Nick Thabit 
Member since Dec 8, 2013


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Re: “Fukushima Panic

Dear Sam Levin,

Your article of December 4, “Fukushima Panic," contained some much-debated points, and I wanted to share with you some of the other side of the debate. I am proceeding point-by-point, referring to the trajectory of your article, I hope there’s no confusion about what I’m addressing.
First of all, I agree that there’s some legitimate confusion as to what constitutes a dangerous situation, mainly because accurate information about Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station, and radiation in general, is hard to get. And the media, being what it is, pushes one of two extremes: total panic, or total denial. I thank you for trying to present a balanced article, although I take issue with some of the statements. I think we have very serious reasons for concern, on one hand; on the other hand, I doubt that two fuel rods touching during defueling of spent fuel pool 4 (SFP4) will cause an out-of control criticality.

Now, an M.8 (Magnitude 8) earthquake during this defueling might cause much worse: the pool, already damaged, might crack and drain faster than it could be refilled, causing a meltdown. Then, abandonment of the plant as the radiation goes beyond anything experienced yet.
The plant’s been evacuated at least twice during the early days of the disaster, due to spikes in radiation. This time..? This SFP contains enough fuel to power three reactors.

Any prolonged evacuation opens the possibility of a million things going wrong, notably with cooling of the fuel pools and reactors-which would lead to more meltdowns, until the whole plant is lost. And there’s another nuclear station 7.1 miles away, with another four reactors and four spent fuel pools (see for more detail on the disastrous state of Fukushima Daiichi power station).

Last year the Japan Meteorological Society predicted a 98% chance of an M.7 or greater earthquake in the next 3 years. Now they’re predicting an M.8 Tepco alone can’t deal with this, and doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation, being continually in crisis mode. That’s why we’re calling for an independent team to provide oversight and direction.

Dr. Morse perhaps hasn’t seen anything to cause alarm in the East Bay because the BRAWM monitoring stopped in mid-2012; nothing to see there. Nine out of ten searches using the EPA’s own RadNet query tool yield no data. When 3.11 (March 11, 2011, beginning of Fukushima nuclear accident) struck, 1/5th of the EPA’s radiation monitors were out of service, and a few weeks later all Fukushima monitoring was shut down.

As for nuclear engineers’ much-loved “banana-equivalent-dose,” according to former editor of the Journal of Radiological Protection Geoff Meggitt, the potassium content of our bodies is under homeostatic control. When you eat a banana your body's level of Potassium-40 doesn't increase.You just get rid of some excess Potassium-40. The net dose of a banana is zero.

Immediately after proclaiming our safety relative to the banana-equivalent dose, Dr. Morse returns to the fallacious equivalency of external and internal radiation by suggesting a plane trip to escape Fukushima’s radiation will be more harmful than the ambient radiation itself. There may be higher radiaton for a few hours, but the problem with Fukushima’s radiation is that it settles on croplands, in fishing waters, and in reservoirs, to be taken in internally, there to attack our cells for months, years, or decades. There have been extraordinarily high readings along the West Coast from citizen monitors, NETC, and other organizations since 3.11 but presumably they’re not to be trusted, as they are not the “officials.” In fact, almost no “official” will give an accurate account, preferring instead to say, the radiation is “well under the safety limits.”

What are those limits? As for external radiation, the EPA’s Protective Action Guidelines (PAGs) don’t require relocation of residents until the ambient dose is 20 milliSieverts (mSv) per year, although in the days after an accident, temporary evacuation is allowed from 2-5 mSv. Near Chernobyl the public exposure limit is 1 mSv/year, in Fukushima it was raised to 20, but citizen outrage reduced it back to 1; Japan’s government still tries to find ways around that.
To call for evacuation above 1 mSv may disrupt the economy, but to wait till it’s 20 mSv may impact your health. 20 mSv per year is an internationally agreed-upon limit for nuclear workers, usually adult males. Children are much more susceptible to radiation, and female children even more so. We think the public should have a say in how much radiation they’re exposed to.

