There has been a lot of information -- and misinformation -- swirling around the Internet lately about Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant so we wanted to share some resources that may calm some fears. And yes, of course the situation is still extremely tenuous since a large trembler in the earthquake-prone country could devastate the plants and cause more meltdowns or impact the 1,000+ storage tanks and containers filled with highly contaminated water. But for now, to help reduce the erroneous reports out there, please consider reading and sharing the below links with others.
Countdown on "Radiation plume hitting North America"
Late Feb 2014 several sites and blogs began posting "60 day countdown begins" articles claiming the “media is silent on the massive plume hitting the North American coast” (yet they quote an article from BBC. Last I checked … the BBC is part of the “media”.)
Anyway … some are claiming the west coast is in danger or the plume will fry the west coast, however the BBC article states “…scientists stress that even the peak measurements will be well within the limits set by safety authorities.”
The map used in several of these blogs and articles (shown here) is a model used to forecast the likely progression of radionuclides from Fukushima. However some key facts that originally appeared in the BBC article were left off. For example, several snippets from one of the articles says...
"...Since the 2011 Fukushima accident, researchers from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography have been sampling waters along a line running almost 2,000km due west of Vancouver, British Columbia. And by June of last year, they were detecting quantities of radioactive caesium-137 and 134 along the sampling line’s entire length.
Although the radioactivity concentrations remain extremely low – less than one becquerel per cubic metre of water – they have allowed the scientists to start to validate the two models that are being used to forecast the probable future progression of the plume.
One of these models anticipates a maximum concentration by mid-2015 of up to 27 becquerels per cubic metre of water; the other no more than about 2 becquerels per cubic metre of water.
BUT… the alternative blogs and articles neglected to include the below paragraph from BBC article…
And Dr John Smith emphasised again: “These levels are still well below maximum permissible concentrations in drinking water in Canada for caesium-137 of 10,000 becquerels per cubic metre of water – so, it’s clearly not an environmental or human-health radiological threat.”
Instead the blogger repeated the sampling project “is having to be funded through private donation because no federal agency has picked up the monitoring responsibility” … but yet the BBC (and others) explain there is not a risk. Read more
Recent reports of steam rising and more meltdowns at Fukushima
Between December 19-31, 2013 many sites, blogs and social media were abuzz with reports that steam was rising from Fukushima Unit 3 and it was possibly melting down or getting ready to explode among other things. However Fukushima 311 Watchdogs posted the following explanation from Fairewinds Energy Education (below emphasis in bold is ours):
1-Jan-2014: “Steam heat? What is happening at Fukushima Daiichi?” Beginning on Monday December 30, 2013, the Internet has been flooded with conjecture claiming that Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 is ready to explode. Fairewinds Energy Education has been inundated with questions about the very visible steam emanating from Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3. Our research, and discussions with other scientists, confirms that what we are seeing is a phenomenon that has been occurring at the Daiichi site since the March 2011 accident.
It is winter and it is cold throughout much of the northern hemisphere. Hot water vapor has been released daily by each of the four Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants since the accident. We believe that is one of the reasons TEPCO placed covers over Daiichi 4 and 1. Sometimes the steam [hot water vapor] is visible and sometimes it is not. If you have been outside on a cold winter day, you have personally experienced that phenomenon when you see the breath you exhale form a cloud in the cold air. The technical explanation is that hot water vapor becomes visible when it comes in contact with cold air and condenses. During the winter months in the Fukushima Prefecture, the sea air is cold and moist, thus forming the ideal conditions to see the released steam. Continue reading on Fairewinds.org
Claims that Radiation is “frying” the west coast, causing starfish die-off, causing fur loss and open sores on polar bears, seals and walruses, etc.
Below are several articles and posts that debunk theabove claims (and more) but all are fairly long so we are providing short descriptions and links if you’d like to read more.
Also… several variations of “radiation maps” are on the web, but they are NOT valid. We added “FAKE” on this one for emphasis since it claims it shows how radiation is spreading across the Pacific when in reality it is a NOAA map of the 2011 tsunami path that has been altered.
