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Fukushima Commentary 12...12/22/13-1/22/14


January 22, 2014

Radiation Exposure Standards By AHANE*

(*As High As Naturally Existing)

The limits for public exposure to radiation vary from country to country. The standards are usually predicated on the concept of ALARA – As Low As Reasonably Achievable. The rationale behind ALARA is two-fold. First, we have the long-held assumption known as the Linear/No Threshold risk model (LNT) which was formulated after WWII by extrapolating down from the actual data. Its evolution began with Herman Muller who used laboratory fruit flies exposed to varying degrees, to see what the responses were. The lowest exposures were 2,750 millisieverts, and he increased the doses up to in excess of 10,000 mSv. He found that there were few fatalities at the low end of the exposure spectrum, and total mortality at the high end. When depicted on a logarithmic graph, the data suggested a linear relationship between exposure and mortality. He extrapolated down to zero exposure without any mortality data below 2,750 mSv, which suggested there was no threshold of absolute safety.

But, the assumption from fruit fly data needed to be verified, and the sudden end to WWII in the Pacific produced just what was needed. Specifically, the statistics on fallout fatalities due to cancer within the some 90,000 survivors of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings in August, 1945. Although the exposure versus fatality data virtually vanished below exposures of 500 mSv, when the data points were placed on a logarithmic graph a best-fit line could be superimposed from about 10,000 mSv sievert exposure (with 99% fatality) down to about 500 mSv, below which the bomb-survivor data was indistinguishable from the cancer death rate with unexposed populations. However, the best-fit line pointed directly to the zero-dose/zero-fatality conjunction at the lower left-hand corner of the graph, similar to Muller’s extrapolation. For all intents and purposes, a ruler connected the dots, extending the actual best-fit line down to the lower left-hand corner of the graph. Muller received the Nobel Prize for the LNT assumption in 1946, and LNT became widely accepted.

This is where the second part of the LNT assumption comes in. The model suggests that even the most miniscule exposure to radiation has a miniscule risk of causing fatal cancer. It is from this risk assumption that the no-safe-level concept evolved. LNT-itself gives no credit to naturally-occurring cellular and DNA repair mechanisms. However, these mechanisms exist in all of us, and standard-setting bodies around the world know it. Thus, in the very-low-exposure region (generally stated as being below 100 millisieverts), LNT necessarily over-estimates risk to a very great degree. However, these standard-setting groups rationalize that it is better to over-estimate risk than under-estimate, thus LNT is widely used to establish limits for public exposure. The concept of ALARA came into the picture following the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979. Exposure limits have been subsequently set based on what is considered “reasonable” and “achievable”. In other words, the many of the world’s limits are determined subjectively. Since standard-setting bodies are necessarily governmental, political expediency has also had its impact.

Unfortunately, ALARA has created controversy because of studies on the wide variety of natural background exposure levels around the world. Most public exposure limits are set more than 10 times below exposures experienced continually by hundreds of thousands of people on on our planet. Populations living in these regions have life expectancies, cancer incidence, and cancer death rates roughly the same as their fellow countrymen exposed to much lower radiation fields. In fact, the statistics show a small increase in life expectancy and somewhat lower rates of cancer incidence and cancer deaths in every group. In the face of this evidence, standard-setting bodies have ruthlessly clung to LNT. Thus, the controversy.

In addition, the fact that ALARA-based standards greatly over-state actual risk makes little difference in the mind of the general public. The public, in general, wants to know what the actual risk of low level exposure is. If there is actually no completely safe level of radiation exposure, then no-one is really safe regardless of radiation dose. ALARA and LNT frighten people. They cause unnecessary psychological distress. ALARA and LNT are the foundation of the psychological condition known as radiophobia – mortal fear of radiation. The situation has gotten out of control in Japan because of the Fukushima accident. Japan has set its exposure limit at one mSv per year, twenty times below post-accident standard recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Because the Tokyo government in 2011 believed it “reasonable” and “achievable”, the 1 mSv annual limit was invoked to quell the tsunami of political criticisms concerning use of the 20 mSv limit for decontamination and evacuee repopulation.

For decades there has been a call for a more-appropriate, evidence-based methodology for setting exposure standards. Eminent radiation experts such as Drs. Jerry Cuttler, Edward Calabrese, T.D. Luckey, and Thormond Henriksen have been trying to get LNT expunged from the standard-setting arena, without success. Their published research on the matter is voluminous. Their credentials are impeccable. However, their public notoriety and political impact have been minimal. Thus their important work is largely unknown.

Recently, however, a relatively well-known person has entered the fray and called for LNT to be eliminated: Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and former opponent to nuclear energy. In his 2009 book, Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, Brand said nuclear energy is a green technology, which caught the antinuclear community off-guard. Greenpeace spokesperson Jim Riccio calling Brand’s shift “nonsensical”. Now, Brand has joined the “get rid of LNT” voices. (1) Brand says LNT is an idea ready for retirement. Brand states, “At stake is the hundreds of billions spent on meaningless levels of "safety" around nuclear power plants and waste storage, the projected costs of next-generation nuclear plant designs to reduce greenhouse gases worldwide, and the extremely harmful episodes of public panic that accompany rare radiation-release events like Fukushima and Chernobyl.” He adds that below 100 mSv per year of exposure there have been no cancers detected “either because it doesn't exist or because the numbers are so low that any signal gets lost in the epidemiological noise.” Brand concludes, “Once the LNT is explicitly discarded, we can move on to regulations that reflect only discernible, measurable medical effects.”

