Thursday, June 02, 2011

Radiation Number Crunching

I am NOT an expert on radiation or on interpreting the radiation data. I also believe that the numbers are like the Holy Bible: open to interpretation and used by different people to support whatever view they already have.

Therefore, I am not going to present any specific radiation amounts here. I am simply going to provide a few observations (as I see them) about the numbers themselves and how those numbers are reached:

1. Any calculation that determines that "the current amount of radiation is X and therefore the annual threshold for radiation exposure will not be surpassed" does NOT take into account the radiation exposure UNTIL TODAY. That is, the children who were NOT evacuated in the hours and days IMMEDIATELY after the explosion at the nuclear power plant were potentially exposed to LARGE amounts of radiation. This amount WHEN ADDED to what the current annual radiation exposure would be, has the potential to exceed the annual threshold (even if the current level of radiation has decreased slightly from the original level of two months ago). Unfortunately, accurate data for the levels of radiation immediately following the explosion does NOT exist for all of the affected areas.

2. Likewise, any calculation that determines that "the current amount of radiation is X and therefore the annual threshold for radiation exposure will not be surpassed" does NOT take into account INTERNAL exposure. That is, the irradiated vegetables that people (in Iitate Village, for example) were eating for up to TWO MONTHS before they were evacuated. They were not immediately evacuated because they were 40 kilometers away from the nuclear power plant and therefore technically outside of "the zone". Unfortunately, the wind carried the radiation WELL BEYOND the 30 km circle the government drew on a map. This internal exposure also includes the irradiated water the children drink and also the dust they inhale when they walk/ play outside.

3. The Japanese government has raised the accepted level of annual exposure of radiation for children to 20 TIMES THE NORMAL AMOUNT. With these new limits, the area which must be evacuated (and therefore compensated for evacuating) is GREATLY decreased. And yet NO EXPERT can say for certain what the actual risk for the children will be when exposed to this new amount.

4. There are not enough people or Geiger counters to measure each school accurately. The government currently takes measurements in pre-decided locations in the schools. For example, the entrance, the lunchroom, a classroom on each floor, and in the school grounds. However, radiation spreads UNEVENLY and even within the same classroom HOT SPOTS can exist. That is, the level of radiation near a window may be MUCH HIGHER than within the middle of the SAME classroom. Likewise, an area directly outside of the school building may have MUCH HIGHER levels of radiation than in the school grounds because of the way rainwater falls off the roof and gathers in certain spots where students may pass. Therefore, in order to ascertain the safety of a school, the ENTIRE school must be monitored for dangerous HOT SPOTS of radiation. This is NOT being currently done.

Am I fear-mongering as some might suggest? To answer that question, ask yourself this:

Would you allow your child to live in these areas of increased radiation under orders to stay indoors because of the risk of exposure to radiation if they went outside?

Would you allow your child to both drink and bath in water which contains increased levels of radiation because the levels would still allow for staying within the RECENTLY INCREASED safety limits?

Would you allow your child to attend a school that was merely 2 km from a school that could not open because it is in an area deemed to have levels of radiation that are too high? Keep in mind that this school is also located just 32 km from the damaged nuclear power plant that is still CURRENTLY emmitting radiation and is still NOT under control.

Would you trust a government that told you the levels of radiation were safe when this is the same government that had not provided you with the information that there had in fact been a nuclear MELT DOWN or that areas OUTSIDE the 30 km zone needed to be evacuated until two months after the fact?

I invite all of those people who suggest that I may be overreacting to pitch a tent in these areas and live there for the next year. Drink the water and eat the vegetables. Oh, and bring your children, too. Don't have any children yet, but plan to someday? Don't give your sperm or eggs a second thought. After all, you have the government's word that it is safe.


Anonymous said...

well written and thought out.

Ian Thomas Ash said...

Anonymous, Thank you for your comment. I have been feeling frustrated with some of the recent government statements that the radiation levels are low enough in some of the affected areas to allow for people (including children) to return.

Joe said...

Sadly I think this tragedy is showing the ineptitude of the government and the process they have in place for maintaining a safe environment around the nuclear plants. However, the government is never going to admit that they are unable to properly handle this situation, and will (for pride reasons) never ask outside sources for help. This will be their downfall in this situation...and we won't really hear about the negative effects until 20 years from now when these kids try and have families of their own.

It makes me sad to see all this happening in a country that on the surface seems to care for all of it's citizens. On a personal level the Japanese will bend over backwards to help you and treat you well...but on a larger scale it doesn't seem to be the case.

Ian Thomas Ash said...

I wish this "ineptitude of the government" was uniquely Japanese.

Unfortunately, I think this ineptitude is uniquely governmental.

john said...

Your so correct mate. They (the Gov) know more than they are letting on. They can't handle to much more so they cover there own arse.It should of been 40km at the bigining ne.
There concerns are The costs and pen pushing factors. these are there issue.
what next???
I too have lived there for 13 years and will be going back there to see my mother in law.your doing good.keep reporting and look for more unique humanitarian angals,like the priest looking after the little children with the volunteers.
Good on ya mate.

Ian Thomas Ash said...


Thank you for your comment. I agree that any political/ economic issues have to be laid aside and that the children must be put first. Thank you for your encouragement.