Scientists Project Path of Radiation Plume
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Published: March 16, 2011
A United Nations forecast of the possible movement of the radioactive plume coming from crippled Japanese reactors shows it churning across the Pacific, and touching the Aleutian Islands on Thursday before hitting Southern California late Friday.
U.S. Calls Radiation ‘Extremely High;’ Sees Japan Nuclear Crisis Worsening (March 17, 2011)
U.S. Urges Wider No-Go Area Around Nuclear Plant (March 17, 2011)
In Europe and China, Japan’s Crisis Renews Fears About Nuclear Power (March 17, 2011)
The Lede Blog: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: How to Help (March 11, 2011)
Health and nuclear experts emphasize that radiation in the plume will be diluted as it travels and, at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States, even if hints of it are ultimately detectable. In a similar way, radiation from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 spread around the globe and reached the West Coast of the United States in 10 days, its levels measurable but minuscule.
The projection, by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, an arm of the United Nations in Vienna, gives no information about actual radiation levels but only shows how a radioactive plume would probably move and disperse.
The forecast, calculated Tuesday, is based on patterns of Pacific winds at that time and the predicted path is likely to change as weather patterns shift.
On Sunday, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it expected that no “harmful levels of radioactivity” would travel from Japan to the United States “given the thousands of miles between the two countries.”
The test ban treaty group routinely does radiation projections in an effort to understand which of its global stations to activate for monitoring the worldwide ban on nuclear arms testing. It has more than 60 stations that sniff the air for radiation spikes and uses weather forecasts and powerful computers to model the transport of radiation on the winds.
On Wednesday, the agency declined to release its Japanese forecast, which The New York Times obtained from other sources. The forecast was distributed widely to the agency’s member states.
But in interviews, the technical specialists of the agency did address how and why the forecast had been drawn up.
“It’s simply an indication,” said Lassina Zerbo, head of the agency’s International Data Center. “We have global coverage. So when something happens, it’s important for us to know which station can pick up the event.”
For instance, the Japan forecast shows that the radioactive plume will probably miss the agency’s monitoring stations at Midway and in the Hawaiian Islands but is likely to be detected in the Aleutians and at a monitoring station in Sacramento.
The forecast assumes that radioactivity in Japan is released continuously and forms a rising plume. It ends with the plume heading into Southern California and the American Southwest, including Nevada, Utah and Arizona. The plume would have continued eastward if the United Nations scientists had run the projection forward.
Earlier this week, the leading edge of the tangible plume was detected by the Navy’s Seventh Fleet when it was operating about 100 miles northeast of the Japanese reactor complex. On Monday, the Navy said it had repositioned its ships and aircraft off Japan “as a precautionary measure.”
The United Nations agency has also detected radiation from the stricken reactor complex at its detector station in Gunma, Japan, which lies about 130 miles to the southwest.
The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory B. Jaczko, said Monday that the plume posed no danger to the United States. “You just aren’t going to have any radiological material that, by the time it traveled those large distances, could present any risk to the American public,” he said in a White House briefing.
Mr. Jaczko was asked if the meltdown of a core of one of the reactors would increase the chance of harmful radiation reaching Hawaii or the West Coast.
“I don’t want to speculate on various scenarios,” he replied. “But based on the design and the distances involved, it is very unlikely that there would be any harmful impacts.”
The likely path of the main Japanese plume across the Pacific has also caught the attention of Europeans, many of whom recall how the much closer Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine began spewing radiation.
In Germany on Wednesday, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection held a news conference that described the threat from the Japanese plume as trifling and said there was no need for people to take iodine tablets. The pills can prevent poisoning from the atmospheric release of iodine-131, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear plants. The United States is also carefully monitoring and forecasting the plume’s movements. The agencies include the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy.
On Wednesday, Steven Chu, the energy secretary, told Congress that the United States was planning to deploy equipment in Japan that could detect radiation exposure on the ground and in the air. In total, the department’s team includes 39 people and more than eight tons of equipment.
“We continue to offer assistance in any way we can,” Dr. Chu said at a hearing, “as well as informing ourselves of what the situation is.”
ARE YOU READY FOR THE BIG ONE? EARTHQUAKE KIT!