Another call for the end of LNT comes from the Health Physics Society, perhaps the most informed organization in the world concerning the biological effects of radiation exposure. (Aside - I worked as an HP for 21 years, in the US Navy and civilian nuclear industry) The Society says in its position statement entitled Radiation Risk in Perspective, “There is, however, substantial scientific evidence that this model [LNT] is an oversimplification. It can be rejected for a number of specific cancers, such as bone cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and heritable genetic damage has not been observed in human studies. However, the effect of biological mechanisms such as DNA repair, bystander effect, and adaptive response on the induction of cancers and genetic mutations are not well understood and are notaccounted for by the linear, no-threshold model.”

If the use of ALARA and LNT is inappropriate and can no longer be rationally tolerated, what conception should we use instead? Blogging colleague Rod Adams of Atomic Insights.com says we should consider replacing ALARA with another acronym – AHARS (As High As Relatively Safe). (2) Adams correctly doesn’t take credit for the concept since it was first proposed by Oxford Physics Professor, and leading advocate for rational radiation standards, Wade Allison. (3) While it might seem over-the-top to many people, Adams calls for a limit of 100 mSv per month! This would be for what we call “chronic” (somatic) exposures which take place over relatively long periods and account for the effect of our natural biological repair mechanisms. The limits based on LNT/ALARA are predicated on huge exposures over a very short period of time, measured in hours and cannot give natural cellular and DNA repair mechanisms time to fix the induced damage. Adams points out that “If society does not ban smoking, diesel engines, fatty foods, alcohol, dropping out of school, driving cars, walking on busy streets, or working on roofs to install solar panels, why should it establish standards for radiation exposure that are orders of magnitude less risky than those activities – even if you use the math of the questionable LNT assumption?” He also postulates that embracing AHARS would provide “a utilitarian benefit to society as a whole because it reduces the “terror” value of a radiation dispersal device as well as enabling a more sensible use of many other beneficial medical capabilities of radiation. It would lower nuclear medicine costs, possibly by more than it would lower the liability costs associated with operating nuclear power plants.”

While I do not disagree with Rod Adams and Wade Allison in actua, I must differ with them in esse. When we accept that political expediency is unavoidable with any official standard’s revision, their postulations must be put aside and a less-alraming alternative should be proposed. One possibility might be that suggested by Robert Hargraves in his recently published Radiation: The Facts. Hargraves says there is virtual unanimity in the safety of an annual limit of 100 mSv per year. He has a valid point. Even the largely-antinuclear Japanese Press routinely reports a scientific consensus on 100 mSv/yr being a threshold for cancer induction. While Hargraves’ notion is orders of magnitude easier to facilitate than Adam’s AHARS proposal, it remains a major leap above existing standards across the world, and a factor of 100 jump above Japan’s standard. Besides, it is based on a scientific consensus steeped in LNT-based relative risk rationality. The public is not looking for relative safety with radiation exposure. They want absolute safety.

None of the above proposals embrace the most powerful and unmistakable evidence on our planet: Mother Nature! I propose that radiation exposure standards be based on AHANE – As High As Naturally Existent. That is, the highest naturally occurring radiation exposures in the world experienced by a large number of people without discernable negative health effects. The highest population background on our plant is Ramsar, Iran, with an annual background level of 250 mSv per year. Although nearly 32,000 people live in the area, only about 2,000 receive the 250 mSv/year dose. It should be noted that some Ramsar residents experience as much as 900 mSv/year without adverse effects. (5) While this evidence suggests a 250 mSv/year standard should be embraced around the world, a statistical cohort of ~2,000 individuals might be politically dismissed as a statistical aberration.

However, there are three other relatively high natural background regions with large-enough populations to demonstrate absolute safety. They are Guarapari, Brazil (pop. 73,000), Kerala, India (pop. 100,000), and Yangjiang, China (pop. 80,000). The average exposure in Guarapari is about 50 mSv/year, with Kerala not far behind at 38 mSv/year and Yangjiang at 35 mSv/year. In all cases, the residents have life expectancies at least as long as their national peers, and cancer rates slightly lower than fellow countrymen. (6)

I would like to add that 50 mSv/year was the upper limit for nuclear worker exposure before ALARA came into political vogue. It was the limit during my nuclear Naval experience from 1968-1974. Numerous studies on nuclear shipyard workers during the period when a 50 mSv/yr limit was in vogue revealed no discernable negative health effects. Thus, we not only have natural background studies to show the absolute safety of my 50 mSv/year AHANE proposal, but US Navy shipyard worker studies as well.

Thus, I propose the utter rejection of LNT and ALARA, the world-wide embrace of AHANE, and an international guideline for public exposure of 50 mSv per annum. The supporting evidence comes from Mother Nature. I would further set emergency exposure limits at 100 mSv/year, in line with Hargrave.

