the values in this paragraph are beyond the detection ceiling of most handheld Geiger Counters sold for individual (and some industrial) use and exceed the highest estimate of radiation levels outside the Three Mile Island plant during that disaster.)
A In an April 2, 2011 article in the publication Stars and Stripes, journalist Erik Slavin chronicled the psychological effects on a military community at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan as information about southward-moving Fukushima radiation slowly poured in from official and nonofficial channels. The article ['Rumors fueled fear for days after earthquake in Japan'] included one hard piece of info: on March 15th 'at 7 a.m., an hourly measurement of 1.5 millirems of radiation had been found at the USS George Washington's pier. Twenty millirems were detected during the next 12 hours, according to Navy figures posted on the Yokosuka commander's channel.'
More details about this measured dose, which Slavin downplayed by comparing it to external-radiation medical diagnostic tests (i.e. CT scan), came in a transcript made of an audio file released in February 2012 from a FOIA request. It turns out this dose was an internal dose and calculated based on a collected air sample at the Yokosuka pier that measured 1,600 picocuries (pCi) per liter (L) of iodine-131 (the transcript describes the measurements as '1.6 10-6 microcuries per milliliter'); because there are 1,000 liters in a cubic meter of air, this is the same as 1,600,000 pCi/m3 of iodine-131. The transcript states this measurement is equivalent to a 1.5 millirems per hour dose to the thyroid, however this value is off by 3 orders of magnitude (or 1,000). According to published dose tables in a 1970s NRC document (NUREG 1.109 rev. 1 Oct. '77), the hourly adult dose from inhaling 1 picoCurie (pCi) of iodine-131 is 0.0149 millirems. An adult breathes about 15 cubic meters a day, and accordingly breathes 0.625 cubic meters per hour. So we multiply this (0.625) by the picocuries (of I-131) present in a full cubic meter of air breathed south of Tokyo on 3/15/11 (1600000 pCi/m3) and also by the NRC dose (0.00149 mRem/pCi), which gives us 1,490 millirems or 1.49 Rems per hour. This is 1,000 times the Navy's numbers. The Navy also failed to calculate a child's dose from breathing this radioactive air - which would be slightly higher. The NRC dose for a child breathing 1 pCi of iodine-131 is 0.00439 mRem/pCi and the hourly volume of air breathed by a child is about 1/2 of an adult: the result is 2.2 Rems per hour.
These calculations are based on assumptions (speculations) on the cryptic references made in the transcription of the audio (file). But if Slavin is referencing accurate sources, then these airborne levels of radioiodine in Yokosuka endured for many more hours and persons outside accumulated 13-14 times the 1-hour dose that we calculated. These internal doses to the thyroid gland cannot be compared to the external doses from diagnostic radiation tests in hospitals. We note in chapter 2 of this book (here) that published CDC tables indicate that a 5 Rad (~5,000 millirem) dose to the thyroid from Iodine-131 carries an attributable risk for thyroid cancer ranging "from 13.1-73.3% for males and 23.1-68.2% for females." The cumulative doses for some persons in Yokosuka from exposures to contaminated air, milk, foods, and water may have approached dozens of Rems and so a certain number of thryoid cancers may afflict this community in the future. The fact is the Navy should have gotten all base personnel out of 'Dodge' just as it did with the USS George Washington. That Naval ship didn't abruptly leave port because 'very-low level radiation would have registered on the ship's ultrasensitive equipment and complicated its maintenance.' The plutonium and other radioactive chemicals in the fallout would, like the Navy found in 1946 at Operation Crossroads, have been permanently affixed to the ship and damaged this multi-billion dollar piece of hardware. If the Navy foresaw this possibility, then the same irreversible contamination would have afflicted the internal organs of all people on that military base. Why weren't they evacuated?
the unfolding nuclear crisis. This was information that could have significantly helped evacuees and relief agencies. One of the 'too little, too late' revelations was about a little known isotope named tellurium-132 (aka 'Te-132'):
"At 8:39 a.m. on March 12, about 18 hours after the earthquake, radioactive tellurium-132 was detected in Namiemachi, Fukushima Prefecture, six kilometers from Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s damaged plant, according to the report from the agency. The detection of Te-132 meant the temperature of nuclear fuel at the plant had shot up to more than 1,000 C. It also meant nuclear fuel pellets in the reactor cores had been damaged and nuclear material had leaked into the environment."