U.S. shows growing alarm over Japan nuclear crisis
By Jeff Mason and Tom Doggett Jeff Mason And Tom Doggett – Wed Mar 16, 7:14 pm ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States showed increasing alarm about the nuclear situation in Japan on Wednesday and urged its citizens to stay clear of an earthquake-crippled power plant — going further in its warnings than Japan itself.
As operators of the Fukushima plant pledged to try again to use helicopters to douse overheating reactors, U.S. officials warned about the risks of getting anywhere near the area and relied on their own officials for details about the danger.
“The situation has deteriorated in the days since the tsunami and … the situation has grown at times worse with potential greater damage and fallout from the reactor,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
U.S. officials took pains not to criticize the Japanese government, which has shown signs of being overwhelmed by the crisis, but Washington’s actions indicated a divide with the Japanese about the perilousness of the situation.
The State Department recommended that U.S. citizens within 50 miles of the plant leave the area or stay indoors.
Japan’s government has asked people living within 12 miles to evacuate and those between 12 miles and 18 miles to stay indoors.
The top U.S. nuclear regulator cast doubt on emergency workers’ ability to cool overheating reactors, saying radiation levels may give them “lethal doses” of radiation.
“We believe that around the reactor site there are high levels of radiation,” said Gregory Jaczko. “It would be very difficult for emergency workers to get near the reactors. The doses they could experience would potentially be lethal doses in a very short period of time.”
An official at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said on Thursday morning local time that the level of radiation detected at the plant had fallen steadily over the past 12 hours.
The U.S. military has ordered its forces to stay 50 miles away from the plant, the Pentagon said. There are at least 55,000 U.S. forces in Japan and offshore assisting the relief operation.
“All of us are heartbroken by the images of what’s happening in Japan, and we’re reminded of how American leadership is critical to our closest allies,” President Barack Obama said in Washington.
“Even if those allies are themselves economically advanced and powerful, there are moments where they need our help, and we’re bound together by a common humanity,” he said.
High radiation levels prevented a helicopter from dropping water into the stricken Japanese plant’s No. 3 reactor to cool its fuel rods after an explosion damaged the roof and cooling system. Operators planned to try again on Thursday.
The State Department’s warning to U.S. citizens was based on new information collected by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Energy and other U.S. sources.
The United States is trying to deploy equipment in Japan that can detect radiation exposure at the ground level, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a congressional hearing.
The detection system is part of the 17,200 pounds (7,800 kg) of equipment and 39 personnel from the Energy Department sent to Japan, he said. The department has also provided equipment to monitor airborne radiation.
The United States is deploying additional radiation monitors on Hawaii and other U.S. islands even though it does not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach U.S. soil, environmental regulators said.
Chu declined to tell lawmakers, when asked, whether he was satisfied with Japan’s response so far to its nuclear crisis, which began after last Friday’s devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.
“I can’t really say. I think we hear conflicting reports,” Chu said.
“This is one of the reasons why (the United States is) there with boots on the ground, with detectors in the ground, not only to help assist (the) Japanese power company and the Japanese government but also for our own sake — to know what is really happening.”
Beyond the risk to workers at or near the damaged nuclear plant, one scientist, Dr. Ira Helfand, warned of possible widespread contamination of people and land.
“We need … to focus on the radioactive isotopes being dispersed at some distance from the plant, because this is going to cause a whole different set of health problems,” Helfand, past president of the anti-nuclear group Physicians for Social Responsibility, said in a telephone briefing.
The Obama administration has maintained its support for expanding U.S. use of nuclear energy despite renewed fears about its safety after the events in Japan.
But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that the nuclear crisis raised questions about the use of nuclear energy in the United States.
“What’s happening in Japan raises questions about the costs and the risks associated with nuclear power, but we have to answer those. We get 20 percent of our energy right now in the United States from nuclear power,” she said in an interview with MSNBC in which she emphasized the need for a comprehensive U.S. energy policy.
(Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe, David Morgan, Andrew Quinn, Paul Eckert, Matt Spetalnick, Alister Bull, Patricia Zengerle, Steve Holland, Deborah Zabarenko and Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney)
U.S. radiation experts try to decipher reports from Japan
By Steve Sternberg, USA TODAY
Updated 7h 37m ago |
The Japanese government’s radiation report for the country’s 47 prefectures Wednesday had a notable omission: Fukushima, ground zero in Japan’s nuclear crisis. Measurements from Ibaraki, just south of Fukushima, were also blanked out.