There’s no doubt a world-wide shift away from LNT/ALARA to AHANE would produce considerable antinuclear bombast, negative Press coverage, and political debate ad nauseum. However, with a concerted international educational effort, patience, and persistence, I firmly believe AHANE could be accepted by the world’s public at-large in the not-too-distant future. Subsequently, if I might paraphrase Stewart Brand, crucial decisions about nuclear energy would no longer be determined by assumptions of imaginary cancers per millisievert.

References:

1 - Brand, Stewart; The Linear No-Threshold (LNT) Dose Hypothesis; from “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?” http://www.edge.org/responses/what-scientific-idea-is-ready-for-retirement

2 - Adams, Rod; As High As Relatively Safe (AHARS) – Sensible radiation standards; Atomic Insights.com http://atomicinsights.com/high-reasonably-safe-ahars-sensible-radiation-standards/#more-13836

3 - Allison, Wade; Man’s Fear of Nuclear technology is Mistaken: Better and Safer Than Fire; http://www.radiationandreason.com/uploads//enc_BetterThanFire.pdf

4 - Hargraves, Robert; Radiation the Facts; 2014. https://sites.google.com/site/radiationsafetylimits/

5 – Karam, Andrew P.; The High Background Radiation Area in Ramsar, Iran…; February, 2002. http://www.wmsym.org/archives/2002/Proceedings/10/434.pdf

6 – Mortazavi, S.M. Javad; High Background Radiation Areas of Ramsar, India; Kyoto University Biology Division. http://www.angelfire.com/mo/radioadaptive/ramsar.html

January 8, 2014

Tepco and the Press Kept the Public in the Dark about ALPS

This morning Tepco stopped the operation of the water decontamination system called ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System). ALPS takes water stripped of radioactive Cesium and removes all but one (Tritium) of the remaining 62 isotopes. At the outlet of the three-stream process, a container accumulates the removed substances. A crane is used to remove the filled containers and replace them with empty ones. The crane stopped working on Tuesday, forcing the shutdown of all three streams on this morning. Tepco does not know how long it will take to get the crane running again. 1.

What frosts me is that all three ALPS streams must have been operating for a considerable period of time before the crane broke down on Tuesday, but nobody seemed to care. Breakdowns in the system are announced by Tepco and widely reported by the Press inside and outside Japan. But, I have seen nothing from the company about ALPS since the last Tepco posting of October 28, which was specific to stream A’s resumed operation. There was nothing in that Press release about the other two process streams. The previous Tepco mention of ALPS was on June 16 specific to resumption of stream B, again with no mention of the other streams. I have seen but a single report on full ALPS system operation in the Press, November 16 in the Japan Times 2., but nowhere else before or after.

Regardless, we can confidently assume that all three ALPS streams have been running without a hitch since October 28, decontaminating waste water at its design rating of 750 tons per day (~190,000 gallons/day). This is good news. The Japanese public has a right to know. There is nation-wide angst over the wastewater buildup at F. Daiichi which deserves to be at least partially assuaged by this news. The international Press has also fallen down on the job. It has been upsetting the world and feeding the antinuclear internet sites with the on-going Fukushima wastewater issue, but nothing in the least about ALPS’ success! Why isn’t it being reported? How many tons/gallons have been decontaminated to date, thus reducing the so-called waste-water problem? I estimate 41 consecutive days at 190,000 gallons/day, which equals a whopping 7.8 million gallons of F. Daiichi wastewater that no longer contains radioactive Cesium or Strontium. The world deserves to know!

But, it seems both Tepco and the Press feel the world does not need to know! Tepco has dedicated a page to the on-going spent fuel transfer of unit #4. They should do the same with ALPS. And, the Press should keep everyone aware of ALPS’ successes with the same intensity as when operation has to be suspended.

Wait a minute…what am I thinking? Press reports about the good Fukushima news given the same passion as the bad? I must be dreaming…

References -

1 - http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20140108_36.html  

2 - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/22/national/three-alps-systems-undergoing-tests-at-fukushima-no-1/

January 7, 2014

Fukushima-bashing Upsurge in the Japanese Press

The Press-dreaded spent fuel transfer at F. Daiichi has gone two months without a hitch. In addition, it seems Tepco has effectively resolved the storage tank leakage problems that dominated the headlines the last half of 2013. Most Japanese news outlets are relatively devoid of new Fukushima news because there’s nothing scary or upsetting to report. But a few newspapers have literally bent over backwards to keep Fukushima-angst alive among their readers. These media die-hards are resurrecting old news and/or making the exception seem to be the rule, using rumor and innuendo presented as fact.

