We have previously commented on radiophobia (morbid fear of radiation) being the new darling of the Japanese news media. Radiophobia has caused anxieties to germinate and blossom into psychological problems, and the Press is all over it. It’s blamed on Fukushima radiation, of course. This judgment caters to popular belief, but shifts the burden of guilt away from the root issue behind this psychic damage…the Hiroshima Syndrome. Using only death statistics from Hiroshima/Nagasaki and using logarithmic graphing, the Linear/No-Threshold (LNT) hypothesis on radiation risk was created more than 50 years ago. LNT visually depicts the idea that there is no level of exposure to radiation that poses absolutely no risk. Thus, it appears there is no absolutely safe level of radiation. Mortal fear of radiation gained a foothold with Three Mile Island when the no-safe-level concept was greedily embraced by the Press. It became a world-wide affliction with Chernobyl. It is now the foundation of the situation in Japan.

One of the LNT’s arbitrary corollaries is the belief that pregnant women, infants and small children are more susceptible to negative radiation health effects than adults. This aspect of the Hiroshima Syndrome is arguably the most compelling to the public mind because of its appeal to human emotions. There is, and never has been any conclusive human evidence to support the idea. In fact, research on the demographic in high natural background fields indicates the opposite to be true…increased low level exposures make infants and children less susceptible to radiation-induced maladies. Dr. Mortazavi, head of the Ramsar, Iran research team, calls it “radiation-resistivity”. Regardless, subtle death threats to pregnant women and children make headlines, and the Japanese Press is gobbling it up.

Because of an historic Japanese government and industry failure to educate their public in the realities of radiation, radiological ignorance has produced a fertile field for radiophobia to grow and mature into a full-fledged epidemic. Now, the Tokyo government has taken steps that threaten to blow everything out of proportion and make fear of radiation a legitimate money-maker…

  • People living in the voluntary northwest evacuation corridor who have not left their homes will be given financial compensation similar to those who did panic and leave. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry (MEXT) decided to expand the coverage of compensation to those who have stayed behind because of possible costs due to remaining in their homes (lost income, etc.) and the costs of what is perceived as a growing sense of anxiety producing psychological damage. In addition, the panel also decided to give children and pregnant women larger amounts of money because they are thought to be more susceptible than other people to radiation damage. (Mainichi Shimbun)