Radiation experts in the USA say that the lack of information about radioactivity released from the smoldering reactors makes it impossible to gauge the current danger, project how bad a potential meltdown might be or calculate how much fallout might reach the USA.
Japanese nuclear experts are hard at work gathering information, said Fred Mettler, the U.S. representative for the United Nation’s committee on the health effects of radiation. “They’re monitoring and evaluating and watching the meteorology,” he said. “They need to know what the dose rates are in various places, what direction the (radiation is) moving in and what’s causing it.”
Conflicting accounts of the radiation levels emerged in Tokyo and on Capitol Hill. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Wednesday that the radiation detected at the Fukushima plant had fallen steadily over the past 12 hours. But U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) chief Gregory Jaczko told a House energy subcommittee earlier in the day that radiation levels at the Fukushima plant were “extremely high.”
The chief of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, told reporters he will visit Japan to obtain “firsthand information” about the crisis and prod the Japanese government to provide more. Experts from the NRC, led by Charles Casto, were to arrive in the country on Wednesday.
Given accurate readings, U.S. experts can develop computer models of radiation released from the crippled reactors, factoring in prevailing winds, altitude and rainfall, said Owen Hoffman, a radiation expert from SENES Oak Ridge Inc., a consulting firm that calculated risks from Cold War nuclear tests.
One agency equipped to predict where the fallout may travel is the Department of Energy’s National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The center has tracked radiation emitted by the meltdowns at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Ukraine’s Chernobyl in 1986.
History may offer hints of what’s to come. At Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, Pa., only a small amount of radiation was released before the meltdown was controlled. Chernobyl spewed radiation for days, which rode wind currents worldwide.
Radioactive iodine falls from the plume in rainfall and settles on the grass, where it’s eaten by cows and builds up in their milk. Decades after Three Mile Island, no cancers or deaths have been conclusively linked to the U.S. disaster. Researchers have logged 6,000 thyroid cancers in survivors of Chernobyl, all in people who were younger than 18 when they were exposed. That’s about one-third of the 14,000 projected to occur.
Thyroid cancer is a major risk because the thyroid needs iodine to make thyroid hormone, which regulates metabolism. For those downwind of Chernobyl, the highest dose exceeded 1 gray, a measure of the radioactivity absorbed in the thyroid.
Children who drank commercial milk during the Cold War nuclear tests received about one-tenth of that, on average, Hoffman said. That was enough to boost their thyroid cancer risk to one in 100, more than twice the usual risk.
The Chernobyl meltdown also contaminated vast tracts of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and northern Europe with radioactive cesium. “There are still limitations on the export of sheep from Cumbria, in the U.K., and reindeer from Scandinavia,” Hoffman said. Cesium also contaminated fish from Scandinavia’s northern lakes.
Cesium is absorbed by plants and works its way through the food chain, getting into meat and milk. Unlike radioactive iodine, which has a short half life, cesium lingers in the environment. “Radioactive iodine will be gone in a month,” Hoffman said. “Cesium’s going to be around for decades.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
Low radioactivity seen heading towards N.America
17 Mar 2011 14:35
Source: reuters // Reuters
* Particles not normal, but not dangerous-Swedish official
* U.S. nuclear body sees no “levels of harmful radiation”
* U.N. weather agency predicts northwesterly winter monsoon
(Adds U.S. comment)
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA, March 17 (Reuters) – Low concentrations of radioactive particles from Japan’s disaster-hit nuclear power plant have been heading eastwards and are expected to reach North America in days, a Swedish official said on Thursday.
In Washington, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said radioactivity would disperse over the long distance and it did not expect any harmful amounts to reach the country.
“We expect the United States to avoid any levels of harmful radiation,” NRC spokesman Joey Ledford told Reuters. “We do not anticipate any threat to American interests.”
The Swedish official, research director Lars-Erik De Geer of the Swedish Defence Research Institute, was citing data from a network of international monitoring stations set up to detect signs of any nuclear weapons tests.
Also stressing the levels were not dangerous for people, he predicted particles would eventually also continue across the Atlantic and reach Europe.
