Ace Hoffman: It's official: Fukushima = Chernobyl
April 12th, 2011
Fukushima is now officially as bad as Chernobyl was: An INES (International Nuclear Event Scale) level seven "major nuclear accident."
Say goodbye, Chernobyl. You will soon be forgotten.
(Except for the 1,700 square mile exclusion zone that was once prime farmland, the pride of the Soviet Union. Who can forget that? And those deformed babies. Their parents don't forget them.)
Things didn't get particularly worse at Fukushima in the past few days. That's not why they went to a "level seven" accident rating -- the highest possible. Things didn't get any better, either, but that's also not why.
One thing that's changed is they had to expand the evacuation zone. This time, they've given thousands of additional residents living northwest of the plant -- as much as 30 kilometers away -- 30 days to leave. Obviously, the sooner they leave, the better, and they should not expect to be coming back any time soon, either. Possibly many generations. The soil is contaminated.
Thousands more people, just outside the current 20 kilometer depopulation area around Fukushima Daiichi, are in districts that "might" be asked to self-evacuate on a moment's notice. They have been told to make arrangements for evacuation on their own. Have a place to go. Have a way to get there. Have food and water (and cash and gas) for the journey. Pick up stragglers along the way. Turn out the lights and shut off the gas on the way out. Sayonara.
An old man was found wandering around the exclusion zone. He had been there, confused, the whole time. God knows what he breathed or ate.
Bitterness, shame, conflicting and confusing official orders, impossible orders (such as "stay indoors" and "don't drink the tap water") -- it's all there. It's all happening. A radiological crime against humanity is unfolding before us, yet again. Shall we turn a blind eye to the cause?
I ask: What are governments for, if not to stop this sort of thing? Japan has failed at Fukushima, the technological wizards of the world. Russia has failed at Chernobyl, the workers-always-know-best method failed. England has failed at Sellafield, then called Windscale, and shown that Oxford and Cambridge couldn't produce minds great enough to conquer the atom's quirks and quarks, or human's frailties and foibles. And America has failed a thousand little times and dozens of large ones, too -- Hanford being the nation's and possibly the world's most polluted site without even having a Fukushima of our own... yet... The Hanford "reservation" is strewn with enormous quantities of deadly plutonium from mostly "proper" operations. You can't live there. It poisons the Colombia River constantly. As additional radioactive plumes reach the river, they will poison it more and more.
What government, what entity, what human has any right to think they can control the atom? They can't. And even if they can, the thousands of generations who will have to mind their waste for having done so probably can't.
Now, global measurements are being compared to what was measured at the time of Chernobyl. That's one reason Japanese nuclear authorities had little choice but to raise the Fukushima tragedy from a level 5 through 6 to a 7, making it at least equal to the world's worst industrial and nuclear accident in history -- Chernobyl.
But of course, neither Fukushima nor Chernobyl were really accidents at all any more than drunks have accidents on the highway. (We just call them "statistics" here in America.) In the case of Chernobyl it was reactor operators running unapproved and dangerous experiments: Criminal negligence. At Fukushima is was improperly designed and maintained reactors and safety systems that failed just when they were needed most: Criminal negligence. Criminal negligence on the part of the entire nuclear industry. THIS could have happened anywhere!
If you tell me you've solved all the problems with nuclear power (HA!), and I'll tell you nuclear promoters all around the world told the public the same thing thousands of times in the years since Chernobyl and prior to Fukushima. And, of course, the biggest lie was that the reactors were different and this couldn't happen with "Western" style reactors.
Now, nuclear promoters are telling the public they'll apply the "lessons learned" very carefully from Fukushima to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. They're lying.
They might fix something, but they'll neglect something else. They don't have enough time or money -- or experience or know-how -- or personnel -- to fix everything. So if they fix one thing, they have to neglect something else. The income from an operating reactor is essentially finite (unless the NRC grants an uprate, which they did to one reactor yesterday, or the regulators grant a rate increase, which also happens, but only with much objection from everyone).
The reactor operators simply can't keep up. Tighter enforcement and/or new safety regulations in one area almost invariably just means something falls by the wayside in another area. So really, all they ever do is gamble with your life. They'll keep gambling until they lose -- your life.
Nevada understands gambling. That's why they want you to visit -- because you don't, and they do. They understand what a sucker's bet is. That's why Nevadan's have overwhelmingly rejected Yucca Mountain, with its TENS OF THOUSANDS of shipments of nuclear waste. Any ONE shipment could ruin Las Vegas for thousands of generations. Many thousands of shipments are supposed to pass right through that city, risking an unquenchable fire, and the city evacuated. They don't want that.
