Guest Post: Government Responds to Nuclear Accident by Trying to Raise Acceptable Radiation Levels and Pretending that Radiation is Good For Us

Washington’s Blog

When the economy imploded in 2008, how did the government respond?

Did it crack down on fraud? Force bankrupt companies to admit that their speculative gambling with our money had failed? Rein in the funny business?

Of course not!

The government just helped cover up how bad things were, used claims of national security to keep everything in the dark, and changed basic rules and definitions to allow the game to continue. See this, this, this and this.

When BP – through criminal negligence – blew out the Deepwater Horizon oil well, the government helped cover it up (the cover up is ongoing).

The government also changed the testing standards for seafood to pretend that higher levels of toxic PAHs in our food was business-as-usual.

So now that Japan is suffering the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl – if not of all time – is the government riding to the rescue to help fix the problem, or at least to provide accurate information to its citizens so they can make informed decisions?

Of course not!

The EPA is closing ranks with the nuclear power industry:

EPA officials, however, refused to answer questions or make staff members available to explain the exact location and number of monitors, or the levels of radiation, if any, being recorded at existing monitors in California. Margot Perez-Sullivan, a spokeswoman at the EPA’s regional headquarters in San Francisco, said the agency’s written statement would stand on its own.

Critics said the public needs more information.

“It’s disappointing,” said Bill Magavern, director of Sierra Club California. “I have a strong suspicion that EPA is being silenced by those in the federal government who don’t want anything to stand in the way of a nuclear power expansion in this country, heavily subsidized by taxpayer money.”

The EPA has pulled 8 of its 18 radiation monitors in California, Oregon and Washington because (by implication) they are giving readings which seem too high.

Remember, for the sake of context, that the government has covered up nuclear meltdowns for fifty years to protect the nuclear power industry.

And now, the EPA is considering drastically raising the amount of allowable radiation in food, water and the environment.

As Michael Kane writes:

In the wake of the continuing nuclear tragedy in Japan, the United States government is still moving quickly to increase the amounts of radiation the population can “safely” absorb by raising the safe zone for exposure to levels designed to protect the government and nuclear industry more than human life. It’s all about cutting costs now as the infinite-growth paradigm sputters and moves towards extinction. As has been demonstrated by government conduct in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Deepwater Horizon and in Japan, life has taken a back seat to cost-cutting and public relations posturing.The game plan now appears to be to protect government and the nuclear industry from “excessive costs”… at any cost.


In 1992, the EPA produced a PAGs manual that answers many of these questions. But now an update to the 1992 manual is being planned, and if the “Dr. Strangelove” wing of the EPA has its way, here is what it means (brace yourself for these ludicrous increases):

  • A nearly 1000-fold increase for exposure to strontium-90;
  • A 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for exposure to iodine-131; and
  • An almost 25,000 rise for exposure to radioactive nickel-63.

The new radiation guidelines would also allow long-term cleanup thresholds thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever judged safe in the past.

And see this.

Indeed, some government scientists and media shills are now “reexamining” old studies that show that radioactive substances like plutonium cause cancer to argue that prevent cancer.

It is not just bubbleheads like Ann Coulter saying this. Government scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and pro-nuclear hacks like Lawrence Solomon are saying this.

In other words, this is a concerted propaganda campaign to cover up the severity of a major nuclear accident by raising acceptable levels of radiation and saying that a little radiation is good for us.

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About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


  1. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Shorter government experts: we are powerless. So let’s all feel good about ourselves, shall we? Because at least that is within our power to control, at least over the short term.

    It seems like some strange narcissistic paralysis: “see, we really are good people, despite the fact that we can’t solve the problems that trouble you, nor can we prevent them from occurring in the future.”

    Kind of a trustbuster, but not the Teddy Roosevelt kind…

  2. Jerry

    I found this site to share…, “a nationwide grass roots effort to monitor the radiation in our environment.”

  3. Mac

    “So now that Japan is suffering the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl – if not of all time – …”

    I stopped reading there.

    1. Bob Kerns

      Um, why there? Do you suggest there’s an accident worse than this one, besides Chernobyl? Maybe the Santa Susanna meltdowns in LA?

      Or are you confident that this one, not yet fully played out, with large quantities of fuel rods stored in pools, that they are having difficulty keeping covered, in pools which may be damaged, at a site which is steadily becoming more radioactive, making work more and more dangerous and difficult, will not ultimately release more radiation than Chernobyl?

      Probably not, I’d say, but nonetheless, that seems a strange place to stop reading.

      Perhaps the headline would have been a better place to reading.

      1. Mac

        Hmm. Let’s see why I would of stopped reading. Chernobyl managed to have no containment vessel at all. It’s design was inherently unstable Vs. BWR/PWR. It managed to catch fire while using a carbon moderator that sent soot with attached radioactive elements into the atmosphere.

        Now, the spent fuel rods are certainly a concern, but since they are by definition spent fuel rods, they will not be producing more iodine. The cesium is also a concern, though it is unclear exactly there long term radiological effects. More worrying is the plutonium, but Chernobyl punted that into the atmosphere in large quantities.

        All in all, a pretty serious accident but on the scale of Chernobyl? Even in the future (given that Chernobyl is still a dodgy place) it wouldn’t seem to be bigger in the future – and calling it a bigger accident *now*? Come on…

        1. Skippy

          Months till anything resembling control is established, years to sort out, if control is sufficient too allow it.

          Skippy…Profit seeking humanity never fails!

        2. Roaring mouse

          Mac – radioactive iodine is not the largest concern due to its 8-day half-life. Plutonium, cesium, and several dozen other log-lived isotopes are the real threat to not just the Japanese, but Russians, Chinese, and Americans. You say no more iodine can be produced, since the reactors aren’t running. This assumes no further fission. The Japanese have already stated the chance of re-criticality (i.e. incremental, uncontrolled fission) is not zero. If those reactors aren’t constantly cooled, there is a good chance of further fission, and radioactive iodine creation/dispersion. You sure you’re not a paid US government “misinformation specialist”, first class?

    2. George Washington Post author

      As I noted a couple of days ago:

      Japan has already, according to some estimates, released 50% of the amount of caesium-137 released by Chernobyl ( ), and many experts say that the Fukushima plants will keep on leaking for months. See this ( ) and this ( ). The amount of radioactive fuel at Fukushima dwarfs Chernobyl ( ).

      And I saw a nuclear expert on NHK tv the other day (one of Japan’s main tv networks) saying that this accident was ALREADY worse than Chernobyl.

        1. Mac

          Rivals? That is not much analysis there. It says some areas are as contaminated, if not more, than what was contaminated at Chernobyl. It doesn’t compare how *much* was released in total – which is what you are leading us to believe via “released 50% of the amount” and “rivals” comments.

          It also, unfortunately for you, does concede that cesium is an unknown health risk – too bad for you I guess in trying to get more page hits for your blog. Unless of course you don’t mention that…

          Iodine on the other had is clearly bad, but with a half-life of 8-days, and given that it is only produced when the reactors are running, we would expect that to fall off dramatically. Which of course it did.

          Of course, you also mention that – oops, sorry you don’t.

          There are folks out there trying to sell more than page hits and advertising with this story – I will spend my time there thanks.

          1. George Washington Post author

            Anyone who challenges those in power are just trying to make a tenth of a peanut off of hits? Whereas those in power who make trillions off of corporate socialism are saying what they do for the good of mankind? That is a very logical argument … NOT!

          2. George Washington Post author

            And I’ve repeatedly written on iodine.

            As I’ve previously noted (

            Iodine-131 has a half life of only 8.02 days. That means that the iodine loses half of its radioactivity within 8 days.

            But here’s the thing – if it gets in milk, people drink it, not so great.

            New Scientist reported ( a couple of days ago that huge quantities of iodine-131 are being released in Japan:

            Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster.

