Fukushima Spiking

Bad as the situation is at Fukushima, it’s gotten worse.

Perhaps you’ve heard that radiation levels of the water leaving the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear power plane and flowing into the Pacific Ocean have risen by roughly 9,000 per cent. Turns out, that’s probably putting a good face on it.

By official measurement, the water coming out of Fukushima is currently 90,000 times more radioactive than officially “safe” drinking water.

These are the highest radiation levels measured at Fukusmima since March 2011, when an earthquake-triggered tsunami destroyed the plant’s four nuclear reactors, three of which melted down.

As with all nuclear reporting, precise and reliable details are hard to come by, but the current picture as of July 10 seems to be something like this:

•  On July 5, radiation levels at Fukushima were what passes for “normal,” which means elevated and dangerous, but stable, according to measurements by the owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

•  On July 8, radiation levels had jumped about 90 times higher, as typically reported.  TEPCO had no explanation for the increase.

•  On July 9, radiation levels were up again from the previous day, but at a slower rate, about 22 per cent.  TEPCO still had no explanation.

•  On July 10, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) issued a statement saying that the NRA strongly suspects the radioactive water is coming from Fukushima’s Reactor #1 and is going into the Pacific.

We Must Do Something About This Thing With No Impact

“We must find the cause of the contamination . . . and put the highest priority on implementing countermeasures,” NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told an NRA meeting, according to Japan Times.

As for TEPCO, the paper reported, “The utility has claimed it has detected ‘no significant impact’ on the environment.”

“in the SNAFU sense of ‘Normal’”

Neither the NRA nor TEPCO has determined why the level of radioactivity has been increasing. Both characterize the increase as a “spike,” but so far this is a “spike” that has not yet started to come down.

Here’s another perspective on the same situation:

•  10 becquerels per liter – The officially “safe” level for radioactivity in drinking water, as set by the NRA.

A becquerel is a standard scientific measure of radioactivity, similar in some ways to a rad or a rem or a roentgen or a sievert or a curie, but not equivalent to any of them.  But you don’t have to understand the nuances of nuclear physics to get a reasonable idea of what’s going on in Fukushima.  Just keep the measure of that safe drinking water in mind, that liter of water, less than a quart, with 10 becquerels of radioactivity.

•  60 becquerels per liter – For nuclear power plants, the safety limit for drinking water is 60 becquerels, as set by the NRA, with less concern for nuclear plant workers than ordinary civilians.

  • 60-90 becquerels per liter – For waste water at nuclear power plants, the NRA sets a maximum standard of 90 becquerels per liter for Cesium-137 and 60 becquerels per liter of Cesium-134. At some of Fukushima’s monitoring wells, radiation levels were in fractions of a becquerel on July 8 and 9. At the well (or wells) that are proving problematical, TEPCO has provided no baseline readings.
  • 9,000 becquerels per liter – On July 8, according to TEPCO, the company measured radioactive Cesium-134 at 9,000 becquerels per liter.  Since TEPCO characterized this as 90 times higher than on July 5, the implication is that the earlier reading (about 100) was less than twice as toxic as the allowable limit and only 10 times more toxic than drinking water for civilians.
  • 11,000 becquerels per liter – TEPCO’s measurement of Cesium-134 on July 9.
  • 18,000 becquerels per liter – TEPCO measurement of  Cesium-137 on July 8.
  • 22,000 becquerels per liter – TEPCO’s measurement of Cesium-137 on July 9.
  • 900,000 becquerels per liter – TEPCO’s measurement of the total radioactivity in the water leaking from Reactor #1.  This radiation load includes both Cesium isotopes, as well as Tritium, Strontium and other beta emitters.  There are more that 60 radioactive substances that have been identified at the Fukushima site.

 

A becquerel is a measure of the radioactivity a substance is emitting, a measure of the potential danger. There is no real danger from radiation unless you get too close to it – or it gets too close to you, especially from inhalation or ingestion.

