Monday, July 9, 2012

No Safe Dose: Japan’s Low-dose Radiation Disaster

Globalization is premised on the promise that the poor may become a little less poor only if the rich become immeasurably, abusively richer: if it had been the intention of humanity to wreck the Earth, no more effective formula could have been imagined. - Jeremy Seabrook (1) 

Nuclear scientists and engineers embrace nuclear power like a religion. The term ‘nuclear priesthood’ was coined by Dr. Alvin Weinberg, long director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory...It’s not unusual for scientists at Oak Ridge and other U.S. national nuclear laboratories to refer to themselves as ‘nukies.’ The Oak Ridge website describes Weinberg as a ‘prophet’ of ‘nuclear energy.’ - Karl Grossman (2)

Dees Illustration
Richard Wilcox

Activist Post

Should we trust the Japanese government, international nuclear agencies and corporate-controlled media regarding the safety of air, food and water after the Fukushima nuclear disaster? Many people are rightly suspicious, but at the end of the day one still has to eat, drink and breathe. For many people it’s easier to pretend that a little bit of radiation is nothing to get riled up about.

After all, just one medical CT scan [computerized axial tomography] is equivalent to 6-10 whopping millisieverts (mSv) -- several years worth of normal background radiation (3; 4). Doctors who presumably care about patient health issue these without batting an eyelash-- “it is safe” a doc once told me.

Medical technology contributes a large proportion of anthropogenic radiation to people in developed countries and is an issue that deserves greater scrutiny (5). How ironic that doctors who may correctly advise patients “not to smoke” probably don’t know that cigarettes are a substantial source of radiation.

But that does not make nuclear pollution a moot topic.

According to nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen, Fukushima could have resulted in multiple meltdowns, instead of the three that did occur. The fourteen reactors that lost backup generation “would have been species-threatening” had most of them not recovered power just in time (6). Gundersen also believes there will be “a million” Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP) related deaths in Japan within thirty years (7).

In an earlier article I calculated how many lives may be lost or shortened due to the disaster (8).

The truth is emerging:

A number of seismologists, engineers and policy makers say they believe last year's magnitude-9 quake may have played a part in damaging the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and contributing to massive radioactive releases there....Fumiya Tanabe, a former senior researcher at the government's Japan Atomic Energy Agency, ...concluded that reactor No. 2's cooling facility, called a suppression chamber, was likely seriously damaged by the earthquake (9).
This is in addition to Unit 1 where many witnesses saw the facility collapsing before their eyes, long before the tsunami hit (10). Gundersen recently stated that Unit 4 “buckled” from the earthquake which draws into question standards for nuclear plants and earthquakes (11). 

The Japanese government has finally acknowledged that “[t]he disaster in the nuclear power station of Fukushima was caused in part by man and not only by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami” and that "[g]overnments, regulation authorities and TEPCO [the Tokyo Electric Power Company] failed to show a sense of responsibility to protect people's lives and society" (12). Japan was lucky that 78 percent of the accident’s radiation--an amount roughly equivalent to Chernobyl (13) -- blew out to sea instead of onto land (14). How much radiation does the nuclear industry expect us to take in stride? Pro-nukers claim that no one died in the accident and the amount of radiation is negligible. What is the truth?

Let’s examine a few claims for consistency of logic with pointed skepticism aimed at pro-nukers whose arguments are inherently flawed. Even though other forms of energy production are not necessarily benign -- e.g., charcoal production can impact rain forest survivability -- nuclear energy produces only 2.5 percent of global primary energy production (15).

Nuclear Lies: You Say Tomato I Say Sievert

Firstly, Wikipedia is useful for gaining an understanding of radiation terms (16). The educational videos by Ian Goodard (17; 18) show how the media intentionally lie about radiation dangers. From the BBC’s half-baked truths to CBS News snidely informing viewers:
Residents traveled to Tokyo to protest after the government loosened safety limits. Despite the fact that long-term impact of low dose radiation is unknown.
Huh? Don’t those Japanese people know that radiation is harmless, why did they waste their time attending a silly protest? But as Goddard shows, the risks of low dose radiation are well understood within established science. For CBS to state that the “long-term impact of low dose radiation is unknown” is like saying “it is unknown whether the Earth is round, flat or square, or upside down.” Goodard’s warnings are confirmed by scientific researcher Marco Kaltofen, who found radioactive particles in the air after the Fukushima accident. According to Kaltofen, the particles were just the right size to be lodged in the lungs of living organisms and affect human physiology (19).