Yucca Mountain, located in an active earthquake zone, was an unworkable idea to begin with, but it was ALREADY a LAST RESORT. The Yucca scientific team was allowed to consider alternative methods, from deep-sea disposal to on-site storage to rocketing the waste into deep space, if they thought those ideas were any better (they weren't). So don't expect that cancelling Yucca Mountain will mean we'll find something else.
It's time to call an end to this obviously-unworkable "solution" to our energy problem. Nuclear power never deserved a chance anyway, and didn't live up to its promises when given a chance it didn't deserve.
Jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire simply doesn't work. Fossil fuels are not the solution. Fracking for natural gas with dangerous mixes of corporate-secret chemicals destroys the water tables and is not the solution. But there ARE solutions.
Atmospheric vortex engines could create enormous amounts of electricity across the country. We don't even have a national research plan for them, or a test site. But similar wind tunnels are used in vacuums all the time...
So what's gone wrong? We put all our tens of billions of dollars into nuclear power.
Every renewable energy system has its faults and its detractors -- mostly environmentalists and NIMBYs who won't budge. Wind farms work fine. Offshore wind farms can even be out of sight and out of mind. Transcontinental power lines can ensure that wind blowing in one place can be used anywhere. Wyoming, Wisconsin, Colorado... the "wind-swept plains" could solve all our electrical energy needs.
Wave energy systems off our coasts could provide part or even all of the electricity we need. SoCal residents (and anyone who listened to the Beach Boys) know that San Onofre is a great surf break. Fukushima probably was too, and for 20 miles around, but not any more!
If wave energy systems were, theoretically, to absorb some of the wave energy from California's coast, slightly calming some of the breaks, I'm sure it will be a long, long time before they would take even 1% of the wave energy that's out there. 99.9% of all waves are not ridden by anybody! So even surfers should not oppose wave energy systems!
And with a proper national grid system, we can capture the wave energy in the frigid Aleutians, where no one surfs, ever -- after designing them here, thank you! So don't worry, surfers, you'll catch a wave. And it won't be radioactive! At least, not any MORE radioactive! (San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station regularly poisons your water. Did you know that?)
The debris swarm from Japan that's currently coming ashore on the west coast of America represents the invisible, odorless, tasteless (except in large doses) deadly radiation that's coming along with it.
San Onofre can release tens of thousands of terabequerels of radiation per hour for hours on end, just as Fukushima has apparently done. San Onofre can do it without an earthquake or a tsunami and without ANY warning.
No time to evacuate.
So give us a break, all you other environmentalists, so busy on other projects, protecting something! I hear you. Save the trees, save the whales, save the waves, save the earth. BUT AS A MUST-DO FIRST STEP, TEAR DOWN THESE NUKES!
That's our generation's task.
Tidal energy. Most of the lagoons in California are restored using money from mitigation of other areas that were destroyed -- there is really NO natural coastline here. If a tidal energy system is workable somewhere, it should be considered.
Solar rooftops. Solar parking garages. Solar roadways, even! These all work! We still need a good nationwide or global energy grid (just like Buckminster Fuller proposed almost one hundred years ago).
Have I mentioned hydroelectric power lately? Of course not, because so many people flat-out oppose all dams, and why stir up trouble? But really, it's NOT that simple! One nuclear power plant accident can and WILL poison any river or lake, as well as the oceans, forever. So then a concrete dam doesn't look so bad, does it? It changes the landscape, but it doesn't produce ANY pollution.
So don't knock hydroelectric power too much, fellow environmentalists! The old mill by the river wasn't such a bad idea after all. Not everything is the size of the Three Gorges Dam.
There are alternatives to nuclear power, and we should use them. Where small-scale hydro works, or even where large scale hydro works, please consider that there are approximately 440 nuclear power reactors around the world threatening ALL our water supplies. Dams don't poison the water. Nuclear power does. Even when dams fail they don't kill for thousands of generations (or even one generation) afterwards! Nuclear power does. Fukushima will poison a lot of water for a long time to come.
Of course it's true that there are no perfect energy solutions and any proposed solution can AND WILL be opposed by someone -- often someone with a vested interest in an alternative system.
Nuclear power was promised to be so perfect it would become "too cheap to meter" but turned out to be the worst solution of all -- and the most expensive. Coal is the second-worst polluter but just about the cheapest energy source. Society has to overcome these obstacles somehow. Finally admitting that Fukushima is the worst nuclear "accident" in history is a good first step towards facing reality. Congratulations on facing reality, Japan.
