The situation on the ground at Japan’s reeling Fukushima nuclear plant is much worse than previously reported. Radiation levels are twice as high as initially thought, and three reactors at the power plant have undergone full meltdowns. In fact, the nuclear fuel in each of the three damaged reactors most likely melted through the inner containment vessels, not just the core.
Those and other alarming disclosures have triggered new cancer fears across Asia, parts of Europe and the western United States – particularly when it comes to the detection of highly radioactive “hot particles” that can lodge in lung tissue and latch onto bones.
The dire situation at the 40-year-old Fukushima plant is outlined in a startling 750-page report released this week by Japan’s nuclear emergency task force. My colleagues and I have been warning for months (here on this blog and elsewhere) that damage to the reactors and the resulting radiation releases were being downplayed and “miscalculated,” perhaps intentionally, by the Japanese government (see links to my previous posts below). To a large degree, our words of caution fell on deaf ears. Many said our claims and release estimates were overblown, so this report offers some level of vindication – and offers hope that government officials now will take protective measures proportionate to the “adjusted” risk level.
Arnie Gundersen, a former (or “recovering”) nuclear power industry executive, is one of the experts who has been saying from Day One that the nuclear crisis in Japan was much worse than they were telling us. In the spirit of full disclosure, Mr. Gundersen is both a colleague and a friend. I’ve retained him as an expert witness in past cases, and over the years, I’ve found him to be one of the brightest, best-informed minds out there regarding radiation-exposure risks.
In a must-see interview, Gundersen spoke to CNN’s John King this week about one of the biggest dangers coming out of Fukushima that could impact Americans on the West Coast.
King: “We’ve talked about some radiation – relatively low amounts, very low amounts – making its way across the Pacific. You’ve seen evidence of what you call ‘hot particles’ showing up on the U.S. West Coast, in Seattle for example. What are we talking about, and how worried should people be?”
Gundersen: “Well, the radiation initially comes out as a big cloud of gases, and that’s what you can measure with a Geiger counter. But now what we’re finding are these things called ‘hot particles,’ and in the industry we call them ‘fuel fleas,’ because they’re incredibly small, smaller than the thickness of your hair. In Tokyo in April, measurements indicate that there’s about 10 hot particles per day in what a normal person would breathe. And it’s interesting because in Seattle it didn’t go down much. It was about five particles a day, because most of the time, as we talked about in April, the wind was blowing toward the West Coast. That’s why we were warning to wash your lettuce and things like that. Now what that means is that these hot particles can lodge in your lung or in your digestive tract or in your bone and over time, cause a cancer. But they’re way too small to be picked up on a large radiation detector.”
So should people on the West Coast be worried?
Gundersen: “Well, the average person breathes in about 10 cubic meters a day, and the filters out there for April show that they were breathing in, per day, about five particles. Now these are charged, which is why we call them ‘fuel fleas,’ too, and they latch onto lung tissue. I’m still advising my friends to wash all of your vegetables to make sure you can get it off. But short of that, we’re at a point now where you just can’t run from the particles that are still in the air.”
That’s Mr. Gundersen’s way of saying, yes, there are definite risks tied to these “hot particles,” and people should take precautions, like washing their vegetables thoroughly – but at this point, there’s no use in panicking and trying to run and hide.
Here’s a summary of the “Report of Japanese Government to the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety – The Accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations”: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110609002555.htm
Read my previous post on the coverup at Fukushima: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/coverup-at-the-crippled-fukushima-plant-the-situation-is-out-of-control-says-nuclear-expert
Read my previous post on the dangerous decision by the Japanese government to raise legal limits of radiation exposure: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/how-much-is-too-much-japanese-government-takes-grave-risks-with-radiation-exposure
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