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Updated: Japan Fukushima Nuclear Plant, A Fourth Explosion, Airborne Radiation Now Confirmed

15 Mar
In thermal nuclear reactors (LWRs in specific)...

Diagram: How Fuel Rods Work

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There have now been a total of four devastating explosions at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant north of Tokyo since the 9.0 earthquake late last Thursday in Japan. Radiation leakage has been confirmed, and the threat of radiation poisoning to people in the surrounding region is growing more serious by the hour.

Here are gathered facts and reports coming out of Japan as of early 3.15.11. These reports are from various international media sources, however the Canadian website for Globe and Mail has compiled the most timely information, for which I am deeply grateful. I have re-posted numerous items from their info-pages on radiation and the health of the human body. I am also advising readers to get familiar with live maps of the Pacific Jet Stream to observe how it blows over the continental USA.

it is now confirmed that radiation is leaking into the atmosphere in Japan. Here’s the link: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/15/japanese-nuclear-panic-rises-agency-says-radiation-leaking-atmosphere/

Also, we are learning that iodine tablets are sold out at online locations everywhere, and by the grace of God, another reasonable sized dose of POTASSIUM IODIDE, which is the type of iodine you would need to fight radiation sickness, occurs built into doses of SOLARAY Brand Twice Daily Multi-Vitamins. So if you cannot procure iodine tablets, stock up on this brand of multi-vitamin as an alternative. The dose may be small, but it is at least getting some of the right kind of iodine into your system.

Watch these videos:

3.13.11 Breaking: Japan Faces Nuclear Disaster As Radiation Levels Rise

Cited from the New York Times 3.14.11 1149 pm, Breaking Info:

“After an emergency cabinet meeting, the Japanese government told people living within 30 kilometers, about 18 miles, of the Daiichi plant to stay indoors, keep their windows closed and stop using air conditioning.

Mr. Kan, whose government was extraordinarily weak before the sequence of calamities struck the nation, told the Japanese people that “although this incident is of great concern, I ask you to react very calmly.” And in fact, there seemed to be little panic, but huge apprehension in a country where the drift of radioactivity brings up memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the haunting images of post-war Japan.

The two critical questions over the next day or so are how much radioactive material is spewed into the atmosphere, and where the winds carry it. Readings reported on Tuesday showed a spike of radioactivity around the plant that made the leakage categorically worse than in had been, with radiation levels measured at one point as high as 400 millisieverts an hour. Even 7 minutes of exposure at that level will reach the maximum annual dose that a worker at an American nuclear plant is allowed. And exposure for 75 minutes would likely lead to acute radiation sickness.

The extent of the public health risk depends on how long such elevated levels persist — they may have declined after the fire at No. 4 reactor was extinguished — as well as how far and fast the radioactive materials spread, and whether the limited evacuation plan announced by the government proves sufficient.

In Tokyo, 170 miles south of the plant, the metropolitan government said Tuesday it had detected radiation levels 20 times the usual above the city, though it stressed that that level posed no immediate health threat. In Ibaraki Prefecture, just south of Fukushima Prefecture where the plant is located, the amount of radiation reached 100 times the usual levels.”

How radiation affects the body

Published Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2011 1:04AM EDT

Radiation can target many parts of the body. Symptoms vary, with severity depending on dosage or length of exposure

The Risks of Radiation Exposure

Radiation’s Effect Depends on the Amount of Exposure

Cited: “Japanese authorities warned Wednesday morning that they believed that the population living in the area immediately surrounding the stricken nuclear reactors now faced a health risk from further increases in radiation leaks.

Authorities said that radiation levels there had surged to levels that will “clearly have impact on the human body.”

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12732015

More than 100,000 people have been evacuated from homes near Fukushima.


There have been two explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, following Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, and a third reactor is reportedly at risk of fuel-rod meltdown.

How great a danger do these problems pose for people in Japan and further afield?

Has there been a leakage of radioactive material?

Yes. Local government officials in Fukushima say 190 people have been exposed to some radiation. An American warship, the USS Ronald Reagan, has detected low levels of radiation at a distance of 100 miles (161km) from the Fukushima plant.

How much radioactive material has escaped?

The Japanese authorities say only low levels of radiation have been detected outside the plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency has described it as a level four event on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), which is used for an accident “with local consequences”. No abnormal levels of radiation have been detected in Russia.

What type of radioactive material has escaped?

There are reports of radioactive isotopes of caesium and iodine in the vicinity of the plant. Experts say it would be natural for radioactive isotopes of nitrogen and argon to have escaped as well. There is no evidence that any uranium or plutonium has escaped.