On example is the Asahi Shimbun (AJW) and their 1/4/14 article “Worker aghast at shoddy work on Fukushima radioactive water storage tanks”. (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201401040008) AJW had to go to Okinawa, and island nearly 1,000 miles south west of Tokyo, to find one person who fits with their on-going “shoddy work” agenda. The man, Yoshitatsu Uechi, says Tepco used makeshift plans, cost-cutting measures including use of adhesive tape to cover tank openings, and had disregard for worker safety when he worked at F. Daiichi. He says, “I couldn’t believe that such slipshod work was being done, even if it was part of stopgap measures.” He was one of 17 workers who traveled from Okinawa to Fukushima to work on foundations and storage tank assembly from July until December, 2012. His story literally drips with a personal case of severe radiophobia. He was terrified when he removed tape from openings in the lids of some storage tanks, and then re-covered them with steel caps. He said his legs “trembled” at the sight of raindrops hitting the water in the tank, about two feet below where he was working. He complained that he was given four bolts to affix each lid, when there were clearly eight bolt holes. He was wearing full anti-contamination clothing and a raincoat over that…even on sunny days. These are but two examples of his person angst. One must ask why he agreed to fly a thousand miles to do this kind of work when he was afraid of any and all possible exposure. One must also wonder why he seems to be the only worker from Okinawa complaining about what they did. Regardless, AJW is clearly trying to keep the “makeshift” and “shoddy work” concepts alive, which have been a backbone of their reporting for nearly two years. This also shows how far AJW will go to find upsetting news concerning Fukushima…more than 1,200 miles from Fukushima to find one radiophobic voice.

Next, we turn to Japan Today’s (JT) 1/2/14 article “Homeless recruited by yakuza for Fukushima clean-up”. (http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/homeless-recruited-by-yakuza-for-fukushima-clean-up?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2014-01-02_AM)  In this case, events that may have little or nothing to do with each other are arbitrarily connected to draw the upsetting headline. It is true that labor recruiters have been offering jobs to homeless people in the train station of tsunami-devastated Sendai. It is also true than one of Tokyo’s 20 labor subcontractors, Obayashi Corporation, has been tied to the Japanese crime group yakuza in the past. One of Obayashi’s recruiters, Seiji Sasa, is currently recruiting in Sendai and JT makes it seem that he is working for the yakuza, but provides no connective tissue. Later in the article, JT admits that Obayashi Corp. has taken an October investigation into their operation very seriously. Obayashi spokesperson Junichi Ichikawa, said “We are taking it very seriously that these incidents keep happening one after another. There were elements of what we had been doing that did not go far enough.” But, JT makes it seem that criminal homeless recruiting is business-as-usual and Tepco doesn’t really care. The JT says “a shadowy network of gangsters and illegal brokers who hire homeless men has also become active in Fukushima.” What seems shadowy is the intent of JT posting an unsettling article missing a lot of important evidence.

The recruiting of people made homeless by the 3/11/11 tsunami should be a feel-good story. I have done my best to show the extreme plight of those devastated by the tsunami, while Fukushima evacuees get generous monthly checks, government built living quarters, and huge lump-sum payments. It would seem that giving some out-of-work tsunami-homeless people a chance to make some money, even at minimum wage, would be something positive. Instead, Japan Today (and their home-base at Reuters) makes a questionable connection between it and Japan’s most infamous crime organization.

Finally, we have the Mainichi Shimbun (MS) articles of 1/5/14, “TEPCO seeks refunds of evacuation payments from employees, rejects ADR settlement” and 1/8/14, “TEPCO demands families of employees return compensation for evacuation”. (http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140104p2a00m0na005000c.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140106p2a00m0na019000c.html) Tepco does not feel they should have to provide property compensation to people who rented their homes at the time of evacuation. The company is not challenging property compensation for former homeowners…just people who were Tepco employees who rented. It seems all evacuated Tepco employees have received the same monthly, $1,000 per person pay-outs for property losses as those who do not work for the company. Out of some 85,000 persons who qualify for government-mandated compensation, there are but fifteen who would be affected. A total of more than $1 million in refunds are being sought by the Company. That’s a lot of money, but perhaps they should not have been given the funds in the first place.

In one case, a single household is being asked to return $300,000. The employee asked for, and received $200,000 for an anticipated 5 year hiatus from their rented home. This is the bulk of the money the company wants returned. The remainder is because of new appliances and furnishings they bought after moving to another rental property outside the evacuation zone. A second employee who rented had his monthly $1,000 per month property compensation cut by Tepco a little over a year ago, and now wants the money he was cut to be issued to him. Rumor has it that there are other Tepco employees who also had their property compensation cut, as well. In addition, another Tepco employee had won arbitration which would absolve him of making a refund, but Tepco refused the non-binding proposal. Critics are, of course, screaming bloody murder. One said, "The families of employees aren't responsible for the nuclear disaster. As such, the firm's demands for the return of the compensation are inappropriate," which fails to address that the employee was not a homeowner and has been getting a Tepco paycheck all-along. In addition, the lawyer used by the evacuated families of Tepco employees, Tsuyoshi Kamata, says, "TEPCO's attitude to require families of employees to tolerate hardship is impermissible. The company needs to improve itself."

Regardless, the Mainichi presents the story in a fashion that makes it seem as if all Tepco employee evacuees are being treated wrongly, which is a significant exaggeration. Plus, these few exceptions to the hundreds of Tepco employees and their families who evacuated, are hardly the rule. But, the bottom line question is this…should Tepco pay company-salaried renters the same property compensation as homeowners? I think not.