On to other updates…

  • TEPCO reports they have reduced cooling water flow to all three damaged RPVs, one ton per hour each. They say it is supposed to lower the concentration of hydrogen inside the pressure vessels by increasing the concentration of water vapor in the mix. Higher RPV temperatures mean more evaporation which will dilute the level of hydrogen. TEPCO adds the temperatures inside the RPVs have barely increased as a result of the lesser flows. (TEPCO Press Release) While the change makes some superficial sense, the question hanging “out there” is whether there is actually hydrogen remaining in the RPVs. If the cores are all totally melted, then the source of hydrogen no longer exists. The Zirconium is admixed with the other fuel cell materials into “corium”, which is not known as a hydrogen generator.
  • On Friday, one of unit #2s suppression pool temperature readings suddenly jumped 50oC, to more than 102oC. The two other instruments showed no change. One of the five Primary Containment monitors also suddenly jumped 6oC on the same day. Since most of the instruments showed essentially no changes, it seems the two instruments have either failed or have gone out of calibration. (TEPCO)
  • Japan’s Science Ministry has released an aerial survey map indicating the “plume pathways” from Fukushima Daiichi during the airborne releases in March. The Press seems surprised that most of the heaviest concentrations are on the windward sides of the mountainous regions to the north, northwest and southwest of the power complex. The Ministry says the mountains could have blocked the contamination from being deposited at a greater distance. (JAIF, NHK World) The report shows two things. First, the Press has little or no understanding of the effect of mountains on meteorology. Weather climbs up a mountain so air density decreases. Rainfall increases as a result. The air can’t hold as much moisture at high elevation as it can at low elevation. The same holds for airborne material. As it rises, it precipitates out at an increasing rate causing a faster build-up of contamination on the ground. Second, the Ministry should have said the mountains are a block to more distant deposition. It’s a natural meteorological phenomenon. The Ministry’s statement makes it sound as if it’s possible the mountains might not act as a barrier, and that makes no sense. Are mountains an absolute barrier which will wring the air out of all the airborne material? Of course not! But, they will always reduce the concentrations significantly. They are unquestionably a meteorological barrier.
  • Fukushima Prefecture plans to use a new disposal process for the handling of tsunami debris along its coastline. By design, the equipment can reduce the debris volume by a factor of 300 while virtually eliminating releases of airborne material. The device, built by a Tokyo environmental company and tested in Hirono Town, Fukushima Prefecture, actually reduced the volume by a factor of 268. The debris is treated in a high temperature, oxygen-free environment that produces gas, oil and a ceramic powder. The powder contains nearly all the radioactive Cesium. (JAIF)
  • Most communities along the devastated Tohoku coastline of northeastern Japan await government designation of their contamination levels before decontaminating. However, many have said they do not want to be designated by the government. Why? Because they fear government designations of  contamination levels will give the false impression that the entire municipality is contaminated. Municipalities in Tokyo and Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba prefectures are candidates for the government designation. However, only 30 percent of the municipalities in Gunma Prefecture and 40 percent in Ibaraki Prefecture want the Tokyo designation. The rest have declined. Without the designation, communities cannot get government funding for decontamination. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • In a related story, we find another rational Japanese voice calling for education as a solution to radiophobia which is paralyzing recovery efforts in the Tohoku region. Kobe University Prof. Tomoya Yamauchi says, “It will be a problem if decontamination activities stall due to local governments’ fears of stigmatization. To prevent misunderstanding of radiation, the government needs to do more to disseminate correct information.” (Yomiuri Shimbun)

Meanwhile, elsewhere…

  • Violent anti-nuclear protests have erupted in Germany. A shipment of reprocessed spent fuel was being shipped from France to Germany. The spent fuel was German and the return was part of the contract with France. Thousands of fanatic German anti-nukes blocked the train so it could not enter Germany, many of whom were chained to the tracks with sophisticated devices.  At least 150 protestors and police were injured in the violence that ensued. In addition, about 1,300 were either arrested or detained for questioning. The number of protestors was estimated (by police) to be 8,000. After nearly three days of delay the train slowly trudged on as an estimated 20,000 protestors lined the right-of-way from the German border to Dannenburg, the train’s destination. After the 11 canisters on the train are loaded onto trucks, the material will be shipped to Gorleben for temporary storage sometime today. It is expected the anti-nuclear fiasco will continue today when the trucks move from Dannenburg to Gorleben. Protest organizers are bragging that today’s demonstration will break the all-time record for nuclear protests. The former record was 92 hours. In addition, last Thursday 10 masked protestors attacked the Gorleben facility tossing bricks and smoke bombs. All escaped before police could arrive. On Friday, molotov cocktails were hurled at police cars patrolling the facility gate, damaging two. The perpetrators again escaped. (JAIF) The problem is the high level nuclear waste issue. The protestors want no nuclear waste shipped until a permanent solution is reached. However, every attempt to reach a final solution is blocked by the very same people. The hypocrisy demonstrated by German nuclear waste critics is endemic. All anti-nuke groups do this.
  • After a 34 year de-facto moratorium on building new nukes, the United States will resume nuclear construction before the end of the year. Two new nuclear power plants will begin construction in Georgia, and two in South Carolina. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to issue final approval very shortly. This was announced in Japan because the plants will be supplied by Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Toshiba, Inc. Equipment purchases have already begun for all four units. The last American nuke to begin construction was in 1978. (Yomiuri Shimbun)