What harm do these radioactive materials cause?

Radioactive iodine could be harmful to young people living near the plant. After the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster there were some cases of thyroid cancer as a result. However, people who were promptly issued with iodine tablets ought to be safe. Radioactive caesium, uranium and plutonium are harmful, but do not target any particular organ of the body. Radioactive nitrogen decays within seconds of its release, and argon poses no threat to health.

How did the radioactive materials escape?

There have been problems with cooling systems, causing the reactors to overheat. Production of steam has caused pressure to build up inside the reactor, so small amounts of steam have been deliberately released. Experts say that the presence in the steam of caesium and iodine – which are among the by-products of nuclear fission – suggests that the metal casing of some of the fuel rods has melted or broken. But the uranium fuel itself has a very high melting point so it is less likely to have melted, let alone vapourised.

Could radioactive materials have escaped by any other means?

The authorities have pumped sea water into three reactors. This water will be contaminated by its passage through the reactor, but it is currently unclear whether any of it has been released into the environment.

How long will any contamination last?

Radioactive iodine decays quite quickly. Most will have disappeared within a month. Radioactive caesium does not last long in the body – most has gone within a year. However, it lingers in the environment and can continue to present a problem for many years.

Has there been a meltdown?

The term “meltdown” is used in a variety of ways. As noted above, the reported detection of radioactive caesium and iodine may indicate that some of the metal casing enclosing the reactors’ uranium fuel has melted (a “fuel-rod meltdown”). However, there is as yet no indication that the uranium fuel itself has melted. Still less is there any indication of a “China Syndrome” where the fuel melts, gathers below the reactor and resumes a chain reaction, that enables it to melt everything in its way, and bore a path deep into the earth. If there were to be a serious meltdown, the Japanese reactor is supposed to be able to handle it, preventing the China Syndrome from taking place. Reports suggest that underneath the reactor, within the outer containment vessel, there is a concrete basin designed to capture and disperse any molten fuel.

Could there be a Chernobyl-like disaster?

Experts say this is highly unlikely. The chain reaction at all Fukushima reactors has ceased. The explosions that have occurred have taken place outside the steel and concrete containment vessels enclosing the reactors, which apparently remain solid. At Chernobyl an explosion exposed the core of the reactor to the air, and a fire raged for days sending its contents in a plume up into the atmosphere. At Fukushima the explosions – caused by hydrogen and oxygen vented from the reactor – have damaged only the roof and walls erected around the containment vessels.

Could there be a nuclear explosion?

No. A nuclear bomb and a nuclear reactor are different things.

What caused the hydrogen release from the reactor?

At high temperatures, steam can separate into hydrogen and oxygen in the presence of zirconium, the metal used for encasing the reactor fuel. This mixture is highly explosive.

How do iodine tablets work?

If the body has all the iodine it needs, it will not absorb further iodine from the atmosphere. The tablets fill the body up with non-radioactive iodine, which prevent it absorbing the radioactive iodine.

What kind of radiation levels have been recorded at Fukushima?

The Kyodo news agency reports that a radiation level of 1,557 microsieverts per hour was registered on Sunday. At this level, one hour’s exposure is roughly equivalent to one chest X-ray. Later measurements included 750 microsieverts per hour at 0200 on Monday, and 20 microsieverts per hour at 1145. The last of these measurements is not much to worry about – on a long-haul flight passengers are exposed to about five microsieverts per hour. Furthermore, moving away from the source of radiation, measurements would quickly tail off. Five or 10km away from the plant, the radiation level would be significantly lower.

Is any level of exposure to radiation safe?

In some parts of the world, natural background radiation is significantly higher than others – for example in Cornwall, in south-west England. And yet people live in Cornwall, and many others gladly visit the area. Similarly, every international air flight exposes passengers to higher than normal levels of radiation – and yet people still fly, and cabin crews spend large amounts of time exposed to this radiation. Patients in hospitals regularly undergo X-rays. Scientists dispute whether any level of exposure to radiation is entirely safe, but exposure to some level of radiation – whether at normal background levels or higher – is a fact of life.

How do Fukushima’s problems affect the rest of the world?

It depends on how much radiation is released. At present, the IAEA says the effects are of a “local” nature.

Audio

Live update: Mark MacKinnon reports from radiation testing in Japan

Mark MacKinnon

Globe and Mail Update
Published Sunday, Mar. 13, 2011 9:49AM EDT
Last updated Sunday, Mar. 13, 2011 3:58PM EDT

The Globe’s east Asia correspondent witnesses Japanese residents tested for radiation after fears of leaks at nearby nuclear plant

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