          3. Mac

            Radioactive iodine is dangerous – yup gotcha. However, it does have a relatively short half-life, and unless the reactors are running no more is being produced. It’s not the reporting of the amounts that I take issue with – that is what most folks want.

            What *I* want is the context. What do I mean by that? Take this article:


            I was pretty alarmed by this. It was only later that I found out that the 100 becquerel limit was if it was drunk for a year! Where was that in the article? Where was the context?

            *That* is what *I* object to – numbers and figures without context.

            I am very frustrated at MSM *and* blogs that provide a dump of numbers without imparting any information – you have to be suspicious of the motives in that case. As I am frustrated by the Military-Industrial Complex for pushing this form of nuclear energy when other forms (of nuclear energy) has existed for some time, but because it doesn’t produce weapons or large profits it is ignored.

            As I am about large finance etc etc. But you won’t win in the information war if you are picking and choosing your numbers in the same way the opponent does, because it is now, more than ever, much easier to see through.

          4. Yves Smith

            You’ve just shown long form that you have a reading comprehension problem, or are feigning one to present a pro nuclear industry line.

            You have not presented a SINGLE FACT or argument that invalidates what GW wrote, that Fukushima is the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. His addition may be alarmist, but this accident does have the potential to be worse. As Taleb say, tails are fat.

            Even the JEA rates three of the reactors as level 5, the same accident level as Three Mile Island. Three facilities at the same level as Three Mile makes this worse, and quite a few independent experts say the rating on certain reactors should be higher.

      1. Mark P.

        I’m responding to the particular cocktail of claims in your post today: ‘Government Responds to Nuclear Accident by Trying to Raise Acceptable Radiation Levels and Pretending that Radiation is Good For Us.’

        If you want criticisms of the nuclear industry that’s highly-measured and factually-based, why not draw upon the material that the Union of Concerned Scientists is running?

        Guys like David Lochbaum and Ed Lyman — especially the latter, who probably pisses off some pro-nuke ideologues here — are not exactly pro-BAU, but they’re scientists who bend over backwards to get it right and they say they don’t know when that’s the case.

      2. Mac

        What was the name of the expert? Name please.

        Experts have been a dime a dozen during this episode, and it doesn’t take too much digging to see that they have their own agenda.

        More fuel that Chernobyl – so? It would seem folks should be worried about the radioactive elements released, Vs. those that are stored. Or are you saying that all the spent fuel rod pools are going to catch fire? Please.

        And so it has released (some reports say) 50% of the cesium of Chernobyl (which is still a concern BTW) – and yet you are reporting it as *already* a bigger accident? Please.

          1. Mac

            So what up or down from that? And what *is* the name of this expert as the first hit?

            And Michio Kaku as a nuclear engineer? Really? I mean I like the guy but that doesn’t mean I accept his opine Vs. somebody who is a nuclear engineer for a living. Do you?

          2. Mac

            Why thank you – I really like to point out real-time translated unnamed experts.

            It doesn’t take much looking on the Internet to find your own expert with biased ties. Why is it that people will accept a story without looking a bit further in depth at those that do so.

      3. Hal Horvath

        It takes extensive reading to gauge the quality of thinking, even from sources sited as “nuclear expert”.

        And you can’t simply accept what you read even at a place that tries hard, like the NYTimes, to get it right.

        for instance, from that relatively good article you link at NYTimes:

        “When the nuclear chain reaction is stopped and the reactor shuts down, the fuel is still producing about 6 percent as much heat as it did when it was running, caused by continuing radioactivity, the release of subatomic particles and of gamma rays. ”

        Ok…there’s a problem here.

        The sentence, in context, gives the false impression that the core continues to put out 6% of full power, long term.

        In fact the power output decays relatively rapidly at first. Within days the output is far lower.

        You’d need to read widely, and from nuclear experts (plural) to get details like this.

        Such details are crucial to any quality speculations.

        They are unmentioned details behind my own analysis, because I don’t want to write 2000 word posts, etc.

    3. Bruto

      From your other comments, it appears you must have stopped reading a great many things of factual importance.

  4. Freedom Rock

    Back in the 70s, on PBS, there were well-produced NOVA episodes, anyone who tuned into those broadcasts understood how incredibly dangerous plutonium is.

  5. Bob Kerns

    A check of the EPA website reveals that they have NOT pulled those 8 monitors, as this article claims. Indeed, I was able to pull up data from the one in San Jose with a click of my mouse.

    Rather, the 8 monitors are being reviewed, to understand the readings, for example, whether the change is due to a change in the local environment. This sort of review is essential if we are to trust their accuracy.

    This is also part of the reasoning behind having so many of them.

    There are a few around the country (7 by my informal count) which are out of service, out of 124 total.

    This is very different than what was reported.

    On the other hand, I compared what Ann Coulter said, and Lawrence Solomon wrote, to what the scientists wrote — and I can see why you might suspect a concerted propaganda campaign, although you actually present no evidence. I can present no evidence there is not, and their behavior is certainly consistent with such a campaign!

    The scientists were searching for whether there’s threshold below which radiation damage is no longer linear. Understanding this is part of fundamentally understanding how radiation affects us, and assessing radiation risks, not just from nuclear plants, but from granite countertops in your kitchen.

    What they found is a little surprising, and needs to be verified by further experiments. They found that the cancer rate was slightly less at the lowest exposures than in the controls. This could be true, for example, if cancer cells are more susceptible to radiation than normal cells — it could be both causing and curing cancer. (I’m not saying that’s the explanation — I’m just illustrating how complex phenomena can interact, especially when dealing with small numbers).

    What these “journalists” have done, is take an odd quirk in a scientific finding, and, entirely on their own, turned it into a “plutonium is good for you” argument.

    The scientists did not make this argument. THEIR conclusion was, that this suggests that, if a threshold exists, it probably exists in the range of 15-40 cGy. This is over the lifetime (the plutonium stays in place), so we’re talking about total exposure, equivalent to a few chest CT scans.

    But if there is a threshold, inhaling even tiny amounts of plutonium clearly puts you closer to that threshold — and somebody working in a dusty environment might be exposed to far more. Nobody with a shred of responsibility or credibility is arguing that plutonium is good for you.

    Clearly, Ann Coulter and Lawrence Solomon have both shed any remnants of credibility and responsibility they may have had.

    Personally, I think the conspiracy here is to sell advertising. There’s a lot of past precedent in inflated headlines to draw readers to news outlets. Even CBS has recently succumbed, shouting that “pools of plutonium” have been discovered outside the reactors — as opposed to the reality — traces slightly above the expected background (from atmospheric testing). Even the article didn’t make that claim — it was invented by the editor who wrote the headline.

    So please don’t become a “media shill” yourself, and lump the government scientists in with those pushing sensationalism.

    Sensationalism of any type detracts from credibility and distracts from sober appreciation of the important issues, of the real risks, and of the need for transparency and accountability — not just in the case of nuclear power, but in all matters of public policy.

    The facts as they stand are scary enough. The prospect of 9 billion people on this planet, all of them demanding energy and food, should give us real pause. Every war fought is a disaster — many far larger than this one. Natural disasters that would have gone unnoticed, will strain already overburdened food supplies, or displace thousands crammed into dangerous locations, simply because they have to live somewhere.

    If we’re going to address the world’s present and future problems, we need to address the risks we face honestly, and as accurately as we can.

    1. Justin

      Here’s the Radnet map. You can check it out yourself at:

      Map or text results are available. I’ve been collecting the San Jose data since the 18th or so, it’s been online, but goes up and down, the data isn’t always up (not up right now for example).

      There are also collection points at Berkeley, and LLNL that are independent of the RadNet, and there a few online geiger counters that people have set up.

    2. Hal Horvath

      READ this comment, from Bob Kerns.