“It is not something you see normally,” he said by phone from Stockholm, adding the results he now had were based on observations from earlier in the week. But, “it is not high from any danger point of view.”
De Geer said he was convinced they would eventually be detected over the whole northern hemisphere.
“It is only a question of very, very low activities so it is nothing for people to worry about,” De Geer said.
“In the past when they had nuclear weapons tests in China … then there were similar clouds all the time without anybody caring about it at all,” he said.
De Geer said the main air movement in the northern half of the globe normally went from west to east, but suggested the direction occasionally changed and at times turned.
In Geneva, the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Thursday that a “northwesterly winter monsoon flow prevails over the eastern and northern part of Japan” and that this was expected to remain the case until around midnight GMT.
The New York Times earlier said a forecast of the possible movement of the radioactive plume showed it churning across the Pacific, and touching the Aleutian Islands on Thursday before hitting southern California late on Friday.
It said the projection was made by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), a Vienna-based independent body for monitoring possible breaches of the test ban.
The CTBTO has more than 60 stations around the world which can pick up very low levels of radioactive particles such as caesium and iodine isotopes.
It continuously provides data to its member states, including Sweden, but does not make the details public.
De Geer said he believed the radioactive particles would “eventually also come here”.
The New York Times said health and nuclear experts emphasized radiation would be diluted as it travelled and at worst would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States.
In a similar way, radiation from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 spread around the globe and reached the west coast of the United States in 10 days, its levels measurable but minuscule. (Additional reporting by David Morgan in Washington; editing by Diana Abdallah)
Swedish Government: Radiation To Cover Entire Northern Hemisphere
Paul Joseph Watson
March 17, 2011
Swedish Government: Radiation To Cover Entire Northern Hemisphere 170311top2
Suggesting that levels of radiation leaks from the stricken Fukushima plant are being grossly underreported by Japanese authorities, a Swedish government agency told Reuters today that not only will the radiation reach North America, but it will subsequently cover the entire northern hemisphere.
“Lars-Erik De Geer, research director at the Swedish Defense Research Institute, a government agency, was citing data from a network of international monitoring stations established to detect signs of any nuclear weapons tests,” reports Reuters.
“Stressing that the levels were not dangerous for people, he predicted the particles would continue across the Atlantic and eventually also reach Europe.”
De Geer said he was “convinced it would eventually be detected over the whole northern hemisphere,” according to the report, adding that radioactive particles would “eventually also come here,” referring to Europe.
De Geer’s prognosis arrives on the back of a study of data by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, which confirmed that the radioactive plume from Fukushima would reach the Aleutian Islands on Thursday before hitting southern California late on Friday. The CBTO has a network of radiation monitors deployed globally that can detect radioactive particles such as caesium and iodine isotopes.
Experts are correct in assuming that the initial waves of radiation will be low, but expect levels to rise in subsequent days as the effects of the three blasts to impact the Fukushima facility, which occurred on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, manifest themselves in the form of increased radiation injected into the atmosphere.
“Naturally, with the credibility of every government around the world shot, it is no surprise that most consumer Geiger counter stores are sold out of inventory at this point, at virtually all price points,” writes Tyler Durden.
As we reported earlier, having confidence in the trustworthiness of governments globally who have habitually lied about the true threat posed by radiation, notably after the 3 Mile Island accident and the Chernobyl disaster, is somewhat less than wise.
However, at least the Swedes can be trusted to know a thing or two about detecting radiation. While the Soviets were furiously engaged in a cover-up of the Chernobyl disaster which occurred on April 26 1986, Swedish workers at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant were the first ones to detect the fallout from the accident two days later on April 28.
It was only after the workers failed to find the source of any radioactive leak at their own plant that the true horror of what had happened 1,100 km (680 miles) away in the western Soviet Union began to unravel.
The whole planet is united in hoping that Japanese technicians find some way to restore power and water cooling system to the Fukushima plant before that terrible scenario has any chance of repeating.
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The video below shows how far the radiation clouds from Chernobyl spread across Europe, smothering virtually the entire continent within 7 days. Although agencies like the WHO and the IAEA claimed that only 9,000 people died as a consequence, more contemporary studies have shown that nearly a million people have been killed from cancers caused by the disaster over the course of the last 25 years.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show.