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back to article Fukushima radioactivity a complete non-issue on West Coast: Also for Fukushima locals, in fact

A new study carried out in the "radiation zone" areas just outside the Fukushima nuclear powerplant in Japan has confirmed that the lifetime health risk to people living there from the damaged powerplant is so small as to be undetectable. Naturally, Californians almost 5,000 miles away are still terrified for their own safety. …

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Facepalm

Facts-

Carry a warning label in California.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Facts-

On the other hand, in Texas and Whitehall they are actively discouraged.

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Mushroom

Forget about the facts

Can you spot a Lewis Page article just by reading the headline?

it's like a 100/100 ratio here...

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Re: Facts-

Have you ever noticed that just about everything (in the USA, not sure about other places) carries a warning label to the effect: "This product contains an ingredient known to the State of California to cause cancer."...??? They have perfected fear mongering.

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Re: Facts-

It's not fear mongering, it's insurance companies covering their a$$.

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Thumb Down

Re: Facts-

> It's not fear mongering, it's insurance companies covering their a$$.

Riiight.

> Panicked group of "concerned citizens" take to the bullhorn.

> They declare being somehow mortally endangered by orgones/coffeine/aspartame/morgellons/toothpaste detergent/wifi hotspot/radioactive cesium/aether waves/HAARP/fluorine in the water/aspirine/chemtrails/microwaves/hot coffee (The latest things is apparently these super-magnetic toy balls which are "harmful to children", the producer is being shut down via governmental lawfare)

> Parliamentarians sheep up and declare to be "take their concerns seriously"

> Labeling legislation is passed

> "It's the insurance companies"

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Re: Facts- about magnetic beads like TetraMag

> The latest things is apparently these super-magnetic toy balls

> which are "harmful to children", the producer is being shut down

> via governmental lawfare

They are potentially life threatening -- and it's not that big of a surprise, once you hear about the mechanism. If magnetic bearing are swallowed, they can get on opposite sides of bits of tissue in the intestines. With the strength of the magnetic attraction they pinch the tissue, and with normal gastric movements added in you can end up with perforated intestines. Keep them away from young children and pets.

Doesn't mean they should be banned, of course.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=magnets+perforated+intestines

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Re: Facts-

Yes. It's actually quite nice for those of us living in Tennessee. Our energy producers have nuclear and coal plants and sell excess production to those, like California, who have forced the shutdown of their nuclear and other scary power stations and can no longer produce enough energy. As a result, energy cost in Tennessee is 9.84 cents per kWh, whereas in California it is 16.47 cents per kWh. If their fear makes them willing to pay far too much for electricity so that I pay less, then who am I to complain? All I can say is....thank you!

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Re: Forget about the facts

What's your point, or was that it?

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There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.

Edward Abbey (1927-89)

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No wonder Americans are scared

That "plume" graphic is bloody terrifying, and most of us 'septics' are afraid of reading, or at least have been strongly discouraged from doing so.

On a side note, I propose that the El Reg Standards Soviet adopt the BED (Banana Equivalent Dose) as their unit of radioactive exposure.

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Re: No wonder Americans are scared

Since it is now obligitory to link this when referring to Fukushima here..

http://xkcd.com/radiation/

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Re: No wonder Americans are scared

On a side note, I propose that the El Reg Standards Soviet adopt the BED (Banana Equivalent Dose) as their unit of radioactive exposure.

Seconded.

A banana a day keeps the doctor away.

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Pint

Re: No wonder Americans are scared

xkcd, is there anything they can't do?

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Re: No wonder Americans are scared

The BED is a nice unit but I prefer the CCED - Coffee Cup Equivalent Dose. There's a hell of a lot of background radiation in a cup of coffee.

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Re: No wonder Americans are scared

Typical, I read this after my mid-afternoon snack break of a cup of coffee and a banana.

This is also starting to look like we may need a whole new measurement scale of scientific scaremongering, ranging from a Reg all the way up to a Daily Mail by way of a BBC and an al-Jazeera?

By the way, according to the BBC the Fukushima town hall received ~1000 BED's worth of radiation in the two weeks following the accident (about 1/4 of the dose from a mammogram and 1/70th of the dose from a CT scan, from the table in the article).