Tepco says they are being entirely appropriate, which I believe is correct. It must be stressed that the monies Tepco wants refunded are not part of the general compensation payments of $30,000 per month a typical family of four has been getting for evacuation stressors, psychological distress and other non-property-related reasons. I think this generous hand-out, plus the employee salary, is more than enough compensation for someone who did not own property at the time of the accident.

And how much compensation will property owners eventually get? I have received a breakdown of the property compensation a family of four will receive if they either cannot or otherwise refuse to return home, from the former Chief Secretary of Japan’s NSC, Genn Saji.* The chart shows that each homeowner will be given, on the average, about $900,000 in property compensation. As posted in the Asahi Shimbun last month, and verified in Tepco’s financial statement, an evacuated family of four has already made nearly $1 million in general reparation. By combining the two compensations, each non-returning-to-home family of four will receive between $2 million and $3 million by the end of 2017 (when the new statute runs out). There’s no doubt that the business of being a Fukushima evacuee is even more lucrative than ever.

I don’t blame the Tepco employees (who rented) for trying to get as much of the windfall as they can. However, I think they do not deserve the property-loss compensation because they did not own the property they lived on. The Mainichi Shimbun thinks otherwise and strongly suggests it is the case with all Tepco-employed evacuees.

*Note – unfortunately, Mr. Saji’s translated chart of the property compensation breakdown came in an Email and downloaded in PDF format, without an attendant URL. If and when I find a URL link to an English version of the chart, I will dutifully post it for all to see.

January 3, 2014

US Navy Sailor’s Claims of Fukushima Health Effects Might Be Misdirected

In August, 2012, a group of US Navy sailors from The USS Ronald Reagan filed a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Company and Japan’s government. It claimed that Tepco lied about the events at Fukushima Daiichi during the first few days of the accident, resulting in excessive exposure and a wide range of negative health effects for members of the ship’s deck crew. The issue hinged on whether or not the radioactive releases from the hydrogen explosions with units #1 and #3, which was blown out to sea, had inflicted exposures sufficient to cause the problems. On November 26, a San Diego judge dismissed the suit because there was not enough evidence to determine if Tepco and Japan’s government had committed fraud. (1)

After the suit’s dismissal, internet sites and some American news media gave it some journalistic traction. I had covered the suit in my updates, beginning in 2012. I admit I didn’t give it much credence, based on my personal experience in the Navy on a nuclear-powered submarine. All nuclear-powered warships are literally riddled with sensitive radiation monitoring devices. From reports in Stars and Stripes (2)  and Navy Times (3), the Reagan’s monitors detected an increase in radiation above background on March 14, 2011 (date of the unit #3 explosion), while operating about 100 miles off-shore in support of the tsunami recovery effort. When the radiological increase was detected, the ship moved quickly out of the detectibly radioactive plume. Some helicopter crewmembers were mildly contaminated. A total of seventeen personnel were found to have received an exposure equal to a a few months of background radiation.

Based on these reports, and my background as a Navy radiation monitoring specialist, I found the notion of the lawsuit’s validity literally unthinkable. Navy spokesperson Lt. Greg Raelson seemed to verify my feelings when he said, “For perspective, the worst-case radiation exposure for a crew member on USS Ronald Reagan is less than 25 percent of the annual radiation exposure to a member of the U.S. public from natural sources of background radiation, such as the sun, rocks and soil.”

I also felt that the sailors in the suit were really experiencing negative health symptoms, but most of the suit’s stated health effects have never been associated with radiation exposure other than in high-level exposures many orders of magnitude greater than what happened on the Reagan. Some of the symptoms had nothing to do with radiation. Two weeks ago, I googled the buffet of listed symptoms which included rectal bleeding, gastrointestinal distress, hair loss, headaches, and fatigue. What came up on the search was “vegetative dystonia” (4). Last week, a message from radiation expert Dr. Jerry Cuttler suggested the same disorder as a possibility. That’s when I decided to put my findings to pen, if you will.

Could it be possible that most, if not all of the sailors claiming radiation-based issues have actually suffered vegetative dystonia? Symptoms for vegetative dystonia include pressure in the heart, heart palpitations, sweating, headache, dizziness, nausea, mood swings, insomnia, irritability, and impaired function of the intestine. The disorder causes a “violation of body function”, which is not organic in nature. Symptoms are almost always associated with emotional stress and bodily fatigue. The medical consensus says vegetative dystonia is usually spawned by psychological factors and should be considered in a group of psychic disorders called “somatoform autonomic dysfunction”, which can be understood as physical responses to mental stress. Its symptoms suggest a physical disorder, but there is no demonstrable organic cause and there is strong evidence for links to psychological factors or conflicts. (5) It was first identified as being a psychological problem in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume III. Treatment includes calming-down and using relaxation techniques. In severe cases, sedatives can be prescribed. The goal of treatment is to “restore psychological balance”.

Any military veteran can verify that there is considerable emotional stress with serving our country. Fatigue is part of the process and can be severe. Let’s add to this the popular misconception of there being no safe level of radiation exposure, perpetual mention of a controversy over the biological effects of low level radiation exposure in the world’s Press, and numerous irresponsible websites tying all sorts of diseases to radiation exposure that have never been found to be the case by the medical community, and one can understand why the Reagan sailors filed their unfortunate lawsuit.