      It’s worth reading, and with a quote from the OP from GW for setting, Bob’s comment would make a superior blog post to *any* that I’ve read, anywhere.

    3. Yves Smith

      With all due respect, your comment is not accurate either. Radiation readings (or the air, as opposed to deposition in soil) need to be done on a frequent basis to give a sound picture of the exposure level. The reading are not being done often enough to provide an accurate view.

      That does not mean there are strong reasons to be concerned, but the data has not been collected to give an “all clear” reading with confidence.

      1. Hal Horvath

        Yves, folks like Bob and I are your allies. We bother to comment only because of the excellent quality of your and most of your contributor posts. I don’t bother to respond to most misunderstandings or errors on most sites I visit — not worth the effort. I’m happy to recommend your site to people, and probably sent 15-20 your way in the last couple of years.

        I think you should say “Bob, interesting stuff, but (here’s where I disagree etc._____. And I’m glad to see you comment here. Hope you come back.”

        This is just like the situation with authors in a gendre. Seeming competitors are actually mutual advertisers — they draw more readers into the gendre, help provide sufficient quality work to keep people looking for more.

        And then the rising tide benefits all the authors.

  6. lateAdaptor

    Interesting comment found at theoildrum on the Fukushima open thread, 3/29/11, by earlyAdaptor, reposted below:

    “Yes — The vulnerability of these plants to disruption is amazing. Mindless brittle design stupidity.

    A quick skim of history should bring to one’s attention the fact that Business As Usual for civilization includes war. It’s part of what we do, and has been entirely left out of the equation.

    I expect that in the end, most of the 400-odd nuclear plants around the world that are not proactively shut down in the next few years will instead be ‘decommissioned’ by 500lb bombs — the kind we have been raining on each other quite regularly since the mid-20th century. No need for bunker-busters when conventional dumb mayhem will do the trick.

    The opportunity to turn a cheap conventional bomb into a WMD that permanently denies access to several hundred square miles of ‘enemy’ territory will not be overlooked by resource-strapped militaries fighting resource wars.

    I wonder what kind of patchwork planet we are left with after 300 or so of these white white swans come in for their predictable landing?”

  7. David

    Well said, Bob.
    Fear seems to be a prevalent, underlying response to much of what gets written at this site. Sensationalism sells more than common sense.

    1. skippy

      “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen”. Albert Einstein

      Skippy…hay if don’t kill ya stone dead before some one else eyes, it’s all good…eh.

    2. Hal Horvath

      You’re definitely right about sensationalism. I’ve mentioned that on my blog.

      The fear though is real, and the basis is the forbidding technical difficulty (simple math and a moderate (3-4 hours?) bit of reading actually!) of understanding exposure levels and such.

      It’s fear of the unknown. Kinda like fear of the dark grown up.

  8. Mark P.

    Thanks to the U.S. bomb testing of the 1950s and 60s, the average American can at this moment go stand in his/her garden or the nearest park, and experience a statistically 3X greater chance of the presence of plutonium dust than anything the slow-leaking radioactive sore of Fukushima is likely to send over to the U.S. in the coming twelve months.

    And if this piece’s writer of this piece doesn’t know this basic fact about existing radiation levels in the U.S. , then everything he wrote is just uninformed frothing, isn’t it?

      1. Mark P.

        Thank you, Mr. Washington,I’m aware of these statistics.

        What precisely triggered my response was your comment: ‘some government scientists and media shills are now “reexamining” old studies that show that radioactive substances like plutonium cause cancer to argue that they prevent cancer,’ with Ann Coulter also yoked in to hype up your general tone of “Oh Noes, The Nuclear is the Devil!”

        Look, I know of nobody with a brain cell who doesn’t believe plutonium is highly dangerous, although internal and external exposure are different things.

        However, as a separate matter, we also haven’t fully understood radiation’s effects. There is indeed some research suggesting that in some ways those effects may be less harmful than we believed previously.

        In any case, strontium-90 and, particularly, cesium — which you don’t mention at all and which practically speaking is far more worrisome than plutonium — are the most dangerous items among the radioactive contaminants that Fukushima is likely to release over the long term.

        When you start indiscriminately banging on about plutonium, Ann Coulter and unsubstantiated claims against the EPA, you’re showing no regard for the specific facts. You do not thereby gain credibility.

        1. George Washington Post author

          Also the EPA has become thoroughly politicized, and has been instrumental in many recent cover ups. For example, as Newsday noted ( in 2003:

          “In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the White House instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to give the public misleading information, telling New Yorkers it was safe to breathe when reliable information on air quality was not available.

          That finding is included in a report released Friday by the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA.”

          The senior policy analyst at the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, and former the EPA ombudsman’s chief investigator accused ( the EPA of “doing a cover up” regarding the use of dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico, and said ( government agencies such as the EPA have been “sock puppets” for BP in this cover up”.

          And see this (

          1. Cog

            “politicized” to you, is a viable energy policy to others. With all the defensive bandwidth, can I/we ask what mix of energy to produce US electricity that YOU back? What practical solution do you support and are willing to suffer criticism for?

            Instead of attempting to take Bob Kerns, Mac and Mark P. to task, perhaps you can also reconcile for us your views on the increased use of fossil fuels implied by scaling back nuclear power? Wind and solar are up to a respectable, but nominal, 3% of our grid. A new movie ‘Windfall’ ( ) is out that was, if anything, put togehter by NIMBY’s who appear normally inclined to be pro-renewables. Its going to be tough slog to get the US to find a “friendly” solution. “Conservation” will have to work down 90% of our electric consumption before sources, that I bet you comfortably criticize, go away.

            What you write suggests things that are not practical. Its alarmist, and, to me, seems manipulative. The MSM is digging in for 2012 and working harder than even you are to keep political polarity from allowing any discussion. What do you prefer? Carbon, or nukes?

  9. skippy

    Harkonnen_home world_here we come.

    Skippy…wow…when the desert is the safest place to hide, even when they want your spice!

    1. nonclassical

      While at University of Washington, an ex-Seattle P.I. employee brought his friend Frank Herbert to the original Red Robin where I ran the place nights.

      I mumbled something, obviously in awe. Great writer, shaping himself in not so great earlier works. The idea of “chaos” factor dominating, rather than top down force may be upon us now…

      1. skippy

        Chaos is a descriptive used by the observer.

        How much observer bias is emotionality and how much is structural (currant understanding of complexity…um mental terabytes), how much was present before the observer and how much has the observer added in_supporting its self_*being there*[?]

        Whom is more responsible.

        I tend to agree, its upon us, until / if humanity takes another path.

        Skippy…I hear Paramount is going to try and tent pole another movie…good luck.

  10. dearieme

    The idea that radiation must damage you, however low its level, is not based on data – it was just an assumption made long ago before there were data. The idea that plutonium is especially scary is rather babyish – it’s nasty stuff, all right, but not because of its radioactivity. It’s not out of line with other radioisotopes – the problem is a chemical one: it’s toxic. And like all toxins, ‘the poison is in the dose’.

    “uninformed frothing” seems a pretty fair description. Or hysterical pants-wetting would do.

    1. Justin

      The problem with plutonium is not chemical. Radioactivity is mutagenic/carcinogenic via alpha/beta/gamma particle ionizing interaction with the body, which is not the same as chemical ionization process. Several Plutonium isotopes have long half lives as alpha emitters, which generally have less penetrability than beta and gamma particles. However if inhaled or ingested they have a greater chance of altering a cell than beta or gamma radiation would, as they have slower speed, more mass and energy and thus more chance of absorbtion/interaction with cell structures.

      1. kievite

        Plutinium is a very heavy (heavier then lead) and pretty inert metal. Due to this distribution of particles is very local and the most dangerious is inhaling plutonium dust (it is very poorly absorbed from food) exists mainly locally in the vicinity of the material that contains plutonium and is on fire.