Nobody Knows If It Will Get Worse, Get Better, or Just Stay Bad

The water flow through the Fukushima accident site is substantial and constant, both from groundwater and from water pumped into the reactors and fuel pools to prevent further meltdowns.

In an effort to prevent the water from reaching the ocean, TEPCO is building what amounts to a huge, underground dike – “a deeply sunken coastal containment wall.”  The NRA is calling on TEPCO to finish the project before its scheduled 2015 completion date.

Meanwhile, radiation levels remain high and no one knows for sure how to bring them down, or even if they can be brought down by any means other than waiting however long it takes.

Reader Supported News

Editor’s note: an incorrect image was used on an earlier version of this article. It has since been removed. We apologize for the error.

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  • BarleySinger

    When the Fukushima accident first occurred I told my wife that the radioactive water coming out of the reactors which had suffered meltdowns, would eventually find its way into the
    various Japanese currents, and wind up around Hawaii and on the west coast of the Americas.

    Then a mess of rubbish from the tsunami wound up on the west coast (at the beaches near where my parents & sisters family live)…and although it HAD to have been carried by the very same currents that had the radioactive water in it, the US government claimed there was no danger. Of course this is the same government that lied about “3-Mile Island”, claiming it was a “minor” incident when it was actually a very dangerous meltdown that dangerously irradiated all the people in several states.

    People are now also being told by Japanese authorities that the fish from Japanese waters is ‘safe’ (fish that live in water that varies from 10 to 10,000 times the level that is ‘officially safe’ for drinking water). Meanwhile the levels of thyroid trouble in newborns are on the rise. The people in D.C. remain silent. Nobody is being honest (probably to avoid a panic – and any responsibility).

    The truth is this was not a surprise. It was predicted by people familiar with the industry very long ago. There have been other accidents – including several in Japan (most of them covered up).

    It was going to happen because of human stupidity & greed

    It will probably happen again a few more times.

    *** A ‘pig in a poke’ to make you not fear pigs

    I am about as far from “anti-science” as you can get. However I am not an idiot either. I know when i am being scammed. Why people want nuclear power is beyond me. Would you pay somebody ONE $20 bill, in return for THREE $5.00 bills? Why not? This is what they do in nuclear power generation, so it MUST be smart.

    *** Would You Pay $20.00 to Buy Three $5.00 bills?
    (isn’t THREE better then ONE??)

    *
    fission reactors require fuel rods. The fuel rods are made from uranium
    which must be mined. This requires a lot of diesel fuel (to run heavy
    mining equipment) and electricity. Lots of of black energy is used to do
    this, yet we are told the point is to NOT use that energy…but to have CLEAN energy instead. There is no CLEAN nuclear power industry. After the mining and refining, the
    enriched uranium is made into fuel rods.

    It is also true that not all uranium ore is equal. Some has far more of the desired heavier isotopes which have more neutrons (high quality ‘yellow cake’ is the best).

    Uranium mining is a very dirty industry that destroys the land (and often
    the water table as well, if acid “leach mining” is used). After the ore gets out of the ground, that mixed ore (which is high
    in uranium, aluminum and fluoride compounds) must be smelted and
    refined. This means the separation of the different things in the ore;
    done by melting it and letting the heavier metals sink to the bottom, and lighter ones go to the top. This process releases very dangerous levels of fluoride
    compounds – a serious public health hazard. Then the refined uranium
    must be enriched (an energy intensive process – which uses a lot of BLACK ENERGY). If you can’t find high
    end ‘yellow cake’ it costs far more BLACK ENERGY to
    make those fuel rods, because extra neutrons must be put into the uranium
    atoms. The world has very little high end ‘yellow cake’ left.

    All of these dirty industries
    were given the “green light” during the cold war (when safety took a
    back seat to paranoia…hell – “safety” wasn’t even allowed in the same
    car as “paranoia” – it followed behind on old bicycle).