Radiophobia has significantly increased around the world because of the Fukushima nuclear accident, exacerbated by speculative news stories coming out of Japan posted by their decidedly antinuclear Japanese Press, and the fact that most people have no understanding of the biological effects of ionizing radiation with near-background exposures. It is one of the prime misunderstandings behind the Hiroshima Syndrome (a mortal fear of nuclear energy). As long as the Hiroshima Syndrome continues to infect a significant number of people, the Press will exploit it and literally bend over backwards to keep it alive.

As long as pseudo-scientific propagandists are given prime news media time instead of authentic scientific experts concerning low level radiation health effects, unreasonable lawsuits like the Reagan sailor’s will continue to manifest. Radiation is not a bogeyman, but there are powerful popular voices who exploit public ignorance to promote the belief that it is a real-world Freddy Kruger. As Will Rogers so eloquently said, "It ain’t what you don’t know that counts. It’s what you know that ain’t so."

References:

1 - http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-accident-updates.html (12/19/2013)

2 - http://www.stripes.com/in-growing-lawsuit-servicemembers-fault-tepco-for-radiation-related-illnesses-1.230512  

3 - http://www.navytimes.com/article/20131228/NEWS08/312280004/Reagan-sailors-press-radiation-lawsuit 

4 - http://www.medical-enc.com/vegetative_dystonia.html  

5 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3146190/

December 31, 2013

Pacific Beaches not at-Risk from Fukushima

The Internet is virtually awash with scare stories concerning Fukushima radiation along the Pacific coastline. The posts are rife with misconception, exaggeration and (sometimes) outright fabrication. There is one solid reason why none of them are worth the fonts in their postings. To put it simply, the evidence being used is grossly deceiving.

People using hand-held radiation monitors showing a hundred or more counts per minute along the Pacific coastline make it seem the readings are due to Fukushima. While there are Fukushima isotopes to be found throughout the Pacific, the concentrations along the California coast are way too low to register beyond natural background levels on publically-available radiation detectors. One recently-popular YouTube video shows a detector’s counts-per-minute (CPM) going up as the person holding it gets near a Pacific coast beach. Beach sands contain a plethora of elements, and many of them have naturally radioactive isotopes, such as Potassium-40, Carbon-14, Rubidium-87, and Uranium-238/235. Beaches with low concentrations of these elements might not show an increase in its counts on a hand-held detector when approached, while others will demonstrate just the opposite. Did the person making the YouTube video ever monitor that beach before? Is it any different now than six years ago? There’s no way of knowing from the footage.

While one might argue that the increase shown in the reading might be due to Fukushima, the chance of that being the case is vanishingly slim. The sum-total of all the Fukushima contamination reasonably estimated to have ended up in the ocean is many orders of magnitude less than what Mother Nature already put there. There are roughly 30 thousand-trillion Becquerels (PetaBecquerels) of Fukushima radioactivity in the Pacific Ocean….a number so colossal it is hard to get one’s mind around it. Let’s compare that to the activity we would find if Fukushima never happened. Here are the top five… (Source…Idaho State University - http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/natural.htm)

1 - Uranium, isotopes 238 and 235 = 22 million-trillion Bq

2 – Potassium-40 = 7.4 billion-trillion Bq

3 – Tritium (Hydrogen-3) = 370 thousand-trillion Bq

4 – Carbon-14 = 3 million-trillion Bq

5 – Rubidium-87 = 700 million-trillion Bq.

While 30 thousand-trillion (Fukushima’s number) is astonishing in-itself, when we compare it to the roughly billions-of-trillion number that occurs naturally, it takes the scare-factor out of the rhetorical equation. Opponents to nuclear energy like to use the Fukushima numbers in isolation from what we find in nature because it scares people and fulfills their antinuclear agenda. When placed in context, the scare-factor diminishes mightily.

Here’s one of the most informative graphics I’ve seen depicting these facts.

 

As the graphic shows us, there are fifteen billion-trillion Bq (15,350,000 PBq) of activity in the world’s oceans. The Pacific Ocean holds 51% of the world’s sea water. So let’s cut the world’s natural oceanic activity in half and say there’s roughly 7.5 billion-trillion Bq in the Pacific from Mother Nature. Further, let’s assume that Fukushima’s contamination is mixing with only that Pacific volume north of the Equator, so we have 3.75 billion-trillion Bq to use for our statistical purpose. If we divide 3,750,000 PBq (Natural Pacific activity) by 30 PBq (Fukushima), the total of all Fukushima radioactive isotopes in the north Pacific is 125,000 times less than what naturally exists. This means that, on the average, one out of every 125,000 counts registered on the YouTube video’s hand-held meter might have come from Fukushima. In other words, we would have to watch the detector read out at 160 CPM (the highest I saw in the video) for about thirteen hours before we could confidently say that one of the counts may have come from Fukushima.

Think about that!