This information wasn't made public on March 12th. It was made public in June, three months later.
On March 12th, experts across the globe were looking for clues, such as tellurium found outside the reactors, as evidence that a significant overheating - even a meltdown - of the cores was underway. If tellurium was detected kilometers away from Fukushima within 24 hours of the earthquake (and tellurium found in the environment is always 'fresh' -it has a half-life of 3.2 days), then the reactor cores must have been near, or likely exceeding, the boiling point of tellurium, or 990 degrees Celsius.
But Japan's government and even an international nuclear body weren't letting this information out. On March 12th, Yukio Edano, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, said that Unit 1 had released 'slightly radioactive vapor.' The International Atomic Energy Agency put a statement on its website on the same day that Unit 3 too had "a controlled release of vapor...intended to lower pressure inside the reactor containment."
Had the truth about tellurium being volatilized within 24 hours of the disaster's onset been known when Japan's government knew, we would have seen more calls for evacuations of the Japanese people from areas including even Fukushima City. Fortunately, other sources of radiation information weren't so tight-lipped. The local operators of a radiation monitoring station in Japan owned by a global arms treaty organization provided much needed answers early-on. That monitoring station, which was located quite a distance from the reactors, detected the tellurium on March 15-16 after a wind shift; and that knowledge was quickly made public.9 (Read more about other tellurium-132 measurements, including the impressive spikes recorded on EPA monitoring equipment in Alaska on March 17 and 19, in Chapter 16.)
But the greatest deceit, and most harmful pack of lies, in the aftermath of the meltdowns may have had to do with strontium or plutonium. There was no effort made to inform the public that vapor forms of these isotopes were being released AND that these isotopes - when compared becquerel to becquerel - are much greater public health threats than iodine and cesium. What did happen was there was a blackout of the 's' and 'p' words - the words 'strontium' and 'plutonium' were rarely, if at all, mentioned.
Even a full month after the 'Great East Japan Earthquake,' neither TEPCO nor Japan's government agencies had made public any useful information or data about levels of released plutonium or strontium isotopes. On April 13th, Japan's science ministry finally admitted that small amounts of radioactive strontium were detected in soil and plants outside the 30-kilometer zone around the Fukushima plant12. (The soil and weed samples were taken between March 16 and 19.) This was the first evidence that strontium isotopes traveled far from the reactors and in quantities that indicated they were volatilized from the overheating reactor cores. We might have expected Greenpeace, the IAEA or even TEPCO to be the first to make this announcement, but none of these institutions bothered to sample soil for radiostrontiums - or plutonium - during the crucial first month after the earthquake/meltdowns! Other institutions, such as the United States Department of Energy, possessed data on strontium concentrations in Japan's air in mid-March but held onto that data for more than half a year for no particularly good reason.13
To this author, this across-the-board neglect in monitoring strontium-89 and strontium-90 (which are both scientifically established as being among the most dangerous isotopes in any mix of fission products) seemed to be part of a conspiracy. Was this a subconscious effort by those in pro- and non-nuclear institutions to suppress the truth (because they couldn't handle the truth), or was this another case of a 'nuclear first, people second' mentality corrupting government? We wrote on our website on April 14, 2011 about this bewildering set of facts14:
"Kyodo News reported on April 12th that a Japanese governmental agency detected strontium-90 and strontium-89 in soil and plant samples at three locations more than thirty kilometers from the crippled Fukushima reactors... First, [this] confirms our theory that a suite of radionuclides has traveled considerable distances from the stricken reactors and therefore the public is being exposed to literally dozens of carcinogenic and genotoxic substances in their air and diet, not just cesium-137 and iodine-131. Second, it is alarming that it has taken a full month for Japan's government to publicly present values on strontium-89 and strontium-90. The fact that these radioactive substances were detected outside of the evacuation zones weeks after the first explosions speaks to the immense failure of the Japanese public health mechanism. Third, it is downright scandalous that TEPCO wasn't the first entity to report strontium values. TEPCO had an obligation to its workers and the public to disclose all radioactive chemicals existing in the environment around the reactors."
