Earthquakes and Tsunamis

It has been a year since the massive earthquakes and tsunami struck Japan.

Over 20,000 people were killed and a half million were left homeless.


There were no deaths or even illnesses from radiation following the Japanese nuclear plant crisis. 

The Wall Street Journal said this at the year anniversary: "A year after the Fukushima nuclear accident, the emerging consensus among scientists is that its effects on physical health and the environment have so far been minimal. There have been no reported radiation-related deaths or illnesses from the accident, even among workers who faced very high exposure." (From: "In Japan, Relief at Radiation's Low Toll")

After a month of research on over 5,000 people in the Fukushima prefecture immediately following the accident, only 10 people were found to have significantly elevated levels of radiation, and those levels were still far below the threshold at which acute radiation syndrome sets in. Geiger-counter readings categorised all others in the area at a "no contamination level".

Let's remember the Japanese people as they continue to rebuild their lives after these major natural disasters, and keep their loss of life and property in perspective versus the sensationalized media on radiation.


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6 comments

  1. Let's start asking our news media to put some accurate captions on those frequently repeated, heart tugging photos of little children getting surveyed during the forced evacuations.

    Here is my suggestion - No radiation found above background levels.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

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  2. Hi,

    What should I make of this video:

    http://vimeo.com/38995781

    I understand that Gundersen is not to be trusted, but I lack the expertise to deal with the particulars- those figures at about 2:50, are they real, are they dangerous? Is there a site that deals with specific claims by individual anti-nuclear campaigners?

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    Replies
    1. A great question. If only more people had your insight to ask what the numbers are, and then what they really mean.

      There are 3 main factors to consider when looking at radiation measurements. 1) Type of radiation (alpha, beta, or gamma), 2) amount of energy, and 3) activity, which is measured in Becquerels or Curies.

      The activity is what Gundersen’s lab provided in the spreadsheet, measured in picocuries/gram (pCi/g). The prefix “pico” indicates 10^(-12) or one trillionth.

      Putting aside whether the lab used proper equipment and procedures (probably not, which could strongly skew the numbers higher), we will look at the numbers given.

      To give some perspective, the amount of picocuries per gram given off by a Brazil nut is from 7-14 pCi/g and in a banana is 6 pCi/g. Natural trace amounts of elements (Radium 226, Uranium 238, Thorium 230 and Thorium 232) in a fertilizer could exceed 128 pCi/g.

      The highest single pCi/g given in Gundersen’s spreadsheet was for Cesium 137 from the first of the 5 samples- at 167 pCi/g. Certainly we aren’t scared of radiation from trace elements in fertilizer or other natural sources, so the amount of activity here isn’t something to be concerned about in the environment. The rest of the numbers are certainly not dangerous levels.

      Besides being around the soil, what would happen if you say, ate it? Ingested cesium is similar in uptake to potassium. It is also dispelled like potassium. If your kid ate the dirt, it is actually dispelled more quickly in children and teens. Trace amounts of cesium do not present a significant hazard.

      Cobalt 60 is a more concerning element than Cesium generally, because although Cesium 134, 137, and Cobalt 60 all have decays with beta and gamma radiation involved, the gamma from Cobalt is significantly more energetic. However, the amount of activity given (a maximum of 40 pCi/g) shows that there is such a low level of Cobalt that it is not a significant concern.

      Ingestion of Cobalt is less likely to be absorbed, from 10-30%. What is absorbed, a majority will be dispelled within days, although a very small amount might not be expelled for a few years. Using the most negative and conservative estimates (and probably wrong estimations- see the post on aspirin and the LNT method), Cobalt of this amount would not increase cancer risk by more than about 0.6% if continuously exposed for an entire lifetime in thick soil of this activity level. This estimate makes little sense, however, since within a matter of years the amount of cobalt 60 would have disappeared. In other words, this amount of cobalt should not cause concern.

      We need further research to establish the effects of low level radiation exposure, and whether it has positive or negative effects. Right now we assume that there is a linear relationship between a dose causing a fatal cancer and any smaller dose, which creates a ridiculous assumption when taken down to the natural low level doses the earth provides. This assumption is part of why we may consider it "low level radioactive waste" simply because it is man-made, although not more radioactive than natural radiation.

      (sources include: http://www.fusrapmaywood.com/factsheet/radenv.htm, http://www.evs.anl.gov/pub/doc/cesium.pdf, http://www.evs.anl.gov/pub/doc/cobalt.pdf)

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  3. A voice to counter Gundersen is needed - urgently. Could you offer yourself to the media for commentary? They will never ask you if they don't know about you. Experts from the nuclear field need to brave it out into the mainstream media as otherwise journalists and editors will only ever get people like Gundersen on air. He is very dangerous and has caused much harm. Needs to be countered strongly.

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    1. Couldn't agree with you more, and we hope this blog emboldens more nuclear experts and supporters. If you know of media opportunities/needs or have ideas for how to get more anti-Arnies out there, please contact us. I have only occasionally seen calls for nuclear experts. It would be fantastic to collaborate on this.

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