The risk of further melting in the three damaged fuel cells at Fukushima (Units 1, 2, & 3) has again been reduced by the natural process of radioactive decay. Decay heat levels are lower than yesterday. Some time between tomorrow evening (Friday, March 18) and Monday morning (March 21), the rate of heat production in the fuel cells will be too low for either partial or severe meltage to re-occur, in addition to what seems to have already occurred. In addition to this good news, it is now known that emergency crews have been working diligently for several days to re-connect the Fukushima power plant complex to the electrical transmission system undamaged by the tsunami. It is expected that full electrical supplies to some or all of the Fukushima units will happen sometime later today. Once this happens and emergency reactor cooling systems are re-energized, the immediate crisis will be effectively at an end.
Unfortunately, this will not put an end to the news media broadcasting that a potential meltdown may still be possible. Such flawed scare-mongering will continue for months, if not longer, based on the news media’s record with Three Mile Island in 1979. Now that the unethical prophets of nuclear doom (such as Amory Lovins) have entered into the rhetorical fray, the popular press will be inundated with exaggerations of risk, outright confabulatory scenarios of nuclear power plant holocaust, and perpetual appeals to the incorrect notion that there is no safe level of radiation exposure.
Two more items of good news have just been reported –
- Helicopter pilots flying over Unit No. 3, in order to drop thousands of gallons of water into the evaporating spent fuel pool, have discovered that the pool was not dry, and it seems the spent fuel cells stored in it have not been uncovered. Regardless, the water drops by helicopter will continue until electrical power is restored to the power plant complex and cooling systems are operating. Speculations broadcast by the news media that the pool was dry have been proven false. What’s disappointing is that some officials in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have stated that a pool is in-fact dry. Do they have a highly-confident view of the situation half a world away? No! But, it seems the Hiroshima Syndrome has permeated into the mental judgment centers of these NRC officials, who should be intimately aware (from TMI and Chernobyl) that one must never speculate. Information from “officials” must have a high degree of confidence before being transmitted. Anything less is unacceptable and ought to result in some sort of penalization, if time demonstrates that these speculations are unfounded.
- The number of employees at Fukushima working feverishly to restore electrical power to their stricken systems, while at the same time keeping the reactors and spent fuel pools cooled, is 180. Reports of there being but 50 workers still on the Fukushima site, and that all of them were briefly evacuated due to potentially deadly radiation exposure, turns out to have been false. But, these flawed reports did contain a kernel of truth. The 180 employees work in crews of 50, alternating their emergency work periods with periods of rest and recovery from their exhausting efforts. At one point, the off-duty staff (not the 50 on-duty) were taken from the plant complex as a precaution to avoid radiation exposure which might happen during the off-duty period. Off duty exposure would reduce the limit on how much exposure staff might receive while on-duty, and limit their emergency efforts. This is standard health physics procedure. If not working, don’t open yourself to exposure. Prudent and logical. Regardless, the plant was never completely evacuated.
What ought to be most upsetting to the public is what has been a subtle but significant shift in news media coverage of the situation in Japan. As of this entry, the Fukushima accident has literally replaced the real disaster of the earthquake and tsunami as the world’s top news story. This is nothing less than heinous! Yes, the accident situation at Fukushima is serious, but much less significant, real or imagined, than the actual disaster affecting all of Japan. More than 5,000 known dead…thousands upon thousands of additional dead that have yet to be accounted for…hundreds of thousands of people homeless and hungry…millions of other Japanese suffering at an unspeakable level…all due to the quake and tsunami. Only a minor fraction of this nation-wide societal horror is due to the Fukushima accident! Yet, Fukushima reigns supreme in the eyes of the popular press. Again, the news media is “merely” doing what it believes to be correct. Their false perception is entirely the result of the Hiroshima Syndrome…the phobic state of fear caused by confusion between reactors and bombs, confusion between fallout and radiation itself, and the widespread belief that there is no safe level of radiation exposure. If the myriad of misconceptions that fuel the Hiroshima Syndrome were replaced by correct, realistic understanding, Fukushima would still be a news story but would never be reported in a fashion that makes it seem more important than the true disaster in Japan.
But, the Hiroshima Syndrome does not only infect the rational judgment of the new media. As related previously, and explained in detail through the topic pages of this website, the Hiroshima Syndrome is a global affliction affecting everyone.* Not only the public-at-large, but also those charged with overseeing nuclear operations in governments around the world, including the NRC in America. Unquestionably, the single aspect of the Hiroshima Syndrome most responsible for this horrific folly is the mythic no-safe-level notion incessantly applied to radiation exposure. This issue has been mentioned previously in previous updates (below), and is addressed more fully through the course of this website. Simply put, low level and moderate level exposures to radiation are not in the least harmful, do not produce a cumulative risk of getting cancer at some moment in the future, in fact such exposure improves human health! The long term health effects of public exposure to radiation from nuclear accidents is very well understood, due to three decades of detailed public record-keeping after TMI and 25 years of similar cognizance by the World health Organization at Chernobyl.
Please…please…please search out the topic of “radiation hormesis” on any search engine. Take the time to understand the truth. Then you will fully comprehend the high degree of correctness in what follows…
In addition, and what contributes to making this all seem prudent in the public mind, are wildly incorrect radiation exposure levels alleged to be deadly and existent at Fukushima. First, the highest reported radiation level detected at Fukushima has been 400 millisieverts, outdoors at a location where no one was at. This high dose reading lasted for less than an hour, and maybe but a few minutes. Regardless, no one received this dose.
Second, the “deadly” exposure level most commonly broadcast since yesterday is 100 millisieverts. This is a gross confabulation with the units of radiation being used, and a total lack of understanding concerning any and all risk-assessment data. All reputable reports identify actual exposures to the public, that might be right next door to the plant, are in the microsievert range (everyone has been evacuated out to 3 kilometers, so there’s really no-one “next door”). This is a unit designation 1000 times smaller than a millisievert. Radiation hormesis data demonstrates that the “threshold” of possible negative health effects is in excess of 1,000,000 microsieverts. In fact, LD-1 (toxic dose level for 1% of the exposed population) on the seriously flawed Linear, No Threshold model (no-safe-level) is also 1,000,000 microsieverts. In both models, the statistical threshold of any exposed person actually dying is in excess of 1,500,000 microsieverts. 5000 millisievert exposure is 5,000,000 microsieverts, a public exposure level which has only ever realistically existed at Hiroshima in 1945, and could possibly be deadly to more than 50% of those exposed.
*Does this include me? Of course! I’ve been spending every available waking hour trying to assemble the most reliable and correct information concerning Fukushima since the tsunami hit the Japanese coast. I have been doing this as a public service. I receive no compensation for my efforts.