This brings us to one of the problems faced by radiation-averse persons using their own radiation detectors for the first time. By and large, they are either not aware of or refuse to consider natural background levels with the locations they are monitoring. Further, they either don’t know or refuse to consider that it takes a constant, year-long exposure to many, many CPMs to produce a dose of one millisievert (Japan’s national standard for exposure). I know that converting from Bq to mSv varies with each isotope, depending on their different emission types and energies. What I’m doing is generalizing a conversion with respect to what we find with the buffet of natural isotopes found in sea water and in their sand beaches. Regardless, with only one out of every 125,000 counts on a hand-held detector being possibly due to Cesium-137 and/or Strontium-90 released from Fukushima, the resulting increase above natural background is so incredibly small that it is not worth considering.

While it is true that appearances can be deceiving, appearances with respect to radioactivity can be monumentally deceiving!

December 27, 2013

The Fukushima “Hot Particle” Myth

One of the incorrectly used terms often used concerning the Fukushima accident is “hot particle”. It was first applied to Fukushima by America’s inimitable antinuke Arnie Gundersen a few weeks after it all began, when a few traces of Plutonium were found in the environs very near the nuke station. It was picked up by many noted prophets of nuclear energy doom, like Michio Kaku and Helen Caldicott, and continues to be part-and-parcel to many Fukushima scare-stories posted on the Web to this day. What is missing, in every case, is a definition of the term/phrase. It unquestionably has an alarming sound to it, but what does it really mean? By examining its most-possible meaning, we find the application of the phrase to the atmospheric releases from Fukushima is entirely inappropriate.
 
Perhaps the earliest use of the term “hot particle” was during the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapon’s tests in Marlinga and Emu, South Australia, from 1953 to 1963.1. Microscopic shards of pulverized materials containing radioactive isotopes produced by the explosions were called hot particles. When the bombs detonated, massive clouds of microscopic material from the earth beneath the blasts erupted high into the air. The dust was exposed to the intense neutron field spawned by the blast as it mushroomed vertically. Neutrons are the only type of radiation that can cause other, non-radioactive substances to become radioactive. The neutron field made the dust in the cloud radioactive. 

About 99% radioactive isotopes produced (by volume) in a weapon’s detonation are not fashioned by the fissioning that occurs inside the fuel cores of nuclear power plants. 2. Most of these bomb-only isotopes are contained in tiny dust particles carried by the plume which we call fallout. Each of the particles contain many different neutron-activated materials. The half-lives of the predominant isotopes (…of Sodium, Manganese, Iron and Cobalt) are relatively short and measured in hours or days, so they are not around very long…they are literally “burned out” a few weeks after the blast. The bomb-spawned dust particles also contain small quantities of Uranium and (depending on the bomb’s core) Plutonium which have long half-lives and persist. A smaller-yet fraction of the bomb’s radioactive isotopes are fission fragments, similar to those made in reactors, but have long-enough half-lives to persist in the environment and be detected. However, the hot particles containing this buffet of isotopes from are not soluble…a key aspect of definition. They fall from the sky when they can no longer be held aloft by the post-blast meteorology…fallout! 

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended the hot particle definition to nuclear reactors in 1987. 3. They said the concept can be applied to “degraded fuel and neutron-activated corrosion and wear products.” They stress in 1987 (and other subsequent publications on the topic) that hot particles are not water soluble. Specifically, the NRC says hot particles can come from fuel bundles inside reactors that have cracks in their tubing which release fuel isotopes directly into the water flowing through the fuel core. These are not high-volumes being released into the power plant’s water system. Only a tiny fraction of the isotopes, those very near the edge of the fuel pins, ever leave the fuel itself. The high density of the fuel pins is a very effective primary containment. In addition the kinds of cracks in the tubing that contains the fuel pins are primarily microscopic, and the frequency of this cracking in vanishingly small. A quite effective secondary containment. Further, because of their insolubility and great atomic mass, NRC-defined hot particles cannot travel very far and will rapidly precipitate out of the air in the unlikely event they escape the plant’s multiple protective barriers…the tertiary level of containment, if you will. But, nowhere in the NRC document are individual fission products, like radioactive Cesium, included in the definition. In other words, the vast majority of radioactive isotopes released at Fukushima – Cesium, Iodine, Strontium, et.al. – should not be called hot particles.

It should be noted that the date of the NRC notification came the year after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine in 1986. Because of the unique plant design and accident situation involved with Chernobyl (see The Chernobyl Disaster in the left-hand menu), a considerable amount of hot particles were generated and deposited within a few kilometers of the calamity. For all intents and purposes, the reactor at Chernobyl was blown apart and microscopic pieces of the tanks surrounding the fuel core, support structures, and fuel-itself inside the reactor compartment (they had no pressure vessel around the core) were ejected into the near-environment for the better part of 10 days. It should also be noted that the NRC’s application of hot particle protection was probably influenced by a passing mention of England’s 1957 Windscale fire in the IAEA document (above). The IAEA report also includes fissile materials at nuclear production facilities for nuclear-weapon programmes in their definition. 