    *** UNNEEDED ENERGY

    So the world slowly began to embrace and build reactors. However, oddly enough the first few
    dozen of them were making energy that WAS NOT NEEDED, and they were often very undependable (on and offline all the time). Think about about that,
    and about the REAL goal behind giving the general public the impression that “US ingenuity had “TAMED THE ATOM” … Why make
    all of that unneeded energy at such a large risk in health… if ENERGY is really the goal?

    Why? TO try
    and make the power of the atom look ‘clean and friendly’ (for the
    benefit of nuts in the US government who wanted to wage a war with those
    bombs).

    *** BOMBS OR POWER STATIONS ?

    At the point in the process where you have enriched uranium, you can make fuel rods from it, or simple fission bombs. You’re choice. Uranium fission bombs are a lot easier to make than most people believe…once you have the enriched uranium. If you want Plutonium (for more complicated bombs) you also need a breeder reaction to change your Uranium into Plutonium and Thorium.

    SO enriched uranium is the launching point for BOTH uses – for both bombs and for electrical generation.

    ** When the Earths Crust was Hot (and I was young)

    Way back when I was a kid, it was an open secret that the A.E.C. set safety levels for various nuclear industries, at just above whatever the last detected levels were. It was also an open secret that the Feds were trying to promote atomic energy to make U.S. civilians stop fearing atomic
    weapons (and embrace them as ‘good’). Since then hundreds of ‘broken
    arrows’ (warheads with broken shielding cases) have hit the ground in
    accidents – and most U.S. citizens still think a ‘broken arrow’ is a
    fictional event.

    The government Defence Department, did many terrible things to try and prove that nuclear wars were “fight-able and winnable” because they WANTED to use those bombs so very much (like an alcoholic with a bottle of booze).

    * The US government planted hard radiation sources in
    U.S. playgrounds to see what would happen to the kids over time (and
    they don;t even lie about this anymore).

    * The US defense department
    also irradiated a huge number of soldiers to see what would happen to them
    over time. All of this was to find out if nuclear wars could be fought
    & won & survived (instead of just insisting on avoiding them
    entirely).

    * The US defense department
    (who ran the reactors at Hanford, which had been a part of the Manhattan project many years earlier) released large quantities of radioactive gas in Eastern Washington to watch the population for signs of illness

    * The A.E.C. gave a blank check to the people who ran the “Savannah River Project” where atomic bombs were made. This arrangement (a guarantee in writing) meant the civilian companies that were involved could NEVER get in any legal trouble no matter what they did. They took to dumping high level radioactive waste in CARDBOARD BOXES and burying it in that form. As a result the Savannah River Aquifer would up with high level of radioactive strontium, and the A.E.C. reacted to this problem by simply RAISING the “official safe level” for strontium and radiation in water supplies, to just above the last highest readings in that aquifer. It is also true that the Savannah River Aquifer is the primary souirce of water (drinking and growing crop) in much of the US “bread basket”.

    *** Ignorance is Bliss

    Most people don’t know about this, or if they do they try not to think about it. Most people in the USA also have no idea how many times their government came within a “tiny hair’s breadth” of starting a nuclear war! Nixon (just him – just one president) tried to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the USSR *TWICE*, while high as a
    kite on amphetamines (the Secret Service agents wrestled away the
    briefcase with the phone and the codes)

    *** The new “Friendly Atom” of the A.E.C. and Defense Department

    The government knew people were frightened, but they wanted those bombs more than they wanted to try ‘sanity’. So they launched a huge propaganda campaign to make people feel less frightened. this included :

    * ‘duck and cover’ drills for children in the
    first few grades in school (I did them). Children in US schools were given “duck and cover” drills – which were only done to
    try and convince the public that the walls of a school (when combined
    with a kids desk) could keep them safe from hydrogen bombs!