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Anonymous Coward

Danger may be inflated, but not *quite* as bananas an exaggeration as it sounds

"I propose that the El Reg Standards Soviet adopt the BED (Banana Equivalent Dose)"

I agree that the "threat" from Fukushima is- in reality- still probably negligible to those paranoid Californians. However, the "BED" is flawed as a comparison here because the amount of Potassium from bananas et al (and hence radiactive Potassium-40) is fairly constant in healthy individuals, i.e. if you have more than your body needs, it will get rid of the excess, so it's not going to "build up" or be retained beyond a certain amount, regardless of how many bananas you eat:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_equivalent_dose#Criticism

By contrast, my understanding is that (e.g.) the Strontium-90 released from Fukushima mimics calcium, and *accumulates* in the bones, i.e. ingesting more radioactive Strontium *adds* to the (still radioactive and emitting) Strontium in your body, so the danger grows over time.

AFAIK, the caesium-mimicking-iodine problem is a similar issue. There are also issues with different types of radiation being more dangerous internally than externally. (*)

I'm not an expert, and don't claim to be (do *not* quote me on any of the above, and feel free to correct or clarify any mistakes), but I've heard enough to know that- regardless of how much the Yanks are overreacting- the dosage *isn't* as clear-cut or ludicrously low as the BED implies.

(*) This is an article I came across when attempting to confirm what little I remembered on the matter:- http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/04/fake-science-alert-fukushima-radiation-cant-be-compared-to-bananas-or-x-rays.html

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No wonder Americans are scared

And the BNED - Brazil Nut Equivalent Dose.

Bananas, coffee, "low sodium" salt and brazil nuts are all excellent Geoger counter demonstrators.

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Sr 90

Strontium (Sr) 90 has a half life of a little less than 29 years. If figure that Sr 90 generated by Fukushima has a point origin in time, then each since the Fukushima media disaster there has in fact been LESS Sr 90 around that can be attributed to the reactor. There's also the matter to dilution to consider. As Lewis Page pointed out, the actual amount of radio decay is only measurable in terms of decays per tonne of sea water. So, in California, where I live an breath, the only manner in which I could be exposed to Sr 90 would be through ingesting it, i.e. via sea food. And, given the extreme dilution provided by the Pacific Ocean, significant biological amplification would only occur via a route that included critters preying on or scavenging large filter feeders - whales, in other words. So frankly, speaking as a Californian, I am not concerned about radiation from Fukushima in any form. At the time of the earthquake, I explained why I was so relaxed to several acquaintances, pointing out that you pick up a bigger dose walking past the banana display in the market. A couple of them DID stop eating bananas, but the rest went on with their lives. No one was willing to give up sea food. The truth is that an article in the SF Chronicle is comparable to one in the Grauniad. For some peculiar reason the writers seem to believe that their audience consists of folks from the same small pool of worriers that spits out folks convinced that the mathematical sign of any human contribution to climate change is settled science as well. There is a reason news paper circulation is in trouble.

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NOOA: shame on you!

Surely, as a federal body, it is NOOA's job to disseminate information and not alarmism?

If I lived in the USA I would be far more concerned about the remnants of testing in Nevada - less than 100 miles from Vegas and 300 miles from LA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_fallout_exposure.png

Perhaps NOOA should draw a map with flames coming out of the desert. That would at least show the people what the true risks are and would actually be informative: ie : "You were subject to this much, now you're subject to this much." That would at least give people a point of reference.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No wonder Americans are scared

"A banana a day keeps the doctor away."

An onion a day keeps everyone else away. :-)

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Re: No wonder Americans are scared

The graphic would be terrifying if, like many fear-mongerers try to claim, it was actually meant to measure radiation. In fact, it depicts the estimated wave heights after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The key in the corner reads "cm."

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Re: wave height

Can any Californians say whether Crescent City has good surfing or is the 'horizontal' spur breaking off the main flow just a one-off.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sr 90

The Chron is so far left it's amazing they don't all drown. As far as Fukushima and sea food, I think the Chron's writers have all gone fission....

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Re: NOOA: shame on you!

Yeah, what's up with that NOOA?

This particular image came from the NOAA, though, and I see nothing wrong with it. Of course, I don't make decisions based on the colors in a map.

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Anonymous Coward

Suggestion. The FEAR

"The BED is a nice unit but I prefer the CCED - Coffee Cup Equivalent Dose. There's a hell of a lot of background radiation in a cup of coffee."

I propose the Fukushima Enhanced Annual Radiation (FEAR) for describiing additional exposure. So 1.51 milliSieverts per year means we're at milliFEAR levels. I realise this may cause some sleepless nights for some people with FEAR and BED comparisons, but may allow risks to be more easily quantified. If contamination progresses to microFEAR, we may need to be a little more concerned. If it progresses to mega or teraFEAR levels, it would be time to invoke Protective Anti-Nuclear Intervention Controls.

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Re: Sr 90

I'd go fission too, if I woke up to a new clear day..

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Re: No wonder Americans are scared

my friend likes to measure florescent lights , funny how people react when they hear the Geiger sound

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Nice to see you're out there fighting the scare mongering but nuclear power isn't save by 'accident'. A lot of money and oversight needs to go into the design and running of nuclear power plants. Thanks to dithereing by out political overlards (typo intended) we're going to need at least another generation, probably two) of them before renewables/fusion can take up the slack (some wishful thinking in that time scale I know but I can dream).

BTW, how much radiation is released by coal burning plants in the ash they release into the atmosphere? Purely for the sake of placing these figures in context.

Forgot to say that for all the stick they've been getting, the workers at the plant, particular since the accident deserve some recognition for helping to contain the situation.

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Anonymous Coward

Coal ash

According to a study by the NRPB yearly exposure due to fly ash for an average person living near a coal fired plant is 0.1uS/y so _much_ less than the figures here. A lot of ash gets used in building materials though, and if your house is made of those the estimate is 0.9mS/y which isn't far off the Haramachi extra dose.

http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1194947363630

IIRC adding up the numbers from that paper you find tonnes of Thorium and kilos of Uranium leaving Drax every year.

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Given that coal is somewhere in the region of one part per million uranium, and that a big coal station will get through 35million tons per year, that's a lot of uranium going up the chimney every year. The guide didn't appreciate me pointing that out when as a school kid aged 9 I went on a tour of Didcot coal fired power station, at the high point in CND's popularity. I must have been a horrible kid. I asked about CFC leakage at Oldbury Nuclear power station under similar circumstances (it was used in the chiller that quickened the cooling of the core following shut down for maintenance).

I imagine that the introduction of electrostatic precipitators has reduced the output somewhat, and concentrated it into thermalite building bricks instead.

There's some controversy over the matter. Scientific American have this article:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste/

Given that you have to get pretty close to your average nuclear accident before the count becomes worse than what you get from, say, granite I don't think anyone on the other side of the Pacific need worry. Anyone living in a granite built house, or anywhere with a faint whiff of natural radon in the air? No one worries about those, so its not rational to worry about something far off whose effect is much diminished by distance.

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Perhaps we can ask the residents of New Hampshire or Cornwall. Both are situated on significant granite deposits.

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Oddly enough I worked at the Rutherford Appleton Labs in the early 90s. When some Gov't agency came to test the radiation 'escaping' from ISIS (where I worked) - they were a 'bit worried' about the dose - until, apparently, one of the guys cut out a square of turf and got them to test the soil underneath - which showed absolutely minimal radiation - the turf however continued to display higher than expected doses - all of course, as proved later, from the coal ash/dust from Didcot Power Station...)

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Anonymous Coward

Sort of

From the beginning some naive folks have been claiming that there is no risk to locals or others from the Fukushima melt down but it simply is untrue. There are a lot of radiation issues that have been documented with ground water and the still leaking remains. Naturally authorities don't want a panic but the situation is far more lethal than many folks want to admit. Down playing the issue to prevent panic is fine but assertions that there is no danger is just ignorance.

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Re: Sort of

Naturally authorities don't want a panic but the situation is far more lethal than many folks want to admit.

And yet, impossible for you to cite any sources - obviously a conspiracy eh!

PS: For things to be "lethal", in the traditional sense of the word, there have to be deaths.

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Boffin

Re: Sort of

I can see the that "The Authorities" would want to down-play issues and avoid panic, but do you have anything other than Anonymous Assertions to back your claim?

I put a lot more faith in official documents (not complete trust -Oh, Gods No!) than I do people saying "You can't trust them" with no other information. "The Authorities" have to at least make it look like they are playing fair. The results of independent verification have to be able to come close to the official line.

The anonymous coward does not even have their own name to add credibility.

If extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, then ordinary claims require ordinary evidence.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sort of

In the radio-contaminant sense of "lethal" there have to be deaths within a few decades.

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Re: Sort of

I wasn't the poster, but a quick google pulls up the following article which has some numbers in it.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/03/fukushima-daiichi-tsunami-nuclear-cleanup-japan

I'm not qualified to judge who's right, but there are clearly instances here of radiation levels well above normal or routine levels. There's already 360,000 tonnes of radioactive water being held on site.

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"From the coastline, through the towns of Okuma, Futaba and Namie, are huge patches of ground where the additional annual dose of radiation is more than 50 millisieverts. Natural background radiation, from cosmic rays and sources in the air and rock, reaches 2 to 3 millisieverts per year."

"A preliminary IAEA report in October on efforts to clean up the contaminated land was full of praise for the remediation work so far, and made a handful of gentle suggestions for improvement. Yet the work is far behind schedule in seven of 11 selected towns and villages; the deadline of March 2014 is now unachievable. This month, officials in Japan admitted for the first time that thousands of evacuees from the worst affected areas may never return home."

"In August, workers discovered that 300 tonnes of radioactive water had leaked from one of the tanks. The radiation emanating from the puddle left on the ground was enough to give a bystander the industry's five-year maximum permissible dose in just one hour. In October, half a tonne of contaminated water spilled on to the ground and may have drained to the sea, when tanks overflowed with rainwater."

"Radiation levels surged in seawater after the tsunami struck, with concentrations of caesium-137 recorded at 60 million becquerels per cubic metre near the plant. "

"We're not talking about levels that cause direct harm when I'm one kilometre offshore," says Buesseler. "But through the uptake into the seafood and fisheries, you end up having to keep those closed, and that's a billion dollar industry and a cultural loss for Japan."

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Re: Sort of

...in statistically-significant excess of those which would have occurred anyhow. (Agreeing with you though)

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Re: Sort of (only for people who Do Sums)

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Novel-study-puts-Fukushima-doses-into-perspective-2502147.html

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Re: Sort of

"In the radio-contaminant sense of "lethal" there have to be deaths within a few decades."

And what is the half-life of contaminants in the water?

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C 2

Re: Sort of

>PS: For things to be "lethal", in the traditional sense of the word, there have to be deaths.

LOL, you have a talent for words.

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Right....

So all those YouTube videos showing people on the beaches in California with Radiation detectors that are going into Alert mode are just imaginary then are they?

They might not be in "danger" as such, but the detectors sound an alarm for a reason - it's probably healthier to stay indoors than go to the beach until the detectors stop sounding the alarm.

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Detectors at beaches

The detectors sound alarm at beaches because they always did, even before Fukushima. The reason is that material from areas with naturally high background radiation (Rocky Mountains, in this case) gets carried into sea by rivers and deposited at beaches.

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So all those YouTube videos showing people on the beaches in California with Radiation detectors that are going into Alert mode are just imaginary then are they?

I'm guessing it really depends what the radiation detectors are measuring?

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the measurement was of the battery or whatever else's is powering the devices voltage. Proper radiation detectors are probably prohibitively expensive as beach accessories.

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Report Abuse

Can I report this as abuse? I believe you are abusing my mind by coming out with such tosh.

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Trollface

Personally

I would not be surprised if it was measuring the run off from an organic fruit smoothie factory

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Anonymous Coward

@Andrew Jones 2

A simple radiation detector is basically only going to be useful for gammas. To detect alpha and beta sources you need something which draws in air through a filter and puts any resulting particles close to a thin-window or semiconductor detector. Tritium has problems of its own, as it has a low beta energy and is hard to concentrate. If you want to measure radiation from water or substrate, it's a bit easier but you have to know what you are measuring, especially if you are on fractured granite.

I don't know what the people in the videos are using, but there is really no such thing as a "radiation detector"; it's a matter of what kind of particles in what kind of environment.

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Re: @Andrew Jones 2

Tritium gas is used in some watches as well as glow in the dark tags. Very cool.

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@Andrew Jones 2 -- you cannot *possibly* be serious?

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