Thursday, April 14, 2011

Monitoring Fukushima's Effects

I. The image at left is of the B Reactor complex at the Hanford Works in Washington state. It is one of the most polluted places on our planet, in terms of its potential danger to humans and other life. I've been tangentially involved in the activities of activists concerned about B Reactor's legacy since the late 1980s.

The tanks, some above ground, some underground, built to store the waste from this reactor and other reactors at Hanford were never designed to hold their burden longer than less than a percentage point of how long they might need to last. Unfortunately, they were the prototypes for how to deal with nuclear waste storage in liquid environments. They were never expected to be needed for more than a decade, yet they've been used now for over a half century. The wastes stored in them are capable of killing human life ten times longer than the great pyramids of Egypt have existed, 70 times longer than the English language has been in use.

They leak.

The corporations being contracted to take care of this mess only care about showing a profit to their stockholders for the next three months.

People who live in the three small cities near Hanford - Richland, Kennewick and Pasco - are used to having very sophisticated radiation monitoring equipment actively checking the air, ground and water there. Spurts of radiation happen, and workers who are employed at Hanford can only endure so much radiation per minute, hour, day, month or year before they have to be pulled from one environment there into a less radioactive one. Consequently, a lot of redundancy is built into the sensor systems and the way they convey information.

This disturbs me
TRI-CITIES -- Air, water, and milk, the feds are watching closely for any spikes in radiation following the nuclear fallout in Japan. KEPR uncovered a flaw in the system. The air monitoring station in Richland isn't working properly.

There have been no readings in our area for two weeks now. And those readings are critical to making sure our radiation levels aren't up.

When concerns about radiation popped up after the Japan disaster, Action News showed you the air monitor in Richland.

It's only one of four stations in Washington watched by the state and feds.

And KEPR told you, you could track those readings online as well. But after KEPR checked back we noticed something wrong.

In April, the readings stop. Seattle, Spokane and Tumwater still have readings. So why not Richland?

KEPR started by making calls to the Washington State Department of Health. They're the ones that post the data. But KEPR was told the monitor is actually owned by the feds. The EPA owns and operates it.

They told us the part that's not working reads beta, but gamma readings are still coming in.

And the EPA say there have been no gamma spikes to be concerned about.

And EPA spokesperson told KEPR fixing the air monitor is not a priority.

Here's the EPA's statement: "Since the gamma and filter/cartridge information is still being provided consistently, we are confident that this RADNET monitor is offering us a comprehensive, real-time picture of what's happening, radiation-wise, in the Tri-Cities."

But after the Tri-Cities just tested positive for radiation in our drinking water, it's important to keep tabs on how our environment is being impacted from a nuclear disaster.

KEPR also wanted to know what could have caused the readings to stop in Richland. The EPA is guessing it could be radio tower interference.

The monitoring site which has been down shows a graph looking pretty level, pretty normal. There is no mention of problems or of the local news story quoted above. They do print this, however:
Drinking water samples collected by EPA since the Japanese nuclear incident have shown radioactive material at levels well below public-health concern. Similar findings are to be expected in the coming weeks.
I feel so reassured.

II. This is no more reassuring, but it is fascinating - from Digital Trends:

This interactive graphic shows the number of Fukushima radiation tweets made by each country in the days since the reactor blew. It also shows the movement of the radiation cloud around the world.

The situation in Japan seems to be getting a lot worse before it gets better. Though the earthquake and tsunami are long over, radiation leaks and problems continue at the Fukushima Nuclear plant. According to, there have been more than 500 million tweets about the incident in the last month. The moving graphic below shows the intensity of tweets in each country around the world in the days since March 11, 2011, when the nuclear reactor first blew its lid. It’s interesting to note how much tweets pick up as the cloud approaches them, and how much they decline after it passes.

To get this data, the site used Google’s Realtime system to search for tweets containing information on radioactivity, pollution cloud, Fukushima, and similar topics.

Fukushima is now the most expensive natural disaster in history, costing more than $309 billion dollars. The disaster is getting so bad that Sony may shut down its offices for two weeks to save power.

There are so many people watching the link to the display of the reactions the article is about, that it loads really slow.

III. For the first time in the history of Progressive Alaska, there have been multiple complaints of my removing comments from blog posts. All the complaints have to do with posts about the ongoing reactor emergency in Japan. I haven't removed any comments, and am the sole administrator of the site. Here's one comment:
Not sure what the motivation is. You're deleting comments about the relationship with Chernobyl. So what is it that you'd like readers to discuss and engage in?
and another:
You had several comments by different posters discussing Chernobyl on your 12April post, "Fukushima vs. Chernobyl - Do We Want 5,000 or More Alaskan Kids to Look Like This in 25 Years?"

None of the comments were posted.
and another:
I just tried posting two comments here discussing the recent radioactivity found in Hilo milk. The comments showed up for a second and then disappeared. Could our government be deleting them?
I'm busy. These comments - posted anonymously - may be bullshit. I won't have time to check it out until sometime early next week.

Have a nice day.


Celia Harrison said...

My ex-husband tried to get me to move to the tri-city area because the houses were so cheap. That is just one of the reasons he is my ex.

Philip Munger said...

Indeed, housing is very inexpensive in the tri-cities.

Anonymous said...

Are ever-changing government radiation limits sacrificing the safety of citizens and workers for convenience?

Anonymous said...

Interesting article on Fukushima's radiation.,0

As I told my conservative friend the other day, at some point the Greenies are right.

Anonymous said...

The maximum strontium-90 vegetation value for Fukushima Prefecture was 5.9 Bq/kg (or 159.3 pCi/kg), however this is a value for a non-edible plant. Why has Japan's government taken measurements of non-edible plants when there is an abundance in Fukushima Prefecture of thousands of tons of edible plants growing on the ground?