        So far there was not a single death from plutonium poisoning.

        Here is a relevant quote from wikipedia bout plutonium toxicity:

        Isotopes and compounds of plutonium are radioactive poisons that accumulate in bone marrow. Contamination by plutonium oxide (spontaneously oxidized plutonium) has resulted from a number of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents including military nuclear accidents where nuclear weapons have burned.[86] Studies of the effects of these smaller releases, as well as of the widespread radiation poisoning sickness and death following the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have provided considerable information regarding the dangers, symptoms and prognosis of radioactive poisoning. PMID 19454804

        During the decay of plutonium, three types of radiation are released-alpha, beta, and gamma. Alpha particles can travel only a short distance and cannot travel through human skin. Beta particles can penetrate human skin, but they cannot go all the way through the body. Gamma radiation can go all the way through the body.[87] Alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma radiation all expose the body to ionizing radiation. Either acute or longer-term exposure carries a danger of unfavorable health outcomes including radiation sickness, cancer and death. The danger increases with the amount of exposure.

        Even though alpha radiation does not penetrate the skin, it does irradiate internal organs if plutonium is inhaled or ingested.[33] The skeleton, where plutonium is absorbed by the bone surface, and the liver, where it collects and becomes concentrated, are at risk.[32] Plutonium is not absorbed into the body efficiently when ingested; only 0.04% of plutonium oxide is absorbed after ingestion.[33] What plutonium is absorbed into the body is excreted very slowly, with a biological half-life of 200 years.[88] Plutonium passes only slowly through cell membranes and intestinal boundaries, so absorption by ingestion and incorporation into bone structure proceeds very slowly.[89][90]

        Plutonium is more dangerous when inhaled than when ingested. The risk of lung cancer increases once the total dose equivalent of inhaled radiation exceeds 400 mSv.[91] The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the lifetime cancer risk for inhaling 5,000 plutonium particles, each about 3 microns wide, to be 1% over the background U.S. average.[92] Ingestion or inhalation of large amounts may cause acute radiation poisoning and death; no human is known to have died because of inhaling or ingesting plutonium, and many people have measurable amounts of plutonium in their bodies.[77]

        The “hot particle” theory in which a particle of plutonium dust radiates a localized spot of lung tissue has been tested and found false – such particles are more mobile than originally thought and toxicity is not measurably increased due to particulate form.[89]

        However, when inhaled, plutonium can pass into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, plutonium moves throughout the body and into the bones, liver, or other body organs. Plutonium that reaches body organs generally stays in the body for decades and continues to expose the surrounding tissue to radiation and thus may cause cancer.[93]

        A commonly cited quote by Ralph Nader, states that a pound of plutonium dust spread into the atmosphere would be enough to kill 8 billion people. However, the math shows that only up to 2 million people can be killed by inhaling plutonium. This makes the toxicity of plutonium [dust] roughly equivalent with that of nerve gas. [94]

        Several populations of people who have been exposed to plutonium dust (e.g. people living down-wind of Nevada test sites, Hiroshima survivors, nuclear facility workers, and “terminally ill” patients injected with Pu in 1945–46 to study Pu metabolism) have been carefully followed and analyzed.

        These studies generally do not show especially high plutonium toxicity or plutonium-induced cancer results.[89] “There were about 25 workers from Los Alamos National Laboratory who inhaled a considerable amount of plutonium dust during the 1940’s; according to the hot-particle theory, each of them has a 99.5% chance of being dead from lung cancer by now, but there has not been a single lung cancer among them.”[95][96]

        Plutonium has a metallic taste.[97]

        1. Justin

          Reread my post, I’m not saying anything about the impact on near or far population centres. Monte Carlo plume models even including resuspension don’t predict anything like a broad dispersal over 100-400km as happened with Chernobyl.

          I’m merely pointing out that the toxicity from ionizing radation operates differently from chemical mutagens. I will dispute that no plutonium deaths have occurred, rather it is hard to confirm deaths specifically attributable to plutonium; as our sample sizes are either small as with the Mayak data, hard to separate from other radiation source exposures, or lastly hard to extrapolate from animal tests.

          The biggest concern is the pattern of residual dispersal in Japan for long half life isotopes, the proximity of large urban populations and the uptake pathways into the population. Japan is land poor, they can’t afford to generate a 50km exclusion zone around Fukushima and any secondary hotspot for a century, so they will most likely take off topsoil to 15 cm instead.

  11. Antifa

    It’s lethally absurd to toss the word ‘radiation’ around in the media as if it were one simple thing, like the legendary Happy Fun Ball skit from Saturday Night Live.

    Radiation is complex. It comes in electromagnetic waves and it also comes in little molecular particles. You have to consider every kind of particle in its effect separately to have any sense of its safety or danger at any level, at any time, at any location, for any person or persons.

    The concept of ‘background radiation’ in the media is also lethally absurd. There’s a variety of particles that never should come in contact with a human being, floating all through Earth’s air and water.

    Fukushima is not spewing Happy Fun Balls . . .

  12. scharfy

    Another awful, rambling alarmist post by George Washington with too many links, and not enough facts.

    The EPA is deploying more sensors to the West Coast, not turning them off. How does that fit your conspiracy theory?

    Disrespectful to the people at the EPA to accuse them of trying to attempt a cover up. I’d call out your bullshit if I were working there.

    DIsgraceful, stupid post.

    1. Bruto

      Your post is disgraceful and stupid. You can’t even provide one link for your incorrect assertions.

      1. kievite

        This is actually a very important article written in 2004 that warns against the very danger that materialized recently in Fukuyama nuclear plant disaster. I recommend everybody to read it.

        Thanks a lot for posting the link !

        One quote:

        After visiting the center a few kilometers from Hamaoka, I realized that Japan has no real nuclear-disaster plan in the event that an earthquake damaged a reactor’s water-cooling system and triggered a reactor meltdown.

        Additionally, but not even mentioned by ERC officials, there is an extreme danger of an earthquake causing a loss of water coolant in the pools where spent fuel rods are kept. As reported last year in the journal Science and Global Security, based on a 2001 study by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, if the heat-removing function of those pools is seriously compromised — by, for example, the water in them draining out — and the fuel rods heat up enough to combust, the radiation inside them will then be released into the atmosphere. This may create a nuclear disaster even greater than Chernobyl.

        If a nuclear disaster occurred, power-plant workers as well as emergency-response personnel in the Hamaoka ERC would immediately be exposed to lethal radiation. During my visit, ERC engineers showed us a tiny shower at the center, which they said would be used for “decontamination’ of personnel. However, it would be useless for internally exposed emergency-response workers who inhaled radiation.
        When I asked ERC officials how they planned to evacuate millions of people from Shizuoka Prefecture and beyond after a Kobe-magnitude earthquake (Kobe is on the same subduction zone as Hamaoka) destroyed communication lines, roads, railroads, drinking-water supplies and sewage lines, they had no answer.

        Please remember that this was written in May 2004.