28 fallacies about the Fukushima nuclear disaster’s effect on the US West Coast 29-Oct-2013 - Deep-sea biologist Andrew D. Thaler dissects an article called “28 signs that the West Coast is Being Absolutely Fried with Nuclear Radiation from Fukushima” that unfortunately went viral in Oct 2013. Thaler provides the actual quotes and sources that were either intentionally falsified and/or cherry-picked to claim the Fukushima disaster was impacting polar bears, seals, walruses, sea lions, salmon, etc. Read more on Southern Fried Science
The Fukushima Radiation leak is Equal to 76 Million Bananas 10-Aug-2013 - Tim Worstall @ Forbes gives readers a sense of perspective about whether 20 trillion becquerels of radiation is something to get all concerned about or not. The answer: no, it isn’t and he offers some comparisons of everyday items that emit radiation. Continue reading
Three Reasons Why Fukushima Radiation has Nothing to do with Starfish Wasting Syndrome 30-Dec-2013 - Chris Mah, a Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History researcher and one of the world’s leading experts on starfish and echinoderms in general writes… “I broke the story about a mass sunflower starfish (Pycnopodia helianthoides) die-off in British Columbia. … Some have become concerned that there is a direct influence from Fukushima. Much of this seems unlikely. Deep-Sea News (among many other sources) have presented excellent reviews of data that can help the rational person make sense from some of the confusing deluge of misinformation.
Update on Fukushima Radionuclides in the North Pacific and Off the West Coast of North America 4-Jan-2014 - Jay T. Cullen, a Marine Chemist at the University of Victoria, discusses the recent detection of Fukushima radiation off the coast of Canada. The most recent observations from June 2013 shows the spread of Cesium-137 was on par with the predictions by Rossi et al., but the concentrations are safe and lower than predicted. Read more on Daily Kos
True facts about Ocean Radiation and the Fukushima Disaster 28-Nov-2013 - Dr. Kim Martini, a Physical Oceanographer @ the Univ of Washington, posted an excellent piece debunking some of the wild speculation spreading rampant across social media and explains radiation, exposes several bogus “radiation maps”, explains why Pacific fish are safe to eat, and presents facts and sources. …” Continue reading on Deep Sea News
Claims that all Pacific fish (including U.S. and Canadian caught fish) are contaminated
Several articles above discuss seafood and food safety at length, but we wanted to include a few more and added bold in areas for emphasis.
Obviously Japan’s fishing industry is affected immensely by the disaster, but we’re focusing on claims that North American fish are not safe.
Three years on from Japan's nuclear emergency, the fallout continues to spread 9-Dec-2013: News.com.au reports "...radioactive caesium has not been found outside a kilometre [a little over 1/2 a mile] of the plant. But the caesium is being picked up by bottom-dwelling fish in concentrations exceeding food safety standards. This is presenting a risk to nearby Japanese fishing communities where the industry remains closed. But these waters themselves are rapidly diluted by the Pacific, leaving only minute traces to be found off neighbouring countries such as South Korea.
To put the ongoing leakage in context: It is twice that previously deemed acceptable for the plant prior to the tsunami. It is thousands of times less than that released into the water during the initial disaster of March 2011.
The first "wave" of ultra-low level radioactive contamination has already been detected along the California coastline. This comes after traces of radioactive caesium were detected earlier this year in tuna migrating across the Pacific. While still far below levels that may cause health concerns, the pollutants have the potential to become further concentrated at food-chain "chokepoints" - such as in sharks.
A study by the University of New South Wales, published in the August edition of the journal Deep-Sea Research 1, says the peak of radioactive water reaching the United States will occur some time in 2016. It says the contaminated water will be diluted to completely harmless levels before it leaves Japanese waters.
Environmental scientists are far more concerned about the invasive species of barnacles and mussels attached to this debris than they are about radiation.
Nevertheless, despite the infinitesimal levels - less than that from a few hours in the sun - many US residents are already taking tuna and other seafood off their menus.
But the scientists say a person would have to eat 1800kg [3,968 pounds] of tuna to boost their total yearly natural "background" radiation exposure by just one percent." Read more on News.com.au
Fukushima Fallout Not Affecting U.S.-Caught Fish 11-Sep-2013: Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress writes on National Geographic… “It goes without saying that we should monitor our seafood and water quality with extreme care. As for the specifics of what to look for, we turn to Dr. Ken Buesseler, senior scientist in marine chemistry and geochemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution:
Seawater everywhere contains many naturally occurring radionuclides, the most common being polonium-210. As a result, fish caught in the Pacific and elsewhere already have measurable quantities of these substances. … cesium [forms] a salt taken up by the flesh that will begin to flush out of an exposed fish soon after they enter waters less affected by Fukushima. By the time tuna are caught in the eastern Pacific, cesium levels in their flesh are 10-20 times lower than when they were off Fukushima.
