Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nuclear Plant Chief WEPT, Admission Radiation Enough To Kill, Radiation Plume Toward U.S. Coast? "Plume"=Fear Mongering

The moment nuclear plant chief WEPT as Japanese finally admit that radiation leak is serious enough to kill people 

Last updated at 3:54 PM on 19th March 2011
  • Officials admit they may have to bury reactors under concrete - as happened at Chernobyl
  • Government says it was overwhelmed by the scale of twin disasters
  • Japanese upgrade accident from level four to five - the same as Three Mile Island
  • We will rebuild from scratch says Japanese prime minister
  • Particles spewed from wrecked Fukushima power station arrive in California
  • Military trucks tackle reactors with tons of water for second day 
Overwhelmed: Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri cries as he leaves after a press conference in Fukushima
Overwhelmed: Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri cries as he leaves after a press conference in Fukushima
The boss of the company behind the devastated Japanese nuclear reactor today broke down in tears - as his country finally acknowledged the radiation spewing from the over-heating reactors and fuel rods was enough to kill some citizens
Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency admitted that the disaster was a level 5, which is classified as a crisis causing 'several radiation deaths' by the UN International Atomic Energy.
Officials said the rating was raised after they realised the full extent of the radiation leaking from the plant. They also said that 3 per cent of the fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima plant had been severely damaged, suggesting those reactor cores have partially melted down.
After Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri cried as he left a conference to brief journalists on the situation at Fukushima, a senior Japanese minister also admitted that the country was overwhelmed by the scale of the tsunami and nuclear crisis.
He said officials should have admitted earlier how serious the radiation leaks were. 
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said: 'The unprecedented scale of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, frankly speaking, were among many things that happened that had not been anticipated under our disaster management contingency plans.
'In hindsight, we could have moved a little quicker in assessing the situation and coordinating all that information and provided it faster.'
Nuclear experts have been saying for days that Japan was underplaying the crisis' severity.
It is now officially on a par with the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. Only the explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 has topped the scale.
Deputy director general of the NISA, Hideohiko Nishiyama, also admitted that they do not know if the reactors are coming under control. 
He said: 'With the water-spraying operations, we are fighting a fire we cannot see. That fire is not spreading, but we cannot say yet that it is under control.'
But prime minister Naoto Kan insisted that his country would overcome the catastrophe

'We will rebuild Japan from scratch,' he said in a televised speech: 'In our history, this small island nation has made miraculous economic growth thanks to the efforts of all Japanese citizens. That is how Japan was built.'

Read more:

Dr. Jon LaPook

Dr. Jon LaPook

Posted: March 19, 2011 11:50 AM

Radioactive Plume? The Coast Is Clear

My wife and two sons are flying from New York to Los Angeles this morning but I'm not worried about the so-called "radioactive plume" coming from the crippled Japanese nuclear reactors. In fact, I hate the term "radioactive plume" -- now appearing widely in the media -- because it conjures up an image that is much scarier than the reality of the radiation danger to the West Coast. 

Yesterday, as concerned residents in California and Washington awaited further news about the plume, the Associated Press reported that a diplomat with access to radiation tracking by the U.N.'s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization said tiny amounts of radiation had reached California. But as radiation expert Dr. Donald Bucklin told me, these instruments "can measure miniscule changes in radiation" that have "absolutely no effect on human beings." In fact, according to the diplomat, initial readings were not dangerous in any way -- "about a billion times beneath levels that would be health threatening."

Despite reassurances from many different experts and agencies, fear -- much more than radioactivity -- was in the air: tweeted, emailed, and broadcast. A physician friend in L.A. emailed me that there was widespread panic among his patients and asked me to go on CBS radio -- which I did -- to try to provide a reality check. The situation in Japan is still dangerous and fluid but after consulting with experts on radiation and nuclear accidents over the past several days, here's why I'm not worried about my family flying to California:

1) Chernobyl was a much worse accident yet no significant radiation reached the U.S. 

CBS nuclear safety consultant Cham Dallas, PhD told me that the radiation released at Chernobyl was 100 times more than the combined radiation from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But only an insignificant "blip" of radiation reached Savannah, Georgia about 5400 miles away -- about the same distance as Tokyo is to Los Angeles. And no health problems in the U.S. have been detected as a result of Chernobyl, which was a level 7 incident according to The International Atomic Energy Agency; the crisis in Japan is currently level 5.

2) Experts tell me the amount of radiation released from the Japanese nuclear reactors is not nearly enough to cause a problem in the U.S.

Radiation dose is measured in something called "millisieverts." Background dose due to natural radiation exposure varies from place to place but is about 3 millisieverts a year. Nuclear plant workers are limited to 20 millisieverts a year. One hundred millisieverts in one dose can increase the risk of cancer. One hundred to 500 millisieverts can cause bone marrow damage, leading to infection and death. A chest x-ray is 0.1 millisieverts. 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced yesterday that radiation levels in downtown Tokyo were at 0.000047 millisieverts an hour, barely higher than the 0.000035 microsieverts an hour that is typical. 

Cham Dallas told me that -- as it stands now -- any cumulative radiation exposure to people on the West Coast as a result of the Japanese accident should be clinically insignificant, amounting to less than a tenth of a chest x-ray (0.01 millisieverts).

3) Direct measurements of radiation on the West Coast reveal no significant increase so far.

Yesterday, health officials in California and Washington said radiation is not higher than usual. Last night, the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that no radiation levels of concern have reached the United States, saying: "The doses received by people per day from natural sources of radiation -- such as rocks, bricks, the sun and other background sources -- are 100,000 times the dose rates from the particles and gas detected in California or Washington State."

On the West Coast, pharmacies are being cleaned out of potassium iodide pills by people wanting to protect themselves from thyroid cancer caused by radioactive I-131. The CDC has tweeted not to take potassium pills but either the word has not gotten out or people are not believing the word. Yesterday I received an email from a patient in Los Angeles asking me if she should stockpile potassium iodide. The answer is a definitive "absolutely not." And under no conditions should anybody take iodide pills or other forms of iodine without being told to do so by a health professional; the side effects can be very serious.

Obviously, in Japan the situation is quite different from here in the United States. 

No comments: