Radiation Exposure – Japan Radiation Exposure Can Hit You

Radiation exposure is a real danger to anyone living in this planet regardless whether you live near or far from Japan’s nuclear power plant. With the current nuclear crisis in Japan, the possibility of getting exposed to nuclear radiation is high.

Radioactive materials travel through air. This is the biggest danger that is posed by the nuclear radiation leak in Japan. Atomic clouds or radioactive materials can go anywhere as the wind blows, thus every one is vulnerable to radiation exposure.

I am not sure whether staying indoors can mitigate the chances of being vulnerable to radiation exposure. But better take extra precaution than feel sorry later. Here’s the latest news on the nuclear crisis in Japan following the March 11 earthquake.

Jiji Press – An explosion has been heard at the No. 2 reactor of the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. <9501>, the government said Tuesday.

The explosion was heard at 6:14 a.m., the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said. After the explosion sound, a radiation level of 965.5 microsieverts per hour was detected in the vicinity, according to the ministry.

Later, nonessential workers were evacuated from the reactor, according to the company.

In the reactor, part of nuclear fuel rods has been exposed above water because of a drop in cooling water levels caused by the failure of its cooling system.

Since the company started pouring sea water into the reactor Monday afternoon to recover water levels, the fuel rods have been repeatedly exposed above water due to difficulties in supplying water.

2 thoughts on “Radiation Exposure – Japan Radiation Exposure Can Hit You

  • 2011-03-20 at 9:54 pm
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    This report, and numerous related to the Japanese Atomic Reactor damage following the earthquake, reflects the opinions of an author that doesn’t understand (a) radiation in general, (b) the atomic energy industry, (c) actual *real* dangers of the current situation, vs. worse-case that *could* happen, if there was a complete meltdown, and *atomic* explosion. (less than 1 in a Million chance, of that, and we think that estimate is still too *high*)

    Your fears are misguided. The 9.0 earthquake damaged more property, and caused more injury and death. The tsunami damaged more property, and caused more injury and death. Unless you live in Japan, the Atomic reactors are NOT going to hurt you. You should be checking your own earthquake-survival-kit, making sure it is full, and ready. Will you survive when an earthquake hits you?

    The important thing about the radiation is that, if things go badly, the Japanese gov’t may need to spend a trillion yen to clean the soil and water 10-100 km around Fukushima. This is a situation we *can* control, but is it going to be expensive, very very expensive. We *cannot* pretend it didn’t happen, and cannot pretend we don’t need to spend the money on cleanup. That would be a disaster worthy of panic!!!

    There are two (2) basic errors in your logic, (and this can fill you with gut-wrenching terror, if you let it!) So, a little research/education can help this problem…

    First, you don’t understand what radiation *is*, so you are afraid of it… You aren’t any more or less scared of Alpha radiation than you are of Beta radiation, Gamma radiation, or Neutrons, because you don’t know the difference! Do you see? Bullets and land-mines will both kill you, but in very different ways, but you protect yourself, again, in *very* different ways.

    Please, go read an explanation on “Types of Radiation.” You can only protect yourself if you know what the danger actually is! (also you can learn what doesn’t work at all, and is a clear waste of time and money…) Neutron radiation is such a problem *at* the reactor-core we can’t even fly helicopters over it, but any fallout that you are worried about will likely be beta or gamma emitters, *NOT* neutrons. Understand? You should be terrified of the Neutron Radiation *in* a reactor-core! DONT go into a Reactor-core, EVER!!! That isn’t the same problem as fallout, (the current topic of discussion).

    Second, you don’t understand the units of measurement! There is nothing in these articles on *HOW MUCH* radiation. Humans are radioactive, did you know that? We *always* have a base-level of radiation, (of course, we don’t want that to increase!) If you are married, and sleep in a bed next to another human, you are being irradiated more than if you sleep alone. If you have a smoke-detector, (you should! it will save your life in a fire!!!) you are being exposed to radiation while you sleep. These two examples (combined), would take over 1,000,000 years to kill you! The humans that died of *direct* exposure to a reactor-core, (in Los Alamos and Sarov for example), received 5-50 Sievert doses of radiation. You get around a 100 nano Sievert dose of radiation every time you eat a banana. That means a lethal dose of radiation is equivalent to 50 Million Bananas (or more). Humans on average eat 4000 Banana-equivalent does of radiation annually. We are worried the Fukushima fallout may add dozens of Bananas to your score, *not* thousands, and certainly not millions. (the largest *possible* off-site dose from the Three Mile Island accident was equivalent to 4600 Bananas. that means only people living right next to the disaster site…)

    Americans (in the 1950s-1960s) who had the misfortune of living downwind of the Nevada atomic-weapons testing-range were exposed to *thousands* of Banana-equivalent doses: by drinking milk, from cattle that lived in the fallout zone, that ate grass/grain that grew in the fallout zone. This situation is now a possible concern in Japan, though the levels of radiation are nowhere near the levels of multiple atomic-weapon test shots! The largest *actual* danger will be in contaminated foods, especially in meat-animals. This is called “Bio-accumulation” — slightly radioactive grains turn into noticeably radioactive milk and meat. The Japanese Gov’t *will* need to screen food for radiation, immediately, and for the next decade, for sure! China and Korea will want to actively monitor wind-patterns for the next year or more. This is not a *likely* danger, please understand, but if there is a 1 in 1000 chance, we *must* check to be sure. This level of risk we hardly need to worry about, but we do need to keep our eyes open, certainly!