As for food, the FDA’s Derived Intervention Level for cesium-137 (which has been adopted by the EPA for their PAGs) is 1200 becquerels per kilogram (2.2 lbs.). A becquerel is one atomic disintegration per second. So your half pound of fish can “safely” contain up to 300 becquerels of Cs-137, among other nuclides. This provides you with 25,920,000 radioactive decays per day. The biological half-life of Cs-137 is 70 days, so it would take almost two years (ten half-lives) to get it all out of your system. But what’s to drink with the fish sandwich? Your glass of milk can “safely” contain another 300 becquerels, bringing your total daily radioactive decays upward of 50,000,000 -any of which can sever chemical bonds or disrupt DNA or RNA. We in the citizen research field appreciate hard numbers, not assurances of “safety.”

We are also campaigning to reduce the FDA/EPA allowable radiation limits to 5 bq/kg total for food and drink. We still think that’s too high but you have to start somewhere. Contact
Fukushima Fallout Awareness Network at to add your name to the campaign.

The fish from markets in Oakland and Berkeley supposedly had no “radioactive fallout,” yet they contained Cs-137, which is ...radioactive fallout -the most notable radioisotope from nuclear weapons blasts, along with iodine-131 and strontium-90. It’s also the most noted isotope from the Fukushima disaster. The signature isotope Cs-134 is also most often found in West Coast fish, making it clear to most scientists that the cesium is from Fukushima. And there’s no way to measure yet the dozens (at least) of brand-new radionuclides created from the interactions of seawater elements with the molten fuel cores; they haven’t even been cataloged.

As for uninformed bloggers spreading fear, sure, there’s some ridiculous stuff going around;
there’s also some ridiculous stuff from industry insiders, articles that claim no one was hurt or killed by Fukushima radiation, minus a few Daiichi workers. Already 59 thyroid malignancies were found in children from Fukushima prefecture; the usual number is zero or one per year. Everyone there knows someone who’s gotten seriously ill or even died, most shockingly young people supposedly in good health, even high school students having heart attacks.

Certainly there’s bias: the citizens want to protect their own interests, and the nuclear engineers want to protect an industry that’s supported them. A prime reason for promoting nuclear energy (which by the way is the IAEA’s mandate) is to provide a steady supply of spent fuel for reprocessing into weapons-grade plutonium, which may be why U.S. foreign policy consultants CSIS sent Richard Armitage’s letter to demand the Japanese to restart their reactors, two years after 3.11. Finally, the ultimate “nuclear industry” is the Department of Energy, in charge of our nuclear weapons program, who by the way funds the Lawrence Livermore Berkeley Labs, disburser of Dr. Morse’s salary. I am curious as to his definition of “independence.”

Mr. McKone points out that all Fukushima’s contaminated water will constitute one-hundred billionth of the world’s water after 10 years. There’s no guarantee the leaks will stop after 40 or even 100 years, or that the hazards will dissipate or “dilute”: according to a previously secret 1955 memo from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission regarding concerns of the British government over contaminated tuna, "dissipation of radioactive fall-out in ocean waters is not a gradual spreading out of the activity from the region with the highest concentration to uncontaminated regions, but that in all probability the process results in scattered pockets and streams of higher radioactive materials in the Pacific. We can speculate that tuna which now show radioactivity from ingested materials have been living in, or have passed through, such pockets; or have been feeding on plant and animal life which has been exposed in those areas."

This has serious implications for the West Coast over time, and our citizens’ request for consistent, transparent monitoring of coastal waters and fish is only common sense, given that test results in one location could vary widely from results in other locations (the same is true with air or soil monitoring). I would also add that tritium, a major contaminant from Fukushima station, is rarely tested for, and can’t be filtered out of water. As tritiated water, it evaporates from the sea to rain on land and inland waters. Tritium or tritiated water is far from “harmless,” if ingested or inhaled, and can be absorbed through the skin.

We at Fukushima Response Bay Area are asking for an independent team of experts to guide the decommissioning of Fukushima nuclear station; it’s obvious Tepco hasn’t a clue, and the IAEA doesn’t care. We are asking for consistent weekly monitoring of our food, water, air, coastal waters, with results available for all to see. We’re asking for the FDA and EPA to reduce allowable limits of radiation in food and drink to a total of 5 becquerels per kilogram, or liter,
and ambient dose limits reduced to 1 milliSievert per year, as at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

We don’t consider any of these things to be unreasonable, or hysterical; they are just good common sense. We don’t believe in taking chances with our health, and we can make our own decisions once we know for certain what’s going on. If you have questions or want to get involved, contact us at:

Nick Thabit
Fukushima Response Bay Area

23 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Nick Thabit on 12/08/2013 at 3:19 AM

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