Friday, April 25, 2014

Aerial Discharge of Uranium and Plutonium at Fukushima: No Need for Panic

Today, Global Research has a story with the arresting title:

Fukushima Didn’t Just Suffer Three Meltdowns … The Nuclear Core Has Finally Been Found … Scattered All Over Japan.

If the headline were correct, one would have to say goodbye to Japan as a place for human habitation — for all time.

However, if you go to the source for the headlined claim, which is the American Chemical Society's journal: Environmental Science and Technology you find a very different story.

First, the report states:
Black-colored road dusts were collected in high-radiation areas in Fukushima Prefecture.
So first note that the dust examined was not "scattered all over Japan," but was from "high-radiation areas in Fukushima Prefecture," which is to say those areas from which people have already been removed.

Second, the report states:
The concentrations of 134,137Cs in all samples were exceptionally high, ranging from 0.43 to 17.7 MBq/kg, respectively.
Yes, 17.7 MBq/kg, or 17.7 thousand particle emissions per second per kilogram, is high compared with natural radiation from soils or water, but to keep things in perspective, it is less than the radiation emitted by ten millionths of a gram of radium. Moreover, Cs 134 decays by 50% within just over two years and Cs 137 decay by 50% in just over 30 years, so the contamination will decline significantly in a time considerably less than eternity.

 Third, the report states:
239+240Pu was detected at low levels, ranging from 0.15 to 1.14 Bq/kg [and] 236U was successfully determined in the range of (0.28 to 6.74) × 10–4 Bq/kg.
Which means if you eat a kilogram of this gunk you'd receive an internal dose of radiation from plutonium and uranium of probably less than one count per second, which is below the activity of most drinking water or healthy organic lettuce. It is also less than the radiation from Uranium in some popular mineral waters, e.g., San Pellegrino.

So yes, the radiation contamination around Fukushima is disastrous, but it is not the end either of the world or of Japan.

Altogether, the report states:
The quantities of U and 239+240Pu emitted to the atmosphere were estimated as 3.9 × 106 Bq (150 g) and 2.3 × 109 Bq (580 mg), respectively.
For perspective, a liter of San Pellegrino water contains 6 micrograms of Uranium, so the 580 mg of Uranium estimated to have been spewed at Fukushima is equivalent to that contained in about 16,000 liters, or less than a truck-load, of a popular and harmless brand of mineral water. Over the area of a country the size of Japan, that is an absolutely insignificant amount.

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