Fraudulent Science: The Case Of TMI

Dr. Stephen Wing shows how official statistical data was intentionally skewed to provide the least worse-case scenario for disease caused by the U.S. Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear disaster in 1979 (20). Wing reports:
Our re-analysis of cancer incidence around the TMI nuclear power plant is consistent with the hypothesis that radiation from the accident led to an increase in cancer in areas that were in the pathway of radioactive plumes. This would not be expected to occur over a short period of time in the general population unless doses were far higher than estimated by industry and government authorities. Rather, findings support the allegation that people in the area who reported erythema, hair loss, vomiting, and pet deaths at the time of the accident were not suffering from emotional stress, but rather were exposed to high level radiation (21).
Nuclear health physics technician Randall Thomson found that radiation releases from TMI were “hundreds if not thousands of times higher than the government and industry have acknowledged” (22) while Arnie Gundersen calculated that the radioactive releases from TMI could have been up to “1,000 greater” than what authorities had admitted (23). TMI was America’s worst industrial accident (24) and anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman reported that 30 years later “[s]ome 2400 area residents have long-since filed a class action lawsuit demanding compensation for the plague of death and disease visited upon their families” (25).

Low Level But Not Low Risk

My conclusion from reading the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists special edition on low level radiation (Op. cit.) is that the two main novel threats to our health are the Nuclear and Medical Technology industries. Both carry out experiments that shorten our lives but make themselves profits. Low level radiation expert Jan Beyea writes that “[t]here is near-universal acceptance that epidemiological data demonstrates an excess risk of delayed cancer incidence above a dose of 0.1 sievert [100 mSv], which, for the average American, is equivalent to 40 years of unavoidable exposure from natural background radiation” (26). Hill notes the damaging affects of low level radiation include:
'[B]ystander effects, in which ionizing radiation hits one cell and transmits a signal, through cell-to-cell communication...to have an effect on cells that were not hit...' and 'genetic instability, in which initial damage to DNA alters it or its duplicating mechanism, so that additional genetic change is increased during subsequent divisions of a surviving cell (27)'.
As another researcher notes,
'[l]ow-dose radiation will sicken and kill a number of people over time.' Even though the science is 'well established....the consensus around this hypothesis [that there is no safe dose of radiation] dissipates as one moves from the realm of science to the world of policy making' (28). Thus: the battle of political interests versus scientific integrity.
Hacking Up The Data

Fox TV hack journalist, Ann Coulter, informs viewers in a pile of polemical putridity that “scientists” and the “New York Times” have made the case that low level radiation is healthy, which is in reference to the theory of “radiation hormesis” (29).

But as Beyea notes regarding the hormesis theory, the hypothesis has not yielded positive results, “[t]hough it is still a pet topic of enterprising journalists, the radiation hormesis theory is no longer of much interest to researchers.” A new theory of greater interest to pro-nukers is “adaptive response...where low doses of radiation can prime cells to withstand later, higher doses of radiation....The idea is that very low doses, like a vaccination, teach the body how to recognize and repair or remove radiation-damaged cells. Thus, subsequent chronic doses would be less dangerous.” However, there is still much unknown about the behavior of these cells and at any rate the supposed benefits of this exposure must occur at “very low doses,” something that would occur in a controlled experiment, not in the real world where variables run wild (Op. cit.).

Science For The People: The European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR)

Japanese medical doctors are taking the risks of radiation seriously, such as Dr. Junro Fuse, who is the head of a Tokyo area clinic who cites the ECRR that “risk from internal exposure is 200-600 times greater than risk from external exposure” (30).

The ECRR (31) (whose most notable member is Dr. Chris Busby) describe themselves as having come about as an organic, civil society group in response to the biases of the nuclear technocracy. The ECRR recommend “that the total maximum permissible annual dose limit to members of the public involving releases of anthropogenic isotopes or natural isotopes delivered in a novel fashion should be kept below 0.1mSv as calculated using the ECRR model” (p. 181). This number is drastically lower than what is normally thought of as safe, according to mainstream media sources. In other words, little, if any, radiation above normal background should be acceptable when the goal is life preservation.

The ECRR describe their radiation risk model and mission versus the traditional model as in order
to investigate and ultimately report on the issue in a way that considered all the available scientific evidence. In particular, the Committee’s remit was to make no assumptions whatever about preceding science and to remain independent from the previous risk assessment committees such as the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), the European Commission and risk agencies in any EU member State (p. 1).
The ECRR’s mission is an urgent response to a failed public health system:
It was a widely held view, both at the initial meeting of the ECRR and at the STOA meeting, that enough evidence was available then showing that low-level exposure to man-made radioactive material caused ill health, and that the conventional models of the ICRP and other agencies, which used the same radiation risk models, entirely failed to predict these effects (p. 2)....With regard to internal radiation doses, the Committee identifies a serious misuse of scientific method in the extension and application of the ICRP external model...and were it not for political considerations, would have been rejected long ago (p. 11).
This observation harkens to Beyea and colleagues that accepted science of radiation risk is a different matter when it comes to public safety.