    The danger of direct exposure to fallout is so small, we will be able to measure it in the Philippines *only* with high precision scientific instruments. The largest *actual* danger to humans will be in eating contaminated foods (in Japan or from Japan). It is possible and easy to detect radiation, we already screen *all* import/export cargo in America, you just have to be sure someone actually checked, with a working instrument. I assume cargo shipping in the Philippines is also scanned for all radiation, explosives, drugs, weapons, etc. If not, maybe that is a good idea? (This is where the idea of Banana-equivalent doses came from, cargo shipments of Bananas are just radioactive enough set off the sensors.)

    This is why the water-supply to Tokyo is important. We can detect if it is clean or dirty, and it matters a lot. If it is contaminated, just don’t drink it! But don’t panic… Drink bottled water! Educate yourselves, and demand that your government install and operate *working* radiation detectors on all major supply-lines of food and water. Radiation safety is all about detection and avoidance of risk. Accurate Information means life or death with radiation. Radiation itself is safe when you know what is going on, and horribly dangerous when you are ignorant. Reactors are not, in general, unsafe. …pay attention: It took a horrific earthquake to get Fukushima into this situation, and the danger to *you*, right now, of a car accident on the drive to work is *much* higher than radiation from Japan. (if you are listening to news on the radio, while you drive your car, please *WATCH THE ROAD*, you can still be killed in a car crash while you worry about fallout you can barely measure!)

    Finally, and this is quite important: Atomic Power Facilities were designed in the 1950s & 1960s, and expected to have a 50 year lifespan. Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl are examples of First Generation designs (which failed due to human error! not even an natural disaster.) Fukushima is an early Second Generation design; installed in 1971, it is 40 years old. New installations being build today, are *all* Third Generation. Research & Design Labs are still working on the planning of Fourth Generation. Atomic Power, as an industry, has advanced so much, so far *beyond* what was possible in 1971, in terms of safety, efficiency, and simplicity to operate. The best way to ensure *SAFE* Atomic Power, is to build new Reactors, and permanently shut down *anything* that is over 25-30 years old.

    If you don’t mind some technical details: for example, 3rd Gen plans, often have giant water tanks directly above the core, with a plug on the bottom made of plastic that is designed to melt at a much lower temperature than the containment vessel. That means if the core ever gets to hot: *splash*, instant flooding. Pretty smart, huh? Likewise, the “meltdown” issue is only possible because there is a “critical mass” of fuel. We need to achieve a “Neutron Chain Reaction” to generate power, and having an excessive amount of fuel is certainly *one* way to do this. Third Gen reactors, however, *must* be capable of achieving a neutron chain reaction with *less* than a critical mass. In other words, we are not *allowed* to have a critical mass (that wouldn’t be 100% safe!), instead we must *cheat* the Neutron count upwards, some other way. Not to get too technical, this can be done with (a) mirrors, and (b) a Neutron Beam. If we do not have a critical mass of fuel, we cannot have a meltdown, period, EVER. The core *immediately* enters shutdown mode as soon as we (a) remove the mirrors, or (b) remove the neutron beam. Okay? It doesn’t require active pumps to cool down, just so long as we aren’t feeding it more Neutrons, it will cool down *naturally*.

    Understand? We have designs now that are naturally *SAFE*, because they operate with less fuel than a critical mass. The scariest thing about Fukushima is that, before the earthquake, they were planning to operate this ANCIENT technology for another 10 years or more. Now it will be torn down, but we should learn a very important lesson, and agressively replace all older reactors. There is now *no* justification, no excuses can be made, to extending to lifespan of the remaining Second Gen plants around the world.

    Peace be with you, and please pray for Japan. The destruction from the tsunami looks to be every bit as bad as Hurrucane Katrina was in New Orleans. Many families have been affected, and will be years before their lives begin to return to normal. You cannot help them, or yourselves, by panic. Education on the subjects of “Types of Radiation”, “Measurement of Radiation Doses”, and “Third Generation Atomic Reator” will help you objectively understand what the Japanese are facing, so you can focus more on [actual] help for them, and less in [imagined] fear for yourself.

    ian.

    for your further reading:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sievert
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_(radiation)
    http://www.ornl.gov/sci/env_rpt/aser95/tb-a-2.pdf
    (PDF uses ‘rem’ doses: 1 rem = 100,000 Bananas. 1 mrem = 100 Bananas.)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_equivalent_dose
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_III_reactor
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_IV_reactor

    Sorry I cannot find reference material that is less technical, so much of the science of Atomic Power requires years of schooling, but everyone on the planet should understand the basic ideas, (not the math), but the basic physical causes and effects are important to learn about!

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