Cesium will still be more concentrated in larger, carnivorous fish higher up the food chain, such as bluefin tuna than in smaller fish with diets consisting more of plankton and algae, but because it will “flush out” of the fish’s flesh, concentrations will not necessarily mount over time. …”
Another nugget from Conathan’s NatGeo article…
Last month, the Japanese government reported that the Fukushima plant was leaking approximately 300 tons, or 71,895 gallons, of contaminated water each day. That’s a lot of water—except when you compare it to the Pacific Ocean, which is estimated to contain187,189,915,062,857,142,857 gallons. That’s 187 quintillion for those counting at home. So as a quick comparison, even if the site continues leaking 72,000 gallons per day for 10 years, the total amount spilled would be 262.8 million gallons. This is a tall drink of water to be sure, but it is still just .00000000014 percent of the volume of the Pacific Ocean. ..." Read full article on National Geographic.com
Also check out Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's FAQ: Radiation from Fukushima
Return to Fukushima with America Tonight (4-part series aired on AJAM)
Recently America Tonight on Aljazeera America presented an exclusive four-part investigative series about the real-world impacts of Japan’s disaster, efforts to return to normalcy in Fukushima and how the ongoing fallout could affect Americans' safety.
“Was it dangerous to report from Fukushima?” Producer Aaron Ernst reflects on the experience of reporting from inside the contamination zone. A snippet from his article: “…We stopped in front of an abandoned elementary school to do a quick shoot with [correspondent] Michael Okwu. The classrooms were frozen in time at the moment of the evacuation — writing still on the chalkboard, books strewn on tables and desks. But what really got our attention was the radiation-monitoring station the government had installed. It read over 3 microsieverts (3μSv) per hour. Away from the station, our Geiger counter measured over 6 microsieverts (6μSv) per hour.
Were we in any danger? Most experts would say no. To put those numbers in perspective, we would have had to stay at the school for four hours to be exposed to the equivalent of a chest X-ray (20 microsieverts) or 16 days to be exposed to the equivalent of an abdominal CT scan (2,000 microsieverts). We’d been exposed to about 2.5 microsieverts per hour of cosmic radiation just flying to Tokyo. Continue reading
Inside Fukushima's ghost towns (Part 1) - How do you get 150,000 people to return to homes that have been contaminated with radiation? In one town, more than a third of those who called Fukushima home have yet to return three years after Japan's nuclear disaster. America Tonight visits the virtual ghost towns where the government has begun extensive decontamination efforts, and investigates the attempts to bring residents home. Read more
Gangsters and slugs: the people cleaning up Fukushima (Part 2) - The cleanup continues in and around the plant and leading the charge are "nuclear gypsies," an army of about 50,000 itinerant laborers recruited at low pay to clean up the radioactive debris and build tanks to store the unending flood of contaminated water that’s generated to keep the reactor cores cool. Most of them are subcontractors, unskilled and poorly paid. But the Yakuza, one of the world's largest criminal organizations, has been deeply involved in the subcontracted work, skimming off funds from the $150 billion cleanup effort. Continue reading
Is Fukushima at risk for another nuclear disaster? (Part 3) - The most pressing worry in the damaged power plant cleanup is the spent nuclear fuel rods. They are more than 1,300 in all, accounting for 400 tons of uranium, and they're precariously stored in a pool above the damaged and unstable Reactor Four. Concern is growing that dangerous amounts of radioactive water are leaking into the Pacific Ocean, and the potential for another nuclear disaster is real. If there's a next time, what dangers could that pose for the rest of the world? Read more
Japan's energy crossroads – back to nuclear or go greener? (Part 4) - After the disaster, Japan decided to shut down its nuclear power industry. Today, the shock of surging electricity prices has some pushing to reverse the policy. Greenhouse gas emissions have spiked, and massive imports of fossil fuels have tipped Japan into a trade deficit for the first time in decades. But for many people still living with the impact of Fukushima, the idea of to returning to nuclear energy seems dangerously premature. Read more
5 ways the world changed after Fukushima (an article by America Tonight Digital Team) - The 1973 oil crisis further buoyed the idea of nuclear power as the homegrown energy of the future. But since its inception, commercial nuclear power has also provoked a kind of blood-curdling dread, and countries embraced the vision of a nuclear future to very different degrees. The 2011 catastrophe in Fukushima confirmed, once again, the nightmarish potential of nuclear power, and refigured the debate about nuclear across the globe. Here are some facts you may not know about the post-Fukushima nuclear world: ... Continue reading
Fuel Rod removal explanation and updates
Why TEPCO is Risking the Removal of Fukushima Fuel Rods. The Dangers of Uncontrolled Global Nuclear Radiation 24-Nov-2013 – According to Global Research, the urgency attached to the spent-fuel pool atop Reactor 4, as compared with reactors damaged in meltdowns, arises from several factors:
The potential for disaster at the Unit 4 SFP is probably of a higher magnitude than suspected due to the presence of fresh fuel rods, which were delivered during the technical upgrade of Reactor 4 under completion at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. … The Reactor 4 spent fuel pool contains an estimated 400 tons of uranium and plutonium oxide, compared with just 6.2 kilograms of plutonium inside Fat Man, the hydrogen bomb that obliterated Nagasaki in 1945. Continue reading on GlobalResearch.ca
Fukushima Fuel Transfer Reaches 10% Milestone 15-Jan-2014 - According to CleanTechnica.com, the unit 4 cooling pond contains 1,533 fuel assemblies, of which 1,331 have been used and 202 are unirradiated (fresh) ones. Some of the fuel assemblies are known to be damaged. Today, TEPCO plant personnel completed 10% of the transfers (or 154 of the 1,533 assemblies) that must be done to stabilize the fuel from reactor unit 4.