  13. gepay

    The difference between internal and external radiation has never been studied with large numbers of subjects for the obvious reasons of basic ethics. Some small scale covert experiments were done.
    Unbelieveable that our own government would do this to innocent civilians, white people? Most people have heard about the Tuskeegee syphilis experiments but they were, you know, poor niggers. In radiation experiments funded by our government, 827 pregnant women at Vanderbilt University were (without informed consent) given oral doses of radioactive iron. These women were, you know, poor white trash. No children in the control group contracted cancer. 3 children born to the radiated women had childhood cancer.
    Or this:
    Heinrich, et al vs William H. Sweet, the Estate of Lee Edward Farr, Massachusetts General Hospital, Associated Universities, Inc., MIT, and the USA, 44 F. Supp. 2d 408; 1999 U.S. Dist. Lexis 5796. The Heinrich case is a class action suit filed in 1997 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on behalf of three deceased individuals by surviving family members. The complaint alleges that during the 1950s and 1960s, the defendants conducted boron radiation experiments on the decedents—who suffered from terminal brain cancer—with the knowledge that such experiments offered no therapeutic value to the decedents.
    The federal court rendered a recent decision on April 20, 1999 rejecting the government’s contention that the claims were time barred. The decedents had been treated by Dr. William H. Sweet at MIT and at Dr. Lee Edward Farr at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York – a nuclear research center operated by the Associated Universities, Inc. and owned by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. As a supposed treatment for brain tumor, the decedents were unwittingly injected with boron and their skulls irradiated. All suffered excruciating pain and died.
    In the 1960s, Dr. Sweet and other physicians wrote articles and reports about the failure of the BNCT experiments. These articles and reports indicated that the experiments failed because of inadequate scientific evidence regarding the nature of boron distribution in the human body, inadequate scientific evidence regarding boron chemistry, inadequate scientific evidence regarding the proper shape of a neutron beam for BNCT, and the absence of requisite dosimetric equipment to measure radiation. Furthermore, on September 16, 1982, Dr. Victor Bond (“Dr. Bond”), Dr. Farr’s successor as head of the medical department at Brookhaven, stated in an interview that:
    The early experience was very unfortunate… Then they went beyond that. It wasn’t stopped until long after it became evident it wasn’t working—that’s the criticism of it. Damage was done to patients just as damage was done with the first external fast neutron radiations, because radiobiology wasn’t that well understood. Heinrich vs Sweet, et al, 44 F. Supp. 2d 417, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5824 (1999).
    The plaintiffs successfully argue that they could not reasonably have known about the connection between the injury and BNCT until 1995, when the President’s Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments disclosed the facts about the BNCT experiments. The court found that reasonable diligence to discover the claims does not require plaintiffs to scour medical journals such as The Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology or The American Journal of Roentgenology: Radium Therapy and Nuclear Medicine after their loved ones die of terminal brain cancer.
    The 1986 Markey Report

    The inverse square law of radiation’s power diminishing over distance does operate. Just like the leveraging in reverse that caused so many problems in the ongoing Greater Financial Crisis. When a particle is outside, meters or millimeters might apply but when a particle ingested or inhaled the distance can go below microns so the power is increased by thousands or more.
    from I forget,
    The problem is that the concept of “dose” here is another simplification. For some kinds of radiation exposure it is even a fiction. This is because radiation “dose” is always an average, even for those kinds of radioactivity which only irradiate the DNA of a single cell, or which affect a few hundreds of cells very intensely but do not expose any of all the other trillions we have in our bodies.
    The English king Edward II offers an analogy. His wife and her lover deposed him in 1327. They imprisoned him in Berkeley Castle and there he was, supposedly, murdered in the same year. I say supposedly because there is an academic dispute about even this – never mind radiation! Either way, the method his assassins allegedy used made his death the most famous in English royal history; a group of men pinned him beneath a mattress; they pushed a horn into his anus; through it they inserted a red-hot poker. In our analogy with the official view of radiation the King could have ignored the burning poker up his bum, reasoning to himself that the heat it was transferring into his body was, on average, far less than he’d absorbed in his nice warm bath earlier that evening. No-one supposes he did ignore it, but radiation risk practitioners ignore this issue of local exposure and localised damage.
    The problem faced by radiation protection officials is that reactors create a massive cocktail of radionuclides with widely differing characteristics and different biochemistry. Some concentrate in muscle, some in bone, teeth and DNA, some in lymph nodes. Some don’t concentrate anywhere. Some cause localised damage, others don’t. Radioactivity is like poison – there are many different kinds and they operate by myriad biological mechanisms. Accurate modelling of the biological effects of either radioactivity or poison involves understanding the specific variations, but that makes regulation very complex. For convenience in the 1940s and early ’50s nuclear officials decided to treat the energy of the radioactive decays from all kinds of radionuclide as if they were a uniformly distributed dose. Then they quantified the expected disease, dose for dose, by reference to studies of the Japanese survivors of Hiroshima. These people in fact were exposed to a uniformly distributed dose – the flash of the bomb itself – and the effects of unevenly distributed internal radioactivity were excluded from the study by the clever trick of comparing the “exposed” bomb survivors with “unexposed” people (“controls”) who lived in the city but had been shielded when the bomb exploded. Thus the controls and the study group had equal amounts of radioactive fallout inside them.

  14. moslof

    A good read about a facility currently under construction that will convert weapons grade Plutonium into MOX fuel for US reactors. This excert is pertinent to this discussion

    The official declined to be quoted by name because he fears retribution from the powerful NNSA. “If you don’t follow their script, they can make certain you don’t work again. They control the contractors,” he said.

    1. Mark P.

      Thanks. This passage seemed especially relevant, though maybe it just played to my particular confirmation biases.

      “This was about keeping the nuclear weapons lines open by claiming old weapons could be converted into energy. The problem is we really don’t even know if it can be done and we have relied on the French because we think weapons grade will behave just like reactor grade reprocessed plutonium. After Fukushima it is clear we can’t even manage the reactor grade MOX.”

  15. Hal Horvath

    “…this is a concerted propaganda campaign…”

    hmmm, this is a classic kind of phrasing that too often involves self-reinforcing thinking. The all too common tendency to seek out arguments to support a point of view and ignore information that is contrary.

    To avoid self-reinforcing thinking, we only have to seek out and read expert information/argument that is contrary to what we think.

    Not the first tendency of the human mind. But a kind of discipline.

    Fortunately, what levels of radiation cause what probabilities of cancers isn’t a political question at all.

    The only political side is whether a 0.00001% risk is too much, etc., and I answer that by comparing it to ordinary risks I take everyday or to lifetime risks, such as the normal lifetime cancer rate for a population.

    That’s an objective number: 42 in 100 deaths are from cancer, and thus this is the background rate to compare to.

    Then the question is where to draw the line.

    I’d draw it at 43 in 100, or a 1 point increase.

    After that, it’s a health physic question.

    Entirely technical.

    1. Rex

      Hal said, summing up, “Entirely technical.”

      To me, your post sounds more speculative than technical.

      The part, “To avoid self-reinforcing thinking, we only have to seek out and read expert information/argument that is contrary to what we think.” That sounds like a rehashing of the tobacco industry’s FUD campaign, that was, in reality, a drawn-out extend and pretend defense.

      Not to say people shouldn’t be looking at a breadth of information, but a good bit of the information may be BS, especially if a big industry or lots of money is in the balance.

      I can’t say how true the heart of George W’s post was, but it stimulated a pretty good discussion. That’s OK by me.

      1. Name (required)

        Unfortunately the discussion the post stimulated was far wide of his argument – which I took to be that the “Authorities” will always lie, connive, conspire and prevaricate in order to protect highly-dangerous and undesirable industries from public scrutiny, as long as they make money for someone.

        As I don’t believe politicians and Governments are any more competent at hatching and running conspiracies than they are at anything else, which is to say not very much, I tend to view the instances the Author claims demonstrate this are more likely a result of either at worst confusion and incompetence in high places or at best a recognition that “the horse has bolted on this one and there’s damn all we can do apart from not adding public panic and hysteria to the mix by running around crying ‘we’re all doomed’.”

        1. Name (other)

          Here’s how it works after citizens united:

          1.) hire a lobbyist to hand over suitcases of cash
          2.) Lobbyists transfers money to politician
          3.) Politician says or does whatever you tell him to

          4.) ???
          5.) profit

    2. Bruto

      There are no safe levels of radiation. And who are you to decide for everyone that more people should get cancer and how much more?

      1. Hal Horvath


        Is this the typical intimidation tactics we usually get from talk shows?

        I am drawing my own line. Where’s yours?

        1. Mikhail Kropotkin

          I think Bruto made his line pretty clear with “no safe levels”.

          Your ad hominem about talk shows lowers your argument significantly.

          His enquiry as to why your “line” is relevant, due to it requiring 1 in 100 peoples’ mortality to be prematurely terminated, on your assessment. And I support it his questioning your position to be able to determine this. Your analysis does not make decisions just for yourself, but for 1 in 100 other people across the planet. Last time I checked that would be over 60 million people worldwide that your decision is consigning to an early grave. Are you possibly overstepping your authority?

          The use of “disinterested logic” posing as science is and has been a great cover for many crimes and misdemeanours. Your logic covers an outcome that results in the greatest mass murder of all time. Do you want to reconsider?

  16. Justin

    I do think the reactor disaster is a huge concern, primarily for Japan.

    However, you have a number of misstatements and conflations in your blog posts. For example, there are quite a few isotopes other that Cs-137 that have been created via manmade nuclear reaction whose halflife is short enough not to be naturally occurring in significant quantities. so it is not unique in that regard.

    Background radiation is one effective relative measurement despite differences in isotopes, because the exposure pathway result is the same: direct exposure to external radiation.

    So while you do say that the problem is more complex than just relative radiation levels, that’s not new information.

    There is a field of study already that models all risks from environmental radioactivity releases: radiation risk exposure analysis. It takes into account initial and residual release, dispersion patterns, composition and concentrations of radionuclides, environmental transport pathways, exposure pathways, and generates statistical distributions of both short term and total effective doses.

    ResRad is freely available to download if one would like to do their own model, however quite a few international scientific organizations are already doing so.

    I think it’s difficult for most people to know exactly what to worry about with the reactor disaster and what to do, so I applaud people for getting informed. However, like medical knowledge, a little can be more dangerous than none at all in that it can allow emotion to change our estimation of the real risks.

  17. Hal Horvath

    Bob Kern’s comment at 4:50pm (3/29) is itself superior to *every* blog post I’ve read on the nuclear situation so far.

    1. Rex

      Bob’s post was quite good but you seem to be fixated on it for some reason.

      I wouldn’t say it is, “superior to *every* blog post I’ve read.” For instance, I think Justin added a lot of good information in this thread, too.

      1. Hal Horvath

        thanks for the tip to read Justin. As I usually read very widely, I don’t often have time to find all of the comment gems.

  18. Skippy

    WOW…in the not so long ago financial melt down (still eating away, salt water sprinkling down), would anyone believe MSM / Government paraded influence peddlers.

    Anyone that thinks its just fine over there, I heard on MSM today that their offering 5G a day to take site reading. GO GET SUM and report back OK.

    Skippy…Fear is the new conspiracy theories dismissal…ROFLOL…go read some See:

    However, Kierkegaard mentions that anxiety is a way for humanity to be saved as well. Anxiety informs us of our choices, our self-awareness and personal responsibility, and brings us from a state of un-self-conscious immediacy to self-conscious reflection. (Jean-Paul Sartre calls these terms pre-reflective consciousness and reflective consciousness.) An individual becomes truly aware of their potential through the experience of anxiety. So, anxiety may be a possibility for sin, but anxiety can also be a recognition or realization of one’s true identity and freedoms.

    PS. * I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

    o Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.

    Sorry feeling duney today.

  19. Ute

    Thank you George Washington for your dedicated work in revealing what is really going on.

    I also enjoyed your other recent blog posts showing how the government is increasing the amount of radiation we will be exposed to showing how plutonium harms us and can travel pretty far showing how there is no such thing as background radiation for the types of radioactive particles being emitted from nuclear reactors and nuclear tests showing that radiation is not safe at any concentration.

    Keep up the good work.

      1. Ute

        I did read Bob’s comment, and according to Bob the science is inconclusive, and clearly not established.

        However, there HAS been a great deal of scientific work and opinion on the effects of radiation.

        There is this quotation in the GW blog post:

        “The National Council on Radiation Protection says, “… every increment of radiation exposure produces an incremen­tal increase in the risk of cancer.” The Environmental Protection Agency says, “… any exposure to radiation poses some risk, i.e. there is no level below which we can say an exposure poses no risk.” The Department of Energy says about “low levels of radiation” that “… the major effect is a very slight increase in cancer risk.” The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says, “any amount of radiation may pose some risk for causing cancer … any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk.” The National Academy of Sciences, in its “Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation VII,” says, “… it is unlikely that a threshold exists for the induction of cancers ….”

        Long story short, “One can no longer speak of a ‘safe’ dose level,” as Dr. Ian Fairlie and Dr. Marvin Resnikoff said in their report “No dose too low,” in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.”

        If you want more, there is more in the blog post. I was not impressed with Bob’s comment.

        1. Hal Horvath

          Yes, the quotes you lay out were precisely my own understanding, entering into this crisis. But I was unaware there was a possible nonlinear decrease in risk at low radiation rates. Bob is mentioning information that is new to me in that regard.

          But going back to the conventional wisdom you mention (and I bet you and I both knew it years ago), people often don’t really understand it well I find.

          For instance people get upset at what is a very small risk (as they don’t get the math really), say for instance a 1/1000 risk, and meanwhile are blissfully unaware their existing background cancer risk (lifetime chance of dying of cancer without any nuclear power plants) is 42 in 100 to begin with.

          As I explained this previously, it’s fine for you to refuse to drink milk where a glass has a numerical risk of inducing cancer of about 1/20,000. Ok, that’s your call. I don’t blame you at all. I on the other hand, for myself, would drink it if I had nothing else and was hungry. I just pay attention to the actual numbers.

          I wouldn’t get upset at say 10 microsieverts/hour at a mountain resort, if someone discovered that was the local background, etc., now that I understand the numbers. Other people would blanch in fear and, get this, drive *rapidly* (unsafely) to get away, taking a much higher risk.

          I’d enjoy my stay, and drive carefully (slowly) on the way down.

  20. nonclassical

    A bit of debate here on toxicity..O.K. My dad is PhD Stanford, taught there-Physics-Chemistry, students with Oppenheimer. He finished career Grade 1 Pentagon clearance
    for military-industrial complex-near dozen phones on desk, including CIA.

    In light of recent events Japan, I asked. His response:

    “Civilian nuclear industry is seen from defense industry as
    attempt to rationalize nuclear weaponry technology.”

    “It appears to still cost more to rid ourselves of spent waste (including hardened plutonium weaponry) than justified
    by power produced.”

    “Nuclear industry is totally subsidized by taxpayer $$$$, including insurance-no insurance industry will cover.”

    Those who intend to make the case for nuclear power plants=production are driven by corporate agenda, and we all
    know it..they are the same shills whose agenda includes
    wailing and moaning about deficits and faux concern for taxpayer $$$$$, using “disaster capitalism” to profiteer…

    1. Hal Horvath

      good stuff. Sounds like my dad, who knows what’s what (in his own field).

      It’s a good point we don’t come back to enough — coal and nuclear are both laying off large costs onto nations/populations. They have massive subsidies in this regard.

      Costs — direct subsidies, health costs on populations (think mercury from coal, asthma worsened by coal utilities, deaths from coal at 30,000/yr conservatively worldwide).

      If we could force back the costs into the prices to consumers, it would help tremendously to rationalize power choices just from the economic viewpoint.

      It would be so interesting and beneficial to price every power source with it’s full costs — like 98-101%, actually close to the true costs.

    2. Justin


      To my knowledge, Oppenheimer didn’t go to or teach at Stanford, he taught at Berkeley, Caltech, and Princeton. Teller was a senior fellow at Stanford, but he was mostly out at LLNL. I met him exactly once for 30 seconds when doing my PhD there.

