Largely due to bureaucratic complacency and a national arrogance with respect to their technological skill, Japan felt a severe nuclear accident was impossible. As a result, the government regulatory bodies neglected to set radiological standards for the public. Further, there was no effort to educate the public about radiation and its biological effects. This generated a radiologically ignorant society and produced what is perhaps the world’s most fertile ground for superstitions of radiological doom. This condition also extends to the Japanese government and most of their academic community-at-large. Now, Japan is paying the price for its history of informational inactivity. A significant fraction of Japan’s public is generally in a state of phobic fear, not because they are actually at risk from Fukushima, but because they have succumbed to the natural human condition known as fear of the unknown. Fear of radiation has lain dormant in the national subconscious since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It has suddenly erupted into a powerful psychic barrier unnecessarily restricting Japan’s recovery from their worst-ever natural disaster. Japan has become the world’s most poignant example of the psychological damage caused by the Hiroshima Syndrome run-amok.
There is but one actual impediment to the production of electricity from nuclear energy; radiological ignorance. While Japan is clearly the current focus of this psychic drama, radiological ignorance lies in wait to paralyze the world-at-large. Radiation is the most natural phenomena in the universe. It has existed since the Big Bang, and will remain as long as there are stars irradiating the cosmos. All stars (including our Sun) produce no less than 14 naturally-radioactive elements. They are found everywhere…in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. Radiological exposure is ubiquitous and unavoidable. Biological life has evolved in a virtual sea of radiation, and adapted accordingly. If the notions of “no-safe-level” and “detectable-is-deadly” were correct, none of us would exist. In fact, we owe the existence of the universe to radiation! (A long, detailed story for another time)
The answer to this problem is knowledge. True, rational, and correct knowledge. We at Hiroshima Syndrome argued for serious, international education on the subject of radiation for more than three decades before this website hit cyberspace. Governments won’t do it because it will be expensive and not serve to win votes. While some nut-and-bolt aspects of radiological reality have been taught in American high school chemistry classes for two decades, the realities of natural human radiological exposure and its effect on our biology are largely unknown to the public of our planet. In other words, the schools aren’t helping educate the world about radiation effects any more than governments. And, the news media has no interest in educating the public on the realities of radiation because they would then lose their ready-made headlines of terror. It would be bad for their business. Will fear of radiation become history’s worst conceptual mistake since the belief that Earth is the physical center of the universe?
You can make a difference! Tell your friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members…anyone and everyone. The truth is out there and accessible with the click of a mouse. This site and those listed in our “Links” page (menu…left) are a place to start. Radiation fears are predicated on misunderstanding, irresponsibly fueled by superstitions pandered as plausible by a patronizing Press. It’s long past time the world found out what is real, and what is not real about radiation.
Today’s updates provide current examples of the above…
- Three waste incinerator plants in Japan have shut down because of the build-up of ash containing radioactive Cesium in concentrations above the national limits. They have run out of space to store the bagged ash. The waste constipation problem is because Tokyo hasn’t decided what to do with it. (Japan Times)So, what does Japan do with the radioactive ash from coal plants? The radioactive elements in the coal ash are Uranium, Radium and Thorium. Thousands of tons of radioactive coal ash per day (per plant) with radiation levels greater than the that generated by the incinerator ash. Coal ash is used as “sanitary fill” for leveling the ground to build homes and shopping malls on top, or it’s used to make concrete blocks for construction. Isn’t this a double standard of sorts?
- Several Japanese academics have proclaimed that the government’s decontamination plans for the Fukushima region are unacceptable. “It might make you feel like you’re decontaminating, but there’s a limit to the amount of radioactive cesium that’s caked onto roofs that can be eliminated with high-pressure water cleaners,” says Kunihiro Yamada, a professor of environmental science at Kyoto Seika University. “The water cleaners wash surface dirt off, but then that tainted water goes into sewers and can contaminate rivers, thereby affecting farm goods and seafood.” (ed…if the river waters are used for irrigation and/or reach the sea before the Cesium precipitates out, both of which will probably not produce concentrations above national standards anyway.) “What residents want is not half the exposure to radiation,” says Yamada. “What they want is for a return to levels that allow them to live with peace of mind.”Kobe University Professor Tomoya Yamauchi measured radiation levels on houses in Watari, which was believed to have some of the highest radiation levels in the city of Fukushima. In a few cases, he claims the roofs emit a field of 1.74 microsieverts per hour, “Apparently the roofs had been cleaned using high-pressure water cleaners, but that was as low as the radiation levels got,” says Yamauchi. “To bring the roof’s radiation levels down, there’s probably no other way but to replace the roof. First and foremost, we must aim to bring indoor radiation levels to 0.05 microsieverts, which they were before the disaster unfolded, and thereby creating safety zones.” (ed…recall that there were only estimates of actual radiation levels in Fukushima City before the accident, so no-one really knows what the actual pre-accident levels were.)