    * new publications from the feds came out I read these in the 1970s myself) which told people how to survive a nuclear blast. They said very firmly that if a person did not have a bomb shelter they would be just fine – if they “just dug a hole
    in the ground” and put plywood on top of the hole and put DIRT on top of
    the plywood and then hid in the hole under the plywood cover. They were also told that the crawl space under a house would work to keep a person safe. None of this would do a bit of good, especially since anyone close enough to see the mushroom cloud is already as good as dead, plus the fact that it would take a very longtime to dig such a hole,. and if there WAS a waring of a strike, it would be less than 10 minutes from the impact. GO ahead…get a shovel and dig a hole that size in under 10 minutes.

    Few people were taken in by this, however this
    apparent desire for the US government to PREPARE for such a war – instead of AVOIDING ONE at all costs – scared a whole lot of
    people.

    The whole idea was to make atomic reactions look friendly’ (the ‘friendly’ atom). Another piece of the puzzle was “civilian applications” in everything from medicine to power generation. The same methods were used to try and get people to not notice that the government was making and stockpiling illegal nerve agents (illegal nerve gas research was done all the time – and called ‘agricultural/pesticide research’ – a cover story invented by the father of chemical warfare) hen again most of our pesticides CAME out of nerve gas research and are almost the same substances.

    The biggest piece of the propaganda (I hate that loaded world – but it fits) campaign, was an effort to convince people that nuclear power was the way of the future. Why do that? The industry involved was NEEDED (in their opinion) – needed to make fusion-able materials for weapons. You need enriched uranium FIRST. Plutonium comes from using Uranium in Breeder Reactors. Uranium was also BIG BUSINESS (and fear gets people re-elected). Most people do not realize that the first series of steps for making both fuel rods and bombs are the same ones (the mining, refining, and enrichment of uranium) and the U.S. feds *WANTED* Uranium for as many bombs as they could make (no quantity would ever be enough).

    The press was told that this was all being done to give people a new source of ‘cleaner energy’ – one that did not require the dirty burning of coal and/or oil. However the truth is that you use MORE coal and oil to make enriched uranium fuel rods, then the energy you get out of them … not LESS. That’s right folks, it takes more dirty energy to make those fuel rods, than it does to use the same dirty energy to make electricity (and skip the uranium).

    *** A LONG TERM ENERGY HOLE

    I haven’t even mentioned yet (in the energy costs of running a nuke station) that once you build and start up a nuclear fission reactor, you MUST power it from OTHER SOURCES – from EXTERNAL conventional energy sources, basically forever. You must do this so you can keep the spent fuel rods cool enough in their heavy water bath, that they do not CATCH FIRE!!! This must be maintained 24/7 every year for a few hundred thousand years. This is a huge cost in energy (which I did not even count in).

    Incidentally there is very little high quality ‘yellow cake’ left on the planet. The energy needed to make fissionable material without high quality ‘yellow cake’ is FAR HIGHER (even more dirty energy must be generated).

    *** WHEN OILS WELL HIT PEAK ***

    WE know there is such a thing as a NON cost efficient source of fuel for power generation. It is in the news all the time in regards to PEAK OIL. Oil
    wells do not last forever. There comes a point (all ethics and
    ecological dangers aside) where they are not economical to run. They are at “Peak Oil” when they oil in the well cannot be taken out economically. That does not mean there is no oil, it just costs a whole lot to get at it. As less
    oil is found in a well, more and more water must be pumped in (and out)
    to get at the oil.

    However – there *IS* a point where this process costs more in
    energy than the energy you can get back out of the oil. At this point the oil in the well is no longer a viable fuel, and the well is essentially “dry” for energy production purposes.

    Nuclear energy plants are ALWAYS operating at the “not economically viable” state of energy production, due to the ‘black energy’ needed to fuel the supporting technology (and the need to power their cooling systems, and guard them, forever).

    *** Knowing all of this the world still built reactors

    Why? Well for starters, sometimes energy production (and pollution production) is not about making NO pollution- it is about making the pollution in a place where YOUR citizens don’t live, so THEY do not see it. The pollution that nuke plants make cannot be seen in the sky…so people tend to forget about it…and nearly all of the huge (and dirtiest) mines are run in places far away from the major population centers of the U.S.A., Japan, and the E.U.

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