[ RadSafe ] Alleged Claim "The Broken Maps of Fukushima"
rwhelbig at gmail.com
Thu Mar 10 07:15:10 CST 2016
Here is link to the CV of the writer Robert Jacobs and his writings
On Thu, Mar 10, 2016 at 5:04 AM, Roger Helbig <rwhelbig at gmail.com> wrote:
> This seems to be a primer for activists to explain why all the
> scientists like you are lying to them about Fukushima.
> Roger Helbig
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> New post on nuclear-news
> The Broken Maps of Fukushima
> by dunrenard
> by Robert Jacobs, March 9, 2016
> When we look at maps of Fukushima what we see is disinformation. The
> maps of the radioactive contamination of Fukushima contain
> contradictions that embody our inability to understand the true nature
> of the dangers to people living there. This is rooted in the
> difficulty in understanding radiation. If we can separate the maps, we
> may be able to grasp the dangers more readily, and thus understand the
> situation in a more functional way.
> Similarly, one can hold a Geiger counter up in the air in a village in
> Fukushima prefecture and declare that there is no radiation present.
> The assumption, therefore, is that there is no danger. The ways in
> which this can be both true, but only partial truth, are part of what
> we need to fully grasp to understand the situation in Fukushima.
> I will begin with the Geiger counter.
> Radiation is a very difficult thing to understand. For starters, we
> tend to assume that radiation is a “thing.” Something is radioactive
> or it is not. We are affected by the radiation or we are not. This is
> not quite accurate. Radiation is a quality: it is a process—something
> radiates. How it radiates can differ, and it is in this difference
> that half-truths can be told as whole truths. While there are many
> aspects to this, for the present article I will concentrate on the
> differences between gamma, beta and alpha radiation. Most of the
> discourse that you hear about radiation related to Fukushima is
> describing gamma radiation. The danger to most of the people
> continuing to live in contaminated areas is in the form of alpha or
> beta radiation, so when we hear people talk about radiation in
> Fukushima, most of the time they are not talking about what is of most
> concern and danger.
> Here is a quick primer. Gamma radiation comes off of radioactive
> materials in waves. These waves can penetrate anything, and they are
> partially filtered by heavy materials, such as lead. You can think of
> gamma radiation as similar to x-rays. This is why you have a lead
> apron placed on you when you have dental x-rays, and why the
> technician goes behind a lead-lined wall. When gamma radiation passes
> through your body it does not stay in your body. Like x-rays, when the
> source is turned off, they stop and there is no more danger. To limit
> the damage to the body from gamma radiation we limit the total
> cumulative dose received, hence the person working with it protects
> themselves behind the lead wall; the patient receives a small dose,
> but if the technicians received that same small dose repeatedly every
> day, they would be at much higher risk.
> Alpha and beta radiation comes from specific irradiated particles,
> such as individual atoms of plutonium, or cesium-137. These particles
> cannot penetrate through materials: they cannot penetrate through
> skin, or even paper. They are primarily dangerous when we internalize
> them inside of our bodies and they permanently lodge there. They
> generally give off a small amount of radiation because they are single
> atoms. If there are a lot of them present, they give off more
> radiation. If one is internalized into the body, it will give this
> small amount of radiation to the same surrounding cells for 24 hours a
> day. While the amount is small, 24/7 exposure to this radiation may
> cause mutations to these cells, and then cancer.
> Gamma radiation fills an area equally, lessening quickly as you get
> further from the source. This is what most Geiger counters are set to
> measure—the levels of gamma radiation present. When you have alpha and
> beta-emitting particles scattered in an area, the amount of detectable
> radiation will likely vary. In Fukushima City last year (about 50
> miles away from the nuclear plants), I held a Geiger counter at chest
> level on a street and found a low level of radiation. However, moments
> later when I placed that same Geiger counter on the ground, I found
> much higher levels of radiation. That is because particles fall and
> collect on the ground. When I then moved my Geiger counter to the
> gutter at the side of the street, I found dramatically more radiation.
> This is because rain washes the particles to the gutter. So the
> distribution of the particles is irregular, depending on how long ago
> they fell-out of the sky (fallout) and how much wind and rain there
> has been.
> This is how you can hold a Geiger counter in the air (or place a
> public Geiger counter five or twenty feet in the air) and show very
> low levels of radiation, and yet there can still be significant
> dangers present. If the danger is from alpha and beta-emitting
> particles, the readings taken in mid-air can be low. The way that such
> particles are dangerous to us is if we internalize them into our
> bodies, typically by inhaling them, swallowing them, of having them
> enter through cuts in our skin. Once inside the body, they may pass
> through, but they may also permanently lodge there. The body is
> tricked into thinking that these particles are useful chemicals.
> Strontium-90 “mimics” calcium, and the body can put it into the bones.
> Since the body puts iodine into the thyroid gland, if someone has
> internalized iodine-131 (a radioactive form of iodine) the body may
> put that in the thyroid gland. Thyroid cancer is one of the first
> cancers to develop from internalized particles, and that is why our
> conversation about the health impacts in Fukushima are currently
> focused on thyroid cancer. Other cancers will follow as we move
> through their latency periods.
> Table 1
> Some isotopes of concern after a nuclear accident:
> Plutonium 239, half-life: 24,000 years, decay mode: alpha, decay
> energy: 5.24 MeV
> Strontium 90, half-life: 29 years, decay mode: beta, decay energy: 0.546 MeV
> Cesium 134, half-life: 2 years, decay mode: beta, gamma, decay energy: 0.698 MeV
> Cesium 137, half-life: 34 years, decay mode: beta, gamma, decay energy: 1.76 MeV
> Iodine 131, half-life: 8 days, decay mode: beta, gamma, decay energy: 971 keV
> Tritium, half-life: 12 years, decay mode: beta, decay energy: 18.6 keV
> Decay energy is measured in electron volts (eV), a measure of the
> particle’s momentum. 1 MeV is 1,000,000 eV, and 1 keV is 1,000 eV.
> According to the table, Plutonium 239 is the most dangerous internal
> emitter, but the hazards to public health depend on the relative
> quantities released and the relative quantities that people actually
> absorb. Some segments of the population are more vulnerable than
> others. Is it a matter of a single exposure or a continual exposure
> and accumulation? What parts of the body do different particles tend
> to go to, and how long on average do they tend to stay in the body
> (the biological half-life)? None of this complexity can be conveyed
> with a map and a simple declaration of a “safe” limit of external
> gamma radiation exposure. （Table added by Dianuke editor)
> These alpha and beta-emitters are particularly dangerous for children.
> Children are lower to the ground to start with, tend to put things
> into their mouths, and tend to play outdoors and suffer cuts and
> bruises, and since their bodies are growing rapidly, damage to cells
> can replicate faster. This is why parents agonize over whether to stay
> or evacuate an area that has had radiological fallout.
> This is also why it is hard to be certain about the contamination to
> the food supply. It is virtually impossible to test all food, and so
> samples are tested: samples of rice from rice fields, samples of fish
> from catches, samples of fruit from orchards. Because the danger to
> these crops is not from gamma radiation, which would be equally
> distributed, but from their internalizing alpha and beta-emitting
> particles, portions of a crop, or haul of fish, can test negative
> while other portions contain significant amounts of radiation
> deposited on them or taken up through soil and water into the plant or
> fish itself.
> Our ability to technologically determine the distribution of alpha and
> beta-emitting particles is limited because of the irregular deposit of
> the material from fallout clouds, and the subsequent scattering of the
> particles from wind and water. This is also why it is possible to
> “decontaminate” an area only to have it re-contaminated as the wind
> and rain redistribute the particles that fell on nearby forests.
> Technically it is not possible to “decontaminate” a natural area. The
> radioactive particles will remain dangerous for their natural life.
> For plutonium that is over 100,000 years. During that time, it cannot
> be decontaminated, it can only be moved. We can attempt to contain
> these particles, however most of them will long outlive the plastic
> bags into which we placed them, at which time they will re-enter the
> soil and the ecosystem and begin to cycle through it again.
> Understanding the difference between the dangers from gamma, beta and
> alpha radiation is the key to understanding how the maps of Fukushima
> are broken. Below is a typical map that we see of Fukushima, produced
> by the Japanese government:
> Map of Fukushima produced by MEXT of the Government of Japan and
> reproduced on the website of the IAEA.
> There are two things that I want to point out. First, the concentric
> circles. These have the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant at their
> center. The second thing is the color coded splotches and streak.
> These show where the plumes of the three nuclear plant explosions
> deposited their fallout, in this case specifically measurements of
> cesium-134 and cesium-137. Notice how the representation of the areas
> of fallout are constrained by the outermost concentric circle.
> These two things should be read separately.
> Concentric circles describe relative distances from a point. In this
> case, distances from the nuclear plant. People were evacuated based on
> their distance from the plant. The mandatory evacuation zone was at 20
> km and the suggested, or prepared evacuation zone was from 20-30 km
> (the key difference between “mandatory” and “suggested” evacuation is
> liability). The reason that people had to evacuate from these areas
> was because of the high levels of gamma radiation coming from the
> melted cores of the nuclear plants, and the high levels of gamma
> radiation where the plumes deposited the largest amounts of fallout
> close-by. The levels of gamma radiation near the reactors is lethally
> high. At this point, no human being can enter into the buildings where
> the nuclear cores melted. The gamma radiation levels are so high that
> they would be killed in minutes. We have yet to build robots capable
> of operating in these highly radioactive locations for longer than an
> hour or so. Moving away from the point at the center of these circles
> will decrease one’s exposure to radiation. The amount of gamma
> radiation coming from the plant is measurable and relatively constant
> across the areas at similar distances. Hence the use of circles,
> concentric circles marking decreasing levels of gamma radiation.