Tatsuhiko Kodama, director of the University of Tokyo’s Radioisotope Center and fledgling anti-nuclear author, reinforces Yamada and Yamauchi, but expands his statement to denounce the government’s handling of the nuclear crisis in total, saying, “The amount of radioactive materials that have been released in the latest nuclear disaster, if converted to uranium, is the equivalent of 20 of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.” (A clear indication of the Hiroshima Syndrome at work.) He adds the following exaggeration, “What is the Diet doing at a time when 70,000 people have had to leave their homes and are wandering around?” (Mainichi Shimbun)
- A government panel of Japanese academics are considering raising the public’s annual radiation exposure limits by as much as a factor of 20. A panel group headed by Otsura Niwa, professor emeritus at Kyoto University, plans to propose the radiological limits be increased for food products and soil. Niwa says many of the current limits were set hurriedly when the Fukushima emergency started. The current government guidelines are based on eventually having all presently-contaminated areas get below a 1 msv/yr exposure level. The panel proposes to increase the guideline to 20 msv/yr. The good news is that raising the limits won’t hurt anyone and make life easier for the clean-up teams. The bad news is criticism by those believing the “unsafe at any dose” superstition. They attack the panel for unreasonably endangering public health and not being considerate of those terrified by radiation. (Kyodo News)
In other news…
- TEPCO has begun posting Strontium 89 and 90 concentrations in their daily press releases. Both isotopes are somewhat water soluble, and have chemical properties similar to Calcium. But, unlike calcium, Strontium tends to pass through mammalian systems rather quickly (less than a week’s retention time) and very little is actually absorbed. While it does not seem Japan has any limits on Strontium ingestion (as yet), The US Department of Health and Human Services has set the following limits (converted to Becquerels/cc)…2.3×10-3 Bq/cc. The only locations at Fukushima currently showing Strontium levels above this point are waters in the drains of units 1 thru 4 basements. They show concentrations of roughly 1 Bq/cc.
- JAIF’s weekly update of conditions at Fukushima Daiichi shows that RPV’s temperatures for units #1 and 3 are below 80 oC, and unit #2 is below 90 oC. In all three cases, JAIF adds the phrase “and dropping”. In addition, the waste water treatment systems have now deconned 114,000 metric tons of liquid (about 125,000 US tons), but groundwater influx maintains the water volume in the four unit’s basements at 80,000 tons.
- Some of the decontaminated waste waters are being used to wet-down the burnable trash and tsunami-generated flammable debris on the plant-site to prevent is catching on fire. The spraying uses about 100 tons per day, when it’s not raining. Local authorities were apprised of the plans before spraying began, and gave TEPCO permission to do it. (NHK World)
- A person who has worked at Fukushima Daiichi over the past two months (46 days), died yesterday. This tragedy has been reported in a context which is unethical and clearly inconsiderate to the deceased’s family. The man became ill during a morning pre-work “assembly” and was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he died. No medical reason is given for his passing. Japan Today points out that the worker received a small level of exposure during his periods of work at the power complex (2 millisieverts, total), which subtly implies the exposure might have been the cause. The article also says this is the fifth worker to die since March 11. One died of a heart attack, another of leukemia, yesterday’s unfortunate demise, and two men “killed directly by the disaster”. Japan Today fails to add the following important facts…the first three deaths were in no way the result of radiation exposure, which has been verified by the attending medical experts. The other two were drowned by the tsunami of March 11. Unfortunately, the article makes it seem that the Fukushima accident has cost the world five lives, which flies in the face of reality.
- Britain’s chief scientific adviser, John Beddington, has publicly criticized Japan’s decision to turn away from nuclear energy, calling it a very dangerous move. Beddington told a Seoul forum on climate change that Japan’s abandoning nuclear energy will have dire negative consequences on global warming because much, if not all of the nation’s nuclear capacity will be replaced by the burning of fossil fuels over at least the next decade. He said countries like Germany and Italy have dropped nuclear because they have their own fossil resources, which they wish to exploit for financial reasons. Beddington asserted that the world does not have the luxury of shunning nuclear power and volatile weather caused by climate change has led to more floods, droughts, tropical storms and forest fires of greater intensity. He continued that most victims of climate change are in developing nations. Beddington also said the danger posed by Fukushima was “quite moderate,” citing expert British studies. He said Britain examined the worst possible scenario of all radioactive materials being released from Fukushima, with winds constantly blowing toward the greater Tokyo area. Beddington reported, “The answer came out… there was absolutely no need [to evacuate].” (Japan Times)
- Today’s Bloomburg expose’ headlined “Fukushima desolation worst since Hiroshima, Nagasaki” is so full of exaggerations and unfounded speculations, we are loathe to comment on it. The headline’s obvious effort to perpetuate the fiction that reactors and bombs are intimately related, continues throughout the lengthy article. The reason we bring it up is the sheer disappointment we feel with respect to Bloomburg News Service. Some months ago we wrote that Bloomburg was one of the few western news media outlets with a semblance of ethical Fukushima reporting. This article dashes that all to ashes.