The ECRR notes that “[m]an-made radioisotopes, often in the form of ‘hot particles’, are common contaminants of the areas near nuclear sites where there are cancer and leukemia clusters, and of nuclear site and test site downwinders, and of fallout-exposed populations” (p. 11). For example, whereas the establishment (ICRP) model makes light of internal radiation dose risk, the ECRR model finds that the ICRP model is inapplicable when it comes to internal radiation below 100 mSv by an uncertainty factor of between 1 to 2000! (Table 3.1, p. 12).

In this video presentation in Tokyo, filmed just after the nuclear disaster in 2011, Dr. Chris Busby explains how the International Nuclear Crime Syndicate (INCS) suppresses the truth about radiation dangers (32).


Video streaming by Ustream

Greenwashing The Hot Particles

It is not only the Japanese government and the INCS who are hiding the truth, so-called green campaigners, such as “Martin J. Frid, born in Sweden, [who] works for Consumers Union of Japan” and is a “food safety expert,” is doing his bit to help repair the nuclear industry’s battered image (33). Frid, writing in the Japan Focus magazine, states that the “actual data” measured with “state of the art detectors” in Japan reveal that:
For the entire country, over 120,000 food products have been tested, and the total number of cases that exceeded the limit was 1,162 or just below 1%. Thus, looking at these numbers we realize that the food contamination situation could have been a lot worse!....it is not likely that food grown from now on will be highly contaminated, or at least the number of such cases will be very limited....For all the losses imposed by the 3.11 disaster, an extraordinary fact is that Japan enjoys high levels of food safety, and foods from Japan can continue to be appreciated at home and abroad, after continued careful testing.
Does Japan really enjoy “high levels of food safety”? Frid does not provide details of the “state of art detectors” or more importantly, why we should trust the government’s “actual measurements,” given their unreliable behavior since March, 2011. He implies that independent researcher’s radiation data are not “actual,” whereas we can trust the government and foreign food importers such as “Eden Foods” in the US, which he mentions. Frid derides any data that he does not cite or explain as being mere “speculation,” while ignoring a mass of contradictory data readily available from independent sources. I agree that independent sources should be verified and not gullibly accepted, but neither should the government’s data-- thus he accepts a double standard. Frid does not analyze the dangers of internal radiation or the amount of radiation he or the organization he is working for, the Consumers Union of Japan, believes to be safe. We are just told "the situation could have been a lot worse." His article, written on behalf of a consumer protection organization, ignores the precautionary principle (34), minimizes radiation dangers and does not consider the ECRR’s assessment.

There are adequate examples of the government’s faulty monitoring methods. In two such cases: "‘Mochi’ rice containing 1110 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium had been sold at a farm stand in Date City, Fukushima” (35); and a recent headline “Official Radiation Test for Food Showed Only One-Third of What Was Actually In the Food” (36).

Government Coverup

The move is on to affirm that small amounts of radiation are safe, since the government is telling the food industry to use their allowable radiation safety standard and not improve on it (37). One government spokesman attacked the major food retailer Aeon for promoting zero radiation tolerance since it would only "encourage the mood in society that achieving zero risk was the right way to go" (38). While Hideaki Karaki, “an expert on food safety,” makes a valid point that since major corporations will have an unfair economic advantage over small producers who may not be able to afford selling only zero-detection products, he is nevertheless assuming a safe level of radiation. Karaki himself is a suspicious figure given that he graduated from the school of veterinary medicine and not radiology, and is tied to Tokyo University, which is notoriously a part of the Nuclear Village (39). In a more recent statement he claims that cesium in infants is "definitely" safe (40). It sounds to me as if this Dog Doc has fleas and is a Vapid Vet practicing compromised science to make Big Bucks on behalf of his nuke paymasters.

The Japanese government is trying to persuade the public that Fukushima sea food is "safe for eating” (41) yet independent monitoring is not allowed inside the 12 mile evacuation zone (42).

The government has found “plutonium in fish” caught off the Japan coast very near the FNPP (43; 44). The highest amount of plutonium detected was 0.019 mBq/kg in anchovies, a fish commonly eaten in Japan. While that amount is very small: 0.000019 bq/kg, plutonium is the most toxic substance known in the universe (45). Even worse, the Miyagi prefectural government reported in July that black seabream caught off its coastline measured 3,300 bq/kg of cesium-- which is extremely high (46).

