There’s not a lot of information coming out of Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) or the Japanese government regarding the severity of the ongoing meltdown at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear facility.
What we are getting is alarming and according to an Al Jazeera story yesterday Japanese scientists and doctors are sounding the alarm.
There is a spreading feeling that the government and TEPCO are under-reporting the severity of the situation, the radiation levels and the extent of the affected areas.
There are a number of statements that jump off the page in the Al Jazeera piece:
“… the total amount of radiation released over a period of more than five months from the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster is the equivalent to more than 29 “Hiroshima-type atomic bombs” and the amount of uranium released “is equivalent to 20″ Hiroshima bombs.” Dr Tatsuhiko Kodama, a professor at the Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology and Director of the University of Tokyo’s Radioisotope Centre quoted in Al Jazeera.
Or this one:
When on August 2nd readings of 10,000 millisieverts (10 sieverts) of radioactivity per hour were detected at the plant, Japan’s science ministry said that level of dose is fatal to humans, and is enough radiation to kill a person within one to two weeks after the exposure. 10,000 millisieverts (mSv) is the equivalent of approximately 100,000 chest x-rays.
I’m no more familiar with the language and jargon of the nuclear industry than any other average person so a benchmark of dosages and symptoms that I found at Wikipedia was helpful:
Symptoms of acute radiation (dose received within one day):
- 0 – 0.25 Sv (0 – 250 mSv): None
- 0.25 – 1 Sv (250 – 1000 mSv): Some people feel nausea and loss of appetite; bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen damaged.
- 1 – 3 Sv (1000 – 3000 mSv): Mild to severe nausea, loss of appetite, infection; more severe bone marrow, lymph node, spleen damage; recovery probable, not assured.
- 3 – 6 Sv (3000 – 6000 mSv): Severe nausea, loss of appetite; hemorrhaging, infection, diarrhea, peeling of skin, sterility; death if untreated.
- 6 – 10 Sv (6000 – 10000 mSv): Above symptoms plus central nervous system impairment; death expected.
- Above 10 Sv (10000 mSv): Incapacitation and death.
I probably wouldn’t recognize a damaged spleen as listed under 250-1000 milli sieverts but I’m very familiar with the concepts of incapacitation and death in the final entry at 6000-10000 milli sieverts which is a level they’re finding around the site.
Actually it’s a bit scarier than that because the levels are higher than that but in many cases they don’t know just how high because the radiation is pegging their meters, which in the nuclear industry is a technical term for “off the charts.”
That TEPCO and the Japanese government are withholding information or intentionally downplaying the seriousness of a disaster that has been likened in severity to Chernobyl is no big surprise. Governments and corporations lie, they lie everywhere at all times and in every language. They lie habitually to protect their profits, their positions and the reputations they have assigned themselves.
It apparently doesn’t matter in the boardrooms and hallowed halls of government who is harmed by their self serving lies, obfuscations, and cover ups as this line should tell us:
“We have begun to see increased nosebleeds, stubborn cases of diarrhoea, and flu-like symptoms in children,” Dr Yuko Yanagisawa, a physician at Funabashi Futawa Hospital in Chiba Prefecture, told Al Jazeera.
From her perspective, the only thing the government has done is to, on April 25, raise the acceptable radiation exposure limit for children from 1 mSv/year to 20 mSv/year.
“This has caused controversy, from the medical point of view,” Yanagisawa told Al Jazeera. “This is certainly an issue that involves both personal internal exposures as well as low-dose exposures.”
Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director, said: “It is utterly outrageous to raise the exposure levels for children to twenty times the maximum limit for adults.”
Yes folks, that’s correct, when the level of ionizing radiation was shown to have reached levels that were dangerous to human beings, including children, the government and the corporations involved simply raised the acceptable limit by a factor of twenty. In MBA school that’s called thinking outside the law.
Now that we know that children, by fiat, are blessed with this radiological tolerance what we need are smaller HAZMAT suits so the kids can be put to work on decontamination teams. We can make it a game.
Using this modern enlightened approach there is potentially no limit to the amount of radiation or other environmental toxins we can safely absorb.
We could market coal as a breakfast food, store nuclear waste in public swimming pools, and announce that global warming is no longer a threat because frogs have now been declared to have the ability to tolerate temperatures far beyond the simmering point of water. The little hoppers just won’t boil.
We are saved.
Photograph:By Sodacan via Wikimedia Commons
Lifelong liberal of the Tom Paine wing. Marine Vietnam vet. Have worked as a photographer, cab driver, bartender, carpenter, cabinetmaker, writer and editor. Now retired on a Veterans Disability program I spend my time writing, and complaining about politics and the environment.