This author found that one of the only experts concerned with (and speaking publicly about) the lack of discussion, detection and worry about these nasty isotopes was Dr. Genn Saji, former Secretariat of Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission. Dr. Saji criticized TEPCO for failing to measure or disclose strontium isotopes that would be 'essential for investigation of natural food chains of marine products' in onsite contaminated water, which Saji said was to blame for the radiation injuries sustained by three TEPCO nuclear workers in early April 2011.10 Another lone voice of reason was a grassroots organization in the U.K. named the Low Level Radiation Campaign (LLRC), which was among the first to posit that plutonium was airborne, and global. They wrote on their website in a post titled 'Fallout reaches USA' in mid-March 2011:
'...there is an extremely high probability that Plutonium and isotopes of Uranium are being released...'
The great public deception about strontium and plutonium released by Fukushima had conspirators across the Pacific Ocean with the U.S and Canada being neglectful in their respective radiation monitoring. The U.S.'s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was far more concerned with radioactive isotopes of iodine and cesium than the 'S' and 'P' isotopes. The same was the case with the States of Oregon and Washington, the University of California-Berkeley, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Desert Research Institute, and numerous other U.S. entities that were testing for common 'gamma emitters' as cesium-137 and iodine-131 and not interested in looking for strontium and plutonium. Why were they not interested? Were strontium and plutonium from Fukushima absent in the plumes traversing the North American environment? Well, no. A paper published in 201215 by scientists in Lithuania demonstrated that some of the plutonium they detected with their radiation equipment in March to April 2011 was from Fukushima. They compared the ratio of rare and common plutonium isotopes - based on historical measurements - to those ratios in their March-April radiation data and concluded that 'the contribution of the Fukushima derived 239,240Pu [to be] 59% or 26.4 nBq/m3.'
So, if plutonium made it to Lithuania in the spring from Fukushima, then why didn't the U.S. detect it (plutonium)? It is because - in truth - they didn't want to. In April 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had accumulated data on airborne levels of plutonium isotopes, based on samples taken in four states and two U.S. (current/former) territories, but the agency never announced the results and instead quietly buried the data in a little-known public database. The conclusion to be drawn, thus, was that no plutonium reached the U.S. or its territories in the Pacific. However, that isn't a conclusion that should be made from the data. Why? The EPA just tested 10 environmental samples for plutonium for the entire hemisphere spanning from the western Pacific to Maine! What was equally concerning was that many of the EPA's data points had no physical meaning because they were negative. They were as negative as if you saw a negative number on your volume control on your television or stereo, or on your speedometer. Such a negative value would be impossible. So, why did the EPA produce negative values for plutonium in the U.S.? We believe the EPA may have had a 'negative bias' that could have dragged down positive values. This would mean that *IF* there was plutonium in the air over the U.S., a 'negative bias' would drag one or more positive measurements down to a value equated with 'zero' (or below the detection limit).16 This would be like a police officer having an improperly calibrated radar gun that showed cars stopped at a stop light 'moving' at minus two miles per hour.
We saw the same botched effort in the U.S. government's monitoring of environmental plutonium following Fukushima's meltdowns as with its strontium monitoring. It wasn't until the last week in April 2011 that the EPA discovered a strontium isotope in the U.S. from Fukushima. The EPA discovered strontium-89 in a milk sample collected in early April from a location in Hilo, Hawaii. What about strontium-90? Well, by the time the EPA terminated its 'special monitoring' of Fukushima fallout in the first week of May 2011, the agency still hadn't detected the longer-lived strontium isotope. The conclusion to be drawn, thus, was that no strontium isotopes reached the continental U.S. But the inference that strontium isotopes - both strontium-89 and -90 - released by Fukushima had traveled beyond Hawaii and across numerous U.S. states is one, we argue, that can be made. The reason is that Russian sources found a strontium isotope in air that was traced to Fukushima - and what made it to Russia must have also made it to one or more U.S. states. That strontium, found in an environmental sample in Moscow, was detected about one month prior to the EPA's admission that Hawaiian milk was slightly tainted. An article by Agence France Presse on April 1 stated:
"Radon, a company set up in Moscow to monitor radioactivity and dispose of radioactive waste in central Russia, has been detecting traces of iodine and strontium isotopes since last week, deputy director Oleg Polsky said."17
This begs the question: If radioactive strontium landed in [next page]
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