Tuna caught near California was found to have absorbed cesium from Fukushima because “[u]nlike some other compounds, radioactive cesium does not quickly sink to the sea bottom but remains dispersed in the water. Fishes can swim right through it, ingesting it through their gills.” A California nuclear expert has observed that “low levels of radioactivity found in tuna caught near San Diego can produce a small increase in cancer risks” (47). Presumably radiation in the tuna is from the original fallout although many questions remain as to how much radioactive water may still be leaking into the ocean (48; 49; 50; 51; 52).

Radioactive Fallout In Tokyo: The New Normal

According to the Japanese government in April of 2012, over a year after the man-made nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, Tokyo received 25 million becquerals of cesium per square kilometer for the month (53). That is 25 becquerals per square meter. Divided over the entire month that comes to less than one becqueral per day, if you were breathing in all the air in that spot you would breathe in some of the radioactive fallout. The Wall Street Journal reports that “10 kilometers south of Fukushima Daiichi, the site of Japan’s biggest nuclear accident....the area still receives lots of radioactive fallout from Fukushima Daiichi” and levels are “16 to 33 times higher than prior to the March 2011 accident” (54). While the level in Tokyo is much lower, this is an indication that the fallout is from the ongoing releases from the FNPP, even at a distance of over 200 km away. For how many more months, years or decades will Tokyo receive radioactive fallout as a normal course of the weather?

Oddly, the Tokyo fallout data is a bit higher than other prefectures around it and begs the question if the higher amounts are from the incineration of radioactive debris at Tokyo’s 23 ward incinerators (55)? I have not ascertained data on this topic (i.e., the type/make of incinerators, specifications of filters being used, etc.) either from the alternative media or the government which does not publish incineration data. If you go to this webpage you can enquire from the Ministry of the Environment in English but they will not respond to your email. “Please send your opinions and suggestions to the Ministry of the Environment” (56). They will politely will print out your message and place it in a garbage can labeled “Thank you for your suggestion.”

The US EPA, on the other hand, answered my question about the incineration of nuclear waste in just one day:
Thank you for contacting EPA. EPA has jurisdiction over the U.S. and its territories. We do not have information about incinerators in Japan. The U.S. has no experience in the burning of radioactive debris in municipal incinerators. Any incinerator operating in the U.S. would be subject to EPA emission standards (email communication, 4/25/12).
Independent testing in Japan has revealed that fallout from the accident and ongoing accumulation has contaminated food supplies in the Northeast and Tokyo. Popular green teas sold in stores measured as high as 0.32 bq/kg of cesium (57); while garden plums from Tokyo measured 8.6 bq/kg of cesium (58). This compared with plums from western Japan where no radiation was detected (59). Cherries from Northeast Japan (Yamagata prefecture) measure 3.1 bq/kg of cesium (60), which is an indication that produce from the Northeast and Tokyo region is potentially contaminated with low level radiation.

Even in small amounts, this radiation travels the world. Jules Verne would be rolling over in his grave if he knew that scientists found radiation takes only 40 days to travel the globe (61) compared to his now oh-so-slow balloon trip which took twice as long. These days the isotope in the sky is the only way to fly.

Richard Wilcox has a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from a social science, holistic perspective. He teaches at a number of universities in the Tokyo, Japan area. His articles on the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been published at Counterpunch, Global Research, Dissident Voice, Activist Post and Rense.com. His most recent interview with Jeff Rense is available at the website www.rense.com. Many of his environmental articles are archived at:
http://environmentalarmageddon.wordpress.com/?s=Richard+Wilcox


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References:
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http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2002/aug/05/comment.worldsummit2002
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56. Please send your opinions and suggestions to the Ministry of the Environment.
https://www.env.go.jp/en/moemail/
57. Green teas compared for radiation
http://securitytokyo.com/data/ocha.html
58. Plums from garden in central Tokyo (Takadanobaba, Shinjuku ward) measure 8.6 bq/kg of cesium
http://securitytokyo.com/data/tokyo_ume.html
59. Plums from West Japan (Wakayama prefecture) measure ZERO radiation
http://securitytokyo.com/data/nankoume.html
60. Cherries from Northeast Japan (Yamagata prefecture) measure 3.1 bq/kg of cesium
http://securitytokyo.com/data/yamagata_s.html
61. Radioactive particles circulate the world taking 40 days
http://fukushima-diary.com/2012/06/radioactive-particles-circulate-the-world-taking-40-days/


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