TEPCO describes the operations being undertaken as follows:
TEPCO officials expect it will take about a year to make all the Unit 4 transfers. Read more on CleanTechnica.com
According to News.com.au, the other 3 reactors need similar attention and have similar numbers of fuel rods. All were running at the time of the tsunami and suffered differing degrees of "melt-down". Digging these molten cores out of the steel-and-concrete cladding designed to contain this style of disaster will not begin until after 2020. (Note: Above graphic explaining fuel rod removal process can be viewed in full size on News.com.au about 2/3 of the way down page)
Fear vs. radiation: The mismatch* By David Ropeik Posted December 2013 (*This Opinion piece appeared in the International New York Times on 22 October 2013) "… Our anxiety about nuclear radiation is rooted in our understandable fear of the terrible power of nuclear weapons. But in the 68 years since those weapons were first used in anger, we learned from the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki themselves, that ionizing radiation—the type created by a nuclear reaction—is not nearly the powerful carcinogen or genetic mutagen that we thought it was. …Continue reading
Share resources and knowledge to help calm fears
Please understand we are not trying to make light of the Fukushima situation … it definitely IS a major concern for our planet -- especially if Japan has another major earthquake that impacts the fuel rods in Units 1 through 4 and/or the 1,000+ containers of radioactive water around the plant. However, we all need to try to tamp down the rhetoric and not spread erroneous articles and emails if at all possible.
It's tough to know what to believe on the Internet anymore without doing tons of research (esp. with the Fukushima situation due to the way TEPCO and officials have handled the disaster.) But hopefully we've provided some useful resources that public officials and civilians alike can use to help counter the misinformation through social media, outreach campaigns, etc. There will always be skeptics and naysayers, but hopefully by sharing data and expertise some of the public anxiety may be tempered.
While I haven't read all of the info above, you appear to have done a great job of collecting useful and fact-based material to review. There is so much misinformation being circulated, one can only hope people will use due diligence in seeking out credible and reputable sources from which to form their opinions and take action. If you don't trust the 'federal' government to share what they know, turn to your state's webpage to see what they have to offer. States like California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, etc. do their own air and water monitoring. I think you'll see that their findings are quite similar and well below any potential health impact, whether it's consuming fish or breathing the air. If there's a conspiracy of all of these states in reporting environmental and health impacts...we have bigger problems than Fukushima contamination.
Thank you and yes - Bill and I got SO frustrated seeing all the crap floating around the web (esp in the prepper / survivalist world) so I spent several weeks wading through tons of reports, blogs and articles. Sadly some of the fearmongering and misinformation is used intentionally to push products and services (and mistrust) .. while others unknowingly pass it on through social media, but hopefully above sources help clarify some things.
Also .. if anyone finds additional resources, articles or topics, please include them in comments since it could help everyone.
Very good collection of articles based more on fact than the hype typically contained in newspapers, magazines, and blogs. As a 30 year veteran of the US nuclear industry, including the emergency preparedness aspects, I appreciate the effort putting all this together. Truly, Fukishima is a disaster on a large scale, and will take significant resources to manage and clean-up, however, it is not even close to the "End of the World as We Know It" scenario some make it out to be.