But if we don't ALL face reality, and shut ALL the nuclear power plants down, Fukushima will be exceeded some day. And then again. And again.
The author, a computer programmer, has been writing about technology, and warning about nuclear power, for many decades. He has owned (and programmed) dozens of different types of computers in numerous languages. His web sites receive tens of millions of "hits" each year and has a top search engine ranking in hundreds of categories. This man is no Luddite! He loves body surfing in shorts or mountainbiking in full protective gear on a high-tech bike that costs more than his desktop computer. This man is a techno-geek. His book on nuclear power, for adults and children alike, is available as a free download from his web site: www.acehoffman.org
Particulate radiation explained
To the Guardian
Conrad Miller, MD
It seems there is a bit of confusion here, perhaps inspired by Mr. Monbiot's eloquence & longstanding status here at the Guardian. Let's share a straight simple example to drive a point home about radiation & the human body & nuclear power. Every nuclear reactor generates between 400-1000 pounds of plutonium every year. There are about 450 reactors in the world, 55 in Japan, 104 in USA. Big point: research has shown, with the beagle dogs in Hanford Washington studies that the lung cancer causing dose of plutonium is one millionth of a gram. That is a very small microscopic particle that is inhaled into the lung. The process of developing cancer often takes 20-30 years - or longer. Plutonium-239 which is generated by fissioning uranium, has a half life of 24,000 years. That means that 24,000 years from now, half of the radioactivity in the plutonium generated today in your nuclear reactor, will still exist, possibly causing cancer over & over again. And this fantastic length of time is only part of the legacy, for scientists have determined that for any radionuclide or radioactive element, one has to worry about its toxicity for harm via radiation emission continuing for 10-20 half lives - known as a radionuclide's 'hazardous life.' That means 240,000 to 480,000 years for plutonium-239.
Now, every particle of plutonium floating from Fukushima across the Pacific & then across the Atlantic that hovers over your head (invisibly) in Merry England will not be inhaled & get down into your lung, where, as an alpha emitter, it will bleep its radioactive energy beams into your cells & their DNA, often killing the cells, or mutating their genetic code. When this happens to your germ cells, as when the liquidators at Chernobyl were exposed to radiation (not just from plutonium; more likely from a slaggy hodge podge of all the possible radionuclides released from the compromised reactor core by the steam explosion and graphite fire) without shielding protection, such mutations in your contribution of DNA can result in your offspring having such birth defects as an eye that is a bubble lying on the outside of your baby's face, or legs that are bizarrely short, or no right arm, or a heart with a misshapen chamber that cannot function properly to sustain life outside of the womb very long.
Back to the plutonium: yes, the tiny alpha particle imbedded in your lung can cause a lung cancer that will kill you, while you wonder how in the world you could've contracted this cancer. There will be no label on its source/cause.
Indeed, you might be able to wave that plutonium particle out of your lung if you didn't kill those crucial cells in your bronchial tree that have those hairs on them called 'cilia.' Smokers eventually kill too many of these cilia-cells off, impairing their ability to clear out debris from their lungs, usually leading to more infections occurring as they develop their emphysema or COPD, standing for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. People with emphysema will be more prone to have that plutonium particle get deeper into their lung sacs & end up with lung cancer. At this time, I am not aware of any study evaluating INCIDENCE of lung cancer in humans, related to exposure to plutonium. However, would you like to be in that study?
Going back to the one millionth of a gram cancer-causing dose: there are 454 grams in one pound. That means, theoretically, if an accident occurs dispersing plutonium in tiny particles into the atmosphere, as in vaporization or a hot massive explosion, as happened at Chernobyl, & also happened with the atomic bombs tested, or used on Nagasaki & Hiroshima, those particles could drift around the globe & possibly cause 454 million lung cancers per pound of plutonium. 20 pounds of plutonium could theoretically cause lung cancer in every human being on Earth! And those particles don't 'die' - if somehow they get out of the cancered, deteriorating, deceased human body, they theoretically could have a next round of killing & cancering for up to 480,000 years. That is the danger of plutonium, & that is the gravest long term threat we humans have invited by developing an industry that produces 400-1000 pounds of plutonium in every ominous unit that is used to produce heat by fissioning uranium to boil water to turn a turbine to produce electricity.
We should also be aware that the 'fallout' we heard about from the atomic bombs exploded upon our planet, is still falling even today, still up there at the top of our atmosphere from the 1940's & thereafter. Nuclear power & Chernobyl & Three Mile Island & Fukushima only add to that lode of tiny particles of plutonium forever falling from the sky.