We should also keep in mind that all reputable sources emphasize that hot particles are all Beta (β) radiation emitters. There is no mention of gamma (ɣ) radiation emitters. This adds yet another reason why applying the notion to individual isotopes like Cesium-134 and Cs-137 cannot be correct. The same goes for Strontium-90. Why? Because all three isotopes are β and ɣ emitters. Because hot particles are only β emitters, they are primarily (but not exclusively) external hazards with high concentrations found in locations near bomb blasts, such as Hiroshima/Nagasaki, and living near Chernobyl in 1986. But none of the recognized hot particles can be correctly, appropriately applied to the radioactive releases of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi…except for the traces of Plutonium found very near the nuke station.

While there is no universally-agreed-upon definition of “hot particles” 4., there seems to be a reasonable meaning that can be gleaned from the bunch…hot particles are small, discrete, highly radioactive particles capable of causing extremely high doses to a localized area in a short period of time. Our inquiry further shows that the term can only be correctly used in reference to one nuclear power plant accident in the world…Chernobyl. Arnie Gundersen cavalierly used the term with Fukushima when traces of Plutonium were found in the near-station environs to F. Daiichi. Plutonium is one of many long lived isotopes found in multi-element, bomb-spawned hot particles.

As is his modus operendi, Gundersen extended and confabulated the kernel of truth by applying it to all radioactive isotopes from Fukushima. He has also done this with his use of trace Cesium levels from nuclear weapon’s detonations to the total Cesium presumed to be in the F. Daiichi spent fuel pools, then positing there's a massive number of Hiroshima bombs at F. Daiichi waiting to happen. He's a snake oil salesman of fear, and he's eminently successful at exploiting the myths and misconceptions common to the world’s nuclear-averse demographic. Gundersen, and those of his ilk, demonstrate that exploitation of the Hiroshima Syndrome’s prime causality – confusion between reactors and bombs - is effective and profitable!

References: 

  1. Danesi, Piero Roberto; Hot Particles & The Cold War; IAEA Bulletin; April, 1998. http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Magazines/Bulletin/Bull404/article10.pdf

  2. Operation Redwing: Project 2.63: Characterization of Fallout; March 15, 1961; ppg 222-223. http://web.archive.org/web/20080410131256/http://worf.eh.doe.gov/data/ihp1c/0881_a.pdf

  3. Control of Hot Particle Contamination at Nuclear Power Plants; US Nuclear regulatory Commission Information Notice 87-39; August 21, 1987. http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/gen-comm/info-notices/1987/in87039.html

  4. Hansen, Rick; May 19, 2010. http://health.phys.iit.edu/archives/2010-May/028745.html

December 22, 2013 

188th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers – Holiday Edition

The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 188th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers…Holiday Edition. Before we start, here’s wishing everyone an exciting and wondrous Holiday season. 

Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) for this week…The Shippingport Atomic Power Station project broke ground on September 9, 1954, with President Eisenhower turning the first shovel of soil. 

Now…for this week’s Blogs. For the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include – DOE selects NuScale for funding, the carbon-belching energy generation decisions in Japan, a revisiting of President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace”, what Vermont Yankee’s opponents are doing now that the plant will be scrapped, and much more. 

From Atomic Insights –  

NuScale wins second round of DOE SMR funding under FOA  

http://atomicinsights.com/nuscale-wins-second-round-doe-smr-funding-foa/

 

From Canadian Energy Issues –  

Power, fear, and carbon in Japan: the Iron Rule of Power Generation II 

http://canadianenergyissues.com/2013/12/19/power-fear-and-carbon-in-japan-the-iron-rule-of-power-generation-ii/

 

From ANS Nuclear Café (2) -

Eisenhower’s Atomic Power for Peace – The Civilian Application Program (by Will Davis)

http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2013/12/19/atomic-power-for-peace-the-civilian-application-program-and-power-demonstration-reactor/

Vermont Yankee: Now What Are Opponents Doing? (by Howard Shaffer)

http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2013/12/18/vermont-yankee-now-what-are-opponents-doing/  

 

From Next Big Future (2) –  

Roadmap to supercritical CO2 turbines

http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/12/roadmap-to-supercritical-co2-turbines.html  

Hammers Slammers like Nuclear powered hovertanks would technically be feasible for the late 2020s or 2030s 

http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/12/hammers-slammers-like-nuclear-powered.html 

 

From Deregulate the Atom – 

Why is there no public support to reform nuclear energy regulatory policy? 

http://deregulatetheatom.com/2013/12/why-is-there-no-public-support-to-reform-nuclear-energy-regulatory-policy  

 

From Yes Vermont Yankee – 

A Lingering Lawsuit: The Generation Tax 

http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-lingering-lawsuit-generation-tax.html#.UrYkOChfWec

 

From The Hiroshima Syndrome/Fukushima Commentary

Guest Commentary on Japan's Energy Situation – (by Lars Hanson) 

http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary.html  

*   *   * 

Fact or Fiction (?) answer – Fiction! 

President Eisenhower was in Denver, Colorado on that historic day. He did initiate the groundbreaking, however, by passing a “neutron wand” (containing a neutron emitter) over a radiation monitor, which flashed an electronic signal more than 1,200 miles to Shippingport and started the “high lift” front-end loader that turned the first scoop of dirt. http://files.asme.org/ASMEORG/Communities/History/Landmarks/5643.pdf

 

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