> Here is a map of the evacuations:
> Concentric Circles Showing Areas of Evacuation, No-Fly Zone, and U.S.
> Safety Zone Around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plants, and the
> Populations of Nearby Towns.
> When we look, instead, at a map of the radiological contamination of
> the downwind area, we are reading entirely different information. The
> splotches of color marking the levels of radiation from the plumes is
> irregular, unlike the neat and cleanly measured concentric circles.
> The colors mark the different grades of radiation from the fallout.
> They are created based on the gamma radiation from the fallout,
> however, the primary danger to people living in these areas is not
> based on the levels of the gamma radiation, but from internalizing
> individual alpha and beta-emitting particles. Since there is no single
> source, like the melted cores, but rather billions of individual
> particles, once the plume has fallen out and the particles have
> reached the ground, they begin to move through the ecosystem via the
> dynamic motion of wind and water, and then they are internalized in
> the bodies of animals. Rain will collect them along gutters and
> gullies and transport them. Wind will blow them along hillsides and
> valleys. Once these particles begin to move through the ecosystem,
> there is no center, no specific source that people must move away
> from. The dangers are unevenly distributed, and they are constantly
> changing. Once you are over 30 km away from the nuclear plants,
> surrounded by their concentric circles, moving further away from the
> direction of the plants may or may not provide more safety. The
> contamination that comes from alpha and beta-emitting particles is
> unpredictable, irregular, and changes over time. Each specific
> particle has a specific period of radioactivity and during that
> period, it will move through the ecosystem, being taken up by plants,
> moved by wind, entering soil, eaten by animals and returning to the
> soil when the animals die. They may move in the same direction that
> you are moving to get away from the center of the concentric circles,
> if the wind is blowing that way.
> Here is a map showing the radiological contamination of the region,
> which differs from the specific places where the plumes first
> Map of Radiation Levels Downwind from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear
> Plants in 2014, Produced by the Nuclear Regulation Authority of the
> Government of Japan.
> The maps of Fukushima are broken. These broken maps are reflections of
> the broken chain of information that has been provided to those living
> there and grappling with the dangers on a daily basis. Because these
> maps, and this information, are broken, disinformation can thrive and
> blossom. A March 7th editorial in the Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan makes
> use of these broken maps and the data that they convey to misinform
> people in Japan about the safety of former residents moving back into
> contaminated areas. With no sense of irony, it’s headline proclaims,
> “Correct Understanding of Radiation Needed to Speed Reconstruction.”
> Explaining that exposure to radiation is natural, the editorial claims
> that, “The government needs to continue carefully explaining to
> residents that there will be no health problems as long as the
> radiation exposure is at 20 millisieverts or lower.” For this reason,
> people need “correct understanding” to cooperate and return to areas
> that can only be decontaminated to 20 millisieverts. While there is
> significant debate about what level of gamma radiation is safe, and
> increasingly convincing data that no level is safe (see here), this
> argument ignores the fact that much of that 20 millisievert exposure
> is coming from alpha and beta-emitting particles, which pose an
> additional danger from that of the external exposure. For the people
> being advised to return, the areas they would return to are plagued by
> the more urgent risk of internalizing these particles, a danger that
> increases dramatically in areas where the external exposure is still
> measurably high. Their lives would be filled with the presence of
> large amounts of invisible atoms that will very likely cause cancers
> if inhaled or swallowed. These dangers are not factored into the 20
> millisieverts the editorial writers so casually dismiss.
> These broken maps, co-mingling the dangers of external and internal
> radiation in one graphic, present the idea that the dangers from
> radiation near Fukushima are fixed and knowable. This is not true.
> Massive amounts of radionuclides have deposited along large areas of
> Fukushima, and they will now pulse and fluctuate within the dynamics
> of that ecosystem for as long as each particle remains radioactive.
> Most of them will be hard to trace and difficult to control. People
> can be moved away from the plants, where the danger is in a fixed
> location and is measurable. Where the plumes deposited the particles
> the opposite is true. The dangers are unknowable and can move around,
> just like the people. This puts the health of those living there in a
> very different relationship to the risks.
> To fix the maps, we need to fix the knowledge chain. Radiation is
> difficult to understand, and that difficulty allows disinformation to
> take root–disinformation like that contained in the editorial of the
> Yomiuri cited above, and in so many pronouncements from experts who
> omit information about alpha and beta-emitting particles and the
> dangers of internalized radiation when they speak down to people who
> must live with these dangers. For most people having to live with the
> radiation scattered by TEPCO’s meltdowns, clear information about
> internalized radiation and how these dangers persist in their
> communities is essential for them to map their own paths to a future
> of their choosing. No one should insist that they live with higher
> levels of radiation by changing their understanding to the “correct
> Robert Jacobs is a historian of nuclear technologies and radiation
> technopolitics at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City
> dunrenard | March 10, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Tags: Contamination,
> Evacuation, Fukushima, radioactive | Categories: Fukushima 2016 | URL:
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