      Nuclear technology isn’t authorized by DoD clearance, they are Q clearance which isissued by the DoE. For lesser nuclear data you’d get an L clearance, also issued by the DoE.

      So I’m calling bullshit on this story.

  21. nonclassical

    I recall flying back from Berlin, 1994-post Chernobyl, reading Brit media-stating U.S. media was not carrying Eastern Canadian election results-Greens win.

    I recall wondering (I helped found Greenpeace-Seattle) if U.S. two-one party system is so afraid of Greens-yes it is.

    I wonder if, perusing Yves’ link:,1518,753503,00.html

    ..U.S. system is so afraid of Germany-like Green Party political alternative that in U.S. it is disinforming Americans regarding severity of nuclear meltdown in Japan..??

  22. Hal Horvath

    hmmm…we are all so accustomed to financial deceptions, to corruption in government, etc., that it is hard for us to imagine (since very few are going to have the chops for the nuclear technical stuff, they must instead use imagination) — it’s hard for us to imagine much of the information about the nuclear situation *isn’t* deceptive.

    It’s the jaundiced eye problem.

    Sorry, but there is no substitute for actual (effortfull) learning here, if you are afraid of the radiation plumes from across the ocean, etc.

    1. Rex

      Thanks for the fact-free guidance that we should go learn something. Seems, through your last few posts, you’ve always got something to reassure us or deflect us away from anything bad about nuclear.

      Are you auditioning for a shill job or just entertaining yourself?

      1. Hal

        Well, you could start here:

        And, the NYTimes is getting more up-to-speed and has relatively clear language, so you can read all their stuff.

        About your jaundiced eye on me myself, well…see my 11:01 reply to nonclassical above. I seriously wonder if the nuclear power we have known so far is a good value, in the broadest sense.

        I certainly think it should have zero subsidies, of all kinds, not only the obvious kinds.

          1. Hal Horvath

            Yeah, but…their blog is giving excellent information before it shows up in the MSM. I haven’t seen them distort anything yet.

            For myself, I am currently using 5 main sources, and comparing. This is how I typically read. Do your own homework, and not just to confirm your prejudices.

      2. Hal

        (aka) Rex, I’ve posted on Yves wonderful site for years. I bet you have too.

        If I toe your line, can I continue posting?

  23. Chris Rogers

    If there was a concerted attempt to ‘cover-up’ the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, I’d be somewhat annoyed/aghast to say the least – difficult to ‘cover-up’ the magnitude of this disaster, even the Soviet’s could not do it at Chernobyl, although for days they tried too.

    So some actual facts again, what we have is a real nuclear crisis, one caused by a natural disaster that has claimed more than 20,000 lives and ruined many millions of lives in Japan.

    As a colleague stated who’s currently in Japan, he was amazed how the country’s building and infrastructure coped with the largest quake to hit the country in 1,000 years- this includes its nuclear power installations.

    All on this site are aware vested interests play down associated dangers of generating nuclear power – our duty is therefore to investigate and highlight such dangers and weigh them against others.

    The Fukushima crisis – which by my current understanding is equal to about four Three Mile Islands rolled into one – is severe, it remains less of a crisis than Chernobyl though – for which we should all be grateful.

    Obviously, there are those who have hidden agenda’s – so lets be honest, I have a financial stake at play here by dint of hosting a large gathering in Tokyo early next month – obviously, if said event is cancelled due to this nuclear incident I make a considerable loss and effectively will be bankrupt.

    These are facts, thus, since the crisis began, I’ve had to calculate if it is safe to venture to Tokyo – all known details from various scientific sources suggest its safe to visit Tokyo – however, if I read some of the mainstream media releases – these being profit-driven entities interested in shifting copy – one comes to the conclusion that Tokyo is a ‘no go’ zone contaminated by all sorts of radioactive materials emanating from a nuclear plant some 150 miles away.

    This clearly is not the case, and yet, here we have sane posters blowing out of all proportion a nuclear incident that whilst serious, currently is no where as serious as the Chernobyl disaster – I hope for both my sake and the Japanese themselves this remains the case.

    Now, being of a sane mind, having a basic grasp of the fundamentals, but being no scientist, I believe its both safe to journey to Japan, and indeed the nuclear installation in general. Obviously, its not so safe to go within the plant walls, but if a media outlet wished to send me to investigate, and if authorised – one would indeed venture into said plant with necessary safety measures.

    One is able to make these conclusions based on all known ‘real details’ associated with this disaster – I only wished others would show such realism, or, highlight any agenda’s they may have on interests when either blogging or reporting on the incident.

    Indeed, as has been pointed out by many, we are surrounded by radiation and radioactive contaminants, some of these being natural and others manmade – I’m in no doubt Fukushima has contributed to these – that they poise a ‘real and present’ health issue is another matter, one requiring more reasoned examination and reporting.

    Again, I note no one to-date has died from radioactive exposure at the plant, I note mistakes have been made and health of workers placed in some danger by the plant operator – a total outrage. However, said workers are aware of the dangers, much like miners and steelworkers are aware of dangers in their jobs.

    So once again, lets have reasoned sensible debate based on known facts from rational sources, and not media driven scare stories devoid of facts, or, using data they themselves do not understand to sell drivel to the general population – this being fear mongering of the worse kind, and it is fear that is currently causing greater harm than the actual incident itself as highlighted in the UNCLEAR report issued in 2010 concerning the health effects of the Chernobyl disaster.

    1. SteveA

      The head of the IAEA has characterized the Fukushima accident as “very grave.” The same language was used by the Japanese Prime Minister. IRSN (France) yesterday characterized the state of reactors 1-3 as “particularly critical.” Do you believe that for-profit news organized have paid them under the table to help sell newspapers?

      Radiation beyond Japanese standards has been detected in tap water and produce. Do you believe these standards are based on folk science or knee-jerk conservatism? Do you believe that NISA told Tokyo residents last week to avoid contact with rain drops simply to yell fire in the theater?

      As Edano has repeatedly stated, the radiation readings at distances from the plant will vary with weather. This risk is acceptable to many residents of Tokyo. That does not prove, however, that the ongoing risk has been correctly assayed or that conditions may not worsen quickly.

      I would add that there is no reason to feel ‘grateful’ that this accident is not as bad as Chernobyl. Even if that is true, it wholly sidesteps the specifics of this ongoing accident and its looming impact on the Japanese economy.

      1. Chris Rogers

        I trust my posting have made clear one does not make light of the Fukushima nuclear crisis – by using the term ‘crisis’ I suggest one has conveyed how dangerous the situation is, and hopefully, dare I say it, the plant operator has the incident under some meaningful control.

        What has annoyed me from day one of the ‘crisis’ is the outrageous media reporting of this crisis, the scare mongering and absolute crass behaviour of those 1000’s of miles away from Fukushima that borders on madness – a madness inspired by the poor reporting of the facts, little knowledge of scientific jargon used and a clear lack of emphasis on the 20,000 deaths attributable to a rather large tsunami.

        Rather than ‘down play’ the incident, most reasoned posters quite rightly have stated that this is a nuclear disaster, one of the worst on record and obviously, many dangers exist and will continue to exists.

        Will this disaster lead to a huge loss of life though, my understanding from reading the UNCLEAR report on Chernobyl, is that unlike that disaster, the impact on human’s will be limited and a greater danger exists due to panic, rather than various radioactive elements being emitted from the damaged plant.

        Lets be clear, generating power from nuclear energy sources is always going to be dangerous and such dangers are taken into account when building these large infrastructures.

        In all seriousness, we should all be glad that the plant survived the earthquake intact and that we don’t face another Chernobyl catastrophe.

        As a reasoned observer, obviously one questions why a nuclear facility is built in a earthquake zone region, why necessary precautions were not taken against a tsunami – I’m referring here to the fact that whilst the plant had a sea wall defence, engineers forgot what would happen if it was breached.

