Fukushima Update - Radiation Contamination
The news today again confirms the serious nature of the radioactive contamination from Fukushima as posited 4 months ago by many independent experts.
The bottom line is that much of Japan is seriously contaminated and should be evacuated as Dr. Chris Busby stated last spring.
Such an evacuation would mean that tens of thousands of human lives could be saved and the band-aid clean-up and burning of debris which is spreading contamination worldwide could be halted. An evacuation of this scale would first require admitting the problem, and second would require an international effort.
Unfortunately, the international community has other priorities like dropping depleted uranium bombs on innocents so they can steal their natural resources and scrambling to save their financial elite and quell the riots of citizens in their streets. No time to address the worst nuclear accident in the history of the world and the concomitant public health threat.
Arnie Gunderson has a new video on a two recently released reports. You can view it at Fairewinds Associates.
Here is the text from the Fairewind's site:
"Newly released neutron data from three University of California San Diego scientists confirms Fairewinds' April analysis that the nuclear core at Fukushima Daiichi turned on and off after TEPCO claimed its reactors had been shutdown. This periodic nuclear chain reaction (inadvertent criticality) continued to contaminate the surrounding environment and upper atmosphere with large doses of radioactivity.
In a second area of concern, Fairewinds disagrees [with] the NRC's latest report claiming that all Fukushima spent fuel pools had no problems following the earthquake. In a new revelation, the NRC claims that the plutonium found more than 1 mile offsite actually came from inside the nuclear reactors. If such a statement were true, it indicates that the nuclear power plant containments failed and were breached with debris landing far from the power plants themselves. Such a failure of the containment system certainly necessitates a complete review of all US reactor containment design and industry assurances that containments will hold in radioactivity in the event of a nuclear accident. The evidence Fairewinds reviewed to date continues to support its April analysis that the detonation in the Unit 3 Spent Fuel pool was the cause of plutonium found off site.
Third, the burning of radioactive materials (building materials, trees, lawn grass, rice straw) by the Japanese government will cause radioactive Cesium to spread even further into areas within Japan that have been previously clean, and across the Pacific Ocean to North America.
And finally, the Japanese government has yet to grasp the severity of the contamination within Japan, and therefore has not developed a coherent plan [to] mitigate the accident and remediate the environment. Without a cohesive plan to deal with this ongoing problem of large scale radioactive contamination, the radioactivity will continue to spread throughout Japan and around the globe further exacerbating the problem and raising costs astronomically."
SKF has the following article on cesium decay today (also reviewed on EnergyNews).
Forget a half-life of 30 years. Apparently the "ecological" half-life (what really happens in the environment) is much, much longer than that.
A Wired Magazine article dated December 15, 2009 cites a poster session presentation of the research of the Chernobyl exclusion zone at the American Geophysical Union conference in 2009, and says radioactive cesium may be remaining in the soil far longer than what the half life (30 years) suggests.
To note: it was a poster session presentation, and I'm looking to see if it has been formally published in a scientific paper since then.
From Wired Magazine (12/15/2009):
"SAN FRANCISCO - Chernobyl, the worst nuclear accident in history, created an inadvertent laboratory to study the impacts of radiation - and more than twenty years later, the site still holds surprises.
Reinhabiting the large exclusion zone around the accident site may have to wait longer than expected. Radioactive cesium isn't disappearing from the environment as quickly as predicted, according to new research presented here Monday at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Cesium 137's half-life - the time it takes for half of a given amount of material to decay - is 30 years. In addition to that, cesium-137's total ecological half-life - the time for half the cesium to disappear from the local environment through processes such as migration, weathering, and removal by organisms is also typically 30 years or less, but the amount of cesium in soil near Chernobyl isn't decreasing nearly that fast. And scientists don't know why.
It stands to reason that at some point the Ukrainian government would like to be able to use that land again, but the scientists have calculated that what they call cesium's "ecological half-life" - the time for half the cesium to disappear from the local environment - is between 180 and 320 years.
"Normally you'd say that every 30 years, it's half as bad as it was. But it's not," said Tim Jannik, nuclear scientist at Savannah River National Laboratory and a collaborator on the work. "It's going to be longer before they repopulate the area."
In 1986, after the Chernobyl accident, a series of test sites was established along paths that scientists expected the fallout to take. Soil samples were taken at different depths to gauge how the radioactive isotopes of strontium, cesium and plutonium migrated in the ground. They've been taking these measurements for more than 20 years, providing a unique experiment in the long-term environmental repercussions of a near worst-case nuclear accident.
In some ways, Chernobyl is easier to understand than DOE sites like Hanford, which have been contaminated by long-term processes. With Chernobyl, said Boris Faybishenko, a nuclear remediation expert at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, we have a definite date at which the contamination began and a series of measurements carried out from that time to today.
"I have been involved in Chernobyl studies for many years and this particular study could be of great importance to many [Department of Energy] researchers," said Faybishenko.
The results of this study came as a surprise. Scientists expected the ecological half-lives of radioactive isotopes to be shorter than their physical half-life as natural dispersion helped reduce the amount of material in any given soil sample. For strontium, that idea has held up. But for cesium the the opposite appears to be true.
The physical properties of cesium haven't changed, so scientists think there must be an environmental explanation. It could be that new cesium is blowing over the soil sites from closer to the Chernobyl site. Or perhaps cesium is migrating up through the soil from deeper in the ground. Jannik hopes more research will uncover the truth.
"There are a lot of unknowns that are probably causing this phenomenon," he said.
Beyond the societal impacts of the study, the work also emphasizes the uncertainties associated with radioactive contamination. Thankfully, Chernobyl-scale accidents have been rare, but that also means there is a paucity of places to study how radioactive contamination really behaves in the wild.
"The data from Chernobyl can be used for validating models," said Faybishenko. "This is the most value that we can gain from it."
As a follow-up to these two stories, you may wish to review this 52-minute video from Physicians for Social Responsibility that aired in April. You may be amazed that much of the information released is exactly the same as what is hitting the headlines in today's news.
This is the best medical discussion in layman's terms on nuclear accidents, evacuations and the effects of internal and external radiation on humans that I have come across in my research. It was simply ignored at the time.
Inexplicably, in the face of all the contamination news in the last week, NHK carries the following story today, which reports the government has revised downward the contamination figures in early March by 60%. Perhaps this is to deflect attention from the on-going releases? I expect we will see editorializing on this story soon.
Also of interest at NHK this morning, 75% of Japan's nuclear reactors are not operating, up from 70% a few weeks ago. TEPCO has only 2 of 17 reactors operating now.
There are 3 reports on contamination at NHK this morning.
First, 80% of schools in Fukushima detected 1 microsievert per hour of radiation along routes used by children to walk to school.
Second, the government hopes to complete aerial contamination surveys before snowfall.
Third, the contaminated beef story and the lifting of the shipment ban in Fukushima has taken another turn as the government decides the recently discovered contaminated beef came from cattle who "were highly likely" to have been fed contaminated hay. Hmmm . . .