People should also know that there are more than 500 radionuclides generated in nuclear reactors beside plutonium that can cause cancer: strontium has a hazardous life of 300-600 years. The body takes it in, mistakenly reckoning it is calcium, incorporating it into our bones & bone marrow: unfortunate results>>bone cancer, & leukemia, especially in fast-growing susceptible children. These are being discovered lately in higher concentrations around nuclear plants today, as studies are finally being funded. This occurs as 'noble' gases that we call 'inert,' like krypton & xenon, are routinely intermittently 'vented' from nuclear reactors degenerating into 'daughter products' like strontium.
Low Level Radiation Campaign advice for the people of Japan
Tue, 12 Apr 2011
LLRC.org has been updated with advice and information on how people can calculate their additional cancer risk at various levels of reported fallout.
Published by the Japanese government are not a measure of risk. The data are for Caesium 137 which is easy to monitor because it is a strong gamma emitter. The data are a signal for the very likely presence of alpha emitting radionuclides like Uranium and beta emitters like Strontium-90 which are very hard to detect. These contaminants are the real threat to health. No official sources are saying anything about this hazard although hundreds of tonnes of Uranium and Plutonium are missing from the spent fuel ponds. High resolution aerial photos linked from the LLRC site show fuel ponds are absent, following explosions.
Vegetables and other foodstuffs showing more than 50 Bq/Kg Caesium indicate airborne contamination with other radionuclides. LLRC advises food with more than 50 Becquerels per Kg should not be eaten unless there's absolutely no choice.
We recommend that the Japanese government should ask for international food aid supplies to prevent its people eating contaminated food.
Early signs of health damage:
We have received information from people in the Tokyo region stating that they have swollen lymph nodes and sores in their nostrils. These are indicators that they have probably inhaled particles of Plutonium and Uranium.
Unless it is absolutely impossible to leave, evacuate to areas where there has been no fallout. We link to Japanese government sites with local data.
To evacuate or not?
We suggest a novel scientific approach to the problem of quantifying the health effects of radioactive pollution.
Put simply, in an area now contaminated to a level of 1 microsievert per hour the fallout raises every individual person's risk of getting cancer in the next 10 years by 11%.
How we know this:
The Japanese authorities are publishing data on contamination levels in the form of hourly dose rates from Caesium137. It is therefore possible to calculate the cancer yield using the same criteria as used by Tondel and colleagues in a robust but conservative study of cancer in Sweden after Chernobyl. Sweden is known to have been contaminated with Uranium fuel although fallout mapping generally used data for Caesium, just as in Japan now, exactly 25 years later. Tondel and colleagues found an 11% increase in cancer incidence for each 100 kiloBecquerels Caesium137 on each square metre of ground. The cancers were expressed (diagnosed) in a ten year period; cancers appearing later than 10 years are of course possible but were not included in Tondel's study. The detailed method has been published on the LLRC site.
The site has simple instructions for calculating the additional risk from fallout.
We recommend you download (free) [URL #1 below] the book on Chernobyl's effect on human, animal and plant life published last year by the New York Academy of Sciences. This book tells the facts as scientists have seen, measured and counted them, free of the dogma of "dose". This means they have not ignored the evidence of their own eyes just because it isn't predicted by the ICRP model.
The Recommendations of the European Committee on Radiation Risk are a free download linked from the site [URL #2 below]. They provide scientific material to allow the authorities in Japan to regulate industry discharges on a rational scientific basis and to take precautionary action to protect the public. Unlike the recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection the ECRR advice is specifically intended to apply to post-accident scenarios.
Earlier material from the home page has been removed and will be archived on a separate part of the site. For a few hours it will not be visible. We apologise for the delay - the emergency in Japan has placed demands on LLRC at levels we have never before experienced. For the same reason we are not able to answer all emails. We read them all, but there isn't enough time in the day to answer them all.
The site links to a video [URL #3 below] showing radiation levels on a dangerous journey approaching from the south.
Entering the evacuation zone:
Amy Goodman interview with Thomas Breuer: "It's way worse..."
"Greenpeace has done calculations with scientists already three weeks ago, where we figured out that this accident is in a scale 7 accident. And we are wondering why the government of Japan needs three weeks to come to the same conclusion, especially because they must have way better data than we have. So, what it means now, they wasted three weeks of not informing the public about the real, real risks of this accident...
"So, from my point of view, it is not equal to Chernobyl, it is way worse..."
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
Phone: (760) 720-7261
Address: PO Box 1936, Carlsbad, CA 92018
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