        Now, the true cause of this disaster/crisis was a loss of electricity to power cooling – combine this with the fact that the diesel generators were at ground level or in basements, suggests a huge engineering blunder was made, one I trust the Japanese will learn from.

        So, we have a real crisis, one that currently seems under control, but a crisis nonetheless.

        Does this mean living close to Japan I should panic, obviously not – I note the Korean’s have not acted like headless chickens – I wish I could make this claim for many in the USA, unfortunately, following crass reporting standards, many citizens have behaved like headless chickens and purchased large amounts of iodine and bottled water – had they lived in Korea I could understand, that they live more than 5,000 miles away from Fukushima, one questions their sanity – to put it bluntly, those poor desperate fools who supported the Tea Party are the same fools running around like headless chickens who share one brain cell between them.

        Thank god I’m British, I note my Embassy is open in Tokyo, which best sums it up – there is little to fear apart from fear itself, yes, we have a crisis, but as stated all along, not a crisis comparable with Chernobyl – hence, the health risks, that’s the real ones are less. Risks still exist nonetheless, whether these will result in any deaths is questionable as the UNCLEAR report I keep mentioning makes clear – a link can be found in one of my other posts for this.

        1. wb

          I remember your previous posts re Fukushima, and would like to say I very much sympathize with your situation, re Tokyo meeting, and respect the sobriety and seriousness with which you are evaluating developments. ( Good luck re your colon, too ).

          I think it is much too early to claim that ‘this is not another Chernobyl’. It remains to be seen. Perhaps it will be years before the full implications are clear.

          From today’s Independent :

          “The radioactive core in one reactor at Fukushima’s beleaguered nuclear power plant appeared to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel, an expert warned yesterday, sparking fears that workers would not be able to save the reactor and that radioactive gases could soon be released into the atmosphere.

          Richard Lahey, who was a head of reactor safety research at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima, said the workers, who have been pumping water into the three reactors in an attempt to keep the fuel rods from melting, had effectively lost their battle. “The core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell,” he said.

          The damning analysis came as it emerged that workers at Japan’s stricken nuclear plant are reportedly being offered huge sums to brave high radiation in an attempt to bring its overheated reactors under control. The plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, is hoping to stop a spreading contamination crisis which could see another 130,000 people forced to leave their homes.”

          1. Hal Horvath


            Hopefully the clumps of fuel aren’t too pure or large. Clumps, less than all the core is possible if the meltdown isn’t full, which has been a reasonable guess. But this guy ought to know quite a lot. I’ll be reading that carefully later this morning.

          2. Chris Rogers

            My understanding of this crisis is that we have had no explosion and fire of the graphite core comparable to what happened at Chernobyl – which spewed out huge amounts of radioactive materials over a huge distance – the explosions we have seen have been caused by a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxogen – obviously, no one can rule out a core meltdown, but it was a cooling core and not an active one, again lessening the risk of a Chernobyl style event – or so the experts tell us.

            Obviously, we have had radioactive releases, both intentional and unintentional – one should also mention the possibility of radioactive contaminated water – the water used to cool both the reactors and spent fuel.

            The scientific jargon being used can seem very frightening until a little research is undertaken and charts used to gauge the reality – many exist on the internet.

            As for my poor colon, one’s CT scan and radioactive drink before hand will expose me to quite a significant dose of radiation – at least after this, I’ll know what’s up. The fact remains that the CT radiation is both bad and good for me and may save my life should something be astray – given matters have been caught early, ones confident.

            All the above is rational and informed, obviously, we’d all like to see pictures from inside the damaged buildings to gauge the seriousness of the situation and confirm if we have had an actual core meltdown.

            My heart goes out to all those afflicted by the Fukushima crisis and the tsunami – I can only wish Japan the very best and prey lessons learned from this incident are applied in full to other nuclear installations worldwide – this being the only good to come out of this emergency.

          3. Hal Horvath

            Well, having read that article from The Independent (an old favorite site of mine), I think it’s a coup to get the ‘head of reactor safety research at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima’.

            The only new information for me is an increased possibility (I had thought this a smaller chance but possible heretofore) to have a meltdown that breaches the pressure vessel (which is not the containment vessel people), yet doesn’t result in a significantly powerful fission pile (since if it had, we should see a *lot* more steam by now I think).

            So, it raised my level of concern from 90 to 91 (of a 100) to illustrate. For instance, suppose you had a significant fission pile, then a burst of steam, and then….you still don’t have a Chernobyl fire to transport the products efficiently as happened at Chernobyl due to that fire. Not that nothing bad is possible!! But it would be different. For example, I’m not too sure of one of those worst case scenarios where the idea is a fission pile (from a meltdown/meltthrough) ‘hits the watertable’ and results in a steam explosion. Maybe. Maybe. We’re getting to farther out chances there.

    2. Hal Horvath

      Just in case anyone imagines I have an interest (financial) in nuclear power, let me say the only connection I can think of is that I own a small amount of GE stock. I don’t even have a friend in the industry.

      I’m an independent blogger, with a background in Engineering Physics, and have nothing at stake in the Japan nuclear crisis.

      You can read my posts, and read my blog if you like, and see my history of commentary on many topics.

      I haven’t noticed any “hidden agendas” here at all, not that I’ve read every last post.

      Generally, the seemingly “pro nuclear” comments are only honest people that know a thing or two about the technical details.

  24. voislav

    Just a note, I’ve read the paper from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) and I have to say that George is off the mark with this one.

    What the paper is saying is that HIGH doses of inhaled plutonium do reduce the risk of cancer. But this is irrelevant to the health of the patient because the doses to see the positive benefits are so high the the patient dies of radiation pneumonitis.

    So the only way someone can interpret this as positive for the patient is if they read the speculative title and not read or understood the paper. Unfortunately, this is quite common when journalists read scientific publications. The people at PNNL have not misrepresented anything, so if any blame is to be had it’s further up the chain (bureaucracy/media).

  25. Sam

    let’s see – I’m going to guess that by this time next year, the entire half-brained western world has forgotten all this and we are back to nodding when “experts” once again promote nuclear energy as “clean”, “green” and “the only realistic solution to global warming”.

    Indeed, I suppose if we wipe out most of the entire human population with radiation, this would indeed produce lower levels of economic activity and low Co2 emissions.

    1. Chris Rogers

      Between greed and an exploding population, we do seem to be in a pickle.

      Personally, I have nothing against nuclear power generation, although, given the hazards, other forms of energy production, and indeed conservation should be utilised – obviously, costs are an issue, but, as many have clearly stated, nuclear itself is highly underwritten by the state.

      Being no Luddite, I’m confident science and engineering can provide for a safer environment to live in. Being a realist though, we currently utilise nuclear power, so best make it as safe as is humanely possible until alternative sources can be tapped – we also need to address the huge wastage associated with electricity and curtail our population explosion – this is why I have one child only.

      1. Sam

        I think you are missing the point of this entire episode: there is not such thing as a “safe” place to hold nuclear fuel, let alone its waste. Science does not provide adequte solutions to the dangers of its products. None of them. Not even common plastic, let alone enriched plutonium.

        Until the lesson is leaned, we will just have to go on enjoying these “side benefits” of “climate friendly” nuclear energy. At least until wipe out ourselves.

        You mentioned “reality” but oddly enough no mention of the reality that our entire growth-based economy will need to be flip=pped on its head, as it is based on the peverse assumption that resources are limitless. They are not – which is why we are using franken-science to power our economies. Radiation may exist in nature, but that is NOT anywhere the same as the super-concentrated fuel we produce that is causing this kind of catastoophe.

  26. razzz

    Hard to understand what the experts are trying to tell the general population when they are talking from inside their moon suits and helmets.

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