Nuclear Risks: How Much Danger?
March 17, 2011 Leave a comment
I am going to take a diversion and talk about what you are all talking about – especially those of you on the West Coast – radiation from the fractured Japanese nuclear industry. This is a terrible tragedy and the people of Japan are suffering once again from mankind’s tampering with nuclear energy and power.
5 years ago I gave a lecture to the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness annual meeting in San Diego, CA. While in the US Air Force I had been in charge of environmental medicine and medical disaster preparedness at my base. The message was simple. We are all one disaster away from living in survival mode. This latest event reinforces that message.
At the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant a 1000 ton lead shield was blown off the reactor’s roof. A series of explosions and fires have crippled salvage operations aimed at preventing a full core melt down. Two other reactors locations are also damaged and at risk of melt-downs. It’s as bad as it gets.
Despite the obvious, Japanese officials are only reporting a 4 out of 7 class nuclear accident – really??? Ok, we aren’t buying that one. This is at least as bad as Chernobyl and far worse than Three Mile Island on the US East coast.
We can critique the lack of forethought that went into building reactors on the beach in a known earthquake – tsunami zone, and we will all agree this is craziness. But before we go pointing fingers, many of us need to be reminded the WORST nuclear disaster in US history took place a few miles from downtown Los Angeles. The Boeing-Rocketdyne (1959) accident at the nuclear testing facility in Simi Valley, California is thought by some to have leaked 240 times more than what leaked into the environment from Three Mile Island. The US government says NO radiation leaked from the meltdown of the plutonium reactor. Color me skeptical.
Some of you reading this may actually live in Simi Valley. Should you be doubly worried? First of all, no radiation is good. But the general readings from that area are not alarming – at least after more than 50 years from the event.
Now a historical perspective: US nuclear detonations over Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945).
These horrific explosions killed over 200,000 people – although not all at once. Many died from radiation exposure and suffered from cancers and chronic health problems for years after the war. Radiation levels from these explosions had to be many times greater than what the Japanese or US West Coast are presently at risk for. That is not to minimize the risk or the awful crisis for people living anywhere near the reactors, but it helps gain some perspective on everyone’s risks.
Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant (2011).
Obviously this is bad. But it is way less than WWII.
My reasons for the historical reminder: 1) we deceive ourselves when we think we can contain or control radiation under all possible conditions, and 2) the distance the radiation has to travel around the globe will dilute its toxic effect and – at least at this time – there is no cloud of death coming to the Americas. Unfortunately the same is not true for the Japanese archipelago where serious exposure is likely. One bit of good news for Japan – the winds are carrying the radiation away from the population center of Japan.
(Special thanks to WUNDEGROUND for the graphic which shows the winds blowing radiation off the Japanese coast.)
Below is the most recent prediction of the wind track across the Pacific Ocean. It has moved significantly further south – centering on mid-California.
So what should you do? Be alert to changes. You do not need to evacuate the West Coast (that is not just my opinion – it is shared by nuclear experts). Do you need potassium iodide to protect your thyroid? Maybe. At this time the dose concentrations from the reactors are not expected to be that ACUTELY significant.
However, here is my concern – the radiation is NOT a single dose or even two like the WWII exposures. Instead it will be a chronic low-level exposure. That is very hard to defend against without chelation or specific safeguards – carrying a dosimeter and measuring your cumulative dose.
If you are seriously concerned about exposure I suggest you get informed about personal radiation detection. I suggest, NukAlert — available from http://www.nukalert.com/
If things get more serious I will talk about specific protocols to detoxify radiation. I will be watching this as it evolves and post more as we know more.